HEADING SOUTH TO VICTORIA

This morning Ngozi departed Truce on her way back to New Zealand.  The Harbourmaster at Hoonah very generously gave her a lift up to the airport.  I am now alone again and have missed having company today.  And no, it’s not just to have help with the cooking and cleaning!

The voyage from Canoe Cove to Glacier Bay has been a great experience for me.  I have experienced rain, cold, headwinds, glorious days, calm nights, wildlife, interesting people and made new friends along the way.  Truce has proved to be a wonderful little boat, well built, comfortable, capable of looking after me and tolerating my mistakes.  The next voyage to the south will mean a bit of backtracking but I will try and avoid visiting previous stops.

I was a bit lazy this morning, probably a bit flat after Ngozi departing.  Eventually I managed to get off the dock and headed out into Icy Strait, still not sure what route to take south, only knowing I was heading east first.  Once I got into the Strait a westerly breeze picked up and I set all sail, so relaxing to be sailing and switch the motor off.  At the east end of Icy Strait, the wind shifted to the south, blowing up Clarence Strait.  My route was now decided, I was not going down Clarence Strait, I sailed up Lynn Canal with a good following breeze.  I will now head down Stephens Passage, into Frederick Sound and Wrangell Narrows.  This is all new territory for me.

The weather was very warm today with clear visibility.  I was sailing in just a pair of shorts in brilliant sunshine, sparking seas with vistas of snow-capped mountains and glaciers.  Magical.  There was a lot of boat traffic about today, fishing boats, sports boats, tourist boats, the most I have seen in Alaska.  Auke seems to be the centre for boating out of Juneau.

After sailing for seven hours today, mostly not too fast, I have anchored in Auke Bay for the evening.  In the anchorage there is another yacht, a French yacht also heading south.  The anchorage is a bit bumpy due to all the boat traffic passing by at high speed, also a bit noisy with 3 jet skis buzzing around and music coming from the shore.  This place looks like a holiday destination with nice homes doted along the shore line.  Total voyage distance 41.4 miles.

BARTLETT COVE TO HOONAH

We arrived back in Hoonah this afternoon after an easy crossing of Icy Strait in calm conditions. Calm conditions meant we had to motor again which is not restful but preferable to wind on the nose, so we will take it. In Icy strait there is a lot more ebb than flood so correct timing of the tidal window is essential if you are in a low powered vessel. Fortunately, we got it almost right today and made good time.

Spot the Whale bubbles in The water. Hoonah Harbour
Spot the Whale bubbles in The water. Hoonah Harbour

Our visit to Glacier Bay was great, apart from a nasty night to start off in Fingers Bay we enjoyed wonderful weather and hardly any rain. The Glacier visit was memorable, to get up close to a calving Glacier is an awesome experience. We saw a lot of whales in the lower section of Glacier Bay but the best whale encounter occurred just outside the Hoonah Harbour entrance.

As we approached the Hoonah Harbour there was a single large whale feeding in the entrance. We slowed down to watch as the whale blew a bubble ring and then arose in the centre to collect his prey. This happened three times, the last time very close and the whale dived under the boat before surfacing on the other side. Ngozi is very happy she has seen a whale up close. She will have to go to the zoo to see a bear.

Ngozi in the Icy Strait Brewing Bar, Hoonah. Photo Ray Penson.
Ngozi in Hoonah, Alaska.

We plan to stay two nights in Hoonah as Ngozi is flying out from here on Sunday back to New Zealand.

Truce is now moored in Hoonah Harbour, all secure alongside, now we can explore the town and surrounds without any concern for the anchor.

We are both hoping to get some fresh fish and maybe some crabs and shrimp to cook. Total Voyage distance 1,632.8 miles.

DESTINATION ACHEIVED

Today we arrived in Glacier Bay. It’s been a long winding road to get here and now we have a permit for a few days to explore and experience the wildlife and natural wonders.

Icy Strait Passage
Icy Strait Passage

The trip across Icy Strait this morning was easy for a change and the forecast headwinds didn’t turn up. The entry to Glacier Bay was shrouded in thick fog that cleared as we approached Bartlett Cove and the Park Ranger station.Once in Bartlett Cove we topped off the fuel tanks and attended the orientation with the Park rangers (I couldn’t help thinking of Yogi Bear when I saw the uniform). 

On the job, sailing adventures.
On the job, sailing adventures.

 There we learnt what we could and couldn’t do in the park. No big surprises and all very friendly. After the orientation we caught the last of the flood tide up to an anchorage in North Fingers Bay.  
We arrived in Fingers Bay at high water and were unable to find a decent anchor position. So temporarily we have anchored on a shallow rocky ledge with deep water behind it. The wind is blowing and gusting into the bay so it’s a bit tenuous. Low water is at midnight and I plan to have a look at the anchorage later tonight when more of the shoreline is exposed and find a better spot to anchor for the night. In the meantime we will have dinner and relax after a long and eventful day.

I have found the navionics chart to be unreliable in this part of Alaska, obviously the data on which it is bases is not too accurate. So caution is needed as some depths vary wildly and rocks aren’t always where they appear on the chart.

Approaching Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay.
Approaching Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay.

Today has been warm like yesterday. It’s hard to understand why it should be so warm in Glacier Bay – but it is. At least at the moment it is. Tomorrow we will work our way up towards glaciers and have a closer look at the wildlife, there is no hurry. Total voyage distance 1,494.7 miles.
Logged 9th July 2016.

SMELL THE ROSES

As I have a couple of days to wait and ‘no particular place to go’ I decided to sit back, chill out and ‘smell the roses’ as my wife says. 

After a beautiful calm night and a good sleep, I set out this morning to have a look at Neka Bay and the river that feeds into it, only a short trip of four miles around the peninsular from where I am. 

Neka Bay is very scenic but the river feeding into it is not that spectacular, after doing the sights I decided to return to North Bight where I had anchored the previous night. 

 This time on returning I ventured deeper into the end of the bay and found a nice anchorage in a pool at the head of the bay.
Then I had a day of relaxation and messing around, luckily the weather has been warm with the sun making the occasional appearance. The landscape here is very scenic, not as harsh as further out in Icy Strait, more greenery with small patches of snow on the hills. 

There are some small porpoise occupying the inlet that have been swimming around the boat all afternoon. There are a couple of Bald Eagles around the anchorage making their distinctive high pitched sounds. I expected Eagles to have big bold gruff voices and was surprised by their shrill squeaky wheel noise.  

I made some bread and had a feast of fresh bread, cheese and onion in the cockpit washed down with Icy Bay IPA, it’s a good beer and by the end of the afternoon a couple more followed the first. 

 The midges and sand flies didn’t turn up today for some reason, it was warm and enjoyable outside. Ah, it’s a hard life.

Tomorrow I move up to Hoonah where the harbourmaster has allocated me a berth inside the harbour. Looking forward to a shower, laundry and interacting with humans again. Looking forward even more to Ngozi arriving on the soon.

 Total voyage distance 1,435.8 miles.

Logged 6th July.

ICY STRAIT TO PORT FREDERICK

Last night was uncomfortable, gusty winds into the anchorage, nothing serious just disturbing and restless.   Today we moved east down Icy Strait and into Port Frederick which is just past Hoonah.  The cruise ship Noordam came past the anchorage at six this morning and I encountered a few more cruise ships on the way.

Once out the anchorage the weather went flat calm and the wildlife came out to play.  Humpback Whales, Porpoise, sea Otters, Seals, Sealions, and all kinds of birds kept me entertained.

Just past Hoonah the wind filled in and it was possible to ghost with the jib for a couple of hours down to the anchorage in Port Frederick.  The inlet where I have anchored for the night is littered with crab pots, it was hard to find a clear spot to drop anchor.

The anchorage is also home to a few million small insects, sand fly type things that bite and itch.  I am not complaining, the anchorage is calm and looks like a good night’s sleep tonight.  Total voyage distance 1,427.8 miles.

Logged 5th July 2016

INIAN ISLAND

I awoke this morning to thick fog, a sign summer is here.  The fog cleared in the early morning and the sun came out.  But then a strong westerly wind set in and finally rain again.  A real mixed up day but plenty of variety.

In the morning I motored over to Inian Island which is in the middle of Cross Strait.  There is a pass north and south of Inian Island and the water flow through the passes is tremendous.  Huge upwelling’s and swirls of water, even at slack water.  Another funny thing is that the Pacific Swell comes right into the strait and seems to bend around the islands but still keep its size and shape.  The locals tell me that in bad weather or wind against tide, the passes can be very difficult and dangerous.  I believe it and will try and take advantage of the current tomorrow to get a lift to the east.

Coral Princess heading into Glacier Bay.Photo Ray Penson
Coral Princess heading into Glacier Bay.Photo Ray Penson

The anchorage at Inian Island is supposed to be sheltered but this evening is a little draughty.  I hope the wind dies down later as the singing in the rigging and surging at anchor is not very relaxing.

My entry permit into Glacier bay is for the 9th July, I can’t go in before then so am hanging around this Icy Strait area waiting for my wife to arrive in Hoonah.  Then we will cross Icy Strait into Glacier Bay.

Tomorrow I will have a look at sailing to Port Frederick, which is a sound south of Hoonah. There should be some interesting wildlife in there if the tales of my fisherman friends are true.  Total voyage distance 1,383.1 miles.

Logged 4th July 2016

RELAXING, ELFIN COVE

This morning I arose at five thirty as usual, had a look around and was not too impressed, raining.  Then listened to the weather forecast, not nice.  My bed still had a bit of warmth in it so I jumped back in for another hour of sleep.

Around ten in the morning I decided to head out and stowed all the breakable things away.  Just before starting the engine I listened to the forecast again, there was an update, more of the same not nice for Icy Strait and Cross Sound.

As it was still raining and generally miserable I decided to stay alongside the dock, it’s a nice dock, and enjoy Elfin Cove.  I am parked next to the seaplane float so lots of interesting coming and going.

Seaplane waiting to pick up Cruise Ship Pilot. Photo Ray Penson
Seaplane waiting to pick up Cruise Ship Pilot. Photo Ray Penson

I like watching the pilots come into the dock, they head for the dock, switch off their engines and then jump out the cockpit onto the float and tie up.  It’s quite skilful, they must stuff it up sometimes.  I will keep watching.
I have walked around the boardwalk at Elfin Cove numerous times now.  There is an old Labrador dog who welcomes me each time I go ashore and walks around with me, he has a stick that needs throwing and retrieving of course.

The guys from the fishing lodge by the dock went out this morning and came back with heaps of fish.  The lodge has staff on hand who spend hours filleting the fish at the dock, in the rain, packaging it up for dispatch by seaplane, to the customers’ homes I suppose.

Elfin inner cove and Village.Photo Ray Penson
Elfin inner cove and Village.Photo Ray Penson

This evening a fishing boat has rafted up alongside me.  Mark the skipper is my new best mate in Elfin, he has promises to load me up with salmon in the morning.  There is a nice little Nordhaven coastal cruiser moored behind me with a retired couple on board from Sidney on Vancouver Island, I saw them in Sitka.  Rosemary (the lady) came across with some fresh apples and a chocolate bar – my first chocolate for 3 months, (I don’t buy sweet stuff) what a treat.

The forecast for tomorrow is for 30 knots in Icy Strait, if it stays like that I will stay like this, at the dock.  No point in going out and getting beaten up, this is supposed to be a pleasure cruise.

Logged 1st July 2016