FAREWEL PRINCE RUPERT

My intentions for an early start evaporated when John produced a pot of fresh coffee and muffins straight from the oven.  We sat in the cockpit of Caro Babbo chatting and eating happily until late morning.  It was almost mid-day by the time I heaved the anchor from the mud and motored out of Russell Arm.

As I departed from the harbour I had one last look back at Prince Rupert.  I don’t suppose I will ever be back.  I first visited Rupert when I was at sea as second mate, back in the pre GPS days.  Rupert was a regular port of call as we were in the Pacific run taking Canadian grain to China and a welcome stop after the rigours of the North Pacific and Bering Sea.

Once out of the harbour the forecast wind didn’t show up so I motored and caught the tide down Arthur Passage and into Grenville Channel.  I hadn’t really wanted to go down Grenville Channel again but the weather really made the decision for me.  This is the classic inside passage route and I suppose I will meet some commercial traffic taking this sheltered route north and south.

This evening I have anchored in Kumealon Inlet, just off Grenville Channel.  Tomorrow if the wind and tide is complaisant I will try and transit the channel without another stop.  I think I will try a little fishing tonight.

LINGERING IN WRANGELL

This morning I decided to stay a couple of extra days in Wrangell.  It’s a friendly little place so it’s no chore to linger a while longer.  I also want to get a couple of stainless bits made up for the boat for an autopilot modification I want to try out.  The handy engineer guy here is very good, I don’t expect to get better elsewhere so it makes sense to get the job done here.

Wrangell Harbour at low water. Photo Ray Penson
Wrangell Harbour at low water. Photo Ray Penson

Today in have been trying my hand at fairing in the shaft strut using epoxy filler.  I am not the most skilful in this sector, the result so far looks very amateurish.  I am hoping that by tomorrow the filler will have set rock hard to allow me to sand it into a fairer hydrodynamic shape.

This afternoon I managed to get some fresh lemon from a lady selling organic produce.  Part of it is now floating around in a rum and coke – got to get vitamins somehow.

I went for a walk around town, literally around the outside of the town.  People kept stopping their trucks asking if I wanted a lift.  I have noticed that people don’t tend to walk to places in Alaska.  Some of the houses here have well-kept gardens, you don’t see much of that in Alaska, at least not the parts I have been to.

I am scheduling to launch Truce back into the water on Wednesday morning.  The plan is then to resume the voyage southward down the inside passage and stop off at Anan Creak to see bears catching and feeding on Salmon.  One of the guys here told me there are so many salmon running up the stream that both Brown and Black bears come to fish at the same place.

Anan Bears here I come.

STILL PLUGGING AWAY DOWN STEPHENS PASSAGE

Last night was quiet but the occasional sound of the anchor chain dragging over the rocky bottom and the thought if ice floes circulating in the anchorage wasn’t conducive to a peaceful night’s sleep.  This morning started with foggy patches and low cloud type rain.  By eight the visibility started improving and I departed the anchorage at nine.

State float at Entrance Island. Photo Ray Penson
State float at Entrance Island. Photo Ray Penson

On my way out of the anchorage I saw the icebergs that I had been dodging around in the fog last night.  Scary stuff.    The forecast southerly wind didn’t arrive, in its place we had mist, rain, fog and more rain.  I saw a couple of my old friends, the logs, in the water today.  There is always something floating around here that needs dodging.  The sea was pretty calm and although we were going against the tide made reasonable progress with the engine.  This bit of the inside passage is quite busy with cruise ships, I saw a couple more today.

Ice not seen in fog. Photo Ray Penson
Ice not seen in fog. Photo Ray Penson

The Orca’s turned up today.  First one by himself came over to have a look at me.  A few minutes later I came across five hunting as a pack close to rocks inshore.  I was also close to the rocks, trying to keep out of the current.  They are the most beautiful animal, so sleek, powerful and fast.  One of nature’s finest designs.  These were the first Orca’s I have seen on the west coast.

Ice at entrance to Tracy Arm Anchorage Photo Ray Penson
Ice at entrance to Tracy Arm Anchorage Photo Ray Penson

I had another close encounter with a Humpback Whale as well.  There were two large Humpbacks feeding ahead.  They were both sounding and staying down for three or four minutes each time.  I was watching them and trying to calculate where they would pop up.  One popped up to starboard as expected but the other didn’t show.  As I was looking ahead I was startled to hear a whale surface very close astern.  A huge magnificent creature, did he surprise me on purpose?  I have noticed that after they have dived deep two or three times they seem to need a rest, they swim slowly on the surface and don’t blow out big streams of air.  The whale I saw close alongside yesterday was just moving slowly and didn’t blow when he surfaced next to the boat.

This evening I have tied up to a rather decrepit little float in a small cove on Entrance Island.  Entrance Island is at the entrance to Hobart Bay.  An American boat with a couple of old boys on it has tied up astern of me and the float is full.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is even worse than today, on the nose again 25 knots.  I reckon it may be OK if I get away early.  Total voyage distance 126.1 miles.

BEACHCOMBING BEARS, WHALES AND ICEBERGS

A couple of American sailing boats came alongside the float last night, a good reason for a get together and sundowners.  Sunset didn’t occur until 21:37 last night.

Large Ice Duck protecting Tracy Arm Anchorage. Photo Ray Penson
Large Ice Duck protecting Tracy Arm Anchorage. Photo Ray Penson

This morning I saw my first Black Bear.  He came out of the woods and wandered along the foreshore doing a bit of beachcombing, occasionally digging in the sand and gravel at the water’s edge.  For some reason he took interest in an old fallen tree covered in black lichen, gnawing away at it, eventually he broke off a branch and took it back into the forest.  Quite a special experience to see a bear in the wild.  Now that I have seen one bear I expect to see many more.

Fog Clears to Reveal Port Hand Buoy. Photo Ray Penson
Fog Clears to Reveal Port Hand Buoy. Photo Ray Penson

It was an afternoon start today to ride the ebb tide down Stephens Passage.  It was a soul destroying trip as the wind was on the nose and throwing up tiny little waves that acted like a brake.  The boat was hopping up and down, like driving over a constant series of speed bumps in the road.  The average speed was only 3.5 knots and at times we were down to 1.5 knots.  The hull is very dirty now with a lot of weed and animals living underneath the boat.  At the first opportunity I will haul out and do an antifoul.  Once the hull is clean again I expect to go much faster.

I had my closest encounter yet with a whale this afternoon.  He was so close alongside I could have hopped over the rail onto his back.  He just came up close alongside, thankfully he didn’t blow or I would have been covered in whale snot.  That is the closest I want to get.   I didn’t get a chance to take a photo.

I was surprised to see large icebergs in Stephens passage, as we approached the entrance to Tracy Arm there were dozens of bergs flowing out on the tide.  A fog bank covered the approach to Tracy Arm, thick fog, a pea souper as we say at sea.  The large icebergs were showing up on radar OK, the smaller SUV sized ones didn’t show as they were so low in the water.  The navigation became interesting entering the harbour, there is a range to pass through the reef but I couldn’t see it.  The fog cleared on my port side for a minute and I picked out the port hand buoy next to a large iceberg.  I didn’t see the starboard buoy only 200 meters away but I did see some very large bergs close by.

As I approached the anchorage the fog lifted to reveal the sea littered with icebergs.  I didn’t realise it would be so congested with ice, its another twenty miles from the anchorage to the glacier face.

The entrance to the anchorage is guarded by a large duck shaped berg and there are a few smaller ice floes floating around the anchorage.  There are five other boats in the anchorage, an indication of how few anchorages there are on this section of the inside passage.  There is only one other sailing boat, the others are large motor yachts.

It’s been a long day of going slowly and I am feeling pretty knackered after nearly seven hours of engine running.  No socialising tonight and a good sleep is called for.  Total voyage distance 98.7 miles.

HUNKERED DOWN IN TAKU HARBOUR

Last night when I entered Taku Harbour I prepared the anchor ready to drop.  It was a last minute decision to moor alongside the float.  Its easier to anchor than get the fenders rigged and dock lines out of the locker.  This morning I was glad I made the decision to moor alongside.

The forecast southerly winds arrived and then some.  A fisherman came alongside the float and reported a strong northerly flowing two knot current in the passage.  A yacht later came in and reported 30 knot gusts and short steep seas, he was coming from the south so had a good sail.  For Truce to try and motor into such short seas is fruitless, she just becomes a rocking horse without much forward progress.  Sailing is an option but I don’t fancy tacking all day into a headwind and current.   So I stayed happily alongside the float and had a relaxed day pottering about chatting with the fellow occupants of the float.

I caught up on my emails that I had been putting off for a couple of weeks, my outbox is bulging ready to discharge when next on Wi-Fi.  The seawater filter got cleaned, the stern light got fixed and a bit more housekeeping as well.

Taku Harbour is quite a busy place, there has been a steady stream of fishing boats coming and going and a couple of large motor yachts anchored up the bay.  It’s one of the few sheltered harbours on the inside passage between Petersburg and Juneau so is a popular stop for cruisers. Surprisingly, apart from a couple of Bald Eagles wildlife seems to be absent.

The forecast for tomorrow is not too flash either, more or less the same as today.  I suspect the wind will drop but the forecaster is playing safe – just in case.  The ebb tide isn’t until the afternoon so I will make a decision to go or stay another day by mid-morning.