IN SAUDI ARABIA

I am in Saudi Arabia for a short job, inspecting a couple of ships.  Its quite warm and everything is covered in sand, not really my type of place but I should be able to top up the boat fund and carry on preparing for next summer.

Anyway, I went offshore yesterday and got marooned on a ship overnight.  With not much to do I started flicking back on the laptop through old photos.  I was surprised to see that I was in Pelican, Alaska on this date – TWO years ago!

Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

Pelican was an interesting place, the sort of place not many people get to as it’s off the beaten track.  I remember interesting and friendly people, a library with good WiFi, fresh salmon and good beer.  Very enjoyable.

Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

Flicking forward in time to one year ago I found a photo of the underside of the mast where it exits the coach roof, with bits of wood smashed up to make makeshift mast wedges.  At the time I was on my way from San Francisco to Hawaii, it was a bit disconcerting when some mast wedges dropped out and creaks started emanating from the mast.  I think the change of climate may have caused the wooden wedges to shrink a bit as we headed south.  I was happy to have fixed the problem and arrived in Hawaii where I made a more permanent fix once in port.

Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.

This year I find myself offshore Saudi Arabia.  I haven’t been in these waters since I was a young man working on a pioneering SBM project to service the super-tankers of the day.  We managed to achieve amazing things with very little equipment – maybe because we didn’t understand we could fail.  There are far more platforms, barges, rigs and workboats around than the old days – it’s a very busy place now.

Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.

By this evening I should be back onshore and writing up my reports.  Then its back on the plane in a couple of days, back to New Zealand and the winter weather.

WAITING IN SAUSALITO

Another quiet day at Sausalito anchorage – just a bit more wind and cooler since yesterday.  There is a cold front approaching on Thursday and everybody is getting excited at the prospect of rain – apparently quite rare this time of year.  Quite impressive watching the cloud coming off the ocean and building above Sausalito then cascading down into the town this morning.

Sausalito getting Cloud Bombed Photo. Ray Penson
Sausalito getting Cloud Bombed Photo. Ray Penson

Early today a Pelican was fishing by the boat.  What an ungainly bird.  First, he gets airborne with a great seemingly uncoordinated performance of feet and wings.  Then circles around and drops like a bag of wet rags into the water beak first.  I suppose Pelicans must catch fish but they don’t look very convincing, looks like pot luck fishing to me.

Later in the morning I took the rubber duck ashore – getting to be a routine.  I was going to walk up to West Marine, quite a way up the road.  The wind was building so I didn’t wander too far as it’s a wet ride in in any chop in the dinghy.

I downloaded another weather file, a strong cold front is hitting the coast on Thursday.  Looks like there will be a weather window for departure on Friday following the front.  I expect I will need to sail quite a way south to avoid the high pressure and calms sitting on my route.

Meanwhile – nothing much else happening.  That’s good I suppose.

ELFIN COVE ARRIVAL

My new friend Red stopped by last night with a beautiful thick piece of King Salmon.  I cooked it for lunch today – I am stuffed.  There is still more to eat, what a chore.

Sea to Plate in an Hour. Photo Ray Penson
Sea to Plate in an Hour. Photo Ray Penson

Last night in Roses Bar I met a lady from Anchorage who has 57 dogs for pulling sledges.  Interesting to hear how they work and travel.  The dogs can cover fifty miles a day easily, camp out at night and do it again the next day.  Its not a good idea to fall off the sledge as the dogs don’t stop.  A bit like falling overboard when the boat is on autopilot I suppose.

I enjoyed my stay in Pelican, described as ‘a drinking village with a fishing problem’.  I have seen other places in Alaska described the same way.  They certainly do catch a lot of fish.

This morning was raining, wet, overcast, misty and generally damp all over.  Gradually it cleared and this afternoon I had a spectacular view of Glacier Bay mountains and the Brady Glacier in the distance across Cross Sound.

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This morning we crossed fifty-eight degrees North.  It sounds a lot but in reality it’s the same as North Scotland, I used to work much higher latitudes in the North Sea.  It’s just the topography here make sit so unique in close proximity to the mighty North Pacific Ocean and its massive weather systems.

On the trip up from Pelican I saw a whale ahead.  I was standing in the cockpit looking ahead for him and he surfaced next to the boat.  The first I knew was when I heard the explosive sound of his exhale, I nearly jumped out my skin.  I saw the first Puffins today, my book tells me they are Horned Puffins and not tufted Puffins.

Yesterday I was doing a bit of cleaning up and contemplating where all the hair and bits come from.  It’s the human body of course, constantly shedding skin and hair.  I then got to thinking that the boat is a bit like a spaceship, self-contained, life support systems on board and you can’t get off once underway.  Now on a boat all the body bits get swept up and dumped overboard, its easy.  But what about in a spaceship or a spacesuit?  Could a stray clump of belly button fluff shut down a spaceship?  I bet NASA know a lot about body bit management and how to stop stray hairs fouling up oxygen generators.  Maybe that was why the first astronauts were all clean shaved before a mission.  The Russians must have cracked the problem early, they sent a hairy monkey on the first flight (Imagine trying to shave a monkey).

Seaplane landing next to boat entering Elfin Cove .Photo Ray Penson
Seaplane landing next to boat entering Elfin Cove .Photo Ray Penson

Anyway, Elfin Cove looks like an interesting place.  Its built on boardwalks around a double cove.  Like Pelican the winter population shrinks to about fifty or sixty hardy souls.  There is a school, post office, store, fuel dock and bar-restaurant.  Holiday homes and fishing lodges are springing up around the cove.  At the moment its buzzing with fishermen.  Tomorrow I may head over to the North side of Cross Sound towards Brady Glacier – weather dependent.  Total voyage distance 1,343.1 miles.

Logged 30th June 2016