A REAL SAILING DAY

Last night was horrid.  The island where I anchored seemed to have its own evil micro climate going on.  The wind came in shrieking squalls, the rain was incessant and the sea came in the bay from around the corner.  We dragged anchor in the early hours – its always the early hours – but it caught again.

That’s the thing about anchorages, they may look good on the chart but it’s the surrounding topography that creates shelter, wind funnels and wave reflectors.  You just don’t know until you have tried it, or you get some local knowledge.  I wont be going back to warren Cove.

At first light we departed, glad to be free of the place.  I waited for first light as there are so many logs about in Sumner Strait.  The new logs are easy to spot, it’s the old gnarly rascals that have been around for years, they barely show above the surface but are very solid.

We had wind for a change, quite squally at first and with rain all day.  But it came from a direction we could use.  Truce got in the groove, put her shoulder down and surged through the waves.  The speed rarely dropped below five knots for hours on end, we sped past our planned stopping place, not wanting to waste the wind.  Tonight it’s another open anchorage called Seclusion Harbour on Kuiu island (don’t ask me to pronounce it).  Fingers crossed the wind and rain abate when the sun goes down.

I was reading the visitors guide to Prince of Wales Island this morning.  June is actually the driest month with less than four inches of rain on average.  That compares with thirteen plus inches in October.  I reckon this June must be an exception, its still raining now and I have bailed about two feet out of the pig in the last two weeks.

Tomorrow I will have a look at Rocky Pass or Keku Strait.  My book says the coastguard have removed the navigational aids to deter people from using the Strait as its dangerous.  Doesn’t sound right to me.  No harm in having a look anyway.  Total voyage distance 1,031.9 miles.

Logged 12th June 2016

FIRST SUMMER FOG

We departed Winter Harbour this morning in thick fog, visibility less than one cable.  With the radar and Navionics chart backed up with echo sounder, magnetic compass and eyeball it was slow going picking through the islands towards Tonowek Narrows.  As the Sea Otters appeared from the fog they had to be checked as not being logs in disguise.  It was quite amusing watching their old men whiskery faces with enquiring looks as they floated past.  As soon as they saw a human they disappeared in an instant underwater.

Downtown Craig, Alaska.Photo Ray Penson
Downtown Craig, Alaska.Photo Ray Penson

Just before entering the Tonewek Narrows Narrows the fog lifted with the rising sun.  The water was glassy calm all morning.  In the narrows there is an Indian burial site guarded by a large wooden carving of a man standing at the edge of the trees.  Quite eerie, a giant wooden gingerbread man peering out of the woods.

Later on in the day we were slowly catching a group of whales, perhaps the same group as I saw yesterday.  They were about a mile ahead and travelling in the same direction.  Its hard to count whales as they don’t all appear at the same time but it looked like five in the group.  One had a large blow and one quite small, perhaps a mother and calf.  After about an hour they turned around and started coming back towards the boat but spread out.  I noticed they were taking three or four breaths on the surface and then diving down for a long period of around 3 minutes.  As they dive down it’s a tremendous sight to see the tail come out of the water and disappear as if driving the whale down.  There is a great power and weight in that tail.

Eagles on the dock in Craig. Ray Penson
Eagles on the dock in Craig. Ray Penson

Tonight I have taken a berth in Craig.  I need to do a food restock and get some fresh produce plus do the laundry before heading out again.  I am at a crossroads tonight.  I don’t know if I should continue south and complete the circumnavigation of Prince of Wales Island or start heading north again.  The forecast is for Southerly winds, maybe the north option is best.  But the previous forecast southerly winds have not been strong enough for sailing.  The trip across Sumner Strait from Craig is about 60 miles and that requires a good steady consistent wind.  I will sleep on it.  I still have some shopping to compete in the morning anyway.  Total voyage distance 950.3 miles.

Logged 10th June 2016

EL CAPITANO PASSAGE

We anchored overnight in Marble Bay, where there is a mine, marble I guess.  The day started flat calm and the sun shone.  The air was cool but by nine in the morning it was warm enough for shorts and t shirt.  Taking advantage of the warmth I opened up the boat, all hatches, carpet and bedding out in the sun, a good cleaning and airing and now everything is fresh again.

Prince of Wales Island.
Prince of Wales Island.

Also did a bake, had fresh bread with cheese for lunch, sitting in the cockpit, with a Lighthouse Special Bitter Ale.  Perfect.

Today was an afternoon sailing to transit El Capitano Passage.  This passage is little known and has a seven foot depth for a twenty meter width.  It seems a lot less than twenty meters wide but its well-marked, we transited at high tide so there was plenty of water.

Along the passage are numerous bays and islands with Sea Otters and Eagles everywhere.  We were the only vessel in the passage and I only saw one other boat, a fishing vessel, all day.  I really enjoyed this passage, a very beautiful and magical place, its one of the highlights of the voyage so far.

El Capitano Passage, Dry Pass. Feels less than 20m wide. Photo Ray Penson
El Capitano Passage, Dry Pass. Feels less than 20m wide. Photo Ray Penson

It was another motoring day, what little wind there was came from ahead.  This evening we have anchored in Sarker Cove, off a long abandoned gold mining town called Deweyville.  From the boat I can’t see much of the town, just a couple of rotten huts.  I will explore further in the morning.

Deweyville Anchorage where I hooked a wire. Photo Ray Penson
Deweyville Anchorage where I hooked a wire. Photo Ray Penson

When coming into the anchorage I was just about to anchor when there was a great commotion just astern.  A seal had got a fish on the surface and an eagle was trying to get it.  I am not sure who got the fish first, the Eagle I suspect.  Whatever, the seal won the prize and the eagle took off and perched in his tree just astern of where we anchored.

There are deer on the edge of the trees, they come out and munch on the grass by the shoreline and then retreat back into the woods.  I saw them doing the same thing in the early evening in Red Bay a few days ago.  Total voyage distance 904.3 miles.

Logged 8th June 2016

COFFMAN COVE AND MORE

I left the dock before six this morning, didn’t want the Harbour Master charging me for an extra night.  I had intended moving from the dock to the anchorage last night, but I had consumed a couple of beers so thought remaining tied up was the best option.

Port Protection, Prince of Wales Island Photo Ray Penson
Port Protection, Prince of Wales Island Photo Ray Penson

I really enjoyed my stay in Coffman Cove.  A great little place, special thanks to Larry for his hospitality and generous gift of fresh shrimps, and also to Stephanie behind the bar.

We sailed for a couple of hours before the wind died and the tide turned against us.  I found a bay and threw the anchor over the side and waited for the next tide change.  The tides are quite tricky here and it pays to catch a good run.  Around one in the afternoon we set off again with flat calm glassy seas, so flat the clouds and mountains were reflected.  The sun even made a couple of shows through the cloud.

We motored up the Kashevarof passage and into Sumner Strait, a very scenic run.  There was the usual wildlife and quite a few whales around the tide lines.  This evening I have anchored in Red Bay at the top of Prince of Wales Island.  We had to push through a four knot stream to get into the bay, once inside it opened out to an Alaska picture postcard scene.

Fresh Alaska Shrimp the best. Phoro Ray Penson
Fresh Alaska Shrimp the best. Phoro Ray Penson

I found a nice cove to anchor in and then fished the shrimps out of the cool box.  I was so hungry the first half dozen got quickly cooked and washed down with a beer.  Wonderful, the best shrimp I have ever tasted.  I then got to work making Thai Curry shrimp.  I was a bit limited on ingredients but with an onion, green curry paste, chilli flakes, coconut milk and some imagination I came up with a feast, Sharwoods Mango Chutney for condiments.  I put some jam into the leftover rice for desert.

I ate in the cockpit at seven in warm sunshine.  The deer are coming out of the forest fringe into the meadow, all very peaceful.  No bears yet.  Although I did see some bear marks on the trash cans in Coffman Cove.  Total voyage distance 848.1 miles.

Logged 6th June 2016

FRIENDLY COFFMAN COVE

I have just had a great day in Coffman Cove.  What a great place and nice people.  Everyone has time for a chat and the locals are very relaxed.  For the first time I feel as if I am in Alaska.

Downtown Coffman Cove. Photo Ray Penson
Downtown Coffman Cove. Photo Ray Penson

The day opened dry and no rain today, its been cloudy all day but nice and dry.  I took the opportunity to remove the two leaking skylights and re-bed them with new mastic.  All went well until I started rushing the second one when it looked like rain.  I mistakenly put the Perspex back upside down and had to turn it over with mastic sticking to the top.  It was messy but cleaned up OK.

I also installed the new lower lifelines, they look quite smart and my splices of the braid line turned out well.  The fresh water has been topped up and garbage sent ashore so we are ready to travel further.

We are experiencing very big tides at the moment, 6 meters today.  It makes navigation interesting and the currents flow even stronger.  The big tides are also bringing thousands of logs into the water as they get picked up from the previous high tide line along the shore.

When I came out of Lyman Anchorage the channel was blocked by logs, I managed to go around most of them but one big one was blocking the narrow part of the channel.  I could not get around it without the possibility of grounding, so I gently pushed it out of the way with the bow to get through.  Another first.

Tomorrow I will get travelling again, not sure of my destination, just working my way around Prince of Wales Island.

Logged 5th June 2016.

PRINCE OF WHALES ISLAND

I didn’t get much sleep last night.  The selected anchorage looked promising on the chart but turned out to be a wind funnel and we were hit with gusts all night.  The rain continued all night and into the morning but took a break this afternoon.  Its back again tonight.

I am on Prince of Wales Island now.  I fancy a look down the west side, it looks interesting and off the usual tourist track.  To get to the west side I will have to go over the top of the island.  It may mean doubling back to get up to Glacier Bay, just have to see what the wind brings.

We sailed up from last nights’ anchorage and had a nice free wind all the way.  I didn’t bother with the main as we were doing above five knots with the jib and we didn’t do a great distance.  No other boats out and about today, there was a small craft advisory issued so they probably stayed tucked up somewhere.

There is a big weather system out in the Pacific bringing warm moist air up from the south.  As this hits the mountains and colder water its turns to heaps of rain.  So this wind is good for sailing, just need to soak up the rain.

This evening I have found a nice sheltered anchorage, a bit tricky to get into at low water but once inside it’s a nice sheltered basin.  There is a stream entering at the end and three areas of meadow where the grass comes down to the shore.  Looks like bear habitat to me.

Once anchored this evening I launched the pig.  She obviously didn’t like being disturbed and took a chunk out of my ankle.  It seems impossible to launch it without suffering some sort of personal damage.  Now the pig is off the deck I will light a fire tonight and warm the boat through.

In Ketchikan I bought a new spark plug, some petrol and two stroke mix for the outboard motor.  I will have a go at getting it going later.  Total voyage distance 782.2 Miles.

Logged 1st June 2016