RAIN STOPPED PLAY

I was awoken this morning by the patter of rain on the coach roof and the creaking of the mooring lines.  Fortunately, it was time to get up and no precious sleep was lost.

The northerly wind was causing little waves to enter the harbour and set Truce jiggling alongside and gently rolling.  There was a danger that the cap shrouds would touch the adjacent boat when both boats rolled towards each other.  I shifted Truce a bit further inshore to reduce the risk, a bit of a palaver as I have five mooring lines out.

Once the boat was settled I headed ashore.  Any thoughts of exploring the island had disappeared as the weather was threatening rain again and still windy. On my way into town I was given a lift by Dave, my new best mate in Nuku’alofa.  Dave is a bone carver and part time tour guide, in fact he is enthusiastic to do anything for money it seems.  Dave dropped me at an internet café where the kids go – fastest internet so far and only cost a dollar, unfortunately there is no wifi.

When I returned to Truce the waves were making her surge alongside – I put out another stern line, now we have six lines out.  There is a trough approaching and I expect the winds will come around to the east as it passes through.

If the weather is good tomorrow I will take a trip and visit Cooks landing place.  I am really not too interested in seeing the rest of the island – my mind is on departure and not sightseeing.

SPECTACULAR WRANGELL NARROWS

A four thirty start this morning to transit Wrangell Narrows.  As I cast off from Petersburg it was wet, raining, overcast and misty.  The morning has a nice feel to it, very tranquil and the smell of wood smoke from fires on the shore carried across the water.  The rain, mist and cloud lasted all day.  Petersburg is a noisy place, the fish processing works make a din and there are boats coming and going at all hours.

Fishing Lodge on Wrangell Narrows
Fishing Lodge on Wrangell Narrows

Shortly after setting off and going down the channel I noticed that there was very little cooling water coming out of Yanmars back end.  The engine was getting hot and I needed to stop and find the problem.  I quickly ducked out the channel, found a spot to anchor and shut down the engine.  When I opened the seawater strainer and found some weed inside – but not enough to stop the cooling water flowing.  Oh no I thought, I need to change the pump impeller, not a major job but it would take long enough for me to miss the tide.  Time to put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and keep calm.

Visit by a Hummingbird
Visit by a Hummingbird

I then had another look and pushed my finger down the inlet pipe from the sea valve.  It was blocked solid with rubbery weed.  The impeller was OK!  I was unable to hook the weed out from the top so removed the pipe from the seacock (having a wooden bung handy just in case).  The weed still didn’t want to come out, I needed a wire coat hanger, a wonderful versatile tool.  Well, no wire coat hangers on board so I improvised with a variety of kitchen utensils and removed the weed.  Thirty-eight minutes later we were under way again and Mr. Yanmar running happy and cool.

Wrangell Narrows is a spectacular waterway.  This morning the rain and low cloud reduced visibility so I could only see the banks either side.  There is a road leading down the east side from Petersburg and good looking houses are dotted along the shoreline.  I would love to do this transit on a clear sunny day, the scenery must be spectacular with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.

Downtown Wrangell during a non rain moment
Downtown Wrangell during a non rain moment

By nine I had popped out the southern end of Wrangell Narrows into Sumner Strait.  I tried sailing but squalls and wind shifts made life difficult and I was actually going backwards at one stage.  The wind eventually shifted to ahead as usual, only about ten knots so I motored.  I had intended to anchor overnight and arrive in Wrangell on Wednesday.  But on account of the miserable weather I decided to push on to Wrangell direct.  Might as well be in the pub if it’s raining.

By four in the afternoon I was tied up in Wrangell and checking in with Boarder Protection.  The harbourmaster advised me not to wash down the boat as there is a water shortage in town!  Well the reservoirs are full but the water processing plant struggles to keep up with the demands of the fish plants.

I have just had a shower and am fit for human company again.  Next on the agenda is the Marine Bar and a pizza.  Status quo, still raining and no sun today.  Total voyage distance 223.5 miles.

WAITING ON WEATHER

I am still anchored in Portage Bay off Frederick Sound.  The weather last night was horrid with wind gusts and driving rain.  The same has continued all day today.  Another yacht came in after me yesterday, he is going south as well and can’t make progress either.  No one in a small low powered boat is able to move south at the moment.

Portage Bay Anchorage. Photo Ray Penson
Portage Bay Anchorage. Photo Ray Penson

This afternoon I dragged anchor for a few meters.  It caught again but I was getting too close to some crab pots so decided to pick up the anchor and move.  The west side of the bay looked slightly better so I moved over there, it’s the same thing really but I got to run the engine and charge the batteries.  I was also incredibly bored and needed to do something.

I am getting insignificant charge from the solar panel at the moment, I haven’t seen the sun since last Monday, five days ago.  Usually the solar panel can keep up with my requirements for charging my electronic devices and lights.

With all this rain falling I decided to harvest some to top up my fresh water tanks.  I don’t really

Harvesting Rainwater from the side deck. Photo Ray Penson

need fresh water but it was something to do.  Truce has three scuppers on each side to drain water from the decks.  These scuppers can be blocked with plugs and the collected water diverted into the fresh water tanks via the filling pipes on the side decks.  The system is so simple and works wonderfully, my tanks were topped up in no time.

Another benefit of having scupper plugs arises when taking fuel.  It’s quick and easy to block the scuppers to prevent any diesel release to the water in the unlikely event of a spill on deck.  That simple precaution could save a lot of money in fines.

My guide book says that Portage Bay is a beautiful and protected anchorage.  It’s not very protected from the south as the wind whistles through the estuary at the head of the bay called Goose Cove and then continues for three miles down the bay.  All I can see is a bit of shoreline, low cloud and driving rain.  I really look forward to what will be revealed when the weather clears up.

The forecast for late tonight is for thirty knot winds and rain.  Tomorrows’ prediction is only slightly better so I may have another day in Portage Bay.  Sailing teaches you patience.

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

A PLEASANT SURPRISE!

Weather turned out well today, a bit of rain and drizzle in the morning but then it cleared up and I could feel the suns warmth through the clouds.  The sun didn’t get to be serious or cast any shadows but it was there in the background, behind the clouds.  The forecast wind didn’t arrive and it was a flat calm, glassy sea all day.  We motored on, Mr Yanmar doing a fine job again.

Not much wildlife today apart from Dalls Porpoise – the most boring of animals.  It’s dolphins that are fun but I haven’t seen any so far this trip.

Coffman Cove Harbour. Photo Ray Penson.
Coffman Cove Harbour. Photo Ray Penson.

The destination today was Coffman Cove, it looked a decent anchorage on the chart.  Surprise, Surprise.  It’s actually an inhabited place and I tied up at the dock on the third attempt after someone took my lines as I kept being blown off the dock.  The population of Coffman Cove is about 150 but this swells during the summer months as tourists and holiday makers come in.  They get a monthly ferry call.

An exploration ashore discovered an ATM, Post Office, Store and Bar.  Yes, a real bar complete with pool table and tap beer.  Bar population included fishermen and loggers.  I am learning a whole new language, quite difficult when I only understand one word in three and every second word is a swearword.  Style here is ZZ Top beard, baseball cap and serious braces (Suspenders) to hold pants up.

So far I am liking this place.  The people are friendly and open and this is my first experience of the real Alaska.  I may stay another day to soak up the culture.  Total voyage distance 819.1 miles.

Logged 4th June 2016

A STORMY NIGHT

By three this morning the wind had increased to gusts of 40 knots, I let out more chain and had the engine running as we were close to the shore, its only a small pool we are anchored in.  Thankfully all held firm.  The rain and wind have continued all day and only at six this evening did the wind ease off and the torrential rain turn to drizzle.

A stormy night, Rain Rain and more Rain. Ray Penson.
A stormy night, Rain Rain and more Rain. Ray Penson.

Needless to say, with a gale blowing outside and fifty knot gusts just down the coast  I didn’t move from the anchorage.  So, not much rest last night and a restless day.  I made myself busy with chores and maintenance.  I am splicing some new lifelines and other fun stuff.

The rain we have had in the last week has been tremendous and of biblical proportions.  The barometer is rising now and it appears the southerly storm is abating.  It must be a massive system out in the Pacific to produce so much wind and rain.

Today we had a very low tide, a minus tide and bits of the foreshore were exposed that are normally submerged at low water.  I was watching the Otter running around checking the low water mark, he looked very excited and was skipping all over the place in the pouring rain.  These animals work really hard for their survival.

The Otter was a bit of an inspiration and I got out on deck to do some chores, never mind a bit of rain.  Later I took the pig for a run after bailing out half a boat load of rainwater.

So nothing much happened today.  Looking forward to moving on when the weather improves.

Logged 3rd June 2016

NARROWS, RAPIDS, WHALES

Rain, Rain and more rain
Rain, Rain and more Rain

The rain continued overnight and this morning was wet and miserable.  I forgot about going for a walk and had to bail out the pig who was half full of water.  My options were to stay and wait for the rain to abate or move on.  As a North Westerly gale is forecast I decided to move on otherwise I could be trapped for days.  Kent Inlet is an interesting place and it would be good to return in fine weather for a look around.

Departing through the narrow passage to Kent Inlet was exciting, the current was running at 6 knots and Mr Yanmar needed all his power to get us through.  We crept through going full speed as the water swirled and rushed past us and between the rocks at each side.  I would like to have taken a video but my hands were full of boat.

Once clear of Kent Inlet we headed up Laredo Channel under motor and rippled seas.  There was a promise of Southerly winds, it finally arrived at midday when we set all available sail.  The next 4 hours saw us ticking off the miles as we headed up Estaban Channel with the wind vane in charge.  So nice to be sailing.

The weather brightened up in the afternoon although it didn’t warm up much.  The afternoon also brought the first whales of the trip.  There were Finback whales swimming up the channel.  They didn’t get too close but it was clear to see that they were finbacks.

I saw a yacht in the distance this morning, the same one I had seen two days previously.  Apart from that there was absolutely no other shipping to be seem and no ships appeared on the AIS all day.  There are not many people around here.

The choice of anchorage for the night was limited and I chose Gillespie Channel as having a couple of options.  Going into Gillespie Channel was another exciting narrow rapidly flowing passage.  Again we needed full power to get through.  Once inside the first anchorage was too deep, we would have needed a stern moor and doing that is much easier with two people.  I moved a couple of miles further in and found a small pool with 12 meters depth.  We are anchored between Bernard Island to the south and Trutch Island to the north in a small pool tucked behind Tennant Island.  Hopefully it will be secure in the upcoming North Westerly gale.

Rum and Coke.Yacht Truce
Rum and Coke.Yacht Truce.

Once we had anchored the sun finally came out at seven this evening.  That prompted a sundowner and the realisation that I am down to my last lemon for Rum and Coke.  The forecast for the next few days is looking horrible for going north with gale force winds on the nose.

  Let’s see what tomorrow brings.  Total voyage distance 514.8 miles.

Logged 18th May 2016

MORE RAIN AND PLANNING

It rained all night with some wind and a nice fresh cold breezy day today.  I am trying to get a reasonably priced ERPIB and expected I could get one from West Marine in the USA.  Unfortunately, although the price is great they are only programmed for American boats.  I then spoke at length with West Marine in Vancouver and they say theirs are only for Canadian boats (seems unusual) and their price was double the USA price.

So, eventually I contacted Burnsco Marine in New Zealand, they have an EPIRB at a good price and will ship to Canada.  If only I had known before I left NZ – hindsight is a lovely thing.  Thank you Burnsco.

Got frustrated today with the mobile phone.  The system here in Canada for non-Canadians is pretty poor.  My credit ran out mid call to a supplier this morning.  I then tried to top up with my phone, not possible.  I then tried to top up from my laptop, again not possible as I don’t have a Canadian address.  The only option was to get on a bus down to Sidney and top up at the seven eleven.

An hour later I purchased a top up and it didn’t load, the guy at the counter said that happens all the time and gave me a number for customer service, but this number could only be called from a landline!  Eventually, thirty minutes later I managed to top up.  On the bright side my trip to town was not wasted as I managed to find a coffee plunger and brewed up some decent coffee this afternoon.

I have been in contact with New Zealand’s best sign man, Bryant Thompson, for a new port of registry sign on the transom.  I will also get some signs for the new NZ Callsign and MMSI number which go above the chart table.  All being well the signs will be here later this week and I will try my best to get them applied straight.

During a sunny spell this afternoon I tried to figure out a way of launching the dinghy without crippling myself.  The dinghy is cold moulded and built like a battleship, apparently Ernest considered that it would be his lifeboat as a last resort.  Its heavy.  I may try rigging a spare halyard and using a short spinnaker pole as a davit – needs a lot more thought really.

Off to do the laundry tonight, its nice and warm in the laundry which is a bonus.  Then back for a low flyer and a chat to my neighbour.

Still can’t find long life milk.

Logged 4th April 2016