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.

BEAR ENOUGH

A wonderful day of bear encounters of the best kind.  I have been pumped up all day, exciting stuff.

This morning I followed the forestry workers to the trailhead leading to Anan falls.  I checked in, handed over my permit and received the safety briefing.  Then I headed up the trail, I was a bit nervous, my friends at Rayme’s Bar in Wrangell had filled my head with Anan bear encounter stories.  About 200 meters along the trail I came across a steaming mound of bear shit.  Mmmm, recent, must be close by.  With heightened awareness I continued on, singing, to frighten off any bears.

Truce at Anan Bay Photo Ray Penson jpg
Truce at Anan Bay Photo Ray Penson

I reached to lookout position about a kilometre further without seeing any bears on the trail.  The falls lead from a seawater lagoon; hundreds of salmon can be seen below the falls waiting to attempt the climb.  The salmon are far larger than I expected.  At the falls I watched a big brown bear catch a large salmon, take it to a small cave to devour it, starting at the head and working towards the tail.  The same bear came back later and repeated the trick.

The bears come and go at the falls and just seem to appear from nowhere and melt back into the forest.  They have an amazing ability to move up, down and across the most difficult terrain, proper 4WD creatures.  Later in the morning a mother appeared with two cubs, this was a most fascinating show.  The mother bear caught a salmon and shared it with the cubs, lots of interaction.  It was almost like being in a zoo, but this was the wild.  Very happy to have witnessed this spectacle.  Worth the $16 dollars permit fee.

Having got carried away with watching bears I completely forgot about the incoming tide and the pig.  With five metre plus tides at the moment tying up the dinghy to the shore is an art.  I arrived to find the pig happily floating, some distance out.  I waded out, up to my neck in Alaskan water and retrieved it.  The water was quite cool and a hot cup of tea was needed to restore circulation.

Later, as I was heading down Seaward Passage I saw something swimming in the water, first I thought it was a deer, then a moose – but it was a Brown Bear.  This guy was swimming across a channel over half a mile wide!   I did a quick circle around him and took a video.  Then I moved on as he was obviously quite frightened by the boat and swimming away at a great rate.  I feel so lucky to have encountered a swimming Grizzly.

This evening I am anchored in Vixen harbour.  Quite a narrow shallow entrance to traverse then opens up into a nice sheltered anchorage.  It’s been a long and interesting day.  I will sleep well this evening.

SIDE TRIP TO NOWHERE

This morning opened wet and misty, a constant wet drizzle and visibility reduced to about half a mile.  I decided to take a side trip up Dundas Sound to the West Arm where there should be a good anchorage and some great views of the mountains beyond.

After a short motor in calm conditions I anchored in the west arm and awaited for the weather to improve.  Unfortunately, by early afternoon there was no change, there was nothing to be seen, only mist and the shore up to around 300 feet.  So, being impatient and wanting to do something I decided to head back to my anchorage from the previous nigh which is more sheltered.

In the West Arm I saw an amazing sight.  A large group of Sea Otters all bunched together lying around on the surface.  There must have been at least forty of them.  The food must be abundant around here to support so many otters.

It was Salmon again for lunch and dinner, now it’s finished.  That’s good, I need a change from a Salmon diet.  Total voyage distance 1,375.4 miles.

Logged 3rd July 2016