ICY STRAIT TO PORT FREDERICK

Last night was uncomfortable, gusty winds into the anchorage, nothing serious just disturbing and restless.   Today we moved east down Icy Strait and into Port Frederick which is just past Hoonah.  The cruise ship Noordam came past the anchorage at six this morning and I encountered a few more cruise ships on the way.

Once out the anchorage the weather went flat calm and the wildlife came out to play.  Humpback Whales, Porpoise, sea Otters, Seals, Sealions, and all kinds of birds kept me entertained.

Just past Hoonah the wind filled in and it was possible to ghost with the jib for a couple of hours down to the anchorage in Port Frederick.  The inlet where I have anchored for the night is littered with crab pots, it was hard to find a clear spot to drop anchor.

The anchorage is also home to a few million small insects, sand fly type things that bite and itch.  I am not complaining, the anchorage is calm and looks like a good night’s sleep tonight.  Total voyage distance 1,427.8 miles.

Logged 5th July 2016

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

KEKU STRAIT AND ROCKY PASS

I spent a peaceful night with no disturbances.  Seclusion Harbour is well named, just the place to get away from it all.  Sun rise was just after four, the animals were up and about early and making noise.  The morning was flat calm and sunny as I picked up anchor and headed over to the south end of Keku Strait.  We dodged a few rocky patches on the way and sea Otters were all around, it felt great to be alive on such a beautiful peaceful morning.

Keku Strait separates Kuiu Island from Kupreanof Island and is a direct route from Sumner Strait to Frederick Sound.  My guide book says ‘The Coastguard removed all navigational markers to discourage its use’.  That’s a bit like saying ‘this road is dangerous so we will remove the road signs and lane markers’ not a responsible thing to do.  Anyway, the book was clearly wrong as all but two navigational markers were in place, one of the missing marker was a pile and the other was a buoy that had broken lose and washed up on the shore.  The strait is very well marked and passage through is straightforward for any competent boat owner.

The buoyage system here is IALA B.  That is to say that in general when entering port you leave the red buoy or marker to Starboard and green to Port.  In the Keku Strait the tide floods from both ends and ebbs from somewhere in the middle.  The markers remain the same side throughout the strait so there should be no confusion.  I marked my right hand thumb with red ink as a reminder in case I became confused.

The strait is spectacular, dotted with islands and meadow areas.  The backdrop is rolling wooded hills with snow-capped mountains away to the west.  Half way through the strait after a twisty section called The Devils Elbow I found a spot and anchored for an hour, had an early lunch and savoured the scenery.  The only other people about were a group of kayakers going north through the strait.  I do like waving to kayakers as they have to stop paddling and put the paddle down before they can wave back.

Logged 14th June 2016

PULLED A SICKIE TODAY.

I woke up this morning not feeling too chipper.  A blinding headache and lethargy.  I had a cup of tea and lay down on the salon settee and slept for another two hours.  Last night I cooked up a concoction of pasta, pizza topping and salami (sounds awful but tastes quite good).  The salami was on special in Craig supermarket, I reckon it did me in.  I had dreams last night and that is a sure sign that I have ingested Monosodium glutamate – must have been in the bloody salami.

Anyway it was raining and miserable so I decided to have a day off.  Not had a sick day yet.  Turned out to be a great decision.  By lunch time the sun was out and all damp oilskins, boots and stuff was drying off nicely in the cockpit.  I was a cleaning machine in the galley and all is sparkling again.  I took a late lunch in the cockpit, wearing not much as nature intended in brilliant sunshine and flat calm.

The forecast is for westerly winds so in the afternoon I moved anchorage to a position where we should have more shelter from the west.  The place I had selected turned out to be rocky with numerous uncharted shallow patches.  We came quite close to the bottom.  A little further down the coast I found a small indentation that looked calm and sheltered.  After some sniffing around and numerous turns to find the shallow spots and rocks I dropped anchor.

Happy in the new anchorage and enjoying the warm sun I set about changing out the main halyard.  I spliced in a thimble into the new halyard and after measuring the old halyard (twice) cut the new line to size.  Its all rigged now and awaiting its first trial.

What a beautiful spot I am in.  Sheltered from the west but looking out to the east at a tremendous view of sea, islands and snow capped mountains in the distance.  Sunrise should be good.  Wow, I had dinner in the cockpit at eight this evening in warm sunshine and a picture postcard setting, in total silence apart from the animal noises from the forest and sea otters crunching shells.  Dinner was washed down with a couple of Alaskan Icy Bay IPA’s (how bizarre drinking India Pale Ale in Alaska).  I am feeling quite healthy again and really enjoyed my ‘day off’.

In the morning I am planning a transit of Rocky Pass (unless I see a big closed sign).  According to my chart the controlling depth is 4 feet.  As we are drawing 6 feet we will need to go through with some tide underneath us.  Should be fun.  Total voyage distance 1,037.3 miles.

Logged 13th 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

WATCHING SEA OTTERS

Wonderful sparkling clear and calm weather today, perfect for motor boating.  This morning we shot out of Red Bay at ten knots with the outgoing tide and into Sumner Strait.  We carried the tide down to Port Protection where I tied up to a public float.

West Coast Prince of Wales Island. Photo Ray Penson
West Coast Prince of Wales Island. Photo Ray Penson

Port protection is a small place, just a base for fishing really.  The harbour is well protected and the name was given after the Chatham and Discovery sheltered there from a severe storm in Sumner strait.  I was invited to have a beer with the fishing guys but declined as I needed to get a bit further down the track today.  Drinking with fishing guys would have led to another night tied up.

On leaving Port protection we headed south down Sumner Strait towards El Capitan Passage.  I know this is the wrong direction for Glacier Bay but I have time, the Glacier Bay permit starts on the 9th July.  This part of Alaska is not on the inside passage route and not that well visited so worth a look.  I don’t quite know how I am going to get back north yet; I expect the weather will have a say.

Sea Otters banding together in Prince William Sound near Whittier, Alaska Image credit. secure.defenders.org
Sea Otters banding together in Prince William Sound near Whittier, Alaska
Image credit. secure.defenders.org

Since starting the voyage I have been on the lookout for Sea Otters.  Today I saw the first ones and they were everywhere.  They are really interesting to watch and don’t seem at all frightened of humans.  I had three by the boat playing around, floating on their backs while cracking sea urchins on their chests.

They are very cheeky characters and much bigger close up than I expected.  I had a whale surface quite close in front of the boat this afternoon, I thought about slowing down but at five knots we are pretty slow anyway.  Total voyage distance 883.4 miles.

Logged 7th June 2016