ARRIVAL SITKA

The sun rose this morning to perfect calm, water like a mirror and the mountains reflecting upside down.  I had a leisurely breakfast in the cockpit in glorious warm sunshine.

It was a nice easy couple of hours trip down from the anchorage to Sitka where the harbourmaster allocated me a berth for two days.  Once tied up I gave the US Boarder protection guys a call and checked in.  Foreign boats have a cruising permit and need to check in at each major port along the way.

Calm sunrise near Sitka. Photo Ray Penson
Calm sunrise near Sitka. Photo Ray Penson

First stop ashore was the chandlers to get a few spares for ongoing repair and maintenance.  When you have a boat it’s a never ending job keeping everything running smoothly.  I am replacing a toilet inlet hose and a non-return valve in the bilge pump system – not very glamorous jobs but its easier to maintain now than fix if it goes wrong.

I also need a new strainer for the engine raw water cooling inlet, the type on board is quite old and I am not hopeful of getting a replacement.  Anyway I took the old strainer up to the chandlers as a sample.  Ah yes he said, I know it exactly, we had one sitting on the shelf over there for eight years – a guy came in last week and bought it!  He didn’t know the manufacturer, part number or model it had been there so long the records had been lost.  Almost lucky.

The thing I must do this port call is get USA compatible gas bottles.  The guy at the chandlery said he had the same problem as me, he got new bottles as there is nowhere to change out valves in Sitka.  I will hunt around tomorrow and find a solution, also do the laundry and get some fresh food.

This evening I had a nice shower and am ready to socialise with people again.  Tomorrow after my chores I will have a look around town and do the tourist thing – plenty of tourists here with the cruise ships.  Laundry is due again and a bit of shopping for fresh food.  So far I am liking Sitka.  Total voyage distance 1,229.7 miles.

Logged 22nd June 2016

BUSY IN SITKA

Today has been full on action all day.  This morning I started some maintenance, replaced the toilet inlet hose, put a new non return valve in the bilge pump discharge, made a new gasket for the engine raw water strainer and did a thousand and one other little jobs outstanding.

Sitka Cathedral showing Russian Influence. Photo Ray Penson
Sitka Cathedral showing Russian Influence. Photo Ray Penson

Then I was off to find a solution to my gas cylinder problem.  I found a place selling gas cylinders but as I suspected no one would change out a valve on an existing cylinder.  Oh well, a complete new cylinder probably costs less than changing a valve anyway.  The shop only sold one size of cylinder, it looked about right so I bought one and took it down to the boat to check.  Lucky – it fitted into the gas locker, so I went back and bough another one.  Later I filled both cylinders at a gas station and now have two full USA compatible cylinders on board.  I also still have the old cylinders with some gas in them so will have to stow the new cylinders on deck until the old ones run out and I can dispose of them ashore.

After the gas cylinder success, I set off on a long walk to see if I could get a raw water strainer.  This was a waste of shoe leather but I did get to see a bit of Sitka.  Downtown I found a store selling kitchen stuff and bought a coffee press to replace my broken one – back on good coffee again thank goodness.  A cruise ship was in town and the place was full of passengers milling around.  Sitka looks really interesting and unfortunately I didn’t get to see too much today as I was so busy.  I was back and forth up and down the dock like a worker ant.

This evening I did the grocery shopping and stocked up, my wife, is coming out in a couple of weeks.  I don’t expect that after leaving Sitka I will be in range of shops until I arrive in Hoonah on the 7th July.

Now I just have some laundry to do and I am ready to explore again.  I would like to see some more of Sitka and spend some time here, I may stay another day and be a proper tourist.  In the morning I will check if there is a berth available for Friday night.

Logged 23rd 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

SLOWDOWN DEER CROSSING AND CLEARING INTO USA

A beautiful calm morning at Foggy bay.  There were nine boats anchored overnight but most had gone by the time I heaved anchor at six thirty.  We changed clocks yesterday to Alaska time and now it gets light at four in the morning.   For a change it was not raining this morning.  The day remained cloudy but things are starting to dry out, I could just detect the suns warmth through the clouds.

When leaving the anchorage there is quite a narrow channel to pass through.  As I was going through a deer jumped out and swam in front of the boat.  I had to slow down otherwise I would have run it over.  I have been at sea a long time but never had to slow down for a crossing deer before, he was coming from my starboard side so had the right of way.  He was quite a good swimmer and made a good wake.

No wind today so we motored up from Foggy Bay to Ketchikan.  On the way we passed a school of Dalls porpoise.  They don’t really do much of interest or play around the bow.  They just come up for air occasionally and keep on swimming.  Maybe they take after whales and not happy dolphins.

On the approach to Ketchikan it started getting busy with lots of boat traffic and guys out fishing for salmon.  Three large cruise ships are moored in town at the terminal, looks pretty busy.  My American friends tell me Ketchikan is a big tourist destination and a bit of a rip off.  I will have a look around tomorrow and try not to get ripped off.  It feels a bit strange being back in a big town after all the small places I have been frequenting in BC.

I moored in Thomas basin and awaited the US Boarder Protection visit to clear me into the USA.  Unfortunately, they advised I didn’t have the correct visa.  When entering the USA by private plane or boat a B2 visa is required, the normal tourist visa is not good enough.

I was hauled off to the customs office and after a few questions very generously granted a visa waiver.  A further two hours followed during which I was photographed, finger printed and asked an assortment of questions.  Eventually the document was provided in exchange for $580 and a further fee for a cruising permit.  I skulked back to the boat with all my new paperwork and permits in hand and cracked a beer.  Apparently I am not the first one to be dumb in this respect.   I will say no more at the moment.

Anyway, I am now free to cruise Alaska until the end of August.  Along the way I and have to check into each large port so I can be tracked.  Failure to check in results in a massive fine among other things no doubt.

On return to the boat it was too late to sail further so I will be staying the night at Thomas Basin.  Tomorrow I will try and move around to another berth and explore the city.  Total voyage distance 739.6 miles.

Logged 30th May 2016

ENTERING ALASKA USA

It rained again last night and continued intermittently all day today.  I feel like a human wick.  Can’t remember the last time I felt the warmth of the sun.  But, today for the first time this voyage we had wind from the right direction.

Last night I heard a high pitched eagle squawking.  A large Bald Eagle had taken a dislike to the wind instruments on a yacht in the marina and decided to demolish them.  Bit of plastic flew everywhere and the poor boat owner will be $1.000 poorer.

We departed Prince Rupert this morning and set sail for Alaska.  The wind was pretty good for the first part and became light for the last couple of hours in an uncomfortable lumpy sea.

We crossed over the boarder but didn’t see the line in the sea.  This evening we are anchored in Foggy Bay which is the designated anchorage for boats entering into Alaska.  Tomorrow we will continue on to Ketchikan, which is a port of entry, to clear into The USA.  Once cleared we should have a cruising permit and be allowed to explore Alaskan waters.  Total voyage distance 704.1 miles.

Logged 29th May 2016

PRINCE RUPERT – WEEKEND

Wonderful, it stopped raining – just a light drizzle now and again.  Slowly the damp from the last few days is drying up.

John, Jennifer and Hillary came over this morning with some fresh date and walnut muffins which we had with tea and coffee – very nice.  Whilst I had extra hands around I volunteered them to help me turn the boat around.  I am now facing outward for an easy exit tomorrow.

Last chores today before heading off to Ketchikan, topped up the fresh water tanks, did the library visit to get WiFi (so slow), Safeway’s for groceries and chandler for some rope and essential boat things.

I also called ahead to US Customs in Ketchikan to give them all details required for pre arrival.  Apparently I need a different visa if entering on a pleasure boat, the regular tourist visa is not good enough.  I asked why it was not publicised and the customs guy indicated that a lot of people were unaware.  Oh well I will plead innocence and act dumb as usual – it comes easy.

The evening was spent on a neighbouring boat which I last saw at the Bella Bella fuel dock.  They are also headed for USA tomorrow and we had a drop of red wine.  The wind blew during the night, not hard just from a funny angle and it pissed down with rain again.

The forecast for tomorrow is for winds from the south, just what we need.  Let’s hope they arrive in force to speed us into the USA.

Logged 28th May 2016

ENGINE READY TO GO

Finally, the engine parts arrived from the USA.  Big event, the engine has been serviced and the new exhaust mixer was fitted this afternoon. Engine wise we are all ready to go.  I took a trip into town this morning to pick up some additional antenna cable and connectors.

Back of the depth display Black wire corroded through and blue wire hanging by a thread
Back of the depth display Black wire corroded through and blue wire hanging by a thread

This afternoon I installed the AIS antenna on stern rail and ran the cable through the boat.  All that remains now is to install the head unit and connect the power and we should be in business.

When running the antenna cable I found one of the echo sounder wires had disconnected.  Age and corrosion had done its work and the echo sounder had stopped giving a reading.  Lucky I found it as we definitely need an echo sounder around these parts.  I will get going on a repair in the morning.

IPH ( Back of the depth display – Black wire corroded through and blue wire hanging by a thread)

The couriers with the EPIRB, Iridium Go and boat name stickers didn’t arrive today, they must be coming tomorrow.  The replacement spreader is receiving a second coat of paint and is on track for Wednesday fitting.

Looks like I will only have two more sleeps at Canoe Cove Marina.

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