INTO THE INTER TROPICAL CONVERGENCE ZONE (ITCZ)

No sooner had I written the words ‘ I think the fun will start this evening’ in my log yesterday afternoon than the wind suddenly died.  We had entered the ITCZ, the doldrums of old.  I had to drop all sail as we were sitting stationary and rolling around with sails slapping back and forth

An hour later a southerly breeze set in and we sailed slowly through the night in beautiful calm conditions under a canopy of stars.  In the early hours of the morning it became quite cold and I had to reach for a long-sleeved shirt to keep warm.

The day has been spent trying to keep the boat moving and heading in the right direction and avoid getting to the west of the track.  Everything we try always sends us back to the west, making it more difficult to reach our destination.  But, we are not getting too stressed about it, the right wind will come when its ready.  Its an enjoyment to have calm weather and some nice flat sailing in sunshine after being on the wind under a cloud for so long.

Our mileage today noon to noon was not that flash and I expect tomorrows will be even shorter if the weather forecast is correct.  Our track on the chart is starting to look like hieroglyphics.  Jessica and I discussed trying to write our names on the plotter with the ships track.  But concluded we would actually need to have some wind to achieve that feat.  Voyage distance 766 miles.

BECALMED, A 3% CHANCE

Last night at sunset the wind started to decrease.  First I had to bring down the main, it couldn’t hold the wind and was flogging about as if to self-destruct.  Shortly after the staysail came down.  I carried on until one in the morning with the jib, but the wind disappeared and the jib finally got furled.  What a disappointment, I was expecting the forecast fifteen knot north westerlies to hold.  So, we were becalmed.  The last thing I expected on the Washington Pacific coast.

After one I drifted and tried to get some rest.  The residual sea and swell caused Truce to gyrate abominably.  The sort of wild movements people pay good money to experience at theme parks.  At four I could stand it no more and started the engine to see if the movement would be less under way – it was a bit better and we were at least moving and I got to see another sunrise.

I hand steered until eight as the seas were too bad for the autopilot, then stopped for some breakfast and to get the latest USA weather reports.  The forecasters are now calling for light winds in this area for the next two days.  Unbelievable.  I checked my routing charts and there is a 3% chance of calm weather in the month of May!  I just happened to hit it.

Looking at the large swells rolling in from the west is a bit surreal, they are moving hillsides of water, perfectly smooth a and glossy, like liquid glass.  Looking at it from sea level is a beautiful sight and quite unusual.

So I have been motoring all day, rolling along.  Much as I hate motoring at sea there is no option.  The barometer has been stuck at 1024.5 for the last 30 hours.  This must be an unusual weather event for this area.

Any thoughts I had about being in San Francisco on Sunday are just dreams now.  On the positive side the day has been beautiful and sunny and I am starting to feel a bit warmer, time to break out a beer.  Voyage distance 252.1 miles.

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.

HEADING NORTH, AGAIN

This morning we departed Sitka after a good 3 night stay.  The day started overcast, low cloud and wet from overnight rain.  By mid-morning the rain started again and has lasted all day and into the night.  The sun didn’t show up today.

A wet morning in Sitka harbour. Photo Ray Penson
A wet morning in Sitka harbour. Photo Ray Penson

The wind was from the south so we got a bit of sailing but bit was quite a miserable affair in the rain.  The tide pulled us through Neva Strait in the early evening and we anchored in Kalinin Bay on Kruzof Island for the night.

There is a strong wind warning in place for tomorrow.  If it’s still windy in the morning I will stay in the anchorage.  If the weather looks good I will head up the coast a bit further.  Total voyage distance 1,256.1 miles.

Logged 25th 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

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

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

PRINCE RUPERT – THIRTY YEARS ON

I woke up this morning and it was still pouring with rain, damp and cold. No hurry this morning and no point in getting out of a warm bed so I rolled over for another hour kip. When making tea this morning I got a drip of water on the head, there is a small leak on the overhead skylight.

Cow Bay and Prince Rupert Yacht Club. Ray Penson
Cow Bay and Prince Rupert Yacht Club. Ray Penson

I will get some materials in Prince Rupert and make it good again, also the one on the other side as a precaution, when we get some dry weather. We set off just after nine from Lawson Harbour towards Port Edward. There was telephone reception so I called ahead enquiring about a berth. The guy gave me a whole load of drama about how busy they were and I would probably have to raft up. I then called to Prince Rupert Yacht club

and they said there was a berth available. So Port Edward was bypassed and we continued on to Prince Rupert in the rain.  The reception at the Prince Rupert Yacht club was very friendly, the guys turned out to help me tie up. They have put me in a berth head in to a small space. It’s going to be challenging getting out without hitting anything. Hopefully it will be calm on Sunday and I can turn the boat around by hand so its pointing in the right direction.

Its 30 years since I had last been to Prince Rupert. We used to load grain here for China. The locals were always friendly and our stays were always pleasant and good fun. The stevedores used to fish from the side of the ship and bring up big halibut and were always generous in sharing it about.

Prince Rupert Grain Silo's.Photo Ray Penson
Prince Rupert Grain Silo’s.Photo Ray Penson

Back then Prince Rupert was a small place – it has really grown to quite a big town. It has a shopping mall and Walmart store so its arrived. The grain silo jetty, where we used to load is still there, the old concrete silos have been replaced with modern steel structures.

This afternoon I had a quick walk around town and the luxury of a hot shower for the first time in two weeks. This evening I will head out to find a fish restaurant and sample some halibut. I already found the local brewery (by chance) and sampled their Gillnetter Pale Ale – nothing to write home about, but as my mate Jim says – ‘there’s no such thing as a bad beer’.

Fresh Caught - but not caught by me.Photo Ray Penson
Fresh Caught – but not caught by me.Photo Ray Penson

Total voyage distance 651.4 miles.

Logged 26th May 2016

GRENVILLE CHANNEL – CONTINUED

We caught the tide up Grenville Channel this afternoon from Lowe Inlet where we passed a comfortable night at anchor.  We anchored just inside the entrance to the inlet on a bank and I expected to be disturbed by the wash from passing ships, but it was all peaceful.  I have only seen two cruise ships so far, its still early in the season.

A dark gloomy day going up Grenville Channel. Photo Ray Penson
A dark gloomy day going up Grenville Channel. Photo Ray Penson

It was a good job we had the tide behind us today as the North Westerly wind and chop were on the nose and it would have been very heavy going without a push.  This is the last time I will come up Grenville Channel so am making the most of it with three stops planned.  Today we passed the narrow section and a couple of big waterfalls, particularly spectacular is the waterfall at Saunders Creek as it spills from a mountain lake high above.  There are quite a few bald eagles along the Channel, some flying very high, don’t know why they fly so high.

The weather was gloomy today, overcast with the odd rain shower.  The wind was bitterly cold and I had full thermals and multiple layers and still felt the chill.  My thermometer says it was ten degrees, it felt like minis ten.  I expect it will start warming up next month as we get into summer.

Ray Penson

This evening we pulled into Klewnuggit Inlet.  The anchorage that I targeted was, as the book said, spectacular.  High mountains and sheer granite cliffs on three sides.  The problem is that high mountains mean an early sunset and late sunrise.  Its gets cold after sunset and I didn’t fancy a cold night so moved out to another anchorage.  Its hard to find shallow water here to anchor in, I am in a bay very close to the shore where I found some water less than twenty meters deep, just have enough room to swing and clear the rocks.

Tomorrow I expect to overnight at Kumealon Inlet on the north shore of Grenville Channel.  Total voyage distance 599.9

Logged 24th May 2016

WAITING ON WEATHER

The forecast for today is North Westerly Gales.  We stayed put in the anchorage and had a nice relaxed day doing cleaning, maintenance, cooking and some splicing.  There is always something to do on a boat and the time flew by.  The sun came out and was nice and warm for a couple of hours but the wind still has a chill in it.

The wind is howling around tonight and squally blasts are spinning us to and fro on the anchor chain.  I put out an extra ten meters of chain this evening as the wind seems to be increasing.  The bottom here is rocky and I never feel too confident of holding when its rocky.

The forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, I checked Predict Wind and they are giving strong North Westerly for the next five days.  Well there are still options and I am in no great hurry to get to Prince Rupert

Logged 19th May 2016