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.

ARRIVED PETERSBURG

My third night at Portage Bay was peaceful, the wind died down late last night and I was able to get a good night’s sleep.  The sun tried to break through the clouds today but didn’t succeed.  I could detect a bit of warmth and my solar panel registered a one-amp charge briefly.  It’s no wonder the population of Alaska is so small, I mean who wants to live in a place where the sun doesn’t shine for a whole week in summer.

Petersburg, Alaska
Petersburg, Alaska

I sailed out of Portage Bay on the last of the ebb tide.  On the east shore, by a disused logging camp I saw a Black Bear.  This is the second time I have seen bears around disused buildings, maybe there is some attraction for them once the humans have departed.  I suppose a disused hut may be a decent substitute for a cave in winter.

In Frederick Sound I saw icebergs again and some more Orca’s, what magnificent creatures they are.  There was plenty of boat traffic towards Petersburg, fishing boats, recreational fishers, ferries and tour excursion boats.  In Petersburg I refuelled, the current alongside the fuel dock is wicked, Truce is now topped up for the next part of the voyage.

Tomorrow I will head down Wrangell Narrows, it’s a twenty-mile channel and quite narrow in places.  Interestingly the tide meets in the middle, the trick is to use the last of the flood to the midpoint and then ride the ebb down the other side.  After Wrangell narrows I will be heading over the Wrangell town.

Truce is booked to be lifted out the water in Wrangell on Thursday.  The hull is dirty and needs cleaning and a new coating of antifouling paint.  Hopefully when complete she will have her speed back and won’t be using so much diesel pushing an undersea garden through the water.  The growth on the hull has built up very quickly since visiting Glacier Bay, maybe there is something in the water causing rapid growth.  Total voyage distance 182.2 miles.
Image credit:setsaildotcom