Monday, July 14, 2008

Finally caught up in Juneau, Alaska

I think I left y'all in Khutze Inlet. It seems like that was a year ago! Because I want to catch you up on the here and now, I'm going to paraphrase a little more till I get caught up.
Khutze was beautiful and I'm hoping we'll stop on the way back south. The beautiful bright green grass, wildflowers, deep green of the trees, all coming together to meet the river and mountainous shores that rise to snow capped peaks. We explored in our dinghy in downpours and sunshine. We had an evening rainbow over the savanna that smelled like the south in the winter.
We left Khutze Inlet and continued winding our way through the narrow waterways that make up the inside passage. When we rounded out of McKay Reach and viewed Whale Channel wide open to the SE it was a sight made more beautiful for its irregularity than for it's grandeur. We still had one more major stretch of narrow waterway before the more open waters that would take us to Alaska. Grenville Channel. We're on a push to meet Wally and Katy in Prince Rupert. It's still raining and we're a little nervous about the space working out with 2 more people on board.
I need not have worried. What troupers. We met Wally and Katy and immediately started drinking the delicious Hoppdiggity Wally brought! We decided they would leave their car in Prince Rupert and ride with us to Ketchikan and take the ferry back. We provisioned well and earned our drinks and meals with the weather we put up with during the crossing of Chatham Sound and Dixon Entrance and the navigation into the wrong inlet! What adventures in just the few days we had. I have to mention that Wally forgot his foulies. I happened to have a spare pair. Wally and Katy really got involved in our daily routine and activities. From working the anchor to navigating, taking the helm and providing a few more words in our conversations :)
OK. At least now your in Alaska with us. Wally and Katy must have taken the rain with them because the day after they left was beautiful! It continued to stay beautiful all the way to Wrangell! We had a lovely stay in Meyers Chuck (...we ended up meeting 'Patsy' Steve in Wrangell who has been living in 'the chuck' for most of his 70 yrs. - more on him later). Peggy brings fresh sticky buns down to the dock every morning at 0730. What a treat! We had a lovely sail the day we left Meyers Chuck. We stopped in Santa Anna and had the anchorage all to ourselves. We took advantage of the sunshine and oiled the teak. Ron skinny dipped in the cool waters and we showered in our cockpit with the solar shower that had been warming all day! The next stop was at Anan Bay Bear Observatory. Very cool. It was wonderful to get out for a walk on a nice trail. Eagles were swooping through the trees, taking out branches with their wingspan as they tried to maneuver along the trail. One lone black bear came out to the river. I got enough shots to make it seem like a family of bears came out :)
I don't know why I'm highlighting all the good. When leaving Santa Anna, Ron was hoisting the anchor and the chain slipped in the gypsy, luckily he didn't catch any parts! The entire 100 feet of chain paid back out and he had to re-hoist. In Berg Bay we backed over our 'floating' dinghy painter while setting the anchor and Ron had to swim in some damn cold water to free the prop! Ron and I don't always agree on techniques, routes or meals and it can get pretty quiet around here. Here being our 200 - at the most - square feet of living space. But things work out quickly, as they have to.
We spent the 4th of July in Wrangell. We had just pulled in to top off on water and grab showers, but everyone was so friendly and adamant that we hang in their town for the best 4th in the Southeast! For 30cents a foot, we couldn't argue. It was great fun. We watched men compete in logging drills and the women kick ass in log rolling! They did it in the very cold harbour, double elimination. Even the winners got wet! There were some cold girls by the end of that event. As the afternoon quieted down, Ron and I grabbed showers and did some laundry. As we were waiting for the laundry, some guys walked by pulling a red flyer wagon full of ice and beer. They offered us a cold one and Ron and I shared while folding clothes. Then we joined 'Patsy' (the name of his boat) Steve on his troller for red rose tea, fun conversation and fireworks. His wife is the postmistress in Meyers Chuck and he built the current post office. He was full of stories and had both Ron and I laughing with his tails, we almost missed the show. We're now almost to Juneau and it turns out that 'Patsy' Steve is well known around these parts. We hope to catch up with he and Cass when we head back south.
We left Wrangell and headed to Petersburg through Wrangell Narrows. Wally and Katy will remember Venn Passage, multiply that by 10 and you have Wrangell Narrows. Riding a current that switches halfway through the the channel with over 70 marks to keep you in line. We timed it well and had a perfect run with the tides. In between rain showers we caught peeks of a majestic backdrop of mountains, only to disappear behind the next curtain of rain.
At this point we have gotten to know 'Black Bear' Steve (now you see the reason for the boat name getting involved). He's a fellow sailing cruiser that left Anacortes over a year ago! We caught up with him in Wrangell and he followed us to Petersburg. The next morning, lying in bed, looking forward to our lazy day with a short 10 mile jump over to Thomas Bay, snuggling with Ron, just about to.....and there's 'Black Bear' Steve yelling our names. We jumped out of bed and he's in his boat turning around in the fairway. As the tide is pulling him out of the marina, he says we have to get moving with the end of this ebb! We ask the guy, a longliner by the looks of his gear, on the boat next to us. We tell him the time of the tides and he casually says that, yes, we should get moving. Without starting coffee or getting properly dressed, we untie our dock lines and follow 'B.B.' Steve out into Frederick Sound. It's cold and rainy but I finally have passed coffee and foulies up to Ron at the helm. We're with the flood as we pull into Thomas Bay and enjoy watching the glacier water fight to hold back the incoming tide. Just around the corner...Baird Glacier. It's pretty set back in its mudflats - but to see a glacier from our boat is pretty damn exciting. And cold! It's almost funny how tropical the waters look. But we've crossed into the 57th parallel today and the water is dropping down to the low 30's. Remember now, this is the same morning we were shaken out of bed. We finally find our anchorage and eat breakfast and settle in for a long nap. We wake and have popcorn for dinner. The next day is rainy and we didn't go anywhere or leave the boat. It's a little too far to row anywhere in these glacier waters. But 'B.B.' Steve rowed over for a visit. We were parting ways the next day so said our goodbyes and wished him luck in finding a harbour here in the Southeast for the Winter.
The next day as soon as we round out of our cove we see humpbacks in Thomas Bay! We turn off the engine and sip our coffee as we listen and watch. We finally head out and just outside the bay are bergie bits! Some washed up on the beach and one floating nearby. We round it and watch the birds flitting about. I take enough pictures, I hope, to capture the mesmerizing blue essence. We put our drifter up and sail out of Frederick Sound making an average 7 knots over ground. We pulled our sail down as we rounded Cape Fanshaw and just as the rain really started. The second time was a charm in setting the hook in pretty Fanshaw Bay. It was 1700 by the time we had the hook set, sail stowed and were down below, dripping in the galley. Hot coco drinks were a must while Ron fired up the heater.
The next day we have a lazy morning in bed listening to the williwaws finally die down. We're waiting for the tide to turn in our favor to head up Stephens Passage. By 1111 the anchor is up and we're heading towards nicer weather. We have sun breaks but a cold Alaskan headwind. At noon Ron spotted a humpback show about 12 miles off our stern along the north coast of Kupreanof Island. We turned off the motor and watched thru binoculars. What a show! Breath after breath, tail after tail and I'm sure I saw some bodies emerge! After motoring a bit more, we spot more whales. The day continued....starting and stopping. Watching and waiting. We were mesmerized! We had a couple come really close to the boat. it was more than amazing. We continued north along Stephens Passage rounding Pt. Lookout into Holkham Bay. There we saw Sumdum Glacier. As we're gazing at the glacier and looking for our entrance into Tracy Arm, a humpback sneaks up on us and sounds not 30 feet off our beam! He/She is huge and its breath out and in is so deep, you can feel it. Neither one of us can speak. We find our entrance surrounded by berg bits. We have to weave through the ice to get into our cove. We are in big country now. We are in Alaska. I'm on sensory overload. Ron cooked steaks on the grill (yet another great cut. we've been lucky on our choices of meat thus far) and got the heater going. Warm and toasty with full bellies. I'm using the berg bit Ron picked off during our short dinghy row earlier to make cocktails and melting to make coffee in the morning :)
Thurs. 10 July is a long day. We had a lazy morning (surprise, surprise) waiting on the tides - which turned out not to make a difference. We had our coffee, made with iceberg water, and Ron made biscuits and gravy. Yum! We are NOT loosing weight on this trip. The plan had been to head up Tracy Arm and see Sawyer Glaciers but after watching all the boat traffic heading that way all morning, we decided to explore Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. Just outside of Tracy Arm we saw a huge, beautiful berg aground near our mark. (see the picture on Then just outside the entrance mark to Endicott, we encountered humpbacks. One was just lazing on the surface! It was stop and go while the whales surfaced and dove. Ron saw one jumping! I caught the splash. AMAZING! We started encountering more bergie bits just around Sumdum Islands. We continued our journey down Endicott, the waters beautiful. The surrounding mountains, so long ago cut by the glacier we were to see, provided waterfalls and beautifully textured granite. As we neared the last bend the ice really started to choke up. We poked around for a bit, nosing our way closer to the mouth of Dawes. I tried to help by pushing the larger bits with the boat hook, but Ron did a nice job of finding paths and openings in the ice. At one point the ice started shifting, closing in closer to the glacier. The ice, for the moment at least, was opening up behind us. We watched pretty seals on the bergie bits and then decided it was time to head back. Fords Terror anchorage was on the way out but it was 2 more hours until the tides allowed us in. We decided to head back to Tracy Arm Cove. On the way out Ron spotted a couple mountain goats and we putted by watching them drink the water and pick their way along the steep to shore. We made much better time out, having a little current in our favor, until we reached Sumdum Islands. Instead of slowing down for whales, we had to slow down for fog. Without any land to dead reckon with, Ron pulled out the parallel rules to plot a compass course. We had our GPS track from heading in earlier and used it to double check our compass heading. We finally made it past the entrance to Endicott and promptly got into some shallows according to our depth sounder. Just then a whale surfaced to port! and we knew we couldn't be in 20 feet of water. We followed it anyway till we got to deeper water. It's sounds being almost eerie in the fog. As it rolled over we turned back to our northwest course and watched it disappear behind us with it's fins flapping as if saying 'there ya go. just keep heading that-a-way.' Very strange experience. We slowly picked our way to the entrance markers for Tracy Arm. As soon as we found them, we lost them in the heavier fog bank that rolled in. We stopped the boat, got our bearings and ever so slowly picked our way along the darker part of the fog that we calculated to be the land mass to lead us to our cove. Just when we were second guessing our entrance between the rocks and shoals, I spotted a light. Then three, then six. Anchor lights. Never did a cove look so cozy and welcoming! The fog started to lift slightly as we entered the cove and we were able to find our way to the anchor site we left almost 12 hours and almost 60 miles ago! I stayed at the helm while Ron dropped the hook and I then backed us into some shallows. Ron took over at the helm while I hoisted the anchor and he stayed at the helm to nail the setting. Needless to say it was a tense evening after a long day and we sipped our stiff cocktails, warming by the fire, in silence. We slept soundly after our longest day yet right back where we started.
We slept in till almost 1100! Coffee was made and poured by the time Ron rolled sleepily out of bed. He looked like he could use more sleep. We decided to get moving after coffee because of all the rolling we were doing from the wakes of boats pouring into Tracy Arm and stacking up on the 4 fathom shelf at the entrance to the cove. It's an overcast morning but high ceiling. We're alone in the anchorage. Last nights navigating thru the thick, gray soup seems like a dream. We headed out and right away the humpbacks graced us with their presence. Hearing their deep breaths out and in is very otherworldly. Which I guess they are. We headed into Taku Harbour.
It was a short day up to Taku and we tied up at the public floats there. It turns out that Taku is the getaway spot for the locals in Juneau. We met one family - really two, the Johnstons and the Browns, but they're like one big happy family - that welcomed us into their clan for the weekend. They shared their stories, laughter, crab, kids, moose, card games and crab. Did I mention we ate crab. Bushel after bushel of delicious dunginess crab. Didn't even need butter. And they packed us off with enough meat for Ron and I to enjoy more than a few more meals. We really had a good time with them and followed them out this morning. That's right this morning....I'm officially caught up! Whew. Followed them out to Juneau. So here we are. Freshly showered and laundry done. We're looking forward to pizza this evening at Douglas Island Pub, a short walk from the marina, which all the locals in Taku raved about. Oh, there I go leaving out the bad and the ugly again. The bugs in Taku were awful. While we were feasting on crab they were feasting on us. Not enough deet to go around. That's it.
Everything is fine and good. We've been playing phone tag with Brian and Marti. Sailors from PT who have been just behind us for weeks. We keep hoping we'll meet up. We just heard from them and they're in Petersburg earning some traveling money. Oh well, maybe well catch them on the way back. We hope everyone is well.
Seth and Ariel, good luck and have fun Tuesday night! Hopefully I'll still be in cell phone range and will be able to chat on Wednesday! Love you.
Happy summer. Enjoy the pictures. Love Alison, Ron and Juichi

Friday, July 4, 2008

Trying to catch up....

Hello all! Sorry it's taken me so long to update my blog. Internet has not been so premium. So i'm typing this in wordpad and will cut and paste to internet when it becomes available. Then I don't have Ron tapping his fingers at me while waiting for me to figure out what to say. He's currently fixing the water pump on this rainy day in Wrangell, Alaska. Oh yes, I said ALASKA! We made it. We crossed the border in the middle of Dixon Entrance on 25 June. We had Wally and Katy along for the ride from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan. What a fun time! I haven't seen my blog for awhile so I don't even know where I left off. We'll try here....

I think I left y'all in Port McNeill...GOODNESS! Has it been THAT long? I'm so very sorry. I'll try and catch you up on what seems like a year without having my fingers fall off. I have been able to do some picture uploads since then so at least y'all can sort of follow where we've been. I'll try and fill in some gaps using my log. So we left Port McNeill around 0530 on 8 June (wow! almost a month ago!) for a calm crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait. As we started encountering the Pacific Ocean swells, a gale wind warning came across the radio. We decided not to push Cape Caution and pulled into Miles Inlet. Four, 4, days later we had a weather window to leave. It wasn't that bad. During our layover we doned our foulies and went exploring in the lagoons that seemed endless. We met the other crusiers (Del and Inez) that were waiting out the weather and shared information and stories. We read and drank tea. Ok, by day three we were crossing our fingers that we would be able to leave. We were getting stir crazy. The other sailboat and crew were gone before we got out of bed and Del called us on the radio while we were still making coffee. Time to get a move on. We still had to get the dink aboard and tidy up before getting underway. I almost took a swim while maneuvering the dink aboard and got some brusies from the lifelines (nothing new there). We should have taken the time to eat because once we rounded Cape Caution and approached Egg Island Lighthouse, the seas got a little choppy and confused. This combined with the sea swell did not make for the smoothest ride. Not very condusive for cooking or for eating. We decided to detour into Duncanby for advertised showers and laundry before dropping the hook for the night. Needless to say, our 'guidebook' is a little out of date. Duncanby is now an all inclusive resort. Great spot if anyone is looking to get away and do some fishing! However, our luck held out and they weren't open for the season yet and the winter caretaker, satellite Rick, allowed us into his personal cabin for showers and laundry! Very sweet. So fresh and so clean clean, sheets included! We headed across Rivers Inlet to Fury Cove for a beautiful evening. Cocktails in the cockpit and watching whale breaths across the way in Fitz Hugh Sound.

The next morning brought rain. I mean RAINING. Misty, continuous, low visibility. We couldn't stand to be stuck another day after Miles Inlet and the wind wasn't blowing. It was calm, but wet. I took the helm most of the day while Ron kept our inner fires going with tea and ramen (Ali noodles to Logan). I rotated through three pairs of gloves, Ron two. I think there's a picture of me on Flickr at the helm in Fitz Hugh Sound. That's how that day went. We pulled into Codville Lagoon and dropped our shrimp trap! I know you can see the results on Flickr :) We had a lovely, muddy hike to Sagar Lake. It was nice to stretch our legs.

Week 5 brought us some welcomed nice weather and sailing! We topped off on fuel, water and propane in Bella Bella and Shearwater. The eagles around there were Amazing! If there can be flocks of eagles, they were there. We met up with the sailboat that was in Miles Inlet with us in Shearwater. They invited us over for Hazelnut crusted Halibut for dinner. We couldn't resist. Very nice evening of conversation and food with Annette, her daughter Rachael, father David and sister Ann. I had no luck with internet here or phone service here. It worked fine for Ron. He touched base with Wally and we gave ourselves a week to get up to Prince Rupert to meet him. Ron then tried to start a phone call to my family for me and after many failed attempts he finally called and talked to my Mom and Dad for me. True love. The next day brought the lovely weather and we sailed Seaforth channel. By 1050 on 15 June Ron and I are enjoying Juichi's beautiful helm and are both tweaking and making notes. We sailed through Perceval Narrows, which brought us into Mathieson Channel, under main. A beautiful tranquil peace. the sound of rigging sighing and the gentle rush of ocean swells breaking on the rocky shores behind us. the slight lapping of water as it tickles Juichi's belly. It's overcast but nice. A few sunbreaks to feed our solar panel. By 1316 we add our drifter to the main and officially have had up our entire sail inventory today! We sailed the next day as well out of Mathieson Channel and into Sheep Passage. We stayed in Windy Bay for a couple days. It rained the whole night we got there and the insomnia angel came to visit Ron. As I was getting up he was finally ready to sleep. It made for a short day in Windy Bay. We left the next morning, in the rain. A short trek took us out of Sheep Passage, which we left with fondness for the short sunshine we experienced. Very heavy, low clouds meandering through the green forests. The mist so thick it coats you rather than falling. There's brief periods of visibility that give you glimpses of the mountainous landscape. The heights still cloaked in this almost blinding white. Ron and I are both antsy. He got the speakers hooked up last night. We both grew weary of the soothing pitter patter of rain on the deck.
I'm going to leave y'all with this installment with us anchored in sublime Khutze Inlet. You can check out the pics on Flickr.
We're currently in Wrangell for the 4th of July. An absolutely fun, friendly town. Hopefully I'll get on the ball and finish more writing before we leave tomorrow. If not I'll catch up with y'all in Petersberg, our jumping off point to see the glaciers!