Friday, August 22, 2008

Still in Alaska

Hi Kids! Sorry to have cut it so short in Sitka, but my free minutes were running out quick at the coffee shop and I had to post before losing my work. Well as you can tell from the title, we're still in Alaska. So much to see, we just keep on exploring. If we had the money I think we'd find a place to hole up for the winter and continue our voyage in the spring. As it stands we're hoping just to make it back to Hadlock. It's 688.6 miles bearing 135' True as the raven flies from Craig - where I'm posting from - to Hadlock - home of the truly missed Valley Burger. We're not a bird and there's still a few winding waterways calling us before we leave Alaska. The Behm Canal is one. The weather will determine how much time we have to explore the Broughtons and Desolation. That may have to be another time. Southeast Alaska was our goal and we are working hard to satisfy our desire to visit every nook and cranny (actually impossible).

We pulled out of Sitka 7 August, planning to take our time among the islets filling the sound up to Peril Strait. The day was nice and Ron and I decided to press on to an anchorage near Sergius Narrows, the entrance to Peril Strait, rather than anchor among the islets. Once we got there, we realized it was high water slack, the perfect time to transit the narrows. So again we pressed on. We anchored in Baby Bear Bay by 5pm and still had enough of the lovely afternoon to enjoy a couple beers on deck. We continued to wind our way through Peril Strait, getting some sailing in Hoonah Sound as humpbacks surfaced all around us. We finally caught a couple crab in Appleton Cove and saw porpoises playing with a humpback as we left Peril Strait. We pulled into Warm Springs Bay and made our way to the soaking tubs. Bliss. We returned to the boat for a dinner of steak, crab, and salad. Bliss. Don and Karen, who we met in Appleton Cove, were at the springs and we enjoyed a lovely breakfast with them on their boat. We had a lovely afternoon at the springs. The next day we were fogged in so we didn't move on. The day after was a bit windy, just enough to blow the fog away. We listened to the chatter on the radio and it didn't sound so bad out in Chatham Strait and it was expected to calm down even more as the tide turned. We buttoned up and headed out into 3-4 foot seas with a 25+ knot wind on our nose. We were getting nowhere. Seas built to 6-8 feet and we buried our bow while standing still. We were getting a beating. I had to belay the anchor chain it case it jumped out of the gypsy and I had to hold my breath and close my eyes through the drops. Luckily I was just on the v-berth working through the chain locker. I don't know that I would have been able to work on deck. We made the decision to turn back. Ron gave it full throttle and turned the wheel hard over. We prayed that the bow would come around before the wave we started up crashed over our beam. The following seas were dangerous but the ride was much smoother and a hell of a lot faster. The rains had swollen the river, clogged the pipes to the soaking tubs and cooled the springs, however there was just enough warmth in the hottest pool to calm our nerves.

Finally on the 13 of August the seas calmed enough for us to move onto breathtakingly, beautiful Red Bluff Bay. It was blowing enough that the cold rain was hurting our faces, but the grand entrance into Red Bluff erased any discomforts. I counted no fewer than 18 waterfalls being blown off the channels of granite on the massif lining our entrance. The number of waterfalls totaled no fewer than a couple dozen by the time we wove our way into the depths of the bay and secured the hook. After a lunch of grilled sandwiches, naps came easy. The next day we took a short hop down to Gut Bay. Another spectacular anchorage surround by stark pinnacles and crisp snowfields. Bears strolled along the shore, in and out of the thick forest at waters edge, to the large grassy meadow. The quick flowing creek sparkled in the sun breaks as the bear joined the eagles and herons feeding on the salmon pressing through to their spawning grounds. Ron and I enjoyed showers in the cockpit and the quiet solitude, having this little cove all to ourselves.

We had a gorgeous day crossing Chatham Strait to Tebenkof Bay! A beautiful summer day, barely a breath of wind (alas, no sailing). The peaks of Baranof Island were out in all their glory. Humpbacks were waiting for us in Tebenkof Bay. We bobbed around (literally - the ocean swells were relentless!) for a couple hours watching and listening to the thousands of birds that surrounded our boat, the big fish chasing the little fish to the surface of the water, and the active whales. We finally mossied on and the sea otters greeted us as we found our path through the islands to our anchorage in Cedar Bight. One more treat awaited us this evening.....the MOONRISE and STARS! Neither Ron nor I can remember the last time we saw the night sky. It certainly has not been on this trip when we've been asleep before the sun even sets. It's getting on fall though now and we're actually enjoying having our evenings as well as our days. The next day was totally socked in, not a glimmer of sun on the water that blended into the sky. But it was calm and we continued out transit down Chatham Strait. 17 August took us down to Coronation Island. We had to fight to get there. A nice stiff breeze picked up by late morning, perfect for sailing had the combination of the ocean swells, tide and wind not meshed into very lumpy, inhospitable seas. We added a lot more miles to our day by steering to what was comfortable rather than where we wanted to go. We got the anchor set in Egg Harbour, Coronation Island and decided to go exploring on the beach's across the way. Rowing over the beaches that shone through the shallow crystal clear waters were mesmerizing. We beached the boat on the grey-white sandy-rocky shores and walked through caves and explored the tide pools. We can't remember the last time we had a beach to walk on and explore. Coronation Island was a beautiful treat.

The weather has been changing as quickly as a little brother playing with a light switch while big sister is in the bathroom getting ready for a date. So as we left Coronation it was a beautiful calm morning and we even put the sails up for a bit while crossing Iphigenia Bay. I laid on the deck half naked soaking up as much sun as I could get! We pulled into Bob's Place on Prince of Wales Island around 4pm and by 10pm we were underway to reset the anchor. The winds had picked up in the opposite direction that we set the hook and we were getting blown into the shallows. As we turned the boat around in the dark we bumped the bottom a little harder than we would have liked. Ron was not to happy with the situation. But the anchor set well out a little deeper and we slept well. We had to work the next 15 miles into Craig into a headwind with chop that would hit the hull just right and sent salt spray over the whole boat to the helm! What happened to our quiet sunshine?!! Well we got into friendly Craig and got on with our chores. Showers and laundry. Ron went back to the boat to reorganize the v-berth locker while I did laundry. Did y'all know the Olympics were on? Wednesday and Thursday were decent days, weather wise, to get some things re-bedded on deck that were leaking. Cut a notch for the boom in our boom gallows (thanks Allen! It's been amazing!), Ron repacked the stuffing box, changed the oil and transmission fluid. I got a little cleaning done on the boat and finally had to say goodbye to my plants that have been trying to hang on through the cold and bumpy rides. They have not been happy. I orphaned them at the laundry mat.

We were planning on leaving Craig today (Friday) and of course as beautiful as it was yesterday it's as nasty today. Rainy, which means low visibility, and windy with up to 40 knot gusts! Yuck. It's hard to get moving in weather like this when your secured and warm dock side. We'll see if it lets up this afternoon. We're thinking a few more weeks in Alaska then shooting down through Canada to the Broughtons. It's a long way but we're told that September is still lovely down in that area. Everybody keep your fingers crossed!

We're hoping to have the Hadlock Crew meet us at Friday Harbour for a long weekend in the San Juans in October. Not sure exactly when and I know a lot of you work weekends. We'll be in touch and try and set a time we can shoot for when we get closer. I think it would be a fun way to wrap up this amazing trip. It's been just Ron and I for a long time on this boat and getting together with a flotilla of friends would be amazing!

Until then, everyone take care. Have fun at the Boat Show, smile when it's sunny and be good or be good at it!
Love you all, Alison, Ron and Juichi

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

turning south

Hi all! Greetings from Sitka. What a beautiful town. There's sun breaks and I'm wearing a skirt and tank top! The town is surrounded by gorgeous layers of mountains. Even the islets in the harbour are mountainous.

We left Juneau on a very stormy Fri 18 July. We took our time that morning. Taking one last shower, saying goodbye to friends, topping off water tanks and Ron wrapped up the setting on the new bilge switch. We had to cross Gastineau Channel to get to the fuel dock and debated ducking back into the harbour. We were already soaked and decided to press on to what we thought was a protected anchorage. We passed a crazy windsurfer and by the time we ducked into Stephens Passage the seas had calmed down and we were riding a 2 knot current. By the time we pulled into rounded Point Young into Admiralty Cove the winds had picked up again. I was wiped out after having to set and re-set the anchor. The winds were not calming and there was not the protection we thought in this cove. Our leisurely morning in Juneau seemed days ago. We rode out the night, literally. The boat was tossing and turning on the anchor all night. Neither Ron or I slept. Between the two of us we were checking our location every 15min. But our anchor held well. The winds finally started to calm Sat morning and I crawled out of bed and made coffee and blueberry muffins. We secured the anchor in it's cradle on deck with a kiss and got our way. Blue skies began to peek out and by the time we were in Saginaw Channel we were under blue skies and were contemplating raising the sails! That's when Ron noticed the whales.....bubble-net feeding! I threw some fried chicken in the oven to warm up for lunch and grabbed the camera! Such a ballet! Sometimes you could tell where they were going to surface by the frothy whiteness their bubbles made on the surface. Then these colossal bodies would emerge. Huge jaws scooping so much water. They would twist and turn and it was hard to tell what part of the body you were looking at. They would all take another deep breath for their next dive and we'd watch as tail after tail announced their decent. We counted 13 at one point! Once the whale watching boats moved in - much too close! - we moved on. But what a show! We watched for well over an hour and it looked like they would keep it up all day. We rounded Point Retreat and met a cold south wind. We fought current and swells and the rain moved back in. The peaks lining Lynn Canal were beautiful when the clouds would part. We made our way into Funter Bay and scouted for an anchorage before we decided to just tie up at the public float for a guaranteed good nights sleep. The float was back dropped by the majestic Mt. Robert Barron and we had a good view out into the area where Lynn Canal, Chatham Strait and Icy Strait met.

We were granted a 6 day pass into Glacier Bay. Our trip of Muir Inlet would mark our northernmost point of the trip and Tarr Inlet would mark our westernmost. There was no rest from the cold and wet. There were a couple days that I had to use our water bladders full of hot water to rest on my feet to get feeling back. It was cold and miserable (i used that word a lot in my log entries that week) in the land of glaciers. No sign, that I could see, of global warming here. Glacier Bay was amazing and beautiful. Margerie Glacier at the head of Tarr Inlet won our hearts. She gave us a beautiful show of calving ice. Sounds of sharp gunshots and rolling thunder filled our ears. The wind off the glacier was desperately cold, but we couldn't bring ourselves to leave. The life force of these amazing glaciers is slowly depleting ours. It was time to move on.

As we moved across Icy Strait, thru very rough tide rips in Glacier Bay, the visibility increased to more than the 1/4 mile we'd been experiencing in Glacier Bay. As we neared the south shore of Cross Sound we approached a dramatic coastal paradise. Islands of rolling hills, lush with fur and spruce. In just a few hours we left the harsh land of the glaciers and entered the tropical (but still cold and wet). Elfin Cove and Pelican were our next stops. Beautiful (have i been using that word too much?) little boardwalk towns. Very kind people. Too much drinking in Pelican. As we cruised down Lisianski Inlet to Pelican, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. We had fun in Pelican with the crew at Rose's and the Seattle boys of Pierre car dealerships.

Our weather window looked good so we headed out Lisianski (pronounced Lizzie-an-ski) Strait to hop down the west coast of Chichagof Island down to Sitka. We enjoyed everything from the intricate passages and coves with complex entrances that challenged our navigation skills to the freedom of the open water, the Gulf of Alaska, with it's gentle ocean swells and mirror calm that reflects the most delicate clouds. We enjoyed a stop at White Sulphur Hot Springs and enjoyed a rainbow during our dinner in the cockpit in Kalinin Bay. While a few miles offshore before setting our course for Imperial Passage into Portlock Harbour, I was at the helm waiting for an opportunity to turn with the swells and head East. I was also keeping an eye on this damn sport fishing boat getting too close with this much open water. I was finally able to make my turn and take his stern at the same time. Then he cuts his engines right in front of me! I was fuming and slowed down. Ron then stirs from his nap, looks over and notices right away it's our boys from Pelican! Our boys were out fishing, noticed our rig and wanted to know if we wanted some salmon. SWEET! Fresh Alaskan Sockeye delivered right to our boat in the Gulf of Alaska! We wove our way into Portlock Harbour and along the calm passageways to Kimshan Cove and enjoyed salmon 6 different ways for dinner :)