We waited expectantly on the ferry dock for the arrival of our crew and addition of Piper, our fourth crewmember. The itinerary had them flying first to Seattle and then back-tracking to Ketchikan. Danny and 10-year old Piper were flying solo, so all sets of parents breathed a sigh of relief with the handoff. Thank You Dave Summerfeldt for your considerable help in making this work!
Danny graciously had agreed to escort Piper for the flights, but it meant him flying back to anchor-town for an extra day. Both Laurence and I had enjoyed our brief sojourn and accomplished a few major boat chores. The sun had shone for all of a day and part of another.......something to celebrate in Ketchikan, so we did. A chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a large bowl of fish chowder (I'd whipped up from one quarter of Danny's monster red snapper,) a sunset and Lolo in a skirt made for a date. We even had new tunes in the cockpit from the new Bose speakers I'd finally gotten to install after a year in the box.
The night before had found us rollicking at O'Brien's Pub just up from the harbor where local musician David Reynolds just happened to be having a CD release party. The music was good, the crowd local, the beer stellar and the owner, Willy, was just as much fun to watch. We chatted much of the night with Scott, from Craig - an ex-Ketchikaner and Tug crew on assignment here who'd invited us to visit. The music scene and local crowd made me miss the Tap Root and my music buddies. Lolo and I decided we'd better start working on OUR repertoire!
Today, I got the new ICOM AIS working and found to my amazement, I could see 20 ships within 10-miles broadcasting their AIS info. Cool! This will be nice in crowded areas and in the fog. We finished cleaning up the boat and before long headed to the ferry dock to pick up the kids. It was great to see Piper and she arrived with parts of her hair dyed bright red; something I've gotten used to by now. We showed her around briefly, but most of the shops had closed up already as they seem to run on "cruise-ship time." We simply HAVE to hit the "Ketchikandies" chocolateria tomorrow morning. On the way back to the boat, we ran into Willy again from O'Brien's who invited us to play tunes in the pub, so after a quick dinner, headed up with instruments in tow and had a few. The people of Ketchikan are warm, friendly, gracious and fun. O'Brien's was technically closed, but Willy insisted we "pretend this was our livingroom." I traded a Last Train CD for the Dave Reynolds CD from the other night and Piper and Willy took turn shooting spit wads at the wall, while Danny, Lolo and I played and sang music. John requested something from Bob Dylan, the gentleman in the far corner commented "nice samba" to one of Lolo's Brazillian tunes. But alas, we'd promised Piper a piece of the famed Annabelle's peanut butter pie, so finished our Guiness's and packed up the instruments. Farewell and Adieu to you Ketchikan and we hope to return again someday. Tomorrow, it's off to Canada.
We decided to pull into Kindergarten Cove after a respectable day of travel and have enough time to enjoy grilling steaks in the setting sun. Kindergarten Cove was the choice and it was marvelous. Danny immediately declared a swim and was stripped down and in the water within minutes.. And out in seconds. But still - now holds the record for the first swim of the trip. We had hot water waiting with a shower for him and shortly thereafter - steaks and baby bok choy and a glass of protégées red to compliment. Kindergarten Cove was a lovely spot to stay the night and must have been named in honor of the baby fish that seem to dominate the place. We watched them leap and frolic... clearly they had something to do with the naming of the cove.
Early morning brought coffee and a lovely following breeze and following sea. We sailed over 60 miles downwind and deployed our brand new red asymmetrical spinnaker. I could simply NOT BELIEVE how the boat tracked so beautifully with the new sail. The helm was balanced and at zero degrees runner as we watched the wind build first to 20 and then 25 knots....... When we finally decided it was time to take it down, I was convinced this was a worthy purchase....despite its extravagant expense.
We covered over 65 miles in warming sunshine and things seemed to just be getting better as we neared Ketchikan. Humpback whales breached clear of the water - tails, pectoral fins and all. Porpoises danced in out bow wave, and Danny and I just caught the glimpse of a Yellow- Eyed Rock Fish (Red Snapper) afloat in the surf when Danny said "We should grab that" No sooner, we had the boat hard on the wind as Lolo shouted objections about our sudden course change from below. Soon we had the monster fish aboard as Danny snared it with the net after a few passes. We had a monster 36" fish in the icebox. It was clearly caught and had been dropped from its line/lure inadvertently. After making Ketchikan, Danny filleted it and brought back 4 large 1-gallon sized bags of white rockfish meat. But after filleting the monster, Danny was not so much in the mood for fish. We instead hit Annabelle's for a bite to eat and enjoyed cheeseburgers.
Ketchikan is warm...warmer than we have felt for - well.........maybe 12 months. The wind was warm, the sun was warm, and the flowers were in bloom wow! We didn't even light the stove for the night. I think......we just might..........be getting into warmer climes. Cool.
Stayed last night in Windham Bay after a long day. It's June, but it's still COLD in SE Alaska. Been a wierd year in AK this year and we are going south to find warmer climes. Made Petersurg tonight and the harbormaster came down to the boat to introduve himself. He's been in Petersburg since 1945. Amazing.
Peterburg reminds me a bit of Gustavus in that it seems you've stepped back in time 100 years. The docks are meager, but perfectly funtional. The fishing boats are mostly narrow beam wooden boats that have been the mainstay of the fishing industry for eons in this little place they call "Little Norway." The scandinavian influence is pervasive and reflected en-mass on the mariners memorial wall just outside the "Son's of Norway" community hall. The moss and algae growing on most boats in the harbor are testament to the amount of rain they receive here.....an impressive 109 inches per year! The snow is still quite near the water, yet there are flowers blooming in neat rows along the old houses that line the main street. Pretty place.
Tomorrow............the Wrangell Narrows.
06/01/2012, Stephens Passage
We left Auke Bay this morning after topping off water tanks. Hand a very nice downwind sail in morning sunshine and even a favorable current. Sure makes things nice! Enjoyed great boat speeds even though the wind was still a bit chilly. It was great to feel the sun. Barograph reports a sharp drop in barometer though....... Going for Hobart Bay tonight. Danny just made a batch of brownies that were delicious. Motor running fine. :)
05/31/2012, Gulf of Alaska
Forty-eight hours into our Gulf of Alaska blue water crossing, we'd experienced moderate beating conditions, but relatively good angles and moderate seas. Before departure, I'd discovered how to download grib files over the SSB and overlay them onto our navigation screen. These wind directions and velocities had predicted light to moderate conditions for the next 72 hours. Late into day 2 on Lolo's watch, we'd started the engine for heat and to charge the batteries. But shortly after, the engine RPM's had suddenly dropped and there was a rather hard mechanical knocking. I flew from my bunk and had Laurence immediately throttle back to idle where I visually inspected the engine compartment. There was nothing visibly wrong, just a very very bad sound. After asking her to shut it down, I declared: "well, we're a sailboat now...." I lay back down and rolled the tape back and forth in my head of the recent engine rebuild searching for possible causes and dreading the worst, a major mechanical failure that might require pulling the engine again.
The wind had dropped shortly after and from my bunk I heard the cacophony of noise on deck as Lolo single handedly shook out the reef and rolled the rest of the 130 out. The boat accelerated nicely, but it wasn't long before the wind was back up and I could feel Radiance heeling a bit harder than she should. Donning my gear, I was on deck for what was to become the longest watch I have ever stood. It was 10pm.
While I helped get the boat back under control, the wind continued to increase. I'd told myself the next time I do the Gulf, I am NOT going to go cross the Fairweather Grounds as I'd had 2 previous unpleasant experiences there, but as the wind clocked around, our course veered directly toward them. We tried tacking away a few times, but the major swell was on the nose on that tack, so opted to take the more comfortable tack instead. But all the while, the Fairweather Grounds were pulling us back in - against our will. By 2am, the wind was up to 30 knots. Though there was a lot of water on deck, Radiance was bucking the seas and making headway at about 48 degrees apparent. With no engine to charge the batteries, using the electronic autopilot was going to be limiting and very demanding on the system, so I rigged up the Monitor windvane. This allowed us to stay mostly under the dodger. With both air and water temperatures around 45 degrees F, it was very cold and hands were slow to operate. The monitor really made things tolerable by just steering the boat for us, allowing us to hang on (and stay clipped in.)
After getting the boat back under control, Lolo and I spelled each other about every hour or so, taking turns laying on the cabin floor below to rest. Conditions were just too radical to have Danny standing any kind of watch alone, so we let him sleep below. As the light began to come back, we could see the size of the waves which were now easily 15 feet, sloppy and confused. Laurence reported the wind was now up to 35 sustained with gusts over 40 knots. I turned on the single side band and requested an updated GRIB file weather report, but it only showed 15-20 knots. It was hours before the next WXFAX broadcast. Frustrated, I called Com-Station Kodiak on 4125 and requested current WX for Cape Fairweather. The young man that answered reported 20-knots SE. I told him that we had every bit of 30 knots with gusts up to 40 and we were unable to point more than about 48 degrees into the wind. There was not enough sea room to run off, so with the tide, current drift from the wind and waves, we found we could only really jog back and forth and endure. As we approached Lituiya Bay, we considered going in, but the entrance is very tricky and without an engine for maneuverability, it was not prudent. The ground is foul from submerged trees and we'd have to sail back out, so not an option. So, tack we did - through the day and into the night before we were finally able to sail into Dixon Harbor in darkness again and navigate to a safe anchorage behind Sugarloaf Is. We slept until mid afternoon, then Danny helped me do some engine trouble-shooting. We checked/reset valve clearances, looked for broken valve springs, etc, but could not find anything obvious. We crossed our fingers and started the motor. It ran as before, but would begin knocking violently at 1200 RPM's. I let it idle for about an hour to charge batteries. Laurence made a delicious meal, we ate and went straight back to bed - still exhausted.
The next morning, we awoke to slightly broken overcast skies, but relatively light winds and began motor-sailing at 3-knots up past Cape Spencer. We considered our options and decided to continue on to Gustavus instead of stopping at Elfin Cove. Though we arrived about 8:30pm, my dear friend Ellie May, her husband Lewis and son Rowan took us beat up sailors in for cheeseburgers, laundry, showers and even desert. We slept well after returning to the boat with a midnight fuel run at the Gustavus gas station and dropping the hook just in front of the city dock.
We continued on this way, "motor"- sailing, but if the wind was down, we could only make about 3.5 knots. We took advantage of every bit of wind we had - though all of it was on the nose. Another long day and dark night of navigation finally put us into Auke Bay, where were dropped the hook last night and slept hard.
For anyone who knows me on a sailboat, I don't "DO" 3.5 knots well. I've also worked very hard to ensure that we had an engine that we could depend on when we needed it. Though I do all my own mechanical work, it is not part of the joy of sailing for me. So adding the events of the last few days to the horrifying thought that I might be pulling the engine out of the boat while we live aboard, then tearing it down, diagnosing the problem, ordering and waiting for parts, fixing it, re-installing it back in the boat, etc - to the ticking clock and schedule we need to meet to make the Vic-Maui start on July 5th has been more than a little bit stressful. So this morning, I pulled the fuel injectors, we borrowed a car from a friend and had the injectors pop-tested. This was the easiest thing to check and a possible cause of the problem. It would also mean that if it were the cause of the problem, it would be a relatively easy fix and then engine could stay in the boat. The first injector tested fine with a beautiful light spray from the nozzle tip........ the second one looked pretty good, but was dripping......not so good (but good)............the third injector shot squirts of fuel like a squirt gun! Bingo! Bad injector. I happily paid Mike at New Life Motors for the test and thanked him profusely. In my excitement to tell Lolo and Danny we'd found the problem, I opened the car and bashed my forehead into the corner of it, drawing blood from the cut. Don't know if the ground was moving from a wav or it was just my excitement, but I didn't care. This meant we were not going to be too far off schedule, I could fix it easily and we could get back to enjoying the inside passage cruise.
After a quick downtown tour and a much deserved beer at my favorite bar in the world, The Alaskan on Franklin Street, we headed back to the boat and I had my spare set of injectors installed, about an hour later. The engine fired right up and we have full RPM's and no knock! YAY YAY YAY.
05/30/2012, Auke Bay - Juneau
[s] Had a great visit in Gustavus last night with Ellie May and family. In spite of our nearly unannounced visit, they fed us cheeseburgers, strawberries, brownies and ice cream and we ran a load of laundry while we showered up. THANKS SO MUCH Ellie and Lewis! :) Arrived in Auke Bay just now. Just dropped the hook and headed to bed.