Sailboat Sänna

Blogs from our sailing vessel SV Sänna. Eastwards from England to New Zealand... & sailing circumnavigation.

20 August 2017 | Elfin Cove, Southeast Alaska
08 August 2017 | Dundas Bay, Icy Straits, Southeast Alaska
28 July 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
25 July 2017 | Freshwater Bay, Chichagof Island, Southeast Alaska
02 July 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
20 June 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
16 June 2017 | Reid Inlet, Glacier Bay
30 May 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
10 May 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
06 April 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
17 March 2017 | Norfolk, England
10 February 2017 | Glacier Bay National Park. Southeast Alaska
07 January 2017 | Hoonah, Alaska
20 October 2016 | Hoonah, Alaska
10 September 2016 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
28 August 2016 | Reid Inlet, Glacier Bay, Southeast Alaska
08 August 2016 | Hoonah, Alaska
27 July 2016 | Sitka, Southeast Alaska
10 July 2016 | British Columbia, Canada
27 June 2016 | Port Townsend, Washington State

All Knocked Up In Elfin Cove...

20 August 2017 | Elfin Cove, Southeast Alaska
Dave
Photo: A very lively lady indeed...

We both woke instantly from the horrible crunching sound as Sänna shook suddenly. We were rafted alongside Morning Star so Leighton and Lynda must surely have sensed something wrong too. Dawn was just about breaking so there was enough grey light for us to dress quickly to race outside to see what had happened... Marie was first up the companionway and out of the hatch. Me, I was still trying to get my trousers unwrapped from around my legs where I'd gotten them all tangled up. I told myself to calm down, if nothing else I needed to dress properly and not look like a fool.

When I eventually got myself on deck Marie had already taken charge of what to me looked like an impossible disaster. Impaled in Sänna's port-side beam were the bows of a fishing boat, who's skipper stood on the deck holding his head in his hands. Marie was imploring their crew to slowly reverse, to untangle their anchor which was embedded in our rails. I looked and straightaway saw the extensive damage to our capping rails and topsides but at this stage I couldn't see if our hull was damaged or not. My first thoughts were that we were in such a bad place to suffer collision damage, the tiny harbour of Elfin Cove was in a remote location and no place to get things fixed easily.

By this time Leighton and Lynda had also raced on deck, the impact had woken them as I suspected and Henry was up and dressed as well... but he looked totally bewildered and still tired. Marie in her own inimitable control-freak style got everyone to calm down and the fishing boat backed off as her crew pushed her free. Only then did we both realise they had no engine power. The fishing boat's skipper by this time was bellowing at his crew because they were in real difficulties, so I threw them a line telling them to head back to tie alongside before they drifted into the shallows beside the shoreline cliffs only a hundred or so metres away. They were a fair sized boat in bad trouble, the Elfin Cove harbour is extremely tight for space and very compact.

Catching my casting line and then a second line they slowly pulled themselves alongside and rafted on to us securely. The skipper came running up to me full of apologies, he was genuinely distraught explaining their engine had cut out and died as they were manoeuvring from the dock just in front of us - they were reversing in a three point turn to leave the tiny harbour when their engine cut just as they were heading straight for us. What could I say? I felt sorry for him - we've all been there.

The whole bunch of us crowded around to inspect the damage. The fishing boat was fine, their bows and anchor had taken the impact whereas Sänna herself was extensively damaged. Luckily it was only superficial stuff, our stainless steel guard rails, teak deck capping and rub rails were torn up but, thankfully, our hull was untouched. I breathed a sigh of relief. Marie disappeared below to brew early morning hot tea which is her way of saying let's all relax and get practical. She made fresh coffee for their skipper John because he was still visibly shook up and shaking, he wouldn't stop apologising and Marie said black coffee was the only way to calm him down. What about me? I asked. Of course she reminded me of that time back in Brisbane when I'd drifted Sänna out of control onto the bows of three tied up sailboats... so then I stayed quiet and drank my hot steaming tea.

It was a gloriously warm sunny morning in Elfin Cove. By now crowds of fishermen had gathered and the general topic was how best to fix things up. John, the skipper of Lively Jane who'd hit us was adamant that he himself would fix Sänna and also pay us a large sum in dollars for our troubles. I then thought back to that time in Brisbane when everything had been my fault, how bad I felt then and how the crews of those three Aussie sailboats had found it hilariously funny, how they'd sat me down with cold beer then pulled us off to safety as though things didn't matter much. Even then we'd all set too to fix things so that we could sail onwards to New Zealand. Right now things were no different.

Once the heat of the situation died down I realised our damage wasn't that bad and everything could be patched up relatively easily. John set too with his tools and I could tell straightaway that he knew a thing or two about boats. An hour or so later everything looked much better except for our teak capping damage, I told him not to worry... I said it was just battle damage, that all boats had war wounds but he gave me five hundred bucks anyway. I gave him two hundred back but he wouldn't take it, so I decided that I liked John enormously and under normal circumstances we'd probably be good drinking buddies.

The damage was just another battle scar and nothing much. Sänna's covered in healed up wounds anyway, each one a memorable story and a reflection of our long voyage so far. We're a long way from home and each time when I walk past our damaged capping rail I'll well remember Lively Jane and Elfin Cove... that's probably why it'll never get fixed. Surely the three hours spent drinking hot tea in the morning sunshine, with all the fishermen ambling over with their smiling laughter and John whatever-his-name filling my fist with dollars that I wouldn't take, will be something we'll think about whenever we remember magical Elfin Cove.
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

If Freshly Dressed Crabs Could Speak Their Minds...

08 August 2017 | Dundas Bay, Icy Straits, Southeast Alaska
Dave
Photo: The scurge of commercial crab pots

I woke early before sunrise as usual, something that always happens whenever we are sitting on anchor overnight. This time I could distinctly hear the sound of a boat engine echoing through the hull, normally this would not be unusual but in this region the anchorages are so numerous and remote that rarely do we find any other vessel anywhere near close by. Occasionally we might be joined by a fishing boat looking for shelter or sometimes we may even head for an anchorage we know is used by fishermen so that we can barter some cans of beer for fresh fish, but not here, not here in Dundas Bay.

The vast area of Dundas Bay, like Idaho Inlet and Salt Lake Bay is difficult to enter because of fast flowing currents and notoriously difficult navigation. That's why no one ever comes here. It's an incredibly remote wilderness bordered by the highest mountains in southeast Alaska, towering snow-capped monoliths that create stunningly flat-calm anchorages which can be safely used without seeing anyone or any other vessel for many days on end. We can fish for halibut and easily track down grizzly bears to video film ashore, we listen to wolves howling through the night and during the long days countless bald eagles screech and constantly squabble between themselves. Here the humpback whales are so numerous the three of us rarely mention them when they spout and dive all around us. That's why we stopped to anchor in Dundas Bay for one last time once we'd taken the reluctant decision to finally leave Hoonah.

So hearing the sound of a boat engine now made me wake and get up immediately. Rarely am I up through the night in Alaskan anchorages checking if everything is ok, I always look to a good nights sleep in good calm conditions, then waking in the early morning dawn to put on my coffee pot and to make Marie's English Breakfast tea... at least three cups of hot tea before Marie even deems to acknowledge me. But right now I straightaway stuck my head out of the hatch to see what was going on sensing full well my horrible suspicions. Sure enough, I was instantly appalled - the exact same thing had happened again.

Crab pots... hundreds of them all around us. Across the Inlet a large commercial crabbing boat was sowing row upon row of crab pots, the pot marker buoys floating in perfect lines once they'd been released over their stern in quick succession by a double manned mechanical conveyor. I watched them in the greyness of the dawn, with the thick early morning mist drifting slowly in the absolute stillness of the cold air. It had happened before, over and over again in the last couple of months or so, in Neka Bay, Excursion Inlet, Freshwater Bay, Whitestone Harbour and in all the secluded anchorages throughout Chichagof Island’s incredibly scenic Frederick Sound. Fishermen we'd spoken to both in Hoonah and in Pelican had said the same thing, it was occurring in every secluded bay and cove within a fifty mile radius of Hoonah. The local fishermen were up in arms and taking matters into their own hands because the shear numbers of crab pots was causing them problems too - and no one messes with Alaskan tough-breed fishermen, they generally don't bother too much with trivial formalities or registering their complaints through proper channels, we'd before watched open bar fights when it came to arguments over the whereabouts and the shear numbers of large commercial crab pots... it's an emotive subject. The problems come when trying to manoeuvre a boat between these close lines of marker buoys, not only can you not see them when entering somewhere in rapidly fading light, their buoy lines foul propellors, catch fast around keels and jam rudders, generally requiring someone to go into the water to cut the fouled line free... and that's no mean feat in these cold Alaskan waters believe you me.

Our own immediate problem right now would be manoeuvring to raise our anchor. Before attempting this we'd no doubt drift and turn as the tide changed and with the nearest half a dozen or so pots sown only a few feet from us this would cause a serious problem. The crab boat still not too far away had taken no consideration of us and was probably acting in the usual hostile manner to deliberately drive us away. They had no ownership or sole right of access, it was just an outwardly intimidating act to gain supremacy... King and Dungeness crabs are numerous around here, something which had been the subject of much talk in the Tlingit frequented Office Bar and also amongst the fishermen we knew well in Hoonah. And Ken from Island Rover and other sailboat skippers we talked to had come across the same fast growing problem everywhere they dropped anchor too.

Of course, the problem is solely down to visiting cruise ships. The brand new cruise ship dock located at Icy Point outside of Hoonah has recently been completed to serve the Disney style cannery museum and the fast growing bear-search safari tours into the interior of Chichagof Island. The museum itself has been renovated to serve only the cruise ships docking there. It's not real, it's not even closely authentic and nothing like the real Alaska it's trying to portray. It's a typical American falsehood that serves exactly what cruise ship tourism expects to be served... craft shops, fast food outlets and re-enacted ethnic dancing that supposedly represents the way Americans and Chinese think the real Alaska is. Each ship brings in up to five thousand tourists in one go, no longer do the ships have to ferry their passengers ashore, now they can simply walk ashore and make their way around this small remote community of only eight hundred and eighty people.

The largest and most successful of the eating establishments inside the Icy Point Salmon Cannery Museum is the new Crab Shack franchise operation, it's hugely popular and accessible only from the cruise ship. The Icy Point Huna Corporation also has the contract to resupply all of the cruise ships that dock there, to restock all the onboard restaurants with the Alaskan favourite that tourists simply love to consume - fresh King and Dungeness Crab. So the Huna Corporation and Cruise Ship Partnership Consortium that run Cannery Point have awarded lucrative supply contracts to big commercial out-of-town crab supply operators operating out of Seattle and Juneau, nothing at all to the local crab fishermen who've traditionally fished for crab for many generations out of Hoonah, Elfin Cove and Pelican. Knowledgeable local Tlingit and redneck Alaskans who know a thing or two say the entire crab population hereabouts will be wiped out within five years, it's already happened in Ketchikan and Juneau, in Skagway and in the northern Alaskan ports of Anchorage and Seward.

Right now in the glorious stillness of early morning dawn we ourselves had an intensely irritating problem. Not the ongoing issue of predatory capitalism that I constantly bore folk with until they yawn their heads off before invariably changing the subject, but one of what we now had to do to extract ourselves from this minefield of potential danger. First I called the skipper of the crab boat now positioned off our bows on our VHF radio. I'd like to tell you I invited them over for early morning coffee and tea, that they refused because they needed to be back home with their wives and kids but that's not the conversation we had. It's best that I don't relate the conversation that ensued in the beautiful secluded anchorage of Dundas Bay, except to say it made little difference - 'Stupid Limey Bastards' don't belong around here apparently though I objected to being called a Limey... of course, it's always difficult when you come between a commercial skipper and his money.

After the sun finally poked its nose above the eastern ridge-line I stirred my crew with English tea and steamed hot coffee, Marie took one look around the anchorage and she knew straightaway we had a problem. Henry, still in his glorious younger years is easily corruptible, readily provoked and open to my own view of things that I accept aren't always rational. He ranted his angry opinions and I smiled to myself somewhat contentedly. We raised our anchor relatively easily because our considerable experience told us how, but it took a good few hours to extract ourselves between the floating marker buoys with the precariously changing tides that often swept us out of control. We left Dundas Bay out into the infamous Inian Pass to then make our way to Elfin Cove.

For lunch we ate gloriously delicious still fresh dressed crab - courtesy of Yankee Maid. We ate King Crab sandwiches together with on the edge cucumber, three types of fading green leaves and bitter coriander coated limes...

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Footnote: Of course, everyone has the right to travel in any way they choose... and this includes cruise ship tourists who've paid the price of their ticket to see Alaska in the cruise ship style they crave - but they do not and never experience the real Alaska. Commercial America is exceptionally slick in its ability to recreate Disney style dreams and that is what the cruise ships deliver. Furthermore we ourselves cannot demand these secluded anchorages purely for own sake and we make no claim to do so. But we do have the right to our opinions just like anyone else.

We see first hand the often appalling effects from the decline in fish catches that generations of fishermen have suffered - laid up boats, social dilapidation and paid off crews. There are few rich fishermen who really do risk their lives repeatedly throughout their working lives, there's little sign of the wealth you'd find in the world of investment banking for example. Over-fishing is a worldwide problem that is, in my opinion, probably unresolvable. In this instance relating to the Icy Point Salmon Cannery Museum you must consider there is no gain to the local community who are themselves in dire need of this type of contract driven income if they can get it, but they can't. They don't have the commercial awareness, the capacity, the infrastructure or the resources to supply twenty five thousand crabs per week from their own backyard to the cruise ship tourist industry on this scale.

Consider also that cruise line conglomerates put nothing much back into local communities. Captive passengers are fed their meals onboard in all-inclusive vacation packages or invariably tempted to part with their cash within the controlled commercial environments that passengers are introduced into, such as the Icy Point Salmon Cannery which is part owned by the cruise ship consortiums themselves in partnership with the Huna Development Corporation. These same arrangements exist in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and elsewhere where the cruise ships dock. Furthermore, ethnic businesses, restaurants and local crafts in these locations who endeavour to make a living from cruise ship tourists are required to pay the cruise ship lines fifteen percent of their sales takings or face being shut down. Many local businesses will readily show you the lawyer's letters they've collected over the years.

There is a counter-argument. The cruise ships will point out they have to pay a local landing tax for every passenger who heads ashore, this tax is paid to local community authorities and is cited as the benefit local communities receive... though many Alaskans will tell you a corresponding amount is deducted from community Authorities when they receive their State Aid. Of course, this landing tax is added to the price every passenger pays to buy their vacation ticket - the cruise lines rarely pay any amount of tax to anyone. The ship itself will be registered in a foreign tax exemption port such as Liberia, Nassau or the Cayman Isles under a system known as 'Flags of Convenience'... just take a look at the stern of any cruise ship and you'll see straightaway the strange looking name from where the ship has supposedly sailed, but in actual fact has never ever been there. Of course you already know the huge cruise line organisations themselves will divert their own lucrative revenues somewhere offshore in complex tax avoidance schemes that are completely legal. Tax revenues are therefore a moot and emotional point to argue.

Perhaps I can convince you that predatory capitalism benefits only those it's meant to benefit in this new world of globalisation. Certainly not King and Dungeness crabs... perhaps in that strange world where Disney gives them a voice and an ability to talk rationally, they'd have a few things to say about the Icy Point Salmon Cannery Museum.

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

The Sad Face of Hoonah...

28 July 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
Dave
Photo: Things are changing fast in the real Alaska

Ken from Island Rover first mentioned things after I arrived back in Hoonah in April, he and Juanita were thinking of selling up their cabin and moving on he said. Then Bill said the same thing, worryingly so too did Stan and Mike, Mike said he was maybe gonna head back to Thailand. When Eugene told me he was thinking of returning to Hawaii to help his wife with their small coffee plantation rather than staying on in Hoonah to fish for the season then I knew things had taken a turn for the worse. Some of the local Tlingit guys I talked with seemed downhearted too.

Of course, it was all bad news... the combined cruise ship operators and the Huna Corporation had just announced that from next year their huge passenger ships would be calling into Hoonah every day from early May onwards. Things were already bad enough, currently there's a bitterly divisive limit of four ships per week including 'Two Ships Tuesday' but everyone seems to agree there's no way this small community could cope with anything more... except the cruise ships corporations are even now lobbying hard to be allowed to dock two huge ships each and every day.

To top everything, a few days ago our arch enemy Disney Wonder tied up to the brand new cruise line dock for the first time and we heard the ominous tune 'It's A Small World' meandering through the early morning mist, then nearly a thousand kids with their moms & pops all dressed in their free-issue bright yellow Mickey Mouse rain-capes broke through the cordon of Tlingit medicine men trying to keep them out... I exaggerate of course but it's just the way things are. Like ourselves they have every right to be here but perhaps it's time that we move on too.

Because on cruise ship days bewildered looking tourists wander around the small Tlingit community of Hoonah peering openly into folk's houses without any compunction, dawdling along at that curiously slow browsing pace as if they are knowledgable explorers - the unworldly-wise Chinese are the worst with their selfie-sticks and that stupid pose that selfie-loving Chinese seem to love - you know the one, the one with thumbs up smiles that's destined for Facebook or that other Instagram thing. They sport designer sunglasses or floppy white magazine style hats on top of their heads and brand new hiking shoes that have never even seen mud.... and get this, last week Stan came upon two oversized American women from somewhere in New York State sitting in the back of his Bayliner Lucky Dawn, when he admonished them for boarding his boat without permission they went berserk... saying they'd been told during their briefing before coming ashore to head down to the harbour to take a look around the boats. They were gonna file an official complaint, they both said. They had been given permission to take a look inside his boat by their cruise ship, they said...

Hoonah is the real Alaska but not for much longer. So we've decided to leave too before things get bad. We said goodbye to our fishing boat friends Icy Queen, to Yankee Maid and Island Queen. We've bid farewell to Island Rover and Lucky Dawn, to Marie Rose and June Striding. We had one last drink in the Office Bar and the Icy Straits Lodge. We shopped for one last time in the Hoonah Store, Braden and Sasquatch hugged us goodbye for far too long.

Then we made our way westwards, west along the Icy Straits that would eventually lead us into big grey Pacific. We'll go to Elfin Cove and then Pelican, then out to Sitka stopping in places along the way. We'll make our way slowly south and then... maybe to Mexico Marie said.

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

Wild Strawberries at the Kennel Creek Cabin...

25 July 2017 | Freshwater Bay, Chichagof Island, Southeast Alaska
Marie
Photo: The suitably remote Kennel Creek Refuge Cabin

We quickened our pace because we'd now lost sight of the bear, it could be anywhere close by concealed in the undergrowth. Our only safe option was to hide inside the Kennel Creek Cabin still around a hundred yards away, we could then bolt the door and stay hidden. Henry impatiently urged us to hurry quickly whilst Dave had his taser ready... not that his ridiculous taser had ever proven any good. We raced to the cabin and thankfully found the door unlocked.

Being a two storey cabin Henry argued we'd be safer upstairs on the upper floor... especially after flipping his lid when discovering the internal door bolt was a flimsy little clasp that'd not even hold a mouse at bay. Dave laughed, saying the grizzly was long gone by now and that we were stupid. Then a heavy noise outside on the lower veranda made us turn to look in alarm... sure enough there was the large brown grizzly staring at us through the window. Without a second glance or a moments hesitation we raced up the wooden stairs to the upper floor. There, we looked at each other realising just how stupid we were... the bear could easily knock down the door then follow us up the stairs - what would we do then? So Henry had another plan, there was a second glass door leading outside on to the balcony so we hurried out there, closing shut the balcony door behind us hoping that would be enough...

I looked down over the balcony and there was the grizzly just a couple of feet below, it looked up as I looked down. Henry then had another dicky-fit saying the bear could easily climb the balcony which, thinking about it now, wouldn't have been a huge problem for a full sized male bear. Then it stood on its hind legs which brought its nose roughly in line with the balcony where we stood worryingly petrified. It sniffed, stood down and then ambled off unconcerned before disappearing into the bushes. And that was it. It was gone.

We'd first spotted the grizzly prowling the shoreline of Freshwater Bay. The three of us, Henry, Dave and myself were picking wild strawberries without paying too much attention to what was around. Dave saw the bear first heading in our direction although we weren't sure if it was aware of us or not. Afterwards we stayed inside the safety of the cabin for easily an hour or so because we had no idea where the bear was. Then we left, tentatively keeping a keen lookout, firing off the taser every few moments just to make sure...

The locals in the Icy Straits Lodge Bar said we were foolish, we should carry guns. We're English we said, we don't carry guns...

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

A Right Good Alaskan Adventure

02 July 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
Dave
Photo: We finally made it ashore beside the Reid Glacier...

"This blog is just family nonsense about the endless love of your kids. As you know, this hardly ever changes even when they've just turned thirty, they're supposedly independent from you and living their own lives in big city places like London thinking they don't need you around anymore. For me, never is it so good as when we get family visiting from England." Dave

In June my youngest daughter Louise travelled out to Alaska to join me onboard Sänna whilst Marie stayed back in England for Henry's final school exams. To meet up with her I sailed Sänna the forty miles or so from Hoonah to Auke Bay just north of Juneau, all the way there worried about docking solo in the absolute chaos that is Auke Bay's Edward Statten Harbour. Luckily, our good friends Leighton and Lynda onboard their ketch Morning Star were already in the harbour, so I was able to raft up alongside them to tie up relatively safely... it was good to see them again. The shit hole harbour is notoriously difficult because of the fishing fleet based there which is compounded by the obscene numbers of tourists boats that go out chasing whales, they serve the relentless cruise ships that dock in Juneau for the so called 'Alaskan' experience...

Read More...

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas...

20 June 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
Dave
Photo: Yankee Maid's own virginal mermaid

The First Nation fisherman from Yankee Maid asked if I'd like three king crabs they'd caught earlier in the day. Sure, I said, I'd be more than pleased to take them off him. We got talking, his name was Robbie, he was true-blood Tlinget descended directly from Kaawishté, the tribal Chief Shakes over on Shakes Island. The Naanyaa.aayí clan still reside in present day Wrangell. Robbie bought over the crabs which he'd cooked up already so I dressed them down for my favourite crab & cucumber sandwiches (always cut diagonally) and my delicious fresh-crab salads. This was just fine. Afterwards I wandered over to Yankee Maid to thank Rob again. Come aboard, he said, you can meet Gerry our cook.

I learned from Rob & Gerry that Yankee Maid is a commercial seine fishing boat that comes up from Seattle each year to fish for the season from Hoonah. I spent a good while talking and drinking their beer though unusually for fishermen they seemed to have a preference for good portions of red wine. I really warmed to these guys and we got along nicely, they were genuinely interested in our sailing adventures and pleased that I liked their food, especially their smoked salmon they'd pickled and then jarred in good quality oil. A few days later I sailed Sänna over to Auke Bay north of Juneau to meet up with our good friends Leighton & Lynda onboard their ketch Morning Star and the biggest prize of all... my youngest daughter Louise was flying in from London to spend a few weeks with me in Alaska whilst Marie and Henry were back in England... Henry's end of school exams were keeping them both busy. So, there I was in the complete mayhem that is Auke Bay harbour walking along the pontoon when I heard a booming shout... it was Robbie and there was Yankee Maid rafted alongside other seine fishing boats that had filled the harbour overnight. "We got king salmon, you want one?" he asked with his beaming smile. Of course, I replied, king salmon is much sought after and I'd be delighted. It was good to see him again.

Around a week or so later, back in Hoonah with Louise and Morning Star, I got into an argument with Gerry the cook who was Robbie's good friend. Gerry had again invited, Leighton & Lynda, Lou and me over to Yankee Maid... curiously there was a stir amongst the seine fishermen now that a young single English girl was in Hoonah - we were already entertaining Braden and Sasquatch from Icy Queen most evenings. Gerry said he was gonna make English style fish & chips and they would party again to boot.

I told Gerry that no one outside of England could make fish & chips the English way, not himself or even those wayward troublesome Scots to which he referred. Gerry proffered to disagree so I decided to explain. First, I said, the whole world thinks they know how to cook fish & chips but of course, they don't. It's a common problem we come across frequently. It's not just a case of battering the fish any style then just frying the 'fries', I explained with the sure knowledge of a well practiced and devoted consumer since a very early age. Traditional or 'proper' fish & chips are deep fried in beef fat, or 'dripping' as it's known in England, the potatoes must be hand-peeled and cut using one of two specific potato types... either the Maris Piper or the King Edward they're called and grown only in the English counties of Lincolnshire and Norfolk where the soil is exceptionally rich and loamy. Nowhere else or any other potato breed will do. Once peeled they must be soaked in water for at least eight hours to remove the starch (the starch traditionally has a number of uses, including the starching of new sail canvas for English man-o-war frigates, also a method supposedly found in Viking long-ships). Furthermore the frier's apron must always be recognisably greasy and stained because this denotes great experience and devotion... there must be none of this hair-net and hygiene nonsense although that in itself wouldn't have been a problem on Yankee Maid. They must also be served wrapped in newspaper and eaten by hand I said to Gerry... any sign of posh plates or even cutlery means something is just not right. A number of hand-down recipes are used for the fish-batter and, of course, the fish is always white north-atlantic cod or my own personal favourite - haddock... although fresh Alaskan halibut makes an extremely good and perfectly acceptable alternative. And then there's the mushy peas...

Mushy peas are a phenomenon unknown outside of England, even the Scots turn their noses up at mushy peas when they order their own version 'fish suppers'. I'm fortunate in that my wife Marie worked in a local mushy-pea factory for a short while when in her early teens and, back then, only five foot tall to a tadpole, so I'm telling you things now that have rarely been told before. Gerry had heard rumours and knew of mushy peas but not how they're produced or consumed, nor did he appreciate their importance when it comes to 'English' fish & chips. When I explained the traditional method of creating mushy peas, by young girls trampling around barefoot in barrels of soda soaked marrowfat peas I got the impression he thought me slightly not right in the head. But it's true, my wife Marie will readily vouch for that. And Gerry and the boys were in luck... we had several jars of mushy peas onboard Sänna that Marie'd bought out from England because of her life-long and not often talked about addiction. The great English fish & chip challenge was on.

Well, we had a tremendous ball of a time.Yankee Maid's sister boat Island Queen pulled in alongside the dock later in the afternoon, she was skippered by Randy, brother of Yankee Maid's skipper Paul. Alongside the other slip were our long-held friends, the seine fishing boat Icy Queen who were already well known to Yankee Maid and Island Queen. Scott, Icy Queen's skipper, his son Braden and nephew Christian, known as Sasquatch because of his great size and ability to pick up a fish-barrel single handed, were all there to join in as were the crews of other seine boats too, mingling easily with ourselves from the 'posh' sailboats... Leighton & Lynda of Morning Star plus Louise and myself. Ubiquitous quantities of beer, whiskey and wine added to the tempting aroma of frying fish drifting out of Yankee Maid's galley... with the distinct smell of simmering peas that'd travelled all the way from England.

I'm not gonna say if the challenge was lost or won other than to say that all of the seine boats were supposed to depart before daylight the next morning to hit a crutial salmon-catch opening. They never did leave. The battered halibut fresh-caught earlier in the day was simply superb and indescribable to those who've never eaten fish that out-freshens anything found in a fresh-fish market anywhere... nor in any upmarket restaurant. The chips, or 'fries' as these Yanks call them... well, you must remember that Gerry had no access to special ingredient beef-fat dripping or exceptional quality spuds (potatoes) but Gerry's greasy stained apron did meet with the required standards - probably more so than is normal. And the big cooking pot of mushy peas.... when I explained to all present how they were 'mushed' and made by young English virgins trampling around barefoot in barrels I encountered drunken disbelieving stares followed by ominous guffaws of mocking laughter. Out of curiosity the peas were tentatively sampled rather uneasily but invariably left untouched... although both Robbie and Gerry consumed ample quantities quite readily. Louise and me, we feasted contentedly, quite happy with the fabulous battered halibut accompanied by real English mushy peas. The fries...? only the English know how to make proper 'fries' and, as you know, not even the Scots can make...

Of course, the real point of this blog is quite straightforward. On a splendidly warm Alaskan summer evening in remote Hoonah harbour, the crews of two sailboats and who knows how many working seine fishing boats decided to get together and party on the friendly invitation of Yankee Maid. There was not the snobbery or barriers found in many private owned cruising boats which fishermen generally loath, nor was it one of those organised cruiser's 'pot-luck-supper' things either, just a spontaneous acceptance of who we were and who they were, a shared friendship by those who work and sail often dangerous seas. For myself, the big thing was not just the quality time with my daughter but to see the easy mingling of First Nation and white red-neck fishermen through genuine respectful friendship... and that friendliness was readily extended to ourselves without question.

Later in the evening an extremely drunken, delightfully unstable Scott put his arms around me and declared his absolute genuine respect that there were still virgins in England...

Footnote: Truly English style fish & chips are becoming a rarity in all of the British Isles. With the advent of mass commercial catering and 'pub food' the art of producing what used to be the staple diet of the working classes that migrated to the infamous slums of the great cities and the coalfields created by the Industrial Revolution has largely disappeared... but not everywhere. Eating habits and food hygiene standards have taken their toll... consuming your ample portion of battered cod or haddock with traditionally cooked chips fried in true beef-fat dripping lest discerning customers demand their hard-earned money back and after the pubs have closed for the evening, religiously eaten from newspaper wrapping is a rarity... but not entirely gone. Nowadays deep-frying is done with conventional cooking oils, chips are supplied pre-peeled, already cut and sometimes part-cooked by large commercial suppliers... but not always. Cod & haddock stocks in the North Sea and North Atlantic have been decimated, as have the huge fishing fleets that traditionally supplied the uniquely British habit of consuming vast quantities of fish through thousands of old-style 'chip shops'. But not all of the fishermen have given up.

Ask any Englishman, Scotsman or Welshman who can claim a working class background and you will be told that you cannot find 'proper fish & chips' in any pub, nor in a restaurant of any description or indeed in most modern day fish & chip shops that are invariably owned and operated by friers of foreign extraction - good people that they always are. But if you ask around or if you are in the know, exceptionally good fish-friers do exist who still do things in the right way. The true secret is the beef-fat dripping which vegaterianism and food hygiene laws have largely curtailed, perhaps rightly so although that is entirely another discussion.

Mushy peas or other vegetable types are a regional variation encouraged by successive war governments seeking to increase nutritional values that can and does cause great debate. Intense working-class poverty required a source of cheap protein, animal-fats, carbohydrates and vitamin mineral content when sorely needed. Some regions of the UK have since introduced their own bizarre accompaniments such as gravy, even beans, curry sauce, cheese, sausages, meat pies etc etc etc. all of which detract from the original two-hundred year tradition of a largely war-torn, poverty-stricken working-class Britain.

To know a proper true-grit flat-capped Englishman is to understand the expression "ah lad, thems spuds's bin dunnd 'n drippin' fro'ol Greggy's butch's factri up t' rode."


Winterton Fish Bar - a well deserved award winning tradional fish & chip frier... and I owe Debbie a plug.
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

Ice-Cold Beer...

16 June 2017 | Reid Inlet, Glacier Bay
Dave
Photo: The magnificent Marjorie Glacier which joins the Reid Glacier seven miles inland.

It was good, though extremely cold anchored less than four or five cables from the glacier face which every now and then calved directly into the inlet. We planned to climb up the south side of the glacier and then make our way as far inland into the high mountains that we could, but things were a little against us right from the start... the main problem being the depth of the winter snow given there were no trails, we'd have to break our own trail whilst conscious this was the same location that Henry and I encountered the grizzly bears only a few months before. At this time of the year the bears were hungry from winter hibernation, this region being notorious for grizzlies and for the inquisitive timber wolves that nosed around the shoreline. Nevertheless we got ourselves ashore after some considerable effort dragging our inflatable dinghy through the glacial mud to get up above the high tidewater level. We daren't risk returning after a few hours to find our inflatable drifting off in the rising tide leaving us stranded... seeking any rescue or assistance hereabouts was not really an option. Help was just not gonna happen.

Gary got himself well ahead and we made our way upwards alongside the glacier crevasse, though it meant crossing several fast running creeks in full flow from snow-melt. It was slow work. The creek gullies were steep sided with the eyrie silence of the enormous Reid Glacier mesmerising except for the sudden thunderous booms to remind us this huge eleven mile long ribbon of monstrous ice was moving relentlessly towards the sea. We pressed on as far as we could but knew we would begin to struggle without crampons, ice axes or climbing ropes because we just couldn't carry that amount of mountaineering equipment onboard unless we planned well ahead. So after a couple of miles I turned around and left Gary to press on, he was keen to keep going but I was worried about the dinghy in the rising tide.

Eventually the snow was too deep in the gullies and Gary too began to make his way down. Our inflatable was still securely in place, so my worries were unfounded but after those few exhilarating hours ashore we gladly made our way back to Sänna still sitting serenely on anchor. The late-in-the day sunshine gave us an incredible backdrop with the deep-blue glacial ice face only a few boat lengths away, I broke open a couple of ice-cold beers whilst Gary prepared our pasta dinner. God, it was cold. When the sun finally dropped behind the high mountain ridge to the west it sent amazing streaks of orange and crimson red light into the absolutely pristine blue sky. What a truly fantastic and memorable sunset to behold.

Just me and my step-brother Gary anchored here in what must be the closest place to frozen paradise.
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

Slow Grown Alaskan Gold...

30 May 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
Dave
Photo: Pure gold

Our very good friend Ken Pierce from Island Rover said we should go and see Wes Tyler.

Most of the logging on Chichagoff Island is done by Wes and his crew. His lumberyard and sawmill is where we'd get the best timber Ken said. But getting out to Wes's sawmill was no mean feat, Gary and I didn't have any transport and the lumberyard was remote, being way out of town deep in the Tongass forest. So Ken then said to go and see Randy at the Icy Straits Lodge to see if we could get his four-wheel drive truck... there are no roads as such on Chichagoff, only logging tracks cut into the thick forests which, of course, have invariably been made by Wes Tyler and his crew.

Gary and I already knew Randy down at the Icy Straits Lodge, we drank beer there most evenings whilst watching the early summer sunsets over Frederick Sound ... the sun by now was going down at around eleven at night so that gave us ample time to down a few pints, especially Gary - he's an ex-cop and knows his beers. You know how it is. Randy said sure, he had a truck we could use, it was a bit of a wreck but we could have it for a few days. Great! That would do nice! We could get over to Wes's sawmill which was way out in the back of beyond and then take some time to explore largely inaccessible Chichagoff Island.

You see, my plan was to replace all of Sänna's cabin ceilings and the rotting hatch linings with fresh cut Chichagoff timber. The ceilings and decorative linings had taken a hammering over the winter and from our years in the sweltering tropics. I was never gonna get a better opportunity to refit Sänna than here in Alaska. So Gary and I drove off to see Wes Tyler...

What a dream place it turned out to be. Wes was without doubt an affable guy and was proud to show us around, he was especially happy to supply new timber for an English sailboat. The cut trees lying around the yard curing naturely in the sunshine was a delight and Wes talked about the choices we had and the merits of each type of wood. These days he only selected old-growth trees at least a couple of hundred years old which his crew found in the forest and cut only when needed. There's no unrestricted mass area felling on Chichagoff Island like the old days, which decimated large areas of forest all over Alaska and British Columbia. Nowadays it's largely selective and sustainable cutting, especially in the ancient Tongas forest. Wes had red cedar, western hemlock, Sitka spruce and the best prize of all, Alaskan yellow cedar. The slow-growing yellow cedar in particular is much sought after, cut from exceptionally tall trees which means the timber is dead straight, the grain extremely tight and, more importantly, knot free. It's tough, doesn't rot when damp and never warps. Perfect, it's the type of wood that high-end carpenters seek and discerning timber gurus pay a fortune for. And Wes Tyler had lots of it, his crew had just recently found three huge yellow cedar trees deep in the Tongas forest which Wes reckoned were each over three hundred years old. Gary had meticulously measured how much we needed so we gave Wes our cuts, he'd mill it to our sizes plus tongue & groove it with bevelled edges for easy and precise fitting. Give him a week, Wes said, and he'd deliver it down to the dock in Hoonah. All for a very nice price.

The timing worked well, we could explore Chichagoff island driving around in our flamboyant four wheel drive truck, then fix the anchor windlass and take off onboard Sänna to once more get up into the Glacier Bay National Park, we could also visit the remote boardwalk communities of Elfin Cove and Pelican which Gary had not yet seen. I gladly let Gary replace the windlass motor, it was not an easy job and he was keen. He did good did our Gary.

First we took off around Chichagoff Island along remote and little used logging tracks. We were a little perturbed by the state of the tracks and the number of brown bears we encountered given that we carried no weapons, only the somewhat useless taser I'd purchased for fifty bucks in the Office Bar and a can of dubious bear spray. We got out to the isolated Kennel Creek cabin in Freshwater Bay and also to Whitestone Harbour before giving up our truck to Randy. Then we headed out to Glacier Bay for a week or so which was surprisingly ice free for the time of year, we got back into Reid Inlet to track inland beside the Reid Glacier before heading on to Elfin Cove and eventually to Pelican... to lose ourselves for an evening at infamous Rose's bar. Yes, they still dance on the tables there, race naked at midnight down the boardwalk and the old brown grizzly still sits in the toilet pit watching you take a piss.

Wes, true to his word, delivered our new timber as agreed and the quality was breathtaking. The deep yellow colouring and fresh-milled smell was simply unbelievable. Gary and I set to and for the next three weeks ripped everything out from all four cabin ceilings, we cut out the rotted linings around the hatches that had warped over the winter and replaced everything. I also learned just how good Gary is when it comes to working with timber. Not bad at all for an ex-cop. I was impressed.

When we finished I held up the single three foot piece of timber we had left. Gary's measuring and Wes's machining had been spot on. Sänna's new cabin roofs are simply superb to behold and my Marie will be well impressed when she arrives in a few weeks time with Henry.

Forever will I lie in my bunk at night looking up at prime Chichagoff timber. It's not just the superb quality of the wood and our own meticulous craftsmanship, it's something else too. It will be the long lasting memory of smiling Wes Tyler, gentle Ken Pierce from Island Rover, Scott and Braden of Icy Queen, the always partying crew from Yankee Maid and numerous others. Not least the quality time I had with with my step-brother Gary the ex-cop. It will also be the long lasting memory of our exceptional time on remote Chichagoff Island.

Sadly, sometime soon it will be time to leave.

Icy Straits Lumber & Sawmill. IF YOU WANT REAL TREE WOOD, BUY YOUR WOOD FROM WES. GOOD WOOD WHEN YOU NEED WOOD... I promised Wes Tyler I'd work up a plug.
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

Hello Spring...

10 May 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
Dave
Photo: Mountain & glacier meadows in colourful bloom...

It's springtime in Alaska. The cold winds still blow and the snow has been replaced by incessant rain but there's plenty of warm sunshine too. And with the sun comes Mother Nature at her very best. Everything is in bloom, the bears are waking and the humpbacks have returned from their winter sojourns in Hawaii. Everything is good, the air is refreshingly pure and clean, when breathed into your lungs it feels as though you've left the pollution of civilisation a long way behind. All is good, all is perfect... or is it?

Well, Sänna has taken a winter hammering. On getting back to Hoonah the first problem I found was the internal wood decor around the opening hatches had swelled and rotted. This was surely down to the intense cold of the lying snow that had buried the hatches for such a long period, conducting the freezing temperatures inside to the linings which I knew from my days in cold weather construction was a common problem in aluminium frames that had no thermal-break. Oh well, this would need to be fixed sometime soon and I buried the problem in my mind.

More seriously, next I found the anchor windlass handheld control was full of water, somehow the snow had gotten inside the anchor locker and filled the supposedly waterproof controller. Something else expensive but made in China... I didn't know there was a problem until I switched on the power to the windlass, which shorted out and the anchor tried to pull itself up of its own accord. The anchor was already stowed and secured, so by the time I was able to rush back below to turn off the power the anchor windlass motor had burnt itself out. Oh well, we carried a spare motor but it's a pig of a job to swap it out. Then the anchor light didn't work... it too was filled with snow water that had frozen and expanded... but the biggest problem, I was later to find out, was our copper hot-water cylinder had corroded, and so had the freshwater pump on our Volvo Penta engine. Not the bastard Volvo again...

Springtime in Alaska is when the pitfalls of a cruel winter begin to show its head. Especially with a sailboat. But then the fishermen were busy readying their boats for the summer season and I'm happy to say that they too were cussing and swearing the Alaskan winter. I spoke to Scott and Dennis and both their engines and sprung leaks from frozen hoses, quire bad in fact and Icy Queen had a sheared her anchor rode... just plain rusted through. Dennis, the skipper of Pacific Hunter said it was the worst winter in ten years. He said this whilst emptying his bilges from a broken inlet valve.

So we survived the fiercest Alaskan winter in ten years. Gary my step-brother is due out from England, he's a good lad my step-brother and we'll soon get on top of everything. We'll no doubt down a good few Alaskan beers in the infamous Office Bar or the Icy Straits Lodge and everything will start to take shape. In fact, I've already spent an inordinate amount of time onboard Icy Queen drinking their beer and listening to the latest woes and fortunes of Alaskan fishing. But their ling cod and black cod freshly pulled from the springtime seas, then cooked with rice and first-crop spring peas is amazingly good. Wintertime in Alaska is a time for celebration and recompense, not a time to bemoan everything that's wrong, but a time to look forward to everything that's coming right.

Except, of course, for our bastard Volvo Penta engine...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

When Boat Names Matter...

06 April 2017 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
Dave
It sometimes happens that we're asked about our boat name and its origins, we are an English vessel and the spelling often seems a little strange to some. Sänna. It's patently not English and when registering with confused harbourmasters in foreign harbours we are usually taken to be Swedes or Danes or maybe Norwegians, perhaps of some mysterious viking descent. In fact the origins are unusual and you might be interested to know a little more - the reason why our sailboat Sänna carries such a curious name.

I can't tell you everything though, not the whole story, not the sad bit...


Read More...


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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

By Gum It's Hot In Alaska

17 March 2017 | Norfolk, England
Dave
Photo: If it wasn't for the snow there'd be no snow at all.

So I got a call from Braden to say there'd been a really heavy snowfall and Sänna was much too low in the water. He said many of the fishing boats in Hoonah harbour were bad but not to worry, because they're gonna get their shovels and clear the snow as best they could. Then he called to say everything was OK but a few days later he called and said there'd been another bad storm and this time everything had froze over... meanwhile we're sitting in the sunshine of sunny Norfolk all stressed out wandering what the hell we'll find in a few weeks time when we get back onboard...

Then our good friend Braden called to say he and his dad Scott, with Dennis and the boys from the Hoonah town council had set to with their shovels and that Sänna was fine. But then he called again late one night to say another heavy snowfall had come by and they'd chased the brown grizzly snoozing in Sänna's frozen cockpit away. Everything's fine and not to worry he said...

Thank God for the fishermen in Hoonah! That's what I said. In my new euphoric state I happily told Braden I'd book everyone in Hoonah a top-wack sunshine holiday in Barbados. He laughed and told me Barbados was much too hot, that he'd heard sunny Norfolk was good and he'd really like an English girlfriend with curly-blond pigtails, with freckles and a giggly laugh, a nice girl his mother would like, a girl he could take back to Alaska to fish and cook and...

So, you nicely freckled English girls out there, if you'd like to get together with a handsome early twenties Robert Pattinson lookalike, GSOH, non-smoker who likes long walks, fine dining and cosy evenings by the fireside then please don't call. If you'd like a wild carefree life onboard an Alaskan fishing boat working hard for the occasional big haul, well hooked-up with a genuinely nice guy who really is a Robert Pattinson lookalike, you would really help us out...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

Wild Alaska

10 February 2017 | Glacier Bay National Park. Southeast Alaska
Dave
Our latest VIDEO production tells the story of our voyage deep into the Glacier Bay National Park from Hoonah during 2016. Crossing the Icy Straits in gale force winds of thirty-five knots made a welcome change from endless engine work and we relished the challenge of more intense sailing.

Eventually we found shelter in Bartlett Cove, where we needed to validate our permits with the Park Rangers who vigorously restrict the number of vessels allowed into the immense Glacier Bay area. With over 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, frozen glaciers, temperate rainforest and exceptionally wild coastlines of the St Elias Mountain Range, Glacier Bay is an undoubted challenge for any sailing vessel.

We transported our photographic and video equipment ashore to find and film Alaskan wildlife at its most extreme. Please take time to view this ten minute film production expertly produced by www.davidungless.com.

Crew: Dave, Marie & Henry.

For best effect please enable sound and HD viewing if your device supports HD viewing resolution...




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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.

The Wilderness that is Chichagof

07 January 2017 | Hoonah, Alaska
Dave
Photo: The Abandoned Chichagof Gold Mine.

"Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska is officially the most unbelievable place on earth. In a recent poll conducted by myself I unequivocally decided there's not even a close comparison with any other location... and when the poll was taken there was no one around to argue with me anyway. We were all alone, not anyone, nobody even remotely close-by for nearly fifty miles..." Dave

And consider this... Chichagof Island is nearly the size of Wales back in the UK. There are only four human settlements of any size... Hoonah, Elfin Cove, Pelican and Tenakee Springs of which Hoonah, by far the largest, has only eight hundred and eighty inhabitants. There is also the mysterious Chichagof Gold Mine which no one is sure still exists or not... it's a ghostly place that only sometimes appears out of the grey mists. These small townships are foremost Tlingit First Nation settlements although those Americans down in the lower forty-eight states who decide enough is enough head this way too. You know the type, pony-tailed with platted silver beards, red-necks toting firearms with enough firepower to take down encircling siege law-enforcement forces dedicated to protecting cautious society... they all head for Alaska at some point. So let me tell you just a little more about this wild part of the world that is Chichagof...

Read more of this post...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure.

Cold Alaska

20 October 2016 | Hoonah, Alaska
Dave - cold
The first freeze of winter

Alaska is starting to freeze and it's much too cold for an ageing Englishman to keep warm. Sänna is cleaned, wrapped up and winterised ready to withstand the long cold winter ahead. Her sails are down, electrics safely turned off and water supplies all disconnected ready for the big freeze. She's been a pig to me through the summer and our love affair has sometimes been sorely tested but I'm sorry to leave her there floating forlornly in Hoonah Harbour. So I'm heading back to England to get back into my warm bed beside Marie... she left Hoonah a short while ago with Henry who, would you believe, is now fifteen. We've had a magical time this summer the three of us.

Hoonah, we've decided, is going to be our home port for the foreseeable future, until we decide when to make our attempt to transit the arctic's northwest passage. Hoonah is a beautiful place set deep in the Alaskan wilderness, in the mountains, forests and remote islands of this incredible part of the world. Alaska in the wintertime is cruel and frozen, England is where my wife, grandson and daughters are, it's where I should be...

Dave - Hoonah, Alaska, November 2016
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna

All Grown Up & The Hots For Snowbird

10 September 2016 | Hoonah, Southeast Alaska
Dave
Dressed for the girls

Yep - those of you who followed our earlier blogs, way back in the early days of our voyage, will have relished stories about when we were a crew of three. Back then we home-educated Henry onboard Sänna whilst we sailed the tropics making our way around-the-world... and now Bealy is fifteen, we're in Alaska and he splits his time between ourselves and his dad back in England. Of course, his mom is still special and whenever he can he's back with us onboard. And why not? Those days were and still are special to each of us.

We've just spent two more fantastic months, the three of us, sailing from Sitka to Hoonah in Alaska... a sail that took us through the infamous Peril Straits to Angoon, then to the naked bathing sulphur baths of Tenakee Springs - and then an amazing venture north into Glacier Bay National Park where we spent our time filming grizzly bears and climbing the glaciers. But I'm gonna let you into a little secret about my fast growing step-son...

You see, Henry's now fifteen and likes girls. And so I have a little story to tell you. Some of you may have seen the reality TV show 'Alaskan Bush People'... it's aired on the Discovery Channel and purports to tell the true-to-life story of the Brown Family who live wild in the mountain forests of Chigacoff Island close to Hoonah. Much of the filming is carried out in Hoonah and Henry, it's fair to say, is an avid follower. I've long suspected Henry had a crush on one of the Brown girls and so it proved... there's two to choose from... Snowbird who's the younger side of twenty and Rain who's the older side of thirteen. Through various things that have happened whilst we've been in Hoonah we've got to know the Brown family reasonably well... we're the 'Englisman boat people' according to Noah Brown. I got talking to Noah and he asked who the blond curly-haired English boy was who wore the bandana because, he said, one of his sisters was asking...

Cutting things short it was then suggested by someone unknown, to the show's producers, that a storyline involving a 'love relationship' between a worldly-wise English boy, who's sailed his way intrepidly to Alaska all the way from England, and either of the Brown girls might make good TV viewing. Henry, unsurprisingly, was deadly keen but his erstwhile mom said absolutely not... putting her foot down in no uncertain terms. 'He's too young and will find the whole thing utterly disagreeable,' she said. So love was not to be.

A short while later Bradon, our very good friend from the fishing vessel Icy Queen, said to Henry that his friend knows a friend, who's own sister's friend's cousin went on a filmed date with one of the Brown brothers... and was paid twenty grand by the show's producers. This had the effect of causing a somewhat heated debate between a mom and her beloved son...

Henry, it's fair to say, is not a happy bunny.
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna

Bear Attack

28 August 2016 | Reid Inlet, Glacier Bay, Southeast Alaska
Dave
"We have been warned about the temperamental nature of grizzly bears and so it proved. Our media project which has been wonderfully exciting so far is now on hold after a daunting encounter which Henry and myself are without doubt lucky to survive... and Marie isn't particularly amused either."

Of course, at this time, as luck would have it, we weren't filming anything. We'd anchored in Reid Inlet in extremely remote Glacier Bay, at the foot of the Reid Glacier which comes right down into the sea. We were totally alone, tucked nicely inside the shelter of a small headland spit with no other vessels in the vicinity. We'd only seen a small group of camping kayakers over the other side of the inlet and that was all. The location was about as perfect as we could ever imagine. This is what then happened...

Read More...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Eight Fathom Bight Cabin

08 August 2016 | Hoonah, Alaska
Dave
"Do we Brits need to carry a gun? It's totally alien for us to be armed but the locals here in Hoonah say we are crazy. Not only can we not protect ourselves if we hang out down in Eight Fathom Bight but how have we managed to sail all the way from England without weapons. What about all the other remote bays we've anchored in? How do we feel safe? We reply that we've never encountered any situation when we've felt we've needed weapons... and we wouldn't know how to use them anyhow."

The standup arguments we have are always friendly enough but most Americans we've encountered just don't understand how we cannot contemplate carrying weapons onboard Sänna. Of course, such discussions are primarily with white, middle-Americans... the regular American guy, but here in Hoonah we've been taken to task by a few women too... not the local Tlingit people let me tell you but, well, you know, those more affluent type who somehow feel there's a threat, the ones who need to carry at least small handgun in their glove compartment 'just in case'...

Read More...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Grizzly Bears...

27 July 2016 | Sitka, Southeast Alaska
Dave
"The general rule is, if it's a black bear try to fight back but if it's a brown bear then hit the ground and play dead. So, remember this if attacked by a bear... 'Brown go down, black fight back'. Of course, the chances are that you won't survive in either case but bears are rarely predatory, you're in their territory and they see you as trouble. Which in most cases is true, in many instances bears are simply shot dead for being where they at the wrong time, seen as a wrongly perceived threat..." Bear Attacks of Canada

Henry has now joined us onboard Sänna whilst in Sitka and he's so pleased to be finally out of school for the summer. Braden, our good friend from the fishing boat Icy Queen also stopped by to stock us with fresh halibut and he told us the Coho salmon were now arriving in large numbers before heading up the creeks. So Henry and me fished with a fly-reel off the head of the Baranoff River and caught ourselves a large Coho for dinner. We saw the bears are gathering beside the creeks for their annual salmon feast, so our grizzly film project can finally get underway...

Read More...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

North... Back To Alaska

10 July 2016 | British Columbia, Canada
Dave
"We thought our voyage north, back to Alaska, would be a cinch. A straightforward journey under sail along the Pacific west coast of Vancouver Island to Alaska's Prince of Wales Island, taking us to the wonderful harbour of Sitka on remote Baranoff Island. The whole thing turned into a wild adventure we hadn't reckoned with at all..."

Leaving Port Townsend in Washington State after a fairly benign winter in Anacortes and with a new engine transmission gear box meant saying goodbye to our good friends Tom & Donna and Leighton & Lynda. At first we couldn't decide where to head but Alaska again toyed with our hearts - and we needed to be further north if our Northwest Passage plans were not to change for the second time. Being in the south, in the lower forty-eight States wasn't for us... the majority of boaters were of the more monied Seattle type with monster luxury motor cruisers that seem to be used only once in a while for, well, you know, sporty weekends and that sort of thing. No hardcore fishermen with their tough working boats here and not too many wild sailors around either...

Read More...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Is This Sailing Race The Toughest In The World?

27 June 2016 | Port Townsend, Washington State
Dave
Do you know of any other sailboat race where $10,000 in prize money is nailed to a tree on the finish line? Or an endurance race that can take anything from three days to two months to finish, with the boat coming second being awarded a consolation set of ten dollar steak knives?

All the intrepid sailor needs to do to claim their ten grand is race their sailboat seven hundred and fifty miles into the wilds of Alaska, through some of the world's most treacherous seas and inland passages that are prone to whatever the weather rolling in from the Gulf of Alaska can throw at them. And, just as an aside, twelve knot riptide currents, complete with whirlpools and standing waves bar the way through narrow rapids and misty mountain channels. What's more, the greatest concentration of hostile grizzly bears and hungry wolves prowl the shorelines, killer whales and 'dead-head' trees lurk all of the time in the exceptionally cold waters to remind intrepid racers that catastrophe is only ever moments away. Welcome to the Race to Alaska...

Read More...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Jewel Across The Straits

06 June 2016 | Port Townsend
Marie
A long way from home

There's a harbour that's something special, we've heard it said. A small jewel just across the Straits not too far from this rather dismal Anacortes Private Marina where we're killing time right now, tied alongside fancy powerboats and their owners who don't know the sea. They call it Port Townsend and we've heard about it before, sometimes from a long way away. We've listened to good things, rumours about traditional wooden-crafted sailing boats and the Yankee hardcore free-spirit we know does exist, that professional grit and determination we've found in so many American sailors all over the Pacific. They sail in their strange double-ended sailboats, those canoe-sterned vessels that always seem to ride the biggest seas with amazing ease. We've usually got to know them well, adventurous die-hard nut-heads who tell unbelievable tales and who have yellowy crooked teeth that have not been straightened and whitened in the American way. They have that familiar far-off look in their eyes, that same strange misty gaze we've seen in mad-head Germans and arrogant Scandinavians, those stylishly weird French and wonderfully intrepid Italians... real sailors who don't care much for the wealthy owners of powerboats you find in places like Anacortes where rich boys rarely leave harbour. We know Morning Star is over there so we're heading for Port Townsend to see what's about.

There, we're told, we'll find real sailors who bow to the wind, sailing vessels that can cross the sea...
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Anacortes Exceedingly Private Marina

09 May 2016 | Anacortes, Washington State.
Dave
Photo: Lined up on parade...

A raggedy English sailboat pulling into someone's privately owned berth here in Anacortes Marina caused something of a stir would you believe. There's no transient moorage in this marina I was told in no uncertain terms by various salubrious boat owners who were clearly of the more monied type. I explained our arrangement to the first guy who came along to ask, you know, just to check us out, that the berth owner's boat had been hauled out of the water for a month and that we'd done a mutual deal to use his spot. I said the same to the second guy who asked and then to the third who just happened by. But then, I heard that the first guy checked in the office anyway, just in case I was pulling a winger. The fourth guy who asked was a little more friendly but I could see in his eye he was uneasy... 'we've never had such thing as an English sailboat in here before,' he said. All of this happened within the first couple of hours of tying up.

Later in the evening a fifth guy knocked loudly on Sänna's hull, demanding to know why we were tied up here, right here in his friend's slip? I responded impatiently this time, telling him that I'd been fortunate, that I'd won the berth in a game of cards, indeed I was now the proud owner. The English are always extremely good at poker, I said. He was horrified. He didn't know his friend Jake was a gambler he said. Then, to make this fellow feel a little more sympathetic to his friend, I explained that I'd dealt a sneaky hand, a bad one from beneath the deck, that I'd be forever grateful if he didn't tell because we had nowhere else to go with our boat. He disappeared abruptly, very abruptly in fact. I already knew I was stupid - I had a sudden bad feeling. Come the next morning, quite early, I received a voice message on my phone asking that I present myself at the marina office first thing Monday morning. Of course, on Monday things didn't go well...

Later on Monday I received a call from Jake himself. He was laughing loudly, explaining to me his wife had already received two calls from her friends... 'did you know Jake lost your boat slip to an Englishman at poker....'

Never play poker with an Englishman is wot I say.
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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Easy Haul Out

28 January 2016 | Anacortes, Washington State
Marie
Photo: A novel way of hauling a twenty ton boat from the water.

We're now back in England for a short while because the wintertime in Anacortes is not so much different to English winters... wet, wet, wet! We've both got families to catchup with and Dave has gorgeous new grandson we desperately need to get to know. The biggest and most heartbreaking problem of living this sailboat life is that close family and old friendships begin to decay. It can be quite upsetting at times.

We hauled out with North Harbor Diesel who are going to attempt to finally fix our Volvo Penta engine, they'll also install a new transmission gearbox, fix the hole in our rudder and bows and various other work over the cold months of winter. We've also arranged with old Tom from Canvas Outfitters to replace our spray hood and bimini cover because our existing ones are worn out and storm battered. Hard to think they were only renewed three years ago down in New Zealand.

Our haul out from the water was a fascinating experience using a new method we've not come across before, using self-drive hydraulic wheel based lifts that are driven down a ramp into the water much like a trailer lifting and launching smaller boats... except these guys can lift fifty ton boats and then drive them for many miles down normal roads to storage yards and workshops some distance from the water. We simply steered Sänna between two markers and five minutes later we were out of the water. Simple, easy and safe. We were both extraordinarily impressed! Seriously, there are many parts of the world that would benefit from this technology without the need to construct expensive lift out facilities with waterside storage and workshops... anyone out there looking for an investment opportunity?

Sänna is now wintered down and our plan is to return sometime in the spring to make our way back north to Alaska. Of course, our plans are like a line in the sand at low tide - they get washed out and changed twice a day. Our big issue is whether to continue with our attempt to transit the Northwest Passage because our Volvo engine is not nearly reliable enough and continually causes concern. We shall see how the big green piece of Swedish scrap metal performs in the coming months before we make a decision... we're not that confident and hope North Harbor Diesel know what they're doing - they are after all Volvo Penta experts.

Fingers crossed.

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Bastard Dead Heads

26 November 2015 | Anacortes, Wahington State
Dave
"For the first few minutes both of us thought we were surely sinking. Marie quickly dug out the emergency grab-bag containing our personal possessions we'd need if we abandoned Sänna and we quickly donned our life jackets. In somewhat of a panic, I checked our life raft and we were ready to go. Marie manned the VHF radio to call an emergency Mayday..."

We've been dodging so called dead heads all year; huge waterlogged trees in the water that are partially submerged and incredibly difficult to see... especially in poor light or when the sun is ahead of the bows. Most of these sometimes enormous boat sinkers originate from the endless forests that make up the shorelines of Alaska and British Columbia or they are washed down from numerous logging operations up river. And so this collision just had to happen at some point!

Leaving Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island in British Columbia and heading for Friday Harbour down over the border in the US, the wind suddenly rose out of nowhere as we crossed the Haro Strait. I quickly unfurled both the mainsail and the jib to get us under sail whilst Marie was still below, sending her slipping, sliding and cursing across the galley because I'd forgotten to tell her the sails were coming out... she was not best pleased and we lost breakfast! Then the wind kept rising and rising and we both realised we urgently needed to reef the sails as fast as we could. This whole situation was crazy! Then, out of nowhere, we struck the submerged dead head...

Neither of us saw the bastard. Our speed was well over eight knots when we suddenly crashed into it, instantly holing the bows although we didn't know that at the time. Our propeller was still turning in free rotation and the submerged tree struck the propeller and then the rudder. We slewed off course which then sent our boom out of control, the wind swung Sänna around and we suddenly leaned right over. We knew we'd hit a dead head because of the tremendous sound of impact; it then quickly surfaced behind us and we were horrified... it was unbelievably huge. We totally lost control and Sänna wouldn't come upright... Marie dashed below and there was water slopping around everywhere. This was it, we both thought, we were sinking.

Marie, as per usual, took control. She calmly collected all our emergency equipment together whilst I fought frantically to get control of the sails. Our rudder wouldn't turn and the wind, now nearly forty knots, spun us around all over. Marie ran around below checking the bilges for seawater whilst I released the mainsail and the jib sail to get them down as quickly as I could. Luckily, we were in fairly sheltered waters between the islands so there were no crazy seas to worry about. The out of control jib nearly launched me overboard whilst I was furling in the main but I got the sail in and slid my way back to the cockpit to wind in the jib. Once both sails were furled everything seemed under more control and Sänna now came upright. Then more of the tree surfaced which seemed to free our rudder...

I got the engine going and immediately made for the shelter of Stuart Island only a few miles ahead. By now things were under control and we were both thinking more clearly. We weren't sinking at all! The water in the galley was fresh water from somewhere as yet unknown and we calmed ourselves down. Marie put the kettle on and we had our usual cup of tea during a crisis.

Once in Friday Harbour we moored up and sorted ourselves out, we had suffered damage but nothing that we could tell without hauling Sänna out of the water. We had seawater in the bilges and a leak from our stern gland around the prop shaft but our three bilge pumps easily cleared the water out. We decided to make for Anacortes to haul out and see what's what.

Damage? Our bows were holed but still partially sealed by remnants of tree wood. Our propeller was bent on one of the three blades, the shaft seal is permanently damaged and the gear teeth in our transmission gear box are somewhat stripped. If the engine had been under power then we would have lost our gearbox. More seriously, the rudder is damaged; holed and full of water.

So, now we're overwintering in Anacortes, at North Harbour Diesel, an excellent company who hauled us out and are repairing everything as we speak. Our keel has superficial damage too but that's more a result of colliding with a submerged part of Alaska earlier in the year (see our blog titled On The Reef). Numerous vessels suffer damage every year from these well named hazards and we've had several close shaves ourselves. Sailing at night or in fog is the worst and they present a real enough danger, making overnight sailing just too dangerous.

But we didn't sink, we're alive and well with yet another close escape to talk about when those back home ask "well, what is it that you do exactly..."

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

'Barnacle' Bob

10 October 2015 | Vancouver, British Columbia.
Dave
Photo: 'The Leaving of Liverpool'

My good friend Bob is a fine fellow - he believes there are 'lay-lines' around the earth which have a profound affect upon his health. He's also quick to tell you there are these amazing small-sized machines available that convenient fit your back-back, that he's convinced will divert any lay-lines and keep him safe. Bob also believes in most of the more obscure alternative medicines, in the power of homeopathy, argues vehemently that a glass is always half full and is truly passionate about the infinite power of music. He plays his ukulele with his heart and sings like the world is going to end tomorrow... he is one of those genuine guys that God, with foresight, gave an endearing Liverpool scouser accent and when he told me he was travelling out to Vancouver to join me onboard Sänna for a couple of weeks whilst Marie travelled back to England with Henry, I was overjoyed.

Of course, Bob is no sailor but then as far as I was concerned he didn't need to be. I was just happy to have him around whilst we trawled the music bars of Vancouver's Gas Town. I dug out our pair of bright-orange folding bikes from deep within Sänna's storage locker and we explored wonderful Stanley Park, drank fine Granville Island IPA beer on Granville Island and talked endlessly into the early hours about everything we'd done together over the past twenty five years... previous marriages, Bob's views on the joys of sex and the politics of economics. It was just grand. Then, never tiring of the marvellous city of Vancouver, one of the world's best in my opinion, we left the dockside to sail across the Georgia Strait to the small Canadian towns of Nanaimo and Charmainus with Bob's seasick patch stuck to his forehead because that's where I told him it needed to be. 'Barnacle' Bob sang his sea-shanties and his unforgettable renditions of Dylan classics, taking large intakes of breath through his inhaler each time he needed to leap ashore with a line... slowly my friend Bob adapted to life at sea and, you know, we had a mighty good time.

We talked an awful lot and we had a lot to talk about. Because sadly Bob lost his wife, a longtime friend of mine to a tragic illness but then met and married luscious Marija with a 'j' who God, with a sense of humour, gave a deep Black Country accent and she's since done a fine job. Marija with a 'j', packed Bob off to me for one of those male bonding occasions with a fine malt whisky and instructions to come home whenever. After a few marvellous sunshine days exploring the quaint shoreline of Vancouver Island, surely winning the music-quiz in the Dinghy Doc pub on Protection Island despite being kicked out for the last ferry-boat, we sailed back over the forgiving Georgia Strait, returning to Vancouver with a sweet breeze blowing from the southeast.

With Sänna's sails filled nicely and a gentle beam reach we sailed under the spectacular Lions Gate bridge whilst dodging the fleet of dinghy racing boats seriously buzzing around us. As we approached the bridge Bob's final melody of 'The Leaving of Liverpool' will be forever treasured by two ageing old men wearing ridiculous hats... when the gentle wind, the forgiving sea, the music and the magical memories were all perfectly in tune.

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Ageing Delinquents

30 September 2015 | Vancouver, Canada
Dave
Photo: A crew of sorts...

Sometime way back, just a few short years after the war, Bernie Fiedler met his future lifelong friend Ronnie Weise in war-ravaged Berlin. Ronnie, an Arnold Schwarzenegger's lookalike, liked Bernie's sister a lot and needless to say, Bernie was not overly amused. Three years later the pair met again after each of them made their own tortious route leading to Canada.

Freedom in the west worked exceedingly well for the pair of them; Bernie creating the first string of coffee shops in Toronto and Ronnie, well he was so handsome he just had a good time following his dear friend Bernie around and making himself well known. In fact he became a successful engineer. Bernie Fiedler himself went from strength to strength, moving from coffee to music and became Canada's foremost musicians' agent and promoter of concerts as well as working with seriously well known artists such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and other internationally renowned artists. Bernie is understandably proud to name drop some of the greatest musicians known.

You may ask why I'm telling you all of this? Well, I came across these fine pair of delinquents when Bernie approached me speculatively in Vancouver having them both spied me from their hotel restaurant whilst I repaired Sänna's anchor windlass. It seems Bernie said to Ronnie, "He looks like a nice sort of guy, I bet he'll take us out sailing for a week or two...." and so Bernie stopped me as I came out of the marina dock where we'd managed to secure a berth by private arrangement, an amazing location right in the centre of Vancouver right beside Stanley Park. I hung around there for an amazing five weeks whilst Marie was in the UK... and fate decided that I should meet Bernie and Ronnie who were on vacation celebrating Ronnie's eightieth birthday in Vancouver.

Of course, I refused Bernie's offer, explaining that we were a British vessel and couldn't do charters or anything like that... it would contravene just about every Canadian regulation going and, well, I had other things to do. But Bernie, I soon learned, never made it all the way from Berlin by being the shy and retiring type, I agreed to take them out for free just for an afternoon of sailing, to spend time in the glorious sunshine nosing around the bays of Vancouver. We agreed for Wednesday and this was to be Bernie's good friend Ronnie's birthday treat... and, as luck would have it, it turned out Ronnie was an avid and experienced sailor too. Come Wednesday, at the agreed time, they both arrived at the marina gate - complete with their exceedingly large suitcases and everything they'd travelled with to Vancouver. At this point I realised why Bernie became the most successful music promoter in Canada; the old war-torn city of Berlin was never going to be big enough for this guy. I grinned, I liked the man and it seemed I was in for another interesting adventure.

"Just a couple of days would be good," Bernie said to me in the same persuasive style that made musicians into mega-stars.... and, well, the deal turned out to be much longer than two days. That same afternoon we made our way to Plumpar Cove on Keats Island to drop anchor for lunch and I quickly realised that eighty year old Ronnie was no slouch when it came to handling a sailing boat. He was magnificent, we sailed to Vancouver Island with this endearing pensioner loving every minute of the glorious sailing, involving himself in everything I could throw at him. His thick German accent, charm and easy personality made this guy a gem to have onboard; we became good friends. Bernie, he kept things rolling along in entertaining style. I liked him a lot... I listened to his remarkable tales of life in the fast lane, about his friendships with stars like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Mick Jagger and the Stones... the list went on and I believed every word. Ronnie, well he just smiled and laughed, talking about the girls and the parties and other stu ff too. I was having a remarkable time.

"Listen," said Bernie. "Could we anchor down in False Creek this evening instead of going back in to the marina? I've arranged for my daughter Susan to join us onboard." Exasperated, I calmly agreed. False Creek is an amazing anchorage right in downtown Vancouver and Susan, it turned out, was not his real daughter but that story is far too complicated to tell. Gorgeous and magnetic, I was more than happy that Susan came along and I didn't even complain that much when Bernie's son Arthur joined us too. And when I found out that Arthur's job with the Canucks ice hockey and Vancouver Whitecaps football teams would secure Marie and I tickets then, well, what could I say?

"Listen," Bernie asked in his normal persuasive style, "Susan's best friend lives on a very nice island close by, she's said to tie your boat there on their pontoon and she says we can stay over a while." And that's how I came to have a marvellous time with Keeley and her next door neighbourly friends living on Gambier Island not a stones throw from Vancouver, and how I met Keeley's neighbour Cathy... I worked hard explaining I was married, that my good wife and round-the-world sailing companion was not too far away... and that Marie has an amazing knack of knowing when I'm enjoying myself. The evenings outdoors were warm and relaxed; we drank copious amounts of Granville Island beer with other familiar odours drifting in the nighttime air. By Sunday morning, when it was time to loosen our mooring lines and leave, my crew had somehow grown disproportionately, with Keeley and Cathy having now signed on... but with Ronnie's eager help I was easily able to cope - even though I didn't have enough lifejackets to go around. I kept a wary eye out for any Canadian coastguard cutters who might intervene and ruin things.

Sadly, the two ageing delinquents, my new good friends, left when Bernie suddenly announced their flight to Toronto was the next morning, a week after he said it would be. I was sorry to see them leave. We agreed we'd get together next year to do the same again but you know how these things go. We ourselves will have moved on, north or south to someplace new and they'll be living their lives in Toronto or somewhere as they usually do. But for me, my lasting memory will be of my special friend, an eighty year old Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike with a thick Berlin accent who's amazing tales of 'Da girls' will forever keep me entertained

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Maybe It's a Yank Thing (Part 2)

10 August 2015 | Pruth Bay, Calvert Island, British Columbia (Canada)
Dave
Photo: Scenic Pruth Bay, Calvert Island.

Six o'clock in the morning, there's frantic banging on the hull.

Both Henry and Marie, who are strangely already up and moving around, jump up the gangway steps into the cockpit to find an oldish couple standing in their tender whilst hanging on to Sänna's stern rail - they are in a foul mood. The guy begins to rant at Marie, saying we anchored too close to his rather posh American flagged Nordic Tug when we came in to Pruth Bay the previous evening, which, of course, we had. I dressed quickly to sort out the frantic argument being played out on deck. Instantly I'm confronted by a fifteen foot tall yank, a well built Ronald Reagan lookalike who's accompanied by a sort of Nancy Reagan who chooses not to look at us directly for some reason, she's either angry herself or she's embarrassed... it's difficult to tell which and I need to make a quick decision...

We're sitting over their anchor and our chains are crossed, or rather our chain is crossed over theirs he says. I see that all the boats in the anchorage, which still has plenty of space, have drifted around at various angles overnight with no wind or current to disturb them. It's a magnificently calm morning with the sun rising over the anchorage in fine style. It's a glowing yellow orange, just appearing over the tip of the forest with radiant colours streaking across the cloudless sky. The quiet stillness of the bay is broken only by our visitor who's frantic ranting can be clearly heard over the water; heads are beginning to appear out of hastily opened hatches on neighbouring boats... clearly something is afoot on Calvert Island. Oddly, it's an amusing but sorrowful spectacle entirely of my own making but this strange fellow is losing the plot and Henry whispers to me, "maybe he's gotta gun..."

I take a look around and quickly decide that we cannot have crossed anchor chains. It's simply not possible. Maybe we have drifted over the top of his anchor but that surely shouldn't be a problem? But I did drop our anchor too close and that must have baffled him, when the anchorage had so much space. And he said exactly this in rather no uncertain terms... he'd obviously got himself wound up overnight and decided to come over at first light to sort these Brits out. In a shockingly loud voice he demanded what's to do if our chain is crossed over theirs which, of course, it isn't. I say to him, if our chain is crossed over theirs then it's a simple procedure to extract his chain from beneath ours which, I quickly assume in my mind, he doesn't have the skills or the experience to do. This stops him dead in his tracks. He tries to figure this out... I can see this in his perplexed and mystified expression. Then, a stupid masterstroke, you know, one of those you regret afterwards, I offer to send Henry over to his boat to do it for him...

I feel sorry for them both and I understand his anxiety. He is in the right. We are too close but our chains are certainly not crossed as he vehemently claims. Should there be another way of sorting this? My good Canadian friend Del Boy onboard Blow by Blow recommended this anchorage to me and stated categorically that space must be left on the north side of the narrow bay for the seaplane that lands daily, usually early in the morning. Because it sometimes has difficult problems landing and then manoeuvring through overnight anchored pleasure boats crowding the anchorage. The seaplane then cannot reach the embarkation jetty. Del Boy's friend's brother is usually the pilot. And that's why I anchored where I did. When I offer Henry's services to help out Ronald Reagan's lookalike he loses his cool, starts his engine and speeds off in a terrible temper. Henry whispers he thinks the guy didn't have a gun.... Marie gives us both one of her looks, she knows full well I'm in the wrong and shouldn't have said what I did...

Just when the glorious sun rose higher in the sky to bring another fabulous new dawn the sound of an approaching seaplane splits the new found silence. We all three stand and watch it approach majestically from the east, out of the golden sunrise - it lands in the exact spot our American friend said we should have anchored.

Often, there's no peace in paradise.

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Finding Alaska

30 July 2015 | Vancouver, British Columbia
Dave


Our good friend Ken from Island Rover said we'd need to penetrate the ice-flows calving from the John Hopkins Glacier if we wanted to somehow reach the huge Marjorie Glacier. He said it wouldn't be easy. It wasn't easy, but we did it, we did it by following the National Geographic vessel Sea Bird which cut a convenient path for us through the pack-ice. Once through this frozen barrier an incredible world opened up; we were all alone in this wild wilderness.

We've now produced a five minute video trailer of our adventure into the depths of Glacier Bay. We left Hoonah on remote Chigacoff Island to head across the Icy Strait to Glacier Bay and were joined by our best friend and step-brother Gary Cole who assisted in the filming of our seven day voyage. It was an amazing experience, described in detail in our blog 'On Thin Ice' below.

The 'FINDING ALASKA' trailer has been produced by Ungless Freelance Media Productions.

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Maybe It's A Yank Thing (Part One)

23 July 2015 | Shearwater, British Columbia
Dave
Photo: MV Aurora (name changed for legal reasons)

At first, I didn't really know what to make of it. The captain of the rather large US flagged, private super yacht glared at me from ship's bridge and dropped anchor a little more than a hundred metres from where Sänna was now anchored. Because of their length, which I guessed was something well over a hundred feet, we were both easily within swinging distance of each other, especially with the long lay of chain he seemed to be running out. I was perplexed... the extensive anchorage tucked behind Shearwater Island, where I'd been sitting on the hook a short distance from the marina entrance for nearly ten days waiting for Marie to return from England with Henry, was pretty much empty. Except for Thomas and Silvia onboard the German catamaran Thosyma and one other yacht a good distance away there was acres of space... why was this guy now anchoring so close? Then the logical side of my brain suddenly clicked and I calmly decided I wasn't much bothered. If we collided whilst at anchor then the liability under Maritime Law would be his and their insurance would be far more comprehensive than ours... and our faithful, battered Sänna desperately needed a new paint job.

Around an or so later the Captain of Aurora (name since changed for legal reasons) sped the ridiculously short distance between us in his fast launch... which was itself nearly a third of the length of Sänna. I noted he was dressed in nice clean uniform whites with epaulets of rank proudly displayed on his shoulders. At this stage I confess my unease with my own rugged appearance... in terms of both of us being professional skippers we were on entirely different planets. He slowed, cut his engine and I took his line across our stern.
"Good morning my friend," he greeted me in some vaguely familiar southern Yankee accent. "You British?" he asked, eying our red ensign fluttering in the warm breeze. Well, he was friendly enough if nothing else.
"English actually," I replied cautiously, "the meaning 'British' has for the last five hundred years included the Scots, but not for much longer it seems," I tied off his line so he wouldn't drift away. I was intrigued to know the purpose of his visit.
"Independence from you Brits hasn't done us much harm," he laughed, his gaze shifting as he weighed Sänna up. It's something every seafarer does naturally without even thinking. All vessels have their own way of going about their business and most knowledgeable sailors wish to know how. This guy also knew about the Scottish indepedance vote, which surprised me.
"All of our former colonies seem to be doing well for themselves," I replied trying to keep the conversation light hearted. "I'm Dave," I said, introducing myself.
"Nice to meet you Dave, I'm Ryan." He paused to see if I would invite him onboard, protocol being that I should really but I wasn't in the best of moods; he quickly realised he was going to have to work much harder. "I can see your boat is a real seagoing vessel, you sailed all the way?"

For the next five minutes or so we talked about our long voyage eastwards from the Mediterranean; he was genuinely impressed but I was keen to know the purpose of his visit before we got to any sort of friendly level. This obviously wasn't a social call and I guessed I wasn't about to be invited to some late evening party aboard a luxury super yacht crewed by good looking girls sporting fine white teeth who'd dance till dawn whilst I drank expensive champagne. I was right.
"Look," this unashamedly young captain of Aurora said, "we're anchored too close together and we could have a big problem when the tide in here changes," he paused nervously... "Could you move and anchor a little further away?"
Well, instantly I was cross. "Surely you realise you shouldn't have anchored right there so close when you came in. You've deliberately endangered both vessels." I was impressed by how I remained calm, normally I'd have been off my rocker with rage and old man's indignation. Of course, I'd suspected something was afoot, this guy was an experienced captain; he must know about anchoring protocol and the subtleties of maritime law? Every boat owner and skipper knows that whereabouts you drop your hook can be an emotive issue. I found myself thinking of what Marie would do if she was here now and then quickly realised she would already have been onboard Aurora arguing our case... mainly to get to look around their boat.
"It's you that should pull up your anchor Ryan," I said.
"I realise that, but the owner, who's onboard, he specifically instructed me to anchor there at that location," he replied. "He now wants you to move."
"Why?" I asked, envisaging our newly painted hull sparking in the sunshine with the super-rich American owner of Aurora eagerly handing over his cheque.
He paused as if cautiously considering his reply. "Well, the owner has important guests arriving this evening and he wants to be close to the marina to ensure they only have a short boat ride from the shore."
"I'm within my rights to request you to move your vessel Ryan, you know that." I told him, dismayed. This was preposterous. "I can contact the harbourmaster to formally record that my vessel is in danger."
"Yes, I realise."
"Then why should I pull up my anchor and move?"
"It would sure make my life easier if you would Dave," he answered, "this guy, my boss, he's a real prick and I'm really sorry about all of this. I don't like asking you but my hands are tied. My job is everyday on the line."

I listened and saw that Ryan, embarrassed, was genuinely unsure what to do. I thought for a few moments, thinking of all the problems we'd had in the past with these big moneyed super yachts which were always superbly polished and clean. I could see the crew of Aurora were already hard at the task. The crews of these vessels were usually friendly enough and, in the main, very professional. We'd often drunk late into the night with them in various exotic locations swapping sea stories but we'd never actually been invited back onboard as would be the case with many sailing yachts. I also knew these crews had little respect for their usually overbearing owners who often treated them with disdain. Although we were now in Canadian waters we were increasingly encountering these vessels daily, more often flying the American flag which was undoubtedly a reflection on the unbounded wealth that exists in the United States. I thought about how I should reply to their unseeming request.
"Do you know something Ryan? I'm gonna refuse. If we swing and collide during the night and your guests are ruffled, then that's fine by me. I'll claim for damage and then we'll see what happens."
"Sure, but my boss owns the biggest law firm in America Dave. Top office is based in Seattle. You'll sure need hell-of-a-lotta bucks to take him on Dave. Trust me, I know him, he'd fight you all the way," Ryan seemed rather too assured.
I thought for a moment. I briefly considered my chances against an exceptionally powerful lawyer in the most litigious country in the world. My prospects didn't seem all that good but, hey, what the hell...
"Look, you tell Mr Biggest Lawyer in America that I'm English and soon, in about a month in fact, I will be in his country to reclaim our former colony for the English crown," my calm composure disappeared and I was now on a ridiculous rant, one of my favourites if truth be told. It was a subject that always wound up former colonials when the need arose, "your President is gonna need a good lawyer." I untied his line from Sänna's stern and abruptly passed it back. "In the meantime you tell your boss to go and stuff."
"OK, Dave, I'll tell him just that." Ryan replied with some obvious trepidation, "Have a nice day Dave." He started his engine and then sped back the short distance to Aurora which had already drifted ominously close. I stood there pondering exactly what to do next knowing nothing had been resolved. I'd already decided not to call the harbourmaster because I knew full well he never answered the VHF and the Aurora would overhear my increasingly frantic calls with amusement....

Later that evening I stepped aboard Aurora as an invited guest, dressed in my finest white shirt and tie. I didn't take my freshly pressed suit jacket because it was a gloriously warm night and I decided I wouldn't need it. I was greeted by two gorgeously young girls with unbelievably perfect smiles, their amazing white teeth sparking in the moonlight. I met my host, the friendliest lawyer you could ever wish to meet and we became great friends. I danced till dawn with my two companions who fought each other frantically through the evening for my affections and I had to reluctantly decide which of the two would be my 'special one'. The fine wine and champagne flowed with the best food I'd eaten since, well, since Marie cooked my favourite noodles. I had an amazing evening and finally stumbled back aboard Sänna in the early morning, hoping to God that our friends Thomas and Silvia onboard Thosyma hadn't noticed my illicit night of fabulous bliss onboard the finest private motor yacht you ever saw.

Of course, none of this actually happened. Truth be told, in the middle of the night I couldn't sleep because I kept waking, thinking we'd both swung in the rampant tide until both vessels were only feet apart. We hadn't, nowhere near in fact... but I got myself up anyway and dressed to pull up Sänna's anchor in the dead of night by the light of my head torch. I started the engine and moved a couple of hundred feet.

Neither did I ever get around to reclaiming America on behalf of the Queen of England. There seemed little point really. The next morning I heard over our SSB long range radio the Scots had voted to stay in the union and so we were once again the 'United Kingdom'. I would be forever British and the ever rebellious Scots would still get their free university educations and elderly health care at our own English expense. But, to my lasting pleasure, Edward Longshanks always did get the better of Mel Gibson.

It's a mighty cruel world sitting there on anchor.

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Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Larry with the Umbrella

19 July 2015 | Butedale Cove, British Columbia
Dave

Sixty seven year old Larry Miller had a bust up with his wife up in Kitimat where they both lived. There's always two sides to every domestic confrontation but this particular argument took a turn not terribly in Larry's favour when the furious Mrs Miller angrily untied his skiff and launched him off the dock, telling him to go and fish or, even better, to drown himself during the process. In the meantime she herself would travel alone to visit their daughter. So, like all maligned men the world over, my new friend Larry thought to teach his dearest a lesson... he decided not to fish at all but to continue all the way to Vancouver in his tiny ten foot open topped skiff; to then surprise his dear wife and show her he was not the uncaring husband and father she supposed him to be... except that Vancouver is over four hundred hard miles south from where Larry was unceremoniously cut loose from the jetty by his indignant wife.

The now determined Larry Miller set off with a few jerry cans of fuel to fill his outboard, some flasks of water to keep him coherent and a cool box containing beer and the basic of food supplies. He would fish and land crabs along the way. Conscious of the inclement weather that invariably whips up in this part of the world, Larry also took along his old golf umbrella to protect him from the rain and the heat of the sun. The sea he would deal with as things progressed. His plan was to beach himself each night to set up his camp, pitch his tent and sleep - whilst subconsciously aware of the grizzly bears and wolves that commonly frequent the shorelines in these parts of British Columbia.

Me? I myself was making my way southwards too; from Port Edward to the small township harbour of Bella Bella... through stunningly wild landscape of the thousand mile route of the Inside Passage which twists and turns through the snowy mountains of British Columbia and Alaska, from Puget Sound in the south to the cold, frigid Glacier Bay in the north. There I would meet up with my own dearest wife who would soon be returning from a short trip back to England with Henry. I tell you now that I was having myself an unforgettable time solo sailing Sänna alone, anchoring overnight in deserted coves, finding secluded harbours and hanging out for days on end without seeing much folk around at all. I'd sometimes come across infrequent Canadian and American motor-cruisers heading north or south, maybe an occasional sailing vessel drifting on the wind or, more often, a fishing vessel making its way to the big salmon runs north of Prince Rupert. These treasure days were long and hot, no rain for weeks and weeks... something highly unusual for this often damp part of the world. I wouldn't be lying if I said this sublime time turned out to be one of the highlights of my whole life.

Then, of course, I met the exhausted and dehydrated Larry Miller. We somehow arrived simultaneously in the remote ruins of the Butedale fish cannery where he told me I saved his life. Tying Sänna to the crumbling log-boom wharf with some trepidation because Butedale was literally falling into the sea, I saw Larry turn into the shelter of the cove in his little skiff to tie up behind me. If it wasn't for his beaming smile of proud male oneupmanship then I would have believed him... but even to me it was plain to see he was in pretty bad shape. As a sympathetic male who, I might add, has suffered somewhat from marital squabbles myself over the more distant years, I hauled Larry out of his boat and vigorously sprayed him with cool refreshing water from a decaying hose feeding directly from the tumbling waterfall not fifty metres away. His sudden and sodden transformation was beholding to see.

Larry's own intrepid plan was to pitch his tent inside one of the crumbling cannery buildings, to then cook up some fish ferreted out from deep within his long defrosted cool box and to recover as best he could. But I was having none of that, the wolves and bears hereabouts would quickly sniff him out... I'd already seen them nosing around the shorelines of Graham Sound. And the weather these past few days has been uncommonly hot with the relentless sun beating down to cause both of us fresh water deprivation issues. The heat increasingly makes things difficult... for me it's the bastard horseflies the size of pterodactyls, biting chunks of flesh that make even an Englishman scream in pain like the devil. For Larry it had been much worse and when I offered Sänna's empty rear cabin for the night to rest and sleep, he eagerly took up my offer.

So, as the sun set in the truly astonishing surroundings of Butedale Cove, built in 1911, we cooked up his fish, shared our beers and talked through the night in extremely fine style. We shared stories of old marital conflicts, laughed unceremoniously at our common misfortunes and I proudly showed him my own trophy wound, proof of the domestic knife attack I myself undoubtedly deserved many years ago. We commonly agreed that male smugness is not an endearing feature as far as emotional women are concerned. Outside, in the deep woods, as clear starlight darkness finally descended on yet another endless hot day, we heard the wolves howling in the crumbling ruins not very far away. We abruptly ceased our ridiculous talk to listen. Then Larry and me both giggled uncaringly like two overgrown lampoons... beer-talk bravery that always happens when you save someone's life, you see.

But I'm no fool. I could see that Larry simply adored his caring wife, the lady of his life who loved him dearly and who would now be fretting over where he could be. For Larry, why else would you set off alone in an open skiff to head south through four hundred miles of wild Canada to seek your wife's forgiveness eh?
______________________________________________________

Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna.

Vessel Name: Sänna
Vessel Make/Model: Ocean 50 (Bavaria)
Hailing Port: Poole UK
Crew: Dave & Marie Ungless
About:
We have sailed together for over ten years now, leaving the Mediterranean to head eastwards. Our destination was Australia and New Zealand which we achieved in 2012 before attempting a full round-the-world circumnavigation across the pacific and back to the UK. [...]
Extra: Sänna is a hybrid Bavaria Ocean 50, custom built for deep bue water ocean cruising. The build and re-fit specification is high and to date boasts over 56,000 miles of ocean cruising. For more information visit our main website at www.sanna-uk.com.
Home Page: http://www.sanna-uk.com
Social:
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