Photo: Waterfall at Baranof Warm Springs.
Steve peered through the binoculars, trying to see if the dock was crowded as we motored into Baranof Warm Springs. Space at the dock is always a premium and we were arriving later in the day than normal because we had timed our arrival for low tide when rocks at the foot of the waterfall deflect currents away from the dock and make docking easier.
"I don't see any seiners, but I see lots of masts. At least six," said Steve
Salmon seiners are infamous for tying up the Warm Springs dock en masse
when they're not fishing, so their absence was good. But six sailboat masts also meant little space was available. We motored slowly down the length of the dock. The outside was full, with several boats already rafted but it looked like a space was free on the inside all the way in. I set up lines and fenders, preparing to tie up. Several men moved one of the powerboats to make room for us. But when Steve started to maneuver Osprey
into the dock, I was dismayed to see a small, low sailboat tied up in part of the area we were aiming for. Steve backed up and I gestured to the men that we needed 44 ft. They paced it out and we tried again. With several helpers on the dock to take lines we were able to squeeze into the space which just fit Osprey
Once tied up we learned that eight of the boats (two powerboats and six sailboats) on the dock were part of a fleet led by Jim Rard, the yacht broker who had sold us Osprey 32 years ago. They were having a potluck in the public shelter at the head of the dock that evening and invited us to join them.
But first, I wanted a bath. I grabbed my soap and towel and headed up the ramp to the bathhouse. The bathhouse has three separate rooms, each with a large blue washtub, overflowing with hot sulfurous water and an open window overlooking the anchorage. Two large powerboats had come in and two other sailboats had anchored off to the side. It was as crowded as we'd ever seen it. I slid into the tub and relaxed. If I leaned forward in the tub I could see out the window to the mountains. It had been worth the stress and crowds to come here.
Photo: Bathhouse at Baranof Warm Springs.
That evening at the potluck, I talked to one of the fleet members that we knew from the Puget Sound Cruising Club.
"We met someone at Kake who asked us why we traveled in a group. He asked us if we were afraid to travel alone, " she told me. "I had to admit that that's why we do it."
Steve and I have noticed more boats traveling in groups every year. With sophisticated navigation equipment available and the larger boats of today, I would expect boaters to be less afraid, not more. I can't imagine trying to coordinate with seven other boats. And in our experience, boaters who travel in groups interact less with locals. They can also complicate life for those not in the group. They'd all shopped in Kake several days before. What had they done to supplies in that small town?
Fourteen boats had started with the fleet; six had dropped out. Some of those six had had some of the same problems we had. But we were still traveling and they'd turned back. We complain about all of our breakdowns, but maybe we hadn't done so badly after all.
Photo: the dock at Baranof Warm Springs