01 November 2015 | Wrangell, Alaska
photo by Wade Biggs
An update to this blog is long overdue, especially for those not following on FaceBook (DavidEllis Nagle Boat and/or Dorothy Peterson Nagle). So, here we go.
It was a short, but very welcome, summer for MV DavidEllis and crew after 10 months on the hard. Much/most of 2015's summer weather for SE Alaska seems to have occurred in May & June while DE was high, dry and under cover. Nevertheless, we saw beautiful sights, met interesting people had wonderful company as we continued our peripatetic wanderings of SE Alaska. Orca were an almost common sight this year.
End of September we were back on the hard in Wrangell but this time only for 3 weeks and a couple specific tasks we could only perform out of the water -- a coat of anti fouling, some anti-corrosion work in the chain locker and re-mounting DE's mast and para-vanes. Those plus a bit of welding, some deck pieces that didn't get their final, color coat last July and back into the water we went.
And now, after a couple days of get-ready activity, we are, in an hour or so, ready to get underway with the dawn, from Wrangell to Seattle. We've got a list of interior projects that didn't get touched last winter -- it would've been next to impossible with everything happening on the exterior -- and, despite the great boatyard and skilled people in Wrangell, these are jobs I will do mostly myself and I need access to shops where I can get the bits and pieces I need today, not in one or two weeks (by post or barge). So south we go.
This will be our third winter passage between SE AK and Seattle and we're confident it will be routine. There will, no doubt, be only-in-winter-adventures as has been the case in the prior two passages. Wade and John have come up to crew and will be great company -- as well as solid assistance when/if needed.
I am including Wade's latest Fishwrapper for your enjoyment (sorry, I could not post Wade's pictures through to the blog, but will copy then to FB).
October 30, 2015
Fall with its colorful leaves and pumpkins could be my favorite part of the year, except for the knowledge of what follows. I'm no fan of winter. I don't ski any more, and even though Northwest winters are milder than most it's dark and gloomy too much of the day. And then there's the rain... Still, I'll take rain over snow and ice any time, and our Northwest fall colors were very showy this year. But I'm in Alaska now and the rain is pelting down, fat drops drumming on the overhead. You will remember that in recent FishWrappers I told of leaving the DAVID ELLIS in Wrangell after spending an enjoyable September cruising Southeast Alaska. The boat went into the yard after I departed to complete an extensive refit that began a year ago. The plan was to finish fitting out over this winter, but that's changed; it's too expensive having everything barged to Alaska, not to mention the time involved, so the work will be completed at a yard in Seattle.
I got a call a couple of weeks ago asking if I could help move the boat south, probably taking the better part of November to make the transit. Winter has already come to Southeast Alaska, bringing high winds and rain - lots of rain. Delays waiting for favorable weather windows to make several critical crossings are probable, notably" at Dixon Entrance and Queen Charlotte Sound, to name two. These areas are open to the North Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska and must be approached with caution as it will take a full day to make the transits. They are notorious for rough conditions even in the relatively benign summer weather. High winds and rough seas are likely, along with the cold and rain. So, with an invitation like that how could I say no? But before anyone gets too worried remember we have a seaworthy and comfortable vessel in DAVID ELLIS, and David and I are very cautious mariners. I don't expect any trouble at all except possible weather delays along the route.
It's 7:30 now and I'm starting to see some light through the portholes. I woke up about an hour ago and moved quietly in the dark to a leather recliner in the salon next to the diesel stove. The orange-blue flame is dancing behind its window next to my elbow and I'm feeling warm and snug, quietly composing this Wrapper while waiting for the rest of the crew to show signs of life. The crew being David and Dorothy, of course, and their two dogs Rusty and Rascal, collectively known as R2D2, and John Mills. John should already be known to readers of the FishWrappers from the trip we made across the Pacific from Hawaii to Seattle a couple of years ago, as well as other adventures we've had together from time to time. I asked David, when he called with the invitation, why he needed our help on such a routine trip down the inside passage, and he said he didn't, really. The four of us make a good crew and we have such a good time together that he and Dorothy would like our company. I really think it's because Rusty and Rascal miss us, but whatever the reason it was too good an opportunity to pass up. John and I flew in yesterday.
Rascal just came out to see me, and I hear stirrings in the aft cabin. I better go.
Later the same day: it has been a wet one. I'm used to rain in Alaska but it didn't let up all day. Usually, at least in the summer, the rain is gentle and steady, much like Seattle rains. But this has been a deluge that seemed to have no end. Fortunately there was little wind but it rained like someone had turned on the tap. It's 10pm now and the boat is settling down for the night. Dorothy made chili for dinner and fresh baked cornbread, and chopped onion and cheese as toppings; it was a perfect meal for a wet cold day. Most of today was spent organizing, putting things away in preparation for getting underway. David did some maintenance, replacing sacrificial zincs in the engine, zincs that Dorothy and I drove to town to find. That was the only time I ventured outside all day, and in spite of my hooded rain gear my clothes were wet when we returned. Tomorrow we'll do more maintenance and repair, electrical and mechanical work, but we should be finished for Sunday morning's departure for Ketchikan. The forecast is good for Sunday and Monday - partial sun. Ketchikan is a long day's voyage away, and we may chose to break it into two easy segments. There are several sheltered anchorages along the way, and personally I hope we stop at Meyers Chuck for the night. It's a very small settlement of perhaps a dozen houses, off the grid but picturesque and with a good pier to tie to - no need to drop the anchor.
And so to bed.
The marina we're in is a couple of miles out of town so we didn't get any goblins or witches today, but that's good considering all the work we had in progress. I did make a trip to the hardware store for parts and there were a couple of witches, complete with green faces and pointed hats, behind the registers. One of Dorothy's friends dropped by briefly wearing a Dorothy costume, but that was the extent of our festivities.
Anyone who has read the Patrick O'Brien stories of life in the Royal Navy 200 years ago will remember numerous descriptions of getting a vessel ready for sea: water and stores to be gotten aboard and properly put away, urgent repairs to be made before sailing, and supplies and tools aboard for further less urgent maintenance while under way. Apparently nothing has changed for two centuries because every lengthy voyage I've ever participated in reminds me of Captain Aubrey's frantic efforts to make a scheduled departure. This trip is no different.
David and John hard at work. The weather's much better today than yesterday.
Dorothy too, hard at work installing hinges that were removed for painting the boat.
By dinner time this evening we felt we had enough under control to duck out for a movie. We saw The Martian in the tiny Wrangell theater, then returned to finish a few final tasks. We'll leave at first light tomorrow for the eight hour run to Meyers Chuck and if all goes as planned arrive just around sunset. Monday afternoon should find us in Ketchikan, where I'll once again have phone service and Internet. It's 11pm and tomorrow comes early. Goodnight everyone, and watch out for those goblins!
As usual I love to hear back from everyone, and as usual please DON'T use the "reply" button if you chose to write. Start a new message instead, addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org otherwise I'll get dozens of copies of this letter and photos returned to me. That will tie up my internet access for sure. (That means you too Betty!) Good night all, and look for another Wrapper at Ketchikan.