Adrift in a Sea of Estrogen
18 July 2007 | Prince William Sound
Sorry for the entry delay but we've been incommunicado for awhile of our own choosing.
On June 14, 2007 Fay and I started our three-week vacation. We planned to spend as much time on our boat as possible. We had a few things to do before we headed out. Once they were done we were going to Prince William Sound and Cordova, Alaska. We had planned a pretty open itinerary. Wander through Prince William Sound to Cordova pretty much playing it by ear and picking where we would hole up by how the weather was and how we felt each day. Our plans were written with a pencil that had a large eraser. We chose to go to Cordova because we've never been there. The last time we wandered through Prince William Sound we went to Whittier, this time we thought Cordova would be fun.
The last time we went it was just Fay and I. This time the crew was quite a bit larger. In addition to Fay and I, Kendra and Tammy were going and Kendra's mother Dawn would join us. And let's not forget our new boat dog Pugsley. That makes 4 females and 2 males. I began to think that the estrogen would fill my boat like a thick fog. At the time I was unaware that the fog that would fill the boat during this trip was far more dangerous. But I'll get to that later. I'm not sure how I ended up in this situation but I was prepared to make the best of it. Having 4 females on the boat and only 2 males meant that desperate measures may need to be taken. Testosterone was in short supply. Thank God that our new dog Pugsley is a male. Something would need to be done to neutralize all of the estrogen that would be flowing from these females. Pugsley and I were prepared to do whatever was necessary. I knew that I would have to be the alpha male and take charge of this expedition. Pugsley's job was to mark our territory. Being 12 weeks old, Pugsley marked our territory a little more often than I would have liked.
We finally got the auto packed up and ready to go on Friday the 15th in the afternoon and left for Seward. The van was packed to the gills! I had stuff tied on the roof and packed in around the kids and myself. Fay was the only one in the car without stuff stacked on her because she was driving. Thankfully the trip from Anchorage to Seward is only a couple hours.
We arrived in Seward about seven in the evening, and began unpacking the car. With anticipation of the trip in our minds, we were all pretty energized. That was a good thing because we had a lot of stuff to haul and stow. I loaded the dock cart, I loaded the children down, and I loaded Fay and Dawn down. We all headed down to the boat. I was amazed that in the first trip to the boat we manage to get about half of our stuff down to it. Fay and I immediately started stowing things, and preparing the boat. Meanwhile I sent Kendra and Dawn backup to the car with the cart for more stuff. We all worked fairly diligently but before we knew it midnight was upon us and we still weren't done. We were starting to get a little tuckered out so we decided to crash for the night and hit it again in the morning.
We woke fairly early Saturday the 16th and continued on with our preparations. I had told Joe from Sonyadora that we would be leaving early this morning. That was a mistake. We weren't as close to being ready as I had thought. Last night we had started a list of items that we would still need to purchase such as ice and propane and more groceries and such. That list is still growing. We made a number of trips back-and-forth on the dock and I ran into Joe again. I told him we would be leaving this evening. Wrong again. By late Saturday we had decided that we were pretty much ready to go and that if we didn't have something we thought we needed we really didn't need it. The only thing left on the list was fuel from the fuel dock however the fuel dock was closed for the evening. That's okay though as we were all pretty tired by the end of the day. We would leave in the morning. Or would we?
We woke at a reasonable time on Sunday morning and continued our preparations. By noon I was pretty confident that we had everything we needed and we are ready to cast off. At some point that morning I saw Joe again. Joe couldn't help himself and he had to rib me about my departure time. I know I deserved it and I had to laugh. Just as we are ready to cast off, I realize that I hadn't bought any bait. A quick trip up to the Fish House solved that problem. The moment of truth had arrived. All that was left was to fuel up at the fuel dock. We cast off and headed for the fuel dock. They were quite a few boats around the fuel dock but there was an empty space at the end. So that's where we tied up. Then one of the workers informed us that the pumps on that end of the dock were not working. We cast off again in got in-line for the only diesel pump that was working. After about 45 minutes of drifting around in the harbor we finally managed to tie to the fuel dock and start pumping some fuel. Everything was topped off and we were ready to go, finally. We cast off and our adventure began.
By now the winds had picked up. As we entered Resurrection Bay we found it to be very bumpy and very windy. Fay is a fair weather sailor and was not enjoying the ride. We decided to stop at Thumb Cove. We had a lumpy ride to Thumb Cove where we drop the hook for the night.
At thumb Cove I had my first experience with the fog that would fill our boat for the rest of the trip. It was more of a green haze than a fog! The smell was not of this world. You see Dawn gets gas. And I mean she gets gas bad! First there would be a low rumble, and then everyone on the boat would start complaining! It would literally make your eyes water.
When Fay and I first bought the boat, they had the wrong kind of sewer hose installed. When you would first open the boat after being away for a week the entire boat smelled like a head. It was horrible. I changed all the sewer hose out for the proper style hose, and Fay scrubbed the entire area of the boat that the sewer hose was in contact with. We then scrubbed the entire head area and put little smelly things all over. The next time we came down to the boat, and first opened her up after all that work, she smelled like flowers. We were very pleased. And now with Dawn aboard, the boat smelled like a head again.
Monday morning the weather was much better. We were all pretty tired from the preparations that we had done so we were slow to start. We left Thumb Cove and headed through Eldorado Narrows towards Day Harbor on the other side of Cape Resurrection. On the port side of the Narrows, a little better than halfway through, there is a popular spot where the stellar sea lions lay around on the rocks. As we passed the stellar sea lions we slowed down to watch them for a while. Stellar sea lions are a lot of fun to watch and I love to listen to them grumble at each other. It's kind of sad though because we may not have them much longer. The biologists tell me that their population has decreased by almost 80% in recent years. And they're not sure why. Awhile back I saw program on one of the science or learning channels that talked about the decline of the stellar Sea Lions. In that program they thought that this decline was caused by a collapse of the food chain due to the Exxon Valdez accident. Could be. Hopefully that trend will not continue.
We arrived at Safety Cove early enough in the afternoon that we could do a little exploring. I got the dinghy prepared and Kendra and I check out the Cove. Is the first time that we have anchored in Safety Cove and what a beautiful Cove it is. On the far end of the Cove was a nice waterfall. Close to the waterfall there are some rocks that the sea lions haul themselves out on. Close to where we anchored there is a small beach and behind the beach is a small pond. Quite beautiful. By now Kendra was getting tired of the dinghy ride and I had forgotten to bring a camera so I headed back to the sailboat. Kendra got out of the dinghy and I got Fay to grab a camera and join me in the dinghy. Fay loves waterfalls and I wanted to show her this one up close. We got over to where the sea lions were laying on the rocks. There were two of them up on the rocks and they were keeping their eye on us. We kept our distance but got close enough to get some pretty good shots with the 35 and a camcorder. It's pupping season for the for the sea lions. Fay thought that one of them might be in labor at the time. But I don't know. I don't know the sea lions give birth in the water or on the rocks. We headed back to the boat. It was a beautiful afternoon and evening in Safety Cove. Fay fixed a wonderful dinner. After dinner we watched a movie. While we were watching the movie the fog rolled into Day Harbor just outside of our Cove. I went out to the cockpit to relax for a bit and just take everything in. I wasn't there a very long when Kendra our 13-year-old granddaughter came out to join me. "Papa, what are you doing?" Asked Kendra. "Watching the Bay" I replied. "I think I saw a ghost ship!" I said. "Really" Kendra replied nervously. "Well I think so but I'm not sure it's pretty foggy out there." I said. "Just great!" Kendra moaned. She immediately went down to inform Grandma that Papa might have seen a ghost ship. And I smiled. After a while I went below and was greeted with a green fog. I immediately went back to the cockpit for a few minutes to allow the fog to settle in the odor to dissipate. Around 11:30 we hit the rack. Tomorrow was to be an early-morning.
Fay and I got up around 4:30 on the 19th and hauled the anchor. It was partly cloudy and the sun was shining through the open spots in the clouds. The winds were calm and sees were calm. We left Safety Cove and started crossing to Prince William Sound. Destination: Fox Farm Bay. Fox Farm Bay is about 36 mi. west of Day Harbor. During this part of the trip you are exposed to the Gulf of Alaska and the water can get pretty ruff. Today however it was flat and calm. The winds were to light to make any headway so we motor across. We arrived in Fox Farm Bay about 1:30 in the afternoon. It was a great crossing.
Fox Farm Bay is part of Erington Island. We anchored in about 60 to 70 ft. of water on the Northwest side of the Bay. It was a beautiful spot and we were all by ourselves for a while at least. By three in the afternoon we had a nice breeze and sunshine. If you can stay out of the breeze it was pretty warm. But the wind was cold. Dawn and Kendra wanted to sunbathe on the bow of the boat so they put on their swimsuits and headed up to the bow. They weren't there very long because the wind was quite cold. They ended up in the cockpit behind the dodger. It was a very relaxing afternoon and we were being pretty lazy. But what the heck were on vacation. Later in the day we were joined by one other boat. Anchored a little bit west of us and we hardly knew they were there. Our plans at this point were to leave in the morning and head north. But as I said before our plans were written with a pencil. And we were playing things by ear.
The next morning on the 20th after we awoke there was a small discussion and we all decided that as nice as it was here that we would just hang out another day and leave tomorrow. I decided to start the engine to top off the batteries and discovered that our alternator was not charging. Great. I got the books out on my alternator and voltage regulator and started to do some troubleshooting. The first recommendation was to clean all of the connections which I did. It's still not charging. Fay and I discussed our options. I had brought along our little Honda 1000 watt generator. With that generator I can charge the batteries either from the generator directly or by plugging the generator into our shore power connection. I didn't want a little thing like an alternator to ruin our trip. We made the decision to go to Whittier instead of Cordova because I believed that I could get parts delivered from Anchorage to Whittier easier than I could from Anchorage to Cordova. At this point I still wasn't sure what was wrong with the alternator but I knew I had a couple of days to figure it out. I hooked up the generator to our shore power connection and top the batteries off.
That evening we created a route to Jackpot Bay. It would be about a 26 mi. trip. Fay and I had been to Jackpot Bay before and we thought the kids would like it. Once you're inside the Bay there are a couple of small islands to tuck in behind and it's real cozy. So that was our decision, Jackpot Bay. We would head out tomorrow morning. We spent the rest of our time in Fox Farm Bay just kinda lying around. We watched the wildlife, we watched a movie or two, and just generally enjoyed the Cove. We had a breeze most of that afternoon and evening. There was fog to the south of us, there was fog to the east of us, and there was fog to the west of us but the sun was shining on our little spot. Very nice.
That evening a sailboat out of Whittier anchored to the east of us. We hardly knew they were there.
We got up fairly early the next morning and the girls mentioned they'd like to go to the beach. By now we had accumulated a little bit of trash so I agree to go to the beach with the girls and while they did a little exploring I would start a fire and burn the burnable trash. Our neighbors were already on the beach with their dog.
It wasn't long and the people with the dog on the beach were loaded up in their dingy. They came our way just to visit a bit. These guys were just out and enjoying Prince William Sound. They asked us if we had seen the deer walk across the beach this morning, but sadly we hadn't. We hadn't heard the weather in two days so we asked these guys if they had. They said you could kinda make it out with a hand-held radio if you held it just right. They mentioned that we had some gnarly weather coming in a few days. Now what the heck is gnarly weather? I don't know either. It didn't much matter though as we were headed for Whittier. If the weather gets gnarly between now and when we get to Whittier we will just hole up in some cove.
I gathered up the garbage and the two kids and we headed for the beach. After gathering a bit of wood and starting a fire I proceeded to burn the burnable garbage. Dawn and Kendra took Pugsley for a walk.
I had picked a spot below tide line for the fire. That way when all that is left of the fire is ashes, when the tide comes in the ashes get washed away too. No trace left.
Dawn sat down next to me and started to chat. She mentioned that if the people it took care the beaches around here would leave a trash can that we could burn trash in it would sure be nice. I said "Dawn, let me try to put things in perspective. This is the wilderness. There are no people that take care of the beaches. We're responsible for taking care of the beaches. That's why I put the fire below tide line." Oh yeah I guess so, hadn't really thought about it like that.
Wasn't long and we were back on the boat. Fay had been tidying up a bit so after I got the dingy put up and everything ready topside we pulled anchor and headed out for Jackpot Bay.
In my next installment I'll pick up at jackpot Bay.
Calm seas and fair winds!