Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sunny Alaska

A big old blocking high has been sitting off the coast for a couple of weeks keeping the BC coast and SE Alaska generally warmer and drier than normal. It was nice to not have to worry about big storms but the prevailing NW 15-25 winds can build up wave height.

We monitored conditions and the forecast for Dixon entrance, the section of water separating BC from Alaska, which is open to ocean swells looking for the best conditions. Monday and Tuesay, May 18-19, looked optimal. We left our anchorage at Kumealon Inlet on May 18 bound for Brundage Inlet on Dundas Island which borders Dixon Entrance. We were making good time as we had the current with us much of the way.

A few mile short of our turn in to Brundage Inlet, Marcia and I concluded that conditions in Dixon Entrance were good and probably better than they'd be the next morning so Marcia made a call to the US Customs and Border Protection office and obtained permission to use the Foggy Bay anchorage in Alaska before clearing customs. After a 12 hour day, we pulled into Foggy Bay where three other boats had done likewise.

With an "oh-dark thirty" start the next day, we arrived in Ketchikan in the late morning and began our chores and reprovisioning. While there, we visited with David Cohn on the MV Shearwater, a classic style Diesel Duck made by same builder, Seahorse Marine, as our boat.

To get us started with fishing, after Ketchikan we like to head out around (at least partways) Revillagigedo Island (the island on which Ketchikan is located) in Behm Canal. We have some favorite locations where we're usually able to do some crabbing and prawning.

2015-05-017xFirst, though we stopped at the Alaska home of Pete and Brenda. This last year they purchased as a winter home across street from the Green Valley, Arizona winter home our friends the Crowders (they cruised with us in 2011 and 2013). Pete and Brenda live in a2015-05-015x home they built on Deep Bay which is on the NW corner of Moser Bay. We anchored in Deep Bay, and dinghied to shore to visit with them and their neighbors.

From there it was several days crabbing and prawning around Behm Canal as far as Walker Cove in Misty Fiord National Monument and then back to Klu Bay. After Klu Bay, we slogged up Clarence Strait, into Ernest Sound and up to Thoms Place.

Next, we'll head to Wrangell continuing to fish and checking out some new (to us, anyway) anchorages along the way.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Our Lot in Life

I used the term "our lot in life" in a radio conversation this morning at 5:15 am with a vessel following me out of Bottleneck Inlet where both of us had anchored for the night. In was in reference to the necessity for slow boats to start early in order to put in long miles in a day.

That phrase also describes all of the routing we've done since we made the second start to our 2015 cruise after having to return to our winter homeport to deal with our misbehaving electronic compass (it is working fine so far, by the way). The delayed start meant we missed our optimum timing at Seymour Narrows, an early morning slack before the ebb. We like to ride the building ebb down Johnstone Straits. That ebb will add a couple of knots to our normal sedate cruising speed of 6-7 knots.

The week delay meant the slack before the ebb was closer to mid-day. Unfortunately, the relatively stable high pressure ridge off the coast was generating afternoon NW winds of 15-25 knots. When those winds hits the ebb current in Johnstone, the waves build up and you have short steep waves combined with current eddies, an uncomfortable combination.

We chose the more protected channels through, Yuculta, Gilliard, Dent, Green and Whirlpool rapids, as the winds are generally less there. Unfortunately, all of those rapids require timing. We split them over two days, the first 3 on one day and the other 2 on the second day. The travels on the second day, lasting 14 hours, got split into 3 sections with brief interludes between the sections. That was so we could time Whirlpool and then later, Chatham Channel which got us into the Broughtons. It was just our lot in life to have to travel the slower route this year.

Since getting past those hurdles, our pace has quickened. The starts are still early but at least we’re racking up the miles and hope to be in Ketchikan (weather permitting) in a few days.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Migrating North

We started the northward migration from our Arizona winter home the last full week of March.  The cats, while not amused by the 1600 mile drive, are tolerating it better.  Rather than individual carriers, we use a soft sided pet pen sold at the web site.  That way they are together and have more room to stretch out.  Additionally, we have a litter box available outside the pen for their use.  At the smallest sign of agitation, Marcia will make it available to them which they both did at least once as we were driving along.

Upon arrival at our winter moorage in Eagle Harbor, we’ve been immersed in getting the boat ready for the summer cruise.  We had a few equipment issues that needed resolving and we preemptively do other things because we’ve used the boat enough that things are wearing out.

We managed to take care of everything on the list and start our cruise on Sunday, April 26.  The first stop was in Anacortes to fill fuel tanks for the season and have routine service performed on our furnace.  A side benefit was meeting up with friends Natala and Don Goodman.  They’ve both retired and now live in a newly remodeled home on Lake Samish.  Their retirement indulgence is a Cessna 182 on which they are going to put floats.  Should everything come together, they might fly up to B.C. and meet us somewhere.  We’d love to see that happen!

The morning we were leaving Anacortes for the next leg of the trip north, we got an alarm on our autopilot saying that it was not receiving the compass heading data from our GPS compass shortly after we turned on the navigation electronics.  We switched to our backup electronic compass and continued to monitor the status of the primary compass as we left Anacortes.  After doing a lot of tests, we decided to head back to our winter moorage to figure out the problem. 

We ended up taking the unit to the manufacturer, Comnav, in Vancouver.  After testing and discussion with them, we concluded that the problem was precipitated by moisture build up in the unit.  Also, the way it was wired into the navigation system was not optimal.  We’ve now dried the unit out, took actions to mitigate future moisture issues and made the recommended wiring changes.  The unit appears to be operating stably now.

At this point, we are targeting Wednesday, May 6 for the second start to our summer cruise.  The migration northward continues.