Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Keeping the wet side down, a mishap on the way to Sitka

After three nights in Petersburg and enjoying the Little Norway Festival, we depart early Monday morning, May 22.  The wind and rain that occurred Saturday afternoon through Sunday night passed by and, while cloudy, the winds were light.  We head for lovely Cannery Cove in Pybus Bay on Admiralty Island.  We, of course, drop our prawn pots before anchoring for the night.
The forecast for May 23 is for increasing winds as the day goes on so we decide to spend another night in Pybus Bay but to move to an anchorage that might offer more protection against the expected winds.  Moving also gave us the opportunity to harvest prawns from the pots we dropped the day before and to reset them with new bait.  We head into Henry’s Arm which we hadn’t used since 2011. 
2017-05-054xAt first we are the only boat in the anchorage but by evening when the forecasted winds, NW 20 knots, show up there are 3 other boats with us.  While it was breezy in the anchorage, we were protected from waves that are kicked up by the wind.
The next day conditions are good and we head out into Fredrick Sound heading for Gut Bay on Baranof Island.  As we turn into Gut Bay, the winds suddenly are blowing a steady 15 to 20 knots from the west.  Gut Bay, which is surrounded by steep cliffs and high mountains, apparently offers the wind a fairly direct path from the Great Arm of Whale Bay on the west side of Baranof Island to Chatham Strait on the east side of Baranof Island. Preferring to not have another windy anchorage we head to Thetis Bay, part of Tebenkof Bay on Kuiu Island.
While Thetis Bay was perfectly alright, we decide to try another anchorage in Tebenkof Bay (which is an impressively large bay).  A few years early I had seen (via AIS) a boat use an anchorage and thought it’d might be pleasant.  The anchorage is at the entrance of a very narrow channel which leads south to a nearly land locked cove (a cruising guide for SE Alaska gave this anchorage the name “Eye of the Needle”).
The next morning before departing, we decide to launch the dinghy in order to explore the channel and take measurements along the way.  We hoist our dinghy, which weighs 400 pounds or so, with our boom.  As we were pushing the stern of the hoisted dinghy over the side rail of the boat deck, the shackle holding the pulley through which the lifting line passes broke.  The dinghy immediately falls, hits the rail, tilts stern first toward the water, plunges in, and flips upside down.  In the process the lifting line had gotten jammed into a second pulley where it shredded and broke.
2017-05-063xAt this point we are totally gobsmacked and standing on the boat deck looking down at our upside down dinghy drifting away in the wind and current.  Marcia has the presence of mind to say “launch the kayaks.”  After a short chase of the runaway dinghy we start pulling and pushing it back the 200-300 yards it had drifted.  We secure the dinghy to the boat and have breakfast to let our nerves calm and come up with a plan.
We pull some spare hardware we had and reassemble a working a lifting arrangement.  We first lift the dinghy up at the bow and flip it right-side up, next we pump out the water in the dinghy, then we attach to the dinghy lifting harness which was still intact and put the dinghy back on the boat deck.
In the end, while it would have been better if the shackle had not broken, we were fortunate it wasn’t worse.  The dinghy has dent in the bottom and the 7 year old outboard engine is totaled (2 hours under water and 5 days with salt water stewing inside it before we got to port).  Importantly neither of us were hurt and nothing was damaged on Alpenglow (the dinghy must have struck the rail at or near a vertical stanchion and shows no evidence of the impact).
2017-05-083xAfter we got the dinghy secured on the boat deck we headed south and across Chatham Strait and visited Little Port Walter, the site of a NOAA Research Center.  The entrance is shallow so we left at sunrise the next morning to insure we had ample water under our keel.  We headed north a reentered Gut Bay in calm conditions.  We had a lovely evening enjoying the sunset on Mt Ada above our anchorage.
2017-05-110xFrom Gut Bay we continued north along Chatham Strait to Ell Cove, one of our favorite anchorages.  We were the only boat there so we took our favorite location towards the NW corner of the cove.  In the afternoon, we look out and see the troller Solstice pull in.  We had been crossing paths with them for several weeks since we rounded Cape Caution.  Dan and I congratulated each other on our good choices in anchorages.
We continued our journey to Sitka with a stop at Douglass Bay in Hoonah Sound (and more prawning), followed the next day with a night at the SE Cove of the Magoun Islands.  We could have continued into Sitka but we enjoyed the quiet of one more night at anchor followed by a short 10 mile trip into Sitka and an early arrival in town.
Our plan is to stay in the Sitka area for about 3 weeks and then head north to Juneau followed by a trip into Glacier Bay starting July 4.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Provisioning our way to Petersburg

Our usual practice upon departing Ketchikan after first arriving in Alaska is to start trying to fill the freezer with seafood.  For us the easiest are prawns and crabs. 

We left Ketchikan the morning of Friday, May 12 and headed to Fitzgibbon Cove, almost kitty-corner to Ketchikan on the NE corner of Behm Canal.  Immediately after arriving, we drop the dinghy in the water and set a couple of crab pots.  The next morning we pull up a few keeper crabs and head to Walker Cove dropping some prawn traps along the way.

2017-05-014xWalker Cove is a lovely anchorage in Misty Fjord National Monument less visited than Rudyerd Bay (aka Punchbowl Cove).  The USFS buoy is vacant so we tie to it saving us from having to set an anchor in difficult conditions.  A brown bear sow and cub are chomping the grass as we tie off on the buoy.  Later that evening, we spy three bears working the same beach.

The original plan was to go back to Fitzgibbon Cove or perhaps on to Yes Bay for continued crabbing and prawning but a favorable weather forecast in Clarence Strait encourages us to continue north.  We bypass both Fitzgibbons and Yes Bay and position ourselves in the Port Stewart along Behm Canal, a new-to-us anchorage.

2017-05-025xThe forecast was spot on and Clarence Strait was smooth. Our destination for the night was Thoms Place where we drop prawn pots outside and crab pots inside.  The next day yielded both prawns and crabs.

We next continue our provisioning efforts with prawn pots outside Santa Anna Inlet.  The journey continues May 17 with Madan Bay and more prawn pots laid.  For our final night before Petersburg we anchor in Deception Point Cove at the south end of Wrangell Narrows.

We get an early start the next morning and see very little traffic in Wrangell Narrows.  We arrive at our preferred time in Petersburg, high slack water, which is shortly after 8AM on Friday, May 19.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Time to Move

The weather in the PNW this past winter and early spring has been poor (if we had been here for more than the one month since leaving AZ we’d probably use more colorful language).  When a weather forecast showed up suggesting several days in a row of dry and not too windy days, we decided to high tail it out of town.  At a civilized time of 0750 on Thursday, April 28 (the same departure day as last year), we cast off for out 2017 cruising season.

Our original thought was to leisurely work our way through the Strait of Georgia.  We thought perhaps we’d visit Princess Louisa Inlet an offshoot of Jervis Inlet about 45 miles up the BC mainland coast from Vancouver.  When, on our third night out, we were moored at the Thetis Island Marina we started to look at the weather and lay out the schedule.  The extended weather forecast showed light winds along Johnstone Strait 3 and 4 days out.  We’ve learned from previous trips that in early season, good traveling conditions are precious and ought not passed up casually. 

After some quick discussion we pushed Princess Louisa to a future year and decided start moving.  From Thetis Island we headed first to False Bay on Lasqueti Island in the Strait of Georgia than to Gowland Harbour on Quadra Island across from Campbell River. Because of the time of month, the slack before the ebb at Seymour Narrows wasn’t until about noon.  Despite the leisurely start, we made Port Harvey on Cracroft Island.  The next days travel brought us to Port McNeill our first (and only) BC provisioning stop.

We had a weather day in Port McNeill but then got a forecast we thought we could work with.  An early start got us into Queen Charlotte Straits, then around Cape Caution.  The seas were about what we expected (4-5 foot swells) but a long period so our paravane stabilizers worked very well.  After 14 hours and 95 miles we called it quits for the day at Kisameet Bay.

The next day we fell in with Solstice, a fishing troller, traveling about the same speed as us.  He was transmitting an AIS signal (as do we), so even though we were separated by several miles at time and barely visible, it felt like we were buddy boating.  As we slogged up Graham Reach and headed to Khutze Inlet for the night (12 hours and 85 miles), Solstice pulled in shortly after us and dropped anchor a couple hundred yards away.  We chatted on the radio later and learned that they were a semi-retired couple (Dan and Marsha) from Gig Harbor.  The next morning we left about ten minutes after them and followed them up Grenville Channel and into Kelp Passage Cove (12 hours and 89 miles).

During this time the weather has been cool and rainy but the winds not too bad.  They occasionally would bump up to the upper teens but would usually be from behind and not a problem.  Both Solstice and ourselves are seeing good conditions developing for crossing Dixon Entrance and are motivated to push the mileage to make sure we hit it.

From Kelp Passage, we again leave shortly before dawn right behind Solstice and follow them across Dixon Entrance in some of the best conditions we’ve ever had.  At this point we parted ways as Solstice continued to Ketchikan (for another 95 mile day) and we pull up short at Foggy Bay (a leisurely 9 hour 64 mile day).  Dan & Marsha were needing to get to Petersburg where they’d leave the boat while they fly home.  We agreed to look for each other on AIS later in the season and hopefully actually meet in person.

An early departure from Foggy Bay gets us to Ketchikan a little before 10 AM on Wednesday, May 10.  Because we’ve arrived in Alaska early there is enough time to do a swing through Behm Canal and still go to Petersburg for a few days of the Little Norway Festival.