Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Arrived in Ketchikan and a departure aborted

The trip across Dixon Entrance on Saturday, June 9, was one of our best with only light winds and a low long-period westerly swell.  We departed Prince Rupert predawn (naturally) but were preceded by one boat and followed by a half dozen more through low water slack in Venn Passage.

Because of the poor weather in the preceding days it was quite a fleet of pleasure craft heading to Ketchikan.  We counted about 15 boats crossing, most of whom passed us at various points along the route (ah, the joy of being a slow boat). 

It was a real crowd in Ketchikan and you could tell that most of them were first time Alaska visitors based upon the exchanges they were having with the Harbor Master. The harbor crew did a great job and found space for everyone. Even though we were near the end of the pack, we were fortunate enough to still get a bow-in starboard tie slip (but without AC power).

We got our shopping and chores done on Sunday in anticipation of departing Monday with the forecasted light winds and favorable tides. 

Bright and early on Monday, with only 2 lines still on and all of the electronics operating I turn the key on the engine, hear a slight cough then only the low oil pressure engine alarm.  Another twist of the key elicits only the alarm.  Never a good feeling to be dead-in-the-water but at least we are tied to the dock and in Ketchikan where there are resources. 

2018-Cruise-007xWe go into diagnostics mode and after about 40 minutes of sleuthing we’ve determined the problem is with the engine starting battery bank, 2 AGM 4D batteries that are original with the boat.  With no load they show 25.5 volts, with the engine in the on position they drop to 17-20 volts and when the starter is turned they are are at 7 volts.  After isolating the bad batteries then engaging the house/start battery parallel switch, we easily start the engine with the house battery bank.

An internet search for “marine batteries Ketchikan” turns up Crowley Fuel (aka, Anderes Oil) as a source of marine batteries.  Marcia talks with the crew of a commercial fishing boat that confirms them as the place to go.  They open at 7 am and by 7:30 am we have a plan to take the boat down to their fuel dock where they’ll take our bad batteries and sell us 2018-Cruise-009xnew batteries.  With a plan in hand, I decommission the old batteries and we hoist them (each weighs more the 100 pounds) into the cockpit.

Once we are tied to their dock, they confirmed that one battery had failed totally and we have to fuss over the optimum solution to our situation (turns out that 4D batteries aren’t all the same size), but the folks at Crowley Fuel were extraordinarily helpful and accommodating.  By 5 pm that afternoon, we’ve got a brand new start battery bank consisting of 4 6V Trojan T105 golf cart style batteries in two battery boxes. 

We try again tomorrow, Wednesday June 13, to depart on our next leg with a destination of Sitka.

Miles traveled this leg – 87.3; engine hours – 12.9

Total miles traveled – 714.5; engine hours – 104.4

Friday, June 8, 2018

Port McNeill to Prince Rupert – More Pre-Dawn Starts

Despite the title of this post, the next leg up the coast actually didn’t begin with a pre-dawn start.  We departed June 2 at a civilized 7 AM in order to time the slack before the flood at Slingsby Channel.  A strong ebb at Slingsby meeting the incoming swell from the ocean can create choppy seas and we wanted to avoid that.

As we got out in Queen Charlotte Strait, the strong ebb current boosted our speed by about 1-1/2 knots which put us in front of Slingsby in the last half of the ebb.  We rerouted up Gordon Channel and crossed to Cape Caution from Pine Island which kept us about 5 miles outside of Slingsby and there was no problem.

While we had our stabilizer poles out, ready to drop the “fish” in the water to damp the roll, we ended up running without them, saving us the 1/2 knot penalty they exact on our speed. The winds were calm so the swell was smooth and modest except for the occasional set of swells that we start us rolling until our boat damped out by itself.  We pushed on to Kwakume Inlet for the night, sharing the ample anchorage area with one other boat.

The next day was a pre-dawn start and a long one to boot.  The weather was changing and we wanted to get around Ivory Island through Milbanke Sound before the swells built too much.  We had our poles out again in case we needed stabilization but because the exposed area is only about 6-8 miles (versus 25-30 miles for Cape Caution) we toughed it out by angling a bit more into the incoming swell until we could make a sharp enough course change that put the swell more on our stern.

Again, we had current working in our favor and we decided to exploit it by bypassing our original destination of Bottleneck Inlet and continuing to Khutze Inlet.  Another long day and the first time we ever broke travelling 100 miles in a day.  We shared the anchorage with a Nordhavn 55, Sequel.

On our next day, we started before dawn in order to hit Grenville Channel on the start of the flood current which sets NW up the channel.  The forecast was for a strong front hitting the BC coast with gale force winds for a day or so and we set our goal at Klewnuggit Inlet a very secure and protected anchorage where Grenville Channel opens up a bit.  We shared the anchorage with 4 other boats.

We took a storm day in Klewnuggit Inlet and watched the ample precipitation give the boat a good rinse.  Other than a 3 hour period of 15 knots, the wind was modest.

While the forecast in Hecate Strait was still for 20-30 knot winds, on June 6 completed the final leg to Prince Rupert with one more pre-dawn start.  Fortunately, we saw mostly winds in the 15-20 range and generally on our stern running with the current.  We made good time and were able secure moorage at the Prince Rupert Rowing & Yacht Club facility.

All during this time Marcia was struggling with a cold/sinus infection that first hit her in Gorge Harbour.  It had not materially improved in the 10 days since so our first task was getting her seen and treated by a doctor.  With medications in hand, we crossed our fingers that she’d soon be on the mend.

Miles traveled this leg – 297.4; engine hours – 41.0

Total miles traveled – 627.2; engine hours – 91.5

At the End of Every Boater’s Rainbow, a Nordhavn

Nordhavn 55, Sequel, seen in Klewnuggit Inlet, Grenville Channel

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Friday, June 1, 2018

On the Move - Bainbridge to Port McNeill

One of the reasons we worked so hard to get out on Friday, May 25, was that the buildup for our yacht club's Memorial Day celebration at the Bainbridge outstation was occurring. It is a multi-day event with boats thickly rafted at the dock. It started on Friday and we knew if we didn't get out by early Friday morning we'd be stuck until Tuesday.

Fortunately, we'd done some provisioning in Port Townsend once the tenting around the boat associated with the bottom coating was removed. We worked hard at our chores and at 4:30 AM we cast off the lines to begin our cruise.

2018-Cruise-001xOur first night we made it to Sucia Island. The next day we ran up the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo where we cleared customs. At the customs dock we were pleased to see our former Seattle neighbors, Jerry and Marge. They were on their own boat but staying at the city docks while Jerry recovered from a bad cold. Since we were going to anchor out we had to cut our visiting short and leave the customs dock before the afternoon rush from Dodd Narrows arrived.

We had another predawn start and continued up the Strait of Georgia to Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island. We stayed two nights here (one at anchor the other at the dock of the Gorge Harbour Marina) waiting for a break in the NW winds in Johnstone Strait.

We positioned ourselves for Johnstone by anchoring in Owen Bay on Sonora Island the night before. Another predawn start got us to the Port Harvey Resort on Cracroft Island before 11 AM.  It still being early season (although it seems late to us), we ended up being the only boater on the dock.  Dinner was one of George’s excellent pizza which he brought to the boat after it was cooked in their pizza oven.

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One more predawn start got us to Port McNeill around 9:30 AM.  Port McNeill provides convenient provisioning and is an excellent jump off for rounding Cape Caution, our next milestone.

Distance covered – 329.8 miles in 50.5 engine hours