Journals 08

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Monday, October 26th, 2015

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March 6, 2014: Sleigh Ride!

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Under sail since 0300 PST last night, double-reef main double-reef stays’l. Totally awesome sailing NW winds 20-25 kts. We’re closing in on Point Conception and ticking away the miles at an amazing rate! Monitor wind vane 100% helm duty, working solid. Making our way around the NE side of the high pressure and found ourselves in the right place at the right time! Sailed in close to Big Sur this afternoon and got a good look at the mountains. NW winds are forecast all next week. Crew and Privateer doing very well–this is sailing at it’s finest!

July 16, 2008 Santa Anna Inlet to Berg Bay via Anan Bay

Friday, July 25th, 2008

We rode an early tide north to Anan Bay, in the hopes of seeing a bear there.  Anan Bay is a tricky anchorage, just a shallow exposed bight with a river coming out of it.  The trick is to find the place where it goes from 450 feet deep to just 3, and set your anchor on the ledge.  Timing and luck with calm weather allowed for a visit to the bay.  We encountered the “Forest Circus” there who denied our admittance because we didn’t know about the permit, which they have recently enforced.  Fortunately a kindly younger guy rolled his eyes at his uptight colleagues (from southern California, I might add), had us sign a blank piece of paper, wadded it up and waved us by.  The Forest Service maintains an observation platform at the end of a half mile trail up the river, where you can view the bears eating salmon.  We made our way up the trail, wondering if we’d see any bears.  Suddenly Colleen spotted a grizzly thrashing through the stream in pursuit of salmon, just ten feet from us!  We quickly walked up the trail and were blocked by a black bear!  We were in between the black bear and a grizzly…..  One of the old-timers from the Forest Service had his gun trained on the bears as we backed down the trail from the advancing black bear.  We noticed other people on the platform looking toward the river.  “What are they even looking at” I wondered.  As soon as the bears left the trail for the river we made it through the gate to the relative safety of the observation platform.  Suddenly we realized why our situation caused no alarm or interest:  we were literally in a swarm of bears.  They were everywhere!!  One bear was up in a tree right by the platform, comfortable as a monkey.  He moved about with the agility of a squirrel, 50 feet up.  Many others were coming down to the river from the cliffs above to feed on the salmon there.  The salmon.  The whole river was clogged with thousands upon thousands of them!  The water was a single writhing mass of salmon.  The bears just stuck their noses in and hauled them out at their leisure.  We learned that there are about 60 black bears and 40 grizzlies that feed in this particular area.  Apparently we hit it at just the right time, a week ago there were no salmon and no bears.  Colleen and I walked down a set of camouflaged stairs to the lower platform, where we were literally eye to eye with the bears.  It was incredible to watch as the bears picked the salmon out of the river.  I was surprised that the wriggling salmon made the bears’ heads shake.  Then holding the fish down with a paw they’d delicately suck out their brains, which usually calmed the fish right down.  With surgical precision the bear would then tear into the egg sac and eat the roe, and that was it.  There were so many fish that they just went for the prime fish parts and threw the rest away.  If it were a male fish (with no roe) they just left it to wash down the river, dead and uneaten.  Just like us humans sometimes!  A thousand bald eagles and swarms of ravens hopped about the bears and picked at the leftover carcasses.  The ravens always kept one eye on the bear and one eye on the fish.  The grizzlies seemed to eat more of the salmon’s bodies.  Their claws were so long that half the fish was in ribbons before they ate it anyways, but they did a more complete job.  It was something to hear them biting those heads off, fish tails slapping about in spasms.   Sometimes the bears would just sit there and eat fish after fish, and other times they’d haul many fish up into the numerous caves in the riverbank.  One bear put her cubs into a cave and brought the fish up to them.  We watched the bears doing their thing for about 6 hours.  They would gorge themselves, then sit around panting and scratching and chasing each other.   The grizzlies dominated the lower river while the black bears stayed up above, not intermingling much.   We don’t know how many bears we saw at Anan bay because they were constantly coming and going, but we saw a good many of the estimated population!  At 6pm we were escorted back to the anchorage in between the armed guards.  Totally awesome day.  I was relieved to find the boat in the same place.  The water was getting very shallow in the lowering tide, so we hauled up anchor and steamed up the fabled Eastern Passage to a snug anchorage in Berg Bay, in behind Neptune Island.  On the way we passed a bunch of kayak campers.  They had established a smoky fire and were standing in the thick of it.  When we got settled into our anchorage we found out why: swarms of tiny bugs they call “white-socks” up here descended upon us.  I sealed up the hatch and systematically pinched all the ones that had gotten into the cabin.  The kayak campers tonight must deal with the constant threat of bears, swarming bugs, and persistent rain.  At times like this I am grateful to be snug on the boat, and don’t have to worry about any of that!

July 15, 2008 Ketchikan to Santa Anna Inlet

Friday, July 25th, 2008

The Clarence strait was exactly as I remembered from before.  Rough waves rolled down from the north as the wind stiffened, and Silent Partner buried her nose into each oncoming wave as her speed decreased.  Today was supposed to be the lightest winds in a whole week of northerlies however, so we took what we could get.  It was as if Alaska was saying “Go Back!”  I passed the helm off to Colleen and worked out some math and alternate plans, but when I came back on deck she had the boat speed up again, and the waves calmed down.  It’s rough out there where the Behm Canal pours into the Clarence strait!  After the long run up the Clarence we sailed off on a broad reach through Ernest sound, as the wind gradually died off to calm.  The weather is cloudy with a threat of rain, something we are growing used to ever since Ocean Falls…..  It is proving to be a very wet summer up here in Alaska.  But it wasn’t raining at the moment.  Beautiful snow-capped mountains surround us on all sides, all the time up here.  The sea turned to glass and we put the hook down in Santa Anna Inlet, a peaceful place I’m very fond of.  Colleen and I hiked up to the lake there and sat in the complete stillness for awhile.  Back on board we cook dinner, read, and listen to the crackle of the wood stove.

July 13-14 Ketchikan Layover

Friday, July 25th, 2008

We stayed in Ketchikan for two full days, during which time we had some ups and downs.  I discovered that my wallet had gone missing, which was very distressing for me.  I tore the boat apart and backtracked all my walks through town, but the search proved futile.   I told the harbor master about my plight, and he immediately blamed the kids who frequent the docks here.  “If it’s around, I’ll find it” he told me.  The next day I reluctantly canceled my bank card.  In a dark mood, I went to pick up a package from my Mom at the post office.  The post office in Ketchikan is attached to a large taxidermy studio.  We made our way past the mink skins and stuffed grizzly bears to the clerk at the mail counter.  “General delivery goes to the other post office, at the other end of town” we were informed.  So we walked, and discovered that Ketchikan is much larger than I thought.  I think it was a 7 mile round trip.  The mail clerk at this post office looked like a bewhiskered civil war general.  “Ah, you must be the captain” he said, and turning to Colleen “And you must be the silent Partner”  We hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and were not expecting such a long walk!  Luckily my Mom sent food in the package, which we tore into and devoured on the long hike back to the boat.   Amazingly, the harbor master found my wallet!   I guess I shouldn’t have doubted his words.  He was working on a boat in an up-side down position when he spotted it.  The kids had stolen all the cash out of my wallet and chucked it under a boat.  It was good to get it back, but now I have the problem of not being able to access any of my money…..  Sometimes Alaska feels as far away as India when it comes to “doing business”.  I literally feel like a penniless foreigner just trying to work the system, but the system is completely ignorant about the facts of remoteness, living on a boat, bad weather, and all other manner of particulars that come with living outside the box.  And so, I will press on with my empty wallet.  At least I have my driver’s license!  Theft is one of the last things I’d expected to encounter on the voyage.  After so many days of living by the bush rule, the rotten city comes as quite a shocker.

The Ketchikan waterfront is completely blocked by a wall of massive cruise ships.  Every day as many as four ships at a time unloaded their passengers all at once, who swarmed the small town in shocking numbers.  I am convinced that the spectacle is even more impressive than the throngs of gold-seekers who came a century before.  One minute the town will be relatively quiet, and suddenly all the shop doors swing open and the sidewalks are more crowded than those in Times Square.  People dash about with shopping bags, eying jewelery and talking to their friends from far away on their cell phones.  “OK, I’m like, seeing SALOONS here” said a valley girl.  I guess people have a perception of what they expect to see in Alaska.  The tourism sections of town do a very good job catering to those “feelings” and the people just eat it up.  Watching the waves of tourists from the cruise ships made me very introspective.  I thought that perhaps nothing has really changed in Alaska, that this massive population burst is akin to the gold rush throngs.  Long periods of stagnation (winter) interspersed with brief flashes of intense activity seem to be a pattern of the north country.  People patterns up here even mimic the way the salmon gather and swim upstream.  Here today, and gone tomorrow.  I’ve only seen Ketchikan during the “gone” months of March, but after this visit I understand the town a bit better now.  Soon the human tide turned, and everyone herded through gates and fences back to the ships.  Shops closed up and the town shut down as soon as the blast of the horn indicated the ship was headed out of the harbor.  Just like a fishing opening, I thought.

July 12, 2008 Foggy Bay to Ketchikan

Monday, July 14th, 2008

A helicopter circled the bay a few times as we pulled up the anchor and steamed toward Ketchikan. Just a reminder that we’re back in the USA and big brother is watching our every move. We had an uncomfortable quartering sea for much of the morning, but good south winds. I was thankful to have been out of the Dixon Entrance. Otherwise, we’d still be waiting in Canada after having missed “the window”. The weather really socked in and soon we were sailing with no land in sight, the closest to an ocean experience as you can get on this trip. However, we were still in the shipping lanes. Colleen keeps a sharp eye out for ships and alerted me when the Alaska Ferry emerged from the rain and fog behind us. Someone snapped a photo of us from the deck and then the ship disappeared again into the fog. We kept close in to shore and picked our way up the Revillagigedo channel island-to-island, each one coming out of the fog at close hand. Finally, toward Ketchikan the weather lifted. There were a million boats and planes in the Tongass Narrows in front of town. Ketchikan is Alaska’s 4th largest city. It is a Sunday and everyone was out fishing. We took the last available slip at the Ketchikan yacht club. Various Alaskans immediately stopped by the boat and gave us everything we needed. The customs officer came down to the boat but he didn’t even get on board or ask any questions. That’s what I like about the Alaskans. He was interested in our trip and admired the boat. The judge owns the slip we’re in, and he’s out on his boat somewhere for awhile, so we can stay here. Apparently he’s quite a character. According to our neighbor three slips down, the judge did some pretty outrageous shenanigans in the courthouse. One time he was caught driving drunk, and made to appear before his own court. He found himself not guilty and cleared his name of all charges. It is good to be back in Ketchikan again.

July 11, 2008 Prince Rupert to Foggy Bay

Monday, July 14th, 2008

“All plans are written in sand at low tide” is an expression I have come to appreciate, and today was no exception. Our original plan was to run as far north in BC as we could, to Brundige inlet, and anchore there for the night before crossing the Dixon Entrance into Alaska the following day. The problems presented here are that you have to run 90 miles all the way from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan in order to clear customs there. After we made a relatively short trip through the Venn Passage and up to Brundige inlet, we looked out across a perfectly calm Dixon Entrance, with not a whitecap in sight. Tomorrow morning’s forecast called for rain and 7 foot seas in the Entrance. The run to Ketchikan would be too long, and we’d get caught in the bad weather in the middle of the night. But we did have enough time to get across the big water. I called the Alaska customs and fortunately they were very understanding of our situation. We got permission to spend our first night anchored in Alaskan waters south of Ketchikan before clearing the customs. Up here everyone lives on islands and understands the meaning of “weather permitting,” even the customs officers. It’s one of the small blessings of the north country. We had a perfect crossing and watched formidable clouds building to the south, out at sea. One strange linear cloud marked the boundary where the southeast storm winds were pushing back the other clouds, far overhead. This cloud slowly rolled northward, right over our heads and We go across just by the skin of our teeth, as my Grandmother would say. The first drops of rain hit the deck as we set the anchor. Foggy Bay is very protected from the winds, though the holding ground is soft. I tried a few anchors out but nothing sets too well in the soft mud. There’s a pod of Orca Whales feeding off the point by the bay, and the rain forest here is spectacular. Alaska in 21 days!! There’s just something that feels different about the coast up here. The difference exists mostly in my mind but also by the vast wilderness stretching to the north, salmon jumping everywhere and the good feeling of being in a land of bounty.

July 10, 2008 Nettle Basin to Prince Rupert

Monday, July 14th, 2008

After carefully planning our tides to arrive at certain points at certain times, we still bucked a strong ebb today. Sometimes I lose faith in the tide charts and current predictions. I cursed the rain this morning, but it only amounted to a misting and then got sunny! When the “mono-cloud” finally lifted I could see that the mountains up here have more snow on them now than they’ve had in past years in early March! Clearly it has been a very cold year for everyone out here. I was very undecided about our destination for the day, until I finally listened to my instincts to run for Prince Rupert. It turned into a beautiful day on the Chatham sound. I think we’ve seen a humpback almost every day now since Port Hardy. Here at Prince Rupert things are hopping. Freighters and ferries are coming and going, the fishing fleet is heading out to sea, and float planes everywhere. We were initially denied moorage but then the harbor master put us out on the edge of the dock, free of charge and with free power. It was a bit of a rolly spot but the price was right! The harbor master introduced us to her 30 pound cat, that waddled over and issued a baritone “meow.” Patting its head was like palming a cured ham. A cruise ship is in the harbor and Prince Rupert is swarming with tourists. This particular sky-scraper sized cruise ship has a funny paint job, with brightly colored stripes and spots against the white hull. The overall effect when viewing it from the bow is that of a smiling dog wearing lipstick and sunglasses. Every pay phone in the city is occupied by the ship’s foreign crew members, calling their families. The cruise line had even set up banks of phones by the docks, and still the phones were occupied at the far end of town. Colleen and I ate dinner at Smile’s and had some great fish and chips. The fried food caught up with us, though, and we both spent the evening with stomach-aches.

July 9, 2008 Bishop Bay to Nettle Basin

Monday, July 14th, 2008

After one last soak we went on our way again. We played around with the sails a bit in variable winds. Out on the water we got what I refer to as our “second soak” in a steady downpour. We hit all our tides right and coasted through the channels. Silent Partner is back in Nettle Basin, anchored directly in front of a large waterfall. It was here several years ago that I tried out my new 60 pound Forfjord anchor after the others failed to hold. I’ve never gone back, except a few times for soft mud. The Forfjord once again took hold below the falls and held the boat rock-solid through the night. Verney falls is a great anchorage because the current is really strong and holds the boat steady. Modulus appears to be “trailing behind,” under weigh. There’s so much current that we’re leaving a wake at anchor! Another night by the wood stove, to dry out from our multiple soakings.

July 8, 2008 Butedale to Bishop Bay Hot Springs

Monday, July 14th, 2008

The south winds finally came today, and we had a great sail to the Hot Springs at Bishop Bay, 25 miles distant from Butedale. There’s a real nice dock here and we’re relaxing in the warm waters and by the wood stove.  I accidentally slipped and fell onto the tiller, splintering the connecting point.  Damn!  I knew that was bound to happen someday, though.  I’m glad it happened while at the dock, rather than in a windy bay though.  The spare tiller will have to do until I can come up with a solution.  It continues to rain …… Our dock neighbors are very jealous of our wood stove. Apparently they have no way of heating their boat! Soaking in the tubs, stretching out by the fire, reading, and cooking. What more could you ask for?