The 4 AM weather forecast was good, so we made for Port McNeil. And it was a very good run up Johnstone Strait, right up to the moment we hit the submerged deadhead (sunken log, typically resting perpendicular under the surface). This was no small one either. It succeeded in hitting us twice, once up front and once dead on our starboard propeller. Then as if to give us a one-finger salute, it rose up behind us and gently slid under the surface, awaiting it’s next victim. I could swear it was smiling.
In nearly 10,000 miles of boating travel, this was our first major hit, and the first to do any real damage. The vibration was impossible to disregard. A quick check of the bilges assured us all were dry, no leaks. A check of the engines showed all was well, the shafts were spinning normally. We were very relieved, but there was that vibration - something was clearly amiss.
So we made for Port McNeil, calling ahead to North Island Marina for space and to explain our issue. Steve Jackman (owner) arranged for a diver to meet us as soon as we docked (actions above and beyond the call, but typical of North Island Marina), and continued to follow-up, even though he was in transit to meetings off-island. His wife Jessica met us at the dock, and updated us on the diver. Shortly after our arrival, the diver (Steve Lacasse of Sun Fun Divers) met us with his wife Trudy and fellow diver Paul, and set to work inspecting the boat. They confirmed that the starboard (right) propeller had taken a major hit and was significantly bent; which made us equal because I was pretty “bent” as well (not at anyone, but at that mean spirited dead head). Steve, Trudy and Paul did all they could and after great effort got the prop off. Significant fix-up is needed, but it will live to spin again another day, soon I hope. Until then we are here in Port McNeil and will do some sightseeing around the north end of Vancouver Island.
We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we deal with it. So enjoy the adventure and make the most of it.
Campbell River to Blind Channel Resort. After two long travel days, today was a short 30 miles. The plan was to make another long run to Port Hardy for a crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound Thursday. But weather must be respected, and Queen Charlotte is scheduled for Gale force winds Thursday and perhaps Friday, so we decided to divert into the Broughtons (a protected archipelago north of Desolation Sound). We transited Seymour Narrows at slack tide and had an easy run to Blind Channel - a great place to stop, with very good docks, power and water, and really friendly and helpful staff. It should be on anyone's list who is going north of Desolation Sound.
~~And now for something from Katie, “the Admiral”:
My two favorite things about today were: talking with the fuel dock attendant as we filled up at Campbell River. It takes more than a few minutes to fill up two 400 gallon tanks, so we talked quite a while. He is First Nation and has traveled to the Big Island in Hawaii, San Diego, California and Tacoma Washington. Then he grinned and said he had had a "cultural experience" in Havanna, Cuba. He felt Cuba was “sketchy” but he struck up a conversation with a woman who asked if he could prove he was First Nation. He said he began singing the songs of his people; and then people began to gather to listen to him. He kept singing and people began to clap for him. As he spoke to me he began to grin with pride for having sung the songs of his people. I told him about Isagenix because everyone should know about Isagenix. If you don’t know about Isagenix, contact me.
My other “favorite thing”: I saw black fish, drawn by the hum of our engines, approach the bow of the boat. The water was so calm and the sky so gray, all I saw were silver streaks, like torpedoes, approach. Then they dove under the boat. They are similar to spinner dolphins we see at home.
After my experiences today, I know we are truly on our way to a great adventure.
Ganges to Campbell River (departed @ 5:30 AM and arrived at @ 4:30 PM). Perhaps the calmest, most beautiful day ever on the Strait of Georgia. This was our first time going all the way up the central Strait from Active Pass to Campbell River. Our wake produced the biggest waves we saw. Hard to imagine a more idyllic day on a notoriously rough bit of water. All was nearly perfect (though our water maker was acting up, but carry so much water it is not an issue). What a great day!
A beautiful, calm and sunny day on Puget Sound! Seattle to Ganges, BC. Calm waters almost all the way, and the Straight of Juan de Fuca was like glass! Planned to get to Nanaimo, but decided to stop in Ganges when we realized we could face dangerous conditions in Dodd Narrows (8 knots of current in a narrow pass, with a sharp dogleg in the middle). Ended up seeing some friends was hadn't seen in several years! It was truly a gloriously beautiful day on the water! (Pictures will have to wait - too little bandwidth at Ganges.)
Today we needed to get that 32” solid brass propeller that was sitting on the dock next to Imagine, to Campbell River to Marc Charest of Coast Industrial Propeller (who everyone around here said is the only person on the island qualified to repair it). So at 7:30 AM, Jason of North Island Marina drove me the 20 miles to Port Hardy to get the rental car I had arranged. I then loaded the “heavy” prop and drove to Campbell River.
2 hours later I have told my tale of woe to Marc and his wife Jennifer, and Marc is looking around at the other props in his shop that were in line and said "Tuesday next". I must have looked somewhat crestfallen, because Jennifer gave me a comforting smile and pulled me aside saying I should check back on their home phone this evening, after she and Mark had a chance to discuss this.
Then back to Port McNeil (another 2 hours on the road), but before I could drive away, out comes Jennifer with a dozen fresh donuts (which I donated in her name to the North Island Marina crew, who greatly appreciated it)!
After returning to Imagine, Jennifer called to say Marc would have the prop ready Saturday evening (hooray) and the folks at Tarkanen Marine Ways seemed ready to work on Sunday to get Imagine in and out, if they can get the boat currently there done Saturday.
Lots of people working hard to get us back on our journey, for which we are VERY grateful!
Life has a funny way of surprising you. But for hitting that deadhead (which beast I do not forgive), we would not have met some really great people over the past few days, and certainly wouldn’t have seen as much of the north half of Vancouver Island. But it is the people that have made this so worthwhile of an experience. Meeting nice people is one of the things we like best about boating. Most of us come from the same general perspective and are “in the same boat” so to speak.
It started with Steve and Jessica Jackman of North Island Marina (a new “must stop” place on our itineraries), who jumped into action before even meeting us, to arrange a diver. And during our stay checking in on how things are going and giving us rides as needed.
Then we met “the diver” Steve Lacasse, Trudy his wife and Paul their co-worker from Sun Fun Divers, who did such a thorough job of inspecting the hull, and refused to give up in getting the prop off; all fantastic people. And knowing they had to head out on a job for BC Government, spending lots of time trying to get us alternatives both for fixing the prop and getting it back on.
And while Steve and Paul are under Imagine trying to pull the prop, in come Bob and Lois Stevenson on their beautiful sail boat sv Passages, who seeing our predicament tells us about the only person on the island who should repair the prop (the same person Steve and Trudy later said the same thing about).
Then we met Marc and Jennifer Charest of Coast Industrial Propeller, who virtually took us in their arms and said “everything will be alright”. Finishing the major work on the prop (3 out of 4 blades damaged, one severely), in just over 24 hours, and refusing to charge an expedite fee!
And finally, the folks at Tarkanen Marine Ways, in Sointula (who we still haven’t met yet), who have shuffled things around to get us on the ways (a “lift” on tracks that takes the boat onto dry land) Sunday afternoon.
This is not just what boating is about, it is what life is (or should be) about. A classic case of people helping people, and not just helping, but going out of their way to help, give a comforting smile and hug. So am I happy about that darned deadhead? No, but perhaps the smile it seemed to give before it slipped below the surface, was a knowing one. Perhaps it knew we would meet some wonderful people who we would never forget, and who just might make our lives richer for knowing them. Life indeed has a way of surprising us.
Another day, another adventure: Imagine went up “on the ways” at Sointula’s Tarkanen Marine Ways. A ways is essential a haul out that is pulled up on tracks by a cable and winch system. This is a “working boat” facility, but they were great to get us in and once we got the hang of it, we were in and out in an hour. Newly repaired prop installed and away we went. Still some issues with upper end RPM, but at our normal speed of 10 kts, we are fine. Engines were exactly normal in temperature, oil pressure, RPM to speed, and pretty smooth. So we are good to go.
Great weather forecast for tomorrow. So for now, we are saying goodbye to North Island Marina, but we will be back to visit with Steve and Jennifer on our return journey.
May 26, 2014 - Day 8 - Shearwater
Today we crossed the Pacific Ocean, okay we crossed a small part of it: Queen Charlotte Sound, and no, we could not see Hawaii from our flying bridge. It was a very smooth crossing, under sunny skies, and crossing Cape Caution was not a problem (though we were over 2 miles off-shore to minimize the turbulence). Then we had the long ride up the protection of Fitz Hugh Sound. The sun was out, the wind cooperated, and we didn’t hit any logs! We saw whales and porpoises, cruising over waters that I was last on 50 years ago this year. We passed by the nearly deserted infamous town of Namu (you may remember Namu the killer whale – the first wild caught killer whale sold in bondage to Sea World). We ended the day at Shearwater Marina in Bella Bella. The boat performed well, so it appears that we are going to be fine (though somewhat restricted in speed – not a bad thing). Captain’s log supplemental for cruise date 20140522: Upon arrival in Shearwater, we told the Harbor Master of our delayed arrival due to the “dead head incident” on May 22. We had planned to arrive on May 23 before hitting the dead head. The Harbor Master told us that it was a good thing we had been delayed. He said Shearwater was hit with near hurricane force winds late on the 23rd and much of the 24th! He said his house (on the inner-most dock in the marina) was nearly blown into the water! He said the day of our arrival (the 26th) was the best weather day in a week. I can tell I am developing a real “love – hate relationship” with that deadhead!
Sometimes the best laid plans just are not meant to work out – and perhaps a better one results. That was today. We had just had a very long run from Port McNeil to Shearwater on the 26th, so when I got up at 4:45 I thought an extra hour of rest wouldn’t hurt. At 5:45 we were socked-in by fog. No way to go when in new waters and knowing that there was a lot of dangerous floating debris (what short-term memory problem?). So we waited, and waited, and waited. Kevin doesn’t take “waiting” very well.
So at 8:00 I went up to the marine supplies store and asked if the fog was just localized to the bay, or if it was more wide-spread (the marine radio weather reports didn’t mention fog). I was told it was the first fog of the season (lucky us), but that it was likely also foggy out in the channels. So, we waited some more, and Kevin did some serious study of options.
The original plan was long gone (as it required a 12 hour run and we were not going to be running after 7 pm. There are few good anchorages (really none) between Shearwater and our previously planned anchorage along the main inland waterway route. So we researched another route. And here is a “plug” for Waggoner’a Cruising Guide and the Douglas’ Cruising Northern BC book: we pulled both out and they talked about a route called “Mathieson Channel”. It takes one a bit out of the way, but leads to a couple of good anchorages (one great one) at the end of a 7 or 8 hour day, which was looking likely to be our maximum cruising time today.
So shortly after plotting the course the fog lifted and off we went. I figured it was just a “road less traveled” that we would bomb through (at 10 knots or so), anchor for the night, and “get on with the plan” on Wednesday. Well let me say this: anyone who comes up here and does not experience Mathieson Channel has missed one of the most spiritually fulfilling, peaceful, rejuvenating, experiences of the journey! So much for the foul-up of our plans caused by the fog; for like the “log”, the fog did us a great favor (see Captain’s log supplemental entry for cruise date 20140522 – the day we hit the “dead head”). This was a magnificent run, with more waterfalls that we could count (and we tried – not enough fingers and toes), porpoises greeting us on our entry (a tight entry but doable), puffins, inlets and hidden passages, and a wonderful waterfall at the end (which we have called “Lady Falls” – see picture). The day culminated with anchoring in “Windy Bay” – as calm and protected a place and you could hope for. But not before a sailboat that knew of our tribulations in Johnstone Strait, hailed us from fairly close by, to ask if we had gotten our propeller fixed and put back on. We realized they knew we were around because our MMSI number was visible. Still, kind of neat they would thing to check in. So, we had yet another case for embracing “set-backs”, and seizing upon them as an opportunity for some new adventure. Boating is definitely a “go with the flow” experience (pardon the pun – or not): things often do not go as planned, so both be ready to change plans and embrace the changes with enthusiasm.
Back to those “best laid plans”: I wanted to get as far as possible today, in order to get into a position for crossing Dixon Entrance into Alaska on Thursday, May 29. We got a great early start (could have been ½ hour earlier; but still, having the anchor onboard and being underway by 5:30 am, is doing pretty good, especially when you are hauling in 350 of anchor chain (need at least that much up in Alaska!).
We are making great time, when suddenly we see whales (humpbacks) right next to us in a tight passage. What a fantastic sight, and they followed us for about a mile, frolicking, splashing their tails on the water, giving us a great early morning show. Once again all was going well, nice waterfalls, a stunning narrow passage (used by the smaller cruise ships and the BC ferry system – though we saw none).
Leaving Princess Royal Chanel, we entered Wright Sound (a confluence of 7 channels), on the northern edge of which was located the planned anchorage for the 27th. Then we were into Grenville Channel, an even busier channel. However, less than half way along this 80 mile channel, the winds and currents created a mess of the water. We started taking spray all the way over the flying bridge! We thought it would end, and so passed up the first really good anchorage (Nettle Basin), but there was nothing for another 20 miles, and there was no way we could make either of our planned alternative anchorages to position for a Thursday run into Ketchikan.
And then it got really interesting, with 5 foot seas and 15 knot winds coming at us. Fortunately, everything was coming straight at us, so we were not rocking side to side much, just up and over the waves. Not scary, and certainly not dangerous so long as we kept our heads, but still . . . So we quickly researched an alternative, that sounded good (most things would have sounded good at that point).
So into Klewnuggit Inlet we decided to go. We had to go well past the entrance before tacking back so we would not take a beating on the port beam from the inflow (compounded by the stiffening wind). Four to five foot waves in a narrow passage are not fun, especially taken sideways. We were able to execute the turn and then with a following "breeze" and following seas we cruised into the inlet. It was a ways to go to get into the anchorage well inside the inlet. Once there, the water was calm and while some wind was still feeding in over the hills, by comparison it was an oasis. The anchor set well (another 350 feet of chain out) and we settled in. Watched Under a Tuscan Sun and went to bed. A very good night’s sleep.
~~Another early start, with engines on at 5 am, and anchor aboard at 5:20. Another beautiful morning run – hard to believe this was the same Grenville Channel that we had escaped from just 12 hours earlier. Just a light wind chop coming at us, and no other boats. We talked about trying to make Ketchikan, but quickly abandoned that idea. There was no point to getting in late in the evening and not being able to get off the boat until customs cleared us the next morning. So we made it to Brundige Inlet on Dundas Island, the anchorage I had hoped to get to on the 28th, until the fog of the 26th threw that plan away. But once again, it may have been for the best, as the seas running out to Dundas Island had been unpleasant on the 28th. Passed Green Island light house next to Dundas Island (see picture), a very cool light house, with an interesting story about how it is resupplied. And a few minutes later, a floating cabin being pulled by a pleasure boat! Now we have seen lots of small fishing boats being pulled by pleasure boats, but a cabin! (See picture – we knew no one would believe us.) The run was great, and while it is 3 miles down the inlet to the anchorage (a very narrow inlet), it is pretty well protected. Of course the least protection is from southerly winds and that is what we have, but the water is calm and the mud bottom is holding very well. Must clean off the chain well when pulling up in the morning! The weather forecast is for calm winds and flat seas in the morning for crossing Dixon Entrance into Alaska, and if all goes well (I would say “according to plan”, but am getting off that mind-set), we will be in Ketchikan by noon. We’ll see how that works out. .
~~Brundige Inlet had filled up considerably during the late evening. We certainly did not want to be trailing that many boats out, so engines on at 5 AM, anchor up at 5:25 and away we went. No wind and gentle rollers as we crossed Dixon Entrance into Alaska. It was a little rocky, as the flow was on our bow’s port quarter, but not uncomfortable. We were escorted part way by porpoises, who frolicked in our bow wave. Then once across it smoothed out, and we had a gentle run all the way in to Ketchikan. We were at the fuel dock (460 gallons) by noon PDT (set the clocks back to 11 AM to get on Alaska Daylight Time).
The Customs Officer met us there and after a very cordial conversation we received our clearance. Then off to our slip in Bar Harbor South (Bar Harbor is the largest boat basin – a working boat basin “not a marina” as the staff said when we checked in. Fishing boats and yachts, side by side. We ran into the owners of “Spirit” a Selene trawler that we had been playing tag with for the past few hundred miles. After a nice visit and receiving some valuable information, we were off to the “Safeway superstore” – probably the biggest grocery store in Ketchikan, and just a couple of blocks from the boat – to restock on necessities and back to Imagine for a little rest.
Then it was time for cleaning off a few hundred miles of salt and dirt from Imagine and catching up on laundry. Looking forward to a day of checking out Ketchikan and planning out the next leg of our journey: North to Juneau.
~~We took a long walk into the center of town, to “cruise ship alley”, and the “Disney-like” scene that the cruise ship companies have created. There were many, empty, jewelry stores with clerks standing outside hoping to lure folks in. There was only one ship in: The Disney Ship. That might explain the jewelry store emptiness, as not too many folks are buying jewelry for little kids.
The contrast between this area of town and the rest is stark. Ketchikan is built on a hill, with one main street along the water, “Tongass”, and is only a few blocks deep up the hill before it gets too steep to build. They had to build the airport on an island across Tongass Narrows. We were moored not far from the airport, but as close as we were, we hardly heard an airplane, and we were down-wind. Now the seaplanes were another matter. You get accustomed pretty quickly to their noise, because they are taking off and landing every 10 minutes on average. There must be hundreds of them!
You quickly realize why they call this “Alaska’s First city”: it is the gateway to this portion of the State and there are numerous small communities that are served principally by boat and sea plane. Alaska Air flies to many places (including some really small ones), but you need at least a little room on land to build a runway for a 737. Alaska Air pilots are trained to land and take-off on very short runways, but you do need flat land for a runway, and most of the towns in this part of Alaska lack that resource. It looks like we may be staying another day, as the weather forecast is for worsening winds in our area. But the sun is out and it is a warm 65 degrees (I wore a T-shirt all day and was comfortable). Of course the locals were wearing shorts and sandals – the “oppressive heat” was dictating wardrobe changes for them! For us “thin-blooded” folks, layering is definitely the way to go!
~~The wind had clearly picked-up overnight. I think it was prudent to sit tight and take note of how the inland waters up here behave when the wind is blowing. We are largely protected in Ketchikan, though we are getting a taste of the wind effects given its northwesterly direction. The forecast is better for June 2. Still small craft warnings, but less wind and lower wave heights. If that holds then we’ll give it a shot.
Still, there is no way to make Glacier Bay by our assigned entry date of June 4. I learned long ago (Labor Day 2001), that you never let the “schedule” dictate decisions about when you go, if the weather conditions say otherwise. “Weather rules”! So I called the Ranger station to let them know. They asked that I reconfirm on Monday or Tuesday, and that they might be able to get us in on a short notice permit if we cannot get there by June 4. I have had really great experience in my contacts with the folks at Glacier Bay, and am looking forward to meeting them in person.
So off for some more walking around, a final stop at Safeway (there’s always one more thing), a stop at the marine supply store for fishing licenses for Erin, Ryan and me (Katie is not much interested in catching or cleaning (who is?) fish, but likes the cooking and the eating). The permits can have delayed start dates, so I was able to get them all at once. Now if I only knew how to fish!
Looking forward to getting out on the water and seeing this beautiful state.
~~The “plan” was to get up at 3 AM and push off before 4 AM. Plenty of daylight at that hour, and “go early” is a watchword for boating in general, and up here in particular, so long as tides and currents (and weather) cooperate. So much for “the plan”, as I slept in to 4 AM. Yikes!
Checked the weather forecast, and it was the same, though it indicated that the weather was improving more quickly north of Petersburg (about 100 miles away by water, depending upon route). Winds were to be building to 20 knots in the afternoon out of the west-northwest, and seas building to 3-4 feet. Those are not good conditions for “small craft”, though for us at 60 feet and 40 tons or so, they are within our comfort range.
Still those conditions dictated that we would likely not be able to get to Petersburg, because that would have required us to be out in Clarence Straight as the wind and waves built to their full prediction (which we didn’t really want to test). So given the alternative of heading to Wrangell with much less time in Clarence Straight, we felt that was the way to go. Plus we would get to experience “The Narrows” of Zimovia Strait.
So we were away by 4:50, and cruising up “northerly” half of Tongass Narrows. After clearing Tongass and entering Clarence Strait, we quickly learned that Clarence was “no milk toast”. Somehow, the name “Clarence” conjures images of a pleasant, mild-mannered, character; must have been from some story from my youth – perhaps Winnie the Pooh.
Well, this Clarence was anything but mild-mannered. We were fine, and with most of the wind and waves coming straight at us it was not uncomfortable. I was glad that Katie’s routine involved putting things that can fall on the floor before we go. Part way through I went below to put more stuff on the floor (stuff that normally doesn’t fall). As we passed “Misery Point” (where did these names come from?) and McHenry Ledge, we needed to turn Northeast to get to Zimovia Strait. The only problem was that would mean going abeam to the wind and waves – not a pleasant thing to do for a very long distance. So I delayed our turn, heading for as much of a lee in the protection of a point to our north as far as I could, then tacked back south to put the seas on our stern. A few tacks like that and we eventually got to good water. Of course the boat was covered in salt water, but that will get solved tonight when I hose her down.
Then on to Zimovia Strait we went. We are starting to appreciate just how huge this state is, even from this “little” panhandle, how unspoiled it is and just how many mountains there are. It is breathtaking. Zimovia Strait was running at us (which was strange because the current tables said we should be running with the current). Much head scratching about that until the evening when we met up with the folks on Spirit again. Patrick explained that the rivers were running at full flood right now and that the river outflow was cancelling out the currents entirely in some areas, including Zimovia Strait. Good to know!
The “Narrows” of Zimovia Strait are “very narrow”, though relatively short. They require executing 2 hairpin turns, both over 120 degrees in a 100 yards or so. But they are well-marked and the charting is very clear. Still very interesting and good practice for Wrangell Narrows tomorrow, that are perhaps not a sharp, but are much longer and MUCH busier.
We arrived at Wrangell’s new Marina (“Heritage Marina”) a little south of town at 3:30 (over an hour later than planned due to the current issues). The staff was really pleasant (all contact via phone as they are in town, about a 15 minute walk away). This is a far nicer marina than anything in Ketchikan, and is virtually brand new. The docks are great, and the breakwater is very effective. It is a “working marina” with the majority of boats being fishing boats. But it is the cleanest working marina I have ever seen. This is definitely worth going a few miles out of the way. And at $25/night (no power needed by us, which would have added $10), it is dirt cheap. We will definitely be back!
I washed the salt off Imagine and we spent some time talking to our new friends on Spirit, gaining lots of local knowledge (they have been to Alaska MANY times), and building a strategy for tomorrow’s run through Wrangell Narrows. Then some more study of the route and timing. I am looking forward to that experience.
~~Up at 4:00 AM (I seem to be programmed for that now), and after catching up on this blog, I finished a final review of the charts and the books on local knowledge regarding transiting Wrangell Narrows. We set off for the Narrows, catching not just the outgoing tide from Wrangell, but the outflow from Stikine River.
Just after clearing Wrangell harbor, I realized that I had to contact Glacier Bay to confirm that we would not be there for our scheduled entry on June 4. Almost unbelievably, I still had good reception (what happened to the idea of getting away from it all???) and made contact. The ranger was very nice and asked if we would like to come in on June 5. We said the 6th was a safer bet and she said she would call back (technically, they are not supposed to honor requests more than 48 hours before the requested entry). One half hour later I still had reception, as evidence by the call that came in from the Ranger confirming us for entry on the 6th, (under a modification of our existing permit). I was grateful and she was somewhat taken aback by my expression of gratitude.
A word here about these public servants: I have heard people complain about the rules for Glacier Bay, the strictness of rangers in delivering the message about the rules and enforcing them, and the hassle of applying for the free permit. I have talked to many of the rangers, all of whom were courteous, helpful and more than willing to go the extra mile to help out (not bending rules, but making the procedures “work”). The rules are critical to preserving this habitat that I first experienced 50 years ago. It is rapidly changing as the glaciers rapidly recede inland (whether you believe in climate change or not, this is a reality no one can deny); every bit of preservation is needed so that our grandchildren can have a semblance of the experience I had as a 12 year old. That experience was the genesis of my awareness of the magnificence of nature, and probably was the seminal event in making me an “environmentalist”. So I for one applaud these Rangers, champions for the protection of this unique place – among the last places of its kind on the planet.
Climbing down from my high horse, I turn back to the Journey. Two hours after leaving Wrangell Harbor we were entering Wrangell Narrows (it takes a bit to get used the fact that there is no relationship between “Wrangell” the town and island, and “Wrangell Narrows” some 20 miles away). With Katie studying our VERY large detail paper chart and me at the helm and studying both of our independent electronic charting systems, we commenced our 21 mile “run of the narrows”. The current gave us a nice, gentle push in and we started counting off the approximately 70 buoys and other aids leading up to Petersburg (odd numbered green ones on the left and even numbered red ones on the right). Some of the turns were quite tight, and the fairways so narrow I cannot imagine two significantly sized vessels passing. Fortunately, we did not have to find out what passing would be like, as we were virtually alone all the way up the Narrows. It was a great experience, and though we discovered that our concerns were somewhat exaggerated, those concerns caused us to be fully prepared. You can never be “too prepared” for a passage such as Wrangell Narrows.
Just over 4 hours after leaving the town of Wrangell we had finished transiting the Wrangell Narrows and were at our berth in the newly rebuilt North Marina in Petersburg. (The Marina just reopened on June 15, and is great – right in the heart of town, great wide docks and wide berths.) Petersburg has a friendly feel about that is hard to define. Both Katie and I feel it very strongly. Surely, it is a very nice town with very friendly, outgoing people, and with a much better flavor of Alaska that Ketchikan; but, there is something more than that behind our “feeling” I believe.
We took a short walk around, and as the Harbor Master said, “don’t walk too fast or you’ll miss it”! That of course is not the case, but it is a small town considering it is the largest community between Ketchikan and Juneau. On the way back down we hope to spend a bit more time here than the few hours we had today.
Our friends in Spirit just pulled in, and suggested that we go out to Baranof Island on our way to Glacier Bay. They said it will save us 50 miles (which equal 50 gallons of fuel, which equals about $200, which is a very good reason), and allow us to visit some hot springs (there being several on Baranof Island).
So on the 4th we should be anchoring on the east side of Baranof, hopefully in Warm Springs (and there may be no blog postings for a few days - maybe finally getting away!). Hopefully on our crossing of Frederick Sound (which we will cross on the way and is one of the primary places in this part of Alaska for sighting Humpback Whales), we’ll get lucky and see some of our Humpback friends from Kauai, now home in their feeding grounds.
~~The automatic 4:00 alarm clock got me up again (daylight already of course, as June averages 18 hours of daylight each day in Petersburg). Last night’s rain did a pretty good job of cleaning the boat. I made a command decision that we would relax until 6 AM, before heading out.
We were hoping to see Humpbacks on the way down Frederick Sound (which is said to be the summer home of approximately 2200 of these magnificent creatures), but we didn’t see a one. Of course, it is not really summer yet. Perhaps we’ll see some on our way south in July, and we are almost sure to see them on the way up to, and in, Glacier Bay. But we did have a magnificent ten minute show put on by some Dahl's Porpoises (sometimes called Blackfish - think small Orcas, with pretty much the same markings, but 5 to 6 feet long instead of 15 to 20 or so). They played in our bow wave, darting in and out and jumping in a seeming game of tag with each other. They seemed to be having a fun time and we said to each other that we were tempted to jump in to play as well, though the 48 degree water would have made it a very short play time. We took turns on the bow. I was madly clicking pictures, hoping to get just one good one. We got several great shots, both of them under the water and jumping. It was an incredibly exhilarating experience. Then they broke off their game just before we came into a bunch of debris in the water. Pretty smart creatures, perhaps VERY smart creatures; and not so far removed from us, at least to my way of thinking (hopefully they don’t take offense at the familial reference).
Then we pushed on for Baranof Island. The mountains of Baranof Island were visible from the moment we entered Frederick Sound, even at 70 miles distance. It is not that they are so tall (topping out at about 4200 feet), but there are no foothills. They just rise straight up from the seafloor. Like Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island, you really need to add the depth of the waters close to shore to do them justice, and that depth is over 2000 feet! Completely snow-capped even in June, they both beautiful and imposing. Baranoff Island, and it’s brother Chicagof to the north, are a big reason that the rest of Southeast Alaska can survive the harsh winters, because they catche the worst of the effects of the winter storms powering in from the west. Like Titans they stand against the power of the North Pacific storms.
The seas were flat, the currents and winds favorable, and we had a really enjoyable ride (made extra special by our Blackfish friends). Then we left Frederick Sound, rounding Murder Cove (again, where do these names come from?) and Point Gardner, into Chatham Strait. We decided to try to get into Warm Springs Bay (also known as Baranof Hot Springs), and see if we could get a spot at the dock so we could walk up to the lake and hot springs above the falls without launching the tender. There was only one boat at the dock when we arrived, another SYC boat (No Rulz), though the owners, the Andersons, live in Anchorage.
After visiting with the Andersons and their wonderfully bright 4 year old granddaughter, Avery, we took the hike up to the Lake and then back down to the hot springs (they lived up to their name). We checked out the bath house (great views of the cove with 90 degree tubm water), and enjoyed the powerful, beautiful falls flowing down from the lake. As I write this I am looking out at these magnificent, roaring falls, from perhaps 200 yards away, with the gentle, forceful roar of the water soothing me as I write. What a truly special, incredible spot! A must stop (yet another “must stop”). Alaska is everything I remember as a 12 year old, and more.
~~As I write this, we are at anchor 15 miles from Glacier Bay, in a beautiful cove (Flynn Cove), under mostly sunny skies (at 6 PM), looking at toward Glacier Bay, our destination tomorrow (and for the next 5 days). We didn’t plan to be here, but that story comes later. What a beautiful day it was for a long run! At 4:30 AM the sky above us in Warm Springs Cove was cloudless, and the sun was just starting to shine on the higher peaks. The waterfall was continuing its gentle roar (nobody turned it off over night) and the weather forecast was perfect.
Getting away from the dock was a bit tricky because the tide was going out and the flow from the waterfall was going the same way, pushing us directly back towards the boat behind us (our new friends, the Andersons). I sure didn’t want to hit their boat getting out (it being Carl’s birthday and all). I am glad we have bow and stern thrusters, and that the bow thruster was replaced this year with a much more powerful one. That, plus a good plan executed perfectly by Katie, saved us some potential embarrassment to say the least.
Then we were away. Chatham Strait was smooth as glass, with a gentle push of current we glided north towards Glacier Bay. After a while we picked up another escort of Blackfish for a bit. And about an hour later we saw a great deal of splashing a good distance away. As we got closer we realized it was a whale (Humpback), slapping the water with fins and tale. We were about half a mile to a mile away when we passed the whale, and then it started jumping out of the water (at which point we realized it was very young one, probably born this year in Hawaiian waters). Perhaps he knew we were from Hawaii, and was putting on a show for us. His way of saying “Aloha”! Yes, I got pictures (which I will get posted one of these days when I figure out the problem with “GoDaddy.com”). It was quite a thrill to see one of “our” Humpbacks!
On the entire run up Chatham Strait, over the course of 5 hours, we only saw 4 other boats: two Alaska ferries (one a huge high-speed catamaran), and two small cruisers. Once we rounded Point Augusta into Icy Straight we saw more boats, including a cruise ship and a 130 foot yacht, fishing boats, etc. But still, very few boats are around up here. We are really getting a sense that we are almost alone in the wilderness; and it is not at all difficult to imagine what Vancouver and his crew felt like when they came through here two hundred thirty-six years ago. There is a peaceful serenity about this experience.
So “our plan” was to go to Hoonah, the largest Tlingit settlement in Southeast Alaska. We called on the phone when we were about an hour away and got a recording that asked us to leave a message that would be “promptly responded to”. When we were 10 minutes away, not having been called back, we called again – and listened to the same message (we left another message, just in case). So I figured the Harbor Master was on the docks and we would raise him on the radio when we got in. After the fairly long, slow crawl into the harbor (5 knot speed limit), we tried raising the Harbor Master on the radio. We heard another boat get him earlier (though it took them several attempts to get a call back). After 20 minutes or so of attempts to raise him, we called the phone number again. The message machine greeted us, yet again! Since it had now been nearly 2 hours since our first call, we figured that getting a call back was not a likely event. So we left one last message, that we were sorry we couldn’t raise them and were leaving. Putting Hoonah behind us was a good feeling, after the frustration of trying to be a source of revenue for the community.
Then it was off to another option - anchoring somewhere. Well, I knew, but it required a whole different mind-set to get ourselves into an anchorage and settled in at a decent hour. We headed for Flynn Cove just a few miles further west.
I am one of those “things happen for a reason” and “rise to the challenge” kind of people. And we have had our challenges on this trip, which we have risen to, and we have benefitted in real ways from the “things that have happened”. But enough already! We got into Flynn Cove anchorage with great care and attention to the local knowledge (care of the Douglas’ book), and eyes glued to the depth sounder and charts. We surveyed the anchorage for swing room, and got ready to drop anchor in a perfect spot. We were all alone, so we had our pick of spots. We started dropping the anchor and as the 50 foot mark (I paint the chain every 25 feet) rolled off the windlass, the windlass jammed! Upon surveying the situation I saw there was a rats nest of chain that had jammed in the tube through which chain goes into and out of the chain locker. BUT HOW TO FREE IT?! I tried pulling from below to no avail.
It had to be freed because the anchor was just dragging on the ground and we couldn’t travel with it out (though I could have pulled it in by hand), and yet we needed much more out to hold us. The only thing I could think to do, was to do some “deconstruction” of the windlass, so I could get to the rats nest and try to free it. The tube had quite a bit of pressure on it from the weight of the chain below it, so getting it off was not easy. Finally I freed it (Katie was at the helm keeping us in place), could see the jam. But it was definitely not going to be undone easily. So with a heavy hammer and a long heavy duty screwdriver I set to work freeing the bottom portion of the jam working my way up to the top portion. It worked and after putting the windlass back together we got our chain down and anchor set.
Since this could have happened in much worse circumstances, and could happen again (though in all my years of boating this was the first time), it was a blessing it happened here and in these conditions, when I could calmly think my way through a solution without us being in any danger. If there is another time, I will be able to fix it far more quickly. I was also able to change my procedure so that the likelihood of this happening again is greatly diminished. So if the folks at Hoonah had been tending to business we would not have been in this idyllic anchorage, and would not have both “had stuff happen” and come up with the way to fix it.
Glacier Bay tomorrow!
June 6, 2014 – Day 19 – North Sandy Cove, Glacier Bay
~~We had an auspicious beginning to the day, Dahl’s porpoise (aka Blackfish), a Humpback whale, seals and dozens upon dozens of Sea Otters (floating on their backs, many with babies on their stomachs), before we even entered Glacier Bay.
We made good time and were able to attend the first orientation at 8:00 AM. The day was bright and clear, the winds light and the sun warmed us body and soul. After our orientation we were off to explore. We saw many seals, Harbor Seals and Stellar Sea Lions, more Sea Otters than we could count. No Whales though. The scenery was striking, and the fact we were virtually alone in all this beauty made it a very special day.
Then it was on to an anchorage for the night. We chose North Sandy Cove, a well-protected spot, surrounded by high hills, meadows, and forested islands. The perfect spot to see wildlife, yet, though we stared at the shore for hours, the only wild life we saw were a variety of land birds: eagles, and sea birds, and most especially some very persistent swallows.
The swallows seemed determined to move onto the boat, but could not seem to figure out how to build a nest. They did find a cozy spot on the steps from the cockpit to the flying bridge, on the top step where they were most protected. Even when we went outside, they would not stray too far. They were pretty birds, with dark blue plumage and yellow bottoms, but they were getting a bit too attached. Kind of like when relatives come to visit, but after a few days they begin to take on the odor of old fish. You love them, but dearly wish they would move along.
We grilled, had a lovely dinner, and watched “The Longest Day” (it was June 6th after all) and planned out our next adventure.
~~What a change in 12 hours. We awoke to the sound of heavy rain (which had been predicted). It was raining so heavily that we decided to stay put. There were plenty of chores to do, windows to wash (which much help from the rain_, salt to get off the boat (the rain was helping on that task as well), and rest to catch-up on. So a day off in the wilderness was very welcome.
Still no wildlife on shore, though our swallows were ever-present. Apart from a couple of bad habits (very rude for guests), they were very entertaining. The rain had done (and was continuing to do) a great job of washing down the boat. And the air up here is so clean that there is not a lot of dirty residue when the rain water flows off the boat.
Kudos here to Dustin Cooper, who maintains the exterior of Imagine, for all I need to do is hose her off and she sparkles. She is going to get a good wash in the next week, but not really because she needs it. I just need to feel I am contributing something to her looking so good. Thanks Dustin.
Tomorrow we are off glacier hunting!
~~We allowed ourselves a bit of a sleep-in, but the anchor was up and we were off by 7:45. Then we were off glacier hunting (and saying goodbye to our friendly sparrows, who were quite miffed that their resort condo was going away).
While the hunting on the Muir Inlet side was not likely to render great results because we could not go up to the Muir Glacier (closed to motorized vessels during the summer as part of sharing the enjoyment of the resource with everyone), we thought we should be able to see something. As we were cruising up the approaches to Muir Inlet, Katie asked if all the white floating objects we could see in the distance were boats. Upon closer examination we saw they were small icebergs!
We referred to most of them as “iceberglets”, because they were fairly small. When they got to the size of VW Bug, we decided they were real “icebergs”. From a distance we could make out high elevation glaciers, “Casement”, “McBride”, and in the distance “Riggs”. It was fascinating reading the materials about how fast the glaciers are now receding, and the pace is quickening for most. While my memories of this place 50 years ago were not too specific, it was obvious to me that this place has changed greatly over the past 50 years.
As we moved north in the inlet, we had to pick our way among the “berglets” and “bergs”. Some had areas as black as coal, some were almost pure "ice blue" like a piece of a robin's egg blue sky brought down to float in the sea (and hard to "see") and still others were white as fresh snow. Some looked like ice sculptures, but of course they all were ice sculptures, with nature their sculptor. An impressionist would have a great time studying them!
Sadly, we had to turn back before we could see any tidal glaciers. McBride was closest to the inlet, and it’s front edge was quite some distance away. It was spectacular in the upper reaches we could make out, a great winding ribbon spread across the mountains. And from a distance we could see that Riggs was still a spectacular white giant.
Then we were picking our way back through the “berglets” and “bergs”, and it was time to select an anchorage for the night. We decided to head for Geikie Inlet on the west side of Glacier Bay, and Shag Cove seemed the preferred location within the Inlet. We still had seen no bears, whales, orcas, moose, etc., and hoped the west side would bear better fruit.
At the entrance to the Cove the “Sea Wolf” was anchored (a good spot we had considered, but no need to crowd “Sea Wolf”), who we learned was a commercial tour vessel that summered up here and wintered in Poulsbo. We arrived at the entrance about the same time as a Canadian flagged sailboat “Final Shot”, about 35 feet long. As she had right-of-way (or close enough) and would anchor further in than us, we let her proceed down the inlet and get set before we tried our hand. It just seemed like common courtesy, but after she was set her skipper hailed us on the radio to thank us for the courtesy – a nice gesture and much appreciated. We are in this all-together, this passion of boating. It just seems so obvious to be courteous to our brothers and sisters who share this love for the water, whatever vessel they are in.
We settled in for the night, not entirely sure of the “set” of our anchor, but comforted that we now have an 85lb anchor and 400 feet of heavy chain (about 300 feet of which was out). In most conditions we don’t really need to “grab”. Up here much of the bottom is rock, into which no anchor will grab (and if it does you may not get it back!).
As we were watching a movie (no satellite reception this far north, especially in rain), Katie notices something moving on the bank on our side of the anchorage. She exclaimed “Bear”! And there, some 500 yards away, came a lone Black Bear, sauntering along, crossing a stream’s cascading outfall. Steadily onward towards us he came (we assumed “he” as there was no cub). With every step another picture clicked (some serious editing will be needed, but we had no idea he would keep coming!). Finally he stopped, directly inland of us. At some 100 yards or so away, he couldn’t have been closer unless he walked down the bank and swam out to us (fortunately he did not, as he clearly weighed 300-400 pounds – at least!).
We watched him for half an hour or more, moving from bush to bush, sampling its offerings (at least he was getting his “greens”) and moving to the next. He looked at us occasionally, two creatures on the top deck, under a black roof of some large floating white log in HIS inlet. Still, he seemed only curious, not angry that we were here (though I don’t know how he would have felt if we had been on his shore).
That experience was so exhilarating we were both giddy with excitement. Katie’s first bear in the wild (I had seen quite a few many years ago on various hiking trips, but this was really special because we were completely safe and had an unobstructed view!). It made for quite a night cap to another great day.
~~One month ago today we left Kauai. We miss our puppies and our lives on Kauai, but this is also wonderful and something totally different! We will have to put in extra “physical fitness” when we return, that’s for sure; for despite our best intentions, working out on the boat is not as easy to “schedule” as it is at home.
We set off at 6:15 (only 10 minutes to raise the anchor – a record!), and headed northwest toward Tarr Inlet and hopefully the “Marjorie” and “Grand Pacific” glaciers. A cruise ship (the “Island Princess”) passed us on the way. If I had known then what I know now, I would have been tempted to get in her wake and maintain contact (though with the residual issues from the prop damage and the fact we would have burned fuel at too high a rate, that was simply not an option).
As we approached Reid Inlet (home to the terminus of Reid Glacier), we once again saw “berglets” and “bergs”. The bigger ones of these however were much larger than the ones we saw yesterday. The first big one was about 20 feet long and black as coal. At first from a distance, it looked like a boat! Reid Inlet (one of the “listed anchorages” in Glacier Bay) we found to be completely blocked with ice! There was no way in, even if we wanted to nestle in with icebergs (and we had considered it as an anchorage yesterday). Brrrrr.
Up ahead we saw more ice, which appeared to be coming from Johns Hopkins Glacier (an area we could not enter, even without the ice, due to “nesting” Harbor Seals). It was a significant challenge to pick our way through the ice. Some very small pieces we had no choice but to shove aside with our bow. Then we were through, and for a brief moment I thought we just might make it up to at least Marjorie if not Grand Pacific.
Moments later Katie pointed to the line of ice a couple of miles ahead, stretching from one side of the channel to the other, like white pawns protecting their King and Queen. I opted to push on to see whether they path was as blocked as it appeared, and even if so, whether we might at least be able to catch a glimpse of the big glaciers we had come so far to see. After all, the ocean liners made it through (of course they have thick, steel hulls). As we hit the first picket-line of ice, we realized there was no easy way through. Indeed, there was no “reasonable” way through, which is my “go – no go” criterion.
So we went as far over to southeasterly side of the inlet as we could, to both try to catch a glimpse of the glaciers and to see if the passage between the mainland and Russell Island was significantly more clear of ice than the main channel. We were rewarded for our efforts with both a fairly clear passage, and a magnificent view of Majorie Glacier.
Then it was back to the southern reaches of the Bay (ice-free we hoped), and an anchorage for the night. We settled on South Fingers Anchorage. A tight entry but it opened up into a great, medium depth anchorage. All alone in a beautiful anchorage, with the boat being washed yet again by nature’s own boat wash! Tomorrow we leave Glacier Bay until Erin, Ryan, Elle and Gwynevere fly up to join us in three weeks.
~~ An early start, with the anchor up at 04:45, and started heading out of Glacier Bay on our 77 mile journey to Juneau. Winds were calm, and there was a pretty solid build-up of fog on western shore. The currents helped push us on our way.
We exited Glacier Bay at 06:30 and were finally able to leave a voicemail message for the rangers at 06:50 (boaters are required to notify the ranger station upon entry and departure, but the office is not manned until 07:00). Icy Strait was smooth as glass and we picked-up the incoming tide. The weather was clearing and a beautiful day was in the offing.
We turned North up the south portion of the Lynn Canal and about 10:30 were treated to a Humpback whale siting. We were picking up radio traffic about a native Canoe Celebration trek, and met up with them at 11:30. These were authentic canoes (most with a dozen or so rowers) escorted by a number of fishing vessels. They had started their journey in Anchorage and were stopping at various locations in a celebration of Native Alaskans. This event takes place every 2 years. Since we didn’t want our wake to be a problem, and we were in a fairly narrow body of water, we cut down to one engine and just joined the parade for about 45 minutes before we gradually put them behind us. We got into Auke Bay, which is technically a separate town just north of Juneau, and shut down the engines at 13:30.
The small boat basin was dealing with the loss of about 20% of its capacity, due to a large vessel having taken out one of their main docks. But we found a spot on the inside of the breakwater. We only realized later in the day how fortunate we were, because boats on the outside of the breakwater were severely impacted by boat wakes.
An hour or so after we got in our friends the Andersons in “No Rulz” pulled in just across from us (on the outside of the breakwater). We had planned to rent a car for a day or so, in order to re-provision (the only Costco in SE Alaska is in Juneau) and to visit the town of Douglas on Douglas Island (directly across from Juneau), so we could visit the birthplace of my mother. However, because of the Canoe Celebration there were no cars to be had. We finally tracked one down, but it would only be available on Thursday. So we adjusted our plans and planned out our stay in Juneau.
~~Wednesday brought us another sunny day. We decided to go to Mendenhall Glacier, which is virtually in the city limits of Juneau. We took the city bus line to the closest stop and walked the 1-1/2 miles or so to the Glacier. This was another “shock” to the memory of my youth, for I remembered the glacier being far closer to town. We learned later that it several miles since I had last seen it.
We wandered around, went down to the small lake that is at the foot of the glacier, and took a look inside the “lodge” which was jammed with tourists, and walked back to the bus stop, so we could head into Juneau. We got into town and wandered around some (after getting a packet of tokens for the bus system).
Juneau has a much more “real” feel than did Ketchikan. Even though there were four cruise ships in and there were a large number of people on the streets, it still “felt” like Alaska.
We ate lunch at “The Hanger”, outside, on the waterfront. The owner came around to check on us and asked where were from. He said he and his wife go to Kauai at least twice a year, it being their favorite spot outside of Juneau. It is a small world. After lunch we wandered around some more, before heading back to Imagine.
The public transportation is quite good, though there is no shortage of walking as stops are limited. It is perfect for getting to and from Juneau from Auke Bay, and there is an express that goes directly to the passenger drop off at the airport (but only on weekdays). All for $2 (or about $1.50 if you buy tokens), makes this a transportation deal that can’t be beat.
~~We took the Express bus from Auke Bay to the airport and picked-up our rental car, heading straight for Costco. This is undoubted the smallest Costco we had ever been in, but it had everything we needed to resupply. Food is expensive, so having a Costco available was much appreciated.
After getting everything back to the boat and packed away, we set off for Douglas. Douglas used to be the metropolis of SE Alaska in the early 1900’s, far larger than Juneau. I suspect that “politics” had something to do with Juneau becoming the capitol, and Douglas becoming a bedroom community. After driving around the main portion of town we went to the community center to see if we could find any information about Douglas from around her birth on July 12, 1917.
They had some very old newspapers, including one from July 13, 1917! There was even a birth announcement from July 12, but it was not my mother’s. Still, it was interesting to read about life in Douglas at the time of her birth. I hadn’t realized how important this little pilgrimage was to me until after we were done. I was glad to have taken this diversion into the past, and only wish I knew more about her brief time in Douglas before she, her parents, and older sister moved back to Seattle. For her parents it probably felt more like their homes in Sweden than did Seattle, but work was more plentiful in Seattle, and the cost of living was much less in Seattle.
~~Given weather conditions, we opted to spend another day in Juneau before heading further north to Haines. So we ran a few more errands and did some chores on Imagine. We made sure we would have a spot in Haines, and planned for an early departure after fueling up when the fuel dock opened at 06:00.
~~We were fueled up and on our way to Haines by 6:45. While it was a gray, off and on rainy trip, the wind and current were at our backs, so it was a pleasant ride. The same could not be said if we had been heading in the other direction. We saw a couple of Humpbacks, including a huge splash as one a mile or so behind us breached and slammed back down on the water.
The Lynn Canal can be treacherous due to its long north-south axis, and “picking” your time to go either north or south is critical to an enjoyable ride. Since southerlies prevail in the summer, it is especially important picking your times to run south. As we got into Haines the rain stopped and the skies cleared, opening up to beautiful afternoon sun.
We wandered around town (which is quite spread out) and out to the grounds of Fort William Henry Seward (built in the early 1900’s to counter British moves in the area, and then decommissioned in the late 1940’s). Haines really has the feel of Alaska about it. Only one cruise ship a week stops, so it is not commercialized, and the people are open and friendly. And they have made a major effort to create a welcoming feel, with marked paths, a revitalized waterfront, and for cruising boaters, very good docks in the small boat harbor. Definitely worth a visit, either in your own boat, or by ferry from Juneau!
~~We decided to spend an additional day in Haines. While it was Sunday (and Father’s Day), and much of the town was closed, a number of shops were open and so we were able to get some memorabilia of Haines, and visit with the locals. We learned that “cruise ship day” is Wednesday, the day that the shops are open 12 hours or more, their primary income day by far.
The town has a wonderful feel to it, and yet we also really got a feel for how tough life is here in the wilderness. People want to be here, but it is a struggle to earn enough of a living to do so. We may sometimes demean the cruise ship business, but without it these small towns that the ships stop at would die. We definitely want towns like Haines to survive!
~~Four weeks into our journey, today we were off to Skagway, as far North as Imagine will ever go (and as far north in North America as Katie has ever been). At just 13.5 miles from Haines, it is an easy run up. However, as we made the turn to enter the small boat harbor (surrounded by four cruise ships), the full force of the wind increased and made things interesting. This was compounded by the Harbor Master requesting that due to the wind, instead of trying to get into the slip they had prepared for us with our standard starboard side tie, we set up for a port side tie.
Not knowing what the conditions were inside the breakwater, we had to do this outside, with a good 20 knots of wind blowing. Not fun, but with full walk-around decks and high rails, at least not unsafe. Katie had to do most of the work as I had to try to keep our bow into the wind, and keep Imagine away from obstacles (4 cruise ships, a ferry and the breakwater).
Finally we were in and tied up, with the great assistance of the Harbor Master, Matt, and his assistant, Chris. The port side tie was just fine thanks to the height of the docks (we only have a side door on the starboard side, so getting off on low docks from the port side is not easy). It was another beautiful sunny day (predicted to be the last one for a while), so we set off to see the town (and find a place to water the USA – Ghana World Cup match).
Skagway is a much more “real” than Ketchikan’s cruise ship area, but far less real than Haines. We learned that the full-time population of 800, swells to 2300 or so with the temporary workers brought in for cruise ship season. Virtually all the cruise ships stop in Skagway, so to have four of these monsters in port at once is an almost daily occurrence. It makes for a lot of people in town. But it is a nice town, and we did get a feel of the “gold rush” era long ago.
And with the USA winning (however luckily), and the sun shining, the town felt great. We were glad however, that we had made most of our purchases in Haines, as those folks were definitely locals and needed the income.
~~We took the White Pass-Yukon train up to White Pass today. To come this far and not to do it seemed silly. The train was built to get miners up to the gold fields in the Yukon Territory. In 2 years, 2 months and 2 days they completed this engineering marvel. However, by then the gold rush was tapering off, as all the good gold claims had long since been secured. But the rail line continued to make money as a freight line. It shut down for a few years in the late 40’s after a road connecting Skagway to the Alaska highway was built, and then was reopened when tourism began to be a significant business, and today carries thousands of passengers a day up to White Pass, just inside Canada and back. It also carries on to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory. Riding the route gave us a semblance of what it must have been like for the thousands of me who used the trail over White Pass before the train line was built. It is a harsh, unforgiving path, and took a toll on both men and their pack animals, both for those who made it and those who did not. We are glad we did it.