Friday, November 18, 2016

Safe in Olympia

How nice it is to have our boat (which is our house) finally in Olympia.  We are on G dock at the Swantown Marina.  After visiting (by car) friends in California for six weeks, we made it back to the Pacific Northwest in time for the election and the resulting emotional hangover.  Thanking the good folks at the Kingston Marina for taking care of Traveler, we fueled up and headed south into grey skies  When ebb turned to flood at the south end of Vashon Island, we picked up speed and launched ourselves into the Tacoma Narrows where we hit 10 knots over ground!

My Washington Yacht Club reciprocal got us free dock space at the little Oro Bay marina where we plugged in and turned on the heaters.  The next day we got in some sailing on the way into Budd Inlet.  Then we negotiated unfamiliar waters, following the dredged channel into Swantown where they measured our 42 foot vessel and determined that end-to-end she is actually 44 feet.

We'll be here in Olympia for a year or so while Connie gets back into her music career and I'll have plenty of time to do deferred maintenance on the boat. On our last two ocean crossings, Traveler has developed some small leaks, and we've got UV damage mostly in the form of teak trim that needs rebedding and varnishing.  Our list of projects include three new purchases which we are excited about -- a new center hatch, a marine toilet, and a nice heater.  I'm guessing that we'll have a good time at the boat show in January, hunting down some killer deals.

With Traveler plugged in at the dock we have a cozy little home, right downtown.  We are also doing some house sitting in the local area so I can do small repairs  inside the boat.  If you are taking a winter vacation and need someone to watch your house, get in touch with us.  Meanwhile, Connie is taking me around to various venues in Olympia where we are hearing good music, meeting up with old friends, and generally having a nice break from cruising. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Edmonds, Kingston, and south

Cold and rainy in Queen Charlotte Strait, colder and wetter in Johnstone Strait.
Connie.... cold.
Then we broke out into the sun just past Cambell River.  A quick run past Whisky Gulf brought us to the Gulf Islands and we started taking off layers of clothing.  At Friday Harbor we checked Traveler into the state of Washington for her first time, then continued over to Fisherman's Bay for the night, barely avoiding running aground in the low tide.  Stopped in La Conner for a quick grocery shop.  Anchored off Camano Island.  Ran down the inside to Edmonds in a beautiful sail that included the gennaker and more layers of clothing coming off. 

So glad to make it home to the Salish Sea.

Fast current in Johnstone Strait

Now the clock is ticking, as it always seems to be, as we are sorely needed down south in California for the harvest.  So we bought a pickup truck from my buddy Julian and we'll take the boat over to Kingston Harbor today and put her away for a couple of months there at the marina.

Lots of Orca just south of Pender Island

Thanks for following us along the way.  When I have more time I'll muse on what it all means and consider what our next plans will be.  Meanwhile, the California sun is calling and we will eagerly answer!

Scott and Connie
Taking down the Canada flag

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labour Day: Canada, Port Hardy

Tiny entrance, with small trawler looking on
Yesterday we crossed poked our head out of the inside passage for half a day and transited the waters of Queen Charlotte Sound.  Rounding Egg Island we found the feared Cape Caution with no wind and a light swell running from the west. Dinner time found us nosing into the Walker Group Cove with it's 50 foot wide entrance choked with bull kelp.  I gave the engine a little bump to get the speed up to 3 knots then put her in neutral so she could glide right through without sucking any of the kelp into the propeller.  Inside the quiet waters we glided right by a mini trawler perched in a small indentation.  With Connie and I high fiving, we must have woken the skipper who came on deck to glare at us as we drifted by.  I yelled out, "Wow, that was fun." He just fixed us with a grim scowl on his face.

We dropped the hook.  It set well the first time.  Connie took fresh bread out of the oven and put in the cookies to bake.  We had a hot meal in a warm cabin followed up with a half a movie and early to bed.  Up and gone at 07:00 the next morning, we glided through another tight entrance to come out into the channel, dodging a cruise ship and a tug before heading over to Port Hardy. 

Now don't I look like an old crusty sailor?  The monochrome effect adds some age too.
Environment Canada reports gale force winds in Queen Charlotte Strait today so we'll just hunker down here, replenish the larder and the liquor cabinet, and resume our trip south tomorrow morning.

Send us some sunshine, will ya?

Scott and Connie

Strong wind warning in effect

Queen Charlotte Strait

Issued 10:30 AM PDT 05 September 2016'
Strong' winds of 20 to 33 knots are occurring or expected to occur in this marine area

Friday, September 2, 2016

Running down the BC inside passage

We are snuggled into Kynumpt Cove just north of Bella Bella BC after motoring 8 days south from Ketchikan Alaska. Along the way we've powered through dense fog, rain, sunshine, and lots of logs. We found the hot springs at Bishop Bay and ate fresh caught crab on the dock there. Waterfalls line the passages. Tugs pull barges. We see very few sailing vessels on this inside passage.

Our days start early, when we get up, start the engine, pull up the anchor and go. We have tea and breakfast on the way because it is so calm here that you can go without stowing everything. Of course, the engine noise is annoying but to offset that is the presence of whales, eagles, seals, and rainbows.

We spent a fortune provisioning in Prince Rupert. Canada is expensive. So I'm drinking Carlo Rossi red wine.

After days of drizzle and fog we are seeing some blue patches in the sky and today peeled off a few layers of foul weather gear hoping that once we get to Puget Sound there will be a little bit of that heat wave left for us to enjoy. Our arrival in the sound could be on about the tenth of September.

It is nice to see land every day.

Scott and Connie

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Prince Rupert - Southward bound

After touring Misty Fjords, east of Ketchikan, we motored south in the rain and fog to Prince Rupert.  We just finished provisioning at an expensive store and paying moorage at an expensive marina.  Next we will fill up with fuel at the expensive fuel dock and be on our way.

Everything is good.  The engine is running well.  We are happy.  The inside passage is beautiful.

Gotta go, or we'll have to pay for another hour at the dock.....

The boat is a wet mess!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Crab, Halibut, Steelhead Trout, and Tomatoes

As we made the approach to Ketchikan we were overwhelmed with the amount of sea traffic: ferry boats, fishing boats, float planes, cruise ships, tugs, and trawlers. On reaching Bar Harbor Marina we radioed to the harbor master on channel 73 and he assigned us slip 11-2, starboard tie, saying, "Just go in between dock 11 and 12 and take the last slip on the left. You will be right next to the ramp."  The current was running so we ferried our way through the entrance and headed down the fairway.  Two dock crew were there to take our lines and they were as friendly as friendly can be, staying a while to chat and finding out that our last port of call was Nawiliwili Harbor on Kaua'i, Hawai'i, 21 days ago.

We stepped onto the dock and started hooting and hollering, dancing about. We kissed the dock.  Then Connie and I ran up the ramp to find actual earth, just to touch it.  As I jumped into the grass, Connie held me back from stepping right into dog poop.  How appropriate.  We kissed the ground, symbolically.
I checked in at the office where they were quite friendly and conversational, getting our whole story and then giving us tips as to where to provision, do laundry, have dinner, etc..  Back at the dock, we were kept distracted by all the people coming and going, most of them pausing to say hello and talk us up.  We started in on the wine by early afternoon.  One boater came by and gave us a jar of home made salmon berry jam and a fresh flower arrangement clipped from her anniversary bouquet. Then later her husband stopped by, drink in one hand, and chart in another, and made himself comfortable in the cockpit while he pointed out all the wonderful places to visit nearby.  His wife returned and we had a nice sunset party.


We were told that our mooring spot was reserved for special boats, being right next to the ramp and the fish cleaning station.  When I checked our slip number, I found that the spot was the frequent mooring of the fishing vessel Sylvia, the same boat we hailed when we came into the coast looking for an anchorage.

A young family came by with a big tub of crab and the husband started cleaning them.  Fairly lubricated by then, and always gregarious with new people anyway, I joined them to watch the process.  We met the kids and talked to the wife and when they finished the husband looked at me and said, "Bring me a plastic bag and I'll give you some of these."  I did, and soon we found ourselves back in the cockpit cracking crab, making a feast out of it. They had 2 small children who were happy to eat our Oreo cookies as a token of our appreciation.

Soon it was dark and another couple came by the fish cleaning station and started processing halibut.  He made it look so easy as his sharp knife filleted the big fish.  Of course, we came over and watched, and talked, and made friends and ended up with two pounds of fresh halibut in the refrigerator.  These Alaskans, they are very generous.

The next morning we got Randy off to the plane and Connie and I started taking apart the boat, opening up the storage areas and dragging every thing out into the sunlight.  Much was wet.  Some things were starting to mold.  So we made a project of it and right now the boat is such a mess you can barely move.  We will wash every stitch of clothing and all the bedding and towels.  This will take us a few days.  We couldn't be in a better place to get our act together.  The price is cheap, the store and laundry are close by, the neighbors are friendly, and the weather is good.

Everyone knows our story now.  Strangers come up to me and say things like, "21 days from Hawaii, right." or "I'd never in a million years cross that ocean."
Crab half

Tonight, we're having the halibut and just now, a guy I've spoken with a couple of times came by and knocked on the boat.  "Would you like some fresh tomatoes? I brought these up from Oregon on the ferry."

Happily on land,

Scott, and Connie

Update:  This morning a guy came by and cleaned a 32 inch long steelhead trout.  Now we've got a pound of trout in the freezer.

Also, I've placed some pictures in the previous posts that we submitted while at sea.  View previous posts if you want to see those.
Bar Harbor, Ketchikan Alaska

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Landfall - Clarence Strait, Alaska

Connie sights land
This morning we rounded into the Dixon Entrance off the north end of Queen Charlotte Island. When the low clouds finally parted and the fog drifted off at around 10:00 we could see Cape Chicon looming ahead. We are now running up Clarence Strait using the current to help move us at 6 knots toward our proposed anchorage at Dol Bay.

We crossed paths with the fishing vessel Sylvia so I hailed her and talked to Skipper Murray about anchorages. He pointed out one near by, Stone Rock Bay, and also talked about Dol Bay further up the inlet. I have no paper charts of this area and my cruising guides say very little about this place so the local knowledge from Murray was nice to have. This brings to mind the sage advice from Captain Ron from the movie of the same name. His navigation method is just to pull in somewhere and ask, "Where the heck are we?"

So we are "beating feet", motor sailing with the current to try to get to Dol Bay before the ebb tide and nightfall catch us foul. Connie just put the champagne bottle in the reefer and I'm thawing two fat steaks so we'll have a celebration on the poop deck this evening. Tomorrow we'll sag on into Ketchikan and get to work with all those pesky landfall chores.

Thanks for following us.

Scott, Connie, and Randy
Dall Bay, our first anchorage in Alaska

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Charging Batteries

Knock, Knock. "Hey, it's six am." I'm woken by Randy for my six to nine watch. Connie moves closer so I can climb over her, leaving the warm blankets behind. I dress quickly but stupidly. I layer pajama pants with fleece bibs with nylon pants with Gill Goretex foul weather bibs. On top I've got a silk shirt with a cotton loggers shirt with a poly zip up jacket with a fleece jacket topped by a huge Gill Off Shore jacket. My head gets a knit cap. My feet get fuzzy socks inside Sperry top-sider boots. My gloves are still wet but I put them on anyway.

Once outside in the cockpit I look around the horizon at the grey sea and grey sky. We are fogged in with visibility about 500 yards. The wind is light out of the west, barely enough to fill the partially furled headsail. The seas climb up on the port quarter in a five foot swell. I sit for a while getting my brain engaged then realize that I have to pee. So down below I go to peel off many layers and try to find my shriveled up penis somewhere in there. Soon, I'm back in the cockpit after checking the GPS, the AIS, and the VHF. I've got a thermos of hot tea and a muffin.

We are 70 miles west of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Island), headed toward the Dixon Entrance. I brace my legs against the side cockpit lockers as each swell sweeps under the boat. Traveler rises up, tips to starboard, then slides down the wave and tilts to port. Our 50 foot mast describes a big arc in the sky and the jib looses all its air only to reclaim it with a jolt as she comes back to center.

I hear a strange sound. What's that? I press my ear to the bulkhead, look down below, then climb out on the side deck. Nothing heard. But then, there it is again. It takes me a while to realize that I'm hearing a fog horn coming from behind the boat. The AIS had told me there were two container ships back there (targets, they are called) passing me seven miles away. Creepy.

Everything in the cockpit is wet from the last 16 hours of fog and rain. I'm sitting on a squishy cushion covered by a very damp, if not wet blanket. Inside all my clothing I'm fairly warm but it's not a fun time. I'm ready for it to stop. For 20 days now I've taken my watch sitting here on the aft locker with feet braced on either side. On day 21 we will drop anchor somewhere in SE Alaska. Connie sings, "We drop anchor with a sigh."

Later when Connie relieves me I go down below and make scrambled eggs with ham and cheese for everyone. With the dim morning light the seas build a little more and the wind drops slightly. As usual, when Connie takes her shift, she checks the set of the sails and makes her adjustments. With less wind to hold it open, the jib slap is getting worse. As I lie below I hear her grinding something in, then letting something out. I hear her clomp up on deck then return. The jib goes "Bam!" again, shaking the entire boat. I can feel the boat changing course, taking the rollers from behind. That's a good ride when you have the speed, but now the jib is blanketed even more and collapses regularly. We can turn to port, into the wind, to something near a beam reach and the sail will fill but the rollers coming directly from the side will turn us into an oscillating madness.

Connie soldiers on, doing little adjustments until finally I hear some cursing then the grind of the sail getting rolled up. A click tells me she is shifting the gearbox into neutral and then the engine explodes into life. Clunk, it goes into gear, the engine rattling at idle. Then Connie powers her up to 15 thousand RPM and suddenly life changes as Traveler ploughs through the waves, setting up her own momentum to rival the force of the swell. It's loud, but it's smoother.

Connie peeks her head around the cabin door. "Charging batteries." she says with a wink.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Or did I say Ketchikan?

Details, details, details. It's all in the details, isn't it? I'm reading John Vaillant's "The Golden Spruce" which takes place on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Island) and Connie is reading Jonathan Rabin's "Passage to Juneau." Both those books talk about the treacherous Queen Charlotte Strait and the evil conditions that result there when wind opposes current. So much for pleasure reading. We are headed directly for Queen Charlotte Strait.

I spent time pawing through our two marine guides, "The Waggoner" and "Exploring the Inside Passage to Alaska". In order to get everything I can out of these guides I have to spend hours tracing routes and reading about approaches, comparing the two books. Where one leaves off, the other might go into more detail. Plus, I've got the BC charts on my little chart plotter so I can measure distances and figure currents at various times of the day. The upshot of all this study (think of me in the cockpit, holding books on the table, reading by headlamp during my midnight shift) is a strong conviction that if Traveler is to take the safe route, she will avoid driving against the current. After entering Dixon Entrance, we'd have about 60 miles to go before entering Prince Rupert. Entering on a slack, we'd be able to run with the flood for 6 hours (30 miles) before it starts to turn ebb, current against us. Then we'd be stuck, struggling to make our easting. No bueno.

If instead, we run in with the flood and stay to the north of the channel, we'll make Point Chacon by slack water and be able to pull into one of the secure anchorages there. This will be in the state of Alaska so it will be perfectly legal. Note that we cannot anchor in Canada without checking in at Prince Rupert first. So Alaska it is.

Ketchikan is just around the corner from Point Chacon, about 30 miles. So if we anchor for the night, celebrate our arrival with champagne, then proceed the next morning we can catch the flood again that will wisk us into Ketchikan. Ketchikan, where no passport for Randy is needed. Ketchikan, where Alaska Airlines has two non-stop flights a day to Seattle. Ketchikan, where we can watch chain saw and log climbing competitions along with a thousand cruise ship passengers. While Ketchikan is further away from Seattle than Prince Rupert, the benefits of pulling in there outweigh arguments against.

Since we were not planning on going to Alaska, we don't have paper charts. I'm sure they'll sell us some. And we'll need tide and current tables because from here on out, everything will be taking place in tidal channels where the way to go is with the flow. I'm pretty happy thinking about it because cruising the inside passage means that we get to anchor every night. No more night shifts!

But I better not count our salmon before they are hatched. First we must get to land. Land fall is about 230 miles away right now. Three more nights at sea. We'll time it to arrive just offshore at 06:00, right at slack tide at the Dixon Entrance.

Scott, Connie, and Randy

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Route Planning Conundrum

Here we are, four days from the BC coast, motoring through the biggest stretch of windless water I've seen. The motor has been on for four days straight. If we do get a puff of wind, we scramble to get the sails set only to see them start flopping within minutes. I'm watching the fuel consumption and we are doing OK as Traveler only uses a half gallon per hour and we started with 120 gallons of diesel. We are about half way through our fuel supply now and are 500 miles off the BC coast. We travel about 120 miles per day usually.

A few days ago the weather GRIB files showed a big blow building just off the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This gale is predicted to build and spread over the next six days to become a 200 mile wide stretch of 30+ knots wind stretching from Oregon up to the tip of Vancouver Island BC. Of course, that's right where we must cross to make our landfall into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. What to do?

When in doubt, go to Prince Rupert!

So we've turned the bow of trusty Traveler to point at the beautiful little seaside town of Prince Rupert BC, Canada.

Now that a few days have gone by, I see that those strong winds are now predicted to die down in about 7 days. So another option is to just stop the boat, heave to, and wait for three days before proceeding. That does not sound like much fun to me. We are jonesing to hit land, wanting the pizza something bad. Our crew, Randy has itchy feet and wants to get back to Santa Fe. If we don't get him to shore, he will have a conniption fit. Connie and I want fresh veggies. What to do?

Another twist to the situation is that Randy did not bring his passport with him. That's the first thing CA customs will ask for. Thus, when we hit the liberal shores of Canada, their customs folks might not be too happy with us. But I figure we can plead that it's an act of "Dog" and we had to come to their country because of bad weather. Any port in a storm, Ah?

So the die is set. We head toward Prince Rupert. If the forecasts change over the next couple of days, and they always do, we might set our sights further south. Port Hardy, on the north end of Vancouver Island would be nice. And perhaps, just perhaps, the wind will fail in its promise to be a bad boy and it will diffuse soon enough to let us sail south along the outside of Vancouver Island and sneak into the Strait of Juan de Fuca to make landfall at the famous pizza tavern in sunny Port Angeles.

Send good karma thoughts to the weather goddesses to push those bad winds south, towards California where they belong.

Scott, Connie, and (itchy feet)Randy

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