Friday, June 27, 2008

Back in Canada

Saturday June 21, 2008
Location: Pillsbury Bay, Prince Rupert, British Columbia
Lat/Lon: 54°19.233'N, 130°19.190'W
Weather: Hi 58°, Overcast and rain

Prince Rupert is the Canadian Customs port of entry for all boats entering Canada from Alaska and they have the most screwed up entry system of any city I've been in. To start with there is no public dock for customs, you must tie up at the Prince Rupert Rowing & Yacht Club marina, the public docks, which are full of local commercial boats, or, as we were told by a Canadian customs agent, in person, in May, you can dock at the Atlin Terminal dock. Once you're docked you must find a public telephone and call the customs office. Your cell phone will not work in PR because they have a private phone company and it does not accept calls from any other carrier. The PRR&YC is a private marina and is always full during the summer and nearly impossible to get into so we decided to take an open spot at the Atlin Terminal. After docking I walked up the dock only to find the gate locked with no way of getting to the phone both 20 feet outside the gate. There was no official looking person around so I turned to go back to the boat. Above my head was a sign that said 'Restricted Area, Authorized persons only!', 'Area under video surveillance.' Great, not only can I not get to the phone to clear customs but I'm an unauthorized person in a restricted area. So I walked back to the boat expecting a guard to appear at any moment when a lady leaned out of the boat docked in front of us and offered me the use of her security gate key to get the past the gate and call customs. For this persons protection I will not reveal her name or the name of the boat she was on but she has my eternal gratitude for her act of kindness.

Once you get Canadian Customs on the phone they are very professional and the process is simple and straight forward. When we received our clearance number we were off to Pillsbury Cove across the bay from town for a quiet night at anchor.
The next morning we we're off early for what we thought would be a long day. In the channel heading south out of PR the Canadian ferry 'Northern Adventurer' passed us nearly at full speed in the narrow part of the channel that is not ¼ mile wide. The wake from the ferry is 8 to 10 feet steep and a hazard to any boat in the area let alone to boats caught close by in the channel. The Canadian ferries are notorious for waking pleasure boats and I'm sure the crew got a big laugh seeing us tossed around by their wake. I just wish they would give the crew some lessons in common courtesy and seamanship.

Before we got to Grenville Channel the tide had turned against us so we decide to change our plans and head to a beautiful cove we had visited last year, Captain Cove (53.8097°N 130.1977°W) off the head of Petrel Channel. We stayed 2 nights here sitting in the rain and low clouds resting and waiting for better weather which never came.

Tuesday, June 24th, we continued south in Grenville Channel to Nettle Basin (53.5622°N 129.5726°W) in the back of Lowe Inlet. Nettle Basin is ½ NM round and 70-120 feet deep. We tried anchoring where the guide books recommend but the anchor felt like it was dragging across a hard, flat, rock bottom. After two attempts to set the anchor in the southern sided of the bay we tried a small bight on the northern side and the anchor seemed to catch. The forecast was for calm winds so we set the anchor alarm and settled in for the night. The weather was lite rain and low clouds with temps in the mid 50's. We are so looking forward to Mexico.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ketchikan AK

We've been in Ketchikan for the the last 3 days and hope to leave tomorrow, June 20th, to continue south. The weather here has been great, sunny and 60's, it looks like summer has finally arrived in SE just as we are leaving. We like Ketchikan and have done a lot of chores and errands while we've been here including a trip to WalMart and Safeway, and of course Starbucks.

I added a new album to our Web Photo Album, link in the left column, where I posted all of my pictures of commercial working boats from SE Alaska. I enjoy walking the docks looking at all of the fishing boats, old and new, rundown and freshly painted, and thought I would add an album dedicated to just working boats. I'll add more albums for each location we pass through.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Petersburg, AK

Location: Petersburg, AK
Lat/Lon: 56.8096°N 132.9672°W
Weather: Low 41°, Hi 50° F, Steady constant rain, Winds 5-10 kts

Hooray! We have wifi in Petersburg so I uploaded some new photos to the Web Album.

We left Goose Bay early Wednesday morning and cruised 10 ½ hours for 70 NM all the way to Petersburg arriving around 5:30 PM. After a rather dicey docking, not my best effort, we went to a Mexican restaurant/bar and Linda had a burrito and I had a enchilada. It's an odd little place, the restaurant and bar are two different companies but share the same building and space, they're only separated by the fact that the bar floor is one step higher than the restaurant. The food is served on paper plates with plastic forks and knives and if you want a beer you have to get up and walk into the bar and get it yourself. They still smoke in the bars up here. Alaska is big on individual rights and part of that is they don't prevent people from smoking in bars, and most people seem to smoke up here. There are limits though, there is a sign on the bar door that says -

No Dogs Allowed in the Bar. No exceptions!

Petersburg is a small town in a remote area of SE Alaska but it's fishing industry has the largest fishing catch, by dollar value, of any port in the US including the lower 48 states. That's a lot of fish. Things are busy around the port this week, the Dungeness crab season opens Sunday at 12:00 and the boats are busy loading pots and filling up on ice. Most of the people working on the boats are young men although some of the boats are family businesses with up to 3 generations working on them including the women. The young people that work the fishing boats live a very different life than young people down south.

Seems summer might be over. There was a lot of sun in May and now we're in a rainy windy pattern that is driving us south. We're tired of being cold and wet so were heading south two weeks earlier than planned. We still plan on spending two weeks around Anacortes and then heading down the coast the first of August rather than mid August.

We plan to leave here on Saturday and be in Ketchikan Wednesday and spend 3 days there before crossing into Canada.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Are we lazy cruisers?

We have been traveling with other boaters that seem to do a lot more than we do as we cruise around and it's started to make me wonder if we're not just lazy boaters. One couple we've been cruising with, Art & Diane, often come into an anchorage in the early afternoon, set their anchor, immediately lower the dingy from the top deck of the boat, take their dog, Lewis, to the shore to do his thing, rush out and sets crab or shrimp pots, go fishing for a few hours and then pull the pots and clean the catch and make a delicious meal.. While all this is going on we're taking naps, lazily working on some small boat projects, taking some photos and if it's not raining, we'll lower our dink and take a short trip around the anchorage. We love the traveling, the adventure of turning into a new bay, looking for the perfect anchorage and settling in once the anchor is down but we're not that crazy about eating crab or shrimp and fishing is fun but killing and cleaning the fish is not something I really like doing. Linda finds it strenuous enough deciding whether to defrost chicken or pork for dinner and finishing this blog entry is reason enough for me to take a nap.
Part of the reason I'm hibernating in the boat so much of the time is that it's just plain cold outside. Many days the temperature ranges from 42° to 48° F, the clouds are low and there's consistent lite rain or drizzle. I have little energy to go out in the cold and rain and do anything. Yesterday was 54° and that seemed exceptionally warm and nice. We talked to another boater a few days ago that said they went out to an island off of Sitka to do some fishing and no one was catching any halibut and "it just felt like winter" so they're heading south out of SE Alaska.
I guess we'll just have to go at our own pace and hope to get more active when the weather warms up.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

How can the weather forecast be so wrong?

Monday, June 8, 2008
Location: Goose Bay, Port Camden, Kuiu Island
Lat/Lon: 56.7436°N 133.8691°W
Weather: Low 41°, Hi 54° F, Mostly Sunny, Winds 5-10 kts

After Deep Bay we went to Appleton Cove where Art & Diane showed up later in the afternoon. When had said our good byes in Sitka, they were waiting for a spare part and then heading to Juneau and we were heading south to Mexico. As it turned out they got their part the morning after we left and decided to get underway and made it to Appleton in one day when it took us two. Saturday morning we said goodbye to A&D again and headed out into Peril Strait to go down Chatham Strait a short distance to Cosmos Cove for the night. The forecast was for 15 kt winds from the SE, no problem, a little chop but basically a nice day. Boy the weather forecasters were way wrong. As soon as we came out of Appleton we ran into 4-6 ft waves and 30kt winds. When we turned into Chatham Strait the winds were sustained 25-30 kt, gusts to 45 kt and waves of 6-8 ft. Not nice at all. As we pounded into the seas the cats got sick and frightened, which is a terrible thing to happen to the poor kitties. You try to calm them but they don't understand the boat movement and the noise from the waves and wind and they get really scared. After 4 hours of the pounding we turned into Cosmos Cove (57.2433°N 134.8717°W) which offers little protection from the wind but is protected from the waves and provides a good anchorage. So there we sat for the night, wind howling thru the bay at 30+ kts, with us waiting for the 15 kt wind forecast to arrive which it finally did around midnight.

The next day was beautiful, lite winds and blue skies (the forecast for today was for 15 kt winds same as yesterday, that's 2 for 2 they missed by a mile) and off we headed across Chatham Strait for Halleck Harbor (56.9128°N 134.2228°W) on Kuiu Island. This is a nice bay protected from all winds except from West to Northwest. We were here last summer and it's a nice stop over for a night. We got a good hold on the bottom and the winds were calm overnight so we all slept well.

Monday we left at mid morning for a small unnamed bay Linda found in the guide book near Rocky Pass in Port Camden. The guide book calls it 'Goose Bay' because of the family of Geese living in the bay when they were there. On the chart it looks small and the entrance is twisted and shallow but it is a gem once you get inside. It's about ¼ by ½ mile in size and half of the bay is 35' deep. The other half of the bay is less than 10' deep so you need to watch the chart. It's nearly land locked so it's well protected from any weather and the guide book says there are lots of black bear in the area so we're on bear watch constantly scanning the grassy shore hoping to add to our collection of bear photos. We plan on staying here for a couple of nights before heading further into Rocky Pass. We'll let you know when we leave.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Leaving for Mexico

Thursday, June 5, 2008
Location: Deep Bay
Lat/Lon: 57.4464°N 135.6337°W
Weather: Hi 48° F, Partly Sunny, Winds 5-10 kts

Well not really, but we had a pizza party on our boat the last night we were in Sitka with our friends Art & Diane off of Kirkwall, Rick & Barb from Galatea, and later in the evening Eric & Sherry from Dolphin and we were asked "when are you leaving for Mexico" and I think it was Barb that said "tomorrow!". There is some truth to that, we're about at the northern apex of our Alaskan trip and we're starting to our trip south that will take us to Mexico and beyond. I'm starting to get excited about the trip down the coast and into Mexico and I'm spending more time reading the cruising guides of Mexico and planning the trip down the coast but it's a little early to get focused on Mexico and forget where we're at right now.
We had a late night, at least for us, and decided to make a short day of it today and stopped at Deep Bay after we went through Sergius Narrows in Peril Strait at slack tide at 1:00 PM Deep Bay is not a spectacular location but it is nice bay, good holding, and we saw 2 bears, maybe the same bear twice, before we turned in early. We need to slow down somewhat or we'll be back in Anacortes before the end of June so we'll start doing shorter days and spending more than one day at nice anchorages.

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Monday, June 2, 2008


Location: Sitka

Lat/Lon: 57.0622°N 135.3656°W
Weather: Hi 58° F, Partly Sunny, Winds 5-10 kts

I had planned to upload a slew of new pictures while in Sitka using our WiFi provider from down South, Broadband Express, aka BBX. We have had BBX for 3 years, paying an annual fee for unlimited service in most marinas south of Campbell River and including Sitka. Well, it's not working in Sitka, some sort of hardware problem that they don't seem too interested in fixing. BBX service has been deteriorating for the last year, over last winter in the Skyline marina in Anacortes it was hit and miss and they even stopped answering their support phone messages and emails. So I'm using my SailMail account and the SSB to send and receive emails. The connection is weak in the marina with all the other high poles and antennas and the electrical interference but I can get connected in the evening most times. SailMail is a great system but it works best when you are out on anchor and your antenna has a clear shot at the sky with little other electrical interference.

I've posted the last 3 entries from a hotspot in the local library in Sitka. I'll try to get some more posted, and maybe another batch of pic's to the web photo album, before we leave. The weather turned blowy so it looks like we'll be here until the end of the week which is okay because we like Sitka and there is lots to do here.

Appleton Cove

Tueday May 27, 2008

Location: Appleton Cove
Lat/Lon: 57.4689°N 135.2926°W
Weather: Hi 60° F, Sunny, 20 kts winds in Chatham Strait, 5-10 kts in Cove

We were in Appleton Cove twice last year and again this year and it is not very interesting, pleasant but not noteworthy except this time we had entertainment. As we entered the cove we noticed two bears across the grassy flats at the back of the bay and after we anchored the two bears started running across the flats, one bear seemingly chasing the other. After that one of the bears just hung around for the rest of the day, rolling in the grass and strolling from one end of the bay to the other. We have never seen a grizzly bear stay in one area for any length of time, let alone all day. It was great entertainment.

The photo is from Takaz Bay, not Appleton. We didn't get a good pic of the bear or the cove so I'm using this pic from Takatz.

Takatz Bay

Sunday May 25, 2008

Location: Takatz Bay, Baranof Island
Lat/Lon: 57.1350°N 134.8582°W

When something breaks or stops working and you find the part or the thing that caused the item to stop and you replace it and it starts working again than that's good. It breaks, you find the problem and fix it. What is not so good is when something breaks and you can't find the problem but the thing starts working again, all on it's own. It's good that it's working again but you just know that it's going to stop again and chances are that at some point it's not going to come back to life on it's own. This happened to us twice on Sunday. First the washer/dryer stopped working. Linda had just finished doing a load for Diane, that's another story all together, and put our own towels in to wash and after filling with water the thing just starts clicking, no action, just clicking. We checked the belt, it's ok, moved the dial all over the place, no good, nothing. So we let it sit for 5 hours while we cruise to Takatz Bay. After we get in and settled we fire up the GenSet and Linda turns the washer on and amazingly it starts working. Maybe it was just tired, overheated, something and now it worked. The second occurrence was just after we went to bed, we turn on a piece of electronics at the head of the bed that monitors the depth, wind, and location of the boat. Well it started beeping, the GPS part had failed and it was sounding an alarm. The item is an amazing piece of micro electronics. It has a GPS, compass, wind speed and direction detector, temperature and humidity and it's all in a container about the size of a Coke can. So we turned it off and went to sleep. The next morning it worked. No idea what went wrong or how it was made right.

Pybus Bay

Saturday May 24, 2008

Location: Cannery Cove, Pybus Bay, Admiralty Island
Lat/Lon: 57.3052°N 134.1553°W
Weather: Hi 60° F, Sunny, lite winds

Wednesday, 5/21, we left Petersburg and went a short (20 NM) hop to Thomas Bay and anchored in the lower part at the south end of Ruth Island ( 56.9805°N 132.8168°W). Thomas is a large bay some 6 miles deep East to West and 8 miles North South. Ruth Island is located within the bay and is nearly 3 miles long. At the northern end of Thomas Bay is Baird Glacier which has receded ¼ miles back from the waters edge and therefore doesn't calf ice burgs into the bay. Thomas Bay is very beautiful with steep sided cliffs and mountains rising all around. Unfortunately the day we were there was low clouds and rain and it was difficult to see much above the lower hills.

Thursday we went over to Portage Bay (57.0014°N 133.3209°W) at the northern end of Kupreanof Island. Portage Bay lacks the high mountains and because of that is not a spectacular anchorage but it is a wide open bay with good holding which we needed for the winds that were forecasted to last through the night.

Friday we left early to go to what turned out to be one of the most spectacular anchorages we have been in in SE Alaska, Cannery Cove on Admiralty Island. This is a round shaped bay surrounded by a bowl of mountains that go straight up from the waters edge. Shortly after we arrived we heard a low roll of thunder coming from the mountains and looked up to see an avalanche of snow cascading over a rock faced cliff about half way up the mountain side. Truly a special location. We'll post pictures the next time we have wifi.

The weather is predicted to be unusually sunny and warm for the next few days and we plan on staying here for at least two nights and then continue on our way towards Sitka.