The alarm went off at 0400, but the wind was still howling (the sound of the wind generator is a good indicator of windspeed) in the anchorage, so I slept another hour until sunrise. There were some banks (shallow water) to go around shortly after leaving the harbor and I wanted to give the seas a little more time to calm down before crossing them.
I finally feel like I am back at sea after so long in ports and inside passages. No fog and can’t see land! With the clear skies I can watch the sun set and rise, and look at the stars. An awesome place to be.
The day became gorgeous as the wind lightened, the waves eased and the sun came out. A beautiful day to be at sea, and its not even very cold. Wind is steadily decreasing, and I know I will be motoring tomorrow (I am posting this when I get internet access, not as I write it), but am enjoying the great downwind sail in what is now a Force 3 wind.
From Prince Rupert, I went to a very pleasant anchorage (Spicer Island) about 35 miles away to sit out a NW gale. The gale was short-lived, and part of a big high pressure system, so clear skies and occasional sunshine were to be expected for the next few days. I mostly sailed the 60 miles down scenic Principe Channel, dead downwind, where the picture was taken. It was great to be sailing again, and I later motored into a pretty and very well protected anchorage (Gillen Harbor, below) for the night.
Passed this fishing boat towing logs in the north entrance to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. I’m not used to seeing boats towing logs, but British Columbia is a big logging area, so I’m sure I’ll see many more. Prince Rupert is a big, deep-water port (the ships use the wide, deep, straightforward south entrance), and pretty much the port one needs to go to when coming from Alaska to clear Customs in Canada. The northern entrance (Venn Passage) that I took is shallow, narrow, rock-strewn and scenic.
After waiting out a SE gale in Ketchikan, there were fair winds in the forecast for the next few days, so I left as soon as I could. The wind was very light the first day, and, while motoring along, several dolphins came over to demonstrate how much faster they were. I believe they were Pacific White-sided dolpins–they moved quicker than the dolphins I got used to seeing in the Atlantic did, so were harder to take pictures of.
I anchored in scenic, protected Foggy Bay that night (above is the entrance to the inner part), then sailed and (mostly) motored to Prince Rupert the next day.
When the gale was over, I motored out of Wrangell thru calm, protected waters at first. The wind picked up again in the afternoon, as expected, and I anchored off the beach in Union Bay for a couple of days, waiting for what would be a strong headwind to die down. Where I anchored was quite near a protected anchorage (Vixen Harbor), but simply anchoring off the beach, while much more exposed to wind, meant it was easy both to anchor and to leave when I wanted (no concern about what state the tide was in).
Due to the moon being unusually close to earth last week, the tides have been very high, so have floated a lot of logs off the shore, making it more important to look at the water ahead (to avoid running into logs) than normal. Issuma would not be holed if it hit a log, but branches could certainly get entangled in the propellers or rudders.
When the strong headwinds died down, I got up at 0200 to catch the favorable tide and motored and motorsailed down Clarence Strait in pleasant conditions to Ketchikan.
Ketchikan is a very spread-out town. It is pretty much all built along the long harbor. People are very friendly and whenever you want to walk across a road, traffic in both directions immediately stops. I’m waiting out another gale in Ketchikan now.
We had a strong breeze when we left Warm Springs Bay, so we beat to windward down Chatham Strait. The pads that hold the back of the lifting keel (centerboard) in place (side-to-side) were mistakenly not tightened before setting sail (the keel was locked in position up and down, but the back was not locked in position side to side).
As the current increased (against the wind), the seas got choppier and then the keel started making noises as it moved from side to side. A 5 ton keel moving around in a seaway is a concern! I screwed the pads in, but the keel still seemed to be moving laterally about one cm (flexing one pad) when we heeled, which is not normal. From the time the keel started moving until we reached the shelter of the windward shore of our destination, we remained on one tack.
We anchored in Kake that night. I wanted to have a look at the keel and determine if it was damaged and repair it if it was. A quick internet search indicated that there were better haulout facilities in Wrangell than Craig or Kake. The following day, we motored and sailed to a pleasant little anchorage (old logging camp) on Summner Strait, to time our arrival at Wrangell Narrows for a favorable current during daylight.
Wrangell Narrows is 21 miles of strong currents in a narrow, winding waterway. On a nice day, with the currents timed correctly and paying a lot of attention to piloting, it is quite a pleasant trip. We had excellent weather for motoring thru, light winds, sunny and no rain until we were in the last few miles.
The town of Wrangell has a good tidal grid (in addition to a 150ton Travelift) which we went on that night (high tide was around midnight, so that was when we went on). When the tide went out, I was able to look at the bottom of the centerboard (keel) and centerboard trunk. There was no damage. Cleaning up the threads on one of the pads allowed it to extend further, which could have made a difference had I been able to do it back when we were sailing. A subsequent test sail also showed things were fine with the keel.
Clayton left Wrangell by plane. I spent a couple of days in Wrangell, mostly attempting (unsuccessfully) to fix another autopilot problem and waiting out a storm. As it rained pretty much the entire time I was in Wrangell, I didn’t take any pictures there :).
With an increasing headwind and night approaching, we went into Cosmos Cove, 10 miles short of our desired destination (Warm Springs Bay) to anchor while a warm front passed. We were almost on the dividing line between two forecast zones–the forecast for one zone was north winds, the other was for southeast 25 knot winds. The front sounded hard to predict accurately, so I wasn’t sure which direction the wind would come from. We anchored well into the cove, in the middle of a deep spot behind a shallow spot, where there was no wind.
The warm front arrived about dawn, and the anchor alarm went off right afterwards. The wind was coming from the north, but that most likely meant it was coming from the southeast and curving around inside the cove to reach us as northerly. We reanchored on the north shore, monitoring our position closely for a while, then, seeing the anchor holding well, relied on the GPS anchor alarm. The big waves from Chatham Strait were all blocked by the land and the shallow spot in front of us, so we only had short little wavelets. The wind was frequently blowing the tops off these wavelets, so I figured we were getting more than the 25 knots forecast. We waited out the weather at anchor, and left the next morning for Warm Springs Bay, where we tied up to the dock.
The warm springs at Warm Springs Bay are awesome. Not really hot, just pleasantly warm, one soaks in shallow water, looking out at the waterfall behind.
We had a pleasant visit with a few people at Warm Springs Bay. Below are Dave and Anke , who sail their engineless sailboat (which they designed and built) in Southeast Alaska. They are the only people I know who sail without an engine in Southeast Alaska (a difficult place to sail without an engine, with strong tidal currents and widely varying winds, usually either calm or windy, rarely in between).
Alaska Marine Highway Ferry M/V Fairweather heading towards Sitka.
We passed thru scenic Kakul Narrows with no problems on an afternoon of clear visibility and no wind. Quite a contrast
to when I came thru here last November with Maggie, when we had frequent snow squalls.