Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wintering over


Though I don’t at the moment have all the accoutrements of society that I used to have, namely a car (or a job), I am no longer living on water. Yes, I still have a boat, but the focus has shifted now. I put the boat up for sale a little while ago, and I intend to sell it, so my eyes are focused on the land again. Oh, I will probably go back out into the blue, but I think its best to wait a while, and get used to not having a boat for a few years. There is so much to take care of with a boat, and especially after a long trip, when everything seems to want to break. So this is the end of the blog, as its called “Life on Water.” In the near term, I plan on spending this fall living in Seattle and working on taking the GRE and on graduate school applications, (though I’m not quite sure what I want to go in to yet) and then in January go on traveling some more, by foot and airplane. Now that I look at the title of this posting, I don’t think its right. I don’t have a job yet, so I’m not really returned to the world.
I'd like anyone who reads this blog on occasion to tell me about it, if only to let me know who is reading, please email me at
I'm sorry about the slow frequency of updating the blog in the last while. I sort of lost interest in taking pictures all the time and internet has been hard to find. So I didn't have anything to post.
Here are some pictures from the final trip of Altair, on her return from Bellingham to Seattle (via Victoria)
I caught a Lingcod, the first time I've ever done that, and it was nice and tasty. Abe was making Elderberry Jelly in Victoria, and I saw a submarine on the way in the Puget Sound.
Ok, so this is the end. I hope to hear from anyone who reads this!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Returned (triumphant)

I'm back in the world!
After 2973 miles of traveling (nautical miles, of course), the boat is anchored out in Bellingham Bay and I am driving my faithful smurf rocket around again. To be firmly attached to the ground is a strange thing, but nice as well. I am finding a place in Seattle to live, and then I will bring the boat down and then probably sell it. I think dry land is calling me for a while.
So the latest adventures have been nice; sailing down from Port Mcneill was calm and almost all downwind. We saw a school of Pacific White-sided dolphins, which we then tried to chase down (and we were flying the spinnaker and hauling ass at about 6 knots) but they wouldn't be chased down. Two stragglers came hopping over to the boat, one of them with a white patch on its head, which I discovered was a plastic bag! They were fun, but not as fun as Dahl's porpoises, which come up right next to the boat. The dolphins keep their distance. We saw a bunch of seals, and some that were ripping salmon to pieces.
But we survived.
Incidentally, coming into Port Mcneill, we had to cross an open water patch (just to the north of Vancouver Island) which is called Cape Caution, and it was REALLY foggy there, so foggy that we couldn't see more than 100 ft in all directions. Fog horns, like great bellowing mosters in the darkening whiteness, rang out now and again, but since I don't have RADAR, I didn't know when the monsters were going to strike out and run me over. But through it all, the beacon of hope, my faithful GPS, guided me. And I found this narrow little harbor, Cascade harbor, and got in to an anchorage without hitting any rocks, even though in the daylight it was kind of scary to get into and out.
But I wish I had something that could tell me for sure if other boats can see me or not. Often times I can't tell if I show up on RADAR.
ok, I'm tired, I'll get more down later when I have time to think about all the profound lessons I've learned...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Port Mcneill

I got in to Port Mcneill, and heading out again. This is just a check in to assure you I am not dead. More about adventures later.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Petersburg to Ketchikan

I've made it to Ketchikan, with nice weather pushing us along ahead of it. When its sunny out, the wind comes from the northwest, which is delightful and behind us, so we can fly the spinnaker oftenly. But sometimes it breeds trouble. After leaving Petersburg I came to terms with my animal cruelty inside feelings, and I hit a whale. We were sailing along this narrow passage west of Zarembo Island (snow passage) where there were a few scattered individual Humpback Whales feeding, and I guess the boat is quiet enough when sailing that they don't hear us. Anyways, one came up ahead of the boat, and Claire saw it, but I didn't, so I didn't know where it would come up a second time. Claire said it was right in front of the boat, so I got a little worried and told her to hold on to something, in case we hit it. (in which case we would stop abruptly) After about 30 seconds, it came up again, heading strait for us almost, about 20 feet in front of the boat. Just after breating, I think it saw us, now 10 feet away, and made a sudden dive, turning away. It stuck its tail in the air to dive quicker, but in flipping its tail, it slapped the bowsprit a little bit and might have cut itself a little on one of the cables supporting the bowsprit.
I didn't feel anything in the boat, so we didn't hit hard, but I've never been so close to a whale before. I think it was a juvenile, because the tail wasn't wider than about 5 feet, probably more like 4 feet wide.
So I have a stealth boat. Watch out.
Ketchikan is a town that opens for tourists and closes after them, so it doesn't really cater to us at all. Both times I've been here, everything has been closed. But its very warm.
Tomorrow we'll head further south, and in a few days we'll cross Dixon Entrance, the big gash in the coastline that you can see on any map. It lies at the border between US and Canada, so that's how you spot it. There we will have to be on our guard, of course. I had the worst weather of the trip (potentially of my sailing experience) crossing it the first time, so I can only pray for better treatment this time.
And here are some pictures I wanted to upload on the last post, but had crappy internet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Juneau to Petersburg

Claire arrived on Monday the 13th of July, and we set out from Juneau to head southbound. We had nice weather for the first day, but then the wind turned from the south, and against us. The first day of turning a corner to head down Chatham Strait turned out to be a failure, it was blowing too hard against us and the waves were too high to make for a comfortable passage, so we turned and hid to wait it out. But the next day was no better. So we made slow miles, and some days we didn't go anywhere. So, what took me two days to do from Petersburg to Juneau in May ended up taking 13 days to do this time around. We caught some salmon (Chinook) and other fish, and built lots of fires along the way, but with the weather against us, and it being cloudy all the time, I didn't take a lot of pictures.
I'm a lot more wary than I was earlier, as a result of the crash, but it's not good for me. I find myself worrying about the trip rather than enjoying the moment, and that doesn't do me any good, because then I don't have a clear reason for being out here. The weather turned to our favor (or at least became not bad anymore) two days ago, so we will be enjoying that a lot. The next stop is Ketchikan, in (hopefully) about 5 days or less, and then on into Canada.
I think the repairs are holding up just fine, but I seem to have a lot of water in the bilge all the time, every time I run the engine. I think the shaft seal is leaking more than it used to, so I am unhappy about that. Other than that, the boat is treating me fine.
I'm also reading Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein, and I am really liking it. It's all about war and fighting and life in the military (in the future) but it's also about morality and structure of government and power. So it's interesting. Not at all like the movie of the same name.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Fixing, with pictures

Here are some pictures of the accident, and one of Juneau at sunset...
So the boat laying on its side is when I did that on purpose, and you can see I tried to support it with a log, but I still put a hole in it, because of the rocks. The bottom of the boat damage is shown in the other two pictures, there was a big puncture in the front of the keel and a big torn out section at the back of the keel. Then the pictures of it out of the water and getting fixed.
I have since painted it all (i won't show pictures because its a bad paint job) and I'll put in the water tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009


I'm up on the hard right now, which is to say the boat is up on dry land, supported by blocks instead of water. I have pictures, but I'll probably post them later when I have a better connection. This one right now is no good. The hull is now mostly fixed. All the fiberglass work is done, but I have to wait a few days before I paint it, and that is all I need to do. Paint and then put back in the water. The down side of it all is that it is costing me a lot of money. The yard here is the kind of deal where they take you and chop off your arm first off, then they want you to communicate in sign language with them, and since you can't, they chop off more pieces of you and charge you a whole lot of money for it. I was hoping to get hauled out for $150, then maybe have the work done for another $200. Wrong. Its $1200 right now, and I think they might try to swindle me for more. I can't believe it. I think I could sell the boat right now for about $4000, but maybe not. Nobody is buying, so I might be spending half of the value of the boat right now. What is most frustrating is that nobody told me how much it was all going to cost. It just turns up after you can't make the decision to cancel the job and do it yourself, and then its too much. That is highway robbery. But they have me by the balls because they have my boat and I can't get it in the water without paying.
So I am high and dry until Monday, when I will re-splash with less leaks. (it better not leak)
From there I'll just cry into my bank account for a while.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I am a wreck now, captain without seas; I am just a man, nursing my pride. The waters would take from me, and I have merely let them wound, my ship is a wreck, and so am I. It is not a total loss, of course. I exaggerate a lot about the totality of it, but when I went aground yesterday at about noon, I thought that this was indeed the end of it all for me. I was sailing along the eastern side of the Lynn Canal, since I’d been feeling better from the sickness a little bit, and wanted to journey further north, up to Skagway, and I was close to shore to try to look for bears. Up ahead was a small point, so I turned out to the deeper parts to go around it, but I neglected to check the area closely with my chart. I thought the point stuck out underwater a ways, but deep, so I would be fine the distance I was, but soon the depth came up, and then rapidly, and before I could do anything about it, the depths came up and hit my boat. It shook me, from the blow of coming to a halt so quickly, and the crunching noise. I hit hard, going about 5 knots to zero in a thud. But the waves and wind weren’t done, I was bounced along a little further, and soon I came to a bit of a halt heeled way over to port, with rocks 100 ft all around me. The tide was at its highest, coming back to this height only at midnight that night, but not even this high, so I couldn’t wait it out, but would have to try to unstick myself. I put up more sail, because the wind would heel me over more, and put less pressure on the keel, which was on the rocks (in about 2 ft of water) but the boat would float away if I could lift it. I put up the mainsail, then back the jib, which is to run it on the wrong side, which makes it fight the main, and heel the boat a lot. Then I run up the spritsail, so I have all my canvas flying, except the spinnaker, which would have been a mess, but I was thinking I would have to try it next. I put the motor on and push around a bit, and “Bump, Crunch, crack, thud…” I slowly creep along over the rocks, for about 20 minutes, until I make the 100 ft and get into deeper waters. I made it, right? No problems now, right? No. I have a leak. Its coming from the bottom, and I need to patch it, and also I need to look at the bottom to see what needs to be done. Then I run out of fuel. So, anchored, I make my fateful (and stupid) choice. I will beach the boat on this rocky shore and look at the bottom. I go into shallow water, careful to find a spot where the rocks are the smallest, but still large, grapefruit or watermelon sized (BAD, I know) and where the tide will lift me at dusk. I spend the time while the tide is dropping making sure I will heel to the Starboard side this time, so I can look at the port, and the wind wanted otherwise, but I managed to get it done. Now the water is going down quickly and I settle on a rock, and I try to put things under the boat to make her sit happily, but I missed. Its not easy to do, and I need to make absolutely sure that next time I do this right, but I learn the hard way, everytime. One large rock, of course, is all that I am sitting on, about the size of a grapefruit on top, but standing above the others by a foot. When the waters go away, I see a big dent in the hull there.
The coast guard comes to check on me after 3 hours on the beach, I cleaned off the port side and patched some holes in the bottom of the keel, which will need to be looked at further and more professionally later. Finally, the time comes, the water is rising, and I am ready to get out of there.
But the story is not over. Now it is just beginning to get exciting. I put a big hole in the side when I lay her over, so now water is coming in the boat instead of going around it, and I am not floating! Terrible news! I wonder if I have just lost my boat, but I turn on all my pumps and pump with the hand pump and try and try to make the water level go down. Slowly the boat rights herself (which is a good sign) and then slowly the water level goes down. Then I’m free!
I go anchor at the cove, checking through the night to see if my bilge is filling full of water, which it is, and I don’t sleep much from the leaks. Then I notice my phone got wet, so its dead now. Also my inverter got wet, so I think I need a new one, so no computer on the boat so easily.
I still don’t have enough fuel to get to Juneau, and Haines is the closest (25 miles away) so I head there, because its down wind. I sail under the Spinnaker mostly, shortening to the jib when it starts to blow hard, and make it in to Haines around 4. That is where I am now. I will try to patch the side tomorrow, then fill up with fuel and drive to Juneau, where I will lift out and do a professional repair job on everything. Don’t run into rocks. You will note, that one year ago I lost the White Knight, in a scary at-sea battle against the environment. Here is another lesson that I can’t seem to learn in books.
I have since come from Haines, after fixing up a patch on the inside of the starboard hole on the boat, and now have "almost" no leaks in the hull, which is to say they are slow. I drove from Haines to Juneau today, and now am sitting at anchor in Juneau. I will try to get hauled out tomorrow and then work on the boat while it is sitting on land, and hopefully all will be well in a few days (and a few hundred dollars).
This kind of thing really shakes my confidence, but I am feeling better now than I was before, and hopefully after everything is fixed I'll feel great about sailing again.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I’ve been sailing around the area near Juneau with Claire for a week now. There are a lot more bugs than two weeks ago here, which is quite disappointing, and I think I need to get some sort of mosquito net to keep them out. The weather is nice, but the nice weather means bugs, and the few days we had some rain we were thankful for the respite from their buzzing jaws. We haven’t gone very far, and I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures, but we went to this little harbor called Taku Harbor, where we went ashore and used this big pot I got at a thrift store to cook up some water and have a bath. It was really a sponge-bath, and not as nice as a real one in civilization, but it was quite refreshing to have hot water over my skin while being in the woods, with a babbling creek nearby. I’ve been really worried about bears, so we haven’t gone on big long tramping hikes through the woods, but we haven’t seen any yet. Just after leaving Taku Harbor, we saw some bubble-netting humpback whales. A group, maybe 5 or more, (I think) were all taking breaths together, then going down under the school of herring, and they let out a stream of bubbles to contain the herring in a small pack. Then they all come up the column of packed food and take big huge lunging bites, and they come to the surface with wide open mouths. It is really impressive, and we were pretty close to them, maybe 100 yards away. After that, we were sailing along, and there was this mamma and baby humpback group, and the baby was sticking his tail up in the air and flapping it around. I guess when they get excited they move much faster than they normally do, and this one was really excited. He went under water and then came up and breached (which is when they jump out of the water) a bunch of times. I love watching them jump; it’s really neat to see how big they are when they come up. And you think they are small and close, but then when you see how long they hang in the air you realize they are big and far away. Then the spray kicks up and lingers in the air for a long time. One of these days I’ll get one to jump over the boat. No Orca whales so far, but the king salmon are running, we have seen lots of people catching gigantic fish.
Two days ago, I think, I got sick. Maybe it wasn't a sudden switch of health, it might have come to me over the period of a day, but I am now in the depths of an ailment. Its an ill wind that blows past my boat nowadays, and that is a real pity. I wrote the first part earlier, before, but I've been holed up in this little harbor near Juneau for two days straight, doing nothing but sleeping all day long and lying in bed and shivering. Claire has been taking care of me, and she is a wonderful nurse. I wonder what I have, of course, and I have all the symptoms of the Flu, which makes me wonder if I have Swine flu. But from what I read about that, the severity of it is not nearly as bad as they first thought, so its not really any more deadly than normal flu. So I think I'll be all right. Yesterday was pretty bad, but today I'm feeling loads better.
Oh, and to go back to the bugs, this picture I'm putting up is right in the middle of a bug killing contest. We were using those brooms to kill them, and they kept on coming. I lost, and started fishing, after getting about 42, and Claire got over 60. Its quite fun, actually. But the horseflies (which they were) bite back and are really fast, so its a challenge.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Glacier Bay... and surrounding area

Danny and I just completed a 12 day trip from Juneau, to Glacier Bay, down Chatham Strait a little ways, and then back to Juneau, totaling about 430 miles (nautical miles). In the beginning we knew we didn't quite have enough good food to last the entire trip (we still had food at the end, but didn't want to eat it) but we managed. First to go was candy, then fruit, and then then meat. Of course I don't have a fridge, so the meat wouldn't keep anyways. In Glacier Bay, we saw some cool glaciers calving, which is where the ice falls into the water, but I really didn't like it as much as I thought, because I was driving through ice floes in my boat. Ice makes a terrible sound against boats, and you don't want to drive your own through it. Take someone else's. The wall of ice that falls into the water is really cool, and cold. So even though it was nice and sunny, it was really cold. It rumbles like thunder when it cracks and makes big waves.
After the glaciers, we went south a little bit, and the climate changed dramatically. just 30 miles away from the ice the water and air are so much warmer. We anchored out at this little moraine and went ashore to watch the birds (arctic terns) and I found a Moose's antler. Only one side, but its like 20 lbs and really big.
After the park, we saw some Humpback whales breaching. That is a wonderful sight, but they are really hard to predict where they will come up, so its hard to get a good picture.
In Chatham Strait, we saw some Brown Bears, and we were going to paddle ashore and go hiking around when we saw them on the beach, so I paddled over near them, but still in deep water (deep enough that they would have to swim after me instead of running) and got some pictures, but we didn't go ashore. Its best to avoid the bears, I think, rather than trust your can of bear spray. (we were going to use it like mosquito repellant, and spray it on ourselves, but the cans looked too small)
We did get a visit (in Glacier Bay) from another boat in the American Safari Cruises company, and they brought us Danny's girlfriend, Aimee, for a little while, and about 4 lbs of bacon, some cookies and other food, which were all welcome gifts, also we caught shrimp in the shrimp pot I have. I was amazed at how many we caught in this one place, and how we wouldn't catch any at all in other places. Couverden Island is the place. The last day of the trip we stayed there and pulled up the pot (in 240 ft of water) and unloaded about 3 gallons of shrimp, which we ate between the two of us. I felt like at a mexican resteraunt, where you sit back in the middle of the meal and wonder how you are going to finish it all. but we did. Big ones too, like 9 inches long, was the biggest, I think.