Saturday, May 23, 2009
I made it to Juneau! And on time, which is most impressive. I left Bellingham May 4th, it is May 23 (but I got here last night), so that is 19 days from Bellingham to Juneau. Its been 987 nautical miles since I left Seattle, and now I pick up Danny (who is a very good photographer, he also has a blog) and we go out to Glacier Bay and the surrounding area for two weeks. This is the land of the Cruise Ship, and sometimes I have to dodge around them. Danny actually works on a small one that is very luxurious (the Safari Spirit) and also very expensive. Everything is expensive here, though.
So I'll be out of touch mostly (maybe some cell phone coverage here and there) for the next two weeks. After that, I'll have a big entry with a lot of pictures, I am sure.
I also saw my first iceberg yesterday, which is just a chunk of ice floating around, so its nothing special in fact, but still its a first.
Juneau is a really pretty city, but I think its best to fly in, because the mountians are so steep on each side, they just go straight up. Its hard to see from the ground how amazing it all is, but I imagine from the air its astonishing.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I made it to Petersburg, and the end of this mad dash seems to be in sight. Juneau is 107 miles away, I have two days, so I think I'll make it. But my autopilot is broken, and I am sorely missing it. It has a deficient brain, and thats too bad, because I want it to steer the boat for me. So I've been sitting on the back of the boat using the wind vane to steer, just pushing the vane around by hand.
Lots of snow in the hills and the sunset starts at 5 and lasts until 10, its amazing!
Monday, May 18, 2009
Saturday morning, I left my anchorage south of Prince Rupert, and sailed downwind with a gusty speed. The wind had come up during the night and was pushing along at around 25 knots, or small craft advisory winds. It was the first good wind I’d had all trip so far, so I was pretty happy to use it, but just as I got away from the island I was anchored to, it quit, and the rain began, so I motored the rest of the way into Prince Rupert slowly getting wetter and wetter. I got there and got some groceries, then checked the weather reports, which said there wasn’t supposed to be any wind coming up, and looked for a pump out station, which doesn’t exist in this part of Canada, apparently. I need to drain the holding tank for the head (toilet) because it smells bad. Then I left. I motored out into the straits heading toward Dixon Entrance, the closest to the open ocean you get in this part of the trip, where you have to cross it to get to Alaska. I was planning on going half way to Ketchikan, and anchor in this safe place on an island in the middle of Dixon Entrance. Anyways, the wind started to blow a little, so I put up some sails happily and kept on going. The rain kept on dumping down, limiting my visibility to about a mile or less, sometimes lifting a little and giving me 5 miles of view, but I was basically navigating with GPS for the most part. The wind picks up some more, and I start to use the sails less efficiently, and turn off the motor. The wind picks up still more, now its blowing about 25 knots, and I am blazing along really good, but I don’t really need to move so fast and the waves are starting to get kind of high and annoying. The wind picks up still more, and now its 30 knots or more, so I drop the main and just fly the 75% lapper jib; the smaller jib. The waves are something like 4 ft tall now, and it’s a task to keep going in a straight line, and I am getting very wet, but its still quite exciting. The wind picks up some more, now its more than 40 knots, with gusts over 50, and I am a little scared. The waves are huge, crashing over the side of the boat at times, and drenching everything. The dodger is nice, but when a wave breaks over the boat, it slides under the dodger and nails me in the float coat. This float coat is getting very wet and I am getting cold. The raindrops that are flying sideways hit my face like ice pellets, and when they hit my hood next to my ears it is deafening. I’m holding on, and I don’t want to be out here anymore. My future is uncertain, because I don’t know if it will pick up still some more, in which case I need to drop all sail and I can’t motor against this wind, so I have to turn tail and try to find a place to hide downwind, but there isn’t anything good. Then its getting too late, I have a shoreline on my lee side, with crashing and biting waves breaking over rocks within my sight. Its pretty scary, that. The wind holds. I pass this little lighthouse on a rock, and am close to making the corner of the island, where I will then pass to go downwind to the anchorage. I’m not going to make it. Maybe I will. No.
So I turn on the engine again, and using the engine I am able to hold a course that is slightly higher than I would have under sail alone, and barely squeak past the corner. Now its all downhill, but the heaving hills try to turn and throw me when they pass. I go into this cove, but I’m so cold that I need to stop really soon and figure out what I’m going to do. So I round a corner and stay there for a little while, then head back out into the wind to get to the anchorage. I don’t have a good view on my GPS of the depths of this area, so I am feeling my way along with my depth sounders, and the way into the anchorage has two sides of an island to pass, so I choose the one closest to me. I watch the depth show 30 ft, then 20, then 10, then 6, and I am creeping along, but its too late to turn back. Luckily it was high tide. At 5 ft, it slowly starts going back up, and I’m in the spot. There are three other boats there so I anchor next to this cool looking sailboat with a wind vane on the back and try to dry off and go to sleep. Just after I go to sleep, the wind shifts, and I wake up an hour later to the sound of someone yelling at me. Its blowing pretty good here, despite being a sheltered cove. Lights play over the boat, and I know things are trouble. So I get up and see that I am about 10 ft from shore, my anchor has dragged, and then I notice that I am actually sitting on the bottom. A thought crosses my mind, maybe I should just stay here, it’s a soft bottom, and the tide will come back up at 6 am, and I don’t have to worry about anything when I’m aground, but I decide to try to get out. I turn on the motor and start yanking the anchor, but I’m not strong enough, so I blast it with the engine for a little. Luckily I was facing away from land when I got stuck. The boat lurches a little and I’m free. Now I sprint up to the bow to drag the anchor in before I drift back towards the shore. (oh, its blowing 40 knots now, but from a direction the anchorage wasn’t protected from)
Anyway, I get the anchor up, mostly, and motor past the other sailboat, who are standing there watching me, despite the dark hour, and tell them thanks a lot, then go up to the other side of the cove and set the anchor again, this time using the boat to back down on it to make sure its set, and watching it for about an hour before going to sleep. The winds continue through the night, blowing like hell, and in the morning I am loathe to go back out into it, so instead of making it to Ketchikan, I sit around for a while trying to dry things off, and then listen to the weather report. It says South winds (the night before they were NE, then shifted to SE), so I would be running down wind, which is easier, and the weather also says it will drop in the afternoon. Finally I gather my balls and decide to make a go for it. It was blowing, but not that hard, though the waves were still big, and after a 6 hour day I’m in another protected anchorage in ALASKA (!) and I’ll make it to Ketchikan tomorrow and clear customs. I’m about half a day behind my scheduled timetable, but I think I might be able to make it up.
Here are some pictures also.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I'm in Prince Rupert now, about 50 miles south of the Alaska border, and I've been chugging right along at a good pace. Here's a picture of what I look like two days ago. It raining a lot now, but for a while it was nice and sunny. I am motoring most of the time, because the wind isn't enough, but sometimes the wind picks up and I pop the sails out.
Here's some more pictures from the trip so far, there are tons of eagles and all kinds of whales, but they are hard to get on film. I've had Dahl's porpoises riding my bow wave three times now; they are so fun to watch, and they like watching me, I guess. I saw a black bear on shore, and I even had a harbor porpoise ride my bow a little. I didn't think they did that.
I'm healing up all right from the injury, but I still can't walk normally, and sleeping is difficult because I can't get comfortable.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Its actually more like single legging, because my right leg is still really bothering me. But I am doing quite well other than that, in terms of sailing. I made it 71 nautical miles (about 85 normal ones) yesterday, from Port McNeill to Safety Cove, on Calvert Island. Its north of Point Caution, which I gave a wide berth and had my Achtung on full. My Quota right is now 60 nm per day, which is pretty far, but not impossible, so I’m in a hurry in general. I’ve set my shrimp pot a few times, but so far no shrimp have been caught. I think I am a bad shrimper. Maybe I need Forrest to help me out. I’m typing while underway, and I’ll post this when I get the chance, so who knows what will happen in the mean time. My fuel supplies are holding out well, but I wish I had a bigger water tank. I didn’t fill it in Port McNeill, and I’m going to stop at a place in about 4 hours, but I ran out of water, except for what I have in my water bottles and the spare tank. I don’t like that. I’m also burning through these butane canisters for my stove quickly. They just don’t last very long, and I don’t do any cooking onshore on fires now because I’m in a hurry. My autopilot is working out well, so far. I have installed the wind vane, but I need to get a little less friction out of the main rudder bearing in order for it to work well. When I first put it in I put a flex into the rudder shaft, so it rubs, and I need to change the mounting so it runs straight. Its really a simple thing, but I need a dock and some time. In the mean time it is dragging behind nicely and doing no harm, except that it makes the boat want to go in a straight line more. Which is fine by me. The newest version of the bowsprit is on and its built pretty strong, but I am taking my time with powering it up, so I’m using the normal jib most of the time, just unrolling the outer jib (on the sprit) when its low wind. I don’t want to break it again, because it was a pain in the ass last time and I was lucky. Also it would be really hard to cut off in the open, so I want to test it out near a dock. (probably in Juneau) Since I don’t have a roller furler that I want to use in all weather, I rigged up a down haul on the normal jib. Its just a line that connects to the sail and runs to a pulley on the front. So when it gets rough and there’s too much sail up and I need to drop it, I just let loose the halyard (the thing that raises the sail) and pull down on the down haul, and the sail will come down. Sometimes the sail doesn’t want to come down, and you have to run up to the front and pull it down by hand, but with this, I don’t need to. So its easier on me, and safer. I still need to go forward to change sails, but I can at least reduce sail without doing that. I’m REALLY happy with my dodger, its been raining a lot and it keeps the companionway (the doorway from the cockpit to the cabin) really dry and keeps the wind off me when underway. The wind is cold, so it keeps me warm. Today looks to be a mostly motoring day, I’m on the inside of an island, and while it may be blowing (though I don’t think it is) outside, on the Queen Charlotte Sound, it is not blowing much inside here. So I am doing a whole lot of putzing around and trying to think of things to fix and mess with. For example: I have a fuel tank that holds a certain amount of fuel, but I can never get the number exactly right, it might be 15 gallons, but it might be less. And how much of it can I actually use? So I measured the tank and did some calculation, and now I carved notches in my dipstick that correspond more to a gallon each. Before they were just random notches, and they didn’t make any sense. I also put this thing on the forestay (the cable in the front of the boat, holds up the mast, that keeps the hanks (the little clips on the front of the jib that hold it to the forestay) from sliding down and getting caught in the threads of the turnbuckle that tightens the forestay. It was a problem before, I had to go forward and uncatch it whenever I would raise the sail, but I think it should be fixed now. Little things that are bothersome but not too crucial. I’m also right now taking all the CDs that I have and making them into mp3s and sticking them on my ipod, so I have time to type. There are a lot of other things I want to do now, like put a water fill valve in a more convenient place than it is right now, maybe install a second tank somewhere, but that might be too much for right now. I’ve discovered that I don’t have any books that I really want to read on hand. I have some books that people have given me, but I can’t find myself in the mood to start them. So if you have any suggestions, I’ll see if I can find the book somewhere. Oh, and another thing. I got the LASIK a while ago, and I’ve had a trial period now, and though it was expensive and it hurt a little, I think my eyes have recovered from being sensitive to wind and dust, and I have decided that I am quite satisfied. Getting up in the middle of the night to look around and see if there is trouble, to be able to see the stars, to not have to take contact solution around with me and be quick to go to bed and to get up, these are valuable things. I haven’t tried to open my eyes under water yet, because the water is cold, but I expect that will be nice too. I kind of got it so I could surf without contacts, but I haven’t done anything in the water since I got it.
I am in Bella Bella now, which has a BC ferries terminal in it, and is a genuine town. Finally the clouds lifted and I can see the sun shine in. It seems that my escape from the USA is not complete, because I have IRS audit troubles. Who would have thought that I owe them 200 bucks from 2007's tax year? I didn't. But its not so easy to just call and figure it out, it seems I need to have a certain form that lives in Seattle right now. Pooh. Well, whats a challenge if not tough?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I made it, which is to say We made it, to Port McNeill, we've sailed from Bellingham about 260 Nautical miles. We haven't killed each other yet, though Raz looks like he just came from prison sometimes.
We saw some Orca whales, some sea lions and other wildlife so far. Lots of Eagles, and I caught a few fish. Raz caught a small Halibut and we ate it.
I broke my Bowsprit on the first day of the trip, and I was up on the front when it let loose, and the anchor swung around and bashed me in the hip, which has severely damaged my butt. I couldn't walk for a long time after that, I can hobble a little now, but the swelling is really the size of a grapefruit and it makes it hard to do anything. I need to put the sprit back on, it was a turnbuckle that broke, and I'll get a new one and make it fresh, but its more things to do.
Single handing while hobbling around is kind of tricky, but I was doing it a lot on this trip, so I'll be all right.
I also installed the wind vane, but I need to tweak the mounting a little bit, because its not quite as low friction as I want it to be yet.
I don't know where the next internet is going to be, so it might be Alaska before I check in next.