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.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Jeez dude! Sounds crazy. Good luck making it the rest of the way, at least you'll have some company on the way back.