Alaskan Adventure 2017 – The Last Chapter

Alaskan Adventure 2017 – The Last Chapter

Well here it is, the end of November and we’re finally writing the last chapter of the Alaska adventure. We got back from Alaska in July and found ourselves flung back in the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives. And we’d say to each other, “Hey let’s write that last story…” and then we’d take the boat out.

When we last left off we were enjoying the beauty, albeit rainy beauty, of Takatz Bay. What a gorgeous spot. Wish we were there now!

This last chapter of the 2017 Alaska cruise had some ups and downs, some sad moments and some times of great joy in new accomplishments. Here’s the story!

Takatz Bay to Roche Harbor (with a few stops) 829 nm

July 2

Our plan was to leave Takatz Bay in the morning and cruise over to Portage Bay on Kupreanof Island to meet Eric Bescoby of Sprezzatura, a N40. Kevin and Eric had been chatting for a few months comparing notes on Alaska and we planned to spend a few days cruising together. We left Takatz Bay under low grey skies and headed around Point Gardner at the southern tip of Admiralty Island. We saw a N47 cruise north past us, waving out of their pilothouse doors as they glided silently by. Shortly after passing the point the VHF radio came suddenly to life. “Mayday, mayday, mayday” said a panicked young man’s voice. He was obviously very close to us as he sounded as if he was sitting on the settee next to me. We listened with rapt attention to the conversation on Channel 16 with the Coast Guard. The story goes that the young man had left Kake, on Kupreanof Island with his father that morning. Father and son, members of the tight-knit Tlingit community in Kake, a town of about 750 people, were going fishing on Dad’s 30+/- foot commercial fishing boat at Point McCartney, about 13 nm from the docks in Kake. The 20-something son went to sleep in the bunks, telling Dad to wake him up when they arrived at the fishing spot. Son woke up when the boat ran aground on the beach in Herring Bay on Admiralty Island, about 21 nm away from the fishing spot. Dad was nowhere to be found sadly. The son was confused and incredibly upset and alone on a boat sitting on the beach, talking with the Coast Guard. The boat had been on autopilot and as such ran a straight course onto the beach, just a few hundred feet from rocky ledges that would have spelled trouble for the sleeping young man. It seems that his Dad had a heart condition and while it is unknown what happened, perhaps this was a factor in his falling overboard. We listened to the coordinates for his location and saw that we were the closest vessel. And, as it is our responsibility as boaters to help each other, we had a 2-second conversation and turned the boat toward Herring Bay and away from our day’s destination. Kevin talked with the Coast Guard as well as the Search and Rescue team from Kake, comprised primarily of family and friends of the missing man and his son. I can’t imagine their anguish in this search. The Alaskan people are incredibly strong. We arrived at Herring Bay to find that the rocky bottom wasn’t anchor friendly. At the same time, the rain was coming down in buckets and the wind was whipping itself up, consistently over 20 knots with gusts in the 30s. We decided that we’d put the dinghy down and that Kevin would go to shore, and I’d stay with the boat (and Zoe of course). We lowered the dinghy and Kevin headed into shore, talking with the young man on the VHF, still on channel 16 as he was in shock and couldn’t switch channels, even on the Coast Guard’s request. I have never been more proud of my husband. He told the young man how sorry he was about his missing Dad and talked calmly while he approached the shore. The young man came out of the boat and stood on the beach, shoulders hunched, horrified and terribly sad. Kevin got the dinghy up on the shore and got out and gave the young man a big hug, which was reciprocated. The two got in the dinghy and started out toward Red Rover. At this point, Kake Search & Rescue arrived, but due to the draft of their boat couldn’t get any closer to shore than just beyond Red Rover. Kevin delivered the young man to the Search & Rescue boat where he was immediately enveloped in a huge hug by 5 people on the boat, one of whom appeared to be his mother. He began sobbing in their arms. So very hard to watch. Soaked to the skin, we got the dinghy back up on the boat and told each other we’d talk about this once we were safely underway and out of this bay. We had a good cry, ate some tomato soup and spent the next couple of hours talking with the Coast Guard and listening to the search. The Coast Guard launched their search helicopter from Juneau, a good hour’s flight away. The pilot was so impressive, communicating kindly and respectfully with the Kake Search & Rescue team. At least 30 other boats poured out of Kake and the area fishing lodges, searching for the missing man. Sadly, the man’s body was found a few hours after the search began. We learned more about him in the paper in the following days.

We continued onto Portage Bay where Eric was listening to the Coast Guard side of the exchange and kept hearing Red Rover mentioned. He couldn’t hear us and was very concerned about our safety as we were significantly behind schedule in our arrival. The sat phone rang and Eric was calling. We assured him that we were fine, but that we had quite a story for evening cocktails. We pulled into Portage Bay and anchored, took Zoe to shore and had Eric over for margaritas and tacos. We felt fortunate to be warm, dry, alive and on an adventure. The difficult day reminded us of the power of the ocean and Mother Nature, not to be taken lightly.

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Sprezzatura and Red Rover in Portage Bay
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Red Rover

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Looking towards the public dock, Portage Bay.

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The next day we decided to make a quick hop back to Petersburg where we would do two things: 1) try to sign paperwork to close on our beach house that was completing construction back in Washington in our absence and 2) enjoy some of the Independence Day festivities that are a huge, huge deal in small Alaskan towns. We did both after a goose chase. If you ever need to find a notary in a small town in Alaska, try the local newspaper editor. Yep. She patiently helped us sign well over 100 pages of homeowner responsibility. After signing, Kevin hiked out to the post office to ensure that the paperwork would make the Alaska Airlines flight back to Seattle, and then a truck out to Grays Harbor County, Washington. Eric and I watched the local fishermen battle through some fun contests in the middle of the street – awesome! Eric made Kevin, Zoe and I an amazing dinner on Sprezzatura and we all enjoyed each other’s company for the evening.

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On our way to Petersburg!
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Sprezzatura looking sharp!

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Our pre-departure deposit was not enough…  needed a bit extra to close!

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The good ole eating contest!
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Small town Fourth of July!

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Winner winner chicken dinner!
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Woofers in on the celebration!

On the 4th of July we headed south down Wrangell Narrows, now aware of its not-so-challenging nature, and worked our way toward Exchange Cove on Prince of Wales Island. The thought was that we’d be in a remote, beautiful anchorage far away from the fireworks that Zoe hates. Hmmm. We pulled into the pretty bay to find a group of pick-up trucks and tents setting up on the beach, having driven logging roads to access the bay. Argh. Fireworks were of course on their agenda. No matter. We dinghy cruised, swam Zoe, had a barbecue and some adult beverages and toasted our good fortune and the holiday.

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Exchange Cove

 

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The firework smoke in the back

 

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Looking light in the stern…  we will pick up fuel in Ketchikan soon

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On the 5th of July we awoke to an incoming fog. Thick, thick fog. We decided to head out and take it slow. In about an hour and a half the fog gave way to gorgeous SUNSHINE! Sunshine! An uncommon sight. We cruised south, seeing humpback whales, seals, porpoises and happy fishermen along the way. Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island was our destination, a former large-scale logging town. Thorne Bay is an interesting spot, accessed through a series of narrow channels between small islands. Floating homes that include sprawling outbuildings and stately fishing lodges line the large bay. We talked to the Harbormaster prior to entering the bay and she assured me that we would have room and that we should tie up “close to the large blue boat.” When I asked where I’d find this boat she said, “If you can’t find it you have bigger problems.” Well… ok. It turns out that the marina was very small and the big blue boat was an American Tug that had been anchored next to us in Blue Mouse Cove in Glacier Bay National Park.

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Fog bank leaving Exchange Cove
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What island?
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Nap time
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Thorne Bay

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We were hoping for a tavern to get a drink but Riptide was “just” the local liquor store.

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First time in shorts in weeks!

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Lovely up on the flybridge!

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After a wander around town and another great dinner, eaten in the sun on the flybridge, our fleet of two Nordhavns headed back to Ketchikan the next day. Kevin and I were gearing up to head home to Seattle, and needed to gather up some groceries as well as top off our fuel tanks. While we could have made it home without fueling, we wanted the weight and the certainty that full fuel tanks provide. On July 7th we left Ketchikan for Foggy Bay, just to the north of Dixon Entrance. Foggy Bay is the destination of choice for cruisers waiting to cross the notoriously rough passage (which was like a lake on our way up to Alaska!). We pulled into Foggy Bay to find another Nordhavn, Island Greeter, a N62 that used to be on our old dock in Anacortes. Funny! We did a little exploring, ate a feast of King crab legs and prepped for the next day’s journey. Large rolling swells greeted us, and Island Greeter who was just ahead of us as we left the bay, and stayed with us for several hours. The water flattened out as we entered Canada, and the sun came out. Lovely!

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Holland America passing us on our way to Foggy Bay
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Are we there yet?
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Island Greeter and Red Rover in Foggy Bay
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Low tide adventures
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Planking?

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Zoe and her bear bell
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Local cabin nearly hidden from the water
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Filtration!
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Doggo on point!

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Alaskan King Crab from Alaska!
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Anchors up!
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Heading out!

From Prince Rupert, we headed south to Cameron Cove just off of Camaano Sound. We had talked with our weather router and conditions were excellent for a southern passage on the outside of Vancouver Island, if we got going and stayed ahead of a front. We decided that we’d do this southern passage by ourselves, our first multi-night run all alone, without additional crew to take turns on watch. We’d stop briefly for Zoe to have rest stops if we couldn’t get her to use the potty patch (which she hadn’t used yet). We’d get some good rest and head out of Cameron Cove at 4 am. Seemed like a good plan. Until the windlass failed. Kevin spent hours trying to rebuild the windlass that evening and at about midnight we thought we had success!

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Off watch…

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Captain Alison

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Zoe in her XtraTufs

(Kevin writing now)

The next series of photos are after we anchored and found that we had an issue…  When Alison was deploying the anchor, the windlass shut down and a major fuse failed.  I initially found two issues, the bolts holding the gearbox together had backed out creating a 3/8″ gap and the fuse issue.  I suspected that after tightening the bolts up and replacing the fuse, we would be fine – thinking the loose bolts allowed some sort of binding to happen in the gearbox.  I had to pull the windlass apart top and bottom to get at the bolts.  After a few hours, these tasks were done.  I did a quick test shortly after midnight to see if we were operational – it worked, or seemed to….

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Windlass gearbox in chain locker
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Bolts holding the gearbox had backed out over time creating almost a 3/8″ gap.  Not Good.

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Gearbox dropped from the deck
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looking up at the deckplate
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The 24 volt electric motor, which we eventually found was the problem.
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Tools and light!
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Deck full of tools and windlass parts

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Dawn calm before we knew the windlass wasn’t going to help out.

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We thought we were ready to go!
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These are some of our favorite photos of Red Rover from our trip.

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In the morning we took Zoe to shore, loaded the dinghy and I stepped up to the windlass controls to bring up the anchor. Whine, whine…. die. FANTASTIC. So, after trying to bring up 400 feet of chain (did I mention we were anchored in 80 feet of water??) we managed to get to 320 feet back on the boat and the anchor swinging above the bottom of the bay. Heavy. The aluminum bar, which had been deforming was now bending. And then it was BENT. DONE. No longer useable. We sat and looked at what we could do. We tried rigging up a system with the dinghy davit but the angle was all wrong and was dangerous. Ultimately, we decided we had to cut the 175 lb. stainless steel CQR style anchor free. Kevin tied the anchor off with a line, and then cut the chain with a grinder, saying “I was wondering what I might use this tool for on the boat.” We then looked at each other sadly and said goodbye to the anchor as Kevin cut the line and a very expensive anchor became bling on the bottom of the ocean. At that very moment a pod of humpback whales surfaced just off of the port bow, cavorting in the water just beside us. It was like they were saying “thanks for the pretty jewelry!” We were too upset to take any photos, but if we had they would have been amazing. The whales were so active and RIGHT next to us. Zoe barked at them and ran up and down the boat. They were not phased by this small black dog!

(Kevin here – I changed the fuse again, just to be sure before we did the manual retrieval.  Back in Seattle we learned that the electric motor failed.  It would run for a moment but an extended run would kill the fuse.  I suspect the gearbox binding up did something to the motor.  The windlass was serviced and a new electric motor was installed and the system works flawlessly again.  We also put 500′ of 1/2″ chain and a new Rocna anchor on board)

We unearthed our back-up Danforth anchor and prepped it should we need it in an emergency, but without a windlass, it was now time to cruise home without any stops. We told Zoe she was going to learn to use that potty patch!!

Exhausted, I went to sleep for a bit and missed Kevin’s few hours of incredible wildlife including pods of Orca whales, humpbacks, porpoises and more. When I awoke my first watch was on! We had some lumps crossing Queen Charlotte Sound but the sun was shining and the boat handled beautifully, as always. On my later watch, after midnight (somehow I seem to get the late night shifts?!?) we approached Cape Scott, known to be turbulent. The tides were changing and the water at Cape Scott was confused, and interestingly, very busy with multiple large scale commercial fishing boats. We switched captains and Kevin navigated us around the point, then handing the helm back to me. I love the early mornings during my watches – seeing the sun rise, hearing the quiet swishing noise of the water as the hull moves through the ocean, and seeing wildlife awake for the day. Such as special time.

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Look Ma, no anchor!
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Zoe in her corner

 

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Sunsets on the ocean are truly amazing.  One of the best times while underway.

We cruised down the west side of Vancouver Island, taking turns at watch and enjoying truly calm water with swells to five feet, but on 12-18 seconds in a stern quarter sea that then became a following sea. Awesome. We moved around small fishing boats, commercial fishing boats and saw a sailboat or two, but otherwise it was us, the ocean and the sea critters.

Zoe, on her first overnight open ocean passage ended up being a champ! She did wait 35 hours to use that potty patch though. We had a big party when she finally used it – for a long, long time. GOOD DOG!

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Moon coming up…
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Sunrise, the other great time while underway!

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Nap time!

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Zoe spotting whales – well Kevin actually…
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Alison’s other constant companion while underway.
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The front coming in behind us.

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It is just spectacular being on out on the ocean.  Hard to put the experience in to words…

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We arrived back at the western entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the early morning hours, with me at the helm once again. I have never been quite so happy to see the Strait! And in our cruise that day we also saw another fun sight – the new Nordhavn 59 Coastal Cruiser with the Nordhavn principals aboard, moving the boat down to Dana Point. We had a little radio chat with them, which was fun, and pointed our bow north vs. south to Seattle. Why go home so soon? Roche Harbor, here we come! The good folks at Roche Harbor understood that we didn’t have an anchor to hang out in the bay and helped us into a slip, 55 hours after we left Cameron Cove. YES! A new accomplishment for us, the first of many multi-night trips to come by ourselves. We were proud. And exhausted. And Zoe was really excited to see grass. Really, really excited. We took a walk, made some cocktails (best drinks ever), talked to Tom and Linda of N57 Meridian who were also at Roche, and went to bed with giant smiles on our faces. What a trip. What a journey. What an adventure. What a crazy fun life we have started for ourselves buying this boat and changing our lives.

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Welcome back to Washington!
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Red Rover tucked in to Roche Harbor
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Time for shorts, cocktails and relaxation!
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From the dock fishmonger

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Colors ceremony
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BBQ oysters!

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Snacks anyone?
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Time for a Zoe walk!

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Nap time!

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Lime Kiln Cafe, Roche Harbor

 

Sitka & Baranof Island

Sitka & Baranof Island

Glacier Bay National Park to Hoonah, to Appleton Cove, to Sitka and back to Appleton Cove:  207 nm / Critter Count:  38 humpback whales, many sea otters, 8 seals, multiple sea lions, 5 porpoises, 5 deer and 1 grizzly bear!

After a fantastic visit to Glacier Bay National Park, we found ourselves looking at the calendar and saying, “hey we should probably put a plan together for our remaining weeks!”  How did that happen?  After simply going where we felt like going, it was time to actually have more of a plan.  Hmm.

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We’d better stop being footloose and get a plan!

 

We knew we wanted to visit Sitka, and the weather reports for the west side of Baranof Island were not favorable for a comfortable trip down the west side of the island.  Sadly, we would miss Elfin Cove and Pelican – two small communities that we’ll definitely get to on our next Alaskan adventure.  Instead, we would head back Icy Strait and down Chatham Strait to Peril Strait and over to Sitka, which is located on the west coast of Baranof Island, and not on the way to anywhere.  That’s probably part of what makes it so charming!

We left Glacier Bay, letting the NPS staff know we were headed out, and started on our way back to Hoonah, where we would spend the night.  We called the Harbormaster in Hoonah when we were a good ways out still and he began to work on where to put our 60 foot selves.  Funny thing, we ended up in our same spot, right in front of Alaskan Eagle.  It was a bit of a gathering of the tribe as we saw a number of folks we knew, or were getting to know through our travels.  Akeeva, a 50 Nordhavn was in the house and we finally said hello – a funny instance as they live at Shilshole Bay Marina as well, just a few docks over from us. After an evening of dog walking, blog posting and cocktails in the cockpit we readied ourselves for an early morning departure.  The 22 foot tide swing (22 feet!!) the next morning would put us at about 4.9 feet below zero tide.  We would have all of 1.5 feet under the keel and neither of us felt great about that.  Up early and out!

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Zoe slept through the rainy transit.
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Kevin, always the chef, made prosciutto eggs benedict as I drove us south.  Ultimate man I tell you.

 

We cruised south in a misty rainy morning, where visibility was sometimes less than ideal.  As we moved down the coast we suddenly saw a tremendous density of “targets” on the radar ahead, with AIS triangles all over the screen.  What could be going on?  With the giant tide swing it seems that there was a huge opportunity for fishing.  Seventeen plus fishing boats – seiners, gillnetters and trollers were clustered around Point Augusta, taking turns with a sweeping motion through the water.  They were conversing on the VHF by first name, not boat name, giving each other the go ahead to take a turn.  It was like a misty boat ballet.

The whales of course found this movement of dinner through the water to be equally as interesting.  While they weren’t after salmon or rockfish, they do eat the small bait fish that the larger fish eat as well.  Where there are many fishermen there are often whales.  At this point we were starting to believe that seeing humpbacks every day was just a part of our life.  We didn’t realize how much we’d miss these giant elegant creatures later.

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As we moved down Chatham Strait the sun started to try to come out, but when we turned into Peril Strait, off it went again.  Back to the mist.  We hit Peril Strait at slack current so Kevin decided to participate in a survey by another Nordhavn owner, Peter Hayden, who owns the 60 Nordhavn, Tanglewood.  Peter was interested in studying the fuel burn at different RPMs of various boats to see what could be learned about optimum performance.  As there wasn’t any current, and there weren’t any other boats around, this seemed like a good time to record our findings.  I’ve included them below as I know if Kevin were writing, he certainly would.  As a side note, while the N60 is only 5 feet longer than the N55, and is basically the same boat in terms of layout and hull (the same mold is used in construction), there are all kinds of other potential differences in terms of engine HP, propeller (we have a 5-bladed propeller on Red Rover), etc.

RPM Fuel Burn: Gallons Per Hour Speed Over Ground (knots)
802 1.4 5.1
904 1.9 5.7
998 2.5 6.2
1101 3.1 6.7
1201 4.0 7.3
1306 4.8 7.9
1401 5.9 8.3
1502 7.6 8.7
1613 9.7 9
1701 11.8 9.2
1798 14.4 9.5
1870 17 9.7

We entered our anchorage, Appleton Cove, to find that it was scattered with crab pot buoys.  Ugh.  The boat responsible for the pots was also in the house – a commercial fishing boat earning a living for multiple families.  We decided not to feel so badly about the pots and instead wish him luck. A sailboat with a Seattle Yacht Club burgee was also anchored in the well-protected bay.  We anchored the boat in close proximity to the sailboat to avoid the crab pots and in the process noted a grizzly bear wandering along the shore!  Dog walking would occur in a different location for sure.  We found that the super low tides created a nice dog running spit, and with our bear spray and bear bells in tow, we let Zoe run and splash for a bit, getting rid of some energy.  A rainy night created a still yet beautiful anchorage, and in the morning we were off to Sitka!

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Misty Peril Strait.
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At anchor in Appleton Cove.

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Bear bell – make those bears aware!  Doggo in the house.

Peril Strait is 39 miles from the entrance off of Chatham Strait to Kakul Narrows and Salisbury Sound.  We had a head start due to our anchorage, but the entire trip needed to be carefully timed due to strong tidally influenced currents at Sergius Narrows, part-way through the twisty strait.  Apparently, currents can run in excess of 9 knots in Sergius Narrows with standing waves.  Fabulous.  Interestingly, the book that made such a giant deal about Wrangell Narrows and our need to print out the waypoints and shout them out to one another said very little about Peril Strait and Sergius Narrows.  The narrowest part of Sergius Narrows is about 100 yards wide and this route is frequented by tug boats, the Alaskan Ferry and other large, sometimes fast moving commercial traffic.  We found ourselves following a tug and his tow through the strait and the narrows, and therefore had a nice track to follow.  Not a problem even with some fog, some wind and a big tide change and the currents that went with it.

Peril Strait took us to Salisbury Sound which is open to the Gulf of Alaska.  We quickly crossed the Sound which had good sized rollers coming across the bay.  Nice to be in a Nordhavn!  Smaller boats were having quite a ride.  From Salisbury Sound we made our way down Neva and Olga Straits, more narrow and tight passages.  Again, these were beautiful and smoothly transited.

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Eagles along the water’s edge, just chilling.
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Here’s hoping we don’t end up like this!
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Or this?  Waterside crosses – first I’ve seen (like highway crosses).
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The many islands and small passages on the way to Sitka.
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A passing doggo on a fishing vessel.  Maybe a lookout for fish?
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Elegance in fishing.

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Arriving in Sitka, we read that the Harbormaster was exceptionally good at finding moorage for visiting pleasure craft, except likely the week of the 4th of July or the week prior.  Guess what?  No room at the inn.  The Harbormaster was incredibly friendly and helpful though, and felt badly that he could not accommodate us.  Had we been 50 feet long we would have found a slip.  One of the challenges of a bigger boat.  We spent the night anchored behind the breakwater with a bunch of commercial fishing boats that were also unable to secure moorage.  It was blowing and we felt uncomfortable leaving the boat other than to walk the dog. Sitting in the pilothouse, I read a story about a Sitka based boat, the F/V Eyak, that had delivered the mail to remote communities on western Baranof Island for many years.  Early one morning while underway, with the captain, his dog and three crew aboard it hit rocks and sank.  No one was injured but the captain who had lived aboard was homeless, and the remote communities that relied upon him were left isolated and stranded.  The communities banded together and helped the owner/captain raise the Eyak and bring it to a shipyard to try to bring it back to life.  The story resonated with all that we had been learning in our visits to small, remote Alaskan towns.  People are independent and strong, but they help each other when help is needed.  Community safety net.  For real.  We were excited the next day when we saw the F/V Eyak in person, back to work and looking renewed and refreshed!  A happy ending.

 

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The view from our anchorage – waiting along with the fishermen.
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F/V Eyak!

The next day we were happily assigned moorage in the marina and set out to explore Sitka.  Sitka is a cruise ship port of call but is not as frequently visited as other towns in SE Alaska.  Sitka is a “city” of about 9,000 people, and was originally settled by the Tlingit people more than 10,000 years ago.  In 1799, the Russians settled in Sitka, looking to create a trading outpost and a city.  The Tlingit were to “harvest” the sea otter pelts for the Russians who apparently could not get enough of their warm fur.  Sea otters have 1 million hairs per square inch or something crazy like that in order to keep them warm in the very cold Alaskan waters.  Well, the Tlingits didn’t really care for the Russians and in 1802 the Tlingits destroyed the Russian settlement and killed most of the Russians.  The Russians were not to be stopped however, and in 1804 they returned to Sitka with a soldiers to reclaim Sitka.  Which they did.  And then they re-established the town as a new settlement called New Archangel.  The Russian’s influence can be seen throughout Sitka today – from architecture to fur shops to shops that sell Russian stacking dolls and more.  The Russians came to an agreement with the Americans in 1867 to sell Alaska to the US for $7.2 million.  The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka.

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I am not a fan of this, humans!

We explored the town with and without Zoe, walking everywhere.  We both agreed that we could probably live in this nifty town.  Amazing marine stores, good restaurants, arts and culture, and natural beauty.

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Why is this poor dog sitting in a box promoting a children’s book series about him?

And in the marina, we continued to watch the energy of the fishing fleet.  The reason we could not obtain moorage the first night was that the fleet was preparing to leave for the Bering Sea and also for more local waters – there were some big opening dates coming up and the boats and crews were getting ready.  It is amazing to watch this activity.  Huge loads of groceries being loaded down ramps, carts full of Coke and Sprite.  Chips, snacks and vegetables.  Freezer packs of beef – all of the parts of a cow one can imagine, flash frozen and packed ready for your fishing boat freezer.  Crews were practically running up and down the docks when they weren’t cleaning, painting or exercising on-board equipment.  We saw some of the boats we’d noticed in Petersburg and Ketchikan in Sitka, laying over and prepping for the hard work ahead.  Alaskan fishermen are strong people.  Supporting strong families.  I have so much admiration for their craft and their tenacity.  I read a story about how something like 80% of the seafood consumed in the US is imported from other countries.  Why?  I’ll never buy farmed fish or fish from outside the US again.  Let’s support our US-based fishing industry.

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Zoe wanted in on the fishing boat action.
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As seen on a bumper sticker on one of the many pick-up trucks in the parking lot.
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Argh the Kraken!

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A little laundry?

A few fun experiences in Sitka:

  • We went to the grocery store. Exciting, huh?  This grocery store had the most amazing view from its waterfront parking lot.  Crazy use of real estate.  Inside, we met a fun young man who had moved to Alaska from the east coast.  He was originally a chef on a yacht and then worked at some high-end fishing lodges.  Ultimately he settled in Sitka and is now creating pretty amazing concoctions at the meat and seafood counter at the Sea Mart Quality Foods grocery store.  We spent way more than we were going to and filled our fridge and freezer with some truly awesome creations.  Including king crab legs. YUM.  The grocery store advertised that they would pay for your cab ride back to the marina if you spent over $150.  No problem.  We walked out of the store to see a cab sitting right out front!  No driver however.  Kevin decided to call dispatch.  A cell phone rang in the driverless car.  Yep.  Alaska.
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The view from the grocery store parking lot.  A developer’s dream.
  • We walked to the Sitka National Historic Park which is a national monument that commemorates the Tlingit and Russian histories in Sitka. The park has a stunning hiking trail scattered with totem poles.  Gorgeous.
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The walk from the town center to the National Historic Park.

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The totem pole trail.

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  • We had two great dinners! The first dinner was with our friends Rita and Vaughan from Baraka Bashad.  After taking our dinghy through town to make for a speedier trip to food, we walked to the Sitka Hotel for dinner with these two and two other sailors from B.C. that they had been buddy-boating with previously.  A fun evening was had by all!  More halibut for me and elk for Kevin.  Yum.  The next night we went out to Ludvig’s Bistro, about a 15 minute walk from the marina.  Ludvig’s had been highly recommended by Peter Hayden from M/Y Tanglewood and we thought we’d give it a try.  What an exceptional, romantic, intimate, fabulous restaurant.  Love.
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What a handsome guy.  Glad he’s all mine. At Ludvig’s.
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There was a great dog park by the marina – Zoe did some serious fetching before we headed out!

We left Sitka on the 29th, heading out again to time to Narrows.

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Time for some Grandma Rohlman selfies – Grandma and her husband (Grandpa!) lived near Sitka for two summers.

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After an uneventful passage we arrived back at Appleton Cove in time for a dog run and dinner.  A Coast Guard helicopter was circling the bay as we arrived.  It seems that one of the sailboats within the bay had run aground earlier in the day and now with the tide coming up, the concern was about taking on water and sinking.  Thankfully all was well with the boat and it came back up with the tide without further challenges.  In the morning we explored the mud flat that was usually underwater, except in these very low tides, and found all kinds of interesting creatures.

Appleton Cove to Ell Cove, Waterfall Cove & Takatz Bay 42 nm / Critter Count: 10 humpback whales, 2 deer

With all of the mileage to get to Sitka (keep in mind that we travel at about 8 kn/h) and back we decided to have a few more leisurely days exploring some of the coves on the east side of Baranof Island. Unfortunately for us, the weather was just wet.  Wet. And more wet.  But it was still beautiful.  We first went to see Waterfall Cove, which was not an anchorage, but a visit.  A huge waterfall gushed into the small cove, where we were the only occupants. Despite the rain and the wind it was gorgeous.

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Zoe wants to know what that is?!?!

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We then tucked into Ell Cove, which is just adjacent to Waterfall Cove.  More waterfalls, a sandy beach at the mouth of the cove (not commonly seen in SE Alaska) and a pretty little spot for lunch.  We put the anchor down and had grilled cheese and tomato soup in the salon, enjoying a bit of warmth on this cold icky day.

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Ell Cove entrance.

From Ell Cove, we decided to head south a few more miles to Takatz Bay, a destination we had heard about from multiple cruisers.  We headed in the entry to the bay, which wound around until we came around the corner to an absolutely stunning anchorage.  GORGEOUS!

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Waterfalls cascaded down to a completely protected, beautiful cove.  We put the anchor down next to a waterfall and the only sound was the crashing of the falls as it met the bay.  We were sharing the cove with three other cruisers and a commercial fishing boat that hailed from Gig Harbor, WA.  The fishing boat raised their red solo cups to us as we came into the bay – either because they liked our boat or they liked our Seahawks flag that we proudly fly from the mast. Either way, it was National Mai Tai Day and Kevin felt that while we couldn’t make Mai Tais (not enough ingredients), we could make a relatively distant cousin drink, the Hurricane, and deliver some beverages to the hard-working fishing crew.  He hopped in the dinghy with his hurricanes in more red solo cups, inclusive of glacial ice, of course.  The fishing crew was delighted at our “neighborly-ness.”  Fun!  Zoe was able to explore a small bear-free island and dinner by the waterfall was unforgettable.  The fog rolled in and out and the anchorage was magical.

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Coming into Takatz Bay.

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One of the waterfalls as it neared the bay.

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Doggo photobomb.

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I spot a Red Rover!

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Waterfalls coming down to the bay in the mist.

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Mist and rain, beautiful.

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Our fisherman friends check their crab pot – dinner!

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The next day we thought about simply staying put.  It was just so pretty….  But I had this desire to head 4 nm south to Baranoff Hot Springs.  I was dying to sit in the natural hot springs next to a raging river.  So off we went.  We arrived at Baranoff Hot Springs in short order to find that the dock was full and that the bay was experiencing 20-25 kn winds.  Anchoring and leaving the dog on the boat was not a good idea.  So… we left and I didn’t soak in the hot springs.  Next time.  We went back to Takatz Bay and re-anchored in our same spot.  As a consolation prize for no hot springs I decided to go kayaking.  I put on my rubber boots, my rain pants, my long underwear and both my down and gortex jackets along with a life jacket and a handheld VHF radio.  READY!  The funny thing is, we had not yet used this kayak that came with our boat.  We have two other kayaks that we need to either sell or do something with, but since this one had a rack that fit it perfectly, we just hadn’t done much with it.  Our other kayaks are sit-in kayaks and this is a sit-on-top kayak. As this boat used to live in Mexico, the kayak of course is oriented to warm weather and water.  Not Alaska.  We launched the kayak with the davit and I went to crawl on top, only to notice that water came up through the foot rest area (it was supposed to – cool off the kayaker you know).  51 degree water… but with all of my clothing and my XTRA TUFF Salmon Sisters boots I was all good.   I kayaked to the bottom of each waterfall and back into the shallow mud flats surrounded by meadow and then quickly, steep rocky faces of mountainsides.  So stunning.  I did just use that word again!  I didn’t fall in and all was well.  But, we’ll be getting a new kayak here in the coming weeks.  That is for certain.  3 kayaks will be up for sale!

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Explorer doggo.
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Kevin working on getting the drone up and running.  Of course, it needed an update that required more WiFi.

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Onto more Alaskan adventures!