Friday, August 31, 2018

The Broughtons

1000 position 50-51N 126-53W. At anchor in Tracey Harbor, North Broughton Island

The thick fog stayed with us for most of the day yesterday, and we danced for hours with a couple of other boats headed in the same direction. We could see them on the radar, and because our courses and speeds differed slightly we would converge or drift apart until a bend in the channel changed the relationship, and we'd do it again. One of them came within a quarter mile of our position, but we never saw him visually. There was much speculation on what kind of boats they were, and when the fog finally cleared at 2PM we could see that one of them was a large seiner. We never did see the one that came closest to us as he had disappeared behind us about an hour earlier.

As the day progressed we entered the protected waters of Queen Charlotte Strait where Vancouver Island blocks the swells from the Pacific. It was a glorious afternoon with Thankful powering to the southeast at seven knots in a seven knot breeze from the northwest. That put the apparent wind near zero, and the temperature on deck got up to 85 degrees. Matt and Vicki spent a few hours up on the flying bridge enjoying the sunshine and warmth.

At 4PM we turned left out of the strait and into The Broughtons, a group of islands that is one of British Columbia's most popular cruising destinations. We tucked into Tracey Harbor and found a couple of sailboats at anchor already. No problem, there was plenty of room. We anchored Thankful away from the other boats and settled down for the evening.

After dinner and just before we were about to start a movie we heard a shout from another boat. A commercial crab trapper had come in to the harbor and informed us that we had anchored over their trap line. Would we please move so they could pick up their traps?

Wow. There were a couple of trap markers on either side of us separated by about 200 yards, but those markers typically indicate individual traps. There was no indication that there was a line of traps between them. We quickly started the engine, pulled up Thankful's anchor, and moved out of the way. The trapper pulled up his trap line and departed. We reanchored and settled down with our movie. Never a dull moment aboard the mighty Thankful.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Lizzie Cove

0900 position 51-21N 127-51W. Crossing Queen Charlotte Sound

After we left the Shearwater Resort yesterday Team Thankful stopped by the unique community of Lizzie Cove a few miles away. Two families have created a half acre floating oasis that is anchored in that protected land locked inlet.

Made up of approximately thirty individual floating segments, the self sufficient enclave uses catchment water for drinking, a generator for power, and wood for heating. They have a huge outdoor garden and greenhouse that generates all of the fresh fruit and vegetables they need. Fish comes from the ocean waters nearby. They have welding, machine, and wood shops, cut and mill their own lumber, and even have a gift shop where they sell the products they make to visitors.

Rene, one of the residents, was there to greet us at the log boom set up for visiting yachts when we arrived. She gave us a tour of their facilities and opened the gift shop for us so Vicki could buy a little something for the grandkids.

The floats upon which all of this sits is a mish-mash of old concrete docks and log booms tied together with cables and chains. It was fascinating to see.

After departing Lizzie Cove, we powered south to Home Bay where we spent the night. At the end of the bay we could see the wreck of what looked like a houseboat. Perhaps that's why the bay was so named? This morning at low tide part of an additional wreck was exposed. This one was huge, perhaps 150 feet long. Matt thought it looked like a ferry boat. How and why did it end its life in tiny protected Home Bay?

We picked Home Bay to overnight because it was a good staging point for today's assault on Queen Charlotte Sound. Apparently this place can get pretty nasty even in normally benign conditions during an ebb tide. Matt has timed it so we are crossing during a flood, and the weather is near perfect. It is glassy out here now but the fog is starting to roll in. A 250 foot BC ferry just startled us when it punched out of the fog three quarters of a mile ahead of Thankful. Time to turn on the radar.

We should be around Cape Caution at 11AM where we enter Queen Charlotte Strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Lizzie Cove

0900 position XXX. Crossing Queen Charlotte Sound

After we left the Shearwater Resort yesterday we stopped by the unique community of Lizzie Cove a few miles away. Two families have created a half acre floating oasis that is anchored in that protected land locked inlet.

Made up of approximately thirty individual floating segments, the self sufficient enclave uses catchment water for drinking, a generator for power, and wood for heating. They have a huge outdoor garden and greenhouse that generates all of the fresh fruit and vegetables they need. Fish comes from the ocean waters nearby. They have welding, machine, and wood shops, cut and mill their own lumber, and even have a gift shop where they sell the products they make to visitors.

Rene, one of the residents, was there to greet us at the log boom set up for visiting yachts when we arrived. She gave us a tour of their facilities and opened the gift shop for us so Vicki could buy a little something for the grandkids.

The floats upon which all of this sits is a mush-mash of old concrete docks and log booms tied together with cables and chains. It was fascinating to see.

Shearwater Marine Resort

0900 position 52-08N 128-08W. Underway for Calvert Island

The fog stayed with us most of the day yesterday, so we didn't see much. The wind was gentle all day though, so Thankful had a smooth and uneventful crossing of Milbanke Sound.

The inside passage from Alaska to Gig Harbor, Thankful's home port, is protected from the wrath of the Pacific over nearly all of its length. There are four spots where exposure to the open ocean can't be avoided, however. We had a great day for the crossing of Dixon Entrance in southern Alaska a few weeks ago. With Milbanke Sound behind us, we just have Queen Charlotte Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca ahead of us. Hopefully the last two will be as easy as the first.

We put into the native village of Bella Bella yesterday to fuel and reprovision. Both went smoothly, although we had a bit of trouble finding some drinkable beer. Matt and I are not fond of LaBatt's Blue or Molson, and apparently craft beer has not yet found its way into this part of the world. We had a problem with garbage disposal as well.

Like many parts of the South Pacific, local business and government is geared up to sell product to visitors, but are unwilling to assist in the disposal of the waste generated by the sale of those products. No sir, you can't get rid of your garbage here. Sigh.

When we were finished in Bella Bella we headed a couple of miles further down the track to the Shearwater Marine Resort. They were full up with yachts migrating south like ourselves, but we found a place to tie up out on the floating breakwater and dinghied in. Fortunately, the resort was geared up to handle garbage. We also found some decent beer in their liquor store and enjoyed a nice dinner in their pub.

On the way back to Thankful for the evening we noticed Tease for Two tied up in the marina so we stopped by to catch up. Helen and Ian haven't had as easy a time of it as we have. They snagged their anchor on the bottom a few days ago, couldn't retrieve it, and ended up having to cut it loose with 150 feet of chain. Ouch! To make matters worse, they didn't have a spare anchor so had to sprint from marina to marina where they could tie up until they got to Shearwater where they could buy a new anchor and chain.

It is foggy again this morning as we make our last jump south before attacking Queen Charlotte Sound tomorrow. The forecast is for good weather for the crossing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Goat Cove

0900 position 52-38N 128-30W. Underway for Bella Bella

For forty years my cruising adventures had been focused on islands in the tropical South Pacific, isolated concentrated pockets of geographic beauty and culture. We'd often spend months exploring and enjoying every nook and cranny of an area barely ten mile wide, then sprint across a few hundred miles of empty ocean to do it again.

Cruising the Pacific Northwest is as different an experience as I can imagine. The area is huge but remarkably similar over its 3,000 mile long extent. There are literally tens of thousands of miles of glacier cut channels and inlets crisscrossing the area, creating offshore islands, and penetrating as far as a couple of hundred miles inland. Without navigation aids, it would be easy to get lost in the maze of those fjords and take weeks to find your way out.

Although the nature of the topography varies little, it is all beautiful, and doesn't get boring. With so many miles to explore, it is impossible to see it all in a single summer cruising season. Team Thankful is having to make some difficult choices concerning our path home as Autumn's approach prompts us to skidaddle south. Nearly every day there is a discussion on which channel to take, which highlight to see, and which needs to be saved for the next cruise.

Yesterday Thankful sprinted fifty miles south through Princess Royal Channel to anchor for the night in Goat Cove (what are the odds?). On the way we passed Green Spit (really), and stopped for lunch at Butedale, site of an abandoned fish cannery.

Some entrepreneur appears to be making an attempt to restore the cannery as a tourist attraction, but it appears that resources, organization, or both are lacking. There has been some attempt to demolish the structures that can't be restored, but little else is happening. The only other people there when we arrived were the crew off another visiting cruising boat.

We are starting to see more fog in the mornings as the weather cools off, and today is one of those days. Vicki is concentrating at the helm as I write this, her eyes cycling between the chart plotter, the radar, and the visible patch of water ahead of us. She is dodging Thankful to the left and right to avoid the many logs that pop into view out of the fog on our bow. The consequence of failing to avoid one of those logs could be a bent prop, or worse, so the helmsman's concentration is critical. The constant attention is tiring, so we cycle the duty between the three of us.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Canadian Hot Springs Tour (Day 3)

1100 position 53-28N 128-51W. Underway for Horsefly Cove.

Yesterday morning, after Vicki's excellent fresh baked scones for breakfast, we pulled our anchor and headed across Gardner Canal to look for the missing hot spring.

As we all know, if it is on the internet it must be true. Sure enough, The Google and Doug Peterson came through for us and we found the hot spring right where they said it was. The BC Parks Service even had a mooring ball there for visitors erroneously marked "private", so we picked it up and dinghied in.

Apparently Bubble's, Mikayla (little heart dotting the i), Goat, and Amanda had no problem finding the hot spring as evidenced by their scrawling on the frame of the enclosure covering the pool. We wondered why he was called Goat (why is he called Noodle?). Still in detective mode, the crew of Thankful concluded that Goat and Bubble's (note the possessive) may have been a couple.

Other than the location, the 2001 cruising guide's description of the spring was spot on. You could indeed cast a line out and fish from the pool. The hot spring turned out to be well worth the day we spent searching for it. The water in the large pool was a perfect hot tub temperature, the sky was clear, the air was warm. We had it all to ourselves until departing at 2PM.

Four hours and thirty miles later we arrived at our third hot spring on the tour at Bishop Bay. The whole journey was made during an ebb tide so we had a boost in speed the whole way. It was fun to pick a course through the twisting turning channels that made optimal use of the current.

Bishop Bay is also popular with humpback whales, and we had to dodge four of them as we approached the anchorage. It was glassy calm, and after the engine got shut down the only sound to be heard was that of whales breathing. One of them was breaching occasionally, and the smack as his body slapped the water echoed off of the walls of the fjord like solitary unwelcome applause in a church service.

As our cruising guides indicated, Bishop Bay is one of the most visited hot springs in the area, and there were five other boats there overnight. Having already soaked once for the day, Team Thankful decided to avoid the crowd and delay its visit to the pool until the next day.

Vicki decided to sleep in, so Matt and I dinghied in to the dock this morning and walked to the hot spring. The water was once again the perfect temperature. Scores of previous soakers had cleverly adorned the pool shelter building with mementos of their visits. Fishing buoys, lures, life rings, fenders, and even a pair of underwear was marked with the visitors' names and hung from the rafters. No sign of Goat, party of four, however.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Canadian Hot Springs Tour (Day 2)

1000 position 53-26 129-32W. At anchor in Gardner Canal

One of our cruising guides described Europa Point as the "...Site of a lovely hot springs. It is possible to soak and cast a line into the water at the same time."

That sounded simple enough. We powered Thankful twenty three miles up Devastation Channel and Gardner Canal to Europa Point but there were no obvious signs of a hot spring.

No problem. We powered slowly along the coast for a quarter mile on each side of the point. I was on the flying bridge searching with binoculars. Nothing.

Next, we anchored Thankful in the cove closest to Europa Point and Matt and I went ashore in the dinghy to hike around and look for the hot spring. Vicki stayed aboard Thankful and was entertained by a humpback whale that was hanging out right next to the boat. We dinghied further down the coast and went ashore again. Still nothing.

Ok, what's the big idea? We went back to Thankful and went in to "Da Vinci Code" mode (we watched the movie the other night during entertainment hour). Feeling like Tom Hanks working to decode the secret of holy grail, we dug into our cruising guides to figure this out.

The guide that directed us to the hot springs was published in 2001. Our 2018 cruising guide (different author) makes no mention of the hot spring. The current Canadian chart clearly identified Europa Point, but our third cruising guide, which includes charts, identifies the same point as "Low Point". No Europa Point is shown on that chart, but Europa Lake and Europa Creek are shown on the other side of the waterway. Hmmm. Perhaps Europa Point is the unnamed point across Gardner Canal and the current navigation chart is wrong?

We powered across and surveyed a mile of the coast on that side from Thankful. Still nothing. We gave up and anchored for the night at the mouth of the stream that Europa Lake and Creek feed.

We are sure that if we'd had internet access "the Google" would have solved the mystery for us, but we don't have that convienience out here in the wilderness. However, we could ask a friend. Matt used his satellite email system to ask pal Doug Peterson in Gig Harbor to do a little research for us. Doug replied promptly. The Google told him there is a hot spring at an abandoned logging camp we passed on the way in, a mile down the coast from the alleged Europa Point. We are headed there this morning, determined to solve the mystery.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Canadian Hot Springs Tour (Day 1)

1100 position 53-39N 128-49W. Underway for Europa Hot Springs

Helen and Ian told us that the native town at Hartly Bay, just a couple miles up the coast from where we were anchored, was very nice when they stopped there heading north. The residents were reportedly very friendly and the village neat and tidy. We decided to have a look, so headed there after breakfast. From the harbor the town looked much like others we've visited though, so we just filled Thankful's water tank at the fuel dock and departed.

Our destination for the day was Weewanie Hot Spring, thirty miles away. The islands and channels here provided three different routes we could follow to get there, and there was much discussion aboard Thankful about the optimal route to take. One cruising guide said that Verney Passage "...must be one of the most beautiful places on earth...", so that's the way we went. It was very pretty, but the guide's author needs to get out more.

Thankful dropped the hook off of the hot springs right behind another boat, so we gave them an hour of privacy at the bath before we wandered up there. Our timing was perfect. The other crew was just finishing up when we arrived, and we had a nice hour long soak in the 100+ degree water.

The forecast called for the winds to shift to the northwest overnight making the hot springs anchorage a lee shore, so Thankful moved across Devastation Channel to a more protected anchorage on Loretta Island just before sunset.

The tide was low this morning when the Thankful crew awoke. We were alarmed to see a large exposed rock very close to our track into the anchorage that wasn't on the chart. We thanked our lucky stars to have missed the submerged obstruction on the way in, and criticized the Canadian authorities for their failure to chart the dangerous hazard. In the middle of our second cup of coffee I glanced over to have another look. I'll be damned, that rock has moved! Turns out it wasn't a rock, but a large log raft gone adrift. No wonder there wasn't any weed growing on top of it. I deleted the draft letter of admonition I was composing in my head to the Canadian Hydrographic Office, and turned my attention to the potato pancake breakfast that Matt had so expertly prepared.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Grenville Channel

0900 position 53-24N 129-17W. At anchor in Coghlan Anchorage

Grenville Channel is almost perfectly straight for its entire forty-four mile length. It is also remarkably uniform in its width of approximately three quarters of a mile. If you get your autopilot set just right, you can almost make it the whole way without adjustment. The channel is deep right up to the edges, and the mountains rise steeply to about 1,000 feet on both sides. It almost looks man made.

It is a beautiful but monotonous passage. After we left Baker Inlet, which is about a third of the way down the channel, we found ourselves bucking the flood tide of about a knot. The helmsman worked the shore to try to find some relief from the adverse current. The process required constant attention, staying close enough to the edge to get into a current eddy but NOT run aground. At least that relieved the monotony of the long channel.

About half way down the channel we came across Lowe Inlet, a provincial marine park. We hadn't planned to stop, but wanted to get out of the damned adverse current for a while so poked our nose in to have a look. As we entered we passed our pals Helen and Ian on "Tease for Two" headed out. We hadn't crossed paths since Wrangle, a few weeks ago.

We did a fly by without anchoring and headed back out into Grenville Channel, passing Tease for Two who was under sail about a half hour later. Vicki and Helen caught up over the VHF as we passed.

Thankful finally exited the channel at 3PM, and we stopped for the day in Coghlan Anchorage five miles or so past the end of the waterway. Tease for Two joined us a couple of hours later, and Helen and Ian dinghied over for cocktail hour. It was fun to see them again.

It seems frivolous to be writing about the daily happenings aboard M/V Thankful as a hurricane trashes my home state of Hawaii. I'm worried about my children, friends, boat, and home. We have no cell service here in the fjordland of the central British Colombia coast, no internet, and no TV, so we can't readily get information on what's happening in the fiftieth state. Our satellite communications system allows us to send and receive emails and text messages and make an occasional poor quality voice call, but that's it. I've sent out a couple of texts this morning begging for information, but so far have heard nothing back. It is frustrating and worrisome, but I'm trying to keep my imagination under control. You can't do anything about it now, so don't worry about it now....

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Running the Rapids

0900 position 53-46N 129-56W. Heading down Grenville Channel

Yesterday's agenda included the exploration of two nearly landlocked bodies of water, Kumealon and Baker Inlets off of Grenville Channel. Both are similar to Ford's Terror that Thankful visited a few weeks ago in that the tide rushes in and out of these large bodies of water through narrow passes.

Kumealon Inlet was too shallow and narrow to get Thankful through, so we anchored outside and went in by dinghy. We timed it perfectly, entering just at the end of the flood tide and leaving just as it started to ebb. We still saw a couple of knots of current coming and going.

We next headed a few miles further south to Baker Inlet. Our cruising guide said that "A dogleg turn near the inner entrance makes the passage blind. Before entering, announce your intentions on VHF 16. Sound the ship's horn as you approach the turn." Apparently things can get kind of exciting if you encounter a boat coming the other direction in the middle of the passage.

The channel was very exciting as we fought our way in against the full ebb tide, but with Matt's expert helmsmanship and no other traffic, Thankful made it in through the quarter mile long by 100 foot wide passage unscathed. Once through we found a four mile long by half mile wide fjord. We anchored at the head end for the night and had the place all to ourselves.

Mr. Dyer commented to me yesterday afternoon after we got settled, "Mr. Leary, Have you noticed how the anchor always seems to go down for the day right at 4PM?", or as we usually refer to that hour of the day aboard Thankful, "Miller Time".

I have noticed, and it is not an accident. The finely tuned cruise program aboard M/V Thankful is carefully orchestrated to provide the crew with action during the day, leisure in the late afternoon, entertainment in the evening, and peaceful sleep at night. I could get used to this.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Gunboat Harbor

1000 position 53-55N 130-09W. At anchor in Gunboat Harbor, Gibson Island, Canada

Our trip across Dixon Entrance was unremarkable. It got a bit choppy, but nothing the mighty Thankful couldn't handle, and after a few hours of exposure we were once again tucked into the inside passage south.

Clearing into Canada was a surreal experience. We powered up to an empty, isolated, unmanned customs dock in Prince Rupert and tied up. There on the dock at the base of the ramp was a telephone without a dial or numbers. It looked like the bat-phone. Matt gathered up our passports and the ship's papers, walked over to the phone, and lifted the handset. He listened to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite for ten minutes before a bored Canadian civil servant somewhere in the country came on the line. She asked questions and recorded information on the boat, crew, and itinerary between yawns. After a few minutes of Q&A she gave Matt a clearance number and we were done. We cast off, hoisted the Canadian courtesy flag, and headed out.

We had no interest in spending any time in Prince Rupert. Team Thankful has had its fill of cities for a while after Ketchican. Prince Rupert looked to be pretty industrial as well with large container ships in port and trains coming and going. Our chosen destination for the day was the public floating dock in Oona Bay, twenty five miles south of Prince Rupert. The cruising guide said we could get in there, but as Matt nosed Thankful in we found the entrance channel to be too shallow and bailed out. Quick, look at the chart and find something else. How about this little cove on Gibson Island four miles away?

I'd love to know why it is called Gunboat Harbor. There is probably a good story there. In any case it turned out to be a good overnight anchorage and we had it all to ourselves.

Thankful has been in Canada a day now, but we haven't seen much of it. The fog was thick all day yesterday with visibility as low as a hundred yards at times. It only cleared for the short period we were in Prince Rupert clearing customs and again just before we dropped anchor for the night.

I don't like fog. It forces us to rely on our instruments, radar, GPS, and chart plotter, to avoid running into land, shoals, and other boats, and instruments are fallable. If the radar isn't adjusted properly or the chart is wrong, bad things can happen. I trust my eyes, but they're weren't of much use yesterday.

Yesterday I finished reading my second book of Alaskan historical fiction, "The Sea Runners", by Ivan Doig. Four Swedish indentured servants escaped from Russian held Sitka in a stolen native canoe in the middle of winter in the 1850s. The book, based on a true story, recounts their harrowing 1,200 mile voyage south to Astoria, Oregon. We've already visited many of the places described in the book, and will see more as Thankful travels south.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Rockfish R Us

0600 position 54-52N 131-01W. Underway for Prince Rupert

Yesterday we made our final jog south in Alaska in preparation for the dash across Dixon Entrance and into Canada. Thankful moseyed the fifteen miles down to Foggy Bay, stopping along the way in a documented halibut hole to donate herring to King Neptune.

Clearly, something needed to change. Thankful is the rockfish catchingest vessel in southeast Alaska, and we were working hard to catch anything else. We've probably caught and thrown back over 100 of the ugly buggers, haven't caught a salmon since Glacier Bay, and don't know what a halibut looks like.

Team Thankful, while still pursuing halibut, has decided to go with the flow and celebrate our apparent Midas touch in catching rockfish. Our saltwater fishing guidebook for the area says that rockfish are "...excellent tasting fish, usually filleted and fried." We kept the two biggest rockfish we caught yesterday at the entrance to Foggy Bay and had them for dinner. Matt deep fried them on Thankful's poop deck along with some sweet potato fries that Vicki prepared. Fish and chips. Excellent.

Our decision to accept the fish that the God of the Sea has chosen to give us was endorsed by the two Fish and Wildlife employees I encounter while beach combing along the shore of Foggy Bay late in the afternoon. One told me that he preferred rockfish to salmon or halibut. "Just pan fry it in butter with a little seasoning salt on it. It's terrific!" These college kids, seasonal employees, were overnighting in a cabin in the bay while monitoring the drift net fishery in a small motor boat.

We had a close call with an uncharted rock while powering in to the anchorage during the afternoon. I was screwing around on the poop deck with the fishing gear and saw the lone submerged obstruction slide by on our port side twenty feet away and five feet below the surface. The chart said the water was fifty feet deep. Too close for comfort!

This morning we departed Foggy Bay just before 5AM to get a jump on Dixon Entrance before the wind came up. It is currently foggy and lumpy out here with the wind out of the south, which wasn't forecast. We'll see...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Alava Cove

0900 position 55-13N 131-09W. At anchor in Alava Cove

Ketchikan was going to be our last major provisioning port before Thankful gets back to the lower 48, so we did a cart's full of shopping at the Safeway next to the harbor yesterday morning. We filled water, took the boat down to the fuel dock, filled diesel, outboard gas, propane, and got some engine oil for the next scheduled change. At 11AM we were underway headed south just ahead of one of the cruise ships that departed Ketchikan right after we did.

It was blowing about fifteen knots from the northwest, directly behind us, and Thankful had a further assist from the ebbing tide, so we zipped along heading for home. Signs of civilization slowly disappeared as we worked south, and thirty miles later we were at our planned stopping point for the night.

We picked Alava Cove to overnight in because Matt's "Alaska Fishing Atlas" showed it to be a known halibut catching area. We stopped just outside the anchorage to try our luck. Once again, the rock fish were practically leaping on to our hooks. We caught a couple of flounder too, but no halibut. The highlight of our fishing exercise came when Matt and I both hooked into something substantial at the same time. We fought our beasts up to the boat to find that we had crossed our lines and were fighting each other. Sigh.... "Team Thankful, where the beer is cold and the rock fish are scared." That's the current leader in the lobbying for a cruise motto.

Alava Cove turned out to be a peaceful if popular anchorage. We shared it with two other boats, a nice looking forty plus foot cutter that sailed down from Ketchican next to us under spinnaker, and a sport boat that was using the Forest Service cabin in on the beach.

Thankful will make one more short jog south today before making the dash across Dixon Entrance tomorrow. Dixon Entrance is one of the few areas where we will experience full exposure to the wrath of the Pacific on the voyage south. Matt has been timing our crossing to coincide with a favorable weather forecast, and Tuesday is the day.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Civilization

Clarence Strait was glassy smooth as Thankful powered across yesterday towards Ketchikan.  We stopped at the Bronaugh Islands on the western side of the strait to try one last time to fill Vicki's request for a halibut.  No luck.

We arrived in to Bar Harbor in Ketchikan at 3PM where we found our assigned slip and got Thankful secured.  Matt and I gathered up the ship's laundry and did a couple of loads in the laundromat nearby.  We were in the bar having pizza and beer when Vicki's plane landed, and we made it back to the boat just before she did.

My berth aboard Thankful is the salon table that Matt cleverly modified so it can be lowered and transformed into a bed.  It sits in the aft port corner of the salon, and is surrounded on three sides, port, starboard, and aft, by large windows. 

Years of around the clock watch standing at sea has taught me to sleep easily at any hour of the day or night.  Light doesn't interrupt my ability to sleep, so I have not continued Lori's practice of lowering the shades on the windows when I go to sleep at night aboard Thankful.  I wake in the morning when my body tells me it is time to get up and not when it gets light.

Last night at 430AM I awoke to see someone's shoes through the aft window as they climbed the stairs from the poop deck to the flying bridge.  My first thought was to wonder why Matt would be going up there at this ungodly hour.  My next thought was that it couldn't be Matt because I hadn't heard one of the exterior doors into Thankful's cabin, which are quite loud, open.

I lept up, stripped off the socks I sleep in, and went out the aft door onto the poop deck wearing only my underwear.  Damn, it was cold out there.  I climbed up the ladder to the bridge deck.  Nothing.  I climbed back down to the poop deck and out of the corner of my eye saw someone silently running down the dock.

Wow.  How is it I didn't surprise this guy when I climbed up onto the bridge deck?  How is it I didn't hear a sound as he left the boat?

I made a survey of Thankful's interior to confirm that nothing was out of place there and then a full survey of the deck.  That's when I saw two thin guys, both with faces covered by hoodies, walk quickly together down the dock.  The spotter must have seen me sit up in bed and alerted the one aboard Thankful.  These guys were good.

I have been pleasantly surprised, until this morning, about the apparent lack of property crime here in Alaska.  Rods, reels, and other fishing gear is left out on most boats here and doesn't get stolen.  Matt and Vicki routinely leave Thankful unlocked when ashore.  In Hawaii an unattended fishing rod would disappear in a few hours.  Perhaps it is because Ketchikan is practically a city.  In any case, I'm ready to head back out into the  wilderness.



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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Cape Chacon

1100 position 55-05N 132-07W.  At anchor in Moira Cove


It was slack low water at 1130AM yesterday when we weighed anchor and wound our way south through the narrow, tortuous, kelp filled channels out of the Barrier Islands.  We had delayed our departure first so we wouldn't be heading out against what ever swell was coming in during an ebb tide - a recipe for choppy conditions.  Second, we wanted to take advantage of the flood tide once we got out into Dixon Entrance to help push us along towards Ketchikan.


As Thankful poked her nose out into the Dixon Entrance we were pleasantly surprised to find that the winds were light and the seas relatively flat.  We turned left and headed east.  An hour later, with the building flood tide pushing us, we approached Cape Chacon where Dixon Entrance intersects with Clarence Strait.


Interesting things can happen to the sea state when strong currents force their way around capes.  It can be perfectly flat elsewhere, but right at the cape waves can appear out of nowhere and produce potentially dangerous seas.  That was the case yesterday.


I am relatively new to power boating, and have a lot to learn about the dark side of the force.  On a seaworthy sailboat the seas we encountered at Cape Chacon would be considered little more than a nuisance.  It is a different story on Thankful, and I suspect most other power boats.  If allowed to hit the boat beam on, the seas would produce a dangerous rolling that would dislodge anything and anybody not tied down.  In those conditions we had no choice but to either head into or away from the direction the waves came from, which of course was not the direction we wanted to go.  We ended up first heading into the waves and away from the cape for half a mile, and then turning ninety degrees and heading back in towards the cape and into calmer waters in Clarence Strait.


Interestingly, this wasn't usually an issue for the month and a half and 3,000 miles I traveled aboard Starr, also a power boat, earlier this summer because Starr has gyro-stabilizers that keep her from rolling.  The stabilizers worked so well that the smoothest ride was had when the boat was beam on to the seas.  Rolling in beam seas only became a problem aboard Starr when the stabilizers weren't working, which regular readers of this blog will recall happened a few times.


After our zig-zag tour off of Cape Chacon things settled down and Thankful enjoyed a smooth and quick trip north up Clarence Strait.  We arrived at our destination for the day, Moira Inlet, just at the end of the flood tide.


We picked a protected cove to anchor for the night but first stopped in Moira Inlet's north arm to try once again to snag a halibut.  A few rock fish later we gave up and headed in, anchoring just after 6PM.


We continue to be amazed at the scarcity of other cruising boats.  We didn't see any in Cordova Bay or the Barrier Islands and there are no other boats in Moira Inlet.  This whole area seems to be pristine and untouched.  Matt pointed out a deer feeding along the shore this morning while we were drinking our coffee in the wheelhouse.  We consider ourselves lucky indeed to be able to have this corner of Alaska all to ourselves.



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Friday, August 17, 2018

The Barrier Islands

0900 position 54-46N 132-18W. At anchor off Hessa Island, Barrier Islands

Glass ball fever is contagious, and Matt finally caught it after watching Vicki and me find them. Yesterday morning he suggested that we dinghy out to the southernmost of the Barrier Islands to beach comb after breakfast.

It was a perfect day; light northwesterlies, no swell, a cloudless sky. The island looked to be pretty close on the chart, but we ended up powering almost three miles to get there. Once on the southern side of the island we had to thread our way through the small offshore islets and kelp to get to the beach. The kelp got so thick that we had to kill the engine and row in the final few hundred yards.

I managed to stumble in the minuscule swell getting out of the dinghy and ended up on my butt in the water. Damn, it was cold, but at least it didn't get into my boots. I continued on with a wet backside. The beaches were covered with debris, huge logs and driftwood, nets, crab pot marker floats, plastic balls, but no glass balls. After an hour of searching we moved west to the other southerly facing beach and tried there as well. It was a lot of fun exploring even if we didn't find any glass balls. I did find a cool three point deer antler. I have needed a good back scratcher since Lori left, and the antler should do the trick.

After returning to Thankful we pulled the hook and tried halibut fishing about a mile away in a deep spot. We each caught a couple of rock fish and Matt sacrificed some more herring.

The Barrier Islands are quickly becoming my favorite cruising spot. It is a maze of islands similar to The Bay of Islands, Fiji, but about the size of Vavau, Tonga. The two striking differences are that the Barrier Islands are not tropical, and there is nobody else here. We've been messing around in the area for two days now and have only seen one other boat off in the distance. The only sign of humanity, besides the beach debris, is the occasional aid to navigation.

Matt likes it too, so we decided to stay for a second day. While perusing the cruising guide, Matt found the following description of Hessa Inlet on the far eastern side of the Barrier Islands:

"Hessa Inlet is a remote, landlocked waterway where you are unlikely to encounter other boats. In many ways, this southern tip of Prince of Wales Island is the ultimate frontier of expeditionary cruising in Southeast Alaska. Only small, highly maneuverable craft with experienced crew should consider exploring here."

Hmmm. That sounded like team Thankful, so we decided to give it a try. First we moved the boat to a splendid anchorage just east of Hessa Island, then got into the dinghy and headed into Hessa Inlet.

We were entering close to slack high water, but it was still flooding and there were whirlpools and eddies that threw the dinghy around in the narrowest part of the channel. We came across a deer that was trying to swim across the channel. He saw us, changed his mind, and climbed out the water. Once through the fifty yard wide, quarter mile long channel, Hessa Inlet opened up into a huge body of water three miles long by a mile wide. We explored one of the beaches where Matt found his own deer antler and headed back out.

Our plan is to head back out into Dixon Entrance this morning and around the corner into Clarence Strait. We hope to get half way back to Ketchikan today so we can pick Vicki up there tomorrow evening. Unfortunately, the good weather ended during the night. It is foggy, drizzling, and the wind has come up out of the south. We are waiting for the tide to start to flood in an hour or so to go give it a try.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Good Day

0800 position 54-49N 132-21W. At anchor in the Barrier Islands

Our first destination yesterday was a spot Matt had eyed for halibut fishing the day before, but it was too windy to drift fish at the time. Yesterday we found a couple of commercial trollers working the area. Matt didn't want to interfere with them, so we continued across Cordova Bay to a protected cove on the other side that looked to have halibut potential.

I decided weeks ago that I don't like messing with the frozen herring bait normally used for halibut fishing. It is slimy and smelly and readily comes off of the hooks. I have chosen to work with lures instead, so while Matt screws around with his herring I jig with lures.

As soon as my lure got near the bottom I had a fish on. It turned out to be a rockfish, about a pound, so I let him go. I ended up catching at least fifteen of them, including two yellow eyed rockfish which are pretty good eating. We kept the largest one for dinner last night and threw the rest back.

Matt had no luck fishing for halibut. There were too many rock fish around that stripped his bait off of the hook as soon as it got to the bottom.

The trollers had moved on, so we headed back to Matt's original fishing destination to give it a try. Again, I caught rockfish and Matt donated herring to fishing gods. We gave up and headed in to a protected bay under nearby Shipwreck Point where we anchored for lunch and did some beach combing.

The mouth of Cordova Bay on the southern side of Prince of Wales Island is partially blocked by a minefield of small islets called the Barrier Islands. We passed this group on the way into Cordova Bay, and just glancing at the chart it didn't look like it would be possible to navigate through them. It looked like there were just too many shoals and rocks and reefs to deal with safely.

Yesterday morning while we were anchored in Max Bay perusing the cruising guides trying to figure out where to go next, Matt noticed that there were a couple of suggested stops in the Barrier Islands. We decided to give the area a try, so yesterday after we departed our lunchtime anchorage, we aimed Thankful south towards the group of 100+ islands.

The recommended northern entrance into the Barrier Islands is through "The Narrows" between Prince of Wales and the first unnamed offshore island. We found the pass to be less intimidating than it looked on the chart. Once through we found ourselves in a totally protected wonderland completely surrounded by small islands. We zigged and zagged following the recommended track to check out the two suggested anchorages. We found them to be less than totally protected from the strong northwesterlies that were blowing, so we studied the chart and found what looked like a good spot a mile away. It turned out to be protected, and half and hour later we were safely anchored in a small cove.

I was very happy for Vicki when she found that beautiful glass ball the other day, but I was also a bit envious. It has been a long dry spell for me glass ball hunting, and I wanted one to place in my collection that had an Alaska story. So after getting Thankful secured Matt helped me launch the dinghy and I rowed ashore to beachcomb. I searched among the driftwood for about an hour and there in the grass at the high water mark near the end of the cove found a nice little three inch diameter glass ball!

Another good day aboard the mighty Thankful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Max Cove

0900 position 54-56N 132-22W. Heading out of Max Cove.

The weather didn't look too bad as Thankful poked out into Clarance Strait yesterday, so we took a right turn to make a second attempt at getting to Cordova Bay.

We could see fog ahead of us in Dixon Entrance as the boat worked along the shore of Prince of Wales Island. About half a mile from Cape Chacon, where Clarence Strait meets Dixon Entrance, the fog filled in completely and lowered visibility to about 150 yards, so we turned on the radar. Almost immediately I thought I saw a boat on the radar, but there were a lot of small islets at the point too so we weren't sure what it was. Just as we rounded the cape Matt spotted the sailboat under power coming the other direction. As the boat passed fifty yards away I recognized it as a Beneteau, the same vintage as our Moku pe'a but about forty five feet long.

Light breeze and moderate seas continued, but once in Dixon Entrance there was no land between us and the open Pacific so we started to feel a decent sized ground swell coming in off of the ocean. The benign conditions didn't last. We went through a number of tide rips, and the varying current occasionally kicked up a decent chop that forced us to alter course to keep from rolling poor Thankful to death. We were glad the girls weren't with us. They would not have enjoyed the ride. We never saw more than fifteen knots of wind, but I wouldn't want to be there in anything heavier. The fog disappeared as we worked our way west. Thankful finally made the turn into Cordova Bay at 3PM and the seas settled down a bit.

Cordova Bay opens to the south into Dixon Entrance. The bay is thirty miles long and has dozens of fjords feeding it. There are hundreds of islands in the bay. You could spend years gunkholing around the bay and never anchor in the same place twice. We only have a couple of days though, so choosing a destination was difficult. Matt spied an area that looked promising for halibut, so we headed there. Our target fishing spot was too windy for bottom fishing (we'd drift too fast), so we tucked in behind some nearby islands to anchor and fish.

It turned out to be a great place for catching kelp. First I snagged some kelp with my salmon lure. I couldn't get the lure unstuck and didn't want to lose it, so Matt tried to pull up Thankful's anchor so we could drift back over my lure to free it. Our anchor, however, was fouled in kelp. I managed to get my lure free while Matt was screwing around with Thankful's anchor. We reanchored, caught some more kelp, and gave up fishing for the day.

We headed in to a protected anchorage in Max Cove where we licked our wounds and had a restful evening.

Refreshed and reenergized, we are headed out into the bay this morning to try to catch some dinner. Matt has some spots in mind. We are thinking we may anchor for the night among the islands at the bay's entrance. There may be some glass balls on the shoreline there, and we know how to catch those.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Kendrick Bay

1100 position 54-46N 131-56W. Heading south along the east shore of Prince of Wales Island

The first half of Thankful's Clarence Strait crossing yesterday was glorious. A gentle southerly breeze, flat seas, sunshine; just like the brochures. Matt and I were commenting on how lucky we were. It didn't last. At mid channel the wind suddenly shifted to the west, and in ten minutes picked up to twenty knots. We knew that it wouldn't take long for an uncomfortable sea to build with that much wind and fetch, so we turned right thirty degrees and headed for the closest shelter on Prince of Wales Island. The wind continued to build, peaking at more than twenty five knots and bringing a nasty slop with it.

Out came the cruising guides and coast pilot to look for a hidey hole close by. Kendrick Bay was dead ahead of us and the cruising guide identified some good anchorages there. As we approached the island the seas flattened out, and Matt saw some jumping salmon, so we stopped and did some fishing. Matt caught a rock fish and I caught didily.

We headed in and found an empty totally protected anchorage at the head of Kendrick Bay. The weather continued to deteriorate. It was probably twenty degrees colder than it had been earlier in the day, and became completely overcast. I tried fishing at our anchorage, as I usually do, but I needed a wool hat to keep warm.

It rained and blew most of the night, but things are looking better this morning. The weather radio said that a front had passed over us and that a large high pressure area is approaching from the west. The weather should improve over the next couple of days.

We are resuming our trek west this morning. Thankful has to poke out into Dixon Entrance to get to Cordova Bay though, and we aren't sure the weather has calmed down enough yet to let us get there comfortably. We are giving it a try though. If it turns out to be too rough, then we'll turn the boat around, head north, and explore more of the eastern side of Prince of Wales Island instead.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Ketchican

1200 position 55-18N 131-37W.  Heading south through Tongass Narrows.

Thankful got an early start yesterday morning to get across Clarance Strait and into Ketchican before the winds picked up.  The strait can be a nasty place when it is blowing.  We had a mild crossing with the wind behind us and by 830AM we were making the turn into Tongass Narrows.

The busy metropolis of Ketchican sits in the middle of the ten mile long narrows, and as soon as we made the turn  the traffic picked up.  "Swell", a classic wooden charter boat that we had last seen just outside Ford's Terror, entered the narrows the same time we did.  We powered into Ketchican right behind them.  As we approached the city center we saw three large cruise ships berthed end to end along the waterfront, temporarily increasing the city's population by about seven thousand people.

Ketchican is the southern most city in Alaska, and it is a transportation hub for the southeast part of the state.  Dozens of float planes took off and landed around us, ferrying people and materials to and from remote parts of Alaska.  We dodged the ferry that runs back and forth twice per hour between Ketchican and the city's airport located across the narrows on Gravina Island.

This was Thankful's fifth trip into Ketchican this summer, so Matt and Vicki are very familiar with the city.  We headed in to the southernmost and oldest of the five small boat harbors there, Thomas Basin.

Lori and I headed out to play tourist after we got secured and cleaned up.  We spent the day making the recommended self guided historical walk through the city and visited the museum and a few other interesting spots.  Salmon were migrating up the small river that runs right throught the middle for old town and into Thomas Harbor.  It was fun to watch thousands of fish struggling upstream over the rapids.  There were even a couple of sea lions at the bottom of the stream feeding.  I think we walked about five miles.

We had a farewell dinner out at the New York Cafe next to the harbor, and finished the evening with a couple of games of cribbage in Thankful's salon.

Yankee Maid, the seiner we partied with in Auke Bay, pulled in to a slip on the pier next to ours this morning, and we went over to catch up with them.  They are done fishing for the year and are heading back to Seattle.  They have been suffering a bit lately after one of their crew members broke his wrist recently in a bar fight.

Matt and I departed Thomas Harbor at 1130 this morning after kissing our wives goodby as they headed for the airport.  Vicki is flying home to Gig Harbor for a few days to check on her business, and Lori is flying to Portland to spend time with family and friends.  We miss our sweeties already.

Thankful is headed for Cordova Bay on the south end of Prince of Wales Island.  This large bay is choked with small islands and inlets.  There should be lots of places to explore, fish, and relax, before we head back to Ketchican to pick Vicki up in five days.


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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Faith

One of Lori Lloyd's and my favorite pastimes when cruising is beach combing for glass balls, the Japanese fishing floats that drift around the Pacific and occasionally wash up on the shore.  We have a collection of about a hundred of them in our Hawaii home, and each has its own fun story to tell about how it came into our lives.

Forty four years ago I found sixty of them on a Niihau beach in ninety minutes.  It was a good day.  Two of the balls I found that day sit prominently on our dining room table, half filled with water, begging for dinner guests to speculate on how the water got in there.  We've found found five glass balls on Moku pe'a in the past fifteen years, including one my daughter Kara picked up on that same Niihau beach on her sixteenth birthday.  The last one Lori and I found was back in 2010 when we got a twelve inch diameter green ball in the middle of the Molokai Channel while sailing home from Molokai.

The Japanese stopped using glass for their fishing floats in favor of the lighter, cheaper, more durable plastic balls sometime during the second half of the twentieth century.  Glass balls are getting harder and harder to find as those that are left continue to wash up on beaches around the Pacific.  We have faith that there are still some out there though, and we continue to look for them at every opportunity.  We looked unsuccessfully on our South Pacific voyages in 2011, 2014, and 2017.  We are looking here in Alaska on this trip too.

Yesterday Thankful passed close to Patterson Island as we departed Kasaan Bay.  On the island's leeward side we spied a nice looking cove and decided to check it out.  It wasn't written up in either the cruising guides or coast pilot, but the unnamed cove was deep, protected, beautiful, and full of seals.  We anchored at its head end in fifty feet of water.

Further down the coast of the island looked like it would be a good spot to pick up a halibut, so Matt and I launched the dingy and powered down there to fish.  His two pieces of herring bait only lasted about thirty seconds on the bottom before they were stripped from the hooks, probably by some harbor porpoise that were close by.  In on the coast we noticed a large orange fender among the driftwood on the beach.

After returning to the mothership in the newly named "Thankful Cove", Matt and Vicky went out exploring in the dinghy.  They returned to our fishing spot to check out the fender on the beach.  While ashore there Vicki found a gorgeous ten inch diameter glass ball complete with net!

I believe the Thankful crew has identified its favorite Alaska anchorage.



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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Kasaan

1300 position 55-30N 132-20W.  Heading southeast in Kasaan Bay

Yesterday the mighty Thankful ducked into the Haida village of Kasaan on Prince of Wales Island to spend the night.  The government has dumped a lot of money into the small community, installing buried utilities, nice boardwalks, a first class public floating dock, and lots of facilities in support of the native culture.  Kasaan is renowned for its totems, and there is a mile long walk through the forest to a totem park and cultural building north of town.  

The Thankful crew made the walk to the totem park and then wandered back along the shoreline at low tide.  We were just settling down with our sunset cocktails when another visiting boat came in and tied up across the float from us.  Lori went out to help the small cutter tie up, and after they got secured the crew of "Silverado" came over to introduce themselves.

Bob built the thirty one foot aluminum "Spray" replica himself from Bruce Roberts mail-order drawings.  Wait a minute.  We've heard that story before.  Pals Julius and Susie, who Lori and I first met while cruising in Tahiti, built their thirty six foot steel Spray replica, "Emerald Steel", under similar circumstances.  "Oh yes!  We know Julius and Susie very well," said Bob's wife Deena.  "Susie made this 'Wilson' doll called 'Chester' so Bob wouldn't get lonely when he singlehanded Silverado to Hawaii a few years ago."  Small world indeed.

Today Thankful is exploring the east coast of Prince of Wales Island looking for a place to stop for an hour or so of fishing and then hole up for the night.  We need to cross ten mile wide Clarence Strait to get to Ketchican so the girls can fly out on Monday, but we don't want to go today.  It's blowing over twenty out there from the northwest, and the ride across would be rough.  We'll make the crossing tomorrow when the forecast predicts lighter breezes.



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Friday, August 10, 2018

Degrees of Separation

The Thankful crew went ashore to explore the hamlet of Thorne Bay after we got settled in the marina.  On the way up the pier Matt and Vicki bumped into Judy, who invited the crew over to her houseboat for dinner.

The liquor store lay just across the street from the harbormaster's Office at the top of the ramp.  We turned right, passed a few high end waterfront homes, and a quarter mile down the road found the town's sole grocery store where we bought ice cream and avocados.  With nothing beyond the store, we turned around and headed the other direction.  On the other end of town we found the sporting goods store, a cafe, and the combination post office/drug store/coffee shop where Lori Lloyd purchased and mailed  a post card to Betty Lou.  

There wasn't much to it, but Thorne Bay was a quaint little town, and we could see why Judy chose it for her floating home.

At 530PM the Thankful crew headed over to Judy's floating home that was moored at the far end of the marina in front of Free Spirit.  She gave us a tour and told us how she'd worked to make her houseboat dream a reality.

Once Judy decided she wanted a floating home in Thorne Bay, she approached the town's officials to get permission to put a houseboat in the half-empty marina.  "No houseboats allowed," was their response.  Not one to give up easily, she found an old steel barge in Wrangle that was a Coast Guard documented vessel.

"How about if the houseboat is a documented vessel?  Could I put that in the harbor," she asked.

She got an affirmative response, so she bought the barge, had it refurbished, and hired a home builder in Wrangle to construct a two story, three bedroom, two bathroom house on top of it.  In late April this year she had her new floating home towed to Thorne Bay, and there it sits moored securely in the marina.

We had a fun evening getting to know the Free Spirit crew better.  Tad Luckey had spent many seasons drift net fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska, just like Matt has, and they had a lot to talk about.  As a forty plus year Lahaina harbor slip holder, Tad and I had a lot of Hawaii pals in common.  Judy, Gracie (another of Free Spirit's crew), and I had yachting pals in common from Newport Harbor Yacht Club.  It is a small world.

This morning brought clear skies and light wind for our passage south to Kasaan Bay.  We are currently powering along the coast of Prince of Wales Island in glassy conditions.  The Clarence Strait is a minefield of floating logs right now, a byproduct of the area's lumber industry.  Hitting a dead head would ruin our day, so helmsman Vicki is steering Thankful left and right to avoid the debris.  She just stopped the boat to let a couple of young humpback whales headed in the other direction pass.  They went by us a boat length away.



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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thorne Bay

1300 position 55-41N 132-32W.  Tied to the float in Thorne Bay Marina

Thankful spent all day yesterday holed up in Myers Chuck waiting out some windy weather offshore.  It turned out to be the busiest day of the week with the arrival of the float plane that brings the mail to this sleepy community.  The mail plane also carried passengers, and folks lined up on the  floating dock waiting to board as the plane taxied in.

Another cruising power boat, "Free Spirit", arrived at the same time the plane was landing, and she tied up right behind us.  Her friendly crew came over to visit after getting secured.  The seventy year old skipper, Judy Sturgis, was an energetic gal with homes in Alaska, Nevada, and Makena on Maui.  She keeps her fifty foot power boat tied to the dock in front of her floating home in Thorne Bay, right across Clarence Strait from Myers Chuck.  Crew members Tad and Cindy are in the fishing charter business out of Lahaina harbor, and we found we had lots of pals in common.

Matt and I discovered a single large Dungeness crab in the trap he'd put out in the back chuck, and Lori cleaned it for dinner.

It started raining hard last night and it was still falling this morning.  The forecast called for rain and continued nasty weather.  The wind looked like it was pretty calm offshore though when Matt went to retrieve the crab trap, so we decided to chance it and headed out to cross Clarence Strait to Thorne Bay.

The wind never got over fifteen knots, but it was bumpier than we'd anticipated.  The wind was coming right down the strait, as it usually does here, and our destination was right on the other side only ten miles away.  We'd have rolled ourselves to death if we headed directly across the swells though, so we zigged and zagged heading forty five degrees off of the swell direction to make for an easier motion.  An hour and a half later Thankful was entering the labaryinth of waterways that is Thorne Bay.

I thought immediately of Broken Bay north of Sydney, Australia, as we powered into Thorne Bay.  Totally landlocked and protected like Broken Bay, Thorne Bay is a large body of water that twists and turns through Prince of Wales Island.  The shore is lined with both floating homes tucked in the coves and homes built on land, and it looks like many of the residents commute to the town of Thorne Bay by boat, just like they do in Broken Bay, since there are few roads.

As we were tying up in the town's marina, Free Spirit went by heading for Judy's floating home a block from the harbor.  Her skipper yelled over as she passed, "Come on over later for cocktails!"  It is looking like Thorne Bay is going to be a lot of fun.




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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Meyers Chuck

0800 position 55-44N 132-16W. Tied to the float in Meyers Chuck

I love the place names here in southeast Alaska. Wrangle, Elfin Cove, Pelican, Ford's Terror, Frosty Bay, Meyers Chuck, all memorable and fun. Apparently a "chuck" is a small body of protected water, and somebody named Meyers was involved in the naming of this one.

Meyers Chuck is a small totally protected natural harbor surrounded by a small fishing community. There are about forty homes here, but no road and no utilities. A dozen homes at the center of the village are connected by a foot path, but the rest comute by boat to the floating pier where we are moored which is essentially the center of the village.

There is a post office across the chuck, and a community bulletin board and an art gallery at the end of the ramp up from the pier, but no other community infrastructure. There used to be a school, but the kids all grew up so it was closed and the building converted into a home.

There is an enterprising gal here who bakes and sells cinnamon rolls to the visiting yachtsmen. We found her contact info on the bulletin board yesterday and ordered a dozen for this morning. She just arrived, by boat of course, and made her delivery. Thankful is full of the smell of hot cinnamon roll as I write this, and Lori is out on the float quickly becoming best friends with the baker.

We stopped to fish yesterday in a promising looking halibut hole two miles offshore as we headed south. First the Fish and Game cops came by to check our fishing licenses, then Matt hooked into a giant yellow eyed rock fish, which he successfully landed. He and Vicki made fabulous rock fish enchiladas last night.

Things were looking bad after Matt and I lost our first game of cribbage to the ladies last night, but our luck may be changing for the better. In the second game the boys managed to avenge the skunking the girls had given them a few days earlier. First the rock fish, then cribbage. Yes, we like Meyers Chuck, and things are looking up.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Bears

1100 position 56-02N 131-59W. Underway for Meyers Chuck

The Thankful crew was operating like a finely tuned machine yesterday as we divided and conquered our to-do list in Wrangle. The laundry got washed, dried, and folded in the laundromat. Provisioning was done at the supermarket. Beer was purchased at the liquor store. Bug screening was found at the hardware store. Postcards were mailed, and the blog got written. We were sprinting to get our chores done in time to make it down to Anan Bay before the facility there closed for the day at 6PM.

Anan Creek is the site of one of southeast Alaska's largest pink salmon runs, and the bears know it. Approximately forty bears, both brown and black, feed on the migrating salmon at the rapids near the bottom of the creek. The U.S. Forest Service constructed a viewing platform overlooking the rapids where visitors can safely watch the bears feeding right up close. Admission is limited to sixty visitors per day to minimize the impact on the otherwise wild bears, and we were lucky enough to get tickets for yesterday.

Thankful cast off from the dock in Wrangle at noon, unsure if we would make the thirty mile passage to Anan in time to see the bears. Fortunately, we picked up some tidal assist along the way and anchored off of the mouth of Anan Creek at 4PM, plenty of time.

The four of us dinghied in to the beach at the mouth of the creek where we were met by a ranger who took our tickets and gave us a ten minute briefing on the facility. The viewing platform was a half mile inland at the end of a nicely maintained boardwalk through the dense forest. Bears also use the boardwalk, because they don't like bushwhacking either, so we were briefed on how to prevent a bear encounter (make noise), and how to handle one should it occur. We were loaned a can of bear spray, just in case the preferred encounter preventive measures didn't work so well.

Thoroughly flustered by the ranger's warnings and expecting to come face-to-face with a man-eating bear at every turn in the trail, team Thankful marched inland toward the viewing platform. The ladies were singing loudly to warn any bears that might be near of our presence. Eagles perched in the trees stared wide eyed at the strange creatures singing the horribly off-key tunes as they passed. After ten minutes of terror, we approached the viewing platform where we were waved in by the ranger on duty there.

There were seven black bears feeding at the rapids. The scene resembled a Genki Sushi restaurant with the patrons staring at the conveyor belt as a multitude of treats passed by within easy reach. The bears sat in or near the water scooping salmon out of the creek as the fish struggled up stream. They'd eat the choicest parts of the salmon, discard the rest, and return to fishing. There were three cubs there with their mothers, and the mamas were sharing their catch with the kids. One large bear had a foot long gash in its flank. The ranger told us that it was likely a young male that had gotten a little too close to some cubs and was punished for it by mom.

Thoroughly satisfied with our experience, we headed back to the boat. Fortunately, we never encountered a bear on the boardwalk, but we did see some cross it while we were on the viewing platform.

Thankful spent a peaceful evening anchored nine miles further south in Frosty Bay, and this morning we are headed for Meyers Chuck where we plan to hide from another low pressure system that is approaching from the west.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Wrangle

We developed pretty close friendships with other cruisers during our many trips through the South Pacific.  We'd bump into the same boats again and again, share a beer with their crews, and discuss our experiences since the last time we met up.  Often our cruising pals would have info on must-visit spots we didn't know about, or we'd have a cruising guide that they didn't.  There are some real characters out there as well, and it was fun to get to know them.

The Thankful crew is starting to build similar relationships with other cruisers here in Alaska.  The rest of the summer cruising fleet from Washington and British Columbia is beginning the migration toward home, as we are, and the same boats are appearing over and over.

We are currently tied to the dock in Wrangle behind two sailboats who's crews we got to know in Petersburg.  All three crews were eating breakfast in a cafe in Petersburg a few days ago when Matt overheard the skipper of one sloop telling a story to the other skipper.  "... and then the U.S. customs guy asked me, 'Are you Thankful?'  I wasn't sure what he was asking me.  Turns out 'Thankful' was the name of a boat!"

Wait a minute.  Matt had heard this story before, so he turned and looked at the speaker.  He recognized the skipper as one he'd shared a laugh with in Ketchican as both boats entered the country together from Canada while heading north a month or so earlier.

Yesterday afternoon we ran into the younger sailing couple, an accountant and baker from Victoria, B.C., on the street here in Wrangle.  They told us about a good place here in town to eat, and we saw them later in that restaurant having dinner with the couple from the other sloop.

After dinner we spent some time talking to the double handing husband-wife crews from both boats on the dock.  We are all following a similar voyage plan south, so we will likely keep seeing each other. 

As we walked back from dinner out last night, we took a detour through the boat yard where yachts and working boats were out of the water being repaired.  There we found "Hula Girl", a boat we tied up in front of on the floating dock at Baranof Hot Springs three weeks ago.  Both propeller shafts had been removed.  The gossip from our sailing pals was that the woman skipper, who Lori offered to teach hula at the hot spring, was apparently more focused on finding pot to smoke at the time than getting her boat fixed.  Hmmm.  The yachting community is certainly an interesting one.



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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Exchange Cove

1100 position 56-11N 132-56W. Headed towards Wrangle

When Matt went in to check out with the Petersburg Harbormaster two nights ago, the crusty old Norwegian official stopped what he was doing, looked him in the eye over the top of his reading glasses, and asked, "You know it's forecast to blow 30 to 50 knots in Sumner Strait tomorrow, right?"

Matt replied, "Yea, we'll be alright," and completed the checkout procedure so we could depart at first light the next morning.

We knew the protected waters of Wrangle Narrows would be fine, but we weren't so sure about Sumner Strait. Fortunately, the worst of the low pressure system that was passing overhead did so while we were sleeping peacefully in Petersburg, and the weather improved all day yesterday. Thankful never saw more than twenty five knots out in the strait, and we were able to tuck in behind "Bushy" and "Shrubby" Islands for protection from the seas that come with winds that strong. We also timed our departure to take advantage of the tidal flow, and we had a couple of knots of help all day. Thankful arrived at Exchange Cove on Prince of Whales Island just after noon.

With most of the day still ahead of us, we launched the dinghy and set the crab trap out toward the end of the inlet. Salmon were jumping all around the cove and we all tried unsuccessfully to catch some. We even had time for an afternoon nap.

Matt and I checked the trap before sunset and found we had caught just a small flounder and a funny looking crab. It looked like a miniature version of a king crab. Perhaps it was a "prince" crab? We showed the crustacean to the girls, threw it back, and reset the trap in a different location.

The Thankful Cruise Program includes a nightly "entertainment" event for the crew. The rotation includes card games of golf and cribbage, scrabble, and movies when we have shore power. Last night the girls skunked the boys in cribbage. The men took the humiliation remarkably well.

The winds died off completely and the skies cleared as the sun set. We are starting to see a couple of hours of darkness at night now as Autumn approaches, and last night the sky was full of stars. I saw the North Star for the first time in two months, but it took a while to find it. I'm not used to seeing it in the upper third of the sky.

This morning Matt made some excellent spam musubi for breakfast. I think the lesser luxury cruise lines could learn a thing or two from the Team Thankful program.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Poor Peter

0800 position 56-40N 132-55W. Winding south through Wrangle Narrows.

Museums and historical sites are Lori Lloyd's passion while traveling. If there is something like that in a place we are visiting, you can be sure to find Lori there with me in tow. Although I would not likely visit these places if I was on my own, I do learn a lot and usually have fun.

We were trapped in Petersburg for the day by windy weather offshore, and it was raining, a perfect day for indoor activity. Lori discovered the Clausen Memorial Museum in a tourist guide she found in the Harbormaster's office, so there we were after breakfast.

The town's history is both sad and inspiring. Poor Peter Buschmann, a Norwegian immigrant after whom the town is named, saw potential and homesteaded the site. He built a lumber mill and salmon cannery, attracted other homesteaders, and the town grew. He eventually had a number of canneries up and down the coast, sold everything to a large east coast corporation, and retired a wealthy but still relatively young man. Unfortunately, he took payment in stock and bonds from the new owners. They mismanaged the business, went bankrupt, and Mr. Buschmann was left with nothing. He committed suicide.

The town's canneries and other businesses had their ups and downs over the years, but eventually most ended up being owned by the employees and town residents. Today the town, its businesses, and resident owners are thriving. The lumber business is gone, but fishing remains as the area's economic engine.

Last night was pizza and a movie in the Thankful salon. A perfect way to hide out from the rainy weather.

The Wrangle Narrows, a seventeen mile long winding passage between Kupreanof and Mitkof Islands, is the only way to get north or south by boat if you don't want to be exposed to the Pacific Ocean. As you can imagine, there is a lot of traffic through the narrows. Petersburg sits at the north end of the thoroughfare, and this helps bring business to the town as well.

We are working our way south through the narrows this morning. There is a lot of fishing boat traffic headed in both directions. Yesterday we saw a number of large barges being pushed or pulled through the passage as they passed Petersburg. It will be interesting if we encounter barges or other large ships today as the tortuous narrows are aptly named. We are just now passing "Danger Point". "Blind Point" is a mile ahead of us.

It is still raining off and on, and the forecast is for twenty five knot easterly winds. Once through the narrows we plan to poke out into Sumner Strait. We'll continue on if it's not too bad. If it's nasty we'll find a hidey hole at the end of the narrows to hunker down for the night.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Petersburg

56-53N 132-57W.  Petersburg Harbor.

We had been seeing humpback whales around us all morning as Thankful powered south.  At 11AM we had to back Thankful down hard to avoid hitting one in the middle of the Stephens Passage.  Fortunately, the water was glassy which allowed us to see the slight disturbance on the surface directly ahead that alerted us to the whale's presence.  He surfaced a few seconds later next to us, unconcerned about the near miss.  There were so many whales around that it was almost disconcerting. 


Thankful had its longest passage yesterday since Lori and I have been aboard.  We considered stopping for the night in Portage Bay, but instead just stopped outside for an hour to fish and then continued on to Petersburg.  Thankful arrived in the Petersburg harbor at 7PM after a fourteen hour day.


Lori and I continue to be amazed at how comfortable a boat Thankful is.  A seventeen year old fiberglass "Eagle 40",  the single screwed trawler has proven to be the perfect platform for the Dyer's Alaska cruise.  She only has a single stateroom forward, but the settee in the salon is easily converted into a queen sized berth at night for Lori and me.


The pilot house, where the four of us hang while underway, has a small table and bench seating that fits three of us while the helmsman has their own seat behind the wheel.  As a former "rag hanger" used to being exposed to the weather, I continue to be relieved that we can stay warm and dry in the pilot house no matter what the conditions are outside.


The 220 HP Cummins engine is smooth, reliable, and powerful enough to push us along economically at a steady seven and a half knots.  The boat was named "Thankful" when the Dyers bought her a couple of years ago, and they saw no reason to change it.  It fits for me, as thankful is how I feel whenever it is cold or raining or salt spray is pelting the pilot house windows while the crew nestles comfortably inside.


A storm system is passing over us now with wind and rain so we will likely remain in Petersburg for another day until it passes.  There are things to do here with a museum for Lori and some decent restaurants near the harbor.  This morning while ashore for breakfast in a cafe, we bumped into two other cruising couples aboard sailboats that are also hiding out from the weather in the harbor.  Matt had met one of them earlier in the summer, and we compared experiences. They use a lot less fuel than we do, but we get where we are going faster and are more comfortable.  Cruising boats are always a compromise, but I think we have the right tool for the job in Thankful.




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