Much of our cruising this year has been in rain
and fog, even though many people tell us this
is the nicest summer Southeast Alaska has had
in a long time. Somehow we seemed to be missing
much of the talked-about sun. We left Endicott
Arm to find lowering skies in Stephen's Passage
- where it was difficult to tell where the water
stopped and the sky started.
On the other hand,
we often see gorgeous, dramatic scenes like
A hazy day in Frederick
Sound didn't stop us from trying to take pictures
of whales. David was DETERMINED to get a good
photo of humpbacks cavorting, but they were
so fast. He just missed this one.
Now this is a teaser.
Just too far away.
Oh. This looks promising.
He's (she's?) waving a pectoral fin around.
Hi back at ya. But do something special, would
And here it is!
Isn't this amazing? Kudos to David for getting
such a spectacular shot of a humpback whale
breaching. This is definitely his prize whale
picture of all time.
Photo by David Parker
Even the aftermath is pretty dramatic.
Makes this sealion-jam
on a buoy look positively mundane.
We got to Petersburg
- in the rain. Where it was Linda's turn to
do line-handling - in the rain.
Petersburg is truly
a fishing town; this is a very active fish-processing
facility in the North Harbor. We like to watch
all the comings and goings of the fishing vessels.
I am constantly reminded of the labor-intensive
history that lies behind the fish on my plate.
here; at all hours of the day and night.
And now comes the
tale of losing our ability to steer while in
We left Petersburg to make our way southward
through the long (21 miles), but very well-marked
Wrangell Narrows (about 60 navigation aids).
There are lots of cover-uncover areas on both
sides of the channel, so you make your way snake-like
from marker to marker. While we use the autopilot
a lot, I like to make passages like this steering
by hand so I can finesse the turns and make any
It was my turn at
the helm (Linda) when quite suddenly the boat
no longer responded to my turns of the wheel.
We were about 2/3 of the way through the passage
- at marker G "17".
Wrangell Narrows is not a place you want to
lose your ability to steer. As I let Dave know
I no longer had steerage, my mind immediately
clicked in to steering with the gears and throttles
and I kept us on course that way. Royal Sounder
is a twin-engine boat, so using the gears and
throttles technique is old hat from all of
our close-quarters handling and docking maneuvering.
We also brought the (towed) skiff up short
so if I had to back up we would not run over
the tow line and foul our props.
David went into diagnosis mode and began digging
in the lazarette to check out the hydraulic ram.
Unfortunately, one more experimental turn of
the wheel offset the rudders and I was no longer
able to steer with the gears - because the rudder
was in a 'permanent' starboard turn mode. I had
already switched on the anchor windlass thinking
towards anchoring as a fallback. When I really!
lost steerage I went forward and deployed the
anchor to the "ready-to-lower" position.
A little more diagnosing and quick fiddling by
David returned some tentative steerage, so we
carefully made our way to a spot that was shallow
but safe and lowered the anchor. What David found
was that the hydraulic ram had become disconnected
from the rod (the drag-link that is connected
to the rudders) which controls the position of
the rudders. He knew what to do and made a fairly
straight-forward fix. We haven't had a problem
since. Old boats! Stuff happens.
Afterwards I thought about a boating educator
I really respect (Finn Knudsen - at Elliott Yacht
Lease in Seattle). He talks about avoiding the
word "emergency" and thinking instead
of "being prepared for unexpected circumstances".
When the steering went out, I didn't think: emergency!
My problem-solving side immediately kicked in:
steer with the gears, shorten the tow line, get
ready to drop the anchor. Thank goodness David
is a master fixer. Otherwise we might still be
sitting at anchor somewhere near marker G "17" in
You do realize that I was a little too busy to
be taking pictures through all of this. I enjoy
taking you on this virtual cruise with us, but
I do have my priorities.
I can't resist one last photo to remind you how
beautiful it is out here. We continue to hunt
for the blue-sky holes in the clouds.
Until the next installment...
We hope it includes sun.