Don and Réanne Douglass departed Anacortes April 30, 2003, on their most ambitious exploration aboard Baidarka to date—a thorough reconnaissance and documentation of the Gulf of Alaska from Cape Spencer to Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula to Kodiak. You can follow their five-month, 7,000-mile trip on this webpage.
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April 30, 2003
FineEdge.com’s Research Vessel Baidarka left today on its most ambitious exploration to date. Don Douglass and Réanne Hemingway-Douglass are embarking on a thorough reconnaissance and documentation of the Gulf of Alaska from Cape Spencer to Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula to Kodiak. The Douglass’ research will focus on the many inadequately and uncharted anchorages along the route that could provide shelter for recreational boaters and kayakers.
Accompanied by veteran crewman John Leone of Anacortes and others enroute, Don and Réanne will collect hydrographic and recreational information in their specially-equipped Nordhavn 40 research vessel, Baidarka. They will have three computers on board to help record and analyze their data and photos. Their robust trawler, which is perfectly suited to explore the remote seas of the world, has a self-sufficient range of 2,500 miles and sophisticated navigation and safety gear. (In 2002, a sister ship of Baidarka completed a circumnavigation of the world in 7 months, a new first for a production cruising vessel of this size.)
Sponsors for this year’s expedition include, Nordhavn, Nobeltec navigation software, Mustang Survival clothing, Iridium satellite communications, Interphase Technology forward and side-to-side scanning sonar, and the Canadian Hydrographic Service.
The Douglasses will complete their provisioning in Sitka the third week of May and be ready for a good-weather window to help them explore Lituya Bay, Yakatak and Icy Bay, as well as potential anchor sites along the coast of Cape Fairweather, Cape Suckling, Cape Saint Elias and Cape Hitichingbrook. In early June, they will rendezvous with Jim and Nancy Lethcoe, the leading cruising and geographical experts on Prince William Sound before heading further west to Kodiak. After exploring from Seward to Homer, Baidarka will visit parts of Shelikof Strait and the remote, but potentially useful, shelter afforded by the Barren Islands. Last will be the east side of Prince William Sound and uncharted areas south of Cordova and the outlet of the Copper River and flats around historic Kayak Island.
Don and Réanne will return to Anacortes in September after calling on a number of old friends in Southeast Alaska and upper British Columbia.
May 4, 2003
We are off to Queens Sound after spending a peaceful night in our favorite Fury Cove. There were a total of 4 boats in Fury Cove. Among them was the “Perlorus", a Bellingham boat headed also for Prince William Sound. We may see them again in Sitka on the way. We did 107 nautical miles yesterday leaving Port Neville at 0500 and dropping the hook at 2030.
We are underway north at 1200 hours via Pruth Bay, Hakai Pass, to Queens Sound and will stay overnight in the Goose Island anchorage if the wind allows us to get there before dark.
We are not sure whether failure for the engine to start sometimes is the switch, the solenoid or the starter relay. We found a way we can short the solenoid and start the engine by bypassing the starter relay in case we have to. Also, John cleaned and greased the relay contacts so that may be our problem. The engine started fine when we left the cove.
In any case I will look up the part numbers for the starter relay and solenoid to have you pick up and bring as a backup. Lugger is headquartered in Seattle so you should have them shortly I hope.
Best Regards, Don and Crew
May 5, 2003
After coming out of Pruth Bay into the teeth of a nasty black squall, the crew voted to turn right and head back into Fitz Hugh Sound. Instead the skipper threaded his way north between the Breaker Group and Plant Group went up Edward Channel and turned west in Nalau Passage. By then the dark squall line passed and behind the front was blue sky and moderate seas. So we once again headed northwest into Kilidt Sound turned west after passing the Mosquito Islands and attempted a transient of Spitfire Narrows in Spitfire Channel.
Spitfire is about the tiniest of all Northwest passages and Réanne conned us through missing the south rock a good 6 feet. She was on such a high that when we reached the open Pacific of Queens Sound, she followed the course 7 miles off shore to Goose Island like it was no problem.
Goose Island is a wildly beautiful place so we decided to spend a layover to explore this seldom place. John and I spent a couple hours beach combing and the three of us will head out again as soon as I get this off.
We hoped John fixed the starting problem yesterday but we have the same problem today. The starter won't turn over unless John hits the small Bosch starter relay. Please call Lugger in Seattle and order a replacement.
The Calvert Island weather repeater seems to be out again so we have not been able to get a local weather report but it seems to be fair weather so we should continue up the outside as far as Trutch Island in the Estevan Islands Group tomorrow. We hope to explore the uncharted west entrance of the Langley Passage.
Otherwise, things are going great. Réanne is taking good care of us in the galley when she isn't piloting. We watched a DVD last night, perhaps a first in these lovely remote islands!
Best Regards, Don
May 6, 2003
We have been traveling on the outside of the coast this morning in really fine weather and have gone from Goose Island across Queen Sound, passed Cape Mark, crossed Milbank Sound, took Catala Passage inside McInnes Light House and am now streaming north in Laredo Sound on the west cost of Price Island. We will be pulling into a tiny cove called Rudolf Bay for lunch. We checked out the tiny unnamed cove on the NE corner of Goose Island and found it to be a good lunch stop in NW weather.
Both computer navigation systems are almost inoperative. I deleted the PCR stuff we added the day we left but this has had only a marginal improvement (virus?). The ships computer is extremely slow and is about 2 minutes behind in up dating our GPS position and frequently freezes. The Dell suffers from some of the same problems and still offers only vector charts of marginal value. We are sure glad we have our paper charts onboard even though we three are a little rusty with DR skills.
We are back in weather station range so we are not quite flying blind. We talked with the Ivory Island lighthouse and Rene and Cheryl are leaving for the east coast and they will be missed for their 20 years of service here.
Best Regards, Don
May 6, 2003 (later in the day)
We are safely inside Rudolph Bay and really nifty place and the only shelter along this side of Price Island. Most of this coast is sounded out about a mile with thousands of rocks and islets—lots of white water here.
Check out this place on NCBC page 248. This place is like Fury Cove 20 years, undiscovered and unknown. This is the next step up from Fury Cove. A truly wild entrance, narrow entrance and near perfect shelter inside.
One big problem, I believe we made a mistake years ago when we said to pass the mid channel island on north side. This is a mistake. We came in on a 3 ft low tide and found a nasty rock pile awash which would be hard to avoid. We worked our way in very slowly along the south side and found 2.1 fathoms minimum in the tiny fairway.
Please put this up on our website and tell Charlie at Interphase that his Twinscope unit worked very well in the vertical mode just when we thought we would have to turn around before we got caught in a most difficult situation.
The head of Rudolph Bay has a wide a 2 fathom flat bottom bay with very good shelter, Lots of swinging room with a large inner bay and mud flats to explore to the south. Very few logs ashore here so this is the only place for miles around for such good shelter... getting in here in a SW gale would be something else, the entrance would be covered by lots of foam. I will do a diagram for future editions.
Yes, we need 12 volt parts so thanks so much. Until we get them we have to go down in the engine room and John hits the starter relay. We have lots to do in Prince Rupert so we may try to get in there by Friday.
The Iridium is working out very well for email. Our biggest problem is that while underway on the outer coast it is hard to type and pay attention to the communications when so many other things requires our careful attention.
Best Regards, Don
May 8, 2003
Things are going better since we just got the ship's computer back in near normal service. We have been flying essentially VFR last couple days but have kept up a fast pace and, as we send this, we are presently cruising along nicely in Petrel Channel.
The ship's computer got to the point where in could not process any GPS position. So this morning when I found a diagnostic screen that mentioned deleting all routes and maps I took it and Voila! it starting responding to GPS and got back its normal speedy response. I rebuilt the console etc and John is very happy to have his little green boat back and I hope to get rid of a week of frustration with some serious ship's port-drinking tonight when the hook is fully embedded. The problem seemed to be related to the failed attempt to install the PCR on the day we left Anacortes and the problems just got worse over time.
Only thing questionable at the moment is that Nobeltec has trouble reading the largest scale charts (small area) and shows a blank screen and, if you click the red down arrow, it causes the computer to freeze. We aren't complaining too much right now as this is such an improvement over what we had.
Here is what has happened lately:
We have not seen another boat since leaving Fury Cove the morning of May 4th. We have been traveling alone in a pristine wilderness. We love the Outer Passage!
After the interesting approach and good lunch in Rudolph Bay, we beat our way up Laredo Channel and made it to our goal of Devlin Bay on Trutch Island just as it got dark at 2130. The first anchor try dragged with a wad of kelp but the second attempt worked fine. Yesterday morning we launched the dinghy and scouted the Gillespie Channel, the eastern entrance to Langley Passage. We collected some good information for a future diagram to this special place.
When we returned to Baidarka Réanne said she would like to try the rapids in Gillespie and visit our friends the Pollocks in Ethelda Bay. The current was ebbing out at about 3 knots and the key leg of the route is only about 45 feet wide and you must pass within about 10 feet of red plastic buoy ET3 which marks bad submerged reefs just behind it. Réanne did a fine job and we visited the most remote outpost we know along the B.C. coast. The Pollocks run a small abalone research operation and were glad to see us. They took us across the bay to hike the old trail to the WWII DEW line station site. It was a thousand foot climb and because of overgrown brush took us 4 hours to complete with the cost of lots of scratches and some surface blood but what a view! On the way up we passed a large beaver dam, saw lots of deer tracks, and heard grouse in the bushes. (One even gave us a start when he flew out of the bush.) The weather was clear and we could see a tremendous layout of countless islands, breaking seas and snow-covered mountains on the North American mainland to the east. The west end of Langley Passage enters the ocean, but is shallow, kelp filled and poorly charted, but John and I decided to give it a try in the dinghy. We made it to the opening but turned around when the seas threatened to start breaking on us. The coast pilot says the seas break even in moderate conditions and that the entrance is not surveyed. It was quite a thrill off the edge of chart 3795 made in 1941 and not surveyed since.
But that was only the beginning, on the way back to Ethelda Bay I spotted a gap in the rocky shore to the south which is uncharted on chart 3795 (even to its approximate shoreline) so John and I spent about an hour poking our way south. We found a small boat route that Baidarka could apparently find its way directly into the ocean at high water with far less chance of finding itself in breaking seas.
Beyond what we call The Gap, lies a series of offshore rocks and reefs that make a natural breakwater of sorts offering partial shelter from prevailing strong NW winds. We made it as far as lat 53 03.478 and long 129 42.458 (about a half mile or more into the ocean) where the water was getting over 30 feet deep and appeared clear ahead. This route appears to be an alternative for small boats that can tolerate a lot of smashing swells on nearby reefs. Pollocks says the local fisherman don't use or know of the place except perhaps by their punts. He felt we might have missed a submerged rock at the narrows but that it could be avoided like at the entrance to Gillespie Channel, by staying close alongside the islet. We gathered enough depth data to feel it offers an interesting alternative and want to return some day soon and make a full diagram of place. I will write the C.H.S. and see if they have any more recent data.
The Pollocks' place is about as remote as you can get. They are about 100 miles south of Prince Rupert and near no habitation except a couple of Indian villages requiring hours of boat travel in rough seas. It costs them $425 for a one-way floatplane ticket. They treated the Baidarka crew to a fresh prawn (6 inches long from their traps) and spare rib dinner to which Réanne contributed a curried lentil salad. Danielle makes jewelry from the rare otoliths (ivory feather-like structure in the balance mechanism behind the eyes of certain bottom fish). We slept well for 5 hours then left to retrace our steps out east through the Gillespie Channel and our present route north.
Other than strong afternoon westerly and bumpy seas, the weather here outside on the west coast of the Inside Passage has been beautiful and great. We should be in Prince Rupert by tomorrow noon.
We just passed the first vessel in 4 days: a small sailboat heading into Dory Passage bound for Squall Bay.
Best Regards, Don
Weekend of May 9-11, 2003 — Report from the First Mate
We tied up at Prince Rupert Yacht Club by 1014, just a 20-mile run from Lawson Harbor where we spent Thursday night. We found many changes along the waterfront in Rupert: the old fish plant just west of Cow Bay, newly renovated, now serves as the terminal for the airport bus & is slowly beginning to fill with boutiques. At the yacht club: a new $37,000 gangway that eliminates the previous 45-degree angle at low tide (much safer now; one year Don fell trying to haul a dock cart at extreme low tide.); a couple of new float sections and, within a week or two they'll have email service for guests. We spent the day doing the usual shore side tasks of laundry, hair cuts, reprovisioning, stopping by dealers to say hello and checking on their stock of FineEdge products, and visiting with other boaters; then John treated us to supper at the best Chinese restaurant in town. Our friends, Don & Merilyn Baldwin of Seasport Marine lent us their car to haul all the groceries and booze. Oh, yes, the guys bought their last zillion gallons of Okanagon port (read: adult Coolaid) which is supposed to last until John gets off the boat in Kodiak. On Saturday, we spent over an hour visiting the Coast Guard base and interviewing the guys whose voices we've heard over the radio these past 12 years. Fascinating to see all the computers with the positions of ferry and cruise ships and to watch the guys in action as someone calls in. Due to budget cuts, these officers have to do Vessel Traffic, as well as respond to all the other demands. The Rupert CG covers 60,000 square km, the largest area in Canada and yet Ottawa won't even pay for radar for Queen Charlotte Sound and Dixon entrance that leaves miles of open water without security coverage. We are big fans of BC CG; most of these men and women are professional officers who know their trade thoroughly and are well trained and articulate.
Mark arrived (Sat morning) just before we returned from the CG Base and we spent a profitable (and fun) weekend working on the San Juan/Gulf Is manuscript and other items, and he and Don spent a couple of hours visiting the dealers. Mark bought fresh rockfish for dinner; John prepared it. That served up with a great Bunzel zucchini dish, my salad and a fresh sour dough baguette rounded out our on-board feast. Mark, we enjoyed having you aboard.May 10-11, 2003 — Prince Rupert Yacht Club — Mark’s Entry to the Log
As a guest visiting Baidarka for a working weekend in Prince Rupert, I was inspired enough to write my own perspective to the Log of Baidarka - with lots of pictures.
My trip to Baidarka had been previously planned as part of the process to finish the new 2nd Edition to the “Exploring the San Juan and Gulf Islands” book. It turned out as you may have noticed from the log entries above I would also be bringing along a new starter relay and spare solenoid for Baidarka’s Lugger diesel engine.
My first trip to Prince Rupert was with something I am told is very rare - non-stop sunshine! Well almost. Unlike the crew of Baidarka I took the easy way up via Air Canada Jazz, the discount prop plane service. While my passage was only a short 1.5 hours enroute from Vancouver (RT fare only $161US), the view was awesome. Traveling north in BC by airplane on a cloudless day is a special experience. Once we left the Vancouver area it was easy to pick out some of my favorite BC cruising areas such as Sechelt and Jervis Inlet, and Desolation Sound. Areas I hope to visit soon like Knight Inlet, Fitz Hugh Sound, Princess Royal Island were all right where they should be with spring snow capped mountains adding to the panorama. While departing Vancouver and enroute, the suspense for the trip was the pilots and flight attendant giving us an update on the zero-zero visibility conditions at Prince Rupert airport on Digby Island. They expected the low level fog to burn off around the time of our 9:35a landing. If the landing could not be assured due to the fog, we would turn around and fly the 1.5 hours back to Vancouver. Sure enough, as we begin the approach with 50/50 odds, the once clear view of the islands went to a layer of overcast. As we descended lower and lower, holes in the cloud deck began to appear where you could see green terra firma below. Being a pilot, I know that sight of the ground straight down does not qualify for visibility to land, so I hoped up front they could legally descend low enough to poke below the cloud deck. Sure enough they could and we made an uneventful landing. After deplaning the next step of the journey began. Digby Island is across the water from Kaien Island where the town of Prince Rupert is located. To get to Prince Rupert you take a bus, which drives down and rolls onto the ferry for a short 15 minute water crossing, and then the bus takes you through town and down to the visitors information center near the yacht harbor. As I stepped off the bus I could see Baidarka sitting in its berth at the Prince Rupert Yacht Club.
The mental vision of a yacht club is often gleaming boats behind locked gates. This is hardly the atmosphere in Prince Rupert and the yacht club welcomes transient visitors to moor at its accommodating facilities. While the resident boats fit the image of an area of BC known for its excellent fishing, the atmosphere is friendly and laid back. The club has recently invested in a new ramp and docks and is in the process of further improvements and future expansion. Overnight moorage is nominal and the fuel dock is right next to the yacht club. There is only one bathroom and shower but there was no early morning line this early in the season. The club’s commodore, Jack Payne, gave us a special welcome and asked if we might try their new wireless computer connections on Baidarka. Within a few minutes our laptops in the boat were connected to the wireless system in the clubhouse and we had access to the internet just like we were using DSL or a cable modem. Our cell phones were not usable in Prince Rupert, but we had high speed internet on Baidarka to send pictures to our web site and look at the latest weather maps and sat photos.
Don and I made several successful sales calls in town for our books and maps. Yes, FineEdge books and maps are very popular in BC and even in Prince Rupert. They sell well at Eddies News stand, Star of the West book store and Sea Sport marine supply. Afterward we grabbed lunch at Dolly’s Fish Market, just a block from the yacht club. Dolly’s is a must visit for great casual seafood. I highly recommend the salmon and halibut chowder with a shrimp sandwich. While discussing Prince Rupert restaurants, Cow Bay Café also gets high marks. We were not able to squeeze in for reservations on Saturday night and instead dined on fresh rockfish on the boat. On Sunday the crew of Baidarka and guests, Merilyn and Don Baldwin from Sea Sport Outboard Marina dined at Cow Bay while yours truly was reversing his bus-ferry-airplane and car passage home on Sunday night.
One of the extra experiences of any good harbor is the activity from the other boats that arrive and depart. Prince Rupert, as a gateway to the Alaska waters to the north, is no exception. For Don and Réanne there were a number of familiar boats passing through that they would most likely see again as they worked their way north. Baidarda also attracts some attention in any harbor as fans of the FineEdge books stop by to say hello and comment on their use of our books and the special coves or harbors they have found. On Saturday, one special guest was Captain Richard Friedman of M/V Explorer, the distinctive green and off white Malahide trawler many of us have admired in publications like “Passagemaker” and “Wooden Boat”. Richard was on his way north with two charter couples intent on seeing the sights of SE Alaska. Richard was kind enough to give us a tour of Explorer. It is a delight to see the workmanship that went into this incredible vessel when it was built in 1976 in Norway. 7” thick, steam bent ribs remind you how they used to build boats to brave the North Seas. I would go anywhere in this boat! Richard has just a few openings left in a pretty full charter schedule for the summer. If you want to see all SE Alaska has to offer and don’t have your own boat, or want to see it for the first time with an experienced captain, take a look at Richard’s website at www.yachtexplorer.com <http://www.yachtexplorer.com/> . Even if you don’t want to sail with him, there is a lot of good information on Alaska on his website.
Sunday morning was again another beautiful day with sunrise starting about 4:30am. From my berth in the pilothouse I had a great view of the morning light over the harbor as the northbound crowd started their early departures to take advantage of a good window in the weather on Sunday. I decided to beat the crowd to the yacht club shower at 6am. As I stepped out of the yacht club to head back to the boat, I heard the sound of eagles. To my left, three bald eagles where wrestling on the harbor rocks. But as I looked around, the harbor was surrounded by bald eagles. On the piling tops, on the ridge of a dock shelter, on the roof top of the yacht club, there were at least 12 bald eagles, and they were all watching me. Judging their talons, I figured the group of them could make mince meat of me in a few seconds. Attempting to show no fear, I made my way down the dock back to the boat passing within 10 feet of one grand eagle poised on the top of a dock piling. It was one of those magical moments we sometimes have when boating – but with my camera 50 yards away on Baidarka.
After a full day of working on the new book galleys with Don and Réanne, and a few more tweaks to Baidarka’s computer systems it was time for me to reverse the bus-ferry-airplane and car passage back to Anacortes, but not without one added point of excitement. Just before leaving, Réanne asked me to take back a small bag of office tools that would be not be needed on the trip. I shoved it in my overnight bag and didn’t think twice about it. She also asked me if I wanted to take back a round can of coffee as she had packed too much. Those who know Réanne know that she is an absolute expert at packing and provisioning a boat. In Prince Rupert, Réanne adjusted some of provisioning and left some things behind until they come back through in September. Later, as I passed through the x-ray security checkpoint in the Prince Rupert Airport, things got a little tense as they re-scanned my bag for the third time. Security asked if I would mind if they hand checked my bag. At first they came up with a large fingernail clipper. Whoops! Since 9/11 I tried to take those things out of my overnight bag before I would leave on a trip with travel on the airlines. The nice woman in security reached into my bag and asked if I had a pair of scissors in my bag. I said no, and she reached into my bag again and removed a 10” pair of scissors from the bag Réanne gave me. As you might imagine, the scissors did not make the flight and now probably are on their way to the Prince Rupert schools. Next out came the round can of coffee which they also proceeded to open and check. I will have to watch what Réanne gives me in the future before I fly. On the way up the nice shiny round cylinder with wires (the solenoid) also set off the alarms when I left Vancouver so I think I am now on the watch list for Canadian airport security.
Now I am back to Anacortes to keep the business on its FineEdge course while the crew of Baidarka brave the shifting weather enroute to the Gulf of Alaska and Kodiak. I will be joining Baidarka again in late July in Prince William Sound which will be quite an experience.
Enjoy the pictures (see Photo Album — May 11).
May 12, 2003 — Report from the First Mate
I insisted on filing today's report to keep a semblance of truth in the day's log. This is the kind of day the captain thrives on, while the crew grasps the helm with death-grip trying to control it.
We left Prince Rupert at 0510 this morning, at first light, knowing gales were predicted for Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and points north and hoping that an early start would get us across Dixon before the worst part of the weather hit the area. We threaded our way west, then north through circuitous Venn Passage & the North Shortcut (see p.393 Exploring North Coast of BC) where the range and sector lights read from seaward into Rupert Harbour. This means a stern watch has to holler directions to the helmsman. "On range; off range; in the red (too far to port); in the green (too far to starboard)." New acquaintances, Ken & Judy on S/V Nellie Juan from Seward, AK followed us out since they'd never been through the passage before and didn't have detailed charts. North of the shortcut we parted ways, as they set sail for Ketchikan. Seas were sloppy at first, but not bad, so we opted for the shortest route: up the center of Chatham Sound, past Dundas and Green Islands, then across Dixon Entrance. Winds of up to 30/35 NM from the SE had been predicted and we were soon wallowing in 2-meter seas. John and Don lowered the stabilizers and "fish", which helped somewhat, but with following seas we still rolled a lot. Because the boat was yawing, the autopilot had difficulty maintaining a downwind course and we had to hand steer, no easy task in those seas. By the time we were 15 miles from Rupert, all the indications of gale were visible: breaking seas and streamers of white foam across the water. I had been at the helm for several hours, but had to ask Don to relieve me because I couldn't control it any longer. Fortunately, the moment it got rough, I put on my new electronic "Relief Band" and did not get seasick. (Time will tell whether it works in the Gulf of AK, but I hope I don't have to test it any further than I did today!) Unfortunately, John lost his sea legs and felt horrible. The captain, on the other hand, whistled all the time he was at the helm, thriving on the fact that Baidarka was handling conditions well. (Frankly, I kept thinking he was whistling past the graveyard!) Baidarka's stabilizer poles groaned and creaked a lot, but the only emergency occurred when the freezer shot open and spewed all its contents. Someone forgot to put the lock on last night and I neglected to check it this a.m. (Future crew take note!)
Regards, love, hugs, etc (as the shoe fits) to everyone from Réanne
P.S. It's now 1800 hours and time for the First Mate to start supper. John has been reading Bernard Lewis' "Crisis of Islam" and he and Don are discussing the world situation over their 100th glass of port (that's counting the last two weeks). Menu tonight: sherried veal with linguine (courtesy of the freezer spill out); don't ask for the recipe I'm making it up as I go along. To Sean & Midge, et al: thanks for your Mother's Day greetings. Very funny, but Mark assures me we don't have to be THAT careful. Also, please tell your brother to check his earthlink mail. To Chris & Debi: Hope the wedding went beautifully; give my love to Amanda, and to birthday girls Christa & Marissa.
P.P.S. to Dina: Congratulations! We're very happy for you, but sorry you'll be leaving FineEdge.
May 12, 2003 — Comments from the Pilothouse:
Once it appeared that our crew wasn't exactly enjoying today's cruise, I started crabbing Baidarka toward the west side of Chatham Sound with the idea of seeking temporary shelter in Hudson Bay Channel between Dundas Island and Nares Islands. Years ago, Reanne and I found shelter in a small unnamed nook on the SE side of Dundas Island years, which we named Hudson Bay Cove, and used it to escape nasty NE winds that sometimes blow down 100-mile-long Portland Canal. The question today was how much shelter we could find from a SE gale. The cove is poorly charted (no soundings or depth contours) with a nice 20-ft-deep hole in its center and it looked like a good place for us to drop the hook. The water inside the cove was flat and we've been swinging slowly around while the wind blows overhead across the trees. Now that the tide level has fallen about 15 feet, a couple of small rocks have uncovered on the north side of the entrance so we'll make a sketch for our next edition of our North Coast BC book that shows favoring the south side when entering.
It always surprises me how good Canadian charts are for details but it also amazes me how those who surveyed these waters in the last 60 years or so missed some key details. For promotional use I just took a couple of photos of the screen of our new forward-scanning depth sounder. While it is not the quality of professional equipment, it's proved to be useful in tight quarters. Interphase Company is one of our sponsors this year and we appreciate their support of important equipment.
Prince Rupert waterfront was abuzz about the 105-foot pocket cruiser Safari Spirit with 16 people aboard that hit a rock last week in Fitz Hugh Sound along the main part of the Inside Passage, sinking the vessel. This is yet another sobering distress story that Baidarka's crew hears on emergency channel 16. On it maiden voyage three years ago, the new NOAA research vessel ran aground in Hiekish Narrows--a well marked and charted channel--and was nearly lost. High latitude cruising is a beautiful, wild experience, almost unique in today's environment but it requires constant vigilance to survive. Darwinism is still alive and well out here!
It's been pouring rain since we set our hook and now the Green Island lighthouse, 3 miles east of us, is reporting steady SE winds of 32 knots, with gusts to 40 knots, and rough 7-feet sea conditions. This means Baidarka won't attempt to move farther north today; instead, we'll relish our little bit of peaceful water just a few miles south of the Alaska border. The Captain broke out some wonderful chocolate covered peanuts from the McCoys and real homemade ginger snaps from Carol Cornell which they both dropped off at our Bon Voyage dock party.
The barometer has stabilized and we should head across the border tomorrow as the gale moderates. This was a good warm-up for the Gulf of Alaska which lies ahead and I'm happy to report the ship and crew did well for its initial weather test.
May 13, 2003
Presently tied up at the City Floats in Ketchikan and just finished dinner at the New York Hotel on Ketchikan Creek (good food! and nice to have it near the harbor).
We had a relatively easy day crossing Dixon Entrance as the front veered to the SW and the gale tapered off. We deployed the paravanes all the way from Dundas Island to Mary Island in AK. We had a mixture of wind, low clouds, cloud bursts and patchy sun all day long.
Only saw one other boat the entire way, but a few minutes ago a large cruiser (50-something Ocean Alexender) came in having completed the entire trip from Blaine WN in three days; flat out 20 knots with three much-needed fuel stops. Yesterday's gale caused a lot of follow up on Channel 16; the Coast Guard was looking for overdue boats or arranging emergency help; one boat hit a rock near Trutch Island; another lost its engine in Kitkatla Inlet, etc. The Coast Guard announced this morning that Kisameet Bay was closed for salvage work on Safari Spirit, so it looks like the grounding will turn out to be a real tragedy.
There were three giant cruise ships tied up to the wharf when we arrived; next week, when the real cruise ship season starts they expect to have five ships here every day. The ships arrive in the morning and leave in the afternoon starting at 3 pm; they travel overnight to the next stop, Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka or Skagway on a regular schedule. Downtown Ketchikan is now almost entirely jewelry and souvenir shops...certainly not the frontier charm of yesteryear as I knew it when I lived here as a teenager and ran the radio station for Ellis Air.
We found that the Ketchikan Micro Brewery is out of business and our favorite Spruce Tip beer is no more.....what a bummer....we may leave tomorrow and go hide out away from all this tinsel town stuff!
The saltwater temperature has been dropping and is in the high forties now. The Dickinson diesel pot belly stove feels really nice. We started it a week before we left and it runs 24 hours a day.
John and I can't figure out our fuel comsumption. We have a slow 6 knot boat but we seem to make fuel as we go along; the longer we are out the more fuel our sight gages indicate. We left Anacortes indicating 600 gallons and together both gauges now read 660 gallons remaining! For some unknown reason we seem to be generating fuel. We'll top the tanks in Sitka this week-end then perhaps we can get a good idea of what's happening.
Today was my 71st birthday. John gave me a New Zealand wool hat which has already become my favorite cold-weather hat; Réanne gave me a kneeling pad to protect my tired old knees and a whistle that's supposed to be heard 1/8 mile away in case I fall in the water or some horrible disaster like that. The crew tricked me into not having dessert at the cafe and served me vanilla ice cream slathered with Bailey's Irish Cream when we got back to the boat.
We're all pretty tired from yesterday's gale, so we plan to sleep beyond the usual 0430.
Don, John & Réanne
May 14, 2003
Report from Sumner Strait, heading toward Cape Ommaney at the tip of Baranof. We're in the process of deciding whether to take Rocky Pass or go on the outside of Baranof; the WX report predicts 20kn winds, small craft warnings on the outside.
Yesterday we left Ketchikan at 1030 hrs, headed north in Clarence Strait. Barometer read 1002mb and the wind was SW Force 3. As we hit the convergence of Tongass Narrows & Clarence, seas were lumpy so John & Don deployed the stabilizer poles but not the "fish" which stabilized Baidarka but didn't slow us down. The water calmed quite a bit as we moved northward and I was able to finish the edit of Chapter 8 and phone changes to Mark by cell later in the afternoon. We are now out of cell phone range, and the Iridium had insufficient signal strength for us to send the 5/13 report until late last night. But so far the sat phone has proved to be our best friend for communication.
Shortly after noon when John and I were on watch, the M/V Blitzen a beautiful 50+ foot passagemaker from Portland, OR passed abeam of us and slowed. I opened the port side door to take a look thru the binocs and the skipper came out and held up a copy of our Inside Passage book (now out of print). I waved and gave him a thumbs up. Unfortunately Captain missed the visual kudos.
By 1519 we were abeam Thorne Bay & Meyers Chuck. Continued on thru Snow Passage bucking a 3kn flood; Don took the east side where we found a 3kn back eddy, which picked up our speed to 10.1 kn over ground for the first half of the passage! After that our speed decreased to 3 kn through the rapids in turbulent waters. Current predictions read 2.5 kn on the flood and we were having 4.5 kn.
As if "reading the river" (Don hand steered all thru the passage) didn't give us enough excitement we were treated to the sight of more than a dozen orcas feeding and surfacing in Snow Passage. Six of them nearly gave us each a heart attack when they crossed the bow just 20 feet in front of us. Don had to throw the throttle in neutral and, for a moment, I had visions of the couple whose sailboat was struck and hit by a whale in the South Pacific during the early 1970s. But they just glided on their way giving us the thrill of the trip to this date. Till then we had seen very little animal life, other than birds: one merganser, murres, guillemots, blue herons, loons, least sandpipers (amazing flight patterns and tight turns), and of course, eagles en masse. Just now as I write this we had a rare sight of 5 arctic loons.
Last night Don asked the crew if we wanted to continue to Red Bay, making a radar approach and anchoring in the dark or scout out a new anchorage while it was still dusk. "The new anchorage!" was our answer, so we "cheated death again" (John's favorite expression) through a nasty section in Snow Passage, at the convergence of Clarence and Sumner straits and set anchor at 2130 hrs in an unnamed cove on the north end of Bushy Island that offers good protection from S & SE winds (position: 56 16.53'N, 132 58.87'W); John named it George Bushy Bight. The anchor bit on our first try (grey mud) and held well throughout the night.
Nobeltec on the ship's computer acted up again yesterday, so Don dumped the W. Coast charts from San Diego to Seattle and a bunch of routes and it seems to be working better today. We passed Red Bay a few minutes ago and have decided to take Rocky Pass to give John a thrill and to avoid the small craft situation on outer waters. As I finish this email we're bobbing up and down in the wake of the SS Zaandam which just passed on their southbound journey.
We all send our hugs, love & regards, Réanne, Don & John
May 16, 2003
Report from the Pilot House: we just turned into the south entrance of Biorka Channel from the Gulf of Alaska and should be tied up in Sitka in about 3 hours.
Yesterday, as we reached the top end of beautiful Prince of Wales Island at Point Baker, it looked very smooth down Sumner Strait toward Cape Decision so I decided that the forecast for small craft warnings because of 7 ft seas was overrated and we could save time and get some more offshore sea legs by going outside Baranof Island after all. Réanne and I love Rocky Pass, as one of our favorite routes, but it is very intricate and would have added another 30 miles or more.
At Cape Decision conditions were fine and we headed across the bottom end of Chatham Strait for Cape Ommaney 25 miles across. Seven foot swells were rolling in from the SW but the crew decided not to put our paravanes in the water as only the stabilization poles deployed were required. Everyone did fine until we passed under Cape Omaney and started out on the west side of Baranof Island. We immediately found heavy turbulence and dancing waters on top of the swells that had grown to 8 footers with occasional 10 footers. Before we could think about getting the paravane fish into the water to help calm the rolling, I found myself single handling the boat for the next two hours.
Réanne was game to seek shelter in Réanne's Terror the un-named inlet we ran across several years ago when we also need some calm waters. It's about 20 miles north of Cape Ommaney on the west coast of Baranof Island. Breaking seas close alongside with foam covered the entrance behind the large rock that hides the inner entrance. It's easy to see why no one had written about the place before. We knew by experience that the narrow entrance was deep and would likely not break clear across.
So in we went, with Réanne at the helm, and made our hard right turn and within two or three minutes Baidarka was in flat calm water! This place has to be the fastest transition from rough Gulf of Alaska seas to flat calm water along this entire coast. No more than two hundred yards from chaos to serenity!
We put the fish in the water inside the inlet this morning before we left at 0445 and the ride has been somewhat easier. The crew is up and about now and taking pictures of magnificent Mt. Edgemore. We have been seeing the snowy cone on the horizon since early morning which must have been similiar to what Vitus Bering and his crew saw as the first Europeans to see North America from the east side of the Pacific. Yesterday dolphins played in our bow wake and this morning we caught up and passed a group of three grey whales heading north at 5 knots just 50 yards inside our starboard bow.
May 16, 2003 (later in the day)
We tied up in New Thomson Harbor, Sitka, at 1455 after having refueled (372.2 gals). We decided that we'd better be underway the next day to take advantage of the good weather predicted, so we had to hustle to get in visits with old friends, laundry, re-provisioning, calling on FineEdge.com dealers, and gathering information from local acquaintances.
Long time friends Lizzie and John Herschenrider whom we met about 8 years ago on our first visit to the Charlottes surprised us with a visit. At the time we first met them they were planning a round-the-world cruise, but after several seasons in Mexico, they decided that Alaska was still in their blood, so they came north again, and built a cabin on Baranof Island's east coast where they now spend their winters. They happened to be on their Bristol cutter in New Thomson (bought in Ventura, CA and rebuilt in San Diego) and kindly drove Réanne around town to do her chores. Richard Freidman on Explorer was also in New Thomson, so we had another good visit with him.
One of our new acquaintances, Ward Eldridge had a tragic story to tell about losing "Merlin," his 111 year old, 73-foot schooner that he'd rebuilt from the keel up. In the fall of 1999, he and his (now) wife, Kathy, had anchored Merlin in the outer harbor of Still Harbor north of Réanne's Terror on Baranof's west coast and were kayaking in the inner harbor. When they returned to Merlin all they could see was the top of the main mast protruding above the water. The entire boat was under water. Ward was sure the hull had been rammed by a whale, but everyone who heard the story thought something was "fishy". Don had read an article from the Juneau newspaper and had the same response. Later, however, volunteers agreed to raise the boat if Ward would agree to donate it the Sitka Maritime Museum Assn. He did, and Merlin was hauled to Sitka to be repaired. On inspection of the hull in the Sitka shipyard, Ward and others discovered a perfectly formed 5-foot round hole and inside the hull was a baleine from a humpback whale. Ward's reputation was saved and the boat sailed south to Seattle to be used as an educational vessel. (The vessel is apparently now in private use.)
The docks were abuzz about the S/V Dagmar Aaen, a Danish-built gaff-headed cutter whose German crew completed the Northwest Passage last summer. (Unfortunately we didn't have time to meet them.)
We left Sitka at 1355 Saturdar after having completed our provisioning and having picked up the packet of San Juan Gulf Island M/S sent Express Mail from Mark at FineEdge. (For once the Postal Service didn't let us down; the packet arrived overnight from Anacortes--better service than we can get from there to California.) We navigated Olga and Neva straits, exciting narrow channels with strong currents--essentially the only route used to Sitka for all but large cruise ships, so we had to "be vigilant" at all times. We set anchor in Kalinin Bay, 27.7 miles later, at 1808 hrs. There were about a half dozen other boats already anchored there (most of them fishing charters). Joe and Margy Orem on their M/V Pelorus from Bellingham who are also heading to Prince William Sound, but about 10 days behind us, were also anchored there. (We last saw Joe and Margy in Fury Cove.) For dinner: fresh halibut filets prepared par excellence by John and a big salad by RHD. (This halibut, bought fresh at Lakeside Market above the harbor, made up for a disappointing dinner at Channel Club the evening before. In their defense, I must confess that they deducted my portion of the bill from the total.)
Sunday, up at 0330 (an ugh heard here and there from the First Mate & able crewman) and underway by 0400, to prove a long, rolly day.
While we're underway tomorrow (Tuesday), the captain will continue with his description of our high-anxiety entry to Lituya Bay. It's now 2240 and the alarm is set for 0415 so we can catch the proper tide for exiting. We had fantastic weather today in Lituya and hope to be safely in Yakutat by Tuesday night. I've kept one step ahead of nausea by wearing my Relief Band, but it doesn't keep me from getting dizzy or sleepy, and I don't dare read or write while we're underway. (Tuesday underway am trying to write short additions, keeping eye on horizon as I do.)
Love and cheers from Réanne
May 19, 2003
We're anchored in Lituya Bay & will attempt to catch up on the past few days. Between chores at Sitka and long runs since then we've had very little time for extras. In addition, the satellites don't always pass overhead when we need to send something.
May 20, 2003
Now en route for Yakutat. Gently rolling seas. Just did anchor test inside Cape Fairweather and now passing Cape Fairweather Massif. Don will write more later. I couldn't send my part last night because didn't have enough signal stream on the Iridium.
May 23, 2003
Baidarka is sitting out some marginal weather in the Yakutat small boat harbor, catching up on chores and recording considerable data we've gathered since arriving at Sitka.
Our stay in Sitka was only 24 hours, just long enough to make contact with a few key accounts, gather what info we could find on what might lie ahead and pick up the manuscript for Réanne to proof. With a low pressure system moving across the Gulf from Kodiak we wanted to get as far north as quickly as possible. So Saturday afternoon we moved up to our old favorite Kalinin Bay where we could make a long jump to north of Cape Spencer, the real beginning of the outside waters and the end of consistent cell phone, VHF weather reports, Coast Guard on Channel 16, etc.
We left Kalinin Bay at 0400 hours on May 19 and soon picked up a large group of California Grey Whales headed north for the summer. We were doing just over 6 knots and the whales about 5.5 knots so we slowly passed them about 200 yards inside our course line. We made good about 100 miles Sunday and anchored about 6 pm in Astrolabe Bay (named after LaPerouse's second ship). John and I checked out Boussole Arch and think that, under the right conditions, Baidarka could make it through this amazing geologic formation. Réanne and I think it's the most dramatic sea arch we have seen from Mexico to Alaska. It is about 100 ft high, with a solid 60-foot-thick chock stone with 60-foot trees growing on it. In a crack in the wall next to the Arch we could hear a sea lion harem crying out in alarm. After taking several passes with our echo sounder to get a good idea of the water depths, we were pursued by a bull sea lion whose agressive maneuvers and a big breeching next to our dinghy helped John and I decide to take leave, pronto.
One Monday May 20, with favorable weather, we pushed on to Lituya Bay. Tide conditions were at a minus 3 feet but we arrived just ahead of slack water and waited for the fast-moving ebb flow to cease. Réanne had been at the helm when we arrived. She got Baidarka in position and started in on the range-marked course but found steering somewhat difficult in the still-turbulent slack water. We had a few anxious moments as the seas breaking so close to both sides of the boat made us all nervous. [RHD's comments: It was SO difficult to steer that I asked Don to take over the helm; he had to jockey it around several full turns to port, then to starboard to keep the boat from yawing as we entered. John kept an eye on the depth sounder and I shot photos as we went, which made me less nervous than being at the helm! At one point Don asked John to look astern and tell him what the swells were doing. John's reply: "You don't want to know; just put the pedal to the metal and keep going!"] Three years ago when we went in on the last of the flood, it seemed to go much easier.
We were quickly inside and found good anchorage in front of Centopath Island. After a two-hour nap by all hands, we launched the dinghy and surveyed two other anchor sites we hadn't been able to do survey before. At the head of the bay, directly below the 1720-foot scar of the famous 1958 Tsunami Wave, we found fresh Cougar and giant grizzly prints, otherwise no signs of man or other large animals.
On Tuesday May 21 we left at 0355 hours, made it out the entrance just before high water slack and headed north. On the north side of Cape Fairweather we surveyed a temporary anchor site used by fishing boats in past years. It looks very good to me for a shelter in SE winds; the prevailing SW swells dropped in half from 8 footers to 4 footers in the lee. The bottom is good sand with lots of swinging room and we may use it in on the way south if we need to. It's an open roadstead and a vessel would have to get underway at any time the site became untenable. We saw a sea otter mom with her baby on her stomach a half-mile off hore near the Cape.
The cruise north along the Fairweather range was beautiful. The range has to have the most striking mountain skyline seen from the sea of anywhere in the world we know about. It is huge, silently brooding, dramatic and overpowering. Most of the hundreds of peak have no name, and everything is solid white interspersed with patches of dark and sheer rock slabs, hundreds or thousands of feet high. At present, the snow line descends to about 2000 feet and rises to the 15,000-foot peak of Mount Fairweather and to the 18,000-foot Mount Saint Elias.
We anchored in Monti Bay off the village at 2100 hours after a long day of 108 miles. Yakutat is about as remote as you can get in a good part of the world. Its nearest neighbors are Cordova 200 miles northwest, and Sitka 200 miles SE. Both are towns of only 10,000 people so you can get an idea of how isolated this place is. Fresh milk costs $10 per gallon! The next morning we move the boat around to the small boat harbor a few miles north.
Yesterday, Wednesday, May 22, we rented a car at the small airport (the main reason for the village of 600) and drove to the end of the dirt road and hiked a mile to Harlequin Lake, 40 miles south of town. This huge lake that lies at the foot of Yakutat Glacier is full of floating icebergs of all sizes. It was exhilarating!
Upon return, the three of us went to the Yakutat Second Annual Beer and Wine Tasting Party at Leonard's Landing lodge, and boy was it loud and fun. 10 percent of the town was there, mostly the professionals with the airport, the fish charter outfits or the Saint Elias National Park people. (Our Exploring the Southeast Alaska is for sale in the Park Visitor Center and when we walked in--perhaps the only visitors that day--the two park rangers told us they'd heard we were in town! I sat next to a seismologist who said there was a magnitude 4.9 earthquake the night of 5/21/03. We didn't notice it because we were either bouncing along in our rented car on jeep roads or were stuck in the mud and frantically trying to digging out before dark (about 11 pm). And, yes, there were fresh grizzly tracks alongside our spinning rear wheels, so that added to our urgency. It would have been exciting to be in Lituya Bay Wednesday night in any kind of earthquake because of it history of having really big ones about every 50 years!
Today, May 23, we are waiting for a deep low-pressure system to pass and for the high seas to decrease a bit so we can safely enter Icy Bay, 60 miles to the west, our next stop. The crew is cleaning up, organizing charts, etc. Baidarka is working just fine except that quilting and freezing problems keep occurring on the two navigation computers. Good thing John Leone taught navigation courses for the Power Squadron and Réanne is a diligent helmsman as we have been able to keep moving even when we are quite frustrated. More later.
Don, Réanne & John
May 27, 2003
We are presently underway 20 miles west of Icy Bay 5 miles offshore headed south of due west for Cape Saint Elias and an anchor site on the west side of Kayak Island. We hunkered down for two layover days because of weather and now are cruising along in only 4 foot seas and calm winds. We have the paravane’s fish in the water to minimize the rolling from the nearly perpetual SW swell found in these parts. Réanne is sleeping in the salon while John keeps watch in the pilothouse. We got up this morning at 0245 hours because we have 120 miles to go (most likely the longest day of this voyage.) It could take us up to 20 hours if we average 6 knots and we would prefer to anchor in the twilight that lasts past 11 pm. It took John and I over 30 minutes to clean off the blue-grey clay-like mud off the anchor and the chain. The glaciers produce a lot of silt that makes the water opaque and eventually becomes a thick gooey coat on the bottom. If the layer is thick enough it makes for good anchor holding.
Our Icy Bay anchor site turned out to offer better protection than we had hoped from the strong east winds and we had a snug time. It was overcast, rainy with some sleet and cold. We were just a few miles west of the Malaspina Glacier—I believe the largest glacier in North America. Daytime temperatures were 41 degrees F. From Yakutat's Hubbard Glacier, North America’s largest tide-water glacier with 5 miles of perimeter in the salt water, west to Bering Glacier north of Kayak Island is 200 miles of continuous ice and snow. Because of the overcast we only got one fleeting view of Mount Saint Elias, 18,008 feet, the second highest peak in North America.
The weather service underestimated the winds and seas when we left Yakutat and we had a rougher trip than expected. We found out later from a logging tugboat skipper whom we anchored near in Icy Bay that the weather service sent out an updated forecast at 1 pm Saturday. We were out of radio range, so just tuffed it out. The week before last the barometer climbed 30 millibars, then fell 40, and now has risen 20 since yesterday. You can cruise off Southern California for years and not see that much barometric pressure change in months! Except for two layovers days in Yakutat and two here in Icy Bay, we have moved along our route every day since leaving Anacortes and two of these days we could have moved if we wanted to. So overall the weather has not slowed us down and we are ahead of schedule. The long-range forecast calls for gales this Friday and we hope to be inside Prince William Sound by then. We hope tomorrow will be nice so we can do some serious exploring and data collection around Kayak Island, the only place in North America where Bering landed during his epic voyage.
We saw our first moose of the trip walking the beach. It looked the size of a horse.
I made some experiments this morning calling Coast Guard Radio from both our hand held and main VHF transmitters on emergency channel 16 and received no response. The Alaska coastline is not covered with VHF repeaters like the British Columbia coast is. Ditto the weather stations and cell phones. This coast is really remote and is perhaps the least populated of any part of the coast south of the North Slope. ( his maybe also true of the entire North and South America until high latitude Chile.)
Having the ability to check weather on the web via our Iridium has been most comforting. Thanks to Mark for helping obtain and installing the equipment. We haven't used the Iridium for a phone call yet. Keeping vigilant while navigating this coast takes all our time and energy and we are too tired when we anchor to do anything but rest, clean up and eat.
In Icy Bay we turned off our Dickinson diesel heater for the first time in over a month and cleaned it inside and out. It has been most appreciated and has worked flawlessly. In fact, our whole boat, other than computers, has functioned flawlessly and we work hard to keep it that way.
When we left this morning, I was concerned that we would not see the icebergs in the twilight and what the sea conditions would be on the bar. I had all of us suit up in our survival suits and boots and conducted an abandoned ship drill with life raft and dinghy. Afterward, we maintained a close watch from outside the pilothouse for nearly two hours. It turned out to be a bit of overkill and Réanne and John are both asleep like kittens at this moment and we are 25 percent of the way to Cape St Elais at 0745.
Best Regards to all those following our trip and a special to the Fine Edge office staff and friends who email us.
To Linda: We are using the hand held Iridium mounted on the wall and I strongly recommend it.
To David Hoar: We have the updated Nobeltec version 6.5 on our ship’s computer and recommend it. Our current problem seems to be a possible conflict between new NDI electronics charts P1, P2 and P3 and other software, or overloading the system, or operator error of some kind. It is now operating OK in a minimum mode but still has quilting problems and we can't get large-scale charts to display. Our brand new DELL is running Nobeltec 7.0 and it is full of problems with the alpha version. We would not recommend version 7.0 until more cleanup happens. I am afraid they have added too many bells and whistles and operator errors become a giant waste of time. I cannot differentiate between cause and effect on various kinds of problems and I have no idea what screens, that I have never seen before, mean.
To Richard Spore: Glad we have the loan of your life raft and are working hard not to use it. We will likely want to stop in both Icy Bay and Yakutat again on the way south, lots of fun. How are things going, we would like to hear from you.
Sunny and Bob: Hope we can connect on our way south as you mentioned.
Robin and Bill: Thanks for offer to help with Nobeltec. There are just too many inconsistencies to try and work it out at this point. Réanne sends love and hopes Cancer Walk is again highly successful.
Still getting rejections on some email addresses we are sending messages to. You can follow our progress on our website and I understand some photos are now appearing. How do they look? We don't have time to check photos from this end. Thanks to all and we would like to hear from our family. Everyone, please remember not to hit reply but send us a new email.
May 29, 2003
We made it to Kayak Island last night and anchored at 2100 hours, an 18-hour day. Doubling Cape Saint Elias was quite exciting, made more so by its dramatic size and shape. We could see it from 60 miles away, rising higher out of the ocean the closer we got. Cape St. Elias, which is actually the southern tip of Kayak Island, has a spectacular knife-edge ridge over 1000 feet high. Going into Kayak Entrance was a little hairy. As Paul Lutus had warned us, the echo sounder jumped all over the place and the charted depths are a "fairy tale." Before selecting an anchor spot we spent nearly an hour going around in circles to verify the real bottom. Apparently the entire bay raised a good six feet during the 1964 Alaska quake, and all the charted depths in the bay are off by 30 to 50 percent. When we woke up this morning there was a bare reef to the north of us that wasn't supposed to be there (i.e., not noted on the chart).
John and I set out in the dinghy while it was still zero tide level (0600) and circled the new reef. We took a full set of GPS lat/longs so we can chart this carefully and set up an entrance route into the bay that should be helpful to future boaters.
We spent the morning checking the area and found lots of grizzly tracks, moose tracks, birds and a sea otter that had recently died.
This afternoon we checked out a new possible anchor site on the north side of Wingham Island. Réanne and John took the dinghy into a narrow channel on the north end of the island (Oaklee Channel--an outflow of the Bering River) to record data. We discovered that the chart missed a large rock islet over 100 ft high and 150 ft wide. Several puffins dove calmly for food near Baidarka, without appearing the least bothered by our appearance; a lone Stellar sea lion basked on one corner of the islet while thousands of black-legged kittiwakes screamed at us from their nests on all sides of the islet. The sight was magnificent but the aroma less so. We took lots of photos and will call it Stellar’s Bird Rock for his love of birds. What a pity he was anchored just a few miles from this special place but didn't have a chance to see it.
[First mate continues] We are now anchored in 4 fathoms on the west side of the Martin Islands, rocking and rolling in this open roadstead. The Martins are composed of two islands, separated by a foul passage of about 500 yards. Our two intrepid explorers have taken the dinghy to check out the islands east side while I put my two cents in.
We've been re-reading Corey Ford's classic, Where the Sea Breaks its Back, about the Bering/Stellar Russian expedition in 1741 and, before they went exploring this morning, Don and John tried to figure out where the small crew might have landed. Other than Cape St. Elias, where a substantial light station was built, and two other possible sites, the island is quite precipitous, as Don mentioned above.
The weather yesterday and today has given us a rare treat—sunshine and fairly calm (for the Gulf) seas. We have a view of the jagged mountains between the Bering River and Copper River drainage systems and what appear in the distance to be the mountains of Prince William Sound. We hope the weather will hold throughout the entry and visit to the sound!
The guys just radioed that they're on their way back, so I'll sign off and send this before I start supper.
Regards, hugs, love, etc.
Don, John & Réanne
May 30, 2003
We are well anchored here in Garden Bay on Hinchinbrook Island. We had a good doubling of Cape Hinchinbrook yesterday before the winds picked up and are all happy to be inside Prince William Sound. It's been exactly one month to the hour of leaving Anacortes. Not bad for only a 6-knot boat; and in addition, we've gathered lots of good data to date. Réanne cooked a special turkey dinner with cranberry sauce, baked potatoes, fresh salad (last of BC romaine and tomatoes, etc.) with lots of Italian red wine.
John and I just got back from a shore run where we saw a lot of deer tracks, a beautiful alpine meadow, but no sign of the grizzly we saw last night. All three of us will run across in the dinghy to Constantine Harbor to explore a secure harbor that has only 3 feet in its entrance and a very narrow leg with strong currents. We will then move to the north side of the island for an intimate no-name area that Paul Lutus used last year.
We just got an email from the Frisbys and plan to meet them in Valdez on Monday, June 2nd.
Dave & Evie: looking forward to hearing more about College Fiord on Monday. We may find the Lethcoses in Valdez also. Don't miss eclipse of sun available for Alaska tonight at 0830 hours.
With only two to three foot seas forecast inside Prince William Sound, life on Baidarka is back to beautiful and things couldn't be better.
Best to all, Don
To our kids: we would certainly like to hear from you. Are you following our itinerary? How about getting your kids involved in the routes and lat/long, too?? We send our love to all.
June 2, 2003
It's now 0545 hours and we're heading out of Sawmill Bay bound for Valdez harbor. We had a layover day yesterday in the southern arm of Sawmill about 1/2 mile off the entrance to a lagoon that can be entered at high tide. John and Don reconnoitered the anchorage by dinghy and noted nearby, a bad 15-ft-wide uncharted rock awash on a 4.5 foot tide ENE of the lagoon entrance. They took GPS coordinates and found the chart indicates there should be a minimum of 7 feet of water in this area, just another indication of the general rising of the seabed as part of the 1964 earthquake. The problem now is to determine which charts have been corrected for the earthquake and which have not--this comes under the heading Local Knowledge and let the user beware.
Sawmill Bay is a jewel--a marine park that deserves to have been set aside. Snow-studded mountains rise abruptly from the bay on three sides, providing stunning a background for photo opportunities. We were delighted to sight 8 harlequin ducks playing around the uncharted rocks just 100 yd. off our beam. (Just now, we're seeing the first snow chutes that fall all the way to the water!)
For the first time since leaving Sitka, we encountered other pleasure craft in Sawmill. We shared the cove with a Hans Christian sailboat from Unalaska; a Pacific Seacraft S/V 25 (looks like a Flicka but is longer); a 45+ foot M/V engaged in fishing; a small aluminum runabout and our new friends on Enetai, Dave & Evie Frisby, who rafted alongside Baidarka yesterday about noon. We had potluck dinner on board Enetai: fresh spotted prawns, and homemade bread and chowder; salmon (prepared by John); an RHD salad (a bastardized salade nicoise using our last fresh tomato). Afterward Evie & Dave treated us to a "private showing" of videos they've taken in the area here, as well as a pre-release version of the PBS 2-part special program tracing the 1899 Harriman Expedition to this area. (Our webmaster Herb Nickles mentioned this to us some time ago.) The first part airs June 11 and it's definitely worth watching. (We'd also appreciate someone's copying it for us on DVD if possible.)
We are now approaching Shoup Bay that has a very shallow entrance bar. We're going to see if we can get in on the present low tide. Bergy bits at the entrance also increase the excitement. So . . . time to bail out, suit up and head for the bow.
Don, Réanne & John
June 9, 2003
We are presently streaming north in Harriman Fiord on a calm day. (Don't forget to watch the PBS two-part special on the Harriman Expedition that begins June 11, and tape it for us if possible.) We haven't sent a report for several days, not because we're having trouble but because we have our hands full collecting data, taking photos by the hundreds, trying to stay off the rocks and avoiding collisions with bergy bits.Today and yesterday we're visiting the glaciers in College Fiord, a fantastic collection of hundreds of glaciers with many that reach the saltwater, calving icebergs with loud cracks and booms. This trip of ours is full of magnificent scenery and experiences of beautiful wild nature; we're overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of it all.
We are generating some very good data and have collected precise GPS info on many cove entrances, anchor sites and uncharted rocks. We are finding many small errors or omissions in the paper and electronic charts and find that we must pay close attention to our surroundings and instruments every moment we're underway. Constant vigilance at all times is a must at this fast-paced itinerary and we find we're really tired at night.
We just took what may be our Christmas card shot at the foot of Harriman Glacier, taken with Baidarka just underneath the overhanging glacier. Most of the glaciers are calving and don't allow such a close encounter.
After leaving Valdez, we had to work our way through ice into Jade Harbor. There Don and John joined David from Enetai for a four-mile grueling hike up the newly uncovered lateral moraine toward Columbia Glacier. It was exciting to hike over terrain recently covered by ice for centuries. The next day we followed Enetai thru an ice-choked channel on the north side of Glacier Island so we could move west.
The last several days have included some really striking scenery in several inlets, Wells Bay, Unakwik Inlet, Eaglek Bay and Esther Passage.
We will rendezvous again with David and Evie Frisby in Seward on June 17 and share a rental a car to visit Anchorage. David has a passion to explore uncharted areas and he and Evie have shared some vital information with us. Yesterday we picked up a kayaker who's been out solo for two weeks and shared some hot chocolate aboard Baidarka. Kim Melling, who is a teacher from Anchorage area, told us of several spots in the Kenai we should visit.
John caught two salmon in Olsen Cove so this is now his favorite spot and he says the trip is now starting. Every day we see many sea otters, birds of all types but no bears so far; it's bear hunting season and it appears they've headed for the hills!
June 14, 2003
We are cruising along in the Gulf of Alaska at 0725 local time two miles east of Cape Junken. It is raining, visibility is about two miles and solid cloud cover cuts the vertical cliffs off in a horizontal line at the 1000-foot mark. If we could see the peaks that tower another 1500 feet directly above us, it would be most impressive. We put our stabilization paravanes in the water at Cape Puget and Réanne has been able to take the helm for the last hour and a half. The seas are somewhat confused off these capes that makes for a somewhat uncomfortable ride, especially after all the smooth water we found inside Prince William Sound. We are heading along the Kenai Peninsula in the direction of Seward; the ocean remains an aquamarine color and the scenery remains spectacular. Our friends David and Evie aboard the Enetai are two miles behind us and we will rendezvous with them in Day Harbor tonight to catch up on what both boats been doing for the last five days. David says they caught two halibut, two salmon and a cod and they are planning a fish stew for us tonight.
There is almost no vegetation along Cape Junken because the snow constantly avalanches down the near-vertical slopes, depositing large, dark, shale-colored rocks into the ocean. Along this coast, 3000 ft peaks are barely a mile from the saltwater and their snowfields are awesome. The chart just says the topography north of us is "high irregular peaks". Many of these numerous peaks are covered by the Sargent Ice Field which must have several hundred miles of surface; it in turn feeds many glaciers that head down the slopes for the Pacific. Bainbridge Glacier and Excelsior, which we are now passing, have a terminal moraine that is just a short distance from the beach line. This same ice field feeds the glaciers we saw a few days ago in Nellie Juan and Blue Glacier fjords, a good 40 miles north of here.
Our hope to report each day's progress to you over the Internet went out the window with Réanne's plans to input the details on her new laptop everyday. We had been making 6 to 8 anchor checks per day, but we found we could not sustain this week after week. The vigilance required to navigate close to uncharted shores and enter unsounded coves is very tiring. Then you add in the need to dodge icebergs and transit narrow channels with strong currents and no underwater visibility because of glacier silt, you can see why we were maxed out and getting testy with each other. We got Baidarka into the narrowest and hairiest spots along the Pacific Coast to date. Shoupe Lagoon, Jonah Bay, and 29-fathom Hole, all narrow openings of 50 feet or less with currents, making for high adrenaline steering.
This week we cut our workload in half and got three nights in a row of 12 hours of undisturbed sleep...what a luxury. Our compass course is now southwest as we skirt the Kenai Peninsula toward the direction of Kodiak. We will explore several interesting inlets along here, then head into Seward, our next and only civilization until Kodiak. So far since Sitka, we have only tied up to a float for the night in Yakutat and Valdez. It 's amazing how fast you can become accustomed to wilderness exploration. Each night we have a calm anchorage in a setting with absolutely no sign that mankind has ever been here. Quite amazing!
We have been obtaining information that has not been published as far as we know and it is exciting to know things about dangerous rocks, such as when they first appear on a falling tide that isn't indicated on the charts or guidebooks. Having John Leone has been a most welcome help and he is quickly becoming an expert in doing the bottom checks.
To Rod Nash, glad to hear of your interest, will try to email you tomorrow.
Kids: Sean and Chris are headed for Cabo (Sean to attend an econ. conference and celebrate Chris' birthday early). Chris and Jeff; how about an email for us?
Friends, thanks for all the emails, like to know someone is back in the other real world. Bill and the Admiral thanks for update and suggestions, hope we rendezvous in September.
To Terry and Debbie, how interesting we are actually west of your longitude and nearly a quarter of the way around the world north of you as you approach Fiji. We will save some liquid sunshine for you guys. Trust Wings' engine problems are settled. Nobeltec now working fine on ship's computer, will get new release of 7.0 for laptop.
All the best.
June 22, 2003
Just when we thought we could not get any busier, we did!
The Kenai Peninsula and Fjord National Park is one of the best-kept secrets in wilderness travel. Other than our buddy boat Enetai we see almost none other than occasional fast 100 ft day tour boats out of Seward. If you get a chance, come to Seward and take these tours, they are amazing. Better yet, hop on your own boat and spend all summer up here, up close and intimate. Today alone, whales, orcas, tufted and horned puffins, a lonely loon crying out as we do our anchor check, sea otters, eagles, etc., etc.
In the Northwestern Fjord alone we visited the snout of four glaciers as close as we dared and saw another dozen or more hanging overhead. Words escape us. We had all these glaciers and fjords entirely to ourselves all afternoon with nothing manmade in sight, and no permits or limitations (at least at this time. This one fiord alone makes Glacier Bay look more like a Disney theme park. After just this one fiord Réanne says she doesn't want to go back to Glacier Bay. Here you're as close as your adrenalin (and safety considerations) permit. The ice tumbles down right in front of you for 1500 feet or 5000 feet...we simply can't describe it all.
Saturday morning we tried to get into Taz Basin (59 39.07, 149 49.13), a submerged cirque on Granite Island Chart 16682 with a tiny opening. A strong eddy current against a SW swell bouncing off a 1000-foot cliff (Granite Cape) created confused seas and rain, and limited visibility caused us to abort the tiny entrance at the last minute. On the way to the entrance we got sideways to the confused seas and took three of the deepest rolls we have taken to date. Réanne's computer table went flying, as well as everything not tied down. A box of Gold Fish crackers, we enjoy with our evening port ended up all over the companionway to John's stateroom. That night we found our shower pan full of salt water....this is the last port light we close in heavy weather and this time the water flooded in on our rolls!
We talked with David and Evie Frisby of Enetai and they assured us they entered the day before with less swell. So Sunday morning we went back and made it. This was the narrowest entrance for Baidarka yet. Completely uncharted and no more than ten feet on either side or surging water along the rocks. Once inside it's just a high vertical rock wall in all directions. It hurt our necks to look up! Réanne said she wanted to stay inside forever!
The boat and crew are working fine; we have met with many of the key locals and have collected some serious new data and local knowledge, which will make it easier for those who follow us. We have only two more full days of making anchor checks in the park then we prepare for our crossing the straits for Kodiak. This morning David said a gale was expected in three days so we may be weather bound before we turn due south. So far the weather has not hindered our research a bit and we have been most fortunate.
As we continue we are seeing plate tectonics up close. We see the Pacific plate diving under the North American plate with contortions in rock structure that defy understanding. No wonder this place has the most large earthquakes in the eastern Pacific.
Best to all, Don
June 23, 2003
Sorry we couldn't get this off last night when we got in at 2030 hrs. We rafted with Enetai for a quiet evening but had a rude awaking 2 hours ago when Enetai's anchor broke loose and we where drifting ashore. We now have our dinghies on deck, the poles down and are looking for places to ride out what promises to be one or two gales with 16 ft seas in the Barren Islands just SW of our present position. Baidarka is headed for the west side of Nuka Island while Enetai is headed deep into Nuka Bay in search for shelter there. We just reread the Coast Pilot and the local knowledge notes given to us by Seward experts and there is essentially no specific info to help us make a decision. So here we go again making our own local knowledge. To be continued...
June 25, 2003
We are snuggled into a near-perfect cove of maximum security, called Home Cove on the west coast of Nuka Island. The only thing we can find written about it in the Coast Pilot is: "Home Cove is small". We spent some time yesterday circling around slowly looking for any uncharted rocks and other hazards. After finding what appears to be a perfect place to take a gale, Baidarka settled in behind a small treed hill that would give us maximum shelter from the U-notch williwaws screaming down from the east. At most we have experienced only 2-inch chop as the rain scuds across the narrow bay.
We called David and Evie on Enetai yesterday with our findings and, after comparing notes (David is very observant and collects solid data in his logbook), they joined us in Home Cove in the evening. They had to reset their anchor this morning after they dragged fairly close to shore during the heavier gusts through last night but, otherwise, both boats have been very comfortable. We have 250 ft of chain out, and 75 feet of main snubber and a short, small back-up snubber for extra security.
We are getting good service from the Iridium for obtaining weather forecasts from the Internet. We have not had any VHF radio coverage for several days not (nor AM. FM, TV etc.). We know nothing about the outside world and were quite surprised yesterday to read in a weather forecast that the area we have been exploring the last few days has been covered by a Tsunami Warning because of an earthquake somewhere close to us.
Tomorrow things should ease up to the point we can move down to Gore Point and perhaps enter Port Dick to the west. Here "Port" is not a place where you find people but an indication that early explorers found some shelter there. This will put us due north of Kodiak about 60 miles and in good position to cross Kennedy and Stevenson Passages to the sheltered coves of Shayak Island. If the 16 ft seas of this weather front die down by this weekend, we should be able to reach Kodiak for our Fourth of July celebration and mid-point of this year's exploration.
I forgot to mention in the heat of leaving Midnight Cove yesterday when the anchor was dragging, that Réanne was at the helm while John and I were on deck deploying our stabilizers. Our inverter was not running at the time and Réanne did not have the electronic charts to navigate with. She crossed over charted rock and what saved us was that we had our depth sounder alarm set for 5 fathoms. Réanne immediately took the power off the boat, but then took evasive maneuvers that only led to more shallow water. This went on for some time before she could be convinced to simply stop all motion on the boat and to calm down and try to figure a way out. We were all pretty high on adrenaline and soon we were on our way to Nuka Island and this lovely place. We may well call that Réanne's magnetic rock.
Kathy W.: Thanks for the message. Yup, there's a big difference in temp & weather!
Diane: So happy to hear your good news.
Jeff D.: Try a message w/out a photo, we'd like to hear from you.
Seano & Chris: Give Mom a report.
June 28, 2003
This moment finds us in Perenosa Bay on the west side of Afognak Island about 40 miles and two days north of Kodiak. The weather cleared up and we are having the first sunshine, it seems, in weeks.
The ride to Port Chatham from Tonsina Bay was speedy with strong SE winds all the way. Port Chatham is the best secure anchorage at the end of the Kenai Peninsula and we were glad to have it. It blew and poured rain all night with some improvement in the forecast for yesterday so we took off to cross some of the worst waters in Alaska, the confluence of Cook Inlet, Shelikof Stait with the Gulf of Alaska. The weather did improve and we crossed halfway to the Barren Islands where we had a nice lunch stop and found three possible fairweather temporary anchorages. These islands are so barren and imposing that the crew felt uneasy and wouldn't consider staying overnight. These islands, and Shelikof Strait are notorious for being the "worst weather factory in the Gulf".
We continued across and found excellent protection for the night in Shuyak Harbor on Shuyak Island. This morning a fellow and his daughter kayaked out to welcome us and told us some great stories. The entire Shuyak Island is now an Alaska State Park (bought by Exxon oil money) and could not have been better designed as a kayak paradise. Hundreds of islets, reefs and shallow, torturous inlets provide a maze of semi-sheltered places to poke around. It's difficult to get to this island so only a couple of isolated park rangers live here, although it has a history of having been inhabited by Natives centuries ago. More recently there were salteries and a cannery in several of the coves.
An hour ago we passed thru Cape Current Narrows, not recommended for any but locals since there can be overfalls of 6 feet or more and standing waves like that of the Colorado River. John looked up the the tide current forecasts for today and found that the tides on the West side of the island (Shelikof Strait side) are 10 feet higher than the those on the Kodiak side of the island (Gulf of AK side)! The narrows reconciles the tidal difference with a number of tiderips, but John read the complex tables correctly, and we cruised through at idle speed barely 100 feet from shore.
Réanne has turned into a true co-captain and shows so much courage. I always ask her if the course ahead is ok because half the boat is hers. The official Coast Pilot is quite negative on many of the small coves and challenging narrows that anyone reading it would wonder if pleasure craft even belong here. I think the answer is yes, but it takes a good vessel and a crew like Réanne and John to handle it safely.
We are starting to think ahead to Kodiak and all the things we have to do to get ready for the crew change and the trip back to civilization. Since leaving Seward we have seen only a handful of boats and talked to almost no one. We will have culture shock at first. This has been a fantastic way to see true wilderness, although sometimes trying, and we all think it's been a great privilege to visit it.
RHD's two cents: Other than pushing us like work horses, the captain has been "right on" with his calculations and theories. I'm proud of him! I'm also proud of John and thankful to have had his help as crew on this 10-week leg. His sense of humor, good nature, and ability to turn a deaf ear when words pass between the captain and me have been remarkable. Both guys are fun to cook for. They always seem to like whatever I prepare. After having visited this Gulf of Alaska coast, I can say that it's much less fearsome than I originally anticipated, especially with Don's "harbor-hopping" philosophy.
June 30, 2003
We just tied up in Kodiak Harbor, 63 days out of Anacortes, 521 engine hours and at least 3500 nautical miles and one day ahead of schedule. We have documented over 200 coves and looked into scores more as we went by and may visit them time permitting on the way home.
With the sole exceptions of the electronic navigation and intermittent problems with satellite communications, the ship and crew behaved beautifully and the trip has been a complete success to date. We have not been able to send or receive any email for last 3 days because of the Iridium not finding our host for some unknown reason. These rather minor problems did not prevent us from accomplishing our mission or to drive the boat carefully. While we had some weather, we were not hindered by it, and the potentially difficult crossing out to Kodiak was a non-event. We were able to stop at the Barren Islands for a lunch stop and document 3 potential fair weather anchor sites.
We have been doing some pretty exciting stuff aboard Baidarka and I'm sorry to say, in a couple of cases in the rolling seas, my finger hit a key which deleted (because I had not done a save) what I thought was great reporting on the spot literature. Perhaps we can give you the missed details in person in the future. Now we must screw up our courage to cope with culture shock, meet with the harbor master and other key folks and see what this place has to offer cruising yachts. We were informed while getting our slip assignment that they are not set up for transient electrical service so we are paying $100 for one week of electricity for mandatory hook up and disconnect fees!
Anyway, the "A" team is glad to to have arrived, and I am proud and thankful for all John Leone's help in getting Baidarka prepared and in sailing her here and in pulling up the anchor, and cleaning it so many times. We had to replace our bottom-test Danforth anchor because we bent its shaft 45 degrees but the new 11 pound Bruce has been working fine since Seward. John had such a positive attitude and has been good to have around even when we were all tired and cranky.
Réanne has shown outstanding courage and stamina on this trip, while avoiding collisions with countless uncharted rocks and shoals, floating bergy bits and logs, kelp patches and other hazards of the sea. Our boat show and yacht club presentations will aptly show what a great seaman she is. No crewmembers lost any weight thanks to her fine cuisine served after a long day in which there was little time to make all those wonderful stews and soups.
We are filling our water tanks and the boat will be shortly be ready for the "B" team and an exciting return trip down the coast. Baidarka welcomes Richard Spore, Don Odegard, and Mark Bunzel for parts of the return trip before Réanne arrives in Sitka Aug 18th for a quiet and calm return. We want to recognize Mark Bunzel and his wife Leslie and the crew on the home front at Fine Edge solving many minor problems for us along the way.
The many emails we got from so many friends meant a lot to us when it was raining buckets and blowing across our anchorages and we hadn't seen any signs of mankind for days on end. We will try and respond, time permitting, and we'll have many sea stores to recount when we next get together over a bottle of red.
Best to all, Don, Réanne, John
July 8, 2003
On July 8th, we anchored in Devils Cove in a well protected place along the Katami Park, which is otherwise wild and beautiful, but not very secure. There's a wilderness lodge [fly-in] on the east shore of the cove. A Gruman Goose—the same as those whose engine I used to warmed up every morning when I worked for Ellis Airlines in Ketchikan in 1950. The plane landed on the water then taxied over to the lodge, lowered its wheels, powered up onto the gravel beach, turned around to face downhill and parked for the night. This very same model we used in Ketchikan is displayed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Shelikof Strait [essentially the continuation of Cook Inlet] is the most feared body of water in the Gulf of Alaska, with the Barren Islands east of Cape Douglas a close second. The strong currents in and out of out of Cook Inlet, and strong winds flowing along the Alaska Peninsula cause tight square waves that come up quickly and have overwhelmed many a small and medium sized vessel. To make things worse, the weather forecasts for the area seem to be very poor; we found the wind direction always 180 degrees off. By midday on July 9, what were supposed to be light SW winds became brisk NW winds and our speed was cut in half. We found temporary shelter in the lee of Kiukpalik Island for a lunch break and, in the process, found a sizeable uncharted shoal. The fog closed in and we had a rough ride to Cape Douglas. We collected data on a lee under the cape then rounded Cape Douglas to see if we could get into Sukoi Bay—a shallow bight on its north side. By then the barometer began dropping and the wind was 25 knots from the SE, with sizeable seas. It turned out that we were able to find our way in the narrow entrance between swell sets and found good anchorage from any weather from NW counter-clockwise to SE.
July 9, 2003
Baidarka is cruising north in Shelikof Strait with near calm conditions! We stayed in Devils Cove last night and are presently about 20 miles south of Cape Douglas. We had a very good crossing yesterday and spent 5 hours checking out anchor sites in Geographic Harbor. This is quite a spot and offers the best shelter anywhere around this part of the Alaska Peninsula. There are three basins, all landlocked and essentially bombproof except for possible williwaw attacks. What from afar looks like low-lying snow patches are many light colored patches of ash from the 1912 Katmai eruptions. We saw 15 grizzlies during our 5-hour stay and were so close to one big male that we could have lassoed him from our bow. We decided not to try because he was at least 800 to 1000 pounds. He completely ignored all our chatter, then we began yelling at him and even blowing the horn. He was just busy looking for grubs under rocks and then taking a little soak in front of our boat. We are seeing many, many whales, sea otters, puffins and kittiwakes. Much like the Aleutian Chain, there are few trees on the Alaska Peninsula; mostly low, bright-green bushes with towering snow-covered rocky peaks and ridges above.
There is a big high pressure area over the Gulf so we are moving fast to get to Homer, perhaps tomorrow [July 10], which will be a relief to get back to the Kenai Peninsula so we can count on getting Don O to Seward in time for his departure. Richard and Don have been great help and things are doing fine.
We plan to stay in the no-name cove on the north side of Cape Douglass this evening; it's shallow with a narrow entrance but should be a good jumping off spot for the 50-mile trip or so to Homer on the east side of the Selikof and Cook Inlet. There is a fog bank off the Cape at the moment so we may have an interesting approach.
[Our latest communication from Baidarka was by cell phone 1600 hrs PDT, JY 11, as Baidarka with Don, Richard and Don O., were approaching Homer, then JY 12 as they left Homer for Seldovia. As I send this now, Baidarka is on its way around the Kenai Peninsula.]7/10/03 from the temporarily land-based First Mate in Anacortes
Summary of our week in Kodiak:
John Leone and I flew home via Anchorage, Sunday, July 6, as Don Odegard and Richard Spore flew in to take over as crew. (From the reports coming over the Iridium, it sounds to me as if the B Team has already earned an A+. Don will fill in some interesting details in a day or so.) I fell in love with Kodiak and left reluctantly; I could willingly have stayed another week, even a month or so, even the entire summer.
Get out an atlas and take a look at Kodiak Island, which is actually the largest of the Kodiak Island Archipelago; 3,500 square miles and full of indentations, two-thirds of the archipelago is a designated wildlife refuge. There are only about 50 miles of roads on Kodiak (mostly gravel, except in town) and these roads all run just from a section NW of the town of Kodiak and S to Ugak Bay. We drove every inch of those miles in beautiful sunny weather. What intrigues us so much about this island is its rawness. Geologically it's a young land, only about 10,000 years old, so the massive stands of forest you find in more eastern and southern portions of Alaska have not had a chance to establish themselves. The northern and eastern portions we saw either from sea or by land are covered with brilliant green brush and small stands of spruce, giving it the reputation as the "Emerald Isle." Indeed, except for the spruce, the island does resemble Ireland in many respects. Kodiak has the largest Coast Guard Base in the 50 States—about 1100 personnel, one-sixth of the population of the town. Aside from government, the next largest industry is fishing; third is tourism and the tourists come from all over the world, not in droves or by mega-cruise ships, but by the AK ferry system, by air or by smaller cruise ships. The harbor is home to about 600 fishing vessels. The only pleasure craft in the harbor that first week of July were Baidarka, 52-foot S/V Patago, owned by Jean-Francois and Sylvie Andre (who've been cruising the world for 16 years) and one other sailboat that spent only two days. We had a slip in the inner harbor which is close to the laundry, restaurants, gift shops, hardware & marine stores. Other than the restrooms (filthy), the facilities, docks, and gangways are well maintained and modern. Valdez, Seward and Kodiak rank among the top facilities in what's known as South Central Alaska. Independence Day celebration began promptly at three minutes past midnight on the 4th of July. We sat on Baidarka's foredeck in the twilight and watched a magnificent display of fireworks. (The radio announced 17hours 54 minutes of daylight the next day!) That afternoon Connie and Thor Olsen owners of Viking Star, a commercial fishing boat, invited us to accompany them for a picnic on Long Island (an hour's cruise from the harbor). We ferried all the food to shore from the anchor site and barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs on an open fire. The kids played "baseball" with a stick (for a bat) and a variety of "balls" that consisted of clam shells (they splintered) or spruce cones (too lightweight) or a short stick (the "ball" of choice!). We didn't hear one child complain of being bored. My new friend and I hiked to the northeast side of Long Island where there's an abandoned WWII Army Base. Quonset huts and cabins—overgrown with brush amidst a sparse forest of spruce—and concrete bunkers contrast with masses of dark purple lupine, wild iris, shooting stars, chocolate lilies and rosey orchis. Other than the sound of a tiny elusive song bird there was absolute stillness. While Connie and I hiked, Don and Thor explored a neighboring island by skiff. (MORE local knowledge!) Late in the afternoon, the wind came up and it started to rain forcing us to pack up in a hurry, load the skiff, and head back to the boat.
I was fortunate to meet two fellow Soroptimists, Suzanne Ellis and Jessie Youmans whose first encounter with Kodiak Island was "love at first sight." Suzanne, who had cruised for seven years with her husband, has a "survival" story of her own to tell about their arrival from Guam Island.
During my flight from Anchorage to Sitka, visibility was perfect. I looked down as the 737 flew over the Kenai and could see Northwestern Fjord—my favorite of all the fjords; then College Fjord and Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound; Valdez; Cordova; Icy Bay; Yakutat; and Lituya Bay. It was a thrill to think we'd visited all those places in Baidarka. Having done it successfully and having been won over by Don's philosophy of harbor- or more aptly, anchor site-hopping, I'm ready to do it again. The Gulf of Alaska has captured my heart!
July 14, 2003
We did 89 miles in 15 hours today from Picnic Harbor [south end of Kenai Peninsula]. Picnic is a beautiful site and Don O. caught a salmon there. It was flat calm all day so we were able to check out Sunday Harbor, Gore Point, Wildcat Passage, Wildcat Cove and others. (Our "jury rig" repair of the winch seems to be working fine.)
A few hours ago, at the last cove on the east shore, just south of the Northwestern Fjord bar, we nearly lost our anchor and chain. The Bruce got caught in the rocks in a beautiful spot between two vertical waterfalls. It took the three of us over an hour of hard work to retrieve the anchor. The stainless swivel has bent 30 degrees and we need to replace it ASAP. [Here at the office, Mark called call Fisheries in Seattle and arranged for them to send to Seward their best quality stainless ball & socket anchor swivel for the 50 kilo Bruce.] Otherwise things are going fine aboard Baidarka. We liked Seldovia and I hope Réanne will have a chance to visit it in the future.
We haven't seen another pleasure craft since leaving Homer. This is world-class cruising and I think people will feel confident in making the trip up here when our new book comes out.
Richard is cooking great stews and stuff so we're eating really well and we're seeing some fantastic wild life. Off Gore Point this afternoon, we watched two dozen killer whales feeding in the tide rips.
July 15, 2003 — Northwestern Fjord; Anchor Glacier
We had great thrills last night anchored at the foot of Anchor Glacier. [John, Don and I had previously checked out the anchor site and determined that the name was appropriate.]
Yesterday was the warmest and clearest day we've had to date, and both Anchor and Ogive Glaciers cracked and banged all night long. This morning during breakfast, the center portion of Ogive gave way and sent a snowy, icy white-out horizontally for 200 yards. We had been under the cathedral-like pinnacles that Réanne likes so much; yesterday at noon we took more photos but now those beautiful ice sculptures are gone!
We weighed anchor in a hurry since the mass of ice was drifting down on our position. Our Furuno sounder registered that we had travelled 8.6 miles in the 18 hours we were anchored. We now call this uncharted underwater hill we were on, Baidarka Mound. This is my favorite anchor site to date; it's a quarter-mile off the face of Anchor Glacier and is relatively safe, but it's definitely not for everyone. We'll have to put lots of caveats in the book for anyone wishing to duplicate our experience.
So right now we're heading across the bar of Northwestern Fjord on a minus 3-foot tide. (Tonight we'll anchor in Sunny Bay so we can be in Seward by noon Wednesday to drop Don Odegard off.)
We just crossed the bar and, as I was writing a blow-by-blow report, this bouncing boat caused one of my fingers to hit an incorrect key and I lost my last epic paragraph. [First Mate's mantra is SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!]
Anyway, we crossed the bar with a 3.3-knot ebb current and faced a 3-foot breaking over-fall on the south side. The tide was coming off a 15.6-foot drop and we were just 30 minutes from low water. I can't imagine what it was like two or three hours ago; there must have been 6-foot breaking seas and very dangerous. WE BOYS ARE HAVING FUN!
We're now entering fog on east side of Granite Island, so to be continued . . .
I just checked the CQR backup anchor; it has the same swivel shackle we bent two days ago and if you can't manage to find a new one to send up, I can take it off to use on our main anchor. The new one must be stainless, rated for mucho pounds, and able to fit the shank of the 50-kg Bruce anchor. [Mark arranged to have one shipped directly from Fisheries Supply in Seattle and the package was waiting for Baidarka upon arrival in Seward.]
[And the problems continued: Baidarka's 3-year-old Ocean PC flat-screen went dead, after having given signs the day before that it was "tired." Don O brought the screen back to Anacortes with him where Anacortes Marine Electronics repaired the circuit supply in time for Mark to take the screen back up to Whittier, AK with him on July 26.]
July 17, 2003 — Seward; 0950 hours
We think we finally have the Dell driving the autopilot and want to make sure we haven/t lost email capability. Each cruising boat will need to have a couple of computer engineers assigned to keep the boat working! We've found that on the Dell we have to turn on the Furuno GPS and depth sounder before we turn on Nobeltec and, on shutdown, do the reverse or the Dell will freeze—this is the just opposite of what Nobeltec told us last night! We're still living in the dark ages!!
We have to move from this slip Friday noon since its owner is returning. The harbor is now full and there's rafting three-deep on the transient dock that has no electricity. Don O will catch the evening train to Anchorage Friday night and the red-eye to Seattle at 1 a.m. Sat. There is a low headed this way so Richard and I may stay in Sunny Cove Friday night.
Right this minute, we're going out on deck to put on the new swivel —it looks really good.
July 17, 2003 — Evening
We just finished redoing our anchor system and I'm pleased to report that we now have fully-functioning capability and are ready for the trip south.
In studying the chain and anchor this morning, I found that, in the process of bending 30 degrees, the damaged shackle had narrowed from its nominal 0.50 inch by .010 inch. This gave me a start when considering what kind of pressure it would take to do that. So I measured the first link in our anchor chain and found that it had stretched by between 0.010 and 0.015 inch. So Richard, Don O. and I spent all morning taking out the full 415 feet of chain that weighs 600+ pounds and reversed the ends, putting the strained links at the far end. We also repainted the 50-foot marks and put on new plastic wire ties that have worked so well in indicating how much chain we have out. The new German Masai socket swivel fits just fine and is well worth the $300 retail price. Because the 7/8-inch snubber we used in the anchor retrieval showed signs of over-stretching by nearly an inch near the eye-splice, we reversed the chain hook as well. We should be good to go now.
Don O seems to have figured out what it takes for the backup Dell to drive Baidarka with the electronic navigation and autopilot. We will use Richard's laptop as a back-up and will have the little green boat icon in its correct GPS position.
We have also installed the new antenna that Iridium was kind enough to send up, and it seems to helping a bit on signal strength. [Again, kudos to Iridium; they've been very helpful!) Also, I received the Nordhavn package with the manual for the windless and am satisfied that we have a solid system for the time being. We can replace the corroded casting during the off-season.
Richard and Don O have taken the afternoon off to see Seward and I'm going to start clean-up of all the tools, etc. It's a good thing that Réanne, John and I had a couple days to sightsee in Seward on our westward-bound trip because I haven't been more than 50 yards from the boat on this stop. It looks like Richard and I will leave tomorrow noon for Prince William Sound and will be in good shape to continue doing our research.
July 19, 2003 — West End of Prince William Sound
Richard and I arrived safely in the west end of Prince William Sound and started checking some anchor sites; we should be able to visit a number of the more remote places before we head into Whittier to pick up Mark. It looks like we're in for wind tomorrow night but, with lots of places to hide, we shouldn't have a problem. Besides, both Richard and I could use a layover day.
In Anchor Cove we met Steve and Noel Nelson of S/V Ananda. Steve is a retired USGS geologist who teaches at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. We'll be exchanging books on his and our specialties, and he may do a sidebar for us. [Réanne: I'm happy to report that I've already received Steve's two books. Interesting reading!]
The way we have to run Nobeltec on our Dell doesn't allow us to check or send emails while we're underway, so response from this end may be slower.
Richard has been doing most of cooking and I wash the dishes. It seems to be working well and we are both enjoying the trip and making anchor checks. A while ago a black bear swam across between the two islands where we're anchored. Richard is taking lots of photos with Réanne's camera. [Yes, Richard's a good photographer!] We are certainly seeing a lot of beautiful country...what a privilege!
July 21, 2003; 1100 hours
If the fog and clouds lift a bit we may spend this afternoon in Blackstone Bay looking at the glacier; otherwise, we'll stay put and head in to Whittier tomorrow morning to pick up Mark.
I hope Mark brings some Economist magazine or your weekly magazines and a Wall Street Journal. I finally read all the stuff Don O brought. It seems like a different world back where there are people. We've seen way more wildlife than people, and believe it or not, I'm starting to miss discussing politics and current events. [I made Don and the guys promise not to discuss religion or politics. Those of you who know Don will understand why. But that's what he likes to discuss the most . . .]
We spent the night on Evans Island in Shelter Bay after an interesting day visiting the new village of Chenega. These people lived on Chenega Island and suffered the most dead (23, 30% of their tribe) in the 1964 tsunami. In 1984 they were relocated to Evans Island and the 23 remaining families have new homes, a small marina for 20 boats and a new ferry dock with once-a-week ferry service. They also have a 2500-foot runway with airmail delivery 3 times a week. They were given a number of the islands in this area during the Lands Settlement Act and they spent over half a million to build a Russian Orthodox Church. John, the fellow I met, says each person in the village is absolutely assured a place in heaven.
They showed me around on an ATV which they drive everywhere, including the marina floats. I came down the gangway at zero tide (45 degrees) sitting on the luggage rack of the ATV—very scary! [Can you imagine Don's saying it was "scary?" this is the guy who used to climb vertical mountains and who tried to take me around Cape Horn.]
We have several coves on Knight Island to visit in the next day or two and we want to visit the old Chenega Village site, if possible.
July 21, 2003 — 1900 hours
Northeast Arm of Mummy Bay on Knight Island (60°13.79'N, 147°46.88'W). We just found this beautiful valley (sort of a micro Yosemite Valley) with two 500-foot cascades plunging into the saltwater just 150 yards from Baidarka. It's foggy and raining now, so we'll have a spirited accompaniment while we sleep.
July 24, 2003 — Surprise Cove
We had a bit of a blow this afternoon and it took us several tries to get a good set on the anchor tonight. It's the first time we've had to anchor in the rain in a long time.
[Don's email to Mark before he flew up to Alaska to join the crew pleaded for "goodies" such as gourmet cheese and fresh veggies. Whittier has a tiny grocery store that offers a minimal selection of fresh vegetables and fruit. But for cheese about all you can find—if you happen to hit the right moment—is Tillamook cheddar or American cheese slices, wrapped in individual plastic wrappers.]
It is gratifying that our work here is starting to get some respect. On the first time through, the old timers were cool but they're now coming forth with interest and helpful information.
Yesterday we went into another place like Taz Basin, but not nearly as risky. On the way out, however, we snagged our rigging on overhanging trees. We didn't take any damage, but we have a few thousand fir needles and a couple of small branches on the upper deck. Rain today took most of them off, but Baidarka is badly in need of a scrub-down; she's showing evidence of the constant grind we've been on.
July 25, 2003 — Still in Surprise Cove
We are sitting out a small-craft warning here in Surprise Bay only 9 airline miles from Whittier. We can "read" the Whittier Harbor Master on VHF channel 16 but can't receive any weather channels. Weather and Coast Guard VHF services are lousy in Alaska. However, the Iridium sat phone came through again—I was able to pick up forecasts on the websites.
[On their way to Whittier, Baidarka's DC and AC power went out. Don had to parallel a genset battery so they could limp in to the harbor. Tom Love, charter owner of Nordhavn came to their rescue and spent all afternoon helping Richard, Mark—who'd just arrived—and Don trouble-shoot. The problem: the main battery switch went dead. Since it was Saturday no one was available at Nordhavn. Tom took charge and handled contacting Jeff Leishman to arrange for Nordhavn to send a correct schema and new battery switch to Valdez. As of noon, 7.30.03, the FedEx package had not yet arrived—the frustrations of life in Alaska. Don wants rapidly, and the weather is breaking down. With just Richard and Don to take Baidarka to Sitka, time for "extras" will be restricted. I'll keep you posted whenever I can until I fly to Sitka August 18 to meet Don.—Réanne]
July 25-31, 2003 — Prince William Sound, Alaska
Mark Bunzel – Publisher and General Manager, FineEdge.com
(Pictures to accompany this dispatch are in the “Photo Album — July 25” section)
My primary job at FineEdge.com as Publisher and General Manager, is to manage the business affairs, book and map development and the marketing and sales. But sometimes one has to get right in the middle and fully experience a project in the making. An invitation to join Don and Réanne’s expedition to the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound, for even a short time, was too good to pass up. Besides, I needed to go to Anchorage anyway for sales calls with our distributor and several of our bookstores. That is my story, and I am sticking too it.
Scheduling wise, July is FineEdge’s busiest month as the market for our nautical and mountain biking books is at its peak. But, this also was one of the best times to join the expedition as they passed through one of the most pristine places in the world, Prince William Sound. At this stage of the expedition, Don and Réanne had already explored the area all the way to Kodiak along with John Leone. As you may have read from Log of Baidarka, the expedition was headed back through Prince William Sound to chart and map a few other anchorages not visited on the first time through. Réanne had flown from Kodiak back to Anacortes, to attend to business for a couple of weeks before heading back up to join Don in Sitka. In Kodiak, Richard Spore joined Don as first mate together with Don Odegard. Don returned to Anacortes from Seward the week before I arrived.
July 25, 2003
My journey to Alaska was the easy way – Alaska Airlines to Anchorage. I spent my first day visiting our bookstore customers and our local distributor. It was good to see how many of the local stores are stocking our books on SE Alaska and British Columbia. I also spent a few hours buying provisions for the boat as the crew had called and asked me to bring fresh fruit and vegetables. I also hand carried a repaired LCD computer screen for Baidarka’s onboard computer. It had failed after leaving Kodiak. Don Odegard brought it back from Alaska for a quick and successful repair by Bryan Hennessey at Anacortes Marine Electronics. I was now carrying the screen in my backpack to install on Baidarka.
Normal travel costs are quite a bit more in Alaska. While I used airline points to fly there, I needed a rental car for the day for my customer visits. A call to usually my lowest cost option, Hertz, for their corporate rate, resulted in a quote for $150 for one day! Alamo was quite a bit cheaper at $60. For a hotel, I went to Expedia on the web and was shocked to find all hotel options well over $150 and closer to $200 including one night in a Days Inn or the Holiday Inn. I found the more reasonable Anchorage Grand for $140 per night. I highly recommend this hotel if you need to stay in Anchorage, or are passing through as I was. The hotel was recently remodeled, with large pleasant rooms including a sitting area and kitchen. For me, it also had my favorite amenity – a free, high speed, data line for internet access in every room. This allowed me to complete my work late into the night before leaving for Whittier.
July 26, 2003
On Saturday morning, I took the Alaska Railroad train from Anchorage to Whittier. The train station is located a short walk down hill from the Anchorage Grand hotel. The Alaska Railroad train is an interesting way to see Alaska as it travels to many of the popular areas and the ride is very scenic as you pass through valleys with waterfalls and glacier fields off in the distance. The train also connects with a number of tour boat operators who take groups out to the glaciers and can have you back in Anchorage the same day. This is a great day trip if you just come up to Alaska for a couple of days to scout out the area for the day you bring your boat to Prince William Sound. The train fare is $45 one way, and $55 round trip.
Whittier is an interesting place. The town was built during WWII when the military wanted a convenient, yet strategic, additional ice-free port to service Anchorage in case Seward was bombed. Whittier became the “secret port” during WWII. In addition to the port, housing was built in one large building that contained everything; apartments, stores, schools, churches and recreational facilities. This building, now abandoned, looms over Whittier looking like a remnant from the old days of Eastern Europe.
The train and highway route to Whittier follows Turnagain Arm, named by Captain Cook’s crew during their exploration voyage here. The strong prevailing winds running down the arm required Cook’s boat to be constantly tacking back and forth. Several times the wind was strong enough it blew them backward, thus the name, Turnagain Arm.
At the head of Turnagain Arm is a mountain range. To get to Whittier, the 2nd largest tunnel in the US was blasted through the granite for a single train track to transport the military supplies and fuel that arrived at Whittier by ship. Up until the late 1990’s anyone driving to Whittier would have to have their car placed on a flatbed train car and transported through the tunnel to be offloaded in Whittier. Now, the tunnel has been slightly widened to allow a single lane of car traffic to Whittier. The tunnel now operates on a half hour schedule for trucks and cars to travel in each direction. The tunnel closes at night. When a train is scheduled for the tunnel, all auto and truck traffic is stopped. It sounds cumbersome, but it much more convenient than having to transport all cars and trucks on the train.
When I arrived in Whittier, it was raining. I muscled all of my gear with spare parts and now a fully packed provision bag from the train tracks, through the gravel paths, across a wooden boardwalk at the docks and down to the boat, looking like a fully loaded Sherpa. Baidarka was already tied up and waiting at the dock where I received a big welcome from Don Douglass and Richard Spore. Our original plan was to load up, install the computer screen and leave the dock. But as I checked in with the guys, I found out that Baidarka had experienced an unexpected problem that morning.
Just after leaving the morning’s anchorage in Surprise Cove, all the electrical power on Baidarka went out – everything. For quite a few tense moments, Don and Richard worked to restore power while drifting and trying to figure out what might have happened. In the process of trying a number of combinations Don paralleled the genset battery into the house system, which restored power and allowed Baidarka to make the short trip to Whittier.
Once I was aboard we organized the tasks, which instead of leaving, now called for an afternoon of maintenance and troubleshooting before we could leave the dock. Installing the LCD screen in Baidarka’s main control panel was straightforward, and the good news was it worked. One problem down. Next, we tackled Baidarka’s electrical problems. This took the rest of the day and well into the evening.
Tracing the electrical problem was “a learning experience”. We started first with the Nordhavn 40 schematic to isolate the area of problems from the house batteries out. This did not work, as something was missing in the schematic. Thanks to local charter operator, Tom Love, Captain of Baidarka’s sistership Faithfully located in Whittier, help was nearby. Proving that local knowledge always gives one an advantage, Tom brought over local electrician Don Simmonds, who ignored the schematic and worked to isolate the potential points of failure. One, we found out that the house buss system was located forward under the master berth instead of the engine room, which was not clear from the schematic. Probing further, we found the master battery cutoff, located on side of the master berth base. With further testing, we discovered the switch had an intermittent short. Bypassing the switch solved the problem. Tom Love was kind enough to coordinate having a new switch shipped up to meet up with Baidarka in Valdez. Problem resolved, the next morning we left for Granite Island.
While in Whittier, we found out we were not the only “working media” in town. The locals mentioned to us that the stars and video crew from the MTV show Jackass were in town to tape a sequence showing what it is like to water ski amongst the bergies! Now you know why they call the show Jackass.
July 27, 2003
Today, I am sitting at anchor in a small bay in Prince William Sound, the Gulf of Alaska, surrounded by green mountains covered by trees and green grass with grey granite outcroppings. I can hear the sounds of the 7 different waterfalls and the streams that surround us. It is raining and the mountain streams have swollen, resulting in spectacular waterfalls. We are now anchored 50-feet away from a very special waterfall, a seldom-seen phenomena, not really waterfall at all, called a reversing waterfall. This happens when a tidal lagoon has a small opening between the rocks like a natural dam. When the tide lowers in the bay faster than the outward flow from the lagoon, the 3 to 4-foot difference between the water level in the lagoon and the bay forms a waterfall. When the tide comes back in, the opening in the rocks again cannot keep up and water flowing through the small opening in the rocks towards the lagoon and a waterfall now forms, falling in the opposite direction into the lagoon.
For my first day on board, it was impressive. Our first stop was to chart Granite Bay on Esther Island after crossing in 4-foot seas as the afternoon wind fought the current. Granite Bay is very different from most bays in Alaska. As you enter the bay you immediately notice that some of the surrounding mountain sides are sheared granite with trees and grass that extend down to the waters edge. It looks a lot like the mix of granite and forest one sees around the Lake Tahoe area. We had to be careful to avoid the large rocks in the water, some of which are shown on government nautical charts, and some not. Like other areas, there are streams and waterfalls that would make great backdrops for a beautiful overnight anchorage or a lunch stop, as we did.
Our next stop was Lake Bay, notable as it contains one of the largest fish hatcheries in Alaska. One of the first things we noted as we entered the bay was the large number of fish jumping out of the calm, still water. Salmon about 12” – 16” in length were jumping out of the water on all sides of the boat at the rate of about 1every 15 seconds! As we progressed deeper into the bay, from my position on the bow of the boat watching for uncharted rocks, I could see schools of hundreds of salmon, swimming round and round, 3-6 inches below the water in a tightly swirled bunch. We did not have our fishing tackle set, but it appeared a landing net would have been enough to scoop up 1-2 salmon for dinner. We theorized that the salmon must have escaped from the hatchery pens nets, propagated, and now lived freely in the bay. Our second theory was they escaped by jumping over the pen nets to the open side of the bay, propagated and formed a strain of salmon that jump out of the water all day long – explaining the hundreds of leaping salmon throughout Lake Bay. To add to the excitement, we saw a black bear cub on the beach playing near the rocks who watched us go by about 50 yards away before meandering off through a meadow and back into the woods. He, too, may have been attracted by the leaping salmon. We were able to capture a quick picture of the bear, which you can see in the photo section. While Lake Bay is a wonderful location to see, it did not meet the criteria as a suitable anchorage due to its depth. We were told that there were mooring buoys available behind the hatchery, but we found none. All of this information will be part of the nautical guidebook Don and Réanne will be writing on this area. We then moved on to the next stop Quillian Bay, which was not as deep. After charting several suitable anchorage spots, we anchored right in front of the reversing waterfall.
Waterfalls, calm bays, schools of salmon and a bear, all set in a beautiful vista of trees, grasses and mountain ridges. Not too shabby for my first day exploring the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound.
July 28, 2003 — Glacier Island, Prince William Sound, Alaska
As if beautiful anchorages in Alaska are not enough, it was now time to explore bergies or small ice bergs, that have broken off from the huge Columbia Glacier. As we progressed up past Fairmount Island and Outpost Rock towards Glacier Island in 4-foot swells, the seas began to flatten out. Off in the distance you could see a couple white objects on the surface of the water far off in the distance. Soon the area in front of the boat was littered with ice sculptures! Ice of all different colors of blue, white, some black dirty ice and the most rare, clear ice. The clear ice bergies fell from part of the glacier where the pressure was so strong that all of air was squeezed out of the ice. Blue ice is formed under such extreme pressure that the color blue is the reflected color back to our eyes. It is beautiful, further complimented by the unusual and artistic shapes the ice takes as it melts and is shaped by the winds. Some bergies were the size of a small house with caves. We photographed one beautiful blue winged ice sculpture only to look back 10 minutes later and see the wing gone and broken off in the water. Natures unique sculpture was never to be seen again after breaking apart and crashing into the sea (pictures before and after are in the Don and Mark photos).
We explored and photographed a number of bergies before exploring and mapping Elder Bay and the narrow passage to Growler Bay. As is typical here, we found the charts to be in error in a number of locations. This is not necessarily due to poor mapping, but possibly due to changes in the terrain after the 1964 earthquake hit this area of Alaska.
For the night, we anchored in Elder Bay with a few blue-white bergies floating nearby.
July 29, 2003
Leaving Elder Bay we had one last encounter with the beauty of the bergies. Sometime during the night, a clear blue bergie, the size of a one-car garage, washed up onto the shore in front of the kayak tour lodge. (See the Don and Mark’s photos for pictures). This one was the most beautiful in color we had seen. Truly remarkable.
With 3 to 4-foot seas and a light rain we proceeded around the top of Glacier Island to Point Freeman and proceeded to Valdez.
Off in the distance we spotted the E. L. Bartlett, the local Alaska Ferry which transits between Valdez and Whittier. As the gap closed between Baidarka and the ferry we started one of those strange maneuvers that sometimes happens. We changed our heading to avoid collision, then they changed theirs. We changed our heading again, and the Bartlett adjusted. Finally, Don called the Bartlett on the VHF to determine their intentions. They were changing their heading just a few moments off from when we did and were equally confused on our intentions. Port-to-Port passage was decided, and we had a good view of the E. L. Bartlett as it cruised by. Two weeks later, the E.L. Bartlett appeared on eBay! This summer is its last as a ferry. One lucky bidder is now the proud owner of a 193-foot working ferry for a grand total of $389,500! Keep in mind that this boat, while able to hold most of your friends, and their cars, burns 165 gallons of diesel an hour. Moorage is said to run about $500 per day. Still quite a good price.
The entrance to Valdez harbor is long and dramatic. You can see how well protected it is as one heads up Valdez Arm to a left hand turn into the outer harbor. Since the famous grounding and oil spill, the harbor now has an abundance of nav markings and you can see the surveillance radar to monitor the harbor traffic in numerous places.
The harbor is rimmed with mountains and waterfalls. In a number of places above the waterfalls you can see the glaciers. To the right is the Valdez Oil Terminal which is carefully marked and must be avoided for security reasons or the Coast Guard will pursue and board your vessel. On the left is the narrow entrance to the inner commercial fishing and recreational boating harbor. On our way inside the harbor one of the port’s boats was pushing a stainless steel dumpster out into the bay. Don explained that Valdez has one of the most sophisticated fish cleaning docks he has ever seen for the recreational fisherman. Multiple long tables are arrayed under cover with running water to each. Fish entrails are dumped into troughs, which lead down to the dumpsters in the water. So many fish are caught, that the dumpsters need to be emptied several times a day. The seagulls are well fed and show it! There are at least 12 of these fish cleaning stations around the inner harbor, a testament to some of the money that was invested into the port after the Valdez accident.
The town is set up for the tourist trade with fishing and kayak guides along the harbor and other businesses to cater to the commercial and recreational fisherman. Stopping in this scenic harbor gave Don a chance to meet with a number of the local captains to fill out the local knowledge to add to the upcoming book, Exploring the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound. Many joined us on Baidarka sharing interesting information on the area. Jim Wright, one of the local pilot captains for Valdez, stopped by and provided a lot of local knowledge on the harbor and the area out to Hinchinbrook Island.
July 30, 2003
The day was spent gathering additional local information. Don and I also took advantage of the day to review product plans for FineEdge for the next year. During the day, we checked the weather on a regular basis. The next morning the replacement main battery switch was set to arrive by Fedex. The next stop was scheduled to be Cordova, but an unusual weather window seemed to be forming in the Gulf of Alaska that could allow Baidarka a reasonable passage to Yakutat, and possibly all the way to Sitka.
July 31, 2003
At the crack of dawn, it was my time to leave. I had an early morning flight and wouldn’t you know it, the sun came out. The entire time I had been in Prince William Sound it had rained with the mountain tops typically obscured. Now the sun was beginning to shine. As my flight to Anchorage took off from Valdez, the sun shown brightly across the glaciers and mountains towards Anchorage.
Baidarka left the dock later that morning after the Fedex package arrived and Richard Spore replaced the main battery switch. Don and Richard proceeded for the next 3-1/2 days, to Sitka, while I headed back to Anacortes.
August 1, 2003
Baidarka has been going non-stop since Valdez and we just passed the half-way point on the 280 miles to Yakutat. It has been fog and NE winds since 5 am rather than W as in the forecast. I called the WX briefer in Yakutat and he thinks it is just local WX due to the proximity of Cape St. Elias. We hope things improve soon. We have 134 miles to go with an enroute time of 1day, 9 hrs, and 23 minutes. We are bucking a current and have the stabilizing fish in the water which gives us 4-5 knots SOG.
Tony Gooch called us on the radio for a long chat. He is friends of David and Evie Frisbie, has twice curcumnavigated, and he used our book to AK and raved about it.
Baidarka is now 19 miles NW of the Cape Suckling buoy and the wind is changing. We hope the westerlies give us a push soon. We still have only 1⁄4 mile visibility. To bad we missed seeing Cape St Elias in the fog, but we did see the R"2" off shore. Nobeltec on ships computer working OK, although we are having a hard time getting used to the largest scale maps. The Sitex GPS keeps going out on the Dell. Oh well! I took the 4 hour watch in the dark last night and will likely do the same tonight.
We could be in Sitka by mid-week if everything goes well and this will give me the time I need to get a good start on the new book. We will leave Yakutat as soon as the southerlies switch to NW and will drive hard to the south, perhaps direct toSitka.
August 5, 2003 — We have arrived inSitka
We are docked on float 3, stall #4 with power for the duration. Lou, the Harbormaster was most cordial. Thanks for the prearrangements.
Here are the numbers. Exactly 500 nautical miles float to float Valdez to Sitka. Sailing time 3.5 days. 82.5 engine hours.
Everything on the boat is just fine and we had a great sleep in Kalinin Bay last night.
August 22, 2003 — Heading Home from Sitka
Last evening as we were hobby-horsing southeastward in Hoonah Sound along the northern side of Baranof Island I commented to Don how much it resembled our southward journey in Chile's Patagonian channels: rain lashing against the pilothouse winds, the wind roaring above the sound of the engine. But we were comfortable and warm in our Nordhavn pilothouse, the Dickinson stove humming away in the salon.
We had planned to find an anchor site along the east coast of Baranof but, because we were fortunate to be able to interview Howard Ulrich, the only remaining of three who survived the 1958 Lituya Bay disaster, we left Sitka just shortly before noon. We were thrilled to be able to catch Howard's story on tape which will serve as a sidebar in our Gulf of Alaska book.
We anchored inside Appleton Cove went to sleep exhausted after having navigated two narrows. We slept almost 12 hours and are now preparing to haul anchor and head down the east coast of Baranof. Tomorrow we'll head across Chatham Strait to enter Rocky Pass, one of our favorite shortcut routes to Frederick Sound.
[Don] Baidarka's skipper is very glad to have the "Admiral" back onboard.
All for now, Don & Réanne