Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kyrie's Big Adventure North, Part 2

It took a while to get it all together, but here is the second half of our big adventure north. I'm really bummed to realize I didn't take as many photos as I thought I did, but there are still some good ones. Enjoy reading about the rest of our adventure!

Day 7 - Tuesday

It’s been a productive day. We weighed anchor and left Rescue Bay around 6:30. The big kids got up so they could watch us go through Jackson Narrows. I sat on the bow so I could take pictures and watch for rocks. Not a bad idea, even though we went through at low tide. It was pretty narrow through there, but, I have to admit, kind of anticlimactic. I think I was expecting it would be narrow for much longer. I don’t know why I thought that--I studied the chart and saw the length of the Narrows themselves! Whatever. The passage widened and we cruised through to meet up with Findlayson Channel. Joe didn’t think we could make it up and through Hiekson Narrows before the tide switched, so instead we crossed the channel and ducked into Tolmie Channel. Tolmie Channel led us to Graham Reach and a little side trip to Butedale.
That was worth the hour stop! Butedale is the site of an old cannery and fish oil processing facility. The buildings are almost all falling down, but there are docks to tie to and a caretaker named Cory Lindsay to show you around. What a neat place! The old hydroelectric facility is still running, even though the main water pipe has a couple big cracks that send out fountains of water. Cory, along with his dog Buddy and Tiger, the cat he inherited when he took the job of caretaker, walked us around the ruins that are safe to go to and explained there are plans in the works to restore the big warehouse and build a boaters’ resort. If we can get back there in about five or six years, after our grand adventure, it would be neat to see if that idea worked out and what we find at the site of Butedale.
We weren’t the only ones there. Two other sailboats--belonging to two singlehanders traveling together--were also docked. They were on their way out to Haida Gwaii. I just learned there are about 150 islands that make up Haida Gwaii and it is referred to as “the Galapagos of the Northwest” because of all the unique plants and animals on the islands. Maybe someday we’ll visit. It requires a trip across the Hecate Strait--open ocean--and I don’t feel quite ready for that yet!
After leaving Butedale, we encountered heavier winds, but they and the tide were on our stern, so it wasn’t bad. However, the winds were supposed to get even stronger and the seas stack up. We needed to get to Hartley Bay because there really wasn’t anywhere else to anchor. The seas were on our beam until we were able to round the tip of Gribbell Island and actually enter Wright Sound. Then, the wind and seas were on our stern again. Levi was a little concerned with the side-to-side rocking, even though Joe kept assuring him we were just fine.
So at last, we made it to the dock at Hartley Bay. I got the girls off to bed and Joe, Levi and I went for a short stroll through part of the village--nice way to unwind a bit!
Here is that main water pipe with the fountains coming from the cracks.
Levi and Rachael, after crossing the bridge from the hydroelectric building.
Kyrie and one of the other sailboats docked at Butedale

Day 8 - Wednesday

Dish duty!
A week in and we’re past the halfway mark! I’m so glad we were tied to a dock last night. Even in the harbor, it was pretty gusty, plus it was pouring. Joe and I weren’t exactly thrilled about getting out of bed and moving, but we knew we had to if we wanted to hit Grenville Channel with the tide. I got soaked, undoing the buoys and putting the lines away, but it was worth it. At one point our speed was 8.4 knots! We’ve been pretty consistent around 6-6.5 knots, which has been great. The conditions were good. We made homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast and actually all ate together at the table inside. Joe brought the remote for the autopilot inside. Then we undertook the task of cleaning the boat. A week underway and cruddy conditions the past few days led to home being a bit of a floating sty. But it looks great now!
We’re getting closer to the north end of Grenville Channel and the entrance to Chatham Sound. Hopefully the weather cooperates because we want to get to Prince Rupert, or at least an anchorage close to it. Joe listened to the weather earlier and thought a gale was forecast for Dixon Entrance, which is, of course, the gateway to Southeast! We’ll see what it’s like tomorrow, but we might have to stay in Prince Rupert a couple days. Hope not!
Now we’re going through Arthur Passage. Lots of water moving through here, but the GPS says we’re going 6.2 knots. I’m driving so I have to pay closer attention! We just went through a tide rip and now we’re going 6.7-6.8 knots. Whoo hoo! Still about 20 miles to go to Rupert, so more later.

Day 9 - Thursday

Long couple of days that have run together. As we neared Prince Rupert around 6 pm Wednesday, Joe listened to the weather report. It was calling for the winds and seas to start kicking up today in Dixon Entrance. Not wanting to risk getting stuck for a few days, we decided to bypass Rupert and prepared for our first overnight passage. All in all, it wasn’t bad. It was completely uneventful--seas were good, winds were relatively light, and the only ships were way off in the distance. Trying to sleep was difficult though. Joe and I ended up trading on and off about every two and a half hours. It ended up happening that we crossed Dixon Entrance on my watch, as well as the approach to Ketchikan. It was kind of peaceful being up in the middle of the night, not to mention watching the moon set and the sun rise, but it would have been nice to not have the engine running!
We ended up arriving in Thomas Basin in Ketchikan around 7:30 this morning, just in time to run out of fuel as we were trying to dock! Apparently, our fuel gauge doesn’t work right, so don’t believe it when it reads a quarter tank left! We had more in jerry jugs, but with the wind blowing us toward the breakwater it wasn’t time to fiddle with that. Thankfully there was someone on the boat in the next slip and he grabbed his boat hook to catch a line from us. He was able to pull us in enough so we could get to the dock and tie off. Welcome to Ketchikan!
Next step was to check in with Customs. The officer took all our information over the phone and then came down half an hour later to confirm it all. He didn’t ask about food we had on board, or to see Desi’s rabies certificate, despite her climbing in his lap. Easy there! Next we had a visit from the Harbormaster to get checked in. Joe asked about a good place for good breakfasts and soon we were off walking to the Pioneer Cafe. Tons of food and okay coffee left us feeling marginally better, but definitely ready for a nap. Plus, the land wasn’t moving right. I don’t know what time we all lay down, but I do know it was about 1:00 when I woke up!
Levi and I walked to the grocery store then, while Joe worked on the engine. Running out of fuel makes diesel engines rather cranky! Later on, Joe found that we could go to the $1 open swim at the pool. He discovered it at 3:15 and the session started at 4:00. We had just enough time to get all our stuff ready and walk to the pool. Oh, it was so much fun and felt so good! There was a water slide that Levi spent pretty much the whole time on. Rachael swam all over the place and Megan thoroughly enjoyed the warm water. Showers afterward felt pretty spectacular!
We walked a different way back that took us along Ketchikan Creek and down what is called Married Man’s Trail to Creek Street. Creek Street used to be the Red Light District and this trail was a, let’s say discreet path to Creek Street if you didn’t want to boldly announce your presence there! It was a beautiful walk through the trees down to the boardwalk. Most of the buildings are now occupied by touristy stores, but they also have signs up, with information about the previous tenants, infamous or otherwise. My favorite was the sign that read, “Creek Street--where men and salmon come upstream to spawn.” I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture of it… There were also, in a window, examples of an employment application, as well as a gift certificate to one of the establishments! Fun place to wander through, but everything was closed by then.
Our dinner of bratwurst and hot dogs, caramelized onions, and potato salad tasted amazing, and then it was time for bed for everyone. I think we were all konked out before 9:00!

Day 10 - Friday

The morning started out with a walk right after breakfast! Levi discovered he forgot his watch at the pool, so after confirming it had been found, he and I walked back up to the pool to retrieve it. Joe and the girls met us on Creek Street. Joe got a bunch of funny looks from the tourists by climbing the rocks to pick a bunch of salmonberries. Salmonberries ripe in May! What a treat!
We wandered around, playing tourist for a while, but thought perhaps we should check out the weather conditions. Winds from the north, 10-15 knots were being forecast, increasing later, so we thought maybe we ought to brave it and cast off the lines. We never would have left if we had known what was actually out there, so it was a good thing we didn’t know. We would have been stuck in Ketchikan for several days otherwise. There were winds as high as 30 knots, right on our nose, and we got pounded by 4-6 foot waves. Rather uncomfortable and we really didn’t like beating Kyrie up so much. Experiencing the entire boat shuddering was unnerving! Having said that, I was never scared by the situation. I never felt like we were in something we (namely Joe) couldn’t handle and get us through. It was though, as I said, rather uncomfortable.
While studying the chart, trying to find somewhere protected we could anchor up for the night (it was seriously slim pickings!), Joe discovered we were approaching Meyer Chuck, a little community he had heard of and wanted to check out. So we gritted our teeth and pushed through the pounding until we found the opening to Meyer Chuck. Narrow little passage! But we got in safely and found space at the dock. It felt so good to tie up and be able to relax at last!
After dinner, we wandered a little. There were probably 20 houses in various forms around, but we only saw a few other people. I don’t know how many people actually live in Meyer Chuck now, although the 2000 census reported 21 residents, or how many of those places are vacation cabins. We did talk to some fishermen docked next to us who said they were leaving really early to avoid the wind, but they were also heading south.
Joe and I figured we wouldn’t put the curtains up and let the sun wake us in the morning before deciding when to leave.

Day 11 - Saturday

Awake at 5 am, and the fishing boats were still at the dock! We’re still a little messed up by the hour time difference. I think we were underway by 5:30. It was still choppy in Clarence Strait, but the seas calmed down once we got in the lee of Etolin Island and into Ernest Sound. The tide was against us, which made for slow going, but now, at 9:30, we’re up to 5.4 knots ( a knot faster than we were going!) and we’re getting closer to Wrangell Island. All sorts of little islands in here to thread around. It’s beautiful, but now there’s no wind! This just hasn’t been a good trip for sailing. It doesn’t help that we’re trying to get to Juneau as quickly as we can and now especially that we’re in the home stretch (kind of--there’s still a fair distance to go!), we just want to get there and be able to stop traveling for a while. We’ve really had an amazing trip so far. The scenery has been incredible and some of those waterways were mindbogglingly narrow!
Enough for now, but we’ll see what the rest of this day has in store for Kyrie and her crew!

Day 12 - Sunday

Nice lazy morning! It’s 11:00 and we’ve been underway for about an hour and a half, maybe less. But, back to yesterday. We bypassed Wrangell itself and took Chichagoff Passage and Stikine Strait to Sumner Strait. The wind kicked up once we hit Sumner, but it wasn’t too bad. Bouncy, but nothing like Clarence Strait!
One view going through the Wrangell Narrows
A lodge located along the Narrows
We rounded Point Alexander and entered the Wrangell Narrows around 6:00 p.m. I’ve been through the Narrows before, but that was on the ferry. Side note--that was a fantastic experience. Joe’s uncle was First Mate on the Kennicott at the time, so we got invited up to the bridge for the trip south through the Narrows. It was low tide during Kyrie’s transit, and we were bucking the current the whole way north, so it was a challenge for Joe, having to steer around all the channel markers properly, but I think he enjoyed it. Having done it now in a smaller boat, I have a hard time envisioning the ferries going through there! We must have gone through then at high tide, I guess.
Thank goodness we’re back in the land of long summer days. After nixing the idea of trying to find somewhere to anchor, we called the Petersburg Harbormaster and docked around 9:45 p.m. I put the kids to bed, gave Levi a walkie-talkie just in case, and Joe and I went for a walk on the docks. It was nice to get off the boat after such a long day. We were exhausted, our bodies were, and still are, tired from all the motion, and frankly, it’s been a long trip. We looked up the weather report and it was still predicting winds from the north, 20 knots. Once again, the question came up: Should we plan on staying here for a couple days? We at last decided to just get a good night’s sleep, wake up when we wake up, and then decide.
So, I woke up around 7:15 to Joe on the computer. He said the wind appeared to have died down out in Frederick Sound. We ended up taking the kids and going for a walk for about an hour, but then came back and got ready to go.
At first, we were glad we did. The wind was nonexistent and there was a bit of a chop leftover from last night. However, in the last hour, the wind has picked up again--14-17 knots, I’m seeing, right on our nose, of course, and 3-4 footers again. So frustrating! If we had known it would be like this, or at least if it had been doing this right out of Petersburg, we could have turned around and got ourselves back to the dock. But here’s the thing: this whole trip has been full of instances of perfect timing--God’s timing, I firmly believe. Every time we’ve followed our first instinct, it turned out well in the long run, even if we were deeply uncomfortable at the time. So I think we’re just going to have to treat this like all the other times--grit our teeth and persevere through, knowing we really are getting close to this journey’s end.

Day 13 - Monday

Ugh. The past 24 hours have been brutal. We ended up fighting current and seas a fair chunk of the day and ended up 17 miles south of our goal, spending the night in Hobart Bay. The way in was great. We were treated to a bunch of whales feeding, including a mom and two young ones. Another one was tail-slapping, which is always fun to watch.
Kyrie docked at that giant pipe
First, we thought of docking at the little pier, or anchoring in the cove in Entrance Island, but there wasn’t enough room. So then we spied another pier. This one was made from a giant pipe and looked safe enough to tie to, so we did. Joe made popcorn and we all watched The Princess Bride. It made for a late night, but it was fun. Lights out a little after 11:00.
But the night wasn’t over yet. A current swept along the pier and waves kept rocking us, so much so that we were afraid of damaging something, especially if the fenders didn’t stay in place. Finally around 1 a.m., we gave up, fired up the engine and untied, and did what we should have done originally--anchor up just outside that cove on Entrance Island. I’m still rather impressed that we managed to get the anchor set on the radar and a deck light! Comfortable at last, we fell asleep….
Until I woke up around 5:00, twitchy to get moving. I told Joe that if he got up and helped get us underway, he could then go back to bed while I drove for a while. There was just no way I could sleep longer. I don’t know why exactly, but I was seriously uncomfortable, mentally, in that bay. Maybe it’s because we really are so close. As I write this, we’re nearly to Port Snettisham, less than 30 nautical miles from Juneau!
Something cool happened this morning. About 7:15, as we were beginning to cross Windham Bay, I saw a splash directly in front of the bow. “What in the world?” I thought, my heart pounding for a moment. Then, I saw another splash and a dark body leap by our starboard side. Two more splashes and dark bodies sent me to stick my head in the door and in a whispering shriek, “Joe, look! Porpoises in our bow wake!” Joe had been waiting this entire trip to show us this experience, so he didn’t mind the rude awakening. There were probably six or eight porpoises leaping all around the boat! Joe rousted the kids and came out. What an amazing experience to see these playful creatures so close!
We got to watch them for about ten minutes before they moved on, and Joe and the kids went back to bed. They actually came back for a little while later, but I didn’t sound the call that time. Instead, I just sat in the captain’s chair, watching those incredible creatures leap and bound through the water around our boat, as if it was the best playground in the world. What else did I see over the course of the day? A couple more whales off in the distance, an eagle trying to dive-bomb a sea lion to steal his fish, another sea lion who decided to wait until the boat was right next to it to finally swim away.
Otherwise, it’s been a slow day. We’ve been bucking current and hardly seen more than 5 knots. Naturally, as usual, the only wind is right on our nose. But we gradually came across familiar sights. One by one, we passed them--Taku Harbor, Grand Island, Point Arden, and then suddenly, we were through the Marmion Triangle and into Gastineau Channel. Now, we’re passing Thane at 6 knots. It’s like Kyrie knows she’s almost home and is racing to get there, or maybe it’s just that the current is FINALLY in our favor. We should be pulling into our spot in Aurora Harbor in about an hour, hour and a half, and Joe’s parents are bringing Bullwinkle’s pizza!

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