Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 27-Auke Bay

Not too much planned today other than the usual tasks when in port.  Shower, shave, laundry, grocery shopping, and boat chores.

Auke Bay doesn’t have much in the way of services for boaters, which is surprising given the consistent flurry of activity at the marinas in town.  Thankfully there is a laundromat in town, so I don’t have to lug my laundry on the bus all the way to Juneau.  While waiting for my laundry to finish this morning I discovered a delicious waffle and coffee restaurant in the same strip mall.  Add in free wifi, and it was a great place to kill a few hours.

On my way back down to the boat I stopped in the harbormasters office to ask where to find silicone sealant to repair the leaking window.  There isn’t any place in Auke Bay to get such things, but the lady gave me a recommendation for a store in Juneau.  Another cruiser overheard the conversation, though, and kindly brought me back to his boat and gave me a tube of silicone sealant from his huge stock of spare parts.  I think the window is now leak free, although rain in the coming days will surely test my repair.
A rare sun break and chance to see the mountains behind Auke Bay
Ben is flying back to Seattle today, and I needed to do grocery shopping which requires a bus ride in the same direction as the airport.  So in the early afternoon Ben and I took the bus to our respective destinations.  For him, the airport, and for me, the local supermarket, a Wal-Mart Supercenter.  While at Wal-Mart I picked up a rubber doormat to keep wet shoes on when entering the cabin (otherwise the carpet never dries) and a miniature, battery operated vacuum to keep things clean.  It should be easier than wiping everything down with paper towels.

Hunky Dory, the one from Pennsylvania, pulled into the marina today.  Dick was picking up his friend who had flown back to Pennsylvania last week for a funeral.  They’re heading down Admiralty Island and then towards the outside of Chichagof.  We may cross paths somewhere in the next three weeks or so.

I’m off to Gustavus tomorrow, and then into Glacier Bay on the 29th for a week.  My intrepid grandmother (staying in a hotel) and twin brother (staying on the boat) are joining me there next week for a few days.  There probably won’t be many posts on here until the middle of next week.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 26-Oliver Inlet to Auke Bay

The exit from Oliver Inlet was easy, thanks to the track I had laid down on the GPS the day before.  The current was running a bit less today, but the water level was a few feet lower.

Since we hadn’t seen any bears yesterday, we decided to go anchor in Admiralty Cove for a few hours and see if any bears wandered out.  We anchored, but didn’t see any bears.  So it was off to Auke Bay for resupplying, laundry and showers, and sending Ben back to Seattle.

We arrived in Auke Bay around noon, filled up with gas (40.2 gallons at $4.36 per gallon) and moved over to Statters for the night.  We checked in with the marina and wandered around Auke Bay, but there’s not much here and we decided to take the bus into Juneau to get dinner and an anchor swivel.  On our way to the bus I ran into a couple I had met while waiting for weather around Cape Caution.  It turns out they tried to leave the same morning as I did, but quickly realized their transmission wasn’t working properly.  After 8 more days in Port Hardy, they finally got out of there with a newly rebuilt transmission and a much lighter wallet, I’m sure.

Juneau is like Ketchikan on steroids.  Even more cruise ships, more trinkets, and more random shops.  I wonder who goes to Alaska to buy Rolex watches?

I picked up an anchor swivel at a chandlery in town.  I’ve always been hesitant to use swivels since they introduce a weak point into the system.  The breaking strength of the swivel I picked up is 1260 pounds, compared to 1500 pounds for the shackle I currently use.  Still, I think I’ll be good up to winds of 65 mph or so, so I’m not too worried.

When we got back to the boat I discovered (I think) the source of a small leak in the window in the aft, port bulkhead.  It looks like some of the sealant receded on a corner, so I’ll pick up some sealant tomorrow and fix it.  A screw holding the VHF antenna cable in place also backed out, so I’ll get that fixed as well.

Coincidentally the owner of the local C-Dory dealer has his boat docked right next to us.  I talked with him for a little while yesterday and he gave me some good advice about places to go in the coming weeks.

26.4 nm today and 1,160.6 total

Day 25-Taku Harbor to Oliver Inlet

Originally I had planned to arrive in Auke Bay (basically Juneau) a day before Ben’s flight out and go hiking somewhere.  But when I looked through the guidebook, I noticed Oliver Inlet.  The entrance is complicated, since it is shallow, narrow, uncharted, and strong currents run through it.  But it sounded like an interesting spot and only 16 nm away from Taku Harbor.  The guidebook said bears frequent the area, making it even more intriguing.  So we decided to check it out.

High water slack was predicted around 6:00 pm, so that’s about the time we wanted to arrive.  It was still windy at Taku Harbor, and I thought that might slow our progress, so we pulled out around 2:30.  We ended up getting a nice boost from the current, and it was apparent that we were going to arrive way too early to get into Oliver Inlet.  To kill time I ran a bit on the kicker to keep it exercised.  It ran fine, but it does make a lot of noise and isn’t the most pleasant thing to be around.  So we ended up shutting down both engines and drifting for 45 minutes or so.  I figured we could go in around 5:00 pm and be fine, and headed in around then.

The current was still running about 3 knots, but the boat was easily controllable and the depths were more than adequate.  I saw a minimum depth of about 6 feet.  The entrance channel is about a mile long, then it opens up a bit with depths greater than 20 feet.  We made our way to the head of the inlet and dropped the anchor off the beach where a trail leads to a USFS cabin.  While the guidebook said the inlet was incredibly well protected from wind, we found about 20 knots of wind inside, although the fetch is minimal and the water was mostly calm.

We decided it was worth checking out the trail to the USFS cabin.  It’s a mile long and follows a boardwalk/train track that people use to portage kayaks and small boats across a peninsula (otherwise you have to take a 60 nm detour up Stephens Passage) or move their gear to the cabin.  Admiralty Island has a high concentration brown bears and we both carried bear spray and flare guns in case we had an unwanted encounter.  People up here tell me that a .44 or larger is ideal for brown bears…hopefully we won’t find out.

The walk was actually pretty interesting.  Most of it was through a kind of scenic swampland, with vegetation I haven’t seen before.  We got to the empty cabin, checked it out a bit, and then returned to the boat.  No bears.
The boardwalk/train track
View from the USFS cabin
The "train"
We’ll need to leave early tomorrow to make the roughly 6:00 morning high slack water out of here. 

17.2 nm today and 1,134.2 total

Day 24-Ford's Terror to Taku Harbor

Despite the beauty of Ford’s Terror, we had to move on today.  So we pulled anchor around 6:30 to ride the ebb out of Endicott Arm and then catch the flood up Stephen’s Passage.  On a boat related note, the windlass (the electric thing that pulls the anchor up) has performed well, but the rode seems to get more and more twisted every time the anchor is used.  This results in the windlass binding up and stopping, and requires me to go up to the windlass and unwind the chain or rope.  I’ll need to look into an anchor swivel…

The trip out Endicott Arm was similar to the trip in yesterday.  Glassy water, sunny skies.  The entrances to Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm are usually called bars, since they are narrow and shallow.  They resemble the bars that people run to get in and out of rivers.  But in reality they are terminal morraines, which means they are the furthest place that the glaciers once reached.  A strong current runs through these areas at times, and we timed it to make it through near slack.
I like this!
Soon after emerging from Endicott Arm, we spotted a humpback whale.  And then another.  And then several more.  We turned off the engine and drifted for an hour or so, watching the humpbacks swim leisurely.  We also saw a bunch of seals and sea lions frolicking around.
I've seen lots of Orcas and these Humpbacks are huge in comparison

Around 10:30 the breeze was starting to pick up and I decided we better head towards Taku Harbor before the weather turned worse.  We ended up having an uneventful trip to Taku Harbor, although the winds did pick up to 20 knots with three foot following seas by the time we pulled in.  Later on, the wind further increased, and there were plenty of gusts above 30 knots at the dock we tied up to.

Taku Harbor is the site of a former cannery, and there’s evidence of it all over.  Tons of rusted metal (they made their own cans, and left the raw material), pilings where the pier used to be, boilers, concrete slabs.  It was fun to walk through the abandoned area and imagine what it was once like.
I think this is an old washing machine...I didn't try to use it
Pilings left over from the pier
A crumbling building, and a bathtub 
Who knows what all this stuff is
The city of Juneau built a very nice, large dock at Taku Harbor that is free to use.  No water or power, but the docks are modern, safe, and clean.  There was only one other boat there when we arrived, and the gentleman aboard happened to be the lighthouse keeper at the Five Fingers Light, near Fanshaw Bay where we spent the night a few days ago.  He was on his way to Juneau for supplies but ducked into Taku Harbor to wait for better weather.

In the evening a large tour boat, the St. Peter, pulled onto the dock.  I talked with the crew for a bit, and they were spending the night at Taku to save some distance tomorrow.  That way they could sleep in until 7 instead of 5, and still meet the cruise ship they needed to pick up passengers from in time for their trip up Tracy Arm.

By the evening thick clouds had replaced the sun of the previous few days.  Oh well, this is Alaska, and I can’t expect sun and temperatures in the 70’s or 80’s every day!

43.2 nm today and 1117 total

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 23-Tracy Arm Cove to Ford's Terror

Even though the inside of Ford’s Terror was apparently dangerous because of rockslides, the outer area is supposed to be scenic and easily accessible.  So today we decided to make the roughly 20 nm trip up Endicott Arm.  Dawes Glacier, 12 nm past Ford’s Terror, was apparently quite clogged with ice preventing boats from getting close to its’ face, so we opted to have a relaxing day at Ford’s Terror rather than a longer day trekking up to the glacier and back.

The trip up Endicott Arm was easy and we saw no other boat traffic.  The water was glassy, the wind nonexistent.  While the scenery was not as dramatic is Tracy Arm, it was nonetheless beautiful.  As with Tracy Arm, we had to fight a bit of current on our way into Endicott Arm, even entering on a flood.

This bald eagle was perched on an iceberg near the entrance to Endicott Arm
When we pulled into Ford’s Terror, a small cruise ship (less than 200 feet) was pulling anchor.  I called them on the VHF and they confirmed recent rock fall inside the rapids.  With this information confirmed, we proceeded to find a suitable spot for anchoring overnight.

Anchoring in the outer basin of Ford’s Terror wasn’t easy.  The walls plunge nearly vertically into the water, making most areas too deep or too shallow.  Additionally, a strong current rips through a reversing tidal rapid and a drying shoal sits right where anchoring would make the most sense.  After a few attempts at anchoring, though, we got the hook set in an appropriate spot and ran a stern tie to shore to keep us from swinging out towards deeper water and dragging anchor.

The weather was perfect and I quickly got out in the kayak.  Sunny and temperatures in the 80’s!  The outer basin is spectacularly beautiful, similar to Princess Louisa Inlet and Misty Fjords National Monument.  Lots of waterfalls, streams, etc.
Summer in Alaska
The rock walls are immense

Many waterfalls around the inlet 
This stream emptied right near our anchorage
An hour or so after we arrived a seaplane landed in the cove and taxied around for a while.  I couldn’t figure out why.  After another hour or so, a 70+ foot Viking yacht pulled in and anchored and the seaplane taxied to its swimstep.  I paddled over and talked to the captain of the yacht for a few minutes, and it turns out the owners are avid pilots who use the boat as a base for seaplane flights.  And I thought the Mokai was a cool toy!  They also had kayaks, a big inflatable dinghy, and a seadoo.

After dinner they dinghied over to us and invited us over for drinks.  There were 8 or 9 people aboard, all pilots except for the hired captain of the boat, up from California for just a few days.  Tomorrow some of the family is taking the boat to Juneau, others are taking the seaplane to Ketchikan where they’ll switch to another of their planes, fly to Juneau to pick up the rest of the family, and then fly to southern California.  They’ll repeat this shuffle several more times throughout the summer.  Certainly a unique way to travel!  The owner said he would have given us rides over the glaciers yesterday in the seaplane, but his wife had burned all the fuel in the morning and he spent the afternoon flying to Juneau to fill up the tanks instead.  Oh well.
Sunset on the mountains
22.2 nm today and 1,073.8 total