Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 58-Read Island to Petersburg

Back to Petersburg today to wait for Peter and my mom to arrive tomorrow morning.  I woke up to a dry, if cloudy, morning.  It’s only ~20nm back to Petersburg, so I wasn’t in any rush to leave.
Sea smoke in the morning
Still gorgeous, of course
But a little spooky
Finally around 10 I pulled anchor and headed out.  As I entered Frederick Sound the mountains were spectacular.  Even if it’s not sunny, it sure is beautiful.  Less pleasantly I was also greeted with an adverse current.  I don’t like displacement speed cruising when my speed dips into the 4-knot range, so I throttled up and headed towards Petersburg at 13 knots.
Mountains in Frederick Sound
I also tried out WOT with the new prop with a lighter load.  Nearly full water, one person, a ton of gear, and ¾ fuel loaded on the boat.  I got 6200 rpm and 23 knots of speed, both of which I’m happy with.  My only complaint is it seems like I have to run the engine at very high RPM’s to get a 16-knot cruise speed.  Something like 4800.  The jury is still out on fuel consumption, but I do think it is better at slow planning speeds.

Lots of traffic as a neared Petersburg, and lots of whales as well.  I stopped to enjoy the whales for 30 minutes or so.  I’m not sure if it would ever get old watching these creatures.
Apparently the pattern on the underside of the fluke is unique to each whale, kind of like a fingerprint
Paya got a good view, too

Always fun to watch
I swung by the fuel dock in the way into town and then got tied up in north harbor.  Almost immediately two guys strolled by and started asking questions about the boat.  They were waiting to head out to a fishing lodge and were impressed I had brought the boat up from Seattle, but couldn’t believe I wasn’t doing any fishing up here.

Then a commercial fisherman whom I had met last week pulled in.  I grabbed a line for him and he asked some more questions about the C-Dory.  He’s looking for a retirement boat for cruising around SE and likes the C-Dory a lot.  He went up and got his wife and they looked at the boat in more detail.  Amazingly, they were impressed with the space on the boat!  I guess commercial fishing boats allocate all available space to holding fish rather than people.

Later on I met John, Felix, and Steve from Paya.  John is a marine electrician in Seattle who somehow found Felix and Steve (from Germany and Australia, respectively) to crew on his sailboat for the summer.  Felix and Steve are taking some time to wander the world and they agree that SE Alaska is as beautiful a place as any.  I returned to Keto’s Kave with them in the evening and had a good time talking travel and boats.

Tomorrow Peter and mom arrive.  We’ll buzz over to LeConte Glacier as soon as they arrive and then return to Petersburg to pick up supplies for the next week and stay the night.  Then we’re off…I know Rocky Pass is on the agenda, and if Chatham Strait cooperates we’ll probably also head over to Red Bluff Bay for some bear watching.

23.0 nm today and 2,111.4 total

Day 57-Cascade Creek Bight to Read Island

The perfect weather was too good to last.  Early this morning I awoke to heavy rain pelting the cabin top.  I got up briefly to close some windows and then went back to sleep.

Originally I had thought about hiking a five-mile trail from the Cascade Creek cabin up to an alpine lake today, but the rain put a damper on those plans.  Instead, I decided to head north to Farragut Bay.

Not much to report on the trip up.  With low clouds and heavy rain, I couldn’t see much most of the time.  I did hear (on the radio) the Coast Guard interrogating boats and then boarding them for unknown reasons.  I doubt they make many friends that way.

Just as I dropped the hook in Farragut Bay (I nestled into a nook on Read Island) the rain and clouds started lifting.  Not to miss out on the nice weather, I paddled around a bit and walked on shore.  The grass was chest high in places and I didn’t want to startle a bear, so I decided that kayaking was probably a better choice.
Great anchorage
Around 6 the rain returned and was steady for the rest of the night.  Thomas Bay definitely seems more interesting than Farragut Bay, but the mountains in Farragut Bay are undoubtedly beautiful!

19.0 nm today and 2,088.4 total

Day 56-Ruth Island Cove to Cascade Creek Bight

Another spectacular morning!  No clouds, sunshine, calm winds, relatively warm temperatures…  It’s always nice to have all the windows and door open and still be comfortable!

With the beautiful weather I figured it would be a good time to check out Baird Glacier, on the northern end of Thomas Bay.  It’s not a tidewater glacier, but it does swoop down close to the water and it didn’t appear to be a long hike from shore.  Ominously, the guidebook indicates that there’s nowhere to leave a boat unattended at anchor in the area.  Since I’m alone, that wouldn’t work.
Baird Glacier from the water
Getting to shore did prove to be a bit of a problem.  I tried to anchor in a little bight on the western shore, about a mile off the mud flats.  Eventually I got the anchor to set, but I swung in too close to shore.  I could have remedied the situation with a stern tie, but that seemed like too much of a hassle.

After attempt number one failed, I started heading in towards the mud flat that lies off the glacier.  The trouble with maneuvering in shallow waters near glaciers is that the water is totally clouded in silt, limiting visibility to mere inches.  To add to the trouble, the depth sounder was giving wildly varying readings and the charts, of course, can’t be updated as quickly as the shoals move.

Anyway, I got the bow into 20 feet of water (or at least that’s what the sounder said) and dropped 200 feet of rode.  The water deepened quickly from where I dropped the anchor and the wind was blowing pretty strongly away from the beach (typical for wind to blow of glaciers), so I wanted to make sure I had an excellent set.  I didn’t, and quickly dragged into water more than 100 feet deep.

So I hauled the anchor back up (thank god for the windlass!) and started poking around in the mud flats.  This time I broke out the kayak paddle and periodically sounded the water manually.  When I got into a spot with just a few feet of water, I dropped 150 feet of rode and powered down hard.  No movement!

With the anchor set I hopped in the kayak and paddled into shore.  This was actually harder than I expected since a fresh breeze was blowing me away from the beach and a strong current from the outflow river from the glacier was also pushing me away from the beach.  This river was also flooding the area with fresh water (a taste test confirmed the surface water was fresh) and the glacial silt making underwater visibility non-existent.

On the paddle to shore there were a ton of seals.  They were awfully skittish of me, but fun to watch nonetheless.

Finally I got into shore, but since the tide would be rising for the next 6 hours or so, I needed to haul the kayak waaaaay up the beach so it wouldn’t drift away.  Like a half mile, through glacial strewn boulders and unbelievably sticky glacial muck.  Luckily the kayak is lightweight!

When I did find a suitable spot to leave the kayak, a group of perhaps 10 kayakers were already there.  I talked with them for a but and it turns out they’re a bunch of high schoolers from a summer camp in Wisconsin paddling from Ketchikan to Juneau.  What a great way to spend a summer!

Then I was off for Baird Glacier.  The walk was easy except for a stream crossing.  The water was slow moving so it didn’t present much of a hazard, but I did dunk a boot in the water, which made the rest of the walk a bit uncomfortable.  Going barefoot would have been a better choice.  The area around Baird Glacier is spectacular.  It looks like what I imagine the moon looks like.  Lots of gray, everything from silt up to semi-truck sized rocks.  A bit further away plants are reclaiming the land previously scraped bare by the glacier.  It’s definitely worth the trouble of getting up here to see it, especially on a gorgeous day.
Bird footprints in the glacial muck
Baird Glacier from land, with the river that must be crossed
Luckily the river flows slowly 
The view from the moraine 
The moon!
Wildflowers recolonizing the ground where the glacier once stood
Getting back to the boat was easy.  The tide had risen somewhat so I didn’t have to haul the kayak far, and then the wind and current did most of the work of getting me to the boat.

After Baird Glacier I motored through Scenery Cove, which is, indeed, scenic.  There seemed to be a few spots to anchor, but they looked marginal and I didn’t want to worry about dragging during the night.
Entrance to Scenery Cove
The USFS has a cabin located along Cascade Creek in Thomas Bay and they claimed good anchorage just off it.  The charts looked encouraging for the area, so I headed in that direction and found a nice spot to drop the hook.  I paddled around a bit in the kayak, ate dinner, and relaxed until sunset.  Another great day in paradise!
Last light
16.1 nm today and 2,069.4 total

Day 55-Petersburg to Ruth Island Cove

What a beautiful day!  I woke up to perfect blue skies and calm winds.  After filling up the water tank, grabbing a few groceries, and buying a bit of gas, I was heading out of Petersburg around 10 AM.

Thomas Bay is only about 15 nm away from Petersburg, but it is a world apart.  Baird Glacier sweeps from the peaks nearly to the bay and a beautiful, sandy beach stands at the entrance, protecting the bay from the sometimes-turbulent waters of Frederick Sound.
Frederick Sound couldn't have been nicer today
More of Frederick Sound
I first anchored just inside the entrance, in a small nook with just enough space for a single small boat.  Some small waves made their way in, making it a bit rolly for an overnight spot, but since I was just rowing to shore and hanging out on the beach, it didn’t matter.  With temperatures in the 70’s and beautiful scenery, I walked barefoot (can’t do that much in Alaska!) along the beach.
Sandy least at low tide
There's still a bit of sand at high tide it looks like
Temporary anchorage
After an hour or so I set off to find a better overnight spot.  The Douglass guide suggested a spot on the south end of Ruth Island, so I headed in that direction.  The east side of Ruth Island is shallow, but no problem for a C-Dory.  On a 4 foot tide I had 7 or 8 feet below me the whole time.

Ruth Island Anchorage was okay.  The views of the mountains from outside the anchorage were better, but there wasn’t any evidence of human activity from inside the anchorage and it was well protected.  A lagoon at the head of the cove was fun to explore by kayak.  The downside of anchorages recommended in the Douglass guide is that every cruiser knows about them, and they are generally more crowded as a result.  Certainly true here; there were three other boats around.

The afternoon was spent lounging in the sun, kayaking, and reading and then an early night to make up for lost sleep in Petersburg.

No real plans for tomorrow.  I’ll wake up and see what I want to do, which is kind of nice for a change!

19.9 nm today and 2,053.3 total