Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day 60-Petersburg to Pybus Bay

Today’s plan is to head to Pybus Bay on Admiraly Island.  I spent a night there last week and found it beautiful, and Admiralty Island has a high concentration of brown bears, which would be fun to show to mom and Peter.

The trip out is a bit more than 50 nautical miles, and since we’d run at planning speed it wouldn’t take too long.  We got a late start, after picking up some more food, filling the water tanks, and cooking breakfast.

The first half of the trip through Frederick Sound was uneventful.  The seas were mostly calm, and we spotted quite a few humpbacks along the way.  Some even got pretty close!

After rounding Cape Strait, the wind increased and the seas built.  Rain pelted down.  Pretty soon, we were surfing down four footers.  I had to remain on top of the throttle to keep the bow from burying into waves as we caught up with them, but the ride wasn’t too uncomfortable and the autopilot had no trouble keeping up.

Then the electronics died.  Autopilot, chartplotter, and radar all down.  Nav lights, wipers, cabin lights, 12v outlets, and VHF down too.  They flickered back on a few times, for a few minutes, but dropped out as quickly as they came back to life.

Notably some stuff was still getting power.  The engine gauges functioned perfectly, the compass and depth sounder (wired into the ignition) operated normally, the windless and Wallas performed flawlessly.  The iPad, with its’ own battery backup, continued to work uninterrupted, providing chartplotting even when the rest of the marinized (read: expensive) electronics stopped working.

Based on the symptoms I figured it wasn’t a fuse or breaker that was the problem.  It was likely a loose connection somewhere in the system, a simple thing to fix, if I could find it.  I checked behind the helm panel and all connections seemed tight.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  With fairly rough seas and only eight nautical miles to go, I figured our best bet was to get to Pybus Bay and troubleshoot there.

I’ll take a break from the story here to tell an important lesson: always have an independently powered backup system ready to go.  Minimize points of failure.  Even a backup MFD/chartplotter likely would have been taken offline by this problem.  In this case I had my iPad already running and I quickly switched on a portable VHF.  I had another portable VHF, as well as my laptop and iPhone with charts, GPS chips, and many hours of battery life.  Had the electrical system not been fixable, I could have easily made it back to Petersburg.

Anyway, once we got into the calm of Pybus Bay I started troubleshooting while Peter steered the boat.  I quickly found the problem.  A breaker in the aft lazarette had a loose wire.  A few turns of a socket wrench and the problem was fixed.  It’s amazing how a tiny problem can have big consequences.
Seals welcomed us to Pybus Bay
With the electrical problem solved, we headed for Sheldon Cove.  Unfortunately the clouds had closed in and hardly any scenery was visible.  On the plus side, we did get to watch a humpback for 45 minutes meander through Pybus Bay.

After anchoring Peter took the kayak for a spin.  Sheldon Cove does offer excellent kayaking, much better than Cannery Cove, it seems.  Lots of salmon were jumping throughout the bay, but unfortunately no bears.
A wet kayak ride
~52 nm today and 2,201.6 total

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