Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Here's to Seattle! Land of coffee and rain.

We made it to Seattle!

Joyfully stepping off in Edmonds Marina!
Pulled into Port of Edmonds, just north of Seattle yesterday afternoon around 4pm. Got a nice space on the guest moorage dock through Sunday afternoon, but will most likely stay a day or two longer depending on the time we need to prep the boat for her Neah Bay to Bodega Bay passage. The weather is also supposed to been nasty on Saturday and Sunday, as a cold front is moving through the Straight of Juan de Fuca-- so we are staying clear. Much more cozy to be at port and wait until it clears up next week.

Crossing the border...

After leaving Otter Bay Marina on Pender Island, we had an absolutely perfect sailing day. We motored out of the bay, threw up the sails and killed the engine. We sailed a nice beam reach all the way to Friday Harbor, sailing over the Canada/U.S. border at a solid 7 knots! That is faster than we motor generally. Our little diesel Westerbeke usually chugs us along at about 6 to 6.5 knots, so when we are sailing (for free!) over 7 knots, it's a victory. Our customs visit took longer than planned, but only because we had to wait on the dock at Friday Harbor for 45 minutes or so for the actually customs officer to arrive. There was quite a line up of boats by the time he came. During that waiting time, we met Jonathon from Edmonds, the owner of the s/v Moment, who had just sailing up to Juneau and back during this fabulous summer! We were surprised that in all of our stops we didn't run into him on the way down. Upon arriving in Edmonds a day later, we ran into him again, just as he arrived into port. We are hoping to see him and exchange more stories and helpful hints this week as we stay in the Edmonds area.

We anchored right in from of Port Townsend on Monday night, arriving into Port Townsend right as the sun was setting. Waking up the next morning, we pulled up the anchor and motored over to a transient day-dock at the front of town and managed to do a quick walking tour of town during hour free-hour of moorage. I got a great cappuccino at "Better Living Through Coffee" and got some creative ideas for nautical crafts I could make as gifts or art for the boat. I think my next crafty endeavor will be a galley mat made out of our first dick line that we replace (one of them is fraying a bit, and is in need of a better purpose).

Break Time...

Tonight will be our first night off the boat in a month! We are spending the night with my grandparents in Mill Creek for dinner, laundry, showers, a cozy bed and maybe if we're lucky, a movie on the couch (which I am looking forward to immensely). Our break in Edmonds was strategically placed because of the closeness to my generous and flexible grandparents.

My parents are also paying us a visit Thursday through Saturday. A special birthday celebration is in order, since Captain Clif's birthday is Friday (woo-hoo, turning 28!) and my mother's birthday is on Sunday.

However, the week won't be all fun and games (although I'd secretly like to sneak a pedicure in... if possible). We do have several large boat projects that need to get done. We are picking up a very special gift from AML today or tomorrow: a new sailing dighy! Father Thomas, who blessed our boat in Petersburg, shipped us his fully equipped 8ft Walker Bay. We are very grateful and looking forward to a more stable and fun way to get ashore from our boat as we make our way down the coast. Thank you FT!

Clif has been pouring all his thought and spare time into purchasing and the possible installation of a used Monitor wind vane. He has been in contact with one in Bellingham that would work for the boat... but I'll let him tell you more about that (and all the thought that has gone into the purchasing decision... it's quite the process). I have taken on the rub-rail project. Our rub rail is old, and has needed being replaced since the boat came up to Juneau, but was put off because it's not imperative to the sailing of the boat. However, in heavy wave chop, we have found that any hard whack! to the bow of the boat will knock the rub rail clear off the bow of the boat. Clif has to snap it back on, usually in foul weather, and I don't enjoy watching him do that while I drive.  So I'm purchasing a new rub rail and putting it on myself.... more on that project later.

For now.... don't look at our tracker, or monitor our whereabouts, we are in Edmonds, WA and happily warming up and doing laundry amidst good coffee, and a wealth of sailors.

Lots of love... Giselle

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Leg 5: Straight of Georgia and Gulf Islands

Straight of Georgia: Some friendly cruisers, some wealthy cruisers, and some time on land...

Ahoy! Writing from our boat this evening. This is the first blog post actually published online while I sit in the cabin, on our cozy couch. This is going to be a brief blog entry, just enough to show you that we are enjoying ourselves, and received some much needed socializing among cruisers this week at two different marinas, as well as a WHOLE DAY, yes... that's right, an entire day on one place, North Pender Island (which was also very much needed). We have been pushing is fairly hard, especially the day out of Campbell River, mostly because Seattle is so close. We also are still dealing with the aftermath of a cold front that moved into the BC area on Thursday and Friday. The wind is still up, and today is rained. Oh boy, did it rained. It rained like it has been wanting to rain all summer. At least the plants are happy.

Another reason why this will be a shorter blog post, is because I'm composing it currently, and my computer only has about 15 minutes left of battery life. With the sun setting and the solar panels loosing their juice, I have no choice but to use up the precious little minutes left on the computer.

Sunday, September, 22nd:

Today, was a marvelous day.

True to the Sabbath, we rested today in North Pender Island. The rest was not planned, but was almost given to us because of the marina caretakers generosity. The caretaker of Otter Bay Marina said he would give us a 2-for-1 deal, if we so desired, and since we had kind of mistakenly pulled into a quite fancy marina and were going to be paying the one-night fee no matter what, why not take two? We decided, with our day off, that we would spend as much time as possible walking, and that we did! We walked for a total of 4 hours today, almost non-stop, through the rain, wind, puddles and then finally sunshine as the weather subsided in the afternoon. North Pender Island is a lovely quiet pastoral place: very few homes, a scattering of farms, a bakery and sushi bar (the sushi bar seems like a unique addition). We walked long roads with few cars and lots of green lush foliage on the sides of the roads, as well as creating forest canopies above. Every mile or so there would be a farm and a little stand with a cooler on the side of the road with fresh eggs. We lucked out and found a perfect dozen, which we paid for in Canadian coins in a little locked coin box below the egg cooler. We continued to walk by bee-keepers, vegetable gardens, pottery studios, blackberry bushes, apple trees and little "help-yourself" fruit stands. We were a little reluctant about walking in the pouring down rain earlier today, but we were so glad we stuck it out for the nice weather! We also waved at the same police man as he drove by us four times during out 4-hour walking adventure.

Finished the day chatting up with some folks that docked right next to us in their beautiful big sailing yacht. Once thing I have found about sailors: no matter if you're on a big new boat, or an older trusty steed, you're still sailing, and you're still in the same wind. Everyone seems to enjoy chatting with each other and find things in common. I enjoy that a lot.

While in the little seaside community of Lund, we met lots of couples sailing around the Straight of Georgia on a weekend cruise from Victoria or nearby. We met a couple with a 1965 Cal 34, who came aboard our boat and chatting in the cockpit. We also seemed to attract several other folks who were interested in our blog and our Alaskan journey. That, accompanied by a perfect Italian cappuccino at Nancy's Bakery in the morning, made Lund a very nice stop as well.

Made a little photo collage of iphone photos I took around Pender Island today (no big camera because of the downpour at the beginning of our walk), and some photos of the beautiful sunrise in Lund on Friday morning, full rainbow, pink sky and all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Waiting in Campbell River, BC

Vancouver Island, BC: For Sound Discovery, Current is King...

Here we are, hanging out in Campbell River, BC, waiting on the currents to change. We have been moving so fast the last couple of days, that is feels weird to be actually "hanging out" in a port, even if it's just for the morning. We actually made an attempt to leave Campbell River earlier this morning, because it was PERFECT sailing weather, but alas, the current was pushing against us too strong and we were gaining no ground. We made the decision to come back into the harbor and wait until the afternoon. With all this time, I actually walked to Starbucks (Hooray for Canadian Starbucks!), and managed to do our first load of laundry this trip. As you can imagine, we had some stinky clothes, but only a few, since we have been wearing essentially the same outfits for the last two weeks (speaking for myself, I have tried to change up my long-underwear options for cleanliness).

Right now, clif is intently watching race 10 of America's Cup on his ipad: huge smile, loving every second.

I do have to say, as antsy as we are to keep a move on (feeling like Seattle is in sight), it is extremely nice to relax on the boat... lounging during the late morning. What a novelty! I also have time to reflect on our most magical marine life experience to date, which happened yesterday afternoon. We were preparing to go through the Seymour Narrows, about an hour outside of Campbell River, racing to catch the high-slack tide and make it through the Narrows with about 6 or 7 other boats around us. I was down below and heard Clif call me up: "Giselle...." he said in awe, "There are hundreds of them!" By them, he meant dolphins. White-sided dolphins, like I've never seen before in cold pacific northwest waters, and he was right: there were hundreds of them everywhere! We watched them breach high out of the air at a distance, completely covering the channel, and then watched, with wide eyes as ten of them came straight for our boat. The dolphins were literally jumping out of our wake, on the side of the boat, right next to the cockpit. I grabbed my cell phone and took a video as three of the dolphins, swam at our speed, like it was nothing. I went back down below and snagged my big camera and life jacket, walked up to the bow and much to my surprise, saw two and sometimes three dolphins sitting directly under the bow. The turned to their side and looked up at me, completely aware of the fact that I was there, desiring a closer encounter with them. Clif and I took turns laying down up on the bow, reaching down our arms, trying to touch the water. The dolphins were barely out of reach. It was unbelievable. I couldn't stop smiling. Laying down on the bow, reaching out, connecting eyes with the dolphins, that was the happiest I have been in a long time. It was surreal.

Somehow, amidst all the happy smiles and squeals of delight as the dolphins jumped up towards the boat, I managed to snap a couple good shots on rapid fire shooting--- camera strap around my neck and arms out holding the camera over the side of the bow...

Any closer, and I'd be swimming with them...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Leg 4: The Canadian Inside Passage

Posted from Port Hardy, BC, just shortly after crossing the Sound...

The Canadian Inside Passage: “Fog, logs and dogs.”

In this blog post you will find a string of Giselle’s journal entries, a new addition of “Clif Notes,” and some awesome pictures from Canadian waters. Also, check out our new page (above in the tabs) “Galley Time.” Because, naturally… we have to have a food blog.

 First, Some Silly News…

We realized we were low on fresh water when we were in Prince Rupert, but couldn’t find a spigot to attach our hose to, so… we’ve been washing our dishes in seawater and giving them a quick hot water rinse afterwards. Unfortunately, this routine of hauling/dumping soapy water out of our 5-gallon bucket made me loose the only two forks we owned!! Sadly, we are now fork-less and ate dinner with spoons (and one plastic fork I found leftover from Clif and Rob’s trip north).

Doing some salt water dishes outside in the cockpit.
We also broke the majority of our plastic cups the first day we left Juneau in heavy weather, and I stepped on one of our plastic dinner plates while hauling in the jib yesterday….
Moral of the story is: We need some nice new stainless steel cups and plates (and more forks of course), which we will purchase in Seattle.

(*** after note: We have fresh water now. We filled the tank in Klemtu.)

From Giselle…

Bored on the boat...
Every day since leaving Prince Rupert, we have had some period of fog. For some reason the Canadian side of the Inside Passage as been more susceptible to fog banks than the Alaskan portion. Tonight, we arrived in Klemtu, fueled up in beautiful sunny weather and saw that there were no open spots at the small dock. We made the decision to press forward to a bay that was 1- 2 hours away that was an excellent anchorage, but no sooner did we leave Klemtu, the wind picked up, the waves picked up and a thick fog bank rolled in on us. We turned back around, back to the Kelmtu dock (15 minutes backward), and were able to tie up alongside a big powerboat “Solitude.” The father and son onboard the boat were extremely nice and helped us in our first “tying up experience” (attached to another boat). So there we sat comfortably: thankful for the safe moorage, and hoping for better weather in the morning. Woke up when it was light (which is happening now around 7am with the time change): thick fog, but no wind or rain to speak of. We left Klemtu, Clif driving, and I standing at the mast keeping watch for logs… yes, many logs.

Logs have been another navigation challenge in Canada. We literally crossed the border and began seeing logs in the water… everywhere. Sometimes to the point of me having to stand in the shrouds and point out large logs and yell back to Clif: “log!” We have both made the mistake of bumping into (thankfully small) logs while it was our turn at the helm. It’s a harrowing experience, hearing something bump the boat, even if it’s gentle. It’s bound to happen, winding our way through all the bull kelp and driftwood in these channels, but we do our best to help each other keep watch and steer the boat out of harms way. Coming out of Klemtu, it was like the storm during the night has pulled an entire forest into the water. We were all ears and eyes, all the time—even with the motor on.

The other sighting that has increased in these last two days is jumping salmon! I have never seen so many jumping salmon in my life. After we docked in Klemtu, we went on a nice long walk and walked the hundreds, if not thousands of Dog salmon swim upsteam and jump all over the place. One salmon we watched jump across the water like a skipping stone twelve times in a row! To which Clif exclaimed, “Holy Dogs!” Too bad all the salmon are spawning and nasty.

The absolute BEST day in Bishop Bay…

Roof of the Bishop Bay hotsprings.
One of my favorite photos. Clif enjoying the surrounding of the hotspring.
We purposefully got up early this morning, wide-awake at the prospect of getting a bath today!! We motored out of Lowe Inlet and began to sail the rest of the way down Grenville Channel downwind! These past two days in Grenville Channel have both been excellent downwind sailing, which is the first we’ve had since we left Juneau. We arrived at Bishop Bay/Monkey Beach Conservancy around 3:45 in the afternoon (an early day for us) and immediately attached ourselves to a mooring buoy and rowed to shore for our prize! On shore is a small little fresh-water hot springs, cut into the rock (similar to Tenakee’s), but with a roof over the top and a deck to view the bay. The hot springs seems to be a very popular stop for BC cruisers coming up from Seattle or down from Alaska. The roof was laden with trinkets and ornaments left by previous hot springs bathers: buoys with names and dates, shells, beers cans, and a myriad of other crazy boating items, all bearing the names of folks who had been to the hot springs and wanted to leave their mark. The water was an absolutely PERFECT temperature for a bath. We got the pool all to ourselves in the afternoon and didn’t want to get out. The only reason why I could get out and go back to the boat was the prospect of going back to shore at night and bringing flashlights and candles for a late night bath.

The late night trip to the hot springs was even more magical. We rowed ashore in our little dighy and watched the paddles and wake churn up bright green phosphorescence! We brought a large candle from the boat in addition to the little tea light candles that were already left at the bath. The stars were out and we could hear the breaths of the humpback whales carrying across the bay to the bath hut.

On the whale front… written in Bishop Bay:

I had another peaceful, almost meditative moment with the whales tonight. I lay in the v-berth, window completely open, allowing a light cold breeze to flow through the v-berth into the main cabin of the boat. I set all the pillows up against the anchor box as to make a perfect reading nook. I’m about ¾ through (now finished, once I’m posting this online) Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and love sneaking back to this comfortable quiet place when we are anchored or moored up silently. But tonight wasn’t so silent: every minute or so (sometimes more frequently) one could hear the burst of the humpback whales across the bay taking a breath. It was rhythmic, methodical, and if there was a period of time when couldn’t hear them gasping for air regularly, I’d pop my head out into the sunset sky and wait for a sighting, as to know my evening companions where still present. I imagine that feeling being something like the experience of new mother listening to her baby breathe while sleeping, making sure there are no irregularities.

Every once in a while, I was lucky enough to hear, echoing through the hull of the boat, the grunts, groans and squeals of our nighttime visitors. One load whale call in particular rang off the sides of the steep mountains surrounding us, making me freeze in my place, in awe of how loud that whale song had become.

I would do well in life if their songs and chatter were always my lullaby.

I believe, along our journey, that whenever the humpback whales are near, I will feel the comfort and simple joy of being home. I hope they follow us all the way down to Mexico.

*** Also, as an afterthought, for Dad (and maybe Sarah C., if you read this), I’m thinking “Whale lullaby” would be an excellent nighttime children’s book idea (ala Goodnight Moon). ?? For those who don’t know, I want to write and illustrate a children’s book… more ideas to come. Feel free to comment and bounce back ideas.

Here’s to another addition of…

Clif Notes

Lots of motoring has been done. We are making good time on our way south. The long days we have been putting in seem worthwhile. We can already tell the air is getting warmer…maybe, hopefully, kind of, unless it is another foggy morning. In all reality, the days have been fairly warm and a couple of times we noticed a rare warm breeze blowing, but from where the warm breeze is coming from, we have no idea. After all, it IS fall in Canada, even if it has been an unusually sunny and dry one.

For those of you who don’t already know, we have a DeLorme InReach Satellite Tracker with us. This allows everyone at home to keep an eye on our progress (see the tab above “Track Us!”). It also lets us send and receive text messages when we are out of cell service. We have been in the habit of sending a message to close friends and family every night letting them know we are safe and sound. If you would like to be added to the message list just let us know via email and we can add you. Most of our messages are preset to say “Everything is ok,” but if the need arises we can send custom messages to arrange logistics, or any info we need to share while out on the water away form internet of telephones.  Although our outgoing messages are limited, everyone is able to reply via email for free! We have been receiving email/text replies from friends and family almost everyday. Each morning, instead of reading the paper, we have been turning on our InReach to get the latest news and well wishes from everyone at home. These have been very welcomed messages and we look forward to seeing who has written us. So please keep the messages coming, even if we don’t respond, know that we enjoy reading them!

Prince Rupert Harbor at sunset.
One of the main questions we get is what do we do with all of our time, and whether or not we go stir-crazy on the boat. For the most part we have been staying busy keeping up with simple chores like taking turns at the helm, putting up the sails with every puff of air, only to take them down shortly after because the wind died, and playing with the sail trim with every shift in wind direction. Cooking, cleaning and repeating at each meal also take time out of the day. Other things to bide our time have been plotting our course for the next stop, and lots of reading. Plotting our course has been fairly easy, keeping in mind tide and currents through the day as we travel down one channel and through another body of water. We still have the benefit of lots of places to stop and anchor, but few places to fill up on fuel, water and warm showers. Giselle and I have been trying to read some classic books. She has a long reading list for me in hopes of making me “well rounded,” seeing as I haven’t taken many philosophy classes, and she studied theology and art history. I started reading Moby Dick, which seems like a fun read while on the water. Other than that, I have been reading a lot of manuals and how-to books. I have been learning how to better use the radar onboard and I have been practicing during the sunny days and testing my new skills during the recent foggy mornings. I have also been reading a lot of sailing journals and an 800-page study guide for getting my captain’s license. Once I get through the study guide and feel comfortable with the amount of time and skills I have on the water, I hope to take a test with the U.S. Coast Guard to become a certified captain for hire. I doubt this will ever make be much money but hopefully it will help in getting a fun job driving other peoples’ boats.

I almost forgot to mention that this week I've seen a humpback whale fully breaching out of the water as well as an orca. The orca was small and at first I thought it was a great white shark. I guess I've seen too many episodes of "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel.

A sound boat.
Lastly, in trying to bide my time, I even have been reading the dictionary. As you all know the name of our sailboat is Sound Discovery. I thought it would be fun to look up the many definitions of “sound,” and here are a few that seemed fitting for us:

sound1 (noun)
            - any auditory effect, a noise, musical tone
sound2 (adjective)
- free from injury, damage, defect or disease. In good condition; healthy; robust: a sound heart; a sound vessel
- competent, sensible or valid: sound judgment
sound3 (verb)
            - to measure the depth of water by a lead weighted line
- to plunge downward or dive, as a whale
- to make investigation; seek information
sound4 (noun)
            - a relatively narrow passage of water between larger bodies of water or between the 
              mainland and an island.
            - an inlet, arm, or recessed portion of the sea: Puget Sound

So here is to soundly sounding new sounds aboard Sound Discovery!
(Translated to “competently investigating new inlets of the sea on our boat”)
That sounds like our new mission statement.

Rowing dighy, tied up at Bishop Bay hot springs.

Clif in the hotsprings (also a cute shell mobile hung by a cruiser family in the foregorund)

One of my favorite photos thus far! Clif's legs, kicking under the boat. He went down to look at the prop and rudder.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Leg 3: Dixon Entrance = Oh Canada!

Two very hot days at sea (Alaska "hot"), and we've made it to Canada at last!

Well, we made it down to Prince Rupert. We crossed the ominous "Dixon Entrance" today: my first taste of true sea swell! It couldn't have been better weather. The last two days from Ketchikan have both been over 65 degrees (much hotter in the sun while driving the boat) and flat calm. We had less than 5 kts of wind throughout the whole trip today across Dixon and the sea swell was (according to the Canadian weather report) less than 2 meters, which felt a little rolley-polley (I haven't the faintest idea how to spell that correctly) but not bad in the least!

As you can see from the pictures, it's been gorgeous, calm and easy to push ahead. We had yet another great little anchorage in Foggy Bay in between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert, and tonight we managed to snag the LAST open slot in the "first come, first serve" harbor in PR. Had a nice walk around town and a wifi stop for me.

We have a couple great anchorages ahead of us that we are looking forward to in Canada: Lowe Inlet was recommended to us in Ketchikan by a couple sailors coming north, and Bishop Bay/Monkey Beach hot springs the following night (recommended by my aunt and uncle, thank you!). Not sure when the next wifi stop will be. It could possibly not be available until we reach the north end of Vancouver Island.

Until then.... here are some photos from our sunny, summer weather motoring!

ALSO! Very exciting news! We are a new addition to the 48 North sailing blogs index on their website! 48 North is a sailing magazine based out of Seattle that connects Pacific northwest cruisers together. Check out this link, we are the most recent:
Exciting! There are a lot of big time sailors on that list...

Huevos Sound Discovery!

How could we not read Moby Dick out in the sea swells today?

Art time for Giselle in Foggy Bay's Inner Cove-- sunset sketches and then painting once the light is gone.

Happy Birthday Dad! We made ocean themed pancakes for your day and to celebrate the impeccable weather for our Dixon Entrance crossing!


Celebrating getting into Canadian waters!

Naps in the sun: why yes, those are Tye dye cargo pants.... that Clif owns and loves.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Leg 2: Down in K-town! (Ketchikan, that is)

 A boat blessing, Clif Notes (get it?), and some starry, starry nights…

I have never liked Ketchikan more in my life. As a child, I flew and ferried to Ketchikan at least once a year for swim meets, but getting off the boat today in the quaint Thomas Basin Harbor, I was the happiest clam alive. It feels great to walk, not have to cook or clean for one meal, and sit in a bar with lots of young local seasonal workers. As I type, Clif is catching up watching the America's Cup races--- he's glued (and a little bummed at the New Zealand lead). Also, we just received FREE grilled salmon from one of the servers (Asylum Bar-- free food every Monday night!), so we're set for a while.
Before we left Petersburg on Saturday afternoon, we had the privilege of having Father Thomas, of Petersburg and Wrangell, and Bishop Burns of Juneau, officially bless Sound Discovery for her voyage. Fr. Thomas is a long time, experienced sailor, and therefore knew exactly what needed to be blessed and sprinkled with holy water on the boat! Clif and I were very thankful for the blessing and felt happy, safe and secure leaving the Petersburg harbor.

Thank you again to FT and Bishop Burns if you’re reading this!

*Also, since I’m writing “thank-yous,” I wanted to thank Jim Betts of Betts Boat Repair in Juneau, for his helpful hints and warm wishes over the phone before and after we left Juneau.

*And thank you Bride and Jason--- for… well… pretty much everything. Helping us willingly and with a smile. We appreciate and miss you.

*Thanks Jill and Mom for the zucchini bread and Uncle Paul’s cookies… we have officially devoured all of them as of this morning!

And now, introducing our newest section of the blog, a reoccurring column:

“Clif Notes”

Clif here…
So far the trip has been fairly uneventful, which isn’t at all a bad thing while travelling the Inside Passage in the Fall. There have been a few stormy days but for the most part it has been partly cloudy with very little wind. It’s nice not having howling wind in our faces and I can forgive the drone of the engine as long as she keeps faithfully pushing us toward warmer waters. 

So patriotic through the Wrangell Narrows!
For the most part we have been travelling 50 miles a day and only travelling during the day. We have been burning 0.4 gallons per hour at a steady 4 knots, motor sailing when we can but the majority of the time our trusty 30 hp Weterbeke does the bulk of the work with some sailing when the wind picks up. (As a side note the one time that our Westerbeke did overheat it was attributed to a piece of seaweed plugging the intake. Once this was cleared, and the coolant topped off, our engine has preformed wondrously. Cheers to keeping it that way!) This makes for relaxed shifts at the helm and we usually switch places at the helm every 2-3 hours, as well as sharing the cooking duties evenly. Admittedly, when it’s my turn in the galley the result is much less appealing then when Giselle goes below to whip up a brunch or an early dinner (which have become our main meals of the day).

When there is even the lightest breeze we hoist the mainsail and do our best to motor sail into the light headwind, in hopes of gaining even a tenth of a knot of boat speed. Inevitably, as soon as I get the sails set, the wind dies back down and we end up motoring through seas that are as flat as an oil slick. Still, much better than the gale alternative. The best part about travelling the Inside Passage, with all of the bays, canals, sounds and channels, is that there is always safe anchorage less than ten miles away. It makes planning your next stop easy: just keep on motoring until dinner time, then duck into the most convenient bight out of the channel. Although we have a nice chart plotting program on our laptop with all of the NOAA charts, we have found it much more convenient to use the Navionics App on the iPad. The App only cost 7-14 dollars, and since our iPad is in a waterproof case, we can read the charts in the cockpit, no matter the weather. The alternative is looking inside the companion way at the laptop, lashed to the table, which we fear will come crashing down with every wave. All of the other systems on the boat have been working great. With the engine running most of the day our batteries are fully charged and the 70 watts of solar panels I installed haven’t had to work very hard to keep up with the demands of the refrigerator. 

I have been dragging a fishing lure most of the time hoping to get a bite from a late season Coho salmon. I’m no pro-fisherman, but I’ve heard the best speed for trolling is below 2 knots. At that speed we wouldn’t get to Mexico until next year, so I rev up the diesel to 4-5 knots and figure I will have lot of time to go fishing once I’m not running away from another Alaskan winter forming behind me. So far the trip has been relaxing and obviously warmer than when my Dad and I brought the boat up from Tacoma in November (2012). The memory of icy decks and ocean spray freezing in the rigging is always in the back of my mind: something I care not to repeat. With the Alaskan Summer ending, and a short Fall before winter hits, it is push on all day to the South. Once we get more comfortable with our routine on the boat, we will likely start motoring a little during the night in order to gain even more precious southerly miles.

Over and out.

More from Giselle… (I'm copy-and-pasting this while I eat salmon and simultaneously watch America's Cup races.)

Enjoying time in the pulpit.
With all this sunshine, calm seas and little to no wind, we are finding it hard to muffle the drone of the engine. The “sail breaks,” when the wind actually picks up to 10-20 knots, are marvelous. We throw the sails up with the slightest hint of wind and turn off the engine once we see that the sails are increasing our speed. With the engine off, it is just the light, soothing sound of the water passing over the hull.  Despite the engine being on quite a lot, we still have managed to get in some good sailing time. The wind has been coming predominantly from the SE (our heading… of course), so sail time has been close-hauled, pointed upwind as far as possible.

The other moments where we can find silence and peacefulness is after we drop the anchor. All of our anchorages have been glass calm, well protected, and picture perfect. Last night in Ratz Harbor, I woke up in the middle of the night to tighten some of the halyards that began to clank about once a light breeze picked up. I went outside the foggy windows of our cabin and saw the night sky littered with thousands of stars. It was a completely clear, cold night. I half expected to see some northern lights (which I would’ve woken up Clif in that case). For those who live in Southeast Alaska, we know how precious it is to see the stars in our usually clouded over landscape. To see those stars out on the water with such vibrancy, its no wonder sailors enjoy sailing at night. Looking back, it probably would have been a perfect night to motor down to Ketchikan and gain some ground. With so much beauty and light surrounding us, it would have been a nice night. Instead I enjoyed to silence… took a couple deep, cold breaths, tightened some of the lines, and crawled back in my sleeping bag.

Schedule Stuff:
We are spending the night in Ketchikan tonight, and most likely tomorrow mid-day, giving us enough time to swim and shower in the morning and go get groceries... etc. We're just planning a short day to Duke Island and then a long early morning and day into Prince Rupert. The NOAA weather for Dixon Entrance is not soo hot on Tuesday, so we’re hoping to wait out for a nice day on Wednesday (which it is predicted to be)

Things I am looking forward to in Ketchikan:
1.     A shower!
2.     A draft beer at a bar with wifi (hopefully by the time I’ve uploaded this to the blog, I will have found one!)
3.     A nice lap swim in the pool, if we spend a full day Tuesday.
4.     Safeway run. hooray.

We put on a smaller jib for the close-hauled, up-wind sailing.

Anchorage in St. John's Bay

Sunrise in the rigging...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Leg 1: Update from Petersburg

One of the worst sailing days, one of the absolutely best sailing days, and one day with just sun and whales!

We finally left Douglas Harbor on Wednesday morning in the pouring rain. Gave kisses to my Mom, Dad, and lovely Jill, who brought us even more food to add to our growing provisions. Forecast for Stephens Passage was rain, seas 3 ft., and winds from 10-20 kts, gusts up to 25. This forecast sounds pretty identical to the weather we were sailing in on the Bay a couple of weeks ago in San Francisco (minus the spitting rain). However, this forecast was definitely not the case once we crossed Taku Inlet. The seas and wind were larger than expected, which forced us to power motor through against the waves to Slocum Inlet to wait out the wind. We anchored in Slocum, took a nap (or attempted to sleep) along with several other fishing boats who had the same idea. We did manage to motor our way up to Taku Harbor later that day, through the every wind and the sea spray, knowing that we would be able to sleep soundly there and wait for the weather to pass.

Thursday was the complete opposite!! Woke up to a glass calm Stephens Passage, sunshine, little colds, not too cold. Once we motored out an hour, the wind picked up to 10-15 knots, still calm seas, which made for perfect sailing weather! We were able to sail, without the engine, just as fast as we could have motored. We didn’t put away the sails until later in the evening when the wind died and we got close to Hobart Bay, which was out second night stop. We noticed something peculiar when we got closer to the Hobart Bay entrance--- lots of splashing, rolling and puffs of air! Tons of humpback whales! It was like they had gathered to say goodnight to each other. The perfect sailing day couldn’t have ended better. We docked up on a tiny shallow pier inside the little cove of Entrance Island, right at the mouth of Hobart Bay (several other fisherman moored there as well). Once old fisherman called to us as we slowly motored into the cove, “What kind of sailboat is that?”
            “Cal 34,” Clif replied.
            With the fisherman’s two fingers in a peace sign extended towards us, he responded, “You’re a rich man when you’re sailing a boat like that.”

Friday morning, fresh out of the gate: whale city!! There must have been 40-50 whales just moving about the mouth of Port Houghton: breathing, rolling, breaching and most definitely checking us out. Several humpbacks near the Five Fingers Lighthouse just came straight towards the bow of the boat and wound their way around us, sensing our shape and size. Yesterday (Friday), was the first time I have ever HEARD the whales sing and call above the water. It was frightening at first. I couldn’t believe the noises I was hearing, even above the thumping of the engine. Squeals, screeches, low rumbles and fog-horn-like bellows came from every direction throughout the morning. It was humpback whale over load… if that’s possible. We had entered Fredrick Sound.

The whales were everywhere the entire day. So many whales in one little corner of the ocean! The only bummer about Friday was that there was literally no wind. We attempted to put the mainsail up for fun, for some activity other than motoring, but it didn’t propel us along any faster. It just made a pretty photo opportunity for some tourists running by in a couple fancy yachts. We entered Thomas Bay (look up “The Strangest Story Ever Told—Thomas Bay”) around 4pm and had to motor in all the way to the back of the Bay to find shelter from the wind, that of course picked up late, when we wanted to sleep, not sail! We ended up anchoring right off the beach, directly in front of Cascade Creek, next to a tiny public use cabin. Beautiful spot for a yummy warm dinner of green veggie curry and red wine.

Today, Saturday, we have carefully planned out timing to get in and out of the Wrangell Narrows, which Clif has been through several times, but not before a nice little wifi/cell service/fuel stop in Petersburg. Also, quick note while I’m writing this: we are currently motor sailing over to Petersburg and there are icebergs in the water! How many sailors get to navigate icebergs?! Probably not many. I promise we are keeping our distance.

Hope you’re enjoying the GPS tracking! We are enjoying each and every little message we receive! Just a little text means quite a lot when we’re out on the water. Thank you!

Our current plan, as far as the next couple of days, is to be in St. John’s Bay tonight (if the weather is decent across Sumner Straight), Coffman Cove on Sunday night hopefully and then down to Ketchikan on Monday night. More updates from K-town before we head into Canada.

Cheers-- Giselle

Saying goodbye to Juneau (in the background)

Morning coffee time

Fleece toes are driving

Trimming more than sails...

Galley time.

yummy vino from Juneau Costco run.

Braiding my hair in the morning

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Take 2!

Spent the morning test running out diesel engine out and about in front of Douglas Harbor to make sure everything was running smoothly. We filled the coolant tank early in the morning, checked through all the possible problems (of which there were none), called a couple of mechanics to get several opinions and hired one diesel mechanic to come do a thorough check of the engine. End of day result: the motor runs great. The theory from several mechanics, and Clif, is that something (seaweed, kelp, plastic bag..etc) blocked the in-take thru-hole, which in turn overheated the engine and made the coolant boil over, leaving us with very little coolant. After filling the coolant tank with concentrated coolant and fresh water, we were footloose and fancy free.

We took Sound Discovery on a last, long test drive tonight and it motored smoothly. We filled up at the fuel dock downtown about 5 minutes before they closed and motored back to the Douglas harbor. Long story short: we learned some good engine lessons, got another yummy dinner with my parents, and a good-night sleep before REALLY cutting the dock lines.

The weather is supposed to be rainy/windy tomorrow, so haul out the foul-weather gear tonight.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Engine Juneau

Well, for those of you watching the tracker, I turned it off at marmion island today because our engine was overheating. Out faithful Westerbeke continued to overheat quickly, despite waiting long periods of time for it to cool and then having clif check some of the basic heating/cooling components. It was, to say the least, a little deflating. We had a warm, tear-filled send off, followed by joy, apprehension and then a pretty big let down. The motor will have to be looked at by a mechanic, and could delay us by a couple of days... Hopefully not too many nice-weather days like today.

So, still in Douglas. Cutting the dock-lines, round-2, is soon to come.

Bye Juneau! (For now...)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Misty Magna

Misty Magna, and her new life as a cruising bike. Clif has been talking for months about having a pink children's bike with streamers, pegs on the back (the works) as being the ideal cruisers bike. And, no joke, Clif found this pink gem at the dumpster of Douglas Harbor the night of our send-off party. As a parting gift, our good friend Collin is cleaning it up and preparing it for our salty voyage! Clif is taking her for a test drive at Cycle Alaska now.