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...

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