Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015-04 A Kite in Need of a Tail

Tuesday, April 28: A Kite in Need of a Tail

A little after 3AM this morning the BIG winds slammed the boat, pushing her into a sideways list, and waking the slumbering crew.  Suddenly 3 knots had become 30+ knots with gusts over 40.  Both Pat and Alex manned the pilot house expecting anchor drag.  Instead the Wild Blue swooped and swung from side to side in the strong winds, stretching all 230 feet of anchor rode in 34 feet of water, just like a “kite in need of a tail”.

After three days of Environment Canada’s high wind warnings, 40 to 50 knot SE winds finally materialized.  Yesterday, even hurricane force winds of 50 to 65 knots were forecast over certain portions of Northern British Columbia coast.  All boats were looking for protected refuge and we sought a secure anchorage in Farrant Island Lagoon inside Union Passage.  It took navigating a narrow and shallow entrance at slack current to get inside, but the Douglas Guidebook called the Lagoon “the perfectly bombproof anchor site”.  Even so, 40+ knots of wind doesn’t exactly feel bombproof!

Our anchorage is just off the Grenville Channel, a well-traveled Inside Passage route. Prince Rupert traffic on VHF Channel 11 controls and reports all traffic.  While monitoring the traffic channel, a passing tug named Ocean Titan, reported gusts to 85 knots off Prince Rupert.  OK…. I guess 40 knots or so doesn’t sound so bad after all.

As forecast, this 978 millibar low, of which we saw just 988 mb, was fast moving and by 7AM our winds had dropped to 25 knots or less.  At 10AM we saw the American Tug “Moxie” on AIS and hailed her on the VHF.  Moxie is traveling with two other American Tugs to Alaska.  She reported a rough night at Bishop Bay Hot Springs, and their group left early to seek better shelter.

The area at the bottom of Douglass Channel with Hartley Bay
at top center.  The line represents our course after exiting
McKay Reach to cross Douglass Channel to enter
Union Passage via Peter Narrows..
Union Passage has Farrant Island Lagoon, "A bombproof
anchorage" says the Douglass Guide. Hawkins Narrows
was our exit onto the Grenville Channel.
Here's what bombproof looks like!
At today’s 4:45PM slack current, Wild Blue exited Union Passage via skinny Hawkins Narrows and glided up Grenville Channel to Klewnuggit Inlet, to a very calm anchorage.  We plan on Prince Rupert or further tomorrow.

Here’s how the Wild Blue got here……

April 9-10 San Luis Obispo to Anacortes via Porsche Carrera S

As we all know, friends are important.  And when Alex’s good friend Dick Squire, an Offshore 54 owner and regular Wild Blue crew, called “Road Trip to Anacortes”, we were hoping he was not referring to his Fiat electric vehicle!.  Lucky for Alex, Dick drove to SLO Town on Thursday, April 9th in his Porsche Carrera S for the drive north.  Now that Porsche is a dream drive.  Once in Washington state, the car drew all kinds of attention.  Those onlookers must have been trying to ID the two older movie stars in the Porsche…..  We arrived in Anacortes on Friday at noon, enjoying a great lunch at the Village Pizza in downtown.

April 11-14 Prep Boat

Once aboard Wild Blue, it was time to prep for Alaska.  This meant: assembling the canvas top, firing up the deep freezer, changing engine oil and filters, and completing the various boat improvement projects.  Of course we were wined and dined by Jay and Micky Field, in their brand new home on the water in Skyline Marina.  The home looks fabulous and Jay, with his new upscale kitchen, produced some exquisite epicurean delights!

Crab, grilled veggies,
salad, dried, seaweed and wine....
perfect for a vegetarian who eats fish.
Smoked Salmon fritata, salad and home bread.
Micky and Jay.  Here Jay is dressed
like the politician he is destined to be!
Today he is officiating a wedding at Roche Harbour.
April 15 Pick up Crew at SeaTac

Dick left Tuesday for the drive back to Malibu.  Crew Roger and Maureen, our friends from San Luis Obispo, and Pat flew into Seattle.  With the help of Micky's Subaru, Alex picked up the crew and soon thereafter we all were provisioning at Trader Joes.

April 16 – 18 Selene Northwest Rendezvous at Roche Harbor

With provisions loaded, we headed for Roche harbor and the Selene Northwest Rendezvous.  Each year the Rendezvous is held for Selene owners and prospective owners.  Pat and Alex attended the 2004 event, and in 2005 our new Selene was delivered.

This year the event was primarily organized by the owners of SaltHeart, a Selene 62.  24 Selene owners with their boats attended. Many activities were planned including a San Juan Vineyards tasting tour, seminar for refit options for lighting, communications and electronics, owner's round-table for summer cruising plans, owner's seminar for MOB recovery methods, digital scrap-booking seminar, Jet Tern and Selene update with President Howard Chen, Northern Lights diesel and genset care seminar,  banquet featuring Comedian Brian Crowe, raffle, photo contest, Coast Guard Auxiliary safety inspections, and finally the famous Trawler Crawl. As always, it was great fun seeing old friends ans making new ones.

Jean Marie flanks Wild Blue into Roche Harbor
Those pretty Roche harbor homes with
 $1 Million views to go with there price tags!
The 2015 Selene Rendezvous Fleet
Twenty-Four Selenes showed for the 2015 Northwest Rendezvous
Horizon easily wins the prize for the best boat name display.
It also wins the "best party boat" award for its martinis.
The Seleners enjoyed the San Juan Island Vineyards
 and their church taste room

April 19-20 Vancouver

Early Sunday morning we departed for Vancouver.  Roger is a regular crew with man-overboard experience, but this was Maureen's first Wild Blue outing.  We wanted this to be a good experience for her, however Sunday's Salish Sea had a different idea.  After we pushed against 5 knots of current in Gorgeon Passage and entered the Strait of georgia, the wind was moderate but the seas became current driven slop.  On approaching Vancouver, the Fraser River outflow was dramatic, and we cruised through muddy and choppy waters into False Creek.  Maureen did fine exclaiming she enjoyed it!

After clearing customs we spent two nights in Quayside Marina, meeting up for dinner with the crew from Voyager, a 75-foot custom cruiser.  Bryon and Lynn Nelson, whom we know through California Yacht Club, have cruised Voyager from the east coast, through the canal and are headed for Alaska this summer.

We spent time in our favorite upscale market, Urban fare, topping off provisions.  Found the good French bread in Camby, along with supplies form Canadian Tire.  We road the Sky Train and Seabus around the City to West Vancouver. We also took the crew for a ride on the AquaBus to Granville Island, a great tourista experience.  While there, we ran in to Kelly Fenessey, Cal YC's Fleet Captain and future Commodore, who is cruising on Dash to the Broughtons this summer.
Sunrise On Sunday
Sunrise on Sunday revisited
Goat at Gorgeon Passage
The Canadian Coast Guard speeds towards Vancouver
Pats Starwberry Rhubarb pie, a Wild Blue favorite

April 21 Secret Cove, Pender Harbor or Squirrel Cove?

The weather has been fantastic over the last 7 days: sunny with light winds make one wonder if it really does rain in the Northwest.  Today we left early for points north hoping for Squirrel Cove in Desolation Sound under a forecast for rain and wind.  Even though we had destinations options of Secret Cove and Pender Harbour, the weather cooperated and after 12 hours we set the anchor at Squirrel.
Leaving Vancouver at Sunrise
One of our favorite homesites overlooking Welcome Passage
The View from Squirrel Cove
Squirrel Cove Goose

April 22 Yuculta, Dent, Green Point and Whirlpool Rapids to Lagoon Cove

We arose at 4:30AM for a 5AM departure to make slack current at Yuculta Rapids with a slight push through Dent Rapids.  Our calculations worked, as we arrived at 7:33AM slack.  There were no other boats around as we continued to Green Point Rapids.  There the current was flowing at almost 7 knots in our favor as Wild Blue hit 14.8 knots of ground speed!  Finally we decided to go with the flow through Whirlpool rapids,but only had 3 knots of push from the Rapids.

We pulled into Lagoon Cove about 3PM to meet the new caretaker Lyle.  Bob and Pat have moved and are the new caretakers at for a private estate on Alder Island.  They now get the summers off to cruise Tonga.

We all miss Bill, and will now miss Pat and Bob too, but Jeanie will be there this summer and Lyle is making many improvements.  We hope the success of Lagoon Cove continues.

Lyle said the first boat of the season at LC was Uno.  Prime Time with John Little arrived about 15 minutes before us to be second, and Wild Blue gets the third place trophy.  We see John each summer in Sitka as he spends his time helping and attending the Sitka Music Festival.  He was leaving in the morning to round Cape Caution in his 36 Monk.

Grady White speeds past Nordstrom resort in Yuculta Rapids
Boat names on Dent Island in Dent Rapids.  Signs have to be
placed at slack or else a 6-hour picnic happens.
Spring is here as boat moves dock north
Signs of Winter persist as does the cold temps,
 but sunshine prevails.
Our Hull Island boat continues to deteriorate.  See
earlier blogs for the same photo from prior years.
Lagoon Coves Lyle keeps his sailboat
 above water

April 23 Cracroft Inlet

When asked where Bill from Lagoon Cove harvested so many prawns, while standing on the dock, Lyle pointed to the cliffs along Southeast end of Turnour Island and said:  "I hauled up two 5-gallon buckets of prawns there last week".  So that is Wild Blue's destination today.  Before leaving the dock we rigged two prawn traps, set those where Lyle pointed and anchored just around the corner in Cracroft Inlet, unfortunately just out of range for LC's new wifi system.  We noticed a commercial crabber hauling in many Cracroft crabs and set out two traps.  Now this is cruising and Maureen is really enjoying the lifestyle.  Maybe Roger and Maureen will buy a boat?

Roger heaves a prawn trap float completing his set, just like a pro.
Wild Blue in Cracroft Inlet
Harvesting the prawns
Roger prepares to land a trap full of prawns
Less than a dozen -- OK for a practice set
Crew Maureen and Roger enjoy fresh caught crab

April 24 Port McNeill

Today we pulled our crab traps keeping two big male crabs for brunch.  Lyle's special prawn spot, yielded just a dozen in one of two traps.  I think we need to go back to prawning school! After cleaning just a few prawns and two crabs, we pulled the hook and headed for Port McNeill.  Our crew is flying home tomorrow and we hope they enjoyed their time at sea.

By 3PM we pulled into North Island Marina at Port McNeill.  We reserved the Marina van for tomorrow's drive to the airport.  Then we enjoyed a fine anniversary dinner at Northern lights restaurant just up the hill.
On the way to Port McNeill
The Larsons celebrate the Benson's Anniversary

April 25 Port McNeill to Sullivan Bay, Blunden, Miles Inlet or Allison, .... or continuing around Cape Caution to Frypan, Namu, Codville or Shearwater

Last night the BC weather forecast issued a warning for winds from 40 to 50 knots due to a 980 mb low off the coast.  This piece of info kept Alex from sleeping too soundly as the plan is to round Cape Caution today.

At 6AM, Pat, Alex and the crew drove to Port Hardy airport.  We said goodbye to the Larsons whom are headed back to SLO Town.  It was great fun living with them for a week and enjoying their combined cooking and gaming talents.

By 8AM we cast off the lines, headed toward Cape Caution.  The route takes us across Queen Charlotte Strait then Queen Charlotte Sound, exposed to the North Pacific swells.  The forecast is still ugly for today, so our bail outs are: Sullivan Bay, Blunden Harbour, Allison or Miles Inlet, then around the Cape.  After that it's Frypan, Namu, Codville or Shearwater depending upon how long we can keep "comfortably" motoring.

Expecting the wind and seas to build, we're hoping to just get across QC Strait to Sullivan Bay. After 50 minutes we round the top of Malcolm Island to get our first look:  surprisingly flat seas and calm winds fill our vision. Allison looks possible and once there some three hours later, we can see Cape Caution and celebrate our good fortune with a fresh cup of weak coffee.

By 2:30PM we're happy cruisers trying to decide on Codville Lagoon, Namu or even Shearwater to ride out tonight's 50 knot forecast.  We can make Shearwater by nightfall so we go for the gold.  At 9PM we find space among the many cruising and fishing boats who seek shelter from the storm.  All boats are securely tied to the floats with extra lines and buttoned down for the expected weather.
In California we fret over gravel production.  In BC they build a
conveyor belt down the mountain to load gravel ships to haul
gravel to California, some 1500 miles away..
 Mean rock in Queen Charlotte Strait
The sea and sky off Cape Caution look remarkably calm.
South bound in Fitz Hugh Sound
April 26 Wallace Bight Lagoon

We slept in, expecting wind noise to wake us.  But the barometer was still at 1014 mb and it has started to rain.  The BC forecasters still stuck to there guns, calling for 50 knot winds in our neighborhood later today.  We decided we would have several hours to find shelter once our barometer started to fall, so we continued up the Inside Passage.

We stayed on an inside Inside Passage route using Reid Passage, crossing the big swells at the entrance to Mathieson Channel, then through Percival Narrows, up the calmer waters inside Mathieson Channel to Jackson Passage.  We stopped to use the Jackson Pass WiFi hosted by the fish farming business.  The WiFi was up but not connected to the internet.  Must be too early in the season.

We had been following two boats we saw moored in Shearwater: Got Defever and Uno.  They seemed to be headed towards Bottleneck Inlet, and excellent anchorage for a storm.  When we arrived we saw a gaggle of American Tugs, including Moxie on AIS, anchored inside.  With the two more boats, that seemed a bit crowded so we continued up a mile to Wallace Bight Lagoon.  It was empty and even though its entrance had 1-foot of depth at zero tide, we were at +8 feet so we glided inside to an empty anchorage in the SE corner.

Dryad Point Light House near Bella Bella
Servicing the fish pens in Jackson Passage

April 27 Union Passage Farrant Island Lagoon

No big winds last night!  Barometer dropped just 1 mb.  Wooo!  Let's keep going so we did.  There was an extra foot of water on our exit from the Lagoon.  We turned right headed for Princess Royal Reach and points north, with a keen eye on the barometer.  We pulled out just ahead of Got Defever and Uno at about 8AM.

This morning's BC Marine Forecast now called for hurricane force winds about 100 miles south of us, and of course 50 knot winds for our area.  On AIS we've noticed four Canadian Coast guard cutters patrolling the area over the last couple days.  These weather guys must mean business.

Our weather was holding fine with 15-knot SE winds behind us.  Then about noon, the barometer began its crash! From 1012 mb to 1006 mb in 3 hours.  We knew the low was at 978 mb so we had several hours.  That's when we decided Hartley Bay was too full of boats so we set out destination on Union Passage. 

To get inside Union, we needed to be at the Peter Narrows entrance at 4:45 PM slack current.  The guidebook says slack water only lasts 5 minutes, so we added some RPMs to insure our timely arrival. We made it with a few minutes to spare entering at low tide slack water.  15 minutes later we entered our new favorite anchorage Farrant Island Lagoon. 

Exiting Wallace Bight Lagoon
Princess Royal Channel water falls

Princess Royal Channel water falls

Nathan E Stewart pushes a big load down the Channel

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

2015-03 Our 7th Season Cruising Southeast Alaska


Once again we're readying for another Alaska Cruise.  This year we plan to depart Anacortes a bit earlier on April 19, arriving in Sitka by the first week of May.  It's pretty much the same itinerary and crew with the addition of at least a couple side trips up to Lituya Bay.  Here's the plan:

Revision 3, April 3, 2015

Northbound BC cruising including Vancouver, Gorge Harbor, Broughton Islands, Port McNeil, Namu, Shearwater, Boat Bluff/Alexander Inlet, Hartley Bay, Prince Rupert, Dundas Island, Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island,  Rocky Pass, Peril Strait, Kalinin Bay, Sitka – 19 days: To Boat fly www.AlaskaAir.com to Seattle.  From boat fly www.AlaskaAir.com from Sitka to home. Crew: Roger and Maureen Larsen

Local Sitka cruising with King Salmon fishing and crabbing, anchoring at night.  5-day round-trip cruise to Lituya Bay for halibut fishing. Sitka to Sitka – 11 days: Fly www.AlaskaAir.com to Sitka. Fly www.AlaskaAir.com from Sitka to home. Crew with Alex only: Roger Larsen, Sid Findley, Gerard Ages.

Local Sitka cruising with King Salmon fishing and crabbing, anchoring at night.  5-day round-trip cruise to Lituya Bay for halibut fishing. Sitka to Sitka – 11 days: Fly www.AlaskaAir.com to Sitka. Fly www.AlaskaAir.com from Sitka to home. Crew with Alex only: Willie Benedetti, Joe Cebe, Mike Celentano

Local Sitka cruising with King Salmon fishing and crabbing, anchoring at night.  5-day round-trip cruise to Lituya Bay for halibut fishing. Sitka to Sitka – 11 days: Fly www.AlaskaAir.com to Sitka. Fly www.AlaskaAir.com from Sitka to home. Crew with Alex only: Vince Fonte, Marvin Dee, Bob Silva

Cruising Baranof, Admiralty and Chichagof Islands anchoring at night, fishing, to Auke Bay or Juneau – 11 days: Fly www.AlaskaAir.com to Sitka. Fly www.AlaskaAir.com from Juneau to home. Crew: Vince and Marianne Fonte; Chuck and Carolyn French.

Southbound cruising with visits to Stephens Passage, Tracy Arm, Pack Creek bears, Petersburg, Wrangell, Anan Bay bears, and Ketchikan.  – 10 days: Fly www.AlaskaAir.com to Juneau. Fly www.AlaskaAir.com from Ketchikan to home. Crew: Bill and Karen Almas

Southbound cruising through BC with visits to Prince Rupert, Lowe Inlet, Shearwater, Goose Island, Broughton Islands and Port McNeill.  – 12 days: Fly www.AlaskaAir.com to Ketchikan. Fly www.Pacific-Coastal.com from Port McNeill to Vancouver, and then fly www.AirCanada.com from Vancouver to home. Crew with Alex Only: Denny and Lori Haythorn, Dick Squire.

Southbound cruising through BC with visits to Port McNeill, Broughton Islands, Desolation Sound, Comox, Naniamo or Vancouver, Victoria and Anacortes.  – 13 days: Fly www.AirCanada to Vancouver then www.Pacific-Coastal.com to Port McNeill.  Fly www.AlaskaAir.com from Seattle to home. Crew: Jan, Jerry and Justin Watkins


The boat has been running great.  No outstanding mechanical issues.  We took fuel at $1.92 a gallon which turned out to be good low price around the Seattle area.  As we do each year, a few improvements were completed, or almost completed:

  • Replaced our noisy, power hog 17" LCD displays, with two new 19" LED Tote displays.  These have 1000 NITS of brightness for day work, and dim well for night running.
  • Relocated our Icom IC7000 Single Side Band transceiver base unit from the fly-bridge down to the shielded engine room.  Hopefully this will reduce the amount of radiated RF Interference that when transmitting on certain frequencies, activates the bow and stern thrusters!
  • Replaced the 16 foot SSB antenna with a 23 foot antenna to better match the transmitter to antenna below the 7 Mhz frequencies, especially on the 75-meter ham radio Alaska and Baja nets.
  • Installed toroids on control, power and coaxial cables that connect to the SSB transceiver in hopes of reducing the receiver RFI and other electrical noise.
  • Installed higher capacity blowers to keep the engine room cooler, especially if we cruise Baja.
  • Disassembled and replaced the worn parts inside the Maxwell 350 windless.
  • Replaced the two fly-bridge overhead lights with a sealed tube of LED rope lights which we hope will better survive the winters when the canvass top is off.

We're looking for another fun summer of cruising and blogging about it.  And we should be actively blogging again pretty soon.