Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015-05 Prince Rupert, Ketchikan and Sitka at Last

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Today we arrived in Sitka, Alaska under beautiful clear skies and generous bursts of sunshine. Just a few hours before town, a school of porpoises welcomed us back.

Now the task is locating moorage for the lengthy time we plan to be in Sitka.  It's early and many commercial fish boats are still occupying slips here in the harbor so moorage is scarce.  We temporarily tied up along the outer breakwater in hopes of securing dockage with power later.

Except for those 50 knot winds last week, the weather has been quite clear.  The locals are saying that Sitka has had a mild winter with very few storms.  We chatted with John Little on Prime Time and assisted with updating his Coastal Explorer navigation software.  John volunteers and a maintenance person for the Sitka Music Festival.

If you've been following the Blog, here's where we left off last week:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015: Farrant Island Lagoon to Klewnuggit Inlet

We exited Hawkins Narrows from Union Passage onto the Grenville Channel on the 4:45PM slack current.  The sky was overcast but the winds were moderate from the SE.  The tide was pushing us northward up the Channel so the wind waves were small.  We only had a few hours of travel time before the tide turned, so we decided on Klewnuggit Inlet as the anchorage for the night.  We passed  Lowe Inlet entering Exposed Inlet at Klewnuggit.  The guidebook states the Inlet's name says a lot about the anchorage.  However, it definitely wasn't exposed to SE winds and we enjoyed a calm night.

Dusk on the Grenville Channel was headed south to Seattle
Freda Rapids flowing into Klewnuggit Inlet on the way
to Exposed Inlet
Exposed Inlet delineated our anchorage with a rainbow
Exposed Inlet Islet
NW view from Exposed Inlet.  I guess maybe it really is
"exposed" from the northwest, but perfectly calm for SE winds.
Sunset at Exposed Inlet

Wednesday, April 29, 2015:  Prince Rupert

The weather forecast has another low approaching with strong SE winds for the next couple days.  Normally we skip Prince Rupert northbound, but the Admiral decided at little City life with restaurant food would be good for us.  After an uneventful snooze cruise to the top of Grenville, the ocean cooperated nicely for our ride into the Harbour.  We woke up the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club dockmaster who realized that with Moxie plus two A-Tugs, Wild Blue, Uno and Got Defever arriving, spring has sprung!  We'll "club it" here at PRRYC for two nights.
BC Ferry is ready to load at Prince Rupert

Friday, May 1, 2015: Across the Dixon Entrance to Ketchikan, USA

The Friday forecast was for southeast winds from 15-25 knots.  The Admiral reluctantly agreed to release the Wild Blue, as long as turning back, Dundas Island, and Foggy Bay where among the finishing options.

Venn Passage of course was calm. Chatham Strait was bouncy but the wind was less than 10 knots.  We continued to Dundas Island expecting to anchor in Brundige Inlet.  Of course Moxie's American Tug 3-boat fleet left just before us.  We were able to copy their radio communications and when the skipper on the 48 foot A-Tug Brown Eyes  said "Dixon Entrance is so flat an old man could cross it in a cheap kayak" ........ we decided to follow along.

As it turned out, there was a tiny bit of exaggeration in that analysis.  The winds built to 18 knots, but mostly from behind.  The swells became about 7 feet but well-spaced apart.  The ride was roll-y with long up and down pitch motions.  The Admiral was not fully invested in this crossing and the Captain was able to layoff some blame onto the skipper of Brown Eyes.  After the crossing, the A-Tugs had had enough and entered Foggy Bay about 12 miles north of Cape Fox.  But having completed this crossing a few times, even the Admiral realized this is where the winds and ocean calmed.  She ordered the Wild Blue to continue to Ketchikan.  What a smart Admiral!

Upon arrival in K-Town, we pulled into Anderes Oil to fill up.  US Customs cleared us there, even allowing "Wilson" back into the USA once again. We moved to Bar Harbor Marina for the night.  We enjoyed an excellent dining experience at the Bar Harbor Restaurant.

Admiral prepares "Wilson" for US Customs inspection.
Wilson sports a new do, and hopefully will be overlooked.
Ketchikan with empty cruise ship docks.
New docks for Bar Harbor South marina.

Saturday, May 2, 2015: K-Town to Exchange Cove, aka "Crab City"

We shoved off before 7AM, up Tongass Narrows into the Clarence Strait.  The wind was soft and the sea flat.  The 80-footer Gloria, of Sitka fishing fame, accompanied us but later turned right towards Wrangell Narrows at the top of Clarence Strait.  We continued past the Cleveland Peninsula logging operations, Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove.  Just above Coffman Cove a pod of Orca whales passed going south.  We shut down as they passed and then posed for our video.  Our day ended in quiet Exchange Cove where it rained a bit as we set a single crab trap baited with two chicken thighs, then dropped the anchor.

Tugs pushes empty barge over to Cleveland Peninsula for loading.
Dredge headed south to Seattle.
Pilot boat delivers and retrieves pilots to and from cruise ships.

Orcas in the Wild

While inspecting the engine room, Alex noticed salt crystals accumulating in a single spot on the Cummin's QSL9 main wet exhaust system. Typically this means the start of an exhaust leak, as the hot engine gases have eaten away at the wet exhaust duct, probably because there isn't enough water mixing with the gasses to cool them down.  What little water there is evaporates, leaving salt crystals as the tell-tale. Just to make sure the raw water pump was operating, we pulled the pump impeller which was in perfect condition.

In this case, the duct was not a hose, but a fabricated fiberglass duct.  The danger is exhaust gases getting into the air the crew breathes.  So a temporary patch of some kind was needed.  

The pin-sized hole is probably the start of something bigger, so a more permanent repair will be needed in the future.  For now, Pat offered up her cherished pot holders which have high temp silicone pads.  She cut out the silicone, making 2-inch stripes which were overlapped.  The patch is held in place with 3 large zip-ties.  We hope it works!
Silicone removed from hot pads, then
cut into strips and taped together.
The patch in place over exhaust leak.
Sunset from Exchange Cove.

Sunday, May 3, 2015: Over Prince of Wales Island, up Rocky Pass, past Kake and almost into Frederick Sound

Timing is important today as we want to be at the center, aka the Summit, of Rocky Pass at high tide estimated for 1:48PM.  This way we ride the tide up, and then ride it back down the other side.  More importantly it insures we have the greatest depth as the pass is only 4 feet deep in places at Mean Low Water.  High tide adds another 14 feet to the 4 feet insuring we have 18 feet of minimum depth.  The Douglass Guide says boats over 30-feet should not attempt Rocky Pass.  This is our 6th cruise up the Pass with 60-foot Wild Blue and one year we followed the Delta 70 Yachette.  These days we load the route in the autopilot and let it do all the turns.

Up at 7AM, we hauled the anchor then the crab trap.  Crab City's population was out celebrating last night.  They dined on chicken thighs.  Today we will dine on them!

We quickly sexed, sized and iced the crabs we kept, then got underway.  The water was flat, winds light, but the currents along the NW edge of Prince of Wales Island were dicey. The current coming over the top of Rookery Islands knocked us sideways a bit.  We crossed Sumner Strait then lined up to enter Rocky Pass.  The Pass was near high water as planned and turned into a beautiful river ride.  Even a moose came out to watch us.

Eventually we flowed out with the tide into Keku Strait adjacent to the city of Kake.  We anchored in Honeydew Cove, as named by the Douglass Guide.  This is a nicely sheltered spot with very clear water.  We even saw our anchor's set at 30 feet.
A dozen or so male crabs.  We keep our limit.
The yacht Daybreak anchored just off the south entrance to
Rocky pass.  We last passed by Daybreak in Newport Oregon in
the fall of 2013.
Rocky Pass is clearly marked by more than 50 channel markers. 
Bullwinkle came out of hiding to watch the Wild Blue pass by.

Anchored in the Admiral's new favorite, Honeydew Cove.

Monday, May 4, 2015: Honeydew to Warm Springs, then Takatz Bay

After a quiet evening and pretty morning we reluctantly pulled the anchor noting super clear water in Honeydew.  We were still amazed we could see our anchor set from above, as well and the chain and depth marks, and this is in 30 feet of depth.

We had no time constraints today so we planned on lunch at the Warm Springs Bay dock.   It's a 4-hour motor and it started out quite calm, but then as we approached Point Gardner on the SW tip of Admiralty Island, the wind filled in at 25 knots.  The seas built up with wind wave toppers spilling ocean spray over the bow to the upper deck.  The fact that only 90 minutes was needed to cross North Chatham Strait, kept us moving and eventually entering Warm Springs Bay.

Once there we saw the dock was full so we anchored temporarily near shore along the northern edge of the Bay.  Once anchored, it was time for a crab cake assembly line.  Note Admiral Pat staffed all line positions, while Captain Alex volunteered the use of his excellent taste buds.

We planned to move somewhere and that turned out be be Takatz Bay, about an hour's motor up the coast.  Luckily we needed only 25 minutes in the angry ocean before heading into quiet Takatz.

Rotterdam cruises towards Juneau in Frederick Sound
The water is so clear in Honeydew Cove that not only
can you see your chain, but also the anchor set itself!
The view westward towards Baranof Island from Frederick Sound.
NOAA ship Rainier anchored at the entrance to Saginaw Bay
with the snow covered peaks of Baranof Island behind.

Crab cake production line.
3 dozen cooling cakes
Packaged for freezing then serving to future crews
Fish Hatchery in Takatz Bay.
View from the Takatz anchorage
Takatz anchorage view
Tuesday, May 5, 2015:  Takatz to Sitka

This morning we left at 5AM to make slack current at Sergius Narrows in Peril Strait.  We hope to make Sitka if the currents and weather cooperate, which appears likely.  There was little boat activity through the Strait and we saw far more Porpoises than boats.
Northern Explorer is in very shallow water! It drifted into
the rocks near the east entrance to Peril Strait
in December 2014. Apparently no one was aboard.
Columbia passes by outside Neva Strait