Friday, June 25, 2010


Day 6: 35 nm

Morning gifted us with daylight an hour earlier (time zone change), and a -1.5’ low tide. This was another morning to wait for more water in the channel before we could safely exit, so we chatted with 2 kayakers from a neighboring boat and relaxed… patiently… watching the water rise… ever so slowly. 

Early mornings are a terrific time to grab the binoculars and scan the shore for wildlife. This morning we saw one lone deer, browsing the new shoots on low-hanging branches, and a large, sandhill crane gliding around the rim of the bay. Only one crane was visible but many more were audible, chorusing in the background. They have such a distinctive, raucous squawk. 

Eventually the water rose, we departed and cruised on to Ketchikan. Nobletec (the navigation software) hiccuped a couple of times along the route, giving the Capt something to keep this leg of the trip interesting

Ketchikan Customs agents always greet us like family returning home - what a welcoming committee, though I miss Officer B. Jones' smiling face (transfer to another station). Now it's time to visit the post office for forwarded mail, purchase Alaska fishing licenses, do a tour at the grocery and come up with a float plan for the next week or two. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Foggy Bay, AK

Day 5: 103 nm

In the early spring Grenville Channel hills typically wear coats of snow, trailing down almost to the shoreline. We humans would be sporting layers of long underwear, fleecy sweatshirts and probably raingear. By mid-spring multitudes of waterfalls usually carry the torrents of snowmelt waters down to the channel. But today it’s summer, I wore short sleeves and our passage was warmer, greener and well, somehow dull. Note: dull can be good when it reflects a total lack of interesting logs, drift, kelp balls, etc. along the route.

With today's positive current push and really flat water, we motored on up the Grenville and past Prince Rupert. Then we bypassed the anchorages south of Dixon Entrance, choosing to put in another long day and have that big-water crossing behind us. Once across Dixon it was too late to safely travel on to Ketchikan, so we anchored in Foggy Bay. Tomorrow we’ll officially be in Alaska. It’s time to set the clocks back, and slow down the travel for the next few months.

Passing vessels added some interest and color to the overcast, gray-day run up the Grenville Channel and across Dixon Entrance. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lowe Inlet

Day 4: traveled 102 nm

Photo: Jackson Passage, provincial park and home to a large, successful fish farm.

We slept in till 0530… woohoo. Overcast and drizzle slowed the daylight wake-up response a bit. Departure was delayed until Jackson Passage had enough depth for anxiety-free transit. Jackson’s s-curve at low water slack is navigable but not fun, so we had another cuppa and waited, choosing to deal with a bit more current and a lot more water.

The Jackson Narrows were no problem, though we did thread our way between beds of kelp, cruising close enough to some boulders to count the purple and orange starfish. Three humpback whales blew and dove while they fed along a current rip line in Finlayson Channel. They weren't close enough or active enough to warrant a photo stop, but a whale sighting is always welcome.

Grenville Channel offers a series of good moorages along its length, each one with some unique feature to enjoy. We chose Lowe Inlet, with its lovely Verney Falls. Three boats were already anchored directly in front of the falls, so we dropped the hook around the point in a quiet nook. Lowe is such an attractive anchorage that we always have company here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rescue Bay

Day 3: traveled 100 nm

Photo: the view from the boat, anchored inside Rescue Bay

Daylight woke us well before the 4:45 buzz of the alarm clock.  Conditions were perfect for a run around Cape Caution, Queen Charlotte Strait, the first exposed crossing of the trip. Light winds produced little or no chop, well-spaced 4-ft rollers were no challenge, and once we reached the sheltered east side of Calvert Island even the rollers disappeared.

Five minke whales cruised along the Addenbrook Light/Koeye River shore (Fitzhugh Sound, Hakai Pass region), showing briefly on the surface as they traveled. Spray from their blow was visible first, followed by curving backs and an occasional tail flop.Minke don’t leap, slap or fin like the humpback or orca, but any whale watching is a bonus.

The long 13-hour run ended in Rescue Bay, which has become a regular stop on the trek north. Ron did some adjusting to the chain pipe tube, and then it was another early evening. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Miles Inlet

Day 2:  traveled 74 nm

Photo: red telltale: Our anemometer accurately reports wind speed and direction, but this bright visual display on the bow flagstaff  is a handy quick reference for the helmsman 

Photo: the official display, mounted on the cabin wall behind the helm station 

The day was so routine it was hard to stay alert and awake; not recommended when you’re on log and debris watch! Speed-over-ground has varied from 11.6 kts yesterday, coming through Seymour Narrows, to today’s very slow 4.3 kts in Blackney Pass, and all this while running at the same engine rpm. Current strength and direction can make a huge difference when you travel in a go-slow boat.

It looks empty out here, but doesn't feel lonely. Most Alaska-bound boats moved through in April/May, and BC cruisers seem to be tucked inside in Desolation Sound or the Broughton Group. We passed an occasional fisherman/shrimper and heard VHF Traffic work with a handful of commercial vessels. It’s so peaceful when the VHF radio isn’t clogged with chitchat.

Miles Inlet was quiet, with only songbirds, eagles, one seal and the gurgle of the outflow from the saltwater lagoon for company.

Photo: narrow entrance to Miles Inlet

Photo: Interesting rock faces on the walls of the entrance - and we pass near enough to examine them at close range.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Port Neville neighbors

Day 1: 50+ nautical miles

Photo: otter on Port Neville dock. Three otter were pretty stinky neighbors, but we had to laugh at their antics.

An efficient cruise plan includes a push from an outgoing current in Discovery Passage and Johnstone Strait, and moving through Seymour Narrows at near-slack. Today that meant a late afternoon departure… again. It just doesn’t feel right to laze through the morning and leave so late, but today it resulted in fewer hours traveled and much less fuel consumed.

For the past several days Environment Canada has broadcast gale warnings for the Johnstone, while conditions turned out to be calm in Discovery Passage. What a puzzle. What’s going on - a stalled front? - perhaps overly-conservative forecasting? Whatever. We decided to get through Seymour Narrows, check the wind at Chatham Point and use real-time observations for our decision to proceed on or to wait for weather to settle. For safety the Capt. always has a string of alternate anchorages planned along the route, in case we need to duck in.

Johnstone travel was good for the first six hours, and only got chunky during hour seven as we headed toward Port Neville. Docking at Port Neville was challenging as the current pushed us around and the wind blew us off the dock. Capt. Ron made it work, and we settled in for a light, late supper, falling asleep soon after. Was it the first-day-out effect, running for hours in fog, or perhaps that last hour of turbulence that wore us out?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Killer Whales

Orca Superpod in Discovery Passage

Tuesday evening's entertainment began when Larry S (aka Larry the Pizza Man, local Boston Pizza owner ) rushed down the dock, pausing only to report that whales were traveling north in Discovery Passage, just outside the marina. Several small pods had joined and formed a "super pod" as they cruised together. Spring (king) salmon fishing in the area is hot right now, bait fish are plentiful too, and Orca will follow the feed. Our skiff was in the water, so we set out to do some whale watching right here in town (well, close to town).

WOW, there were too many whales to count but 20+ is my best guesstimate. I alternated between the camera viewfinder and real-life viewing, constantly amazed at the number of animals and their activity. Large adult whales, small calves, and a couple of really big guys all gave quite a display. We saw leaps, tail slaps, and some organized herding and feeding as the pod traveled along a current rip line. Humpback whales are more plentiful along our usual Alaskan cruising routes, so this orca sighting was a special treat.

For an hour of whale watching I don't have many photos to share. The dinghy bounced around a lot so stability (blurring) was an issue. I needed to use an extreme zoom, so motion (blurring) was an issue. The low light meant a slower shutter speed, so there are many shots of splashes where whales used to be... or maybe I was just so excited I forgot to concentrate on taking pictures.

A very long lens and some Photoshop work makes this orca seem really close to us and to the small charter boat beyond, but we kept our distance and still enjoyed the whale antics. The element of surprise, wondering where they would surface next, just added to the fun. The evening was a pleasant reminder of what's ahead of us on the 2010 cruise.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Back Afloat

We're out of the boat shed, out of the boatyard completely, and back in the water. It feels terrific, and improving weather forecast helps the overall attitude too. Launch day weather began pleasant enough and then turned gray and wet - do we always moor or anchor in the rain? Maybe it just seems that way, but we certainly needed the rain gear this time.

We watched an imposing, dense rain cloud approach as Boomer removed the front wall of the shed. The closer we got to our launch time, the darker the sky became. And then it poured, as if on schedule.

Rhapsody's bow looks so imposing when she's out of the water. Big, but pretty.

The boat certainly filled a lot of shed space, but Gilbert had no problem picking her up and then maneuvering the big TraveLift around the crowded boatyard.

We're heading back afloat, who needs sunshine?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Anchor Project (cont'd)

The original plan
1. Add 200 feet of chain to the existing 400 feet, using a specially-purpose link to connect the two lengths. Check.
2. Mark the entire chain in 30-foot increments, for convenience in anchoring and retrieving the chain. Check.
3. Load the 600 feet of chain into the large, lower chain locker… nope, won’t go.

Chain tends to stack in a tall pile, going vertical instead of spilling over and spreading out to fill the horizontal spaces. While the lower chain locker is large, evidently it isn’t tall enough to accommodate the extra length. The Capt. separated the two lengths again, and thought about the problem and possible solutions. Oh my, such a variety of potential solutions.

The revised plan was to raise the floor of the upper chain locker, installing sets of aluminum brackets to support a newly designed two-piece floor, aiming to provide more stacking height for the main anchor chain down below. With the help of a friend, super pattern-maker Dave L., the design was a relatively speedy process. 

The aluminum bracket pieces have been cut, bent, drilled and installed. 

The plywood floor has been designed, cut, painted and installed. 

The project provided an opportunity to adjust the slope and placement of the chain guide (chain feed pipe, drop tube, whatever).

The chain is still on deck, waiting for the boat to return to the water. We'll off-load the chain to the dock, winch it up and see how it stacks and distributes. I'm thinking positive thoughts about the results!

I only did occasional “gopher” errands and handed a few tools in and out of the chain locker, but the Capt. did the work and spent a lot of time climbing in...

...and out of that awkward space. Wow, is he ever limber and fit! 

And now you know more than you ever wanted to know about our Chain Locker Project! The plan is to relaunch Rhapsody tomorrow, so Boatyard News will turn back into Cruise News soon.