Sunday, September 13, 2015

Small Boat, Big Adventure – S/V Teleport

 S/V Teleport

Why the name 'Teleport'?
Teleportation is defined as "When an object disappears from one place, and reappears in another" - and that, in a nutshell, is what sailing is all about...
We met Chris Bray and Jess Taunton in July when the s/v Teleport tied up across the dock from us at Baranof Warm Springs. The boat's unusual rigging and friendly, outgoing crew invited queries and conversation, so we popped over for a meet and greet with our new dock neighbors.

After a bit we traded boat tours and spent several hours visiting and swapping cruising stories. Oh my, did they have a unique cruising tale! The couple were completing the final legs of an awe-inspiring journey, their 2012-2013 transit of the Northwest Passage in that compact, 29-foot, junk-rig sailboat. I guarantee you'll enjoy browsing their website archives at to read the journal posts about their extensive preparation and progress across the top of the continent. 

Western explorers had searched for a northern passage since the 15th century, repeatedly meeting with failure and occasionally disaster in their hunt for a shorter route from Europe to the Orient. Finally in 1903-06 Roald Amundsen took three years to make the first successful crossing. Others eventually followed, but it was another forty years until Sgt. Henry A. Larsen, an RCMP officer, sailed through in a schooner in 1944 for the first single-season transit. Since then ever increasing numbers of commercial vessels, small cruise ships and recreational boats have transited the passage. A large cruise ship plans to run the passage in 2016 (link)... really? a large cruise ship?! Recent changes in the ice pack as well as improved charting, equipment, icebreaker support and satellite imagery have all contributed to the growing number of successful passages, but it still remains a major challenge.
To reach the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic requires a hazardous voyage through a stream of about 50,000 giant icebergs, up to 300 feet (90 m) in height, constantly drifting south between Greenland and Baffin Island. The exit to the Pacific is equally formidable, because the polar ice cap presses down on Alaska’s shallow north coast much of the year and funnels masses of ice into the Bering Strait, between Alaska and Siberia.(link)

Armchair explorers can relive the challenges of the NWP by reading the several online journals that describe the challenges of travel, and by viewing the photographs of scenery and Arctic wildlife. I'm not tempted to make the trip and actually cruise the Northwest Passage, but I do love the photos of Arctic scenery and wildlife.

Ah yes, the images, those all-important visual memories of any good journey, which takes me back to Chris and Jess and their well-traveled s/v Teleport. Spend some time viewing their photographs and marvel at the scope of this undertaking. These adventurous Australians, professional wildlife photographers, also offer photo classes and lead wildlife photo safaris throughout the world… when they aren’t out sailing. (link)

A guided photo adventure sounds very tempting... some time when we're not out cruising in SE Alaska.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bear,Bear, Not Quite Everywhere!

We... Love... Bear..., can you tell? Sleek and glossy black bear. Shaggy-coated brown bear. Big old fat bear, energetic young bear, round and fluffy bear cubs, even the rowdy young adults – we can’t get enough of these intriguing creatures. Bear watching was off to a slow start this season. After weeks, no it seemed more like months, of wondering where most of the grizzlies might be hiding, we finally found plenty of brown bear along Chatham Strait. The fish runs were weeks late this year, so the bear had little incentive to hang around the stream mouths. Every year I carry on about the Baranof Island bears, and this year is no different. Here are just a few of this month's favorite grizzlies.   

Now I'm ready for more bear, please.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

More from Early July

"Thar she blows!" We spotted two humpback whales near Pt. Thatcher at the intersection of Peril Strait and Chatham Strait. This pair puffed, surfaced and dove repeatedly while chasing feed close to shore in relatively shallow water, 40 to 120 feet deep. 

So many of my photos show only tails, flukes, puffs in the air or rings on the water’s surface marking “where the whale used to be”. The collection of whales tail photos is growing quite large. No matter, it’s a thrill anytime I can watch these amazing creatures in the wild.

The recent stretch of hot weather made berry picking an easy task near the Warm Springs dock. Plump, multicolored salmon berries were so ripe they fell into my container as soon as I bumped them. The blueberries and huckleberries were already past their prime and the bushes near the boardwalk had been well picked over. Agile friends scrambled up and down the hillside gathering berries to share. Thanks y’all.

Can you top this for dramatic background, Seahawks fans? The waterfall at Baranof Warm Springs makes an impressive backdrop for Laci’s Twelfth Man Flag. 

Laci flew out of Warm Springs on a wet, warm 60ish day, overcast with scenic swirls of ground fog and low clouds, to head back to 90-100 degree stifling heat in Seattle. I’ll take the recent cool, gray days in SE Alaska, thank you very much. That’s easy to say since we have enjoyed so many weeks of sunshine and dry weather this year!

Mini cruise boats often schedule stops in Warm Springs so their guests can frequent the mineral pools next to the top of the waterfall or hike to the lake. Most of these charter boats anchor in the bay and use large inflatables or skiffs to ferry clients to and from the dock. One such vessel took a different approach, very different.

Hmmmmm, no comment but my giggles might hint at my thoughts.

Eagles in Ell Cove

A flight of feisty bald eagles couldn’t resist a discarded halibut carcass, draped across a flat rock above the high tide line. 

Their aerial antics provided the evening’s entertainment and an opportunity for a lengthy photo shoot. Half a dozen birds swooped down onto the rocks in nearly-vertical power dives, bumping and knocking each other about as they vied for ownership of the carcass, or at least a piece of the halibut flesh. These eagles looked more like shoreside brawlers than noble representatives of our national symbol. One crafty bird dragged the fish frame farther up the sloped shore, disappearing under the shelter of overhanging cedar branches. His effort made it more difficult for other eagles to poach a piece, but it didn’t stop their energetic attempts. 

Foolishly the eagle-in-possession gripped what remained of the halibut and lifted off to fly across the cove. That was not a good decision. After liftoff he barely cleared the water, struggling to drag a length of fish along like an anchor on a chain. Oops! He dropped the carcass… it sank… end of story. 

Fish Story and Fish in the Boat

Notes from early July – posted weeks later at the Petersburg Public Library. Town visits are popular for fresh produce and wi-fi access (plus I enjoy our visits with local residents and other boaters at the docks).

Guest Laci joined us in Sitka as we set out for Kalinin Bay. Ron & Laci fished The Shark Hole with Jerry (m/v Jericho) hoping to land some big king salmon. One big fish ran out the line on Laci’s pole, escaping with all of the gear trailing behind.  No salmon caught that day, but what a great fish-that-got-away story. Later in the week Laci did land a 25-pound halibut, 3 nice coho to freeze and take home, plus a smaller halibut for Tanya to prepare one of her fabulous fish fry dinners.

We didn't see any grizzly bear in Kalinin this week, not even one peekaboo sighting. Where were all of the grizzlies?! None in the estuary, none along the shoreline, none checking out the skiffs and kayaks on shore near the trailhead. No bear anywhere. Several Sitka black-tailed deer and an occasional sea otter accounted for all of our wildlife viewing. Who forgot to invite the brown bear, or the spawning pink salmon that lure them to the river mouth?