Friday, September 30, 2011

Wether to Weather the Weather

Rumor has it if you are sailing in Southeast Alaska on or around the autumnal equinox, you should expect some bad weather.  Our bad weather started a little early, you can see the beginnings of my sniveling in my earlier post about Chatham.  Just to make sure we were aware that what we had experienced really wasn't that bad, things started to fall apart weather-wise soon after we left Chatham Strait.  We considered continuing with our plans to head further south for another few weeks of cruising when we left Kake, but the tides were not cooperating for Rocky Pass and Wrangell Narrows seemed a long way out of the way, so about the time we decided to give up on our southerly wanderings the weather forecasts started calling for a serious storm heading our way.  We checked the charts and picked what we thought would be a good hide-out.  We had been in Cannery Cove before and remembered that it was shallow with good holding and lots of swing room, we didn't remember that it was pretty open and that the winds curved around and into the bay, but it turned out to be a decent place to sit out the storm.  The winds lasted for two days, staying pretty steady in the mid to high 20 mph range with a couple gusts over 50 in the cove, with much worse out in the passages.  The stay was made much better when we were joined by some folks we had met earlier in the summer, good company always helps pass the time. Our new friends sail a home-built sailing barge, a very cool and unique vessel, and we got to share a few meals and get to know them better over the few days we were there.
Once the storm passed we had a forecast for a few nice days so we made a quick trip over to Petersburg to fuel up the boat and grab burgers and beers in town.  By the time we had our errands done and were heading out of town, the forecasts were already starting in on the next round of storms.  We decided to make a run for the warm springs, if we were going to get stuck somewhere, it seemed like a good idea to be at a free dock so we could easily get off the boat for some exercise, and the hot springs nearby sealed the deal on our decision.  My weather notes for that time read: Sunday winds Northeast 30 knots, changing to Southwest overnight, Monday Southeast 20 increasing to 40 by afternoon, and 55 knots overnight, Tuesday Southeast 50 knots decreasing to 30 overnight and shifting to South 35 on Wednesday.  The positive side to this weather is that what they were getting further south, where we were trying to go, was much worse, and one evening I turned on the weather to listen to the hourly observations and the conditions further south were 76 mph gusting 106, well above hurricane force winds.
After this round of gales, there was a one day lull in the winds, forecasts for only 20 knots, so most of the boats that had gathered at the dock with us decided to make a run for it.  We were in no hurry and with more winds forecast the day after we stuck around for a few more days soaking in the tubs, and then with a two day window over the weekend we made our break for Sitka.  We got one calm day, then the temperatures plummeted overnight to just above freezing, which meant we woke up to fog so thick the shore had disappeared.  By noon the fog lifted and we made a half-day run to get us closer to Sitka.  With gales forecast for the next six days we decided to make the best of the Northerly gale to push us south before the winds shifted to the south and trapped us again, and made a quick run into Sitka.
Sitting here at the dock in Sitka it has been raining and blowing hard all day, interspersed with bouts of sleet and hail along with thunder and lightning.  We are still not sure if we will be staying here for the winter, but we do know that with this weather expected to last a few more day we won't be moving anytime soon.

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