Friday, August 30, 2013


Traveling by boat you can't help but think of water.  Traveling by boat in the northwest you get the added aspect of water from above as well as beneath the boat.
Our summer travel in Alaska was exceptionally dry, but our passing into Canada seems to have changed our luck, not necessarily for the better.   The rain finally came, and it wasn't messing around, dumping day after day to make up for our earlier dry spell.  It's not much fun to stand outside driving a boat in a downpour, but the rain is good for two things.

The first is that the rivers and streams start running again, and that gives the salmon a chance to get upstream to spawn.  The second benefit is that waterfalls start showing up everywhere.  A lot of the land surrounding the waterways we travel climbs straight up from sea level to several thousand feet, perfect terrain for spectacular waterfalls.
The inner channels of northern British Columbia are great waterfall country, so I thought I would take an afternoon and shoot some pictures of the various falls we passed as we headed south.  Enjoy.

Monday, August 26, 2013


How do you keep a baby entertained month after month on a small boat?  We have no idea.  But we keep trying new things and Madeline doesn't seem to be suffering.
We made sure to have a pile of toys aboard when we left Sitka, and we've made a point to look around at each of the communities we stop for replacements and additions.
We also brought along her bouncy seat, which takes a bit of thinking to figure out how to rig it so she isn't slamming into things while she bounces, but as long as we don't try to use it while underway it has worked out well so far.
Now that she is standing and "cruising" we can chase her around the table legs and let her chase us for fun and exercise.
She also loves books.  We read to her in the morning, before her naps, before bed at night, and other random times through out the day.  We only have about a dozen books for her so by this point we can "read" many of them without having to look at them, but she doesn't seem to mind and we try to add new ones when we find them.
I'm not sure what we are going to do when we transition from boat travel to camper travel and she doesn't have the luxury of being able to play and move around while we are driving, but we'll figure out something.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Baker Inlet

One of the things we've been trying to do on this trip is to stop in new places when it is convenient.  In looking over the charts for northern British Columbia I noticed that we still hadn't visited Baker Inlet on the north end of Grenville Channel, even though I had wanted to several times.  The entrance to Baker Inlet is a channel called Watts Narrows, which as the name implies is very narrow and the currents run very strong.
There are quite a few places between Seattle and Alaska where the currents run faster than our boat can travel.  If the passage is wide and clear of danger, we can time it to ride along and double our speed, but more often the passages are narrow or dangerous, and we have to wait until the tide change when the currents stop to do our transit.
Such is the case with Watts Narrows, and until now our timing was never right to sneak in, so we decided to plan around it so we knew we could get through.  We had to wait outside for a bit once we arrived for the right timing, but after that it was a breeze to get through and once inside and all the way to the end of the inlet, we found another stop to add to our list of favorites.  The scenery is beautiful and the anchorage spot is well protected and roomy.  Our first night we shared the anchorage with one other boat, but they left the next morning and we decided to stay.  The crabbing was good, there were big spot prawns in our trap when I pulled it, and the weather cleared up for some much appreciated sun and warmth.  In fact it was so nice we decided to stay again the next morning, and got another day and night of clear weather without seeing another boat.  On our way out the last morning we spotted a pair of wolves on the shore, one all black and the other all white.
Our transit back out the narrows was at low tide instead of high tide as when we entered, but the depths were good and it was another easy transit.  The visit was well worth the little bit of extra planning involved, and I'm sure we will be back.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Being Flexible

As our trip down the west coast of Prince of Wales Island came to an end, our plan was to stop in Nichols Bay for the night and then continue on east and south into Canada.  The border between Alaska and Canada is a large body of water called Dixon Entrance. Being open to the Gulf of Alaska it has the potential for very nasty weather.  We were planning ahead for our crossing, listening to the weather forecasts and looking over the various routes we could take to get us to Prince Rupert in Canada where we would clear Customs.  What we had overlooked is that we would need to be out in Dixon Entrance for several hours to get to Nichols Bay. When the time finally came, it was sunny and clear there was a pretty good swell running in from the southwest that made for a lumpy, rolly ride.  Madeline got seasick, Nicole wasn't looking too good either, and the only thing that saved me was that I had my hands full keeping the boat pointed in the right direction.  When we finally got in to the harbor and out of the swell, we agreed that it might be a good idea to re-assess our plans of two more days of travel in Dixon Entrance.  Things started falling in place for us as soon as we decided to be more flexible with our plans.  Talking to our friends Tor and Jess when we were still in Craig we learned that Tor would be out on a research ship for the month of August, and that Jess was planning on traveling with their twin boys to see her father, in nearby Ketchikan.  The timing of her trip would work perfectly for us to meet up if we detoured now and made the side trip to Ketchikan.  Other friends from Seattle, Steve and Elsie on the sailboat Osprey came in to Nichols Bay the day after we arrived there, and we shared dinner and compared plans for the upcoming days.  They gave us a good recommendation for an anchorage between Nichols Bay and Ketchikan, namely Gardener Bay, and it turned out to be a beautiful spot.  Our past experiences in Clarence Strait were not good, having hit bad weather each time we traversed it's northern portion, but when we left Gardener Bay it was sunny and calm and we decided it was now or never and had a relaxing trip across.  The final day to get in to Ketchikan started out in true pea soup fog, so Nicole got to practice her radar skills and I got to stare into nothingness for several hours until the fog finally lifted just as we got near town.  We quickly went through our in-town duties: showers, laundry, groceries, phone calls, McDonalds.  That left us a day to get together with Jess and the boys and visit, hitting the local thrift store for toys and the library (a gorgeous new library) for play time in the kids room.  The trip to Ketchikan was a couple days out of our way, but we made up for it with the savings on fuel and groceries before we entered Canada, and we got the bonus of spending time with Lars, Odin and Jess.  Sometimes it really pays to be flexible with plans.

Monday, August 19, 2013


From the title you would hope this is a post about Madeline, but no such luck.  On occasion our lives get a bit too exciting, and Nicole and I refer to these times as "pooping myself" moments.  It has thankfully never gotten to the point of a literal expression, but let's face it, some things can just about scare the crap out of you.
I mentioned in an earlier post that we are both still a bit gun-shy about running into another rock, but there is another fear that surfaces on occasion (so to speak), and that is running into a whale.
There are a lot of whales in Alaska, and there are very few days we are traveling on the boat when we don't spot at least one whale.  Most of the time we see the spout, or blow, off in the distance, or a glimpse of a tail.  Sometimes they are closer and we get a better look, and on occasion we have to change course to avoid getting too close.
In 2009 we were leaving Point Baker through the narrow and rocky entrance channel when Nicole spotted a whale sleeping ahead of us, not off in the distance but mere feet in front of the boat.  We swerved, missed the whale and the rocks in the channel, but it was way too close.  In 2011 we were heading through Peril Strait on our way to Sitka and spotted a whale breaching off in the distance.  While trying to get a glimpse of it through the binoculars I happen to look up in time to see the back of another sleeping whale right in front of the boat.  Turned out to be a mother and calf, and again we were way too close before we veered off around them.
This year we have yet to see a sleeping whale, but that doesn't mean all our encounters have been boring.  Heading to the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island, we decided to cut through the Barrier Islands via Eureka Channel.  The route would save us some time and keep us out of the ocean swell for a bit longer, but it involves some time in a narrow, rocky channel.  I was down below just finishing my lunch when Nicole commented that there was a whale in front of us that looked to be on an intersecting path.  She was about to change course when the whale dove, and thinking it would be down for a while she continued on.  I was just coming up the companionway stairs when she used several choice swear words and then froze, at which time I jumped up the stairs and looked forward just in time to see the splash from the breaching whale.  I reached back to shift the boat out of gear, but it really didn't matter by that point.  A minute later the whale surfaced again behind the boat, probably just to make sure we got the point, and then went on it's way.  In hindsight, Nicole says it looked like a small whale, probably not much bigger than our forty foot long, fifteen ton boat.

Our new rule is that if the splash from a breaching whale gets the bow of the boat wet it means the whale is too close, way too close.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Man Overboard

I guess the title isn't exactly correct, but "Meow Overboard" doesn't have the same ring to it.  Anyway, the cat finally went in the water.  Turns out she swims just fine.
We were anchored in Mabel Bay on the southwest side of Prince of Wales Island, and Nicole and I were down below taking pictures of Madeline when we heard a splash and thrashing in the water.  We both knew instantly what it was, and I quickly handed Madeline to Nicole and raced out on deck to grab the landing net.  By the time I got the net ready the cat was swimming around the bow and headed down the other side of the boat.  I scooped her up and flipped her on deck, but before I could yell to Nicole to close the hatch Hope was down below and spraying saltwater everywhere.  The whole episode lasted six minutes, with clean-up, of both the cat and the boat, taking considerably longer than that.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sarheen Cove

We spent two days anchored in Sarheen Cove on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island.  It isn't an overly picturesque place, it isn't very well protected from the weather, but it is on the way if you are heading to the town of Craig.  The main reason we stayed for two days is because there is good shrimping out in front of the cove, and we did well enough to satisfy my cravings for prawn, if only for a little while.  Another reason for us to stay, one we didn't know about until after the fact, was several unusual wildlife experiences that occurred here.
The first thing that happened is that we had a wolf show up on shore just after dark the first night.  We have spotted wolves a couple times in Alaska, but it is pretty rare, and even though we didn't see this one, there is nothing quite like listening to a wolf howl in the darkness.
The victim
The second event is that we witnessed a bald eagle attacking a great blue heron.  I'm not sure how often this happens, but we have never seen it before, and I've never heard of it happening, so I'm guessing it's not very common.  We happened to be on deck and heard the heron squawking, and turned in time to see it drop out of the air into the water just as the eagle flew by.  That was really the first surprise, because I didn't know herons could swim.  I've seen them wading around in the water enough times, but never actually swimming in deep water.
The antagonist

After a few minutes the eagle flew off to a tree on the shore.  The heron waited several more minutes and then took off flying in the other direction.  Sure enough the eagle was waiting, and went streaking across the anchorage to dive at the heron again.  This happened two more times, each time the eagle would go back to shore, the heron would take off flying, and the eagle would give chase until the heron ditched in the water again.  Finally the heron took off in the other direction across the channel and the eagle gave up.
Neither Nicole nor I could figure out what may have started the whole feud.  It seemed like the eagle could have picked the heron out of the water easily enough if it wanted to, they do it to salmon all the time, but it would always give up as soon as the heron landed.  What ever the case, it was an unusual and interesting spectacle to watch.