Anchoring on a Lee Shore in a Gale in Southeast Alaska – The Devil You Know…

20200725 Anchoring on a Lee Shore in a Gale in Southeast Alaska – The Devil You Know…

Our track around Farragut Bay ending in the east side of Read Island (as depicted by green boat)

As I have said before, this is my 7th year with Dauntless and 6 years with my 55# Delta anchor, so I sleep well at night on the hook.

We were cruising from Wrangell to Juneau, 148 nm, normally three days, but we wanted to do some halibut fishing and we didn’t need to be in Juneau until the following Wednesday, giving us 6 days.

We left Wrangell Friday morning on an out-going tide, giving us a push through most of Wrangell Narrows. Outside of Petersburg, at the north end of Wrangell Narrows, the current will abruptly change from a plus 1 knot to a minus 4 knot current. When this happens, we anchor just off the channel and wait a couple of hours for the slack. That’s what we did on this day also.

Even with our stop of a little less than two hours, we arrived in Farragut Bay about 20:00 Friday evening, dropped out shrimp pots and crab pot and anchored on the south side of the large bay. It is an open anchorage, but suitable for good weather with no swell.

We knew a storm was coming, with increased south-easterly winds throughout the day, Saturday and into Sunday. Our plan was to fish a bit  Saturday, check out another anchorage, but ultimately head to our Read Island anchorage where we had anchored two times previously, one time with very strong southerly winds (which meant we were anchored off a lee shore)

We fished a few spots, but no luck, as the winds picked up to 15 to 20 knots, the seas inside Farragut Bay did also, with 3-foot waves. We decided to pull our shrimp pots, which in hindsight turned out to be a mistake. It was not fun with those winds and waves and stressed Ti out more than was necessary.

We then headed to the east side of Read Island, where we could anchor for the night, but first did another hour of fishing in a spot Ti had noticed a small fishing boat last time we were here.

Saturday, 25 July 2020 at 18:00. Radar and chart depiction of our anchorage.

About 17:00 Saturday, we were anchored in our Read Island cove. I let out 140 feet of chain plus our 30’ nylon snubber bridle. The spot we anchored was roughly the same as the first time when we had seeked shelter here during another storm earlier this summer. The initial anchor bearing was 80’ @ 243° in winds that were already SE to SW at 8 to 15 knots.

The previous storm had produced winds 15 to 25 knots in this cove. I was quite stressed as it was a lee shore, but we pretty much stayed right where we anchored. This informed my opinion for this coming storm.

06:30 Sunday morning wind graph

We were anchored in 37 feet of water under the keel. Had it not been off a lee shore, I would have let out another 100+ feet of chain.

The winds were 15 knots gusting to 25 thru the evening. By nightfall, it was raining heavily and between the rain and the darkness, I could not even see the nearby shore a couple of hundred feet away off our beam. Thus, the lack of any decent videos or pictures.

Just before midnight the winds came down a few knots, but as they say, this was the proverbial calm before the storm, as by midnight, the winds were rapidly building again. It was to last almost 24 hours, with half that time with winds above 20 knots, peaking to 40.

This is our 24 hr wind graph from at 17:00 Sunday and the previous 24-hr to Sat 17:00 (when we first anchored)

I was happy to go to sleep before then, but Ti was a nervous nellie, waking me up every half hour to tell me the wind was blowing, and the boat was rocking a bit (though not really). The first couple of times I got up to check everything to maintain marital bliss, if nothing else, as it was pitch black outside, with heavy rain and wind. I could see nothing. At midnight, the anchor bearing was little changed in direction or distance.

While the winds were high in this cove, there was really no swell or waves, at most a half foot, making it a little rocky, but hardly noticeable in the scheme of things.

I went back to sleep, but Ti would still wake me up a dozen times until morning; I’d reassure here and go back to sleep.

Civil twilight was about 04:00, with sunrise 45 minutes later, so that’s when I got up again, as I could no longer use the excuse to Ti that it was dark out and I couldn’t see anything.

Ti makes the best of our SUnday by making an apple pie as we are hunkered down.

So I was up, in the pilot house, watching as the storm peaked about 06:00 with winds gusting to 40 knots and a steady 20 knots, but for the next 6 hours, while the wind gusts came down a bit,  the steady winds were higher in the 25 to 30 knot range. Thus, with that wind pressure, the anchor bearing distance oscillated between 156 and 174 feet for much of the morning, before decreasing to 110’ to 130’ by midafternoon. (and where it had been the previous evening).

My little diagram of our anchor in relation to the boat at its most extreme.

Looking at the little diagram I drew and my calculations, all the catenary was out at that point, 174 feet away, and we were simply being held by our Delta anchor. As the sun got higher in the sky ,I could see shallow rocks about one boats length away behind Dauntless. That confirmed my calculation to not let out more chain. I was also ready to start the engine should I notice us dragging. However, since we had not dragged at all, I was hesitating to move and thus possibly upset the balance we had obtained.

In analyzing the track on the Coastal Explorer C-Map chart and the Maretron wind graph, it was clear that we had spent about 12 hours between that 150 and 174 feet and by mid-afternoon Sunday, 22 hours after we had initially anchored, we had moved back to the original bearing and distance of 78 feet. Monday morning, when we finally hauled anchor after 36 hours, we had moved to within 60 feet of the anchor under calm winds.

The track of CE for 36 hours. The radius of the circle is 180′

All in all, I could not have been happier with how things developed and how rock steady we were under difficult conditions.

Would I do it all over again?

It’s hard to say. I would probably turn on the radar and set the alarms the next time. That would be more effective than anchor alarms (GPS based), which I don’t use anymore, because I find them ineffective.

My Alaska friends had told me that any location that may have been more sheltered from the wind would have been more open to waves and swell.

All in all, it’s hard to try to improve upon a good outcome. As they say, sometimes it’s better to stick with the Devil we Know, versus the one we don’t.

To see a little video of this, which I have not yet uploaded on my Dauntless at Sea You Tube channel, please visit the link  below and subscribe.

Dauntless at Sea You Tube Channel

 Docking Dauntless at Heritage Harbor, Wrangell, Alaska

Docking Dauntless at Heritage Harbor, Wrangell, Alaska

We went to drop one crab and two shrimp pots. This video shows the last 15 minutes are we return to the Heritage Harbor, Wrangell, Alaska.

We back into our slip for the convenience being able to get on and off the boat via the stern and swim platform, plus it’s a little better for the shore power connections.

A few things to note: With a single screw and no bow thruster, Dauntless has always been a handful to get in and out of tight places. But as time as gone on and I’ve bounced off enough objects, I am pretty skilled at backing her up. She has a left-handed prop, meaning the prop rotates counterclockwise. This causes a produced prop walk to port, I have to keep about 3° of starboard rudder to go in a straight line.

She can turn 180° to port in about 60-foot diameter but turning to starboard can be problematic as I discovered one day while trying to turn on the River Maas in the Netherlands. While the current was against me, a 30-knot wind from our stern made turning around to starboard impossible as I discovered halfway thru the turn. The bow just stopped coming around. Luckily, at this point, I had plenty of room to turn the other way.

A couple of hours later, having already forgotten what I just learned, I tried again in a small harbor to dock into the wind.  (See the picture below ) To my horror, as the boat crabbed upstream and towards a boat tied perpendicular to the dock I was trying to reach, I rammed the dock with the bow, knowing that at least then, it would stop my progress towards this other boat 60 feet away.

Dauntless in Nijmegen. I had come on on the left (side of picture) to turn right to dock as you see, but wind was blowing 30 knots from astern (on the bow on).BTW, this was with a working bow thruster. Another reason I learned it’s best not to depend on one for when you really need it against high winds or current, it will be least effective.

Lesson learned.

Now when you see me make a 270° turn to port coming around to 90° to starboard from our original heading, you’ll understand why I take the long way around.

Here is my docking video

 

20190713, 14 & 15 Blenkinsop Bay to Sea Otter Creek to Bella Bella BC

On these two and a half days, 13, 14 and 15 July 2019, Dauntless continues her northward trip up the Inside Passage in British Columbia to Alaska.

Highlights of this day include:

  • We race the Alaskan Ferry Columbia
  • We have a freshwater leak that empties our only full water tank
  • We stop early to rebuild the water maker, which only takes about 4 hours, only to discover that it didn’t solve the problem
  • Each day was 65 nm in 9 hours and 30 min on the 13th and just over 10 hours on the 14th.
  • First half of day 3, was just from Sea Otter Inlet to the Bella Bella dock where we hoped to get water for our freshwater tanks.

Low lights consisted of us spending 6+ hours rebuilding the Katadyn watermaker high pressure pump only to discover it did not solve the problem of the oil seal that was in the electrical motor portion of the water maker.

Upon close inspection, I had suspected as much before we started, but I was hoping for one of those boating miracles that was not to be.

For some reason, there does not seem to be a lot of places to stop and get fresh potable water along the BC portion of the Inside Passage.  The cruising guide did seem to indicate that water was available at Bella Bella, so that was our destination on the morning of the 15th.

Once docked, we found the hose, but it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to turn on the water. The valve was hidden just beyond alittle gate that made it difficult to see.

Once that was done, we filled both tanks and got underway to anchor for the night a few hours north in Mouat Cove.

Here is the video: Dauntless in the Inside Passage 13 July 2019

Our Alaska Wedding

Trinh & Richard’s Alaska Wedding tells the story of our meeting in Vietnam and Trinh’s (aka Tee) and Thien’s arrival in the USA and Alaska

With some still shots of us in Vietnam, the videos are of on Dauntless cruising between Ketchikan and Tenakee Warm Springs, Alaska, where we got married on 17 August 2019.

Two Weeks So Far & Still Bitterly Cold

It’s been below freezing since the new year began. The first few days of the year were only in the mid-20’s, but for the last 10 days temperatures in Wrangell have stayed in the small range of 8° to 15°F (-13° to-8°C).

Thien on his way to school

This is the coldest outbreaks Southeast Alaska has experienced in more than 10 years. The 5,000 ft temperature at Annette (the location of the rawinsonde) temperature of -21.9C is believed to be the coldest ever.

Dauntless and its denizens have fared ok. We have been able to keep the dock water running, which gives me one less thing to worry about. Should the dock water freeze, we can live of the water tanks in the boat for 6 days, but after that, it would fall on me to figure out how to replenish our water.

Like most teenagers worldwide, Thien just bundles up and accepts what is, without complaint. He, like I, looks at our trials and tribulations, like the adventures they are.

Weather data. You can see the winds have up to 27 knots, now 18 kts. Temp is 17F, -8C.

His mother is a bit more sanguine. When people around the world dream of living in America, Alaska is not part of that vision.

No, their vision is more like California, but without high taxes, high costs, countless regulations and homeless people. Warm weather all the time, friendly people, good schools.

Last night, we got pummeled by the Taku winds, cold air being pushed off the mountains to our east and roaring down the fjords. Juneau had winds last night as high as 90 mph. Here in Wrangell, at the dock on Dauntless, the most we have seen is 27 knots (30 mph). It does make for a ride that is a little bouncy, but I can put up with anything when tied to the dock.

Looks like our cold spell will be breaking by early next week. By this time next week, we should be back in the more normal pattern of southwest winds and rain. Which is good, since I won’t have to chip any ice.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Surviving Winter on a Boat

We are in for a period of really cold weather, at least for Southeast Alaska, with temperatures going down to zero (F) by early next week and staying in the single digits for a week or more.

I’ve had to turn up my Wallas heater, no longer content to leave it on the minimum setting. On its thermostat scale of 1 to 5, 1 being the minimum, I now run it at 2 to 3 at night and 4 to 5 in the day. That keeps the salon in the mid-60s in the day and the forward cabin mid-50’s at night. That OK to sleep, since I also have a heating pad that takes the chill off the bed before bedtime.

Looking over the bow

A heating pad is a requirement if you are living in a cold winter climate. Before the heating pad came into my life, when I would return to the boat after some week’s absence, that first night was so cold. I could never tell if the bed was wet or just cold. (It was just cold).

We are still hooked up to dock water. Dauntless is located at the far end of the dock. The harbor keeps a valve open at the end of the dock to keep the water from freezing. It’s been successful so far.

We had a little cold spell a few weeks ago and I made the mistake of not running the water in the boat all night. The first night, my water hose and filter froze. Now, for the last 5 days since this cold spell, I have kept the midships head sink running water on and now even turn on the forward head sink. I also have the hose that is connected to the dock water running under the boat, so just a few feet are exposed to the cold air.

Our water tanks are full with about 250 gallons of water, so that is our fallback position if we lose dock water.

Our Wallas DT40 heater in the engine room

I had taken our storm windows off while the boat was in Mexico. Never needed them for wave protection, but they acted wonderfully in not allowing any condensation on the pilot house windows during the winter. Once the wind stops blowing, I will pull them out of storage and ready them to put back up. The pilot house is very cold now, near 38°F. My curtain keeps the cold air there as the salon is almost 70.

My bigger issue is that we will be taking the boat out again in February when halibut season opens, and I want to stop the condensation on the windows.

+++++++

On a different note, I have uploaded another YouTube piece on my trip from California to Alaska. The first 15 minutes of the video are interesting, after that it gets dark and hard to see anything.

Dauntless at Sea Goes North to Alaska Vlog 07, 30 June 2019  An Unexpected Stop

In addition, Tee has uploaded a video with English subtitles about catching crab. She makes good videos unlike your truly. Her latest video on her channel

 

 

Sailor Woman

Have you ever had to try to comfort a terrified pet? Maybe they were terrified of being in the car? Or of thunder? Going to the vet?  It’s not a situation of safety nor even of any risk, the fear is totally unjustified with the reality. But you know that no amount of words can really help.

Tee at the helm as we come south from Juneau

But it still hurts you anyway because you know you are powerless to do anything to stop this unfounded terror. The only cure will be some minutes or hours later when whatever caused this is past and your cat or dog realized they have survived.

I’m not talking about “voicing annoyance” for example when you pack the cats into the car for the drive from New York to Los Angeles in roughly four days. Four days of a penetrating meow, that is anything but a “meow” even after the poor thing became hoarse.

To this day, I’m convinced that cat still thinks the only reason the trip ended was because he continually expressed his displeasure.

I’m not talking about that. I’m talking that paralyzing fear when the dog is hiding under the table because of thunder or something like that. No amount of talk is going to change his mind that he is actually safe.

And that’s the kind of fear I saw in Tee on our first trip on Dauntless.

Tee at the helm as Thien eats the four shrimp we caught

Knowing they were new to boats, having just arrived in America from Vietnam only a couple of days earlier, I planned what I thought was a short trip out of Ketchikan to Prince of Wales Island. A little orientation trip.  It was only 15 miles across Clarence Strait, but the winds were a little stronger than anticipated, which produced seas of 1-2 feet. Not terrible, in fact, having beat up the west coast, I hardly noticed these waves.

Not Tee. She was terrified in a way the was beyond words and reason. She wouldn’t leave my side in the pilot house, admittedly the worse ride location in the entire boat, but she sat on the bench and just whimpered (literally).

Luckily, Thien, her 16 yo son, knew his mother well and knew when best to just ignore her. I just felt sick for her, not being able to comfort her.

When we anchored, she was fine, though like me the first days/months anchoring, slept poorly.

The next day, I decided to cut our return trip in half, just going to the next fjord to the north on Prince of Wales Island. This worked well, until our windlass stopped working with 80 feet of chain out in 30 feet of water.

For weeks when Tee wanted a laugh, she would mimic the three of us heaving on the anchor chain pulling it up by hand and saying, “my dream, my dream”.

As time went on and she saw that we didn’t die each time we left the dock, her fears subsided. It helped that Thien explained to her one evening how the roll of the boat is a natural process, as it allows the boat the go with the seas and not fight it. That we, being inside the boat (like two hands cupped together) are safe.

Tee was also eager to learn how to drive the boat and she was at the helm for the entire Rocky Pass transit as we came south from Juneau in August.

There have been dozens of friends/familiy who have been at the help of Dauntless over the last 7 years. Tee has shown an exceptionally sharp attentiveness while at the helm. She looks and sees everything. No inadvertent running aground (like yours truly) on her watch.

She has made a video of her running the boat in the past weeks. It called Sailor Woman and is up on YouTube. She has asked me to share the link.

Keep in mind that it’s made for her Vietnamese audience. Also, I did some of the English captions not really knowing what she was saying, but making it fit what she was showing.

Now on our most recent trip (not the one in the video which was a week before) the winds were coming right up Zimovia Strait which separates Wrangell and Woronofski islands, at 18 knots producing a sea of 1 to 3 feet and Tee didn’t even notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBQing in the Snow of Winter

My first wife was a vegetarian. While I wasn’t, I did eat less mean than previously and tried not to cook meat that produced smoke (like hamburger) in the house. Therefore, since the mid-‘70’s, I’ve had a BBQ grill no matter where I lived.

Whether in Fairbanks, Alaska, Italy, Germany or now, on Dauntless, I’ve always had a grill. Since the early ‘80’s, when I lived alone in Southern California, I came to appreciate the convenience of a gas-powered grill.

For 30 years, I’d always buy the cheapest two or three burner BBQ I could find. They would typically last half a dozen years before it was time for a replacement. Sometimes that replacement could be hastened, as when moving to a new house in Fairbanks, the grill was packed in the back of the pickup and at some point, fell out.

Oops.

Fast forward a decade, living in a typically small one-bedroom apartment in New York (Manhattan to the uninitiated), I had only a little hibachi that we would put on the windowsill of our apartment to use.

We wanted a real terrace or patio, so we could have a real BBQ grill again. Though we were able to satisfy our craving for burnt meat as we did BBQ almost every weekend on my mother’s apartment terrace in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach/Coney Island.

So, we started looking for a new rental apartment in New York and going to listing of an apartment building that I had actually looked at one year earlier, on 57th St. We really like the location and the building, though the apartment itself had a weird layout, as did its terrace.

The Weber Q-280 in the summer of 2014

In talking to the real estate agent, Dennis Daniel, (for anyone looking for a place in NY), he convinced us that we should and could buy an apartment in New York instead of renting. He was a true master in terms of helping us understand what we really wanted and then helping us recognize it when we saw it.

Thus in 2007, When we moved to our new rooftop apartment in New York in 2007.  Having spent half a million dollars for a one-bedroom apartment, I considered our choice of grills. This was the primary reason we had moved after all.

Reading so many rave reviews about the Weber, I figured the extra few hundred dollars it would cost was worth it. Thus, in the summer of 2007, I bought my first Weber, the Genesis.

My Weber Genesis in the spring of 2013 on our roof top in NY
Another view of the rooftop with the Weber (under cover) on the right

A cooking pamphlet came with the grill, which essentially said, forgot what you think you know, do it this way and your foods, will come out perfectly.

I did and they did. Other than following directions and understanding the difference between direct and indirect heat, the build quality and more importantly the heavy iron materials used, made all the difference.

With its heavy cast iron components, the grill was able to hold heat extremely well. Thus, I did make the best steaks I had ever cooked. The reviews raving about the Weber were spot on. It did make a difference. I even used the Weber to bake apple pies, since I was able to put a little smoke into them. While I miss that Weber and that rooftop a little, I also know that it set the stage for my circumnavigation on Dauntless. I’d been there 7 years, the longest I’d lived anywhere in the previous 50 years. Dauntless had come into our lives and it was time to move on. I also know myself well enough that I’d get bored with heaven after 7 years.

In the first months with Dauntless, still in Florida before we made the trip to the Northeast, I found a light, “boat” grill. I figured I was on a boat, I had to make a sacrifice. There really wasn’t room for a larger Weber “portable” grill.

While coming north on the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW), we used the grill once. What a disappointment. It had trouble really getting hot. But within a couple of days the ICW solved the problem for me. The grill was mounted on the port rail near the stern.

One day while motoring northward, I got too close to a channel marker that was mounted on a telephone pole stuck in the water. I panicked and instead of turning the wheel, I tried to turn off the autopilot, but didn’t succeed. The pole swept along the port side rubbing on the rub rail until it got the grill, at which point it mangled the grill and mounting bracket that I had had made for it.

The grill ended up in the dumpster in St. Augustine. The Dutch friends who were with me at the time, had come from rainy Holland to get some sun, found Florida with the worst weather in years. When they left to return to Holland a week later, they were thankful to get away with their lives and back to the rain they were familiar with.

Could have been worse.

Besides you’ve read about all these close calls before. Well, most of them!

Weber had the Q-280, which was the largest of their “portable” grills and would use a normal 20-pound propane connection. I got it and it had been on Dauntless ever since.

Getting ready yesterday

I’ve grilled in temperatures as cold as minus 30°F (-35°C) in Fairbanks, so I wasn’t going to let a little snow get in the way yesterday.

Almost done

We had planned to have steaks and we did. Delicious as ever. Thanks Weber.

Resting with butter
Sooooo Goooood

 

 

 

 

A Miserable Trip

Vallejo to Crescent City California, 26 to 28 June 2019.

I’m finally getting around to writing in detail about my cruise up the west coast.

Since this is a past summary, I am going to change the format a bit. I have also started a You tube channel, Dauntless at Sea, where I am posting the Go Pro videos, I took along with some commentary of what is going on.

So, this blog will be a short summary about the start of my voyage to Alaska in the summer of 2019. We (John a friend/crew joined me from California to Astoria, left Vallejo on 26 June and arrived in Crescent City on the evening of the 28th. It was a miserable trip.

The Maretron Data says it all. This data is sourced from a number of different instruments, among them: the solid state compass, the GPS and the Weather Sensor. The scales for Pitch (lower left) and Roll (lower right) are purposely set at my “miserable limit”. This means for pitch that +2.0 degrees (which is actually down direction) and -4.0 degrees (up) is really miserable. Same for the roll, once it gets to 20 degrees in any direction (it’s bigger on the lee side [away from the wind] of the boat).

 

The data above shows the first three days were punctuated by three significant bouts of head seas, 3 to 5-foot waves on short 3 or 4 second periods which produced a miserable hobby horse ride, with constant pitching up and down.

Adding insult to injury, this also slowed the boat considerably, so instead of doing our normal 6+ knots, we were in the 3.8 to 4.8 range. Yes, that also means the miserable ride is 50% longer than normal, while fuel consumption remains steady, based on engine rpms, but fuel consumption per mile is also 25% down. Therefore, the miserable time is extended, and you pay 50% more for the experience.

Here is a little summer by period:

Cumm time Hr:min  Dist (nm) per time pd Avg speed (kts) Cumm Dist (nm) Running avg sp (kts)
1:17 1:17        8        6.1        8    6.23
25:17 24:00    138        5.8    146    5.77
49:17 24:00    136        5.7    282    5.24
55:17 6:00      42        7.0    324    5.86

 

That first 1 hr. and 17 minutes was the time it took to leave Vallejo and stop in Benicia for fuel. So the next time period started once we left Benicia.

Overall, it was 324 nautical miles in 55 hours and 17 minutes. We anchored in 12 feet of water in Cresencet City Bay at 19:54 on the 28th.

My You Tube channel is a work in progress. Please feel free to leave comments on You Tube about any suggestions or things I need to explain better or clarify. I am also still debating as to how to best upload the long Go Pro videos that frankly are quiet boring.

Here is a link to a Google search:

Google Dauntless at Sea North to Alaska

Note the third item is the song, North to Alaska by Johnny Horton, a pretty good song.

Coming up, running aground in the Bay, as the Fuel guy watches and waits.

 

 

Crabby Lady

Three years ago, when I met Tee and her son Thien, in the hot, humid climate of SaiGon, it was far from Alaska as

Tee pulling in Crab

one could get, mentally and physically. But as I got to know the Vietnamese in general, and Tee in particular, it became clear to me that while her dream of America had no snow, sea nor glaciers in it, it was more a matter of not knowing the possibilities, than not wanting the opportunity.

Wrangell Alaska ended up being our home port for now because I wanted a small community that was close-knit and friendly, without the drama and BS that so often happens in the Outside (Lower 48). I also selected Wrangell after the high school principal spent 45 minutes with the three of us, talking about his school, his vision and how Thien would fit it.

He was the kind of school leader that I was, and I liked that. It was truly children first.

Tee and Thien shelling cooked crab

Of course, having a good harbor for Dauntless was important and that the Harbor Master could get us a spot within walking distance of downtown was the icing on the cake.

Tom, who I met on Trawler Forum helped guide me to Wrangell and his help and advice was so helpful when I knew almost nothing about Southeast Alaska and even know don’t know much more. And extra bonus was having Rod & Becky and Bob & Char, fellow boaters, who have been helping us fish, crab and shrimp. It was Bob’s shrimp pot that I had abandoned a couple of weeks ago, which added to my stress of getting it back.

And Rod & Becky it turns out have been to all the places I wasn’t to go in the coming years, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Of all the places I have been in the last few years, who knew that here in Wrangell I would find someone who has been on my path and could give much needed advice. (No need to check in there, but do this…)

Crab being steamed

But the real story is about Tee and how she has made her Alaskan and American life the best it can be. Thien also does his part; mostly be studying, wither schoolwork or for the SAT.

For Tee the idea of free protein overwhelms all other senses. She has spent hours trying to catch fish in the rain with no luck. At least we can fall back on crabbing. We have found a good spot, only 3 miles west of Wrangell, 30 minutes on Dauntless, to drop our pot in about 35 feet of water.

So, when Tee complains about the lack of a broadband connection or cooking in a small kitchen. I know it time to go crabbing.

And that’s where we are off to now.

Woronofski Island, Just west of Wrangell

 

 

 

 

 

The Day of Reckoning

Who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks!

The morning of the departure. My CE navigation chart and Maretron data. Just started engine. A cold morning, 26F. Sunrise in an hour and a half

By Friday, the weather still looked good.

That evening, I told my crew, Tee and Thien, that they could sleep late. I could get off on my own, but they needed to be ready for action by 09:00 sharp and they needed to be prepared to spend two hours out on deck in the cold and wind without complaint. That was a deal they loved to accept because both like sleeping in on weekends.

We had the coldest weather of the year in these days, the temperatures being in the high 20’s in the mornings. I had already filled the water tanks of the boat just in case we lost the dock water.

Sunrise over the Eastern Passage and Wrangell Island as we are underway to retrieve our pots and anchor.

I also made one of my brighter decisions. I disconnected the water hose from the boat Friday evening. It took me almost 20 minutes to do so because it was almost frozen, so I was so glad i had not waited until the morning. I then decided that with the light winds we were having, there was no reason to keep all 7 lines on Dauntless.

One of my better decisions. As it was the lines were frozen and it took me a while to get the lines off the cleats. I left only two lines: a short stern line and a line that was tied my mid-dock to the bow cleat.

Saturday morning was dark and cold, 25°F, the coldest Dauntless has ever seen. The night before I had done my engine room checks, including turning on the engine water intake. I had also checked the oil and set the fuel feed.

My alarm was set for 06:30, but of course on all days of departure, I woke early and was up at 06:15. Time enough to make my usual cup of Vietnamese coffee.

Engine start was at 06:36. After last weeks’ mistake of not opening the engine water intake, I am back in the habit of immediately checking for water in the exhaust and I also ran down into the engine room to make sure there were no bad noises, smells or visuals.

Even with only two lines, it still took me 10 minutes to get the frozen lines off. I had to get some cups of hot water for the line on the bow cleat. But I was underway to Mahan Bay at 06:50, 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

I had two hours to think about the plan once we got there. I had thought that if for whatever reason, the shrimp pot floats were underwater, for instance if the pot had got dragged to deeper water, what would we do? I figured we would put out a fishing line without big halibut jig (a big hook with a 12 oz or 16 oz weight). We would troll back an over the probable areas. It turned out that I’m glad I had thought of this.

It was cold and dark, but we were on the way back to collect our gear. Just before 09:00 we were approaching Mahan Bay. It was a beautiful morning, just some middle broken clouds and light winds (see picture above). Tee and Thien were suited up and ready to go. I aimed Dauntless for the spot that we left the first pot and spotted the float right away, about 100 feet away.

Getting the boat hook ready, the boat was a bit too far away, so I turned to make another pass. This was seeming to be as easy as I had hoped in my wildest dreams.

As I approached the float the second time, I realized we were not as straight as we should be and at that instant, I realized that I could only screw up my perfect day if I ran over the thing and got the line stuck in the prop.

As I was having that thought, the float was along the port side hull, I kicked the stern to the right and put the gear in neutral, but it was too late.

Just alike that I had screwed up my perfect day by running over the float and getting the line stuck in the prop.

Fuck me. More appropriate words were never spoke.  How could I have been so stupid. I ran to both sides of the boat hoping to see the float, but nothing. Nowhere, no how.

I put the boat into reverse gently, hoping to unwind it. I immediately heard the float hit the hull and seconds later it was floating along the boat, the line still around the prop and ripped out of the float.

The Float we recovered absent pot

The line had been ripped from the float. Then we saw a little piece of the float, about the size of a tangerine, floating away. I went to get the boat underway to try to catch it, with hopefully the shrimp pot line still attached, but we lost sight of it.

It wasn’t clear to me if we still had the line on the prop or not. Now was time for Plan B.

Thien got his fishing pole. He let out a few hundred feet of line. Within five minutes we had a catch. Reeling it in like it was the most valuable fish we ever caught, it was our shrimp pot line. It was also clear that the line was still wrapped around the prop.

So, first things first, I wanted to get the pot on the boat. That done, with all of two shrimp inside, I now had to get the line off the prop.

Being able to hold on to one end of the line that is wrapped around the prop and shaft does make the job a bit easier. In this case, I asked Tee to hold tight and tell me if the line was getting tighter or looser, when I put the boat in gear. She couldn’t tell, even when I tried reverse.

I wasn’t sure if it was a language issue or simply she did not have the feel of the problem, so I decided I had to do it myself. But I also didn’t want someone else at the controls if I am holding a line that is around the prop!

So, I got enough slack on the line so that I could stand at the helm, with one hand on the gear shift lever and the other holding the line tightly with the line from the prop thru the salon to the pilot house.  I put the boat in forward gear, and I could feel the line getting a bit looser, at the same time, I could feel the prop rubbing against it.

I pulled harder on the line and it parted. I’m guessing the line cutter just in front of the prop on the shaft was able to put enough pressure to cut the line.

We were free and no vibration what’s so ever.

We headed for the second shrimp pot and it was just where I had marked it on the chart. Which does make me think that it was underwater when we were looking for it a week earlier. We snagged it, this time without any drama and it had four shrimp.

Thien ate them with gusto. 

The weather was beautiful, so once we grabbed the anchor line, we tied it off and fished for a couple of hours. We caught two flounder. They were dinner.

Pulling the anchor up now worked like a charm and we motored back to Wrangell in a much better mood that the week before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for the Day of Reckoning

Yesterday, Saturday was the Debacle, Sunday the Plan was made.  That gave me five days to sort out the windlass and get it working again.

First thing I did was get out the Ideal windlass manual for my ACW windlass.  I had two issues:

  1. As we were hauling the anchor, it became more and more strained, until finally it just stopped with the current protection breaker activating
  2. The wildcat hits the top of the chain stripper on each revolution.

Now this windlass is 30+ years old but is built like a champ and perhaps if I rad the manual more often, it will outlast me. Because there in ALL CAPS was a warning that the windlass should only be used with a load in the clockwise direction.

My not so straight Chain Stripper

Oops. Because I had anchored with my secondary anchor whose rode used the starboard anchor locker, I would wind the rode around the capstan and use the down switch to rotate the windlass counterclockwise. I had worked in the few times in the past I had done so, but the anchor was never very deep. With a little tap on the circuit breaker protection switch, I could reset the circuit breaker button and the windlass worked fine.  I even test it, by lowering the primary anchor and letting a couple hundred feet out on the harbor bottom, which is between 10 to 20 feet under the keel.

Hauling it worked fine, except for the chain stripper being hit and therefore bent by the wildcat.

The diagram from the Ideal manual

The diagram of the winch also gave me the information that the top of the chain stripper must be exactly 2.5” above the plate of the winch to fit into the groove of the wildcat which is about a half inch wide. Mine was clearly 2 and ¾”.

An image from the Ideal Manual

In the same manual, I found an old picture, which seemed to show that the chain stripper was perfectly straight. That was enough for me.

So, first stop Monday morning was to the big boat yard next to the dock, Superior Marine Services. There, Tyler, who was the bronze and stainless-steel expert, took a few minutes out of his busy to day to help little me (He is one of those big Alaskans that towers over me, like a brown bear!).

He suggested the big press. I mumbled ok since I was clueless. After all of 5 minutes and about a dozen pressings in different angles and parts, my stripper was as straight as new.

And typical of Alaskans, he wouldn’t take any money for his efforts, even coffee money.

I walked back to Dauntless, installed by stripper and it fit perfectly. I then proceeded to pull up the hundred feet of chain I put out as much to clean it an anything else and my little windlass worked like new.

Tides, currents and sunrise were all set. Now, I just needed the weather to cooperate.