Cruising North along the Inside Passage in B.C. Kutz Inlet Waterfall Walkabout

20190716 Sloop Narrows, Klemtu Passage, Anchoring twice at Kutz Inlet Waterfall

Anchoring at Kutz Inlet Waterfall, Inside Passage, BC

Highlights of this day include:

  • Another beautiful day on the Inside Passage in British Columbia.
  • Passing thru Sloop Narrows, Klemtu Passage
  • Anchoring in front of Kutz Inlet Waterfall
  • Having to re-anchor because I had anchored on a steep underwater slope, so suspected the holding would not be good. It wasn’t.

Our first anchoring was at 17:46. We were anchored in 20’ to 32’ of water, as it was a steep slope. I suspected the anchor had not set on that slope, so I watched it carefully. Here is what I saw:

  • 17:46, Initial anchor bearing 48’@ 142°, depth under the keel, 32’
  • 18:01, (15 minutes later), bearing 35’ @204°, depth 15’
  • 18:15, 36’ @ 204° depth 12’
  • 18:30, 40’ @ 226° depth 7’

While the anchor was holding, I no longer liked the spot we were in. There were now two other boats in the anchorage, and they were more than a ¼ mile away. Maybe I better join them?

So, we moved. At 18:46 we were anchored in a new spot, much further from shore, but still on a slope. Bow anchor bearing was now 72’ @ 248°, I had 90’ of chain out in 40’ of water. I decided to put the stern anchor out. It’s a plow anchor with 10’ of chain and 300’ of nylon rode. This was just in case the bow anchor was not well set on the slope it was on.

For the next two hours I watched it. With two anchors out, I used the waterfall itself as a reference. The distance did not vary by more than 15 feet, I felt this was OK. Though our depth under the keel continued to lower as the tide went out. And because I had two anchors out, I did not have much scope on either line, with only about a 100’ out for each in 30’ of water.

But I wasn’t worried and with 12’ under the keel, I went to sleep, planning on an early departure the next day, so we could get to Prince Rupert, BC in two days.

I slept so very well. In my first years anchoring, I would awake every couple of hours, lay in bed feeling the motion and within a minute, convince myself that we were float free and clear. I’d then check the anchor alarm (Drag Queen), notice that it had turned itself off, so would get up to check that all was good. It always was good. In other words, my imagination was worse than the reality. I then go back to sleep, only to repeat the process a couple of hours later.

By years 3 & 4, waking up became less routine on the hook, as my 55# Delta anchor never dragged. Though I would still check occasionally in the worst weather.

This highlighted track shows the route we took when Dauntless got impatient and left.

In the last couple of years, I’ve become even more relaxed about anchoring. Having used the anchor alarm in years, mostly because I found it only went off, after I took the dingy to shore and was walking downtown. Additionally, my first-year anchoring miscues were not so much about the anchor dragging, but me anchoring in the wrong place with not enough water under the keel at low tide.

I wouldn’t call it complacent, I was finally just comfortable anchoring, knowing my boat and anchor. To a point where even last month, on our trip to Juneau, we had to shelter from a first storm in Farragut Bay. We anchored in a little cove that I had anchored in two times previously. While it was a lee shore, in that the wind was pushing us towards the shore just behind the boat.

All thru the night, Ti would wake me up every 20 minutes to tell me the wind was blowing as the boat rocked back and forth. The first time I did get up to check, but with 40 knot winds and rain, I couldn’t see anything, but could tell from the chart we were 172’ from the anchor, just where it was when I went to bed. I didn’t get up again.

Writing about this now, I will make my next video of this day, so you can see the charts.

Back to our story.

I woke up at 6 the next morning and almost always immediately upon waking up, I would get up and do a quick check even before I put any clothes on.

This morning, I knew we wanted to get underway, so I figured I’d take the 10 minutes to do my morning toilet, get dressed, then haul anchor, get underway and make coffee.

That plan worked so well.

So well in fact, that I even went into the engine room to check the oil level before I came up to the pilot house. Larry was still sleeping in his cabin, when I looked out the pilot house windows and  noticed we were already underway!

We were a ¼ mile from where we were the previous night. I can determine from the Coastal Explorer track that we started drifting about 02:00, so in 4 hours we drifted a quarter of a mile down the inlet about ¼ mile from shore with depth now more than 200’

I figured Dauntless was in a hurry to get underway, so I obliged her.

 

North on the Inside Passage in BC, Bella Bella to Mouat Cove and onward thru Reid Passage

Hecate Strait to the west. The magenta line (on the right) is the route we took up the Inside Passage

20190715 North on the Inside Passage in BC, Bella Bella to Mouat Cove and onward thru Reid Passage.

The chart shows why the Inside Passage is so special, sheltering one from hundreds of miles of open Pacific ocean swells and waves.

Highlights of this day and a half include:

  • Another beautiful day on the Inside Passage in British Columbia.
  • Anchoring in Mouat Cove
  • We take the dingy for a short spin
  • Departure from Mouat Cove
  • Going through the narrow passage of Reid Passage

    Mouat Cove

We took the dingy out to explore Mouat Cove, a beautiful little stop about midway along the Inside Passage. We managed to not hit any rocks, wither with the dingy or with Dauntless.

 

 

 

 

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

20190712 Savary Island to Blenkinsop Bay via Campbell  River and Johnstone Strait

The tile says it all. This is the 12 July 2019 cruise on Dauntless northbound the Inside Passage in British Columbia.

Highlights of this day include:

  • We see a small whale
  • We see numerous whirlpools, but don’t get sucked in
  • We pass a number of southbound cruise ships, including the Nieuw Amsterdam and the Alaska Ferry Kennecott. ( I have a fondness for the Holland-America line, as I grew up across the street from Pier 40 in New York, where they docked in the 1950’s up until the 80’s?.
  • We stop for three hours on the Campbell river to wait for the currents to change.
  • Larry corrects me when I say “Johnston” Strait not “Johnstone”. Made all the funnier for me because I should have known, having been once married to a Johnstone.
  • Our anchorage was pretty windy, with westerly winds of 20 knots gusting to 28. But we held well as we always do (well until a few days later, but that’s another story.

Here is the video: 20190712 Savary Island to Blenkinsop Bay via Campbell  River and Johnstone Strait

20190711 Vancouver BC to Savary Island with tour of Smuggler Cove

We left Vancouver BC for the last time at 7:11 on 7/11. I think it was a coincidence! It was a long, 12+ hr. day, but it’s the Inside Passage, so weather is normally not a factor.

Dauntless cruise from Vancouver BC to Savary Bay 11 July 2019

There was an interesting spot we (My long-time Alaska friend Larry was with me for the next two weeks) wanted to check out, Smuggler’s Cove and that turned out to be the highlight of the day. Truly tight and narrow, it was a bit stressful entering and even leaving.

We have some OK Go-Pro footage of that excursion, though the Go Por was fogging up, so it’s not as good as it should be. I also took some video from inside the pilot house of the charts, both my Coastal Explorer running C-Map and Navionics on my tablet.

After that exploration, it was another 7 hours until we stopped for the night in an open anchorage, just north of Savary Island. All in all, as easy day, filled some interesting tidbits.

You can watch the videos here on the Dauntless at Sea You Tube Channel. The Smuggler Cove entrance is very tight and the conversation between Larry & I is interesting. Vancouver BC to Savary Island with tour of Smuggler Cove

Larry has been on Dauntless crossing the English Channel, Leaving Cabo San Lucas and the Mexican coast northward and now from Vancouver in the Inside Passage. This latest cruise was the easy compared to the rough sea we experienced off the Mexican coast and in the English channel. Those videos will get uploaded after I finish the Inside Passage 2019.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 Hours, 2 Shrimp, 2 Crab, Bad Batteries, a Poor Forecast and a Dying Engine

Saturday was supposed to be a respite between the storm systems that roll over the North Pacific and into the Gulf of Alaska. Light winds, periods of no rain. That’s great.

Even with 17 knot winds, the seas were relatively flat

It wasn’t to be.

Since the beginning, I’ve told anyone who would listen to never bet your safety on a weather forecast. And in my hay day, I was a very good weather forecaster. The WSFO in Juneau writes a great weather discussion and does a great job overall in a very difficult environment, where local effects significantly affect the local weather.

Saturday looked to be the best day of the week, so I planned on an overnight. We would go to Woronofski Island and leave our crab pot that in the past has been very good. Then we would head south along Zimovia Strait about 8 miles and drop a shrimp pot on each side of the strait in about 300 and 180 feet of water respectively. Then, instead of heading another hour south to anchor in a more protected bay, I decided we could anchor just off Wrangell Island, in a little channel, with a little island to the west.

The Maretron data showing pitch and roll. This was taken while we were on anchor. Honestly, the pitching on this looks worse than I remember it. And I hate pitching.

Untying the lines Saturday noon, the winds were light, but there was light rain. As we motored out of the harbor, the winds picked up significantly. They were southerly at 17 knots!

Now that’s normally a showstopper. But being in Southeast Alaska, even though in this case the winds are channeled down the strait, the seas these winds produced were only about one foot. I’ll take it. I’m guessing the winds just picked up and had been light overnight.

As we headed south, winds continued about 15 knots on our bow, but again no real waves.  We dropped the first shrimp pot and headed to drop the second.

All went well. The little channel was just as it looked on the charts. We anchored in 30 feet of water. The anchor dragged about 30 feet before it set, I could hear/feel it being pulled over rocks. I decided to put the snubber on, since the winds had not let up and were in the mid-teens coming up the strait.

This Kadey Krogen is more reactive to the current than winds. So, I knew we would sit parallel to shore facing south until the current turned and then we would turn around. We’ve done this many times and my Delta anchor has never dragged.

I could hear the snubber rubbing as we changed direction a couple of times that night (night for me starts when the sun goes down, 16:00 to 08:00), but that’s not what got me up.

For the last few months, my batteries have been acting sulfated, in spite of being equalized a few times. I have four 8D batteries, each with 230 amp-hours. They are four years old and I had already separated them then checked the individual voltages after some time. They were all within 0.01v; that’s very good.

If the load on the fully charged batteries is 20 amps, then the voltage plummets quickly. In three and a half hours, the voltage was 12.51 at minus 56 amp-hours. Not terrible

Our chart showing Dauntless at the spot for the 1st shrimp pot.

I decided we would run the generator for an hour, to renew our hot water and batteries for the evening before bed. The Genny started after a minute of coaxing. When I turned it off an hour and quarter later, with the voltage 13.14v and the batteries at -26 amp-hrs. OK

An hour later, it was 12.73v and -44 amp-hr.  Great, but as expected, only 4 hours later, I got up to check and the voltage was 10.50v at only -82 amp-hrs., that’s an SOC of 91%. I started the gen and went back to sleep. Nicely, I can hardly hear the gen in my cabin. I woke up again at 04:00, three hours later, and turned it off.

At 06:15 I got up for good and the voltage was still 12.77v at -47 amp-hrs.

Our anchor spot

At 07:00 I turned on the gen, just to help facilitate the hot water kettle and rice cooker. I left the gen on as I pulled up the anchor also.

Now, the last little hiccup.

Since the gen was running, I wanted to see how well the windlass worked on gen power versus engine power, so I started pulling up the anchor. I had already taken the snubber off earlier that morning.

I was so enthralled with how vigorous the windlass was on the generator that it wasn’t until the anchor was off the bottom that I realized I had not started the engine.

Ooops – Welcome to my world

Start the engine and within a minute it is running very rough. Oh no, what now. I run down to the engine room and the engine sounds terrible. All kinds of wild thoughts ran thru my mind in seconds. All of them expensive.

In the engine room, a quick glance shows no obvious problems. That tank feed is open, as is the return. Then I see that the vacuum gauge on the Racors is showing 12 inches of Hg. That means the engine has been starved of fuel because…

I check the fuel valves again. An added factor is the additional three valves on the aux fuel pump. I use this pump to fill the filters and bleed the system when I change fuel filters.

I notice that the gravity feed valve is closed. Oops, I close it when I fill the 10-liter Wallas Heater fuel tank.

Opening that valve, allows the vacuum gauge to go to zero. Good. We start the engine again and after about a minute, it is running like normal.

Now, back under power and underway, we got to our shrimp pot and haul it in to discover all of two shrimp and a spider crab on the outside. The spider crab went back to the sea.

The second shrimp pot was empty and the crab pot, which previously had 10 crab, now had two.

6 hours of engine time, plus 6 hours of Gen time means 6×1.4+6.1=14.4 gallons of fuel @$3.52 here =$50 for 2 shrimp and 2 Dungeness crabs. Not Bad.

Never complain about the boat or weather, because it can always get worse.

All in all, 24 hours later, we were back to the dock; an interesting day.

All’s Well that Ends Well.

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

A Humdrum Day

My tracks on Coastal Explorer in and out of Wrangell

As we returned to Wrangell Harbor after a day of fruitless fishing, but with 5 Dungeness crabs at least, I thought about how I was now an “old pro” returning to this harbor and dock.

Getting ready to leave the dock in Wrangell.

What made me think that? This was only my 7th time returning to this harbor and docking on this dock!

Seven times! WTF. Virtually everyone reading this who has a boat has docked at their home harbor more than that, hundreds, even thousands of times more!!

But if you have been reading this blog and following my travels for any length of time, you know I’m all about travelling. Even when Dauntless was ported in Waterford, Ireland, Huatulco, Mexico or Vallejo, California and spent most of a year or more in those places, I wasn’t cruising.  I’d leave the boat for weeks or months at a time flying to New York, California, Texas, Italy, Holland, Germany, Japan and Vietnam.

Even when we were home ported in Providence, Rhode Island, our trips were big ones, lasting the season, to Nova Scotia, then the Bahamas.

Therefore, since arriving in Wrangell at the end of August and the summer, we’ve done a half dozen day trips, which again is the most ever for any one port!

I miss Waterford. Still probably the best place Dauntless and I have ever lived. Great place for both the boat and me. We’ll return one day.

Looking out the Salon Window onto the Quay of Waterford, Ireland

I regret not cruising more while in Vallejo. That was my original plan, but it was not to be. In part because Dauntless was under a roof, the mast was down. This allowed me to do a lot of overdue maintenance on the mast fittings but precluded taking Dauntless out for a spin.

While I have substituted taught here in the elementary and high schools, I’m pretty much doing nothing. So, taking the boat out for a few hours (we only have 7 hours of weak daylight this time of year) is a treat for me.

I am in the process of organizing a YouTube channel, in which I will have all of my cruising videos of the last 6 years, but that will be a work in progress. I will start with Dauntless leaving San Francisco and coming up the coast to the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and finally Southeast Alaska.

Our travels in the Wrangell region so far
A beautiful sky and day in Southeast Alaska

 

 

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.

 

 

After the Debacle

While I felt good about having the common sense to abandon the anchor and not try to lift 125 lbs. of anchor chain and anchor more than 150 feet (50 ft of 3/8”bbb chain x 1.65lbs/ft x  + 40 lbs. anchor = 122 lbs. plus rode), I had a sleepless night.

While I wasn’t sleeping, I came up with the plan for the week:

First, I had to get the windlass working. It had an electrical problem; it had no power and lastly the wildcat was hitting the chain stripper. None of that was good.

Second, Wrangell only has about 7 hours of daylight nowadays. While the sun never gets very high in the sky in any case, I needed to maximize our chances of seeing those stupid little shrimp pot floats. They are only 10” by 5” wide. No easy to see under poor lighting conditions.

Third, even as we abandoned the anchor, I was looking for the shrimp pot float that should have been very near the boat. We spent 10 minutes looking for it with no luck. I was now worried that the reason we couldn’t find, notwithstanding the whitecaps and poor light, was that the float was under water, pulled there by the strong currents in the area. In the upper part of the bay, I didn’t expect the currents to be that strong, but in the opening to the bay, where we left the first shrimp pot, the currents could reach a few knots. In 320’ of water, with a pot on only 400’ of line, a current will drag the float under. Plus, even worse, with such strong currents and a light pot, who knows where the pot would be a week later.

So, first thing Sunday, I went to my navigation chart to check the currents and tides for the coming days. Coastal Explorer does make that easy. I had to find the slack current times that occurred during what daylight there was. I quickly realized that our options were limited. The viable days were today, Sunday Friday and lastly Saturday (7 days away).

Today was out since the windlass problem was not yet solved. Also, we were all tired. I didn’t want to have any more problems or issues, otherwise I may be writing about Mutiny on Dauntless.

Friday was a school day, but push come to shove, it was viable.

Saturday looked ideal with sunrise and tides. Slack time in Mahan Bay would be at 09:50 Saturday morning, sunrise is 08:20. Plus the currents would be with us until it turned just before 10:00 and then we could ride it home also.

With more than $500 of gear waiting for our return, I wanted to maximize our chances of finding it. So I told the crew we needed to be there by 9:15 to 9:30 giving us a good hour of slack or not strong currents to find our shrimp floats (I used the largest white fender I had for the anchor, I knew I would have no trouble finding it).

Subtracting the 2.5-hour cruise from 09:30 meant a 07:00 departure time. Yes, it would be dark, but my goal was to retrieve our gear.

The last part of this plan dealt with the weather. The winds had been strong 12 to 18 knots the entire day when we left the pots. At noon, it was not much of a problem, but as the afternoon, the clouds had increased, the day became even more grey and darker. With a little pickup in the winds, little whitecaps developed, which made it impossible to find any small white floats in a grey sky and sea.

A shrimp Pot Float

So, we needed a day with light winds and the less clouds the better.

I go to Windy.com for all my long-range weather planning. I still find it easier to use and I use it for the big picture in the long term. The weather models (I use the ECMWF) were consistent for the entire week and showed that Saturday was the best weather day with the lightest winds and the only non-overcast day.
That would work and I planned accordingly.

Next up, I would have to tackle the Ideal Windlass and get it working by the coming Saturday, the best day for daylight, weather, winds, tides and currents.