Alaska, The Last Frontier

It was 50 years ago for me and still is today.

Dauntless in Baranof Warm Springs

This is my first time living in the Southeast; my last three periods of Alaska habitation having occurred in or around Fairbanks, the heart of the interior.

And the difference between the Interior (of Alaska) and the Southeast is pretty much night and day.

The intense cold of winter in the Interior has a finality to it that is omniscient yet can be fatal. I’ve been afraid at various times in the Interior. In the Southeast, it’s a sea life, certainly dangerous in its own way, but then I’m not afraid of the sea. At least not in a well-found boat, like my Kadey Krogen.

The people are somewhat similar, nice, helpful, but then and now, it just seems Southeast people are even nicer, friendlier and even a bit smarter.

Tee in front of the harbor. Town center is on her right, Dauntless on her left.

Dauntless, Larry, my oldest Alaska friend of 46 years and a stalwart crew mate on Dauntless these last 5 years, and I arrived in Ketchikan almost two months ago.  It’s been a busy two months!

Too busy to go into detail here and now, but as the winter sets in and I have time to take a breath, I’ll fill in the details.

Everything has gone to plan, even our cute, little wedding in Tenakee Hot Springs. I have hours and hours of video of the Inside Passage, Southeast Alaska from Ketchikan to Juneau and of course, Tee and Thien.

Tee on the helm. She is great at it.

The three of us have started the next chapter of our lives in Wrangell. A great little community of about 2500 people. I felt a lot of pressure to decide on the right locality and school for Tee and Thien. While I knew we would be somewhere in the southeast, I didn’t want to settle on the exact location until we had been in the harbor and visited the school. Thien has his last two years of high school to complete.

Tee and Thien enjoy crab and halibut (the gift of some friends)

I’m pleased to say that Wrangell High School could not be better, with a great staff and leadership. That’s not as easy to find as one would think considering all the money we throw at education.

Tee is getting used to living on a boat, having to manage our electrical load and crappy internet access. Thankfully, she is not as terrified as she first was whenever we encountered any waves greater than one foot. We’re up to about two feet now.

On the other hand, both Tee and Thien are fishing fanatics. We certainly are eating a lot of fish the locals would only use for bait. And they LOVE crab, so every once in a while, Tee does see glimmer of her dream life in America. Though I’ll admit that whenever “the dream” is mentioned, I sense a hint of sarcasm, that would make a New Yorker proud.

Maybe more than a hint, as she does her imitation of being on the toilet as the boat is rolling back and fourth!

Feat of crabs. We only kept the largest two.
Salmon head in Vietnamese Hot Pot

Breakup Sex

Quick update. I now have on my You Tube Channel the video that does with this blog post. It’s here Vlog 13 20190704 , The roughest 3 minutes crossing the Columbia Bar and the aftermath

Enjoy

I was shocked to see that I had not written any blog posts in weeks. I certainly wrote a considerable number in my head.

The chart shows me leaving Astoria

Alas, my laptop has not figured how to read my mind, though I am sure Google is working on it.

Leaving Astoria, a wonderful little town, at the mouth of the Columbia, at the crack of dawn, I was geared up for my last day on the Pacific.

After two years of slogging up the Pacific coast from the Panama Canal, Neah Bay and the protected waters of the Inside Passage, was only a day away.

My Route over the bar.

My departure time was predicated on a number of factors:

  • I wanted to go out during the ebb, in this case, I’d have a +4-current going out with me, this was important since the dock was more than 10 miles from the entrance of the Columbia River and its infamous bar.
  • Winds were forecast to be from the northwest at 10 to 12 which was OK, anything less than 15 to 18 being good at this point.
  • It would be 150 nm to Neah Bay, about 24 hours steaming time. From my early days driving crossing the country in 3 days, I knew that overnight was not so bad, but as soon as the sun came up for that second 24-hour period, I become intensely tired. So, I wanted to arrive at Neah Bay at sunrise or soon thereafter.

    The Maretron data showing pitch and roll

The winds were blowing from the Northwest (as usual) perpendicular to the Columbia Bar and not against the current. They were not very strong, being 10 to 12 knots. So, I expected relatively benign conditions, much like my midnight arrival a couple of days earlier. I even called the Coast Guard to get the latest Bar report as I got close.

The report was, “one to three feet with no restrictions”, just as it was when we entered. In fact, entering we could not even tell when we passed the Bar itself, other than what the chart told us.

In fact, I had composed a fantastical account in my head of that midnight bar crossing to cater to all the folks who expect a horror show every time they hear the words. “Columbia Bar”. I was going to title it, “Smashed by the Bar” and even include a picture of the dent in my swim platform that actually occurred at the fuel dock in Astoria when the bow line let loose.

But my fantastical account never got written. My short attention span was soon captured by Englund Marine Supply in Astoria. A warehouse filled with everything imaginable and a lot beyond my imagination. My original paravane birds were purchased from this exact store, then shipped to me in Florida. Now, 5 years later, I would be buying another set in-person. Maybe trivial to many, but for me, quite prophetic.

If you are in the Northwest, it’s a must stop.

Leaving Astoria that morning, the fourth of July, everything was battened down (or so I thought), as is the norm for ocean cruising. Minutes before reaching the Bar, I again heard the same observation from the Coast Guard Station the north shore of the Columbia inlet, 1 to 3 feet, 2 to 4 at the center.

A great afternoon

I was in the center. Still, all seemed uneventful and after 5 minutes, I thought that was it, much like my entry a few days ago.

But not quite.

Oh, this is the infamous Columbia Bar. The next 10 minutes were like riding the Wild Mouse in Coney Island: violent pitching, wicked rolls, slamming through waves, very un-Kadey Krogen like. But just like all the times before, the wonderful bow rise of the KK keeps all the water outside. We go over waves, never thru them. The only casualty was my laptop now has a Columbia Bar dent in its casing. The Maretron data shows a 4° pitch, that’s a lot, when it happens it feels like 45°.

I’m reminded of an unpleasant breakup: doors slamming, loud words, ugly glances; a long ten minutes.

But then silence, calmness descends. The house is quiet, just like the ocean is quiet now. Light northerly breezes. I contemplate life alone for the next 14 hours.

As darkness descends, off the west coast of Washington state, the seas turn glassy. Dauntless is gliding along under a star lit sky.

A door opens, the one that was slammed not so long ago, a contrite face looks in, later, the seductive voice, this is our last night together. I look at my bent laptop. We can’t say goodbye like that.

Who can say no to that; not I.

Seas were flat and glassy as we glided along. Numerous sea birds, dolphins and other aquatic beasts passed by for a visit.

By late evening, as it became truly dark, I could see fireworks from two different west coast Washington towns. (Almost like a ’60’s movie in which the bedroom door closes and we see a cartoon of fireworks. )

It was like the last gentle caress. A kiss on the cheek, soft words: “now you are going to inland waters, while I must find some other intrepid souls.

A perfect night

You are a little too nice, too mild, even naive; but I’ll always love you and wait for your return.

 

 

Almost Done

I had hoped to leave Vallejo for my trip north as early as a week ago. It wasn’t to be and with the eastern Pacific high showing signs that it doesn’t know that summer is here, I doubt I will leave before mid-month!

Dauntless’ Fly Bridge

Talking with a boating friend Friday who is very attuned to the weather in Northern California, he told me that normally, this eastern Pacific high is strongest in April, when it produces the strongest Northerly winds. But it’s now June and the April high is still here.

As a weather forecaster, the shoulder of the seasons, spring becoming summer, etc. is the hardest thing to predict. Each season has its own peculiarities, as well as the type and strength of the weather produced.

One crosses the North Atlantic in July because that’s definitely summer. Low pressure areas in the North Atlantic in July are the fewest and weakest of the year. Winds are almost never above 50 knots. When I was planning my first Atlantic Crossing, that’s why our planned departure was in July. June and August are the shoulder months, August weather can quickly transition to fall. Two sailboats were abandoned off the coast of France in a May storm, a few years ago.  That I found myself in the North Atlantic in late August is a story I have related a number of times. Needless to say, the weather was worse than the month before and the successive three lows that rolled over me during my last 72 hours were definitely a sign of fall type weather; summer was over.

Dauntless’ Fly Bridge

Now, I’m waiting for spring to end. In the meantime, having gotten almost all my projects done, I am now cleaning up the small things.

My fly bridge has never looked so good. All my mild steel items, cotter pins, bolts, nuts, have been replaced with stainless steel. In the past, I used what was handy. During the last couple of months, I have spent days removing rusted fasteners or clevis pins that are ruined because they have a rusted cotter pin inside.

Lesson Learned.

I also added a line of lights for the galley and added a lighted led switch that purposely stays on all the time. I figured people new to the boat, Ti and Thien in particular, would appreciate some help in finding lights and things.

Blue Led switch is middle right just below the cabinets
Dauntless’ solar panels

Over the next days, I am reorganizing my tools once again, as well as much used electrical parts.

Here is the latest snapshot of the weather patterns and winds over the North Pacific. First picture is today, the second picture is June 11th. No point in looking at anything else.

In the meantime, here is an interesting link to the video Ti made, Ti Cooks Pig Ears. with English subtitles. Yes, another Vietnamese delicacy. Who knew they did more than Bahn Mi sandwiches and Pho !!

 

North Pacific Weather Patterns Valid 02 June
North Pacific Weather pattern valid 11 June