Neah Bay to Bedwell Harbor and Checking into Canada

Cape Flattery. Neah Bay is on the middle right.

It’s not for the faint hearted.

As I rounded Cape Flattery, I was careful not to take any shortcuts. After a full day at sea, it’s always tempting to cut that last corner, but I resisted the urge this time!

I went to sleep a little after 07:00 having just cruised 25 hours from Astoria Oregon. I was so glad to be done with the eastern Pacific and the almost constant head winds and seas.

Three hours later (I’ve known for many years that my natural sleep cycle is about 3 hours, so whenever possible I try to plan on getting 3, 6 or 9-hours sleep) I was ready to go.

Engine start was 11:15; I hauled my trusty Delta anchor and was underway by 11:30. Just before getting underway I was hit by a local’s 3-foot wake wave caused by him entering the harbor at 30 knots. I suppose that was my welcome to Washington State!

Neah Bay to Reid Harbor and Bedwell Harbor B.C.

I was headed to Reid Harbor. An overnight stop there would allow me to leave early the next morning and get to Bedwell Harbor, the spot for Canada check-in.

The last time Dauntless was in Canada was in Nova Scotia 5 Years earlier.

Looking at the tides & currents, it was critical that I get in and out of Bedwell before 08:00. This would allow me to make the passage thru the narrow channels to Vancouver with the current, that was as strong as 6 knots.

There was another issue, Canada Customs. They have this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality.  They seem to think every American:

  • Is armed to the teeth,
  • Is a druggie
  • Or wants to move to their socialistic paradise.

Now, while that may be true; it’s not me.  And when I have

Reid Harbor

places to be, I get impatient the third time they ask if I have any guns, illegal drugs or why I have 50 bottles of wine (I was in France and it’s a long cruise!).

I didn’t want to take any chances with an overly officious officer. I wasn’t carrying anything illegal or planning on leaving anything in Canada, but sometimes they can be prickly, and I couldn’t afford to miss the favorable currents.

The Customs Office opened at 08:00; but that was too late for my currents, so I needed to be there by 07:00. That had the dual advantage that I could use the phone to check-in, and I could make the strong currents going north to get to Vancouver by mid-afternoon.  (Yes, like too often, I had a time commitment).

I arrived in Reid Harbor at 22:15. 82 nm, and 11 hours after leaving Neah Bay at an average speed of 7.5 kts (1 knot current assisted).

While the sun had set an hour ago, it was maybe only 30 minutes after nautical twilight, so it was now dark, dark. There were a few boats already anchored around the bay, so I had to pick by way carefully in.

The telephone to check-in

In fact, while getting ready to anchor in my first chosen spot, a house onshore, flashed lights at me. Not knowing what that meant, I moved a couple hundred meters south.

It was a great anchorage; a peaceful night and I was up bright an early at 05:00 ready to get underway for the short one-hour trip to Canada and Bedwell Harbor.

An hour and twenty minutes later, I was in Bedwell Harbor. It was easy to get in and out and had a very nice dock for boats to tie to for check-in into Canada.

I walked up the ramp, called the phone number above the phones on the wall and a nice lady in eastern Canada took my information (Name, passport number, boat information) and wished me a pleasant trip.

15 minutes after tying up, I was underway to Vancouver B.C.

I love it when the plan comes together.

My confirmation number

Two related You Tube videos:

Vlog 14 Arriving at Neah Bay

Vlog 15, Neah Bay to Bedwell BC is not ready yet. In a couple of days. If you subscribe on my You Tube channel, you will get notified.

Dauntless at the Customs’ dock

 

 

A Wild Ride Outbound on the Columbia River Bar

Our chart leaving the Columbia River Bar

The cold weather finally broke last week, returning Southeast Alaska to more seasonal temperatures, in the 30’s and 40’s. The warmup came just in time, last week was a trying week for me. In the course of a few days, I managed to fry something in my Heart Inverter and flood my Wallas DT40 heater.

And at this time, both are still not working. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will probably have gleaned that I normally don’t write about problems usually caused by my own stupidity, as is the case here, until I also have the solutions. It helps me to mitigate my stupidity.

So, more on those problems later.

+++

Yesterday, I uploaded the 12th Vlog on my series, Dauntless at Sea Goes North to Alaska.

Vlog 12, A Wild Ride Outbound on the Columbia River Bar tells the story of Dauntless and I leaving Astoria Oregon for Neah Bay in Washington, about 25 hours away.

Conditions on the Bar were supposed to be very good, with waves of 1 to 3 feet and light northerly winds. I had about an hour cruise just to get to Cape Disappointment from my marina in Astoria, just west of the Astoria bridge. Maybe during that uneventful hour, knowing I had a long day ahead of me, I got a bit impatient.

As I was abreast of Cape Disappointment, I was passed on the port side by a little smaller fishing boat. Instead of turning southwest and following the channel thru the river bar for another 4 nm, he went due west. Now at the speed of Dauntless,  4 nm is about 45 minutes. And I’d be going southwest instead of north.

The winds were light, less than 10 knots from the north. How bad could it be if I left the channel here and followed the FV?

I checked the chart and it showed minimum depth of 45 feet (the channel is 60+ feet). It would save me about 30 minutes. And if the locals could do it, so could I.

I think you can hear me say something to that effect on the video.

As soon as I left the channel, the waves increased significantly. There were even whitecaps. With each successive series of waves, I kept on thinking, more like hoping, that that was the worst of it. It wasn’t.

The waves started out in the 5 to 7-foot range, short period, only a few seconds. Within a few minutes, they were 10 to 12 feet, mostly from the west, but a few from the NW and SW, so we would have a wicked roll, along with the violent pitching.

Now a little perspective, the pitching was never as bad as the three attempts to leave Cabo San Lucas, but I turned back twice there, so that was pretty bad.

It turned out to be 10 minutes, but when that 10 minutes was done, it was a nice ride for the next day.

One thing you will see in the video is a couple of the bigger waves that almost touched the anchor and how well my baby Krogen takes these waves. You can see how the wave is forced outward, away from the boat by the rub rail and the shape of the bow and hull.

In the 25,000 Dauntless and I have been together, we have never had green/blue water over the cap rail. As many of you know, we have been in some ferocious seas, with waves as much as 9 meters (28 feet) in the North Atlantic storms. In fact, the entire North Sea and Eastern Atlantic, was no piece of cake.

That really speaks to how well designed the Kadey Krogen is and thus is the only boat that I would ever cross an ocean with.

But then you all know that.

 

The link to the latest vlog. If you like it, please Like and Suscribe:

Dauntless at Sea Vlog 12

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

,

 

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.