Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 26-29, Thomas Bay (North of Petersburg) to Ford's Terror (Endicott Arm)

Saturday Morning, June 27, 2009, Thomas Bay –
Last night after we left Petersburg, we headed north through Frederick Sound. Wow! It is so gorgeous here! Laconte Glacier looms large over our starboard side. We could see icebergs through the binoculars; we were hoping to get closer but we needed to find an anchorage before dark, especially with the big blow expected. We pulled into Thomas Bay and checked out the Forrest Service cabin that Val’s dad and I stayed at a number of years ago. It is right next to Cascade Creek, which is significant and drops a beautiful waterfall right into the bay.
Just around a point to the south, in the protection of Spray Island, we found a beautiful, little protected cove and set the hook in about 70’ of water at high tide. The tide tonight is a 20’ swing from high to low! I could easily get out 225’ of rode with ample swinging room, keeping us out of the rocks at low tide. For extra assurance, I clipped a 12# downrigger ball onto the anchor rope and let it slide down until it hit the last 50’ of chain. That extra weight should take away any shock of waves up top and give a nice flat pull on the anchor. A curious seal watched the whole ordeal; perhaps, he thought I was invading his space. While quite confident in my ground tackle, I never sleep quite as good while on the hook but I’d much rather be in this gorgeous wilderness than in a marina. Our view is of high, glacier-topped mountains all around with the sound of rushing water dropping into the bay.
Having established our fluid campsite, Cody and I went to set the traps. I’ve been disappointed in the crabbing and shrimping here so far. We’ve had much more success back at Orcas or the Southern BC waters. Maybe, we’re not doing it right. The locals say that fishing has been slow too. They think the salmon may still be coming in and that it’s still plenty early. I hope so. Although we haven’t fished a lot, I was hoping for more. My lovely bride shipped every single package of halibut home leaving us no fresh fish to eat! I really love her. She must have confidence in our fishing ability. I think that means I better go fishing, right? We’ve been busy though, cruising, navigating, fixing, adjusting, pulling hooks out of dogs, cleaning, etc; life on a boat is hard work, no, strike that, fun. Serious fishing is yet to come.
This morning, we all slept in. In fact, its 9:30 and I’m the only one up yet! It’s pouring rain. Today, there’s no let up, no little rays of sun. I was hoping to take the family up the Cascade Creek hiking trail, but Val’s dad and I did it years ago in the rain and it was so stinkin’ slippery, I fell down half a dozen times. So, for now, I’ve got the furnace cranked up, two dog snuggled by my feet, enjoying my morning tea, praising God for this beautiful place, for a safe night on the hook, and for the ability to do this all. I’m so thankful that, if the big blow is happening out there, that we’re much protected in our little mountain-surrounded cove. Lord, is it too much to ask for some shrimp and crab today?
Sunday Morning, June 28, 2009, Thomas Bay –
Wow, did we sleep good last night! Even though we’re still on the hook, I don’t think I woke up once or moved a muscle all night. We were exhausted after our day yesterday….and a great day it was.
Well, the Lord answered my prayer…we now have one barely legal crab and two shrimp to share between the four of us. I think I need to pray for more today. God has blessed us so richly here with the beauty of His majestic creation. I just cannot take it all in.
After pulling the pots with our less than bounteous catch, I came back to the boat and made the family pancakes. It was raining pretty hard but the boys wanted to do the Cascade Creek hike anyway. Val decided to stay back and cozy up in the boat for the afternoon. I warned the boys it was going to be an adventure filled with fun and beauty but would also be cold, wet, muddy, and that, as with most adventures, brings trials. The rules are: no complaining or whining! Armed with our pepper spray, we set off.
Our first stop was the little Forrest Service cabin right in the next cove. Cody actually found the guest log entry Val’s dad and I made…it was August of ’03. We read that we caught salmon, halibut, mussels, and other fish we didn’t know but were tasty. So, there is hope! We also read that it took us 5.5 hours to make the hike round trip. At least the boys know what they’re in for.
Cody decided to take the dogs and hike the beach to the creek trail. Connor and I took the dinghy alongside. As we were all progressing, I saw Cody come running towards the dinghy and hear the dogs yelping, half like they’re on a chase and half like they’re being chased! First thought: BEAR! I went to the beach to pick up Cody and we all called the dogs. We heard thrashing around but no dogs. Finally, out comes Lucky and it appears like she’s foaming at the mouth profusely. Upon closer inspection, her snout is covered in porcupine needles. I was relieved that it wasn’t more serious. Tanner hadn’t given up yet but the porcupine was punishing him hard. Finally, he came back to us but he looked like pin-cushion! He had about a hundred needles inside and around his mouth. He finally met his match! He patiently let me pull one out at a time. They were in his tongue, his palette, his lips everywhere! He looked like some kind of monster out of horror movie! He was gentle and only yelped on the tough ones. When I got the ones I could, he licked me and was very gracious with his gratitude. Thankfully, I brought antibiotics for the dogs, which they are now on for the next week, while the rest of the needle remnants work their way out.
We all had a good laugh and continued up to the trail…this time, all of us were in the dinghy. It was low tide so we tied all the ropes we had onboard together and then threw the anchor up on the beach as far as we could, knowing that our dinghy would be floating when we got back. Our hike up the rushing river was so incredibly beautiful. What looked like a little creek dropping into the bay was actually quite a large river with thousands of feet of elevation drop. It was a wild river/falls and made a thunderous roar as we hiked; even the ground rumbled under our feet. We couldn’t tell if all the water hitting us was rain or the mist blowing off the falls. We all praised God for the beautiful gift He’d given us to enjoy.
My memory served us right. It was slimy and slippery and we all fell down numerous times. The old saying is true, “Pride comes before the fall.” Connor was bragging about how stable he was, mocking Cody and I for our lack thereof. The words weren’t even out of his mouth before he tumbled down like a bowling pin. We all busted out laughing, especially Connor. All in good fun, of course. We scratched our way up, often times on all fours, and slid our way down on our butts. It was an exhausting and exhilarating climb. Even though a couple of the log bridges across the cervices had broken, we picked our way up and down and worked as a team lending a hand or pulling up the dogs. It was a great bonding time with the boys and we all had a great time.
At the top, (at least where we stopped) there was a beautiful alpine lake with snow covered mountains all around and a massive waterfall on the far end. The Forrest Service had a duck boat there so we rowed across the lake right up into the mist of the falls. I cannot describe to you how amazing this site was. The water was so clear. Ice lay around the shore and in the rocks. We stood by the falls while Connor thanked God for this day.
About six hours of hard hiking and rowing, we made it back to the beach. Our dinghy was WAY OUT in the bay and the anchor was further out in the water than any of us expected. Now what? Connor, looking like a drowned rat already, graciously volunteered to strip down and go after it, until his big toe hit the water! “I can’t feel my feet,” he shrieked. Cody went in search of a long stick or branch. I threw rocks at the dinghy rope hoping Tanner would understand and go fetch it up. He loved the game but didn’t quite get the concept. The cold didn’t seem to bother him. If only he could understand me. We finally found a long stick and Connor “harpooned” it under the anchor rode and Tanner fetched up the far end and the rope along with it! Sweet victory!
The dinghy ride back to the boat was freezing cold, especially for Connor. We all stripped on the back deck. Thankfully, mom had the furnace cranked up to 75 degrees. We all took turns in the warm shower (although with only an 80 gallon tank, they have to be “sailor showers”) and then snarfed down anything edible that didn’t take more than a minute or two to prepare! What a great adventure it was.
Warm and full and getting awfully sleepy, the boys convinced us to have our devotions and poker game in the Forrest Service cabin. I grabbed the lantern and we dinghied over. This cabin reminds me of the one described in the book, “The Shack.” We got there, built a raging fire in the stove, and spent some time in family devotions, before the nightly poker game. Connor went all in and all out almost immediately so he got put in charge of firewood duty. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer so I went all in and all out almost as quickly. The cabin quickly warmed up to what felt like 90 degrees so Connor and I jumped in the dinghy, flew back to the boat, loaded up all the wet dirty clothes from the hike, and got them hung up in that nice, warm cabin overnight. Turns out, Cody won the poker game again. So, for the summer, Cody is still number one, followed by me, then mom, then Connor, but it’s still anybody’s game. That brings me to this morning. Everyone is still sleeping; even the dogs can’t get up. I’m going to go pull the traps and see if there’s something for dinner tonight! Monday Morning, June 29, 2009, Thomas Bay –
Today is a cruising day so everyone is up and at it! Cody pulls the traps, Connor stows the dinghy, mom cleans and packs, Dad prepares navigation and anchor stowage.
Yesterday, I pulled the crab trap and had two more males! Val and I took the dinghy fishing but didn’t have any luck so we went exploring. We drove up to Baird Glacier in Thomas Bay. We saw many whales and seals. It was beautiful but very cold!
After we got back, very chilled, we went to The Shack, stoked the fire, and warmed up a bit. The boys were busy on the boat doing their school and reading. We all loaded up the dinghy and headed back to The Shack for our nightly routine: devotions, dinner, and poker. I fried up some chicken, while the boys chopped some wood. We all love that little shack. Val won the poker game.
All in all, it was another great day in this beautiful land. I gotta go…the boys are done with their work and it’s time to pull the anchor. Have a great day!
Monday Evening, June 29, 2009, Ford’s Terror –
We all hated to leave our little anchorage in Thomas Bay…with the beauty and The Shack, our three nights there seemed way to short, but we’ve got our permit in Glacier Bay on July 4th so we need to keep moving. I can’t believe there would be a more beautiful anchorage but we just found one! We are in Ford’s Terror in Endicott Arm. We travelled about 75 miles today, stopping to Halibut Fish and Salmon Fish…no luck! Thankfully, Cody pulled up two more crab and nine more nice shrimp this morning. I must say that I thought we’d have more fish in the cooler by now. Maybe God is saving the best for later?!?
We saw a lot of humpback whales today, mostly at a distance but we did see some close ups but not close enough or long enough to photograph. It’s easy to see their blows from about a mile away. They are amazing creatures. We also saw a lot of dolphins hunting…they just fly…they’re so amazingly fast. They remind me of a fast-paced hockey game.
It rains all the time, it seems. Today, we actually saw the sun for about half an hour and went from chilly to instantly hot…it was so wonderful. Around the glaciers, it gets really cold. Our diesel furnace works great and keeps everything nice and dry.
We picked our way through ice bergs to get here. Some of them were as big as a house! We loaded up our cooler with crystal clear glacier ice. After dodging ice bergs, we arrived at Ford’s Terror about an hour and a half before high tide slack. The entrance looked more like a white water rafting experience than a safe passage. So, we threw down the anchor and launched the dinghy to check it out. No way! We need to wait for slack tide. Val made some spaghetti and a salad and we stuffed our bellies and watched the entrance with binoculars. We saw ice bergs the size of our dinghy smash against the rocks. The force of the ice and the tides is pretty incredible. Finally, the slack tide let us through the narrow entrance. Although it was narrow, there are granite cliffs towering up into the clouds. It looks like a scene out of Lord of the Rings! We found our anchorage at the end of the fjord next to a waterfall and a glacier. This place is amazing! There’s not another soul around. It’s kind of eerie and spooky in a beautiful kind of way. Thank you, Lord, for this creation. Below is a picture of our anchorage.Well, it’s time for devotions and poker. I feel good about tonight…I can’t fish worth a darn, but my poker luck is about to change!

Friday, June 26, 2009

June 25-26, Ketchikan to Petersburg

Petersburg, Alaska, Friday, June 26-
Yesterday, we left Ketchikan and bucked a pretty good chop up through Clarence Strait; nothing the boat couldn’t handle, but we were taking 3-4 footers right on the port beam. At times, we had to slow down to 10-12 knots but we slopped our way up safe and sound. We passed by Anan Creek but the salmon weren’t running…we were hoping to watch the bears gorge themselves. We tried to pick up an anchor in Berg Bay, but we couldn’t get it to set after several attempts. Berg Bay is gorgeous with beautiful snowy mountains all around. Disappointed, we headed for the next cove called Madan Bay, which was well protected and our anchor grabbed hard the first attempt. Below is a picture of our anchorage...
I set the crab and shrimp traps while Val grilled steaks. The dogs went to shore for some exercise and necessary duties. It was such a beautiful sunset with the snowy mountains, intermittent sun and showers. The beauty here is breath-taking and just makes me want to sing praises to the Creator. This morning, we woke up to warm sunshine, a rarity so far this trip. It seems it rains for 20 minutes, a few rays of sun and then clouds up again to start the cycle all over again. The highs have been close to 60 degrees generally; all in all, nice sweatshirt weather. I thought I’d be wearing more shorts. We’re all going to look pretty white at the end of summer!
This morning, we had a lovely, after checking the traps and coming up empty, except for some creapy looking yucky things (see picture,) we enjoyed a flat cruise to Wrangell, where we stopped to check out the town and for some fish and chips. The Stikine River delta turned the water muddy brown and it was almost like a line in the water. That was kind of freaky after driving through amazingly clean water. After lunch, we set sail for Petersburg, traversing the Wrangell Narrows. Then we took on some fuel and water in Petersburg, picked up some ice for the fish I hope to catch and Val got some groceries. We’re hoping to wait out a blow in Thomas Bay in Frederick Sound for a couple of days. I’m ready to get lazy, sleep in, go hiking, etc. Val’s Dad and I were here a number of years ago in 15’ Lund fishing boat, a harrowing experience to say the least. I feel a lot more comfortable in our “Dakota Roamer.”
So, we may not have an update for a couple more days again. Hoping this finds you all well. Send me an e-mail update with what’s new in your world!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Days 8 & 9 - Ketchikan

A quick report...
Yesterday, I spent the day in my floating office all day doing business. We have good internet and U.S. cell service here so I made the most of it. Not a bad place to have an office. The boys and Mom checked out town, got the fish packed up, frozen, and shipped home, and picked up some things. We met another cruising family who has a boat just like ours called, "Living Water" so we hailed them on the radio, found out they were staying here in Ketchikan so we picked up a slip a few boats down. Rick, Tori, and their kids, Ellie, and Joel have a dog and love to boat and fish. We hit it off. They're also Christians and do evangelism basketball camps in the native villages. The boys stayed up late playing cards and eating fresh-baked cookies out of their oven. Mom and I enjoyed some peace and quiet!
Today, we fished for salmon in the morning. We caught two Kings but they were 24" instead of the required 28" so we threw them back. Later, we found out that this is a "terminal fishery," whatever that is, and we could have kept them! Rats.
The movie "Transformers" opens here tonight and the boys want to go. Can you believe it? Crazy! Val's doing laundry. I'm going fishing!
Ketchikan is nice but I'm anxious to get out of here and get into the wilderness in a quiet little cove again. I may not have internet again for a couple days but I'll update this again in Wrangell or St. Petersburg.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 7 - Prince Rupert to Ketchican...Just for the Halibut!

What a great day this has been! We made it to Alaska! And we had an amazing time getting here. This morning, we left Prince Rupert about 7:30AM. A bit nervous about crossing Dixon Entrance, I wanted to beat the wind and the currents were favorable. We had a smooth crossing. I don' know why I get so nervous about these big waters. It was bout an 85 nautical mile run so we stopped after crossing Dixon Entrance for a little break. We threw down the anchor and decided to try or some Halibut. We don't really know what we're doing when it comes to fishing up here but we talk to folks who seem to for tips, locations, etc. It has been a blast trying to figure out how to do it on our own. Well, do it we did! Within about 15 minutes, Val set the hook and the battle was on. She couldn't even crank it in...the boys had to take turns reeling it in. It takes a while to crank those feisty fighters up from 150 feet. But, after about 10 minutes of battling, there it was. I gaffed it and let it buck until it finally settled down. Val wanted to weight it but it was too squirlly so we threw it in the fish hold and threw the door shut on it while it took out it's rage on the boat. When it finally settled down, it weighed in at 41 pounds!! What a blast. Then it was Cody's turn. About five minutes after Val's fish, he pulled in a ten pounder. I was really glad he caught one but we all decided it was too small and let it go. Within a few minutes, Connor pulled up about a 15 pounder, which gave him quite a work out! "Insane, insane," he kept saying. This was both boys first halibut.It couldn't have been more than 45 minutes later and Val goes and hooks Moby Dick. She screamed for help and we all had to give her a break from the battle. I must admit, it was a tough pull. When we'd get it up a couple feet it would make a run back down. This was a BIG fish! The battle went on for about 20 minutes before we saw it. It was 5' long! I tried to gaff hook it but the moment the gaff went into his flesh, he fought and twisted and about ripped my arm off. I had the gaff chord around my wrist and I thought he was going to break my arm or pull me in so I tried to get the chord off. Thankfully, I did but one more wild twist by the beast and gaff hook went flying out in the ocean and Moby headed straight for the bottom again. Now what? How re we going to land this thing? We all took turns pulling and cranking but the second time he came up easier. I took the boat hook (used to catch docks and push off pilings, etc.) and tried to stick a rope on the end thinking I could shove it down his mouth and through his gills and then cleat him to the boat. He didn't like that idea very well. We tried for 6 times to get that boat hook into him but each time he thrashed and twisted and down he'd go again, but each time coming up quicker and easier. Tow eyelets snapped off the fishing pole and I was expecting the line to bust at any moment. Val kept the line taught and Cody helped guide that big mouth right to the top. Finally, I gave up on the rope idea and rammed the boat hook as hard as I could right down his throat....it sunk about 2 feet into him it seems. I gave it a twist, rather, he did it for me and he was mine! Cody and I had all we could do to lift him into the boat. Hugs and high fives around! What an adrenaline rush! This was by far the biggest fish any of us had ever caught and nearly ever seen!About an hour later, we arrive in Ketchikan and took up a slip right beside all the big cruise ships. Town is crazy busy with tourists. We got a wheelbarrow and tried to offload the fish. It took Cody and I three heaves to get it out of the boat and into the wheelbarrow. Turns out, it weighed 109 lbs! So, the next four hours we spent cleaning the bloody boat, butchering fish, and vacuum packaging it using Val's little Food Saver machine. The back deck of my boat turned into a little food packaging operation. While Cody and I were tending to all that, Val and Connor took the little dinghy up the bay to the big Safeway store and bought some dry ice. So, we'll bring the fish, you bring the Chardonnay! That was our day. Oh, yeah, we saw more humpbacks today too. God is so good and has blessed us with so much beauty and adventure while keeping us safe, happy, and comfy. Thank you all for yor notes and prayers. We love to hear from you. I think we'll stay here for a couple of days. It's supposed to blow and I've got some business to tend to. So, call or e-mail...our phones work here great and I get WiFi right on the boat. I like this office! Blessings, all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Days 5 & 6- Shearwater to Prince Rupert

Sunday Morning, 8:15AM, Outer Cove (Near the Southern entrance to Grenville Channel)- Everyone is still sleeping…it’s so easy to stay up late here as it doesn’t get dark until 11PM or so. Last night, Connor was flying around with the dinghy at 11 when we called him in; it was still that bright. As hard as we try to get to bed on time, we just don’t want our days to end. Ok, now let’s back up to where I left off. We were hoping to cruise awhile after we got our supplies at Bella Bella/Shearwater but that wasn’t the case. We’d been having a few problems with our 110 electrical system…seems like circuits would blow with very little load on them. Val couldn’t even run the microwave or blow dry her hair. At first I thought it was a generator issue but it happened again when we tested it on shore power at the Shearwater dock. It was Friday night, the dealer was closed so I couldn’t call them for advice, but, low and behold, as I am giving up in frustration and leaving the dock to find my family, I ran across Jeff Chernove, captain of the 37’ Nordic Tug, Seabear. Turns out Jeff specializes in electrical/battery systems. After a couple of hours of tracing wires and telling big boating stories we (he) found the problem. A voltage sensor regulator thingymabob had to be reset and, viola, everything worked great! Thanks, Jeff. Now, my wife can be gorgeous and cooking all at the same time! While I was having my own technical challenges Val was having hers. She had put a load of wash in at the laundrymat, the washer door locked, and it never finished…on and on it went…washing and washing. She tracked down the manager who had to do some serious beating to convince the machine to give up it’s hostages, which it finally did, gushing all of its water over the floor. At any rate, with all of that, we just decided to stay at the Shearwater docks for the night. It’s a neat place with a nice grocery store, marine store, and internet, yee ha! We ate off the boat at a lovely restaurant with a beautiful view. The folks are very friendly here. Yesterday morning, Saturday, we did our normal routing…get the dogs to shore, clean the boat, have breakfast, do devotions, and go cruising! We decided to put in a pretty good size cruising day as the waters were glassy flat. We left the dock about 10:30, cruised for an hour, took up a lovely little lunch hook and then cruised most of the afternoon. It was a gorgeous run. The topography has certainly gotten much more rugged. We’re seeing snow in the mountains and waterfalls coming down everywhere. The waters are very deep right up to the shore. In fact, we stopped our boat about 5’ from the edge of a waterfall and the sounder read 300’ deep. Pretty neat sight, both up and down. At any rate, we ran about 100 miles yesterday. We got settled in our anchorage about 6:30 or so. As we entered the entrance of Grenville Channel, we saw two huge cruise ships. We sailed right beside one of them for about 15 minutes…we both cruise at the same speed…about 22-24 knots.

Before we found our little cove to anchor in for the night, we set out our shrimp and crab pots. We ended up in a little quite nookie called Outer Cove. After we got settled, Val prepared a lovely dinner of Cod fish and fresh caught Dungeness Crab, the first of the season. It was soooo good!

Cody set off in the dinghy to catch some more fish. Connor washed the back deck. Tanner went for about a 45 minute swim trying to catch all the little minnows that were jumping everywhere. Seals poked their heads up to watch us and him. It is so gorgeous here. I could stay for a few days right here.

While Cody came back fishless, he did come with pictures of a bear he watched for about 10 minutes, the first bear sighting of the trip. We settled into our nightly poker game, which I finally won one! Just as we were ready to pack it in for the night Connor spotted two bear that came to edge of the water beside our boat. That was neat!

This was one of my favorite days. The water was so calm, the beauty so magnificent. Val gave me a little note in a gift for Fathers Day that goes like this…

“This is my Father’s world, And to my listening ears All nature sings and round me rings The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world. I rest me in the thought Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hands the wonders wrought.

Bless our trip, oh Lord, we pray. Keep us safe both night and day. In all we see and all we do, May we praise and worship You.”

Thank you, Lord, for making that so easy to do!

Well, the family is up and at it and we’re heading for Prince Rupert today, so, that’s it for now.

Sunday Night, 6:30PM, Prince Rupert Yacht Club.

Happy Fathers Day! We had another good day of cruising up Grenville Channel. It was gorgeous. Some sun, some clouds, no rain! Here, at Prince Rupert, we’re enjoying 70 degrees and sun. Yee ha!

This morning, at breakfast, another bear came near the boat to check us out. That was pretty neat. Then we set sail, pulled in the crab and shrimp traps. The crab trap was stripped of it’s bait but no crab. I’d like to know how that happened; nothing in the shrimp trap. Rats!

We really got going about 11AM and ended up in Prince Rupert about 3:00PM or so. I took on a bit more fuel for our crossing of Dixon Entrance tomorrow. It’s supposed to blow hard on Tuesday and Wednesday so we decided to keep pushing for Ketchikan before it gets nasty, especially in Dixon Entrance. So, Lord willing, we’ll be in Alaska tomorrow night.

The boat is running great, everyone is getting along, but I’m ready to slow down, do some sight seeing and serious fishing.

Hoping this finds you all well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Days 3 & 4 - God's Pocket to Shearwater

After taking on fuel and water in Port McNeill Wednesday afternoon, we cruised another hour or so to God’s Pocket, a safe anchorage and jumping off point before crossing Queen Charlotte Sound. Right before we got to God’s Pocket, Val spotted our first humpback whale of the trip! Bill, the owner of God’s Pocket Resort greeted us as we motored up to the dock. Bill and his family were so warm and welcoming; we decided to spend the night tied up to their dock. They were between groups so we had the whole place to ourselves. They love dogs and treated Tanner and Lucky like spoiled kids, which they really are. They recently had to put down their lab, Lewis, so they really loved on the pups. Tanner put on his cliff jumping show and Scooby snack nose tricks for them. We used their shower, grilled some steaks, and played poker. Connor won! Every night, all summer long, we play a family game (I know, poker probably isn’t the best family game, but we love it) and the winner gets one point, the loser 4 points. Cody is ahead for the summer, but it’s still early in the season. Val won the last two summers but the boys are bound and determined to de-throne her. Bill gave me some great tips and advice for crossing Queen Charlotte Sound. Thursday, Val and I got up at 5AM, checked the weather, and set sail. We made it out of the cove and ran smack into a fog bank. Five minutes later, we’re tied up at the dock and back in bed. At 7:30, the fog had lifted so we made another attempt. This time, the fog was just above the boat and the seas were glass-flat…another eerie, beautiful cruise. We got to Fury Cove (which we now call Furry Cove because of all the hair our dogs are shedding; we have the furriest boat in the Pacific Northwest) about 10AM or so. Val cooked a big breakfast: eggs, bacon, and pancakes…oh, so good on a boat! It is so beautiful here and we are the only boat in the cove. Nice. The sun broke out and we went to explore the beautiful white shell beaches, which look more like the Caribbean, than British Columbia (at least until you put your big toe into the water!) Five other boats found our little spot, which, evidently, is a popular resting place for those crossing the sound. Every boat came with at least one dog and the beach soon became a playground filled with lots of fetching, wrestling, barking, laughter, and of course, big fish stories. Cody worked on his home schooling. Val was cooking some exotic seafood recipe. Connor and I went fishing and put out the crab pot. We had a blast and caught one fish after another, albeit they were small. We came back with four keepers and were out there about an hour, which is a pretty good attention span for Connor. It was a great day. Here in Furry Cove, on day 3, our trip odometer says we are 297 nautical miles from Orcas Island. (For you land-lubbers, you can add 15% for statue miles.) With full fuel, water, and all Val’s cookbooks, we’re only getting a cruising speed of about 22 knots, down from 25. Couple that with fog, we’re spending more time cruising and less time exploring than I hope, but we had three great days, made three great crossings and now we can slow our pace a bit. We’re ready for that! Thank you, Lord, for a great trip so far! I wrote the above last night...this morning, after pulling two crabs out of the trap, we sailed up Fitz Hugh Sound, cut through Gun Boat Pass and are doing some provisioning and communications it Shearwater Marine Resort before sailing again for a while. All is well in our world; how about yours?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 2-Campbell River To Who Knows Where

This morning, we got to the fuel dock at 7AM, took on enough fuel for the next planned run plus margin and left for the Seymor Narrows slack tide at 7:30. The water was glassy smooth and the clouds were breaking up. Looked like it was going to be a great day.
Only about half an hour into the trip, we hit a solid bank of fog. (See picture.) We ran at a painful 8 knots using radar and GPS and ears attuned for anything that would run over us. The Garmin performed great! Sipped tea, and kept eyes on radar and out the window into the grey. As the current kicked up, our speed dropped and I burned too much fuel to run off plane so we picked up an anchor while we waited for the fog to burn off. God blessed us with amazing scenery as first the mountains became available and then the fog and cloud layers peeled away revealing a dead calm, flat Johnstone Strait.
While we were waiting for the fog to lift, we fished for a few minutes and caught 3 fish... Connor's was the biggest but it was not a legal fish (the Ling Cod was too small) so we had to throw it back. After dislodging a treble hook from Tanner's lower lip, we lifted anchor and ran fast again for most of the way to Port McNeill, which is getting near the north end of Vancouver Island.
At Port McNeill, we filled the fuel and water tanks, checked e-mails, and bought some groceries. From here, we're going to cruise a bit further this afternoon before taking up an anchorage somewhere this evening. We're praising God for taking us through the fog safely and for flat water. Tomorrow, we hope to cross Cape Caution, leaving at first light. We've never been this far North before. The winds are supposed to be quiet early kicking up later in the morning. Pray for a smooth crossing.
I'm not sure what lies ahead as far as internet connection so it might be a few days before I update this blog. Blessings to all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And We're Off! (But Just Barely...)

Well, an adventurous day it was! Last night, we prayed for 1) safe weather, 2) not hitting any logs or rocks, 3) that everything would work properly, 4) that we would all get along. Well, tonight, we're all safe and sound tucked into a Discovery Harbor Marina in Campbell River, BC but not without a fun-filled and adventurous 24 hours. Last night, the last thing on my punch list was to replace the fuel filters. This was a first for me. I probably should have done it earlier but I wanted to burn through the fuel that sat in the tank over the winter and then start with fresh fuel and fresh filters. I bled the engine to get rid of any air bubbles but the pump bleeder thingymabob (technical term) didn't seem to be working right. I worked on it for about a couple hours and ended up going to bed frustrated and with an engine that wouldn't run! I always wonder what would happen if I was completely in the middle of nowhere and something like this happened. I can usually get things up and running but this one baffled me. So, first thing this morning, I called the mechanic. He told me that on new engines, you've got to beat the check valve loose (kinda like getting the paint ball marble loose when you buy a new paint can.) Sure enough....3 minutes later, the diesel engine was purring like a kitten. Whew! So, did God answer our prayer...yes, we didn't get stranded. Thankfully, it happened at our dock and I could get a hold of the mechanic. So, at 10AM, we loaded the boat and set sail about an hour later. We made the 60 mile run through the gulf islands of BC and cleared customs at Nanaimo. At about 1:30 we sat down for a late lunch of clam chowder, fish, and chips! Life at sea is good. Can't wait to catch our own. We messed around in Nanaimo and didn't head out until about 3:30. We were well aware of a military practice zone called Whiskey Golf north of Nanaimo so we checked the radio to see if it was active. Both Val and I heard that it was active until 200. So, we take the shortcut through it. At the very moment Val asked why there were no other boats in sight, I commented that there was a war ship coming at us and a small boat rapidly approaching! Lights flashing, we pulled over realizing something was wrong and it was probably our fault! I think the 200 we heard on the radio was not 2 o'clock but was 2000 military time or 8PM. Yikes. The folks at Winchelsea Control guided me out of the warship's path pronto and out of the zone! What a stupid mistake on my part! I guess, I need to pray not only that we won't hit anything but that nothing would hit (or fire upon) us!! We all had a good laugh except Cody, who slept through the whole thing! (See the war ship below and it's ranger chase boat.) Yesterday, we saw our first real clouds since we got to WA. Today, at lunch, it started to rain and it's been raining ever since. The locals said they haven't seen rain in many weeks. Oh well, let's get it over with now and pray for sunshine! So, here we are in Campbell River, 137 nautical miles from Orcas Island....a good day and ahead of schedule. If anyone knows of a kind of "mapquest" picture to show you our progress, send me a link or something. I've tried taking pictures of a map but that doesn't work very well. Seymor Rapids is quite an interesting passage. We'll time our passing at slack tomorrow morning. Then, it's Johnstone Strait, a notoriously windy passage. We'll go as far as we can...the winds are supposed to kick up early in the afternoon. So, we'll see.
Thanks for all the notes back. Some of you have said that you haven't been able to comment on the blog. I'll try to get that figured out but for now, it's bed time. Send me an e-mail, though!
Blessings, friends!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pre Cruise Emotions

Only a couple of days before we leave. I'm excited and scared! I think everything is almost ready. GPS-check. Backup GPS-check. Radio-check. Backup radio-check. A gadgillion charts-check. Flares-check. EPIRB-check. Extra parts for everything-check. What am I missing? The weather here on Orcas Island has been incredible....everyday, blue skies, sunny & warm, virtually no wind. WOW! I hope and pray we get nice weather like this on our trip! There are several big crossings that we'll absolutely need nice weather to make. I've allowed extra days for holding up to wait for weather breaks. Although weather is a concern, and a big one, I'm probably more nervous about hitting logs. At times of big tide swings (about 12-14' here and up to 20' further north) the logs are everywhere. We cruise at about 30 mph, which is pretty fast for a cruising boat, so it takes constant watching to avoid hitting all the junk in the water. Not that I worry much, but besides the threat of running into logs, I think a lot about the mechanics. Hopefully, everything will work right. The engine is all serviced and very reliable but one load of bad fuel can really wreak havoc on things. I've got a "kicker" 9.9 hp trolling motor that would keep us off the rocks but I'd FREAK out if I lost the main engine. There are a lot of systems to keep running: the engine, the kicker motor, the generator, the dinghy engine, the plumbing system and all it's pumps, the electrical systems and all it's switches, breakers, fuses, and a bunch of other stuff I have no clue about, the navigation systems. Then, there's fuel planning, which route to take, where to find safe anchorages, customs, etc. to think about and deal with. Am I ready? What am I missing? Can we do this? Will everyone get along? 4 people, two dogs, potential weeks of rain, yikes. That's what I love about life. Adventure! Let's go!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Shakedown Cruise To Seattle

Welcome to my blog. This first entry is a test run as this is my first blog experience ever. I wanted to share with my family and friends our journey to Alaska this summer. My family, which consists of my bride, Val, 2 boys, Cody-17 & Connor-12, and our 2 labs, Lucky and Tanner, will be attempting to motor from Orcas Island, WA to Glacier Bay, AK and back in about six weeks. The six of us will be stuffed into our 33' Ocean Sport Roamer, a 370hp single diesel cruiser. If all goes as planned, we'll be cruising nearly 3,000 miles (with side trips), taking many of the same passages as the cruise ships. I hope to share our experiences and photos every couple of days as we meander along and can pick up an internet signal. This is definately a new and BIG adventure for us South Dakota kids, so PRAY FOR US! Also, send us a note and let us know how you are doing and how your summer is going. So, for a little of the past (really, an attempt to figure out how this blogging thing really works)...
We arrived on Orcas Island on May 22. One of my first goals, was to get the boat launched. It takes a while to get the boat ready and moving around a 33' 17,000# boat on land is a lot more difficult than in the water! The boat seems so big on land but so small when everyone is on board and cruising through big water!
In less than 2 weeks, we'll be setting sail for Alaska and I want to make sure that the mothballs are out of the boat! Cody needed to go to Seattle to catch a plane on Sunday for a Summit Ministries Camp in Colorado, so we decided to take him in the boat, about an 80 mile run one way. That little shakedown cruise should reveal any system glitches from the winter and it gives us a great reason to go explore that area of Puget Sound.
On Friday, May 29, we made the 3 hour run from Orcas Island to Elliott Bay Marina. The weather was perfect. We timed the currents to run through Deception Pass, no problem. Elliott Bay Marina has very nice facilities and the views are great! (Click on the picture for a higher resosultion view.)

On Saturday, we toured Pike's Market, a classic Seattle tourist spot. Val and I really enjoyed it but Cody would rather be in the wilderness. Connor is just a happy-go-lucky, go-with-the-flo kinda guy. On Sunday, Cody took a taxi from the marina to catch his flight. Connor, Val, and I went to the Seattle Acquarium and the Space Needle. It was very nice but we're ready to get out of the city.

So, on Monday, we left Elliott Bay, sailing past downtown, on our way to Blake Island Marine Park, only about 10 miles away. It felt great to get out in the woods, let the dogs run, and get some "openness" again. We don't mind being in marinas with lots of other boaters....they're very friendly, for the most part, and always helpful; however, we'd rather be on the hook (anchor) in our little slice of a cove. So, we got our fix at Blake Island.
On Tuesday, we sailed for Port Orchard to check it out, had lunch there, and then sailed over to Bremerton, a big Navy base. Connor and I were excited to see an old Navy ship that we could explore. Val wanted to shop but the boys won out! Connor really enjoyed the ship and so did I. Mom still wanted to shop!
We left late afternoon for about an hour run up to Port Townsend, a favorite spot of ours. We went downtown for some dinner and shopping. Val is happy now!
Wednesday morning, Val was taking a shower and hose coupling let go so I spent an hour or so cleaning up water in the bilge and fixing the leak. (Part of working out the bugs...and pretty typical on a boat.) We sailed back to Orcas Islaand that afternoon. Crossing the Strait of Juan DeFuca can be horrid but today it was sunny, hot, and dead calm seas! I've had some crossing attempts fail and scared the heck out of me! Glad this one went well!
So, the shakedown cruise went well. We had a great time. I have a laundry list of items that need adjusting, fixing, cleaning, and just plain attention. But, I think we're ready for Alaska. Now, if I can just get this blogging thing figured out.