Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 14, 2010 Panama back to La Paz

This posting reflects a change in the cruising pattern for Arcadia I. For the first time since we've owned her, we're heading consistently North!

After we bought Arcadia I last June, we cruised around SE Alaska for the summer. We truly loved it, and knew that one season there wouldn't be enough for us. We seriously considered leaving Arcadia I there for the winter, so we could just pick up where we left off. However, I'm getting old enough to know that there is only so much time left for me to enjoy these adventures. I simply couldn't bear the thought of leaving the boat idle for 9 whole months.

We would have liked to bring Arcadia I home for a while, to clean up the "list" while speaking English and close to home, family and tools. However, due to the voracious appetite for taxes exhibited by our home state, we can't do that until we've owned the boat for at least a full year. That means, we'll have to haul her out at least once more before we can bring her home. She's currently back in Marina CostaBaja in La Paz and will remain there until we put her on the Dockwise transporter for shipment to Nanaimo, British Columbia. We could, of course, have taken her on up on her own bottom without any particular concern for safety, but . . . that's a 2,000 nm predictably miserable up-weather trip that I'm happy to skip. I'm sure my friends are too.

Seasoned voyagers have often told me that it takes at least a year to really learn your boat. We're about 10 months into this and I've learned the wisdom of that homily. A boat like Arcadia I has a lot of systems packed into a very small volume. I'm still pretty quick to learn and have more experience with similar systems than most people that buy complex boats. Nonetheless, after almost 10 months, I'll be the first to admit that there are still many things to learn about this boat and the list of "mysteries" and things to repair, replace or simply inspect is still growing.

Accordingly, we started an extended sea trial of learning experiences by embarking on a series of long legs, often non-stop for several hundred miles, that ended in Panama as discussed in my last posting. Along the way, I've reinforced my already healthy respect for the sea, improved my seamanship skills and developed enormous confidence in the reliability and seaworthiness of our little ship Arcadia I
My best friend, business partner and wife, Phyllis, has patiently indulged me in this "victory lap" that marks the start of my retirement from the business we started together over 20 years ago. Note that I said "my" retirement. Phyllis is still actively managing important aspects of that business with our partners and keeping the home fires burning while I gallivant around on the boat she loves as much as I do. 
I'll also be eternally grateful to the many family members and old friends that have shared their love of adventure to join me. You see their pictures in the blog postings where I show those memorable events and beautful sights that are all the more precious for having someone you care about to shared them with. What you don't see is much that reflects the long hours of lost sleep or boredom that represents the vast majority of time spent on the long transits between destinations. In this blog, you will see, once again, two people to whom I owe a special debt of gratitude, Mike O'leary and Rudy Prendiz. Each of them has made three of those long trips with me. On some of the longer legs, each was my only shipmate.
As I left off with the last posting, Phyllis and I were together in the Perlas islands in Panama Bay. We stayed there another three days.

Right after I wrote that posting, I had one of those "lessons in humility" that we all get sometimes. I ran the boat aground on a submerged rock! It could easily have been much worse, but no significant damage was done, (Thank you God and PAE). Arcadia I set down squarely on her massive keel, then careened over twice as waves passed under us. She then simply fell off the rock and I was able to back away. When I dived to inspect her below the waterline, there was nothing to show that the incident even happened except for some deep gouges in the first couple of layers of fiberglass on the very bottom of the keel. They weren't serious enough to require repair before the next planned haulout in Puget Sound in May. I wish I could tell you that it was an uncharted rock that I hit, but it wasn't. Old sailors say that there are two kinds of skippers, those that have run aground and those that someday will. While I've joined the ranks of those that have, it's not something I'm very proud of. I will do all I can to keep from hearing the sickening sound of keel against rock ever again.
On Friday, we pulled into a very protected little anchorage and were promptly met by a man and two young women that wanted to take us in to see their village nearby. We hopped in, and took the ride. Not much of a town, but the folks were friendly.

On Saturday. the 12th of March, we returned to anchor just outside Flamenco Yacht Club's breakwater in Panama Bay. No slips inside were available. Phyllis caught her flight home that evening.
Sunday, I slept in a bit then set out to see if I could get the FloScan fuel meter working for the first time since we've had the boat. I discovered that the forward fuel meter was physically bypasses so fuel didn't even flow through it. Then, I found out why. There is a pulsation dampener that had rusted through which, if still in the circuit, would have disabled the main engine completely. Apparently one of the two previous owner had bypassed the fuel meter and pulsation dampener and simply left it that way. I removed and discarded the pulsation dampener and put the fuel meter back in the circuit. Voila! I have an operable fuel meter. On the following leg, to Huatulco, I determined that the meter calibration was off substantially. However, by applying a correction factor determined on that leg to the readings between there and La Paz, that I was able to predict fuel consumption very closely using an Excel spreadsheet. In fact, the fuel it took to refill in La Paz was within 20 gallons of the Excel prediction. I'd like to get the calibration right, of course, but I feel that I've made a major stride toward intelligent fuel management with what I now have. One more mystery resolved!
Monday and Tuesday, I did minor maintenance, including changing the oil in the generator and main engine. In this climate, the three air conditioner units on board do a nice job, but it takes all of them. In this condition, anchored without shore power, I had a rare opportunity to check how much fuel the generator uses when fully loaded all day. (8 gallons per day, both days).
Wednesday, I topped off the fuel tanks. I made the mistake of filling the forward tanks first. The tank vents must have low spots in them, because the after tanks simply wouldn't fill without periodically "burping". By using all my fuel absorbing material, I was able to partially fill the after tanks, but very slowly. Total fuel on board is about 830 gallons. That probably means we'll have to refuel at Huatulco, not something I'd recommend to anyone that cares about their boat.
Thursday, March 18th, I met Mike O'leary at the airport and we set out to complete the exit formalities. We'd learned a bit about the paper dance when we entered the country, so without too many mis-steps, we had our Zarpe and our passports stamped by 12:30. We were underway by 13:30. The Southbound trip from Balboa to Punta Mala was uncomfortable but "downhill", so not as bad as when we came. 

Friday, we cleared Punta Mala in the wee hours and the seas calmed considerable as we expected. By 16:00 we were approaching Isla Rancherita and caught a nice dorado. We decided to treat ourselves to a quiet dinner at anchor in a beautiful little bay on a tropical island. Weather Bob had encouraged us to make all deliberate haste to catch a series of weather windows, so we only stayed a couple of hours and were underway again by 18:30, travelling in flat seas with a beautiful sunset.
Saturday, at midnight we were just south of Islas Ladrones. By 06:30, we were in Costa Rican waters. We would have liked to stop in Costa Rica, but the time to clear in and out of the country would mean we'd miss the windows at the Tehuantepec wind slot and across the Gulf of California that Weather Bob was predicting, so we pressed on.
We started Sunday just off Jaco, Costa Rica. During the day, we checked with Weather Bob and he said we should expect to get to the Papagallo just as the winds started to pick up but before it got very serious and, if we hurried, we could catch a good window for the much more serious Tehuantepec slot. We set the paravanes in the water and pressed on. By midnight, we were in Nicaraguan waters. 
Monday, things materialized exactly as Weather Bob predicted. (We've come to expect that, by the way. His forecasts have been nearly perfect since we started calling him. If you want a professional forecast for a reasonable cost, you should call him at Ocean Marine Navigation, 302-284-3268) We had a little wind, but a generally good ride across the Papagallo. We passed the Golfo Fonseca at midday and entered El Salvador waters.
Tuesday, we entered Guatemalan waters mid-morning. After Weather Bob confirmed his forecast, we decided to cut across the gulf of Tehuantepec on a direct course to Huatulco, saving more than 50 miles and setting us up for a direct run from Cabo Corrientes to the south end of Baja California.
Wednesday, the 24th of March, we crossed into Mexican waters. There was a significant swell because the Tehuantepec had been experiencing full gale winds. However by the time we got into the wind slot off Salina Cruz, there was no wind and the swell was smoothly shaped with a long enough period to make a very pleasant ride. About noon, Mike O'leary caught and brought a nice marlin alongside. We released that one and within a couple of hours he did it again, this time it was even larger than the first. Mike grew up in Ireland as a crab and crayfish, (think lobster), fisherman. However, he'd never really done any fishing with a rod and reel. That notwithstanding, I don't know many other fisherman that have brought two striped marlin to boat in as many hours. I was the high point of the trip.

Thursday, the 25th of March, we were tied up in Marina Chahue by 09:00. The chartplotter odometer indicates that we've travelled 1004 nm since we left Panama. Rudy Prendiz and Mike's son Cian were on the float waiting for us. The marina folks, on hearing that we were just there to make a crew change, put in a call to the Mexican authorities to expedite the entry formalities. The authorities came through for us. Mike caught a flight home at noon and we were fully cleared into Mexico by 2 pm. We promptly moved over to the Santa Cruz fuel dock to take on fuel.

This is a lousy fuel dock. Avoid it if you can! There is no float. It's located in a narrow channel with literally dozens of boats and PWCs zooming by without consideration of their wake. The rough pilings are narrow and almost impossible to get a fender placed effectively against. The crew is totally indifferent, destroying one of our dock lines with their macrame knots and rusted-through cleats . We took on 505 gallons of fuel, pretty well filling the tanks, and headed out to sea.

The weather was pretty nice on Friday, although the seas were, as Mike O'leary would have said, lively. Cian fell prey to mal de mer from the outset. By Saturday, as we passed by Acapulco heading for Punta Corrientes, the seas got a good deal lumpier, as expected. We'd been staying in touch with Weather Bob. He was watching a rare good window develop that would enable us to set a direct course from Punta Corrientes to La Paz, but that meant we had to stick with these conditions. By Sunday, the seas were continuing to build. Weather Bob advised us to pull in to Manzanillo for a few hours, to let the winds abate a bit.

Mid-day Sunday, the 28th, we anchored in Manzanillo Bay. Cian's seasickness hadn't improved and we expected at least another 24 hours of the same before there was any prospect that the seas would lay down. Even then, the bluewater trip from Cabo Corrientes to the lee of Baja California can never be counted on to be smooth. Accordingly, we decided that Cian should fly home from Manzanillo, leaving the rest of the trip to Rudy and me who, so far, are unafflicted.

After a nice shore lunch, we left Cian at a hotel to await his morning flight.

 Rudy and I went back to the boat to find that the generator had broken the vee belt that drives the water pumps. The genset is in a "hush box" in the after starboard corner of the engine room. This belt was in a near to a totally inaccessible position as I could imagine. It took a hard three hours to get the hush box opened, remove a totally unnecessary belt guard and to teach my hands and elbows how to tension that belt. Fortunately, we had a spare belt aboard. After completing that task, we took a nap, leaving Manzanillo Bay at 4 am on Monday the 29th of March.

We passed Cabo Corrientes about 20 miles offshore at about 8 pm that evening and set a direct course for the East Cape of Baja California. Almost immediately, the winds abated. The swell was still with us, but it began to assume a relatively benign long frequency smooth shape that gave us a very pleasant ride. Weather Bob predicted relatively light winds for two days, but warning that we'd want to get into the lee of Baja as quickly as possible, since the West wind was expected to pick up by Wednesday morning. That is exactly the way it happened.

Wednesday afternoon, the 31st of March, we realized that we'd have to either stop somewhere or come into La Paz in the middle of the night. We decided to anchor in El Muerte and have a shore dinner. We pulled anchor at about midnight and got on our way again.

Thursday morning, the 1st of April, we tied up to the fuel dock at Marina CostaBaja. We took on 225 gallons of fuel, or 4.11 nm/gal for 925 miles since Huatulco. We then moved over to our slip. We did laundry and minor maintenance the rest of that day and got the accumulated salt crystals washed off the boat.

Friday, we changed the oil in the main and generator, "pickled" the watermaker, and did a general cleanup of the boat, since we expect to leave her here for at least a month before we load her onto the Dockwise transport ship.

Saturday, April 3, Rudy and I flew home.

Some salient facts: We've travelled 6,037 miles since we left Bellingham last September and about 10,000 since we acquired Arcadia I. The main engine now has 7,406 hours and the generator has 4,727. I've made an effort to use the wing engine for trolling or just battery charging since I've had the boat. Even so, it has only accumulated 135 hours since it was new.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

March 15, 2010 Barilles to Panama

After almost 10 months, this cruising thing is beginning to be what I always thought it could be. Phyl and I are aboard Arcadia I, at anchor in a beautiful protected cove off a tropical island in the las Perlas islands off Panama. We’ve been simply enjoying one another’s company for the past few days. Life is good!

In my last update, Phyl and I were about to leave Arcadia I at Marina Barilles in El Salvador. We did leave together on the 10th of February. When we got home, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my family had taken care of things beautifully in my absence. I had a only a moderate to do list facing me after being gone for yet another month on my adventures. Hallelujah! I’m beginning to enjoy the feeling of being loved and missed, but not desperately needed, while I go off on my own “victory lap”.

On Sunday evening, the 21st of February, I met with Rudy Prendiz and Keith Bridges, (Both are LAFD crash truck drivers at LAX and long range tuna boat aficionados. They proved to be good company each, and a great crew for the trip.), We left LAX on the American Airlines “Red Eye” to San Salvador, arriving at 0645 on Monday. We were met by Francisco, the Marina Barilles driver that has been so helpful throughout the time we’ve been moored there. We went to the boat immediately and found all in good order. Arthur, another cruiser staying in the marina, came over and charged the batteries every few days while we were gone, (and caught up on his computer work in air conditioned comfort not available on his boat). That afternoon, we fueled up, (240 gallons of fuel for the 340 miles since Huatulco, with the generator running most of the time). We could have easily gotten to Panama without fueling, but I like to keep Arcadia I’s black iron fuel tanks nearly full to prevent corrosion in them.

On Tuesday the 23rd, we cleared our accounts with the marina, obtained our Zarpe and got our passports stamped. We then loaded the dinghy aboard and followed the “pilot” panga back to sea. We were under way by 1030 and in the open sea before noon. The seas were lively enough to set the paravanes.

Wednesday we awoke to mill pond conditions off the Gulf of Fonseca, shared by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. We brought the paravanes in and stowed them on the boat deck to clear the cockpit for fishing. We had two dorado aboard by noon. Keith made a great meal with one of them.

When I tried to start the water maker, it was clear that we’d developed a fine crop of marine growth in the filters while we were in the Barilles estuary. I had neglected to disinfect and pickle the system when I got there. That hadn’t proved a problem for short stays in less redolent waters in the past, but it caught up with me this time. I wasn’t willing to tackle replacing the filters and re-priming the system while underway in tropical waters, (the engine room is ~130ºF). However, we had 250 gallons of freshwater aboard. By only being a little water-thrifty, we got along fine.

Thursday, the 25th, we continued along he coast of Nicaragua. Weather Bob had given us a good forecast, so we set a course that passed well offshore through the dreaded Papagallo slot off Lake Nicaragua. As with the Tehuantepec, the transit through this area was a non-event in calm seas. This was, again, in marked contrast to the miserable time my brother, Paul, and I had when we passed through here several years ago on the Princess J. We caught and released a sailfish off Cabo Blanco. Later that afternoon, we hooked up to a nice marlin and got him close enough to the boat to get a good look at him before we lost him. About 1730, off Quepos, we brought in a nice Wahoo that Keith and Rudy barbecued for an outstanding meal.

On Friday, the 26th, we entered Panama at about 1100. The afternoon was marked by lightning and thunder as we passed through several tropical thunderstorms. At 1700, we anchored in a protected bay off Isla Parida. Keith and I got out the hookah rig and dove the hull in these clear waters. The inspection revealed little fouling but the sacrificial zinc anodes are all about gone.

On Saturday morning, after the engine room had cooled down, we replaced the watermaker filters, reprimed the system and started filling the freshwater tanks again. We were underway again before noon. The rest of the day was in beautiful and calm conditions. We passed literally dozens of beautiful islands that I can’t wait to explore on the way back.

Sunday, the 28th, (my 69th birthday), started out with calm seas and a light north wind. We caught two nice yellowfin tuna off Punta Morro del Puercos, along what is often called the Tuna Coast of Panama. About noon, we rounded the aptly named Punta Mala, (translates to “Bad Point”), and the North wind started picking up immediately. By midnight we were heading into a full gale.

Monday, the 1st of March, the gale continued. The seas, while not very high, were right on our bow at short frequency, making for a very uncomfortable ride until about 0400 when we got into the lee of Islas Bona and Tobago. The seas abated, but the wind did not, for the remainder of our trip into Panama City/Balboa. At 0700 I contacted Flamenco Signal Station, sort of a control tower for the Canal Zone on the Pacific side, and was directed to an anchorage, (Playita), behind a breakwater to the Northwest of Flamenco Island. We were at anchor there by 0830. By about 1030, we had the dinghy launched and headed ashore to complete our entry formalities into Panama. In contrast to our experience in El Salvador, entry into Panama is sort of a game of blind man’s bluff. Our taxi driver, (trying to help I’m sure), made it more complicated than it had to be. I think it all could have been done at the nearby Flamenco Marina, but we trooped around town instead. We got our passports stamped in a hole in the wall immigration office at the Balboa Yacht Club, we got the Port Captain to sign us in at the Container Port, but it was then too late in the day to get our cruising permit for the boat, which would enable us to get our visa to allow us to stay more than 2 days.

On Tuesday, we completed the formalities and obtained our cruising permit and visas. We then went to the Miraflores locks visitor center to watch several “Panamax vessels” (largest size that can go through the locks), as they transited southbound through the locks into the Pacific. It is truly an impressively choreographed ballet. There is a very nice museum at the visitor’s center in which we spent several enjoyable hours, before we headed back to the boat. On the way, we stopped at a large, American-style supermarket to re-provision the boat.

On Wednesday, Rudy and Keith caught their flight back to LAX and I went off to make arrangements to get hauled out for inspection, pressure washing below the water line and to replace the sacrificial zinc anodes. I moved the boat to a different anchorage location, just outside Flamenco Marina, so I could be more persistent about obtaining a slip for the time Phyllis is going to be here.

Thursday, I made my daily call on Flamenco Marina. No slip available, but they’re beginning to greet me like a customer. The north wind was pretty fierce in the afternoon, so I moved the boat closer to Panama City, where he wind waves were smaller, (most of the bay is less than 50 ft deep, so you can pretty well anchor wherever you like outside the areas reserved for big ships).

Friday, Phyllis is en route from California. I made my “nuisance call” at the marina. This time, they relented and gave me a slip, (that had always been open, as it turns out), that I can use until Monday when we’ll haul Arcadia I onto “the hard”. I took the dinghy back out to Arcadia I and moved her to the slip, getting tied up just in time to leave for the airport to meet Phyl.

Saturday, Phyllis and I spent the day sightseeing. We went back to the Miraflores visitor center. This time, I got to watch several yachts go through. I’ve been hoping to get a ride through with someone that needs a free line handler, but watching it was almost as good.

On Sunday, March 7th, Phyl and I spent the day on the boat and around the marina, just enjoying being together.

On Monday, March 8th, we were ready to go on the Travel Lift by the appointed hour of 0830. They slid another boat in ahead of us, so we didn’t actually get into the slings until 1000. By the time we were actually set down on blocks, (still in the slings), it was 1100. We set to work, and had the zincs all replaced within 45 minutes. The yard had charged me to rent their pressure washer but only had one. It apparently had also been rented by the yacht that came in before us. I pleaded with the captain of that yacht to let us have it for an hour, since we only had that long before the tide would drop below that which would allow us to re-launch that day. He was remarkably uncooperative, so I had to make a scene with the boatyard people. We finally got the pressure washer with only 30 minutes time to use it. However, the anti fouling paint I put on in Bellingham has been remarkably effective, so we really only had to spend much time washing slime off the keel cooler, hull fittings and the prop to get a pretty clean bottom. We were back in the water, (with only 6” of water under the keel), and out of the slings by noon. We set a course immediately for the las Perlas islands, reaching a nice anchorage spot South of Isla Pacheca before dark.

Tuesday morning, we moved to South of Isla Contadora, where we found a good cell phone signal. We stayed there until after noon, catching up on phone calls. We then moved to a beautiful spot, (through what turned out to be some pretty treacherous shoals, that we got through without making contact with), South of Isla Casayeta.

On Wednesday, the 10th of March, we moved again to another even more beautiful spot just South of Isla Cana. We tried our luck at bottom fishing but had no success. About dinner time a couple came by in a panga, fishing within 100” of us they caught fish. Swallowing our pride, we paid them $5.00 and two beers for two nice pargo. Oh, well. They seemed pleased with the transaction. Maybe we’re supposed to spread the wealth.

Thursday, we’re still at the Isla Cana anchorage. There’s a nice cool breeze here and it’s calm. We may stay right here until it’s time to start back to Panama City for Phyl’s flight home on Saturday.

February 8, 2010 Huatulco to Barilles

In my last update, Arcadia I was in Marina Chahue at Huatulco, Mexico. Danny Long had already headed home to Texas and my brother, Paul, and I were preparing to fly back to California for the Christmas Holiday.

Paul and I left as planned on the 21st of December. We all had a wonderful Christmas at home, and I got pretty well caught up on business issues and the home project list. I didn’t return to Huatulco and the boat until the 13th of January. I came alone to get through the ever-present “project list” and to watch the Tehuantepec weather conditions, while checking around with my friends for a perspective crew to go with me through this treacherous stretch of water. (The last time Paul and I went through there, on a sailboat, we experienced hurricane force winds. Statistically, the winds in the Tehuantepec “gap” exceed storm force for more than 130 days per year and January is the peak month for such activity).

Mike O’leary let me know that he had a time slot between the 22nd of January and the 2nd of February when he could come down. The Tehuantepec wind forecast looked pretty good, at least from the 22nd through the 25th. That was plenty of time to get across the Tehuantepec gap but would be tight to get all the way to Panama. However, we could get to either El Salvador or Costa Rica comfortably. Since I didn’t have commitments for anyone else to come down after Mike left, I knew I might have to leave the boat for some period of time wherever Mike had to leave ship's company. Costa Rica has a reputation for petty crime that makes me nervous when I think about leaving the boat unattended. Accordingly we opted to go only as far as Marina Barrillas in Bahia Jiquilisco, El Salvador.

I had our Zarpe from the Port Captain in hand so when Mike arrived in Huatulco on Friday, the 22nd. Customs had been aboard for final inspection and had added their stamp. All we needed was our passports stamped by Mexican Immigration to be good to go and they had graciously agreed to send someone to the boat after the last incoming flight at the local airport that evening.

Mike arrived about 3 pm, we stopped at the local supermercado for some last minute provisions and the Immigration lady showed up at 7:45 pm. We were underway by 8:00. As it turned out, this time, our transit through the dreaded Tehuantepec gap was a non-event. We had some mildly active seas for a few hours before we got there. After that, we literally had “mill pond” conditions, for almost all of a direct route to our anchorage in El Salvador. The winds apparently started to blow again on Tuesday, the 26th, but we were well through it by that time.

The first morning, I brought a small striped marlin to the boat. (No picture. Mike slept through bringing the engine to idle and me yelling loudly from the cockpit). I had just grabbed him by the bill when the hook shook out, so I just let him go. For the next two days, we hooked up with 5 other marlin and one sail fish, but were unable to bring any aboard. (We would have released them, anyway). We did catch one nice, but small, yellowfin tuna that provided us with several great meals, however. That fishing result, by the way, is consistent with our experience when Paul and I travelled this part of the world. It’s very difficult to get a good hookup on a jig when your travelling along with the rods unattended. You get hit. Sometimes they stay on for a while. But, you lose most of them.

I have no idea how many dolphins and sea turtles we saw on this trip. Certainly hundreds, maybe even thousands. Nonetheless, I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of their company.

Because we had to time our arrival during the morning hours, we needed to average only 5.5 knots speed over the ground. When we had opposing currents, we ran the engine up to as much as 1700 rpm. When the currents or wind was in our favor, we sometimes ran as slow as 1100 rpm and still made, or exceeded, our target speed. The main engine was just sipping fuel. We didn’t have the paravanes in the water after the first night. Fuel consumption would have been very low, except that, without any appreciable wind, we needed to run the generator or it was too hot below to sleep comfortably.

As we reached the Guatemala border with Mexico, we were approximately 20 miles offshore early in the morning. Suddenly three pangas, with only one person in each, roared across our bow, heading even further offshore. I waved at them, none waved back. One of them passed pretty close and just glared at me when I waved. You can draw your your own conclusions as to their destination and purpose. As we approached our destination in El Salvador, we were still ahead of schedule, so turned offshore toward the edge of the continental shelf and, we hoped, better fishing. That course change was apparently monitored because it was only a short time later that a large aircraft, (I was asleep, but as Mike described it, it may have been a C130), with USA markings and an AWACS dome buzzed the boat only a few feet above the sea, turned around and buzzed us again presumably taking pictures. 'Tis, indeed, a strange world we live in.

On Tuesday morning, January 26th we reached our destination. Club Marina Barriles is in an estuary about 8 miles inland. To reach it you must cross a bar that has no buoys or markings. When you get about 1 hour from a published rendezvous point, you hail the club on VHF and ask for a “pilot”. By the time we got to the rendezvous, we could see a bare bones panga with two people aboard. They gestured for us to follow them through a very tricky, narrow, opening with breaking surf on either side. After that, we stayed behind them through the estuary channels, which were more than 20 feet deep, all the way to the mooring area. When we got there, the guys on the pilot panga helped us tie up to a mooring ball, then roared off to the dock. Within a couple of minutes, they were back with: a nice lady that spoke excellent English, a representative of the El Salvador Navy, a customs inspector and an immigration official. They came aboard together. The Navy guy made an inspection while the others reviewed our papers. Within 10 minutes they reloaded onto the panga, asking me to join them, bringing both our passports. I was then escorted about 100 yards ashore to an on-site immigration office where they stamped our passports. The whole experience was painless and took only about 20 minutes from start to finish. I wish every country could do it that thoroughly and quickly.

The rest of Tuesday, we just got acquainted with the club facilities, and re-acquainted with folks that we’d met in Huatulco that had arrived before us. On Wednesday, we did the normal end of trip maintenance and caught up on email at the club house. On Thursday, we tagged along with the two couples sailing on the Mason 43, Sapphire, as they went to San Salvador to make arrangements for a trip they planned to Antigua in Guatemala.

On Friday, we joined with Brian and Dianne of the DeFever 40, Stettler, on another trip. This time we visited the El Salvador equivalent of Pompeii. Joya de Ceren is a recently excavated Mayan village that was buried in volcanic ash in pre-columbian times. We also went to San Andres, a more classic Mayan ruin nearby. The most interesting stop of the day was to an El Salvadorean military museum, where we got some insight into the army’s take on the civil war. There reportedly is another museum that does the same thing from the Cuban-sponsored rebel perspective. We haven’t gotten there, yet.

On Saturday, Mike and I took the dinghy apart in what ultimately proved to be one more unsuccessful attempt to stop the air leakage in the floor and starboard tube that has plagued this boat since we got it. Our next dinghy will not depend upon holding air in anything! Sunday and Monday, we just laid back and enjoyed the pleasant location and did minor work on Arcadia I. We also spent some time on Stettler, trying to improve the performance of their air conditioner, with mixed success. On Tuesday, the marina picked Mike up at 4am to take him to the airport and on to Houston, where he has to rejoin the productive world.

On Wednesday morning, Phyllis arrived. We’ve truly enjoyed a laid back vacation together here in the marina. We do a little work on the boat each day, but mostly we’ve just enjoyed one another’s company in an uncharacteristically quiet environment for us. On Saturday, Bill and Linda Edwards brought the Nordhavn 40, Wayward Wind, into the marina. On Sunday, Phyl and I had the marina’s driver take us on a tour of the coffee country in the mountains nearby. The picture below was taken by a caldera lake in a volcano nearby. Since it was Super Bowl Sunday, we joined other cruisers in the clubhouse. They watched the game, we visited with them and Bill and I smoked some good cigars.

Phyl and I are booked to leave here, together, on a flight Wednesday morning, the 10th of February. I’m booked to return on the 20th. While I’m home, I’ll try to round up some friends that want to make the trip on down to Panama with me. Life is good!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

December 20, 2009 La Paz to Huatulco

Danny Long, my brother Paul and I brought the boat down from La Paz over the past 10 days, in generally excellent weather and sea conditions. To continue the chronology where I left off:

We had a company Christmas party on Friday, December 5th, and a Partner’s meeting on Monday, the 7th. The next day Danny Long and I flew to La Paz. We were met at the airport by “Zeke the Boat Guy”, who had been working on Arcadia I in our absence. He kindly stopped at a supply store on the way to the marina, where we picked up new batteries for the house bank. We installed them, inspected the work he’d done and settled accounts with Zeke. His crew has stripped, sanded and varnished the exterior woodwork, washed and waxed the topsides and built a fish cleaning station for the cockpit. Before he left, Zeke took us to the “Say-Say-Say”, (CCC Supermercado), where we picked up some provisions for the trip.

On December 9th, we got up early, replaced one of the fuel filters and stowed the boat for sea. We cleared out of Marina Costa Baja by 10am and headed toward Mazatlan, where my brother, Paul, is to join us on the afternoon of the 11th. As we entered the channel, we noticed one of the Dockwise “float on-float off” transports that we plan to use to ship the boat on to Nanaimo in May. We circled it to get a better look before heading off across the Sea of Cortez.

We had plenty of time to get there, so we throttled back to 5 knots and took the long way around Isla Cerralvo, which should take us to Mazatlan with minimal shipping traffic to contend with. The 9th and 10th of December were devoted to the transit across the Sea of Cortez in nearly ideal conditions. We left the paravanes out of the water until late the 10th, when the wind started kicking up a bit, giving us some 3 foot seas and 9-10 kt wind on the port beam. Along the way we enjoyed numerous encounters with playful dolphin, as is common in these waters.

On the 11th, we were coming in to Marina Mazatlan just at daybreak. As soon as we could see to navigate, we entered the marina and tied up. Brother Paul, arrived that afternoon as planned. We’d already paid for a day in the marina so we stayed around for a shore dinner and went to bed early.

On the 12th, we left Marina Mazatlan in the dark, at 3:45 am, and got underway for Isla Isabella. Along the way Danny and Paul caught a nice dorado and several bonito.

We arrived at Isla Isabella before dark, after a beautiful sunset and anchored for dinner and some sleep.

On Sunday, the 13th of December, we pulled anchor at 5:45 am and set course for San Blas. We set our anchor there in Mantanchen Bay before noon. We rigged the dinghy down and ran up on the beach for a shore lunch, then restowed the dinghy and got underway again by 6 pm.

On the 14th, we rounded Cabo Corrientes at about 6 am. This is has been described as Mexico’s equivalent to Point Conception since it’s a place where two prevalent currents and weather patterns meet, often creating high winds and rough seas. We were glad we had the paravanes out, but the condition were actually pretty mild. After we got around, the seas calmed markedly, however, and we’ve enjoyed virtually mill pond conditions for the rest of the trip. We pulled into Chamela Bay, thinking we’d go ashore for dinner. However, at 7 pm, we couldn’t find a single palapa restaurant open, so we pulled anchor and went on our way.

The 15th , we motored along under ideal conditions for the whole day. On the afternoon of the 16th, we pulled in to Zihuatenejo, checked in with the Port Captain and tried, unsuccessfully, to buy fishing licenses for Paul and Danny. After a nice lunch, we picked up some ice for the cooler and got underway again. Late that night we passed by Acapulco without stopping.

We continued our transit through the 17th, without stopping again, until we got to Bahia Chahue in Huatulco. We found the reality of the Santa Cruz/Chahue bays much different than or cruising guide chart showed. After creeping in around some pretty impressive and intimidating shoals, however, we found the channel lights leading to Marina Chahue. We were tied up in the marina by 9:45 pm on the 18th.

On the 19th and 20th, we’ve spent the days cleaning up the boat and exploring the nice little town of Cruzecita which is a short taxi ride away. We’ll leave Arcadia I here for the holidays, with all three of us flying home tomorrow afternoon, (21st).

Merry Christmas to All!!

December 6, 2009 Bellingham to La Paz

As I left off with my missives, we had stopped at the CA-OR border to get some respite from lumpy seas. That was September 20th. Since that time, we’ve completed that passage, and another. The boat is now in La Paz. On Tuesday, Danny Long and I will fly down to La Paz and get underway for Mazatlan. We plan to pick up my brother, Paul, there and start south. How far we get, before we all go home for Christmas remains to be seen. To continue the chronology from where I left off:

On Monday, September 21st, Zach left ship’s company. He’d started the trip with enough time to finish it and still get to the first family reunion with Stephanie’s since they’ve been married. With the delays at Bellingham, Neah Bay and here that was no longer true. We were happy that Rudy Prendiz could join us, keeping the total ship’s company at a comfortable watchstanding level of 4. We got underway as soon as Rudy arrived, back on our way at about 6:30 pm.

Tuesday, the 22nd we were underway all day. With the paravanes down, the ride was not too uncomfortable, although if you canvassed the crew you’d probably get some disagreement with that statement. Rudy caught a couple of nice albacore.
Wednesday, the 23rd, we passed the Farallon Islands and San Francisco at about 6:30 am. We were 15-20 miles offshore, so we didn’t catch sight of them. We did see several ships on AIS, lining up on the shipping lanes for the Golden Gate, but had no difficulty avoiding them without the need for radio conversation, or even course correction. On advice from the weather router we moved closer to shore, passing only a couple of miles off the Monterrey peninsula.

On Thursday the 24th, again on advice of the weather router, we shifted course to pass seaward of San Miguel Island, giving Pt. Concepcion a wide berth. Things stayed pretty lumpy until we gained the lee of the island, shielding us from gale force North winds and attendant seas. The seas were essentially flat from that point onward on this passage.

Daybreak on Friday the 25th found us approaching Catalina Island on the South, or seaward, side. We tucked in closer to drag our lures across the banks there, but didn’t catch anything. At this point, we started to reduce speed somewhat, with the intention of arriving at Ensenada at daybreak on Saturday. We cruised close in to San Clemente Island, just as the sun was setting. Almost immediately after we cleared San Clemente, we encountered significant fog. We navigated under radar, with our foghorn sounding for the remainder of the trip. We made several course changes to avoid AIS and radar targets during the night.

The very first things visible to the naked eye on the morning of Saturday the 26th were the red and green lights marking the entrance to Coral Marina in Ensenada. I’d manually entered that way point from one of my cruising guides. The chartplotter was showing us aground at that point, but the waypoint proved to be spot on. Phyllis and Will arrived just as we did. Tom Burns, Ray Hofmann and Rudy Prendiz left ship’s company and took a shuttle provided by the Marina to meet my brother, Paul, in San Diego and home from there. I went to town to attend to the Mexican arrival formalities. Unfortunately, Dave and Sally Chambers, the first owners of Arcadia 1, had opened a temporary importation permit on the boat several years ago and had not cleared if when they sold the boat to Dean Philpott. The Mexican customs people needed to close the first one before they could open the first. I got progressively more confusing instructions as to how to do that, all of which required a notarized signature on a document from the Chambers. Since I couldn’t complete the process, we cleaned up the boat and went home on Sunday afternoon. Bad decision! We were crossing the border on Sunday evening, which had us in mostly stop, with very little go, for 2 ½ hours.

On the 1st of October, I returned to Ensenada armed with a notarized letter from the Chambers empowering me to act on their behalf for any matters relating to Arcadia 1. The whole thing seemed totally redundant to me, and to them, since they don’t own the boat any more and we do. Nonetheless, I’ve learned the folly of getting into battles of wits with unarmed bureaucrats, so we jumped thru the hoop. I had to go to the Mexican DMV and file a “loss” report explaining that the sticker had been destroyed. They gave me a copy of the report, after about 3 hours, which I took back to Customs at the port. After 2 ½ hours watching a very nice customs man practice his duo-digital typing skills, he gave me a cancellation document to take to the adjacent bank window, where it was typed all over again with about the same keyboard skills. I paid for that, and walked the 12 feet back to the Customs window, where he stamped it, then typed out the new Temporary Importation Permit, (known to boaters in Mexico as the TIP). I took this new document back to the bank where it was again re-typed and paid for. Finally, I took the TIP back to the Customs window, he stamped it and the whole process was finally complete. I am now authorized to take the boat anywhere in Mexico for 10 years without doing this again. Hallelujah! I went back home that night, totally exhausted and hadn’t accomplished any work on the boat.

I came back down to the marina on the 9th and 10th of October to get some work done. I got some minor cleanup done and rebuilt the forward head. UGH.

The boat was left in the Coral Marina, watched by some friends we’d made on neighboring slips, until the 25th when Phyllis brought me, my neighbor Brian Bumgardner and Mike and Cian O’leary down to get ready, then start down for La Paz. We changed the oil in the main engine, (now at 6540 hours total). Re-provisioned and gave everything a good washdown.

On Monday, the 26th, we completed provisioning and refueled with 605 gallons, (the first fuel since Bellingham). Phyllis left for home, and we got underway at 3 pm. The weather router told us to expect near gale force winds from the East and deteriorating conditions and he proved right on. By midnight, we were just North of San Quntin, staying pretty close to shore to limit the “fetch” that allows the seas to build. Nonetheless, it was an uncomfortable ride.

On Tuesday, the 27th, we were underway all day in increasingly lumpy seas but no one was sick and with the paravanes down, this crew was actually enjoying the trip.

At 3:40 am on the 28th, we turned into bahia de Tortugas, (turtle bay), and dropped anchor in the dark. After sleeping in, we moved a little closer to the beach and rigged the dinghy down so we could go ashore. We walked around the surprisingly prosperous little town, (the only road there is unpaved for about 30 miles), and had a nice lobster dinner ashore. When we got back to the boat we changed the oil in the generator. While working on that we noticed a lot of salt crystals on the shaft and around the shaft alley. We determined that to be coming from the manual bilge pump which, with the seas slapping our port side, was backflowing into the bilge. At midnight, we completed taking it apart and cleaning who knows how many years of accumulated salt crystals from the valves and putting it back together. Hopefully, I can avoid that in the future by simply using it occasionally with fresh water in the bilge.

We left Turtle Bay on Thursday the 29th at 9:00 am. By noon we had three nice yellowfin tuna aboard. As expected, winds built to near gale force from the East during the day but the weather router said conditions would be improving on Friday. Things got a bit rough off Punta Abregos even though we were staying pretty close to shore. The seas weren’t particularly high, but they were confused, making for a rough ride whenever we went offshore to cut across a bight in the land.

On the 30th, we were still underway all day. Winds abated somewhat and were in single digits by noon. By sunset, the seas were calm.

On Saturday the 31st, we were approaching the Morgan Bank by about 9 am and started catching dorado. We dragged lures through the banks we could cross over without zigzagging too much. Final count was three small dorado and one nice-sized one. Freezer is full so we stopped fishing. Seas are now quite calm, so Mike O’leary cooked up a splendid batch of fish for lunch. We rounded the Cape at Finisterra at about 7 pm and kept going.

On Sunday the 1st of November, we passed thru Canal Lorenzo into La Paz bay at about 3 pm. We entered the long channel to tour La Paz and look at all the marinas. After looking things over, decided to go back to the most expensive one, Costa Baja, because it looked to have better facilities and, most important, it was out of town and we thought security would be better. That was important because we were going to have to leave Arcadia I unattended for extended periods here. We refueled on the way in, and went to town after tying up for a shore dinner to celebrate Cian’s birthday.

On Monday the 2nd, Brian Bumgardner left ships company, flying out of La Paz to LAX. We rented a car when we took him to the airport.

On Tuesday the 3rd, Mike and Cian O’leary left ship’s company. We drove them to Los Cabos airport. Good roads! Much better than I remembered them. We drove down the West road, through the mountains. I drove back up the East side, through Espiritu Santo. Much better road through the mountains, much of it is divided 4 lane highway. I was back at the boat before dark.

Wednesday the 4th and Thursday the 5th, I stayed aboard for cleanup and minor projects. Authorized “Zeke the Boat Guy” to get some minor repairs done to the upholstery and to strip, sand and varnish the exterior woodwork.

I left to come home on Friday the 5th, taking a three leg flight through Mexico City, then back to Cabo, then to San Diego. It took all day, but the price was right and nothing else worked from La Paz.

On Friday the 20th of November, Phyllis, Willie, Zach, Stephanie, Autumn, (the dog), and I, started driving down to La Paz. We left early made it to Guerrero Negro that night. It was a long, but uneventful day. We resumed our travels on Saturday, arriving at the boat about 7:30 pm to sleep aboard.

Sunday, the 22nd, Larry and Zach replaced the handrails on the stripped and partially sanded rail while Phyl and Stephanie cleaned and re-provisioned the boat. Zeke brought the cushions back in the afternoon and we shoved off for Espiritu Santo Island, anchoring by ourselves in El Meztino cove. Had a pretty rough night with a strong westerly coming in right after dark that disturbed our sleep.

On Monday, the 23rd, we moved up to Cardonal cove. The wind was still strong but had shifted to northerly, rendering fishing in open water uncomfortable. We rigged the dinghy down and cruised around in the shelter of the cove. Zach and Steph did some snorkeling.

We remained in Cardonal cove until 8:30 Wednesday when we picked up with the intent of fishing but the winds were still high enough and had been blowing long enough from the north that we decided to get in the lee of small islands and make our way leisurely back to La Paz. We were back in our slip by noon.

Thursday morning I met with Zeke to arrange for completion of the varnish work and procurement of new house batteries. The old ones are shot, forcing us to run the generator way too much. By noon, we were on our way home. We stopped in Loreto Thursday night, San Quintin on Friday night and were back home by mid-afternoon on Friday the 27th.

September 20, 2009 Inside to Bellingham

My apologies to all for the extended interval between updates. Very little of the time since my last report has been spent cruising.

As I left off, on August 22nd, we had just transited the Queen Charlotte strait, with our non stop transit from Alaska to Washington nearly completed.

Early on the 23rd, we entered Discovery Passage, which separates Quadra Island from the NE side of Vancouver Island. The tidal flows in this region are truly impressive. Just before daylight, I heard Ron Fawcett give a loud “eehah” as Arcadia 1 reached 18 knots speed over ground, far surpassing my earlier record of a measly 12.5 knots. Our speed through the water was still only 7.5 knots, the rest was due to tidal flow. Earlier that night, I actually got turned back at the Race Passage in Johnstone Strait. The current was too high, and the flows too turbulent for me to make any controlled headway. We waited an hour or so upstream, then went through without incident. Remember, all of this took place in the dark! Exciting! While I never felt in any real danger, I don’t think I’ll plan another trip that takes me through Campbell River or Bella Bella in the dark, again.

About 1800, we crossed into U.S. waters just below Vancouver. It was nearly midnight by the time we made our way to a guest slip in Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham Bay. At that point, we’d covered 593 “plan” miles on 84 engine hours. Early on, we ran at 1800 rpm, later we got a bit more impatient and started running at ~1900 rpm. According to our chartplotter, our average speed over ground was 7.05 kts. When I refilled the tanks, later, I think I got back to where we were when we started with 260 gallons. Fuel consumption and speed/rpm values are slightly better than the published curves for the Nordhavn 46. Not bad for an old gal with ~7000 hours of sailing under her keel.

Monday the 24th, I went around the harbor to make arrangements to have the transmission seal repaired and the boat hauled.

Tuesday the 25th, was pretty well lost to the logistics of recovering the Land Cruiser from the parking lot at SeaTac. Phyl and Will went to visit family. 

Wednesday the 26th, Arcadia 1 went on the hard. Except for a broken plastic fairing around one of the transducers, there were no surprises. The hull was remarkably clean with most of the top coat of anti-foul paint still there. The zinc anodes had, of course, reached the end of life, (moored next to aluminum boats for a 1 ½ year period), but were still there and working.

26 August to 8 September, Arcadia 1 remained on the hard stand. I won’t bore everyone with all the details and frustrations living on “marina time” while trying to get work done on the boat. The transmission seal replacement was supposed to be the critical path item, and it was. There was a three day weekend in the period, during which nothing was done. The work done during the yard period included:

Removing transmission for seal and bearing replacement, inspecting and reinstalling.
Repairing the transducer fairing.
Replacing all the zinc anodes.
Pulling the propeller and shaft, checking shaft for true, (It was), and truing and polishing the propeller.
Replacing the propeller shaft cutless bearing and installing new shaft packing.
Replacing all three bearings on the rudder shaft.
Changing the hailing port to Juneau.
Topcoat of antifouling bottom paint.
Touchup of various dings, rubs and scratches on the rest of the hull paint.

I thought I’d found a good electronics guru, that could clean up the several issues we’d found to date. I also wanted to install AIS (Automatic Identification System), that will let us see the name, course and speed of ships we encounter. Jerry proved to be a will of the wisp, easily distracted and solving none of the long-standing electronic problems. However, he did get the AIS installed and it works great. Unfortunately, even with a new computer, the Nobeltec chartplotter still locks up periodically and the Northstar chartplotter still loses track of the detailed charts regularly. That’s not life threatening at 7 knots, especially since Jerry couldn’t get the chartplotter to talk to the autopilot, anyway.

Phyl bought 3 adult and 1 child immersion suits. Zach and I found another never-used adult immersion suit in a marine salvage store. I also got the life raft re-packed and re-certified. We’re now ready to abandon ship in cold water, if the need arises.

On the 8th of September, we were scheduled to be in the water again by 1000 because a technician was coming up from Seattle to re-commission the water maker. The last thing was to install the rudder, and I noticed that it was really hard to swing. At that point, we noticed that the lower shaft extension is not in exactly the same plane as the upper one, and thought we had a major problem. We put the boat back in the water next to the boat yard, with a wooden dowel in the packing gland, knowing we’d have to haul her out again the next day.

One of the bright spots of the whole experience has been the watermaker. The first owner had reportedly followed all the procedures for extended layup of the system, about 3 years ago. Dean had not needed it, so nothing had been done with it since. The technician, (large but remarkably limber man that got in and out of the forward port corner of the engine room with surprising ease), fixed a handful of leaks, sent me to the hardware store for some stuff, then powered up the system. It was making good water within 10 minutes. We’ve been using it on the trip south. Just turn it on and good water goes into the tank.

On the 9th of September we hauled the boat again, staying on the slings while we re-installed the rudder. This time, I noticed a triangular tear in the cutless bearing that supports the rudder shaft as it enters the hull. We trimmed the errant piece and, behold! The rudder went full stroke, both ways, with one finger pressure! The two shafts may not be aligned, but it’s been that way forever and seems to be of no operational significance. We were back in the water by 2 pm.

On the 10th Zach rejoined ship’s company. We spent that day and the next cleaning up the accumulated grime and disorder from the trip down and the yard work. We also cleaned the bilge, now that we can expect to be oil-free.

On the 12th, Ray Hofmann and Tom Burns joined ships company and Jerry, (the electronics guru), spent the day putting in the AIS and trying to solve the data collision that causes the computer to lock up. In fairness, he thought he had when he left. It was hours later before it locked up again. At 2330, he left the boat and we got underway to go south. However, we hadn’t gotten more than a few hundred yards outside the harbor before it was apparent that the transmission clutches were not fully locking up. It had maneuvered around the harbor well enough, but as soon as the oil warmed up it wouldn’t even turn the shaft. We returned to the harbor on the wing engine.

On Sunday, the 13th, I contacted the owner of Tri County Marine and told them what had happened. He was on the boat all that afternoon trying to get the actuating oil pressure from 30 psi up to its normal 300 psi. No joy!

Monday the 14th, it was apparent that the transmission had to come out. It was gone by 10 am and back by 5 pm. The technician that had assembled it , (last thing on Friday before the three day weekend), had left an O-ring out. We did a sea trial and that issue was down the “done hole”. Unfortunately, by then we’d lost our weather window. We decided to move out to Neah Bay, at the seaward end of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, to wait for the right opening. We left Bellingham at 1730. By midnight we were transiting the strait. The AIS worked really well. In this really busy shipping area we could see literally dozens of ships coming and going. It was really nice to have a little triangle and predictor arrow in the screen for each of them and to be able to simply click on them to see what the closest point of approach would be and when it would happen.

On Tuesday, the 15th we entered Neah Bay. We anchored within sight of Hale Kai a Nordhavn 40 that we talked with on the radio for the next few days, until they crossed the Columbia River Bar and we went on.

The weather report wasn’t wonderful as we arrived in Neah Bay. Our weather router said it wasn’t likely to get much better before Saturday. Even then, we’d probably have to pull in somewhere along the Oregon coast. We took a slip in the harbor to avoid cabin fever while we waited. Tom toured the town, such as it is, and found a great pizza place for dinner.

On Wednesday the 16th, we remained in Neah Bay all day. We did finally work our way through the SIM unlocking issues on the Iridium satellite phone, however, so the day wasn’t completely wasted. After another conference with the weather router, we decided we’d tough out some pretty rough seas and leave the next day.

On Thursday the 17th, we got underway at 0630, stopped in the outer harbor to rig out the paravanes and stuck our nose out into the Pacific. A bit lumpy, but not too bad. Ray had a nice Coho aboard by 0915. Our friends on Hale Kai and a couple on Eos, a Selene 47, followed a couple of hours behind us. We stayed in tenuous radio contact throughout the day as the sea conditions got progressively unsettled, (confused seas at 8-10’). We rode it in reasonable comfort, maintaining course and holding 1750 rpm. The other two boats changed course and reduced speed to try to improve their ride.

On Fridiay, we passed Grays Harbor, (Closed) and the Columbia River, (also closed to pleasure craft as we passed, but opened while we were still in radio range, about noon, when Hale Kai and Eos crossed over and went in to their home port, Astoria.. Shortly after that, a Coast Guard cutter placed himself in our path. He interrogated me by radio, but we weren’t boarded.

On Saturday, we passed Newport and Coos Bay. At 1230, on advice of our weather router, we shifted our course to run within 5 miles of the coast. As predicted, the wind freshened and shifted from southwest to north. By about 7 pm the seas, while not particularly high, (6-8 ft), were confused and sharply pyramid shaped. The ride was uncomfortable and the winds were forecast to reach gale force by midnight. We thought discretion was the better part of valor and pulled in to the nearest port without a river bar to cross. We’ve spent Sunday doing laundry and regaining land legs. As I write this, we’re thinking we’ll leave again tomorrow, (Monday), morning, but we’ll make that decision after we get another weather report.

August 22, 2009 Frederick Sound-Misty Fiords


It’s been a wonderful 2 ½ weeks since I sent the last update.

As I finished the last report, we were on way back to Auke Bay for another “crew change”. My daughter, Stephanie, her husband, Jason, and kids, James, Jackson and Johnathan, left “ship’s company” the morning of August 8th to return to the real world of Longmont, Colorado.

That evening, I caught the “blue canoe” (Alaska Marine Highway ferry), with the Land Cruiser. I got off the ferry in Skagway and drove to Whitehorse that evening. The next morning, I started the long drive back to the lower 48 the morning of the 9th and crossed the border in the Okanagan valley the evening of the 10th, just over 1,000 long miles later. After stopping briefly in Omak, WA at Dave and Dawn Hellyer’s, I drove on to a motel near SeaTac. On the 11th, I met Phyl and Will at SeaTac and flew back to Juneau with them.

On the 12th, Phyl, Will and I bid fond farewell to Auke Bay for the last time this season and started south. We made our way down what has become a well-travelled route for Arcadia 1 to Gambier Bay and for another quiet anchorage in Snug Harbor for the night.

On the 13th, we set off for Petersburg on an extraordinarily calm day. As we approached Portage Bay, we had another of those marvelous encounters with a group of humpback whales. Once again, we motored right among them and shut everything down. In that quiet condition, the whales seem to sense that we’re totally benign to them and either simply go about their business around us, or better, get as curious about us as we are about them. It’s really a special experience! This guy was so close we could literally see down his, (or her), blowhole.
By about 5 pm, we were once again in Petersburg’s North Harbor, comfortably tied to a guest slip.

On the 14th, we continued down picturesque, but heavily travelled, Wrangell Narrows and ended our day with our first visit to Wrangell. We tied up at a guest slip on the city float there that evening and took a walk around town, did laundry and treated ourselves to a nice dinner ashore.

On the 15th, we set out for Misty Fiords on a calm, but foggy and rainy day. By 6:30 pm that evening, the rain stopped as we tied up to a Forest Service float in pretty Helm Bay. We moved the lawn chairs onto the dock so Will could fish, to no avail, and Phyl and I could simply enjoy the beautiful setting.

The next day, the 16th, we again started off in fog and rain to round the corner and start South on Behm Canal. We tied up this time, mid-afternoon, to a forest service anchor buoy in Bailey Bay. Phyl and I deployed the dinghy and we all set out to see if we could enjoy the hot springs reputed to be nearby. We hiked up a nice trail, meeting some other folks that gave us directions to a nice canoe that the Forest Service had spotted on Lake Shelokum. After finding the canoe, we paddled a mile or so to the head of the lake. We never did find the hot springs, but had a wonderful, if a bit wet and chilly, afternoon of good exercise before returning to the boat before dark.

On the 17th, we went into Walker Cove, one of the beautiful fiords that Misty Fiords is known for. This fiord was marked by literally hundreds of waterfalls coming down very steep and tall granite sides. And, as the name implies, misty conditions. As always, pictures fail to do justice to great panoramic views such as these.

We spent nearly the whole day in Walker Cove, then motored across Behm canal to a nice quiet anchorage in Manzanita Bay.

On the 18th, we toured nearly all the arms of Rudyard Bay. This is the most visited of the fiords in this national monument. The views are, indeed awe-inspiring.

As a small pod of orcas bade us farewell, we left Rudyard Bay by noon and were in Ketchikan by early that evening.

Consistent with our experience all during our stay in Alaska, we simply raised the city harbormaster on VHF channel 16 when within ½ hour of arriving in town. As always, we were greeted by a friendly voice that directed us to a nice slip with all the amenities. In the case of Ketchikan, the ramp from the float led almost directly into the parking lot of a shopping center, this one with a full-sized Safeway store.

On the 19th, we spent the day provisioning the boat for the trip south and doing small projects on the boat. (If you don’t want small projects, don’t buy a boat.)

On the 20th, we topped off with 350 gallons of fuel, then picked up Ron Fawcett at the dock at the airport, (It’s across Tongass Narrows from Ketchikan). The weather reports showed a pretty good weather window for Dixon Entrance that evening, with deteriorating conditions thereafter, so we immediately got underway for the trip south. The Dixon crossing was uneventful and crossed into Canada by 7:30 that evening. Our intent is not to stop in Canada, so we didn’t clear customs in either country at this end and shouldn’t have to do it in Bellingham, either. Arcadia 1 has a full suite of electronics, with two independent chartplotters an two independent radars. Over the summer, we’ve developed confidence in the equipment and our ability to use it. Nonetheless, the first night of travel down narrow fiords, without a light to be seen outside was, to say the least, discomforting, even though we proceeded on course all night without incident. By midnight, we were in Chatham Sound.

The 21st was spent in non-stop travel along the inside passage, by midnight we were threading our way through Bella Bella. Even a small town like this has enough city lights to make navigation confusing and the channel makes several turns marked only dimly with navigation lights. During this part of the trip we met two tugs with large barges in tow and some kind of large ship. Harrowing is the best description of the 3 hours or so that it took to get through here and safely into the relatively broad reaches of Fitzhugh Sound.

Today, (the 22nd), we passed through Queen Charlotte Sound without incident. As with everyone that makes this trip, we’d looked forward to this part with some trepidation, since it is exposed to open ocean conditions. We did, indeed, experience 10-15 foot quartering seas and relatively high winds. However, we’d set the paravane stabilizers and Arcadia I rode it beautifully. Phyllis, especially, had been fearful of being seasick on this segment. However, only Will experienced any seasickness and it only lasted for a few minutes, (and one plastic bag), before he was back watching his movie as if nothing had happened at all. We cleared Pine Island light at 10:30 am at low slack tide. As this is written, we are travelling along the inside of Vancouver Island in extraordinarily calm seas. Phyllis has a king salmon in the oven and we’re looking forward to another night underway. Life is good!!

August 7, 2009 Red Bluff and Tracy

As this adventure continues to unfold, I seem to write these a bit less often. I hope any of you that might be concerned about our safety are getting the “Spot” messages. I’m sending them each day that we move. I try to send one about noon and again when we shut down for the night. On the rare day that we stay in the same location all day, you probably won’t see one, (that would just put two “thumbtacks” on the map in the same place. I know that doesn’t say “I’m OK” on those days, However, the last mark was usually in a secure anchorage or harbor, so you can assume all is still well.

As I left this chronicle off, I was in Petersburg awaiting Zach’s return on the “slow ferry”. As it turns out, that particular ferry was really slow. Upon hearing that its departure was going to be considerably delayed, Zach decided to fly down from Juneau. He actually arrived a bit earlier than expected on the 27th. However, the ferry he was supposed to take didn’t actually leave Auke Bay until after we got back to Juneau. I cooked up some really excellent, (if I do say so, myselt) crab cakes before we left. I wish I could tell you I caught the crabs, but they were sort of barter payment from a fisherman in the next slip that borrowed movies to watch.

Shortly after Zach got back to Petersburg, early the afternoon of the 27th, we got underway. We stopped to catch about 30 herring by the cannery so we’d have some bait, then made for Portage Bay. We fished in 50-100 feet of water over the shelf that forms the bar at the mouth of Portage Bay, where Zach caught a couple of nice halibut of manageable size. I caught a couple of really ugly rockfish that we let go. We anchored for the evening in Portage Bay and ate 1 of the 4 filets, (halibut are like tuna, you get a 2 nice filets on each side). The rest we put in the freezer.
On the 28th, we fished for a short while as we left Portage Bay, but the tide conditions were different and all we caught was a sculpin, so we moved on up, across Frederick Sound, to Pybus Bay, where we’d left our crab and shrimp pots. We located the crab pot without difficulty. The bait was gone, totally cleaned out, but no crabs. I’m glad we’re not trying to feed ourselves on crab we catch ourselves. We went to where we’d set the shrimp pot, but the tide was running pretty strong, pulling the float under. We stayed, once again, in Cannery Cove.

On the morning of the 29th, with a flat sea and at slack tide, we had no difficulty finding the shrimp pot. Our luck with it was exactly the same as with the crab pot. No bait and no catch. After stowing it aboard, we set course for a new anchorage. We went SW on Frederick Sound, rounding the southern end of Admiralty Island, then turned North on Chatham Strait. Since our intended anchorage was a short day’s trip, we fished a lot along the way. Zach caught several small fish, but we didn’t think they’d be an improvement on the halibut and salmon we already had in the refrigerator, so we let all but the little ones, (bait), go. That evening we anchored in Cosmos Cove on Baranof Island. Nice quiet and secure anchorage with, as usual, a great background of snow capped mountains.

On the 30th, we made the day traveling up the east coast of Baranoff Island. At one point, we saw the spouts of as many as 30 whales at once. The were just feeding along. As we got to the entrance to Tenakee Inlet, we stopped to fish a bit. Zach caught another halibut. I’d harpooned it and we’d left it over the side to bleed out. Unfortunately, I miscalculated how well the harpoon head would hold a dead fish. The harpoon head worked its way through the fish and it sank to the bottom. The crabs got the benefit of that one.

On the 31st, we got up early and made for Auke Bay. Just before we got there, we again encountered a large group of whales engaged in the cooperative feeding activity the locals call “bubble feeding”, that we saw not far from this same location when Sam Floyd, Phyl and Will were aboard. This time, visibility was reduced by the large number of whale watching tour boats, so we went on our way.

On the 1st, Zach caught an early morning flight home. Lat that evening, my daughter, Stephanie, her husband Jason and their boys, James, Jackson and Jonathan joined “ships company”.

On the 2nd, Arcadia 1 set off again with new eyes aboard to see the wonders of Alaska. We had originally planned to leave the next day, but decided late that we’d rather spend the night in Taku harbor to get an early start for Tracy arm on the 3rd. We made a relatively late mooring to the Taku Harbor public float. The transit was marked only by a number of whales at a distance.

On the 3rd, we got up relatively early and made for Tracy Arm. This time, the weather was glorious and we made it right up to as close as I would have hoped to the glacier. Larry Asmus, please note the ALYC burgee, properly displayed, with Sawyer glacier in the background.

We had a wonderful trip up and down Tracy Arm, admiring God’s own sculptures in ice and stone.

We stayed a bit longer than intended, so made a late anchorage, once again, at Snug Harbor in Gambier Bay. There must be a number of forest fires somewhere, there’s a lot of smoke haze in the air. The result was a beautiful red moon that evening. We tried to take pictures of it, but they came out as nothing but an inexplicable orange dot in an otherwise perfectly black background.

On the 4th, we made a relatively early start. Just to get the day started right, Jason caught a nice halibut, his first. Our course was set for Red Bluff Bay, new to us but well recommended by some folks I met in Auke Bay. The transit was across perfectly glassy seas. The smoke, while still present, was much reduced from the day before. Along the way, we diverted for a very close encounter with perhaps 15 large humpbacks.

We shut down the engine and generator, and just sat quietly as they swam toward us, then watched as they fed seemingly unconcerned that we were there. We had whales within 100 yds of us for more than an hour, showing only the broad expanse of their back and their flukes as they fed quietly. We watched one whale make a circle of bubbles right off our stern, then swim up the center of it to feed. It all seemed so effortless to these big old boys. The seas were so flat that at one point a single engine float plane landed about ½ mile from us to watch, too, (This is a large expanse of open water that is normally too rough for them).

We made anchorage in Red Bluff Bay in the early evening. It is, indeed a beautiful place. We deployed the dinghy in preparation for the next day’s explorations, and set the shrimp pot in hopes of better luck.

On the 5th, we made fairly constant dinghy forays, including one with my grandson, James, in which he got to drive the dinghy for the first time.

 There is a nice little trout stream at the head of the bay. I was tempted, but didn’t try my flyfishing techniques, since this is, seriously, big brown bear country. Mostly, we simply enjoyed this, the prettiest place yet. There are huge mountains all around, many small waterfalls and one very large and tall cascade.

On the 6th, (today), we hoisted the anchor and made for the shrimp pot. Ah! Success at last. We had 15 nice shrimp in it this time. We’d put a lot of bait in and much of it was still there. If we could have left it another day, I’m sure we’d have caught even more.

As I write this, we’ve just past Peril Strait, travelling up Chatham Straits.(It’s amazing to me, but we have cell coverage and I may actually get this sent out as we travel). We’re on our way back to Juneau to put Steph, Jason and the boys on their plane home early day after tomorrow. We plan to stay tonight in Tenakee Inlet, since we haven’t found another place from which to get back to Auke Bay tomorrow in time to hope for a decent slip.

So long, for now.