Tuesday, July 20, 2010

20 July 2010 - Back to Alaska

My apologies for not staying more current. The farther behind you get in one of thes things, the harder it is to find the time to catch all the way up.

As noted in previous posting, we loaded Arcadia I aboard Dockwise’ Super Servant III on June 4th. The ship made another stop was in Ensenada, Mexico before proceeding to Nanaimo, BC. It arrived there on June 18th. I drove up from home and was in Nanaimo to see it arrive.

As I came aboard Super Servant III, It was obvious that she had encountered heavy weather along the way. One sailboat that had been loaded stern first had her dodger completely blown out and destroyed. Arcadia I suffered no significant damage, although the dinghy cover had blown off and the dinghy, itself, had considerable salt water aboard. Other boats reported similar minor wind damage. Several rust stains appeared around stainless fittings on Arcadia I, as well. This is apparently attributable to “acid rain” caused by Sulfur oxides in the carrier’s exhaust plume being mixed with rain and salt spray. The stains were easily removed using “On and Off” deck cleaner.

On Saturday, June 19th, unloading from Super Servant III began about 9:00 am. Unloading proceeded smoothly, if a bit slowly, under the direction of the competent Dockwise Load Master. The only incident occurred just after the ship was fully ballasted down and all the boats were afloat. A BC ferry steamed close by at high speed, throwing a large wake into the open cargo deck causing several boats to pitch and rock wildly while in close proximity to one another. We heard a VHF conversation from the sailboat Crème Brule declaring that damage had occurred from a resultant collision. We don’t know the extent of damage, nor do we know if Dockwise took responsibility for the repairs.

Unloading was completed by noon. Before Arcadia I actually unloaded, I called Canadian Customs & Immigration by cell phone. I was given my CanPass number by phone, with no boarding or inspection required. None of the other boat owners I talked to had the same experience. Each was apparently required to report to the customs dock for inspection while I was able to move Arcadia I directly to the slip I had reserved earlier at the Nanaimo boat basin.

On Sunday, June 20th, Phyllis’ brother and sister-in-law, Steve and Alex took the ferry over to Nanaimo. We spent a pleasant evening making a short cruise of their visit, with an overnight stay in nearby Nanoose Bay. We returned to Nanaimo boat basin on Tuesday in time to share some of what I believe to be the world’s best clam chowder, (at the nearby Acme Rib and Seafood House), before Steve and Alex had to leave on the last ferry back to the mainland that evening. The longer I do this, the more I value the time I get to spend aboard with family and friends that I rarely get to see otherwise.

Tuesday, I spent the day doing odd jobs, then had a very pleasant dinner with new friends from Celtic Song, a beautiful Pacific Seacraft sailboat that made the same dockwise shipment from La Paz.

Wednesday, Arcadia I went on the hard at Stone’s Boatyard. This is the first time I’ve actually seen her out of the water since I fetched her up hard on a rock in the La Perla Islands in Panama. The gouges in the keel are more extensive that I remembered from diving on her. They’re certainly ugly. However, as we ground them out in preparation for repair, it was apparent that not one of them actually penetrated all the layers of fiberglass fiber.

Nordhavn owner’s all have a great deal of confidence in the quality of their boats. I can attest that this confidence is not misplaced. Arcadia I survived an event that might very well have fractured the hull on many boats. She not only survived, she did it without a leak. We sailed her without any repair from Panama to La Paz. When we did repair it, the cost was less than $500 and it took only a day. Thank you, PAE and Ta Shing shipyard, for all of us Nordhavn owners!!

During the two day stand on the hard, we did a pressure wash, replaced hull zincs and added a coat of anti-fouling bottom paint. We also, replaced the pillow block that serves as the upper bearing, or gudgeon, for the rudder shaft. (My grandmother, a Midwest farm woman with no known connection to the sea, often used the expression “from rim to gudgeon” to describe something as all-encompassing. Language is a beautiful thing.)

This particular bearing application, however, isn’t so beautiful. It didn’t last a full year before the seals, intended to keep foreign material out of the bearing race and balls, themselves, disintegrated in the salty environment and fell into the balls in pieces. This caused the bearing to bind, with an increase in steering effort and the autopilot could no longer consistently maintain course. When I changed it in Bellingham, I thought it was a problem that had taken 14 years to develop. Now that I understand that it failed in only a few months, I’m in active pursuit of a better solution.

Arcadia I was re-launched on schedule Friday afternoon and moved back to the boat basin in time to see my business partner, Dave Morgan, arrive by seaplane nearby. Dave was in Vancouver on business and took the opportunity to hop over for dinner.

On Saturday, Dave and I left together on the ferry to Tsawwassen and drove to SeaTac and flew home to Southern California. I’m going primarily down to bring our 6-year old, Will up. He’s going to spend the summer on the boat with me.

On Tuesday, June 29th, Will and I converged with Sam Floyd and my brother-in-law, Steve Hellyer all converged at Sea-Tac airport and loaded into the Land Cruiser. Sam, Will and I got on the ferry at Tsawwassen, Steve took the Land Cruiser home to Olympia. He and Alex are going to Southern California later this week and will drive it down and leave it when they fly home at the end of their trip.

On Wednesday, the 30th, Sam, Willy and I moved Arcadia I back over to Stone’s boatyard to install the new house batteries that arrived in our absence. This is a long needed replacement of these batteries. The earlier ones died last fall, possibly of age, more probably of neglect. (You have to disassemble the master stateroom bed to get to them). I had to replace the two big deep-cycle batteries with a single, relatively inexpensive truck battery, as a temporary measure, because that’s all I could find.

This actually worked out OK in the tropics, since we ran the generator nearly all the time for air conditioning, we didn’t actually cycle the house batteries., they just floated on the system except when we were servicing the generator or switching to or from shore power. However, now that we’re back in a more temperate climate, we don’t need the air conditioning. It’s not good for the generator it to run it with the remaining low house loads, so we rarely operate it at all. That all means we now must restore the house battery banks to full deep cycle capability, recharging them from the main engine as we travel and giving them a full equalizing charge every few days from shore power whenever we get to marinas. The new batteries restore us to full capability and, since they are now sealed AGM cells, we no longer have to take the master stateroom apart to add water to them. Life is good!

When we completed the battery replacement, we found ourselves to be mud-bound by the tide and couldn’t leave Stone’s marina for several hours. However, the inconvenience was minor and we moved back to the Nanaimo boat basin without significant incident when the tide turned. As we arrived, we noticed Autumn Wind (N6219), a beautiful example of what I still think of as the sexiest boat on the planet. Bill and Arline had watched us come in and graciously invited me aboard for a short visit when I went over to admire her and say hello.

Early Thursday morning, we got underway for an overnight stop in Campbell River. Nice little town that I’d been to several times on business. They were having their Canada Day celebration, with a parade and craft fair on the waterfront.

Friday morning, we continued our trip back North with a relatively short run to Port Neville. This was once an active little country store location. The buildings are still there and the grounds are kept up beautifilly by the family, but it is no longer doing any business. The dock is there, however, and several boats were tied up. They watched while I made a mess of landing in a heavy tide flow with conflicting wind. When I finally got within Sam's limited ability throw lines across, the spectators pulled Arcadia I ignominiously across the huge gap. Willy fished with the other kids, and caught one of the huge starfish in abundance there, along with one codfish.

Saturday, we traversed the Havannah Canal and Chatham narrows, anchoring in Cutter Cove. We deployed the dinghy, set the crab pot and observed a very small black bear cub along the shore. Mom wasn’t in evidence, but I’m sure she was close, so we didn’t land ashore. We returned to the boat and will caught one codfish and numerous small flounder.

Sunday, the 4th of July, we picked up the crab pot, (6 keeper-sized Dungeness), and got underway. We crossed the Knight Canal, transited Tribune Channel to Penphrase Passage and entered Sullivan Bay. We tied up there just in time for their annual 4th of July celebration and barbeque. This is a friendly little town, all on floats, that makes cruisers feel more than welcome. We enjoyed the barbeque and good company for the evening.

Monday, the 5th, we moved on to Pt. Hardy. We were tied up to the Quarterdeck Marina float by 3pm, in time to do the laundry ashore and get the grocery shopping done.

On Tuesday, the 6th, we left early. We set the paravanes and moved directly into Queen Charlotte Sound and the first portion of this trip that is exposed to open ocean. Seas were less than 5 feet, but the wind was more than 20 knots. Not a bad ride, although Will experienced a bit of mal de mer. We were across that section by about 1pm and set the hook in Philip cove. After a short lunch break, we decided to move on for another 5 hours, or so, to set down for the night in Fancy Cove.

On Wednesday, we got underway early and anchored in Bottleneck Inlet by about 3pm. We adjusted the main shaft packing and replaced the circuit breakers on the downriggers in preparation for salmon fishing in the near future.

On Thursday, on advice from “Weather Bob” we made all deliberate haste toward a weather window across the Dixon Entrance. The Grenville Channel was glass calm until about noon, then freshened to 30kts over the bow by 5 pm. We anchored in Kumeleon Cove at about 9 pm.

On Friday, we called US Customs in Ketchikan while we were in cell range of Prince Rupert and obtained advance clearance into Alaska. We also called Canadian Customs as directed when we were given our Canpass. They seemed surprised that we’d called them and said no exit call was required. We crossed out of Canadian waters about 2 pm, in choppy seas and 15 kt winds. (The next day brought full gale conditions. Thanks again Weather Bob). We were tied up to the city floats in Ketchikan by 8 pm, in time for an excellent shore dinner in the little Back Bay Cafe, right next to the Dockmasters office.

We’d covered 534 nautical miles since we left Nanaimo, burning 200 gallons of fuel, giving us a respectable 2.67 nm/gal for the trip.

We stayed the weekend in Ketchikan, changing the oil in the main and generator. I mis-threaded the filter on the generator when I tried to install it through the hush box access port and created a big oil spill when I restarted it, then spent hours cleaning up the mess. To make matters worse, the venerable, twice repaired, oil transfer pump failed when I tried to replace the spilled oil in the crankcase, and I spilled even more oil when I put it in manually. All in all, the most time consuming and frustrating oil change, yet.

On Monday, the 12th of July, we got underway for Misty Fiords by about 7 am. We slowed for a short while to troll and quickly brought a nice silver salmon aboard. It made a very nice lunch, indeed, as we toured through the Wilson Arm of Smeaton Bay. By 6:30, we were tied to the forest service mooring ball in the Punchbowl in Rudyerd Bay. It was a beautiful evening in an awe inspiring place. To top off an already perfect day, a large sow grizzly ambled out in front of us, trailing three young cubs behind her. They stayed in sight until dark. It’s days like this that make the long trek up here worthwhile!

On Tuesday, we went the North Arm of Rudyerd Bay, anchoring for a short while for lunch its beautiful head. That afternoon, and well into the evening, we completed the circuit of the Behm Canal to anchor in Helm Bay. The Navy has some sort of undersea sound test range at the very west end of Behm canal. The last time we went through here, there was no activity. However, as we approached this time, we heard their range control officer announce a test in progress, requesting all boats contact him before entering. We made contact and were informed that we should stay along the north shore and that we must slow to an idle whenever the light was flashing on a barge that was then visible. As it turned out, that meant we spent more time at an idle than we did underway. We didn’t get into Helm Bay until 10 pm. In the dark, we couldn’t find the Forest Service float. However, we were able to find a comfortable anchorage with pretty good holding and got a good night’s sleep.

On Wednesday the 14th, we got underway early and made our way to Wrangell. I had started feeling a bit ill on Tuesday. By the time we tied up to the float in Wrangell’s new Heritage Harbor at about 5:30, I was done in.

I was bedridden Thursday, Friday and Saturday with fever and chills, while Sam and Willy explored every nook and cranny of Wrangell.

By Sunday, I was beginning to think I’d live, but still wasn’t up to joining them on the tour Sam booked to Anan to see the bears eat salmon in the river. Before they got back, I felt well enough to take a short walk, though. We all really like this friendly little town.

On Monday, the 19th, I felt recovered enough to make the short trip up the Wrangell Narrows to Petersburg. We were met on arrival by Nancy Murrison, and we had a nice dinner in their home that evening.