Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back in BC

Hello, Friends,
We checked Rikki-tikki-tavi back into Canada at Prince Rupert on Wednesday, August 22nd, after three months cruising in Southeast Alaska. We saw glaciers, grizzlies, whales, wolves, sea otters, eagles, and puffins. We enjoyed spectacular sunsets, endured zero-visibility fog, met wonderful people, caught salmon and halibut. Our blog is a bit behind, we know. Please enjoy this photo of Johns Hopkins Glacier while we catch up!

We promise more to come...
Clark & Nina

Friday, August 03, 2007

April 2007 - Princess Louisa Inlet

Princess Louisa Inlet is truly a special place. We've seen some astonishingly spectacular fiords here in Alaska, but Princess Louisa offers peace, serenity and an intimacy unsurpassed. This is enhanced when one arrives very early in the season when the snow still encrusts the mountains and visitors are few. This is the way we like to experience Princess Louisa...

We have the dock to ourselves.

One of the first things the guys did was to go hunting/gathering (in the rain, of course). The oysters at PLI are the best we've ever had and we were looking forward to eating them again. After a scrumptious dinner of fried oysters with Diane's spicy salad alongside, we played a game or two of Farkle. It was like coming home after a long absence- pure enjoyment.

It rained frequently while we were in Princess Louisa this year.

When the sun finally came out, we noticed that Talisman was looking very good. During the previous two weeks, Dean had buffed on a gloss coating and the dark blue hull was brilliant. He'd was just finishing up the replacement of all the wood plugs on the rails, a project begun back in Friday Harbor. The beautiful stained glass panels that Diane had designed and made were now installed in the cockpit doors. Together with her new Tartaruga hard dodger and canvas, the Pearson 424 ketch looked great.

Diane scooted around the inlet in her Hobie Mirage kayak on one of the few sunny days. I took her peddle kayak on a little excursion too and was treated to a close view of a black bear! The Mirage is virtually silent because there is no splashing of a paddle. This allows close approach to wildlife and leaves hands free to use a camera or binoculars. Plus, the leg exercise is very welcome. We sit way too much living aboard a boat.

I encountered this very healthy-looking black bear along the shore.

The shellfish - oysters, mussels, littleneck clams - were abundant and so very tasty.

It was easy to pick up a limit of oysters in a very short time.

This is wild cucumber, an edible wild plant and also very abundant. We would go a few yards up the trail and, in ten minutes, pick enough for the evening's salad. We were careful to selectively collect partial stalks away from the trail so as to leave the area looking undisturbed. Also known as Twisted Stalk, the Streptopus leaves are delicious with a light dressing of lemon juice, almond oil, salt and pepper.

A sleepy-eyed toad along the trail caught my attention.

We had a few visitors on occasion. Dave, Vickie and John aboard their Lord Nelson Victory Tug, Nellie D, dropped in on their way north.

Steve, Caroline and Abi, a family from the UK, visited in a chartered sailboat. We enjoyed meeting them very much.

The skunk cabbage in the creek bog was fresh and beautiful.

One day, a couple aboard this float plane dropped in for a short hike, then took off again. Another day, we heard a roar, but it wasn't one of the many avalanches we'd seen. A small black helicopter came zooming around the bend at low altitude, streaked past us, then banked sharply up above the waterfall. It circled the glacial bowl behind Chatterbox and buzzed along the snowy ridges. We wondered what it cost to take a tour like that- thrilling but expensive!

I made unique crocheted hats for each of us- Hats by 9ah

One afternoon, we took our dinghies down to Malibu Club. The four of us walked over to the edge of the pool which is perched in the rock above the rapids. The current was running out of the Inlet at 10.5 knots. We watched the whirlpools and swirls in awe, the tongue of the flow was clearly defined. Suddenly, a fast boat with two people aboard came flying through at planing speed. They were airborne several times as the hull glanced off the surging water. Then, we leisurely toured the grounds. Only a handful of folks were there getting things ready to open for the summer season. The setting is lovely, the buildings are intriguing- some are the original structures from the early part of last century. It's a terrific location for a summer camp.

Rikki-tikki-tavi in front of Chatterbox Falls.

Talisman approaching Malibu Rapids on our way out.

Malibu Club, Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia

Leaving Malibu Rapids behind for another year.

We spent eight lovely days at Princess Louisa this year. Dean and Diane were there for over three weeks! Sadly, our friends Loren and Sandy aboard Seaweed didn't arrive. Diane made a "Reserved for Seaweed" sign, we signed our names and attached it in their favorite spot on the dock. We've decided that we should start our cruising each year with a long stay at this exceptional place. That is, if we don't spend the winter in Alaska (which is yet to be determined)!

With best wishes,

Clark & Nina

May 2007 - Part 1

Hello from Alaska!

Rikki-tikki-tavi crossed the International Boundary between British Columbia, Canada, into the waters of the USA, state of Alaska, on Sunday, May 27th, at latitude 54˚46.16'N, longitude 130˚38.97'W. At this point, a line is drawn in a zigzag fashion up the middle of Tongass Passage, between Sitklan Island (USA) and Wales Island (Canada). There the line turns northwest up the middle of Pearse Canal, then up the middle of Portland Inlet to its head.

Canada charts are quite good, in our opinion more readable than NOAA charts. We reviewed the route into the USA to Ketchikan, the required check-in point for US Customs, while we were peacefully at anchor in shallow, roomy, sticky bottomed, empty Winter Inlet on the north side of Pearse Island. Canada Chart 396001 at 1:40,000 scale clearly showed that at the end of Sitklan Passage there was a shortcut into East Dixon Entrance between Tongass Island and Kanagunut Island. This shortcut would save us at least three nautical miles, a half hour. It was shallow and there were rocks, but there seemed to us a safe S-shaped course through, so I'd plotted waypoints to follow.

The morning seemed benign with light winds, so when we arrived at the point where we could've turned right (starboard) and taken the deep, therefore safer, passage along the mainland coast, despite that we saw a large ocean swell coming in, we continued into the maze. Two small, high-powered fishing boats were heading out the same way. We could see the swells rising higher on the outside as the bottom came up to meet them. Big waves crashed over the rocks, which showed us exactly where they were, of course. Rikki-tikki was in his element, his bows lifting to the swells easily. We were less enthusiastic about the heights to which we were rising, as the course we needed to hold gave little margin for error. Clark piloted the chicane (as in a narrowing turn on an auto-racing course) with confidence into the swell where it wasn't breaking and we (I) didn't panic. Let's just say that this short but exciting ride is etched into our memories. We made it through safely.

The day before, we motorsailed 35 NM down Portland Inlet with the jib out, bashing into bumpy swells and wind chop whipped up by a 20 knot breeze. To avoid motion sickness, I used my Sea-Bands with good results. We had just spent two nights at the BC Parks Khutzeymateen Grizzly Reserve, where we were treated to thirteen sightings. Luckily, we had turned up just at the right time! Late May is when these brown bear head down to the shorelines to graze on grasses, look for crustaceans and shellfish. Later in the season when the berries ripen, they head into the mountains. We managed to get fairly close by dinghy to capture this photo of one male lazily browsing on sedges.

Drooling from the bitter sedge grasses he's been eating, this grizzly calmly observes us observing him.
Now that we have reached Alaska, let's go back to the beginning of Rikki-tikki's 2007 Adventure before the story gets too confusing...

After a windy, cold, wet and exceptionally snowy winter in the Southern Gulf Islands, British Columbia, and Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, USA, when you would think we would be yearning for some warm sun south of the border like reasonable sailors, why are we anxious to go even farther north– all the way into Southeast Alaska in 2007? This is a question we are asked quite often, though never by other boaters who have cruised the Pacific Northwest and who understand the multitude of delights this the vast area holds for intrepid adventurers. The sea and land is simply gorgeous, filled with wildlife and fascinating geological features like glaciers, fiords, volcanoes, and a zillion islands of every size and shape. The Northwest offers endless cruising opportunities that would take a lifetime to explore thoroughly. Sailors who've been around the planet often complete their lifetime of sailing by spending the rest of their days Up North. We figure it will take us several more years just to touch some of the high points. After all, we'd done snow (this was our Happy Holidays eCard!) so we were confident that we could do Alaska, at least "Southeast".

Our 2006 Holiday eCard. Photo taken November 30, 2006, in Montague Harbour, British Columbia.

In February, I took a SWA flight from Seattle home to Sacramento for a short visit and some precious time with my grandson, Merritt, then already seven months old. I delivered the crocheted "Kiss Hat" that Clark and I made for him while we were rainbound in the boat during January's wet weather. Thanks, Mom, for making the week so enjoyable and productive for me by cooking, sharing time, lending me your car, and making the trip possible. I spent two full days with little Merritt while his parents, Michael and Samantha, were at work, giving his other grandma, Jeanne, some time off. She has been Merritt's full-time caregiver since mom returned to work. Jeanne is absolutely wonderful– she has my admiration and grateful appreciation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Merritt– he was so much fun! He is a cheerful, athletic, inquisitive, interactive and wonderfully adorable baby! Being so far away is terribly difficult. When I returned to Friday Harbor, we ordered a little webcam so we could see each other over the computer during our Skype VOIP calls. This is very cool!!

Merritt wearing his "Kiss Hat". Photo by dad Michael.

Rikki-tikki-tavi got a new bottom paint and a straightened prop shaft beginning March 16th at the Port of Port Townsend, Washington, where his 26.5' width meant their monstrous 300-ton lift was required. Rikki's weight didn't even register on the gauge. Clark and I were challenged by high winds and rain, but we got the job done despite the weather. Rikki-tikki was spiffy-looking and ready for the water on the 24th, but winds were forecast to be 30 knots with only two lift operators on duty, so we took time to walk around the charming town while Rikki waited patiently for the right launch conditions. Clark was able to retrieve his commemorative "30th Annual Wooden Boat Festival" poster from the Wooden Boat Foundation down at Port Hudson. (More later about the Wooden Boat Festival, in which Rikki-tikki-tavi was honored to be accepted as an exhibitor.) We mailed it back to Mom in Sacramento for safekeeping. The calm morning of March 27th, we traveled the 31 miles back to Friday Harbor, across the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, in 4.5 hours! Rikki's speed seemed enhanced by his three clean, smooth bottoms. The shaft noise also seemed quieter and smoother.

Like a moth held by a gigantic spider's web, Rikki-tikki waits to be released into the water once again.

Back in Friday Harbor, our lists of things to do before heading north were getting shorter. On a very warm day, I took a kayak outside the breakwater to photograph the schooner W.N. Ragland. It belongs to the singer/songwriter Neil Young. While paddling past the breakwater where the current ran swiftly, I noticed that the dock float was covered with what I thought was hard to find– winged kelp, alaria marginata! It had been growing right here in Friday Harbor all along. The kelp was very clean this time of year, too, before the hordes of summer boaters had dirtied the harbor. I plucked a choice selection of fronds and piled them on the kayak. Back at the boat, I cut out the center vein, chopped it up for stir-fry, then hung the "wings" of the fronds from the bow nets. When they were dry, I fried 2-inch sections in hot coconut oil. One batch I left plain, the second I sprinkled with Dixie Belle Rub, a dynamite recipe from Dana Carpender's The Low-Carb Barbeque Book. We shared these delicious treats with several folks who had expressed interest in eating sea vegetables and with one who ate our kelp only as a favor. He shall remain nameless, but such a good sport!

Neil Young's schooner, WN Ragland, in Friday Harbor, Washington.

Meanwhile, Clark worked on solving our mysterious stray electrical current issue. This condition was very evident when Rikki-tikki was hauled– there was blistering of the copper bottom paint and a thick crust of barnacles all around the shaft log and up both sides of the main hull. However, there was no pitting of the prop or the shaft, or excessive deterioration of our zinc anodes. In talking with several experts, Clark first installed a new grounding brush to the prop shaft. On further consideration of the characteristics of the problem, we decided that it was better to keep electricity from getting into the water in the first place. The question was: How had it gotten there? After days of taking things apart, testing & retesting, putting things back together, taking some systems out of the circuits, testing & putting them back in... it all came down to the Honda 2000 generator. Nowhere in the manual does it tell a person who uses the generator on a boat at anchor (no earth to ground the unit to) that the floating ground in the generator should be changed so that the neutral and ground are connected inside the case. Thanks to Dan on Sequel for this information. Clark hooked them together and, voila!, no more hot neutral circuit. He also isolated all the underwater metal from the electrical system. Only our FrigoBoat keelcooler has a neutral wire running back to a battery neutral. The boat is not bonded. We have eliminated a path for stray current to get out of the boat and into the water. Our bottom paint should now stay on the bottom (except for the fact that we put on an ablative!). It won't be blistering off due to stray current.

This is where we tie up while in Friday Harbor.

Thanks to all who helped us on our way– Dean and Diane for grocery shopping, Rod for use of the shop tools, Dick and Sharon for storing our car and putting us up, Patrick for helping us get the right antenna for our wi-fi connection, Dan for the SSB/HAM radio assistance– and the many others who shared experiences and friendship. On April 10th, Rikki-tikki made a final stop at the Friday Harbor fuel dock before pointing his nose across Haro Strait into Canada.

Rikki-tikki-tavi at the fuel dock, Friday Harbor.

Checking into Canada brought the Customs officers down to speak with us again. They reminded us that we are allowed a visit of only six months out of every twelve. We didn't think we'd been overstaying our welcome, always returning to the USA before our allotted time was up. Does this mean we'll have to seriously consider spending the winter in Alaska, once we get there? They gave us our requested sixty-day clearance saying, "Enjoy your time in Canada!"

Canada's HMS Oriole leaving Tsehum Harbour in early morning light.

We anchored for a few nights in Tsehum Harbour, visiting friends and shopping. Clark helped Gerta bring Millennium Dragon from Canoe Cove to Cowichan Bay, while I drove her BMW to Victoria for provisions and an adapter for our new high-gain wi-fi antenna. Fully loaded with goods from Costco in Langford, I continued along the beautiful highway north to meet Millie D. Gerta suggested we stop for dinner on the way back to Tsehum Harbour at the resort pub in Brentwood. The Happy Hour special was chicken wings- we devoured two orders along with a pitcher of beer. Next day, we squeezed in a short visit with new friends, Alan and Bet, whom we'd met at Conover Cove, Wallace Island, BC, back in January. A wet, bouncy ride in Darzee took us to Rikki, as a storm was blowing in. Immediately, we left in the late afternoon light for Royal Cove, an island where we'd spent an entire week hiding from weather back in November.

Conover Cove in January. Photo by Bet and Alan on Cloudbreak.

There were two sailboats already in the protected cove, both with long sternlines to shore. Sheltered from the southerly wind in the cove, we had no trouble dropping our hook, pulling in between them, and securing our own sternline to one of the park rings on the rocks. The rain began and it rained all night and all through the following day. We stayed on the boat and finished stowing our provisions. The larger sailboat left, and little Wildflower, a sloop we'd seen in various anchorages in the Gulf Islands, was Rikki-tikki's only neighbor.

About 2 AM, a choppy sea started slapping off the hulls- the noise got Clark up to take a look around. We were holding in place just fine and Wildflower's anchor looked to be holding too, but the lightweight cruiser was bouncing around a good deal more than we were. Clark thought about hanging fenders on our port side but came back to the warm bed instead. We drifted back to sleep. BANG! The loud crack shocked us awake, the adrenaline rush had us fumbling to get dressed in a flash. BANG! We knew that Wildflower had dragged her anchor and was on us. We should've hung the fenders! Out on deck, we offered to let the skipper tie alongside, but he started the engine and drove slowly away to reset his anchor. He said he would stay up the rest of the night to keep watch. It was 3:30 AM. It took awhile for us to settle down enough to fall asleep again.

Next morning, the sun appeared and we said our good-byes to Wildflower's skipper, wishing him well. Rikki-tikki now had a six-inch mark where the paint had been scraped- nothing to worry about. We motored over a flat sea toward Gabriola Passage to catch the current at slack. As we glided passed Porlier Pass, where the current was running at full 5 knots of flood from Trincomali Channel into the Strait of Georgia, we watched as a sailboat went through. We looked at each other, then turned around to follow. The fast current had already carried the other boat far into the Strait- we watched our speed increase quickly. Porlier held no surprises and we flew out into the Strait. If it looked too bumpy, we could always duck into Silva Bay, but the following seas were tolerable. We rode Rikki-tikki all the way to Pender Harbour, into Gerrans Bay, arriving just as a light rain began. After fueling up at Hospital Cove, we headed for Princess Louisa Inlet next morning, crossing our fingers that Dean and Diane on Talisman would still be there.

Hospital Cove fuel dock, Pender Harbour, British Columbia.

The day trip up Jervis Inlet began with warm sun on the decks.

Clouds moved in and by the end of the day, we had sprinkles and some wind.

Dean & Diane, hello!
Much to our excitement, Dean and Diane were waiting at Princess Louisa to take Rikki's docklines once again. It was such a thrill to see Talisman all alone at the end of the dock as we came around the last bend to reach Chatterbox Falls basin. The beginning of our season of cruising was getting off to a great start!

Fair winds and beautiful views,

Clark & Nina


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