Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Presentation to the Bluewater Cruising Association

In addition to the talking at the Vancouver Boat Show where we will be doing three presentations and Liz will be opening the Women's Day, we have also been invited to do a presentation for the Bluewater Cruising Association (BCA) in Victoria on the 18th of February. The details are in their nifty poster below.

The BCA offers many programs for people interested in getting out offshore cruising to members here in BC and Alberta.  Our transition to cruising would have much smoother if we had been members out here in BC before we left almost eight years ago !

Friday, 10 January 2020

Into the Ice - Nellie Juan Glacier in Prince William Sound


As we planned our summer in Alaska, we were motivated by our desire to spend as long as possible in Prince William Sound; in fact, this place became almost mythical as we looked ahead to our trip.  It would mark the Northern apogee of our seven-year journey (north of 60N), and would be one of the most remote areas we would visit in Alaska.  Everything we had read about this unique area of glacial ice, wild mountain scenery, and quiet anchorages, populated only by wildlife (and very rare tour boats) beckoned to us to come and stay for at least a couple of weeks.  Of course, everything else we read reminded us to clear out by the end of August before the weather changed, so even as we were getting ready to leave Majuro in May, we were mindful of the days ticking by on the calendar.  After the usual weather and chart considerations, each travel decision was informed by this sense of urgency.

We loved all the puffins near the cliffs.

Happily, our plan came together beautifully, and we set out from Homer, headed for our first glacier, on the second Saturday in August.  Our weather and our boat had cooperated, and we had met our goal of leaving ourselves 2-3 weeks to enjoy the area before we had to cross the Gulf of Alaska.

After an idyllic overnight passage, we drew quietly into “Nellie’s Rest”, a little key-hole shaped nook a couple of miles from the Nellie Juan Glacier, shortly after dawn.  As usual, I was on the foredeck and Max was at the helm, and we spoke to one another using our Bluetooth headsets.  What was unusual was the way the extraordinary stillness of the place invoked such a sense of reverence that I almost felt compelled to whisper. The trees came all the way to the shoreline and reflected on the glassy surface of the water.  Hardly a breath of air moved. When we stopped the engine, the only sound was the welcoming call from the loons.

Our calm anchorage in "Nellie's Rest"

Our calm anchorage in "Nellie's Rest"

Having sailed all night to arrive in the morning, the obvious next step was to go to sleep for several hours :)  Sometimes it is nice for the kids when the parents sleep in - our nap gave Victoria, Johnathan, and Benjamin time to 'triple' in Minecraft without any harassment to do chores.  When we surfaced, we had a quick meal and then launched the dinghy for an exploratory expedition.  The long hours of daylight meant that there was plenty of time, even leaving mid-afternoon. 

Almost immediately, we learned our first glacier-watching lesson - glaciers make the cold headwind from the dinghy even colder and windier!  As we got closer to the glacier, the wind and chop picked up, and made those of us who were wearing foullie bottoms (me) glad that we had done so, but those of us with no gloves (also me) wish for them!  Future expeditions saw us much more warmly dressed!  (The worriers among you may be reassured to know that despite our not-quite-adequate layers, we were carrying a tool kit, emergency beacon, flares, radio, and other similar supplies, as we always do, in case we ran into trouble.)

In the end, the effort was worth it.  The Nellie Juan glacier reaches down into both sides of tiny bay.  Active calving was occurring to our left, and the glacier had receded from the shore on our right, so we positioned ourselves in the middle and watched and listened from the dinghy as gigantic pieces of ice cracked and fell from the glacier, before landing the dinghy and scrambling up the rocks to get a view down on the water.

The view from the climb down to the Nellie Juan glacier.

A third of the way up.
When we visited the volcano on Tanna in Vanuatu two years ago, the feeling and sound of the lava boiling and exploding was primal.  We could feel the vibrations of the explosions in our rib cages.  I would describe the sound of the glacier cracking and calving the same way. Especially with reverberations echoing off the steep rock walls, each time even a small piece of ice or rock broke off and tumbled into the water, the sound was immense, and there were times when we could feel the sound in our chests as much as we could hear it with our ears.

Boom !  As the face of the glacier is about 200' high the noise is amazing.

From our perch on the side of the hill, we learned about the kind of waves that could be generated when large pieces of ice broke off; unfortunately, we had to watch as the waves made their way across the bay to our dinghy, which we had pulled up the beach. It was one time that we were glad it had dried out with the falling tide!!  The first wave rocked it a little; the second would have hit it harder, but by then the tide had dropped and the dinghy was safe.  Whew!

Ice Sculptures.

Benjamin and I put our new Alaskan boots to the test on our little climb.  Xtratufs are intended for fishing, but we found that they worked for scrambling as well :)  After years of seaboots that just barely fit, didn't have room for extra socks, and invariably gave me cold feet if I had to be still for any length of time, it was nice to have roomy, cozy boots, lined with wicking 'Bamas' as per the advice of our friends in Dutch Harbor.  Benjamin wasn't very happy scrambling up over all the big rocks (truth be told, neither was I), but he made it up to the ridge that we picked as our photo location, and once Johnathan took his hand, they were faster than all of us on the way down :)

Liz modelling her Woolx top and fashionable Alaskan boots.

Back in the dinghy, we were surprised to see another boat approaching what we considered to be *our* private glacier, but when it turned out that they were another family travelling together (and that they would very kindly take our photo with the glacier behind us) we decided that they were welcome :)

Not in the tropics anymore ! (Photo credit to Ann and David Rappoport on MV Loki)

On our way back to Fluenta, we saw a scene that we hoped would be repeated so we could get a photo of it, but it turned to be a one-off for the entire season.  As with so many fleeting experiences, we will have to retain this moment in our mind's eye, and try to use words to describe it: we briefly saw a mother sea otter with her tiny blonde baby on her chest.  By the time we could reach for our camera, they were gone.  Short-lived as it was, we all felt moved at this image of nature regenerating itself. 

We returned to the glacier the following morning, wearing lots of extra layers.  We took a picnic, and watched the glacier from the comfort of the dinghy.  We all enjoyed trying to guess which piece of ice would fall next.  When the glacier took a moment of pause, we would turn our attention the antics of the seals that gathered near its face.  They seemed to have an instinct that told them when we were looking at them, especially if we were looking through the lens of a camera.  They would all lounge on a piece of floating ice, and then if they noticed us they would slide, as one, into the water.  Victoria figured out that we could position the dinghy behind another large piece of ice and watch them without the seals noticing us.

Us watching the seals watching us.

It was about 3nm from Fluenta to the face of the glacier, a short amount of which could be covered at planing speed, but much of which needed to be traversed carefully, watching for pieces of floating ice.  Most were easy to see, especially in the sunlight, as they were the stereotypical shades of aquamarine and white, but some were camouflaged: they were clear pieces of ice that barely showed up against the silty grey water.  We kept a constant safety lookout at the bow.  Most of the time, the ice was far more a source of entertainment than danger: it was fun to try to identify, and give names to, the ice sculptures we were passing by.  We saw lots of sea creatures, birds, swans, ships, and even the odd airplane ready for takeoff :)

More ice sculptures.

and ice for our drinks ....

but not this one.

Don't try this at home.

Meeting interesting people is a fascinating part of travelling.  On our way over to the Glacier, we thought we saw a little tent on the beach not far from Fluenta.  On our way back, we met up with its two occupants: they had come on a two-week kayak-camping holiday from the southern US.  One of them had guided in the area years ago, and she was back to visit.  We sometimes get credited with living a rugged life, but I have to say that sitting in a kayak and sleeping on a beach would offer an even closer experience of the great outdoors!  With only human power, they were paddling towards the glacier, but the 15-20 kts headwinds turned them back.  I was grateful for our dinghy engine that let us experience Nellie Juan up close!

Until next time,

The chart for Homer to Nellie's Rest (Nellie's Rest is shown with the red arrow).  The red line is our actual track while the black lines are other potential courses.

Waypoint 022 is Nellie's Rest and the glacier is to the west.  The glacier has receded further than shown at this chart and is approximately at the magenta arrow.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Soujourn in Seldovia

One of the hundreds of sea otter photos we took this summer.  (Photo by Johnathan).


Ever since we began talking about coming home to Canada via Alaska, a stop in Seldovia to see friends from Mexico days was on the 'must-do' list.  Jen and Bruce and their kids (SV Northern Passage - which is for sale if you are looking for a serious offshore boat for less than $85k) were one of the first families we had met when we left to go cruising, and Jen and I had deepened our connection by practicing yoga together in various spots, so I couldn't wait to reconnect.

They spend winters in Anchorage and summers in Seldovia, so it was lovely that Seldovia was pretty much directly on our route; we were able to combine our visit with a stop in nearby Homer to have Fluenta valued by a surveyor before our return to Canada.  Just as Jen had described, we found Seldovia to be a delightfully pretty little town with a colourful row of restaurants and shops above the town dock and beautiful mountain vistas all around.  Victoria was even able to do some school work most days using the free wifi in the waterfront restaurants.

Enjoying the glorious sunshine to dry out the contents of the v-berth after the gale.

Internet ! Victoria found a spot to catch up on school.

The kids, who were very little when we first met, have all grown up!  Johnathan, Victoria, Carmen and Richard were 7, 9, 10, and 12 in Mexico.  Fast-forward seven years, and Richard has just graduated from high school and left on his own adventure: he bought a sailboat, and left Seldovia three days before we arrived to sail across the Gulf of Alaska and beyond.  We were sorry to miss him, but we understood the need to grab a weather window.  We will be following him on his blog - svDarwind.blogspot.com - where he has already been writing vivid and compelling descriptions of his travels.

Johnathan and Richard sailing Trickle in 2013

and Victoria and Richard sailing Trickle. 

The kids on Exodus in 2013 in the Sea of Cortez.  Johnathan is the furthest to the right.  Beside him is Colton from SV Sweet Dreams (whom we shared time with again last year in the Marshall Islands), then Richard and Carmen.

The young gang heading ashore in the Sea of Cortez in 2013.  Benjamin of course was not even born then.

Bonfire time with the boys from Sweet Dreams, Exodus and Northern Passage (Jen Gordon photo)

And all a bit older now this summer in Alaska. 

Richard had left on a great weather window to cross the Gulf of Alaska just before we arrived, so this is a picture from his blog.  He is off on his own sailing adventure and you can follow his adventures at: http://svdarwind.blogspot.com/ 
(Jen Gordon photo)

As fellow cruisers, Jen and Bruce knew what we would really appreciate - laundry, showers, and spare parts - and they assisted us on all fronts.  They even received our parts in the mail at their home in Anchorage and drove them down to Seldovia for us!  Bruce's sister has an extraordinary cabin nearby; we spent an idyllic day there enjoying space to roam, wild strawberries to pick, a full-sized washer/dryer, hot showers, and a beautiful sunny back deck where we could catch up while the laundry tumbled and spun.

To complete the day, Jen and Bruce took Max and the kids for a hike along the shore while I folded laundry and listened to NPR.  This might not sound like fun, but spending an afternoon in my own company in a spacious cabin was delightful!  Even with all the modern conveniences, we still felt at home in the cabin:  Jen and Bruce truck all the water up the hill from a tap in town to fill a water tank in the porch.  We were off the boat, but we still had to conserve!

Out for a walk with Jen and Bruce in beautiful Seldovia

Out for a walk with Jen and Bruce in Seldovia

Out for a walk with Jen and Bruce in Seldovia

After one night on the dock, we moved to anchor in front of Jen and Bruce's cabin.  The town dock is pretty, but at $53USD/day (plus electricity, and the water was non-potable), it was an expensive convenience. 

Being anchored in front of their cabin made it easy to share a meal.  Jen and I arrived back at Fluenta after laundry to find Max and Bruce enjoying the evening light from the cockpit; we all went in our two dinghies to their cabin (even though they live on land, they often dinghy to town) where we shared a potluck meal in their cozy space before Bruce left for Anchorage the following morning.

Seldovia was a very friendly place.  Jen has been teaching yoga all summer, and I was excited to be in town for a joint class that she taught with a young woman who does sound therapy with Tibetan ringing bowls.  The town was enjoying an unprecedented stretch of warm sunny weather, so we were able to practice outside on a grassy hill overlooking the water.  After weeks of bundling up in fleeces to walk ashore, it felt like 'summer' when we were practicing in the sunshine on the hill.

Helping load Richard's other boat .  He built this one as a teenager !

We arrived in Seldovia during a particularly busy week for Jen and Bruce: not only had Richard just left on his trip, but Jen was launching a business, Blue Market AK, that was having its first Market days the following weekend!  We were glad that the dates worked out so well.  Having arrived on Sunday, and crammed as much visiting into four days as we could, we sailed with Jen and their dog Nala to Homer on Thursday evening.  At 15 nm away, it is very close, but the people in Seldovia are still a world away the mainland; their only contact is via water taxi, float plane, or ferry (but the ferries were on strike when we were there).  It was nice to be able to offer Jen a ride back across the water!

The Fluenta ferry to Homer.  Dogs allowed.
We arrived at Homer just before sunset, so we anchored behind the breakwater for the night.  Jen and Nala stayed in their pre-positioned VW camper van, and we met up in the morning for a flurry of errands before her five-hour drive to Anchorage.  The town of Homer is about 5 miles away from the marina, which is at the far end of the "Spit" (the remains of an ancient glacial moraine).  Suffice to say that Homer is *not* a walking destination!

The first thing on my to-do list was to buy a pair of sea boots for me, and a pair of hiking boots for Johnathan (no more sharing with his sister!).  As a good (albeit very temporary) Alaskan, I chose a pair of Salmon Sisters Xratufs.  My last purchase of sea boots had been in England during my RYA Day Skipper course in early 2001.  I bought the only boots available in the little chandlery in Falmouth, and they lasted up until I stepped into the water to see the bears at Geographic Harbor; I discovered the cold way that they had a crack in the shin.  (Amazingly enough, the soles were still grippy, unlike many more expensive pairs that have been brought aboard since). 

There is quite a neat story to the connection between Xtratuf and the Salmon Sisters (whose hometown we had visited a few weeks earlier when we stopped at False Pass, where the local library still has their letter of appreciation posted on the wall after a childhood visit).  I smile every time I look at my sturdy-but-lovely boots with their pattern of humpback whales on the liners.  The trick (apparently) for warm feet is to buy a pair of 'Bamas' (moisture-wicking slippers) and then wear the boots a size larger than normal to fit them.  So far I have been pretty comfortable, with feet that are generally warm and dry :)

Homer has a fantastic library, so Jen and I were able to leave Victoria and Johnathan there to do schoolwork while we did some visiting (I mean errands).  With her help, I was able to tick off many of the items on our Alaska shopping list - bear spray, air horn (for bears), hip waders, a no-discharge of oil sign for Fluenta, and of course, groceries.

When she saw how full my cart was, Jen was insistent that I take her suggestion to rent a car for a day; as it turned out, although I balked at first (being stubborn, and intending to just take a taxi from the library back to the Spit) this was a fortunate decision.  While I was standing at the rental desk (and Jen was negotiating a local rate for us) her phone rang - it was our surveyor.  Our survey had originally been booked for Friday (ie that day), but had been delayed at the last minute to Saturday.  We were otherwise ready to leave town.

It turned out they could fit us in after all, in one hour, if I could arrange it.  All I had to do was to contact Max at the marina to let him know (without a phone)!  I didn't even go to get the kids - I just jumped in the minivan, drove to the dock, and called Max the VHF.  He and Benjamin had just come ashore in search of ice cream, so with a promise of icecream-not-now-but-later I took Benjamin back to town, where we read story after story at the library, while the kids finished up their work, and Max returned to Fluenta to prepare for the surveyor.  This would not have worked if I had been travelling on foot or by taxi!

The view from above Homer.

With our 24-hour van rental, we could actually be a family on holiday in Homer overnight :) We had pizza for supper at a restaurant Jen recommended on the Spit (Finn's) and then took a drive up to a beautiful lookoff point a few miles out of town, from which we could see several different mountain ranges.  The next morning, we all returned to town for a few more errands (including some finds at the local second-hand shop - the whole family was still in need of long layers and sturdy footwear).

Tourists !

By Saturday afternoon, we had returned our rental van, topped up our diesel tanks, and headed offshore towards Prince William Sound, a destination which, like Seldovia, had been one of the focal points of our planning for our journey through Alaska.

Love to all,

You just cannot have too many sea otter photos !

The chart showing Seldovia Bay. For those who are curious, our visit occurred during the first week of August.

Monday, 6 January 2020

The Grizzly Bears of Geographic Harbor


Arriving in Geographic Harbor, on a rare sunny afternoon after days of rain and low cloud, felt like sailing into a real-life National Geographic magazine spread!  Until then, we had had to use our imaginations to picture the tops of the mountain peaks we were sailing by because the clouds and mist hid them, but the weather cleared for our entrance to the bay, and it was extraordinary to see the mountains reflected off still waters in every direction.

As the sky cleared it was nice to finally see the big mountains we were sailing past.

Beautiful weather for the entrance into Geographic Harbor.

Geographic Harbor is part of Katmai National Park, and is so named because a National Geographic Society expedition explored it for the first time in 1919 following the Novarupta eruption (the largest in the 20th century; it threw out 30 times as much ash as Mt St Helens).  We headed for the northernmost bay, which was known as a good bear watching location, and we were not disappointed.  The anchorage area is quite deep, but it shoals near the shore, so we drove our usual 300ft circle around our preferred location to make sure we would have swing room, and anchored in about 80 ft of water as near as we could get to the beach.  There was an area of lighter green water just beyond where we were anchored, and we weren't sure if it was shallow or just silty.  When the tide went out, the mud flats appeared, and we confirmed that it dried out at low tide!  This is exactly why we do our 'anchor circle' recce before we set our anchor!

Our anchor spot. It looks like lots of room but shoals very quickly from 70 to zero feet at chart datum.

We wanted to make the most of our visit, so after a quick lunch, we launched the dinghy and motored ashore for mid-tide.  Our outboard had travelled the better part of 4,000 nm on our back rail since we had last used it, so we all breathed a sigh of relief when it started as usual.  Two float planes arrived for their afternoon visits as we approached the beach, and we all disembarked in the same area.  This proved fortuitous, as their guided group stood closer to the bears than we would have been brave enough to do on our own, and they welcomed us to join them.  Katmai has the world's largest population of protected grizzly bears in the world so it is pretty likely one will see bears ...

Rush hour.  Usually about two float planes a day fly a few charter guests in to see the bears.
For the next several hours, time seemed to stand still.  We stood under a brilliant blue sky, on a gravelly delta at the mouth of a river, with tall grassy areas all around us.  The guide explained that we would just stay there, chatting quietly, and the bears would go about their day.  Since their food supply was plentiful, and they had no experience of being hunted by humans in this park, the bears saw us as part of the environment, and not as a threat.  They were focused on their fishing, jumping and pouncing to catch salmon to eat.   We had a good view in every direction, and could see several hundred yards up the river and across the grass.  The guide was right; at one point, the bears passed only a few feet in front of us, fishing in the river!

and there were bears up the creek

and in the grass ...

The group was quite big  and I was relieved that we didn't have to be rigidly quiet: I found it quite interesting to talk to the other guests, many of whom were from the US Wounded Warrior Project.  I am always curious to hear what other people do after their time in the military, and it was interesting to hear about their various career paths and business ventures.  One of the men has a company which sells para-cord bracelets; when he noticed Victoria's Turk's Head anklet, he gave her the bracelet from his wrist :)

and of course the bears are not there to show off for us but rather to fish the plentiful salmon.

fishing ....

and more fishing ...

and more fishing.  It was a bit unnerving to have the bear charge towards us as it pounced on the salmon.

Thankfully it wasn't too cold standing on the gravel.  Unlike the charter guests, none of us had hip waders, and the water had either flooded over the top of, or through cracks in, our (very old) boots, so we had wet feet.  As the tide fell, Max went out several times to move the dinghy further away from the beach, but eventually we let it dry out when a bear decided to fish between the group and the dinghy, and he didn't want to disturb it! At the end of the afternoon, I was grateful that Max had anchored the dinghy near one of the deeper channels in the delta, and that the WWP group was quick to help pick up and carry it the short distance back to the water :)

My favourite photo of the season: a grizzy between us and Fluenta.  Our tender is on the other side of the bear from us.
Early the next morning, when I went to the cockpit to have a look around, the tide was low, and one of the bears was fishing and prowling right at the edge of the mudflats where we were anchored.  I didn't even need binoculars to watch her as she ambled around and looked for fish.  She didn't stay long, but this proved a pattern that would continue throughout our visit: the bears would come to the edge of the water at the low tide, and we could watch them from the comfort of our cockpit.

A bear in the distance bringing his fish ashore.

Tough duty:  watching bears in sock feet while eating breakfast.

For the next two days, we had Geographic Harbor entirely to ourselves!  The charter boats both left, and the float planes didn't come.  We dinghied up to the beach to watch the bears, but we didn't go ashore on our own; we just anchored the dinghy a few feet off the shore, and watched from the boat.  With two pairs of binos and a telephoto lens on our camera, we had a good view of the action.  Again, time seemed to stand still, and we enjoyed several hours of our live version of "Bear TV".

On one excursion, I commented wistfully that the bears seemed really far away, and that I wished that I was closer.  Somehow this turned into a collective decision to anchor the dinghy and stand on the gravel delta!  Right on cue, three bears ambled through the grass off to our right.  They seemed to be adolescents, as they were just as interested in wrestling with each other as they were in fishing.  When they started to growl as they fought, all of a sudden I didn't feel so enthusiastic about being close anymore!  The instinctive urge to be further away kicked back in, and we scrambled (very calmly and quietly) back to the dinghy; a few minutes later, the bears wrestled their way to the exact place where we had been!  I may not be cut out to be a bear guide!
Liz said she wanted to get closer ... The bears were playing nicely at first ...

But then when the third bear joined in, it got rather loud

but maybe this was too close as they started to really wrestle.  You can see in the picture at the top of the blog post that one of the bears has drawn blood.

We had an interesting visitor the following morning: Max and I were sitting in the cockpit enjoying our morning coffee and watching bears on the beach when the first float plane of the day arrived with its passengers.  As usual, it dropped the passengers off at the shore and then fell back to anchor.  Max had hardly finished saying that he might pop over in the dinghy to say hello, when it appeared that the plane was taxiing.  He jokingly said that perhaps the plane would come to us.  Moments later, it was evident that this was exactly the case.  With the finesse of someone who has handled big equipment for decades, the float plane glided up behind us, coming to a stop mere inches from our solar panel and wind generator, and the pilot stepped out with a painter in hand.  He scrambled aboard at our stern (over the pushpit rail and all the gear and antennas that we keep there), and joined us for a visit!  We had a most enjoyable morning sitting on our back deck and watching several bears ashore.  Thankfully, it was warm enough that we didn't need the shelter of the rain enclosure (although I went inside for extra layers a couple of times!)

Rolan and I talking bears and aviation.

We learned that Rolan and his wife had been operating Sea Hawk Air with their vintage de Havilland Beaver out of Kodiak since 1987.  Speaking with Rolan gave us a better sense of the activities of the bears, as well as some of the history of the park and its more interesting inhabitants!  While he was there, two bears started chasing down the beach; apparently we were seeing mating season in action, with the smaller female bear running away from the larger male bear.  Despite his size, we were told that this male was much smaller than the dominant male bears who would show up later in the season.   

I am sure there is room on Fluenta to have a float plane as a tender ...
With no wind, the current kept pushing the float plane towards Fluenta, so we eventually suggested a longer painter to put it back a little further.  This meant that Johnathan and Max had an excuse to take Roland back to his plane in our dinghy after his visit, so they were able to have a look inside his beautifully maintained aircraft.

A quick tour of Rolan's 'plane.  We really need a float plane (and a new dingy)...

Our passage from Sand Point to Geographic Harbor had been calm enough that Victoria and I could make salmon berry jam, and bread to put it on, while we were underway.  Our friends on Galactic had said that they "just followed the recipe on the box of pectin", but I wanted a little more information, so I did a 'remote internet search': we had no connection, but we emailed both grandmothers to see what they knew or could find!  It turns out that Salmon Berries are low in pectin, so it made sense to use the boxed powder.  We used the amount of sugar listed for raspberry jam (7 cups sugar for 8 cups fruit).  Our jam was tasty but very sweet!  We ended up with four jars of jam, two that we ate right away, and two that we will save for reminiscing!

Ever since we decided to return to BC from the tropics via Alaska, I have been hoping to meet again with friends from the Baja Ha Ha and Mexico.  SV Northern Passage was one of the first kid boats we met when we left California (in fact, our friends on SV Totem had been corresponding with both of us as newbie cruisers, and and suggested we look for each other).  After their year in Mexico, they put their boat on the hardstand and returned home to Alaksa, where they spend winters in Anchorage and summers in Seldovia, which happened to be right on our route!  Seldovia was our next destination, and we were excited to finally see them again.

Sand Point to Geographic Harbor

A more detailed chart at 1:60,000 showing the entrance to Geographic Harbor

And a more detailed chart showing the anchorage itself.  We anchored at the western extremity of the red "track" line.  The recommended anchorage from the RCC was closer to the beach than we were comfortable with.  Depths are in fathoms.

We left the following morning for what we thought might be a one-day sail, but the wind had other plans.  When we got out into the Shelikot Strait (between the Alaskan Peninsula and Kodiak Island), the wind and sea state built well beyond the forecast.  By suppertime, we didn't like the uncertainty of the conditions - was this as bad as it would get, or would it continue to deteriorate?  One nice thing about cruising (as we often have to remind ourselves) is that we can stop if we choose to.  We were on a deep broad reach towards Malina Bay, and Max determined that rather than jibing towards Seldovia, we could probably just anchor overnight!  We radioed a fishing boat which we saw departing they bay on AIS, and asked about anchoring in the little bight we had spotted.  In the understated way of fishermen, he said that we could anchor there if we wished, but it would be rolly from swell wrapping around the corner, and the local fishing fleet would be at work right beside us from about 0500 the next morning.  His recommendation was to go through a narrow channel, beyond the reach of the swell, and anchor overnight with the fleet.  We did a quick speed-time-distance calculation, and determined that we could make the four-hour journey into the bay with minutes to spare before dark, so this is what we did: by 2330 we were anchored in the fading twilight.  Thank goodness for the long northern days!

The forecast was not good for the next day, but it was not terrible, and the weather was predicted to get worse before it got better, so we decided to set out for Seldovia the next morning.  It was good that the wind was behind us: we had up to 38 kts sustained (i.e. gale force) and steep seas for most of the day.  It was not fun, but we made it.  Despite the tough conditions, we were glad we left Malina Bay when we did: as predicted, conditions only intensified over the next week, and we would have been stuck, not visiting our friends, *and* not seeing bears, while we waited out the storm. 

Geographic Harbor to Seldovia with an overnight stop enroute.  It was a tad sporty with a gale for much of it.

The wind died away to nothing as we came into Seldovia Bay, so I woke at dawn to the sound of the engine changing tone.  Max was already setting the anchor by himself!  We both got some sleep, and then moved Fluenta onto the dock in the morning.  We had the rest of a beautiful sunny Sunday to clean and wash the boat before our evening reunion with Northern Passage.  With the foredeck heaped in kiting gear and sails, and two lines of clothing and bedding flapping in the wind, I am sure we looked a bit like a group of vagabonds, but it was worth a few stares to get the cabin emptied and to see what damage we had taken during the month at sea.  Thankfully, although a lot of gear was damp, there was not much actual damage.

Once everything was dry, it didn't take long to stow it again.  With a tidy saloon, swept floors, and order restored to the V-berth, we were ready for a week of catching up with our friends!

Love to all,