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 - - 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: 
(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.

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