On the last leg of their excursion, Al & Dona seized the opportunity to hook up with several other Nordhavn owners they had met cruising the Alaskan waterways. Lots of adventures and stories to share, braving the sometimes ruthless weather from the comfort of their Nordhavns.
July 1, 2001 Pam and Greg flew into Ketchikan, joining us for a weeklong cruise through Misty Fiords and around Revillagigedo Island. The first night out we anchored in Wasp Cove, just below the New Eddystone Rock. Dona made a nice pasta dish with some of our deepwater prawns and we spent an uneventful night until about 3:30 am when the prevailing and forecast southeast winds changed to the north and rocked us out of bed. At about 5 am I gave up trying to sleep, hauled the anchor and headed for smoother waters.
Pam and Greg got up about the time we reached New Eddystone Rock. Dona had hoped for a 'nice' day so that we could anchor off this monolith, row ashore and explore but the Gods of Wind & Rain had other ideas and we pushed on, maybe 'next year'. We continued into the "Punchbowl" where we clipped onto the mooring buoy and had lunch before taking off for the southeast arm of Rudyard Bay, enjoying a few hours of non-rain. We played with the dingy and kayak and set out the requisite crab pot. At Greg's insistence we pulled the pot after about only an hour or so, coming up with 3 fat crabs and that's when our problems began.
Pretty soon Pam and Greg were making the trip to the trap more frequently; it's a disease. Drugs and the like in any family are not pleasant topics for discussion, but when they ran out of bait their addiction to crab actually caused them to pilfer the chicken thighs Dona had planned for a chicken cacciatore dinner; pitiful. The problem continued through the following day and got even worse when we anchored in Walker Cove (no gps or satcom reception) and their yield per thigh actually increased. We ate crab for breakfast, lunch and dinner and "Free Flight" became a processing ship. It'll be days before we get the smell of cooking crab out of this boat. I'm not sure how many we kept, but everyone ate more than they should have, Pam and Greg took about ½ gallon of shelled meat home and we still have a few cups frozen onboard. I don't even want to think about crab, well, not until at least tomorrow morning.
After Walker Cove we met up with 3 other Nordhavns, anchoring in Yes Bay for a little fishing and socializing. While the heavens dumped another load of rain and the girls slept in late on our nice warm boat, then grazed thru breakfast, lunch & popcorn while watching movies, Greg and I pounded our way to and from the fishing grounds in the wind and rain. After about an hour, Greg was rewarded with a nice 20 pound King Salmon and the anticipation of another kept us sitting out in the rain for another 5 hours. It was fun, but we were chilled to the bone by the time we returned. The following day we headed south, leaving the kids at the airport dock in Ketchikan, picking up water in the Bar Harbor Marina, turning around and within 30 minutes we were heading north back up Clarence Strait towards Coffman Cove. We needed some oysters and we were trying to meet up with Doug Rhodes (from Craig) so we could see what commercial fishing from a gill netting boat is like.
We made it to Ratz Bay fairly late, threading our way through a maze of commercial crab traps, before anchoring for the night. We finally got into Coffman Cove the following morning a few hours before the 48-hour opening at noon and just as the wind began to "freshen". The wind continued "freshening" to the point none of the commercial boats went out that day. About noon we left the dock and anchored out in the bay because we didn't want to become the middle boat in a 5 deep rafting at the dock. After a while at anchor, entering bills on the computer and getting seasick, and with the wind continuing to increase I decided that maybe rafting did have it's advantages. So, tail between my legs, I returned to the dock for the night. Once again Dona baked bread and cooked up a storm (pun intended), feeding the dejected fishermen (Doug & me). Later in the afternoon a tug came in, tied up to the seaplane dock (all flights had been cancelled), acted grateful to be on land and began telling stories about the tug and barge, just outside, who had been heading south and had to turn back to the north because he was afraid of separating his tow line; said the waves on Clarence Strait were now 10 to 12 feet.
Doug gave us our wake-up call at 04:00 and we headed for the fishing grounds. There was very little wind now, but it would be quite a while before the swells went down in the Strait so we set the net in Lake Bay, just north of Coffman Cove. What an operation; 23 feet of 5 ½" web, bordered by lead line at the bottom, floating line with cork floats at the top and 1800 feet long, all rolled in and out on a drum. The net goes out in about 10 minutes, sits for about an hour and a half and then the work really begins. As the net comes in, the fish, kelp, jellyfish, etc. have to be removed before going back onto the drum. Extricating a toothy, 10 lb. Chum who has twisted himself into a nylon cocoon wouldn't be easy at the dock much less while trying to keep the boat straight in the wind and swell while operating alone. Doug set and hauled the net twice while Dona and I "helped" (distracted) him. The approximate haul: 86 Coho, 14 Pinks, 20 Chum and maybe 7 Sockeye. The Coho all had to be cleaned, but the others are sold "in the round".
While the number of fish caught in the time frame may sound like a lot, the monetary return isn't that great. We'll typically pay $7-10/ pound in the market at home for the same Coho that the fisherman, patching his net that a sea lion just destroyed, caught, cleaned and sold for $.60/pound. Let's see now.Greg and I spent $377 for 6 hours in a leaky old boat, freezing our buns off and we caught 3 fish that will cost $45 to smoke and probably end up weighing 15 pounds so ..aw forget it. Fishing's a passion; sport fishing seldom makes economic sense and commercial fishing is not an easy way to make a living.
Doug dropped us off at our boat and headed for less comfortable, but, hopefully, more productive waters. He'll fish alone, straight through, until his nets have to be out of the water at noon the following day. Dona and I, once again, headed south. We spent the night in Ketchikan, dining on Coffman Cove Oysters on the ½ shell and barbequed fresh Sockeye.magnificent! We'll probably have a little poached Sockeye for lunch on the way to Prince Rupert.
We departed Ketchikan at 5 am with a good weather forecast for the area around Dixon entrance. It should take about 12 hours for us to reach Prince Rupert if the weather holds. We've had a great trip so far, but would really like to see some more sun before summer is over so we're heading south. Since May of last year we've really grown into and feel very comfortable in "Free Flight". Wherever we go we draw a lot of interest and seem to fit in anywhere with the power boaters, sail boaters, died in the wool "yachties" and gnarly fish boats. I get a big kick out of the questions, at the dock or while underway on the radio, like "what's under there?" or what engine, what reduction gear, what do you burn an hour, etc. After more than a year aboard and 1300 hours on the engine I'm now surprising myself and taking great pleasure in knowing the answers.
Alaska isn't very computer friendly so these have been few and far between. Maybe when they put new payphones in to charge $.50/ call they'll put a few new phones in with data ports. Hopefully we can get this out in Prince Rupert before we leave tomorrow morning. Right now we are in the middle of Dixon Entrance and it's like a millpond. We've just finished lunching on a very nice piece of poached Sockeye and think I'll take the first nap today.
July 14, 2001
Yesterday was quite a day. We bobbed and weaved our way through the maze created by the whole Canadian gill netting fleet on our way into Prince Rupert. Must have been 200 boats out there; and had I known their allotment period was ending late that night and that every one of them would "pass in review" a few yards from our outside dock til 2am, we'd have stayed elsewhere. It was the roughest (even during storms at anchor) and most expensive ($55+) night we've ever had on the boat. Making matters worse, about 2 hours out we bit the bullet and used the expensive satcom in an attempt to get dinner reservations at the Cow Bay Café only to discover it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Bummer. Just when we were really feeling sorry for ourselves, cursing our bad luck and vowing to renew our CANPASS, in order to bypass Prince Rupert in the future, the folks tied up next to us said "we know of a great Vietnamese restaurant, Herbie's". Yea, right, great Vietnamese place called Herbie's? You've got to be kidding me. It turned out to be the best and had the most diverse menu of any Vietnamese restaurant we've ever been into. Just might have to go back, but not when the fish boats are playing bumper car until 2am and we become the breakwater.
Had two really nice sunny days as we teamed up with another boat, Jim and Karen Sohn, for the trip down Grenville Channel, Fraser Reach, Finlayson and Mathieson Channels to Shearwater. Spent the first night anchored in Klewnuggit Inlet and the second in Mary Cove. It was a pleasant change, dropping the kayak in the water and paddling around under sunny skies after a long day "on the road". Today we're back to overcast skies and drizzle, but drizzle's not bad. We've been pushing it pretty hard since Ketchikan in order to meet up with Ian and Becky Mackin in Shearwater and I'll admit we both seem to be coming under the spell of the horse headed for the barn syndrome. We've already put-off this year's plans for the Queen Charlottes and, with the time remaining, going down the outside of Vancouver Island would be little more than a contest with the seas and weather; we'd see very little. 4 months is a long time to be away from home, but if we finally decide to not return on the outside, I hope we can shake that get home feeling, allowing us to visit the people and places we flew past on the way north.
Ole Dammitt is doing just fine (as long as we're not at a dock) and has finally settled into the routine. We know he can tell time because at 5pm he demands his dinner and, no matter how early we haul anchor, he never gets out of bed before 8. I suspect he'll have a difficult time adjusting when we return home and he's faced with the difficulties of life ashore such as redefining his territory and interlopers. Someone should tell that black kitty that the "Bad Ass of South Beach" will be home the first week of August.
Dona continues in her inability to bypass any grocery store. We're either going home with more food than we started out with or she plans on staying out until Christmas. I guess I shouldn't complain too loudly as we just finished a California Roll Bagel: fresh toasted jalapeno bagel with cream cheese, crab and avocado.oh my! I guess she was getting tired of crab benedict. We'll see what she does to the crab cakes we've planned for today's lunch.
Over the past 2 years sending and receiving email while traveling has been getting more difficult rather than easier. Thought I'd send this out from Shearwater as last year, but they claimed CompuServe's 800 numbers wouldn't work. Regular Internet access is available through their computer station at $10 for 10 seconds or 1 hour, but that's all. I'm unable to access my Cserve email box without their proprietary program and even if I could we seldom have the time to sit down to read and respond to all the mail while online. Unless the Port McNeil Harbor Master has decided to not allow anyone to use their phone jack I should be able to send/receive when we get there.
The Mackins and we spent the night in Pruth Bay, awakening to an attack of porpoises. They were jumping, diving and slapping their tails all around the boat. Most of us, but not Dammitt, appreciated their early morning water ballet. We put him in his harness and leash for an early morning walk on the foredeck and he was not impressed. After a few spits, growls and a tail puffed up like a chimney sweep's brush he scampered back into the safety of the pilothouse where he continued voicing his opinion.
While Ian and Becky took off for the fishing grounds under partly cloudy skies, Dona and I headed out for Dawson's Landing which is up River's Inlet. The plan was to meet up and anchor in Milbrook Cove for the night and, if the weather allowed, cross Queen Charlotte Sound in the morning. We were able to send/receive email from the Port McNeill harbormaster's office on the way north in April, but now "it won't work"; progress. Dona walked all over town and was finally able to get the job done while I did the reprovisioning (milk and produce only) because Dona is NOT allowed into any grocery stores for the remainder of the trip or we'll be returning home with more food than we left with last March.
Met up with Mackins again in Lagoon Cove where everyone ate a dinner's worth of fresh shrimp, supplied by Bill Barber, at their nightly "happy hour". Ian caught some huge starfish in his crab pot (no crab) and appears to be making an attempt at taking my title away from me. Next morning we had to help him out as he was "caught" trying to steal a large length of cable from the bottom of Lagoon Cove. He was able to get the cable to within about 4' of the surface, but that's all; that Bruce Anchor really holds. We got a line around his anchor chain and pulled for all we were worth, but couldn't break him loose. Finally, with the cable bent, he was able to lower the anchor and drift free. The bend we put in the cable probably formed an arch 5' off the bottom and is awaiting its next victim.
After getting Zephyrus free, Aerie joined us and we headed down Johnstone Strait, anchoring for the night just short of Dent and Yuculta Rapids, and the following morning we continued running south to The Gorge on Cortes Island. 7/20, we awakened to glorious SUN! There's a very low tide today at noon so we're going to put on our shorts (1st time on this season), grab the clam rake and fill a bucket or two.
Ian's new outboard wasn't starting so the decision was made to take "Free Flight" out of The Gorge and over to Manson Bay where we anchored her just outside the lagoon. The four of us, cameras, buckets and one clam rake piled into the dingy and I pulled on the starter cord. I pulled and pulled…nada. My reliable 2hp, 4 stroke Honda had never failed to start on the 1st pull, ever. Ian, aka Jonah, sat there smiling at me. After numerous helpful questions/comments like "is the fuel on, didja open the vent, close the throttle" and "I'll bet you've flooded it", I suggested that the guy who always seems to have the rain cloud over his head row the rest of us 50 yards to shore. Ian must have an electrical field around him, causing anything electronic to fail and attracting metallic objects to his anchor. The clamming was incredible; in 20 minutes, with one clam rake, the four of us had two buckets of Manila and native Littleneck clams. We stuffed ourselves on steamed clams for lunch and Jonah outdid himself, preparing a great clam and halibut chowder for dinner. No, the Honda didn't start on our return from the clam beds and never did until Ian was more than 50' away and it's run just fine ever since (cleaning the plug might have helped a little); terrible problem that man has.
We left the Mackins and The Gorge the next morning, heading for Campbell River, but were still unable to make contact with friends there so we diverted to Tribune Bay on the south end of Hornby Island. It's a pretty spot with white sandy beaches and very warm water, but is wide open to the Strait of Georgia and any southerly winds. Since the forecast was for temperatures in the 80s and a light northwest breeze, this was the perfect opportunity to swim a little, play with the kayak and visit the little artsy-craftsy village ashore. About an hour out of Tribune Bay the winds turned to the southeast and quickly rose to 25 kts, the swells increased and the pilothouse windows got washed, with saltwater. We continued and even anchored, but after a few minutes bouncing around like a Jitterbug on the end of a bass rod, we pulled anchor and headed for Ford Cove on the west side of Hornby. The wind is still about 20 kts and we're still uncomfortably bouncing around, but at least we aren't subject to the full fetch of the Georgia Strait. The little 1-2' swell only has occasional whitecaps, but hits us directly on the beam as the wind positions us so. The soothsayer now says the winds will return to the northwest about midnight…certainly hope so.
At about 10pm we finally gave up the ghost, unable to sleep, we pulled anchor and headed for Deep Bay. Unfortunately we had difficulty anchoring due to the myriad of aquaculture pens, anchored boats and darkness; not quite what the cruising guide led us to expect. As a matter of fact, I'm beginning to believe that we're better off chucking all these books which are often little more than excerpts from the Coast Pilot, Sailing Directions, other "how to" books, "it has been reported" statements, advertising testimonials and all combined with pretty graphics/photos in order to make them more eye appealing and therefore saleable. Many times it has become apparent to me that unsuitable anchorages are added to some of these books in order to add another page/drawing to a product of limited scope and requiring a little more to bulk it up. Furthermore, I can't believe some of these writers have ever been into some of these places they are touting and if they have it's never been overnight or more than a coffee break on a sunny day.
We stopped in Silva Bay for the night and dinner with Andre and Carole Lemieux before returning to Sidney and home. It's been a fantastic voyage, 4 months, about 600 hours, over 4000 miles and nothing to test my mechanical skills. Our Interphase Probe (forward looking sonar) died and no one was willing to look at it, but changing the impeller on the X-changer system and 3 oil changes using it was all I had to do. A dream trip, but we're glad to be home. I'll work and play a little golf next month, see the kids and grandchildren in September then try for a 2-week cruise in Oct.