Saturday, June 20, 2009

Work is not work, when it's something that you want to do

Sunday, 6/14/2009 - Our day started earlier this morning than we have been use to since changing our routine from boat to lighthouse. Our departure from the lighthouse by float plane at approximately 9:00 am had me tossing and turning from about 4:00 am this morning, when it got light, till the alarm went off at about 7:00. A shower and quick breakfast before one more look around, then I hauled our now slightly used waterproof backpacks down across the rocks to the boat so that we would be ready to jump in as soon as we saw the plane. Right on schedule at 8:30, the plane carrying our neighbors from the beach, Ralph Harrison and his son Christopher, buzzed the lighthouse and circled around the cape to find a smooth piece of water to land on. Fortunately, just around the east side of the point that blocks the ocean swells, he found a nice spot and soon we were tossing their luggage into the boat and ours into the plane. Pretty smooth till we discovered Ralph’s fly rod case in the luggage area of the plane when we unloaded up in Sitka. Oh well, they will have plenty to do and Rhonda and I are taking it back to beach with us. We walked over to Alaska Airlines to check on our flight for this evening and decided to forgo the quick tourist version of Sitka-in-a-day and took the next flight. We only had to wait for about a half hour for a flight that will have us home by dinnertime.
We had such a nice trip up to Cape Decision by boat. Rhonda was telling me this morning as we were standing outside the copula on top of the lighthouse tower, that she would do that trip again at the drop of a hat if invited. It was such a great experience and we feel that we have made a new friend and anytime Jack needs some help getting his boat to or from Alaska, all he has to do is give us a call and we will be there.
As we expected, the work really got started from the moment Karen met up with us at the back of Port MacArthur on the Log Dog. After a short side trip to shore to check out what turned out to be the decaying carcass of a whale, we got all of our gear and supplies transferred over to the Log Dog and went on ahead to the lighthouse in Helga (the 16’ skiff that belongs to the lighthouse society)to get the hoist set up .About the time we finished setting up, the Log Dog had made it to a good location just behind the protection of the point. Chris and Karen then started to ferry full boatloads of freight in where Rhonda and I would raise it up in the cargo net and unload it onto the dock, then move it towards the light house to make room for the next load. This went on for a solid 4hrs and when the last load came up, hanging off of the side of the net was a freshly caught salmon that made for a great dinner for the whole crew that evening

The next day (Wednesday) was spent setting up the water system and organizing the stuff that had been brought ashore the day before. By afternoon, we were starting to get into the projects that we had come out to do. Chris was focusing on removing the old floor tiles, starting in the bedrooms, then installing a new epoxy flooring material . My focus was to finish the roof of the outdoor composting toilet building (affectionately dubbed the “Turtle Head” for its shape and purpose).
The next couple of days fell into a routine of getting up, making coffee/tea, then starting our projects with a break for breakfast, a late lunch, then dinner when we were having trouble seeing outside because of the dark. At that latitude it stays light pretty late so our dinnertime and bedtime were one right after the other.
On Saturday, our last full day, we stepped back from our projects long enough to go for a boat ride to look for a few things on some nearby beaches. We needed a few pieces of “art wood” for the Turtle Head and some cedar, and for our row boat project back at home, a nice piece of Sitka Spruce. We found the art wood and cedar but didn’t find any suitable Spruce till we got back to the lighthouse and remembered a downed tree on the property that would be perfect. Alas we had chainsaw problems so our beautiful hand carved Sitka Spruce oars will have to wait another year. It does give us a wonderful excuse to go back next year. Untill then we will just have to pass the time messing around with the boat projects that we left behind at Salmon Beach...I don't know about you but I'm kind of looking forward to it. See you on the trail.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ketchikan and beyond . . .

Monday, 6/8/2009 - 11:00 PM. The last couple of days have been busy so I have fallen behind on my updates. Let’s get caught up. We apparently had an uneventful Friday because I can’t seem to recall anything to report about it, just more cloudless skies and beautiful Canadian shoreline. Saturday we crossed back into American waters and Alaska. We finally had our first whale sighting .First a single Humpback not more than 150 feet in front of our boat crossing from port to starboard, sounding right in front of us with a show of his tail as if to say “welcome to Alaska”. Within an hour we also saw a small pod of Orca. I am not sure we would have gotten this great show if the weather wouldn’t have been so nice because it all happens so fast and if you were inside taking a nap (like Chris and Rhonda are now) or had your nose buried in a computer (like I am now) we would have missed it. We stopped at Ketchikan for the night, cleared U.S. Customs and had a late dinner at a restaurant called the Landing - about a 10 minute walk from Bar Harbor Marina. After dinner Chris, Rhonda, and I decided to find the Ketchikan night life but turned around a few blocks before a tunnel that separates the old town part of Ketchikan (and I assume the Saturday night nightlife) from the north end of town. We were a bit disappointed and walked back to the boat but a least got a nice walk and were chipper and rested (instead of hung over) on Sunday morning. The plan had been to take care of some last minute shopping at the Safeway get a shower and head out but when Jack was listening to the weather report he decided to stay another night and get an early start this morning. So with the shopping done and after fueling up the boat before noon, Chris , Rhonda and I, along with a better understanding of the lay of the land, made our way back downtown and were greeted by an old town business district bustling with three cruse ships of tourists. Chris thought that he had only packed one pare of work pants so we stopped at a big outdoor sports shop right next to the cruse ship dock and he bought a shinny new pare of Carharts and a new set of suspenders. I found, in the same store, a memory card for the camera that I borrowed from my friend Don.
By the way, I would like to thank my friend Don for trusting me with one of his nice Digital SLR cameras. I have taken some, what I think are, pretty nice pictures that would have been impossible to get with the little Sony pocket camera that I have had with me on my last two trips to the lighthouse. I did not want to take this once in a lifetime trip up the inside passage and not have a decent camera with me. It would have driven me crazy. Don is a great friend and great photographer and if you need a picture of your boat worth framing look Don up @ Don Jutte Photography on the World Wide Web and tell him Scot sent you.
Anyway, back to our big day of being tourists. After stopping at Ace Hardware, Murray Pacific, and the down town sports and outdoor gear store, we walked over to Creek Street (felt right at home on the board walks and houses on pilings) then off to try to find the Totem Park. We did end up at a nice looking Totem museum but decided not to spend the 10 bucks per person to go inside. Instead we walked past the fish hatchery and followed the river back around to Creek Street via a wonderful path thru the woods called Married Man’s Trail. The first building that we got to on Creek Street marked #1 and #2, we all immediately fell in love with. In need of repair (like most of the things that I am attracted to, Boats, etc.). We will have to look into that later. We next found the library that had a third order Fresnel lens from the Tree Point Light House in a window facing the street. We decided to go in to see if we could get the current Alaska fishing regulations from the internet and print off a copy for Jack. Chris accomplished the task in a few minutes and we were off to find a bar that Jack had told us about that had a picture of his Halibut boat the Grant on the wall. A few blocks away we found the Sourdough, a Ketchikan version of the Pioneer Bar in Sitka, where we found the picture and Jack sitting at the end of the bar watching the Mariners game on TV. The bar was thinly populated with locals as all of the tourists had been called back to the cruse ships by a blast of the horn about a half hour before. So we had a few Alaska Oatmeal stouts (yum), looked at all of the boat pictures on the walls, and had a nice conversation with the nice woman tending bar after Jack left to start dinner back on the boat. We hiked back to the marina and Rhonda volunteered to do a load of laundry while Chris and I were getting showers. Everyone was clean and hungry at 7:00 when Jack served up some baked king salmon boiled potatoes and green salad. Unfortunately, we were all too stuffed to have any of the apple pie we had warmed up for desert but it made a great and easy breakfast this morning. After dinner Jack walked over to visit with an old friend that was moored in the same marina and after doing the dishes Chris offered to walk over to the Landing with me so that I could use the free wireless to post to the blog. I was happy to have the company and tech support, it defiantly would have taken more than the hour that it did.
So, we are on our final leg of the journey to the Cape Decision Lighthouse. The plan is to meet up with Karen and the boat that she shanghaied called the ”Log Dog“. We will probably spend the night anchored out in a bay on the east side of the cape called Port MacArther. It’s not like the intimate little harbors that we have been staying in up to this point. It is a wide, long bay of a harbor and, depending on the wind direction, we’ll snuggle up to one side or the other. Hopefully, the west side near a beach that has been dubbed Wolf Beach (by the Cape Decision Lighthouse Society beach naming committee because wolf tracks are found in the sand every time we visit the beach). This spot is a couple of miles closer to the lighthouse in case we need to unload from there due to bad weather.
It is about 4:30 and Jack is in his bunk taking a well deserved break while Chris takes us up to Pt Baker where we hope to raise Steve and the Kirsten Ann on the radio as we make our turn west and into Sumner straight. Rhonda is up topside on wale watch and I think that I will go join her.
7:45, just dropped anchor in the back of Port MacArthur bay in about 8 to 12 fathoms. As we were slowly moving into position Chris and I both spotted something on the beach that the crows and eagles are eating. We both agree that is going to need to be explored sooner than later. In the meantime, our dinner fixing instructions from Jack are to stay out of his way so Chris is breaking into the Alaskan Smokey Porter and Rhonda is holding her position topside where she has been all afternoon.
Dinner was great, as always -smoked black cod, rice, and veggies. I think that it is the best tasting fish I have ever had. A round of beers on the upper deck and in the still of the night at the very end of the bay we can hear a waterfall in the forest. Time for bed; tomorrow is moving day and it promises to be a long one. We heard from Karen on the Log Dog and they are staying in Cape Pole tonight. They will meet up with us first thing in the morning.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Notes from the boat

Monday, 6/1/2009 - We have come to the end of our first day of the boat ride to Cape Decision in a beautiful Canadian harbor, our bellies full of home made split pea soup and apple crisp thanks to our captain, Jack Knutson. The day started early after a long day on Sunday of last minute shopping and loading the boat that had us unwinding with our beverages of choice till just past midnight. I don’t think that anybody slept very well (I know I was too wound up to sleep) so when the captain cranked up the engine around 4:30, we were all dressed and waiting for our instructions in minutes. With no reason to hang around and a long day ahead, we headed for the locks - a new experience for me, Rhonda, and Chris - and we were in the Sound between 5:00 and 5:30 watching Seattle disappear behind us as a beautiful sunny day developed ahead. We settled into our routine pretty quickly after Jack gave us all a quick lesson on how the auto-pilot worked and, the day just got nicer and nicer. I found that my new favorite place (I suppose as long as the good weather holds out) is on the flying bridge, and by late afternoon we were all enjoying the breeze and an incredible view. Every once in awhile I would go down to check the charts with Jack so I could get my bearings, and every once in awhile Jack would come up to visit and catch some fresh air. We checked in with Canadian customs without incident and then made our way to this quiet harbor for a great dinner and one of those picture postcard sunsets. Now apparently Montague Bay is a favorite place to anchor in this part of the Canadian San Juans for our Captain, and for me . . . a trip down memory lane. The last time I was here was with my grandparents on the Lady Carroll - about 40 years ago. Things, as they tend to do over 40 years, have changed. Now there are homes and cabins lining the rocky shoreline and a small marina with a gas dock where, before, there was none. Things that haven’t changed . . . there were over 50 boats anchored in the harbor on a Monday the first day of June. Captain Jack wants to start around 4:30 AM again tomorrow so that we can make it thru a narrow channel at slack tide. If we miss it, we will need to go a longer way, adding to our already long trip north. I did not nap today like Rhonda and Chris did so I am hoping that I will sleep better tonight.

Tuesday, 6/2/2009 - I am felling very fortunate this evening. For a second day the weather and boating has turned out to be as near prefect as the first one. Again the captain needed to get an early start to get thru some narrow passes at slack tide so when he started up the engine at a little after 4:00 AM I thought that I might take him up on last nights offer to” go ahead and stay in the sack as long we liked” that he could easily get us under way on his own. Well Rhonda jumped up, I heard Chris go to the wheel house, and when I heard the anchor chain dropping into the chain locker, I had to get up. I couldn’t miss seeing Montague Harbor one last time as we pulled out in the breaking light with our wake the only thing disturbing the glassy smooth water. Coffee was passed around soon after as we turned the boat northwest skirting behind the islands that separated us from the Georgia Straight. Soon Chris was “volunteered” to get breakfast together. “Eggs in a window “or “Spit in the eye” - depends what part of the country you grow up in - but breakfast was good and filling and, after the dishes were washed and put away, people started dropping like flies. At 10:15 Jack asked if I wouldn’t mind taking the helm for a few hours and I gladly stepped in for about a two hour watch. Rhonda came up and hung out with me and for awhile; it was just the two of us motoring to Alaska on a beautiful wooden fishing boat on a calm sunny day. Around noon Chris was back with us and, when it was time to change course, we called Jack up to the wheel house and it was Chris’s turn at the wheel. We made Dodd Narrows right on time for slack tide and after Jack took us thru, decided to give reading and napping another couple of hours. Almost two hours later the bilge water alarm had Jack out of his bunk for the final time and, after that excitement, he took back the helm so Rhonda, Chris, and I went up to the flying bridge to enjoy the hot sunshine and warm breeze .A few minuets before we entered the opening to Seymour Narrows Jack came up to warn us to hold on because he expected it to be “squirrelly” in there. As usual he was right and a whirl pool laid us way over on the port side. Jack told Chris later that even though our top speed is 8 knots with the outgoing tide pushing us, we were traveling through the Narrows at about 15 knots. It didn’t take us long to get to our idyllic little harbor that we are all alone in, and between Jack Chris and I , we had another mouth watering dinner ready in less than an hour. Baked Halibut and a big salad, and we all cleaned our plates. We made quick work of the dishes so that we could have after dinner drinks up topside and watch the sun go down and the sky turn all of the sunset colors. Like I said , I am feeling very fortunate.

Wednesday, 6/3/2009 - 7:30 AM. It seems that we are in for another unusually nice day. We got under way at out customary time of around 5:00 am and Rhonda had her coffee on the flying bridge as the sun came up and started to highlight the Vancouver Island shoreline. It looks like the more inhabitable side of the channel but we have only seen what looked like a logging camp that was just past a light keeper’s house, and a solitary cabin with a nice gravel beach next to a small river. We had been making 11 knots first thing this morning on the outgoing tide but, by the way, the boat is rocking. I think we are starting to buck the incoming now and that will no doubt slow our progress.
11:50 AM. I just got off of a few hour watch at the wheel. We hit a few rip tides that slowed us to about 7.5 knots but over all we have at or a little above 8 knots. About 40 minutes ago, Chris and I decided to try to set a course change into the autopilot on our own and that went off with out a hitch. The weather continues to be spectacular and Rhonda has spent most of the day up top. Chris just called us for lunch. More later.
5:40 PM. Lunch was good; leftover split pea soup and toasted cheese with tomato slice. Then a nice couple of hours in the sunshine reading and sightseeing. We passed the tallest totem pole in the world and it was visible from about a mile away. Jack came up at about 4:15 and said that the weather report for tomorrow was worse than this evenings for crossing Queen Charlotte Sound so he thought that we should go ahead and cross. Even though it will take about 4hrs to cross and another hour to make it to a harbor (and that last hour will be in the dark). Since then, we have stowed everything that might fall or roll or fly, and Jack put the stabilizer poles out so they would be ready. All of the excitement and activity of getting ready and the thought that we wouldn’t be able to cook any dinner till possibly 10:00 tonight made Chris hungry so he made a peanut butter and banana sandwich. It sounded good so I had one also. We just passed the Pine Island Light house and got a couple of pictures (I have been trying to get a few good pics of every one we pass). They seem to take very good care of the ones we have seen in Canada. All white buildings with red roofs. The water is the roughest that we have seen since leaving Seattle but this is where we expected to find it. Right now the rollers from the ocean are only about 3 ft max with a wind chop in between so we will se what happens. There is still not a cloud in the sky but I can’t imagine that lasting much longer. We will take it however it comes.

Thursday, 6/4/2009 - 7:45 AM. Rhonda is doing the breakfast dishes and Chris is putting a new tube of grease in Jacks grease gun. We have been under way since, I think, 5:00 but I didn’t check the clock. The sun was just coming up as we came out of last night’s anchorage. I was going to sleep in this morning but I could tell that it was going to be clear day with a warm-you-up-as-soon-as-it-hits-you sunrise so, I was up with everybody else. Rhonda, Chris and I watched from topside as we pulled out of a small protected inlet with no beaches, just rock that went pretty much straight down into the water. We had found our spot in the dark last night with the GPS map on the auto pilot, radar, and a depth sounder. After dropping anchor the first time, we noticed an island not much bigger than our boat that was too close for comfort so, on our second try, we were good for the night and had our customary drinks on the flying bridge at around midnight. We are a little ahead of schedule with the late crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound last evening which, by the way, had Chris in his bunk sleeping and me on the aft deck in the fresh air trying to keep my stomach from completely turning against me. Rhonda and, of course, Jack had no problem with the 4hrs of rolling and pitching. So, as soon as everybody had had their first cup of coffee, the light dinner we had last night began to have an effect on our conversation and a plan for breakfast was agreed on. Chris and I set to work and in short order we had a stack of pancakes with strawberries, apples, maple syurap, eggs and juice . The galley is just a narrow passageway between the aft cabin and the space that I call the wheel house. It is really just a small area all the way forward in the cabin big enough for one person to run the controls. In spite of the close quarters, we worked well together. Thank goodness the water was smooth as glass. We have a bit of a breeze now that has raised a light chop on the water and Rhonda has finished the morning dishes and gone topside so I am off to join her . . . more later.
10:12 PM. Captain Jack has turned in for the night after an especially nice evening of drinks and stories at anchor in Bottle Neck Inlet. This is the most incredibly beautiful anchorages I have ever seen and certainly the nicest (so far) on this trip. We stopped at a place called Shearwater today, at about lunch time. It had a laundry mat/shower, a 2 min shower for 1 loony (we are in Canada-eh) so we all got showers and had a nice sit down lunch at the restaurant. We all went away with our bellies full for $45 (Canadian), got a 100 gallons fuel and got under way again. The weather was so spectacularly nice that we (Jack) decided to push passed the place he had originally thought that we would spend the night and come here instead. Good choice! There were three boats in the inlet when we got here at about a half an hour before sunset but, it is just big enough that we all seem to have our own space and we haven’t heard a peep from them. The only thing disturbing the piece and quiet is our laughter and a couple of loons. Rhonda and Jack were still fine from our big lunch so Chris and I tried again to finish off the split pea soup and, again, had to put some away for another day. We almost took some time at Shearwater today to send out some e-mails but the wireless access was ten bucks (again, Canadian) and it didn’t seem worth it, plus, it would have slowed our departure. So, maybe Ketchikan. Chris and Rhonda have both been working on their computers this afternoon and when we got to a spot that had an hour-long stretch of unprotected water and it started to get a little rough. I got in my bunk and actually took a nap. I did learn later when I got up that I should have let Jack know because at one point when he was checking on everybody, he didn’t think to look for me in my bunk and thought I gone overboard. On the last hour of our trip today Rhonda , Chris and I decided to start happy hour before we dropped anchor. The water was smoother than we have seen on the whole trip (I don’t even know how that is possible, but it was) and the air temperature had to have been around 80 degrees. Jack said that he has never had this good of whether for this long on a trip north, and he has been doing it for 50 years. I can hardly wait to see what we have in store for tomorrow. Jack told us before he turn in that we would be leaving a little later in the morning (5:30) so we could time our entrance into a narrow pass for slack tide. Sounds like another great day no matter what the weather is like.