Joe's 1998 Alaska Cruise, Part 3

Petersburg - Le Conte and Sawyer Glaciers - Juneau - Skagway

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Skagway, Alaska, July 30, 1998

If you'll look on your map, you'll see that Skagway is about as far as one can go with a sailboat inside SouthEast Alaska. Neat historical place which is presently celebrating the Centennial of the Gold Rush.

I'm writing this in the Skagway library after spending a fantastic day in the warm sun dodging tourists, trains, and horse-drawn sightseeing carriages. I'm using the library's power outlet because, inasmuch as I intend to spend a few days here, I didn't want to run down the boat's batteries pounding on the computer.

Boring Travelogue

The trip from Petersburg to here had some exciting moments and last-gasp El-Nino weather which my friend Kathy Ferguson brought up from California. Left Petersburg with three working autopilots and headed straight for Le Conte Glacier. What a strange sensation to be sailing amongst small icebergs - some certainly much larger than my boat, but most just little chunks. I didn't realize what those little chunks mean until I blithely sailed into a massive field of them and promptly snagged to towline for the BikeBoat onto a bergie. The fun then started, as a cross-wind was blowing and pretty soon both boats were being crunched by these things that I now realize weight hundreds or thousands of pounds each, and are most unrelenting when in contact with fiberglass boats. After an interesting time we finally extricated the boats and motor with minimal damage - I finally found a disadvantage to multihulls - in this case, I had five hulls (the tri and the cat) which needed to be maneuvered in the drifting ice. Needless to say, we abandoned the idea of going to the head of the glacier (where it 'calves' into the bay), took the requisite photos, and escaped. Another thing - if I thought sailing at night in British Columbia was risky because of the logs, then night sailing close to ice fields could make for a good Titanic sequel!

[Kathy under dodger]Kathy modeling her bikini by Le Conte Glacier.

[Joe Glacier]Forgot the name of this glacier (it's just north of Le Conte) - anchored overnight closeby.

From Le Conte Glacier we wandered up Stephens Passage and Frederick Sound up to Tracy Arm. Unlike everyone else, we didn't see any whales :-( Being a glutton for punishment, I wanted to go up and see Sawyer Glacier at the head of Tracy Arm. Unfortunately, it was very foggy, cloudy, rainy, cold, and yukky, but absolutely spectacular - whenever one could see something. Anchoring at the entrance to Tracy Arm was downright chilly. The weather forecasts here are as bad as elsewhere and the four days of predicted 20-knot southeast winds never materialized and thus, after three solid days of motoring, I was too low on gas to go all the way up Tracy Arm to the glacier itself. There were lots of small icebergs, so we pedaled the BikeBoat over to a bergie with an ice pick to replenish the cooler, took the photos of blue icebergs, and said 'bye to a beautiful place.

[Telstar Iceberg]It really is this beautiful.

[SeaCycle by Iceberg]As we pedalled over to the berg, a girl on a kayak materialized out of the fog, so we exchanged cameras and dutifully took each others' photos and continued on our way.

[Kathy under dodger]Kathy basking

[Ice Nessie]Nessie is alive and well in Alaska.

The next day we finally had a great 20-knot tailwind, so sailed around Douglas Island and docked at the marina in Auke Bay north of Juneau. We spent a couple of days riding the local buses and sightseeing - Kathy left for California and took the rain back with her. From Juneau I sailed to Haines (two days), then here to Skagway in beautiful cloudless (except around the snowy peaks) warm t-shirt and shorts weather which I'm still enjoying. Flew the spinnaker for most of the trip from Auke Bay to here - when I asked the harbormaster if the wind is ever from the north in this area, I was told that if I'd like to wait 'til November, the winter storms...

Now, in Skagway, I'm waiting for my son Alec to show up this coming weekend. We'll take the historic trainride here, then go down to Haines for the SouthEast Alaska State Fair (the loggers' competitions should be fun to watch), then perhaps down to Glacier Bay (one needs permits to enter) or Tracy Arm so Alec can see the glaciers and bergies for himself. He'll be returning to California from Juneau, and I'll be making my trek back via Sitka and hopefully the Outside Passage, weather permitting.

Enough travelogue.

The boat is doing very well (I just knocked on wood) as is the motor. No window leaks, yet. The insulation I had added to the inside of the boat over the years is really paying off, but the cabin sole needs thicker carpeting - I'm thinking of storing the perishables in the bilge and abandoning the cooler. Despite the few days of motoring out of Petersburg, I've managed to get in quite a bit of sailing on this trip so far, which, I'm told, is unusual. Finally have the spinnaker sock nicely sorted out, so putting up the chute is so quick and effortless that I put it up the instant the wind's behind me.

Safety Gear

Someone wanted to know what I had in the way of safety gear:

1. I've made the hulls unsinkable by stuffing dozens of empty plastic gallon jugs into them. They're all tied together so they shouldn't float away if an outer hull splits open and they should certainly stay in place if the boat's inverted. I have an additional 500# of buoyancy in the cabintop which I rebuilt a few years ago.

2. When rebuilding the forward cabin last summer, I built in three watertight bulkheads which will hopefully hold up if I whap into a log or something.

3. In addition to a twenty-year collection of flares (some are actually current), I've got a couple of easily-accessible waterproof handheld VHFs in waterproof boxes.

4. For personal safety, I have a heavy-duty survival suit in addition to a Mustang Survival (brand) fully-insulated suit which I wear when it is cold and when I don't plan on any strenuous activity (it's too warm, otherwise).

5. I changed over from wire to webbing jacklines for this trip and they're working out better than the wire because the wire kept getting jammed in the gap between the ama and main hull and also rolled underfoot. I simply don't leave the cockpit without clipping in.

6. For when I go offshore, I've got a fully-outfitted parachute sea anchor which I can deploy off a bridle off the bows.

7. I say my prayers at appropriate times.

The computer table I built in Ketchikan is working out extremely well, with the computer getting a good workout - the GPS/computer chart interface really was comforting when motoring in that fog in Tracy Arm - accuracy certainly more than adequate for small boat navigation, after matching chart and GPS datums. Still haven't got the weatherfax software to work, but enjoy listening to the shortwave BBC for my nightly news (there is no local radio reception as soon as one sails away from town). Most boats around here have radar, but I haven't succumbed to that, yet.

I've been remiss in getting to my e-mail regularly - I finally signed up with HotMail when I realized that I can access my regular (Telis) account with HotMail and easily read my e-mail from any cafe or library with an Internet hookup. With most libraries, one has to sign up days in advance in order to get on the computer :-(

Another e-mail problem is that I had previously used Netscape for all my e-mails. My notebook computer doesn't have enough memory or disk space to use Netscape, so I've been trying to use Eudora and Claris E-Mailer. Still struggling with trying to import my extensive address books into these programs. When you get this e-mail, it means that I finally licked the problem of avoiding laboriously re-entering everyone's addresss and that I finally found a phone outlet into which I could plug in my computer.

Enough rambling. I'll send out another trip update whenever. Should be home by October.

Joe Siudzinski

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