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I'm writing this on a beautiful sunny afternoon while motoring down Glacier Bay with (unfortunately) zero wind, with my son Alec up on deck trying to regain his summer tan. This morning we sailed over to Reid Glacier and had a chance to hear and see it calve into the bay. Its bergie bits are much smaller than those in Tracy Arm or Le Conte, but I think Alec still got a kick out of it - we've just sailed 100 miles just to be able to reload the cooler with "real" ice!
Alec enjoying Reid Glacier in Glacier Bay.
Alec's trip to Alaska started out in flawless warm weather in Skagway, where we took their famous White Pass train ride up to the summit and back (next time, I'll go all the way to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory). It was fun in Skagway because they are celebrating the centennial of the Gold Rush. We sailed over to Haines for the SouthEast Alaska State Fair, and it was there that the weather generated, as they say here, "horizontal rain". After a couple of unproductive rainy days, I elected to ignore the weather forecasts and headed south down Lynn Canal towards Juneau - got caught for just a very short while in a nice gearbuster on the nose, but with the reefed-down Telstar it was really no worse than a San Francisco Bay summer day.
Anchored in William Henry Bay.
It took a couple of days to get to Glacier Bay - great sailing, either being able to make every waypoint on one tack when beating or else having some great downwind runs. Here in Glacier Bay the wind was dead on the nose all day long going up the bay, but now its non-existent now that I could use it on the return trip - oh well, the lovely weather makes up for it, though. We're heading back conservatively (timewise) just to make sure Alec catches his flight - after all, once you've seen the beautiful mountains, glaciers, whales, etc., why dwell on it?
Did you know whales have bad breath? Yesterday morning as I was motoring over to Glacier Bay from Hoonah (an indian village) I smelled this terrible stench - looking up, there was a whale surfacing not 20 feet away off the port bow! Those suckers are BIG. They are also easy to spot, as their breath leaves a cloud of steam hanging in the air for quite some time.
Yep, that's a whale's tail.
It was so nice in Glacier Bay that I shut off the computer and enjoyed doing absolutely nothing... we had two solid days of motoring into the tide and wind in order to get to here for my son to get to his flight home.
I've already mentioned that my Telstar has great all-around visibility from down below; however, the forward windows could use some mist defrosters and windshield wipers up here in Alaska. I just bought some Rain-X and will try that...
Having spent much of my sailing time over the last 30 years racing rather than cruising, I'm slowly beginning to discover what time-unconstrained sailing is all about. Even though I can put in a reef in 20 seconds, I find that I now take my time, maybe even heave-to for a few minutes, tidy things up with reefing ties, and rarely debate with myself as to whether actually to do it or not because boatspeed just doesn't matter. Similarly, I'm just dawdling most of the time rather than going hell-bent for leather from point A to point B. Weird sensation (those of you who know me from my past life as a Type A will appreciate my comment). Nevertheless, I still put in and take out reefs very often - good exercise. Last summer, when Dave Howell from Wales (founder of the Telstar Owners Association) visited and I took him for a long sail on the Bay, he allowed that I put in and took out more reefs in that single day than he does in an entire season!
Having said that, I must note that daylight is rapidly disappearing (losing five minutes per day), so I guess that from now on the number of hours available to sail need to be maximized. With so many logs in the water (admittedly, less than in British Columbia), I'm not too keen on night sailing.
I've developed a priority list during this cruise, it goes something like this:
Actually, sleep isn't a concern on this trip yet, since I'm not really doing any passagemaking - if I go down outside, then it'll become very significant. I've been sleeping like a baby each night, and can heartily endorse a separate fleece inner liner for sleeping bags.
The weather forecasting inside SouthEast Alaska sucks! Wind velocity and direction and wave height predictions are consistently abominable. I'm told that off the coast the predictions are very accurate, but there are simply too many variables for good inland predictions. I'll try my own hand at it if I ever get the weatherfax software to work.
The boat is holding up great, although I get considerable clunking in the crossarm connection points if the boat is just sitting at anchor and there are broadside waves. Still no leaks :-)
I've racked up well over 200 hours on the new Yamaha four-stroke motor and it's doing great, with no more things jiggling loose. Starts first hit each time.
My water supply is marginal for extended travel: drinking water is five gallons and washing water is six gallons in the new built-in tank. I've taken to carrying a five-gallon spare tank.
I've abandoned the little 12v electric refrigerator (Alec will take it home with him) - at six amps it was still too much of a drain on the system - even with all the motoring. Ice is readily available (albeit expensive), although block ice rather than crushed ice is hard to find.
I had purposely left a number of things at home in order not to overload the boat (I still have way too much stuff onboard, anyway). One of the items I regret not bringing is my folding bicycle. Luckily, I did bring my backpack, so the heavier groceries don't become burdensome.
Enough jabbering - I'll be leaving the Juneau area and heading towards Sitka tomorrow after Alec leaves and I reorganize the boat.
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