What's in her name?

What's in her name (Salish Aire)?

from her new home the Salish Sea

Aire as in a melody of song.

Salish + Aire = The melody of the Salish Sea.

Salish Sea:
In the late 1700's Captain George Vancouver wandered around the waters of what are now known as British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA. He did the usual 1700's explorer thing and put names he chose on everything he saw. The names stuck and are recognized and used to this day.

New lines were added to Captain Vancouver's charts in 1872 (after a near war with Great Britain over a pig) which made waters on one side of the line Canadian and those on the other side of the line American.

It wasn't until 1988 (officiated in 2009) that someone finally realized that fish and various critters, (to say nothing of the water itself) were never involved in the boundary treaties and really ignored them completely. (This is best illustrated by the problems that Homeland Security has with Canadian Canada Geese and American Canadian Geese - it seems they refuse to carry passports and have been known to poop on the head of any border patrol person who tries to challenge their right to cross the border when and where they choose!) In reality the waters from Olympia to the well up the East side of Vancouver Island are pretty much one ecosystem.

The Coast Salish are the indigenous peoples who live in southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington state along the Salish Sea and share a common linguistic and cultural origin. The Salish Sea is named in honor of the earliest recorded peoples who plied her waters and learned to live in harmony with her.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Seward and Kenai Fjords

June 30, 2018

We made our exit from Prince William Sound via Elrington Passage with a visit to New Chenega Village along the way.  During our winter in Sitka one of the books I loaded on my Kindle was The Great Quake; How the Biggest Earthqake in North America Changed our Understanding of the Planet  which was about how the earthquake of 1964. In the book was the story of Chenega Village and how 1/3 of the population was lost to a tidal wave while the ones that survived hung together at the schoolhouse on a hill next to the village. I had heard that will the native folks ask that you not go ashore at the original village that the schoolhouse was still standing.  On our way past Chenega Island we took time to look at the village site from out in the cove.  We could see the schoolhouse (on a much shorter hill than I had imagined) and the pilings from the old pier.  We could also see why the village had been sited on the cove as it is a very picturesque location that looks to be well protected from storms.  On the other hand the gently sloping beach that attracted the village children to play on it on that fateful day also proved to be a perfect funnel for a tsunami.  The Village folk originally were moved into another village but long standing rivalries made that situation less than ideal.  In the end they were able to establish New Chenega Village.

New Chenega Village has about 30 full time residents.  In many ways it confused us as visitors as the town was very quiet with few people out and about but perfectly graded roads (including to a new housing development with no houses) a graded and lighted gravel runway, a modern dock/marina, a ferry dock, a clinic and community center, and a gorgeous Russian Orthodox Church.  When I expressed interest in the church the woman with the key allowed me in and the decorations were amazing. The entire ceiling and most of the walls had been hand painted by an iconographer.  We stayed on the village dock for a couple of nights.

Chenega housing development with no houses

Chenega Community Center

Chenega Russian Orthodox Church 
View from Chenega (notice the boats on the beach)

Inside of Russian Orthodox Church

Inside of Russian Orthodox Church

Prior to arriving in the village I noticed that at some point the top 8 feet of our high-frequency radio antenna had gone swimming (apparently the threads stripped that held that section on).  We had still been able to use the radio but knew that it would work a lot better at its full design length.  I managed to cobble together some 3 ft sections of stainless rod I had and then tried to stiffen it with some plastic rods and PVC pipe.  It looked pretty pathetic as even when we tried to use guy wires it still leaned over like the top of a shepherd’s crook.  The good news was it did transmit well enough that we were able to make contact with a ham operator in the Virgin Islands. While we were in the village I mentioned the problem to an elderly native man who was chatting with myself and several fishermen on the dock.  He offered that we could use the antennae off his old boat now permanently grounded above the tide line if I could get it down.  I did manage to climb up to the crow’s nest despite the boat having a 30 degree list as it sat partially buried in the sand, and did get the old antennae to mount on our boat.  We used that antennae until our friend Bruce bought one for us and carried it down to Seward for us so now we have a new antennae for the first time since we have owned the boat.

Boats on the beach - Antenna came from the boat on the left

High Frequency radio antenna we used until a new one was delivered in Seward

The other thing that was fascinating while we were in the village was that there was a commercial fishing 12 hour opening in the bay which was expected to have a good run of fish as a fish hatchery is at one end.  Over the weekend we got to talk to several purse seine boat fisherfolk as they prepared their boats on the dock for the Monday opening.  Monday at 8 AM the boats were off and running and it was quite the rodeo as they each tried to lasso the biggest batch of fish possible.  We didn’t see any collisions but would not have been surprised as they ran their boats at top speed to get their nets out within a few feet of where the next boat was doing the same thing. We don’t know how many total fish were caught as we headed out about mid-morning.

Preparing nets over the weekend for the Monday opening

Race to get nets in the water

Lots of purse seiners 

Closing the purse 
Hauling in the fish

Seward located at the head of Resurrection Fjord.  This was our first look at Kenai Fjords area and what immediately struck us was that the scenery and geology was very different than it had been in Prince William Sound.  We immediately started seeing different wildlife as well with our first sighting of a puffin in the wild shortly after turning into Resurrection Fjord.  When we arrived in Seward we found a town much bigger than we had expected and were greeted as soon as we tied up by other local cruising sailors.  There is another boat of the same model as ours that is moored in Seward and we were eager to see if they were in port but soon found out they were out on the water but everyone seemed to be familiar with the boat and by association with ours.

The mountains around Seward and Kenai Fjords are very different than Prince William Sound

Stark mountains

Marathon Mountain behind Seward

We stayed 2 nights in Seward as we needed some rest with our lingering respiratory infections that had been making us miserable for a number of days.  On the second day I was showing signs of recovery (having begun my illness a week before Clarice) and decided to explore town a bit (especially to look for a certain magazine – more to follow on that).  I visited the SeaLife Center aquarium and was very impressed with the whole place but especially the shore bird aviary.  They have a walk-in aviary with 30 species of local sea/shore birds including several species of puffins.  The birds have grown very accustomed to people being among them and it was not unusual to have a bird fly within inches of your head or to choose to sit on a rock a couple of feet away.

Tufted Puffin in SeaLife Center

Eider SeaLife Center

Bird habitat islands

Thousands of birds nests in these islands

Thousands of birds nests in these islands

Puffins at Sea

Since we had been off the grid (AKA no cell service or internet) for a number of days we started catching up as soon as we approached Seward and got a cellular signal.  Among my email was a request that I immediately sign some forms and email them back as an article I had written was to be in the July edition of Sea Magazine.  I was able to find the edition was already on-line and was very pleased with how they had presented my work. ( Sea Magazine article )  One reason I was looking in every store that carried magazines in Seward was I was hoping that I could find a paper copy to read but alas no one carried it.

We left Seward on a rainy, cloudy day and then added wind to the mix.  After putting up with uncomfortable water for a while we radioed a local tour boat who told us where there was a protected cove where we could anchor comfortably for the night. The next day we were able to move into the next Fjord south but the rain and low clouds persisted.  Fairly early in the day we decided to put down the anchor and take a nap as the bits of ice from glaciers at the end of the fjord were getting pretty thick and we couldn’t see much anyway.  When the tide changed the ice moved to provide a path and we decided to go up to Aialik Glacier and see what we could see.  Even though it continued to rain the glacier was pretty spectacular and we were glad we made the trip in to see the face.  We then turned back and anchored in a very protected and spectacular cove and hoped for clear skies.
This morning clear skies did prevail and both of us are finally feeling much better.  Leaving Aialik Bay we passed some island where we saw thousands of sea birds including hundreds of puffins.  We were pretty overwhelmed by the whole show.

We continued into Northwestern Fjord on the recommendation of our guide book that referred to it as a bit of hidden gem.  WOW what a gem.  Every 15 minutes a new vista of different mountains and more glaciers would open up.  This is one of those places that after 3 days of rain, low clouds, and feeling ill reminds us of why we are here. 

On the way into Northwestern Fjord we were hailed on the radio – or rather our sister ship from Seward was hailed. We responded and reported that we were hoping to make contact with Four Seasons but were not them even though we look very similar. While we were conversing with the first boat a second boat broke into the conversation and indicated that they had spoken with Four Seasons this morning and suggested that we anchor near them.  We are now anchored in a bay with a glacier about ¼ mile off our stern feeding a stream that empties into the bay behind us. To our port side are 3 hanging glaciers, 2 of which send ice falls down onto a snowfield forming a glacier at the bottom of the cliff extending almost to the shoreline.  We have heard about 6 ice fall events since we have been anchored.  Off our starboard side is, well, just lots of phenomenal scenery.  Finally off our bow is just another snow capped mountain range with a number of glaciers sliding down including one to tidewater.

We visited the boat sharing the anchorage and they related stories from their 7 year odyssey of going south to the Sea of Cortez only to decide to keep heading south and through the Strait of Magellan and then back up to Labrador only to make a U turn and head back through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal and back to their home port in Alaska.

This wooden boat has been on a 7 year odyssey that included travels through the Chilean Canals (it is a motor vessel with sail assist and sail stabilization)

July 4, 2018

Since the last note we continued south until we finally reached the point of feeling satiated (or perhaps overwhelmed) with the wild beauty around us.  At this point we are moving back north towards Seward.

It finally feels like summer may have arrived with several sunny and warm days in a row and more and more wildflowers blooming. The only stain on the record was a day when there was thick fog low to the water reducing our visibility to less than 1/8th mile at times.  Even that day had spells when the fog would back off for a few minutes and allow us a glimpse at the scenery around us and then finally toward evening the skies cleared nicely.  We had discussed getting into Seward in time to see the fireworks and festivities but decided against it especially since Jarvis is often left as a shaking puppy of nerves after fireworks (and why do they have fireworks in Alaska in the summer anyway – they were scheduled for midnight when it is about as dark as Seattle at 8 PM this time of year).
Last evening I was sitting on the deck trying to recall what little I have taught myself of playing the recorder (we bought a set of 3 nice ones for the boat to play in all of our “bored time” – they haven’t been out since winter in Sitka).  I was making music (noise?) accompanied by a whale that spent most of the evening feeding in the cove, waterfalls, birds, and seals slapping the water (perhaps a comment on my playing).  We were the only humans that we were aware of despite being able to see for miles around us.  I finally gave up my playing when no-see-ums were deciding I would make a good dinner.  After that I lit a bug coil in the back cockpit and sat and talked to Jarvis a while before Clarice and I finished out the evening with a video we had along.

Jarvis attired for a shore outing in his life vest, bear bell, and water activated strobe light

Today we set about trying to address my remaining Alaska bucket list.  I want to catch a halibut or salmon, get a really good photo of a puffin, and finally get a really good photo of a bear.  The fish simply haven’t cooperated.  Puffins abound along our route but always where there is a sea swell and trying to use a 400mm lens on a moving boat has proven to be a challenge.  The closest bears we have seen have also been too far away to allow for the perfect shot (and also there is the issue that I really don’t want to be on the same beach as the bear while taking its picture).  While the bucket list still challenges me, we have instead found more of the unexpected bits of wonder we have come to expect.  We took a kayak trip across the bay to a somewhat interesting looking beach and found it to be a mini-wonderland with a tiny islet, a sea arch doorway to the next beach, and a beautiful waterfall cascading down the rocks.  Jarvis was completely entertained  barking at the waves as the beach was open to the Gulf, I took photos , and Clarice took a shower in the waterfall (you’ll have to take my word for it as she forbid photos) seeming to forget that the water originated in a melting snowfield only a short way above the cliff.

Clarice's Shower
A sea arch leads to the next beach

July 11, 2018

At this point we are biding our time and making final preparations while we wait for our Son-in-law, Paul, to arrive as our crew member while we cross back to SE Alaska.  He is expected next Tuesday and so far the weather tea-leaves look fairly hopeful (after the past several days when we have endured the remnants of another tropical storm with constant high winds and buckets of rainfall).

When we got back to Seward we had several packages waiting for us in general delivery which gave us plenty to do while we sat on the dock and watched the rain.  

Boat Projects:

I understand that my grandson Henri now looks forward to the boat projects notes in the blog and always points out that any little boat project always seems to become a big boat project.  This series of projects seems to fit that pattern pretty well.

#1: The little leak that wouldn't quit

In the last blog entry we mentioned water in the guest stateroom on the floor. Before leaving tie boat we were able to determine that the source was a very small leak around the flange that holds the inspection cap on the forward fresh water tank when the tank is completely full.  The leak has probably been long standing but we were never able to find the source before.  In any case over time the water fills a reservoir of sorts under the dresser in the main berth which it turns out does not have a natural drain to the bilge.  We believe that when Bruce and I were trying to troubleshoot an intermittent problem with the water maker (more on that to follow) we added a bit of water to the already full reservoir and all it took was the weight of two adults sleeping in the guest berth on the same side of the boat to cause an overflow onto the floor.  When we got back to the boat we decided to make a repair with the dreaded ("dreaded" because it is impossible to remove if there is an error) 3M 5200 sealant / glue.  We managed to pop the flange loose and put 1/2 tube of 5200 "fast cure" ("fast" being 24 hours) on it after it was cleaned and then dropped it back into place (keep in mind this is all being done down in a restricted area access hole under our bed).  24 hours later we filled the tank and the leak had gone from a seep to a gusher - oops, apparently dropping the part in place was not enough to cause the 5200 to seal.  Back in Seward for our rainy day project we cut the dreaded 5200 loose with a vibrating saw and started over.  This time we used normal cure (normal being 7 days) black 5200 with almost 1/2 tube being carefully smeared on the flange and almost 1/2 tube being carefully smeared on the tank and all of the remainder ending up on the floor and hoses surrounding the project, my tools, my hands and arms, my shirt, and most stylishly the black cement on my white hair.  We haven't been brave enough to fill the tank yet to see if this fix worked - we might try it after next Saturday when 7 days has passed.

The leaky flange

Reaching through the floor while kneeling under the bed to scrape off the old sealant

#2: The pump that almost could

So back to the intermittent water maker problem.  Our water maker is a rather old unit that is spread all over under our bed.  The main components are a low pressure intake pump, some pre-filters, a high pressure pump and then the reverse osmosis membranes.  We weren't even sure it worked when we purchased the boat as it had been "pickled" (preservation chemicals added to the expensive membranes to preserve them for long term storage) and we didn't want to mess with the pickling process until we had time to work with them.  We have since confirmed that the system would make water but have already had one minor catastrophe when the top of one of the pre-filters split and we flooded under the bed some time back.  This time the issue was traced to the low pressure pump (which lives tucked up in the bow under our bed) not putting out enough pressure to push the water through the pre-filters. (And of course this was discovered when we have realized we don't dare fill our primary fresh water tank to the tippy-top for fear of it leaking so we had to watch our water consumption carefully as we can't store our full capacity and we can't make more.) We looked into a new pump (less the electric motor) and learned it was $600 so the $300 for a rebuild kit didn't sound so bad.  We had the parts ordered by aSeattle dealer from the California manufacturer (who refuses to mail to USPS general delivery) who then reboxed the parts and sent them on to the Seward Post Office. After removing rubber parts with scrappers that should have just dropped off and removing a seal with a Dremel cutting tool we recognized the pump had experienced a hard life.  After a nice re-painting of the motor and rebuild of the pump it now seems to work reliably and well.

#3: The "Jack Sparrow" compass

Fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series will be familiar with Jack Sparrow's compass that points any direction but north.  We are working with a similar problem.  The main radar unit on Salish Aire is industrial grade and displays on a chart-plotter / radar display unit which has the ability to also overlay the radar image on top of the chart image IF it has a compass connected to it. We have the compass and while it has always been a challenge to keep it correctly aligned it does work.  Our original chart-plotter display unit had the Achilles Heal of using only chart cards that are no longer made and becoming more and more difficult to find on the used market.  We learned some time back that the next generation newer chart-plotter would plug directly into our current wiring and would accept more available cards.  In the long run we figured that getting a used chart-plotter of the newer design would quickly pay for itself in savings on chart cards (we use it as a back-up to our primary navigation computer).  We were finally able to acquire a newer chart-potter and get it installed.  Installing it involved removing two circuit boards from inside of the original unit (they added extra capabilities that the new one didn't have) and replacing the memory storage battery (which was spot welded to the circuit board and so a pain to change).  The first time I turned it off after putting it back together it refused to boot up so I pulled it back apart again and re-wiggled connectors and ribbon wires and then it was happy.  It is now working except that the electronic compass still doesn't consistently point the right direction. Perhaps it is trying to lead us to pirate's gold - but more likely than not it will just take more time (and/or parts) before it all works as it was designed to.

July 15, 2018

We are back in Seward doing final preparations for our trip back across the Gulf of Alaska.  We expect our son-in-law Paul to join us Tuesday and then will head out as soon as possible as we appear to have a stretch of good weather coming our way (after getting slopped around badly enough yesterday that I got seasick again - no fun).  Wish us luck, or better yet send your prayers.

A cabin in the forest - abandoned or just gone temporarily ?? 

Older signs of making a go of it in the forest

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cordova to Whittier

June 8, 2018

10:30 PM thinking about being sunset as we leave Cordova area
10:30 PM thinking about being sunset as we leave Cordova area

It’s been an eventful several days as we traveled to then from the town of Valdez. 

Tatitlek Village on the way to Valdez
Southern terminus of the Alaska Oil Pipeline

Valdez from the air

One our way to Valdez we stopped and spent a night at anchor in the outer harbor of Shoup Bay State Marine Park.  The park is at the toe of Shoup Glacier.  When a glacier moves forward it pushes a pile of dirt and rocks (moraine) which often stay and act as a dam as the glacier recedes.  Shoup Glacier has an  outer moraine that can be crossed by larger boats with the central passage about 15 ft deep at low water  and an inner moraine about 1 mile further with a very well defined channel that can be crossed with a small boat on high tide.  The outer moraine defines the bay as it is pretty much salt water and the inner moraine defines the lake as it is primarily fresh water.  Once you enter the lake it’s about 1 ½ miles across the lake to the toe of the glacier which is back a short distance from the beach.  The fjiord leading into the glacier was covered with fresh bright green growth with the arrival of spring and many waterfalls from the snowfields at the top.  The effect was much like the opening scenes from the movie Jurassic Park except it was cloudy and cool rather than hot and muggy. In any case the scenery was amazing.  After anchoring in front of one of the public use cabins with a shore tie as the shelves out from the shores are fairly narrow with steep drop offs, we waited for the tide to come in and then took Jarvis in the dingy to visit the glacier toe. We (including Jarvis who seemed very interested in the glacier for some reason) were in awe and just wished we could see what the bay would look like on a sunny day.

Setting for Jurassic Park Ice Age - Shoup Bay State Park outer bay

Looking across the lake/lagoon toward Shoup Glacier

Jarvis was quite intrigued by the glacier and walked right up on the ice

Foot of Shoup Glacier

On his way to see the ice

Ice cave at the foot of Shoup Glacier

The next morning we awoke to perfect blue skies and decided to go back into the lake to check out 2 other cabins.  When we got through the channel into the lake we saw that a float plane had come in while we were sleeping to one of the cabins.  We offered the couple in the plane a boat ride over the lake to the toe of the glacier and they were glad to have the chance to see it. When we were about to land back at their cabin they offered us a ride in their float plane. Perfect weather, incredible scenery, and a chance to do something on my bucket list – I couldn’t say “YES!!” fast enough.  They took us (including Jarvis) for a flight over Valdez and the surrounding mountains and glaciers.  We were able to see the immense Columbia Glacier from the air and even got a couple photos of Salish Aire at anchor.  The only one with some trepidation was Jarvis but he seemed to settle in after a bit as he usually does with new experiences.
"Hey, would you like a ride in our float plane?"

Looking from Shoup outer bay over the moraine to the glacier at the head of the lake/inner lagoon

Our ship at anchor
Initially Jarvis didn't know what to think but he got used to the ride very quickly

Do we get a tax advantage for having the boat used as an airport?

From Shoup Bay we travelled through Valdez narrows (after confirming with traffic control that we didn’t have to compete with any oil tankers) and on to Valdez where we got a nice spot on the dock. We enjoyed the town that was really gearing up for tourist season with RV parks and fishing derbies advertised everywhere.  I was excited to have a “red meat” dinner of ribs that tasted great and noted that the Radio Shack store had a forest of ham radio antennas sticking out of it.  The next morning I met with AL4O “Larry” and we yabbered about radios and boats for a while.  At the end of the conversation he offered us his truck so we could drive up the Richardson Highway to see the scenery between town and Thompson Pass.  The pass still had a lot of snow and clouds were low so it was scenic but not “super wow”.  On the other hand the highway passes through a narrow canyon with several amazing waterfalls that made the trip well worthwhile.

After we returned the truck we headed out in somewhat mucky weather to anchor in Sawmill Bay State Marine Park south of town.  We had been settled on our anchor for about 2 hours when I heard a radio call that sounded very close including the information that a child was unconscious likely from carbon monoxide.  I yelled at Clarice to grab the first aid kit and oxygen tank while I grabbed the AED and then we both headed to the dinghy deck.  We normally take about 20 minutes to launch the dinghy but we believe we had it in the water and loaded with gear in less than 10 minutes and were on our way to the only other boat in the anchorage.  On arrival we found a man who was lucid who reported that they had been running the generator and trying to start one of the engines for about 20 minutes.  There was a young boy who was rapidly losing mentation until when Clarice got to his side within seconds he was unresponsive.  A third adult woman had been throwing up and was only partially lucid.  I opened doors and windows while Clarice put oxygen on the child and we were able to have everyone in somewhat better shape by the time the Coast Guard showed up not much later.  The 6 young men loaded everyone on their boat (including Clarice and I as they didn’t have the medical expertise we did) and we headed back to Valdez at over 30 knots.  When we last saw the family, everyone was much more lucid and the child was able to walk to the ambulance with just minor assistance. In looking back our honest assessment is the child may not have survived had we not been able to respond as quickly as we did. Clarice decompressed with her sister and our eldest grandson on the phone and I said a few prayers of thanks.  We also were publically thanked on the radio by the CG and we made sure they knew how much we appreciated their response as well.

CG press release about our rescue with kind kudos for "the nurses from Salish Aire"
"Raft" of otters in Sawmill Bay

June 16, 2018

After the last notes we anchored for several days as we moved towards the town of Whittier.  Our first Anchorage was in a bay connected to the fjord leading to the Columbia Glacier which we had flown over during our float plane ride.  We were pretty excited to see the face from the water if the ice flows would allow but didn’t really have the chance to get close enough as it has receded quite a bit from where our charts show it to be. In any case the day we arrived we put into a cove separated from the main fjord only by a shallow moraine. The moraine allowed us to travel over in our dinghy but kept the many large icebergs away from us. The first evening we watched a glacier tour boat go quite a way up the fjord and likely the tourists got some nice photos of the face.  The next morning the ice that had been gathered near the glacier end of the fjord was now spread throughout the length and we were really glad we had anchored behind the protective moraine.  We did take the dinghy and found a path among the bergs to travel about 2 ½ miles up the fjord to where we could just start to see the face at which time we turned around as the air was pretty cool coming off the glacier and icebergs and we were all getting cold.

An old moraine kept the large icebergs out of our anchorage

Oyster Catcher flirting
Columbia Glacier from the water

Columbia Glacier from the air

Next we moved to Ester Bay which is a virtual fairyland anchorage that was a kayak heaven surrounded with open meadows and mountains on Esther Island.  Entering the anchorage was the first time we have seen a number of salmon jumping and the local net fishermen tell us the season is finally picking up.

Ester Bay Reflection 
Clarice setting a stern tie

Ester Bay

Esther Bay meadows

We then picked up some longtime friends from Anchorage in the town of Whittier and took them to Surprise Cove Marine Park for the night.  The anchorage is lovely but the surprise turned out to be a rocky bottom that would not hold an anchor.  It usually takes us about 15 minutes to set an anchor securely instead of the hour it took us there.  When it did set it held well.  The next day the weather turned from lovely to windy and even the locals indicated it was an unexpected change. To add to our frustration (we were supposed to be showing Bruce and Tina how smoothly we had the whole boating thing under control) we discovered water on the bedroom floor when we returned to the dock.  After pulling everything out from under the beds and lots of mopping and work with the water vacuum we felt we had things under control but left the boat in a big mess as we headed into Anchorage with our friends to visit their home but not before we had to fight with the shore power GFI to get it to stay connected to keep the batteries up despite the refrigeration drain. (The source of the water turns out to be a long standing seep from the top of the fresh water tank when we fill it to the brim – it had pooled and then overflowed when we used the watermaker and added weight to the port side of the boat – not terribly hard to fix (we hope) when we decide to take time to work on it.)

The weather in Anchorage was very warm and sunny.  We enjoyed being back in a large town where we could visit big stores and take in a movie.  We really enjoyed catching up on the news with our friends and they took us to their lakefront cabin on Big Lake north of Anchorage.  Jarvis was pretty happy having a whole back yard to himself to explore as well.

Bruce and Clarice paddle on Big Lake north of Anchorage 

Bruce and Tina's cabin on Big Lake north of Anchorage
top to bottom, left to right: Bruce, Tina, Norman, Clarice, Jarvis

We are now tied up in the Whittier Marina while a windy rainy storm passes through after having one sunny day when I was able to hike to scenic Portage Pass.  Whittier itself is a really unique place. Whittier is at the head of a fjord that happens to be just a short distance from the city of Anchorage with the small problem of a large mountain blocking the way. Natives and later everyone from miners to railroad builders used the Portage Pass route over the mountain and associated Portage Glacier to take a short cut to Anchorage for many years rather than the very long route down around the Kenai Peninsula and back up Cook Inlet.  With the coming of WWII the military was very concerned that the primary route to get materials into the interior of Alaska was via the Port of Seward and then via the Alaska Railroad which they felt was very vulnerable to attack and challenging in the winter.  The result was that a 2+ mile train tunnel was bored through the solid rock of the mountain.  For many years if you wanted to “drive” into Whittier you drove onto a flatcar and were brought into town on the train. That changed when the railroad rules changed and no longer allowed riding in cars on flatcars so something needed to be done.  The tunnel was then converted so that it now serves cars and trains but only one way traffic at a time.  Outbound cars and trucks leave on the hour, inbound on the ½ hour and trains when there are no cars with a rather sophisticated control system.
The town itself is interesting in that everyone who lives here lives in one concrete high-rise building.  There are two huge cold war era concrete buildings one of which is an abandoned military headquarters and the other which was military housing.  The housing building now has the city offices, a store, and the post office on the first floor and condos for the rest of the building.   Since it is connected to the school next door by a covered walkway it’s possible to be a resident here and never go outside.  It sounds strange but the folks point out that it is no different than apartment living in a big city but with incredible views.  Here is a Yoytube by a local school teacher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naPguX84Amg .

Whittier Alaska where the whole population lives in the tall building in the center

The shortcut to Anchorage before the tunnel was built

Portage pass looking back towards Whittier

Lupine flowering along the trail

Portage Glacier from Portage Pass
Taking advantage of a sunny warm day before the weather got "Whittier"

June 19, 2018
We were finally able to leave Whittier today without getting blown away.  Apparently the past few days of torrential rain and wild wind were the remnants of a tropical Pacific typhoon. Since our daughter reads this to our grandchildren for bedtime stories I will soften the common description of Whittier’s weather to “It’s a whole lot worse in Whittier” by taking out the common rhyme.  With Whittier sitting at the head of a fjord it gets the worst of the wind and rain.  When we headed out the tunnel (a total of 3 times) we found Anchorage to be relatively warm and pleasant and today when we left the entry to the fjord we say blue sky peeking through the clouds after leaving in very low clouds and drizzle.  Yesterday there was a major commercial fishing opening and the word on the street is that the little bow picker net boats fought 8 ft seas all day – we just can attest to the wind never dropping below 20 knots Sunday night and Monday morning.

I am very susceptible to sinus problems brought on by allergies.  I have enjoyed being off my allergy medication for several months but didn’t think to start it when spring sprung and now I am rather miserable with gunky sinuses.   Add that to the wind and rain and knowing that Seattle is basking in 80 degree weather and I was ready for a major downfall which came in the form of a failed repair. Going back a couple of paragraphs you will be reminded that we found the source of a very slow but long standing leak around the flange that holds the lid of an inspection port in our forward fresh water tank.  We decided to fix it once and for all with a glue product so strong I seldom let it on my boat known as 5200.  We cleaned the offending flange and laid it in a bed of 5200 and then rented a car to pick up an updated chartplotter that had been mailed to our friends’ house in Anchorage and to catch a movie.  We returned this morning and tested the flange – the slow seep is now a major leak!!!  Not only that but it took a half a day to run new hoses to the tank under our “if we are working on a part with old hoses they will be renewed at the same time” policy.  The hose replacement should have been easy except that the hoses were hooked to the tank and run up the wall before there was a wall so basically they were part of the structure of the wall and a total pain to remove! The only thing that has saved this day is that the mountaintops are starting to be visible this evening and I was able to demonstrate that the updated chartplotter will work with my older radar even though it is not listed as an option in the instructions.

One advantage to my sinus problem is that I was up at 4 AM to see the sunrise

June 20, 2018

Today we had broken clouds overhead and took the opportunity to travel up College Fjord until dodging iceberg bits was becoming a bit too much of a challenge.  Granted they were pretty much all too small to damage our fine ship but if they run through the prop they do make a pretty good “thunk”.  There is a tour boat company in Whittier that advertises a “26 glacier tour”.  We had wondered if they were exaggerating until we went up College Fjord and realized that they could just about make their 26 in that channel alone.  What is a bit goofy is that all of the glaciers are named for colleges or college related names (e.g. Harvard and Yale Glaciers are at the head of the fjord).

Seal on an iceberg

Some of the glaciers in College Fjord

Harvard Glacier

Yale Glacier

Granite Cove Marine State Park our anchorage for tonight