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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spring Cruising Begins

There are those that say you should never start a journey of any importance of Friday – much less Friday the 13th but for better or worse that’s what we did.  April 13, 2018 we slipped our moorings in Sitka and headed to Olga Strait.  Our friend Elizabeth stopped by for final hugs on her way to work and our radio pals wished us the best as we reached the limits of the VHF repeater and then the first sight we saw of Sitka back in September when we arrived became the last sight before heading behind the first of many islands.  I made a comment to someone about the “three months” we had spent in Sitka and Clarice quickly corrected that it had been nearer to eight.  Perhaps that says everything about our stay – we had held some trepidation about how long the winter would be in a small Alaskan town and instead the time passed faster than we knew.  So with the sky now being light before we get up at 6 AM and remaining light when we go to bed at 9:30 PM we are eager to continue our adventure.

We had been told that Deep Bay, just past Sturgis Narrows might have Dungeness Crabs in it so after passing through the narrows during the slack tide we turned in for our first night at anchor.  We did find a couple of crabs in our trap after a long walk with Jarvis on the river delta at the head of the bay on low tide.  It was a lovely day with lots of sun but the snow still lingered on the beaches.
Back out on Chatham Strait

One of our few orca sightings

Baranof Island

We had never taken time to visit the Native Village of Angoon.  As we headed across Chatham Strait we were able to reach a local sail boat on the VHF radio who explained that entering the east side of the peninsula that Angoon sits on to reach the village docks was not advised in a displacement boat on an ebb tide as the currents were quite swift and rocks very plentiful. After some discussion we decided to anchor next to the new Alaska State Ferry Dock on the Chatham Strait side of the peninsula behind some small protective islands.  We launched the dingy and carried our bikes to dingy docks conveniently co-located with the ferry landing.  We then rode our bicycles the 2.5 miles to town.  Many of the buildings on the way to town were well kept and fairly new but a fair number of the buildings in the village itself were boarded up and/or in poor shape.  We walked to the historic Russian Orthodox Church that is now boarded up and starting the process of returning to the soil.

Chatham Strait side of the Village of Angoon
Looking from the Russian Orthodox Church back towards the bay side (east side) of Angoon

Looking over the Village of Angoon towards the Russian Orthodox Church. Grave crosses on the hillside and in the forest beyond the church.
One day in Sitka a new skiff arrived at our dock and we invited the young couple who owned it over for dinner.  They explained that they were permanent staff at a fish hatchery on the eastern side of Baranof Island and had come to town for one of their few outings to the “big city”. Their names were Emily and Jon – more about them and young folk like them later.  We decided to take them up on their invitation to visit the hatchery for our next stop.  They showed us around the operation and explained that it is the largest hatcher in North America producing several million salmon a season.  Many of the salmon they release in the bay where they are located but even more are taken by boat or plane to other bodies of fresh water and released.  Some of the lakes where they are released have waterfall outlets that the salmon can’t return back up so they make a one-way trip as smolts down the falls (or in one case, down a water slide) and then go to sea to grow for four or five years.  When they return the plan is that natural predators and human fisherfolk will eventually catch them all. The hatchery is owned by a private not-for-profit company that makes its income by charging the fisherfolk for the hatchery grown fish they catch.  To identify the fish they “bar-code” their otoliths (ear bones) by varying the temperature of the water they are raised in soon after they hatch.  Each hatchery has a specific code that can be interpreted under a microscope and then the number of fish interpolated and the hatcheries paid accordingly.  Apparently the fisherfolk feel they get a good deal and plenty of stock in easy to catch locations and we the consumers have plenty of wild raised salmon to eat.  After a dinner of fresh caught BBQ shrimp tacos we slept soundly at the hatcher dock and then moved on the next day.

On the Hidden Falls fish hatchery dock
Entry to Hidden Falls hatchery

Emily and Jon's house at the hatchery

Hidden Falls hatchery

Our next plan was to spend enough time at Baranof Hot Springs to be able to really enjoy the springs and to explore the area a bit.  On arrival we walked up to the lake that supplies the waterfall which still had a layer of ice over all except the exit stream.  It was really rather beautiful with the surrounding mountains.  We laughed when we learned that row boats and canoes grow on trees (or so it appeared the way the locals stored their craft for the winter).  On our way back down the hill Norman took time to soak in the natural hot springs pools next to the hot spring source of the village’s warm waters.  

Apparently boats grow on trees in Alaska (or their owners only want to carry them up to the lake one time and choose to store them this way over the winter)

Baranof Lake above the hot springs (still mostly ice covered)

Clarice enjoying the sun at Baranof Lake

Family "selfie" at Baranof Lake

Natural hot spring pool next to the river outlet from Baranof Lake

We met a young couple with their one and three year old children that served as this winter’s caretakers for the homeowners association.  They explained that after sailing for years across the open seas they didn’t find staying at a cove with only a very rare visitor to be too much of a challenge.  For lunch and dinner we were invited by the caretakers of the fishing lodge next door.  

The Baranof Hot Springs Potluck breaks up for the night

During the day we launched the kayaks and rode the rising tide into a tidal lagoon.  We decided to leave before the tide changed and learned a lot about paddling against a strong current and using back eddies for rests until we eventually paddled clear of the entrance slot.

Jarvis navigates as we head through the channel into the tidal lagoon

Clarice rides the incoming current into the lagoon

Inside of the tidal lagoon off Warm Springs Bay (Baranof Hot Springs)

Waiting for the current to let up so we can exit the lagoon

Before the evening was out a couple that run deliveries to these scattered outposts with their retired army landing craft pulled in to get out of the weather. Speaking of the weather, after it being sunny and warm for two days we planned to leave the next morning.  We woke to rain and decided caution would suggest listening to the weather forecast.  It seems a nasty cold front is bringing gales for two days and so we decided to sit tight.  When two much larger commercial craft joined us we knew we had made the best choice.

April 20, 2018

Today the weather turned for the better and Lituya left followed shortly by us with both boats headed to Petersburg about 9 – 10 hours away. Lituya is owned and operated by Hillary and Chase who join a number of young couples we have seen who have joined together not only as a couple but also as business partners.  Emily and Jon at the Hidden Falls Hatchery are another such couple.  When we were in Sitka our friends Jacquie and Zack are another such couple who recently purchased a fishing boat, the FV Axel, as their family business.  Hillary and Emily especially stand out as they are both very petite (and Hillary even has the blond hair and blue eyes to carry out the "full ultra-petite look") but after watching Hillary handle the lines on their landing craft I would not suggest asking her to arm wrestle.  The same goes for Emily whose husband proudly tells the story of her bagging her first mountain goat after climbing a trailess mountain requiring crampons and ice-axe and then carrying the 125 pounds of meat down the mountain on her 95 pound body.  The characteristic that all of these young men and women share that stands out to us is their self-confidence – these are “strong women” (and men).  Clarice commented that she has noticed that they are comfortable joining in conversation with folks of any age group.  I once commented that seeing kids from high school on up that appear comfortable with themselves without feeling the need to dress up or make sure their makeup was on just right before leaving the house has been refreshing.  These “kids” are the future of Alaska and they are taking it seriously as demonstrated by Jacquie and Zach’s involvement in the local seafood cooperative and Jacquie’s getting involved in reaching out to get training for the next generation of fisherfolk (we simply saw too many women involved in the trade to think “fishermen” is the correct term anymore). 

Hillary and Chase in front of their landing craft Lituya

Jacquie and Max on the family fishing boat Axel (https://www.alaskagoldbrand.com/2014/09/18/family-friendly-seafood/ ) 

Zack and Max on the family fishing boat Axel. (https://www.alaskagoldbrand.com/2014/09/18/family-friendly-seafood/ ) 

April 26, 2018

After a fair weather run to Petersburg we watched heavy rain for 3 days. We didn’t exactly sit as there were indoor places to visit and stores to check out but it was not what we had hoped for as Petersburg is a lovely little Scandinavian village at the north end of Wrangell Narrows.  We had made a special effort to go there as we had nice memories of the place from visiting for the Nordhavn rally in 2015 and wanted to get a chance to check out favorite sites and to see new ones.  We did visit the local Episcopal Church on Sunday morning with its tiny congregation. We immediately recognized Heidi from a discussion with her the day before about some luggage we need to get repaired but I kept feeling that I should know her from something else.  We finally put it together that she was one of the primary hosts for all-things-Norwegian during the Nordhavn rally (providing meals, leading dances and dancers, etc).  It was good to get a chance to enjoy her and the other folks company.

Finally the weather broke on Wednesday and we planned to leave fairly early but we still had not had a chance to check out the south end of Mitkof Island.  I was walking Jarvis when Chase from Lituya drove by and stopped to say hi.  Later in the morning he took Clarice and I for the tour we had been hoping for. Mitkof Island was well worth the effort and along the road we saw our first black bear (rather than Alaskan Brown Bears that are common on Baranof Island), a cow moose walking in the road and a couple of dear.  (Since leaving Sitka we have seen our first pod of Orca, Dahl Porpoises playing in our bow wake, geese flying north in huge Vs, and mountain goat since our trip began.)

We are currently heading out of Tracy Arm. Tracy Arm is a bit of a gem well known to folks in SE Alaska but not well known elsewhere as it is not a national park or monument.  It IS an incredible fiord that has two tidewater glaciers at the far end.  When we visited in 2000 we followed the advice of locals and took time to go into Tracy Arm on our way to Juneau and have always considered the side trip to be one of the highlights of the trip.  We were a bit concerned as there were low clouds and rain when we pulled anchor this morning but the clouds rose and rain stopped and the “WOW” factor began as we travelled up the fiord.  The chart shows water over 1000 ft deep only yards away from 1000 ft tall cliffs and higher mountain tops on both sides of a channel so narrow that when we were here in 2000 a cruise ship had to radio and ask us to take the inside of one curve as he could barely make the corner.  This is where we saw two tiny dots on the cliffs that turned out to be a pair of mountain goats and twice we watched dramatic ice waterfalls come down the cliffs.  The South Sawyer Glacier was pretty impressive but we were limited in how close we could get as the channel in front of it had a solid layer of ice for some distance out.  Our memory was that the North Sawyer Glacier could be seen from the main channel when visited 17 years ago but this time all we could see was a steep walled curving channel.  On our way back out we turned into the channel and passed over a bar that was located where we remember the glaciers snout to be in 2000.  We continued on for another 1.5 miles, past the point where the glacier was charted to end on our 2015 charts and came to the snout; it was well worth the trip.  The sun was trying to break through and the ice bergs were spread out enough that we could get as close as we wanted to the intense blue ice.  The canyon walls themselves were quite dramatic as well having only recently been exposed after being scraped by the ice. In the end we agreed that Tracy Arm is in many ways much more dramatic than the much more storied Glacier Bay National Park.

Tracy Arm North Sawyer Glacier closeup

Tracy Arm North Sawyer Glacier

Tracy Arm mountain goats
May 2, 2018

We visited Juneau for several days (a bit longer than we had planned due to foul weather and looking for a lost piece of mail). We rented a care with 213000 miles on it (that sounded like a logging truck until it warmed up) and made runs to several stores for provisions and other supplies.  On April 29th we drove to the south end of town (AKA: Cruiseshipville) and noted that it was still pretty vacant except for a few establishments setting up their wares and doing employee training.  On April 30th we visited again when the first cruise passengers of the year were disembarking.  We can’t understand how every cruise port can support several blocks of jewelry stores but they do.  I walked into several stores and looked at watches and was immediately accosted by at least three salivating salespeople per store eager to practice their newly memorized scripts about how wonderful their brand of watch was.  It was fun to be in a “big city” for a few days but even better to move on.

Today our plan was to return to an anchorage that holds very fond memories from our trip in 2000. We first had to find the entrance and since GPS coordinates were just finding their way into guide books and weren’t always accurate it was a bit of a challenge.  We remember going through a “J” shaped narrow channel against a fairly strong current to get into a totally enclosed bay.  There were hundreds of salmon jumping all around us.  Since we couldn’t figure out how to catch any a commercial fishing boat tossed us two fish out of sympathy. Clarice had made a note on our chart, based on her guide book research, to only enter on a high slack tide.  We arrived early (at the now correctly charted entrance) and looked at the current through the binoculars as we motored past a couple of times.  Our final decision was that a 60,000 pound boat with a top speed of 9.5 knots just doesn’t maneuver like a very light 25 ft boat with a top speed of 18 knots and that we would need to either wait for full slack or it would not be prudent to try entering. Instead we travelled a bit further north to a well protected bay where we can enter or exit on any tide. 

Since we have been here we went ashore in the dingy and enjoyed the beach (especially Jarvis) and checked out some old logging equipment abandoned from days gone by.  Later I took the dingy for a fast ride around the bay and once again was glad we had purchased the newer, lighter, and bigger boat before we left Everett. It was fun to zip along and then when a small creek or flock of birds caught my eye to slow down and take a closer look.  One group of white “rocks” also caught my eye and I couldn’t tell from the water if they were covered with guano (but why would the birds only choose to poop on one set of rocks??), or a grounded iceberg, or???.  I finally pulled ashore and walked over to discover that there was a natural outcropping of white and gray marble that had been smoothed by the water to look just like melting icebergs. Its these little discoveries that break up the times of boredom that make this adventure worth doing.

May 13, 2018

After our night at anchor described in the last entry we moved on to the town of Haines.  Getting into the marina was a bit of a challenge as the wind was blowing at about 15 knots and wanted to push Salish Aire’s bow anywhere but into the assigned slip.  After about five tries and with calm support of my deck crew and the harbormaster we got her settled in and tied to the dock without hitting anything or anyone.  The wind was just the warning of what was to come with 20 knots steady and 25 knot gusts the next couple of days.  We finally got a break in the weather on Sunday May 6th and headed up the final short distance to Skagway. 

Haines held fond memories for us from our visit in 2000 as it was one of the few towns in SE Alaska that have not sold their souls to the cruise ship companies.  For this trip we had planned to spend some time touring on our bicycles but the wind and rain made that idea not sound entirely fun so instead we hired a local tour guide who gave us a generous guided ride around town in his van (it was good practice for him as well with the tourist season just about to ramp up).  We learned that there is a Chilkoot River and a Chilkat River with Haines on a peninsula between the outflows of both. The Chilkoot River is fairly short and small to the north of town.  The Chilkat River is interesting in that it carries so much sediment that it’s delta extends outward at a rather fast pace.  The river and the mountains around it can be seen as stand-ins for the Tiaya River and Chilkoot Pass for the Disney movie White Fang. (The original movie set was moved to the Haines fairgrounds where it stands today making a viewing of the movie mandatory while we were there to see if we could pick out the landmarks and buildings.)

Clarice lived with Nancy Bayer while she was in nursing school in Seattle.  Nancy is a native of the Juneau-Douglas area and now lives in Fairbanks and remains a very good friend.  For years she has talked with “sparkles in her eyes” and written with “glitter jumping off the page” about her family’s cabin in Atlin British Columbia.  I have always wanted to see this place of wonder after hearing and reading about it for 40+ years so we rented a car in Skagway and drove up over White Pass into British Columbia Canada then swung north into Yukon Territory Canada and back south into British Columbia and finally arrived at Atlin town on Atlin Lake where we were greeted by Nancy’s sister Susie and her husband Jerry.  It was one of the shortest 150 mile drives I have ever done because the weather was perfect (we both ended up with sunburns) and the scenery so spectacular.  Atlin was the sight of a “gold rush after the gold rush” and continues to produce a lot of the yellow metal even today.  As the stampeders to Dawson discovered that all of the claims had been staked on the Klondike River they heard about a new strike in Atlin and headed south.  Today the active claims move mountains of gravel with heavy machinery but are reported to be finding enough gold to make it well worth their time. Atlin Lake itself is simply incredible to see and the town was fun with its long gold rush history.

Road to Atlin - White Pass

Road to Atlin - White Pass

Road to Atlin - White Pass

Road to Atlin - wild flowers

Road to Atlin - 2 Moose (one is in the brush and barely visible)

Clarice and Susie explore downtown Atlin

The view from main street in Atlin

Atlin Lake from Atlin

Gold claim posts (likely they represent the corner of 3 active claims)

Original miners' cabin and lake boat abandoned in Atlin

Another bucket list item for me (Norman) has been to ride the narrow gauge White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  The railroad was built in a short 26 month time span (can you imagine even getting permits in 26 months nowadays) up over White Pass and made the Chilkoot Pass and White Pass trails no longer necessary.  The track width was designed and built at 3 ft (rather than the standard 4 ft 8 inches) to save cost and very importantly to allow the trains to turn sharper corners that were blasted out of the sheer cliffs.  Looking at the track today I kept expecting to see a Disneyland train show up rather than full sized engines and railcars (one of the railroad employees told me that they don’t find the trains any more top heavy despite the narrower wheelbase).  Unlike many gold rush era railroads the company made money, and continues to make money, first moving stampeders and their supplies, then road building supplies for the Alaska Highway along with military supplies in WWII, and finally now is strictly a very busy tourist railroad.  They pull most of the trains with legacy diesel engines but also have two steam engines (currently getting refurbished) that most summers run the route and until 6 years ago pushed the working steam powered snow blower over the pass.

The beginning of the fabled Chilkoot Trail to the gold fields of the Klondike

The Chilkoot Trail follows this valley up to the Chilkoot Pass over the mountains in the distance.

White Pass and Yukon Railroad taking us up into the clouds

The WP&YR cars are kept cozy with oil stoves.

Exiting one of the two tunnels on the way to White Pass

This bridge is no longer in use but considered to be an engineering marvel (it is now bypassed by a shorter bridge and tunnel)

The border of the USA and Canada at White Pass

Looking back down the valley to Skagway

Final bridge over the Skagway River on our way back down to town.

We enjoyed hiking the hills around Skagway as well as visiting the historic buildings and seeing the start of the famous Chilkoot Trail but we keep asking how much jewelry can the cruise ship passengers buy? The clerks in the seasonal tourist focused stores really need to learn that pouncing on every potential customer can lead a lot of us to avoid walking in the door. After staying in Skagway for a week (primarily due to more high winds) we jumped at a short weather window to start moving south today with the goal of getting out of the Lynn Canal wind funnel while there is a half-day lull forecast.

The plan is to get to Juneau sometime this week and pick up our final supplies, fuel, and crew member before meeting Dale and Glenda Findlay on Nordhavn 43 Serenity in Hoonah next Sunday in preparation to cross the Gulf of Alaska together.

May 15,2018

Finally: Enjoy some humpback whale photos we took as we sailed into Juneau.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Preparing for Spring and Summer Cruising

March 28, 2018

We now have a some dates and a plan for our Spring cruising.  Since the number of herring boats has not been what it was in the past our slip in front of the Totem Inn serendipitously remained available for our use until the end of April.  We have promised to vacate by April 31st but will likely leave on or before our current payment period ends on April  20th.  We still have a number of sights we want to see in the northern part of SE Alaska so we plan to cruise the protected waters until we meet up with Dale and Glenda Findlay on Nordhavn 43 “Serenity” in Hoonah for a May 20th departure for Prince William Sound  on the Western edge of  the Gulf of Alaska.

We enjoyed our visit with our grandson Etienne and his mother Elise for the past 5 days.  Sadly the weather only partly cooperated but they were able to enjoy an overnight trip with us to Goddard Hot Springs and to see whales in the distance and to appreciate the mountains that surround Sitka.

Etienne and Norman spent a night ashore in Tom Young Cabin at Goddard Hot Springs

Etienne enjoyed a teenager sized burger at The Bay-view Pub

Prior to their arrival we had been diving and per our usual routine checked the bottom of the boat on our way to the surface. Much to our surprise and chagrin we noticed that the rubber liner of ourstrut mounted cutlass bearing for our wing engine propeller shaft was partially protruding out of the front of the assembly.  A cutlass bearing is a water lubricated bearing with an outer shell of bronze and an inner rubber liner that supports and maintains the alignment of propeller shafts. The bearing was still intact enough so that the prop shaft did not vibrate and cause any damage but it was clear it needed to be replaced as soon as possible.  

The black rubber bearing liner was protruding from the front of the bearing strut.

We have never replaced a cutlass bearing before so we did our internet research and asked lots of questions around town. We did find a shop that normally carried the bearing we needed but his stock was depleted. He did assure us that he could likely have one in within 3 days. We also learned that for $400 we could order a device for removing the bearing without removing the prop shaft, only the propeller itself.  Since we will likely only use the tool one time we decided to make one rather than buy the professionally created device. 

The home built bearing removal tool.

Finally we had all of our parts and tools in hand and the tides looked like they would cooperate so we put the boat on the Sitka tidal grid.  Tidal grids are fairly common in British Columbia and Alaska where 14 ft tides are common.  A set of beams is set on the beach next to a dock or bulkhead where boats can be tied securely so they don’t topple as the water drains out from under them and leaves them high and dry on the beams on the beach.  Tidal grids are effective, simple and inexpensive (in Sitka $10/day + power at $5/day compared to the hundreds of dollars charged for a haul out in a sling.
On the tidal grid for one of the three low tide cycles the job took us.

 The down side is that “tide and time wait for no man” so the time you have to access the bottom of the boat is limited.  SE Alaska has a diurnal tidal cycle with two highs and two lows each day.  Usually on set of highs and lows is less extreme than the second.  We had hoped that the tool would be uber effective  and the bearing would pop right out and the new one back in and within a single low tide cycle we would get the job completed.  The folding prop came off fairly easily with the puller set we have on-board but it went downhill from there.  

Clarice cleaning the folding prop.

The tool I had made of 3/8 steel plate bent without moving the old bearing.  We kept trying until we were cold within our dry suits  with the water up to our waists so we gave up and went to bed at about 11 PM. We slept poorly as we had to keep checking the lines as the boat moved up and then back down next to the pier.  On the next low cycle we were able to finally remove the original bearing by cutting at it with a hack saw, beating it with a chisel, and using the puller tool.  We literally were ready to give up and wait a week or two when it decided to pop out a bit with a final “hail Mary” tightening down on the puller nuts followed by a heavy whack with a brass hammer.  We had kept the new bearing in the freezer overnight hoping that it would contract a bit (there is no dry ice or liquid nitrogen available in Sitka) which seemed to help until it warmed up with about ½ of the bearing still sticking out of the strut and the tide rapidly rising. 

New bearing partially installed when the tide rose too high to continue.
This is about the water level where we would start and end our work cycle.

Even in our SCUBA dry suits we were very cold by the end of the tide cycles.

I spent the high tide cycle rebuilding the tool so it was better suited for installing (rather than removing) the bearing.  The rebuild included doubling the 3/8 in steel on one end and using ¼ inch stainless for the other end.  At the next low tide (which wasn’t low enough to even drop below the bottom of the keel) we finally were able to get the new bearing in place by tightening the (now grade 8) bolts until the stainless was flexed and then hitting it with the brass hammer.  The prop was replaced and we exited the waist deep water about 11:30 PM.  The next high tide lifted us free about 4:30 AM and we headed back to our berth before we were stuck on the grid for another 24 hours as the next high would not have been high enough to lift us free.  In the end we decided we hope this bearing lasts another 22 years and if it doesn’t the next time we’ll spring for the $400 tool.

April 6, 2018

Final preparations continue for our spring cruising.  We have changed the oil in the wing engine and generator as planned.  We also got concerned about our generator seeming to run at the maximum allowable temperature.  After taking the heat exchanger apart and some other troubleshooting I finally gave our friend from Northern Lights a call before I changed the thermostat and coolant temperature sensor.  Bob was patient as usual and understood my troubleshooting but told me before I went any further to make sure and look for corrosion in the connections between the generator and the control panel as a known symptom of poor connections with this particular machine in a high reading on the temperature gauge and a low reading on the oil pressure gauge. Sure enough I pulled apart the connection he referred me to and it was tied in the not-recommended position (so it was more likely to get moisture in it) and found classic signs of corrosion. Cleaning the connection seems to have fixed the overheating  problem which was not really a problem at all. We did end up with fresh coolant as part of our spring preparations as a result.

Corrosion in a connector was the basis of our false temperature readings.  Thank you Lugger Bob!!

Our preparations also included buying immersion suits after we were reminded in a Coast Guard Auxiliary class we took that we had always planned to get them before our first outing significantly off shore.  (In the case of being in the 50 degree F water they can keep a user alive for 10 hours rather than the normal 1 hour.) It's always interesting to spend $650 buying something you pray you never get to use.

Trying on the immersion suits in the local marine store before purchasing them.

Clarice spent about a week waxing the hull to what she considers an acceptable shine.  The good news is it goes much faster now after she has worked on it for several years.  The bad news is that the positions and arm work she does leads to significant joint pain for a few days.

Clarice ended up with belly bruises from leaning over the edge of the dock but she got the boat done "her way".

In the ongoing saga of the Hurricane furnace we believe that maybe, just perhaps, finally, the gremlins have been exorcised from it. It ran almost continuously for the past 2 months since we installed a new control board and only asked for a nozzle cleaning yesterday (after shutting itself down correctly when the flame wouldn’t light rather than dripping diesel all over the engine room).  Good news is it has kept us warm through our Alaskan winter when we didn’t have enough shore amperage to keep the electric heat on all of the time.  The bad news is it isn’t the most efficient furnace in the world as a lot of heat goes out the exhaust pipe resulting in a lot of diesel burned while we sat at the dock.

We are now going through final stocking of consumable items and long term purchases we have been putting off such as immersion suits in case the worst happens and we get dunked into the Gulf of Alaska for an extended time. Today a store in town had a produce sale and Clarice bought everything she thought she could store successfully (the sale was such a big deal that there was a line up at the door when she arrived at 6 AM – and the produce manager reported that even though they had planned ahead that the spoilage on the barge ride from Seattle had reduced the inventory noticeably).  We loaded 8 gallons of motor oil that costs $20/gallon here when my records show that I paid $13/gallon at Costco in Everett before we left. We checked fuel prices and will go ahead and top off here in Sitka before we leave as a price check of other ports all showed that diesel costs more per gallon elsewhere.  We will get a chance to stop at Costco and Fred Meyer at some point in Juneau and that should finish our provisioning.

On the subject of the fabled Sitka Herring Roe Sac fishery where historically tens of thousands of tons of fish are taken in a very short time to satisfy the Japanese market for herring eggs; it was a bust.  About ¼ of the planned harvest was caught.  The circus that means spring in Sitka with boats and planes everywhere tracking and capturing the huge schools of fish really didn’t materialize as the 40-some boats with herring permits chose to do a cooperative fishery of uncooperative fish.  All of the income from the fish was shared after expenses were paid to the boat owners who actually fished (you could stay tied up in Seattle and still collect your share). The hope is that the fishes internal guide of  when to come to shore and reproduce didn’t match the fisherfolk’s calendars and they will still make lots of little herrings.  The fear is that the resource has been over-fished and the last great herring run in Alaska may be going the way of the other historic runs that no longer exists.  And an even greater fear is that with no little fish around that the bigger fish and whales will stay away as well. In a town where 99% of the citizenry is associated with fishing in some way or another, this is a really big deal.

One day we noticed Ida Lee was riding low in the water.
 Her captain told us it was a good thing as his holds were filled with black cod (AKA sable fish)

The fish caught in about 3600 ft of water (over 1/2 mile of line just to get the string
of hooks to the bottom) await processing.

The cannery "slime line" where the fish heads and entrails are removed in preparation for freezing for shipment.

On another wildlife note the eagles certainly have been keeping us entertained.  The Sitka Raptor Center takes in injured raptors and those that can be released are let go in the spring.  Watching them release 7 eagles (some needed surgery, others just left the nest too soon) was impressive.  After spending months in the indoor flight room and then being carried hooded to the launch meadow, I assumed they would at least take a few seconds to get their bearings before taking off but they were off within a second or so of being let loose and into the air where they acted like they had never been away from the wild. 

Raptor Center volunteers and donors were given the honor of releasing the eagles.

The handler removes the hood.....
....the eagles quickly take wing....

.....and they are off to the wild.

We have also had quite the influx of eagles outside of our window on Sitka Channel.  I thought there were a lot when I had 15 in a single camera shot but the locals told me that any less than 100 in sight at one time was no big deal.  A few days later there must have been fish guts or herring in the water as we did see TNTC (Too Numerous To Count) eagles everywhere at once.

I caught 15 eagles in one photo frame.

Clarice has finally gotten bread making in the propane oven down to her satisfaction.  She is making both sourdough and wheat breads and having them come out nicely browned. note: I (Clarice) have managed to keep the sourdough starter thriving (donated by a person at church), which is good since I couldn’t seem to make my own starter flourish.

Yummy wheat bread

One loaf of sourdough just from the oven and another ready to bake.

Finally as we waited to get some final mail delivered to us here in Sitka we took the opportunity to join a kayak class in the local middle-school pool.  The experience was great for us as we have never been properly shown, nor had a chance to practice, exiting the kayaks under water or re-entering them in deep water.

The two local women who made the class available demonstrate a self rescue.

I (Clarice) decided to add a bit to this entry.

After months spent trying to memorize a bunch of nonsensical ( to me) data, I managed to pass the test and now have my General Ham Radio license. I don’t need it to download weather faxes, etc, but can now communicate with people around the world on bands that actually work. The Technician license didn’t really offer me much in the way of bands to use for the way we use our marine High frequency radio. Since getting a license doesn’t mean you have a clue how to use the radio, Norman’s work is cut out for him as he attempts to teach me how to use the it.

We have totally enjoyed Sitka over the winter. We’ve been told it was a mild winter, which we were fine with – not too cold, not too wet and plenty of sunny, beautiful days. There was always lots to do to allow us to get off the boat if we chose to. The local Shark Ham Klub and St Peter’s Church have been so welcoming. Everyone we’ve met have been so kind. We’ll miss the people that make Sitka such a wonderful place. Many people have asked when we’ll be coming back and have assumed we’d be here next winter. As Norman says… “better to be missed when you leave than to have people wanting you to leave”.

As much as we’ve enjoyed our stay, I think we are both excited to get back to cruising again and will spend the summer exploring Alaska before we decided to head south to further adventures.

The crocuses are out in Sitka - its time to move on.