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, December 20, 2017

Waiting for the winter solstice

Clarice's thoughts:

We had the good fortune to be invited to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Lots of their family had flown up for the holiday so it was similar to being with our families…noisy, fun and a general good time by all along with a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I really appreciated it as I’d been a little blue all day remembering my mom and this being the first holiday without her.
I have decided I’m getting excited about continuing on our journey when the spring comes so have been working on boat projects that need to be completed (in my estimation). I have sewn a new windlass cover and remodeled it in the process so that it will stay in place in high winds. The next project I have come up with is an idea of making screens for the opening windows in the salon and pilot house that can remain in place while under way and not be snapped on from the inside. The idea is good; the implementation is proving more challenging. I’m getting excited to do the spring wax job. I’ve been cleaning and washing storage areas and culling items that we are not using.

Clarice renews her interest in sewing and quilting
Clarice sewed a new cover for our anchor windlass

She improved on the original design by adding a bit of elastic cord to keep it in place in heavy winds.

We had heard and seen previews of the Nutcracker ballet that Sitka offers every other year. It’s an “Alaska” version of the ballet. Same music (for the most part – we don’t recall Tchaikovsky having any jazz numbers with hot-pants clad mosquitoes in his version) but definitely Alaskan flavored costuming. There was a large fishing boat that had the cutest little herring dancers pop out from under it, the most creative jelly fish that we’d ever seen (the girls had tutu’s with lights in them and umbrellas with silk draped over them that were lit as well – the umbrellas were gently raised and lowered and the result was the floating look of jelly fish – overall a fantastic effect coupled with the music), the previously mentioned mosquitoes, dancing bears, dancing fireweed and northern lights. We both agreed we enjoyed it more than the Seattle Maurice Sendek version that was so popular for years.

(Nutcracker photo credits: http://www.bjordanimages.com/ used with permission)

Local humor throughout this scene with the locals sporting t-shirts, shorts and ExtaTuf boots while the tourists dress like they are in, well, Alaska.  The local bookstore really does have the "Please don't drip on the books" sign.

The mosquito queen was finally vanquished by Clara who swatted her with a ballet slipper.

The many little herrings that jumped in the fisherman's net.

The jellyfish.

The Dance of the Fireweed was pure classical ballet.

One day on the Facebook page for Sitka Chatters Norman saw a notice that excess shares were being offered to the public for the local organic food weekly offering. We went up to check out what was offered after we found out that the shares were already spoken for by the time we had responded back to the posting.  Similar to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) sales system that we are used to down south, but with a better tweak that we liked. The produce is brought up by barge on a weekly basis and it is beautiful. They strive for a $50.00 amount of food. The offering is of vegetables and fruits. We signed up for the next week’s delivery and received some of the best produce we’ve had since we left Everett. Since we’ll be gone for a couple of weeks we opted to restart after we return. What’s different is that you go to the church to pick up the produce offerings. You are given the list of what is available that week. If you don’t want an item you have the option of returning it to the “opt out” table and choose something else from the “opt out” table that have the same value. You can also add things from the “opt out” table to add to your total for the week. This is a wonderful option as the complaint I’d heard about the CSA boxes is that frequently you get the same items weekly and they may not be something you want. Here we can somewhat customize what we get. I have figured out how to maximize the lasting power of produce and so this is going to be a great option for us while we are in Sitka. We just took out the last of the apples that we put in lazarette in October and they are crisp, sweet and juicy.

Norman's thoughts:

We are now 2 days from the solstice and we are finding it a bit of a challenge to keep active.  We usually don’t get out on our morning walk until 9 am or so after the sky has lightened and the night rain showers start to let up.  Then by 4 pm it is quite dark and our “lower 48” brains think it’s near bedtime.  We try to take advantage of the frequent evening programs in town, go for evening walks with the dog in his reflectorized vest and doggy powered flashing light (it has a tiny generator in it that makes an LED flash every time he jiggles the magnet), and watch movies we borrow from the library or download. 

We had a couple of sunny days so we tied to a buoy near the Forest Service cabin at the base of the Mt. Edgecumbe trail.  We walked a few miles in first through moss draped rain forest and then over muskeg (soil where the water can't drain because of shallow bedrock such as much of SE Alaska or permafrost further north).

Typical muskeg with stunted trees and many ponds

There was a layer of ice on the ponds and some of the trail despite the sunshine

The trail to the top is about 7 miles long

Jarvis thought the boardwalks were great 

Looking east toward the mountains of Baranof Island
One clear day I rode my electric assist bicycle up the Harbor Mountain road as far as it would go on the snow and then walked a bit further.

Barges make the 5 day run to and from Seattle twice a week

Looking north towards the entrance to Olga Strait (the inside passage to the east side of Baranof Island)

Mountains to our north
Sitka's extensive trail system includes a trail that follows the Indian River.  We walked along it after about a week with no rain and the water was crystal clear.  No one can say why some of the deeper pools still have coho salmon that should have spawned and died by now.

Indian River #1

Indian river #2

Indian River salmon

We have managed to go scuba diving a couple of times.  The water is incredibly clear compared to what we are used to in Puget Sound and a few degrees warmer.  The flip side is there is not nearly the amount of sea life we are used to seeing.  Our dives did make it very clear that we are going to need to become more independent with getting our air tanks filled.  The only local who fills recreational tanks had to fit our tank inspections and fills in between his two other jobs and it took a month to get them back (he was happy to lend us tanks in the mean time so we can't blame anyone but ourselves for not diving more). In any case we have now ordered a compressor for Salish Aire and have rewired her generator to accommodate it.

We had a couple days of good weather and decided to go to Nakwasina Sound north of Sitka Sound and anchor for the night.  After going to bed under clear skies with a bright full moon we awoke to snow falling.

Dawn Nakwasina Sound anchorage 
Snow Nakwasina Sound

Salish Aire is not nearly as decked out in lights as she was the past two years but I couldn’t resist buying as many as I could find at the thrift shop and hanging them here and there.  I had put out on the local Facebook page “Sitka Chatters” (mandatory membership if you want to know what’s going on in town) a question asking is there is a tradition of a local decorated boat parade.  Apparently there used to be but it had faded.  My question brought out a lot of renewed interest and 8 boats joined in the fun.

Parade boat #1

Parade boat #2

Salish Aire decked out for the parade

On Saturday we will catch a southbound plane to spend the holidays with our families.
I had purchased a new camera before we started north and recently got a 400 mm zoom lens for it.  I’m having fun trying to improve my long dormant photography skills and record the scenes here about especially the variety of waterfowl.  The trails around town and in the National Park provide constant opportunities for nature photography.

Trumpeter swans are frequent visitors to the park and a marsh north of town

These guys are often seen in the park and swimming around our moorage

This guy is hard to catch on film as he is always in motion

We now have a juvenile otter who visits the boat in addition to the couple of adults that hang around

This eagle's favorite perch is directly over a walking trail next to Crescent Harbor
Site of the battle where the Russians retook Sitka back from the Tlingits 

Probably the most photographed pole on the Totem trail at the National Park (Clarice's photo)

Totem #2 at Sitka National Park
Totem #3 at Sitka National Park

Totem #4 at Sitka National Park

This little guy wouldn't look up long enough to get his picture without his bill in the water

Finally: Sunrise over Sitka Sound.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

"Big City" and Glacier Bay outing


Yesterday we headed out after church to see if we can get to the “big city” of Juneau before a big weather system gets here. It took about 4 hours to get back to Piper Island Buoy where we anchored coming in to Sitka.  The issue is that there is one significant tidal rapids on the Peril Strait route between Chichagof and Baranof Islands and we wanted to hit the 07:30 slack on Monday morning.  Since Piper Island is just before the rapids it made a good staging spot.  We have gotten the catching to buoy technique down pretty well and were able to tie up just before dusk.

Meeting the Matanuska in Olga Strait just North of Sitka

Alaska Marine Highway Ferry Matanuska

Boarded up light station North end of Admiralty Island

The first order of business was that our Hurricane furnace had decided to quit again and the night was likely to be very cold and running the generator all night is not a good option.  I generally have the furnace’s quirks pretty well figured out and can get it up and running without too much fuss but the past few days it has decided to be a challenge again after being cooperative since a factory rebuild a year ago. In the process of trouble shooting it (which eventually led to finding a loose wire) I had switched a nozzle from my supply of used parts.  I pulled the nozzle back out and decided to look at it with an otoscope we carry in our very large (we are both nurses after all) first aid kit.  With the otoscope I was able to see that two of my three nozzles in stock had bent tips from being mis-inserted before I had figured out the technique for doing it correctly.  I inserted the one nozzle that had no visible damage and the furnace seems to be happy again.  (I also called in an order for $800 worth of spare parts to be sent up in the mail since having it almost break down in a remote anchorage when my spare parts are all used was a bit of a wakeup call – Clarice keeps reminding me that had we had to send it to a technician we would have spent that much and been cold for a few weeks.)

 We both stood on the deck after it was dark and marveled at the stars and the milky way before we went to bed. Then the buoy decided to knock on the hull. Normally the wind or the current will tend to pull the boat away from a buoy during the night and it makes for an exceptionally quiet night.  This buoy had other plans as a very light current pushed the boat north while a light wind pushed the boat south while making a light ripple on the water.  The result was the buoy tapping on our hull very near where we and Jarvis were trying to sleep. I might have managed to sleep through the tapping except, my dog that sleeps through raccoons stealing his food container from right outside of the tent, considers any knock on the hull (or doorbell on TV) to mean someone might be at the door and needing to be barked at. I finally got up and adjusted the ropes a bit and got a bit of sleep until Jarvis decided he really was hungry and did need to poo on his pad despite what he indicated before going to bed so he woke me up at 2:30 AM to do these dooties that now had become critical in his doggy brain.  None-the-less we were able to wake up and get under way about 7 am before there was much light (and we managed to get Clarice reoriented in the dark so she quit driving towards the island) and get to the tidal rapids just at the crack of dawn.

Anchorage photo by moonlight

We had a nice ride until we reached Chatham Strait and the wind rose to 25 knots off our bow creating a 3 ft chop that made the boat bounce for the next 3 hours like a hobby horse despite having the paravane stabilizers deployed. It wasn’t until about 6 PM that we finally docked in the protected marina of the tiny village of Tenakee Springs which is known for its community hot springs bathing house.  Clarice got a glimpse of some porpoises playing in the boats wake as she prepared lines and we came to the dock.

 After being on the boat for about 24 hours straight Jarvis practically bounded onto the dock and we all took a walk down the gravel trail that constitutes main street.  We did find the bath house unusual in that it has women only times  and men only times which makes some sense once you see the sign that says “Absolutely only nude bathing” (reportedly to keep soap from the suits from fouling the water).  Since the fun of hot tubs to us is to relax and talk to each other the bath house lost its appeal and we headed back to the boat where I expect we will sleep very soundly tonight.


We woke up to clear skies and whales feeding near the opposite shore. Most of the rest of the way up Chatham straight the water was reasonably calm.   I am working through on-line training to work as a Red Cross disaster team member should the need arise and we had good enough cell coverage that I was able to get a few of my assignments completed.  We had time to watch the scenery go past which was classic “Alaska fantastic”. After about 8 hours we landed in Auke Bay marina north of Juneau about 4 PM making the run from Sitka total up pretty close to my estimate of 24 hours of actual travel time.

Wednesday was lovely in Juneau so we rented a car and did some sightseeing in addition to making supply runs to Costco and Fred Meyer.  Let’s just say when we visit Costco once in 3 months rather than every week or so the total bill is a bit bigger.  I looked and gasped “holy moly” out loud to which the clerk gave a polite apology while accepting our credit card.

Auke Bay Marina (Juneau) looking West

Auke Bay Marina (Juneau) looking East

On arriving in Juneau I tried out my new radio knowledge to see if I could correctly set my handheld ham radio to connect with the Juneau ham radio club repeaters.  It worked and one of their members answered and suggested that I join them for their monthly lunch get together at the local Safeway. During the conversation I asked if they had any license testing sessions coming up as I thought Clarice was ready to try taking the exam again to get her technician level license.  They offered to have a special session that evening just for her.  The first try she missed 10 (you are allowed to miss 9) including a question she had forgotten to mark.  She tried a second time and it was clear that she was getting frustrated and tired so we thanked the 3 hams profusely and went on our way.  She tried again two days later – those guys were soooooo helpful and patient – but again couldn’t get past missing 10. In any case we made some new friends and had some enjoyable chit-chat time with them. [Update: 11/4/17 Clarice passed her technician test and is eagerly awaiting the posting of her call sign!]

Thursday and Friday the remnants of a “super typhoon” arrived just as predicted.  You know it’s really really wet when the National Weather Service sends out a flood warning in a rainforest! We met with Clarice’s college roommate’s sister and her husband and spent the day together.  We toured as much of the back roads of Juneau as we dared with the slides and minor flooding and then they visited us on Salish Aire.  We both laughed at how much Nancy (Clarice’s old roommate and a very good friend to both of us) and her sister (whom we had not previously met) look, sound, and act alike.

Yesterday the clearing after the storm arrived as we expected and we headed out just before dawn to take advantage of a predicted few days of nice weather to head to Glacier Bay National Park.  Since we would have arrived after dusk in a port unknown to us had we gone all of the way into the park we opted instead to overnight at the Tlingit village of Hoonah.   This morning we left while it was still dark and piloted through dark and fog and then just fog until we entered the cove where the park dock is located.  Since visiting boats are rare this time of year the ranger on duty met us at the dock after we had radioed ahead.  She assured us that we didn’t need to sign in or have a permit as they require in the summer (and could stay on the dock for 10 days rather than the summer limit of 3 hours) and answered our questions.  We ate a quick lunch and then headed back out into the fog hoping to see some scenery before the day ended.

It is now 2 PM and a few stray puffs of fog are still hanging on but the park is starting to show its splendor as we head further up into the fiords.

About 2 PM the sun started to melt the fog away entering Glacier Bay

Our first hint that there were mountains around us after being in the fog

We broke out of the fog and anchored, Jarvis eagerly checks out the anchorage (but was disappointed we didn't get the kayaks or dingy down to go to shore).

Anchorage at sunset

Family "selfie" on the foredeck


After anchoring under a clear, star-studded sky last night we awoke this morning to clouds and partial clearing but no fog.  We headed further up the fiord and were able to get so nice views of the surrounding mountains and tidal glaciers. 

My quest was to see tidal glaciers again after viewing the glaciers in Tracy Arm south of Juneau in 2000 and being in awe of them.  We were told at that time that the glaciers there were at least as scenic as the ones in Glacier Bay and easier to get to.  I now agree with that assessment.  Clarice was more interested in the park in general and she indicates more satisfaction with the trip up.

As far as wildlife we haven’t seen much inside of the park except for many sea otters and a few seals.
We are now on our way back to the park service pier at the entrance to the bay where we plan to stay the night before heading back to Sitka which will likely take the better part of two more days travel.


We have been making very good time so far on our way back to Sitka and may make it back this evening.  Last night we anchored out in a bay off Chatham Strait.  The moon was near full and we could see our surroundings very well by moonlight until it set.  Again we slept poorly as the bottom of the bay was apparently rocky and when the current or wind would swing the boat a bit the sound of the anchor chain dragging on the bottom was loud enough to distress Jarvis and make him bark (I finally took him and we slept together on the salon bench where it was quieter but not nearly as comfortable).  This morning he has a look of “when do I get off this boat??” so we played a game of race from one end of the boat to the other to get tiny bits of dog treats from Clarice at one end and myself at the other.

We have talked for some time about our need to gain comfort navigating through the night taking shifts. Clarice even suggested that since we know the route back pretty well that we might try it last night (which may have worked very well do to the visibility with the moonlight).  In any case we were checking our plans with our recently updated navigation software and the software suddenly decided to move our route a couple of degrees north.  The autopilot followed along and started to turn us in a circle but luckily we had lots of sea room where we were.  Recognizing that had the error occurred with only one person on duty during the night and perhaps not fully attentive in a narrow waterway the potential was there for a big problem.  We decided at that point to hole up in a sheltered cove for the night (and I sent off a nasty email to the software company this morning).  On the other hand with the days getting shorter we have taken off before sunrise several times this trip which has the comfort to it in that we have seen the lay of the land the evening before when we moor for the night.  This morning we left about two hours before sunrise under a starlit sky.  I had Clarice make sure she was aware of the direction of the North Star as the exit from the cove required a course of due north so that she could double check my piloting as she stowed the anchor on the front deck so in a sense we have for the first time steered by the stars as we continue our navigation education. [Update: 11/5/17 The software company went to work very quickly and was able to identify a corrupted file in our system - we are hoping that this solves the problem of the spontaneously moving routes.]


We set the clocks back today so I find myself with a bit of extra time before church so I will try to get this updated and posted.

Since the last note we got back to Sitka with unexpected rapidity as we encountered moderate winds but off the stern and moderate to fast currents but off the stern.  We ended up with about 5 fewer travel hours than we had predicted.

WooHoo 13.2 knots in a 7 knot boat through Sergius Narrows

After arriving home we borrowed a truck and went to pick up our packages which included a new camera lens I have been looking forward to trying. We were also able to find a local long line fisherman who has a permit to sell directly from his boat so he could sell to us directly.  Seattle celebrates the arrival of Copper River salmon – Sitka believes they one-up Copper River with local winter-run salmon.  Several folks have told us that it is known for its high fat content and delicious flavor.  Indeed the fish we purchased (at just above wholesale cost) cut like butter and tastes divine.  With our limited freezer space Clarice is trying to smoke some of the fish before she cans it for later.
We are currently having a bit of clear sunny weather (snow predicted for tomorrow) so yesterday we took some friends out to explore “the causeway” which is a remnant of WWII when several small islands on the far side of the airport from us were tied together with a rock breakwater and then fortified against the feared Japanese invasion.

August, Mike and Jarvis join me in exploring the ruins on The Causeway

Large gun emplacement

One of many ruins on The Causeway

For those curious about the fate of the Alaskan Dream (see the previous posting) – the hope is it can be floated and moved to a drydock for repairs on this weekend’s high tides. We continue to be reminded of the challenges of boating here when we keep seeing boats freshly cast on the rocks.

Tour boat recently added to the boats on the rocks collection

“Trawlers” vs “Trollers”:
Salish Aire is in a class of boats commonly referred to as recreational trawlers as they look like common fishing boats.  Here in SE Alaska we have been admonished a couple of times for calling ourselves a “trawler” since those are “bad” boats.  We finally asked for clarification and learned that first few folks here are familiar with boats such as ours made from the hull up for the non-fishing market so we frequently have to explain that Salish Aire is NOT a converted fishing boat but was designed with fishing boats in mind as they had a long proven design for use on open oceans.  Then we learned that trawler fishing boats drag nets on the bottom and are very non-selective with what they catch and end up destroying many by-catch species whereas trollers use long-line fishing techniques to be more selective in their catch and thus are considered to be “good fishermen”.  The troller boats are recognized by their tall outrigger poles – since Salish Aire has similar outriggers for our paravane stabilizers locals assume we are a “good fisherman” when they see us from a distance. We have also learned that this designation is apparently not universal as a sister ship currently in Newfoundland reports that all boats there are referred to as trawlers and then further sub-divided into “bottom draggers” or “long-liners”. In any case thanks to our paravane system we are able to remain socially acceptable here in Sitka as long as we remember to call ourselves a troller and not a trawler.

Local Troller
 Other photos:

Salish Aire at Anchor near The Causeway
Whales at play (feeding?)

One of the many Sitka Bald Eagles