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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


September 14, 2017

Clarice here: decided an update from my perspective is in order.

We celebrated a quiet 41st anniversary with dinner in town. Norman had asked the locals for recommendations, the response to which was, “I’ve heard so and so is good but I’ve never eaten there”. It appears the locals do not eat out much, if at all. We don’t as a rule either but decided to do something to celebrate 41 years of being together through thick and thin. We went to a local hotel, expecting “hotel fare”, and were so surprised. We had a halibut dish that was absolutely fantastic and decided we had made another good choice.

Being stationary is different. We see the same sights each day as we head out for multiple daily walks, however, because the weather is so variable, it is not routine or boring. We try to do some small projects each day if we don’t have a big one planned and the days absolutely fly by.
I’ve got the pieces for a quilt top cut out and will work on piecing it on a rainy day. There’s always vacuuming, dishes, cleaning boat, etc. that needs to be done on a routine basis. We got a visitor library card so my next endeavor is to learn to make bread with a chewy crust and soft interior, but not too soft. I checked some books out to assist me with learning this skill. I did make English muffins for the first time, and despite not cutting them the correct size, they turned out fantastic. Yes, another item off the check list of goals to achieve.

I planted a small container garden and today noticed that the lettuces and spinach are up.   I wasn’t sure it was possible, but voila, it is. I’m hoping that the back enclosure will allow light and keep the temperatures such that I can grow rotating crops for a few fresh greens besides sprouts. Yes, there are greens available, but I’m looking forward to more long term cruising and exploring all the options available towards being self-sufficient in the future.

Container garden in the cockpit at the back of the boat

Yesterday we returned from an overnight outing to the end of one of the bays near Sitka. Alas my fishing skills were not up to the task to snag one of the lovely creatures jumping all around me, so we had to make due for dinner. It appears that this is a continual scenario for me, but persistence will win some day!! The stars were phenomenal that night. We actually had a clear non moonlit night and could see the Milky Way, etc. without the light pollution of town. It was beautiful. Hoped to see the aurora, but that wasn’t up for the scenery that night. There are a few more local bays that look hopeful for anchoring in for the occasional good weather get out of town days.

We met a woman at the local Ham radio fish fry and managed to connect with her and her husband at their home on one of the many islands near town. We had an enjoyable afternoon visiting and getting to know one another. I enjoy meeting the local people on their terms and we seem to have similarities so that made it that much more enjoyable.  

We keep marveling at the scenery. It is easy to see why people come to Alaska and stay. We won’t be those individuals but will absolutely enjoy every minute we get here.

Our evening was spent at a very moving event for the community. When we had first arrived we noticed a small flier in a store about a Chilkat Robe being returned to the community and that everyone was invited to attend the event. We finally located the hall that this would take place in and decided this was an opportunity to not be missed. We were not disappointed. A Chilkat robe had somehow found its way to a family on the east coast of the U. S. A. for four generations. The current owners decided they felt the robe needed to be returned to its rightful owners. The local museum worked with the family and the local clans to bring the robe back to Sitka and opted to have it returned in a very moving ceremony. We saw rarely used Tlingit ceremonial robes and head pieces (one of the robes had a musket ball hole in it from the Tlingit uprising against the Russians 150 years ago), heard sacred songs that are not usually heard by those outside the native peoples and witnessed joyful dancing performed by all ages of native clans people. You could feel and see the heartfelt joy and gratitude for the return of a robe that embodied the people’s ancestry. What was so meaningful to us, as non-native, was that the cultural meaning was explained by the master of ceremonies as the ceremony progressed. Since many of the Tlingit are Russian Orthodox, the ceremony began with the Lord’s Prayer sung in Tlingit. Much of the ceremony was spoken in Tlingit but then translated almost immediately to English. Ancestors are so important to the native culture that someone helps a person don the robes and head pieces (most robes are woven or sewn in a clan specific pattern). They explained that it was not the son, daughter, aunt or uncle helping you dress, but rather their ancestors. The mood went from one of solemnity to joy and it was very palpable in the room.

A note about Chilkat robes: They are very special robes with amazingly fine and detailed symbolism woven into the blankets. It was explained that you ask someone else to make a robe for you so that you do not boast about yourself.

Davenport Family presenting the blanket (photo credit Sitka Sentinel, James Poulson)

Norman's notes:


It’s been a week since we arrived in Sitka and we are just beginning to start to find our way around.  

Some highlights so far:

Riding our bikes to Sawmill Creek and oohing and aahing at the beauty of the bay at the end of the paved road with mountains and waterfalls when we look up and whale spouts when we look down.  The creek is full of salmon working their way up stream.

Tale of a Whale in Silver Bay

We keep being assured by locals that the rain storms that keep dousing us are not normal. On the other hand while our family in the Pacific Northwest has been enjoying record heat and dry they are tired of smoke and ash from forest fires.  (A bit of history – Clarice and I met in a forest fire camp.  My long time mild asthma has added forest fire/brush fire smoke as a trigger I suspect from that experience.  I think if we had stayed home I would have really had some problems – maybe rain isn’t so bad.)

When the rain is gone the scenery is absolutely amazing. There are many many little islands around Sitka on the seaward side and mountains on the inland side.  We have decided that when it isn’t raining (or its just drizzle then we will explore as there are lots of wet days for doing inside jobs.

We have been told that when our moorage agreement ends on the 20th of this month that it cannot be extended as the boat that has a long term lease on this slip will be returning. This is sad as this has been a great location for us being close to town and shopping and having an indoor location for storing our bicycles.  The issue with the main city harbor authority is that they have a “sellers market” with multi-year waiting lists for slips. They would happily rent us a transient slip but if we left for an outing there would be no guarantee of a place to moor when we return.  At this point we believe we have a slip lined up right downtown at a private dock but no agreement has been reached.  If that doesn’t work out we will likely head back to Petersburg where there was space.

A Sea Otter visits us at our first moorage

Today we attended the local  service Episcopal and then went to choir practice.  They were excited to have a second male voice and Clarice enjoyed being in a small group.  The priest had sent out an email with a link to our blog so our face was familiar to some members of the parish already.
This evening we went to a fish fry sponsored by the local HAM radio club as a fundraiser.  We met several local folks and hope to get to know more.

St Peter's By-The-Sea Episcopal Church

This is a small community and already people are starting to recognize that we have been around too long to be from a cruise ship – at church a woman commented that she recognized us from the farmer’s market yesterday. We know from having lived in a small community that these connections are very important if we are to enjoy our winter here – otherwise we will get boat fever very quickly.  I always remember telling a German exchange student who stayed with us years ago that the local kids didn’t need him – he needed them.  If he was going to have a social network then he needed to stick his neck out because they had all known each other since grade school.  It is the same here – right now we are a curiosity but the town social circles don’t need us – we do need them.

I’m excited to say that one rainy day project involved tearing apart and then reconstructing another section of the pilot house instrument panel.  Previously 2 of the gauges with very limited viewing angles had been mounted where I had to practically get on my knees to see them clearly.  They also could not been seen at all from the pilot’s chair since they were literally around a corner.  They are now mounted higher and at an angle designed to work with the viewing angle issue on a totally new section of dash board.  Even without final finish work being done I’m really pleased with how this came out.

Gauge location before rebuild...
...gauge location after rebuild (the difference in readability is due to the location change not an artifact of photography).

We also replaced one of our engine room blowers with a Delta T brand blower.  I had replaced the original blower with a unit designed for engine room temperatures a couple of years ago when the earlier, cheaper, blowers kept failing. The newer style blower motors are very stout but the squirrel cage had moved on the shaft of one of them and was causing it to stop. Clarice picked up a subtle change in engine room temperatures and got me to looking closely at the two blowers.  I was able to fix the failing unit but now expect that they will fail at some point.  The Delta T moves a heck of a lot more air and seems to be a much more robust design.  In the mean time I have ordered some thrust bearings that may keep the remaining older blower in service and make the one I removed a more reliable spare.

We did final numbers for our trip up: 1157 nautical miles traveled; 395 gallons of diesel burned (2.92 nm/gal); main engine used for 176 hours.  We have since purchased 500 gallons of diesel to keep our tanks from getting condensation over the winter.


Today started out with one of the first, if not the first, completely cloudless morning since we arrived in Sitka and it got better from there. My brother has tried for years to convince me that even I can catch fish.  I have been convinced that I have such a strong anti-fishing jinx that I can close down a fishery just by dropping a line in the water. Today one of the locals took us out in his boat and I managed to catch a very nice sized rock fish (Clarice caught two tiny rock fish, a small black bass, a tangle of old fishing line and a half of a scallop shell).  In any case just looking at the scenery around us was pretty amazing. After we stopped fishing Darryl took us to he and April’s island where he and she showed us around their tiny but spectacular little tree covered rock where they have a lovely house and several other buildings and gardens.  Once we left we motored back to our new moorage at the base of a park on the end of the main thoroughfare of downtown Sitka.  It’s a lovely location and should we or our landlord (waterlord?) change our minds, Darryl has found another dock near him where we could tie up our ship for the winter just a couple miles from town.

Sunrise heading to our fishing lesson

Looking back towards Mt. Edgecumbe

Looking back towards town

Arrowhead Mountain (we think - we are still learning place names)

Norman's Rockfish

Clarice's Scallop shell

Bear with Clarice's salmon

Darryl and April's Island

Heading home after the fishing trip
Hopefully the photos of Sitka can give a better feel for the place than I can in words.

Totem Park and Pioneer Home (our current moorage is a few steps from this park)

St Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral

"Spring" flowers in bloom 
Crescent Harbor

Salmon Jumping 

Young man very excited to have caught his first coho salmon

Russian Orthodox sanctuary (still a consecrated space) inside the Russian Bishop's House National Historical Site
Totem in Sitka National Park - a quiet place to walk about a mile away at the other end of town

Meeting people:

As mentioned previously we have recognized that if we are to enjoy the winter here we need to get a social network and so we are actively trying to meet local folks.  We had a couple of recent missteps only in that the people we met weren’t from Sitka but they were really nice folks to meet and told us a lot about Alaskan’s.

First we went to a local pizza place that was having a very busy Saturday night with a team of high-school cross country runners taking up 1/3 of their table space.  Since we nabbed a 4 person table I watched for the next couple to come in looking for a place to sit.  We ended up having a really nice conversation with a couple who had come up from Ketchikan with their kids for the cross country meet. They explained that going to a sporting event with another school often involves taking the whole team on an Alaska Airlines flight to the school where the event takes place (sometimes even as far as the lower 48).  Using the less expensive ferry option can make a 2 hour meet turn into a 5 day event as the ferries don’t run on daily schedules.  On one hand this leads to lots of fund raising frustration on the other they find that their kids develop great social skills as they stay with host families for most events.  They explained it is just part of the life and flavor of living in SE Alaska.

Next I was stopped by a woman as I walked back to the boat asking if I knew of a local B&B where she and her husband could stay for the night.  They had just parked their float plane on the dock next to ours and were eager to stretch their legs and then get some sleep before heading on the next leg of their journey after picking up their new plane in Washington as they headed home to Palmer (near Anchorage).  To make a long story short they accepted our offer to spend the night in our spare berth.  They were incredibly nice folks and it was great to hear their stories and learn about their joy of flying in this beautiful countryside.  The next morning they flew on and promised that some canned salmon would be heading our way in exchange for the warm place to sleep – if it never arrives we will consider the night of enjoyable conversation well worth the very minor difficulty of setting up the bed and making a breakfast for everyone.

Dog stuff:

There is a charity “Running of the Boots” next weekend that I had hoped to enter Jarvis in with his new snow boots but considering his first reaction to them we aren’t real sure he will make the run.  Before you watch the video and laugh at his antics or cry for his confusion an explanation is in order. Rubber boots (almost synonymous here with Xtratuf brand boots) are pretty much a fashion accessory equal to Nikes in Seattle.  We have watched high school girls walk about with teenage fashion requirements of leggings and, yes, Xtratuf boots.  The boots do come in feminine looks with such patterns as pale blue octopi on the inside liners which are then turned down like Bobbie socks. It is also perfectly in keeping with the local look to wear Grundens rain pants or today I saw a young lady on this sunny afternoon with jeans (with the requisite holes in the knees) with a Grudens belt. So the Running of the Boots is the local folks way of saying “good bye” to the cruise ship season and laughing at themselves as they move into Sitka town season. [9/21/17 - today Jarvis started out with two front boots then graduated to 4 boots for his morning walk - he does seem to be getting the hang of the boot thing.]

Jarvis was totally confused (and not a happy dog) the first time he tried his new boots

Boat stuff:

For some time we have contemplated changing out the stuffing in our shaft seal.  A bit of background for the non-boating readers: where the propeller shaft exits the boat there needs to be a seal that allows the shaft to rotate and keeps the sea outside of the boat.  Traditionally (as in Salish Aire’s case) the shaft is wrapped with beeswax infused flax and a compression fitting of some kind is tightened up against the packing until it only drips a little (the drip cools and lubricates the seal while providing an oxygen source for the stainless steel).  In our case we didn’t know how long it had been since the packing was replaced (Clarice found recommendations for routine changes range from a year to years….) and since we were having to tighten it more and more to keep it dripping at a properly slow rate (there seems to be agreement that no matter how long the seal has been in that increasing dripping indicates the seal is worn out). From our reading we agreed that the old tried and true flax and wax would be our choice over the newer Teflon infused packing (its reported to last longer but can be damaging to the very expensive shaft if it overheats). We understood that we would need 3-4 rings of packing and the input from other owners of boats like ours was that it was most likely 7/16 inch material – wrong on both counts.  We also understood that it can be a challenge to pull out the old packing but it would come with the correct tool – it wasn’t until after we had broken two of the tools that Clarice read that the tools can themselves be a problem. In any case we did get the original packing out after much effort (and running next door to the marine hardware to get the second removal tool). The amount of water entering the boat was not overwhelming once the packing was removed and easily handled by the bilge pump.  After replacing the 5 rings of 7/16 packing equal to the number that we found in the original seal (instead of 3-4 we expected) we realized that the adjustment nuts were too far screwed on so we remeasured the original packing and found it to be ½ inch material.  After running to the marine hardware again the ½ inch packing was inserted.  Then there was no drip, nada, nothing even with no pressure at all on the packing.  Since Clarice read that sometimes it takes a while for natural packing to seat itself we ran the boat for a couple of hours while we toured some local islands. Sure enough some of the wax melted and oozed out into the bilge finally allowing the water to come through. Today the seal ran at a higher temperature than it has in the past but much cooler than our initial run.  We are beginning to believe that this is one of those traditional boat jobs that requires a bit of experience and patience before a person can just do it correctly the first time.

Ready to insert the new packing


Clarice and I are both advanced SCUBA divers.  We have our equipment and air tanks on the boat but haven’t taken the time until today to take a dive. We spoke to some local dive instructors who let us know that currents and other issues we dealt with in Puget Sound are much less of an issue here.  They also let us know that (as long as the herring aren’t spawning) visibility of 50 – 100 ft is common.  With these encouraging thoughts we decided to get wet again after having been out of the water far too long (meaning that we wanted an “easy” low risk dive to check ourselves and our equipment out).  We found a U shaped area between two local islets that had a bottom showing 40 ft on the charts and headed there, anchored and jumped in.  The dive was over a so-so bottom as far as things to look at but the visibility was 50 ft, water temperature 51 degrees F (which is “warm” for cold water diving) and it felt great to get back into the sport we really have enjoyed for many years.  The local guy who fills tanks just stopped by and picked up the tanks for us at the boat (woo hoo service – we had planned to take them on a dolly ½ mile up hill to his house). We are looking forward to more exploring under water as well as above with the many islets around Sitka Sound.

Shopping etc.:

  • ·         Tourist shops are everywhere but many will be closing in the next week or so as the cruise ship season is coming to an end.
  • ·         There are three local grocery stores – one of which is quite large.  Veggies have obviously travelled a ways to get here but generally they are well stocked.  Clarice notes that the prices are high even for staples like flour.  There is a guy who brings up fruit from Washington but he will only be here once more this season.
  • ·         Amazon 2 day shipping is usually more like 5 days and I keep being surprised at what they will and wont ship to an Alaska address such as beeswax products (SnoSeal and waxed flax stuffing), yes to a radio with a rechargeable battery but no to an extra capacity battery for the radio.
  • ·         Clarice did find shoes that are comfortable with her previously broken foot but I expect to have to order mine.
  • ·         Clothing (with the exception of rain gear) is pretty limited as far as choices.
  • ·         1 good marine hardware place but it looks like specialty parts need to be ordered out of Seattle
  • ·         2 good hardware stores

The rain has returned

Monday, September 4, 2017

On to Baranof Island


It seems like a big deal to me to finally see and set foot on Baranof Island. First we have never seen it before.  When we came up this way in 2000 we stays to the east and travelled up to Juneau and then Skagway.  On this trip we are moving to the west to get to our planned new base of Sitka.  Yesterday we saw the island for the first time and were impressed – this is not a hilly little island but rather has glaciated mountains not far from the shore!  We arrived at Baranof Warm Springs after a long day of travel with the final couple of hours being through rough waters.  But I get ahead of myself!

In our last entry we were still in great weather in the northern arm of Behm Canal.  After that the weather started to deteriorate and we have had lots of rain and wind up until today. We got bumped about a bit in 25 kn winds until we worked our way into Meyer’s Chuck. Meyer’s Chuck is a very protected group of coves with a small community tied together with trails and boardwalks.  In 2000 when we were there I wondered if it was on the decline as the trail to the (fairly new) school was overgrown and we never did see any local residents.  The good news is that the community has been spruced up and even has a very nice new community dock.  It looked like most of the seasonal residents had left but there were a few hardy souls still in-chuck and I suspect they live there year round.

Meyer's Chuck

Meyer's Chuck panorama

From Meyer’s Chuck we travelled north through Zimovia Strait to Wrangell where we continued to get rained on. We spent a night in the marina and then headed out in rain and wind the next morning to head north through Wrangell Narrows. 

At the north end of Wrangell Narrows is the very Scandinavian town of Petersburg.  We have been to Petersburg twice, once in 2000 and then again in 2015 for the Nordhavn Rendezvous.  Since we have been giving a lot of consideration to staying in Petersburg both based on our experiences and the blog of Sweet T, a Nordhavn 40, who spent last winter there.  Our conversations with the harbormaster confirmed that they could accommodate us with reasonable rates and good electrical connections.  While we have decided to move on to Sitka for now, their very welcoming approach may well bring us back in the future.


Petersburg 2

While we were in Petersburg we were able to confirm that we have a place to moor in Sitka and so we headed out into gray skies continuing to the west. We spent a long day on the water and pulled into the warm springs cove just before dusk.  The cove is again one of those places that represents the attraction of SE Alaska.  At the head of the cove is a huge waterfall with hundreds of salmon teaming at the bottom waiting for a chance to climb it.  The cabins in the cove are connected by a boardwalk that goes along the foreshore. On the boardwalk is a bath house with three tubs with warm springs water plumbed in for visitors to use.  We used the tubs with light provided by our kerosene lamp until we were warm to the core. When we were walking back to the boat the moon poked out from behind a cloud suggesting better weather for the morning.  We awoke this morning to clear blue skies with light winds.  A couple of black bears were checking out the stuff on the shore at the base of the falls.  After walking the dog and taking a lot of photos we headed north for the next leg of our journey to Sitka which is 20 miles due west or 90 miles by water so it will probably take us two days to get there via Peril Strait.

Our first look at Baranof Island
Baranof Bear

Waterfall and cabins Baranof Warm Springs

Bear checks out the breakfast options along the shore Baranof Warm Springs

One of three natural spring fed hot tubs available to the public

View from the public tubs

Hot tub house along the boardwalk

Very new dock (a bit of a challenge to land the boat due to the very strong current from the falls) 
Last look at our bear friend

Leaving Baranof Warm Springs to travel around the N end of the island to Sitka (only 20 miles away over those mountains)

Boat stuff (after passing the 1000 nm mark):  The boat continues to run well getting about 3 nm / gallon of diesel.  We have only used the generator twice – once to run the watermaker and once when we had issues with the main engine alternator regulator.  We have confirmed (and even have support from experts via the Nordhavn users group) that we can run using our build in regulator if need be without problem although we switched back to the external regulator yesterday after making some minor changes and it seems to be working reliably again.  We now have good data in our fancy electricity monitoring system and are learning how to understand it better which is leading to greater comfort with our energy budgeting strategies.  One thing that has helped a lot was learning to adjust our two inverter/battery chargers so that they draw a much more limited amount of power when we are plugged into low amperage shore connections. At the suggestion of a Nordhavn 40 owner we talked to who also has both hydraulic and passive stabilizers we have tried using the two systems together and are finding them very synergistic in dampening rough motion.  We have now started lowering our outrigger poles daily (as we note that most of the local fishing boats do) before we leave a protected harbor since being on the top deck in rough water is uncomfortable. We keep the paravane “fish” attached and find that we can easily launch them in rough conditions since we only need to go into the protected cockpit. We will need to figure out our longstanding issue with a leak in the upper 1/8th of our large fresh water tank once we get settled in port and create a “permanent” seal for the base of the main radar. This is in addition to normal maintenance stuff after 1000+ nm.. We have been very pleased with most of our decisions such as buying the aluminum hull dingy, buying tough hulled kayaks, going to a newer inverter/charger, etc.. We are still learning to use our HF radio as we now get our weather forecast and some email over it on a regular basis when we are out of cellular range although we still have not been able to demonstrate the phone service connection we subscribe to.  When we were hiking in a cove after having only seen one boat for the day and knowing that no terrestrial radio signals were getting anywhere, I was glad that we have our satellite text option for emergencies.  All and all our planning and preparations have served us well thus far as has Salish Aire herself.


We anchored for one night between Baranof Warm Springs and Sitka in lovely weather. Yesterday we arrived about 11 AM and then took Jarvis on a walk after we figured out which slip is “ours”.  We turned around after walking to St Michael’s by the Sea Episcopal Church where we were able to meet the local priest and her husband and some of the parishioners as they were finishing up their after service social time.  By evening the rain had started to return.

Peril Strait anchorage

This morning it is raining and raining – there is no forest fire concern here as all of the normal rain that usually heads to BC and Washington this time of year is being steered north by the jet stream. So while they complain of hazy skies and too hot record temperatures with records numbers of days without rain we wade about when we walk with the dog or to the grocery store. 

View from last of passage to Sitka

Entering Sitka

Wet rain gear collection from morning walks

Our slip for the next few weeks at Fisherman's Quay