Acrux Log

July 16-July 29, 2004

Sitka to Seward; 726 nautical miles

(1756 miles from Seattle)

by Ray R. Collins, Master



Previoius logbook: Ketchikan to Sitka

Friday, July 16.  Sunny-partly cloudy.  Sitka to Kalinin Bay.  Winds SE to SW at ~10.  25 miles.

It was a busy morning, getting ready to leave.  Since this was our last stocking port before crossing the gulf, we needed to replenish our fresh food, change the oil, pay the harbormaster and get fuel.

On our way up the dock we passed the Freya.  They were working on their boat, and we stopped by for a chat.  We borrowed a lifejacket for Richie (he had been in the stroller) and turned him loose to play with their daughter and some other kids.

Over an hour later we continued on our way up to the hill.  We had planned breakfast at McDonald's, but they were serving lunch by the time we got there so we had lunch instead.  After eatting we bought the few groceries we needed and stopped by the harbormaster's office to settle our bill.

I'd started the oil change before we left the boat, and finished it as soon as we got back (the drain system is very slow, so it takes quite awhile to drain all the oil out).  Finally we were ready to leave out slip and get fuel, and then, at last, we motored out of the harbor.

We knew we weren't going to make it very far, so we picked a nice bay about 25 miles out of Sitka as a destination for the day.  Frankie was tired, so she lay down while I headed across Sitka Sound.  Then we went down the narrow and rock-filled (but well marked--this is a popular route) Olga Strait, then down Neva Strait and out into Salisbury Sound.

We got to our destination, Kalinin Bay, a little early, but the next reasonable place to stop was quite aways and we didn't think we could make it by dark.  Besides, Kalinin Bay is an extremely well protected anchorage, with tall mountains all the way around it.  It was already occupied by several other boats and by bedtime there were 7 including us.

Saturday, July 17.  Misting showers-mostly cloudy.  Kalinin Bay to Pelican.  Winds SSE at 8.   56 miles.  Barometer 29.75

I was up a little after 7 and by 0730 the anchor was in and we were under way.  The exposed rockes at low tide showed just how bad the eastern half of the passage was--glad the Coastal Pilot and charts had showed the rocks so I could avoid them!  Even so I kept my speed down until well clear of the Bay; didn't want to be the one to report a new rock!

There were frequent rain-er, mist-showers, which often reduced visibility to less than 1/4 mile, so shortly after getting out in the ocean I got out the GPS and programmed it to keep us well off the extremely rocky coast.

The waves were 3' rollers coming from the SW.  The wind was a tailwind and the tides were against us.  All in all we averaged 6.5-7 knots up the coast.

Frankie felt a little queasy and Richie threw up, but by early afternoon they were both fine.

The chart showed nasty rocks off the entrance to Lisianski Strait, so I was nervous about approaching it.  I programmmed the GPS with a course that would keep us barely free, but only if it was 100% accurate.  Turned out I needn't have worried; the rocks shown on the chart were all well exposed to the SE of my course, and fairly well exposed (though perhaps they wouldn't be at very high tides) to the NW.  Once in the Strait it was easy--wide and deep except for a couple well marked places.

Pelican is just a few miles down Lisianski Inlet from where Lisianski Strait intersects it so we were there by 1630.  We tried to call the harbormaster, but got no reply.  Fortunately a friendly fisherman directed us to a vacant dock we could tie up at.

Our primary reason for stopping was to make phone calls.  Frankie called her folks and then I called mine.  After we were done we walked the length of downtown Pelican.  Main street was just a boardwalk on pilings--too narrow for all but the smallest car!  Indeed, we didn't see any cars, just golf carts!

After dinner we spent the rest of the evening reading, going to sleep at 2200 when it started to get dark.

Sunday, July 18.  Pelican into the Gulf of AK. 112nm

One of the reasons we stopped was to activat the satellite phone, but I realized shortly after getting up at 7am that it was Sunday (we don't have much reason to keep track of the days, cruising around like this). so I went up to the harbormaster office and dropped off a check for $12 harbor fee, returned to the boat and untied. After getting us underway I prepared the boat for sea, though we planned to spend the night in Lituya Boay we would be out in the Gulf of AK most of the day. So I checked to hatches, stuffed the anchor rope in its hole, stowed the fenders and dock lines, and made sure there wasn't anything left loose on the deck.

By 10 we were exiting Cross Sound. there was a little bit of wind so we had the sails up, though by the time we were out in the Gulf of AK it had died completely.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, no wind and 3 foot rollers from the SW. Frankie looked at me and said, "Let's go straight across!" So we verified the weather forecast was still good, called mom on the cell phone (luckily it was within range) and headed west into the wide, blue sea.

We set up a watch shift: Frankie 10am-2pm, Ray 2-6pm, Frankie 6-10pm, Ray 10pm-4am, Frankie 4-7am, Ray 7-10am. This worked extremely  well for us. Whoever was on watch usually kept an eye on Rishie as well so the person who was off could sleep or rest.

The day passed uneventfully, with no wind and glassy 2-4 foot rollers from SE & SW. I didn't manage to get much sleep during my off times but I got a fair amount of rest so I'd be able to stay up to 4am.

Richie was really wired at bedtime and since I was up anyhow he stayed out with me until nearly 2am! We sat on the seat together with a blanket over us and watched the sunset fade and the stars come out. We are now far enough north so the sunset never really vanished; there was always light on the horizon.

Monday, July 19. Gulf of AK. Partly sunny. Barometer 29.72.  150 nm

As the night wore on I got sleepier and sleepier. Fortunately, the steering could take care of itself pretty well, allowing me to take 1-2 minute catnaps. At 4am I got Frankie up and went ot bed, sleeping like a log until 7am.

The day was a peaceful one, excluding the drone of the engine. During the afternoon there was a 5-7 kt crosswind for a couple of hours, allowing us to motor-sail for awhile. Not enough wind to do a lot of good, but added 1-2 kts to our speed.

We were navigating primarily by GPS which was powered by rechargable batteries, the Weather was good enough so we really didn't need it- we were parralleling the coast about 30-50 miles out and the snowy peaks were clearly visible. But the GPS kept us from wandering too much so we used it. At the end of my shift at 6pm Frankie got up and piloted while I made tuna casserole for dinner, before taking a good nap so I'd be fresh for my 10pm-4am shift.

Wee were about 20 miles short of Kayak Island when I took over at 10. By 11 I could see the flashing light (8sec) of the lighthouse, but couldn't see the bouy marking  the rocks south of the end of the island.

Someday I'd like to come back and spend some time poking around the island. Great cliffs adorn the south end, and it is such an off long narrow sliver of land sticking out into the Fulf of AK, I'm sure it must be a slice of accreted terraine. But why such a long, thin sliver? Where did it come from? Is the geology related at all the the main land? How recently did it run into AK, and is it firmly stuck or is it still slipping up the coast?

Again Richie wanted to stay up, so we sat together and watched the stars come out and made comments on the lighthouse, airplanes that went over, etc. It wasn't quite as late (0030) when he was finally tired enough to go to bed.

Tuesday, July 20. Gulf of AK (Kayak Is.) to Cordova. Partly sunny, rain showers. Barometer 29.8.  87 nm

As I continued my shift on into the early morning hours we passed well south of Kayak Island and headed across the Copper River mouth. The clouds moved in but it remained calm with 2-3 foot gentle rollers from the south. I never did see the bouy; probably I was too far south and it was over the horizon from me.

By 4am I was pretty sleepy in spots of multiple tiny naps at the wheel so I was glad to get Frankie up and tumble into bed. She got me up again at 7. Shortly thereafter the engine sputtered-I shut it down quickly; didn't want to get an airlock for we were out of fuel.

I had a 30 gallon drum of fuel we'd bought in Seattle and now was the time to use it. I put the shammy cloth I'd bought in Petersburg on the funnel, pumped 5 gallons into a 5 gallon can and filled the funnel. It drained slowly. Diesel is thicken than gas and so it flowed through the shammy very, very slowly. After a few gallons, poured 3 cups at a time, I got out the fishing pole. Two casts, fill 3 cups, 2 casts, etc... Over an hour later I'd transfered 15 gallons- and had 3 fish.

I had no idea what kind of fish they were, but they looked nice so I cleaned them and Frankie baked them for brunch. They had tender white meat and were about a foot long. Turned out to be less than appetizing. We each managed to eat about half a fish. Wonder what kind they were. Have to get a book and find out.

It was early afternoon when we got to Strawberry Channel. Even thought the wavers weren't very big (2-3ft) they were breaking in the channel. The Coast Pilot doesn't remomend using th echannel without local knowledge. I've been through it two other times, the most recent was last summer. But this was the first time going in from the Gulf- and it was very hard to see where the channel (which shifts every year) was looking down the breakers. So I got the depth finder set up and followed a fishing boat. Local knowledge- just not on our boat!

He followed a course paralled Egg Island until he was very close to Hinchenbrook Island then turned parallel to the shore. It get very shallow- 6ft but we managed to follow him. By the time we got to the area he had turned right he was long gone but another fishing boat was comming up behing us, so we slowed to let him pass then sped up to maximum cruise (2700rpm) to follow him. He went down behind Egg Island and then we were in the marked channel and could slow down and relax.

A little over an hour later we were in Cordova. We walked up to the harbormaster office to check in, stopped by the grocery store to get some muffins that Frankie had been craving and then went back to the boat and took a nap.

Wednesday, July 21.  Cordova. Rain showers. Barometer 29.75.

We slept in but still didn't feel like doing much. "Jet lag" from our odd sleeping pattern at sea. So we spent the day reading, with a couple of brief trips from the boat the eat out. Lunch was only fair, but for dinner we went to a pizza joint and had a really great pizza. It was sprinkling when we ate dinner and turned to rain at bedtime.

Thursday, July 22. Cordova. Rain & wind. Barometer 29.74.

When we got up it was raining and by early afternoon the wind was howling. We took the opportunity to goof off for a second day. It was letting up by early evening so we went for a walk and made some phone calls. We called Laura and Tamer, finding out they were going to be in Anchorage on Friday. We invited them to go sailing on Saturday, which they enthusiastically agreed.

We struck up a conversation with a woman whod been phoning and wound up inviting her down to see the boat (she'd been living on a sailboat for a few years). We talked for several hours over hot cocoa.

Friday, July 23, Cordove to Whittier: 92nm. Showers/sunny.  Barometer 29.7

I got up a little before 8 and went up to the harbormaster to pay the bill. then I stopped at the grocery store to pick up 3 loaves of bread. By 830 we were motoring out of the harbor.

Whittier is at the far western side of Prince William Sound. Although there were a few light showers in the morning by mid-afternoon it had turned into a terrific sunny day. The forecast had been for some wind- up to a small craft advisory (25mph) in Valdez Arm but we saw little. During the day there was only once when we had enough wind to put up the sails, and even then it wasn't worth shutting off the engine.

We went through the Naked Island group- a very pretty group of islands and into Passage Canal. As we were getting close to Whittier we started looking for a place to stay. It was dead calm so we thought we'd anchor off a delta a couple miles from Whittier. It didn't work; 150 feet from the delta it was still 100 feet deep. Ah-ha! Emerald Cove. The Coastal Pilot said you could anchor there in 2-3 fathoms. It was a narrow little crack int eh rocks, about 70 feet wide with rock walls 15 feet high. But the water was only 10 feet deep with no room to swing and not enough water to float us at low tide anyhow. So we carefully turned around and went to look for another anchoring area mentioned in the Coastal Pilot. It was for anchoring big ships, and proved to be too deep- with 300 feet on anchor rode the most water we can anchor in with the recommended 7:1 scope is about 45 feet. So we went on into Whittier to see if there was a place to tie up in their usually very crowded harbor. The fuel dock had a spot and we needed fuel so we tied up there for the night.

Saturday, July 24. Whittier local 45 nm. Partly sunny.  N wind variable to 8.  Barometer 29.72

The fuel dock opened at 8 am, and we fueled up and then moved the boat over to the floating sea wall, which had a spot for us.  Then we took the dingy over to the dock and walked up to the harbormaster's office.  They said it would be ok to wait on the sea wall until the Smyths arrived.  We walked uptown and got breakfast, and then walked to the end of the road.  There was a plack talking about the railroad extension built during World War II to make Whittier into the "secret port" for the war effort.

We got back to the boat about noon, and an hour or so later Laura called us, saying they were at the harbormaster's office.  I jumped in the dingy and rowed over to the dock.  I walked up and met Tamer & Laura, their 3 kids and a friend of theirs (Rachael).  I took Tamer, Rachael and one of the kids over to the boat and then Tamer went back for Laura.

As soon as everyone was on the boat we untied and motored off.  Half an hour later the wind came up and we hoisted the sails and shut off the engine for a very pleasant 45 minutes of sailing.  The wind died away and left us becalmed, so we decided to motor up toward the glaciers.

We got far enough up College Fiord to find a couple of ice bergs before we had to turn around and go back to Whittier.  By the time we got back it was 10:30, and the tunnel shut at 11 so we walked them back to the van and said goodby.

We were parked at the fuel dock again, and decided to stay there and then leave early the next morning before it opened.

Sunday, July 25.  Whittier to Jackpot Bay 92 nm. Showers/ partly sunny.  N-NE wind to 15.  Barometer 29.7

I got up at 7:30 to be sure and be clear of the fuel dock before it opened.  There were a few showers around as I motored down Portage Canal.  The wind kind of came and went, and by the time Frankie got up I'd already had the jib and mizzen sails up and down 3 times.  Shortly after she got up the wind settled down to a very nice steady 12-15 mph from the NE so we hoisted all three sails and turned off the motor.  We managed to get a good 2 hours of very nice sailing before the wind abruptly quit, leaving us becalmed.  We averaged 8 knots, so we covered a good bit of the way under sail.

Shortly after the wind quit we turned down Dangerous Passage.  Frankie went foreward and watched for rocks in a couple of the worst places; the passage looked ok on the chart, but there were several ledges extending out and I wanted to make sure we missed them.  When we turned into Jackpot Bay Frankie watched for rocks again, and we got all the way back into the small, very well protected cove in the N corner of the bay without any problem.

I had planned to anchor in the middle of the almost lake-like cove, but the water in the center of the cove was nearly 200 feet deep!  We wandered around looking for a place that was shallow enough to anchor and finally decided on the NW corner of the cove.  After lowering the anchor and 200 feet of line we backed up to set the anchor.  It didn't set.  So we left it like that, with the alarm set on the depth finder so it would warn us if we drifted.  Which we did; dragging the anchor parrallel to the shore until we had gone from the NW corner to the NE corner by late evening.  We finally stablized so we decided to try leaving it like that for the night.

Monday, July 26.  Jackpot Bay. Rain & wind.  Barometer 29.73

We survived the night with our un-set anchor, but we got up the next morning to wind and rain.  We had planned on staying here and exploring with the dingy, but instead we just spent the day working on the computer (getting this logbook updated, among other things), reading and listening to the rain on the roof.

The wind came up and the anchor started dragging again in the mid afternoon.  So I pulled it in and motored across the cove to the other side, where the wind wasn't getting to the water very much.  I anchored in 75 feet of water, which was a little too deep for my 300 feet of anchor line, but I couldn't get any closer to shore without being within 300 feet so that was what I had to do.  Again we kept the depth finder on with the anchor alarm set.  Fortunately the anchor held against the occasional gust that got down to us.

We spent the evening watching a Babylon 5 (SF) video.

Tuesday, July 27.  Jackpot Bay.  Rain.  Barometer 29.58

Another rainy day.  We spent most of the day reading.  I tried a little fishing, but no luck.  We ran the engine a little bit (an hour) to warm up the boat and recharge the battery.  In the afternoon we caught up on the logbook, getting it all typed into the computer.  We also counted our food and figured out what we'd need to buy to stock the boat for Hawaii.  We are doing very well on food; at least 1/3 of what we'd bought in Seattle was left.  We only need a few perishables and things we didn't origionally stock.

While counting our food we found a few (5) potatoes that had gone bad; they had been cut before being bagged.  Pretty good for nearly 2 months old!  Nothing like having a nice cool place to store them...

Wednesday, July 28.  Jackpot Bay-Seward.  Rain-sunny spots.  67 nm. Barometer 29.6

We hoisted anchor about 8:30.  With some difficulty; the rope was wound around some boulders or something on the bottom and I had to use the engine to pull it free.  And then, of course, it was 75 feet deep so it took awhile to hoist the 110 pounds of anchor and chain up that far.

I took it very slow going out, for the depth finder was just strapped on a pole and when the speed exceeded 2 knots it twisted so it wasn't working.  (Frankie was still asleep, so she couldn't watch for rocks like we'd done on the way in.)  But there wasn't any problem, and once clear of the "secret" cove I pulled it in and we were off.

There was pretty steady rain when we left, but it tapered off slowly as we left Jackpot Bay behind.  Chenenga glacier had been calving, for there was a lot of ice I had to pick my way through.  Looking over toward the glacier the water looked white, with lots and lots of ice.  Fortunately there was very little across my path, so it was easy to avoid.

We turned down Bainbridge Passage, careful to avoid the rocky areas on the chart.  We didn't see any of the rocks except the one at the far southern end of the passage, for it was high tide.  There were a few rollers once out in Port Bainbridge, but they weren't too bad (3-5 feet).  The rain showers picked back up, some of them fairly heavy, as we headed west down the coast.  The visibility was pretty limited, but for the most part I managed to keep headed in the right direction, for we were never out of sight of land--just not quite the right direction to see where we were going.

The weather lifted about halfway across Day Harbor, and it turned into a very nice day.  We rounded the very spectacular Cape Resurrection and headed down into Resurrection Bay, arriving in Seward around 7 pm.  We had no luck finding a free dock, so we wound up tied to a 36' sailboat.  (We'd called the harbormaster, but gotten no answer).  We walked up the hill, made some phone calls and then had dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate arriving at the end of this leg of our trip.

Thursday, July 29.  Seward (and off to Fairbanks).  Sunny. 

We were up at 6, Matt and his uncle showed up at 7:30 and by 9:30 I had the car fetched from Matt's house.  It took us another 2.5 hours to get the car loaded, register with the harbormaster, and eat breakfast.  Then we headed to Fairbanks, with a stop in Anchorage to buy some boat hardware and in Wasilla for dinner.  It was 1 am by the time we pulled into the driveway in Fairbanks...a long trip!  Hopefully we'll be able to leave earlier when we return...and we won't spend 2 hours in Anchorage shopping!

Next logbook: Seward to Hawaii

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by Ray R.  Collins
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