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Saturday, July 31, 2010

7/30 Finally on our way to the big left turn

After six long years of planning, talking, boat shopping and more than 100 seperate boat projects we are fnally really and truly headed towards the big left turn. We will be in Neah Bay in a few days on course for our trip down the Wa, Or and Ca coasts. We left Seattle in heavy fog this morning after a few more days of work, work, work and all the visiting we could squeeze in.

One of the projects while back "home" was a trip to Second Wave in order to unload all the stuff we don't need going south. Second Wave is the local Seattle consignment shop for all things nautical. We had five large bags of cruising guides for all our travels north along with paper charts covering all the waters from here to Glacier Bay. It always feels good getting things off the boat we no longer need but this one felt great. The night before I catalogued all our charts for our southern trip and it was a great feeling to be reading names like Cabo San Lucas and Mazanillo.

Once again the boat is sitting pretty low in the water after putting away the piles of provisions for the trip south. It took three different grocery stores, two trips to Fisheries, three trips to Fred Meyer and two trips to the auto parts store. We will definitly not starve on this leg plus we fixed out battery problems, corrected the SSB problem and did a rebuild on the dingy engine and added a new prop to help our beach landings in the Mexico surf.

Once we make Neah Bay and pick up son Josh and nephew Ryan we don't have a single other have to be commitment on the callandar for the comming months. Will of course need to make arrangements for a couple of visitors but that is far enough away to give me a real feeling of really letting go thee dock lines for good.

Two nights ago I came down with a lovely summer cold complete with fever and cough to kick off this part of the trip and I already dread the homesickness lurking in my future. But small worries for a big new life journey.

Miss you, kat

Monday, July 19, 2010

7/13 The Mayday call that is every cruising couples nightmare.

We were on our way down Johnstone Strait. We left Alert Bay at 5am hoping to make some miles before the afternoon high winds roared up. Johnstone Strait is a long relatively narrow passage and has few available anchorages. It also has notorious afternoon winds which have potential to pile up against any apposing currents. A good weather window is essential but just as important is to research all the possible anchorages so if weather comes up unexpectedly you will have a plan for getting the heck out of dodge.

About 1030 we picked up a call to the Coast Guard on our VHF which we keep on and open to emergency channel 16. "Mayday, mayday, mayday." Instantly alert we listened to the obviously distressed male caller as the CG replied asking for his exact location. We grabbed a pen and began to work the coordinates our self to see if they were anywhere near.

The man sounded frantic when he answered and gave his location and then boat name "Maria Lee." When asked what was the nature of his emergency he stated his wife had fallen over board! With patient questioning he said he thought she had been forward doing something to the davits as they transited a passage that was ahead of us that splits around an island. The passage funnels all the wind, wave and current of Johnstone Strait into the two small passages around a small island and creates an area that is almost rapids. (Take whatever weather you have and add 5knots of current.) He said he had been yelling for her all over the boat and couldn't find her. His voice sounded like that of an old man and he was desperate and frantic. When asked he said he thought it could have been 20 minutes ago and when questioned more it became evident that he had not even stopped the boat or turned it around to back track.

Panic induces some very odd behavior in people and again it was obvious that he was beyond panic. The CG continued very professionally asking questions and instructed him to throw somethings over board to mark his position and to immediately turn the boat around and back track his course. By this time I was pretty much holding my breath and near tears while Bill was focusing on calculating how long it would take us to reach his position. After another moment or two more of panic his voice broke and he radioed that he had found her! Aboard the boat, safe and confused. We could hear him telling her he had been yelling for her all over the boat.

I wanted to cheer but I could still feel my adrenaline rolling over my own distress. Why hadn't he already stopped the boat, thrown things over, put a MOB mark on his GPS? Why hadn't he begun to use his chart platter to follow his course back like a bread crumb trail? What the hell was he doing out here if he couldn't do at least that? My mind easily slipping into anger with the adrenalin and still awash with panic and dis pare.

The CG confirmed that she was in fact on board and they signed off. That was it. Emergency over. We would never hear another word. I had to take a few minutes quietly thinking and then said aloud to Bill, " I may not be the best sailor in the world but I promise you...... that if you are every missing from the boat I will first turn the boat around and or stop it, throw over any one of our MOB markers before I stop to get on the radio and call out a mayday."

The mayday is of course important but stopping the boat is always paramount. Always. No matter how scared I am. If that woman had really gone over at that location she would be dead now and he would be heart broken. While everyone within that mornings VHF range would be going over their own safety routines and inwardly wondering if they too would sound old and panicked and filled with dispare or would they in fact be able to do what seems so easy and simple sitting in a classroom or talking bout over dinner with friends on a warm summer evening.

Just had to share.....Love you, kat

7/15 Are you my mother? The day Island Bound was adopted by a newborn harbor seal.

We left Forward Harbor yesterday bound for the double rapids of Whirlpool Rapids and Green Point Rapids. In order to hit the slack tides we were underway by 500am but happy to be under blue skies. The rapids were simple and strait forward and by 1000am we were listening to the anchor chain rattle into 20 feet of water in Handfield Bays inner cove. We had passed another boat coming out of the cove on our way in but as the anchor settled the small cove fell silent.

Almost immediately we heard a noise. Bill said it sounded like a person trying to make bird calls. We could hear something on the other side of a small islet slowly moving towards us. In a minute or two we could see something moving through the water. An otter? As Bill went below turning off switches I stayed topside with the binoculars listening and watching. Soon I could make out a tiny seal pup. He was restlessly working the cove from end to end. Ceaselessly crying out a desperate pitiful bleating noise.

I watched him for a long time and wondered where his mother was. Was she dead? Had she abandoned him? He sounded so lost and scared. I didn't even know baby seals made noise. I also know that momma seals often leave their young on rocks and beaches while they hunt but man was he was really howling.

Knowing there was little I could do, after about 20 minutes I finally went below. A few minutes later the noises got louder until it sounded like he was just outside of the boat. Worried and feeling sorry for the little guy I went up again and walked the deck looking trying to find him.I honed in on his mewling, looked over the side and found him on the starboard side of the bow. He was fluttering his little flippers and holding himself up next to the boat suckling on the cove stripe! I quickly tippitoed back to the cockpit and called to Bill to hurry and come up. He wasn't going to believe this!

The little guy continued his way around and around the boat. Suckling and slurping and doing his best to find dinner. All the while making little crying noises and sighs. He was an all over speckled gray color with dark gray fins and head. He was perhaps 20 inches long and roughly 2/3 of that wide and he still had about 3 inches of umbilical cord hanging off his fat little belly. Have you ever seen a "seal point" Siamese cat? Now I know exactly where that description came from.

He was so beautiful. He worked his way around and around but seeming to prefer the stern over the bow and the bow over the sides. He was so persistent I began to think his mom must have been gone for a long time. Maybe she was dead? We knew not to touch him but how do you not touch him and get him to not touch the boat? Was this suckling going to cause his mom to abandon him if she hadn't already? Was he going to get sick from the paint? Lots of questions and no answers.

Soon I settled in to read and he finally quieted. I just couldn't stand it so soon I went to look again and found him floating off to port completely still. My heart fell. Was he dead? I yelled to Bill. " Hon, I think he's......dead." Then suddenly he took in a couple of snuffling breaths and then again settled back to his nap. I tried to ignore him and leave him be but he was sooo cute. And how often do you get to babysit a seal pup?

The next time I checked on him he was sound asleep, snuggled up against the boat on the lee side. As I read my book and watched him the tide slowly pushed him along the length of the boat, off the aft end and out into open water. He floated the current about 15 feet off our stern then suddenly woke himself up with a snort and a start, turned and scanned for the boat, gave out a cry and came swimming back as fast as his little flippers could carry him. Then he suckled for a minute or two and then settled in again before falling quickly asleep. He did this numerous times. Each time he got too far away he would wake with a start and frantically hustle back. When he swam back he acted so scared. I had to laugh, the panic made him swim so a cartoon. His little flippers fluttering away and his head held up high out of the water. At one point an eagle perched in a nearby tree and I slipped into momma mode hollering at Bill that I was worried the eagle was going to swoop down and snatch him. He assured me he was too big to be picked off by an eagle but I wasn't completely convinced.

After almost three hours we noticed another seal in the cove and then suddenly he was gone. We took a dingy ride and dropped the crab pot and then came back to the anchorage to find another boat had joined us. If you know me at all you know I was beside myself in wanting to tell them all about the miraculous encounter. While they finished setting up their stern tie i saw that the pup was back so I radioed them and told them about our amazing furry visitor and asked them if they wanted to row over so their daughters could take a peek. Shortly the dad rowed quietly over and we all gawked as the little guy slept.

When he sleeps he folds his two front flippers under his chest and the back two fins fold over each other and tuck down under his belly until he is curved like a little shrimp. His head stays right on the surface, black shiny nostrils opening and closing with his breath. Each inhalation raises his arched back up and then he slowly settles deeper into the water again until his next breath. By this time I had begun to worry that he was imprinting on Island Bound. What was he going to do when we left? What would all this gawking do? Was it going to hurt him to watch? Should we try and scare him away? When would mom be back? Our guests returned to their boat and we all quieted down.

We had seen mom off and on but the little guy just stayed with IB. Later I heard one of the daughters next door exclaiming that the pup was swimming to their boat. Bill asked me if I was jealous! Imagine! I actually thought it was good for him to willingly decide that IB wasn't the place to be. We went off to sleep and the next morning it was silent again.

In the morning I saw the youngest girl in her jammies leaning over the edge of their boat and saying good morning to him as he fluttered next to their boat. Then we and the other boat were busy getting ready to raise anchors. As I began to raise our anchor I watched the pup as they raised theirs. He began to get agitated and tried to climb on their anchor chain. Then flung himself on the anchor itself. He slipped off and they continued raising it. When they began to motor out of the cove you could see his panic. Swimming for all he was worth and crying out he tried to follow. We were underway too by now. The pup just couldn't keep up and seemed to give up as he watched them motor off. Then he rounded towards us, saw Island Bound moving too and raised his head out of the water, flippers a flurry of motion as he hightailed it back towards us. Bill had IB at about 3 or 4 knots by then and we passed the poor pup by. He fell in behind us, eyes wide, crying , blinkid his eyes a few times and seemed to decided it was a lost cause and settled down into the water.

My heart was breaking as we motored away. Off the next point we saw another seal headed towards the cove. I hope it was mom. Maybe we should have left as soon as he came to the boat? Maybe the boat we saw leaving when we first got there had the same experience? Will he go to every boat that he sees? Will it get him killed? We never touched him but would the scent of the boat and the paint and the gray water cause his mom to abandon him? Will all this scare him for life Poor little guy could have the mother of all abandonment complexes?

I missed him immediatly and it made me miss Boo. Maybe if he is lucky no boaters will come to that little cove for a few days, let him bond with mom and learn how to be a seal. I will have to trust in nature and hope that he is fine and that his mom takes good care of him. Hmmmm, maybe a kitten in Mexico?

Love, kat

7/17 almost "home"

We received an email from Cathlyn and Doug of Penguin saying they were headed towards Desolation ,so for two or three days I have been hailing them cold on the VHF hoping to catch them. Every time we made it into an opening amidst the towering hills I would send out a call. It was rather like calling alle alle atzen free into the dark but then amazingly they heard us this morning! It was such a treat to hear the voice of friends. Unfortunately we were like two ships passing in the daylight....we were motoring out of Hole in the Wall near Octopus Islands south bound and they were leaving Blind Chanel for Johnstone Strait headed north.
Penguin wont be back in Seattle until we are well past San Francisco. ~piffle~ regardless it was good to hear the call back and hope some day we will look up as we pull into a new anchorage see Penguin there ahead of us.

So I guess we really are back in civilization. We spent two days in the Octopus Islands just north of Desolation Sound and the place was jumping. We visited here on our first trip to Desolation 4 years ago and at the time it seemed like this was out in the middle of nowhere. We felt so adventuress for making it past Desolation and were rewarded with a very quiet anchorage. Then it wasn't empty but we were one of only a hand full of boats. The main reason fewer boats come this far is that of the three routes in two are through narrows that must be transited on slack tides. This trip as we floated through on the slack from the north we were instantly in a que of boats from the south all headed to the same place. Traffic jam!all day. There must have been 25 boats and more came in once we were anchored. The next morning the exodus started with roughly 3/4 of the boats moving on and then a whole new crop making its way throughout the day.. The second afternoon we were packed in with even more including one from Japan.

We had decided to stay the second day and get some work done. Bill worked on a leak in the dingy floor and then began work on the back deck bench that will go over our propane tanks. I spent the day sewing a new shade for the V-birth and building a new cover for the vane of wind vane "Carly." The standard issue bright red Hydrovanes' nylon cover gave out on our way south. The new shade, dark blue by default as it was the only piece of material I had on board that was large enough for the job. Hopefully the UV will not eat this new on in a few months of tropical sun.

Before we left we bought my very first sewing machine. I have been sewing a project here and there since we got the boat but have always used my moms machine. The new one works well for me and I can even run it off solar power through the inverter while at anchor. The only problem with sewing on the boat is the lack of any place large and flat that I can lay out projects and cut material. It is always a challenge to work with anything larger than a hankie though the nav station makes a pretty decent sewing table. It felt good to get some projects going again though it seemed a shame to sacrifice a beautiful summery day.

From there we headed farther south into Desolation but it is taking some time to adjust to the traffic. So many boats, the anchorages are all full and the radio crackles and barks out a constant flow of radio traffic as well. But I guess we need to get used to it as it will be back to civilization from here all the way through California. By the time we find a quiet secluded anchorage in Mexico we will be jonesing for some privacy.

Tonight we sit at anchor in Nanaimo. Tomorrow we will likely clear customs in Friday Harbor. Then "home " in a couple of days. It feels like home even if there home is really here now. Will be wonderful and sort of odd to be in Seattle again. I am excited to see friends and family but know the time will fly by and then we will just have to say good bye again. Just another part of this thing we do.

See you soon, kat

Love, kat

Sunday, July 11, 2010

7/10 More thoughts of having the Coast Guard looking for us.

After giving it some thought I have decided that having the USCG calling your name for all the world to hear because your mother is worried about you is an awfully wonderful thing. You see this whole selling the house and living on a boat is a emotionally fraught endeavor. It took a lot to get us here and even then the actual leaving was more difficult than i ever would have guessed.

Before we left we had a lot to learn and and a lot to get ready. It wasn't just the fact that I needed to learn to sail and navigate, and sew custom sheets so we wouldn't have to live in sleeping bag for the next ten years. We needed to buy bear spray for the trails of Alaska and we also needed to buy a life raft built for open ocean. We needed AIS to help us not get run over by a tanker and we needed an EPIRB to send out a distress signal and a ditch bag to fill with water and food and flares and fishing tackle so if we ended up in the life raft with the EPIRB calling out for help we will last as long as it takes to get rescued.

We also needed to tell our families that we were leaving and would not be back any time soon. We needed to tell them all how much we loved them and that we looked forward to seeing them in wonderful exotic ports. We needed to learn everything we could so when we left they wouldn't overly worry and we needed to tell nearly everyone that yes we have heard there are pirates and no we don't plan on going where the pirates are and if perchance they come to where we are then we will do what needs to be done. And yes we could stay here and hope not to be hit by a bus as we cross Market street in Ballard on our way to the movies but we want to go sailing.

It was also important for our families to have some time to get used to the idea and to see that we were intent on learning everything we needed to learn so we could be as safe as possible in order to have the time of our lives. We needed to fly to St Louis to see Bills family there before we left even though they can't really understand how their son could quit a perfectly good job.

Part of saying good bye was sitting with my mom and sister and giving them a sheet of paper with every piece of possibly needed information in case we ever did need to be found. Trusting that they would know what to do and when to do it. Believing that they would never have a need for any of that and that we would never have a need for half of what we have learned or any of our emergency equipment.

When my mom was worried she was able to call the coast guard because we were in Alaska not Costa Rica. The USCG was happy to be of service and not at all "bothered" by a mom who needed reassurance. We now know that every bit of information I gave them was exactly what the Coast Guard wanted and needed to know. They could tell by our information that we were prepared and likely fine. If we go missing in Malta we will know that someone who loves us is looking for us and that they have the right information to help find us.

This boating stuff is supposed to be fun even in an old boat and without everything being squeaky clean and Bristol shiny. My writing seems to be better that way too. It is more important for me to write what is is really like out here than to not write it because I am embarrassed about something stupid we managed to do. If I ever do anything with my writing later along then will be plenty of time to polish it all up -change the names to protect the innocent and all that. For now I am just going to try and enjoy the ride and continue flowing with this huge new life transition I am a part of. Content and asured that our family back home loves us and misses us and hasn't forgotten us.

Love, kat

7/10 The habits of whales.

I spend a lot of time looking for whales. I could watch them for hours. They are rarely where I think they should be yet I am becoming more aware of there habits and the likely places they will appear. In the end though they are where they are and they are just as likely to be waaaaaay over there as they are to suddenly appear right next to the boat.

Many years ago I went by myself to NW Trek. It was a lovely spring day and I was mad at someone and mad at myself so I went to NW Trek alone. So there! I was in a bit of a pissy mood but the drive south let the tension ease and I was excited to board the tram and see the animals. Though completely unfamiliar with NW Trek I had managed to arrive in the middle of the spring birthing for many of the parks residents. As we wound our way around the tram driver alerted us to the possibility of a new born buffalo in a draw ahead. AS we neared you could see the mother buffalo and long legged wobbly baby. It was bright orange and I was surprised at the color. It seemed that he would stick out like a sore thumb in the wild and be wolf dinner soon. The tram driver explained that the reason behind the coloring. Wolves see only in black and white and shades of gray. In Black and white the bright orange is transformed into the exact color of the grasslands the great buffalo once roamed so freely. Perfect camouflage made just for him.

Whales have the same magic camouflage. They are mostly black and shine as the water rolls off there backs. The spouts of there breath is just the same coloring as a breaking wave. They like to spend there time feeding along the shores of deep water. And along those same shores the incoming waves roll and break in perfect camouflage. IN the sun the sparkling waters hide the shine of the water pouring off their backs and in fog the spouts disappear it its depth. Even when they sleep they are hiding in plain sight. They float flatter while sleeping. Breathing much shallower breaths so the plumes of the spouts are shorter in height and hang time. Their black backs having just enough shape to allow them to look like they are part of the sea.

Day before yesterday we went back to Gooseneck Bay. We stopped there on our way north and were lucky enough to meet Dave, one of the Burnaby firefighters who bought the old cannery and is working on rebuilding it as sort of a giant family summer cabin complex. This time there was no one at the cannery. We motored into the neck of Gooseneck Bay under bright sunshine and the bay closed in around us and blocked out the wind leaving a smooth flat calm. The whales were feeding along the steep too banks of the bay. In 200 to 300 feet of water right in close to the trees. They were intently feeding, rolling, slapping, When they feed they seem to move along in slow motion. Erupting in half speed with their great mouths yawing open and folding closed as they slide back into the deep. We could hear them plainly and we sat, motor off, mesmerized as we scanned for the next surfacing. For me it is always magical.

Eventual we need to get anchored, it had been a long day so we turned the corner into the head of Goose Bay. I was pumped though and wanted to go back out. Bill was tired and hot. How often do you have whales right outside your anchorage. As soon as we were settled I gathered up some water, the binoculars, the hand held VHF and my camcorder-dinner would have to wait. I loaded fresh bait into the crab pot to drop on my way out and was off! #%$^*& the outboard wont start. I can hear the whales around the corner. I cant take the kayak cause my tennis elbow is trying to heal. Bill doesn't really want to tear into the outboard now. He is hot, tired and hungry. He climbed in anyway to try. I can still hear the whales occasionally. Eventually we gave up for dinner. Afterward Bill climbs in again to take the outboard apart- for me. I hear the motor start. Yea! The we look up. There is a seiner coming into the Bay. With their nets out. I am worried for the whales but the whales will be wary. I cant hear them any more. The seiner goes round and round and round. The sound of the whales is gone. I go to sleep disappointed and a little sad inside.

This morning we are up and out early. We have along day getting around Cape Caution. We motor around the corner from the head of the bay into the neck and there they are. One, no two. No, three. Slowly going about their business of feeding, rolling, slapping and disappearing. I could watch for hours- but we have to go. I will keep looking for whales.....everywhere. In places where they are likely to be and in places they are not. Just in case. We leave the confines of the bay and then the sound and move out into Queen Charlotte Sound. I go below to write until I hear a shout from Bill. A humpback surfaced right next to the boat. Then was gone again. I go back to writing. Think I will clean the boat today.

Love, kat

Thursday, July 8, 2010

7/7 Klemtu's Big House.

Today we motor along under deep blue skies towards Shearwater BC. We are hoping to find a spot at their small dock so we can use their WiFi and send some emails and blog updates. Since Prince Rupert we have been backtracking through familiar territory. Yesterday though we stopped for the first time at Klemtu. It is a native Village of about 425. We found a spot at their visitor dock (we were the only one there till late in the evening.) There was a sign telling us to check in with the Tourism office but the door was locked and it turns out there hasn't been anyone there for a couple of years.

Our first walk through town led us around the bay and into the older part of the village. We met a group of missionaries who were getting wood cut and a fire pit ready for an evening "sing song." The whole group chatted us up and then a woman from their group gave me a gift of a hand knit wash cloth before heading off for their lunch. As we walked away from their group we began talking with a local artist. Jeff is self taught, started by copying comic book characters in school and now does beautiful styles native designs in acrylic on sketch book tablets. He had a portfolio of a dozen or more original drawings. We talked with him for awhile and bought one with an Orca over a black, white and red stylized killer whale with interior depictions of the eagle, wolf and raven- the four crests of the villages two bands all surrounded by a bright blue border. He showed us where the band office was and told us who to contact to arrange for a tour of "The Big House."

Later in the afternoon we took the dingy across the bay to the Big House. We soon met Doug who has lived most of his life in Klemtu. He now works in the Klemtu tourism office. After welcoming us we stepped into the dimness of the gorgeous new Big House. He gave us back ground on the two separate bands that live in Klemtu and told us the story of how it came to be here in this tiny town. The Big House was built in just under a year but it took more than 10years of work through the specifics of design, size, placement and how they would represent both separate bands culturally. A master carver was hired who then worked with local carvers to do the four stunning poles inside the house and the other carvings and drawing through out. The house is used by the whole village for potlatches, weddings, funerals and other marks of life. The most important aspect of the design was to find a way to incorporate the two distinct native cultures who live in Klemtu. He also shared a number of the old native stories to go with the poles in the house along with a wealth of other information about life in Klemtu. His job in Klemtu includes the tours giving tours to people like us who show up and ask along with mounds of paper work at the band office and then in summer he takes visitors on grizzly tours and tours of the local cultural sights.

Afterwords we did the requisite shopping and then a couple of loads of laundry. Laundry is always an interesting undertaking while underway. In Klemtu we were lucky enough to think to ask about the laundry earlier while at the band office. Turns out there was no propane at hooked up. They offered to go hook it up for me so off I went.

First I needed to find out how much change I will need. Seems easy enough but finding the right change for the machines always seems to offer a new adventure. In Klemtu the trick was that the whole town runs out of Loonies( Canadian 1$ coins.) I needed 12$ to do two loads but the grocery store only had 5 in their till. Then we went to the restaurant and they only had two. The cook overheard the hunt and quickly came back with more than I needed (after I was done I walked the extras back to the grocery instead of taking them on with me.) Then once I had the change I needed to figure out the peculiarities of the Klemtu machines.

The washers looked good and they worked fine though one of two identical machines inexplicably took 30 minutes longer to finish the spin. Then off to the boat to work on some buns for dinner then back and on to the dryer. Doug had assured us the propane was hooked up but when i payed the first machine i got nothing. So i tried machine number two. No problem I will do the drying in turns. But dryer number two didn't turn on either. Bot one to give up easily I checked the plugs. OK. Then opened the breaker box. Every breaker flipped to on except the dryers. Walla'. But.....the door on number two doesn't close and it doesn't turn off when the door is open. Luckily someone had used some duck tape and there was still enough stick for my needs. The trick was getting the clothes to stay inside long enough to get the door closed. Off to the boat to finish the buns. Then back only to find out that the clothes in the top dryer are done but the second is still wet. get the dry clothes out of the taped door while still spinning away then stuff the wet and slam the door. Finally, once again the laundry is done!

Everyday a new adventure. Love, kat

6/30 AnAn Bear Preserve

Today we motor south towards Ketchikan. It is amazing that we are only a day or three away from being out of AK. It seemed like we had so much time. It will take us three plus weeks to get home and we need to go back into Seattle for some help with our Single sideband radio. So we move ever southward with wonderful memories of Alaska but with high hopes for getting out of the rain forest and into some summer weather.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. We made a mid day stop at the AnAn bear observatory south of Wrangell. We almost didn't go but it was one of the highlights of the whole trip for me and had a wonderful bonus too when we met a great couple ,Peter and Cathie on Bee Weems . They are the owners of the Weems and Plath Company. Famous for barometers and clocks and navigation equipment along with all of that beautiful brass boat jewelry -clocks, lamps plaques etc.)

We are not big pre planners and the bear observatory requires a permit to enter from 7/3 through 8/25. We just squeaked by. We wondered too though if we were too early to see any bears. We were not disappointed as the "pinks" are already running so the bears are in the creek to feed. We got there and anchored out to take our dingy in. It is strongly advised that you leave someone on board as an anchor watch but the weather was very settled so we decided to brave leaving Island Bound alone and took the dingy in. We didn't have any problem getting anchored but somehow I managed to get the anchor tangled up first on a forward cleat and my right thumb and then the chain jumped the wildcat on the windless and my fix for that caught a couple of the fingers on my left hand.

It is a 1/2 mile walk (it seemed more like a mile) through the forest along wet boardwalk to the observatory on a river. I slipped and fell twice on my way in and again twice on my way out. All four times I wiped out pretty good and this morning between the klutzy falls and my mangled fingers from anchoring I am black and blue and feel like i got hit by a truck. Any of you who dot know this about me I am a klutz. Always have been and suppose I always will be. If I can drop it or fall over it or tangle up in it I will, twice at least. My big rubber boots make it worse. Anyway, so we took the dingy in and left it on the beach with the anchor pulled on shore and walked in through the woods. There is abundant evidence of bears all along the way. I carried a couple of my Grandma's brass bells from Spain on a string around my neck. Bill said the bears will come and eat me just because of how obnoxious i sound!)

Once at the observatory you enter an enclosed area that houses a platform overlooking the river with steps down into a blind where you can see the bears right at the waters edge. When we got there there were half a dozen people already there. I could tell they were looking at something but as we approached the enclosure I couldn't see anything moving. Then the crowd pointed behind us and we turned to see a black bear (yearling?) behind us on the trail. The bear was just walking along the fence line and sniffing. Wondering who had been eating the pizza i think. I was startled to see him so close. Truly about ten feet away. Then someone in the crowd pointed out that the gate wasn't closed. The the bear could have walked right in and said hello. The fence around the observation platform is only about 3 1/2 or 4 feet tall and it is right in the middle of a forest so there are boulders and tree roots and paths that curve about. The bears I am sure would have no problem getting over the fence. At one place he stepped onto a boulder and would only have had to step over and down and he would have been right inside with us.

After that we settled in to watch the bears. Several came and went, all walking along the path we had to take to get back to the boat and along the shoreline and into the river to fish. It was a wonderful experience to watch the bears in their natural home doing what they do to be bears. We got some great pictures and video footage of the bears catching fish and all the while we were talking with Peter and Cathie about there trip and ours. They are on their way north and we got talking about places to go and things to do. They walked with us back to our dingys' (they had come in right after us and also left their skiffs at the beach.) It was incredibly lucky on our part that they did because the tide had come in and our skiff was a deep wade away off the beach. Peter and Cathie had left their skiff on the top of a rock, in fact not even tied down, when they returned it was "just" afloat and would have been on its way to Wrangell if we had taken too much longer gawking at the bears. Thankfully they were able to retrieved their skiff and went out and drug our anchor up and back to us. It would have been a very cold end to the bears if we had not made their acquaintance.

Also Peter and Cathie shared with us the place they had spent their last night at, a place a friend had shared with them. A secret place complete with coordinates for a good prawn spot. It had started to rain on our walk back from the bears and by the time i drug myself out of the mud again and we had gotten out dinghy and returned to IB it was pouring pretty steady. We had another three hours in the cold and wet to the secret spot but it was worth it. We dropped the prawn trap on the way in and the crab trap right before we anchored then spent a short evening drying out. After a good nights sleep we pulled anchor and retrieved the crab and shrimp pots. 5 keeper dungeness-all male -and 44 huge spot prawns. Feast!

6/29 Enough is enough. Time to head to dryer weather.

After checking in with mom in Kake we decided it was high time to get away from some of the rain and headed slowly southeast. We made Petersburg on the 27th. Petersburg it a lovely little fishing town. Very Norwegian still and has the largest fish packing plant in all of SE. Not very touristy but big on sports fishing with lots of outfitters and lodges nearby and. The town itself is small and insulated. Like so many other areas of SE the rhythm of the place is is slower than what we are used to. The economy is so dependent on the fishing and other natural resources of the area that there is a great dependency. On the fishermen and on the weather. All the other businesses are dependent then those two things.

We pulled into town after 10 hours of cold and rain. Our first afternoon and evening were wet walks around town. Many of the businesses were closed. There were few places to eat and the busiest business seemed to be the laundry mat that was filled with rubber booted fish boat wives hauling in hefty sacks of laundry. By the time we went to sleep that night our cabin was full of drying boots, and two full sets of slowly drying rain gear.

The second day in town broke warmer and with some sun. Yea! And though we were the only pleasure boat in North Harbor by the time we went to sleep our second night we had had a lovely conversation with a couple on a power boat and sailboat with captain and two crew. Then we ran into Steven on Kharma who we knew from Seattle Fisheries Supply. He like us is now officially retired and a full time cruiser. He was there to drop off crew and then off farther north.

This morning we are off southward still looking for some more sun and a bit of warmth. We found a t-shirt on Petersburg that summed this weather up......being a rain forest and all....."southeast...the closest you can get to living underwater." Back through the Wrangell Narrows and on to the town of Wrangell. We only spent one afternoon and evening so didn't get to see much of the town really. We did ride our bikes out to Petroglyph Beach Park. The petroglyphs were a bit of a disappointment. There was a big hill between town and the glyphs are hard to find. There are supposedly 40 on the beach strewn about but I was only able to find 3. Turns out quite a few have been removed to the Wrangell library and various museums. There were some good reproductions on the parks boardwalk but it looks like the wave action on the beach has obliterated most of them.

On the way home we stopped for a bit to eat and I met a man who was traveling with his wife from Alberta. . Several times I heard him loudly exclaiming to the staff that he was from Alberta, "the pumpkin capital of the world." I was curious so went over to ask him about it figuring he must be a pumpkin farmer or maybe grew prized pumpkins or something. Turns out the only claim to fame was that his town has a big weigh in every year to find the biggest pumpkin. His wife rolled her eyes as we were talking, I think she is used to his .....loudness.......then as I was leaving to go back to my table he told me a joke. His lead in to the joke was his exclamation that Alberta is in fact much colder than SE. So to explain that he said..."three Albertian men were sitting around talking about how cold it was. The first man said "last night it was so cold, as I walked home from the bar I needed to take a leak and I had to step back 40 feet. The second man said that's nothing, day before yesterday I was out squirrel hunting. I shot one out of the top of a big tree and by the time he hit the ground he shattered in a million pieces. The third fellow said "that's nothing, last night I awoke in the middle of the nigh tand I could feel something hard by my feet. I ran my foot over it and it felt sort of round but not round, sort of football shaped but not football shaped. I reached down and grabbed it from below my covers and pulled it out. Sort of furry but not quite, sort of brown but not quite and sort of green but not quite. Then suddenly it just turned into nothing in my hands........that's when I smelled it. it was a frozen fart!

So much for Canadian humor eh? Love kat

6/24 Uh Oh! The Coat Guard is looking for us.

We spent the last two days being lazy at the warm springs. When we got here the place was packed so we anchored in a nearby cove and lazed around for the evening. The next morning after getting some bread started we took the dingy in and made the our way to the springs. They are small and primitive but wonderfully relaxing and the setting was stunning. There is a huge falls tumbling into the cove at the tiny town of Baronof . The springs themselves are right next to the falls high up on a ridge. They are easy to find just a half mile through the forest mostly over a cedar boardwalk (wear your boots for the muddy spots). There is no bath house just two lovely pools in the woods. Mud, dirt, rocks, boulders, mosquitos and two terraced pools of hot spring water at the end of a path. Ahhhhhh, very relaxing and it felt wonderful on my back.

Late in the afternoon we sat reading and relaxing from our soak when there was a "hello Island Bound" from outside the boat. That usually means there is someone we know who's just showed up in an anchorage or someones just come round to visit. Instead what I found when I went I popped my head out was the captain of a large power boat calling our name. They told us they recognized us from previous anchorages and that they had heard calls on Channel 16 USCG Sector Juneau announcing Island Bound as having been "reported overdue."

After thanking them Bill immediately called VHF CH 16 to the USCG to find out why in the world anyone would be looking for us. We gave them our location and explained we were in no distress. The officer on the radio was helpful, professional and reassuring. When we asked who had been looking for us he replied, "Stand by...." "um.....your mom. Over." We looked at each other still not understanding so asked "There are two of us on board.....who's mom called us in? over"........."please stand by....then " A Mary, over."

It is was Thursday and we hadn't left Sitka until Monday afternoon. How could my mom possibly be worried enough to call the USCG? I was emailing people back and forth through Sunday so we have only been away from communication for four days...less than that when the call would have had to originally gone out. I am confused and worried that there is something going on at home that I need to know about but from here there is no phone and no internet in Baronof.

It is now late afternoon and the nearest large town is more than a day away, maybe two. After going over the charts to see what our choices are we decide Kake is our closest option. We still don't know if they will have internet and we don't have a cell phone. Amazingly AK has next to no pay phones. Seems that it was no longer commercially viable for the local phone company to maintain the pay phones in this era of cell phones. In fact over the last year or so they have removed nearly every pay phone in southeast. I just try and reassure myself that some nice coast guard officer will be calling my mom to assure her we are fine and knowing that if it had actually been an emergency big enough to track us down then surely there would have been some kind of message! I of course will worry till I hear her voice.

The next morning we were off to Kake a Tlingit village of about 400. We will try and find a phone or possibly use the internet at the tribal center or a library. It takes us all day to get there and when we do it is late on a Friday afternoon. The Harbor Master offers up the phone but we are unable to make a long distance call and are also unable to reach an operator to try for a credit card call. Not giving up we ride our bikes into town to have some dinner and I decide to ask the woman who owns the (only) restaurant in town if she knows the secret of contacting the long distance operator. Warmly and openly she explains that she is a mom herself and has lots of roll over long as i am not going to gab for an hour i am free to use her phone. She even tells me the best place for coverage...the end of the deck over looking the water or across the street near those trees."

So what happened? Now it makes sense but at the time I was surprised, confused, worried and a tiny little bit embarrassed. It seems that we had established a routine as we moved along. Our pattern had been to reach somewhere with internet and then send out a flurry of emails, blog updates and face book posts. Sometimes we would make phone calls and then before we left we would send off an quick note saying where we were headed and when we thought we would get there. In Sitka we broke the pattern! We left earlier than we had anticipated, I hadn't updated the blog and we didn't make any telephone calls or post where we were headed next. We didn't know we had a routine and again, we new exactly where we were! But moms have visions of boats floating empty in isolated anchorages and of over turned kayaks on lonely beaches. Plus with an ex-coastie son-in-law and a old friend nearby who is retired CG ..well the rest is history. The momentary embarrassment didn't matter a bit and the USCG was wonderful about the whole thing. It was great to hear moms voice and to find out that once she heard back from the USCG she was able to get some sleep.

Love, kat

6/21 Breaking the rules in Sitka

Sitka is a very pretty town. It was the center of the fur trade in the 19oo's and was the first capitol of territorial Alaska. Today aprox 8900 people live there year round and is one of the only southeast town we have visited where the shops stay open even when the cruise ships are not docked. It seems younger than Juneau in spite of the long native and Russian history. Before any sight seeing first on our agenda was a trip to the post office to pick up some mail I was expecting "general delivery, Sitka." So we unpacked the bikes and off we went. Sadly no mail yet and its Saturday so we will have to come back on Monday.

The bikes are a great addition for us. They extend our reach into wherever we are by many miles.. Sitka was especially nice because once we found our way around it is possible to ride around most of the hills. (I hate hills.) We rode through old town and out to the 100 acre Sitka National Historical Park. We walked the one mile park path through old growth forest and along the beach winding our way through eleven old Tlingit and Haida poles. Then one of the best perks of being in a town- dinner out!

Another bonus of the bikes is with a bit of a balancing act and our day packs we are able to carry a tremendous amount of groceries to the boat. We lay in a couple of weeks worth of food and toilet paper in just two well balanced trips. Then we went back into town for a bit of touristy window shopping. We had to laugh again about "you do know this is a rain forest?" when we entered a book store in old downtown and were greeted by a hand lettered sign on brown paper saying "please don't drip on the books." Then (bonus again) dinner at a Mexican place before searching for St Peters By The Sea for an evening AA meeting.

After the meeting we decided to live on the wild side and ride our bikes to a movie. in an area of town we hadn't been yet at about the time we are usually headed to bed. The theater was quite a ways from the downtown core and even farther from the marina. We headed out of town at 730 and found ourselves riding down a very long hill. During the movie as much as I enjoyed our two and a half hours of Hollywood I wasn't looking forward to biking home at 1000pm. On our trip there though i had sighted the back entrance for the Historical Park. I knew that they dot allow bike riding in the park but if we could slide back that way we would miss the hill completely!. In spite of breaking the rules it was worth the risk. Especially since the bikes are really not high performance machines. They are more like clown fact people stare at us quite often as we pedal along. We peddled our way stealthily through the deserted park. For some reason it made me grin and giggles at our lawbreaking, racing along the gravel paths (no we didn't walk them.) At just one day off the summer solstice it was still daylight at 1015 and screaming through the forest in the northern twilight felt wonderful. As we were nearing the boat I couldn't help but think had we not taken the short I would still be huffing and puffing my way up a long hill.

This morning we awoke to lots of fog and drizzle. We had not expected to leave Sitka for another day or two but once we had listened to the weather we knew we needed to either get a move on or risk being forced to stay in Sitka for two-three more days. So, with out finishing my emails or blog posts we rushed to get a quick wash down of the anchor mud on the for deck, filled a couple of water tanks and rushed to the Post Office hopping for mail. With a lovely letter from mom we were once again slipping the lines at the fuel dock and headed out.

6/17 Headed to Sitka

After leaving Pelican we again poked out into the Gulf of AK. The winds had died down from their worst levels so the going wasn't too bad. Island Bound was designed for ocean cruising so the wave heights were not a problem for us. But the ride is always bumpy as you work your way over the shallows into deeper water. Our destination for the night was the old Chichagof village site on Klag Bay.

Rather than the more frequented "smooth channel route" we stayed off shore before turning north through "the Gate." "The Gate" is a channel that is only 4 3/4 fathoms deep and a mere 50 yards wide. We worked our way through using the day beacons that would hopefully keep us of a 1 fathom shoal that lies 20 yards into small 50 yard space you have to work with. It is suggested that you enter only on a slack ebb tide but as is often our lot our timing was off and we arrived on a rising flood tide.

Moving in off the Gulf from open water and through the surrounding islets was an odd feeling. On a high tide the surrounding islets looked almost smothered, as if the coves and bays were too full. There was little but high water marks along tree lines and small pocket beaches that looked like manicured lawns. I was ever hopeful that we would see some bears -instead the tiny beaches were deserted.

We came to Klag Bay to see the abandoned town of Chichigof. From 1905 through the late 1930's more than 13,000,000.00 in gold was taken from the ground here. Our favorite guide book wrote that the village site is the highlight of Chichigof Island for many cruisers. What we found was a silent drizzly void of time. Most of the old buildings are in much worse shape that the book depicted. Most prominent is a four story high heap of tailings' from the mining operation that is now partly covered with trees and brush. There are bits and pieces of machinery and leftover cast offs from the mining company littering the beaches. Most of the old houses are nothing but ruin. From the dinghy we were able to pick out where the boardwalk would have wound its way along the beach front but there is nothing left but scraggly timbers embeded in the beach.

West of the main town sight we were able to walk into one old building. We could tell that people continued to occupy this old cabin well after the rest of Chichigof was shut down. The stairs were long since washed away but there was an old board set in place so we gingerly worked our way inside. The floor was littered with bits and pieces of a life now gone. There were shelves with cans of soup and home canned food along with old bottles and bits of glass. An old extract bottle stood upright on one shelf, still half way full with its lid rusted on. The moldy sheets of curling wall paper torn from the walls lay along side old news papers with a date from the early 90's. There was an old gas can and a bedroom area with a couple of old damp mattresses. We could see where three stoves were and look out the windows to the beach but the floors are rotting away and we had to be carefull where we stepped.

On the other end of town along the beach where the mound of tailings are lay three twisted and bent helicopter blades??? An old barge made of massive rough cedar sits in the mud on low tide. Here, bits and piles of steam engines and the like litter the beach. The beach itself is a dark black sticky mud. I dropped a crab pot when we arrived (unsuccessful again!) and when I pulled it later is was wearing this black goo that has a decidedly rank smell. I tried fishing for some crab pot bait and only got one faint small nibble. I wondered if the beach itself and the surrounding waters have been contaminated by the what ever they used to help extract the gold. There was no sign of wildlife, no tracks or scat around the ruins and no bear in the rich sedges along surrounding beaches. All in all it was pretty and secluded and it was good to get out and stretch our legs but it was somehow a bit disappointing.

After walking the beaches in the morning we headed out into the Gulf again and off to Sitka. The weather started out as another typical Alaska summer day (rain.) But by the time we arrived in Sitka the sun was up and warm enough to strip off the rain gear before entering the harbor. Once in Sitka proper the town beaches were filled with sun bathers! A wonderful bit of warm weather and a unsurpassed warm welcome in Sitka. The harbor master and company greeted us at the dock to take a line then stayed to talk for five minutes giving us maps and suggestions on the best places to eat and what to see while we were there.