Westsail 321

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ucluelet B.C. to Coos Bay

We've been hiding out at the Charleston Marina near Coos Bay after a multi-day passage from Canada. Highlights included some night time visits from Dall porpoises. They created some spectacular comet trails of phosphorescence as they swam alongside the boat. We also had an unsettling visit from a Minke whale one early morning as our favorable winds finally died. He (she?) swam under our bow and surfaced at our stern several times, and followed us for a while. The visit was probably driven by curiosity, but since we had bumped (gently) into a whale much earlier in morning, I had nervous thoughts of the Essex and Moby Dick running through my sleep deprived mind. It was at that point that we decided to call it a good run and head in for some rest and relaxation. Fortunately the whale didn't follow us in to Coos Bay!

As soon as the winds turn northerly again we plan to continue south.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A page out of Boat Life

Thanks to a personal delivery by Bobbie and John of goods from Costco, we had a busy day of provisioning in anticipation of the next leg of our travels.

 All cans get their paper labels removed (they mildew too quickly), and relabled with a Sharpie pen.

Boat crafts - a glass peanut butter jar gets it's own crash jacket.

Our first beach (in a long while...)

A few weeks ago we were able to enjoy a few days at an anchorage with easy access to a series of beautiful beaches.

A migratory group of Sanderlings with a few Dunlins mixed in, looking for lunch.

While we sat though some gale force winds at anchor, the same winds eroded the sand away, leaving these rocks on tiny pedestals. 

Professional Development, Serendipity Style

One of the aspects I like about cruising is the informal book exchanges you often find. These usually are just a small shelf at fuel docks, in marina offices, or at laundry-mats.  The unstated rule is to try to leave a book for one you take. The selection is not always diverse; there are plenty of Michael Connelly and James Patterson books to keep Matt busy, and oodles of romances, but my tastes for better or worse lean more towards literary fiction and non-fiction, which are not so plentiful. But by fate I have been finding some very good books to read, and they are often ones I would have never picked up had I been presented with more choices.  Although I haven’t been employed as a librarian for a while, I still consider myself one, and reading these books has been excellent professional development for me. Here’s a few of the reads I have recently enjoyed:

All the King’s Men  - Robert Penn Warren: Not to be confused with All the President’s Men, although it could superficially be called a political novel. I was blown away by the mood setting opening scene which describes a drive down a two lane blacktop. Narrated by Jack Burden, a former newspaper writer who is employed by Governor Willie Stark, this is a powerful novel about the rise and fall of the Governor, but with Burden's personal story reluctantly but gradually revealed. Complex and layered, with a grand cast of characters.

A Thousand Acres – Jane Smiley: The story of what happens to a farming family when the father decides to legally sign over his land as a corporation to be controlled by his daughters and their husbands. The  tragic events that follow are inevitable and irreversible, but the resilience and inner strength of the narrator makes her a character to admire.

Please Look After Mom – Kyung-Sook Shin: Translated from Korean, this was a very emotional read about a mother who disappears at the train station having come from the rural countryside to visit her adult children in the city of Seoul. Poetically told from the character’s different view-points – the mother’s and husband’s as well as the children’s.

Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri: A quiet but beautifully written collection of short stories about the experiences of Indian immigrants. Lahiri has a wonderful way of making the opening sentence of each story a hint of all that follows.

10 Degrees of Separation

Our recent travels from 58° North to 48° North have revealed some subtle and not so subtle differences between ‘here’ and ‘there’:

·        We no longer feel like we are a knife’s edge away from hypothermia.  When we left Juneau in late March the temps were still typically below freezing and snow was not uncommon. We can now warm the cabin with our Dickinson heater in 30 minutes compared to the three or more hours it took before, and are down from sleeping under two comforters to just one. 

·         The water temperature now hovers around 59° F instead of 36° F.  We still consider our survival suits as a primary defense for abandoning ship but the plan will soon change to favoring the life raft.

·         In Ucluelet we are sharing the anchorage outside the boat basin with two other cruising boats.  It’s the first time we have shared an anchorage in two months.  Well, that’s not exactly true since we did hole up on occasion in Southeast with the occasional troller.  These pugnacious little boats fear no weather in their hunt winter salmon.

·         It’s been awhile since storm force winds have been forecast, although gales are still very common.

·         What can you say?  Once a village is connected to the real world with an honest to goodness road the food prices drop radically.  A half gallon of OJ has gone from $8 to $5.

·         Orange, yellow or green PVC foulies worn over Carhartt’s and hoodies have given way to REI de jour brands such as Marmot Precip and Arc’teryx softshell.  We’re the odd ducks in our XtraTuffs when everyone else is sporting Bogs.  Southeast’s practicality driven fashion is not the same as Tofino hip.

·         There is less wildlife but in some ways we actually consider this to be a blessing.  Further north there are enough Humpbacks in the water that they pose a true hazard to navigation, more so than the logs of British Columbia.  On top of that, there is no longer a brown bear behind every bush and though they are quite large up here, the black bears do not strike the same fear.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Leaving Alaska, or Tinker, Tailor, Otter, Spy

A few days ago we officially crossed into Canadian waters and it truly feels like another country. We are warmer, there are song birds on the shore (including my favorites: winter wren, hermit thrush, and varied thrush), and the deciduous trees are starting to show their leaves. Quite a marked contrast from our past few weeks up north. Alaska did not let us go easily.

On the morning we pulled up anchor to leave Kassa Inlet on Prince Wales Island, our exhaust started to billow out steam, but no water (which is what is should do). Alarmed, we quickly decided to drop anchor again. We decided there must be a block somewhere in our raw water cooling system, so we began taking things apart to track it down. In the last place we looked, which was the intake hose, we found a piece of sea weed. Fucus distichus to be precise, and I will refrain from making the obvious word play here. Here's a photo of the offending piece, and the hose it somehow got stuck in.

We do have a theory about how this piece of Fucus got in our system. We suspect the sea otters, aka 'snotters' (see previous post). Many say that otters are cute and highly inquisitive, but we are not deceived. We find their demeanors wary and their behavior suspicious. Fucus would be something easily accessible to an otter, and they possess the dexterity to shove it up though a boat's underwater through-hull. The motive is obvious too - a dislike of boaters, and I can't really blame them. They had a peaceful cove until we showed up.

Canada hasn't exactly been easy either. After clearing customs via sat phone, we went to Brundige Inlet on Dundas Island to wait out a storm. We'd read good things about the protection offered by this anchorage in 'really good blows'. We must have had a really bad blow then, because we had an exciting evening dragging anchor and running around on deck in our pajamas and foulies trying to make things right again. After much flapping about, yelling, and what would have struck some one watching the scene as some very bad acting, we put out a second anchor and everything was good again, except for the adrenaline hangovers which kept us from sleeping well that night...

Stay tuned for further adventures. (And perhaps more references to Le Carre novels.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The trip so far

It took us a while to reach Sitka. We spent several days in Glacier Bay but due to weather we didn't see much of the scenery. However we did have many visitors in the cove we stayed in: sea lions, harbor porpoises, a humpback, pigeon guillemots, goldeneyes, and surf scoters. I counted 17 sea otters when we initially came into the anchorage, but they didn't seem to like us at all and vacated the area during our stay. We called them the snotters because of their snobbery. The harbor porpoises on the other hand, who are usually very shy, came very close to our boat one morning. One swam underneath our stern several times, and he (or she) was checking me out as closely as I was checking him out.

Our next main stop was Elfin Cove, a fascinating, remote community full of boardwalks and no roads, and shy but friendly residents. We were there for about a week as we waited out a few gales. We had a few days of snow flurries, which made it feel like Christmas.

Currently we are in Sitka for a few days, but are preparing to continue south in the next day or so.

 Mount Crillon

Snowfall at Elfin Cove.

Pigeon guillemots in the snow at North Sandy Cove, Glacier Bay.

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Westsail 32, Hull #321
SV Wecantu