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BC to Panama

We left Victoria on the 22nd of April starting a two and half month trip with minimal stops to the UK. A strong SE wind had been blowing for about a week and was about to change in our favour enabling us to head down towards the Californian coast with the cold sea temperatures open to the full Pacific, we expected large swells.  Before we reached the end of straits of Juan de Fuca we had head winds and foul current, the weather hadn’t turned in our favour yet, so we anchored in Near bay just at the mouth of the strait, ready to pop out and head south.  The opportunity arrived the next day around lunch time we weighed anchor and motor sailed out, passing the local sheriff launch who asked where we were bound, “Mexico” was our cry, they wished us well and went about their business checking the local fishing boats.

Finally out into the Pacific one reef in the main sail to turned south,  the next days we had wind from every direction, fortunately the strongest ones were following winds, Arctic Tern performed well as always, however the wind steering Hydrovane had other ideas, its rudder  shaft bent and with the rough seas it was being levered off the transom, we worked hard for the next couple of hours to remove it and get it on deck, at one point it almost seemed easier to jettison it over the side as the 40kg of metal was becoming a liability, Les clipped on to the sugar scoop occasional chest deep in icy cold water and Ali trying to haul it on to the back deck, with a clever use of the dinghy davits it was finally secure.  Completely unusable and unrepairable we had lost our extra member of silent crew, hand steering now when we are sailing and when we had the power auto pilot would be used.  After nine days at sea we arrived in Ensenada Mexico just over the border from San Diego.  Tied alongside we met up with a family we delivered a boat for nearly ten years ago, great to catch up, they knew the place well, and had a car, immediately ferried us to the grocery store and a local place for lunch.  We stayed two nights as the Mexican official’s didn’t work weekends and the whole purpose of stopping in Mexico was to get a Zarpe (permission to leave and enter) so when we arrive in central America, El Salvador or Panama we would have the right paper work, if we turned up in Panama without a Zarpe it’s possible to be detained and fined.  The USA or Canada don’t issue zarpes and fortunately the Mexicans understand this and deal with the paperwork.  Ensenada was an excellent place to check in and out as the Marina staff does it all for you taking you to the correct offices, filling all the forms in and translating.  We were advised not to bother with a temporary import of Arctic Tern as we were only transiting Mexico on route to Panama, our next stop was to be Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.  A Zarpe was issued for El Salvador, the following morning we said farewell to Pickles and went on our way.

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As we headed South the sea temperature shot up and the exhaust temperature alarm had to be readjusted, everything was getting hot and hotter again, at least when sailing there is air moving over the boat and through the cabin when conditions allow the hatches to be open.  Arctic Tern was built for high latitudes; her windows in the pilothouse turn it into a greenhouse if the shades aren’t drawn early.  Fifteen days of some sailing with the our fuel saving Crusader Magi furl cruising chute, and days of motoring the sun outside was hot enough but having a 75hp ford diesel engine throbbing out heat too made for a very hot trip most of it was spent in the cockpit under a make shift tarp we tied up from the dog house to the goal posts.  Everything was going so well until dusk off the coast of Guatemala we saw a couple of open boats quite a way off, then we saw a couple of Gerry cans in the water then the engine slowed, quick action into neutral, we were surrounded by an unlit net, the small open boats occasionally turned a light on the tell us they were there, but we weren’t going anyway we were anchored by our prop shaft. Lines and gerry cans bobbed around the boat as darkness fell. Using our Gopro camera on a long stick just before it got totally dark showed us a line wrapped several times around the shaft and a line each side of the rudder.  It was getting to dark and the swell was too big for a trip over the side, we would have to wait until morning.  Taking turns to keep watch with the stern of the boat facing the swell slamming waves into the sugar scoop mean sleep was impossible in the aft cabin.  Middle of the night a turn of the tide we were suddenly facing the other way and the rope to the nets went lose for a long enough period of time for Ali to jump down onto the sugar scoop and cut the lines free from the nets but not free the prop.  This was the biggest stroke of luck we had as we could raise the sails and start sailing away from the other nets, in the lightest of winds….1knot 2knots making progress south all be it slowly, within half an hour we were heavily reefed head sail only dropped main and were running down wind in a 50knot squall surrounded by blinding lightening lasting for the next hour or so, how pleased were we not still to be anchored to those nets, our thoughts returned to the fisherman in those little open wooden boats, perhaps this was just another day in the office for them, a hard life.

By day light the wind had dropped to nothing and again the swell too big to contemplate a swim, we used our Gopro camera again to look at the prop and as we had acted fast there was only a couple of turns of the rope on the shaft, by identifying which end was which we turned the prop shaft from inside and managed to winch the rope slowly off the shaft, checking with the Go pro with every turn, a slow job as we don’t have the latest Gopro with Wi-Fi.  Once clear Les checked the bearings, we started the engine and put it into gear away we went.  With this little delay we had to wait outside in the swell at the entrance to Bahia del Sol as we could only enter at High Water and with aid of a local pilot. We had been in contact by email to the pilot.  Sure enough at the time they said they would be available we called on the VHF , answered by Jean Strain one of the organisers of the “cruisers rally to El Salvador”, the pilot and her partner Bill Yeargan will be out to meet us shortly at a prearranged waypoint, and do we like Rum?  What does one reply but “yes”entering bahia del sol (960x770)

In the distance we saw a small boat motoring in the surf, up then over the top of a wave, completely disappearing from sight then reappearing at the top of the next breaking wave, and this is the way in…..there are no charts of the area, our Garmin plotter has a white chart,  Navionics had a thin dotted line on the white chart labelled as the recommend route and CMap just showed the area as breakers…..we were to follow this little motor boat that drew nothing into the estuary whilst our 2.2m draft looked at least as big as the breaking waves!  Made contact with Bill he said follow them so we did……the photos are courtesy of Cruisers rally to El Salvador and Bill took them as we surfed in behind them, quite an exhilarating entrance to then be greeted on the dock to take your lines all the necessary officials and Jean with a couple of glasses of ice cold Rum punch, what a welcome, we could see why people came and stayed for weeks, we didn’t have that luxury.

Checking in and getting our next Zarpe could not have been easier, a fuel station just up the river with really clean fuel, and the marina was part of a hotel with Wi-Fi, restaurant, bar, pool, showers and would turn our laundry around in 24hrs.  We gorged on avocados stuffed with local prawns whilst drinking the local beer…..life was  good.

With regretted that we had to leave and press on south to be through Panama Canal and out of the Caribbean before the hurricane season, we have to keep moving.  The trip out over the bar was as exhilarating as the one in but without the rum! Again pictures taken by Bill (thanks)arctic tern-salir 5-20-2016 1-46-044 (1024x707)

We anticipated a week’s trip down to Panama. We had decided to engage an agent to facilitate our transit this turned out to be a good move, leaving us time to spend on more important things….. ………..halfway down towards Panama after an gearbox oil change in El Salvador we checked the levels to find the box empty and the engine tray filled with ATF.  People ask us what spares do we carry? well with AFT we normally have a two changes, but we had just changed the oil so we only had enough for one more change and a bit, gear box oil changes are a scheduled event in the maintenance of an engine not something you need to check every day.  So we filled the gear box and watched for a leak sure enough the aft oil seal was leaking…….so we had some AFT…nearest country Costa Rica would cost us two days at least checking in and out… sourcing AFT, our Zarpe was for Panama not Costa Rica, and we had crew with flights booked to Panama arriving in a few days.  We emailed Ali’s father asking if we could substitute ATF for something else…..engine oil? Olive oil, sunflower oil? a marine engineer recommended the cooking oil as it was thinner  than engine oil and also said the gear box should be rebuilt when possible! After some surfing  Ali’s dad also found out that our Hurth Gear box doesn’t like the tropics and must have an adequate oil cooler! Arctic Tern does have an oil cooler but only a small one to the hull side, and therefore in tropical waters not a lot of cooling takes place.  Les managed to shape a plastic container to fit under the gear box leak and catch the ATF, we then stopped the engine every two hours as it was now completely wind less, collected the ATF from the collection device, and poured it back into the gear box.  This went on for the next two days, depleting us of both of sleep as it had to be a joint operation in the red hot engine compartment making it a sweaty job, but it worked and got us to Bilboa Yacht Club where we picked up a mooring waved to the water taxi and headed for the bar and a much needed ice cold beer……………

Homeward bound

In two days time with a heavy heart we are leaving Vancouver Island towards Panama, where we hope to be before the end of May, there is an opportunity to join us there to transit the mighty Panama Canal and sail to the UK possible stops Bermuda and the Azores.  Get yourself to Panama and a small contribution towards food is all that is required.

Anchored on the beautiful BC Coast #discoverbc
Anchored on the beautiful BC Coast #discoverbc

On the move again

We have had a very successful winter in Gorge Harbour; with a well sheltered mooring and the attentive care our boat received from Barry and Amanda,  also we greatly enjoyed meeting and dining with their interesting friends.

We left Cortes Island bound for Campbell River to lift out and change our ice worn prop for a new Bruntons Autoprop which was on it’s way from England. Hauling out at Ocean Pacific Marine Yard was a very efficient operation and weather permitting we planned to complete our jobs within the week.

The rainy season of the BC coast is coming to an end and we were blessed with five days of dry sunny weather to repair ice damaged paint work and anti foul the hull.

Our prop arrived mid week and fitted like a glove.  All enabling us to back in the water after exactly one week, we then spent a couple of days trying out the new prop and have been amazed by the improved boat speed both motoring and sailing.  Motoring speeds were up by 0.7 knot at the same revs as before and sailing speeds in light winds were up by about 1 knot.

We should have had one years ago, one of the best improvements we have made on Arctic Tern.   If we motor at the same speeds in future we could be saving up to 20% fuel over previous consumption.  We have also found being pushed by this propeller into 30-40 knots winds is infinitely better. One small problem since we launched the windlass battery has had to be replaced with a new Yellow Top Optima.  We will be on our way tomorrow meandering amongst the islands and channels to the north of Strait of Georgia for about three weeks, goodbye to perpetual internet availability.

Interior Photos

We are back on board in British Columbia, here are some interior photos of Arctic Tern any questions and more information please get in touch.
British Columbia is a great place to start your adventures from!
 

For Sale 43ft Steel Bruce Roberts “Arctic Tern UK”

Our 2016 season will soon be starting with trips to Alaska and beyond, more details later.
In particular there is one golden opportunity for someone who wants to sail in high latitudes on a well proven vessel.

Arctic Tern uk is For SaleMenai Bridge
either in North America now or in Europe later in the year.
Anyone interested in this well maintained and exceptional vessel should contact us.

les@arcticternexpeditions.co.uk

or

ali@arcticternexpeditions.co.uk

Full specifications and price available on request.
Arctic Tern uk is currently 70 miles north of Vancouver.

We return to her the end of February, with a planned lift out for scheduled routine maintenance, anti-fouling and fitting of a new Bruntons Autoprop.

Valdez AK, USA to Vancouver BC, Canada.

Sailing out of Valdez past the narrows we joined a variety of local boats fishing for Coho (silver) Salmon, tales of “the one that got away,” “it was the biggest fish you have ever seen” to cut the story short we had a monster of a fish hooked but it got away!” try again later.  We hoisted the sails and left it to more able fishermen.  Landlocked bay was our destination within the Chugach National Forest, on the way in we tried the rod again this time for a rock fish…..strike….. A yellow eyed rock fish not a lot of meat but very tasty.1 (2)

Landlocked Bay showed evidence of mining with spoils dotted on the hillsides, exploring with the kayaks we saw the salmon running and evidence of bear presence but no bears, eagles and sea birds were clearing the fish carcasses.  Landlocked Bay was very peaceful and tranquil after being in Valdez.

Heading towards the entrance of Prince William Sound still within the Chugach National Forrest area, we anchored in Two Moon Bay waiting for a front to pass, in the usual Alaskan style it rained hard for the rest of the night, with a little lightning and thunder.

We had decided in the time available that Cordova would have to be “next time” as it would mean a detour of  70 Nm, Alaska is a big place. Next morning the weather was not good enough to leave to cross the Alaskan Gulf so we headed further down towards the entrance of Prince William Sound, at Hinchinbrook Island we anchored in Constantine Harbour. The entrance is marked by Praying hand rocks; this area is steeped in history.  A native village visited by Captain Cook in 1778, during the Russia period Russian fur trading companies established a fort here. It changing hands when the United States purchased Alaska in 1867 to an Alaskan company, but by then the sea otters were in decline and only natives could hunt them.  By the turn of the century the otter population was almost extinct, the Gold Rush was in progress and the interior was deemed more valuable than an island.  Slowly it declined to what is now; currently it’s owned by a native corporation that cares for the area.  Wildlife was still present we saw whales, dals porpoise, puffins, kittiwakes, harlequin ducks and a couple of sea otters.  We scanned the shore for bears but didn’t see any.

The weather looked right to leave the next morning to cross the gulf possibly stopping at Icy Bay, or Kayak Island. 1 (3) We opted for Kayak Island, an impressive island with 1000ft sheer limestone faces on the south end, we hoped to circumnavigate the island but due to the seismic activity of 1964 the chart info of the north end is now wildly inaccurate, the ocean floor has lifted at least 15ft, which in the charted shallows made it much too risky to complete the circuit with our 7 ft. draught.IMG_8181 (1024x676)

We also wanted to stop in Lituya Bay, but again the swell and a weather front pushed us on to SE Alaska.  Our crossing of the Gulf of Alaska was a good one with over 70 percent sailing. Elfin Cove our first stop, a fine little community, with a board walk, laundry, showers, grocery and liquor store and free berthing alongside, friendly too what more could you ask for! Here we waited for the front to pass through, with an Australian boat that had crossed from Japan.

Our deadline to leave the USA and to meet Ali’s Father was approaching so we pushed on to Hoonhah, then again stopped by weather at Baranoff Hot  Springs, 1 (10)we couldn’t think of a better place to wait out a weather front, natural hot springs and a massive waterfall in spate with all rain we were having.  Even the local fishermen came in for shelter, so the company was good too.

One by one they left the following day to return to fishing, us too heading towards Petersburg, we made it as far as Herring bay on Admiralty Island, watching IMG_8370 (1024x509)Humpbacks on the way and of course now we were on the cruise ship route, two passed us, we could see the flashes from the passenger’s cameras as they passed us!

The distances to cover and having the tide with you all the way is easy if you travel at 20 knots but as we are lucky to average 6 knots we didn’t have a hope to arrive in Petersburg in slack tide fortunately it worked so we only had two knots against us in the narrows.  We tied up in the North Harbour.

Petersburg is a super place, a little off the cruise track as the big ships can’t get there which is nice.P9020139 (1024x672) Mittkof Island has lots of hikes/tracks on it so the mountain bikes came out and a day’s biking to explore some of the island.  It was first settled by Norwegian’s and it still has that feel to it, painted houses, with deer that just wandered around the gardens.

The times for Wrangell Narrows were calculated and we departed after lunch the next day.  Timing was perfect we had tide with us all the way and didn’t meet any of the huge tug and tows we were warned of!  Sailing on with the current we made it to Salmon Bay the top of Prince of Wales Island where we shared an anchorage with a fishing research vessel, that evening the aurora borealis visited in a style we only thought possible further north, a magical experience.1 (4)

Sailing with the tide the next day only saw us to Ratz Harbour, half way down Prince of Wales Island. Here we set the crab pot for the night and explored a creek at the head of the bay, watching yet another floating hotel pass us by.

Retrieving the crab pot the next morning our catch was too small to keep but at least it works!

Head winds were forecast but we left early and  made it across Clarence Strait back to the mainland, taking shelter in Myer’s Chuck for the rest of the day and night.  1 (11)Really friendly locals here, sharing some freshly caught salmon with us and some advice on our non-fishing technique!

Listening to the weather it sound like we go tomorrow or stay a week……again time wasn’t on our side so should we push for Ketchikan the following day after speaking to a float plane pilot that just dropped his Beaver into Myers Chuck, on what the weather was really like out there!  We left.

Also heeding what our locals had said about fishing we slowed down at the point before Ketchikan and landed two fine IMG_8806 (1024x683)Cohos.  Overall a good day and we were alongside in Ketchikan the cruise ship1 (5) capital of SE Alaska…….need we say more the town was heaving with tourists not really knowing what to do.

Here we checked out of Alaska and the US feeling sad as we had really enjoyed our time here having met some great people and enjoyed some good times with the locals, we decided Alaska is too big for just one season we will be back next summer….

Across the border into Canada some 40Nm later we stopped at Dundas Island for the

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night to catch the tide for the Venn Passage the next day to sail into Prince Rupert, after mooring alongside in Prince Rupert Rowing and Sailing Club we enjoyed hot showers and we had a meal out to celebrate Ali’s Birthday at the Cow Bay Café, one of the finest meals we had for a long time.

Prince Rupert
Prince Rupert

After a haircut and stocking up on fresh fruit and veg we moved on, our tide tables on the plotter for the next section didn’t add up and in fact were opposite to what we actually had so we anchored in Lawson Hrb for a few hours waiting for the tide to turn, before entering the Grenville Channel, here the weather decided to lower the ceiling to the 2nd spreader and empty the clouds for the next 48hrs not much fun.  P9120049 (1024x576)Travelling at night was ruled out as there were so many logs or perhaps better described as trees floating in the channels, the currents seemed to collect them up and raft them into large islands moving up and down the channels, additional navigational hazards… the unknown, not visible on radar, like being back in the Arctic, and as hard as Ice too.

Crossing Wright Sound the ceiling lifted, the tide was with us, whales appeared, the ferry (Prince Rupert to Port Hardy) we saw docked in Prince Rupert over took us, and the sun shined, drying everything out. Tugs coming the other way towing two massive barges travelling at only 3 and a half knots what must that be like?

Anchoring for the night we decide the next day we would make use of the good North West wind that was forecast….we felt like we had motored most of the way and we wanted to sail.  A good NW was blowing and we headed out in to the sound by passing some interesting ground, but we are coming back this way to explore further. Sailing at seven knots wind just aft of the beam, sun shining and the miles being ticked off.

Taking the outside route met we would visit a couple of less visited anchorages on the way, to our and their surprise a local sail boat was anchored where we planned, but there was plenty of room for two.  Edna Islands, super white beaches and a different kind of wilderness.  British Columbia is also a place you could cruise for a life time and not anchor in the same bay twice!

Rounding Cape Caution into Queen Charlotte Strait, we anchored in Shelter Bay? Again setting the crab pot and tying our stern to the shore to keep out of the way, this was a good move as the wind that blew in the night was deflected by the trees and we didn’t feel a thing.

Onto Vancouver Island, and Port McNeil this stop the Harbour master is from Trowbridge and still had the accent, which was nice to hear.  Cracking little harbour with everything a cruiser needs and a reasonable rates to (the day we arrived it had just change to winter rates, 25p/ft/night!) The wind blew even harder that night but we were tucked up nicely, weathering it out.  Home to the World’s largest Burl!P9160122 (1024x576)

When Greg came out he brought a Welsh flag with him and it’s been flying ever since, causing some questions but in port McNeil a guy pulled alongside in his RIB and declared his ancestors were Welsh and we should come and visit him on Alert Island.  We explained we were on a deadline but would be back to take him up on his visit, Alert bay is an interesting place that has been occupied by native people for a long time, mentioned in quite a few social history books of the area.

After studying the charts and current tables, working out the best route, we had a couple of plans as there are lots of islands narrows and tidal gates.  We set off with a flexible idea as to which plan we would follow. Not all the currents in all the channels are shown.   AIS is a great tool not just for being seen but to see others and in particular in this case they speed, we saw a boat half a mile ahead of us, monitoring their speed as they went one particular channel and a tug travelling in another channel about the same distance away.  The first boat slowed down dramatically and the tug has less current against him, so opted for the tugs route.  It worked well as when we popped out further down the same previous channel we were well over a mile in front of the first boat.

We opted for the less travelled routes, Chancellor Channel, Cordera Channel, Nodales Channel stopping in Thurston Bay Marine Park for the night, waking to watch a bear stalking the beach. IMG_9142 (1024x684)Moving on towards Cortes Island, through the Dent Rapids, Devils hole and Yaculta Rapids all timed so tide was on our side and not too much buffeting through the whirlpools. Into Sutil Passage and through Uganda Passage and into Gorge Harbour to meet up with some old friends from our Patagonian days, Amanda and Barry. Tying alongside there steel Van de Stat, sailing boat “Papa Rumba”

Here we stopped for a few days enjoying their kind hospitality, meeting their friends. Being stopped for a few days reminds us of how much we have been travelling, the simple things in life to be enjoyed showers, laundry, internet! Fresh food, wine and not forgetting the good company.  Still in the back of our minds a deadline to meet.

Ali’s Father had now flown in to Calgary and is driving across the Rockies to meet us in Victoria on Vancouver Island, so we had to move on to be on time, but we would return as we are spending the winter in this region where sailing is possible in between the South Easterly Gales and lows pass through.

From Gorge Harbour on route to Victoria we stopped at Hornby Island, Newcastle Island Marine Park outside Nanaimo, passing Gabriola Island and getting the time right for Dodd Narrows, into Stuart Channel, visiting Chemainus, 1a delightful town with murals on the walls depicting the town’s history and social development. The weather has been with us all the way still wearing shorts and enjoying the sunshine.  Departing the following morning good timing for the Sansum Narrows, Salt spring Island.  As we head south the marine traffic density has increased tenfold, BC island ferries dashing across straits and narrows to ferry residents, delivery trucks and perhaps a few tourists, Tugs towing huge log booms travelling at a painful 1-2 knots, massive barges full for sawdust, being taken from mills which are easily located by the concrete structures and chimneys constantly belching out a plumes of steam into the atmosphere, the landscape is of rolling hills covered in trees, bigger trees to what we are used to further north, with large mountains in the background with snowy peaks on both on mainland Canada and Vancouver Island. It’s a tremendous cruising ground; a place you could spend a lifetime exploring.

We anchored near Sydney preparing to leave early doors to jump on the tidal sleigh ride round to Victoria, travelling at 10 knots in glassy conditions; the sunrise was superb with incredible views of Mainland Mountains in the distance a vista not capturable on film.  1 (12)Arrival in Victoria we tied up in front of the Empress Hotel in the centre of downtown Victoria, a sailor’s delight surrounded by historic buildings with the bronze of Captain James Cook overlooking our berth.

Here we met Ali’s Father and Wife joining us to finish off their trip from Alberta back to Vancouver.

1 (13)Exploring the town of Victoria, dining out and meeting up with some friends from Lewisporte Yacht Club Angus and Judy, we had a super time in town with more Union Jacks than London! It helps that the British Colombian flag has a Union Jack on the top half of it! Victoria is one of those ports we have put on must return list!

Departing James Bay the following lunch time this time heading north, plan to visit Butchart Gardens it was shorted by land from Victoria, but what fun would that be and there is a lovely little inlet for us to pick up a courtesy mooring and tie our stern to shore.  We arrived just as the sun was setting, mostly motoring but some white sail sailing, winds light enough for our colourful crusader sail but unfortunately in the wrong direction (which seems to occur more often than not!)1 (7)

1 (15)In the morning we saw a racoon foraging on the shore as we prepared the dinghy for the row across to the courtesy dock at the Butchart Gardens.  We spent most of the day in the gardens.  Despite it being a dry summer and now being October the gardens were impressive, the sunken garden was our favourite, the fall of the acers was really colourful and beautiful, manicured lawns, blooming, weed less flower beds so different from the wild rain Forrest landscape we have been seeing for the last six months.1 (14)

Departing Butchart Cove with a light wind from the stern encouraged us to set full main and hoist our magic furl cruising chute. Unfurling the chute took us into the peaceful sailing world we wanted to share with Ian and Barbara.  As we made our way out of Brentwood bay and into Saanich Inlet a fishing boat called us up to ask how we got here! 1 (6)The Skipper had of course guessed by looking at our study Arctic Tern she was a boat capable of the North West Passage, he wanted to share his experiences of his time in the Arctic, a very special place agreed by all,

We opted to retrace our course north through Sansum Narrows as the local forecast were predicting a blow over night followed by a brisk North Wester. Placing ourselves in a good position to cross to Vancouver or drop our guests at the Nanaimo ferry if we were stopped by weather. Timing was perfect the following morning to transit Portier pass for the crossing of Georgia Strait, the forecast was on our side with the brisk North Westerly one reef in the main and reefed Yankee we creamed along at a steady 7.5 knots eating the miles, 1 (8)superb sailing one of the best we have had since leaving Kodiak Island.  Approaching Vancouver on the Saturday morning we were met by a racing sailing fleet, we furled the Yankee to slow us down as they passed, then rounded up to dropped the main in English Bay.  As we were preparing the boat to enter False Creek when a super looking motor boat cruised by and welcomed us to Vancouver and congratulated us on transiting the North West Passage!

We have been amazed at the reception we have had from people in BC, of course Canada own part of the North West Passage.  We wonder if we had transited from West to East and arrived back in the UK how many people would actually know where the North West Passage was let alone the time, money, effort and lives our ancestors spent on searching for it?  Let alone congratulate us on our achievement.

We found a berth in perhaps the most expensive marina over 100CD$ per night to be alongside, no electric, no Wi-Fi we tolerated it for the convenience, but we would be moving to the anchorage in false Creek the next night.

Ian and Barbara departed here after taking us for a super meal in Vancouver, the last couple of days had been really enjoyable and Barbara who hasn’t sailed with us before took to it like a natural. Glad we didn’t scare her off.

1 (17)1 (16)The next couple of days we explored Vancouver on our bikes it’s a great city to cycle about, visiting Vancouver Maritime Museum it visit the RMCP vessel “St Roch” that transited the North West Passage both ways. Reminding us how fortunate we have been to be able to transit the North1 (19) West Passage and the hard ships the early explorers had to endure, without the help of modern technology, communication etc.

Our mission in Vancouver was to get our anchor chain galvanised; only one place could do it Silver City Galvanising in Delta. So we don’t have a car and 280kgs of 12mm chain needed to be transported 20 miles inland.  That didn’t stop us! We anchored on our second anchor and Ali loaded the 70 metre chain into our dinghy, while Les hired a U-Haul truck and drove it as close to the sea wall as possible, causing some curious looks from the locals he pulled up the chain from the dinghy but it looked like it came from the sea into the back of the pick up! From there to Delta unloading it on to a pallet at Silver City, the manager said it could be done but it would take a week!

Returning to Arctic Tern, we arrange to meet up with a few people one being Brian, who Ali trained whilst working for Clipper Ventures for Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 07/08.  Once you have been part of the “Clipper Family” you can meet people all over the world in every walk of life with a passion for sailing, Brian took us to the most important place in Vancouver the best Chandler!

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Here we replaced some spares and tried to source some new carbon brushes for our windlass, unfortunately in this throwaway society the makers of our windlass could only offer a new motor!!  A large company like Lewmar aren’t interested in service! We would have to do our own research, the next couple of days while waiting for our chain we visited nearly every motor factors, small garage with alternator repair shops all to no avail, emailing continued to various companies this bought a result a company in Ontario, Acme Electric said they could source them, a very efficient service.1 (1)

A strong South Easterly was forecast and having our primary ground tackle out of action we felt it prudent to tie alongside for the evening. We managed to find space in the less expensive Fisherman’s Wharf this would also make collecting the chain from Silver City a better option and they had a large trolley we could move the chain on to the pontoon.   By the end of the week we got an email our chain was ready. 1 (20)We hired a U-Haul truck again to pick up our chain, so we will be on our way again soon.

Alaska the Interior

 

Hiring a car big enough for all of us was not a problem for Valdez U drive (the only car hire firm in Valdez!) and it was Orange!

P8130171 (1024x788)Loading up with tents, walking boots, sleeping bags and food for a road trip, hoping to reach Denali’s park and see the mighty peak and then dropping off Greg and his family in Anchorage, camping along the way, hiking and exploring.

Out of Valdez we stopped to watch the local bears fishing in a salmon river, then on to the Richardson Hwy stopping at Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in Keystone Canyon , the gateway to the Alaskan  interior. We stretched our legs on Goat Trail, originally an Alaskan Native trail improved by the US army during the Gold Rush to bypass the impassable Valdez Glacier.P8130182 (1024x576)

Our first night was at Blueberry Lake state recreation site, after pitching our tents we gathered  fire wood and soon had a roaring blaze and dinner cooking, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it could not get any better.

Next day we drove over the Thompson Pass 2678ft, visiting the snout of Worthington GlacierIMG_4048 (768x1024) and then we ridge hiked up the moraine to a wonderful panorama.P8130274_stitch (1024x416)   Later in the distance to the south east we were also treated to views of the vast wilderness of Wrangell-St Elias National Park as we drove along.P8140323 (1024x420)

Leaving the Richardson Highway to join the Glen Highway pit stopping at Glennallen, crossing Eureka summit and cruising past the Matanuska Glacier. We pushed on to camp at King Mountain state Recreation site as all others were full! Camping or should we say RVing is big in Alaska.  Our site was on the banks of Mantanuska river with excellent views of King Mountain surrounded by huge trees .

Early morning rain discouraged a camping breakfast so we packed up and ate out in Jonesville!

P8140398 (1024x576)Moving on to George Parks Hwy via Hatcher pass, we visited the “Independent  State Historical Park” an old Goldmine.  IMG_4096 (1024x756)We did the tour and junior ranger badges were awarded to the children!

As we approached the Denali viewpoint south the peak was visible, we stopped for the only photo opportunity we were get! IMG_7770 (1024x683)We decided that Denali State Park was far enough for us, so we camped at Byers Lake Campground for a couple of days enjoying the area, hiking and exploring.P8150464 (1024x576)

It was time to turn back, the rain the following morning confirmed it, packing up camp to breakfast at Mt McKinley View Lodge for the best breakfast yet.  The weather didn’t improve so a general vote for a hotel carried.  Palmer was our stop for the night, everyone enjoying showers, baths, carpet! Not to mention very comfortable beds for the night in a local Motel.

On our way to Anchorage, back on the Glen Hwy we detour for a visit at Eagle River Nature Centre, enjoying our last trail together before hitting the big smoke!

We left Greg, Heidi, Ieuan and Bethan to fly home the following day in Anchorage, we then headed back onto the Glen Hwy retracing our tracks to Valdez.

We had a great time with Greg, Heidi and the children an excuse to give us the chance to also enjoy the interior of Alaska not just the coast.IMG_4005 (1024x585)

Back on board  Arctic Tern it was empty and quiet, we prepared her for sea, provisioning her before we cast our lines to leave Prince William Sound and head for South East Alaska.

Seward to Valdez

After dropping Fred off in Seward for the bus to Homer, we returned to the train station the next day, to meet  Les’s son Greg and his family, Greg sailed with us on our first attempt of the North West Passage in 2013, now he has returned to sail with his family on Arctic Tern for a holiday of a lifetime (his words not ours).  Tentative plan to sail from Seward to Valdez, visiting as much of Prince William Sound as possible.

Settling everyone on board we left Seward that afternoon the weather forecast good for the next couple of days, not much wind for sailing, but good flat conditions to leave Resurrection bay and sail in the open Pacific Ocean before entering Prince William Sound.  We anchored that first evening at Humpy Cove close to the entrance of Resurrection bay, giving us a head start for what would be an early start to get to Port Bainbridge, trying not to have too much sailing time with small children on board.  That evening we spotted Eagles, Salmon and a Humpback was blowing just outside the anchorage his spray lit up by the sunset, a fine start to a trip.

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Next day we started moving while the children were still asleep  by the light of a full moon,   through Blying Sound with early morning inversion on Sargent Icefield, hoping the sun would burn it off.  The sun rise was welcome and the warmth was soon felt, the children excited about the holiday,  waking up somewhere strange to them they were soon on deck to see where they were, with the Excelsior Glacier slowly being revealed in the distance.  Rounding Cape Puget into Port Bainbridge we stopped to investigate Auk Bay, Les thought  this might be a good place for Hailbut and Ieuan (aged 7) was excited to go fishing with a rod from a boat.  After explaining that the weight had to hit the bottom then be brought back up a metre then jigged, Ieuan took the rod and after  two jigs he had a bite and Ali helped him reel in a 17lb Hailbut, if only we had caught Ieuan’s expression on camera when that fish bit, it would have been a fine picture.  A little bit of father and son competition then developed and Greg wanted to have a go at this easy fishing! Let’s just say this was the only halibut caught that day!IMG_4499 (683x1024)

We anchored to have lunch ashore and investigate the beach.  After our picnic, we stretched our legs along the shore line picking berries, punctuated with skimming stones, and throwing a newly acquired America football a beautiful sunny lunchtime.

Weighing anchor and motoring up towards Bainbridge Glacier with the hope of visiting the moraine pool by dinghy and kayaks unfortunately the tide was too low making the rapids too dangerous by dinghy, but a little white water kayaking was done in the fast flowing glacial river.  The anchorage by the glacier is only a daytime anchorage and we needed to catch the tide to get over the bar into Puffin Cove, where we stayed the night.

Next morning again bright sunshine, a trip ashore and a walk was planned. Lunch packed, and containers for berries were taken.  Dinghy and kayaks set off for the river, once ashore we spotted lots of bear evidence and felt that walking too far inland wouldn’t be prudent, so we settled for beach combing and berry picking singing bear songs loudly.
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We continued on the next day round to Whale Bay then Humpback Cove on the way we saw an orca in the distance, we shared this anchorage for the night with a Dutch yacht we met in Seward, the first boat (and people) we had seen since leaving Seward.  The following day was filled with trips ashore, hiking, beach combing, gunk holing with the kayaks and a spot of fishing.

We thought our run of good weather was over but the following morning it was only inversion and  as soon as the sun shone brightly it was gone. Revealing the Nassau Glacier calving into the sea with seals basking on the ice floes. That evening we anchored in 7 fathom hole! In Jackpot Bay. A small cove we shared with a small motor boat.
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Our sail to East Cove on Perry island was very light winded and an opportunity to launch the cruising chute, unfortunately it didn’t last for long buy we found a super anchorage and were soon ashore for a hike to the top of the hill giving us excellent views across Prince William Sound.P1120944 (1024x768)

We are at the height of Pink Salmon fishing season and our trip to the Hatchery was blocked by a fleet of Purse seiners one after the other hauling nets of salmon on board.  P1130117 (1024x752)One fishing boat came along side on seeing our Welsh flag and offered to take Greg and the children for a few rounds to see how fishing is done the Alaskan way.  They returned with a fillet of king salmon we enjoyed later for our dinner.  A trip ashore to on the board walk, berry picking, a swim in the swim hole and a quick look at the hatchery, made for a long but enjoyable day.  Lake Bay doesn’t make for a very good anchorage and lots of hatchery traffic so we moved on to Esther Bay for the night.

The next day we anchored in Cascade Bay with a super waterfall and hike up to the lake above.DSCN0949 (1024x768)

We spent the next day sailing to and exploring Olsen Cove, kayaking to Olsen Island looking for evidence of an old fox farm, nothing visible but we watched an eagles nest with young for a while.

The next morning we spotted a bear on the beach, catching us by surprise as we were all still in our pyjamas! He wasn’t for hanging about and soon left us so we could get dressed and have breakfast.P1130007 (1024x768)

Unfortunately our spell of good weather ended,  the next couple of days were as we were led to believe Alaskan weather was,  low cloud and rain and lots of it, but that didn’t stop us exploring, kayaking and indeed sailing, moving Arctic Tern a little closer to Valdez. A local had recommended Long Bay, in kayaks  we went right up to the head of the bay in search of bears, eagles, otters and of course salmon.  The eagles excelled themselves, along with the salmon, land otters made an appearance but bears seemed to be too shy of us.  After a couple of days we left this little oasis for Sawmill bay a state marine park, we had now arrived in civilisation, sharing this anchorage with 9 other boats! Good preparation for our trip the following day into Valdez.

A foggy morning greeted us but with the aid of the Garmin HD radar we cruised into Valdez, blue skies above but fog all around, clearing as we entered the harbour.

Tying up for the next week as our adventure would now be land based under canvas!

From Seward into Prince William Sound and back

We met Fred from the Train in Seward and hoped to leave the hustle and bustle of Seward as soon as possible but the weather wasn’t with us, so we stayed a couple more nights until a South Easterly had passed through.

Fred is a wild life photographer/camera person          www.fredpics.com

Our mission with her was to seek out Sea Otters see what type of terrain they like and how is the best way to observe/study them? As well as cruising around in Prince William Sound enjoying other wildlife and the fantastic scenery.D82A6712FredOlivier

On leaving Resurrection bay we spotted puffins, kittiwakes, and guillemots.  Into the Pacific Ocean the swell from the passing storm didn’t stop the dall porpoises from riding our bow wave whilst passing the hostile coast with views of the glaciers from the Sargent Ice field.  D82A6734FredOlivier

Turning up into Port Bainbridge and Hogg Bay for the night, here we saw harbour seals and were fortunate to catch a five pound silver salmon. IMG_9219FrederiqueOlivier A walk ashore the following morning around the head of the bay where there were pink salmon  running with lots of evidence of bears, but no sightings.

 

Moving on we anchored outside Bainbridge Glacier and took the dinghy into the lagoon, meeting hundreds of seals on the ice floes, we shared a few moments with them before moving on to Puffin Cove whilst looking for a suitable spot to drop the hook we saw a baby bear, followed by the sow then a little ruckus and another cub appeared, they looked at us then ran off into the woods, not to be seen again, all to quick for the cameras!

 

 

Walking ashore the next morning really highlighted the wildness of Alaska it’s quite difficult to walk ashore with the Alder bushes growing so thickly, so we contented ourselves with blueberry picking instead,  this year is a bumper year or so we have been told. Yummy.

 

Moving on up through Bainbridge passage to the promising Otter Cove……not an otter in sight!

Onto Whale Bay, with Orca cove……no Orcas! Into Humpback Cove…..no humpbacks!

D82A7201FredOlivier (2)But lots of adult Bald Eagles and and five Juveniles watching the pink salmon running.D82A8082FredOlivier

 

 

 

We did see a Humpback outside Whale bay to be fair and we not complaining as the weather was incredible.

 

 

 

Round to Icy Bay and into Nassau Fjord to Chenega Glacier the following day saw a change in the weather and a massive drop in temperature as we approached the snout, hundreds of curious seals were hauled out on the ice floes we kept our distance but Les still managed to get some good shots with his big lens.IMG_7258

 

 

Moving on the Granite cove for the night the rain continued until morning, where we went ashore and explored a more open terrain beautiful  streams and lakes with lillies, massive blue Dragonflies went about their business, not once pausing long enough to get caught on camera!

Sea Otters,D82A7570FredOlivier (2) at last

………………willing to be photographed ……………….only from a long way away!

So we hide behind a rock in the dinghy

and waited ……………………

and waited ………………and waited ……………… as you can see Fred got some good shots.

Thanks for sharing Fred.D82A7499FredOlivier

 

Dangerous Passage wasn’t so dangerous for us and the sun was starting to shine again, up towards Culross passage, passing Main bay, lots of salmon boats fishing outside the hatchery.

 

We too wanted to see what a hatchery was all about so the next day we visited the hatchery in Lake bay on Esther Island.  Dog salmon had finished running and Pinks were next.  A lovely boardwalk to the falls and berry picking saw out the rest of the day.  It’s at this point we turned to head south back to Seward to drop Fred off and meet our next party.

D82A7178FredOlivierOn our way we visited Knight island stopping at Lower Herring bay, entering Copper bay, and then heading west through Prince of Wales passage anchoring in Fox Farm anchorage to watch a couple of purse seine fishing boats haul in a few rounds and a bow picker set his net and Humpback Whale dived under it!

 

Back into Resurrection bay the increase in number of pleasure fishing boats out to catch there prize Halibut, Kenai fjord trip boats, fast cats brought an end to the peace and tranquillity we had grown use to over the last ten days…….back to Seward boat harbour, the tourist shops and the full RV Parks! Here we wait for our next visitors.