Saturday, September 7, 2019

Leg 3, Britsh Columbia, Prince Rupert to Vancouver 570 nautical miles

            Day 1
            Leaving Prince Rupert it was raining with a heavy fog, which would become all to familiar to me in the next 8 days. However, there was also a brisk, following breeze which allowed me to sail fast and comfortably, something that I would not experience again for over a week. As the day progressed, open, choppy water with the remnant of an ocean swell gave way to islands, and eventually to the narrow entrance to Grenville Channel, a 45-mile, nearly straight cut less than a quarter of a mile wide for the majority. The wind died behind the islands, but the sun also came out, so I ghosted on the breeze and current as far as I could before tucking into a small cove for the night.
            Day 2
            The second day in Grenville channel marked what was to come in the next week of inside sailing, with a brisk south breeze, a channel too narrow to really sail upwind, and a day full of either motoring or motor-sailing, as well as an introduction to finding the counter-currents in the eddies along the shore, which gave me an extra knot of speed towards the next bay, where I anchored in the first, outer basin, only learning as I left early the next morning that there was an incredible waterfall just around the point in the inner basin!
            Day 3
            After a pre-dawn start in order to make it to Bishop’s Hot Springs before dark, I found myself motoring down a calm channel all the way to the tiny town of Hartley Bay, stopping a few minutes for fuel to feed the gas-guzzling little beast that rules these calm, constricted waterways. Later however, I actually managed to get a few minutes of sailing in when I turned north (the wrong direction) to get to the hot springs (worth it), and to make it even more special, a pod of Dahl porpoise joined me to play on the bow wave! Seeing these sleek and beautiful creatures playing so close is always an amazing sight, and these were the first I’d seen on this trip!
            I was lucky enough to snag the last mooring ball at the hot springs that evening, and after a quick dinner, I was in the packraft and at the springs in no time, where I added Darwind’s name and the date to the thousands of inscriptions covering every inch of the small structure built around the springs.  After a luxurious soak in the perfectly hot water of the springs, I paddled over to spend the evening swapping stories over delicious fresh seafood and cold drinks with Don and Jenna on the Alsaska B.
            Day 4
            The next day, I left the calm waters of Bishop’s Bay to barely stick my nose into the 30 knot southerly in the main channel before scurrying back to my secure mooring, repeating to myself that at least it’s better to be hot and wet than cold and wet. And so I spent the rest of the day intermittently soaking in the springs, taking short dips in the ocean to cool down, and reading tucked into my sleeping bag in the cold, but dry cabin.
            Day 5
            The wind was absolutely calm for almost the entire day of motoring down the 60 miles of Princess Royal Channel to Klemtu, with only a brief squall of southerly wind and downpour near the end. For the majority of the day light scattered showers came and went, and the only really interesting thing was that I sighted an Elephant Seal, which I had no idea even lived in this part of the world, much less so far from the open sea in this labyrinth of passages. It never moved the entire time I saw it, and I almost convinced myself it was a log, but closer inspection through the binoculars revealed without a doubt the short, trunk-like nose of a male Elephant Seal!
            Day 6
            I spent the day in Klemtu, moving from the floatplane dock where I had mistakenly moored when I arrived after 9:00 at night, and I spent the majority of the day holed up inside the cabin with a book, listening to the southerly gale whistling through the rigging overhead. That evening however, I helped an aluminum Swedish boat to tie up to the dock and spent the even chatting with Erik, another solo sailor on his way north. In between stories and technical discussions, we participated in the time-honored sailor’s tradition of swapping sailing guides; I passed on my book for Southeast Alaska, and he gave me one for sailing in French Polynesia.
            Day 7
            One week out of Prince Rupert and I barely made it as far as it took me two days to cover crossing the gulf, and had to burn a dozen gallons of gasoline to get those few hundred miles too! Today at least I had the chance to feel some motion under the keel as I ducked out into Queen Charlotte’s Sound for a few miles of beating before turning back into the channels for a pleasant beam reach all the way to Bella Bella, another of the few, tiny communities along this almost completely deserted stretch of coast.
            Day 8
            After Refueling and sighting a huge humpback right off the dock, I set out as soon as the morning fog started to clear, and by midday, when I was well out into the much more open Fitz Hugh Sound, the sun came out and with it came a beautiful northerly wind that pushed all the way down the sound to Home bay, where I shared the tiny, perfect anchorage with a Canadian sailboat. As well as finally being able to let the Aries take the helm for a while, I was ale to get all of my wet clothes and bedding dry in the wind and sun for the first time in a week!
            Day 9
            The next day, I left early expecting another day of sun and northerlies, and was sorely disappointed to be motoring over glassy seas and through a thick fog as I entered Queen Charlotte’s sound for the longer hop down to Sointula near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The fog didn’t burn off until the afternoon, and the wind didn’t pick up until after 5:00 pm, but I still wanted to make it to Sointula, which I remembered as one of my favorite town in BC, so I pushed on until well after dark, finally dropping the anchor through incredible phosphorescence and under an incredible canopy of stars around midnight, making a run of 78 nautical miles.
            Day 10
With A sunny day at last, I decided to take a break and explored Sointula and Malcom Island, riding the free bikes provided by the marina, and swimming in the crystal-clear water off the northwest tip of the island.
            Day 11
            The next day started out foggy and calm (surprise surprise) and I entered the notoriously nasty Johnstone Strait under power, until the fog burnt off and the wind started to pick up from the West. I started out under the full main and genoa, but within a few hours was reduced to a triple reefed main and the number two in gusts over 25 knots. And as I got closer to current and race passage, the seas started to kick  up against an opposing current, which can run up to six knots in this part, so I ducked behind the shelter of several rusted, sunken wrecks that make the breakwater of Kelsey bay, a very interesting little town which I had never visited before. On the docks there, I got to talking with Bruce, also headed down the strait, on a converted troller, and as well as some very interesting conversations on history and politics, he gave me some valuable advice about when to leave in the morning and how to catch the counter-current that runs close to shore.
            Day 12
            In the morning I attempted to get gasoline at the town, only a few kilometers up the road, only to discover that the nearest gas station wasn’t for another 10 kilometers inland. After weighing the idea of continuing and possibly having to walk all the way back with a heavy gas can I decided to turn around and hitch back to at least make the tide on time, and luckily the first car that passed picked me up and it turned out that I left the dock within minutes of Bruce, who I followed closely along the shore, through fog so thick that at times I lost sight of the rocks and trees just 100 feet away!
            As the fog cleared, the sun came out, and the main current in the channel turned from against me to over four knots whipping Darwind along at speeds over nine knots for hours, until I arrived at Brown Bay, a small resort where I stopped and ate lunch while waiting for the current to die down a little in Seymour narrows, which are known to generate massive tide rips and whirlpools at full flood or ebb. Just off the docks of Brown Bay, I was even able to watch a couple of harbor seals playing in the clear waters of the straight, which remain so crystalline due to the massive churning produced by the millions of tons of water racing back and forth through this massive saltwater river every day.
            After passing through the narrows at slack water without incident, and with a sense of profound anticlimax, without seeing a single whirlpool more than a foot across, Darwind shot out into discovery channel, the last bit of constricted waterways before the relative open waters of the straits of Georgia. However, having passed through the narrows at slack after a following current, the opposing current soon built up until only halfway to the freedom of open water, we were only able to crab sideways back and forth against a five knot current, and when we started to loose ground around sunset, I was reluctantly forced to tie up at the nearest harbor to wait out the tide.
            Luckily, as so often happens in these kind of situations, I ended up tied up next to a very interesting couple who invited me over for a cold beer, which turned to two and eventually to a delicious dinner and a free, much needed, shower.
            Day 13-14
            After being pushed back by the current in Discovery channel, I was more than ready to hit some open water and hopefully get some real sailing and real miles in towards Vancouver, so after setting out at noon to catch the right current this time, I motored out into a completely flat strait. Soon, a brisk south breeze picked up, but rather than despair as I had in the narrower channels, with enough water to make good distance with each tack, the headwind turned from a curse into a blessing, allowing the Aries to do the grunt work while I enjoyed the sensation of finally putting sailing miles under the keel. I also relished the challenge of working every last ounce of speed out of the boat after so many boring hours simply motoring in a straight line down straight channels. That night, the wind died and became extremely shifty and gusty, but rather than motor, with searoom to spare I had the luxury of simply drifting while soaking up 10 minute catnaps under the starts in the warm air of the cockpit.
            In the morning, the wind steadied somewhat, allowing for the course to resume more or less towards the destination, rather than looping back on itself and swinging every which way as during the night. By afternoon as I drew closer to Vancouver the traffic steadily increased until just before the skyline broke the horizon, I could count at least a dozen sails scattered around me, ad dozens more motor and commercial vessels, all either coming from or heading towards the same place. Finally after a short bout of motoring through the fields of anchored freighters, the anchor rattled down to catch on the sandy bottom of English Bay, on the outskirts of an anchored fleet of sailboats and overlooked by the skyscrapers and high-rises of downtown Vancouver.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Leg 2 Sitka to Prince Rupert - 310 nm


Leg 2: Sitka-Prince Rupert, BC

            After an awesome week of long boarding, hiking, swimming and getting projects done around Sitka, Dad and Carmen, who had come down to say goodbye, having missed the Seldovia departure flew out and the wind was swinging around for the short hop down to Canada. The only minor glitch occurred when, two days before leaving Sitka, I realized that I had somehow left on a world trip without my passport! Luckily my mom was able to ship it out with the next Alaska Airlines flight, so a near-disaster was avoided, and now, (I’m pretty sure) I’ve got everything I need.
            On departure day, the wind was already blowing, and since I was anchored instead of at the dock, I didn’t even need to turn the engine on at all, and within a couple of hours I was once again rolling to the Gulf swell and cruising along at six knots with the wind over the port quarter. Unfortunately, unlike the first part of the gulf crossing, this leg would be parallel to shore, and just the day before the entire fishing fleet had left the dock and were strung out all along my route. All day, I had to keep adjusting course to steer clear of the fishing vessels and their long trolling lines, until I managed to break free of the majority of the fleet around 10 nautical miles offshore.
            That night, due to the proximity of shore and the ever-present fishermen, I stayed on a strict 10-minute sleep schedule, which it turned out was not nearly so bad as I had imagined it would be. I soon got into a rhythm of getting up, poking my head outside to do a quick 360-degree horizon check, then resetting the alarm before falling instantly asleep on my bunk. (Luckily it was dry out, because putting rain gear on every time would have made the process unbearable.)
Day 2
At dawn, I was actually surprisingly rested, but still got a longer nap in during the day when it was more likely that any boat that came too close would see me. However that afternoon was when I began to get mildly worried about the batteries, which were by now down to 11.9-11.7 volts, and the solar panel and wind generator seemed unable to bring this back up despite having plenty of wind and sun.
            The second night I lengthened my sleep period to a luxurious 15 minutes in bed, as there were much fewer boats around, but I ended up spending several hours on deck that night anyway, because shortly after the incredibly bright moon-rise, a pod of orcas passed within a couple of boat lengths, so close that every time I heard one of them blow, I thought it was about t hit the boat! Then, after the Orcas left, I kept hearing chirping sounds all around the boat, and when I finally dug out a flashlight to see what was making the noise, it turned out to be dozens of small brown bats circling the mast and sails! I suppose they must have been attracted to the masthead running lights or something, but I was extremely surprised to see animals normally associated with caves or forests 5 miles from the nearest island!
            Day 3
The final day, sailing up Dixon entrance, crossing the imaginary line in the water that marked the border, and raising the red-and-white Canadian courtesy flag passed under a thickly overcast sky and the first rain since leaving Seldovia. Then navigating through the rocks and reefs of Brown passage alongside several cruise ships and a container vessel was a bit stressful, but on passing through, things quickly calmed down. Then they continued to calm down, until by midnight I was flopping along at less than a knot with two jibs and the full main up, 15 miles up an narrow channel from the docks at Prince Rupert. At that point, I dropped the sails, started the engine, and pulled into the nearest cove to anchor for the night.
            At 1:30 am, I decided I had better call Canadian Customs to leave a message saying that I ha arrived in Canada but wasn’t able to make it to the customs dock until morning, just in case the coast guard got curious. What I wasn’t expecting at all was a very tired and annoyed heavy French-Canadian accent to answer! I instantly felt bad about calling so late, but I couldn’t really hang up then, so I think I was checked into Canada with probably the least exchange of words possible, not even my passport number, and in five minutes I was given a number to display in a window and the line went dead!
The next morning, I motored up the channel and tied up to the dock, where I immediately plugged in the dangerously low batteries to shore power, and went ashore, on foreign soil after only one stop in Sitka; I felt like I was moving incredibly fast, a feeling which I had no idea would be completely obliterated in the next few hundred miles.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Leg 1/Shakedown, Seldovia-Sitka: 630 miles



Departure day at last! After three years of preparation, the actual beginning of the trip ended up becoming a very last-minute affair. For just under two weeks, after returning from Bristol Bay and a brief glacier-ski interlude in anchorage, I had been busily working on getting all of the critical projects ready to go, finishing the engine well, repainting the dodger, sealing the leaky hull-deck joint, and by Tuesday I thought that I might be able to depart by Saturday at the earliest. However, on Wednesday night, the forecasted southwest wind started blowing a day early through the rigging at 15-20 knots, and there was no way I could pass up such a positive omen, and such a beautiful wind. Thursday morning came and I had managed, by dint of staying up through 4am, to get every project necessary to sail more-or-less completed, and the boat cleared and stowed for an offshore passage.
            Over breakfast, I told my mom about my plan to leave that day (Thursday) and, surprisingly, she agreed, saying “You’ve got to go when the wind is right.” I had been worried that she would have insisted I wait for my dad and sister to come down to say goodbye on Saturday, but she knew that they would understand, after all, my dad’s favorite phrase after “anytime can be naptime” is “wind and tide wait for no man.” After that, until departure at 2pm everything was a frenzy of activity, including riding my bike to a friends house to cut one last part for the engine well, until at 1:45 I was finally as ready to depart as possible. My mom, and a few other very close family friends came down to the dock to say goodbye and cut the last dock line. (a sailor’s tradition for good luck at the start of a long voyage) This small gathering and quiet farewell was much better I think that the bigger send-off my mom had been planning, but as I was slipping out of the breakwater about to raise the main and cut the engine,  I looked up at a burst of loud cheering coming from the deck of the Boardwalk, where more friends and Seldovians were waving a long banner and shouting their farewells, a gesture that broadened my smile and erased the last doubts or apprehensions about the coming passage as the sails filled to pull me out of Seldovia Bay and towards the horizon.
 
Day 1:
            As I left Seldovia bay, running downwind under main and genoa, I quickly had to switch the large jib for the smaller, heavier, “#2” jib, and slowly hardened up the tack until I was close hauled, with spray flying and the bow burying into almost every oncoming wave.  This wet tack took me all the way out into cook inlet and around dreaded point Bede, whose swift currents and infuriating winds I was not sorry I would never have to round again, before I swung around onto my true course to shoot straight out Kennedy Entrance between the Chugach and Barren Islands into the Gulf of Alaska. Flying on a beam-to-broad reach at over 6 knots, and riding the last of a 3 knot favorable current, I was having a blast and Darwind was sailing at her very best. Just before the sun set in the wake, as we were clearing the last bit of land for the next 600 nautical miles, a pod of orcas, the male with a dorsal fin at least six feet tall, passed going the other way. The rest of the night passed without much sleep as I kept an eye out for any traffic through Kennedy entrance and played with the sails until finding the best compromise between speed and safety running under just the #2 jib on a very broad reach.

Day2:
            When I woke up the next day, I realized how hard it really was to spot and be spotted on a small sailboat as I picked up a ship on the AIS with a CPA (closest point of approach) of 1.75 nautical miles, yet I could only just barely see it even at that short distance, although this could have also been due to the heavy haze still lingering from the forest fires still burning on land. After the ship passed, the only boat I would see until Sitka, I spent the day, slightly queasy without my sea legs, resting under the sun on the one dry spot on deck, wedged between the mast and the life raft and watching the last of the mountaintops dip below the horizon, until about 4pm, when having not eaten since 2pm the previous day I made a quesadilla then took a nap below. At one point I tried raising the triple reefed main, but quickly dropped it, as it only caused the #2 to flop in the wind shadow and didn’t improve the speed enough to be worthwhile. That evening, however I was greeted by an old friend, the albatross, skimming low over the waves on a motionless, six or seven foot wingspan.

Day 3:
            By the very first hours of the morning on the third day I had found my sea legs at last, and after a night under an incredibly starry sky as can only be seen at sea, I also found my rhythm with the boat, the sea, and the sails. And of course, with sea legs and rhythm comes appetite! Dinner was a gigantic pot of spaghetti while watching one of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen, either on land or at sea, and with the ever-present albatross whirling and skimming above the crests of each 8-foot swell, I was riveted to my place in the cockpit until the last bit of light faded from the horizon. That night, too, when I went on deck again just before midnight, I was surprised to see some of the best phosphorescence I had ever seen! There had been some the previous night, and I knew it existed in Alaskan waters, but had never seen it so bright so far north before! I spent hours staring at the spectral glow of the disturbed water, especially watching the phantom blade of the Aries carving back and forth through the wake, blazing with green-blue light and leaving a sparking comet tail trailing almost to the next wave! And then when a big breaker overtook the boat, she seemed to be floating for a moment on a huge glowing carpet of whitewater surrounded by black nothingness. Eventually, however, the chill night air forced me below for a nap, and so I climbed into my bunk a very happy sailor.

Day 4:
            As the wind abated somewhat, I raised the double-reefed main wing-on-wing with the #2 poled out on the opposite side of the boat, and so rolled directly downwind for most of the day, still making incredible time and an average speed of over 5.3 knots! We ran this way all day and through the night, with only a brief interlude to heave-to (stop sailing) in order to fix a loose bolt on the Aries self-steering gear, but this was quickly accomplished and we were back underway within 10 minutes of noticing a problem with the steering. – All in all the perfect day of sailing, I felt I could continue like this for weeks, and felt regret that the passage would be over in only a couple of days.


Day 5:
            When I woke up from one of my naps, I realized with a shock that for the first time we weren’t making 5knots, and kicking myself for not noticing and waking up sooner, I jumped out of bed to raise the rest of the main and switch the #2 for the much larger genoa, until we were once again cruising down each wave with roaring foam at the bow. However, the wind continued to abate, and the Aries, possibly still not in 100% condition after my hasty underway repair was not steering as well in the lighter winds that came and went in frustrating, drawn-out squalls all day. Around midday, I sighted a whole pod of humpbacks scattered around the boat, one huge one startled me by surfacing only 1 wave behind the Darwind, but other than that the rest were never closer than a ½ mile. After glancing at the chart plotter to see that we were less than 100 nautical miles from the Sitka docks, I felt a mounting excitement for my first landfall and the successful completion of my first offshore solo passage, yet at the same time a twinge of regret that the voyage was less than 24 hours from completion; I felt that it was too bad that just as I was really getting into the rhythm of an offshore passage it was already over.

Day 6:
            On the morning of the last day of the passage, the wind was even lighter and continued to die through the day, until by the time I passed through a fleet of over three dozen small sport fishing boats around Cape Edgecomb, I was ghosting over a glassy swell at barely three knots, and after passing through the fleet and into the even calmer waters of Sitka sound, I finally had to suck it up and start the engine which had sat silently on the rail since clearing the breakwater of Seldovia harbor six days before. After that it was a quick, calm 2-hour motor up the sound and inside the harbor where the anchor chain rattled over the bow and the boat swung to the tide in the utter silence that always follows a long passage, full of the rush of water, creaking of blocks and lines, and the whistling of the wind.
           








Friday, June 14, 2019

Improvemnt Projects 2017-2019

Over the years since my last post, I have completed two solo voyages, from Seldovia to Seward, and Seward to Seldovia (both 150 nautical miles and three days), in order to do out-of-the-water work in Seward, and both trips proved to be trials of both the boat and myself, with long nights, terrible anchorages, and one force 7-8 gale(30-35 knots wind and-11 foot seas). As expected, the boat did incredibly well even in the worst of it, and except for realizing how much I need to get south to warmer climes, and smoother seas, so did I (or at least I think so, I survived, so I guess that's a plus). As well as sailing around South-central AK, and commercial fishing in Bristol Bay to make some much-needed cash, I have been kept busy steadily chipping away at the ever-growing(although dare I say it has begun to shrink) list of things to do before my circumnavigation departure in August 2019. Now, with under 2 months to g, here is what has been done:

1.  Replace the seized up adjustable backstay with Dyneema lashing
2.  Rebuild galley/nav station
3.  Build a wooden whisker pole
4.  Sew a companionway flap
5. Install a motor well for the outboard
6. Replace the Cape Horn windvane with an Aries Gear
7. Install two flexible fresh water tanks, 28 and 14 gallons respectively
8. Upgrade ground tackle to a 33lb Rocna anchor on 200 feet of 3/8" chain
9. Replace old head with a composting AirHead toilet
10. Redo the cockpit locker lids
11. New antifouling paint for the bottom
12. Replace the old dingy with a new packraft
13. Opening portlights for the cabin

And here is what still needs to be done:

1. Finish the box for engine
2. Repaint the dodger
3. Register EPIRB
4. Install AIS tranciever
5. Install a new 400 watt inverter
6. Fix the electric auto pilot
7. Sew a lee cloth for my bunk
8. Curtains for windows
9. Additional bookshelf
10. Install an anchor windlass
11. Provision dry goods for at least 3 months
12. DEPART

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Day 49 (8/06) Finish Line!!!

Familiar peaks in Katchemak Bay

Approaching Hones lagoon

Gotago welcoming Darwind home

Tied up to the Seldovia docks, the voyage is officially over.
Today, the final day of the voyage, I woke up after a restless night anchored up at Qikutulig Bay, (I know, probably the hardest place name on the map)which was one of my first memories of ever anchoring out on the first major voyage of my life on Northern Passage in 2012. Also, with Seldovia only a day's sail away if all went well, his was where I realized for the first time the significance of what I had accomplished over the summer. Anyway, the night was a bit rough, with the only groundswell we had experienced at anchor so far, and some gusty winds up to around 15 or 20 knots during the night, but Darwind swung to her anchor with no problem, and by morning, the chart plotter, which I had left on overnight as a precaution showed a perfectly smooth arc, with no signs of dragging. Impressive considering we were anchored in over 7 fathoms with only our short chain and light rode. Anyway, that morning as we motored out past the distinctive grassy islets at the head of Qikutulig Bay, I felt profoundly content and excited that this day would bring us home, up the familiar channel and through the breakwater to the worn, wooden docks of Seldovia Alaska, from which I had sailed to and from so many times, though never had I tied up to the worn wooden floats at the end of a voyage quite like this one. By 8:00am, slightly ahead of schedule, we raised the double reefed main and soon swung around to the West, with the wind blowing 25 knots dead astern. We had a fast ride all the way into the entrance to Chugach strait, where the wind began to abate ever so slightly, until I had the number 2 jib up as well, and in the lee of the Chigach Islands, it was smooth sailing for anoth half hour. Then, up ahead and crossing the entire strait was what at first looked like a hoal or reef, with lump, crashing waves and white water in a jumbled mess, but I knew that there was nothing like that anywhere near here, and that it was only a massive tide rip, which we had been planning to miss, but the fast sailing and a slightly eager start in the morning had us arriving an hour before slack instead of at slack. As we approached the line and I searched for a stretch relatively clear of logs and debris on the suddenly crazed wavetops, It looked as if we were standing on a line between storm and calm, with over a mile of the craziest seas I had ever encountered menacing of my leeward bow.
At last I found a clear spot, and bracing up against the cockpit seats, I gripped the dodger with one hand and plunged Darwind's bows into that raging mess. It seemed like I was battling the tiller for hours and hours, as the still significant 20 knots of wind crashed into an opposing 3.5 knot current, with our little cork boat caught in the middle of the crossfire. for the longest time, we made almost no progress, often under 1 knot of speed made good, while I struggled to win every foot from the treacherous current, amidst steep,  crashing seas that were constantly spilling water over the coamings and lazarete, swirling away down the drains, only to be replaced by another bucketful as the bows plunged and rolled another weirdly lumped wavecrest passed under the keel. However, after around an hour, the waves started to die down, as the current abated, and we started to move forward again, but unfortunately along with the opposing current, our favorable wind died out to be replaced by a thick fog and rain over a glassy sea. It appeared that Alaska wasn't letting us go home without one last demonstration of her ever so bewildering weather. As it was now smooth sailing under power for a few hours, I switched places with mom, and ducked below to catch around an hour of sleep and rest after the ordeal of the tide rip.
The rest of Chatham passage passed uneventfully, with only on other tide rip to deal with, though this one was much more benign as there was no wind to really pick up any nasty chop like the first, and we just plowed through under power, rolling like a drunken pig. However, just past Chatham Harbor, as we began to swing north around Arthur point at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, we sailed out of the fog bank into a clear, sunny sky, with some light, teasing zephyrs and over three knots of current to help us along. It was lazy sailing as we stripped off wet foul weather gear and hung wet bedding and clothes out on the rigging to dry.
And as we continued the huge U-turn around the Kenai peninsula, the geography, harsh and dramatic on the south side of the peninsula, softened and resolved itself into the intensely familiar setting of Katchemak Bay. Near Fourth of July Creek, once the farthest extent of my voyages as skipper of the  Lynx and the Capri, we passed a line of over two dozen fishing boats, both commercial and sport, and soon after that we picked up fresh breeze blowing from the southeast, so the main and number to went up, the engine was silenced, and we hardened up on a hard reach towards Seldovia Bay and the finish line.
As we approached the channel, Gotago, or as she is now called, Uka, my dad's old 36 foot Columbia that over 20 years before, he had sailed with my mom exactly the same voyage as I had just completed, and the first sailboat I had ever been on and where I spent a large part of my childhood summers cruising around south central Alaska. It was fitting to be thus escorted to the finish line and to top it off, Camile, our good friend and captain of the the fast ferry, which was just leaving the harbor hailed us over the VHF and loudspeaker to welcome us home.
Finally, I hailed the harbormaster, and after a tricky and somewhat humiliating docking, right across from the Linwood Bar and Grill deck (of course), jumped onto the familiar planks and wrapped Darwind's docklines around the worn timbers. We did it.

day 48 (8/05)

Today, mom and I woke up after a very good night's sleep in the inner basin of Chance Cove, a blessing after the turmoil of the day before, and by 7:30am we were underway. The ebbing tide, which had fought us on the way in, sucked us right out and shot us through the narrows of McArthur pass into the open waters of the Southern Kenai Peninsula, where contrary to the weather reports on the radio and texted to the inReach by dad, it was flat calm, with no more than a glassy swell from the south, all shrouded in heavy fog. Not wanting to waste this luck, I decided to head southwest, straight for Gore Point, and out into the open water instead of tucking in behind Nuka island and taking the Nuka passage west then south. This route cut off at least five nautical miles, and turned out to be a wise decision, because when the wind did come, it blew 20 knots right down the mouth of the rocky Nuka passage, which we would have had a rough time beating out of if we had tried to take the more sheltered passage.
As it was, we ended up flying dead before a 20 knot breeze and some reasonably sized seas, though thankfully much more regular than yesterdays. We flew past the ominous Gore, point, a serpentine claw of jagged rock jutting out to tear at the waves, making over 5 knots of boatspeed under a full main and the ever-present #2 jib. As it was only 12:30 as we rounded the point, and our destination of Sunday Harbor was tucked just a mile behind it, I decided to press on the the next good anchorage, Qikutulig(Q) Bay, 15 nautical miles farther west. We were of the entrance in two hours, where I dropped the #2 and jibed around to reach passed the menacing sentinel reefs into the calm waters of the bay, Darwind shooting through the gap like a well-aimed arrow. Q bay is for the most part open, aside from the sheltering reefs, and there was quite a lot of wind until we were well up into the very head, where I anchored among a small archipelago of rocky islets, each with one or two scraggly spruce overhanging the water.
This bay was an amazing place, not only as an anchorage, of which it was superb specimen, and the setting was jawdropping, but the most surreal thing was that this was the first real anchorage of my trip on Northern Passage, and it seemed fitting that it was to be the last before the completion of this voyage. I remembered exploring the islets and caves in the dinghy back when I was twelve, and looking around now I realized how far I had come to drop anchor in this bay, with a name I still can't pronounce, once again, this time having earned every mile as skipper of my own boat.

day 47 (8/04)

Coming soon, sorry for the delay