ALASKA TRIP – LEG THREE

August through September 2007

Juneau South to Southern California

General Overview

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This leg took us from Juneau, Alaska thru many small little villages, up as far north as Skagway and Haines, thru the magic of Glacier Bay, explored the vast but very remote areas outside the islands in the Gulf of Alaska, over to Sitka, down thru British Columbia, Puget Sound, and the Washington, Oregon & California coastline. We experienced spectacular wildlife, were treated to almost daily whale shows, and met charming and warm people along the way. We returned to So. Cal in October and will leave for Mexico again in November.


I know, I know, it is now December and I am just getting around to sending my summer log. What can I say, time fly’s when your having fun! When we last left you we were in Skagway, the furthest northernmost point of our trip. At the end of July we took Dreamweaver (DW) back to Juneau, where we left her, and flew home to Big Bear for a few weeks where we had a great family reunion and took time to catch up with friends and take care of a few business items as well. It took flying home to be able to shed a few layers of clothing and see real sunshine. Although we always love going home we do miss DW and are happy when we return to her wherever she is.

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We returned to Juneau on the eve of our 10th wedding anniversary – difficult to believe it has been that long since we tied the knot! We spent the next day anchored in a beautiful cove (Pavlov Harbor) watching bears on the shore both morning and night. We shared this scenic anchorage with a 25’ and a 100’ boat – which goes to show, size doesn’t really matter! It was a very peaceful anchorage and day. The anchorage was calm, green, green trees & mountains – eagles chirping and bears around… and did I mention it was green? Really green, not California dusty green! We know not to take this for granted and have become somewhat melancholy about leaving this area as we head south…. knowing the weather will be nicer & warmer down south but not nearly as beautiful. It is 10 pm and just now getting dark – we’ve decided we like these long daylight hours and would have no problem adjusting to them on a regular basis. We had a dinner on board that would have cost at least $200 in a restaurant – including a 19 year old bottle of Freemark Abbey that the Hafen’s gave us a few years back?

We rejoined Jo & Adie on Wandering Star in Ell Cove, then started out early for the long trip down the outside of Prince of Whales Island. Dense fog came into Chatham Strait which was when our radar once again became our best friend. Once the fog cleared we decided to continue on thru what is called Rocky Pass and Devils Elbow - an area that cruising guides describe as a very dicey place to be, and one that not all boats venture thru. Next was El Capitan passage, a very narrow channel that weaves between hundreds of small islets, then on to Craig which was particularly interesting with colorful characters all around. The skipper next to us said he’d cruised to Alaska 37 times over the years and finds Craig to be the best town in Alaska, in his opinion – quite a testimony I must say.

Logs became more prevalent the further south we went. We found ourselves dodging them as we exited Alaska and reentered Canada. We made fast work of heading south – kind of like a horse heading back to the barn. One particularly beautiful place we visited and anchored in one night was Patterson’s Inlet and Princess Diana cove. Trees so dense that there were few places to walk, however we enjoyed watching the Bears on the shoreline. Jo & I decided that the bay was as beautiful as its namesake – i.e. Patterson (our maiden names?) We anchored in Barnard Harbor, Klemtu, Bottleneck, Shearwater, then crossed the Queen Charlotte Sound, pulling into a truly spectacular cove past Cape Caution and just below Miles Inlet – Skull Cove, at dark.

On our way north we skipped one of the most popular and most populated areas in British Columbia, so we decided to turn up Wells Channel and check out the “Broughtons,” to see what the fuss was all about. Almost as soon as we turned in we began seeing more boats than we ever saw while in Alaska and the VHF radio was alive with chatter. Our first stop was the most charming little floating hideaway called Sullivan Bay Resort. There were beautiful homes on floats attached to the docks, brilliant flower boxes all around and little street signs at the junction of each dock. There was no access to the shore, which is lined with dense trees, virtually impenetrable. The flotilla included a store, library, laundry, restaurant, etc. Boats tie to the long docks that surround the resort and float planes were coming and going throughout the day. Very quaint.

From there we continued on past “Pierre’s Resort” and tied up to another little retreat tucked into the trees – Lagoon Cove for a few days. The owner of this tiny little resort had done an impressive job fixing it up over the last 15 years and really took pride in the place – It only held about 25 boats. Each night they host a potluck in their large barn, where the owner, Bill, supplies a heap of fresh shrimp and tells “true” stories about the area. It was reminiscent of summer camp when we were kids – what fun!!

Ken wanted to install a keel cooler for our transmission, which entails drilling two holes in the bottom of the boat. In most areas, that usually that means having to haul the boat at a cost of $500. In the northern waters we’ve been traveling in, tides run as much as 15 to 20 feet a day; so many marinas have what is called a “tidal grid” - a wooden grid that you pull your boat up onto during high tide. When the tide goes out and your boat is sitting high and dry, you are able to get under it for a few hours to work on the bottom. The charge to use the grid is only $50, so of course we opted to go this route. There were a few dicey issues to deal with, in that the grid was tucked at the end of a narrow channel and, because we couldn’t get on the grid until high tide, it would be midnight before we could move the boat on to the grid. We slept a few hours and then anxiously drove the boat up the narrow, shallow channel to the grid at the other end of our marina. It was a moonless night and was kind of eerie driving the boat onto the wooden platform as it did not look like the prop could even clear it (it was soooo shallow) and fully expected to hear the prop and/or keel hitting bottom at any time!

There was not much tide differential that night and we only had about 4 inches of clearance between the wooden grid and our keel as we inched our way on to the grid. By 3 am we were securely tied on as we watched the water disappear from under our keel. We were up early the next morning to assure we were able to cut the holes, plug them, and do the other necessary maintenance to the bottom of the boat before the tide came back up. As the tide rose that afternoon, the weather got worse. We pulled off the grid about 4:30 in the afternoon in the hardest rain we have encountered yet – there was actually hail, and due to the winds blowing us onto the grid, it was quite an adrenalin rush trying to “dismount” the grid get DW back into deeper water. It was now late afternoon and we had quite a rocky run down to the cool little town Comox. It was pitch dark when we set anchor and we were happy to fall into bed for a good nights sleep.

Next it was on to Nanaimo where we had reciprocal privileges (read – free?) at the Nanaimo Yacht Club, so we tied up. There were lots of other cruisers there – a very friendly lot indeed! Dick and Cindy, from Mentor, who built their steel sailboat from a hull, had just left their slip in Seattle a few days prior and were on their maiden voyage. They had not yet finished their boat, which we could relate to, and we really enjoyed getting to know them. They offered to let us use their slip in Seattle when we got there, which we happily took them up on - slips are hard to come by in Seattle.

Before leaving Canada we stopped for a day in Montegue Harbor where we anchored for the night. It reminded us of Catalina with about 100 boats anchored in the bay. Their was a marina, a provincial park, and apparently, the infamous “Hummingbird Pub Bus” that took people inland to a great little pub - then brought them back to the harbor – telling antics and fun stories all along the way! We were busy with boat projects and weren’t able to partake – damn those little pesky boat projects anyway!

By the end of August we passed back thru the Gulf and San Juan Islands and reentered US waters. We’d pretty much left the whales behind at that point and we kinda missed seeing those big guys frolicking in the waters each day. Our “borrowed” slip in Seattle was right next to the downtown area of Ballard where we could walk into town each evening. I felt a little like we were living in the heart of the city for a few days which is quite different for this little ol’ mountain girl! Our friends from Whidbey Island, Curt & Tina, came and stayed overnight on the boat with us one evening which was fun. We went out to a fabulous restaurant for their anniversary, which we seldom do since we started this crusing lifestyle! I decided I could get real used to it though? Dad, Ginny, Greg, Silvia & their daughter Valentina came over for a halibut dinner on DW while we were there as well.

Next we returned to Port Townsend to visit with our friends Tom & Kathy before beginning our 1,300 mile trip back down the coast to So. California (along with Jo & Adie on WS.) We pointed our bow westward out the Straits of Juan de Fuca, stopped at the small Indian village, Neah Bay, for the evening, before turning south down the outside coast of the Pacific. Seas started out rather lumpy but calmed down and left us with a good weather window, allowing us to run 24/7 for several days. Hitting a crab pot and fouling your prop, especially in the dark of night, can completely ruin ones day, or night as the case may be! Therefore, we chose to run about 17-20 miles offshore.

Radar quickly becomes your best friend out here, especially at night. Our radar decided to pick late one night to start acting up on us. We were only able to keep it on for short periods of time without it going dark. All we could do was turn it on once every hour or so, or when lights around us dictated - then it would generally only stay on about 5 minutes before it would fade out again! Luckily, we were traveling with Jo & Adie, who became our second set of eyes. When they saw something on their radar heading our way, they would call us to confirm that we had it in our sights, which was very comforting in the dark of night!

Good weather going up or down the pacific coast it is truly a gift that one shouldn’t take for granted. With that in mind we continued on all the way to Eureka before stopping – and then only for 12 hours before we were off again. We were trading off watches and getting about 5-7 hours of sleep each night, which is pretty darned good for a two-man crew. Other than the first night, when it was so rough that we had Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, the swells and chop were minor, so we were able to have some decent meals while underway. One evening we even cooked up some moose burger, that Curt & Tina had given us last spring, and made chili. There are probably not a lot of cruisers cooking up wild game (unless you call fish wild game) several miles off the pacific coast. It was really good – flavorful, lean, and not gamey at all!:)

This year we have Sirius radio on the boat – which is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because when we can get a satellite site, we can listen to all the “news” and tend to get caught up in the drama – a blessing because there are some great programs and music to listen to and help you stay awake during watches.

In order to reach San Francisco before noon on Saturday, which was when both a storm was due in and when tides were changing to slack, we left Eureka at 9:30 pm on a Thursday night. Ken did a great job as we worked our way thru the long narrow entrance channel in pitch darkness. We rounded the dreaded Cape Mendocino in the middle of the night and only encountered 2-3 foot seas with a little wind chop – nice!! The next morning we passed by Shelter Cove, a popular fishing area, where we think Marge Hafen has been reincarnated as a woman in charge of a fishing fleet. It was fun listening to “Marge” check in with each of her “boys” on the VHF radio asking things like “ya got any blood on the decks yet?” or “how many you got in the box now?” You could tell who was in charge and could also tell that she was “Mom” to many of the fishermen out there.

On Friday we hit fog in the early afternoon and it stayed with us most of the night. Fortunately very few boats were traveling in this part (Northern Calif.) of the coast at that time. Our radar was still a little iffy so we stayed close to WS throughout the night. We got some decent sleep that evening and we were ready to go under the coveted Golden Gate Bridge with great aspirations of the fog clearing and us cracking a celebratory bottle of champagne to mark the magical moment.

So much for grandiose plans… the fog lifted only partially, hence we weren’t able to get the great photos we had hoped for. We could see the north tower partially, and when we were almost on top of it, could see the bridge above us. The other reason it was such an anticlimactic moment, was that 5 minutes before we crossed under the bridge Ken went to check the water-maker that had been running for hours, and see if the water tanks under our bed were full. Boy was he surprised when he realized that rather than our tanks being full, our bed was full of water! … and no, it isn’t supposed to be a water bed! I must have accidentally pulled the hose out of the back window when I made the bed several hours earlier. We didn’t know how much water was in the bilge and/or the bed, so Ken was scrambling to pump out the bilge and I was scrambling to put something – anything – absorbent under the mattress as we started under the bridge! I was hoping this little incident would be an enticement for Ken to finish plumbing the water-maker so that it would go directly into the tank but then again as everyone knows, a plumber never finishes his own plumbing projects?? At least we will never forget our first crossing under the Golden Gate Bridge!

Daughter Keri joined us in Sausalito for a few days where we enjoyed catching up and seeing the sights of San Francisco. After a few windy but great days in SF we met our friends, Leland & Cecily in Half Moon Bay. They are our buddies that spent 29 years building a beautiful Schooner in the San Diego area and are now moored in Half Moon Bay, where they have spent most of the last year rebuilding an old wooden fishing boat, converting it into a tour boat. When they finish, it will be turned over to a non-profit organization they created to help fishing families in Half Moon Bay. We spent a few days catching up with them before heading out to Monterey where we stopped to visit with Ken’s brother Wink and his family. Next we rendezvoused with Jo & Adie offshore for our final run back to So. California. Our neighbors, Scott & Vickie, met us in Santa Barbara for a couple of days before our leaving DW in Redondo Beach to return home to Big Bear for a month.

Many people thought we were crazy when we did a u-turn from Manzanillo, Mexico up to Alaska but we had a wonderful time. Such diversity in climates and scenery! Buddy boating with Jo & Adie added to the experience – not everyone has the opportunity to share cruising adventures with a sister, and we’ve become closer than ever. As a team we called ourselves the “Wandering Weavers.” Ken and Adie’s new nicknames are Felix and Oscar (guess which one is which?!!) and they were continually entertaining each other along the way. They did have a hard time deciding which Brew Pub along the Inside Passage was the best, however, all agreed that the tiny, out of the way one in Haines, Alaska was the tastiest and most unusual of them all!

After catching up with family and friends, plans are to leave in early November 2007 to begin working our way back to Mexico, thru Central America and the Panama Canal then over to the Caribbean before returning to “real life” in 2009. As we’ve said before cruisers plans are “written in sand at low tide,” so plans are subject to change at any time?

We hope this finds you all happy, healthy and enjoying your dreams and upcoming holidays!

Love and Dreams,

Ken & Dottie Saville

Dreamweaver

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