Saturday, June 16, 2012

First Day in Sitka

Our first day in Sitka has been glorious. We've been revelling in wandering
around the town, getting our bearings, and chatting to anyone who will

Checking in with the harbour master and clearing customs was a simple
procedure. In fact, it was so simple, we wondered if we'd forgotten one, or
several, steps! Only customs seemed concerned with our arrival. No
immigration. No health. No agriculture. And Customs only seemed interested
in issuing us our cruising permit, without concern for our clearance papers
from our last port, what items we have on board, etc, etc. When we asked her
if we should check with immigration, she said it wasn't necessary. We were
Canadians, after all!! Nice. We're happy to be here.

After receiving our cruising permit, we pulled on our walking shoes and
headed for town. We inspected the sporting goods store (cabin heaters), the
grocery store (greens), the trinket stores (souvenirs), and found a cute
restaurant for lunch. We also picked up a new comforter for the bed and a
propane cabin heater.

We returned to the boat for a rest and shower, during which time the
forecast gale began to make it's appearance in the harbour. Rain began to
fall, and wind whistled through the rigging of the boats. By the time we
were ready to head out for dinner, we decided against walking into town for
a dinner that we would likely sleep through. Instead we hit the nearby
golden arches and quickly returned to the boat for an early night. We were
exhausted, and slept blissfully for 10 hours, each of us waking only a few
times, our bodies well tuned to a 5 hour sleep cycle.

Now, onto boat projects and more exploring...

**We don't have internet on the boat here in the harbour, but we'll still
attempt regular updates.**

Day 39 - Arrival in Sitka

June 15 - I awoke to my night watch to see jagged mountains glowing in the
dawn light over the horizon. I could feel the biting cold of the breeze
sting my cheeks. Oh yes...welcome to Alaska!!

Over the next 8 hours we motor-sailed into the wind towards Sitka. The
weather forecast had not down-graded it's gale warning for today, so we were
anxious to get into harbour as soon as possible. As we sailed in, I was
thrilled to see numerous fishing boats and hear chatter on the radio. At 10
miles out, I radioed harbour control, and they assigned us a slip in the
harbour, and arranged for customs to clear us into the country.

At 11am Alaska time, we came secured our lines, met our new neighbours, and
wobbled on unsteady legs up to the harbour master's office.

We made it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

DAY 38 - 100 miles to go

We're crossing the North Pacific, our passage almost complete.
Jacob says we're 'savage'; we say, were merely freaks.

The accomplishment is huge, for both me and John,
4000 miles is epic, 6 weeks at sea is LONG.

Soon we'll be in Sitka, 100 miles to go,
Familiar shores await us, we just have to get through this low.

Now we scan the horizon, anxious that there will be
Gorgeous, snow-capped mountains, rising from this massive sea.

We're keen to stretch our legs, walk up and down the street,
Feast on a great meal, enjoy an undisturbed sleep.

Friends and family have sent emails, sustaining us through it all,
Now we're homeward bound, we'll see you in the fall!


June 14 Noon Report
Position: 56-01N, 137-35W
98 miles to Sitka, Alaska
4226 miles travelled so far
24 hr DMG: 127 nautical miles
24 hr DOG: 129 nautical miles
24 hr speed SOG: 5.4 knots (motoring)
Heading: 050
Wind: South-west 5 knots
Seas: South-west 0.5 meters

Daily position reports:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 21 - Marine Debris

[I just found this blog post in my drafts folder...I wrote it on May 28, our
21st day at sea which seems like ages ago. It's now out of order, but here
it is anyway.]

All across the South Pacific, we've been pleasantly surprised that we
haven't noticed any floating garbage at sea. Of course, the beaches are full
of flip flops, plastic bottles, and lost fishing gear, but we rarely see
anything while on a passage.

This passage has been very different. We've been seeing marine debris
constantly, or at least, whenever we hang out for a few minutes outside.
With the cooler temperatures, we're not spending as much time in the
cockpit, but whenever we're out there for even a few minutes, we are
guaranteed to see some type of debris. Is this because we're at the
confluence of weather systems? Are we getting closer to the famed Pacific
Gyre? Or just that the seas are calm, and thus we CAN see what is in the

Whatever the reason, we're recording our sightings for a study by the Seven
Seas Cruising Association, and for submissions to NOAA's Marine Debris
Program. That suits me just fine. It fills my often-obsessive need to file,
record, organize and list. I have a beautiful spreadsheet where I record the
date, time, position, type of debris, sea conditions, and so on. I'm even
providing photographic evidence. It makes me happy.

We've received so many emails from friends and family warning us to be on
the lookout for Tsunami debris. Houses? Ships? Concrete docks? Really? While
all this is interesting, it does make me wonder. If we (and presumably
others) are recording sightings and sending them to NOAA, what are they
doing with this information? Surely, the significant debris could be
tracked, or at least, with an estimated course and speed, a rough position
could be determined. Wouldn't it be useful if that information was then
communicated back to vessels in the name of safety at sea?? I should think
so. And I wish we had internet so I could look it up. If there are houses,
ships, containers adrift out here, shouldn't there be a good system of
letting me know?? Weird.

If you find out, let me know.

[June 13 follow up: We have not noticed floating debris since the beginning
of June...even on the calm days.]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

DAY 36 - Seven ships!

It's June 12 and as we move closer to land it is warming up. 15'c in the
cabin (unassisted by the kerosene heater) is downright balmy these days.
Heck, I'm only wearing three pairs of pants today! Lovely. I've got my
fingers crossed that the mercury keeps rising! I wouldn't mind removing one
of my toques.

I'm expecting to be struck by that rich, deep, dank smell of dirt anytime
now. I suppose the ground could still be frozen, it is Alaska after all, but
I'm still hoping to be overwhelmed by scent on one of these moments when I
step out in the cockpit to look around. Who would have thought that I'd look
forward to the smell of dirt?

The birds are changing. We haven't seen a Laysan's Albatross in a couple
days. And we have now spotted some puffins!! And several other petrels that
we don't have a hope in identifying.

John saw (well, really the AIS saw and John confirmed) SEVEN ships in his 6
hour watch last night. We've only seen 7 ships in the entire previous 35
days, so this was pretty significant. And none in the 12 hours since his
watch ended. Maybe we passed through a party in the shipping lanes or
perhaps there was a big fishery opening. I suspect we'll never know.

Life is good. We're eating up the rest of the goodies on board - we no
longer worry about whether the Pringle supply will last to the end of the
passage. Normally we lose a bit of weight on a passage, but not this time.
Our bodies have had plenty of time to adjust to the motion, and re-establish
our usual sweet and salty high calorie cravings.

June 12 noon report:
Position: 53-47N, 143-36W
344 miles to Sitka, Alaska
3976 miles travelled so far
24 hr DMG: 128 nautical miles
24 hr DOG: 131 nautical miles
24 hr speed SOG: 5.5 knots
Course: 057
Wind: West 11 knots
Seas: West 1.0 meters

Daily position reports:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 34 - Grinding to a Halt

June 10. It figures. As soon as we start counting down the miles remaining
and estimating landfall dates, we find ourselves in a low-wind zone. We're
bobbing along at 2 knots. The GRIB forecasts indicate we'll have a couple
days of this low-wind, then a couple days of no-wind. Then a gale. We
calculate fuel. Not enough to finish the trip on engine alone. So we bob.

This isn't anything we are not used to. We've done a lot of bobbing on this
trip. But when we're so close to the finish line, it can be a bit

On the plus side, we've had a gorgeous sunny day today. Our first in over a
week. We spent some time lounging in the cockpit, which is a rare treat
these days. In addition, lots of bobbing leaves plenty of time for other
pursuits... I feel a hankering for cheesecake coming on...