Sailing "Misty" Crossing Gulf of Alaska, Valdez to Sitka,
Third leg; Return to Misty
Anticipations and Preparations
This is the story of returning "Misty" to her home from Alaska. Misty’s home is inSan Francisco.
To begin the story I have to go one step back and tell you how she got where she is, Valdez
in Prince William Sound in Alaska
As is the rule with all mankind, especially sailors, passage of time has
brought healing and a great feeling of amnesia. Gone are the memories
of wet penetrating cold of the North West Pacific, the constant pounding
of the waves and howling winds. Gone are the memories of frozen
numbed fingers and toes inside constantly damp gloves and shoes.
Gone is the memory of helplessness of trying to steer the boat with
two of us hanging on to the tiller and not being able to control the boat.
All that remains are the sweet memories of the ocean the excitement
of seeing a whale spouting and the dolphins swimming along.
All that is remembered are the dogged camaraderie of the resolution to
continue despite the adversity of the situation. The meals, the happy
Hours and the incessant conversations on life, its philosophy and meaning.
The blue of the sky the deep black of the water and the beauty of
churning cumulus clouds.
We are all looking forward to the coming adventure which I am sure
is going to be a source of immeasurable learning, pleasure and last
but not least good measure of adrenaline in our blood stream.
In my part, I have started to collect the clothing that is going to
be taken along. So far I am only thinking to take anything that I
used to wear during the freezing Swedish winters. It may happen that
we hit a surprising warm summer, but I am not taking any chances.
I have also strated recording all my favorite music. Being on the
night watch when others are sleep, there is no other interruption
but the motion of the boat and the gentle swish of the boat gliding
through the water listening to an uninterrupted piece of Mahler or Bach,
the sound of Maria Callas or Placido Domingo are the best balm for
the soul that I know of.
I intend to update this page as time goes by. After the journey started,
progress reports will be posted to this site.
Monday May 25.
Recieved the following E-mail from Jane Von Blaricom, Bob's wife. She is going to be our point of contact in terra firma.
Bob is off tomorrow, May 26, for Valdez and Misty. The snow is gone, but there may be mildew, so Bob will be busy cleaning and putting away all the stuff we stored in big black plastic bags. We're hoping for the best. The boat is to go in the water Thursday afternoon and Zia Ahari and Chris Parkman will arrive on Monday, June 1st. They hope to get away the 2nd.
They're anticipating a pleasant and uneventful cruise down to Sidney and or Bellingham. I'll join Bob mid July in Bellingham and our granddaughter Lacey will join us early in August. Lace and I will be home mid August; Bob with Jerry Knecht and Robby Robinson plan to be home by September 1st. Nothing is ever cast in stone.
I have my tickets on Alaska Airlines for a flight to Valdez via Seattle and Anchorage. Departure is at 7 A.M. so I have to be up and away at the crack of dawn.
I have already started packing and am very excited.
Wednesday May 27. Recieved the following mail from Jane reporting on Bob:
Bob just left a message on the robot to say the weather in Valdez was the pits and cold as hell, but that Misty looks fine and she's dry as a bone down below. No massive amounts of mildew or mold to clean up! signed Jane
I checked the weather fascimile on Gulf of Alaska and Valdez area. A ridge of high pressure is moving towards the region, bringing sunshine and a bit of warm weather. The temperature which is lingering between lower fifties and lower forties with rain will climb to upper to lower sixties with sun. Such is the power of optimism.
Saturday May 30.
Date of departure is getting closer. I recieved a telephone message from Bob to take a bottle of Captain somebody's creepy leak cure. This is a liquid that one pours into suspected leak spots. It creeps into the leak and hopefully stops or reduces it.
This was the bane of my life on the way up. My berth on the starboard of Misty leaked and had to be treated extenally by Captain Creepy Leaky and internally by having a tarpaulin stretched over my berth. Administration of both tactics did do trick, however partly. I constantly had a small puddle of brownish liquid floating on the tarp. I hope that this is not a medicine needed to cure the same old problem!
The weather is still holding. The high pressure ridge is creeping northwest and is going to give sunny and warm days with highs of as high as 20 degrees Celsius (60s F) for a few days. NICE!
Searching in my computer I als found an excellent service provided by NOAA. The link is http://demo.geogarage.com/noaa/ . This is a service that combines the navigational charts of the United Sates with Google Earth. It is capable of giving a bird's eye view combined with a detailed navigation charts of the area. I have been studying it and found the detailed charts of the Prince William Sound the port of Valdez and the rest of the area we are going to sail in. It is fun. Do try it. It is a wonderful toy for armchair sailing and practice coastal navigation.
Monday June 1.
I flew to Valdez via Seattle and Anchorage. The last leg was in a small propeller De Haviland Dasher airplane which was flying quite low.
The scenery was spectacular and intimidating. We flew over massive glaciers and high mountain ranges.
Aerial view of some of the glaciers between Anchorage and Valdez
Aerial view of some of the glaciers between Anchorage and Valdez
N. 61° 07’ 530” W 146° 20’ 87”; Arrived in Valdez Airport on time and took a taxi to the Marina. It was so good to see Misty Bob and Chris who had already settled in. We had dinner on board and settled in for the night. The weather was fine and sunny all day. In the evening took a walk I the harbor. A small crowd had gathered to watch and admire the works of the city’s sun. There was a fishing derby going on. There were quite a number of fish on display the largest one of which was as tall as a man and weighed 75 pounds. Fishermen were busy gutting and filleting the fish people were taking pictures. A radio reporter was interviewing the fishermen. Oddly enough the largest fish and a salmon had been caught by an out of town visitor who had received the fishing trip to Valdez as a graduation present from a proud mother who was in attendance and beaming from ear to ear.
In the morning I took a walk in the city. It is a fine city that has a few motels and a hotel. It is a wealthy town, probably due to an Exxon pumping station and the Alaska pipline as well as a thriving fishing industry.
Tuesday, June 2.
N 60° 50’ 86” W 146° 32’ 00” The next day we left for the Landlocked Bay a distance of approximately 30 miles. Surrounded by snow covered mountain ranges , jagged peaks and smooth water indeed this was a visit to the Hall of the Mountain King. I felt the enormity of the privilege to be able to see this area in such close proximity and from such a close proximity. As usual we had a visit from the school of local dolphins and a few basking sea otters. Around 3 PM we arrived and anchored by a small waterfall. As a way of recreation and exercise we each took a row on the dinghy across the bay and arrived on board in time for the cocktail hour and dinner of spiced rice and lentils that I had prepared. This is a family tradition in my household that the first evening of any major sailing trip should start with this particular dish. Usually it is prepared at home and taken along. Not being at home it had to be prepared on board and instead of having it with meatballs it was taken wit fried bacon which we have in abundance.
Copper Mountain, Tatitlek
Township of Tatitlek
Russian Orthodox Church, Tatitlek
Landlocked Bay, early in he morning
Serenity of Landlocked Bay
Wednesday June 3.
N 60° 41’ 22 W 145° 57’ 38. Today’s Destination was Sheep Bay. Another warm (everything is relative !) day. We sailed on smooth seas and sun. Occasionally the sun hid behind some wisps of cloud and the drop in temperature was noticeable. One immediately felt the chill. Obviously when one is surrounded by huge snow covered mountains, one should expect this. The old Persian saying goes the “whoever wants to see an elephant must take the trouble of traveling to India1”
Day’s sailing was another 32 miles, easy and smooth. Sheep Bay is another of the lovely hideouts in the area with a large waterfall which is permanent and has acquired the name Shalin ( Rhyming as the well known name Palin) .
Leaving Sheep Bay
We found a large well kept modern house on one of the islands and were wondering on how the owner commuted when a small Cessna seaplane landed by the house and some time later took off by the house. We tried to start the outboard to use on the dinghy and explore the bay. As is their habit, the outboard refused to start despite copious advice from the onlookers Chris and I and a gallant try by Bob.
Bob and Misty in Sheep bay
Nature taking Care of our greed.
A clear advantage of having a strong young man like Chris on board is that he acted as our inboard motor and rowed us across to the Shalin waterfall. The beauty of the surrounding area is astounding however an enterprising person had previously raped the area with his sawmill and left. The remains of the machinery and the buildings were scattered all over the place. But the nature was taking it time and surely devouring the remains bit by bit.
Chris in Valdez
Thursday June 4,
Started at 08:10 from Sheep Bay and sailed to Cordova. This was a short distance but our last spot with rather civil amenities like showers, fuel and of course INTERNETY connection.
On the way we pushed our nose into a place called Hole in the Wall, where a narrow deep channel leads to a completely covered and surrounded anchorage the size of 2 football fields.
On the way we hit almost two miles of sudden gale force winds which we assumed was a rebound effect from the high snow covered mountains all around. Cordova is a quaint little town with most of the amenities we want.
Bob and Chris Supporting The Governor. Cordova, Hotel Alaska
We are going to wait here for a weather window to cross the Gulf of Alaska to Sitka.
Sitting politely on a bench- Zia and Bob, overlooking Cordova Harbor
Mountains of Prince William Sound
Friday June 5
Despite recommendations not to start sailing on a Friday we started to go. Bob’s explanation is that we are only moving to Windy Bay N 60° 33’ 8” W 145° 57’ 3” and that is what we did. Windy Bay again did not live up to its name again.
Saturday June 6, National Day of Sweden Left Windy Bay at 07:30 with the intention of sailing the Hinchinbrook Peninsula and choosing an anchorage before leaving to cross the Gulf at the first opportunity however as the day progressed the fair weather, sunshine, calm seas and our eagerness to cross and be done away with it encouraged us to do just that.
We sailed to the entrance or exit of the Prince William Sound and left around noon. On the way out we met a cruise ship coming in. The weather report for the area forecast tells of a high pressure ridge building bringing fair weather with west northwest winds during the next few days. This was an opportunity not to be missed. To say that despite acts of bravado and pretending this was a routine cruising we were nervous however the conditions continued to improve. We even had some favorable wind to begin with but the wind died out gradually. During the next few days even the swell subsided but the skies clouded over gradually and the cold was noticeable considerably. Layers of clothes were added and the diesel heater came on. The visibility was good and we could see the mighty mountain ranges of Alaska to the north of our course.
Rock Formation at the entrance to PWS. It looks as if Prince William is standing guard.
The light quality added significantly to our sailing pleasure as even during 2-4 AM which was my watch and supposedly the darkest time of the night, it turned to a twilight and not a total darkness of a starlit night. We passed by a number of glaciers with related fog over them looming amongst the mountains.
Cruise Ship Enter PWS. I assume ther crew are warmer than we are.
We gradually go into a 2 hourly watch keeping schedule. The routine of life onboard cruising boats takes shape including the pleasant get-together of cocktail hour at 5:30. The first night out I was assigned to be the cook. The predetermined menu was to make a meal out of a salmon fillet which we had bought in Cordova. The fillet weighed 2.38 pound and cost us just over $30.00, en exorbitant price where the place is an area that is the most sought after fishing ground in the US. The fish was on the ice and could not be trusted to stay another day. Conditions below decks were the usual one of riding a rodeo horse. Misty was moving in all three spatial directions and a combination thereof, and all randomly selected and mixed. Considering the stink that would rise and the splatter of oil in the little galley, the best choice was to wrap the salmon in aluminum foil and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. This would give me time to boil some rice to go with the dish. The golden rule in cruising a small boat the size of misty is that all participate in practically all chores onboard, which cooking is one. One tries one’s best but if anybody complains of the quality of the food offered by the current cook, the complainer automatically becomes the cook for the duration of the cruise. Being well aware and protected by this rule I tried my best. However the continuous movement gave rise to the complication that between laying out the fish, preparing the rice and trying to keep a reasonable to stay upright without holding out anywhere and using both hands at the same time, the meal was finally served at the cost of a few bumps here and there and a few burn spots on my hands. Although I was not fooled by the enthusiasm shown, the ooohs and aaahs and the flowing superlatives expressed by the other two was the best liniments to cure the bumps and the burns.
After the meal comes the no easier task of doing the dishes. However it is somebody else's headache and this makes cooking all the more desirable, at least for me.
As the night progressed, the swells died down.
In all trips with "Misty" I have become accustomed to 2-4, 8-10, 14-16, 20-22 hrs. watches. My most favorite watch is the 2-4 watch. Wih the other crew mwmbers sleeping below the feeling of being all alone and left to one's own devices is the most acute. This is also the time that I often take to my Ipod and delve into the world of classical music of all kinds. And on this particular stage of the trip, it gets almost dark. Although we are nearing middle of June, the weather is still quite cold especially when the sun disappears. I have counted the number of layers I am wearing and it varies between six and eight. Putting on layers is great help to keep the damp cold air out however it is the feet that are the real problem and to keep them warm without running about and stamping them is a fruitless exercise.
Saturday June 7. at 03:40 we aprroach the Kayak Island. It runs northeast to southwest and loooks like a giant overturned kayak that lies on the ocean surface. To stop it from becoming adrift lt looks as if a giant nail has been driven vertically into the ocean floor and a line tied to it. The end of the line lies inth ocean floor in the shape of a rock strewn 3 mile long reef. At the point of the reef, on cape St. Elias a lighthouse warns the mariners with a flashing light. The sides of the island are sheer walls explaining no one has had the desire to inhabit it. It will probably remain so for all eternity unless man finds some valuable product like oil, gas or some other precious product on or around it. Then and only then the same powers that turned thea small hamlet of Valdez to the modern city it is today.
Kayak Island, Cape St. Elias and Bering glacier, lake and river.
I have always wondered why these saintly souls like their Shiite counterparts prefer to adorn these godforsaken spots. However our own friend Admiral Bering is no less generous with naming places after himself as even in this remote corner one finds a glacier, a lake and a river named after him.
We do not have any wind to speak of. Gradually the wind waves disappear too. The twilight continues and the red of the sunset in the west follows us through a notherly passage, coming due east and the sun rising at very early hours of the morning. In reality the sun does not leave us and we never experience pitch darkness. The distant snow covered massive mountains and glaciers reflect a slivery ghostly light.
At the middle of the third day, Sunday, the mighty roaring lion of Gulf of Alaska has turned into a milk pond, becoming more like a mere lamb with smooth oily surface. We are running the engine continuously at 1500 RPM and making a steady speed of just over 5 knots over the ground with bow pointing directly at Grave’s Harbor on the Western coast of Eastern Alaska where we are planning to make landfall.This is estimated to be another two days awayif our luck holds and that is a big if. Life onboard, like all passages, has turned into a routine. Lunches cocktail hours and dinners are taken together and in a civilized manner. Breakfast is taken individually and according to each crew member's taste. The crew are either catching up or going to catch up on the lost sleep. it is around eleven AM that communal life returns to normal and we start to socialize.
Monday June 8. We have just past by tehYakutat Valley, a deep forge on the ocean floor. It is almost half way to Graves Harbour and Cross Sound. The Sound will allow us to hide behind the Chigagof and Baranof Islands. The weather is holding nicely and we have not had a drop of water, fresh or salty on decks. This meand we have not had any wind to speak of either. The sea surface is smooth with no sells. The winds are either nonexistant or sotherly or southeasterly. Ther is a cold soft humid vapor about that settles on metal and plastic surfaces. It soaks and chills the exposed skin and soaks one's clothes. It makes it mandatory to have slickers on practically all te time. This makes movemets cumbersome and moistens the inner layers of clothing. If we had some sun it would have been better but then it would have also been mediterranean sailing, providing something to dream about. The light has an ephemeral quality that combined with the mist is rather eerie. "Misty" is behaving handsomely with her engine chugging along. During dinner, quite unexpetedly we discover a fishing boat in very close quarters who suddenly changes course and decides to cross our bow. We hail him on VHF and try to raise him but our call remains unanswered and although we have right of way we are forced to change course. This takes away the sense of invincibility that we had developed during the past few days alone on the ocean and brings back the necessity of alert and wakeful watch.
However this event does not take away the good feeling of the improvise but rather delicious dinner that we have.
To be continued/