Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A nasty day avoided

Our goal is to avoid bad weather – often we succeed.  Not always mind you but often.  Today is one of the successes.

When I woke up (late) this morning Gray Hawk was bumping against the dock.  Deep in Warm Springs Bay at Baranof Hot Springs you wouldn’t expect to feel anything no matter what is happening outside so that’s a sign of how agitated Chatham Strait must have been early this morning.  NOAA weather said 8 feet which is pretty significant for inside waters.  So I’m really glad we’re not out there.


The last couple of days my pictures all look black and white.  That’s not the camera – its just been that kind of weather.


That’s the local waterfall that apparently once generated hydroelectricity for this little community.  There’s only about a dozen cabins left here now and some of them look like they went through an earthquake.  Just about where that waterfall emerges from the bush there’s a hotsprings with a couple of natural pools.  We tramped up the sometimes muddy, sometime rocky, sometimes boardwalk trail to the hotsprings yesterday as soon as we arrived but I doubt we’ll go back.  Its a really pretty spot with a great view of the falls but its a serious hike and neither of us is much of a hiker.  Plus they pipe the water down to the dock and they have a couple of horse troughs set up so you can soak in the trough with a half assed view of the bay.  I’m more into hot water and convenience than I am into hiking and scenery.

Yesterday we fought currents all day from Portage Bay to here.  I wanted to get here before that weather bomb hit because this looked like such a good place to sit it out and it is, but yesterday was frustratingly long.  Balancing tidal cycles and weather is the essence of trip planning on a slow boat like ours.  The tides rule but the weather can trump them.  Tides rule because they control our access to some of the bays and inlets.  The tidal range can be 20 feet on some cycles so an entrance that has 12 feet at high might be six feet above the water with ragged rock at low.  The big tides also generate big currents and because the cycle is slightly more than 24 hours long, the current times are a moving target.

In general we’d like to leave a dock or anchorage early in the morning and tie up early in the afternoon.  That’s the most convenient and it also (usually) guarantees the best water because the ocean often calms down at night and gets itself whipped up into a frenzy during the day.  However, the currents may be better for a 3:00 AM departure or maybe a 2:00 PM departure.  The 3:00 AM may not be practical because of tides or simply because its the middle of the bloody night and we don’t want to get up at that time.  2:00 PM may mean that we’d be arriving at our next destination at midnight so that’s out too. Its dangerous running in the dark because we can’t see debris on the ocean – and in some areas there can be a lot of logging debris to dodge.

Yesterday the weather trumped the tides so we fought the flood current all the way down Frederick Sound until we got to the southern tip of Admiralty Island.  Sometimes it was costing us over 2 knots which is significant when we’re only making 6 knots.  By the time we got to the tip of Admiralty Island the tide had changed so then we got to fight the ebb current again as we headed north to Baranof. 

When we leave this bay we run into the situation where the same tide in the same channel will run both directions.  Baranof Island, which we’re on right now, is exposed to the Gulf of Alaska.  We’re on the east side so we’re sheltered from the Gulf by the island.  The tide floods in around both ends of the island which means that Chatham Channel on the east side of Baranof gets a flood current that flows south at the north end of the island and the same flood current flows north at the south end of the island.  Somewhere in the middle they cancel each other out.  That just adds another level of complexity to trip planning.  The same situation applied at Wrangell Narrows where we managed to time our arrival so that we got the maximum benefit of the flood from the south end and then fought a dying flood as we went by Petersburg.  If we had been a bit more precise in our timing we could have flooded in from the south, hit slack at the midpoint and ebbed out past Petersburg.  But that would have put us well past dark when we arrived at our anchorage that night.

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