Thursday, June 12, 2014

Back to Baranof

We had a fairly long day yesterday at 13 hours but we managed over 85 miles, arriving at Baranof Hot Springs at 7:00.  We’re in training now for the marathon from Ketchikan to Cowichan Bay. I think we can make that run in a week or less if the weather cooperates but it will take some long days.  There’s plenty of daylight up here for 16 hour days or even more than that but maybe we’re not up to that long of a run. 


There was a pretty stiff current setting through Sergious Narrows when we arrived.  It was going our way and I couldn’t see any overfalls so we ran it anyway because the alternative would have meant waiting a couple of hours and arriving that much later in Baranof.  These floating channel markers are a great indicator of current strength.  Apparently on some really hard currents they will get pulled completely underwater.  That would take a lot of current though because this one was handling 4 or 5 knots and its still a long way from underwater.

The dock at Baranof looks considerably different than when we were last here.  I was nervous about going to the back side of the dock because there’s a nasty detached rock off the end of the main float.  The backside however was all that was available when we arrived yesterday.  Fortunately we arrived behind a moderately large fishboat and he headed directly in to the backside of the float so I just followed his trail in.  I’m not sure he knew what he was doing though because when I was talking to him afterwards he seemed pretty green.  On the other hand the skipper’s level of knowledge is pretty well irrelevant if we’re following his track and he doesn’t touch bottom.  We’ll wait until high water today and – assuming there’s room – move around to the front of the dock.  There’s a minus 4 foot tide for tomorrow morning roughly when we want to leave.  I’d just as soon not cross a known obstacle with that little water if its easily avoidable.

As we were approaching the dock a familiar voice hailed us.  I had noticed a dark hulled Defever type prow tied to the end of the outside but had convinced myself it couldn’t be the black hull of Adventures.  Turns out I was wrong.  We met Robin and Jim in Petersburg when they were standing on the finger pier waiting to grab our lines.  As we approached the dock yesterday I had it in my head that we had left them in Juneau so it made no sense whatsoever for them to be here in Baranof.  In fact we had left them in Petersburg and it made perfect sense for them to be here, which they were (and are).  So we had cocktails on their deck last night and this morning when the fishboat in front of us left with a great thrashing of his single prop I looked over on Adventures to see that he had woken Robin as well. 

Its really fascinating how sound travels underwater.  You hear the sound of boat props at some distance through the hull below the waterline.  At home in Cow Bay I can tell which tug is coming home in the dark without getting out of bed, simply by the sound of their prop.

Robin keeps a weblog over here.  Its worth a look just for her pictures.  There’s nothing wrong with her writing either, but she has a very artistic eye, unlike me.  Some of her macro (close up) shots are outstanding.  They’ve been Florida boaters for some time now and are about to spend a winter in Alaska.  S.E. Alaskan coastal weather is nothing like what those of us who grew up on the prairies are used to.  I expect it is better even than what somewhere like the Kenai Peninsula would be and no doubt it is orders of magnitude better than interior Alaskan weather.  Nonetheless it will not be anything at all like Florida. 


There was a fog bank lying in Neva Strait as we approached yesterday but it lifted before we got there.  Good thing too because its a narrow channel – the same place where we got passed by the flying Fairweather on our way into Sitka.  The high speed ferry was nowhere to be seen yesterday but I was expecting him every minute until we got through the tricky bits.

Many years ago I went to Winter Haven in Florida so that Ron Scarpa could teach to me barefoot.  There was a guy there with us from Palm Springs.  It was February if I recall correctly.  The temperatures were dropping “way” down into the 50’s at night and “only” hitting the 80’s during the day.  Ron was convinced I needed some kind of wetsuit coat affair.  I finally asked him if it had anything to do with barefooting and he assured me it was only to keep me warm.  The poor sod from Palm Springs would get into the boat – in 80 degree weather remember – and his teeth would chatter so violently you could hear him all over the boat.

The next step for us is Rocky Pass.  We’ve had all sorts of advice, most of it conflicting, ranging from “You’re nutz, don’t go there, you’ll die or at the very least lose your boat” to “No problem, have fun, its a great place.” I think that a lot of the written advice is based on charts which were, until 2011, seriously out of date.  Combine that with state of the art electronics for the late 1990’s or early 2000’s and you would have a much different experience than what we can have today.  We plan to take our time, perhaps as long as three days to go the roughly 20 miles through the pass.  That way we can transit the tricky bits exclusively on high tides.  We’ve got really good current charts and we have George’s famous 360 degree scanning sonar which probably won’t do us a damn bit of good but may be a somewhat enjoyable way to pass time when we are going slow anyway.

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