September 15, 2010

120 days at Sea and 2,840 nautical miles.

Very late on a Monday evening, the Alize' is shuffled through the Ballard Locks and into the stagnant water of Seattle's shipping canal.

Back into the grubby hands of Babylon -

The Alaskan voyage is over.

For an excellent detailed post on the travel distance from Seattle to nearby harbors and marinas, please follow this link.

September 11, 2010

Ryan Miller checks in for the final leg

Springer is out and Miller is in -

Rolling into the homeland - customs clearance at Friday Harbor - the end is in sight.

Sailing into Vancouver Harbour

Vancouver - city of blue tinted glass and high density progressive internationals.

Making way into False Creek under the Burrard Bridge.

The 'China Steel Excellence' waits patiently in English Bay for its next assignment.

Springer returns triumphant to his city.

Desolation Sound

A strong westerly came down Johnstone Strait and into the Northern Desolation Sound Island group.

This made for a fast downwind sail - and then it picked up a bit more and blew out the main sheet tackle.

The blown out traveler and the jury rig main sheet tackle.

Tying up on abandoned pier pilings makes for a bad night sleep.

Broughton Archipelago

After returning from the hardscrabble northern regions of the Inside Passage - tucking into the Broughton Island Group felt a little soft. The 'Soft'en Archipelago. We knew we had returned to the leisurely class when we woke up at an anchorage and found the blue hulled 'Princess' bobbing next to us.

After a slow day moving south through the Broughton's - Steve needed some alone time.

Steve finally realizes why Steinbeck's 'The log from the Sea of Cortez' is so quotable for biologist's power point presentations.

Sullivan Bay is sort of the Disneyland of BC port towns. On par with Skagway in regards to faux- 'old-timey'.
another Steve Springer creation -

The Alize' at rest among the Namu ruins.

Bow riding porpoise

Clearing Cape Caution

Bottleneck Inlet - the most symmetrical anchorage of the entire trip.

Klemtu is a stunning native town just below Finlayson channel. Salmon were jumping, the sun was out and the locals were in rare form.

The Klemtu long house.

The Kitlope Wilderness in Douglas Channel - I heard great things about this stretch of water - but this is as close as we got - the entrance. The Kitlope stone remains unturned.

Miles Inlet remains the nicest way to recover from the exposed crossing of Cape Caution.

Heading south down central British Columbia

Helmsman Springer sails the turn into Seaforth Channel - a partially exposed section of central British Columbia.

Oarsman Steve Springer shows Lake Namu what's what. We caught and ate some incredibly tiny rainbow trout in this lake.

The 'Chilcoot Princess' crashed into the decaying dock at Namu - and then just stuck around in a state of benign neglect.

Dominic and Karolina - a very nice Polish couple we met sailing the Inside Passage.

September 6, 2010

Northern British Columbia: Sailing through Douglas Channel

Paul Nicklen, a photographer for National Geographic was on assignment in Douglas Channel to raise awareness on a recent attempt by Enbridge to transport oil tankers across the ecosystem.

Paul is using Pat Freeny's sailboat, 'Nirvana' as his base of operation while searching for the elusive spirit bear, Ursus americanus kermodei, in the isolated islands of the region.

Apparently this guy takes good pictures because there was a 10 person film crew at the Kitimat dock capturing footage of him loading his gear onto 'Nirvana'.

Father and son filleting a good sized halibut and lingcod.

The Alize' rests at the dock of Bishop Bay Hot Springs.

No shortage of rain in the Great Bear Rainforest.

southbound: Kitimat to Vancouver

Stevan Springer arrived in northern British Columbia in style - with a Cuban pork roast sandwich for the skipper, air delivered in an iced cooler from the kitchen of Paseo in Seattle straight to the desolate aluminum smelting town of Kitimat.

August 17, 2010

Clarence Strait: Petersburg to Canada

There is no gender bias on the Alize'.

Every man, woman or child takes their turn hauling anchor.

Brianna brought a level of sailing experience and enthusiasm that was unprecedented by previous crew members on the voyage (no offense fellas). She hails from the rich sailing culture of Missoula, Montana - where she skippers her own boat in Flathead Lake.

Her expertise was timely because we had high winds and high seas as we crossed the Dixon Entrance into Canada. As usual - none of these high seas are captured in photos.

The second day was notable for its lack of visibility. This only became a concern when we realized we were spinning backwards in tide rips and the engine's water intake had cut out.

But all issues were quickly remedied and we continued south through Snow Passage.

We flew the new spinnaker on a leisurely day before crossing Dixon Entrance.

Salmon continue to spill their blood on the decks of the Alize'.

All in all - it was a pretty chill section - Dixon Entrance notwithstanding

And we ran into the Time Bandit from 'Deadliest Catch' outside of Mektalatka - they were living large.

Baird Glacier and another crew rotation.

This ice represents the final glacier cocktail of the Alaska voyage. We visited Baird glacier in Thomas Bay - but due to huge outwash rivers, could not get onto the glacier. So we busied ourselves by collecting floating icebergs - which kept the ice chest cold for many days. And it gave Ryan a bittersweet 'good-bye' gin and tonic. Not Sapphire, but certainly Bombay.

After a 24 hour re-provision in Petersburg - Ryan is off the boat and Brianna is on the boat till Prince Rupert.

Chatham Strait: Angoon to Baranof Island

Angoon is a beautiful town - a Tlinget community - on the eastern shores of Chatham Strait. But it is a dry town and so it is best not to show up there with a hankering for a cold draft beer - because - that's not their thing. They have other things - but not that one. So, we headed back out to the Straits at sunset - looking for that elusive cold beer.

Incidentally, we would not find a cold beer until Petersburg - about 7 days later. But, the sail that night was one of my favorites from the entire trip. Just perfect winds and nice lighting. Ryan brought out his fish eye lens to class up these shots.

sea mammals and salmon in Chatham Strait

Dalls Porpoise bow riding the Alize'.

Ryan got a beautiful shot of this porpoise right in the middle of a very fast rooster kick.

A single salmon provides about 3-4 meals on the Alize', so we have been bringing one in ever couple of days to keep the Omega 3's up.

and another one.

Harbor seals line up like a team of neoprene clad divers.

An Orca patrols the top of Chatham Strait.

Another very difficult shot by Ryan - a Humpback in mid-breach caught with a telephoto lens.

gorgeous tail-lob.

Ryan takes the helm.

Heading down Chatham Strait: Chichagof Island

Pavlof Harbor is famed for its grizzy residents. We saw this hungry fellow as the tide dropped. Many salmon were flopping around the bay right next to him - but he wasn't about to jump in the water and throw out a disc trying to land one.

He patiently paced the intertidal rocks, sniffing about and waiting for a salmon to get trapped in a tidepool.

I am sure this is an energetically efficient strategy - but we didn't see him snag any leftover salmon that evening - and he looked really thin.

So, it might be time for him to step it up a bit.

Blue mussel shells collecting in dune-like clusters along the coastline at Hawk Inlet.

The Alize' alone and at rest in Basket Bay.

as the tide recedes.

Chichagof Island houses all sorts of gems. Basket Bay has a limestone cave at the head of the anchorage. Fortunately, Ryan just finished his doctorate in geology so he could help make sense of the rock situation over here - turns out its a jumbled mess of a little bit of everything.

At high tide, we portaged our kayaks over the Pavlof waterfall and found a freshwater lake.

Two eagles kept a discerning watch on our portage.

Photo credits: Ryan Peterson

Tenakee Springs on Chichagof Island

After not hanging for 20 years - it is best to cut the formalities and head straight to a men's only hot spring - for a good soak.

We thought the interior of the hot spring looked like a Thai prison cell.

departing Juneau and heading south with Ryan Peterson

If the Alize' wants to avoid wintering in Alaska - she must turn tiller and head south before the days get any shorter. goodbye Juneau and your gargantuan cruise ship culture.

The boat is re-provisioned.

and the diesel engine is maintained -

and the next crew rotation brings in a friend from wayback - Ryan Peterson - the guy I used to blow up GI Joes with in third grade. Haven't seen him much since then - but here he is - ready to go.

All the high quality images from the Juneau south to Petersburg jaunt are his handiwork.

He is excused for bringing so many bags because one of them held a bunch of fancy camera lens's and another one held food.

July 29, 2010

Margerie Glacier

This was the farthest North the Alize' will be sailing. We reached the top of Glacier Bay at the junction between Margerie Glacier - the brilliant blue one and Grand Pacific - the dirty black one. The face of Margerie is 250 feet high and 2 miles wide. The glacier stretches 21 miles down a valley - fed by a massive ice field - the glacier is slowly marching into the saltwater at an equal rate to the formation of ice at the top of the valley. So, this glacier is deemed stable.

This is the spot where we dropped the anchor and spent the night. We fell asleep listening to chunks of ice calving off the glacier - the Tlinget call the sound, 'white thunder'.

Some of the front fingers of the glacier calved off while I was kayaking near the cliffs. You can see the wave generated in the bottom of this picture.

Black-tailed Kittiwakes colonize the cliffs adjacent to the glacier.

Down time on the Alize'

It's not all bears and breaching whales, there are also lots of power naps and quiet introspective moments on the Alize'.

Micah briefs himself on local birds while Kitson tries to ignore the soaking wet auto-tiller line pressing on his thigh.

Micah takes his turn in the quarter berth.

Micah holds court in the cockpit.

This concoction is named the 'Harry Fielding' - named after the geologist who analyzed the glacier which is now chilling the gin cocktail.

The engine overheated when a long section of bull kelp sucked into the water intake - so this meant a chilly dip below for the captain.

Hoonah is a native town that was formed as a result of the recent glacial maximum in the 1700's when advancing glaciers chased the Tlinget from their idyllic life foraging and hunting in Glacier Bay - across Icy Strait and into a new bay that was not choked with ice.

At some point in the process they built a nice bar there called 'The Office'.

Grizzly bears feed on Humpback whale carcass

    We received a hot tip from Kevin 'Linblad' Freeny that a dead humpback whale had beached itself on a rocky shore halfway up the main channel of Glacier Bay National Park. Rumor had it that the whale had become a feeding ground for Grizzly bears and wolves.

     We sailed into this shore, deployed the kayaks and found a rotating pack of 4 or 5 grizzlies vying for hearty portions of rancid whale blubber.

The alpha of the pack stands on hind legs to peer over the carcass and check whether other bears were daring to approach the feast.

After determining the others were cowering subserviently at a distance, the alpha returns to the feast.

Stopping occasionally to stare blankly at us.

and then back to the whale meat.

if the smaller bears could just get near the whale meat then maybe they would also get distended stomachs ... then perhaps they would get a chance to throw their weight around....
but it is not in the cards today - when alpha is not eating he is patrolling.

Alpha continues scraping meat off of the massive whale ribs.

Micah surveys the scene from the Aliz'e

 Ryan points out another approaching bear while trying to maintain composure.

Ryan bought this really nice digital camera that can fit a giant telephoto lens - but Nikon hasn't released the lens yet or something like that - so, with no ability to zoom, Ryan resorted to holding up one end of my binoculars against his camera to get this shot of me getting way too close to the Grizz.

Grizzlies will double their size in the summer time (from 300-400 pounds to 600-900 pounds) as they gorge on salmon, shellfish and the occasional whale carcass - before heading back up the hill to hibernate through the winter.

July 28, 2010

Glacier Bay - Reid Glacier

Glacier Bay did not exist when Captain Vancouver and Captain Cook passed by in the late 1700's because the glaciers extended right up to the mouth of Icy Strait.

About half of the current park had melted into deep fjords when John Muir paddled up with native Tlingets in 1879.

When we entered in mid-summer 2010 it was pretty damn thawed out - but there is still lots of ice to explore.

Joe and Muz Ibach built a cabin in Reid Valley before it became a National Park. We tried to find the cabin using Kim Heacox's book, The Only Kayak, as a guide. We never found it - but that is not to slander Kim. We all like Kim's book - we just never found the cabin. But we did find some of Joe's mining claims.

This is the only timer picture from our journey with the three of us in the frame. We just walked up the shoulder of Reid glacier. Reid is not a shiny blue glacier - its a dirty glacier, but that shouldn't take away from the shot.

Three old friends resting on their haunches on a dirty, receding glacier.

Kitson knew the glacier would be grayish, so he planned his wardrobe accordingly.

Reid Glacier was a tidewater glacier but in the past few years it has receded to the point where only a high tide will slap salt water at its ankles. It is enjoying its last few months of enjoying tidewater status.