June 28, 2010

Endicott Arm and Ford's Terror

Bald eagle lifts off the ice.

Arctic terns align at low tide.

The water in Endicott Arm has a milky turquiose color on account of the glacial activity pulverizing rock and putting it in suspension.

The denser ice has a blue color on account of .... some other reasons .. or this other thing...I think.

Glaucous wing seagulls

A juvenile eagle trying to keep as much distance as possible from the adult eagle - without leaving home.

Dan emerges from the quarter berth, chomping at the bit for his next turn at the tiller.

We snagged some smaller pieces of floating ice to mix into gin and tonics.

Freeny says this is pre-industrial water - since it takes a few hundred years for the water to pass from rain to glacier, to floating ice - so that makes it cleaner than Perrier.

John Muir paddled up Endicott Arm in 1879.

Black bear getting distracted from scraping mussels.

A true beast from the Animal Kingdom.

A Grizzly bear scavenges for shellfish at low tide.

Our anchorage at the terminus of Ford's Terror.

Killing time while we wait for the slack-water high tide at Ford's Terror. In between high and low tide, water races at 15 mph through a narrow break in immense glaciated granite mountains.

Even at slack-high, the water is boiling and running fast across a narrow shoal with poorly marked rocks. Fucking stressful.

Dan paddles out to retrieve water to top off our tanks.

Humpback whales mulling about Holkam Bay at the mouth of Endicott Arm
Kevin Patrick Freeny in the flat, gray shadow of Sumdum Glacier.

If you have a broad definition of the word 'dry', then you are never actually wet on the Alize.

June 23, 2010

Le Conte Glacier

This is a first for boat and crew alike. We creeped our way through a sea of broken iceberg chunks - or bergy bits, as we approached Le Conte Glacier. Le Conte is the most southerly tidewater glacier in North America.

Dan stood on the bow with binoculars to keep watch on the ice as we weaved a course to Indian Bay - a little anchorage which offered us temporary protection from the shifting and potentially dangerous ice.

Freeny kept his fancy video camera rolling and then cooked up a delicious Rice-a-roni lunch while Dan and I kayaked further into the bay.

No rest for the galley wench.

It is an odd thing to see blue glacier ice with such a temperate forest and climate as the backdrop.
Dan signals victory while quietly praying this ice block doesn't roll over while the shot is framed.
The mountains outside of Petersburg fall off into the mist as broken ice shifts north with the ebb tide.


Petersburg is tucked into the northern end of the Wrangell Narrows - it is an active fishing town founded by Elizabeth Buschmann's great great great grandfather - Peter Buschmann. In the 1890's Peter choose the location partly because him and his Scandinavian friends could carve ice out of the nearby Le Comte Glacier, then use the ice to store their fish. If you see Elizabeth around Seattle - you should buy her a beer - her ancestor put together a nice little town.

Stellar sea lions crowd in on channel marker '52' with Petersburg trailing off in the wake.

In the middle of Petersburg marina, Alize rests in the shadow of trollers, pure-seiners, gill netters, crabbers and long-liners.

This is the best crew shot we have so far. We just docked up at Meyers Chuck.

June 19, 2010


now that freeny is on board - we have a professional spotter for wildlife
- i think he is keying in on a common loon in this shot

approaching wrangell from Zimovia Straight

The sun is out - the tide is low - good friends are on board. We are in a nice little fishing town in Southeast Alaska - called Wrangell. I just bought a James Michener paperback called, Alaska - it is historical fiction. I have never read historical fiction.

We have crab legs in the live hold - and when I say live hold - I mean that the crab are dead and cooked and resting on block ice. Tomorrow - we sail through the Wrangell Narrows and then hook over to the most southerly glacier that rests at sea level, Le Comte Glacier - sounds French. I think we have entered into the easy part of the trip. Days are long. High pressure systems. Light winds. Lots of stuff to look at.

June 16, 2010


We crossed the international border somewhere along the West Dixon Entrance at 10 am on June 14, exactly one month after leaving Seattle. We threw Bruce Springsteen on the music box and yelled along to 'Badlands' with the Boss man.

After a stormy day crossing to and from Dundas Island, we rolled into Ketchikan the following afternoon with sunshine and calm seas.

Ashland was well represented at the customs dock as Kevin Freeny and Crystal Skille, and her son Ike, greeted us at Thomas Basin Marina.

Ketchikan is a cruise ship town but a good spot for re-provisioning the sailboat.

We just finished 2 days of rest and relaxation at Crystal's country cabin and are now heading North again.

Freeny has very generously offered to serve exclusively as galley wench - so as not to upset the power structure Dan and I have cultivated. Let's hope this lasts.

June 11, 2010

Day 27 at Sea: Rites of Passage

They say a man ain't no kind of man till he parks his skiff high and dry on the North Coast.

These photos probably look worse than it was or perhaps it was worse than it looks, but the important thing here is that the boat and crew suffered zero collateral damage from this event. Once the high tide rushed back in to Lowe Inlet, the boat returned to her happy buoyant self. She righted and shook the mud and barnacles off her hull. We started up the diesel and powered her back into Grenville Channel - never to return to that anchorage again.
The story begins the previous afternoon as Dan and I were making horrible headway up the long sinuous Grenville Channel - a 45 mile stretch of narrow fjord about three days shy of Alaska. A persistent ridge of high pressure had been sending us nothing but strong north winds for the past week. We have been taking this headwind like a bitter pill - right on the bow. Despite favorable currents, our speed over ground was reduced to a humbling 2.5 knots/hour. For reference, this is walking speed. But not a healthy vigorous walk, 2-3 knots/hour is a walker walk. It's about the speed of an old man hobbling down the sidewalk with a walker. This is good if you want to check out each mossy rock and waterfall as you sail past but not so good if you're trying to get from A to B.
So, we decided instead of walker-ing our way to Alaska - we would peel into the next anchorage that afforded us protection from strong northern gusts. Lowe Inlet was an easy decision. Charlie's Charts, the Douglas Guide and Pat Freeny's meticulous notes all agreed that Lowe was well sheltered. It also contains a historic fishing weir, a dramatic waterfall and offers the chance to watch bears scavenge the shoreline at low tide. Plus, Jonathon Raban stopped here and wrote a funny bit about it in, 'Passage to Juneau'. That sealed the deal for me - since Raban's book has served as a bit of a talisman throughout this journey. Damn you Raban.
We spent quite a bit of time deciding on the best spot to drop the anchor. We had a low tide when we dropped the hook, the depth sounder read 8 feet from the bottom. Through the night, the tide would rise to 18 feet above low water then down again to a five foot low at 7 am. My boat draws 5 feet. Anyway we knew we would be close to the bottom in the morning, so the plan was to wake up at 5 am, two hours before the low, check the depth, take in line or else move somewhere else.
Late at night, a williwaw sent strong gusts of North winds over the mountain saddle. I feared the winds would drag the anchor so I let out 30 more feet of line. This extra bit of line, when stretched horizontally with strong North gusts hovered us over a shallow shelf right around 4:30 am.
That was when Dan woke up to the awful sound of the keel settling into the muddy floor of Lowe Inlet. I woke up to Dan saying 'Curran, we gotta get out of here.'
In the dim dusk light I walked out to the bow and first noticed that the boat wasn't shifting down into the water while I moved about the deck. Then, neither the propeller nor winching the anchor line would budge the boat. That was it, we were grounded, and the tide had quite a bit more to fall.
This was the, 'oh shit' moment.
Minutes later, we began listing to port.
We moved everything from the starboard side to the port side, secured the plumbing, secured the electricity, battened down the hatches, got some food, water and clothes out of the boat and paddled to shore.
Aside from that, there is not much to tell. It was a very graceful dip. She laid down nice and easy in the soft sand, the tide reversed, by 9:30 she was back to bobbing on anchor. She didn't take on a single drop of water.
Onward and upward; what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We motor sailed into Prince Rupert today and are currently waiting out a storm before we cross Dixon Entrance and enter into Alaska.

Lowe Inlet is a popular anchorage on the Inside Passage, so there was a smattering of other boats on anchor that morning. As people woke up, we were curious who would come over and chat with us. I mentioned it would be cool if someone brought us some coffee while we waited for high tide. Mike showed up first (blue denim on the right) nice guy, Canadian - he had some advice on what to do if she didn't right herself as the water came in - but he didn't bring coffee. Then came Petunia and 'Uncle' Roy - they were missionaries from the Prince of Wales Island. Petunia brought a thermos of warm coffee. Very awesome. I will never bad mouth missionaries again, seriously. They sail the stout motor vessel, Coastal Messenger, into isolated communities up here and spread the good news regarding the Word. Either way, great people, they took our minds off the matter at hand.

And there she is, back to buoyant. Like it never happened.
I love this boat.


Butedale was an old cannery - it began at the turn of the century around the time Roosevelt pushed through the completion of the Panama Canal. Unlike the Canal - Butedale has fallen to shambles and Lou - is there to watch as each structure fails and slips back in to the Sea.

Lou is about as real as it gets. So real, we had to mike him so as to capture his stories for the ages. He lives alone at the crumbling Butedale ruins and when he realized that we were people that enjoyed hearing him talk, he proceeded to unload three hours of stories he had on back log, waiting to be set free. Most of these stories involved diesel engines and sunken boats.

These are Lou's animals, Bert the dog and Tiger the cat. Both were born on Butedale - and have never seen roads or cars - they only know Butedale.

A steep river turns a turbine wheel, the wheel turns a V-belt, the V-belt turns a Chevy alternator, the alternator generates 120 Volt AC electricity into an inverter, the inverter turns AC electricity into 12 volt DC lectricity, the 12 volt electricity tops off a battery bank, the batteries run Lou's freezer, the freezer freezes ice cream sandwiches, Lou sells the ice cream to boaters who tie up on the Butedale docks in the summer time.

Lou had us up on one of his roofs for a bonfire.

The land here is impenetrable. It seems inviting from afar, but as you attempt to walk into the wilderness it is impenetrable and uninviting. The temperate rainforest rises from the saltwater along granitic walls dense with thick walls of vegetation. Trails are few and far between. And then there are the horseflies and mosquitos and the bears.

We hiked up to this lake. The mosquitoes were so thick we couldn't open our eyes completely, so we had to take this picture to see what it looked like.

This is one of Lou's sunken boats. He assured us he was only waiting for the next strong low tide so that he could access the bottom of the hull and patch things up. I tend to believe him. He also thinks the diesel engine will start up as soon as he drains the water from the engine block and puts in some new oil - now this part makes me skeptical.

Navigating narrow fjords along the North Coast

It is hard to capture the sweeping landscapes of British Columbia with a picture, but that won't stop me from trying. Finlayson Channel - somewhere in the middle.

When you line up two of these glaciated valleys right next to each other, it almost looks like God found a comfy spot to rest his tookis.

The wiring is fixed on the autohelm - which means that on the quiet sections, we can fix the tillerpilot on a heading, thereby allowing the crew to move freely about the cabin.

You can read about a paragraph before needing to look up and check for floating logs.

The navigation table


The anchorages here are gorgeous - this is Miles Inlet - right under the nose of Queen Charlotte Sound. A little pocket of calm in the middle of open Seas.

Joe's Bay - a great little gunkhole.

Dan picked up a new pair of foulweather pants in Port McNeil.


Namu - at one point - was a bustling fishery and cannery. Much has been written about the collapse of the British Columbia fisheries industry - so i won't say too much about it. It is certainly erie to sail past these rotting relics - the symbolic image of plundered resources is painfully obvious. Both Namu and Butedale are occupied solely by caretakers who reside over the dilapitated buildings so as to prevent further vandalism and theft. We have really enjoyed the company of these caretakers. Very anachronistic.
I bet someone who reads this will know what kind of bird this is...?

This bike got me all around Seattle for about 3 years, I threw it on my boat when i left town and figured I would take it north till it started fouling the lines. When I saw that the caretakers Peter and Reanne rode a bike around the Namu ruins - I figured I would leave my bike with them to use and then to eventually become a part of the rotting cannery landscape. This picture depicts the final resting place of old trusty rusty. Godspeed.

Walls of shrimp meat cans.

June 2, 2010

Day 20 - waiting to round Cape Caution

Dan and I have made it through the narrow Johnstone Straight and are waiting for our weather window to cross Cape Caution - an outside section of the Inside Passage.

Day 19 - Campbell River

Dan has arrived!

We are in it to win it - all the way to Juneau.

Day 18 - rounding Cape Mudge

Cape Mudge put a hurt on me. Strong winds out of the south as I was trying to stay clear of the shallow shoals on the north end of Quadra Island en route to Campbell River.

The winds had been howling all night and so they whipped up some 3-5 foot breaking swells. The swells were coming in all the wrong directions so the best I could do is take them on the bow and watch as things flew about the cabin. The only distressing part of this episode was watching as my fruit hammock repeatedly knocked into a wooden post in my kitchen. Since I am alone at this point, I couldn't afford to let go of the tiller for even a minute. I had to watch over the course of 4 hours as all my fruit got pummeled into a puree that then splashed around the cabin.

As usual, I don't have any pictures depicting the rough moments - only the aftermath shots.

Looking forward to Dan joining the boat in a few days.

Day 17 - Cortez Island

I sailed solo across the Northern Straights of Georgia up into Gorges Harbor on Cortez Island. The shellfish are plentiful at low tide. Japanese (Pacific) oysters and butter clams are still free from shellfish poisoning this early in the seasoning. I met Sheri on the public dock at Gorges Harbor - she has been living on a small floating home named, 'Grassy Knoll' for about 16 years. She handed me a baked potato after tying up at the dock - that was the warmest reception I've received on a public dock.

The weather remains damp and blustery, but it hasn't bothered me yet.