July 31, 2011
First to arrive in Sitka were Nicki and Jan. Jan flew into Sitka bringing along both Jordy and our other mini-aussie Phoebe Buffey. Due to Phoebe’s timidity, we elected not to bring her on the original trip. Now that we have no more off-shore passages—we brought her along to enjoy the rest of the ride home. Nicki, Jan’s daughter, arrived later the same day, after spending an enjoyable but very wet week kayaking with her boyfriend in Ketchikan. Hearing stories of the bears she and Russell encountered in their campsites-made Jan happy to be exploring Alaska on a somewhat bigger boat.
Arriving in Sitka during the Fourth of July parade, both Touch Rain and Michael had some drying out to do— water not alcohol —and some R and R requirements.
Brendan and Ben fearing that the next ferry to Skagway wouldn’t be for four or five days—hurriedly packed. After a quick dinner in town and a more leisurely soak in the hot tub at the hotel, they caught the midnight ferry. All three guys found their fingertips didn’t thaw until after the first 15 minutes of emersion in the hot tub. Without heat on the boat, they were chilled through and through.
During the first few days, we spent $100 in quarters running the laundramat at the Super8. Jan spent mornings doing wash and afternoons hiking trails with Nicki and the dogs. The first four days passed quickly. Michael spent most days steadily emptying the boat of all cushions, covers and clothing. Even stored clothes and bedding had received a solid drenching during the passage.
Sitka, for those who haven’t visited, is a charming smaller town which shows its Russian roots in local building styles. Obviously, keeping fit when possible is a priority to local inhabitants. The town has invested well in a series of wonderful mud-free hiking trails, all within easy walking reach of downtown!
We were unable to move aboard the boat while Nicki was in town and extended our stay at the Super 8. Given the easy proximity to laundry facilities—and nightly soaks in the hot tub – we easily justified the luxury after the off-shore passage. The hotel was exceeding friendly to us and the two dogs and the benefits of the continental breakfasts and not having to rush to put the boat back in order gave us a nice little mini-vacation.
Once Nicki headed home, we concentrated our time on restoring order. By the time our friends Tom and Jenan Madden flew in from Seattle to spend a week with us on the boat, we were almost ready.
We had a wonderful week traveling along Peril Strait, Chatam Strait, and Frederick Sound. We anchored in Deep Bay, Baranof Warm Springs, Kake, Portage Bay, Thomas Bay and Petersburg. Michael and Jan enjoyed both the bath house hot tubs and the outdoor version at Bananof Warm Springs. If you haven’t hiked up the open-air tubs at the top of the waterfall, it’s well worth the effort—it’s amazingly beautiful and quite secluded. Jenan and Tom restricted themselves to the bathhouse by the dock—but enjoyed the experience.
It was fun for Michael to have Tom involved in plotting courses-and Tom served many hours at the helm giving Michael some time to read and relax. Given the costs of fishing licenses, and our limited time, we elected to purchase crab locally and were able to reproduce our summer favorite-crab salads for dinner. We continued our tradition of trading off cooking dinner and dishes everyone other night, providing a nice variety of fine meals without a lot of effort on any one person’s part.
Two captains on board and nary a “debate”. Unfortunately by the time they left, Jan was totally addicted to playing Every Word on her Kindle—
Peterberg was a very nice surprise—and we would recommend it as a stop—it’s a fishing town—more involved with commercial fishing than tourism—but has a couple of great restaurants, and some nice hikes from town.
When Tom and Jenan left in Petersberg, we had one day before our friends Steve and Lisa Hodgson from Olympia arrived. In spite of packing lightly-Steve had managed to stow six wonderful bottles of wine—including two bottles Michael and Steve had made before we left for our trip (a sauv blanc and a cab franc). We provisioned and prepared quickly. We only had four days to complete the 110-mile passage from Petersberg to Juneau. We headed back north towards Juneau, seeing many humpback whales, glaciers, ice bergs and bergie bits, eagles, and Michael’s favorite bird up here — ravens. During this stretch, we stopped in Portage Bay, Gambier Bay, Taku Harbor. Although we did some long runs, the passages were in general four to six hours. We managed to fit in some tasty dinners—always accompanied by fine wine. Michael and Jan estimated that more fine wine was consumed during this four day stretch than the entire time spent in Mexico.
Steve proved himself to be an able helmsman-he also spotted more whales than the rest of us—clearly having an eagle eye. Although we were disappointed that the whales remained in the distance, on a boat of our size—this is clearly the safer option. Although their visit was very short, we enjoyed the time spent with Steve and Lisa aboard and appreciated their cheerful participation in our nightly ritual—the fireman brigade routine of “slepping” many, many duffle bags from the aft cabin to the settee which is required to provide sleeping accommodations for four.
Following several recommendations, we elected to park the boat in Auke Bay, about 11 miles north of Juneau, rather than heading downtown. We are now at the marina waiting to have some work done on the transmission. Luckily, we are still under warranty—so the manufacturer is sending out a replacement transmission. Ah, yet again fixing the boat in exotic places.
Timing is just about everything in cruising, and our arrival in Juneau coincided with that of Michael’s brother, Geoffrey, and another of our friends from Olympia, Kris Sparks. Kris was in town for a conference on rural health issues. We had a wonderful couple of visits with her. On the night she left, the weather cooperated nicely, and we were able to share the French champagne she brought with her while enjoying dinner in Touchrain’s cockpit. Kris and her husband Randy were crew for our Baja Ha Ha adventure last fall.
We had a nice visit with Geoffrey and his wife Debbie before they headed out with their guests on a one-week charter around Admiralty Island. They were kind enough to lend us their 15-person van while they are gone—so we have wheels! We are also spending some time looking for a used fiberglass dinghy. We are ready to give up the struggle with the inflatable and looking forward to being able to go to shore at will. The first time Michael headed into shore with the dogs at Portage Bay—a mussel encrusted rock-slashed a five-inch wound into the dinghy—leaving us dependent on the kindness of strangers to hitch rides to shore.
One of the really best aspects of Alaska, in addition to absolutely breathtaking scenery everywhere we go, has been the numerous hiking trails within close proximity. Juneau boasts of having more miles of hiking trails than roads. Yesterday we spent a warm sunny day walking more than 7 miles on the Kaxigoowu Heen Dei trail—This multi-use trail set up for bikes, horse, and hikers extends from Brotherhood Bridge all the way to the Mendenhall Glacier.
July 04, 2011
Quick note by Jan while Michael sleeps:
Touchrain arrived in Sitka Alaska today after a 19 day passage from Kauai. All are well. Their arrival co-insided with the Sitka Fourth of July Parade. Details of passage to follow—but their last night at sea brought a gale and all aboard were much relieved to reach dry land.
Michael joined Jan, her daughter Nicki and the two dogs in the Super 8 Motel! Ben and Brendan joined them for a quick hot tub, laundry tasks and headed off to catch the midnight ferry to Juneau. Oh, the energy of youth!
Michael was relieved to have a warm, dry place to sleep—everything below on Touchrain is soaked following the passage. Drying our cushions will prove to be much more complicated than following passages to Mexico and Hawaii where laying everything on the deck for a few hours worked a charm.
Michael estimates it will take him a minimum of 7 days to put the boat back in shape mechanically……a very eventful passage.
The ship they sailed from Hawaii with pulled in to a slip within a couple of hours. (Witte Raffe)
June 28, 2011
Yesterday was whale day.
In the morning, we saw an Orca probably 40 feet or less to starboard, swimming in the same direction we were traveling. Later that afternoon, we had four or five whales
June 28, 2011
The following are a series of entries based on e-mail received from TouchRain to Jan Wilson here in Olympia—the two days not appearing in the series are posted as separate blogs:
Winds have lightened to about 6-8 knots and we are gliding along at about 5 knots. The sun is trying to poke through the clouds and fog for the first time in days. That would be uplifting and a boost to the old battery banks.
P.S. Wind back up and we are sailing at more than six knots.
RE: GPS Failure We have multiple back ups, on laptop, two handhelds, old chartplotter, and even Brendan’s Iphone. Not a problem now, but we’ll want it when we explore the nooks and crannies of Alaska.
I baked chicken and potatoes for the boys last night. Good meal for a cold gray evening. Thanks.
Wind is picking up and we appear to reaching the westerlies, above the high. We are just north of SF, just over 1,000 miles from Hawaii. So we have a bit less than 1,500 left to go. We did actually gain on our companion boat, witte raaf, which surprises me. We are about 200 miles ahead of them but left about 20 hours before them.
Chartplotter GPS is not working and I cannot diagnose. Basically makes Chartplotter useless. If you can find an email address for Raymarine technical support, that would be helpful. I need to know if there is any reason the unit (Raystar 125) could be getting power (I tested at the head) but not have any lights blinking, other than a defective unit
Every night we look for the green flash, but we have not seen it yet.
Winds lightened up again to about 6 knots, but we are still sailing. Have used about 10 gallons of fuel. Tank holds 50 and we have 20 in jugs.
We’ve had a very nice sailing day, capped off by some watermelon! Thanks. The boys salute you.
We motored part of the night but the winds came back up a bit. We are gliding along at 5 knots under sunny skies. Main and headsail. Seas pretty calm. What a change.
Light winds and slow moving, but we have engine off, the spinnaker up, and just had a visit from several dozen dolphins.
No wind. We must have hit the first high. Will motor for a while, then it’s drift, drift, drift. Will send more later.
Ben made some great Mexican hotdogs for lunch. Failing to find the ketchup, we used picante salsa. Was great.
We’ll, at least today we have the glorious sailing we’ve been waiting for. Blue skies, flatter seas (rolling) and 7 knots of boatspeed.
We have some taken some measures to deal with the bilge water issue that should hold us until Alaska. Glad I brought spares of a lot of stuff. Sailng has been very fine, if a bit rocky and bumpy on this close reach course. When we get near the high, it should be more downwind and a bit more comfortable. We’ve had a few other small hardware failures, but nothing significant. Monti is doing well.
We have been a bit preoccupied. Think Barra squared. There appears to be a design deficiency in the boat. The anchor below deck locker bilge pump is tied into the hose that drains the above deck anchor compartment. At a deep heel, the above deck does not drain overboard, but rather flows back into the anchor locker below deck. With all the green water we’ve been taking, that has meant many, many gallons of water flowing downward into the boat. They overwhelmed the new bilge pump in the below deck anchor locker and burnt it up. We are testing various alternatives now. With the forward cabin stripped — taking over the main cabin — and water being ferried through by the bucket load — some spillage in these seas — and you can imagine the living conditions. To top it off, on my 4 am watch, a “rogue” wave deposited 15 gallons down the companion way. We now keep the top closed.
the crew — remain in great spirits — Brendan summed it up as we were eating curried chicken last night. He said, “And why couldn’t we bring Jan along?”
We left yesterday, Wednesday, at about 1600. We have covered nearly 150 miles in less than a day, so the sailing has been fast. I have two young sailors with me, thank goodness, Brendan and Ben. We are all doing well. You can see our daily position reports on Yotreps. Just google it. We are Wdf3813. That is our ships call sign. We have slowed a bit, giving me a chance to write. We hope to be in Sitka in abo three weeks.
June 25, 2011
Later today we will pass the halfway point to Sitka from Kaui. Yesterday the north Pacific arrived. We had to put on foulies in the cold fog and today it is raining. The water is no longer brilliant blue and it feels colder than the 64 degrees the thermometer reads. All that said, we are moving along nicely at 6+ knots. Winds should stay pretty strong. They are in the mid-teens to low twenties. We dropped the main last night and are now broad reaching on port tack with just a partially furled headsail. Waves are about 2-3 feet, with much larger swells from the west regularly thudding against the hull. Best bet at this point is we may make it to Sitka July 5 or 6. We are hoping for Independence day, but seems unlikely and if we get light or northerly winds, could be later. Spirits are good, helped by Jan’s great provisioning. Other than meal time, our favorite times are when we can go off watch and snuggle into a sleeping bag. Then I remember the night before last when the dolphins talked to me in the black of night as we sat becalmed in the Pacific High. TIME: 2011/06/25 18:47 LATITUDE: 41-15.51N LONGITUDE: 157-30.26W COURSE: 022T SPEED: 6.2
May 23, 2011
TIME: 2011/06/19 20:57
COMMENT: Bumpy sail close hauled as we head due north in 16-25 knot winds.
Touch Rain left Nawiliwili on Kaui June 15 on a 2,500-nautical mile passage to Sitka, Alaska. The same day, Jan and Jordy flew back to Olympia to take care of some lose ends at home. We will meet back up in Sitka in early July.
The crew for the passage includes Michael and Brendan and Ben, Two sailing friends of Michael’s daughter Ellie and her boyfriend, Alex. Brendan and Alex helped bring the boat down the west coast to San Diego last August.
All I (Michael) have to say is, “Thank goodness for young muscle and enthusiasm.” Brendan and Ben have been great through the first four days of this expected 21-day passage. And there have been challenges. These involved the first rule of boating — “keep the water on the outside of the boat.”
We had not even got out of sight of land when one of our water tanks started leaking at the top. Lesson — don’t depend too heavily on screws to remain water tight. Just about the time we cleaned that up, we hit some rough seas
- we were close hauled - that sent a lot of green water over the bow. Water came pouring into the shower, overflowing onto the head floor. I tore out the ceiling liner above the shower to find water spurting through two holes that a previous owner (PO) had filled with caulking rather than proper epoxy filler. After years, the caulking had just disappeared. As a temporary measure, we screwed a couple lag screws up from below to stem the flow.
Following that, a somewhat more serious water issued showed up. Our deck anchor bilge pump line and moulded in anchor locker were tied into same outlet. As green water came over the bow, and into the above deck locker, it siphoned below deck to the anchor locker, overwhelming and ultimately burning out the bilge pump. This overflowed into the cabin. We removed dozens of bucket loads of water and put a fix in place that should last til Sitka. Suffice it to say, it involved rescue tape, a garden hose, a spare bilge pump and various other items.
All that whining dispensed with, we are now sailing under blue skies. The seas are still messy but wind and boat speeds remain quite nice. This is good since we are closing in on the Pacific High, where wind will drop dramatically and air temperatures will be cooler. Could be very slow for a few days. We are hoping to skirt the west side of the high for better winds and wind direction, but the high keeps changing location. This sailing stuff is a lot of lucky timing as well as art and science.
We have been eating quite well so far, mainly due to Jan’s advance planning, prepared meals, and good foresight in telling Brendan where everything is rather than relying upon me. Her chicken curry and penne pasta were outstanding, as were the blueberry muffins and brownies that Brendan baked. And we now actually have enough space in the fridge to keep a couple of beers cold.
Onward to Alaska.
May 22, 2011
Hilo to Lahaina – May 19-20
After buckets of rain in Hilo for a few weeks, the sun came out just in time for Angus, my son, and I to take the boat to Lahaina. While Jan returned to Washington State for her daughters’ – Nicki and Robyn – graduation from WSU Vet School, Angus and I snorkeled and visited the botanical gardens on the big island, and spent some time repairing things on the boat.
Oh well, cruising really is fixing your boat in exotic places.
We also had some wonderful visits with our brother-in-law, Randall, and sister-in-law, Alison, who met us at Hilo after a long voyage from Galapagos. They also plan to head to Alaska, but because of some mechanical issues, may be trailing us — see their tripsailor site for the boat Tregoning.
We left Hilo at about 0940 on May 19 and arrived in Lahaina just after 0700 the following morning. It was a pretty fast trip of some 125 miles in less than 22 hours. As forecast, winds were from the east –behind us – at 15-25 knots. Seas were 8’-10’. Fairly messy, but not terrifying.
We hooked up at a mooring ball provided by the Lahaina Yacht Club. That group is very helpful and provides some free services, including showers. Yacht club restaurant also has a great view. The mooring is a fair distance from the marina – no slips available –where we tied the dinghy up for trips to town.
It is a rolly anchorage and was a bit tricky transferring bags and Jordy back and forth. But there was a great park just near the docks where Jordy loved to play ball, so we made the trip a lot.
Lahaina is the driest spot in the islands and we really did not get any rain there, other than an inconsequential sprinkle or two. Very touristy. More to come about Lahaina later.
April 26, 2011
Well we have absolutely been slackers since checking into Hilo Harbor early on Monday morning, April 25th. After gleefully testing and telephoning most friends and relatives we could reach—we have been virtually silent on this blog site since.
Checking In Process
We cannot say enough about the ease of the customs process here in Hilo. The customs officer worked with us via e-mail prior to our arrival and sent us specific instructions to facilitate the process. At his direction—we jettisoned all fresh produce left on boat-leaving a trail of Mexican limes-heading back to Puerto Vallarta.
Our second step was to complete the 5-day or less quarantine process to get Jordy officially checked into Hawaii—and cleared to go to shore. Jan had begun the arduous process approximately 6 months ago by having blood drawn and sent to the lab to verify that Jordy’s titers showed her to be rabies free. For anyone trying to duplicate this process the instructions can be found on www.rabiesfree.hawaii.gov .
Next part of this process was to hire a private veterarian to come to the habor and perform a health exam and provide us with a clean health certificate. Jan discovered Dr. Skip Pease while reading another sailing blog written by some folks who had travelled with a cat aboard. Once we landed he was able to come to the harbor within the hour and declare Jordy pest-free! Next a livestock inspector from the Department of Agriculture came and collected the health certificate-verified Jordy’s Microchip number—and handed us the paperwork for Jordy to go ashore. By 2:00 p.m. we were all three riding in the back of the truck catching a ride to our first meal out in over three weeks. Cheese burgers in Paradise!
April 25, 2011
As this blog is written, TouchRain is in the home stretch.
Yes, we are all very excited about being on the final miles towards Hawaii. Beginning two days ago-small birds were commonly visible fishing in the waves. TouchRain also seems overly anxious to get there and I had to wake Michael multiple times on my night watches last night to make sail adjustments. Careening along at over 8 knots in the middle of the night simply doesn’t seem prudent. At this point (it’s around 8:25 a.m. here) we are still going 6.5 knots with a faint handkerchief of a genoa.
Michael will be glad of another two pairs of hands for foredeck work on our leg from Hawaii to Alaska later in June.
Our chart plotter alternates between 20 and 30 hours ETA times, depending on angle and speed. Which would either get us there in the wee morning hours (which I vote for)-or having to hove to waiting for daylight.
We have a vet lined up to examine Jordy when we arrive and have already provided our documentation information to the customer officer in Hilo. I only hope the official check in portion of the rabies free exam performed by the State of Hawaii doesn’t cause her to be unable to leave the boat for a while after we arrive. She deserves to go to land-poor girl.
Starting later today we will begin to jettison all fresh veggies/fruit and meat prior to going into Harbor. Luckily I don’t seem to have overstocked. We do, however, have extra meat on board primarily due to the size of the Mahi Mahi we caught. We have now have 3 dinners—quite enough I think. The last one was curry and was delicious. We plan to use the last of our chicken and potatoes for a chicken and french fry Easter dinner.
I suspect it will be easier to write a fuller debrief of our voyage once Hilo is achieved. It’s not necessary to be tremendously superstitious to understand the downfalls of counting your chickens before they are hatched!
April 22, 2011
The stars are back. Last night as I began my first night watch, the sky was full of stars. The cloud mass which has been with us fairly constantly on this leg, finally cleared. Stars filled the sky in a way I hadn’t seen since leaving Mexico. Standing outside the bimini, I spent my first hour watching the stars, Touch Rain cutting smoothly through the water, throwing up phosphorescence in her wake, and listening to Rod Stewart sing love songs.
Truly one of those magical watches you inevitably hear about when discussing off-shore passages with almost any sailor. Hard for me to believe, until I got here, that the middle of the night could really be such wonderful time of day. The stars didn’t disappear until the moon rose several hours later, providing adequate compensation for their loss.
These are the moments which allow one to forget and discount those uncomfortable, stomach bouncing, intimidating moments which can make up an off-shore passage. Starting my day on such a positive note, encouraged me to write down for this blog my five most favorite things about the past few days.
1. The confident, effective way Touch Rain glides through the water. One expectation which has come to life is the consistent speed with which the winds provide our passage to Hilo. It’s intimidating to begin a 2,800-mile passage with enough diesel fuel for approximately 450, but the winn Gods have provided well. Day and night, Touch Rain, with only a headsail, moves between 5.2 and 6.8 knots.
2. Playing travel Scrabble with Michael in the cockpit. A fun easy distraction which helped pass several hours.
3. The leisure time to spend hours and hours reading without any residual guilt. I’ve been reading at least one book a day—the added bonus being the wonderful discoveries of books and authors which came into our possession based on the available books for trade in our last several ports. The previously undiscovered author—what a treasure.
4. Downloading our sail mail in-box and discovering delicious letters from friends and family. What a unexpected pleasure to stay in touch with our “old life” in this manner. It’s fun to be so tuned in from a distance that we know many of our friends will be gathered at the Wine Loft for wine tasting. It is nice to feel that connection.
5. Discovering that I do like bearded men. It’s been interesting to see the new stranger living on board with me. With his long hair, it’s almost time to teach him to braid, and an almost full beard—I love looking over and see this very attractive stranger looking at me with a familiar smile.
Guess I need to add a sixth favorite-every dinner we’ve had on board. We are really eating well. Dinner is the highlight of the day—when all three of us join together in the cockpit. We put up the table, lay down our non-skid mats, and pour half a beer or sparking water each. Once I serve the plates, each person must hold firmly to plate and fork. Every night I think of my father, who was such a stickler for table manners.
“Sorry Ernie”, I say. Because without firmly planting ones elbows on the table, blocking the plate from sliding, it would be impossible to even sit up at the table, much less finish your meal. Can’t even imagine what he would think of our dog, Jordy, sitting beside Michael, eagerly awaiting her share!