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GSSR #14 - Wild Times in Petersburg

Greetings all!

Total Distance: 5,276 nm
Run so far: 913 nm
Nautical Miles to go: 4,363 nm
Tomorrow's goal: At Anchor



Greetings all!

To reach the town of Petersburg, Alaska from Wrangell, Alaska, it is necessary to transit the 'Wrangell Narrows,' a 21 mile stretch of very narrow water, with  currents that can run three to four knots. The narrows are used by cruise ships, ferries, and fishing boats. An interesting feature of the narrows is that they flood from both directions. In other words, the current moves two different directions, within the narrows, at the same time! If you time it right, you can be pushed by the current for the first half, and then when the current turns around, ride the current again through the second half of the narrows.

On Sans Souci, I wasn't as concerned with trying to ride the current through the narrows, as I was with finding a time with fairly light currents, that would put me into Petersburg at, or near, slack tide. I had never been to Petersburg before, and didn't want to tangle with entering a strange marina in a strong current. On the chart it appeared that the Petersburg marina might have current running through it, as some marinas do. Later, I discovered that it is well sheltered from the current, but, I didn't know this at the time.


After some time studying the tide tables, I plotted our exact time that we should be at every point along our route. To ensure we didn't arrive early, or late, we checked our time against this chart at every waypoint, and sped up, or slowed down, according to how we were doing. I timed everything based on 8 knots, figuring it was better to run slow, so that if we needed more speed, I'd have it available.



Entering Wrangell Narrows.



Wrangell Narrows has an amazing number of aids to navigation. It is an extremely well marked channel.

The cruise ship lanes are marked on the charts. I set my course to run down the center of them, but always tried to be thinking about which way I would dodge if a cruise ship did come along.



We had good luck in timing. No cruise ships, ferries, or much of anything else did cross our path. Above is a picture of one fishing boat that was southbound. Note how close he is, and imagine how this picture would look if he were a cruise ship.

We did pass one another, much smaller, fishing boat, who was fishing dead center in the traffic lane. As we approached, I assumed he would get out of the way. Instead, he waved for me to pass him. This would put me in shallower water, so I ground to a halt, and waited for him to fish his way across the lane. However, this was a very stubborn fisherman, and he insisted in staying in the lane, even knowing I was waiting. Ultimately, I did get around him,  but it wasn't easy. I can't imagine running Wrangell Narrows in July!


We passed a lot of houses on the shore..

Overall, the run was anticlimatic, and easier than expected. The Petersburg marina was well protected from the current, and easy to get into.



Here's a picture of Sans Souci sitting in the Petersburg marina. As you can see, we felt a little out of place! I suspect this is how it will be from here to Japan; lots of commercial fishing boats, plus us.

Petersburg is a very cool town! Apparently, a lot of people, of Norwegiain heritage, live there, and we happened to arrive during their annual Norwegian festival.





It's Roberta in the picture petting the horse. I didn't get the photo, but just after this, the little kid dropped an apple slice, and Shelby our dog, and the horse, each went for the Apple. Shelby lost, but fun was had by all.







My sense was that 99% of the people at the parade were locals, not tourists. I'm not sure exactly what was being celebrated, but everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. The whole town shut down for the parade, and the locals seemed evenly divided between those in the parade, and those on the sideline.

The crews of Grey Pearl, Seabird, and Sans Souci, decided it was time to go 'pubbing.' To properly prepare, I spent the afternoon watching an old Patrick Swayze film; Roadhouse. Pubs seem to figure prominently in many Alaskan towns.

The pub, Harbor Bar, was packed elbow to elbow. We were lucky to find a table for the six of us. I had purchased "Extra Tuff" boots, in an effort to look Alaskan, but we were quickly spotted as out-of-towners, and attracted the attention of several locals. After a few adult beverages, one attractive young lady offered to show us her tattoos, for two dollars, which turned out to be money well spent. Another stopped by to ask if Roberta was my wife. When I said yes, she walked away, only to return a few minutes later and ask Steven (Seabird) about  Carol. Once more rejected, she left for a bit before returning for her third strike (Braun).

Our plan had been to attend a dinner that was part of the festival; a Norwegian smorgasbord at the local Elks club. However, our new Alaskan friends convinced us it would be much more fun to go to the Beachcomber Restaurant, a short 15 minutes out of town, where the Pickled Herring band was playing. A $20 taxi ride later, we discovered that the Beachcomber was already overflowing with people, and even the offer of a generous contribution to the hostess' childs college fund wouldn't help. Back to the taxi, and a ride back to town. Impressively, the cab driver refused to accept payment, which we foisted on him anyhow. It's probably all for the better, in that we finished our evening at a delightful Mexican restaurant.


It is strange to realize how far north we are. As you can see in this photo of Grey Pearl, there is snow on all the mountains around us. We're only a day's run from Juneau Alaska!




We don't need to be in Juneau for a few days, and we've all been eager to do some relaxing at anchor. This is a special time. For most of the rest of the way to Japan, we'll all have guests or crew onboard. However, for a brief few days, all three boats have only the owners on board. This provides some private time for just enjoying our boats, and some bonding time for our group.

As I type this, we are sitting at Pybus Bay, Alaska, with all three boats anchored shouting distance from each other. We ran about 60 miles to get here, with only a couple of noteworthy events. About halfway into our run, across Frederick Sound, the wind came up. We had a fairly steady 15 knots of wind on our starboard side, gusting to 20 knots. This created a three foot chop, and had all of us talking on the radio about the weather forecast. In actuality, it wasn't much of anything, but it was noteworthy, in that it was the first water across the bow. We've been running in essentially flat seas ever since Seattle and have become quite spoiled.

I've been looking forward to the day when I'd be running side by side with a Nordhavn 62 in fairly rough seas. Several people have asked me which is the more seaworthy boat; the Nordhavn 62 (we used to own one) or our current Nordhavn 68. I have lots of theories about why each boat might be the more seaworthy, but no real information. After watching Grey Pearl and Seabird for a while, running close, I still can't say. All of the boats seemed unfazed by the seas. My sense is that it is a non-issue. Both models have plenty of what it takes to get the job done.




As we approached PAs we approached Pybus Bay, we starting seeing whales! This caused all of us to stop for a photo session. We were surrounded by whales! I confess to somewhat conflicting emotions. Where we live, in Cabo, we see whales almost every day. They are impressive creatures, and I'm always happy to see them, however, I just completed a couple of true-life books in which boats were sunk by whales. And, recently, in Cabo, we had a sportfisher destroyed by a whale. So, I do like seeing whales, but I would confess that I like seeing them more from on shore, than hovering above them.

And, on a completely different topic...
My new Mini Vsat hMy new Mini Vsat has been tremendous for internet. We've had almost non-stop connectivity since leaving Seattle.That said, I am sitting here at anchor in Pybus Bay, and the mountains are blocking the signal. I have a Fleet Broadband 250, that is working fine. However, my Mini Vsat is flat-rated. I pay a huge monthly fee, but do not pay for data. The Fleet Broadband unit is my backup, because whenever I use it, I have to pay for every byte downloaded. I've used it very lightly this morning, and already racked up over $100 in charges. This is looking to be a very expensive anchorage. I don't know when I'll post this blog entry.... I'm not sure I could afford to post it from this anchorage!

And, I pronised you interviews with the crews of the different boats. Hopefully you enjoyed the interview with Seabird as much as I did. Here's a 'more serious' interview with the Grey Pearl crew; Braun and Tina  Jones:
PART 1:  ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9QyFsh_tYM )



PART 2: ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bBmvDnK9Fo



And, lastly...

I should mention aI should mention a very cool coincidence. At the same time Sans Souci (my boat) is on our run across the Pacific, the second Nordhavn 68, Grace of Tides, is well into the Atlantic. I've been swapping emails with David Sidbury, her owner/captain, as he works his way to Bermuda. David is experimenting to see what the range is for Nordhavn 68s at slower speeds. He is running at 7.5 knots, and getting over a mile a gallon. One good reason for the experiment is that diesel fuel is running over $7 a gallon in Bermuda, and he'd like to get to Bermuda and back without taking on fuel.

That's it for today! Our next stop is Tracy Arm. It will be our first encounter with Glaciers, and one I'm looking forward to.
Thank you,
Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci
http://www.KensBlog.com



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