|Run so far:
|Nautical Miles to go:
This past week has been extremely busy. The three GSSR boats
traveled as a group, from Tracy Arm to Juneau Alaska, without incident. We moored the boats at
Auke Bay Marina, about 15 miles north of Juneau. All three of us rented cars,
and for the most part, spent our time working on various boat projects and
provisioning (the nautical way of saying "Grocery Shopping".)
Juneau is Alaska's capital. Similar to the other Alaskan cities along the
inside passage, it is a major cruise-ship stop. In the picture above there are
five cruise ships! When visiting the city museum, there was a sign-in sheet, with
a column labeled "Cruise Ship". I didn't see anyone who didn't list a cruise
ship name, so I just wrote "Sans Souci." For no rational reason, I didn't like
being thought of as 'just one of the cruise ship tourists.'
Juneau is an amazingly beautiful city, backed by the Mendenhall Glacier, and
tall snow-capped mountains. My photos do not do the city justice. I tried to
capture the scenery, but it is on too grand a scale, and I didn't have the time.
We have been considering Juneau as our last chance to provision the boat. Some
shopping will be possible in Kodiak and in Dutch Harbor, but Juneau was our last
bite at the 'big city shopping' apple. Juneau has Costco, Fred Meyer, Safeway, and
more, all of which we visited on multiple occasions.
Unfortunately, I planned poorly when mooring Sans Souci, and we were located impossibly far from the parking lot. This meant very long
walks, pushing or dragging overloaded wheel-barrels packed with food to the
boat, and returning with wheelbarrows of trash to the parking lot.
Finally, when we could find nowhere on the boat to stuff any more food, we
took a day to 'just be tourists'...
When in port, we like to eat out, and have had good luck finding restaurants in the
towns we visit. The restaurants Twisted Fish and Hanger came highly recommended,
but we found them a bit 'touristy.' I confess to being prejudiced against any
restaurant located too near a cruise ship dock. I
asked one waiter: "What's the best restaurant in town? We're looking for
something a little upscale. Good wine list. Romantic. Something for a special
night." The response: "Nothing like that exists in this town."
Actually, we had dinner twice at the restaurant Zephyrs, a couple blocks off the
water front, and a very nice lunch a the adjacent italian restaurant Tarantinos.
While on the cruise ship docks, we took Shelby to visit the statue of
Patsy Ann, an English Bull Terrier who, during the 1930's, roamed the shops
along Juneau's waterfront. Patsy Ann, although deaf, had an uncanny ability to
sense incoming ships, and would rush to the dock to greet them. Shelby is getting to that age where her hearing isn't what it was, and we thought she might like Patsy Ann.
Speaking of Shelby...
I remember being excited when we saw our first eagle, but, that was then, and
this is now. The eagle above perched himself on the top of the mast of a nearby
sailboat, and we feared that s/he might view Shelby as a potential source of
nourishment. When walking the docks, we kept Shelby on a very short leash.
Shelby has a 'doggie door,' and wanders in and out of the boat whenever she
wants. We had several discussions about whether to lock-down the doggie door,
and ultimately left it open, without incident.
No visit to Juneau is complete without a trip to the state capital. Alaska's
state capital building is the only one without a dome on top. About a block from
the capital building is the Governor's Mansion. We didn't see Govenor
Palin, although we did notice a trampoline and children's' toys in the yard. The non-stop parade of people and tour buses passing by the Governor's Mansion were an indication that her notariety has not waned since the election.
Roberta's parents left the boat in Ketchikan. My stepmother joined us in Juneau.
Here you see us doing a very good job of impersonating standard tourists posing
in front of a bronze bear. As you can tell, I fought posing and lost.
One of the best things about owning a Nordhavn is the instant camaraderie as you
encounter other Nordhavn owners. Our GSSR group had the good fortune to be
moored in Juneau next to three other Nordhavn boats; Crossroads (N50), Patience
(N46) and Skookum (N40). This led to a party on Sans Souci. In order to
practice for our arrival in Japan, Sushi was consumed. Crossroads and Grey Pearl decided that they also needed Karoke practice, as can be seen above (Tina from Grey Pearl).
We are now in Glacier Bay. I'll save talking about Glacier Bay until my next
blog. That said, I can share a bit about our first reaction arriving here...
Glacier Bay is a national park, and tightly controlled. There are tight quotas on
the number of boats that can enter the park at any time, and I don't know the
exact quota, but believe it is only five to ten boats. The bay is roughly forty
miles deep, and 10 miles wide, and as recently as 250 years ago contained one
giant hundred-mile-long glacier that has now retreated to a dozen or so smaller
glaciers. In order to enter, we applied for our entry permit many months ago.
been warned that the rangers at Glacier Bay are highly protective of the bay (as
they should be), and can be intimidating, and "gruff."
We're still a bit pre-season, so our experience may not be
typical, but the rangers have been extremely nice to us. They have made us feel
We anchored our first night at the entrance, in Bartlett Cove, just in front of the ranger
station. At the suggestion of friends we called a taxi and went about 10 miles
away to the town of Gustaves for dinner, at the Gustaves Inn.
I asked the cab driver the population, and he said "Exactly 438." This got me
curious about the town, so I quizzed him, as well as everyone else I met, about
what it was like living in Gustaves. I also read several editions of the local
paper. During our trip we have visited several towns in Alaska, but they've all
been comparatively "big" tourist towns. This was our first exposure to rural
Alaska and I was curious about the challenges one faces, living this far from civilization, and
why anyone would want to do so.
One thing that was immediately obvious: The people that live in Gustaves are
passionate about living in Gustaves, which is somewhat surprising, given that
much of what many of us believe is important, simply doesn't exist. No
professional sports teams, no movie theaters, no fast food places, no
professional theater, no cable tv, not much in the way of shopping. Etc. The weather in Alaska
can get pretty nasty
at times, and there isn't the same level of infrastructure for clearing roads that
many of us take for granted. Even the schools are in a whole different category.
I noticed an article in the paper mentioning that the graduating class, of their
ONE school, that handles kindergarten through 12th grade was only five students,
making it the largest graduating class in many years. An editorial in the local
paper suggested alternative solutions to coping with the burgeoning population
that threatened to expand the phone book beyond a single page. The suggested
solution was to list a single entry for families, rather than individually
listing their names.
The #1 issue everyone mentioned was the difficulty of shopping for
everyday things. Milk is over $10 a gallon. Most shopping is done via phone
calls to Juneau, 75 miles away. The goods have to be flown in,
adding tremendously to their cost. One person mentioned that to save money they
ordered non-perishable items months in advance, so they could be barged in.
I never really received an answer on why people live in Gustaves. No one
responded "I wanted to live in Gustaves." Everyone I asked had a job related
answer, like "I came here because my spouse came here for a job". Perhaps it is that simple, although my theory is that there are people who like big cities, and people who like living in the middle of nowhere, and it's different strokes for different folks, and that's just how it is.
And, on a completely different topic...
I noticed a posting on a Yahoo message group (Southbound Group) which had some
interesting information, and had me thinking:
"...a few years ago I tallied seasonal arrivals in Horta in the Azores (the principle but hardly the only destination to Europe from North America) and did some similar research for the Pacific, and then shared those #s with Donia at Noonsite for Jimmy Cornell's review. His estimates were similar to mine, and they boiled down to the following:
-- a bit less than 500 boats begin a westward voyage from the west coast of the Americas each year into the Pacific. All but a few do not return to the West Coast from the Pacific. The largest percentage of these are North Americans but of course there are a mix of Europeans (mostly Germans and Brits, tho' a sizable portion of French) and also a passle of Antipodeans (isn't that a quaint phrase? Kiwis and Aussies...) plus a small mix of other nationalities.
-- about 1,000 +/- boats cross the Atlantic to Europe each year, roughly half of them Europeans completing their Atlantic Circle. Perhaps 800 go by way of the Azores with the balance going direct to N Europe (mostly Britain and Ireland) from N America.
For what it is worth, during our Nov-Dec return to the Caribbean, we heard via SSB of 4 boats lost over the span of that 3+ weeks (so hardly "the grapevine"), plus one fatality due to an onboard incident (unexpected gybe, throwing owner's head into a winch). Totally a seat-of-the-pants thing, my guestimate would be that roughly 5% of each year's fleet migration, leaving from one side of an ocean to the other, is at risk of either the loss of a vessel or serious injury.
You might find this an odd thing for me to say... but I actually think those are very good odds. My rationale is that, when you look at the experience base of all the crews and the condition of all the yachts which make up each of those fleets, and the percentage of solo sailors (who by definition have more finite resources with which to address issues), it would seem guaranteed that some crews & boats are going to have a very challenging time of it. Fold in some odds (like an unusual month of weather conditions) and it might be surprising that the fatalities and boat sinkings aren't greater.
Of course, this relates to ocean crossings. Don't have a feel for the coastal cruising stats.
His estimate of 1,000 boats crossing to Europe seems high, but I can believe it. When we were in Horta there was a good stream of boats coming and going. I was amazed at how many boats pass through there. The 500 boats proceeding West across the Pacific also feels reasonable. It's higher than I would have guessed, but in the realm of reason. If he is right that it is a one-way trip for most, I can't explain it. Why wouldn't the boats return? Strange. Lastly, his guesstimate that 5% of the boats starting a trans-oceanic passage don't make it is grossly out of whack, or at least I hope so. If his number is right, of the 1,500 boats crossing the Atlantic or Pacific, 75 will sink, or have major injury. No way. Or, perhaps as he suggests, there are some boaters who become unfortunate statistics, that never should have been out there in the first place. Amongst Nordhavns, I haven't the vaguest idea how many have made cross-oceanic passages, but I'd hazard a guess, which is probably low, at 200. Were this stat applicable to Nordhavns, there would have been 10 boats which had bad days, and I'm not aware of any.
Anyway, enough of that...
My last blog spoke about our close encounters with icebergs, and triggered this
email from a Nordhavn 50 owner, now in Hawaii:
As I mentioned earlier in my update: the best part of owning a Nordhavn is the other Nordhavn owners. Did you notice how Phil so casually mentions that he will be crossing, alone, from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest in the next couple of weeks? Very cool.
Flat Earth is in Hawaii preparing for a Pacific crossing back to the mainland
in another week. We are headed back up to the PNW for two more years before
heading South through the Panama Canal.
Tracy Arm was one of our high lights of our cruise the Inside Passage. I
guess that N50 owners are just more adventurous than others. We too, took
Flat Earth to the end of the Arm up to the Sawyer glaciers. Then we used the
dinghy to get close to the South Sawyer Glacier, picking our way through the
ice field. The North Sawyer Glacier was relatively ice free so we used the
opportunity to take pictures of Flat Earth right up against the ice. I was
sitting in the dinghy and the painter was still tied to the stern when there
was an explosive sound like a dynamite explosion. We looked up and a huge
block of ice calved off the glacier. I yelled for a crew member to untie me
and my brother ran for the pilot house to get Flat Earth out away from the
rocks. I started the dinghy engine and the crew member untied me and threw
the painted into the boat. Unfortunately, he missed and the painter got
sucked up into the prop, killing the engine. My brother gunned Flat Earth and
left me with a dead engine
facing an eight foot wave coming right at me. I was lucky and the
dinghy simply rode up one side of the wave and down the other. Flat Earth got
clear with no problems.
Another time, we edged up close to a water fall for pictures. I got too close
and the turbulence began sucking me into the falls. I put
the boat in reverse, forgetting that we, too, were towing a dinghy.
The line wrapped around the prop, but loosely because I was fast in getting it
out of gear. We were also lucky that the little bit of reverse I got was
enough to pull us clear of the water fall. But, I
had to go into that 39 degree water to untangle the prop. I had a
wet suit but no hood. I had my crew tie a line around me in case I
became incapacitated and I used a "spare air" emergency tank which
contains about 3 minutes of air. The line was easy to untangle. I
was in the water for only about 60 seconds; but when I came out, I had the
biggest "ice cream headache" that I have ever had in my life.
Keep having fun up there and be safe. I hope that you guys have
reservations for Glacier National Park. Our favorite anchorage in there was
Sandy Cove which is a well protected small bay with an island in the mouth of
the bay and a channel around either side of the
island. The hump back whales were feeding by the hundreds on the
other side of the island outside the bay. We also had a mother and a baby who
liked to play around our anchorage inside the cove, as well as a grizzly
mother with two cubs on shore.
What hull number is Crossroads?
Flat Earth N5025
Ko Olina, Hi. (But not for long)
My apologies, but no video with this blog. I haven't had internet for several days, and had trouble even posting this entry. My next report will be on cruising in Glacier Bay, and hopefully I'll be able to include video.
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci
PS: Note to other Alaskan cruisers: Roberta and I swapped our television over to
the Canadian ExpressVu. We have had perfect reception ever since. I'm sure the
television will croak at some point, but really don't know when....