BC & SE ALASKA-7: SOUTHBOUND TO SITKA AND WRANGELL Final Version
Monday, July 11, and Tuesday July 12 – Southward to Sitka
The next morning and under partly cloudy skies, the dingy took us to the ranger station to finish the communication to the outside world and to tell the ranger staff that Tribute was leaving. A group of kayakers were checking in for their annual 9-day adventure and the leader said that in the 10 years they have kayaked in the park, they have never seen a bear; our disappointment in not seeing one evaporated.
Tribute left Glacier National Park at 0930 hours and a group of sea otters was at the park boundary. Icy Strait was calm and flat and in the next three hours, more boats were seen than in the previous 5 days combined. Some were associated with the cruise ship docked at Hoonah, several commercial fishing boats, and a handful of pleasure boats.
To the east, low clouds obscured the mountains and the eastern end of the strait and a light drizzle lasted about 20 minutes. Mid-afternoon and near the junction of Icy Strait and Chatham Strait, the huge vertical dorsal fin of a male Orca whale was seen to the north. Near Point Augusta on Chichagof Island, three humpback whales were spouting together and we watched in disgust as a 75-foot pleasure boat, Canadian Mist, pursued them and got within 100 feet of the group. They broadcast an AIS signal and we watched them pursue another whale and heard another boater call them out for this behavior. A million dollar yacht and they have shit for brains. They would later join us in the same harbor and we would have lots of unkind thoughts.
Tribute continued south onto Chatham Strait, which was tame and calm with a light breeze on the bow. The destination was Pavlof Harbor that is in Freshwater Bay. Sitka is about 140 miles from Glacier Bay and three travel days are needed. The anchor was dropped in 40 feet of water and Tribute had traveled 70 miles. There was a 53-foot Fleming from Seattle already there and by sunset, a total of 7 boats would use this harbor.
The next day, the anchor was pulled at 0845 hours to coincide with the currents that Tribute would ride and the day was already 67 degrees under morning clouds that would nearly completely clear off by mid-day. Chatham Strait was rejoined and this 5-mile wide strait was calm and flat. A mammoth cruise ship passed Tribute going northbound and a small Juneau-based passenger ship would stay ahead of us until Tribute turned west onto Peril Strait.
AIS has the side benefit of showing when these passenger ships slow down or stop when they see whales or other wildlife and gives a location to search. At White Rock Point, four Orca whales were working the shoreline for food. We watched for nearly 20 minutes as they surfaced and swam together in short dives. A humpback whale was traveling in the opposite direction and the two species of whales were very close to each other for a short period of time.
At 1200 hours, Chatham Strait was left behind and the afternoon was spent on Peril Strait, which along with Poison Cove and Deadman Reach, are named for a tragedy in the late 1700’s. The Russians had employed Alaskan Natives from the Aleutian Islands to hunt sea otters. A large number of them died after eating shellfish in today’s Poison Cove that were contaminated with red tide or paralytic shellfish poisoning.
Peril Strait narrows briefly to 145 feet across at the Serguis Narrows and the billions of gallons that surge through here, changing directions every seven or so hours creates a huge current that must be respected. Even when the currents are only one to three knots, the swirls and rips will move the boat off its course.
There were three possible destinations, Annie’s Pocket is simply a wide spot that provides shelter from the current and it was rejected as not being big enough for both Tribute and Shipperly. Little Bear Bay was rejected because the approach was tricky with several rocks to avoid. Deep Bay was chosen because it was closest to Sergius Narrows, was easy to approach and offered good protection. But, we had a near-miss to running aground.
Deep Bay is about a 1-1/2 miles long and the depth was between 45 and 65 feet. I was watching the shoreline when Tribute passed a row of crab pots at 45 feet depth and the shore was 500 yards farther. Thinking we had more distance to travel, Tribute continued deeper into the bay and exactly where the chart showed there was no depth, the depth sounder immediately showed 20 feet, then 15 feet and by the time trawler was in full reverse and maximum RPM’s were applied, the depth was 4 feet.
Tribute backed safely out and anchored in 45 feet, traveling 62 miles. Shipperly rafted onto the port side and dock tails were served. The crab pot was stocked with chicken legs and deployed; later, only four females were caught and they were thrown back.
Wednesday to Saturday, July 13 to 16, Sitka, AK
During the night two more pleasure boats arrived at Deep Bay. The start of the day was all about the timing of the slack current at Sergius Narrows that was predicted for 0650 hours. Shipperly was cast off and the anchor was raised at 0600 hours. We arrived at the start of the narrows at 0630 hours and the buoys were already tilted in the direction of our travel – the current had already switched.
Sergius Narrows is dredged to 21 feet and the 145-foot width only lasts for about half a mile. Boats going in both directions try to time their transit of the narrows at slack current that only lasts just a few minutes. Commercial traffic, especially cruise ships have priority. On each end of the narrows are opportunities to pull out of the channel and wait. However, there was no other boat traffic to contend with and we transited the narrows easily.
The route to Sitka and the port that is just removed from the ocean shore, would take Tribute down Kakul Narrows, Salisbury Sound where gentle swells from the ocean would push on the stern for several miles, Neva Strait, Whitestone Narrows and Olga Strait. All of these were easily traveled under cloudy skies, an occasional light drizzle, low clouds that hid the mountains and made visibility only about 4 miles and a fresh breeze from the west.
The names illustrate the influences that shaped its history. Sitka is a Native Alaskan name for the port, Neva and Olga are Russian words from their over 100 year control, and Salisbury was named by the British.
Leaving the wilderness, Starrigavan Bay comes into view and the cruise ships, containers and the ferry landing for the Alaskan Marine Highway System. This is deep water port for heavy industrial activity. Sitka proper is another five miles but houses start lining the shore after rounding the point. The harbor and the city are protected by a large breakwater to the north and by Japonski Island on the west. The harbor boasts that it has the largest number of slips in Alaska at 1,300 for a huge commercial fishing fleet and hosts 300 transient boaters, like Tribute, each year. The harbormaster assigned Tribute a slip and we arrived at 1015 hours having traveled 30 miles.
After checking in at the marina office and visiting with Ken and Pauline, we did a store run. Rather than using the bikes, a folding cart and two plastic boxes that are stowed in the deep hold were assembled and we did a huge provisioning run to the nearby grocery store. $300 worth of food, supplies and beer was put in the two boxes and a backpack.
The Hurricane hydronic heating system needed more attention as the fuel system was getting air and shutting down. Connections were taken apart, cleaned and re-assembled. The fuel had lots of crud and debris that the filter caught. After the second filter change, the debris was gone.
With an Internet connection, cell service, an NPR radio station, and satellite radio, Tribute was totally connected and it was a little over-powering to go from no connection to almost being over-whelmed with stimulation, data and news. Grand Destiny, with Ron and Barb whom we left in Wrangell with engine problems were on our dock. Ron told the story of a spun bearing on the crankshaft on one of his engines and a two-week stay to get parts and get the work done. The day was closed with a movie.
The next day, we awoke to low clouds and about 63 degrees which would stay with us for the entire time in Sitka. “Where are we?” is the common question because when you travel in your home, it always looks and feels like home, however, everything outside the windows is new and different. After breakfast, the bikes were unfolded to take us into Sitka for errands and exploration.
The nearby marine supplies store provided fuel filters for the Hurricane diesel heater and pencil zincs that protect the John Deere engine. The flat road wound along the shoreline. Fishing boats were being readied and many were leaving the harbor. Two deck hands were overhead talking about a friend of theirs who already had earned $40,000 this season.
A huge cruise ship was in port and the streets were clogged with people and adventure tour outfits were loading up people for whale watching and kayak tours. We continued out of downtown to Sitka National Historical Site that is administered by the National Park Service. Several hours were spent that included visiting with the native artists who explained their craft, enjoying the photos taken 100 years ago, walking the totem pole trail that is a collection of totems from throughout the southeast and that were assembled over 100 years ago, and enjoying the view.
We have been to a lot of historical sites and Sitka National Historical Site is good but disorganized and lacks a focus. It took us 90 minutes to accidentlly learn what the main theme and purpose of the park and why it is nationally signficant.
A spicy chowder at the Sitka Sound Science Center’s gift shop provided lunch. The Sheldon Jackson Museum captured our attention for over an hour. The liberal arts college folded several years ago but the museum was taken over by the State of Alaska and has the largest collection of original artifacts of several Native Alaskan groups. There is no media, no sizzle, and no planned provocative emotional message. It was just the evidence of what really, really smart and creative people did to live, thrive and build a community.
The bikes took us to the Bishop’s House, a part of the Sitka National Historical Site that is in downtown. Only, the town was quiet because the cruise ship was leaving. While going through shops and galleries that were very quiet, a store clerk told her story of being raised in Sitka, her husband is a commercial fisherman, the weather is like Seattle, how housing prices are skyrocketing and the largest employer is health care because there are two hospitals in this community of 8,900, commercial fishing and related services is number two and tourism is number three. In Sitka, fishing and tourism are only about 3 to 4 months long and happen at the same times.
After dock-tails with Ken and Pauline, Fresh King Salmon fillets were grilled on the BBQ for dinner.
Friday was the perfect boat workday with very low clouds, light drizzle, a fresh breeze and temperatures in the high 60’s. A low pressure system was camping over Southeast Alaska and Northern British Columbia and would remain for several days. Every 250 hours, the engine needed an oil and filter change, the fuel filter needed changing and the pencil zincs needed inspecting and perhaps replacing. Oil was purchased and the lesson was to buy it at the fuel dock rather than the store where it was $6 a gallon more.
While Laurie took her bike to pay the marina bill, saw St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church, finish touring the shops and getting her hair cut, four hours was spent doing the maintenance on the engine. By early afternoon, all the work was done, the engine room was clean, the tools put away and the engine was thoroughly tested. Laundry was done and emails were done. Dinner was out at the Flyin’ Fish restaurant.
Saturday was intended to be the departure day but the steady cold breeze with peaks to 20 knots caused a re-assessment, especially the five-mile stretch of Salisbury Sound that is open to the ocean and is on a northwest axis. The ocean buoy recorded northwest winds of 20 knots with higher gusts and wave heights of 6 feet. There was a real possibility that transiting Salisbury Sound could not happen. A conversation with Ken sealed the decision to stay in port for another day.
Laurie and Pauline headed off to the Farmer’s Market and to browse downtown. Small projects and lingering tasks were completed as the pace of the day was slowed down. A walk of the marina found fishing boats being worked on and readied for the coming season. Grinders were working, lines being repaired, and fishing gear was being carefully laid out and coiled. Pickup trucks would drive down the vehicle ramp loaded with nets and gear and off-load them into the boats. The number of women working as deckhands, driving the pickup trucks, and preparing the boats was very noticeable. Gone are the days were commercial fishing was a fraternity.
At the end of the breakwater dock, the crews of five charter-fishing boats were cleaning their boats and gear after leaving their clients. Deckhands dressing in rubber bib-overalls and the common brown-colored rubber boots were scrubbing and rinsing and stacking the filleted carcasses of the day’s catch on the dock. Some were smoking or chewing tobacco while telling stories, jokes and laughing as their day’s work was coming to an end.
Later in the afternoon, we had dock-tails Ken and Pauline on Rob and Sally’s sailboat Riot. They are avid sailors and from Victoria and heading in roughly the same direction as we for the next two days. Dinner was a meat dish done in the crockpot and the evening was closed with a movie.
Sunday, July 17 - Enroute to Wrangell and Appleton Cove
A cloudy morning where the low clouds took away the nearby hilltops, 65 degrees and the wind was from the northwest at 10 to 15 knots. The departure time of 1130 hours was all about catching the slack current at Sergius Narrows that was 30 miles away. The morning was spent waiting and filling the time with cleaning and enjoying the last day of the Internet.
Leaving Sitka was hard because after the third day, the momentum of traveling and cruising is broken. Plus, the weather was not perfect and there was more boat traffic on the water. Additional time was added because of the head wind and the currents would oppose Tribute for part of the trip. Through Olga and Neva Straits large fishing boats were adapted to. Salisbury Sound was fairly tame at the southeast end but the ocean swells had grown to 5 footers at the northwest end. Tribute took those on the bow making the ride was safe, then the 90 degree turn toward Kakul Narrows and the swells gave a gentle push on the trawler’s stern.
The opposing current was over 2 knots and because we were ahead of schedule and needed to wait nearly an hour for the slack, we endured the 5-knot speed. Coming at us was one of the largest sailboats ever seen at 152 feet. It was headed for Sitka with its professional crew that were in uniform. Tribute's anchor was dropped near Schulze Cove in 50 feet and waited for the current to fade and then switch to an eastbound direction.
Going through Sergius Narrows was uneventful but we were watching the Alaska State Ferry Matauska on AIS as they came from Sitka at 16 knots and would be upon us just after the Sergius Narrows. From the Great Loop, experience had taught that the commercial captains want certainty and predictability. Laurie initiated the radio conversation with them and told them of our intention to pull over at Bear Bay and let them pass. They responded with gratitude and appreciation.
At Peril Strait, the overcast skies were gone and the blue sky was fine against the high mountains. The destination was Appleton Cove and though the approach was narrow, the anchorage was very good. Rob and Sally in Riot were already there and the anchor was dropped in 50 feet at 7:30 PM. Tribute had traveled 53 miles. The crabpot was loaded with chicken legs and allowed to soak overnight.
Monday, July 18 – Warm Springs Bay
The morning was still as the minus tide revealed the steep angle of the shore. The cloud ceiling was about 300 feet above the water. At 0730 hours, Riot was gone. After breakfast, the crab pot was pulled and it was very heavy because it was nearly full with 25 crabs. The three largest males were kept and the others were thrown back to grow larger or to have more baby crabs. The crabs were cleaned on the swim step and refrigerated for tonight’s dinner. The joke was with all the chicken legs gone; Laurie needed to catch a fish for the crabpot.
The anchor was pulled at 0930 hours to minimize the effect of the opposing current in Peril Strait and Chatham Strait. The 17-mile trip down Peril Strait was at 8 knots with no effect of any opposing current. Defiance, a 42 foot Kadey Krogen called us as they were heading to Sitka and perhaps we will meet again.
Chatham Strait brought many pleasure boats that were cruising to Juneau or Glacier Bay, going south like us or were fishing. A huge waterfall at Kasnyku Bay came into view. At the base of was a fishing boat hauling in their huge net. Past this inlet, a humpback whale was working the 50-foot deep shelf near its edge where the steep wall ends in a depth of over 2,000 feet.
At 2:30 PM Tribute was in Warm Springs Bay. This popular destination has a large dock for visitors to use the public bathhouses that are fed with naturally hot water. The dock was full and Rob and Sally on Riot were on the dock. Instead of waiting, we opted to anchor in a small cove on the eastern end and dropped the anchor in 40 feet of water. Shipperly rafted onto Tribute’s portside. The dinghies were put down, hot tub attire and dock-tail supplies were assembled, and we jetted across the bay to the dock. The clean and neat bathhouses have tubs that can easily accommodate two and the room has a great view of the cove and the wide waterfall that pours into the bay. The water was initially very hot but we acclimated to it and enjoyed it. Afterwards, we had dock-tails on Riot with Rob and Sally.
Dinner was back on Tribute where the crabs were cooked and served with steak and potatoes from Pauline. Ken dug into the Dungeness crab with a passion.
Tuesday, July 19 – Red Bluff Bay
Fog greeted Tribute as the morning unfolded. The wind was brisk and swirling around the harbor and the air was cooler at 58 degrees. The dinghies took us back to the free dock, which was full, but with a different combination of boats. Two large fishing boats were rafted and every available linear foot had a boat.
The wooden boardwalk rose from the top of the dock and climbed the hillside, past summer cabins with solar panels, propane tanks and diesel tanks either under the main floor or on the back porch. This was a collection of summer cottages that are off the grid. Black plastic ABS pipes snaked along the boardwalk on the ground. A large pipe went to the sound of the huge falls and probably provided the fresh water. Another pipe went to a covered springs and was probably the source of hot water for the public baths. The boardwalk left the falls behind and turned into a dirt patch and we continued to the mountain lake.
After returning, another boardwalk was walked that fronted more summer cabins. Owners were doing were repairs and making improvements using gas-powered generators to provide power to their tools. Black plastic lines from each cabin went into the bay and this was probably the sewer outfall.
The dinghy ride back to Tribute was in a head wind and the bay was heavily rippled, a foretelling of the wind on Chatham Strait. At 1130, Shipperly cast off from Tribute and soon both boats had left Warm Springs Bay. The destination at Red Bluff Bay was 22 miles away and we made the mistake of choosing to tow the dingy rather than putting it on Tribute’s roof. Rounding the point and turning south in to Chatham Strait, the swells were immediately 2 feet high and the 12 knot southerly wind was blowing the tops off the swells.
In 10 miles of closely following the coastline and running at 8 knots, the swells had grown to three footers with an occasional four footer and the wind had increased to a steady 15 knots. The dinghy was having a rough time handling all the swells and the turbulence. This was the kind of conditions that dinghies are lost, motors are lost or they fill with water and the result is problem-solving a preventable circumstance with a swaying and rolling boat. It was a recipe for a disaster.
The opportunity for a calm and safe place to put the dingy on the roof immediately came at Nelson Cove, a wide half-moon shaped cove that provided protection on the southern side. The charts did not provide any accurate detail about the depth and the rocks seen were not charted either. Past a sportfishing charter boat that was fishing in the flat water, Tribute idled in place while the dinghy was easily raised and secured to the roof on its stand.
Heading south and hugging the coastline, the swells grew to a consistent 4 feet and the winds were peaking at 25 knots until the turn to the west at Red Bluff Bay. The entrance is narrow but deep and winds past a couple of islets that provide protection from the swells. At the islets were a half-dozen shrimp pot floats. The bay is narrow; a steep valley between mountains with water falls on both sides and 6 waterfalls at the head of the bay. The bay offers protection from all winds and has several options for anchoring. Two small passenger ships were anchored and taking their clients on escorted kayak trips. The breeze was very light in the bay with flat water.
Red Bluff Bay lived up to it’s description and endorsements; a unique and beautiful place. Shipperly had anchored at the head of the bay just before it shoals. Rover, a Nordhavn 46, was in a small wide shot and Tribute anchored between them and a Bayliner 47 in 80 feet of water.
Tribute had traveled 22 miles in three hours. The owners of Rover came over on their dinghy to introduce themselves and we were reminded again how small the world was, as they know Norman and Clarice. The dinghy was put down and the head of the bay and the mouth of small river was explored. The clarity of the water was fabulous. A harbor seal swam past the dinghy, turned, dove and disappeared. Rob and Sally in Riot arrived soon after and anchored near Tribute.
At 5PM, dock-tails were served aboard Tribute for Rob and Sally and Ken and Pauline. Both couples wanted to leave for Kake tomorrow and we respected their need to move on. After dinner, the evening was closed with a movie.
Wednesday, July 20 – Rocky Pass to Port Protection
The day began with overcast skies and even Red Bluff Bay did not block the hint of wind that was beginning to build on Chatham Strait. Rob and Sally, aboard Riot, left just after 0600 hours. Tribute’s anchor was up at 0700 hours to catch the slack current on Chatham Strait because the current, not the wind, was predictable and we wanted as many factors as possible going in our direction.
Leaving the protection of Red Bluff Bay and going past the protective point on the south, Chatham Strait greeted Tribute with sustained 14-knot winds and two to three foot swells from the southeast. Tribute would quarter the swells, keeping them off the beam, and cross the strait at a respectable speed of 7.8 knots. Half away across the 10-mile wide strait, a 45-degree turn to the east was done to round the point into Frederick Sound and allow the dimensioning swells to push on Tribute’s port stern. Occasionally a rogue three-foot high swell would strike on the beam and send the non-secured items to the floor.
After Kingsmill Point on Kulu Island, the wind and the current was propelling Tribute eastward at 11 knots on flat water. For Shipperly and Riot, the destination was Kake for fuel and water. Tribute carries 300 gallons of water and over 600 gallons of fuel and that capacity has reduced the necessity for stops and virtually eliminated being on a schedule.
Just outside of Kake, five humpback whales, a number of sea otters and a few sea lions were seen. Two other sailboats were ahead of Riot and Shipperly and also going to Kake for to get fuel. The fuel dock did not open until 1PM. Therefore, four boats were tied to the fuel dock at 1130 awaiting fuel.
Today’s ultimate goal was to transit Rocky Pass, a 45-mile long shortcut that bypasses Petersburg and puts us one day from Wrangell. Rocky Pass’ must challenging sections are The Summit and Devil’s Elbow because they are too narrow and shallow for the passenger ships and should be transited at high water. The tide charts showed that high water was at 2:45 PM. Riot and Shipperly may miss the high water opportunity. Tribute had an hour to wait for the currents to be right and the high water time. At Point Hamilton, a 40-foot deep shelf was found and the anchor was dropped for a lunch break. Mille came out from under the bed covers when the engine was turned off thinking that the travel day was over. After lunch and relaxing, the anchor was pulled at 12:30PM and Mille ran for cover.
The afternoon sky was a total cloud cover, a 10-knot from the south rippled the water and the temperature was 65 degrees. Rocky Pass began at the end of Stedman Cove and at Entrance Island and appropriately ended at Conclusion Island. The pass is straight for probably no longer than half a mile and at The Summit, the longest straight stretch is probably a quarter of a mile. Many red and green markers and buoys marked most, but not all, of the hazards that are covered at high water. The narrowest part is 145 feet wide. This is a healthy body of water with lots of kelp but at high water, the kelp is spread out. However, at low water in addition to contending with single digit depths, the kelp can be very dense.
For the next two hours, Tribute’s crew was on full alert finding markers in the low clouds, verifying depth, and steering into the middle of the pass. Tribute’s chartplotter was zoomed in tight to a half-mile view and the iPad that was running the Navionics chart was providing the macro view of what was ahead. This was not unsafe and was not scary but it is not for the beginner.
At The Summit, fog reduced visibility to about a mile. Tribute was following a commercial fishing boat that was a quarter mile ahead. Vessels were announcing their presence on the radio so approaching vessels could adapt. The leader of a 10-kayak expedition announced their presence in The Summit. However, because they can be in very shallow water, they would simply leave the channel and appreciated that vessels would drop their speed and stop making the 2 to 4 foot high wake.
Devil’s Elbow is a long hairpin turn that is narrow. Like all of Rocky Pass, missing a marker, cutting a corner or failing to see the rock that is on the chart can be an expensive repair. The complexities of the pass and the low clouds did not take away from the wonderful beauty of the area. Clusters of small islets, mounds of rock and marsh, and hills rising out of the water all made for a beautiful place. Suddenly, the pass is wide and long and it is over. Near Conclusion Island, a raft of about 100 sea otters was floating as a group. Most were juveniles and the group looked a school for young sea otters to learn from their elders on how to survive and eat one-third of their body weight every day.
Rocky Pass empties into Keku Strait, which empties into Sumner Strait. The best anchorage is Port Protection that is on the south side of the strait and at the most northern portion of Prince of Wales Island. Fatigue was being felt but the water was flat and calm until about 4 miles from Port Protection. We were distracted by all the activity from the humpback whales that were spouting, diving and flapping the water and did not comprehend the signs of turbulent water that was ahead. Very quickly, Tribute was in three-foot swells, tidal rips caused by colliding currents, and a 15-knot wind. The whales were here because the massive currents brought their food to them.
In 20 minutes it was all over as Tribute entered the long bay that Captain George Vancouver had aptly named Port Protection. Wooden Wheel Cove is boot-shaped cove on the eastern shore, has a state-owned float and a store that serves the two-dozen visible houses and cabins. The float was nearly full of boats that were way past their prime and what kept them afloat was a mystery. There was a spot that was big enough for Shipperly and they took it. Tribute anchored in the bay in 45 feet of water after traveling 73 miles.
Three hours later, Riot anchored and later the story would be told of pushing kelp in Rocky Pass with their nearly 7 foot long keel. Everyone was tired or as Pauline said so correctly, “We are in the bag.”
Thursday, July 21 – to Wrangell
After another quiet evening at anchor, the morning brought a very low tide that would be a minus tide. Fog had enveloped the cove but was rising and the whole Port Protection could be seen. What is here and now may not be what is later and around the corner as we would find out. Rob and Sally were the first ones out as they were on a schedule and had miles to cover. Perhaps we will see them in Prince Rupert or points south.
Tribute’s anchor was heaved at 0800 hours to coincide with the slack and the flooding current that send us eastward to Wrangell. At the end of Port Protection, among the spouts of humpback whales and small sportfishing boats, a wall of gray/silver fog greeted us. Visibility dropped to half a mile as Tribute glided along at 6.5 knots on the mirror flat Sumner Strait.
Running in moderate fog is safe and not scary when the chart plotter helps keep the shoreline and rocks at a safe distance, the radar shows the new objects like boats, a slow speed gives time to react and adapt, AIS identifies boats with their speed, direction and data if there is a collision course and the autopilot keeps a consistent course that is nearly impossible to do by hand steering when there are no reference points.
Tribute’s Furuno radar is outstanding as it even picked up the floats on a net that was laid by a fishing boat and the heads of sea otters. The radar is zoomed in to 1.5-mile view with each ring being a half a mile because that is the danger zone. The chartplotter is kept at the 2-mile view to pick up any charted obstructions. The iPad with its electronic chart is kept at the macro view.
Riot was heard on the radio and was communicating with a fishing boat that had radar. Riot did not have radar and followed the fishing boat through the fog. On Tribute’s radar, two targets were very close together and would remain 1.5 miles ahead and going the same speed. After leaving the fog bank and 6 miles later, the two targets would be the fishing boat and Riot.
The eastbound current picked up and soon Tribute and Shipperly were going 11 knots as Riot headed south on Clarence Strait bound for Ketchikan. However, at about Wrangell Narrows, the current diminished and the rest of the trip to Wrangell was done at 7.5 to 8 knots. The cruising was easy and sedate on flat water and a gentle wind that kept the moisture saturated clouds about 200 feet above the water. Humidity was 100% and the dew point was the same as the temperature; exactly when fog happens. The generator ran the washer and dryer for two loads of laundry, ran the vacuum cleaner and charged batteries. Tribute arrived in Wrangell at 2PM after traveling 46 miles. The bikes were taken off the flybridge, unpacked, unfolded and took us into town to pay the moorage and make arrangements for the jet-boat trip to a bear preserve for tomorrow. Later, we had dock-tails with Ken and Pauline and caught up on two days of stories and laughter.
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