Sunday 29 August 2021

Things that go bump in the night

Time: 2021/08/30 00:01:01
Latitude: 59-21.88N
Longitude: 144-32.88W
Speed: 4.5
Course: 105T

We left our last anchorage yesterday in glorious sunshine. Our first goal as we began this 400nm passage was to aim for a spot at the mouth of Snug Harbor where all the commercial fishing boats seemed to prefer to work. As we were leaving there was not a fishing boat in sight so it was perfect, we slowed Maple down and trolled through what we assumed must be a prime fishing spot. And sure enough it seems within minutes the reel was running. We pulled in a gorgeous Coho salmon, enough for two generous meals. So this passage is off to a perfect start.

As we were leaving Montague Pass, a HUGE tree floated by a few boat lengths from us. It is the biggest tree we have seen yet in the water and gives us some idea of what we are in for when we reach BC waters. I mumbled something about how we better not hit one during this passage. And D gave his usual response of, it is a big ocean, what are the chances....

Our goal was to maintain 5kn of boat speed with the engine(s) but once out in the Gulf of Alaska, the winds had a different plan for us. The seas could not be better with a gentle, following swell, but the wind was square on the nose and although light winds it was definitely impeding our boat speed. So all night we ran both engines to try to maintain 4.5kn of speed, but we don't have enough fuel to run both engines the whole way so we will see how we manage over the next day or so to determine our destination.

For our first night, D and I got into our usual watch and sleep schedule. I am on watch from 6pm to 9pm, which is lovely as I have daylight for the full shift. And then I am back on watch from 12am to 3am, with a half moon it meant I did have some light to work with. However, moonlight is still not great for being able to actually see anything in the water. You do see where I am going with this, right?!

Sure enough at 1am, I hear something bump hard along one of the hulls. I immediately notice that our boat speed starts to plummet from the 4 to 4.5kn we had been doing to rapidly decline to 3kn. I quickly check the transoms and see some kelp, but the boat was behaving differently than previous kelp encounters. By the time I woke up D and he is upstairs, our boat speed is decreasing quickly to 2kn, eventually the port engine cuts out. With the boat hook, D struggles to pull up a root bulb of a tree, but the trunk is clearly snagged on the rudder and/or the propellor. It got to a point D figured he was going to have to swim on this one as no matter which way he tried to pull the tree free, it would not budge. Eventually we got smart and turned off the starboard engine, stopping all forward speed. This did the trick. D was finally able to pull the trunk free. Obviously this one was not as big as the tree we saw when leaving Prince William Sound, but it was still far more tree than I would ever like to encounter again with Maple.

The port engine turned back on without a hitch and there is no indication of any issues with the saildrive, propellor or rudder. Today the sunshine, blue skies and gentle seas continue, as do the light winds, We are now down to running one engine and trying our best to maintain 4kn of boat speed. Our goal destination is still Elfin Cove, but we will see what the forecast holds for us and have a stop in Yakutat as our Plan B if needed. Here's hoping we can avoid anymore tree encounters, suddenly kelp doesn't seem so bad.

Monday 26 July 2021

The End

Current Location
Lat: 57-46.6776N
Long: 152-24.6745W

This now concludes the "Guide on What Not to Do When Sailing from Tahiti to Alaska". Some of the highlights this guide offered our readers were:

- Everything on your boat is broken, you just don't know it yet.
- The curse of the NE wind when trying to sail to the NE.
- Birds are free loaders who try to catch a free ride or terrify you if given the opportunity.
- Kelp likes rudders.
- And of course the favourite by our readers, how to strangle yourself with your own life jacket.

Yes, it is finally true. We have arrived in Kodiak, AK. Some fun facts by numbers of our passages since departing Tahiti on May 18:

- Days spent at sea: 52 (FP to HI = 27 days; HI to AK = 25 days)
- Miles sailed: 5,100 (FP to HI = 2350; HI to AK = 2750) To be honest, we really didn't track our mileage so this is a very rough guess at best.
- Days spent fishing: Zero
- Teeth lost: 3, and a fourth hanging by a thread. Yes, we will soon need to puree all of Iris's food!
- Screen time hours for the girls: x = hours awake * days at sea
- Broken/Repaired Stuff: 20 Although, I am probably forgetting something and I did not double count those things that needed multiple repairs.

For those interested in this kind of stuff, here are the details of what broke and/or repaired since leaving Tahiti in no particular order:
- replaced tiller arms x 2 after one broke 500nm SW of Hawaii;
- creating various renditions of a block to stop the rudder from bashing itself against the hull after the tiller arm broke. It felt like hours D spent contorted, upside down in the engine room trying in vain at times to secure the rudder while precariously kneeling on the back transom step being swamped continuously by waves.;
- welder fixed emergency tiller, which was damaged when it was used as our first attempt for securing the flapping rudder;
- torn spinnaker not yet repaired;
- replaced chaffed spinnaker halyard;
- replaced chaffed furling line;
- attended to the unhappy BMS x 3;
- replaced alternator;
- changed fuel filters after troubleshooting why the starboard engine lost power;
- water tank sprung a leak just days into our first passage losing us 400L of water, this will not be repaired;
- life jackets x 2 which need either a new cartridge or replaced altogether;
- patched main sail tear;
- sewed up shredded sail bag which is on its last legs;
- reset inverter when it wouldn't turn on the very first morning after leaving Tahiti. Mind you if that had not been fixed, it would have saved the girls from the incalculable mind-numbing screen time, although it also would have meant we would have not been able to use our computer for staying connected with everyone. You can determine whether this fix was a win or not.;
- re-bedded a leaking thru-hull;
- re-bedded a leaking deck fitting;
- replaced shorted out solar panel wiring;
- shortened main sheet due to chaff x 2;
- re-secured ceiling panels that were falling on the girls' heads in their cabins x 2;
- troubleshoot and fixed a faulty temperature warning light on the port engine.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude for my ever resourceful, persistent, resilient, rarely complaining husband!!! Your ability to troubleshoot and fix problems never ceases to amaze me. Plus became a baker extraordinaire with our warm-up-the-boat breakfasts.

We are thrilled to finally reach our destination after so much planning and anticipation. Feels like the start of a whole new adventure for the Maple crew, which involves more clothing. Thank you so much for following along and putting up with my whining throughout. Many of you provided some perfectly timed words of encouragement, so thank you!!

A special thank you to Shaun who tolerated my random emails of "The weather sucks...give me some good news.". Shaun was invaluable throughout from buying us the parts needed before our arrival in Hawaii and being our weather guru, thank you so much!! No doubt you are equally relieved about our arrival; I am sure you did not anticipate what you were taking on when you agreed to be our go-to guy.

Now let the fun part finally begin...exploring the natural beauty of what I have heard Alaska offers in spades!! The fact that we have already motored past the cutest sea otter just floating on its back in that adorable way that they do, I feel confident we made the right decision to make the effort to sail to Alaska.

Land & Puffins

Current location: 57-26.475N and 152-06.420W

We have continued to motorsail all night. Today we changed our clocks on board to Alaska time, so now just one hour behind BC and two hours ahead of Tahiti. I love how long the days are here. Still light in the sky until 11pm and the sky already starts to brighten by 3am. May work to our advantage in when we arrive, but still not making guesses on when that will be as the boat speed continues to fluctuate and has been decreasing from the lovely 4kt to averaging more 3kt now.

This morning the clouds cleared well enough on the horizon to finally see land!! And D had the pleasure of seeing both dolphins and Puffin birds this morning!!! Yes, yet more birds, but hey these ones were cool is that?!?!

We are presently sitting at 28nm left to Kodiak. Continue to stay tuned, I know everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats.

Sunday 25 July 2021

Glorious sunshine how I love you!!!

Time: 2021/07/26 04:10:20
Latitude: 56-32.56N
Longitude: 152-25.82W
Speed: 4.1
Course: 10T
Wind_Speed: 4
Wind_Dir: NE
Barometer: 1020
Clouds: 10%
Visibility: 10
Air_Temp: 18C
Wave_Dir: NE
Comment: The wind died down a bit overnight so we began to motorsail, slowly towards Kodiak. After several hours of 2kt progress the wind shifted slightly to the NE and we were able to tack (back to Starboard) and head more N with improved speed. We have been making progress to our destination since this morning at 3kt or better and things are looking good for an arrival that doesn't involve us buying diesel from passing fishing boats. [Side bar from Janet: We have not seen any fishing boats, so who knows how long we would have to bob around out here if that was what we needed to rely on to get ourselves to land.] We dare not suggest an arrival time or day but we have less than 100NM to go.

Today was a much better day!! We all had showers. The sun shone brightly for us. We even were able to take off layers of clothing as it felt downright warm inside at 20C, with 18C outside. We have been asked whether we feel like we are starting to acclimatize to the cooler weather. I am not sure whether to be happy or depressed about the fact that I believe I have started to officially acclimatize. Today while wearing only a tank top, a pair of pants and no socks, I needed to crack open the door a little as I was feeling a little too warm. For perspective, up until yesterday, I was wearing three tops, one pair of pants and two pairs of wool socks, plus would cuddle a hot water bottle under a blanket all day. I think the fact that there is barely a lick of wind out here and the sun is shining did not hurt to help me feel warmer. So things are starting to look up for us here on Maple. Perhaps we have not made a terrible mistake after all. Now if we can just get the fuel supply to last for us so we can one day reach land, then life will be excellent!!

While we have friends during the course of their passage to Seattle have seen at least three varieties of whales, multiple times. What have we seen?! Birds, birds and more birds. For the last two days we have had a flock of some sort of huge sea bird that I have not seen before following us. I don't think they are albatrosses as I don't think they are quite that big, but they are a good size. I get the feeling that they are hoping we are fishing and will share our catch with them as they like to congregate behind Maple. And since we are barely moving, they will let us get maybe 10 or 20 meters away from them before they barely flap their wings and mostly run across the water to catch back up with us again. Yes, we are moving so slowly that the birds just need to walk on water to keep up. Anyway, that is the extent of the wildlife encounters for us recently. No whales, no dolphins, nothing else other than birds...oh and let's not forget the kelp.

Who knows what tomorrow's update will hold, stay tuned....

Saturday 24 July 2021

The Fun Continues

Time: 2021/07/25 03:58:15
Latitude: 55-55.69N
Longitude: 153-8.94W
Speed: 3.0
Course: 83T
Wind_Speed: 12
Wind_Dir: N
Barometer: 1020
Clouds: 100%
Air_Temp: 14C
Wave_Ht: 1M
Wave_Dir: N
Comment: So close yet so far. We are fighting headwinds and a current to get to Kodiak. Motoring into the wind gives us a speed over ground of just 1kt - with more than 140 miles to go this is no good, We are down to our last 200L of fuel (best guess) so have about 60 hrs or so of motoring ability, meaning we need to do better than 2 knots under power to make this a good choice. So we sail - East, or slightly SE at 2 kt. The winds are forecast to die down to below 5 kt, hopefully the seas will moderate as well and we can try motoring again, otherwise we're going to have to wait for favourable winds to make the last push to land. Just when we thought we had the end in sight.

Well there you have it, the Maple crew is having to dig deep for patience. It feels like deja vu as we had the exact same thing happen on our last couple hundred miles to Hawaii where we could not motor more than 1kt into the winds and seas. This time, we don't have the same abundance of fuel remaining so patience will have to be our game plan now.

Well enough about weather, here's a new fun story to share. Last night during our shift change at midnight, D was heading off to bed, when the starboard engine that was running at the time dropped in RPMs and just shut off. Ooh, um, that isn't good, is it?! My first thought was another darn kelp that this time found its way around the prop. But we have had prop wraps before and in those cases the engine just cuts out immediately. This time it was just like when the outboard runs out of fuel, it basically sputters and dies. Okay, game plan is to wait until daylight to evaluate the issue. So on goes the port engine and we are set for an easy evening of motorsailing...and yes, at that time we were pointing directly for our destination in more pleasant seas.

Since the starboard fuel tank is located beneath our bed, D had to wait until I was awake to get troubleshooting. So while I enjoyed coffee and freshly baked bread, D got to work...not a bad arrangement I say. So first course of action was to check the fuel tank to make sure there actually was fuel in there. The fuel gauge indicated we had about a third of a tank, but we have previously replaced the fuel sender in that tank so perhaps it was not functioning again and we were in fact out of fuel. Nope, there is still fuel in there.

Second step, check the fuel filters. D did check them quickly when the engine first shut down, and he suspected this was likely the problem. When I asked D when the last time the fuel filters were changed, I sort of just got a blank look and I think he temporarily was unable to hear the pitch of my voice. I took that to mean it had been awhile. It turns out the filters were in pretty bad shape and fairly full of gunk. I wonder if it would have perhaps been a more enjoyable task to do in a lovely calm anchorage than in rolling seas hitting us on the bow, which means we do a lovely hobby-horse type action resulting in seas splashing up over the back transom step where D has to knee to work on the engine. Anyway, without complaint as always, D go the job done. And yup, that was the problem. Starboard engine is back in service again.

As for when we might arrive in Kodiak is now really anyone's guess. The waiting game continues and we are confident that one day we will step foot on land again.

Friday 23 July 2021 usual

Time: 2021/07/24 04:29:32
Latitude: 54-59.85N
Longitude: 154-53.72W
Speed: 4.4
Course: 60T
Wind_Speed: 17
Wind_Dir: NNW
Barometer: 1011
Clouds: 80%
Air_Temp: 14C
Wave_Ht: 1.5M
Wave_Dir: NW
Comment: Currently struggling to head N in NW winds. Waiting for winds and seas to decrease to then point N and motorsail to Kodiak. Perhaps a Monday arrival is possible but really not making any commitments yet based on the variable winds and uncomfortable seas we have been experiencing.

So I am determined to stay positive for this update. I am sure everyone is tired of the pity party emails from me. All is well with the crew on board. I wanted to share what our amazing Captain has been doing for the last week. In an attempt to warm up the salon for when the girls wake up and eventually me, D has been baking something every morning whether it is a loaf of bread, coffee cake, baked oatmeal, waffles or this morning was a freshly baked pie and yes, he makes his own crust. I mean how amazing is this guy!!! The ladies on Maple are very, very spoiled indeed. I think in a way we might be disappointed when we arrive for I don't anticipate this routine continuing, after all we are trying to be optimistic it won't feel quite so cold on board once we are near land again.

The reality is the four of us are more than ready to get there. Our poor extrovert Iris is starting to not be happy to be limited to seeing the same three faces every day. As for Ella, since recently finishing her shawl, she has already knitted a cowl for D and ear warmers for me. The girl is going to run out of wool eventually here and the four of us are going to be covered from head to toe in various knitted accessories. With just 200+ miles to go, we feel we can finally cautiously start a bit of a countdown to our arrival, which is pretty darn exciting for all of us. And I am sure equally exciting for all of you to finally be able to stop reading me whine about this passage.

PS: Yes, Mark and Shaun, we will attempt to re-create the inflated life jacket on D so we can get a picture for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday 22 July 2021

Good Fun That Is Funny

Time: 2021/07/23 03:39:46
Latitude: 53-51.00N
Longitude: 157-30.04W
Speed: 5.0
Course: 51T
Wind_Speed: 21
Wind_Dir: WNW
Barometer: 1010
Clouds: 30%
Visibility: 10
Air_Temp: 12C
Wave_Ht: 2M
Comment: Waves from multiple directions with relatively short period is making for a bumpy ride, but we are heading the right direction at a decent speed so we don't complain too much. The sun and blue sky made an appearance through most of the day and is still up which improves spirits. Amazing what 10 days of oppresive fog and visibility under 1 mille will do to your mood. Just over 300 miles to go.

The fun on board Maple just keeps getting better. And yes, it is still not as fun as getting a hole in our bow, I do concede that we have friends who have won top prize for that level of fun. However, today for the crew of Maple we had our own kind of fun.

I am trying to figure out what is the appropriate amount of back story, so bare with me. Yesterday during my 6pm to 9pm watch, I noticed that there was something streaming off the port stern, parallel to our tow generator line. Huh?! What is that!? Upon closer inspection I discovered we were dragging a long root of kelp that was clearly wedged between the hull and top of the rudder. Right, of course. This giant ocean and we managed to snag kelp 400 miles from land. Can someone calculate the probability of that happening? I feel like I should be buying a lottery ticket to be that lucky. I tried half-heartedly to get it off using the gaff with no success in dislodging it. So when D got up for his shift, he of course easily removed it and the girls were quite excited to check it out up close. They have no memory of seeing kelp before, although I am certain they did at some point on the beaches in BC. Anyway, there is no chance we could be this lucky twice is there?!

As an aside, which I promise is relevant, when we were in Honolulu spending what was left of our life savings, I suggested to D we might want to consider buying new life jackets to replace our very tired ones. He figured it was not necessary yet and so we walked away from spending an additional $500. Well wouldn't you know it, a few days ago D's life jacket broke and is no longer functional to auto-inflate. Ok, no worries. We have two other auto-inflating jackets we had bought for Jeff and Sandra when they joined us for our Atlantic crossing. We had been graduating the girls to those ones but Iris still has her old jacket so if D uses one we still have enough life jackets for everyone. An easy fix for once, life is good...until this morning.

It seems the most fun we like to have is in the morning when this crew member is still sleeping. Such as the spinnaker losing its head. Well this morning was truly my worst nightmare. I woke up to the most terrifying, screeching of alarms. There is only one thing that makes that sound. Yup, the man over board (MOB) alarm was going off. (Insert all possible profanity here.) D and I have individual MOB devices attached to our life jackets. So if one of us falls in the water, the life jacket inflates triggering the MOB, which activates an emergency AIS signal on our chart plotter so we can see exactly where they are, and to ensure immediate action can be taken, it sets off the most horrendous of alarms.

I obviously come tearing out of bed, up the stairs to be greeted at the companionway door to the sight of D standing there getting strangled by his fully inflated life jacket. With no ability to move his head and the life jacket obscuring all peripheral vision, he could not figure out how to deflate the jacket or undo it. Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out how to silence the blaring alarm. Needless to say it was a bit of a gong show, but thankfully no man overboard procedures were actually required. D said he briefly had the image of the scene of Chris Farley struggling to put on a little jacket from the movie, Tommy Boy, flash through his mind. Once the alarm was cleared, D extricated from the life jacket and my blood pressure had returned to its normal level, we are all now regretting not stopping a moment in the frenzy to take a picture of D with a life jacket wrapped firmly around his head. It is a memory I will not soon forget.

Now what caused all of this excitement?! Well it turns out that we can be lucky twice. A second kelp root had wedged itself on the starboard rudder this time. And while D, tethered to the boat of course, was trying to clear this second entangled kelp, he got swamped by one of the monster waves we have had the pleasure of riding out for the last 24 hours. Apparently it was enough water for the life jacket to feel it warranted setting itself off while D was still safely on deck. So now in a matter of days, we are down a second life jacket for our crew of four and as such we had to dig out of the front locker one of those awesome, old school PFDs for one of us to use in case of an emergency. With around 300+ miles to go, it is finally starting to feel like we might see the end to this passage, but perhaps like The Cat in the Hat, we will find more "good fun that is funny" before we make landfall.