Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Final Leg Home

The Final Leg Home

Sep 13: We wake up to a beautiful sunny day with a good forecast for the crossing of the Strait of Georgia on our way back to Vancouver Island. For the first time in a while now, we enjoy our breakfast outside and afterwards have fun videotaping Karolina explaining all of our safety gear including her getting into an immersion suit. With the military torpedo testing area Whisky-Golf closed today for practice I pick a route straight across to Nanaimo with light westerly winds allowing me to motor-sail at a good pace. Karolina enjoys the sun and the very calm Strait of Georgia by giving herself a pedicure in the cockpit which includes soaking half a foot at a time in a bowl of warm water and spilling nail polish-remover on the floor. Luckily the remover is acetone-free but as penalty I send her to the bow to watch for shipping traffic. As she falls asleep wrapped in her sleeping bag, I try again to fish for salmon while the auto pilot keeps us pointed towards Nanaimo. Nine hours, lots of sun, and many pictures later we reach New Castle Island, a beautiful park across the water from downtown Nanaimo. Fall has clearly arrived as we notice on the trees strolling across the island. We also run into a group of deer grazing as the sun set. Not being able to find any loonies for a shower we go to sleep mutually smelly but knowing that home and unlimited hot water is just around the corner. Distance: 38 nm.

Sep. 14: Dodds Narrows hits slack at a convenient time in the morning and we motor through the tamed narrow passage leading into the Gulf Islands with another twenty boats or so in front of us and following behind. I’m having trouble getting used to this amount of boat traffic on the water, and every boater seems to annoy me as I’m feeling possessive about the mile long radius of sea room around me. This left over feeling from up north of endless free space will have to abandon me soon or I might have issues being around crowds. Our options for today are Galiano Island which is close by, or Saltspring Island bit further, or something even closer to home. But the decision is quickly made for me as the engine unexpectedly starts smoking out the exhaust a bit more than usual. The blue smoke comes and goes but checking the oil level I notice it’s low, and after noticing that I have no more spare oil to add, the decision is made to head to Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. The weather on the island is great. Karolina claims it’s the warmest day we’ve had and I decide we spend the night here. We park at the dock within the marine park and explore the island, enjoying the sun tanning on a beautiful white maiden beach, getting ice cream and looking for oil for the engine. After finding out that all restaurants are closed we return to the boat and Karolina prepares a great meal, our classic of ginger and mango with rice, while I setup the hammock that I got in Peru in the boats rigging. We enjoy our dinner outside with the last bottle of wine while taking turns to swing in the hammock. We are a bit sad knowing that this could be our last evening of the trip, that is, unless the engine has more surprises for us. Distance: 30 nm.

Sep 15: Maybe we wished too hard for this trip not to be over, but this morning while I was performing a final check of the engine and all its fluids before departure, I discovered that what should be green was now brown – a very bad thing – we had oil in the coolant. Worried, I called my “land crew mechanic”, my Dad, who verified my concern with his car mechanic that the head-gasket in the engine was blown. After motoring a huge chunk of the 2600 kilometres of this trip, and only a day away from home, the engine had it. But all was not lost, as the mechanic advised that I could slowly motor while keeping an eye on the oil level. So under dark cloudy skies and with my nerves slightly on edge we started our final leg home. The weather wasn’t the greatest, with heavy rain coming down at times and a bit of spotty fog. I picked the open water of Haro Strait hoping to catch a bit of wind to help the engine out, and was able to relieve it from its duty for a couple hours of nice sailing in moderate winds despite a downpour. Karolina kept me company hidden out of the rain in the companionway - maybe that’s how the boat entrance/steps got their name. We listened to an audio book on the ipod about truck drivers and their CB radio culture while watching cargo ships in Haro Strait going in and out of the distant fog indicating the busy metropolises of Vancouver and Victoria close by. By 7 pm we were in Oak Bay, with its shores engulfed in thick fog and a dead calm all around without a single vessel on the water. We slowly motored towards the marina careful of the many rocks around and noticed a single figure on the breakwater, it was my Dad photographing us coming in. My Mom was waiting for us at the familiar slip, and like this the trip was over. With joyful embraces, my parents greeting Karolina for the first time in person and my Dad commenting how I hadn’t reached Alaska but caught a Zlota Rybka – a Golden Fish, that grants all wishes.

Sep 16-26: The following days were spent exploring my hometown of Victoria as well as Vancouver on the mainland. Showing Karolina our inner harbour downtown, our float planes the float homes at Fisherman’s wharf, and then taking her over to Vancouver on our ferry and exploring the waterfronts of the city, I realized how large a part our ocean plays in our daily experience. Karolina replied that had she lived here she would naturally enjoy life through a sailboat as well.

Reflections on the trip:

Total distance covered by Corsair on the water: 1400 nautical miles = 2600 km. Average moving speed 4.4 kts. 69 days. Around 600 L of gasoline (hey, moving over 6500 lbs. through the water). 7 days and 760 nm in Alaska by ferry. Strongest wind: 35 kts (65 km/h). Thickest fog: <1/8 nm visibility. Coldest temperature: Just ask Karolina, we didn’t have a thermometer.

In retrospect, I should have called this blog “motoring to Prince Rupert”, nonetheless, witnessing the entire BC Inside Passage from the perspective of my sailboat was amazing, unforgettable, thought provoking and inspiring. And If I could, the trip would be repeated in a heartbeat in a boat with a solid diesel engine, a dodger and a hot-water shower, and of course, the company of Zlota Rybka.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Getting closer to home

Getting closer to home

Sep 6: Today another miserable day on the water with heavy cold rain in the face and strong head winds. To end my misery I decide to pull into Lagoon Cove Marina which is a highly suggested stop here in the Broughtons. Karolina and me find out soon why that is the case. Bill, a very friendly veteran has been running the place for years, and every day at 5 pm in the season it’s “happy hour”. Every boater brings something small to share and a drink, but Bill provides the prawns from his bay. Karolina and I both agree that these are the best and largest prawns that we have tasted. Bill catches them each morning and cooks them to perfection. The trick he says it’s to kill them in fresh water, and let them soak for a bit before briefly cooking them in sea water. We are by far the youngest boaters in the crowd, as is often the case, and are entertained by good stories of retired CEOs from the States and their adventures up here on the Inside Passage. Distance: 12 nm.

Sep 7: We head out of the Broughtons with good currents pushing us out at up to 9 kts, and into Johnston Strait where we even manage to do some real sailing. I manage to wrap my fishing gear around the rudder, and dance around the boat getting it untied while Karolina sails us in 20 kts winds and beautiful sunshine. Before the winds get any stronger we decide to tuck into Port Neville and moore at the public dock. Alex, a very friendly elderly man with a heavy beard and dressed like a lumber jack from the 20s gave us a tour of the Port Neville Store and the antiques inside. We learn that this was the first post office in BC. In nice weather we go for a hike and explore the beach for the rest of the day. In the morning we buy a sockeye from fisherman docked here from Prince Rupert, they are nice enough to clean it for us, and at $10 per fish it’s a good deal. The fisherman tell us that salmon is back in higher numbers than it has been in the last sixty years and that today is the last opening for sockeye. Distance: 23 nm.

Sep 8-9: We wake up to thick fog. The last place I would like to be in fog is a mayor shipping channel between the island and the mainland on the last fishing opening for sockeye of the season, but that’s what Johnston Strait was that day and I decide to head out into it. Feeling pretty confident in the electronics and with Karolina asleep down below not knowing that we are engulfed in a bright white cloud with less than 1/8 nm visibility, for three hours I scoot around numerous slow fishing vessels while other bigger faster “radar blips” pass me seemingly aware of my presence. By the afternoon the fog evaporates and we enjoy a lunch of raw sockeye sashimi and sockeye ceviche prepared by Karolina in nice sunshine and with clear mountain views of the mainland. Once out of the strait a white-sided dolphin pops up beside the boat and starts playing by in the bow wave. Karolina seeing the jumping dolphin can’t control her excitement and I’m afraid she’ll fall overboard from the jitters, but I think the dolphin noticing this leaves us quickly. We make our next stop at Shoal Bay, the old gold mining town that I visited on the way up, and end our day by gorging on grilled salmon in a cream cheese and olive sauce. Distance: 35 nm.

The next morning, with the tidal currents running at max through Yuculta rapids (our next passage) and a dream that I really needed to show Karolina a meadow with flowering bean bushes here in Shoal Bay, I decide we stay for the sunny day and explore. At the dock we meet Nadine who gets our attention by yelling hello at us in broken Polish. Nadine and her husband Bert live here, spending half of the year here and the other half in Vancouver. Excited to have younger company Nadine guides us on a hike up the mountain in Shoal Bay that contains remnants of the old gold mining operations. At the top we find one mine entrance that is not blocked by fallen trees and a hundred years of debris and excited and equipped with flashlights we decide to cautiously explore it. The mine tunnel carved in a solid block of quartz and granite heads into the mountain side a couple hundred feet, finally opening up, with two shafts in the floor leading to larger chambers below. After dropping some rocks into the giant deep hollows and snapping some pictures of strange looking large half-cricket half-spider insects we decide not to risk it more and head back.
Nadine invites us to her home and is extremely generous filling our arms with vegetables from her garden which is filled with flowering bean bushes like in my dream I had the night before. Later we make dinner at Nadine’s home with Bert and Mark the owner of the Shoal Bay marina joining us. We fill up on fresh garden veggies, a barbequed salmon, and even a home-made apple crisp for dessert, while enjoying Ben’s stories of a black bear getting into his boat in the middle of the night.

Sep 10: We leave Shoal Bay after taking advantage of the rare satellite internet connection that Mark generously offers for free at his small dock, and head to cross Yuculta and Dent Rapids. The tide change is high and I carefully measure my timing and distance to cross both passes at slack and avoid any surprising whirlpools and eddies. We cross with no events at all and putter slowly towards Desolation Sound on autopilot as I try to fish. On the way we see a large group of seals in crescents shapes, all of them arching up into the air trying to keep out of the water as the tide slowly creeps up their rocky platform. We pull into Prideaux Heaven in the Desolation Sound provincial park and realize that we must be getting close to the civilized world of southern BC as we drop anchor next to eighteen other boats in the bay. Being so far north I became accustomed to having the bays and coves to ourselves or sharing it with one other boat. The “gates” of tidal rapids like Yuculta and open passes like Cape Caution as well as the pure distance definitely keep most boaters south of this point, for most making Desolation Sound and exotic destination perfect for a two to three week vacation from Vancouver. Even with the other boats here the place lives up to its reputation of sublime beauty. Many craggy islands covered with tuffs of trees at their tops are framed by a background of steep coastal mountains, which on the way up had patches of snow, but today were covered in mist. In comparison to Alaska and the northern inside passage I and Karolina both agree that this is one of the nicer anchorages we’ve seen. Distance: 40 nm.

Sep 11: Today the weather turned sour again, and I had to motor into 15-20 kts southerly head winds with heavy rain. The forecast for the Strait of Georgia was worsening with each new weather report and I decided to stop early and pull into Lund. Lund with its historic 1920s hotel clearly visible from the water is the end of the road that runs along the Sunshine Coast, to get any further north without flying one has to head into the interior of BC or take a boat. Once at the public docks we seek dry shelter in a café where we enjoy some real espresso and freshly baked sweets for the first time since Prince Rupert. We then re-provision, getting some small groceries, getting rid of our garbage, and fuel up and take on new water. Distance: 17 nm.

Sep 12: We motor-sailed for eight hours again into a southerly wind but at least with little rain. Karolina spent her time having a party down below to David Bowie tunes. The next classic BC spot we anchored in was Jervis Inlet, more specifically in the Muscet Island marine park surrounded by some pretty tall granite cliffs. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will cross over to Vancouver island across the Strait of Georgia. Distance: 30 nm.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Skipper Sails the Princess South

Heading South

Aug 19: We leave Prince Rupert after a fuel stop in a mix of rain and sunshine. Karolina is a volcano of excitement for the first hour and ten has trouble getting her sea-legs in the first open-ocean swells straight out of port and is knocked out by Gravol for a three hour nap while I steer us to Lewis Island. Only ones in the cove we enjoy the views with a brightening sky and a dinner of local prawns in a coconut curry. Distance: 19 nm.

Aug 20: Still hoping for dryer warmer weather we plug south with no wind to Baker Inlet, a scenic spot with a tiny corridor like entrance with only 30 feet of room to manoeuvre. Distance: 22 nm.

Aug 21: To exit Baker Inlet I’m forced to get up in the dark at 5 am to pass the tight entrance narrows at slack tide. This, however, forces me to move in some thick fog with less than one-eighth of a mile of visibility. For the first time of the trip I’m forced to completely rely on my fancy broadband radar and I’m glad I spend the money. I get through the narrows with no worries but my excitement grows as I enter Granville Channel, a main route for the Northern BC ferry and many cruise ships and tug boats and their cargo. I travel glued to the GPS and radar for a few hours with anonymous ships passing me with the only indication of their presence being a spot on the radar screen and a large wake. Only the large BC ferry sounds its horn as it passes us, with the fog slowly clearing making for an exciting scene in this tight channel as the colossal block of steel quickly appears and disappears back in the fog.
By noon the fog clears and we pull into Lowe Inlet where we take the dinghy ashore and visit Verney Falls filled with jumping salmon going upstream from the inlet. Karolina and me can’t believe the number of salmon trying to swarm the falls, feverishly trying to hurdle themselves in what seems like great pain upstream. Later from the safety of our boat, parked right at the mouth of the falls we see a black bear prancing on the rocks where we were an hour ago. Karolina squeaks so loud with excitement that the bear decides to gingerly get back into the bush before she can snap his picture. Distance: 27 nm.

Aug 22-23: Today we witnessed a large concentration of Humpback whales in Wright Sound. It was quiet and the water was still and they were all over the place in this large expanse of water as the sun was setting. We switched the engine off and coasted quietly watching them blowing air loudly echoing all around and hitting the water hard with their fins making it sound like thunder. I think so far I have been calling Humpback whales erroneously Minke whales, but was informed of my mistake. Humpback whales come here to feed on the abundant fish in the area before they migrate to Hawaii where they mate.
Our next stop was the Indian village of Hartley Bay. Here we encountered very heavy rains making life on the boat pretty miserable since there are a few leaks. We make the most of it in the rain by exploring the small village which interestingly has no sidewalks or roads but only boardwalks that continue off the dock all around town, I think it’s because it rains here so much. We then visit an Indian ladies house that bakes bread and buy two loafs. Gale force winds force us to spend an extra night here. Distance: 23 nm.

Aug 24-25: In heavy rain we make our way through Verney Passage to Bishop Bay. This time around instead of beautiful mountain vistas in sunshine we are however treated to a show of waterfalls. In the rainy, misty and gloomy weather waterfalls spring out of every corner of the hills that we pass. Even without the sun the mountains with peaks shrouded in fog and trickles of water cascading over their entire faces made for an impressive site.
In the very deep Bishop Bay where I had troubles anchoring last time, due to no dock space I’m forced to again anchor not so securely in the steeply sloping bottom. At 4 am in the morning Karolina and me are awakened by a violent jolt and sounds of the hull scraping. I dart out of bed ready to pull on the anchor thinking we hit rocks on shore but realize a giant log or rather full size delimbed tree complete with roots has hang up on the anchor rode and is being pushed hard against the length of the boat by a strong current in the bay. Excited from being so rudely awakened in the pitch dark and cold rain Karolina helps me push the tree of the boat as I slacken up the anchor line. The heavy rains washed lots of logs into the bay and a couple more bumped the boat later making for a sleepless night. The next day I realize my anchor is fouled either from the tree pulling on it or from me creating too much slack. I spend 20 minutes trying to free the anchor really hoping not to have to cut it as my spare is only half as good, but the anchor finally gives and I pull the rode up with frayed parts and rust stains on the line.
To relax we enjoy the hot springs in the bay where the water is nice and hot without the sulphur smell. We later meet Marty and Mae a sailing couple from Prince Rupert. They invite us over for wine and we spend talking about spots to visit while Mae teaches me some fine skills for salmon fishing and is nice enough to give me some of her fishing lures to assure success. Marty and Mae are big opponents of the discussed tanker traffic that will ship crude oil extracted in the Alberta oil sands from Kittimat and through parts of this beautiful Inside Passage. Marty with his “No Tankers” sign pasted all over his sailboat believes that with one tanker a week coming in and out, year round even in stormy weather in these narrow passages is too high of a risk for an oil spill. Considering how serious the weather can get here in the winters, including the highest wind speeds recorded in all of Canada, at a 120 knots (over 200 km/h), at the tip of the Queen Charlottes, I think the chance for a spill is definitely there. Distance: 29 nm.

Aug 26: In rain and sun we move south and stop in Butedale to give Lou the caretaker of the old cannery a quick visit. We have a quick chat with Lou who gives us some smoked salmon, visit his power generating plant and after a few stories leave as Karolina is definitely too scared to spend the night docked next to the old buildings of the cannery. Instead we spend the night in Khutze Inlet with a tall cascading waterfall as our background. Distance: 36 nm.

Aug 27-28: Pulling out of Khutze Inlet I spot a large black bear on shore and stop the engine and we quietly drift inshore to watch him wonder on the beach for a good ten minutes. I hear black bears are very near sighted and it seemed like he couldn’t see us only sniffing the air when we made some slight noise and than going back to looking for goodies in the tide exposed beach.
We spent the night in Clothes Bay by the Indian village of Klemtu, where the next day I fuelled for gas being able to get the “band” price for fuel paid in cash. Then we sailed onto Shearwater where we were able to reprovision, wash our clothes and surprisingly even enjoy some Chinese food at the local pub. Karolina even noticed that the pub’s menu had Polish stamps with salmon pictures on them on its cover.
In the morning everyone at the marina was treated to an amazing display of a feeding Humpback whale. They bay was filled with fish and this large whale not minding the marinas docks, boats or boat traffic kept on chasing the schools of fish around the bay and marina leaping out of the water numerous times as he scooped the feed into his mouth. People were lined at the dock like paparazzi snapping pictures of its every move. I thought Karolina in her excited state might fall of the dock into the water as she chased the whale around shrieking “oh my god” every second in Polish. Distance: 36 nm and 43 nm.

Aug 29-30: Today we sailed to Namu, another abandoned cannery that is being cared for by a couple of caretakers. Here we met the most interesting sailors of the trip: Kevin the skipper of Alize and his friend Steve. Kevin a recent PhD graduate in biology has just completed my dreamed route, making it from Seattle to Glaciar Bay Alaska and being on his way back. Making this trip in a boat only two feet larger than mine but maybe with a better engine and starting in May, he had stories of Alaska like making martinis out of glacial ice that made me pretty jealous of his accomplishment. With his friend Steve, also a biology PhD graduate about to defend and sailor we had lots in common and many stories to share.
The next day in a group we explored the ruins of Namu. The place had a high creepy factor with stores filled with goods, wearhouses full of machinery and houses with food left on the table as if the occupants mysteriously vanished. We than went out on the lake in a canoe after an interesting walk through the forest on a very old boardwalk that promised to collapse underneath our every step. We later sailed both boats to Pruth Bay with some heavy winds and exciting eight foot swells on an outside section of the coast that looked very wild and rugged but unfortunately in a heavy downpour that was filling my cockpit with water up to the ankles making the sail pretty dramatic. In Pruth Bay we get kicked off the docks as a fully fledged academic informs us that the docks are no longer for visitors and are meant for the now UVic operated biology research facility. Kevin unaware of this insults the professor for catering only to rich yachties and off we go to a next door cove, Keith’s Anchorage. The boys invite us over for dinner prepared by Steve the gourmet chef and we have the best meal since the beginning of the trip. We have good conversations including Kevin’s continuation of the trip all the way down to San Francisco. He is looking for crew so if not for work in October I would gladly join him. We end the night with an exciting shuttle using Kevin’s kayaks back to our boat in strong winds, rain, phosphorescence in the water and Karolina’s first time paddling a kayak alone :) Distance: 28 nm and 19 nm.

Aug 31-Sep 2: After very slow progress into strong headwinds and waves I decide to stop chasing Kevin and Steve and me and Karolina head for the fancy fishing resort of Duncan’s Landing and its warm showers, while the boys decide to make a run for the treacherous Cape Caution. At Duncan’s Landing we enjoy a nice dinner at the restaurant complete with desert and I plan the next day’s crossing to Vancouver Island.
The crossing past Cape Caution to Port Hardy sixty nautical miles goes ok. The winds are southerly again, so I’m forced to motor-sail the whole time to keep up speed, and the swells are large, recorded at 2 m, which is a bit larger than I liked but we needed to get across before the next low system blew even stronger southerly winds for the next couple of days. The swells make the crossing a little intimidating at times but I feel excited like I’m offshore sailing while Karolina full of anti-seasickness medication is hoping the rolling sea would stop.
Safe and sound in Port Hardy we enjoy a day off to re-provision, fuel, change oil and spark plugs, go for dinner and relax. Distance: 26 and 60 nm.

Sep 3-4: Our next stop is the Indian village of Alert Bay. Here we stay for two nights as Johnston Strait decides to blow strong winds as always. We visit the U’mista Cultural Museum which has a large collection of Indian masks and other artefacts that were confiscated in the early 1900s after Indian Potlaches were banned by the government. We also see a Native dance performance at the traditional long house. Later we find a couple of fisherman that are willing to sell us a beautiful sockeye salmon, illegally I think. The fish is the best we have ever tasted. Out of it we make sashimi and eat it raw Japanese style and it tastes like melting butter, then Karolina makes ceviche which we enjoy for two days and I still make some on the grill baked with olives, capers and cream cheese. Distance: 27 nm.

Sep 5: Today we visit Village Island in the Broughton Islands and the old remnants of the Indian Village with the cool name of Mamalilaculla. With no one on the island but us and some bears we end up visiting the old village after 8 pm, which really increases the spooky factor. Amongst a very heavy overgrowth of raspberry bushes we find old remnants of an original Indian long house composed of two large arches made out of solid cedar timber still intact with hand tool marks still clearly visible. I get pretty excited about such finds. And to top it all off we then find a fallen over totem pole with a carving of a lizard or salamander and a bear below it. We get back to our zodiac as it is almost dark and find it slightly deflated but still manage to row back to the boat. In the night Karolina gets spooked by dreams of Indians getting on our boat and makes me triple check everything outside as I laughingly reassure her that all is fine. And then a spooky thing really happens that even makes me wonder: I run the radar since it’s a very dark night to check the position of the boat to the shore to make sure anchor hasn’t dragged and notice a blip on the screen as if from a boat size object 50 m away from us, but can’t find anything by flashing a light on it, the spot is weak and appears and disappears but seems very steady, not wanting to freak Karolina more I tell her about it in the morning after running the radar again and noticing that all landmasses were as before but the blip was gone. Lesson: don’t mess with old Indian villages. Distance: 19 nm.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Whirlwind tour of Alaska

Aug 10 – Aug 12: Karolina came on a flight that might not have landed due to fog in Prince Rupert. All the way from Poland she came loaded with gifts and full of smiles. We visited Prince Rupert for a day checking out the Museum of Northern British Columbia and the real characters in town. Karolina was excited about everything including big diesel trucks and derelict wooden houses that you don’t get to see in Europe. We then boarded the Alaskan ferry for our weeklong tour of Alaska. Our first stop was Ketchikan, our first taste of the typical cruise-ship tourist trap. With three giant cruise ships parked in town and the city swarmed with their tourists we run around town getting Ulu knives as gifts while sipping on cappuccinos. Parked right along one of the cruise ships was one of the boats from the Deadliest Catch show, Time Bandit. Tourists were getting pretty excited about that. Seems like marketing was the reason for the boats mooring spot after seeing DVDs and shirts about the show in all the shops, as well as hearing that Time Bandit has a whole store with their brand name somewhere in Juneau. Our next stop was Wrangell, where we had unusually hot weather according to the locals. We wondered around this quaint typical Alaskan town and had some ice-cream from a local shop. On the ferry we could enjoy some amazing views in the comfort of a large ship, and the luxury of a private cabin with a hot shower. Our next stop was Petersburg where the surrounding scenery began to change compared to that of BC. Steep mountains covered with snow and capped with giant glaciers appeared as the backdrop to the town, making for some memorable views in the setting sun, making me feel for the first time that we are in Alaska.

Aug 13: Friday the 13th we arrive in Juneau, the state capital of Alaska, and on this day we trust to take a flight on a small airplane to Gustavus next to my dream destination of Glacier Bay National Park. We stay at the Glacier Bay Lodge right in the park, where we are greeted by unusually clear skies and warm weather where for the past month there was nothing but overcast skies and fog which blocked the view off all the glaciers. We spend the day kayaking in a double sea kayak chasing an otter, and seeing porpoise dolphins and seals. Karolina doesn’t trust my kayaking abilities and is afraid that we’ll never get back to our lodge after four hours on the water, but a favourable tide slings us back home as planned and Karolina hopefully starts trusting my sweet sea skills.

Aug 14: We spend the whole day on a guided boat tour of Glacier Bay Park. The morning fog lifts and we are treated to spectacular views in pure sunshine and clear blue skies for the rest of the day on a trip that takes us 65 miles into the park and back. The sights are hard to describe and pictures might due them a fraction of the justice, but the scene was like the Rocky Mountains full of snow and glaciers coming straight out of the sea. The scale is gigantic and hard to comprehend even with large cruise ships dwarfed to look like toys in the foreground by massive walls of ice and snow behind them. We observed a couple of calving tidewater glaciers with beautiful blue coloured ice in bays filled with chunks of white ice and listened to them cracking and crumbling. We also observe some amazing nature from the boat which includes a colony of stellar sea lions, two grizzly bears feeding on shore, and swarms of sea otters and porpoise dolphins, and even a couple of gray whales from a distance. I observed only one sailboat throughout the day in the park with a front-row view of a magnificent mountain chain and glacier slipping into the sea, parked amongst small icebergs it was proudly flying a large Canadian flag from the back stay. The sailboat, much larger than mine, and clearly equipped for serious sailing made me pretty envious and at the same time proud of their accomplishment. I so strongly wished I could have made it this far under my own steam but I know I made the right decision and felt privileged to be seeing this amazing place at all. Having Karolina here with me was of course the icing on the cake for me and truly made me feel like the luckiest man in the world. She’s also my amazing on board photographer and credits go to her for all the stunning pictures from now on.

Aug 15: We flew back from Gustavus with amazing arial views of the surrounding mountain tops and spend the rest of the day visiting Juneau. The main site is the Mendenhall Glacier close to town which is also an amazing glacier, the 5th largest in the US, that calves into a lake with a stunning waterfall at its side. With lots of tourists around we were still able to snap some pictures and then headed downtown Juneau to be part of the cruise ship crowds and strolled amongst the dozen jewellery and gift shops.

Aug 16: In the morning we visit Sitka where we have breakfast at a local diner, which is a huge novelty for Karolina. Sitka is a small pretty town with some Russian influence which includes and Orthodox church. We again stop in Petersburg and have Karolina take some more pictures of some classic Americana scenes mixed with Norwegian and Russian influences.

Aug 17-18: We visit Ketchikan again and do some last minute gift shopping since this is our last stop in Alaska this time loading up on some gourmet smoked salmon. Karolina gets a picture with Santa Claus at the year round Christmas Store but to me he looked like a regular Alaskan. We then spend the rest of the day going through foggy Dixon Entrance back to Prince Rupert. With the fog horns blowing I’m glad not to be the one navigating. Back in Prince Rupert we get the boat and ourselves ready for the next leg, our way back south and home. Our day is filled with a visit to the Laundromat, again a huge exciting novelty for Karolina, shopping for groceries, engine oil changes for me, and major reorganizations of the boat making it look more homely. With the weather looking very rainy and forecasts not looking any warmer we are at least ready to head back.