Summer Cruising Begins

We’re back afloat, cruising, and it feels good.  I remember a wine called “Goats Do Roam” that we used to see in the local wine store when we lived in Annapolis, and Roxy and I would buy it and change the G to a B.  Boats do roam.  They’re supposed to be moving, not tied to a dock so much.  Jim and I are wanderers, and we’re not good at sitting still for too long.

We took a short shakedown cruise to nearby Ideal Cove, meeting up with liveaboard friends Barb and Rick.Rick was kind enough to take Jim out and show him some tricks and tips for crabbing and processing the catch.  I don’t eat seafood, but Jim likes it – so it’s silly not to take advantage of the bounty that lives underneath us.  Tammy and Russell were giving away their old small crab pots (because they got bigger ones), so now Jim has two pots, accessories, and bait.  Knut was catching herring off the dock right up until we were about to cast off the lines to make sure Jim had more bait.  “You don’t have enough!!”, he insisted.  (We have such sweet friends!)

The day was brilliant and beautiful as we headed out to start summer cruising.  It’s momentous since the cruising season is so much shorter than we’re used to.  In our east coast life we cruised almost all year, taking about three months off to winter in the Florida Keys and catch up on boat maintenance.  Up here, we wait for good weather to either do maintenance, or to cruise.  We savor every minute on the water that much more.We spotted a number of humpbacks as we cruised along, and were happy to see a few pods of Dall’s porpoise – compact black and white rockets in the water.They liked to ride the pressure wave in front of the bulbous bow, but they’re so hard to photograph because they move so fast and don’t come out of the water very much.  It’s exciting to see them – even more fun than dolphins riding our bow on the east coast.We also spotted some of the other black and white marine mammals in the area – orcas.  As we headed north in Stephens Passage from one anchorage to the next, we heard a significant change in the weather forecast so we headed for Taku Harbor to sit tight for an extra day to wait for the storm to pass.  We were tucked into a protected spot, but even there we had wind gusts of 50 knots all day Sunday.  Late in the day a French sailboat came into the harbor with three young guys aboard.  They had their mainsail reefed down to the tiniest bit of sail, and they said they had a great sail up the passage (ah, youth).  They also said they were going below for a strong drink!

The next day the weather cleared, the winds abated, and this was the view that greeted us as we emerged from Taku…We were heading to Juneau – the big city – to do some shopping at Costco and Fred Meyer to fill our freezers for the summer.  Food is quite expensive here since everything comes up by barge, but it’s cheaper in Juneau than on our island.  Some things are almost half the price, so it’s worth a trip to civilization once in a while.  We stocked up, vacuum packed, stowed and inventoried and finished a few boat chores that are far easier to do while tied to a dock. 

Jim spotted a large humpback (about 50′ long) swimming under and around the docks, feasting on the little fish that are everywhere in the harbor.  The harbormaster told us that the whale spent the winter here, rubbing on the bottoms of boats to scratch itches, and sleeping next to the 65′ tug on the outside dock.  There are also a few harbor seals who stay well fed here. 

Once the weather cleared and the clouds lifted, we could see the mountains surrounding the Mendenhall Glacier from the pilothouse.  We’ll get to see the big glacier as we head out this morning, and we hope to see some whales feeding since the tide will be flooding – their favorite time to feed.Now we’re all finished with docks for a while, and that suits me fine.  Next stop: Funter Bay where Jim heard there’s good crabbing.  I know there’s good kayaking, so we’ll both be happy!

Wrapping Up the Road Trip

It’s time to wrap up the tales from our late winter road trip since, in reality, we’re now about to cast off the lines and get ADVENTURES underway for summer cruising on the water.  We certainly enjoyed cruising on the land, but it can’t compare to cruising on the water, especially here in southeast Alaska.  It’s a wonderful place to find some peace and healing.

The final park we visited was Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah.  The “reef” is a monocline – a natural wrinkle in the earth’s crust that’s almost 100 miles long.  The “capitol” part of the park’s name comes from some light colored pointed dome features.The park has a nice variety of hikes, with natural arches……large washes……round depressions that capture water called “tanks”, odd holes and shapes from wind and water erosion……and wonderful petroglyphs.Although we wanted to explore the farther reaches of the reef, we were running short on time and had to settle for the Scenic Drive… not too shabby!Jim had fun shooting panoramics……and I loved the vivid colors in the rock layers.Deer and wild turkeys were the dominant wildlife that we observed, and we definitely plan to return when we have more time.We were staying in a campground about 20 miles outside the park, and we passed a little area that we remembered visiting with a photo group when we lived in Salt Lake 25 years ago.  After poking around we finally found the right road and were rewarded with a view of Factory Butte.Although it was tempting to hike out to the foot of the butte (it’s one of those things where it looks closer than it is, and you hike and hike and hike and it never gets closer), there are some washes nearby with odd colors and shapes.  Add some approaching storm clouds and Jim had a tough time getting me to leave.Oh, and remember – always keep a sharp lookout for wildlife on the road.  You never know what you’ll run into.We put the camper to bed for the summer, took the very interesting Boeing Factory Tour, and checked out Paul Allen’s excellent Warbird Museum before we did a little shopping and set up a pallet to go on the barge to Petersburg.I don’t remember how many miles we traveled, but we visited 7 National Park/Monuments and 3 state parks, and we had a ball.