We've learnt that you've not only got to juggle the weather, daylight and huge 20+ft tides around here, but also the spectacular currents they can create, up to 4-5kn in some places. Apart from being almost impossible for us to motor against, a current like this can pile even a modest swell up into something truly daunting.
It's all part of the game up here though, and so far, we've done well, timing our departures to try and arrive at strong currents and passages when they're flowing in our favour, enjoying the thrill of streaking past the amazing, snowy, waterfall-strewn mountainscapes at 8 or even 9 knots. Inevitably the tide always has to turn however, and the trick is to either be out in deep water away from land (where the current seems less), or still at anchor.
Sometimes they just can't all link up, and we did cop a few slow, lump sections on our overnight trip around the bottom of the Kenai Peninsula, and Jess was unfortunately seasick twice. On the up-side, I did manage to film it however! Yay! (How cruel am I? I know. Actually we'd pre-agreed to film it if/when it next happened, because for such a major part of our story, we're conscious we've got virtually no footage for our short film we hope to make on our voyage.). So, tick. =P
In other news our prehistoric pressurised kerosene 'Force 10' stove finally rusted itself to pieces, dangerously flowing kerosene even after I turned off. Yikes. I had fun putting that out. Sadly though, besides our half-rebuilt engine, that stove was one of the last original bits of kit that came with Teleport, so it's sad to see her go. We'll have to put in something new in Cordova. Gas sounds wonderfully convenient. My disappointment at my inability to fix it myself was tempered by a few other repairs over the last few days: for some reason I thought I'd test our serious, manual, inbuilt, hand bilge bump, and was horrified to discover it wasn't sucking. Troubleshooting led me to dismantle the whole pump, where I found some salt and muck had wedged open one of the rubber valves. Easily cleaned, reassembled, and now in working order. Zipping over to photograph some birds with Jess the other day using the outboard, I suddenly realized there was no stream of cooling water squirting out the side like normal! No sign of weed clogging the intake or anything. Disaster! Scared of imminent overheating, we opted for a long row back instead while contemplating where we might have stashed our spare outboard water pump impeller. Hoisting it up into the cockpit for major repairs, just as I was about to gleefully descend upon the outboard leg with my wrench set, I noticed that the tiny cooling water outlet nozzle looked a bit clogged with salt. All I had to do was prick & clean it out with a pin and a quick check revealed it was cured & spitting water once more. Success!
We bypassed most of Prince William Sound as we explored that last season (and we'll be back there twice in August anyway, leading our photo safaris there), so we headed direct for Montague Island. Along the way, apart from dozens of humpback whales blowing and breaching everywhere, one lone, absolutely huge whale with a tiny dorsal fin cruised along beside us for 10 minutes we think perhaps a Fin (or maybe Sei) whale. Then, on our way up Montague Strait, a pod (pack?) of Orca (killer whales) tracked right past us, though they didn't show any curiosity, despite me standing ready with my GoPro camera on a stick for some underwater action.
After this overnight trip, we stopped at Hanning Bay on Montague Island (having dismissed Macleod Harbour because ocean swell was sweeping right in). Anchoring in 30 feet of clear water with no one else around, we turned of the engine and let the serenity wash over us these are the kind of places we sail to find: several sea otters lazily backstroking around (some with fluffy youngsters riding on their mother's tummy), sea lions twisting through the water and snorting at each other on the surface, flocks of kittiwakes, murres and auklets peeping away, diving for little silver anchovies. We could even see and hear the Orcas from our anchorage. Just perfect. Until then the mosquitoes arrived
In anchorages, mosquitoes and midges have been descending upon Teleport in the late afternoon onwards, but our mozzie screens keep out the stupid ones, and a lathering of insect repellant foils the more ingenious ones that somehow still find their way inside. Weirdly, I find it so warm inside at night that even a sheet can be too hot, so I'm peppered with bites.
The weather's been gorgeous since we left blue skies, pretty calm, but enough wind to sail (sometimes), and it feels about 15-20 degrees during the day. With the sun setting at 11:18PM and rising again just five hours later at 4:16AM, the days stretch on forever, and the 'golden hour' of perfect light for photography drifts on all evening. The days are just going to keep getting longer too, up until my birthday the summer solstice on 21st June, the longest and best day of the year - and then they'll start getting shorter again. =)
The next day we headed onwards to Green Island, pausing at the aptly named 'The Needle' a tall spire of rock rising out of 300 ft+ depth of water covered in loud sea lions, and surely the perfect place to catch a fish for dinner. Dropping the sails and chucking over our trusty metal jig lure (simply tied onto a spool of cord/string not even fishing line), I let the line run out until it hit the bottom (about 80feet), pull it up a couple of feet from the bottom, and then commence jigging it up and down. It only took about 25 seconds to land a large (75cm?) black rock-fish, 1/4 of which we had right away for lunch, 1/4 Jess later turned into a wonderful green curry for dinner (with enough left over for lunch the next day), and then converted the remaining 1/2 the following day into a tasty chowder (Jess uses instant mashed potato 'Deb' to create a wonderfully thick creamy base in about 5 minutes!). Amazingly there was enough chowder left to form a hearty lunch today as we head in towards Cordova, as well as dinner tonight (we don't get in until 10 or 11PM). That's six, back-to-back meals each (12 meals all up!) from one fish. (Oh the joys of not having a fridge/freezer! Eat it all up as fast as you can!)
Last night we anchored at Zaikof Bay at the NE end of Montague Island another large, dreamy cove, this time with humpback whales (including mothers and calves) puffing their way around us in the bay, and so many birds! Apparently, due to one of the world's largest herring spawns occurring here annually, 70% of the world's surfbird population stops here to feed before heading on to their various nesting sites! What a place! Determined to climb to the peak of the nearby snow-capped mountains, Jess and I rowed ashore at 4:30PM and first pushed through the thick scrub and pine trees, talking unnecessarily loudly and singing ridiculous songs every so often so we hopefully wouldn't walk right into a surprised bear after all, Montague Island apparently sports the densest population of Brown Bears in Prince William Sound. The bush gave way to open mossy green, swampy paddocks a maze of interlinked tundra puddles filled with flowering lillypads.
Hiking along, I suddenly spotted a mother Sitka black-tailed deer, with a tiny, almost-newborn fawn suckling from her, not 100 meters from us. We froze, but Mum had already seen us, and even before I could begin to slowly reach for my camera, she snorted an alarm call, and bounced theatrically away into pine forest - all four legs held straight like pogo-sticks. The baby knew exactly what to do, and instantly sunk down into the mossy and flowers, head and ears all flat had it been luminous green instead of rich brown with white spots, it would have camouflaged perfectly. An embarrassingly few seconds later, it seemed to entirely forget that it was a) supposed to be hiding, and that b) Mum had just run away, and it delightfully clambered to it's feet and started ambling around quite happily on it's own, as Jess and I crouched down where we were, spellbound, taking photos. It even wandered over to a small stream closer to us and had a drink, and tottering even closer, it suddenly saw us. I figured the spell was broken and it'd surely flee, but instead, this adorable baby deer proceeded to unhurriedly wander towards me - stopping to inspect flowers along the way and then come right up to me, nuzzling in against me as I crouched there, absolutely motionless, now expecting at any moment Mum to explode through the trees and shred me. She didn't though, and this little thing walked around me for a bit - even let me gently stroke it - before visiting Jess, and then it's ears suddenly pricked, and it gambolled away into the forest where it's Mum had vanished. It was such an unexpected, magical experience!
After we'd finished replaying the videos and cooing over the cute photos, Jess and I continued on up the mountain, eventually to the barren alpine scree slopes (so steep we had to clamber up on all fours, searching for the greener regions where a thin veil of vegetation helped hold it all together), climbing various rocky chimneys (one at a time so the dislodged rocks cartwheeled down the mountain instead of smack into one of us), and at last onto and along the various snow-covered, knife-edge ridge-lines up to the summit. Although only 2424 feet high (740m) and only taking about 2.5hrs to climb up, it's amazing how dramatic these mountains are, and how breathtaking the view is they command we could see NW inland across The Sound, and SE out to sea, and far, far down steeply below, back in the bay, tiny black specks that were still more humpback whales edging around Teleport. As Jess commented in Australia (where real mountains are in woefully short supply), to get a view and a hiking experience as spectacular this, it'd have to be a full-day hike or longer, there'd probably be guardrails and warning signs, likely loads of people - and it would be very famous. What we love about it here, is that it doesn't even have a name it's just a peak marked '2424' on the chart. Rugged, remote wilderness is just so accessible here, it's wonderful. =) It helps to have your own sailboat I guess. (Did I mention, Teleport's for sale?! Haha)
So I'll likely send this from Cordova when we get in later today. The plan is to fix a few things, buy a few things, wait for the weather and head onwards, South East towards the start of 'The Inside Passage' and eventually, to Canada.