The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 8

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The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 8

 

A Sleeping Giant

A Grey whale snoozes beside the Audrey Eleanor, the clank of the anchor wakes him and with a single graceful sway of his tail he moves on.

Audrey pulled away her moorage in Haines, Alaska on July 26, 2006.   Haines was difficult to leave; we’d established wonderful friendships on the docks and in the community as well. Richard from the Eleanor S would no longer commission us to spy on his daughter, she sometimes spent the night onboard the Eleanor S. He wanted to know whom she was holding hands with. She prepared her own reports for us to pass along to Richard her vigilant father.

Carl off of Driftwood Charters had married Jenny and was no longer perusing Canadian girls. We had enjoyed many Dungeness crab fests at his little house tucked into the Alaskan wilderness with an outlook over Mud Bay. While we ate he quizzed us on available Whitehorse women. His honesty was refreshing; Carl was looking for a wife. Not a maid or a nurse, but a wife who would be his partner during his life. He had criteria to follow and was direct in his approach. Jenny ended up being his lady.

This does not remind me of Carl, but it jumps into my mind as part of the usual gyrations of northern romance. I am reminded of a time when my brother Joel and I were in Haines years ago. He was chatting up the barmaid and asked what had brought her to Alaska, her reply, ‘the men’. His eyes lit up at the response. When he asked if she had been successful in her search she replied, “The odds are good and the goods are odd.” I laughed for days over this.

Judy from the homebuilt ship the Arcturus, gave us her personal copy of a book that she wrote on edible plants in Alaska. The University of Alaska was in the process of having it published, it supplied us with invaluable information on edible plants and seaweed in Alaska. I developed a fondness for sea asparagus.

B.J McLean from Whitehorse donated a copy of her CD ‘January Thaw’ I’m not sure if it helped with the homesickness or made it worse…it sings of our Yukon home and is still one of our favourites. B.J.’s songs bring the northern night skies and friendships crawling up onto your lap anywhere that you go. She suggested that the Captain pay particular attention to the “Plump and Friendly Northern Girl” song. He loved flirting with her.

My brother Kurtis had decided that we needed an escort from Haines to at least Hoonah, Alaska. Kurtis uses ANY reason to escape to the sea. Our escort grew to include my parents, Ricks’ youngest daughter Alanah, Kurt’s wife Janine and my little niece Jianna Mia, who was five months old at the time. Jianna is a very special little girl; we waited for her for 10 years. She finally arrived after her parents spent a most wonderful long weekend boating in Alaska.   Mia her middle name, stands for Made in Alaska.

We end up dropping the hook behind Sullivan Island the first day out; our 8 knots couldn’t out run the weather we ran into alongside Eldred Rock. The next afternoon we motored into Hoonah, Yukon. That is not a typo; there were more Yukoners on the transient dock than Alaskans. The flying bridge on Audrey is a most social place. The Captain deep fried fresh halibut on the back deck and the fishing stories on the bridge grew as the pinks and purples of the summer night sky reflected back at us in the glass calm water.

Fishing in Hoonah! For some of us in the north, this is what summer is! Icy Straight is thick with marine life; salmon jump out of the water saying pick me, look at me, pick me. I know, I know I’ve heard the sea lice theory, I prefer mine. People say that Icy Straight is a living aquarium and I agree. Kurtis heads out to scout out the fishing ground. We are the mother ship, most meals are done aboard Audrey and the jolly jumper is easy entertainment for Jianna and us as well. A little wake action winds up the jolly jumper and gets that baby swinging in all directions.

At 8knots (approx. 10mph) we get to see a lot of things that I suspect a person misses at 20+ mph. Porpoises love our bow wake, they ride it and roll and race each other. If you lie on the bow and hang your head over the edge they roll over and make eye contact. They will continue to stay in the wake with eye contact as long as you can carry on an ANIMATED conversation with them. It’s harder then it sounds, a one-way conversation with a marine mammal runs out of steam quickly, what to say to a porpoise? A friend of mine who knows these things says very loud female opera keeps them fascinated for half an hour at a time…I have yet to try.

We catch up with Kurtis at the fishing ground, anchors are set, fishing lines are baited with squid and dropped, the games have begun. Once the engines are cut, the quiet drops down off of the mountains and the sea sings its song. We are surrounded and serenaded by choruses of whale song. Their calls pulse deep through the black water and resonate in our bones. In their world, even in a large boat we are comparatively very, very small. Thank goodness they tolerate us and allow our intrusion into their life. The sonar and depth sounders are silenced, these waves can kill sea life, yes especially whales. Turn off you sonar around sea life and especially Whales.

The whale songs remind me of when I was a child. I would swing apiece of garden hose through the air for sound effect; it’s a close second to the sound of these humpback whales. I touch Audrey’s hull and the vibration of their songs carries through the wood and in to my hands and vibrates to the tips of my fingers. I have contact.

The majority of the halibut we are catching are chickens, (roughly 40lbs and less) and in my opinion the best eating. I tell our boys at moose hunting season, you don’t eat the antlers; try to shoot a nice young bull. The smaller the horns, the younger the animal and the better the meat. With some of the big old bulls I believe that the horns would be better eating than the tough old critter it came from. I believe that the same applies to halibut. Mercury levels in fish rise as the age of them increases the longer the time frame of growth, the more the toxins accumulate in the flesh of the fish.

With all of our concentration focused on hauling in halibut we don’t notice that a sleeping giant has slipped quietly into the neighbourhood.

One by one we notice our visitor, we need to pay attention and pull in our fishing lines. Everyone tip toes and whispers as we edge closer to the port side of the boat. There, a few feet from the gunnels is an incredible sight, a sleeping whale. This giant male is suspended beside us in the sea and is very close to the same size as the Audrey Eleanor. We are in awe, we whisper to each other in amazement. Then we begin to worry, he hasn’t moved for a long time, is he hurt or possibly dead?

We’ve never seen a sleeping whale before. The whale is drifting with the tide. It is getting closer and closer to the Audrey Eleanor. The Captain decides that we need to pull anchor, if the whale wakes and is startled we don’t know how he will react. One quick flick of his gigantic tail could be the end of us all. We have been told that the few disastrous whale encounters have usually been while they are asleep or they are startled out of sleep. The clank of the chain and anchor wake him and with no effort he moves his colossal tail and leaves us to wonder.

The captain now begins to wonder about his crew. I have put Audrey in reverse and begin to slowly back away…holy shit! Our day’s catch of halibut is tied under the swim grid off the aft deck. I cut the engines quickly and we all rush to see what kind of damage has been done. The screws (propellers) have perfectly cut off the tail of one fish and slightly chewed the tail of another. Tonight’s supper is intact and I am singing with whales, hallelujah!

Elfin Cove is located on the northwestern corner of Chichagof Island, west of Juneau, Alaska. This is just on the outside edge of the inside passage, still in fairly protected waters, the outer edge leads straight to Japan. We have been repeatedly told that our boat will not be able to navigate the narrow and shallow dredged channel that leads into the protected inner harbour of Elfin Cove. ‘God hates a coward’ are what the Captain responds with, his war cry. Audrey is soon safely secured to the dock, in Elfin Cove, in the inner harbour.

What is this place? We have entered another world. Crooked little houses in bright colours hang off of the rocky cliffs. Flowers are being grown in anything that will hold dirt: an old boot, hollowed out log, rusty teapots sprout beautiful blooms. There are no cars or trucks, there are no roads! Boardwalk webs connect house-to-house and house to dock. Fly here or boat here, lack of access keeps the crowds down in this place of magic. Halibut are caught off of the dock, still. Who could have discovered this tiny harbour tucked into this remote Island? What a jewel was uncovered with the discovery of this tiny harbour, they first explorers must have been elated to discover this magical space.

Monsoons in Alaska. Ask anyone who has boated here and they will verify the truth of this. Tonight it is pouring, a deluge. Our 32-volt chest freezer onboard is loaded with the last few days catch of halibut. Dinner is in the saloon of the Audrey Eleanor; packed wall to wall with steaming people our house lights slowly fade and are becoming dim. The heat from the oil fired Dickinson stove in the galley is competing with the chill and wet of this down pour, setting off its own clouds of condensation. Lights are fading into black and it is getting harder and harder to see, we think it’s from the steam of soggy people, but begin to realize that the lights are dimming from some other sinister reason.

Power is being lost. Oh no, the freezer is full of everyone’s halibut, how long will they stay frozen? Salmon and crab cakes are forgotten as everyone throws their solution in the melting pot of ideas. On board one of the fish boats the electrical repair guy, he knows nothing about a 32-volt system. He recalls that his grandfather had one on his fishing boat, but that’s extent of that. By process of elimination the Captain has narrowed the solution down to; we need to go to Juneau for parts, quickly, before the fish thaw.

Kurtis heads over to Pelican Cove the next afternoon, we have to wait for flood tide to leave the inner harbour. Audrey and the crew make waves for Juneau, possibly Hoonah. Old systems can be fixed; this is why we have maintained our 32-volt system. Over all it mostly works and if it doesn’t replacement parts can either be found or made. Basic mechanics puts things right again. 32-volt light bulbs are expensive; on the other hand I have not had to replace a bulb in years.

We experience our first real Ocean swell as we leave Elfin Cove. Open to Russia and Japan the sea rolls into the mouth of Icy Straights. Swells are telling you that there is a storm out on the open ocean somewhere distant. Pay attention, it could be coming your way. Swells warn you to take cover on the inside. As fast as our 8 knots can go we are heading to Hoonah. The rise and the fall of the great swells underneath us are exhilarating, this is fun. It makes it difficult to see the whales.

Great greys are slapping giant tails on the Ocean; they breach and fall back into the mighty sea with huge waves that ripple mini tsunamis. These giant whales are in their home element. Dahl porpoises zip in rings around each other, looking like baby killer whales; they remind me of puppies chasing each other’s tails. I love their grace and ease as they slice through the water with smiles on their porpoise faces. I now realize the reasons that salmon begin to spring in the air for no apparent reason; someone underneath them wants them for dinner. They are trying to escape.

Manoeuvring parts of this and bits of that the Captain has managed to coax the compressor on the fridge and freezer to produce cold again. With the freezer crammed to capacity the halibut maintained its temperature, so no spoiled fish.

P.S. The morning that we finally left Hoonah, I woke to find an incredible gift sitting on the back deck. Richard Boyce’s daughter that we were supposed to be spying on in Haines was in Icy Straight commercial halibut fishing with her father…she left me a giant barnacle as a going away present. The size of it is hardly believable. Almost two years later we ran into her in La Paz, Mexico. She was working as 3rd mate onboard the “Sea Lion” a National Geographic ship that was doing exploration work in the Sea of Cortez. You just never know, where are you now Lucy?

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 7

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The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 7

Behind Sullivan Island

Our friends from Texas, Lubor and Tena lounge on the flying bridge of the Audrey Eleanor, the Captain Rick Cousins is in the background.  We are leaving Sullivan Island.

For a quick escape into the wilder, wilderness of Alaska aboard the ‘speed demon’ Audrey Eleanor it takes approximately 2 hours and is roughly 30 K.  We love to cruise behind Sullivan Island, south of Haines, Alaska and swing on the hook for few days of solitude.

The warmth of friends who came along for the ride enhances memories of these excursions; they were all shanghaied as willing crews.  David brought his guitar and sang ballads about the Yukon and Northern B.C. that he had written himself.  My favourite is still the one about being “up behind the mine in Faro,” where’s the C.D. David?

On this particular trip we have a large stash of fireworks aboard.  Shooting off fireworks in the Northern summer has always been a bit of a conundrum to me.  I think the fireworks that we shoot off on July 01 could be saved for the winter so that we can actually see them.  Fireworks are visual; it is supposed to visual is it not?  The venue changes if you are sitting in a harbour that is encased in huge snow capped mountains.  These create a perfect backdrop and reflector of sound, these mammoth stonewalls create the perfect platform for an echo, an echo, an echo, echo.

 

David and Don go ashore to light the entertainment.  Diane, Jean and myself sit on the flying bridge waiting to see what the results will be, it is June in the land of the Midnight Sun after all, a summer solstice month.  The Captain is on the bow with the binoculars watching the whole procedure.  “It’s lit”, he calls, and even with our naked eyes we can see the little puff of smoke on the beach.  A thin trail of smoke follows the tiny, tiny light that straggles into the sky and dies out with a disappointingly small bang.  A collective breath escapes the audience, oh well; we have all had this experience before.

But what is this?  An echo begins to build in the mountains.  It sounds like a gunshot in the distance as it rolls around the mountain rim and grows in volume.  The little bang has grown in strength and begins to echo back and forth between the rock walls.  This is very interesting, now the fireworks do have some entertainment value.  The guys are excited as they set off a combination of rockets.

Sounds start small and grow with a crescendo of deep booms.  Bursts of staccato gunfire shots engulf us.  We are yelling in excitement but can’t hear each other.  The vibrations are felt through the deck and climb the legs of our chairs.  This is the three dimensional effect that Disney has been trying to duplicate.  Round after round of fireworks rattles the chairs. We are sure that they must hear it in Haines and are preparing for the much-anticipated invasion of Terrorists we keep hearing about from our Southern neighbours.  The homeland security gang wasn’t here this weekend thank goodness.

The pyro crew climbs back into the zodiac on the beach we can barely see them for the gunpowder smoke.   A distant echo reaches further and further, and finally climbs back over the last mountain.  We are silent; shadows of the thunder from the rockets are still reverberating in our empty cranial chambers.  Sound, loud sound empties the mind. With a great sigh, the top level of silence is broken; David will have to sing his heart out to top that…he does.

Tides in Alaska are stronger and much larger than in Texas.  The Texans would never agree to that, but it is reality.  Friends of ours from Texas will have to attest to that.  Lubor and Tena wanted to go ashore to explore the Alaskan wilderness.  The zodiac and kicker are heavy; you can sort of drag them along the beach if there are no barnacles or such to tear and rip out the bottom of this rubber boat.  On a wet tidal beach the boat sucks down deep into the muck and it is impossible to get it to move without removing the kicker.  When we told them about the tide, I believe that they thought that nothing could be bigger then anything in Texas.  This simply wasn’t possible or the concept didn’t register.  They teach them that in Texas you know.

The Captain and myself stayed aboard to clean up and re-organize and to let the couple have a bit of a run away.  They often visit the Yukon and Alaska to re-charge and escape the crazy pressures of life in Houston, Texas. Sometimes in day-to-day conversation with our friends I wonder how they survived their lifestyle in that wasp’s nest.  They in turn could not understand our priorities.  I only know that if I wanted to relax and regroup I wouldn’t be going to Texas to do it.

This couple would show up in Whitehorse stretched to the limit and looking like they could not spend another day in their world.  When it was time for them to leave, the light was back in their eyes and they souls were re-charged.  I often wondered what would happen if they just stayed.  Simply stepped out of their other life in the big city. What type of people would they become with all of the material fluff removed from their lives?  I wanted them to know that most of us already knew about that “other” life and we had chosen to leave it behind.  We chose to be Northerners.

The tide rises 26 feet some days and it drops 26 feet some days.  Today was one of those days.  They caught it about half way out and pulled the zodiac on the beach so it wouldn’t leave.  This was very thoughtful for sure. With the tide going out though, getting the zodiac back to water was going to be HARD!  After a leisurely walk on the beach they returned to find themselves with the zodiac high and dry.  Tena is not a very strong lady and the weight for Lubor to pull alone was simply too much.  They tugged and pulled and made no headway.

We can see a momma grizzly and three babies off in the distance.  Now we are feeling a little excited.  We don’t want to scare these southern people just yet. Lubor removes the kicker and heads towards the ocean.  He doesn’t set it close enough to the water, I’m sure he is considering that the tide should now return…it would be in Texas.   He returns to the zodiac and without the weight of the kicker he and Tena can now drag the zodiac to the water.  The water is now further past where the kicker is set.  The zodiac is left at the water’s edge and the whole procedure is repeated, a few times over.  They start their return to Audrey exhausted.

In the meantime, momma grizzly and the three cubs have gotten to the spot where the initial parking of the zodiac took place.  Momma is agitated because from the opposite end of the beach a big Black boar bear is approaching her and her family on a collision course. Plus she can smell humans on her beach. We watched from on board, the Captain with his hand on his rifle.  Our two Texans are rowing toward the boat unaware of this whole other drama going on, we never did tell them.

Tena must have had an extra sense about the whole thing though.  She stayed on board the next day and was sitting on the flying bridge in 27c sunshine with her jacket on.  She kept trying to call out on her cell phone, finally in frustration she yelled, “the damned thing won’t work, what am I going to do?”  I told her that it was unlikely that the cell would work behind this Island and that was one of the great things about this area, NO CELL service, life slows down when you get rid of the cell phone.  She gave me a variety of reasons why she had to stay connected.  The reasons were all rationalized away. When the truth finally showed it’s naked face there really was not much I could say, she blurted,  “ Well when the bears swim out to attack us how can I call 911?”

The Captain had his first hummingbird experience behind Sullivan Island.  No, this is not code for something else.  Hummingbirds move so quickly that it’s hard to see them the first time, especially against the water.  I am trying to explain to my hard of hearing Captain what they sound like, not a chance.  In the state of Michoacán, Mexico there is an ancient archaeological site with a village called Zinzunzan.  These ancient peoples named the village after the sound that a hummingbird makes.

My Captain is lying on the front deck, shirtless in the sunshine; I am climbing up from inside the saloon and call to him.  He sits up just as a hummingbird decides to check out this strange flower.  There they are.  The hummingbird suspended in mid-flight with his needle like beak, maybe an inch away from the Captains beak.  They both try to focus on their opposing obstacles to no avail.  I can’t tell if the hummingbird is cross-eyed, but the Captain sure is. The hummingbird gives up trying to figure out this cross-eyed flower and whirls (zinzunzan) off into the sunshine.  Now the Captain knows what Hummingbirds sound like…and look like.

P.S. Lubor now you know, the” Rest of The Storey.”

Countless possibilities of social media in education

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My final year students have each set up blogs where they regularly record their thoughts about the material we cover. I also use Blogger to record occasional research updates that might be of interest to readers of my textbook, and with a view to incorporating these into a future edition.” David Hardman, psychologist at London Metropolitan University, UK

In the present day, everyone on the globe is connected through the internet, specifically through social media. From talking to friends across the globe to bringing news to tapping fingers the moment they are confirmed, the highly complex interconnected web is rich with information and opportunities. However, it is often taken for granted, used to watch cat videos and people’s dancing fails instead of expanding minds and providing the base for independent research and development. Social media has the potential to be an educational tool, used for good instead of for procrastinating. By rebranding its purpose, students everywhere can reap the benefits of a global education.

One fairly new feature of social media is the ability to make video calls from any computer with a camera. This, when implemented in the classroom, translates into having the opportunity to invite engaging experts to give interactive lectures without the costs associated with travel. Similarly, students can now hold face-to-face consultations with their professors from anywhere, which can be a huge bonus for learners who love to travel, or have circumstances preventing them from being present in class. This way, unlike a recorded message or an email, the learning experienced becomes personalized and engaging.

Additionally, networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn can help students practice interpersonal communication skills necessary for building a life after school. By offering free workshops on topics such as how to send brief, professional messages and how to clean up their web presence in order to show themselves in the best light, Facebook can easily be turned into a bottomless hole of misery into a tool for guiding people towards their dream career. Similarly, social media sites known for a special feature, such as the beautiful graphics seen on Tumblr, can offer crash courses in the basics of their unique field. This quick, but efficient teaching strategy will equip learners with employable skills.

Obviously, the most valued part of social media is its ability to replace face-to-face communication to a certain degree. Its ability for someone to reply to a message that will be instantaneously seen by someone on the other side of the world make it perfect for use in large lecture halls, where it is easy for one voice to get lost among hundreds. By setting up a group chat or forum, students and teachers can interact in live-time, by posting questions, starting debates related to the subject, and questioning the content’s validity. Teachers can address issues as they arise, focusing on areas students have the most trouble with.

As one can see, when implemented appropriately within the classroom, social media can be a useful tool for engaging students, personalizing content, and simply ensuring everyone receives the education they want and deserve at their own pace. Although commonly used as an outlet for mindless entertainment, a few improvements can easily turn a mindless activity into a thought provoking one, at almost no cost. By utilizing video chat features, adapting to the high regard society holds social media in, and addressing student concerns live in the classroom, the time sucking monster can be tamed into any learner’s best friend.

Why More People Are Choosing To Stay Single

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Spectacular White Pearls

Humans, like most other mammals, prefer to stay within packs for safety and survival and also to feel loved, nurtured, and cared, hence why people tend to live side by side in apartments or neighborhoods. To go along with that is the intrinsic urge to find a mate, which is built into the instincts of all other animals in order to perpetuate the species. However, as society advances, human nature is shifting from wanting a partner and having children to desiring a close circle of friends and having the time to focus on one’s personal life. This diversion away from the natural order is brought on by many varied circumstances.

As with many other issues, the first and foremost factor of change is the evolution of social norms. Well-educated folks who work-hard to advance their careers either do not have time for commitments which relationships demand or they find it complicated to accommodate the requirements of relationships in their challenging and busy lifestyle. Living together only works if both parties equally put their time, mindset, energy, and excitement to keep the show of the relationship live, however most of today’s always-on-screen generation is not willing to compromise with real-life realities or challenges. Also, growing awareness about legal disputes among a large number of partners or scary lawsuit stories about divorces in the media might also be another strong factor which is encouraging modernsters to keep the doors of their hearts closed. So, being a single bachelor is in most of everyone, especially young men or women’s dreams, promising adventure and freedom in lieu of constricting romantic ideals.

On a similar note, too high expectations and non-fulfilment of those expectations also bars some to enter into living together way of life. Many people choose to stay single simply because reality cannot compare to the glorious, loving relationships they see in the media, with smiling faces and fancy dates. Needless to say, meeting such unrealistic expectations is stressful and expensive for both parties, sucking away whatever chemistry there might have been. Additionally, social media sites make causal relationships extremely easy, with almost no work required on the part of the people.

Girl riding a bicycle in park near the lake. Lightleak effect an

In today’s do-it-all and have-it-all culture, there is no time left for seemingly pointless extracurricular activities such as dating. Especially among tech-savvy young urbanites with a high level of education, forming long-term relationships is less important than work. On the other hand, serious relationships are far less preferable than ‘hooking up’, which provide a certain level of immediate gratification. Their attitudes ensure they do not waste a single second on anything that does not work to their competitive advantage, or anything that delays pleasure, making dating obsolete.

Although it was already touched upon previously, it goes without saying dates and the eventual marriage are costly. From outfits to dinner to everything else in between, having a relationship certainly costs a lot for something that may not even last longer than a month. Although spending time with someone you love such as a friend or a family member is definitely worth any price, meeting up with a blind date at the fanciest restaurant in town would make even the wealthiest person cringe.

Overall, the settling down early trend is certainly winding down, with more and more people preferring to spend life on their own surrounded by friends and family rather than take on a partner. Although whether or not one stays single is definitely a personal choice, the attitude society takes on in western culture is gearing towards appreciation for the untamed, untaken and away from living as one half of a couple.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 6

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I am glad to have my clothes on, the author Dawn kostelnik at the helm of the Audrey Eleanor motoring from Juneau Alaska to Haines Alaska

Nude Whale Observation

I am glad to have my clothes on, the author Dawn kostelnik at the helm of the Audrey Eleanor motoring from Juneau Alaska to Haines Alaska


 

It is a beautiful HOT spring day as we leave Juneau, Alaska (the capital city of Alaska) heading for Haines on the last leg of our trip to home moorage in Haines, Alaska.  We are crewing our 1948 wooden Yacht, the Audrey Eleanor from Prince Rupert, B.C. Canada

The sky is a brilliant blue that is matched by the swells on the ocean.  Without the snow tipped mountains as a break it would have been hard to tell where sky ended and sea begins.  The gentle rolling of the swells is rocking us to sleep as the heat builds; the sun is finally radiating some warmth. The golden rays are penetrating our bodies, wave upon wave of warmth.  Equally, layer-by-layer our clothing is coming off, it is finally summer.  The flying bridge on Audrey is portioned off from most views by a two and a half-foot barrier of blue canvas.  If you are lying on the deck on a lounge mat as I am, you cannot be seen by anything less than a cruise ship at close range.  There is no chance of that.

The warmth of the sun feels wonderful; my inner core may actually be defrosting after another long winter.  Both the Captain and I have little left on in the way of clothing. We are cruising through isolated Alaskan waters, who would want to sneak up on middle-aged nudists. The Captain is at the helm clad only in his boxers, I think he could remove the hat. I must have dozed off in the comfort of the sun; I wake startled from a deep sleep to “starboard, starboard!” I roll over to the rail and pull myself up to take a peek overboard.

A Grey Humpbacked whale mom breaks the surface of the sea with a gentle sway of her giant tail; her baby energetically celebrating its new life by jumping for the sun.  It circles its mother and leaps skyward ‘grabbing air’ and landing with gigantic baby belly flops.  The residual waves are large enough to sink a kayak.  This is a good-natured mother.  She slows down to allow for the special playtime.  You can feel the joy of the baby as he tries again and again to reach the sun.

I am totally focused on the baby whale. My concentration is broken by an evil little chuckle vibrating in the Captain’s chest.  This is the sound of a deviate, I know this sound, this sound means that somehow I am about to be embarrassed; someway, somehow.  Being so absorbed in the whales I hadn’t noticed the cruise ship approaching us directly from the bow, it appears to be on top of us.  This is one of the smaller ships that offer a more intimate cruising experience.  Their experience with the Audrey Eleanor and its crew is way too intimate for my liking.

Whales are now swimming off towards the Icy Strait ‘aquarium.’  The happy family is hedging out of view of the binoculars wielding crowd that hangs over the rail of this ship.  This little ship sits higher in the water then Audrey Eleanor does.  They will soon have a direct line of sight into our flying bridge.  With the whales gone they are looking for new material to query with their privacy invading extended eyeballs that hang by black idiot strings from their necks.

My clothes are hanging over the back part of the rail on the opposite side of the deck.  I am trying desperately to meld with the blue canvas wall that is my only source of cover from a hundred prying eyes.  The passengers are waving enthusiastically at this classic lady (Audrey).  As her bow slices through these brilliant blue waters, she creates a magnificent picture.  They are probably trying to figure out what that disembodied head is doing crabbing along the rail behind the blue canvas.

The ‘head’ is cursing the laughing Captain who simply has stepped down into the cockpit; he quite frankly doesn’t care who sees him in his underwear.  He would not care if he weren’t wearing underwear either.  They haven’t realized that there is a naked, panicked first mate crawling along the deck behind the canvas trying to maintain just a little dignity.

Just as I am deciding that moments of misery by being exposed while I grab my clothes is possibly minor, compared to being pinned down nude behind the canvas indefinitely, their ship swings to Port side; something else has caught their attention thank goodness.  The Captain is howling in glee, I don’t like him sometimes.

We are now north of Auke Bay; we had spent three days moored at Douglas Island.  At full moon the tide can rip a bit in front of Juneau.  We are in the land of the Midnight Sun so visually being able to tell if the moon if full or not can be problematic. We appreciate the tide charts.

Approaching Juneau from the south we had timed our arrival to coincide with the flood tide to make mooring as easy as possible.  The wind had been howling and clawing at our backs for days prior to our landing.  We tried to raise the Harbour Master as we searched for transit moorage.  Call after call goes out, as we get closer to Juneau.  No one is coming back on the radio. We pass the U.S. Coast Guard; the crew on board jumps to attention to give us a full salute us as we pass.  This is an unexpected compliment; the hours of sanding and varnishing are paying off.

Audrey is now in the middle of the boat maze that is the downtown harbour.  Still no response on the radio, we will have to back out of this mess.  Bow spites on sailboats turn up as bow piercing spears where they shouldn’t.  The Captain is best at backing up. We are back out in the channel that is now a racing tidal river. The tide is ripping and the wind is whipping up water as it pushes and shoves against the running tide.  We head for safe moorage at Douglas Island.

The response we have been waiting for on the radio now comes through.  “Hey, are you guys in that classic old boat?”  “Would love to see her close up, sorry no moorage, we are moving boats out right now, try Douglas Island!”

Douglas Island is on our Starboard side, it’s difficult to see the entrance to the Marina.  There is a long rock wall that appears to run in a continuous line, we can’t see the opening into the harbour.  The Captain does not have the luxury of taking his time; the tide is running hard so we have to go in under full power.  He swings us blindly and hard to Starboard; common sense dictates that there has to be an opening at the southern point of the rock wall, we can see sailboat masts behind the wall, but where?

YES!  Right in front of us is the rather small opening.  It may only seem very tiny as we arrive under full power backed up by 30 tonnes.  I am standing on the bow with the ropes ready; I hate this part of mooring.  There is a 4-foot drop from Audrey’s bow to any surface.  Sometimes there are rails on the docks, sometimes-giant cleats and in Petersburg, Alaska; there is a solid length of pipe to secure your lines to.  I landed on that pipe once; it really hurt.  There is no one else, I AM THE CREW!  I ready myself for the jump to the dock and prepare to secure our lines.

Looming up suddenly and directly in front of me is a solid steel pillar. We are on a collision course with direct and immediate impact.  30 tonnes of ship will not slow down in this limited amount of space and time.  I drop and flatten to the deck; I can visualize my toes clawing through my shoes trying to anchor me to the strips of teak on the deck of the Audrey Eleanor.  I see me splatted against the steel pillar and sliding down into the water in classic Road Runner style. I wait for the impact…and wait, time has changed into slow motion and impact doesn’t happen.

Looking up I can see a man and woman standing on the dock watching this performance, I jump to my feet and throw them the rope in a flash, they quickly tie us up.   After taking a deep breath I look around trying to figure out what has happened. The Alaskan fisherman on the dock yells,” Man that was some bad assed boat driving!”

Audrey has her nose stuck into a 25-foot slip leaving 30 feet of her aft end blocking the entrance to the rest of the marina; the Captain looks a little pale.  My eyes query him, ‘how did you do that?’ He simply shakes his head.  The Harbour Master shows up, he has an amused look on his face.  “I’m sure you know that you’ll have to move your boat,” he says, “you are kinda blocking the harbour.”

I can see that he’s having difficulty keeping his laughter under control.  The Captain says “I think I should sit up on the top deck and have a beer before I do anything.”  The Harbour Master is a great guy, he throws us the keys to his car and says,” you might want to go into Juneau and buy a whole case.” We had use of his car for the three days that we were there.

 

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 5

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In recognition of his amazing abilities as Captain, I bought “ZIMMIE” as a mascot for the Captain. She has seen us through life and death situations and kept our heads and hearts out of Davey Jones’s locker. Zimmie is short for Zimovia.

Zimovia Straights

The Audrey Eleanor leaves Meyers Chuck, Alaska early in the afternoon.  We have made plans to meet up with the “Jenny” and her crew, the floating dentist and his wife for cocktails, but the Inn was full.  Anchoring looked to be a bit precarious at Meyers Chuck; we felt it was best to head for the next horizon.

Santa Ana Bay looks to be a great place to spend the night; we head north to find out.  I can hear a strange sound, zz-zzzz-zzing sound like razors slicing through material at a high speed…no I have not experienced that, but it’s the best way that I can describe it.  A very excited Captain yells “quick, look portside!”  The ocean is alive, alive with Dahl porpoises.  They look like miniature killer whales and they move like lightening.   They cut the water so fast that it sounds like electric knives or razors.

This pod or pods of porpoises have discovered a school of salmon.  There are hundreds of shiny black and white bodies surrounding the boat. The ocean is roiling with porpoises and escaping salmon.  It only takes seconds for the eagles and gulls to come screaming in for their share. It’s a cacophony of screaming, fighting birds and rolling mammals.  On the bow we have a front row seat and narrowly miss getting whacked in the head by eagles.  They are concentrating on stealing what fish they can and nothing else matters.

The gulls come in shrieking a bluff at the eagles and dart back out of claw and slashing beak range in the last second. Porpoises streak through the water and grab air with their catch of salmon flopping desperately in attempts to escape.  It’s a boiling, roiling soggy wet dining room.

As quickly as it starts, it ends.  The porpoises now have leisure time to digest dinner.  They appear to think that we are a large black floating obstacle in their dining room, moving way slower than they are.  But what the heck maybe they can force us to slow down while they digest that lovely salmon and catch a ride in the bow wake of this slow old tub.

This is my first encounter with curious porpoises.  I lean over the bow to watch them play in the wake; it’s about five feet to the water. They are more curious than I am.  A quick flip on their backs and we have eye-to-eye contact.  Are they smiling at me?  It sure looks like it with their standardized grin.

What to do?  Say hello of course, ask how they are doing, would they consider today’s catch a good grade of salmon, where are they going to be tomorrow? How’s the weather down there…one way conversations run out of steam quickly.  As long as I talk to them they stay on their backs watching me.  Any lengthy pause in the conversation and they are gone as quickly as bored teenagers.  I have mentioned in a previous storey of a friend who knows about such things, she said they like female opera singers; I would like to try to play some opera for them to see if this is so.

The porpoises follow us just into the mouth of Santa Ana Bay and they leave.  We head further into the cove and pass under double rainbows. This must be a place of magic, to have such an escort and be able to enter through a gateway of rainbows, were are we?

Santa Ana is a beautiful bay with a fresh water river trickling in at the mouth, at low tide it is a river that roars.  The anchor is dropped and we decide to roar ashore to explore, we do not row, we roar.  The last water that we filled the tanks with had been heavily chlorinated so we are happy to find fresh drinking water.  There are fresh bear signs everywhere; this is heavy bush so we don’t venture too far from the shore.

As the tide falls the big round river boulders are exposed.  Beautiful indigo mussel shells cover the rocks and sparkle like jewels in the sunshine.  There are millions of them blanketing the rocks, ranging in size from barely visible to 6 inches in length.  This is heaven; I have to say that I have a weakness for mussels in white wine.  Damn reality, or the realty known as the Captain, he tends to be really real sometimes.  He points out that we don’t know if this area is affected by red tide.

I do know that as a rule May is not a usual time for red tide and these are icy cold waters; do we want to take a chance?  Well I suppose not, he volunteers to rub some on his lips to see if there is a reaction (something that he used to do with mushrooms when he was trapping).  No, I do not want mussels that bad. Now I wonder why the bears aren’t eating the shiny blue mussels.  In this land of plenty, only salmon bellies may tempt them with their oily goodness.

Several days later in Wrangell, Alaska I call the Fish and Wildlife Department to ask about red tide reports.  We were going to be travelling in this area for some time so why not find out from the source?  The lady on the phone had a very strong south of the border accent.  When I asked her about the mussels and the red tide she firstly stated that only the low of the low would eat mussels and as far as the red tide thing went, “when we read ‘bout it in the ‘bituary” (obituary) we know we got us a problem”.  Good enough, we know that we are defiantly on our own.

By now you may have noticed that we like to try things that out of the ordinary or off of the beaten path.  Well Zimovia Straight is hardly a path.  ‘God Hates a Coward,’ my Captains war cry and here we go.  The entry isn’t too bad and there are range markers dead ahead as I can see with my trusty binoculars.  As we get closer to the starboard marker I say to the Captain that they must have had a storm in this area and the marker has been washed up on shore.

The range marker (these are aids to navigation) appears to be in the water along side the bank, the tide is running hard enough that the marker is laying flat with water rooster tailing up over it.  Its decision time, what to do? I am adamant that the marker must have been blown ashore, how on earth could they expect a boat to get that close to the shore and not run aground.

The Captain cranks us hard to portside and behind us over our shoulders is the next marker that we have to have to our starboard side.  We head towards this navigation aid and all of a sudden the depth sounder begins to yell that we have no water underneath our hull. Get out, get out!

Slamming her hard back into reverse the Captain pours the power to our dual engines.  The sudden action and full throttle creates a great wake that lifts us off of the shoal.  We sheepishly (me mostly) head back toward the shore bound marker that we needed to stay by in the first place.  The Captain has to stop and start to pivot us around the navigation aids in these narrows.  At one marker we had to stop and back up so that we could round the marker.  No more narrow escapes, no more second-guessing the markers, no more doubts about the aids of navigation.

Wrangell Narrows was spoken about in our Power Squadron course as being a nerve-wracking challenge.  I believe that I counted 64 navigation lights in Wrangell Narrows, it is also known as Christmas Tree Lane.  Starboard lights are red and portside lights are green, so the colors alternating all along the narrows do make it feel kind of Christmassy.  After Zimovia, Wrangell Narrows feels like a freeway.  After we had finished talking to Fish and Wildlife in Wrangell we decided to go down to the pub for a beer.  Some of the local fishermen were taking a break as well.  They asked us if we were off of the old wooden boat and then the usual questions, which way did you come and how was the weather?

When the Captain replied that we had come through Zimovia Straights and that the weather had been wonderful, there was a brief lull in the conversation.  One of the older fishermen asked the Captain again, did you say Zimovia son? (The Captain really liked being referred to as son).

We had established that this was our first trip on our new old boat and that we were green as grass.  The Captain said “yes, Zimovia”.   The fisherman replied “well my boy, you missed a lot of rocks out there, especially in a boat that size, I don’t think you can call yourself green no more.”

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 5

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In recognition of his amazing abilities as Captain, I bought “ZIMMIE” as a mascot for the Captain. She has seen us through life and death situations and kept our heads and hearts out of Davey Jones’s locker. Zimmie is short for Zimovia.

Zimovia Straights

The Audrey Eleanor leaves Meyers Chuck, Alaska early in the afternoon.  We have made plans to meet up with the “Jenny” and her crew, the floating dentist and his wife for cocktails, but the Inn was full.  Anchoring looked to be a bit precarious at Meyers Chuck; we felt it was best to head for the next horizon.

Santa Ana Bay looks to be a great place to spend the night; we head north to find out.  I can hear a strange sound, zz-zzzz-zzing sound like razors slicing through material at a high speed…no I have not experienced that, but it’s the best way that I can describe it.  A very excited Captain yells “quick, look portside!”  The ocean is alive, alive with Dahl porpoises.  They look like miniature killer whales and they move like lightening.   They cut the water so fast that it sounds like electric knives or razors.

This pod or pods of porpoises have discovered a school of salmon.  There are hundreds of shiny black and white bodies surrounding the boat. The ocean is roiling with porpoises and escaping salmon.  It only takes seconds for the eagles and gulls to come screaming in for their share. It’s a cacophony of screaming, fighting birds and rolling mammals.  On the bow we have a front row seat and narrowly miss getting whacked in the head by eagles.  They are concentrating on stealing what fish they can and nothing else matters.

The gulls come in shrieking a bluff at the eagles and dart back out of claw and slashing beak range in the last second. Porpoises streak through the water and grab air with their catch of salmon flopping desperately in attempts to escape.  It’s a boiling, roiling soggy wet dining room.

As quickly as it starts, it ends.  The porpoises now have leisure time to digest dinner.  They appear to think that we are a large black floating obstacle in their dining room, moving way slower than they are.  But what the heck maybe they can force us to slow down while they digest that lovely salmon and catch a ride in the bow wake of this slow old tub.

This is my first encounter with curious porpoises.  I lean over the bow to watch them play in the wake; it’s about five feet to the water. They are more curious than I am.  A quick flip on their backs and we have eye-to-eye contact.  Are they smiling at me?  It sure looks like it with their standardized grin.

What to do?  Say hello of course, ask how they are doing, would they consider today’s catch a good grade of salmon, where are they going to be tomorrow? How’s the weather down there…one way conversations run out of steam quickly.  As long as I talk to them they stay on their backs watching me.  Any lengthy pause in the conversation and they are gone as quickly as bored teenagers.  I have mentioned in a previous storey of a friend who knows about such things, she said they like female opera singers; I would like to try to play some opera for them to see if this is so.

The porpoises follow us just into the mouth of Santa Ana Bay and they leave.  We head further into the cove and pass under double rainbows. This must be a place of magic, to have such an escort and be able to enter through a gateway of rainbows, were are we?

Santa Ana is a beautiful bay with a fresh water river trickling in at the mouth, at low tide it is a river that roars.  The anchor is dropped and we decide to roar ashore to explore, we do not row, we roar.  The last water that we filled the tanks with had been heavily chlorinated so we are happy to find fresh drinking water.  There are fresh bear signs everywhere; this is heavy bush so we don’t venture too far from the shore.

As the tide falls the big round river boulders are exposed.  Beautiful indigo mussel shells cover the rocks and sparkle like jewels in the sunshine.  There are millions of them blanketing the rocks, ranging in size from barely visible to 6 inches in length.  This is heaven; I have to say that I have a weakness for mussels in white wine.  Damn reality, or the realty known as the Captain, he tends to be really real sometimes.  He points out that we don’t know if this area is affected by red tide.

I do know that as a rule May is not a usual time for red tide and these are icy cold waters; do we want to take a chance?  Well I suppose not, he volunteers to rub some on his lips to see if there is a reaction (something that he used to do with mushrooms when he was trapping).  No, I do not want mussels that bad. Now I wonder why the bears aren’t eating the shiny blue mussels.  In this land of plenty, only salmon bellies may tempt them with their oily goodness.

Several days later in Wrangell, Alaska I call the Fish and Wildlife Department to ask about red tide reports.  We were going to be travelling in this area for some time so why not find out from the source?  The lady on the phone had a very strong south of the border accent.  When I asked her about the mussels and the red tide she firstly stated that only the low of the low would eat mussels and as far as the red tide thing went, “when we read ‘bout it in the ‘bituary” (obituary) we know we got us a problem”.  Good enough, we know that we are defiantly on our own.

By now you may have noticed that we like to try things that out of the ordinary or off of the beaten path.  Well Zimovia Straight is hardly a path.  ‘God Hates a Coward,’ my Captains war cry and here we go.  The entry isn’t too bad and there are range markers dead ahead as I can see with my trusty binoculars.  As we get closer to the starboard marker I say to the Captain that they must have had a storm in this area and the marker has been washed up on shore.

The range marker (these are aids to navigation) appears to be in the water along side the bank, the tide is running hard enough that the marker is laying flat with water rooster tailing up over it.  Its decision time, what to do? I am adamant that the marker must have been blown ashore, how on earth could they expect a boat to get that close to the shore and not run aground.

The Captain cranks us hard to portside and behind us over our shoulders is the next marker that we have to have to our starboard side.  We head towards this navigation aid and all of a sudden the depth sounder begins to yell that we have no water underneath our hull. Get out, get out!

Slamming her hard back into reverse the Captain pours the power to our dual engines.  The sudden action and full throttle creates a great wake that lifts us off of the shoal.  We sheepishly (me mostly) head back toward the shore bound marker that we needed to stay by in the first place.  The Captain has to stop and start to pivot us around the navigation aids in these narrows.  At one marker we had to stop and back up so that we could round the marker.  No more narrow escapes, no more second-guessing the markers, no more doubts about the aids of navigation.

Wrangell Narrows was spoken about in our Power Squadron course as being a nerve-wracking challenge.  I believe that I counted 64 navigation lights in Wrangell Narrows, it is also known as Christmas Tree Lane.  Starboard lights are red and portside lights are green, so the colors alternating all along the narrows do make it feel kind of Christmassy.  After Zimovia, Wrangell Narrows feels like a freeway.  After we had finished talking to Fish and Wildlife in Wrangell we decided to go down to the pub for a beer.  Some of the local fishermen were taking a break as well.  They asked us if we were off of the old wooden boat and then the usual questions, which way did you come and how was the weather?

When the Captain replied that we had come through Zimovia Straights and that the weather had been wonderful, there was a brief lull in the conversation.  One of the older fishermen asked the Captain again, did you say Zimovia son? (The Captain really liked being referred to as son).

We had established that this was our first trip on our new old boat and that we were green as grass.  The Captain said “yes, Zimovia”.   The fisherman replied “well my boy, you missed a lot of rocks out there, especially in a boat that size, I don’t think you can call yourself green no more.”

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 4

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A combination of Cruise ships and live-aboards creates an interesting environment in Thomas Basin a marina in Ketchikan Alaska

Dockside

I love tying up at the docks. Anchoring out is wonderful, but being able to meet new and unusual people is always welcome after weeks of challenge and solitude. One of my favourite marinas is Thomas Basin in Ketchikan, Alaska. It has an entry that is easy to miss, as it is tucked in behind a great sea wall and the cruise ship dock. This solid wall of cruise ships makes Skagway look like a sleepy fishing port in comparison…the crowds and noise are exciting for a few days, but only just a few. Soon you begin to listen for the bell that herds the cattle back on board the cruise ship and THEN you head for town. At night-time a forty-foot high wall of ship lights flickers shadowy daylight to the docks.

On our first moorage in Ketchikan we are fortunate to borrow a temporary berth from a fisherman who is out trying his luck with his fishing nets. The Harbour Master shows up minutes after we’ve docked, gives his nod of approval and welcomes us to Ketchikan. This is our first port of entry into the U.S. after heading north from Prince Rupert, B.C. Canada.

The Captain calls customs and asks how they would like us to proceed…the customs lady is very nice, she also welcomes us and states that she is glad that we have made port, they had been expecting us two days earlier and were concerned. We had reported to customs in Prince Rupert and given them a rough ETA for Ketchikan. The infamous Dixon Entrance gave us a run for our money and our lives, so we were a little late.

It is suggested that we walk up to the pink building that houses customs and sign in, we can see it from the stern. The Potlatch Bar is at the top of the ramp; it has a laundry attached to the side of it and definitely is the centre of all social activity on the docks. If you want to check the weather, the fishing conditions, find someone who knows how to deal with a 32 consta-volt system off of an antique boat, this is the place.

The top of the ramp features an assortment of bicycles, all coloured rust in different degrees. These bikes are a definite sign of “live-a-boards” on the docks, a dirty word in some places of imagined importance. Live-aboards are people who live aboard their boats, seafaring gypsies they are. Although sadly some of them end up as harbour Queens (boats that for one reason or another never leave the docks). I would like to say in defence of that, I believe anyway of living on the ocean is better than no way of living on the ocean.

Live-a-boards are some of the most interesting people that you’ll ever meet. There are plenty of questions about boats and living aboard that are never ending to a greenhorn. These are the people that may answer your questions. They need to be approached cautiously, never presume that they want talk to you, never mind answering your obviously childish questions. After direct attempts at establishing contact I’ve learned that reverse physiology seems to be the best non-approach. Swabbing the decks is always open to comment and the makings of new friends.

Audrey’s good looks and age attract the boating community and soon repair stories and preventative ideas spring upward and the conversation begins to grow skyward. There always needs to be an inspection of each other’s boats and this should now be discussed over coffee on board of course. It’s so much fun!!

A 32 volt system always opens dialogue…things like “Oh, yeah, I remember that, my grandpa had that on his fishing boat,” this from a fifty-year old. When you are looking for parts for this antiquated system that we use aboard the AUDREY ELEANOR, they are difficult to find, but the quest may lead you to people like Only.

His name is Only; he is a draft dodger that lives on an Island close to Ketchikan, that is populated with other draft dodgers from the 60’s. They have since received amnesty, but their ideals and lifestyle have developed into a self-sufficient, ‘there is nothing wrong with things as they are’, challenge any form of authority kind of idealism that we used to see in the Yukon, it kind of felt like the good old days in Dawson City. They believe in barter and bow before the god of ‘hordism’. (Throw nothing away, ever)

Thank goodness they throw nothing away, they have 32-volt system parts for all kinds of things. Only is our man, he replaces our consta-volt and we have to repay him with rum in the Potlatch Bar.

Only also shows up to work bringing us dinner. Fresh Red Snapper filets that one of the fisherman is giving away on the dock to locals. The fisherman setting deep nets for halibut are also pulling up Red Snappers, by regulation they are required to “process” them. It isn’t unusual to see huge red snappers floating around the dock with teaspoon-sized fillets scooped out of their sides. This minimum of work in ‘processing’ deems that the silly regulation requirement has been met.

The floating dentist and his wife Jennifer pulled into the berth across from us on our last night at Thomas Basin. Their boat is home made, called the “Jenny” is about 45’ in length; she is a big bottomed girl, with a great wide beam of 15’. Wide beams are lovely things in rough seas and I have a definite soft spot for the ride and security of them. The Jenny and her crew have been cruising the coast of Alaska for 25 years. They now winter in the Southern U.S., but spent numerous years living aboard in Alaska. They raised their two daughters aboard but moved south when the girls needed higher education.

Appointments are set up in the early spring for all small coastal communities the ‘Jenny’ then spends the summer stopping at all the ports and fixing teeth. You enter their boat from a walk through on the aft deck; plants and two small trees are growing in pots that frame the doorway. The first room you enter is the dental office, complete with all of the dental equipment that you never want to see.

There is a full sized dental chair that can be curtained off from the reception area; it is exactly what you would see in a dentist office located ashore, with a little wave motion thrown in. Those of you who come into marinas under power, thinking that the “no wake” signs are meant for somebody else remember this. There could be some poor bugger in that dentist chair about to get drilled.

Jennifer invites us into their very cosy galley and saloon for tea. Their saloon is heated with the smallest wood stove that I have ever seen. The firewood must have been cut with an electric knife. It is early spring so the nights on the water are cool; the wood fire looks and smells wonderful. (Can you imagine, they burn cedar wood down there!)? The Dentist proceeds to tell us stories of rogue waves and funnel winds that would rip the house off of your boat, currents that suck you into the depths of Davey Jones’s locker etc, etc. Why in the hell would he still be on the sea?

After he works himself into a frenzy of terror he leaves us and the boat to walk the dock in an attempt to calm down. His wife Jennifer is sitting in the saloon looking like a poster wife of the 1950’s, her hair coiffed, her nail polish matches her shoes and she has on one of those frilly little aprons that my grandma used to wear on special occasions. She exclaims “Oh my, isn’t he just such a snoopy dog!” “Would you like more tea?” We are sitting with our mouths hanging open, not sure about what happened or what she means by the ‘snoopy dog’ thing.

It turns out that they had extremely bad experiences with the seas in Southeast Alaska and this is a ritual for the Dentist. Before they left the docks at Ketchikan, he exorcised his demons by visualizing and verbalizing all of the worst possibilities before they set out for the summer. I hope this drama worked for him, it left me with nightmares.

P.S. September 01, is the cut off day in the U.S. for most of the insurers of recreational boats. This is one of the reasons for the mass exodus of boats to the south, they have to be below Queen Charlotte Sound for their insurance to be valid after Sept 01, besides the weather just gets miserable. Like the Captain says “Any fool can cruise the inside passage in the summer time, it takes a serious fool to do it in the winter.” We resemble that remark.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 4

Posted on 1 Comment
A combination of Cruise ships and live-aboards creates an interesting environment in Thomas Basin a marina in Ketchikan Alaska

Dockside

I love tying up at the docks. Anchoring out is wonderful, but being able to meet new and unusual people is always welcome after weeks of challenge and solitude. One of my favourite marinas is Thomas Basin in Ketchikan, Alaska. It has an entry that is easy to miss, as it is tucked in behind a great sea wall and the cruise ship dock. This solid wall of cruise ships makes Skagway look like a sleepy fishing port in comparison…the crowds and noise are exciting for a few days, but only just a few. Soon you begin to listen for the bell that herds the cattle back on board the cruise ship and THEN you head for town. At night-time a forty-foot high wall of ship lights flickers shadowy daylight to the docks.

On our first moorage in Ketchikan we are fortunate to borrow a temporary berth from a fisherman who is out trying his luck with his fishing nets. The Harbour Master shows up minutes after we’ve docked, gives his nod of approval and welcomes us to Ketchikan. This is our first port of entry into the U.S. after heading north from Prince Rupert, B.C. Canada.

The Captain calls customs and asks how they would like us to proceed…the customs lady is very nice, she also welcomes us and states that she is glad that we have made port, they had been expecting us two days earlier and were concerned. We had reported to customs in Prince Rupert and given them a rough ETA for Ketchikan. The infamous Dixon Entrance gave us a run for our money and our lives, so we were a little late.

It is suggested that we walk up to the pink building that houses customs and sign in, we can see it from the stern. The Potlatch Bar is at the top of the ramp; it has a laundry attached to the side of it and definitely is the centre of all social activity on the docks. If you want to check the weather, the fishing conditions, find someone who knows how to deal with a 32 consta-volt system off of an antique boat, this is the place.

The top of the ramp features an assortment of bicycles, all coloured rust in different degrees. These bikes are a definite sign of “live-a-boards” on the docks, a dirty word in some places of imagined importance. Live-aboards are people who live aboard their boats, seafaring gypsies they are. Although sadly some of them end up as harbour Queens (boats that for one reason or another never leave the docks). I would like to say in defence of that, I believe anyway of living on the ocean is better than no way of living on the ocean.

Live-a-boards are some of the most interesting people that you’ll ever meet. There are plenty of questions about boats and living aboard that are never ending to a greenhorn. These are the people that may answer your questions. They need to be approached cautiously, never presume that they want talk to you, never mind answering your obviously childish questions. After direct attempts at establishing contact I’ve learned that reverse physiology seems to be the best non-approach. Swabbing the decks is always open to comment and the makings of new friends.

Audrey’s good looks and age attract the boating community and soon repair stories and preventative ideas spring upward and the conversation begins to grow skyward. There always needs to be an inspection of each other’s boats and this should now be discussed over coffee on board of course. It’s so much fun!!

A 32 volt system always opens dialogue…things like “Oh, yeah, I remember that, my grandpa had that on his fishing boat,” this from a fifty-year old. When you are looking for parts for this antiquated system that we use aboard the AUDREY ELEANOR, they are difficult to find, but the quest may lead you to people like Only.

His name is Only; he is a draft dodger that lives on an Island close to Ketchikan, that is populated with other draft dodgers from the 60’s. They have since received amnesty, but their ideals and lifestyle have developed into a self-sufficient, ‘there is nothing wrong with things as they are’, challenge any form of authority kind of idealism that we used to see in the Yukon, it kind of felt like the good old days in Dawson City. They believe in barter and bow before the god of ‘hordism’. (Throw nothing away, ever)

Thank goodness they throw nothing away, they have 32-volt system parts for all kinds of things. Only is our man, he replaces our consta-volt and we have to repay him with rum in the Potlatch Bar.

Only also shows up to work bringing us dinner. Fresh Red Snapper filets that one of the fisherman is giving away on the dock to locals. The fisherman setting deep nets for halibut are also pulling up Red Snappers, by regulation they are required to “process” them. It isn’t unusual to see huge red snappers floating around the dock with teaspoon-sized fillets scooped out of their sides. This minimum of work in ‘processing’ deems that the silly regulation requirement has been met.

The floating dentist and his wife Jennifer pulled into the berth across from us on our last night at Thomas Basin. Their boat is home made, called the “Jenny” is about 45’ in length; she is a big bottomed girl, with a great wide beam of 15’. Wide beams are lovely things in rough seas and I have a definite soft spot for the ride and security of them. The Jenny and her crew have been cruising the coast of Alaska for 25 years. They now winter in the Southern U.S., but spent numerous years living aboard in Alaska. They raised their two daughters aboard but moved south when the girls needed higher education.

Appointments are set up in the early spring for all small coastal communities the ‘Jenny’ then spends the summer stopping at all the ports and fixing teeth. You enter their boat from a walk through on the aft deck; plants and two small trees are growing in pots that frame the doorway. The first room you enter is the dental office, complete with all of the dental equipment that you never want to see.

There is a full sized dental chair that can be curtained off from the reception area; it is exactly what you would see in a dentist office located ashore, with a little wave motion thrown in. Those of you who come into marinas under power, thinking that the “no wake” signs are meant for somebody else remember this. There could be some poor bugger in that dentist chair about to get drilled.

Jennifer invites us into their very cosy galley and saloon for tea. Their saloon is heated with the smallest wood stove that I have ever seen. The firewood must have been cut with an electric knife. It is early spring so the nights on the water are cool; the wood fire looks and smells wonderful. (Can you imagine, they burn cedar wood down there!)? The Dentist proceeds to tell us stories of rogue waves and funnel winds that would rip the house off of your boat, currents that suck you into the depths of Davey Jones’s locker etc, etc. Why in the hell would he still be on the sea?

After he works himself into a frenzy of terror he leaves us and the boat to walk the dock in an attempt to calm down. His wife Jennifer is sitting in the saloon looking like a poster wife of the 1950’s, her hair coiffed, her nail polish matches her shoes and she has on one of those frilly little aprons that my grandma used to wear on special occasions. She exclaims “Oh my, isn’t he just such a snoopy dog!” “Would you like more tea?” We are sitting with our mouths hanging open, not sure about what happened or what she means by the ‘snoopy dog’ thing.

It turns out that they had extremely bad experiences with the seas in Southeast Alaska and this is a ritual for the Dentist. Before they left the docks at Ketchikan, he exorcised his demons by visualizing and verbalizing all of the worst possibilities before they set out for the summer. I hope this drama worked for him, it left me with nightmares.

P.S. September 01, is the cut off day in the U.S. for most of the insurers of recreational boats. This is one of the reasons for the mass exodus of boats to the south, they have to be below Queen Charlotte Sound for their insurance to be valid after Sept 01, besides the weather just gets miserable. Like the Captain says “Any fool can cruise the inside passage in the summer time, it takes a serious fool to do it in the winter.” We resemble that remark.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 4

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A combination of Cruise ships and live-aboards creates an interesting environment in Thomas Basin a marina in Ketchikan Alaska

Dockside

I love tying up at the docks. Anchoring out is wonderful, but being able to meet new and unusual people is always welcome after weeks of challenge and solitude. One of my favourite marinas is Thomas Basin in Ketchikan, Alaska. It has an entry that is easy to miss, as it is tucked in behind a great sea wall and the cruise ship dock. This solid wall of cruise ships makes Skagway look like a sleepy fishing port in comparison…the crowds and noise are exciting for a few days, but only just a few. Soon you begin to listen for the bell that herds the cattle back on board the cruise ship and THEN you head for town. At night-time a forty-foot high wall of ship lights flickers shadowy daylight to the docks.

On our first moorage in Ketchikan we are fortunate to borrow a temporary berth from a fisherman who is out trying his luck with his fishing nets. The Harbour Master shows up minutes after we’ve docked, gives his nod of approval and welcomes us to Ketchikan. This is our first port of entry into the U.S. after heading north from Prince Rupert, B.C. Canada.

The Captain calls customs and asks how they would like us to proceed…the customs lady is very nice, she also welcomes us and states that she is glad that we have made port, they had been expecting us two days earlier and were concerned. We had reported to customs in Prince Rupert and given them a rough ETA for Ketchikan. The infamous Dixon Entrance gave us a run for our money and our lives, so we were a little late.

It is suggested that we walk up to the pink building that houses customs and sign in, we can see it from the stern. The Potlatch Bar is at the top of the ramp; it has a laundry attached to the side of it and definitely is the centre of all social activity on the docks. If you want to check the weather, the fishing conditions, find someone who knows how to deal with a 32 consta-volt system off of an antique boat, this is the place.

The top of the ramp features an assortment of bicycles, all coloured rust in different degrees. These bikes are a definite sign of “live-a-boards” on the docks, a dirty word in some places of imagined importance. Live-aboards are people who live aboard their boats, seafaring gypsies they are. Although sadly some of them end up as harbour Queens (boats that for one reason or another never leave the docks). I would like to say in defence of that, I believe anyway of living on the ocean is better than no way of living on the ocean.

Live-a-boards are some of the most interesting people that you’ll ever meet. There are plenty of questions about boats and living aboard that are never ending to a greenhorn. These are the people that may answer your questions. They need to be approached cautiously, never presume that they want talk to you, never mind answering your obviously childish questions. After direct attempts at establishing contact I’ve learned that reverse physiology seems to be the best non-approach. Swabbing the decks is always open to comment and the makings of new friends.

Audrey’s good looks and age attract the boating community and soon repair stories and preventative ideas spring upward and the conversation begins to grow skyward. There always needs to be an inspection of each other’s boats and this should now be discussed over coffee on board of course. It’s so much fun!!

A 32 volt system always opens dialogue…things like “Oh, yeah, I remember that, my grandpa had that on his fishing boat,” this from a fifty-year old. When you are looking for parts for this antiquated system that we use aboard the AUDREY ELEANOR, they are difficult to find, but the quest may lead you to people like Only.

His name is Only; he is a draft dodger that lives on an Island close to Ketchikan, that is populated with other draft dodgers from the 60’s. They have since received amnesty, but their ideals and lifestyle have developed into a self-sufficient, ‘there is nothing wrong with things as they are’, challenge any form of authority kind of idealism that we used to see in the Yukon, it kind of felt like the good old days in Dawson City. They believe in barter and bow before the god of ‘hordism’. (Throw nothing away, ever)

Thank goodness they throw nothing away, they have 32-volt system parts for all kinds of things. Only is our man, he replaces our consta-volt and we have to repay him with rum in the Potlatch Bar.

Only also shows up to work bringing us dinner. Fresh Red Snapper filets that one of the fisherman is giving away on the dock to locals. The fisherman setting deep nets for halibut are also pulling up Red Snappers, by regulation they are required to “process” them. It isn’t unusual to see huge red snappers floating around the dock with teaspoon-sized fillets scooped out of their sides. This minimum of work in ‘processing’ deems that the silly regulation requirement has been met.

The floating dentist and his wife Jennifer pulled into the berth across from us on our last night at Thomas Basin. Their boat is home made, called the “Jenny” is about 45’ in length; she is a big bottomed girl, with a great wide beam of 15’. Wide beams are lovely things in rough seas and I have a definite soft spot for the ride and security of them. The Jenny and her crew have been cruising the coast of Alaska for 25 years. They now winter in the Southern U.S., but spent numerous years living aboard in Alaska. They raised their two daughters aboard but moved south when the girls needed higher education.

Appointments are set up in the early spring for all small coastal communities the ‘Jenny’ then spends the summer stopping at all the ports and fixing teeth. You enter their boat from a walk through on the aft deck; plants and two small trees are growing in pots that frame the doorway. The first room you enter is the dental office, complete with all of the dental equipment that you never want to see.

There is a full sized dental chair that can be curtained off from the reception area; it is exactly what you would see in a dentist office located ashore, with a little wave motion thrown in. Those of you who come into marinas under power, thinking that the “no wake” signs are meant for somebody else remember this. There could be some poor bugger in that dentist chair about to get drilled.

Jennifer invites us into their very cosy galley and saloon for tea. Their saloon is heated with the smallest wood stove that I have ever seen. The firewood must have been cut with an electric knife. It is early spring so the nights on the water are cool; the wood fire looks and smells wonderful. (Can you imagine, they burn cedar wood down there!)? The Dentist proceeds to tell us stories of rogue waves and funnel winds that would rip the house off of your boat, currents that suck you into the depths of Davey Jones’s locker etc, etc. Why in the hell would he still be on the sea?

After he works himself into a frenzy of terror he leaves us and the boat to walk the dock in an attempt to calm down. His wife Jennifer is sitting in the saloon looking like a poster wife of the 1950’s, her hair coiffed, her nail polish matches her shoes and she has on one of those frilly little aprons that my grandma used to wear on special occasions. She exclaims “Oh my, isn’t he just such a snoopy dog!” “Would you like more tea?” We are sitting with our mouths hanging open, not sure about what happened or what she means by the ‘snoopy dog’ thing.

It turns out that they had extremely bad experiences with the seas in Southeast Alaska and this is a ritual for the Dentist. Before they left the docks at Ketchikan, he exorcised his demons by visualizing and verbalizing all of the worst possibilities before they set out for the summer. I hope this drama worked for him, it left me with nightmares.

P.S. September 01, is the cut off day in the U.S. for most of the insurers of recreational boats. This is one of the reasons for the mass exodus of boats to the south, they have to be below Queen Charlotte Sound for their insurance to be valid after Sept 01, besides the weather just gets miserable. Like the Captain says “Any fool can cruise the inside passage in the summer time, it takes a serious fool to do it in the winter.” We resemble that remark.