OCD at Sea

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Life Changing Adventure

Before I left for this journey, I was told by many people that it would be a life changing experience. I knew it would be an incredible opportunity, but I wasn’t sure if it would change me. In the last days of this journey, I ask myself if it really has changed my life, and I have to answer yes.

I have a new appreciation for the natural world. I understand so much better what drove people like John Muir to explore the most beautiful and rugged parts of our world. I have been bewildered by the incredible beauty of the pristine lands we’ve travel through. I don’t think I can explain how impressive it is to cruise by thousands and thousands of acres forested with tall trees and framed by snow capped mountains. It is so inspiring to see how Canada has protected some of he most beautiful places in the world, being sure to preserve these places long into the future. It is so impressive to travel by water for three weeks seeing untouched land nearly every minute of that time. I have been thrilled to my core watching porpoises play in the wake of our bow, and seeing orca jump just a few hundred yards from our boat.

What made the greatest impression on me though, are the people I’ve come to know. I have met some amazing people on this journey and truly come to love several of them. Over the last 15 years or so, I feel like it has been harder to meet people with whom I can form fast and deep friendships, as I did when I was younger. But on this trip, I’ve met some people who I believe will always be a part of my life. I don’t know if it was just luck to be put together with like-minded people, or if sharing an amazing adventure put us all in some special shared space that pulled us together. Whatever it is, I’m so grateful to have shared this trip and so many intense emotions with these people.

Along the same lines, I remembered that who you share your adventure with is often more important than the adventure itself. There are some people that make any adventure fun. You can wash your car or grocery shop with them and it is just as much fun as traveling to Alaska together. I’ve remembered that we must choose our travel companions wisely, as they will likely color our journey more than any turning leaf will ever do.

This trip and my experiences on it have left me feeling more alive, more awake and aware. It can be so easy to get into a rut at home, walking the dogs, doing the dishes and eating the same meals. It takes energy to shake off the routine and look for new adventures, come to know new people and experience new emotions. Everything about this trip was so new, the means of travel, the area in which we traveled and the people with whom I traveled. All the newness shook me from my rut and made me see things differently and feel things more intensely. This may be one of the things I’m most grateful for.

There have been so many days on this trip when I have wanted to stop time; to stay wrapped in the incredible beauty around me, filled so intensely with emotion. But sadly, time doesn't work that way. We experience the moment and keep moving forward. If we are lucky, we can burn that memory - the feeling and sense of it - into our soul. We can carry it with us and return to it often for peace or joy or perspective. My greatest hope is that the incredible events and emotions I experienced on this trip will stay fresh and alive in my heart and that I’ll always be able to call on them to sustain me. I hope that in the coming years I will continue to feel the intensity of this trip as sharply as I feel it today.


The Grand Finale is behind us. A bunch of our participants have set out for new waters this morning. Now we can really play. A group of us joined the other half of the participants on an incredible jet boat trip up the Stikine River. It was fantastic. Jim Leslie drove the boat expertly and gave me the giggles with the great turns and skids (it really did feel like he was skidding around corners).

We got to see tons of waterfalls, birds and the best part, the glacier. As if that wasn’t enough, we had a picnic lunch as the base of a waterfall. On the way back to Wrangell, we saw three moose. Initially, they weren’t very interested in us, but Jim lured them out of the trees with some impressive moose calls.

After we got back, the group was so tired, we all took naps. We met up later that night at the Totem Bar. We had our fair share of drinks and fried food and played every song on their jukebox. It was a late night and none of us were any better for the many drinks we’d consumed.


This morning, half of our group went up the Stikine River by jet boat. The other half stayed behind and golfed, toured petroglyph beach or reloaded supplies on their boat. Aaron and I enjoyed a nice down home breakfast at the Diamond C Café and then made our way back to the Stikine Inn.

Buck returned from Seattle in the morning to the insanity that is The Grand Tour. We’d had problems getting materials shipped to us, so he arrived with huge boxes of STUFF. Aaron and I helped him get it unloaded and set it up around the room where we would hold our grand finale.

At 3:00, we went by the Elks, who had arranged a very special “Yachtini” event in honor of our arrival. They made specialty martinis that they served over glacier ice. They put out a huge spread for everyone to enjoy, all sorts of seafood and fish. It was so incredible of them to go all out for us.

At 5:30, we headed over to the Stikine Inn, where we were to have our grand finale dinner. We started out with wine and prawns and crab. Jonathan had prepared a slideshow with a bunch of great photos from the trip. People enjoyed watching that as they chatted, ate and drank. Dinner was great, the hugest steaks imaginable or salmon. People certainly had more than enough great food to eat. During dinner, a number of people spoke, and several read incredible poems to commemorate the trip and the finale.

It was a great end to a really wonderful event. It was so nice to get a chance to say goodbye to the participants and collect a bunch of hugs. I’m going to miss those guys. We had some fun, sweet, smart people on our tour. I felt very lucky to get to know so many of them. I’ll miss them and the tour, but I am looking forward to going home to my family.

Santa Anna Inlet to Wrangell

We had less than 40 nautical miles to go to reach Wrangell, so we were able to leave a little later in the day (about 7:00 am). I was very excited to get to Wrangell because Aaron was flying in that day. I’d finally get to see him after being away for two and a half weeks.

We arrived in Wrangell around noon and it was just pouring down rain. I’d packed up the night before, so as soon as we arrived, I called for a ride and unloaded my bags from Sanctuary and went directly to the hotel. Just as I was checking in, Aaron arrived – perfect timing. Sadly, we didn’t have time for a romantic reunion, as Wrangell was the location for our final events. Instead, Aaron went back down to the dock with me and we organized the participants to meet together at Chief Shakes House, a beautiful clan house in Wrangell.

While we were prepping, Wilma Leslie, my primary contact in Wrangell, came by and picked us up. She took us to her father’s house, where he had just smoked salmon using traditional methods. He had actually caught and smoked nearly 30 lbs of salmon, and later that night, he would present it to each of our participants. The smokehouse was small, like a closet. The smell of the burnt alder was fantastic. He cut us slices of the freshly smoked salmon and we all got weak in the knees when he passed it around for us to enjoy.

As we left Chief Shakes House, we encountered a young entrepreneur (she was ten) selling Wrangell Garnets. There is a great story behind the Wrangell garnets. It seems that many decades ago, the garnet mining business was owned by a group of women. They tried to make a go of the business but the poor quality of the garnets yielded little profit. The women decided to close the business, but they bequeathed the mines to the children of Wrangell. Now, kids hunt for and sell the garnets to tourists. They use the money that they collect for a trip to Disneyland or for college. Our young saleswoman explained to us that she had been in the business for years, since she was six.

After Chief Shakes House, Aaron and I went to the Nolan Center, where the group would be going next to tour the museum and then for a cocktail party. We met up with our contacts there and got things prepared for the arrival of the group. The museum was great. People really enjoyed walking through it. After that, we had a guest flute player in the lobby while we had drinks and appetizers. The Mayor of Wrangell came to greet us, and Grand Banks was presented with a beautiful piece of art to commemorate the visit. Wrangell really rolled out the red carpet for us and made us feel very welcome.

After the event, in typical fashion, we went to a bar (one on land this time) and had a great time playing every song in the jukebox.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Meyers Chuck to Santa Anna Inlet

Got to sleep until 7:00 am today. The cruise to our next anchorage was only 20 nautical miles, so it would only takes us a few hours to get there. We had some excitement though, when a photographer who was hired by Yachting Magazine arrived by helicopter to take photos of our departure. He flew over our group, directing our speed and formation. It was pretty exciting. First he took photos of us lined up single file as we left the small chuck. Then he had us in a sort of V formation. It required some great seamanship on the part of our skippers to cruise so close together and to stay at a consistent speed. The participants were great sports and I’m sure the photographer took some fantastic photos.

Just as we were getting into the V formation, we were treated to a pod of ten orca playing just a few hundred feet from our boats. Sanctuary was the lead boat, so we got a front row seat for the show. It was so surreal, but I wasn’t the least bit surprised that it happened just as we were leaving magical Meyers Chuck.

The cruise to Santa Anna Inlet was very smooth and easy. We arrived before noon and anchored at the head of the inlet, just in front of a waterfall. A little way up the shore, we could see old pilings and rusted machinery from some old logging or fishing business that had served its purpose and been left behind to rot.

Later in the day I was treated to a ride in a Zodiac. Zodiac is one of the sponsors of the tour, and they have sent along a model called CZ-7 for us to use during the trip. One of the boats has been towing it the whole trip. The CZ-7 is pretty amazing. I think the best way to describe it is as the Hummer of the inflatable boat world. This Zodiac was originally built for military use. It is a huge black rubber dingy that can hit 60 mph. They have it configured to hold six people. On our test ride, we probably hit about 50 MPH. I was expecting the ride to be really rough and wet and was shocked at how smoothly the boat powered up to speed. It was so agile in the water and could turn on a dime. It stayed totally flat in the water and just seemed to float (at 50 MPH) over the surface of the water. Before the ride in the Zodiac, I’d been considering reading a book or taking a nap. After the ride, I wanted to go run a few miles - I was so exhilarated.

The rest of the evening was very calm, especially when compared to the CZ-7 ride. I wrote some to try to catch up with the blog. We did some clean up on the boat. At 6:00 we invited the gentlemen on Sea Gate (they were anchored to Sanctuary) to join us for dinner. Larry, our Southern Service Genius, brought along and incredible bean soup – which was more like a stew. Chef cooked up some amazing salmon and halibut left over from Meyers Chuck and we had a great meal.

After dinner, the guys headed back to Sea Gate and I went down to crew quarters to pack. Aaron arrives in Wrangell on June 2nd, and I’ll be moving off of Sanctuary and into the Stikine Inn. It’s been nearly three weeks since I last saw Aaron. I’m wondering if we will still recognize each other. I’m really happy that he is going to be able to be there for the finale. I’m glad he’ll be able to see something of the Alaska that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing. And I’m really happy that he’ll meet the 45 people that I’ve just shared this incredible experience with.

At about 10:30 pm, we were finally able to get the satellite to work. It has been very picky and doesn’t always work when we are in small anchorages surrounded by tall mountains. We tried the satellite earlier in the day and it didn’t work. But later at night it did work. Well, it worked for about an hour and a half anyway. I had just posted my blog on Meyers Chuck and gotten all of the photos loaded (this is a very time consuming process since the satellite speed is about equal to dial up) and was ready to publish when we lost satellite connection. I packed up my computer and headed to bed just before midnight.

Ketchikan to Meyers Chuck

Sadly, Buck left us today to return home to be with his family for a few days. It will be hard to be here without him because he has done so much to hold our group together and keep all of the participants and activities on track. He’s also kept Chef and me in great spirits so we hate to see him go.

The trip to Meyers Chuck was very easy and enjoyable. I was so thrilled when we finally got to “the chuck”. We pulled into the bay, through a very slim cut in the rocks. The water was at low tide, and we could see the two dozen or so houses that sprouted from the rocks around the bay. The public dock was quickly filled and the rest of us dropped anchor in the tiny bay. One of the locals later said to me “I don’t remember when I’ve last seen the chuck so full of boats.”

Meyers Chuck was so unbelievably quaint and perfect - it could have been a backdrop on a soundstage. It is definately one of my very favorite places on the whole trip. Meyers Chuck has a post office, a pay phone and an art gallery where locals display and sell their goods.

Immediately upon arriving in Meyers Chuck, Chef and I found Tomi Marsh, our contact. Tomi is this gorgeous little woman who is incredibly smart, optimistic and energetic. She is also the only female in Alaska to captain her own King crab fishing boat. Chef’s friend, Amy, who connected Chef and me to Tomi, was also onboard Tomi’s huge fishing boat, Savage. Chef and I took a dinghy ride over to Savage, and got a look at the loads of King Salmon, halibut, fresh spot prawns and geoduck that had all been donated for the event by local commercial fishermen. Tomi and Amy had been working all morning, making salads and geoduck ceviche. We helped Tomi load up all the fish, salads, and beer into the dinghy and we went around to “the back chuck” to Greg and Rebecca’s.

Greg and Rebecca are friends of Tomi’s. They are the most beautiful couple. They are very hardworking, warm and very, very generous. They allowed us to use their workshop for our event. Over the last ten years, they cleared land, built a workshop that they use for their woodworking, built a smaller workshop where they paint their woodwork, and have put in an incredible outdoor kitchen and garden. During part of the year they make their living fishing. The other time they make these beautiful wooden bowls. Greg uses wood from stumps that have been logged. He turns them on a huge lathe and Rebecca paints them the most beautiful colors.

Chef, Tomi, Amy, Rebecca and I got all the food prepped. Greg stoked the outdoor oven, prepping it so that he could bake fresh bread. Locals Dan and Carol showed up and added a few dozen crab to the feast. Our guests arrived at 1:30. I’d asked Greg and Rebecca to talk for a while about their home and life in Meyers Chuck. They were both so charming, I think the whole tour just fell in love with them right away. After that, Amy and Tomi spoke about sustainable fishing and fishing in Alaska. While all this was going on, Chef was cooking salmon and halibut using a variety of methods. She steamed some over Sake, added a lemon pepper rub to some and put it on the open fire pit and then put an Indian-inspired rub on another group and put it in the wood burning stove.

Just as Tomi and Amy finished speaking, the food was ready. Chef put it out on the table, and the group gathered round. At nearly the same time, Kassie, one of the locals, pulled up with 20 freshly baked pies loaded onto the floor of her flat bottom boat. Participants ran down to help her bring up all the pies. Every night we give our participants a gift. Tonight’s gift was pie.

After the meal, Greg did a demonstration for everyone so they could see how he turned a wooden bowl. People stayed around until around 4:00, enjoying the incredible meal, the Alaskan beer that Tomi had brought along and taking in the views. Later, folks went off to explore and visit the art gallery. I was so happy to learn that Greg and Rebecca sold three bowls and one pair of tongs. It was at least some sort of repayment for their generosity. Their bowls are beautiful and can be seen at www.welti-rice.com.

After folks had left, we realized we had way too much leftover food. We bagged everything up and Greg and I went around to those locals who were in town (four families) and dropped off fresh halibut, salmon, prawns and pasta salad. It was fun for me to get to meet some really nice folks. It reminded me of the times when Buck and I would drive the dinghy around dropping off gifts at each of the boats.

After we made our rounds, Greg allowed me to see the beautiful home that he, his brother and Rebecca have built. The house was just like their bowls, beautiful, light and artistic. Then he took me over to their latest project. Greg and Rebecca and Dan and Carol bought the old school house and teacher’s house. Don and Carol are fixing the schoolhouse for their personal use. Greg and Rebecca relocated the teacher’s house and are in the process of fixing it up to be used as a rental property. I think it would be incredible to spend a week in their newly updated house once they have it finished. It wouldn’t be that hard to do. A person could fly to Ketchikan, then take a floatplane for a ½ hour flight and land right in the chuck. If any of you are interested in staying in their little house, you can reach them at 907.946.8319 or 907.946.8318, or by mail at: Greg Rice & Rebecca Welti, Island D, Meyers Chuck, Alaska 99903.

By about 8:00 pm, I was totally bushed. I stopped in at the bar and sat like a lump on their couch for the next few hours. While I was there, we were treated to the most amazing sunset. It was made even more perfect when this cute little wooden boat came drifting right through the cut. You could just hear the director shouting “cue the wooden boat!”

I think I’m in love with Meyers Chuck. It was such a beautiful place, filled with the most amazing and generous people. The only thing missing was the man I love. I wish he could have been there to share the day and the people.

I made my way to my berth at about 10:00 pm and just passed out into the deepest sleep.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Chef and I slept in late today and got into trouble. At the evening cocktail party, the First Mate had encouraged everyone to sleep in late the next morning. Chef and I mistakenly thought that included us. We won’t do that again.

I was sad when I left crew quarters and saw how gray and rainy it was. It was a miserable day. Our event for the day was to start at 3:00 pm and I was just hoping it would stop raining before our event got started.

By late morning, most everyone was busy and I was a little stir crazy, so I set out on some errands. I went by Sea Gate to pick up some items for the First Mate. The guys were all huddled in meetings so I only stopped in for a short time. Then I walked a half-mile or so up to the liquor store to restock Sanctuary. While I was out, the guys called and invited me to join them for lunch. It was nice to relax and talk with them.

Then we headed back to the boats and got ready for our trip to the Misty Fjords. We were all on one big, fast catamaran boat. Thankfully, the weather lifted some, and the visibility was very good. We hadn’t been out of the harbor for more than half an hour when a pod of five orca appeared at our side and put on an incredible show for about 10 minutes. The orca alone made the trip worthwhile. But things continued to get better. The farther we moved into the Fjords, the more stunning it became. Sheer mountain cliffs leapt straight up from the water. Waterfalls cascaded down 3,000 feet of sheer rock. It was truly a breathtaking place.

The cruise lasted until about 8:00 pm. When we got back folks all headed out in different directions. Chef, Shlomo (Jonathan) and I all stopped in at the grocery store and somehow managed to spend nearly an hour and a half shopping for lord knows what. We got things loaded onto Sanctuary then headed to Sea Gate to drop off their supplies. The night ended in the now typical fashion – sharing the evening with dear friends.

Foggy Bay to Ketchikan

With just about 40 miles to go today, we had a later start, up at 7:00 am or so. Most of the other boats had already left the anchorage before us, and there were only a few boats left in the bay when we pulled out. We’d been out of the anchorage for 15 minutes or so when we heard one of the participants yelling into the VHF. Our hearts stopped. We waited to hear what had happened. After a good deal of waiting, we found out that two of the boats had hit bottom. One sustained serious damage, the other just a deep scratch.

The more damaged boat began to take on water. When this was communicated with the fleet, everyone flew into action. One boat pulled up along side the damaged boat and got a high speed pump on board to help pump out the water. Our Service Genius got onboard to assess the damage. Another participant has scuba gear on board and he offered to dive and do some reconnaissance.

The Service Genius (Larry) impressed the heck out of me. He was on the boat immediately. He made a immediate assessment of the problem. It was not possible for Larry to find the damaged area because it was behind built-in cabinetry but he did see that the pump was keeping the water under control. Larry then went on to skipper the boat so that the owner could work on keeping the water pump working.

It was decided that the boat was stable enough to continue on to Ketchikan. Buck had made calls to a shipyard to see if they could haul the boat out as soon as it arrived. He also lined up a diver to look at the hull of the other boat. Eventually, the group decided to contact the Coast Guard to see if they could help expedite the haul out of the boat. The Coast Guard responded immediately and had an escort boat up from Ketchikan in less than a half hour. They accompanied the boat the rest of the way in, and consulted with the skipper every five minutes. Once they arrived (around noon) the boat was taken to the shipyard but had to wait until 3:00 for haul out.

In the meantime, most of the fleet was directed to Bar Harbor Marina, one of the three marinas in Ketchikan. As soon as we had cell phone coverage, I was able to make a bunch of calls to be sure that our events were all lined up. Then I headed up to the hotel where we were hosting the evening’s event. We also had media checking in up there and were expecting a large shipment of materials. Chef came along to help me, and within short time we had our ducks in a row. We had about one hour before our event so we strolled around town. I found a coffee shop and had my first double mocha in over two weeks. We found a Kavu store and bought some new shirts. We’ve been wearing the same clothes day in and day out and we were so excited about the thought of wearing something new.

I didn’t end up taking many pictures in Ketchikan. Something about the town felt very artificial to me, a little like being in the Alaska Town at Disneyland or something.

We got back to the hotel early to greet our guests as they arrived. We had a simple cocktail party set up. The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau had arranged for a woman from a bird sanctuary to come and talk with us. They also lined up the Mayor, so he came by and welcomed all of us. We also spent some time talking about the boat incident in the morning. We learned that night that the boat’s propeller had been taken off by a rock. The boat would stay in Ketchikan for the next few weeks in order to have parts sent out and to have the damaged fiberglass repaired.

After the cocktail party, people headed out in their own direction for dinner or walks. I got to work on details for the next day’s events. Later, the staff and I had a drink and a relaxing night together.

Prince Rupert to Foggy Bay

We set out early for a long trip from Prince Rupert to Foggy Bay. Things got off to an easy start, but sadly, that all changed very soon. Chef and I were really caught off guard when the seas turned very rough very quickly. The swells were estimated to be five feet. The tough part was not the big up and down waves, but the waves that would hit from the side of the boat rolling us back and forth.

Our boat wasn’t ready for the swells, and we didn’t have things secured. Chef was encouraged to lie down and she glued herself to the couch. I was feeling okay, so when the entire contents of the galley (the kitchen) went flying, I jumped in to help clean up and stow stuff away. I think that is what did me in. Not long after that, I was sitting on the steps, trying to watch the horizon and feeling my body getting sicker and sicker. I grabbed a bowl and ran up the stairs to the flybridge so that I wouldn’t have to get sick in front of everyone.

Just after we’d set off, I’d taken some ginger pills with a glass of water. That was the only thing I had in my stomach, and I’m glad, because later that was all that was sloshing around in my little puke bucket. Chef was also pretty green, but managed to keep her pills down. At one point she even managed to fall asleep in the really rough seas. Her sleep ended when a heavy brass lamp fell over and landed on her head. She had a bump the size of an egg on her noggin.

The First Mate has a sailor’s constitution, so she was tending to us. Eventually, the seas grew a bit calmer and the First Mate encouraged us to lie down and sleep. That was the best thing I could have heard. I was feeling so horrible and tired. It only took me a few minutes to fall asleep, and I stayed that way until we arrived at our anchorage.

The anchorage was small and very cute. It felt a little less hospitable than the other places we had been. As if entering into Alaska had made the land a little more rugged. We set our clocks back an hour to Alaskan time and contacted customs to let them know that we had arrived in American Waters.

Chef was scheduled to lead a cooking class that day, but no one was in the mood after the rough crossing. We postponed. The fleet was so quiet that day. Normally, there is a great deal of chatter, and people from one boat will visit another boat. Usually, you’ll find a dinghy or kayak in the water. On this day, all was quiet.

At one point Buck and I set out in the dinghy to deliver gifts to each of the boats. That has become one of my favorite parts of the trip. It is so nice to get to see each person and get a quick check in on their day and their spirits.

Chef had been given dingy driving lessons recently. So that night, we agreed to take the dog to shore in the dinghy. We had a hard time starting the dinghy up, but the Captain came out and got it started. We cruised the short distance to the shore, being sure to pull up the engine in the shallows so that the propeller wouldn’t hit the rocks. We landed gracefully and managed to get to shore without getting wet. We walked the dog which was unwilling to perform. We didn’t wander too far for fear of bears and the signs indicating “Trap Line”, meaning there were live animal traps nearby. Finally, we decided that the dog was done and we loaded her back in the dingy to return to the boat. We tried to start the engine, but it wouldn’t turn over. We repeated carefully the steps as outlined by Captain, but no luck. Finally, we had to call on the radio for help. We were so embarrassed because the entire fleet could hear our plight. We were saved by Larry who (much to our embarrassment) had to tow us back to the boat. It turns out it was a battery rather than an operator issue. But we figure that is the last time we’ll be driving a dinghy.

That night was an early night. Everyone was tired and all the lights were out on the boats very early. A few of the staff members got together and we watched “A Fish Called Wanda” in Sanctuary’s very comfortable salon. As usual, we shared some great laughs before heading off to bed.

Klewnuggit to Prince Rupert

Another early morning start today. We were up at 6:00 am so that we would be sure to arrive in Prince Rupert by noon. When I emerged from the crew quarters the anchorage that we had stayed in the night before was empty except for our boat and thick, thick fog. A good portion of the cruise was traveled in deep fog, but with all the great navigational aides that the Captain and First Mate have on board, they were able to find the way very easily.

Thankfully, the seas were very calm. We pulled into Prince Rupert at about 12:00. That’s when I got to work. I had about 10 people signed up to go on a trip to a bear sanctuary. I got them collected and set them off to an airport to catch a floatplane out to the area. I had another group going to tour an old fishing cannery. I gathered them and sent them by van to the cannery. After that, I headed up to find the restaurant where we would be having our dinner that night. It was a good walk, 15 or 20 minutes. On the way back, I stopped in at the grocery store and found Chef shopping for supplies for the boat. I stayed with her to help carry the groceries. Prince Rupert is a good size city, about 13,000 people, so there were great facilities for re-supplying. Chef pointed out that it was the first time in nearly two weeks that we had seen a car.

After we got the supplies loaded and stowed on the boat, we headed out to find internet connection. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were thrilled when we found a coffee shop. At the coffee shop, they told us that the bar across the street had internet access, so we headed that way. Turns out it wasn’t working, so we moved down the road to a big hotel on the hill. We were able to sit there in the bar and work on our blogs until about 6:30. Then we had to hustle back to the marina to collect our people for dinner.

Dinner was great. We went to Restaurant Rain. The restaurant was started by a young couple that had grown up in Prince Rupert but had worked for years in Vancouver restaurants. They had just come home within the last few years and opened a “big city restaurant” in Prince Rupert. Their menu is made up of “small plates”. Throughout the night, they kept the wine flowing and small plate after small plate supplied on the tables. The participants seemed to love the dinner and the free flowing wine certainly helped keep their spirits high.

Because of the early morning starts, our participants tend to go to bed very early. By about 9:00, most had left the restaurant. The staff got together at one of the tables and finished off the last of the open bottles of wine. As the time passed, the restaurant actually got busier and busier. The music started getting louder and the patrons younger. We laughed because at one point in the night, we were some of the youngest people in the room. Later, we were some of the oldest. It was actually great fun and we felt like we were in some big city restaurant. We enjoyed watching friends come into the restaurant and meet each other.

Prince Rupert doesn’t have a reputation as one of the jewels of the Inside Passage, but for us, it turned out to be an incredible city. The warm sunny day, the well-stocked grocery stores, a great restaurant and an incredible time spent with people very dear to me.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Photos from Klewnuggit

Khutze Inlet to Klewnuggit

Today started out early for Captain and most of the crew. At 5:00 am the anchor was being hauled in. Chef and I didn’t wake until 7:00 so we missed most of the early morning activities. By the time I came up from crew quarters, we were just moving out of deep fog into the sun. It was so beautiful - I had to take photos. My camera was totally out of batteries, so I grabbed Chef’s and snapped away. I’m actually pretty happy with some of the photos.

We had an early morning breakfast, oatmeal and fresh fruit as we cruised. A few hours into the trip, the Captain explained that we would be stopping in at a natural hot spring. I was so excited - I LOVE natural hot springs. About ten or twelve of us, from several different boats, piled into the two roomy tubs, It was heavenly! The perfect temperature and a great treat.

Shortly after we got back to the boat from the hot tubs, Chef was serving an incredible meal, carrot and ginger soup with a rice salad that was so amazing, I had to go back for seconds. I’d have gone back for thirds if the others weren’t watching.

The cruise today to Klewnugget was a long one, between 70 and 80 miles. Thankfully, the sun was shining the entire route, and snow capped mountain after snow capped mountain lined our route the entire trip. After so many days of cold, wet rain, we couldn’t get enough of the sun. Buck, Chef and I plugged the iPod into the portable speakers and sat or napped on the back deck for as long as we could take the cool wind and warm sun. There were entire hours of this leg that I have to call perfect moments – it was a combination of the right people, the right view, the right temperature, the right music. Perfect moments to remember for a lifetime.

We arrived at the Klewnugget anchorage at 6:00 pm and the sun was still shining and the seas were calm. Chef was cooking in the kitchen and the great smells were taunting all of us. We were one of the last to pull in but still we managed to get an invitation for cocktails and smoked salmon on one of the neighboring boats. We took a dinghy over to the other boat and it was great fun to visit with the others for a while. Over cocktails, I heard one of the best bear stories I’ve ever heard. Much of what made the story so good was the storyteller, but the facts themselves were also pretty amazing.

Bill, a bear of a man himself, was traveling by boat with his wife. While the boat was at anchor, he took the dinghy to shore to go clamming. He found a nice beach, about 100 yards from the trees. He got down on his hands and knees and started digging for clams. He said he was startled when his wife’s shadow fell upon him. Then he remembered that his wife was still back on the boat. He looked up and into the eyes of a huge grizzly bear. It was at this point of the story that he explained that he has hunted bear in the past and is experienced in how to respond to a bear. First, if you have food, throw it to the bear. Second, never turn your back on the bear or run away, rather, make yourself appear as large as possible and slowly back away. Understanding that he was wise in “the ways of the bear”, the cocktail party attendees held their breath, waiting to hear which tactic he used to escape the bear. “I grabbed my bucket of clams and turned and ran like hell,” he explained. He said that he ran as fast as he could out to his dinghy, which meant that he was now waist deep in water. His brain kicked back in, in time for him to realize that he had just made two major mistakes and that by standing in the water he’d actually made himself look even smaller. He looked at the bear, which had originally been standing on all fours. The bear was now standing on its back two legs; with its arms spread wide grunting and making a horrible snarling sound. Bill realized that he had just given the bear every clue it needed to begin a chase. Something clicked for Bill and he got the dinghy between himself and the bear. Then he raised his hands above his head (wielding his small garden bucket full of clams and shaking his tiny garden shovel). In his loudest voice possible, he roared back at the bear. He said, “that bear looked at me like I was crazy”. But Bill also recognized that his actions caused the bear to stop. So, he roared again, as loud as he could. This second roar really seemed to stun the bear. Bill roared one more time, and the bear gave up. He dropped back down onto all fours, and slowly turned around and ambled away.

At 8:00, we headed back to the boat as Chef was putting the final touches on dinner. Buck and I used a dinghy to go to each of the boats and hand out gifts we had for everyone. It was really fun to stop in and visit with each boat for a few minutes, and we even got some fresh baked cookies out of the deal! As we were bobbing around in the dinghy, we looked down into the water and saw thousands and thousands of jellyfish in the water. I don’t know why, but I was really surprised to see all those jellyfish in the 36-degree water. I’ve always associated jellyfish with warmer water.

After we made our rounds, we enjoyed another amazing meal by Chef. Followed by drink at the bar. The newest member of the team, Larry, who recently replaced Fran as the Service Genius is now on board the bar. Last night, he had all of us in stitches with what I can only describe as his stand up comedy show. The guy is damned funny. Later that night when he drove us back to Sanctuary in the dinghy, we could see the phosphorescence glowing in his wake – beautiful little dayglo waves.

Photos from Khutze

Waterfall at Khutze Inlet

Night at Khutze Inlet

Captain, First Mate, Margo and Cinnamon
Klemtu Longhouse

Bear Valley

Buck and Cinnamon

Bear Valley

Chef and Cinnamon

Views en route to Khutze

Shearwater to Khutze Inlet

Hands down, this has been the most amazing leg of the trip for me. I got up about 6:30 or 7:00 am and we were already underway. Margo, our trusty sailor and advisor, explained that this was the scenic route, and was she ever right about that. The waterway that we traveled on was calm and smooth the whole journey (50+ nautical miles). As our journey progressed, the channel narrowed and the hills and mountains around us grew taller and taller. We were finally in “The Fiordlands”. The day was sunny, with occasional clouds rolling in for dramatic effect.

About an hour into our trip, six playful porpoises joined us and jumped and played at the bow of our boat for a couple of minutes. We all ran out to the bow and were giddy with joy. Buck took some photos (I’ll try to get copies) but I was so thrilled with the whole thing that I hadn’t even thought to stop and grab my camera. If that had been all that had happened, it would have been the perfect day, but things continued to get better and better (with a few bumps along the way).

Just after our porpoise encounter, Buck and I saw a little otter-like creature playing in the water, just in front of the boat. He stayed put until the boat was right on top of him and then he high-tailed it out of there. Shortly after that, we had a whale swim up alongside the boat. We watched as his entire, massive body surfaced across the top of the water and culminated with the flick of his tail as he disappeared. Again, Buck caught the whole thing on camera, and my hands were empty.

After the wildlife adventures, Chef prepared breakfast and I took my traditional morning role at the coffee maker. To try to keep our garbage to a minimum, we’d been asked to use the garbage disposal as much as possible (yes, this yacht has a garbage disposal on board, and a washer and dryer and a water maker, but that’s beside the point). So, like every morning, I dumped the coffee grounds into the disposal. Well, this was a bad move. I managed to clog the drain, and this was a real problem because we’d just had the drain unclogged a day or two ago by one of the Grand Banks Service Geniuses (I realize now, that was probably because I’d been putting the coffee grounds in there the whole time). So, when I clogged the drain again so quickly after having it fixed, it caused a bit of upset on the boat.

It seems like the Captain and First Mate are fixing one or two problems (at least) everyday. Partially, this is because of their inexperienced crew who make bonehead mistakes, partially, it is because the boat is new and still being broken in, and partially it is because boat systems are just more sensitive than normal household systems. So, I was feeling really awful because I’d just added to their workload and clogged the drain. We agreed to have the Service Genius back so he could fix it once we anchored. Relieved that a fix was on the horizon, I went downstairs and used the head (toilet). And, it got stopped up. So, within 15 minutes, I’d managed to clog the sink and the head. I was feeling really, really low (and embarrassed). The Captain and First Mate explained that this was standard operating procedure and not to worry, but I was really stressed about my handiwork. Embarrassed, I headed out to the bow to try to relax and take in the view.

The area around us was so beautiful, I sat myself down on some cushions at the front of the boat, and wrapped myself around Cinnamon (Sanctuary’s dog) for warmth. Later, Chef brought me a blanket to keep warm. It was really cold out there, but the view and intense emotions I was experiencing kept me in my seat for at least an hour.

I took over 80 photos on that leg, sadly, most didn’t turn out very well because it was too sunny. While the sun wasn’t great for photos, it felt great to sit in.

The whole trip up, the crew of Sanctuary were dying to see a bear. We thought that this would be our day since we’d already had such incredible luck with the porpoises and the whale. At one point, Captain got on his loudspeakers and asked all bear to report for duty at waters edge. Sadly, they must have been on break at that time because none showed up.

All in all, the cruise took about seven hours, and it was beautiful and calm and amazing the entire duration. It was a truly thrilling trip that only got better once we reached our anchorage. We dropped anchor at the end of an inlet, with a view to one side of a snowcapped mountain sprouting an incredible waterfall. In another direction was a beautiful grassy valley, flanked by mountains. Behind us were more dramatic mountains and in the remaining direction (the direction from which we’d traveled) was the channel cutting through the tall mountains.

After arriving, we were quickly informed by the first to arrive that they had seen a lazy grizzly, just a few feet away, chewing on the bright spring grass. Later, other participants went exploring by dinghy further up the inlet. They came across another grizzly, just 20-30 yards away. When we heard this news, a number of us piled into the dinghy and headed up the inlet to see if we could also spot the bear. The shallow water (and borrowed dinghy) kept us from traveling too far up the waterway. We did have a chance to see a half dozen seals playing in the shallow water.

While we had been out in the dinghy, our Service Genius had stopped in and fixed the problems I’d created. He was gratefully asked to stay for dinner.

Outside, we had stunning 360 degree views, but my eyes were constantly drawn to the grassy valley and the mountains behind it. I spent hours on the bow just taking the view in (and taking countless photos of it).

While I was staring at the meadow, Chef made the most amazing dinner using the salmon she’d been given the night before. She made an incredible wine sauce to go over the top. I don’t really like salmon, but before going on the trip I’d told myself that I would eat everything Chef made, in an effort to expand my horizons. The salmon was amazing, probably the best salmon I’ve ever had. Chef is a genius. She also served some amazing cheese and salami, tomato bruschetta and roasted fennel, potato and onion. An amazing meal and prepared on a boat. The dinner conversation was fun and the company great.

Dinner and dishes were finished just as the sun was beginning to go down. I returned to my place at the bow of the boat, with iPod on and camera in hand. As I sat overlooking the meadow, I saw an object that looked interesting. I grab the binoculars, and sure enough, there was a huge grizzly bear eating grass in the middle of the meadow. I called out the others on the boat, and someone from our group radioed the other boats in the inlet and we all had a chance to see our grizzly.

After our bear sighting, things began to wind down. Buck, Chef and I had a glass of wine on the bow of the boat, and watched the light change and listened to the waterfall. Later, the clear skies allowed us to see millions of stars. It was an incredible anchorage and a magical night.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Duncanby Landing to Shearwater (Bellla Bella)

Chef and I woke on our own again this morning, around 7:30 am. I can’t tell you how great it is to wake on our own in the late morning, as opposed to waking at the crack of dawn to our rowdy neighbors - the twin 1000 HP Caterpillar engines (as long as we aren’t waking in Sullivan Bay that is).

I ambled upstairs and found Captain sitting in the California Cockpit (the back deck in layman terms) a huge grin on his face and a warm cup of coffee in his hand. He was in heaven, sitting comfortably with his dog at his side and the rain pouring down on calm seas. It was nice to see Captain enjoying a slow start to the morning and it set the tone for the day.

I ran up to the lodge and gathered up the fresh muffins and coffee they had put out for us. What a great way to start the day! Once everyone was up in the galley, Captain got us underway. The seas were like glass during the first portion of our journey, much to the pleasure of Chef and myself. We had one batch of rocky seas, but gratefully, Captain got us out of those pretty quickly and we were back to smooth sailing for the next few hours.

Chef took advantage of the calm seas to make a minestrone soup and risotto cakes that would be our lunch. The galley was filled with incredible smells as she chopped and simmered. Later, we ate lunch as we cruised on calm seas.

The water was a bit rough on this trip, and it was a very gray, rainy day, so I don’t have many photos from this leg.

At about 3:00 pm, we pulled into our next stop, Shearwater. I’d expected it to be just a few buildings – but it turned out the area was pretty well developed. The afternoon was a little hectic as I made calls to several of the marinas and outfitters to change our plans. Buck helped me and I was able to use the satellite phone to make the calls. It was really great to have the ability to actually communicate with people. I’ve got most of our events rescheduled or cancelled now, and I’m feeling much better.

We had to make some changes to the schedule. After Shearwater, we were supposed to go to a First Nations village – Klemtu and then go to an anchorage the next day. We decided to shorten the trip by cutting out the stop to Klemtu. I was sad about the decision because it was the only First Nations event I had planned, but I understood the wisdom of shortening the trip to try to make up time.

Before I knew it, it was time for our dinner. I’d made arrangements for the restaurant to hold a salmon bake. They also prepared chicken and ribs and had several salads and an apple crumble. For some reason, this more elaborate dinner didn’t seem to be as well received as the burger BBQ the night before, but people seemed to have a really good time.

Just as dinner was getting started, the manager of the restaurant approached Chef and asked her if she would like some free sockeye salmon. It seems that there are a large number of sports fishermen in the area. When they get bored, they go fishing. When they pull in fish they don’t have a use for, they sometimes give it to the restaurant. The restaurant can’t serve it (their license requires them to purchase their food from pre-approved sources). So the restaurant stores it in their freezer or gives it out to friends and family. Chef was given a Sockeye Salmon. The head had been removed and the insides cleaned out, but fish still weighed 20 Ibs in total. Chef was like a kid in a candy store. She quickly ran back to the boat and filet the Salmon. She packaged pieces of fish in zip lock bags and gave one to each boat at the end of the night. She was a very popular Chef that night. After filleting and dividing the fish, she came back just in time for a little dinner.

As usual, our participants headed back to their boats by about 8:00 pm. This time, the staff was able to unwind at a real bar. We played pool, darts and shuffleboard while we shared a few drinks and some laughs.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sullivan Bay to Duncanby Landing

All the talk we’d heard the night before pointed toward an early morning departure. The rest of the staff and I were all very hopeful that we would be setting off today. So, when I went to bed I was really expecting that the engines would serve as my alarm clock.

Instead, I woke on my own at about 8:30 am. I can’t tell you how very bummed I was that we would be in Sullivan Bay for one more day, and behind in our schedule by two days. I recognize that with boating, the weather, not the neurotic event planner, dictates the schedule, but I was so hopeful that the weather would be in our favor and that we would be able to stick to our plans.

I hung out for a while in crew quarters, dreading going up and trying again to contact the different marinas and outfitters that I’ve been working with. I stayed below for a good while, cleaning up my area and dilly-dallying, not too anxious to start my day. When I finally came up at 10:00 am, I was informed by the captain and first mate that rather than being stuck here all day, it looked like we would actually be leaving at 10:30 if the upcoming weather report was favorable. I attended the skipper briefing to hear the verdict. It was positive we would be leaving between 10:30 am and 11:00 am.

I headed directly to the restaurant, got online and sent a message to our next two destinations, letting them know our most up to date schedule. Then I went back to Sanctuary to help stow the final items and pull in the fenders (Chef calls them boat balls) when we left the dock.

The next task was to don the wristband, down ginger pills, ginger beer and candied ginger, and cross the fingers in an effort to keep seasickness at bay.

We were underway before 11:00 am. As we headed out the seas got choppier and choppier. Captain called the waves “mashed potatoes” because they were coming from all different directions and had no set rhythm. Chef and I were getting very nervous, especially when the Captain explained that this was not the rough part. We were both gripping the cushions of our seats as the boat rocked and rolled over the rough seas. Chef was threatening to curl into the fetal position and shake if the seas didn’t get better soon.

After about an hour of that, we turned sharp to the left and suddenly nature was working in our favor. The wind was behind us and the waves seemed to cruise right along at the same speed as our boat (about nine knots). Chef and I were so grateful. Almost instantaneously, the seas were with us and the clouds parted and the sun came out.

It was at about this time that Chef’s huge variety of seasickness meds kicked in, and she about passed out into a nap. I downed more ginger.

The seas stayed calm for a few more hours until we rounded Cape Caution and cruised through a squall. The seas got pretty choppy at this point. We had 40+ knot winds that thankfully were coming from behind us. The waves weren’t too bad; the highest we saw was estimated to be about five feet. That only lasted for about an hour and then the squall passed.

I learned later that while our boat was rocking and rolling in closer to the shore, the boys on the bar had taken a path much farther out to sea, and had a close encounter with a whale. They were shocked when 50 yards in front of their boat, a huge object suddenly appeared directly ahead of them. They were further shocked when the huge mass moved through he water, showing its massive body and dramatically flicking its massive tail. The boys ran for the cameras and kept their eyes on the water, but the whale did not resurface.

Once the seas grew calm I took advantage of the peace to take a nap. I slept for about an hour and then woke to bright sun shining on the marina we were headed to. I was so happy to see that marina and even happier to know Sullivan Bay was behind us. It seems that my ginger treatments and Captain’s strategic cruising allowed me to cross what is expected to be our roughest waters without hurling. I was very grateful.

We arrived at about 5:00 pm, and I jogged up the dock to the restaurant to be sure that the dinner that I had planned (to happen two days earlier) was still possible for the night. The incredible crew at Duncanby Landing was on it, and they pulled together a great BBQ dinner without a hitch. The BBQ was really well received and Chef was glad for a night off – she was still pretty well gorked from all her seasickness meds.

Just as the dinner got started, the rain let loose and continued to pour down throughout the rest of the night, sometimes in light sprinkles, sometimes in incredible downpours.

I stopped in at crew quarters to grab my computer and found that a small waterfall was filling our cabin with water. Actually, I think a majority of the water found its way directly INTO my new rubber boots (hope I won’t need those anytime soon). I tried monkeying with the door – I thought perhaps I hadn’t closed it properly, but nothing I could do would stop the water pouring in. I had to go to the bar and request the help of Mr. Fix-it (aka Fran). As always, with a little grin on his face and without a word of compliant, he immediately came to our aide. He donned his body length raincoat and set about assessing the door. As luck would have it, the sky waited until precisely this moment to let loose. Fran was working on our hatch in a torrential downpour. Whenever he would lift his arm to make an adjustment, rainwater would pour into his sleeve and run down his arm to his side. Needless to say, he got a little soggy during the fix-it session. He found that a screw was missing and quickly replaced it then put in a temporary gutter-type contraption over the top of the door to try to deflect the water away from our hatch. It worked great last night and we stayed dry. I hope it will hold for the rest of the trip.

After dinner, there was a skipper meeting. The group agreed to adjust the schedule some. I’ll need to make some calls tomorrow to try to reschedule my bear sanctuary trip, and to cancel another trip that I’d arranged for a visit to Klemtu, a First Nations community. I’m hopeful that it will all work out. The night ended wonderfully with the guys at the bar, talking some and listening some as the rain came down.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sullivan Bay Day Two

Early morning came and went with no departure. Once again, Chef and I woke on our own rather than to the sound of roaring engines. Early in the trip, I dreaded those engines, as they often came at about 5:00 or 6:00 am when I was deep asleep. Now that we are officially behind schedule, I’m sad to wake on my own.

Once again, the weather predicted rough seas, so the group decided to stay put for another day. People were great about making lemonade out of lemons. Sanctuary loaded 20 or so people on board and traveled to a nearby area for a beautiful hike to a mountain lake. Margo Wood, another resident on Sanctuary who knows this area inside and out, spoke to the group about places to visit beyond Wrangell, or on their return from Wrangell. And one boat organized a cocktail (or docktail) party. Everyone turned out with drinks and snacks and had a blast.

I stayed back at Sullivan Bay during the hike and tried to connect with the three marinas we are scheduled to visit next. Only one returned my email and confirmed that they received my message. So, I’m hoping that the others also got the word.

Chef had requested some groceries from a store on another island, and those were delivered today right after the hike. Chef was loaded up with about 15 Ibs of chicken, which she hopes will last her until the end of the trip.

Chef made an amazing dinner after the docktail party and we were joined by the guys from “the bar” for the meal. After we ate, we headed back over the “the bar” to watch a movie. Just as we arrived there, one of the locals Leesha came by and sat with us for an hour or so and chatted about the area. Leesha was Chef’s grocery contact, so Chef was very pleased to see her.

After the movie, we headed back to crew quarters and once again stowed everything in anticipation of (and with hope for) an early morning departure.

This is the staff's typical state of being (from the left, Fran, Chef and Buck).