Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and more recently, our Bigfoot29 powerboat, "Raven," from Port Townsend, Washington, USA. In 2009 we sailed north from Puget Sound up the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii.) In 2010 we went back to the west coast of Vancouver Island. In July 2011 we left the Northwest, sailed to Mexico, and in March 2012 we crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, then on to the Cooks, Niue and Tonga. We spent several months in New Zealand, and in May 2013 loaded the boat (and ourselves) on a container ship for San Francisco. In June and July 2013 we sailed north along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and in August we arrived home. In October 2016 Sockdolager found new owners, and we are now enjoying Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. In 2018 we cruised up to Glacier Bay, Alaska, and back. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Thousand Mile Maze

Still, calm, cold, deep waters, Icy Strait.

 Raven is snug in the harbor of the Tlingit community of Hoonah, Alaska, just across Icy Strait from Glacier Bay. As I write this, an actual raven is chattering on a nearby piling, and it sounds exactly like, um, well, a chimpanzee. This reminds me of the party of six large sea lions who played at our bow yesterday, apparently thinking they were, uh, Dall’s porpoises.

A pack of sea lions porpoising at our bow.

An actual Dall's porpoise (look carefully) swimming off our bow wave.

Which reminds me of the pair of marbled murrelets we saw in Wrangell Narrows, who seemed to be herding a small jumping ball of panicked herring, kind of like, er, feathered, potato-sized sheepdogs.

I am now waiting for a whale to fly.

Airborne! NOAA photograph.

 We’ve come nearly 1,000 miles in 23 travel days!

Jim reads a novel via his Kindle app while off watch on a long day.

And we just received permission (and a permit) from the National Park Service to enter Glacier Bay on June 2nd. They only allow 25 boats at a time to be in the park, including cruise ships, so we feel lucky.

Some disgustingly lovely scenery on Chatham Sound. We just came out of days and days of gray rain into the land of eco-porn, and we have plans to give you more, so just deal with it. 

While fun, this voyage so far has had a fast pace, so now that we are nearing the northernmost areas we’ll visit, it’s time to slow down and smell the flowers. But also to watch out for bears, who like it when you slow down to smell the flowers. Two days ago Jim rowed ashore in our last anchorage, Cosmos Cove on Baranof Island, which, if I keep using tired old tropes like spectacular, gorgeous, sublime, etc, will eventually make you want to hurl, so just imagine constantly being inside a scene from "National Geographic Discovers Alaska!" and you’ll either get the idea or hurl anyway.

Raven at anchor in Cosmos Cove, Baranof Island

Jim wandered the beach and found a trail. He returned to Raven. “There’s a little trail,” he pointed, “It looks like the start of a nice hike.”

Just then, two grizzlies appeared on the beach… I mean, uber-bears, ginormous fat, sleek Ursus horribilises, waddling cumbersomely down the same beach Jim had just walked, probably belching up their last hiker meal. They came from that nice little hiking trail Jim had discovered, a trail made by bears. A sow and her nearly-grown cub are two of the most frequently cited bad-news bears.

“Maybe we should reconsider that hike,” I said.

Mosquito-sized specks in the distance as photographed on an iPhone will eat you up if you get too close to them. We watched two grizzlies for twenty minutes, close-up with binoculars. 

“Yeah. We’re not at the top of the food chain here,” said Jim, looking at our Evergreen Guide. “Oh wow, it says ‘brown bear area’ at the head of this cove… and this one, and this one. In fact every bay on page 71 says ‘brown bear area.’ But at Basket Cove it shows the site of “…an old Indian village that was destroyed by an enraged pet beaver.”

“Did you say ‘enraged pet beaver’?”

“I did. What could one possibly do to enrage a pet beaver?”

“What could one possibly enjoy about keeping a pet beaver in a house made of wood?”

Karen at the helm in rain and fog.

We last wrote to you from Prince Rupert, where the World’s Longest Pub Crawl was on a triumphant uninterrupted streak.

Kaleidoscope effect at Foggy Bay, Alaska. Before leaving Ketchikan we called US Customs to ask permission to anchor here before checking in at Ketchikan. (Required, and granted.) The crossing of Dixon Entrance, our second piece of open water, went well, with benign weather.

 That pub streak continued in Ketchikan, at Fat Stan’s near the cruise ship docks. There was lots of rain.

Fat Stan's Pub, Ketchikan.

We left Ketchikan the next day, just before 5 cruise ships disgorged 13,600 people into its narrow streets. Did we mention it was raining?

Heavy traffic in Ketchikan. Not shown: 4 more cruise ships and dozens of floatplanes landing and taking off in the fairway around the ships.

 The excellent weather we’d enjoyed since leaving Port Townsend had come to a splashing halt with a series of gales that brought wind and a ridiculous amount of rain. Our new heater kept the boat dry and warm, through Clarence Strait, where log barges are a common sight.

Log barge pulled by a tug.

 We rode out a gale in Exchange Cove, on the west side of Clarence Strait’s north entrance.

Not much to see here, folks.

And we have seen humpback whales most days since leaving Ketchikan; they seemed to especially enjoy both entrances to Kashevarof Passage near the north end of Prince of Wales Island. It’s awe-inspiring to be in their presence, to hear the giant whoosh of their breath and see the slow dive ending with an upturned tail and a smooth circular spot on the water. They are also very hard to photograph unless you get almost too close. If they're nearby, we always slow down, alter course if they're ahead of us, and if we're not sure, we stop and wait until they surface.

We stopped to fish in Wrangell Narrows but got skunked. And sadly, the pub crawl was temporarily interrupted in Petersburg, where the town had rolled up the sidewalks for Memorial Day weekend and our berth at the south marina was, we kid you not, nearly half a mile from the harbormaster’s office and the showers. Nothing was open except the grocery store and a bar that didn’t serve food. Pfffft. But PubRaven is always open, and since she once served as the floating pub for a bunch of round-the-world sailors, we had our pub dinner washed down by a fine Alaskan beer aboard our own boat and called it good. Streak unbroken! Onward!

Petersburg, we shall return when you are open.

The day after the gale, we were stopped, boarded and inspected by a Coast Guard patrol boat—they were very friendly, polite and professional, and after we passed the inspection we gave them a tour of Raven and grinned as they said, WOW! This is the COOLEST boat we’ve been on! They too could not stop grinning.

Leaving Petersburg, the forecast had gone down from 35 knot gusts to a mere 20 knots from the southeast, which for us would be a tail wind, so we decided to make more miles and not turn into the welcoming arms of Portage Bay on Frederick Sound. “It’s only 40 miles to Chapin Bay on Admiralty Island,” we said, “let’s keep going!” Beeeeg mistake. As Portage Bay’s welcoming arms receded into the rain, the seas grew, the wind honked, and suddenly we were surfing on 6-footers that were starting to resemble miniature versions of those rollers you see in Hawaiian surfing competitions. It was wind against tide, and the seas were stacking up.

“I’m not comfortable being out here in these conditions,” I said, glancing to windward at the chaos behind us. “We don’t have sails anymore, or a deep keel.” (Note to new readers: while we did sail across the Pacific, often in far bigger winds and seas, and while we have not become sudden geriatric chickens, we do recognize the differences between our current boat, which is not meant for big boisterous seas, and our former sailboat, which was.)

“Yeah, it’s gotten rougher and if anything goes wrong, we’re screwed,” said Jim. “Let’s turn around and go to Portage Bay.”

Jim waited for a low series of waves and carefully turned the boat around.

WHAM! CRASH! BASH! SPLASH! VERTICAL WALLS ‘O WATER!! (I swear, next time this happens we will get out the video, but it wasn’t our priority just then and we hope it never happens again anyway, so just use your imagination.)

Our course into Portage bay.

“HOLY CRAP!” we both yelled, “Hang on!” A few small things flew around the cabin, but not as much as you’d expect given the way Raven got thrown around. Jim handled the boat expertly through steep seas as we “tacked” at a 45 degree angle to the biggest ones, back toward our bay. (See screen capture above.) Raven did amazingly well. The wind howled and the rain poured as we anchored near the head of the bay, and we were grateful for the good holding and nice shallow depths so we could let out lots of scope. Jim decided that a couple of hot dogs would be the perfect antidote, and also to cook them while lying down. There aren’t many galleys you can do that in.

"Cuisine en repose."

Once that little weather tantrum ended next morning, the most benign, bluebird conditions reigned until we reached Hoonah. We put the big seas-rotten weather story in there so you don’t think this trip has been all cakewalk.

We had no idea how comfy-cozy starfish find our crab trap, or how much they love our bait. 

Eagles are great fishers.

So now we are getting ready for a spell in Glacier Bay. I'm posting this from a friendly pub in Hoonah called "The Office." We’ll leave you with a few more Unspoken Rules of the Sea:

#5: When you ask a question of the haughty crew of an extremely expensive-looking 151-foot mega-yacht that made you wait outside the harbor and then forced you out of a channel with not a single acknowledgement, you can be certain when you meet them on the dock later, that a sense of humor will not be in evidence in their reply to your question, “Does your washing machine take quarters?”

#6: When you leave the boat at anchor to begin rowing to a pub, and ten feet off the stern you start counting clams on the bottom, it may be time to consider re-anchoring your boat.

#7: When you are trolling for fish less than two boat lengths from shore because that’s where the fish are but it’s 90 feet deep, your chief danger is getting hit by a falling tree. 

Next stop, Glacier Bay!


  1. You are so generous to take us along with you! Enjoyed this blog entry thoroughly, while reading most of it aloud to C. The grizzlies will haunt me in my dreams tonight, no doubt. Stay safe.

  2. Keep it coming! This is an awesome trip and I'm happy to live vicariously through you. Fair winds, even though you're on a trawler.

  3. What a great adventure you two are having! It feels like I am there with you! Thanks for sharing.