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Laura Domela
Portland, OR
Adventures in travel, technology, and style -- via sea, land, and air
Interests: Airstream, Nordic Tug, travel, camping, boating, cruising, San Juan Islands
Recent Activity
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Airship Goes to Alaska We left Meyers Chuck this morning and headed out into Clarence Strait and headed for the village of Kasaan, across the Strait and on the east side of Prince of Wales Island about 30 miles northwest of Ketchikan. Kasaan (population around 53) is one of the only two Haida villages in Alaska, and gets its name from the Tlingit word meaning "beautiful place." The Haida people migrated north from Haida Gwaii and established the village Gasa'aan, now known as "old Kasaan" on Skowl Arm seven miles from today's Kasaan. We tied up on the public float, which is very nice. In many of the reviews about Kasaan, there's talk of how bad the dock is (things like "awash in anything but fair weather" and "a disaster waiting to happen" etc.) but from what we can see, things have been much improved since those reviews were written. The dock portion we're on appears like new, and the other sections must have seen some improvements in recent years. We headed up to explore the village, and find the trail to the once abandoned, now being restored Haida longhouse. Boardwalk trail along the waterfront: Cool stuff, this way: The... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska We wandered around Meyers Chuck yesterday evening once it stopped raining. Here's our post from the last time we were here, and here are some photos from our wandering around during this visit. Looking out into Clarence Strait: Meyers Chuck post office: Floatplane dock in the foreground: Waterfront: Trail: Fence: Nice artwork on the delivery entrance for Loon Cottage: View from Airship: Heron at the end of our dock: So there you go! A little mini-tour of Meyers Chuck. We called to see if we could get in on the "cinnamon buns delivered to your boat at 7am for $3" deal, but it's a little late in the season, and apparently they need an order of at least eight cinnamon buns to be worth doing. Unfortunately, the only other pleasure boat on the dock said they're going to leave before 7 and didn't want in, so we'll miss out again. Oh well. Maybe in Port Harvey! Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska We left Wrangell on Friday morning and headed around the back of Wrangell island toward Berg Bay. It was pretty windy (okay, very windy). Berg Bay was about 22 miles from Wrangell and we figured we could stay there for a night or two before moving on toward Clarence Strait and to Ketchikan (though, no rush since Clarence was not looking good until about Tuesday). Wonder what happened here: Wrangell to Berg Bay (about 20 nautical miles): Berg Bay: Berg Bay was pretty and we caught a bunch of Dungeness crabs (6 the first day, 5 the second day). Here’s our tiniest catch (of course we released him…so cute!): Also, Kevin caught a shark! The weather at Berg Bay was super rainy and windy and we spent the first night at the unoccupied Forest Service float (intended for cabin occupants only, but there were none) and the second night at anchor. Promptly at 5am this morning the wind came up dramatically and we got our weather forecast early (right about 5am our time, when we woke to the wind) from our NY connection (Hi Larra! Thanks again SO MUCH) since we couldn't get any of the... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska On Thursday we took a jet boat ride out of Wrangell and up the Stikine River with Zack from Breakaway Adventures. Breakaway Adventures does trips to LaConte Glacier, Anan Bear Observatory, the Stikine River, and Telegraph Creek, B.C. in their super fast, super fun jet boats. We inquired about the Anan Bear Observatory trip, but the season for that pretty much ended a few days ago and they told us there was really only one bear hanging out there right now, and even that one wasn't always around. I think we'll plan on doing that earlier in the season next summer. Our captain, Zack, was born and raised in Wrangell and has been exploring the Stikine River since he was about ten years old. He knows it well! The jet boat can run in as little as 6 inches of water, and the channels in the mud flats and the river are constantly moving and shifting. Zack has to constantly be watching and reading the surface of the water to figure out where the deepest part is (today) as the boat is zooming along at about 30 mph. It's quite exciting! It was gray and sometimes... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska We left Petersburg on Wednesday morning, timing our departure so we could arrive at the middle of Wrangell Narrows at slack tide, thus riding a favorable current in and a favorable current back out. The weather was gorgeous and clear and it was a smooth and lovely cruise to Wrangell. Passing Two Tree Island again (last time we came through here was June 14): Arriving in Wrangell: The last time we were in Wrangell we stayed in Reliance Harbor, closer to town, but this time the harbormaster put us in the newer Heritage Harbor, about a mile and half from town. We got a spot on the transient dock right in front of S/V Delphina. We met Richard and Tracy on S/V Delphina when we were in Taku Harbor the very first time, and they were super cool, so it was fun to meet up with them again. We've passed them a few times and seen them on AIS, but never managed to be in the same place at the same time until now. We took the dinghy over to Reliance and made a quick stop at the market for a few things we forgot or... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Alaskan Sockeye Salmon is arguably the best salmon in the world. Some would say it’s the best fish in the world. Its intense color, beautiful texture, high oil content, and rich but subtle flavor make it a favorite among seafood enthusiasts. Because of the high oil content, it takes smoke exceptionally well, so smoked sockeye brings a premium in the retail market. Sure, King/Chinook and Silver/Coho salmon are better known and much more widely distributed. King is popular primarily because the fish are large and exciting for sport anglers to catch. King is noticeably fattier with more marbling than other species. Plus, it’s got the best marketing name. Coho is in a sweet spot of popularity, quality, and sportsman appeal. But ask most Alaskans what salmon they prefer, and you’ll often get “sockeye” as the answer. A decent amount of Alaskan sockeye makes its way into the high-end retail market in the “lower 48”. It’s treated as a delicacy in finer restaurants, and we often see sockeye fillets in good fish markets in Portland bringing prices as high as $35/lb. Kinda makes you want to head up to Alaska, grab a pole, and catch yourself some... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Yesterday morning in Hobart Bay was calm and beautiful and we got up and got an early start on our way to Petersburg. Looking out of our little cove on Entrance Island: Back toward the cove and the public dock: Stephens Passage was calm...oh yeah, this reminds me...while we were in Snettisham (and also last night in Hobart Bay) we had no VHF weather channel reception. So...we have this cool inReach satellite device with unlimited text messages, so we texted our daughter in NY, sent her a link to the NOAA Alaska inside waters weather forecast, and asked if she would text us the updates in the morning for Stephens Passage so we knew what to look forward to (or what to avoid). It was fabulous and we owe her a big thank you for being the NY/AK inside waters weather exchange. (I've also used the inReach/DeLorme satellite device to ask her to look up recipes for me too...she's amazing. If you need this service, she might be for hire!) Five Finger lighthouse: A little bit of fog ahead: It turned out to be another gorgeous day (even with an hour or so in fairly thick... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska This morning we headed out of Snettisham in some light fog, weaving our way through only a dozen or so gill netters. The weather forecast for Stephens Passage was “Wind SE 20kt diminishing in the morning, then becoming N 10kt in the afternoon. Seas 4ft subsiding to 2 ft in the afternoon.” The fog lifted and the blue spots in the sky got larger, and by the time we reached Stephens (about 9:30am) it was flat and as smooth as glass. We immediately found ourselves stuck in the middle of a bunch of humpbacks so we slowed up (and eventually stopped) to let them do their thing while we tried to be invisible (well, invisible, but with cameras). There were maybe 20 in this particular group that was hanging together and they were amazing to watch. It’s hard up here not to be “too close” to the humpbacks, because they’re everywhere. Every. Where. All you can really do is just stop and wait, and we had to do that several times over the course of our trip down Stephens Passage on the way to Hobart Bay today. One curious guy came over to check us out…um,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska We left Juneau yesterday at around noon, after saying goodbye to Steve at Nordic Tug Charters (with a loaf of homemade beer bread) and also to Dean at the boat yard (with another loaf of homemade beer bread). They both were so helpful and Steve’s hospitality was just….beyond any expectation, ever. It’s nice to be getting back on our way, but bittersweet saying goodbye to new friends. The weather on Tuesday sucked, but by yesterday it had lightened up quite a bit and the conditions in Stephens Passage were fine — SE wind 15 kt seas 3 ft — and it was just about that. We saw a handful (well, maybe two handfuls) of humpbacks on our way over to Taku Harbor. We figured we’d go to Taku last night because it was close (20 miles from Juneau) and also because we’ve almost run out of crab. When we pulled in there were no other boats at the dock, as we were getting ready to put out the crab pots a sailboat came in. It’s quiet, and we have no internet...but...crab! After about an hour, there were probably 6 more boats in Taku. We hiked out... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Getting ready to get off the blocks and into the lift: Our new shaft seal arrived mid-day yesterday. Note: if you want to send something to Alaska and have it get there the soonest, do not use FedEx or UPS. Send it expedited vis USPS. The cutless bearing sent from WA late Tuesday vis USPS Expedited got to us on Thursday morning at 9am. The shaft seal sent to us from WA on Wednesday via UPS got to us on Monday afternoon, after going from Redmond WA to Portland OR, then to Louisville KY -- because THAT'S on the way! -- then to Anchorage AK, and finally to Juneau. Anyway, we installed the new PYI PSS dripless shaft seal, Dean and Curtis reattached the propeller and after thorough inspection we concluded we were indeed ready to get back in the water. As we get settled in the lift, Curtis removes the blocks: Dean, making sure we're all clear: Rollin' through the parking lot: Here we go! Dean backs the lift out over the slot between these two piers, then lowers the boat down so the deck is even with the pier, and then there's a little... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Oh, but I cut out that fourth one that was over on the left. Well, trust me...there were four. We walked into town today and stopped back in at Trickster Co. to pick up a shirt for my mom (requested after she saw Kevin's) and then I figured I needed one too, so now we all have shirts with that cool eagle raven design. We grabbed some lunch at the Hangar on the Wharf (couple of caesar salads with blackened fish and a cup of chowder) and then wandered back to our little boat treehouse in the boat yard. I really hope this last part comes tomorrow morning...we're itching to get back in the water and headed south while the weather is decent. Looks like Monday night a front is coming through and the waves are forecast 5 feet in Stephens Passage, so we may stick around here (in the water, I hope) until that passes and it's bit calmer. We can do some sea trials with our new gear right here in Gastineau Channel though, so we'll work it out. Tonight we are joining Steve and Julie and Harbormaster Dave and his wife Hope for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Awwww, the last part that we're waiting for (the PSS dripless shaft seal from PYI in Seattle)...the one we thought would arrive yesterday, did not. And then it also didn't arrive today. Maybe they sent it via Fed Ex or UPS instead of expedited USPS as requested (which for some reason is way faster to AK than FedEx and UPS are, probably because FedEx and UPS both to to Anchorage first). Anyway, our new shaft seal is still not here. We were hoping to get back in the water on Monday, and I guess we maybe still can if the part comes first thing Monday morning. Fingers crossed! We ran a few errands this morning while we still had the use of Julie's car, and one of them was stopping by Jerry's Meats & Seafoods, around the corner from Western Auto & Marine. Outside: Inside: This place is great! When we had breakfast with Steve and Julie last weekend, they cooked up some delicious bacon from Jerry's (double smoked) so we got some of that, some smoked salmon and crab spread, some smoked halibut, some of Jerry's homemade salsa, and a small package of prosciutto. Jerry's... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska After we successfully installed our second new Cutless bearing this morning and did a ton of work (work work, not boat work), we thought we'd take Steve's and Julie's suggestion (and Julie's car!) and head north to check out Echo Cove. It was a beautiful drive along Lynn Canal today: We first took the road past Echo Cove and all the way to the very end: That's it. The road narrows and gets closed in by bushes and is ultimately blocked with a sign that has some instructions about not fighting fires here because there are explosives stored...something like that. Back at Echo Cove we walked around a bit, watched some guys fishing on shore, then headed back down to Eagle Beach and did a little hiking. Lots of salmon heading up this river, but no bears in sight: Along the Eagle River: Up close with the salmon as they head upriver: Mountains, with salmon in the foreground: After this hike we headed back toward Juneau and decided to stop and see the Shrine of St. Therese (No. 5 of 68 things to do in Juneau, according to Trip Advisor). Beautiful trails in and around this... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Wow! This is QUITE a change from yesterday's weather, for sure. We put our Cutless bearing in the freezer last night and then went and had a nice dinner at The Rookery Cafe. (Pro Tip: if you chill the Cutless bearing first, it'll shrink a little bit, which makes it a little easier to press into the stern tube). Dinner was delicious, but I only took photos of the appetizers (the house made pickle plate and some fennel-cured sockeye lox with creme fraiche and Gustavus peas): We shared two entrees: the Rookery ramen with duck, and Dungeness crab gnocchi. Both were very good! We walked around a bit downtown and then returned to our boat/treehouse at the boat yard. Kind of fun climbing the ladder to get up to the boat. :) This morning we took new Cutless bearing No. 1 out of the freezer, got ourselves a little dish soap to lubricate the stern tube first, and then pressed the bearing in. It only required a little mild tapping with a wood block to get it all the way in at the end, and, well, 5 minutes later, new Cutless bearing installed! We also changed... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Alrighty gang, here's an update on our mechanical issues. I don't even think there will be pretty pictures this time, so if boat mechanical issues are not your thing, feel free to skip this post. :) As you may remember, we had a little excitement at sea last week. Our dripless shaft seal overheated while running at higher cruise speeds for an extended time. (Here's what a dripless shaft seal is and does.) We smelled a burning smell and the boat shuddered and slowed down. We put the boat in neutral (in 5 foot seas) and found the smell coming from the shaft seal. We tried carefully putting the boat in reverse, seemed okay, then forward, seemed okay, so we kept making slow idle progress forward as we inspected things. The seal was hot but cooled down quickly as we continued at a lower rpm. We proceeded on to Juneau (three more hours), checking the seal continuously for any signs of heat. Once in Juneau we hauled the boat out to inspect the shaft and prop to make sure there was nothing wrapped or any damage. Surprisingly, everything seemed perfect. There was nothing wrong, and no... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Camping in the boat yard! This is where we spent last night, and where we'll likely be spending a few more nights (along with dollars, yes, we'll also be spending dollars). Last night we were doing some work and more troubleshooting and it appears that we've found the cause of all evil our issues. We worked on the that quite a ways into the evening and it looks like we'll be needing to pull both Cutless bearings and replacing them, as well replacing the bellows part of the dripless shaft seal. (More on that in a later post when we've got everything fixed and running like normal again.) It's been pouring rain and super windy for two days now and that's supposed to continue through the weekend. Dean here at the boatyard gave us some just-caught halibut last night that we pan seared for a late dinner and served with some wilted spinach, roasted baby potatoes and a glass of wine. It was pretty great, all things considered. We got to plug into power this morning (the big generator in this trailer) to charge up our batteries and laptops and stuff, and we're working from the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Yep, we're still here. But hey! Check out this gorgeous weather we've had! We're working to 100% figure out and fix the shaft seal/Cutless bearing issue we have while we have access to a lift (to haul the boat out again if we need to) and people who know people with tools and stuff here in Aurora Harbor. Steve from Nordic Tug Charters continues to be very helpful and is letting us camp out on his dock (right next to the boat yard and lift) while we tweak and test and tweak and test. We're pretty sure we now know what actually happened the other day, so we don't have to wonder anymore about that (not a giant squid after all). (Skip this next part if you want to just see the pretty pictures.) Here's the current diagnosis: After our initial haul out, we fixed the alignment issue in the drive shaft and we thought that might have solved the problem, so we decided to head out on the next leg of our trip, monitor everything, and see if anything was hinky. A few hours into that trip we discovered the issue with the shaft seal... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Yesterday we did a bunch of work at the boat, went up and put some laundry in, and were let in on a great deal to pick up some freshly caught sockeyes for $6/lb (we bought two, about 10lbs), from Joe the gillnetter here at the dock. He sends most of his fish straight to Seattle, but now we know a guy who knows Joe and got to be part of the "bro deal" today: This is Joe. He looks just very much like Sam Elliot: We picked up our fish and took them back to Steve's warehouse, where Steve filleted them for us (aka "showed us how it's done") and we vacuum sealed them right there: Here's today's procurement (along with two nice chunks of halibut from Steve's 125-pounder he caught the day before)! We kept one sockeye filet and one halibut filet out and put the rest into the freezer. Last night for dinner I made some guacamole and cooked up some black beans while Kevin grilled up the fresh fish for tacos and we had Steve over for dinner to thank him for all of his help (well and just to hang out,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Okay, for those of you interested, here's an update on our mechanical issues! Yesterday morning we got in touch with Steve at of Nordic Tugs of Alaska, who connected us with Mike Svensson, a shipwright here in Juneau who was going to look at our boat and see if he could help figure out what had happened the other day. Steve said that if Mike couldn't fix it, he'd know the person who could fix it. Steve has been incredibly helpful and generous with his time and support. Thank you so much, Steve! Mike came by the boat and we inspected the shaft seal (the thing that overheated during the drama) for signs of damage, and there was none. The shaft seal worked just as it should...there was cooling water reaching it where it should have been, and there was no sign of any damage to the bellows whatsoever. This is the dripless shaft seal: Not to get too technical, but for those of you who want to know and don't, the drive shaft goes from the transmission on the back of the engine, through the middle of the boat (inside, reachable/viewable through a hatch), through... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska I took a few photos yesterday before (well, and after) all the drama. It was sunny and clear and we got quite a different view of the scenery than we did on our way out of Juneau last week as we headed to Hoonah, Elfin Cove, and Pelican (when it was socked in and rainy). Leaving Flynn Cove yesterday morning, looking west down Icy Strait: Lynn Canal, looking toward Juneau (before the seas kicked up): Rounding Point Retreat (from Lynn Canal into Saginaw Channel): After we rounded the point (before the drama), another boat (a Grand Banks called "Safari") who had been traveling the same route radioed and asked how we'd liked the ride out in Lynn. Heh. We both felt about the same: glad to be out of it. Here's Safari with some nice scenery in Saginaw Channel, also headed to Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier: We passed a tug in Stephens Passage towing a barge with a bunch of containers on it, and also, this little scenic railroad train car, probably heading up to Skagway. We binoc'd it and there is no name or writing on the side, but I'm certain it's a new car for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska Excitement at sea today! We were cruising from Icy Strait through Southern Lynn Canal toward Juneau, Alaska. The seas in Lynn Canal were much heavier than forecast - seas 5-7 feet! (forecast was 3 feet for Southern Lynn Canal, 5 feet for Northern Lynn Canal...so, you know, trickle down happens, and then builds). We were headed right into it, and it was a pretty rough ride (but still kinda fun). We'd brought the engine up to 65% power for about three hours as we crashed through the waves. (We normally cruise at less than 30% power.) The boat handled it like a champ (and we’d been in worse conditions before). Watch this video, and then just picture that for three solid hours: We turned the corner around Point Retreat into Saginaw Channel. The waves were still big, but at least we were going with them. In a following sea, it seems (and sounds) much calmer, but the waves are the same size and they just push you around a bit. It's way more squirrely. They boat will suddenly turn left or right as you surf down one wave, then the bow buries as you start up... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska One of the most important things I learned in art school was how to edit. So many students try to cram every idea they have and every technique they know into each piece they make, and one of the biggest challenges for professors is to get students to see that "less is more" and that too much stuff can overwhelm the audience. There's an elegance in the simplicity of a piece of art that's been pared down to its bare essence. Some of the most difficult things to design are the pieces that seem the most minimal, and most artists and designers struggle with this throughout their careers. ALASKA TOTALLY DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO EDIT! We woke up this Sunday morning in Flynn Cove with eagles flying overhead, otters swimming nearby, and salmon jumping out of the water all around the boat. While I was making breakfast (salmon cakes using the Coho we'd caught on our way into Flynn Cove last night, topped with an over easy egg and hollandaise sauce) Kevin grabbed the crappy little telescoping fishing rod that we used to throw in the kayak bag, and put a spoon on it and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska We left Pelican yesterday morning around 7:30am and headed toward Dundas Bay in Glacier Bay National Park. It was sprinkling a little bit, but the sky was clearing and we had a nice view of Brady Glacier underneath a cloud layer as we entered Cross Sound. Cross Sound was literally swell-less…just a very slight chop. We made our way into Dundas Bay, an unrestricted part of Glacier Bay National Park that you don’t need a permit for. Since Glacier Bay National Park is about the size of Connecticut (well, most things are up here in Alaska) we decided to save it for another trip, since it's likely we won't have internet in there for a week or so, and we've already asked a lot of our team in the way covering for us while we explore all these remote areas with no internet). We headed for what was recommended as the best anchorage in Dundas Bay, the most NW arm with a view of Brady Glacier: Yep, I think this’ll do. Here's our track from Pelican to the Dundas Bay anchorage (36.2 nautical miles): We took a dinghy excursion around to the mouth of the bay... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska We took our time getting around Wednesday morning in Elfin Cove. Since low tide was early (6am-ish), the flood tide would have been going against us in that narrow, shallow channel so the later we left the better (but probably no big deal either way). We made breakfast, did a little work (the internet was back!) and then walked up to the general store to grab a few things. This was our walk to and from the general store, alongside the narrow exit channel. The general store is a fairly well-stocked one for such a small village. (Airship's at the end of the dock facing right.) Passing the general store on our way out: The forecast for Cross Sound was still mellow (3 feet), so out we went. It was fun to be briefly in the bit of ocean swell from the Gulf of Alaska. Gentle swells, fishing boats, and gorgeous rugged scenery: Once we turned into Lisianski Strait, we fished a while but only caught one too-small Chinook and threw it back no worse for wear. We spotted two separate families of sea otters swimming alongside the boat in groups. They checked us out intensely,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2015 at Riveted
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Airship Goes to Alaska We didn’t always get along with Kayley. Our friendship was the kind of friendship that started out too glowing and too perfect too early, and then slowly its faults and personality quirks were realized as they moved quickly into annoyances. But let me back up and tell you the whole story. We first met Kayley (well, kind of) using the Active Captain plug-in app on our iPhones and iPads to scope out new anchorages and coves. The app gives you general information about the marinas and obstructions and fuel docks and water and nearby grocery stores and such, and then people write and post reviews of places they’ve been, and those reviews show up along with the other information about a place. It’s very helpful to hear what real people think about a spot…how good or bad the holding is in an anchorage, whether there’s wildlife or great scenery, tricky navigational challenges, etc. We started to notice certain reviews in Active Captain that stood out from the rest. Most reviews are standard, to the point, factual mainly with a little bit of opinion thrown in but not much. Kayley’s reviews were different. They were flowery, but... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2015 at Riveted