Showing posts from January 17, 2016

Pulling Teeth (gear teeth)

June 15

Monday is the Day that Mathias leaves, heading back to New York, then on to Europe to continue his post-discharge walk-about year. The problems with Ripple have distracted from the passing of the torch from my oldest son to my closest friend, but the three of us will have a couple of hours together in any case.

Wes arrived fairly early in the morning. We arranged to meet him on the town-side of the ferry that connects Ketchikan with the airport, which is across the channel.  Bar Harbor Marina is perhaps a half mile from the ferry dock, so Mathias and I walked up to meet him.

We got back to the boat, fixed some breakfast, and the three of us reminisced about previous trips we've shared, a rich collection of the best experiences of my role as a parent.

The highlight of the year for many years in our family was an expedition of some sort that involved both of my sons and any of my friends who had the time and inclination to go.  Wes was on most of them.  We undertook many d…

The End of the Beginning of the Voyage

June 13 - 14, 2015

John and Derek arrive at the boat in the early evening, and after introductions, we review the symptoms. Is the propeller OK?, Derek asked.  I assure him it has to be... my images are ambiguous*, but the evidence is unequivocal: no THUNK! no vibration!

We run the engine so Derek can hear it for himself, and engage the gearbox... forward, reverse, no bad noises, no untoward vibration. Diminished thrust is the primary symptom.

The prospect of pulling the engine out, removing the gearbox, rebuilding it at his shop, and re-installing it is straightforward to Derek. It is the smallest diesel that Derek has ever worked on (because it is basically the smallest diesel engine... period). The big unknown is whether parts will be available for an engine out of production for more than a decade. For myself, I am simply grateful to be in the hands of a good mechanic who is as comfortable at rebuilding the diesel engines of 56 foot purse seiners as working on my little lawn-trac…

The Network Effect

June 13, 2015

Well, this is awkward.  Two days before a scheduled crew change, I have a serious mechanical problem on the boat, with no clue how difficult it will be to fix it. There isn't going to be any problem getting Mathias back to Ketchikan by the 15th, but Wes is scheduled to arrive that same day, and who knows what will happen?

The previous evening I had managed to get off a few texts by standing on deck and holding my phone as high as I could reach. I thought about sticking it a pelican box and hoisting it up a halyard, but there was no real urgency.

We left the mooring ball in Alava Bay at 0415, trying to make use of as much of the flood tide as we could to help push us up to Ketchikan. Before we could avail ourselves of that flood, we had to get past it, as it was not only flooding towards Ketchikan, but up Behm and into Alava Bay. So, it was slow going for a bit at 2 knots. An hour later we were out in Revillagigedo Channel, headed towards our destination, and with th…

Self-Deception Passage

June 12, 2015

We left our anchorage at Manzanita Bay at the late hour of 0815.  We had planned on a leisurely exploration of Rudyerd Fjord with no particular destination in mind.  Three full days remained to us before Mathias's flight out of Ketchikan, and we would not have to push very hard to get there. The barometer was at its highest point of the trip, and broken cloud coverage promised a partly sunny day for our tour of Rudyerd Fjord.

It became immediately evident that the thrust available from the engine and drivetrain were less than half of normal. Full throttle resulted in between 2 and 2.5 knots. Alarming. But the engine was running smoothly throughout its operating range. No parasitic oscillation, no strange sounds. If anything, it was smoother than normal. Puzzling. You can't hit a log or a rock with a propeller turning at 2500 RPM and not know it, right? We hadn't.  No signs of problems had emerged on the previous day. We had motored for 14.5 hours without app…

Marguerite Bay to Manzanita Bay

June 11, 2015

Ketchikan is located on a narrow channel at the southwest corner of Revillagigedo Island.  The Behm Canal circles the Island from about 9 o'clock to 6 o'clock. You can count on rain -- the driest month in Ketchikan is wetter than the wettest month in Seattle. But the waters are well protected, and we expected a gentle, if rainy, circumnavigation of the island.

The payoff for motoring quietly through the rain is Misty Fjords National Monument. Several large fjords indent the eastern shore of the rugged mainland, storied for their ghostly grandeur. As Mathias's departure date neared, we looked forward to spending a day or two exploring the fjords before heading back to Ketchikan for a crew change.

The major challenge for traveling these waters is the dearth of easy anchorages.  The shores of the fjords are steep-to: that is, they drop steeply into deep water, affording few opportunities for safe anchoring. Fifteen fathom are the rule around here, and such anc…

Meyer's Chuck and The Bully

June 9-10, 2015

Berg Bay to Meyer's Chuck was a sunny, quiet trip through Blakely Passage and south southwest across Ernest Sound. We looked hard for bears along the shore, as they are known to frequent the shores along the Cleveland Peninsula. No luck. The barometer had been high all the previous day, though it started to slide as the day wore on. I think Clarence saw us coming

Meyer's Chuck is a small community of cabins strategically located on the Cleveland Peninsula at the corner of Ernest Sound and Clarence Strait. Coming north from Ketchikan, it is the first opportunity to get off Clarence, and going south, it is where you stay before you face The Bully.

Meyer's Chuck is a good place to await your fate or lick your wounds, depending on which way you're going. It is has a free municipal dock (rumor has it that this would change after the summer of 2015, and that the few free docks remaining in Alaska would be required to charge fees). Neither fuel nor provisions…