Sunday, July 8, 2007


The most-repeated cautionary question that we heard before setting out was, "Does Eli get seasick?". This question always seemed implicitly critical - maybe because Alisa and I were being thin-skinned, and maybe because it flew in the face of the "we'll just figure it out when it happens" attitude that is required for an undertaking like ours. If you wait until you have everything figured out, you'll never go. In any case, I'm very pleased to report that Eli showed no signs of discomfort on this trip - he's apparently a right natural sailor. What we did discover is that if the barky is rocking along on a beam reach in a five-foot swell, feeding Eli down below makes us sick. There's something about getting the little spoon heaped with rice cereal into the little open mouth, swinging back and forth, that brings on the green sheen in the person operating the spoon. And meanwhile Eli just keeps opening the little mouth, wanting to be stuffed with more rice cereal, please.

In addition to being a fun companion in the cockpit, E. also assists with tasks below - the only member of the crew to volunteer to give Alisa's splice of the new anchor rode the taste test.

There was lots of getting used to life afloat on this first leg to Seward. Lots. But there was also some incredible sailing. We waited for our day to make the crossing from Afognak to the mainland, a nice west 20 romp that had the barky banging along famously under jib alone, the Monitor taking care of the age-old question of which way to point the pointy end. The westerly weather continued as we moved along the Kenai coast towards Seward, and we had some great sailing through the fjords. Working the ship with Eli aboard is largely singlehanding for me, just as we planned, as Alisa is often stuck below with endless morale-boosting exercises for the squirt. The downwind sailing that we had is the toughest point of sail for one-person work, with spinnaker pole maneuvers and boom preventers, low apparent wind acting on the windvane and the eternal question of jibing: intentional or un-? But the recently-rebuilt windvane worked like a champ, and the green crew worked out the bugs.

One of the great events of our trip was meeting up with the Gyre, the USGS research boat with, among others, our good friends Shiway and Yumi and John Piatt (above) aboard. We knew that their study of the elusive Kittlitz's murrelet, and the glacial fjord habitat of that mysterious bird, would overlap with our transit through the Kenai Fjords, but I lost my copy of their itinerary on the rush out of Kodiak. So it was the happiest of luck that showed them anchored up in Moonlight Cove as we steamed in out of the fog one evening. We rafted up for a visit, and our paths crossed a few other times during the next week. Good fun.

With some navigational hints from the captain of the Gyre in hand we decided to brave the sill that bars entrance to the spectacular landscape of Northwestern Fjord. Depth in the fjord goes from 50 fathoms, to 30, to 3 across the sill, with boulders and no depth not too far away. The tide was flooding when we crossed, giving us this scary view of the hazards as we crossed. But, gray hairs aside, the entrance was easily made, and we got the great ice age views we were looking for.

We dipnetted some floating 10,000 year-old ice for G&Ts that night. And, small state that Alaska is, we turned the corner and found the Gyre. Here's the Gyre for scale, and a picture that Shiway got of us in front of the ice.

Seward has been great, after an unexpectedly strange shift from a week of life afloat back to life in the harbor. We've had a great week of visits with friends, but now it's time to go! More from Cordova or Haines.

1 comment:

  1. hi mike and alisa!
    I'm happy to see the updates ...
    seems everyone is drinking g&t's these days (pete calls them t&t's. but it's all the same).
    fantasticly wonderful -
    take care of little eli -
    post a pic of soren for me ...