Archive for the ‘Alaska’ Category

Netshed II

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

My net shed is woefully full of junk and the siding need replacement.  I’ve stockpiled lumber that I cut on Mitkof Island and it’s taking up the space that I need to fix up old boats.  Time to roll up my sleeves……

Harry never threw away anything and neither have I.  Here are a good three dozen handles, mostly broken leaning up in a corner and occasionally avalanching onto the floor.

If this was an urban setting, I’d be accused of being a bag lady but when you live on an island, you just might need that bent nail.  One hundred years of junk collecting here.

Here is the future boat museum and the boat Jim Stromdahl, our former harbormaster, gave me.  His father rescued it and it is believed to be a Davis boat–made by a multigenerational family in Metlakatla.   Beyond is the sail rig for my one of my two fairings. And lots, lots more!

My-oh-my…. My bins on the left–a castaway by Seattle Ship Supply–house untold treasurers and obscure others.  An obtrusive lumber pile blocks egress through to the dock–this is the new siding–old growth Alaska Yellow Cedar…….  Sometimes it takes me hours to find a necessary tool.

Before I left for my NPS Centennial speaking tour, my house-sitter and self-professed carpenter began removing the siding–TRUE-X Construction–and made it about 20’….

I accomplished the other half within 6 hours and I’m nearing 73.  This is a board & batten technique and thank goodness–no part of the building was completely level, or equal in proportions so I could make up slight differences and window spacing by staggering boards covering the seams with battens.

The instruction to TRUE-X Construction was to build ‘as-is’ and for a reason.  These windows slid sideways so they could be opened in hummingbird season.  He nailed them shut–idiot!  I found dozens of dead hummingbirds….   TRUE-X Construction in the first three months of house-sitting sunk three boats and burned the sauna roof off.  I’ll post a blog on this experience next to hopefully prevent someone else from making the same mistake……

Here’s the weathered face with all the patches.  The placards from my two tugboats adorn the building.  The Winimac sunk in 1991 which you can learn about here and the Katahdin is back in Seattle getting much needed repairs after almost 20 years here in Alaska.

Much of the board bottoms have rotted exposing the structural beams.  Not good.

I slowly work my way around:  remove old board, nails, measure, cut, paint, install, over and over.  My total time for the entire building is about 30 hours.  Here I’m in the home stretch.

I’ve rebuilt the windows to match the other side.  Harry, the former owner put larger windows without divided lights which were obscured by the open doors anyway.  This will look better (a full window package follows).

The last old siding has been removed and I found the window sill was 1″ out of level–not by settling, but by initial instillation.  The window height will be 29″, the width 32-1/2″ and centered.  The trim/battens hides all seams.

Three large piles of old siding begin to grow, but at least they’re outside the building.  Meanwhile, the pile inside diminishes.  Lots of ladders to trip over.  Every board has a dozen nails….  Tread carefully.

My boardwalk, now 10 years old is seamless with the flooring.  I’ll replace all windows and build a descent workbench and then install some proper carpentry tools.  Everything runs off my generator, solar or my future microhydro system.

The final product–on the dock side of the shed.   It is one continuous surface from the edge of the dock to my front door for transporting more stuff up to the house.  An under-dock piping system transfers diesel fuel directly to a 500 storage tank.  Slick!   Door fasteners secure in both open and closed position.  Windows are open and the hummers find their way out.  Perhaps a new roof is next.  This will last another 100 years.  Stay tuned!  (The House-sitter from Hell is next!).

Return to Kupreanof–2019

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

After leaving the Tetons–spectacular Spring weather here on the road up to Jenny Lake–my old haunting grounds–it’s back to Seattle to get the Alaska homestead back up to snuff.

I stop for 5 days in Seattle to the new Ranger Doug’s Intergalactic Headquarters and install a new ladder to our mezzanine.  I put the trailer to ‘bed’ and store the Sequoia.   The Katahdin is only 1/4 mile distant so I can walk over to the boat yard (Thomas Boat Repair–a fantastic wooden boat repair yard) to inspect the damage of 16 years in Alaska.  Not bad actually so it’s onward and upward with repairs.

The stern took the brunt of dampness but the excellent construction of this boat in 1899 (with Port Orford cedar stern counter) saved this vessel….again.  We’ll insert graving pieces and install new covering boards and rebuild the bulwarks again.  No problem for John Thomas Boat Repair.

Here a new knee will be installed, then the decks again will be rebuilt and the steering rams re-installed.  She’ll be ready for her 120th birthday this fall!

On Friday, I take the Columbia from Bellingham to my hometown of Kupreanof–which lies just west of the old City of Petersburg (now a Burough).  We’re the smallest incorporated city in Alaska with just 23 citizens.  It’s suffered with 22 all winter but now I’m back……

En route, one of the prettiest parts of the trip–the Bella Bella light house.  The weather is perfect for the whole trip–I’m homesick and who wouldn’t be.

Dinner on the Columbia, with white tablecloths and waiters is a thing of the past.  The State of Alaska DOT, in their infinite wisdom, has cut 80% of the ferry budget and there are no planned ferries past the end of October.  Sad day for true Alaskans–but what can you expect with Republican oil money siphoned out of the state.  Alaskans refuse to tax themselves for essential services and the entire SE transportation system is being shut down after 60 years.  Yet, TARP money continues to build new ferries (and Aleutian major airports) and meanwhile the two new fast-ferries (Fairweather and Chinega) are being sold after only 10 years of service.   Go figure…..

So here is home after a winter of complete closure (the piano is still in tune!).   Here, I’m rebuilding each raised garden bed–this one for sugar-snap peas.  Today, I did the bed beyond with another pea variety.   One day at a time.

Put out the rain barrels under all the eaves of the house and greenhouse.  Hummingbird feeders are up (they’re just arriving), all electrical/generation systems are up and running (after a day of replumbing), all Yahama’s and Toyotas started within seconds.  Boats are all on line–rebuilding the out-haul with a new pulley.  Woodshed is full and looking forward to another wonderful Alaskan summer.

Driving home tonight from Petersburgs took this shot of the new Munson and the “homestead.”  Light rain intermittent today.

My bench on the point looking out to Devil’s Thumb and the Stikine Icefields.  Great to be back home!     Stay tuned……






Katahdin’s Final Trip South

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

It’s been a great summer in Kupreanof and by mid-August, I make the final jump off the dock with Katahdin and point her south after 16 years of enduring rain and freezing winters.

She’s a bit weary from lack of paint and some rot looms in dark corners.  I spent a month going over every air start valve and put her in order for a week with dental classmate Dennis Welch and we get her running for the first time in 4 years.  The oil change was a two day affair and I thank my trusty friend Chris  Staehli who has a background with Foss, to help out with this unpleasant job.  Next stop, the fuel dock

We take on 1500 gallons of #2 diesel and pay the bill of $4815.75.  She carries 3000 gallons on a good day.  The oil change was 35 gallons topping out at mere $600.

Thanks Chris–he didn’t miss a trick on this 119 year old boat and kept the sticky start valve on time when it balked.  This time, I’m towing a 26′ Munson catamaran with twin Yamaha 150s.  We’re on the noon tide for the 70 buoy markers down the Wrangell Narrows.  This time, we do it without charts.

Our first night is at anchor in St. John Bay on Zarembo Island.   The weather is perfect.

Chris dips the fishing rod to the bottom–to no avail but we stocked up at Coastal Cold Storage in Petersburg and eat well on this trip.

We motor down Clarence Strait towards Ketchikan passing the Cleveland Peninsula where they’ve logged nearly to the shoreline.  Terrible practices in a terrible location–this is native land, I might add and the Tlingit’s want land exchanges because they keep running out of logging money.  Prince of Wales Island on the opposite side (to your back here) is equally denuded of old growth.  Most of this goes to paper pulp.

Ketchikan is in full swing–with all 52 jewelry shops fleecing tourists.  In winter, the town is a ghost town as much of the waterfront is now owned by cruise ship lines.  Modern day gold rush, so to speak.

And these ships aren’t getting any smaller.  Up to six of these behemoths will crowd in Skagway–a town with a winter population of about 450 people, down from the normal 1000 summer population.  Each of these ships carry up to 5000 passengers making way for the Heisenberg effect.  The Heisenberg effect refers to those research occasions in which the very act of measurement or observation directly alters the phenomenon under investigation.  These tourists can’t even find Ketchikan.  It’s here in Ketchikan we pick up Chris’s wife, Molly who joins us through all the exciting crossings to come.

We must clear customs so a stop in Prince Rupert is next–on the south side of the Dixon Entrance.  We hang out on Annette Island waiting out a gale wind and the crossing is quite comfortable–the first of three open ocean crossings.

Some of the best paint on the boat……  The Munson waits patiently.

After Prince Rupert, we motor down south through some of the most beautiful parts of the Inside Passage–Grenville and Finlayson Channels.  We anchor half way through this two day transit.  Here a Holland American boat passes.

The topography is spectacular–once all this was covered with glaciers several thousands of feet thick.  This land is still rapidly rebounding from these glaciers that left over 10,000 years ago.

A light house greets us at the southern terminus near Klemtu.  Our next open water is Milbanke Sound which is only an hour and a half. Bella Bella lies beyond.

A Western Towboat passes pulling a barge on the approach to Bella Bella.  There was a drought here this summer and at Shearwater, there was not a drop to be had.  All the restaurants were closed, the cisterns dry.  Petersburg had only 42″ of rain at this time; half of normal.  We’ll get 120″ on an average year.

Our travels take us down Fitz Hugh Sound past Namu and we once again anchor in Safety Cove to wait out another gale force storm passing through Queen Charlotte Sound.  Heavy smoke adds to the coastal fog.  The next morning we leave at 5am only to encounter huge swells so we high-tail it into Rivers Inlet and hide behind a sand spit encountering a half dozen small sports fishing boats.  We hail one down and discover a plush lodge about 6 miles east.  Our second night is spent there.  To the south, the visibility goes to zero due to the BC forest fire smoke–535 fires we hear which brings Justin Trudeau out to Nanaimo for a visit.

Thanks to our radar, we find the place and return to the Katahdin, bouncing on the hook and drive back to the south end of Goose Bay for a perfect anchorage.

Duncanby Lodge is a first rate destination sport fishing lodge and we really appreciated their help in the satellite internet to watch the weather.  With 1.7 meter sea data, we decide to get an early start in the morning after two nights here.  It was a wild ride hugging the coast around Smith Sound and Cape Caution in less than 1/4 mile visibility.  Eventually the swells subside and we turn off the radar and glide into Alert Bay after about 14 hours.  About 1/2 hour before anchoring, the high pressure relief valve blows so I run down and assess the situation–a plugged unloader valve–and I have the spare (and a rebuild kit)!  Chris, of Foss Towboat fame, is impressed.

It’s a crew change as Chris & Molly have to get home–so the next day we anchor in northern Desolation Sound, Big Bay (which is now all private), Savery Island, then make one bee-line down to Pender Harbor where they catch a Dehavilland Beaver home to Lake Union in Seattle.  My new crew arrives the next day–so I clean up the boat and do laundry.  Pender Harbor has grown in the 15 years since I last visited there.

Enter new crew–which is actually the crew that drove up in 2002 to Haines with me.  Ted Wilson and Rick Reese and their spouses Holly Mullen and Mary Lee Reese.  These guys were on the Grand Teton mountain rescue team also so we have great reunion. Our first night at anchor is one of my favorites on the BC Coast, Buccaneer Bay between the two Thormanby Islands.  There is always a nice sunset here……  On the Georgia Straits (Salish Sea?) crossing, it is calm so I bake two strawberry-rhubarb pies and two dozen Tollhouse cookies.  We even have ice cream.

Our second anchorage is a two day stay at Ladysmith–one night on the hook and one at the dock where we water up.  There I host my cousin Marguie and her husband Robin on board (we do a chicken barbecue feast) and catch up all things cousins do after a 10 year hiatus.  I promise to visit them in Vancouver in November and will.  Above we’re finally tied up in front of the Empress Hotel in Victoria where there’s a boat show……

From Ladysmith, we motor south at 315 rpm and negotiate the Samsung Narrows and pull into Victoria about 3pm and get a coveted space at the dock.  The Katahdin’s engine is a direct reverse meaning that there is no transmission, nor clutch, so the engine must be stopped and started in both directions to maneuver.  Here’s a link to download a short video of the engine running:   Movie Katahdin Engine

And here’s a shot of the crew–15 years older and wiser.   Everyone flies home from Victoria except Ted who helps me across the Juan de Fuca Straits into Port Townsend where I haul out……stay tuned for that adventure!