After tying up to the dock in Sitka we grabbed the Prosecco for a celebratory cork popping that was a bit anti-climatic as you can see in the video.
Although the Prosecco was less than effervescent, we were all in high spirits and immediately took a stroll through Sitka. We were anxious to stretch our legs, see the town, and find a spot to eat, drink and celebrate. French fries seemed to be tops on the list for several of us.
One interesting thing about being on passage is the lack of news. Sailing along in Ticket to Ride, we have virtually no news, unless a friend or family member contacts us. Of course we receive and study the weather, but that is the only real time information we seek. As a result, when we arrived in Sitka, we had had no news for almost two weeks.
As is usually the case, there were few news bites that had changed and we had missed very little without hearing the 24 hour news cycles. As we strolled the streets of Sitka, we did encounter one sign that we never saw in Hawaii.
The main street of Sitka was clean and inviting with plenty of windows to browse and bars or restaurants to try. We saw some rather unique apparel including this gem in the window of a fur company!
We were surprised by the warm weather and clear skies that welcomed us to Alaska. Exploring the town we shed our jackets and adopted a leisurely pace as we took in the influence of early Russians who settled Sitka during the heyday of fur trading. Sitka was the capital of Alaska until 1906.
The lushness of this country was unexpected and magical. Everywhere we saw flowers both wild and in hanging baskets or window boxes. Especially after days on end of blue water, the foliage was vibrant and captivating.
Erik, Tommy, Amelia, Frank and I enjoyed a protracted dinner overlooking the local library and a marina. We relished sitting still and having someone else do the cooking and the dishes. Even on a great passage, one is always looking and listening for changes in wind or sounds and this was the first time in many days we could simply sit and not be monitoring the elements around us, except in an appreciative way.
The following day, our first full one in Alaska, Erik chose to hang out with Katie and Kevin of s/v Kālewa to further explore Sitka and determine which establishments were the most fun and had the best beverages. Tommy decided he needed to catch up with family and friends after being without cell and internet during the passage. Frank, Amelia and I were in search of a hike to see the fauna up close.
The hike we chose was seven miles from town so we stuck out our thumbs and hitch-hiked our way. Within one minute we were picked up by a park ranger who gave us information about the hike we had chosen which turned out to be one of the most amazing hikes I have ever experienced!
The Herring Cove Trail is so well made it is almost beyond belief. Sometimes the surface is one stepping stone to another, or it meanders through moss covered greenery, or across bridges made from one huge tree trunk with planks on top.
It’s impossible to describe the muffled silence of the ground covered in hundreds of years of layered decomposition, broken only by birdsong, water cascading over rocks and our comments of delight and reverence.
The Herring Cove hike would not be complete without a visit to Beaver Lake and our efforts to get there were well rewarded. Walking the edge of the lake was like being in one of those ad campaigns that show the pristine waters for Coors beer or the mountain streams and lakes used for perfect drinking water.
On this, our first full day in Alaska, Frank, Amelia and I decided we had to jump into the icy lake and really commit ourselves to all Alaska has to offer. Three jumps and several shrieks later, we had all completed our first Polar Plunge! Afterwards, we sat like seals soaking up the heat from the sun warmed rocks and decided that a new TTR tradition had been born: The TTR Polar Plunge.
We only stayed in Sitka for two nights as we wanted Tommy to see a bit of Alaska before he left for his next adventure. With only a few nights to explore, we decided to stay one night in each anchorage to maximize the area Tommy was able to see.
Our first stop was Magoun Bay, a quick 28nm from Sitka. As soon as we were anchored, Erik, Tommy and Amelia made quick work of lowering the dinghy and finding a perfect spot to place the crab trap we had purchased in Sitka. We heard that catching crab is pretty easy in Alaska and we wanted to get our first taste of Dungeness crab! Sadly, no crabs climbed into our trap this time.
Our next stop was Deep Bay, a long glacier formed bay off of the Peril Strait. We anchored way in the back of the bay and spotted our first brown bear! Once again the crab trap was placed and our hopes were high.
We were up early the next morning for a 44 nm jump to Krestof Sound, but first the crab trap was picked up and we were rewarded with our first keepable Dungeness crab! Deep Bay gave us our first bear sighting and our first crab.
Krestof Sound can only accommodate one anchored boat and we were happy to capture that one spot. At Krestof, we walked through the moss covered forest and sat upon smooth boulders along the water edge enjoying the warmth captured from the sun despite the overcast skies.
We explored the shore and found clams numerous and large enough to eat, but thankfully Frank remembered that the clams have paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and were unsuitable for consumption! Dinner was a (small) feast of boiled crab with garlic butter for dipping. We felt like “real” Alaskans eating the dinner we had plucked from the sea!
Our final stop before returning to Sitka was DeGroff Bay. Although the weather this day was the most overcast we had experienced, DeGroff itself was very pretty. The Bay had tall wooded sides that showed several areas where landslides had occurred as shown in the drone photo.
The water itself was extremely calm and perfect for paddleboarding, which we now do sporting rubber boots! We are truly fashionistas!
The next morning we left DeGroff to return to Sitka but we found that DeGroff had gifted us two additional crabs in our trap. Since Tommy was scheduled to fly out of Sitka that afternoon, we cooked the crab and ate our fill for lunch as soon as we anchored in Sitka.
Tommy’s flight time quickly arrived and it was time to say Aloha. We created a ton of great memories with Tommy while in Hawaii, on the passage and in Alaska. We are sure we will see him again in the not too distant future. For now, Tommy is off to enjoy an east coast summer until he begins school in the fall. Best of luck, Tommy. We know you will excel in your schooling!
POLAR PLUNGE REPORT:
Magoun Bay: 57° F
Deep Bay: 49.1° F
DeGroff: 56° F
Thanks for stopping in to read our blog. It is impossible to capture the beauty of Alaska, but hopefully you can get a flavor of how pretty it is here. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Instagram or Facebook.
**At the end of this blog is a bit of information concerning sailing specifics.
More than a year ago we passaged west from Mexico to Hawaii, never expecting to experience Hawaii by sailboat. Recently we left the tropical warmth, turned northeast and once again crossed the Pacific Ocean to seek the less traveled shores of Alaska. Another destination that was not part of our original itinerary.
In addition to Frank and me, this voyage included Erik, Tommy and Amelia; our trustworthy crew/friends of Hawaiian residents whom we met during our year in the islands. Along side of Ticket to Ride were our friends Katie and Kevin on sv Kālewa. We met Katie and Kevin in 2019 on the Baja HaHa Rally which travels from San Diego, CA to Cabo San Lucas, MX.
This trip began from Hanalei Bay, Kauai on June 14th with a stunning sunrise and dolphins escorting us away from Hawaii. Amelia’s friends gifted her Ti leaves (pronounced like tea) to ward off evil and give us safe voyage. The Ti plant was brought to Hawaii by Polynesians who believed the plant had divine powers. Hawaiian tradition says that the God of Fertility, Lono, and the Goddess of Hulu, Laka, considered the Ti leaves sacred. Today Hawaiians say using these leaves wards off evil and brings good luck. Thus these leaves are used when making leis, in a grass skirt, or as a cheering noise maker to bring good luck to a favorite sports team. In our case, the Ti leaves were placed on TTR’s bow and each side of the transom to bring us safety and luck on our journey. We shared some of the Ti leaves with s/v Kālewa to insure their safe passage as well.
We experienced a beautiful goodbye after a magical year.
If I were to summarize the passage to Alaska, I think the overarching theme for me would be ease. We had an excellent, capable crew who chipped in with everything; sail changes, watches, weather routing, cooking, cleaning, etc. The five of us managed to work together well and because the wind and waves were predominantly aft, we were able to have individual watches and a unique night time watch schedule.
This trip we chose to have three hour evening shifts with one person on each shift. Since we had five people and four shifts, every night one crew member had the night completely off. This luxury of a full night of sleep made for a very well rested and happy crew!
Another unique aspect of this crossing was that the daylight hours were increasing as we traveled toward Alaska, so each evening the hours of actual darkness decreased. The additional light made “night watches” easier but there is mystical quality to the starry nights on passage that I missed. Sometimes on passage watch, when no other light is visible, the stars are so brilliant that they provide candescence to our path and we are actually guided by the starlight.
Earlier I alluded to the fact that this trip was an easy one and part of the reason is that I had SO much help with meals. Actually, I think I cooked very few of the meals on board with Erik doing the majority of the cooking and Amelia creating delicious salads and homemade dressings. Tommy stepped up to prepare some panko-crusted Hebi. The food we ate was amazing and it was interesting to see how different the meals were using the same ingredients I usually buy. We only repeated one meal in our 12 days of passaging!
None of us could decide which meal was best, so in the comments, let us know which one you think sounds most delicious.
I am limiting the list to our dinners:
Day 1: Beef and noodle soup that was so thick it was more of a stew
Day 2: Homemade chicken noodle soup with a salad of cucumber, tomato, onion, feta and homemade dressing.
Day 3: Pork tenderloin in a brown apricot/butter sauce with rice and grilled asperagus, topped off with a lovely latticed blueberry pie baked from scratch (anniversary dinner for Mary Grace and Frank)
Day 4: Split pea soup from scratch with homemade corn bread.
Day 5: Fresh caught Ahi sashimi appetizer, followed by panko-crusted Hebi (spearfish) with rice and a spinach, walnut, goat cheese, dried cherry salad, with another homemade dressing.
Day 6: General Tso’a tofu (tofu, broccoli, quinoa, ginger, peppers, etc) with asian-style salad
Day 7: Homemade pizza (1. pepperoni and cheese 2. pesto, artichokes, goat cheese, capers, zucchini and 3. sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, onion, cheese)
Day 8: Ahi steaks, sautéed green beans & mushrooms, and baked panko parmesan crusted snap peas
Day 9: Fifteen bean ham soup with homemade bread
Day 10: Swedish Pasties (hand-crafted stuffed dumplings) with spinach, bell pepper, cheddar cheese salad
Day 11: Homemade chicken tortilla soup with cucumber, tomato, onion, feta salad
Day 12: Ahi steak with stir fried veggies and rice
I continue to be surprised by how busy we stay during passages, even with crew on board. This passage, weather took more planning than on most trips, so that consumed a lot of time. We also spent some time playing Cribbage, had some music/dance hours (ok, the guys weren’t into this), we soaked up the sun while the warm days lasted, fished and cleaned our catches, listened to pod casts, napped, cooked, cleaned, read and even watched Blue Planet once or twice.
We did encounter one incident when the Doyle reacher leach began showing unsettling wear half way into the passage. Quick to diagnose the issue, Frank and Erik removed the reacher and glued and sewed a repair strip to the leach. They made quick work of the repair and very soon had the reacher repaired and redeployed.
We left Hanalei with a very good weather window. The Pacific High appeared to be firming up and the forecast for the first several days looked positive for sailing. Once again we hired Bruce Buckley to read the weather and advise us along the trip. We ended up sailing between a low system to our west and a high system to our east. We were able to use these systems to our favor most of the time. Thankfully, we avoided any nasty storms and experienced only two minor squalls. Plus we had wind for most of the trip.
This passage was the first time we encountered deep fog which was a really different experience. I would estimate our visibility was 125 yards for 5 days of our trip. It was a little unnerving to sail along at 10 knots of boat speed while unable to clarify the path ahead. We relied heavily on radar and AIS to identify objects we were unable to see in the opaque gray wall and we were thankful each time it dissipated.
At the very end of the passage, a wind shift to the north was predicted so when the wind died, we fired up the engines to insure our arrival in Alaska before the wind was directly on our nose. The last 24 hours or so under motor were used to take care of end of passage clean up. Salt and dew always accumulate on a passage and wiping down the inside of the boat and cleaning the decks is a necessity.
Motoring at the end of a passage is a great time to address damage or breakage and begin repairs, but thankfully our only incident was the sail that Frank and Erik repaired while underway. We didn’t have any damage or breakage to address at the end of the passage. Go TTR!
Originally we planned to sail directly to Glacier Bay, but we allowed the wind to direct our path and that resulted in landing at Sitka, AK. We managed to snag the last open marina spot in Thomsen Marina and as soon as we tied up our freshly cleaned boat, we popped the cork on a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate a successful, safe, comfortable and fast passage.
Sitka felt like we had landed in the quintessential Alaskan movie set! Fishing boats with scores of hard working people on board, pine tree covered mountains wearing snow hats, skies of deep blue with wisps of white clouds and bald eagles soaring in the sky. Our landing in Alaska was a distinct contrast to our departure from Hawaii but it was equally beautiful in a completely different way.
Our buddy boat, Kālewa arrived just a few hours after we did. We really enjoyed keeping in touch with Kevin and Katie and discussing weather options during the passage using satellite communications. Though we weren’t within sight of Kālewa the whole trip, we were in contact and it was comforting to know we were within 80 miles of a friend.
Prior to departing for Alaska, I had heard some sailors say this was their best passage ever. I had also heard stories of pretty difficult trips including one monohull that was finishing a circumnavigation and had to abandon their sailboat 250nm from Seattle.
As always, I was slightly nervous prior to our departure from Hawaii, but thankfully this turned out to be one of our best passages to date.
****** Sailing Speak: ******
Our passage goal was to have a quick, safe, fun and comfortable trip: we weren’t trying to break any speed records.
We left Hawaii with one reef in the main sail and the genoa deployed. We completed the whole passage with R1 (one reef) in the main sail.
The first 2 days of our trip, we were close hauled with an average true wind angle of 55 degrees. Our average true wind speed was 15.67 knots with an average boat speed of 8.96 knots.
By the afternoon of our third day at sea, we recorded our first TWA over 100 degrees and for the remainder of the trip all of our true wind angles were above 100 degrees. We flew a variety of sail configurations including: main-R1 with genoa, main-R1 with reacher, reacher and genoa flying wing on wing, gennaker with genoa flying wing on wind, gennaker with spinnaker staysail, genoa only and reacher only.
This passage was our first long term experience of flying wing on wing head sails and it was an interesting and positive experience for us. We flew our reacher to leeward and our genoa to windward at wind angles deeper than 160. This configuration was comfortable and we could “reef” by rolling in the windward sail. We used this sail combination for 5 or 6 days and felt TTR was quick and comfortable.
Everyone on board enjoyed experimenting with a variety of sail plans while continuing to make good speed over ground.
Passage mileage: 2473 nm
Average speed: 8.6 knots
Max speed: 21.6 knots
Max daily miles: 234.5 nm
Travel time: 12 days – almost to the hour.
Seasickness Note: Tommy brought scopolamine patches and I tried the patch for the first time on this passage. The scopolamine worked very well for me and this is one of the few passages I can remember not being apprehensive about becoming seasick. Thank you, Tommy.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. We would love to hear which meal sounds most delicious to you, so let us know in the comments. We are thankful to the Petersburg Alaska Library for the use of their internet. We hope to update you more often, but have to see what internet we find. Look for quick updates on Facebook or Instagram. Be safe and stay well.
P.S. Our next post is written by Amelia and offers her perspective for part of the passage to Alaska. Amelia is a beautiful writer capable of creating copy for companies or poetic descriptions of her experiences. I’m sure you will enjoy her contribution.