Saturday, May 9, 2009

AK 5 - Dawn on Alaskan Seas

It had been a long night, the weather had turned leaving the boat
battered and shaken. Five foot seas, doesn't sound bad off hand,
definatly not Bristol Bay Ocean. But this was a boat loaded with 65
ton of Herring plugging it's way back to Metlakatla to unload the
Herring that we had loaded up in Seymour Canal. I was on wheel-watch
this night. Winds of 25-30 mph gusts were compressing the waves
together, causing the boat to slam down it's keel with the second or
third wave. Water kicked up to the cabin windows, 20 ft above the
water. Luckly just spray, no green water yet...

Bang! Another one hit jolting me out of the pilots chair. Bracing
against the wheelhouse sides, it was time to find a new course. Moving
towards the starboard side, I saw a mountain side blocking the winds
from the SE. If things got too bad there was possible good anchorage
in a cove just a head. Either way it would be nice to stop the rolling.

It had come on suddenly... Most of the past week had been flat calm
seas on clear skys. With 70F weather and views of glacier capped
mountains as far as the eyes can see. We had made our way through
Wrangall Narrows, more of a river then a marine passage. The currents
running 10 knots and boiling to either side of the boat. That was when
the bilge alarm sounded, jolting me out of my bunk. The back tank was
leaking and filling the boat with water. Lucky the large pump did
quick work of the matter. That disaster overted, we jogged on down
thur the Narrows and into the mountain filled Stikine Sound. Looking
forward to maybe uneventful day ahead.

Bang... The boat creaks as it rolls over the next wave and hits the
succeding wall while in the troft. By this time I begin to remember
the leak in the back tank and check the gage for the bilge. The pump
seems to be working like a charm, low water. We were still about two
miles off the shoreline and my hope of calmer waters when the captain
arrived in the wheelhouse. It seems that I threw him out of his bunk,
and so unable to get back to sleep decided to see how I was handling
the boat. He didn't seem to conserned, more inquizative. Grown
acustume to such temperments of the Inside Passage.

Once on the seas, there is little to do other then find the right way
to roll with the waves. Like ridding a bull, all you can do is point
yourself in the right direction and hold on. For old-timers it is the
wild dance they have almost found the perfect sway to. In the ocean
swells while stronger are father apart, so the wooden boat seems to
just sway back and forth. But these wind-tide waves seem to knock us
around more. Brian agrees that the fiord walls to the starbord are our
best bet.

Soon we make it into calmer weather and the waves reduce to just a
little chop. I'm left to finish out my wheel watch as the pre-dawn
light begins to fill the Clarence Straits. The light begins to shine
upon the snow capped mountains above Tongass Narrows and Behm Canal,
Ketchikan lies somewhere below them. It seems that another day has
come and soon we will be making our way down Nicholes Passage and
Metlakatla to off load our load of herring.

Alaska seems full of suprisesand beauty. You are never left unaware of
natures wild-ness as well as her sublime highlights. These morning
times, looking out the wheelhouse windows as well as the moments
caught in the rolling seas, all seem to have much to tell a man. If
heisonly patient enough to listen, these sprirts have much to tell and
I have yet much to learn...

From the waters of the Inside Passage,