170628, 0432 UTC, 4200+ nm Under the Keel, 54-20 N / 146-58 W
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****Due to Sailmail connections problems, this was not sent while we were at sea. We arrived in Sitka at 9pm local time July 1, 2017. Our last days on passage tested us for sure as a low stalled in the Gulf of Alaska and its frontal systems gave us near-gale-force winds on the nose. We are cleaning up, getting rested, fixing things, and enjoying the company of old friends. More later as we migrate south...*******
Greetings from the Gulf of Alaska Seamount Province. Our GPS advises us that on our rhumb line, there are 412 nautical miles to our waypoint at Cape Edgecumbe at the entrance to Sitka Sound. As you may imagine, we are beginning to anticipate landfall after 41 days (so far) at sea. During our voyage we crossed the International Dateline and discovered the day we lost in Fiji eight years ago. We also gave back three hours borrowed while adventuring.
The sea around us is a gun metal gray and the sky, completely overcast, the color of old pewter. We spot bits of giant kelp and logs that remind us we are no longer in the tropics where we would more likely see flotsam of bamboo and bobbing coconuts. The cold continues as we head north in spite of the emergence of summer in this beautiful corner of the world. It seems the high latitude trumps all. Yesterday, by contrast, we had almost perfect sailing - a broad reach with brilliant sunlight and a sparkling sea - and huddled under the dodger out of the wind and, like lizards on a fLat rock, and let the sun warm our faces as we watched the magnificent sea slip by.
The nights are short here where the earth's circumference is diminished, and there has been no true darkness - where the sea surface is invisible in an inky blackness - for days now. The north Pacific is cold, though the hull temperature is actually rising (up three degrees from a low of 41 F) and that's made a difference in the comfort level in the cabin. We are still bulging with layers and layers of undergarments and polarfleece and have piles of gloves in various stages of dampness hanging about the cabin, but getting out of the warm bunk to a mug of hot tea isn't quite as hard as it was 1,000 nm ago. We are sharing a hooded fleece-lined "great coat" and have a change of watch routine wherein we pass the coat, often in the red glow of the confined cabin. The off-watch then scampers for the bunk before it loses the warmth left behind by its previous occupant. Thus we are truly "hot-bunking".
We are STILL eating well, thanks to Philip's diligence, but we've probably shed a pound or two keeping warm despite our continuous eating. There is still a corner of red cabbage in the fridge, and a potato or two, but otherwise we're dependent on preserved food. We bake fresh bread every few days and look forward each morning to high-fat comfort food: peanut butter on toast. We have also become capable nappers, with skills rivaling those of cats or newborn babies.
With only a little over 400 nautical miles to our destination, you would think that we only have an additional 4 or 5 days or so until we reach Sitka. However, we hesitate to speculate given the fact we just discovered a tear in the belly of our much-beloved and hard-working genoa that's been on duty nearly non-stop for the entire passage. We can unfurl perhaps one third of the whole sail before the tear appears; this limits the effective sail area significantly. Coincidentally, we are just coming into the influence of a forecasted low pressure system that will give us stronger winds for at least two days, so we are running with staysail and reefed main and making about 4 - 4.5 knots. If we need a bit more headsail, we can still use the undamaged portion of the genoa, so there is no serious issue with making headway. Should we get calm or lighter winds before we reach Sitka, we can effect a repair or swap the sail out with our spare. If not, we'll do so in port.
So that is the latest issue to be dealt with. Other recent problems we have successfully tackled, during the daylight hours under benign conditions include: replacing a broken engine starter, exchanging a failing v-belt to the raw water pump, soldering a capricious radar power cable and replacing a sheared stainless steel bolt securing a padeye for a fairlead block at the port side of the coaming. Yesterday, we were completely surprised to discover damage to the SAME cotter pin holding the latch pin of the Monitor wind vane and had to replace it once again, though it only involved one of us hanging over the stern this time.
On the other hand, our KISS wind generator, Mariah, has been humming away, giving us ample power when the wind is blowing, a plus when the slanting sun is rarely visible through clouds or fog. Our AIS unit has also been a godsend, warning us of huge cargo ships that are passing nearby; ships with flags of convenience from Panama, Malta, Cyprus and Liberia bound for exotic west-bound destinations of Singapore, Japan, China and east bound to the considerably less exotic port of Everett, WA. One ship's mate actually called us on the VHF radio as we passed three miles away and inquired as to our well-being, indicating we were brethren of the sea. That brought a smile to our morning.
Our current position is 54 degrees 20 minutes north and 146 degrees 58 minutes west and we're heading 066 degrees true. Our best guess now as to when we might make landfall is this coming weekend, probably July 1st or 2nd. All this depends on the vagaries of the sea and weather.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and the spirit of the fat cat, Jake