Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Railroad to Nowhere - 1201

Abandoned Dredge

We are finally taking road trips out of Nome.   Our first trip - the road to Council which doesn't reach Council just up to the river crossing that will take you to Council.   75 Miles of road and we passed two cars.  Busy Day. 

Railroad to Nowhere
100 years ago the bridge connecting this railroad to the outside was washed out, stranding these locomotives on a track owned by a failed company. 

Pictures, at least mine, don't do this justice.

This is the end of the trail, unless you are comfortable crossing a river in your truck.  We passed. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Jannelle with her self designed b-day cake.

Matching Candles.

Winter Work - Blocks

The Kitchen Table Workstation

The bronze bearings.

Precipice has 23 blocks.  (Pulleys for you landlubbers)  They are made of wood and have monel bronze pulleys, bearings, and plates.  After 30 years they need to be refinished and cleaned up.  I like these blocks because I can fix them anywhere.  The drawback is weight.  This winter they are going to be stripped of the epoxy coating and refinished.   Hopefully ready for another 30 years. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting Knocked Down - A Response to Bad Weather 222 Sept 2007

A reader responded to my offer to tell of a knockdown and asked to hear our story.  Our story is even more important following the deaths of two sailors during the Chicago to Mackinaw race in Lake Michigan, our home body of water that we cut our teeth on and eventually logged over 20,000 miles in.  Lake Michigan, or any of the Great Lakes really aren't lakes - they are inland seas.  Lake Superior is known for it's fall storms of tremendous fury that last for days most often remembered in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  These fall storms come to Lake Michigan also, but most recreational boating is over by then.  The danger of Lake Michigan is in the summer Thunderstorm.  Every weekend the weather service puts out warnings of possible thunderstorms on the water.  If you are going to sail Lake Michigan, you are going to eventually run into a storm.   It began as a calm day, the returning final day of a four day extended sailing weekend.  We had all our sail up and were moving just enough to maintain steerage.  It was so hazy, that even though we were only several miles from our next stop, White Lake, we could barely see the harbor entrance, like being stuck in a high school shower room.  Our only warning was a soft, low rumble that seemed to come from right over us.  I was acting captain at the helm, so I called preparations for wind and the girls and Deb went below and we put the companionway boards in and closed the hatch.  Our boat at the time, an older model Catalina 27 is now considered a heavy boat.  The only weakness against the Cat 27 crossing oceans is the cavernous companionway opening that is just begging for a big wave to swamp the boat.  Our first step in trouble was always to close that weakness up.  Rachael and I stayed above, clipped on our harnesses and furled our big Genoa which was just hanging limp as the wind had completely died.  I felt sorry for my wife below in this muggy heat as Rachael went to the mast to begin lowering the main.  WHAM !!!!!! It was like the entire sky fell on us.  I have been in verified 70MPH winds and this wind made 70MPH feel like good kite weather.  Our keel was completely out of the water, our spreaders and main were in the water and all 7000lbs of our sailboat was literally skipping along the water sideways.  Rachael was right next to me and could not understand me even if I yelled.   We pulled out our sea drogue and Rachael monkey crawled to the bow with our double clipped tether, clipping and unclipping alternating clips as she moved on our nearly vertical deck.  She tried throwing the drogue to windward and in doing so stuck her head over the narrow bow and into the wind.  She had her hair in a bun and as soon as she was in the wind it undid the bun, and tore out the tie holding her hair in place.   I will forever have the image of Rachael struggling with our Sea Anchor/Drogue and her hair streaming perfectly horizontal from her head like it was being tugged on by some invisible presence.  Rachael figured out that she was only going to get the drogue in the water by throwing it downwind and finally got it to fill with water.  It was as if we had been a bucking bronco subdued by a lasso.  Our boat swung bow to the wind, righted itself and even though the wind was screaming through the rigging, the water was actually being blown flat.  Less than a minute later the wind completely died again.  I checked our GPS.  In five minutes, we had gone just under 1 nautical mile.  The storm crawled its way up the dunes and left us sitting becalmed, hearts pounding.  I really feel for the families of the two sailors that died.  I have heard a lot of nonsense about the excessive risk they took sailing when they did.  I was back in West Michigan last winter and one of the biggest culture shocks I had to re adapt to was the incredible speeds we all push our little tins with wheels.  These two deaths are the first in the 100 plus years of the race.  I wonder if an 300 mile automobile race that ran for over 100 years could claim that safety record?  This brings me to my final point.  We don't sail in a race boat.  Our Catalina 27 is considered a heavy boat compared to what is called a modern sailboat coming off the assembly line - but our Bristol Channel is only three feet longer but weighs three times as much.  Over 22,000 lbs.  Everything is built at least twice as strong as it needs to be.  Not to say that it is immune to the sea in any way.  We just are not sailing in a boat that we are pushing to the limit.  We sail like big chickens that reduce sail or heave to immediately and use ALL the safety gear that we have (and practice with and know how to use that safety gear).   If you want to go fast, you have to start making things lighter, and sails and rigging taller.  The modern thought is that with professional weather routers (which we heartily recommend) and a fast boat you can avoid bad weather.  We don't buy it. Bad weather will eventually find you.  Prepare for it. 

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Nome to Cordova picture fix

 Bianca on Deck - Sailing in the Bering Sea means survival suits and multiple layers.

 Jannelle getting ready to put up the mainsail.

 The entrance into False Pass, and our first view of the Aleutian Islands

 The entrance into False Pass is very shallow, with strong tidal currents.  We entered just as the tide was changing in our favor.  Initially we had 25kts of wind and 3kts of current against us.

We spent Five Days in False Pass waiting for the wind to die down for our sail to Cordova.  We met Mark and Nancy, famous high latitude sailors with their steel ketch Tamara.

 As we neared Prince William Sound, the sun came out.

 Green, TREES, Sun, Warm Water.

 Dedicated watch keeper.

 A pod of Orca.

 Bianca at the Helm.

 We anchored at Double Harbor for the night.  Our eyes were still adjusting to the green.

We went for a swim from the boat for the first time since 2008 when we decided to turn left instead of right when leaving the St. Lawrence Seaway.

 Sun Hats!


 The Town of Cordova, winter home of Precipice 2011-2012

We constructed a cover frame and installed shrinkwrap.  Cordova gets more rain than West Michigan, which is saying something.

 We were lucky to meet Kim and Kirsten of S/Y Sol, from Denmark.  They have cruised the equivalent of two circumnavigations, most of it high latitude.  They hope to make the Northwest Passage next summer.  They also helped us get our plastic cover on during the short break between rainstorms.

Shrinking the Plastic around the Frame

Precipice all snug and ready for winter.