S/V Hello World's Travel Log

Family, family and more family!

Sometimes we complain about cruise ship ports - there are always lots of shops that cater to the passengers and it often changes the feel of a town. For a town like Juneau that can have up to 5 (yes 5!) cruise ships in town simultaneously, with an average of 2500 people aboard each, that's a whopping 12,500 people that may descend onto this town. So yeah, sometimes we complain.

But then again, sometimes those cruise ships bring people that we wouldn't see otherwise. Jason's mom, Flory, along with a ton of other family (Nikki, Tammy, Dan, Marsha, Barb, Wayne and Evie) arrived in Juneau for a lovely 8 hour stopover and we had a grand time with them. Here's Jason with his mom outside of the Red Dog Saloon (did she love the beard? Not so much)

This group has the best time ever together - I think they laughed every minute of the week they were on the boat.

We drank, we shared 7" pizzas (well one 7" pizza, for all 10 of us), we visited the state capitol and we walked up and down the hills of Juneau...quite a feat for 2 of Jason's sisters that are terrified of heights.

Then, exactly a week later, on exactly the same boat, were some other friends of ours that we had met in BC: Ed and Myrna off of M/V Important Business. More Red Dog Saloon-ing ensued and we got to meet a few of the 55 (yes 55!) people that they were with on the ship.

Two days later? More family showed up! But we'll save that for another post. :)

058° 17.3362'N 134° 23.8562'W

vacation from our vacation

Sometimes our vacation becomes so darned taxing, we just need a vacation from all this vacationing (to my employed friends who are itching to slap the molars right out of my head - I'm just kidding, I swear).

We decided on this trip we'd budget money to do some side trips off the boat and experience more of the areas we were traveling in. Christy's parents also wanted to see some of Alaska so we decided to meet them in Anchorage and spend some time exploring the Kenai peninsula.

July 29th - Homer, AK

Our first destination was the little hamlet of Homer. I'd been here a few years back on my motorcycle. I was pretty taken with it at the time so we put this high on the to-do list.

The Clements ready to do some whale watching.

Our tour boat took us over to Seldovia, a small town across Kachemak Bay from Homer. Much of the town lives in these cool, stilted houses along the shore of salt water inlet.

Our tour boat took us by some of the locals. Turns out, these guys are actually snowbirds - they all head to Hawaii for the winter.

A few places around Homer are pockets of traditional Russians living in small villages. They all seem to speak Russian as a first language and dress in traditional Russian clothes. And what self-respecting Russian enclave wouldn't have an onion-domed orthodox church?

Christy's folks - Anne and Carl. We had a great time hanging out with them. Something hysterical is never far away when you're with the Clements.

We took hundreds of pictures trying to capture the grandiosity of the mountains and glaciers across Kachemak Bay from us. All the pictures seemed to turn out like this, never really came close.

Christy and Anne walking the beach.

No visit to Homer would be complete without stopping in at the Salty Dawg. If you do, I highly recommend a Broken Birch Bitter from Homer Brewing Company.

August 4th - Whittier, AK

After a few days in Homer, we headed over to the other side of the Kenai Peninsula. I remarked that Whittier was a wierd little town worth a visit. No one understood what I meant by "wierd" until we actually got there.

Whittier is a deep-water ice-free harbor that was important to supplying Alaska with troops and goods during World War II. The problem is that a big ol' mountain range lies between Whittier and ... well, everything else. A single-track train tunnel was blasted through the mountains. Now, in order to drive to Whittier you have to drive through the train tunnel. But you can't go when trains are scheduled. And you also can't go when cars are coming the other direction.

Heading into the tunnel.

Driving through the Whittier tunnel. We just made the opening on our side.

The port of Whittier. This is about all there is to Whittier.

August 4th - Seward, AK

After an hour of experiencing Whittier, we were pretty well done. We went on to Seward for a few days.

Checking out Exit Glacier.

Crossing the braided river that comes out of the bottom of Exit Glacier. We were determined to get to the toe of the glacier. That was clearly a mistake. That water is about 32.1°F.

Carl could have sat and watched the puffins all day long.

We ate lunch in a school bus. One of the better hamburgers we've had.

August 7th - train ride to Anchorage

We had to get back to Anchorage to fly back to Juneau. Rather than ride with Anne and Carl, we decided we'd take the train. Brilliant idea - the train ride was really fun. It also passes through some scenery that the road doesn't. We really like the Alaska Railroad.

Christy approves of rail travel.

59° 36.113'N 151° 25.274'W

1 year of moorage - paid

Our current philosophy on cruising is to work for 6 months and then play for 6 months (then repeat, of course). When we cruised to Mexico in 2009, we spent just over a year "out there" - it was fun, and amazing, but one of the things that we realized was that we started to take things for granted a while into that trip. It was sunny every day in Mexico, the water was warm enough to swim, groceries were ridiculously cheap...the list goes on. We didn't appreciate those things as much as we should have after a few months down there. I caught Jason programming as we were anchored off of the most amazing beaches. More than once! Hence our current plan: 6 on, 6 off.

When we first started talking about cruising to Alaska, we knew that heading north and returning to Seattle in one year was not going to be do-able in 6 months for us. Some people do that trip in 2 months, but we just go too slow. We love our layover days. We love being holed up in the boat with the heater running on crappy days. And we knew there would be a lot of crappy days. So we hatched a plan to cruise north one summer, leave the boat for the winter, then cruise south the following summer. We've had this plan for about a year, which might just be a record for us.

That brings us to our recent dilemma: where does one leave their boat for the winter in Alaska? There are lots of possibilities, and after gathering lots of recommendations and advice, that cruisers are always most willing to parse out, we cut the list to a few possibilities: Wrangell, Petersburg and Sitka. We cut out Ketchikan because we just weren't really fans of the touristy town (not that it mattered since we wouldn't spend any time there). We cut out Hoonah because it's just too hard to get there. We cut out Juneau because it's just too big and we never did meet anyone who planned to leave their boat there for the winter.

As of the other day, we've finally made our decision. Wrangell or bust!

After heavily leaning towards Sitka because we have friends there that can watch the boat, we arrived in town and got a taste of just how they run their harbor. That is to say, not well. Not only could they not guarantee us a slip, they do shady things like double bill for most of the slips in the marina. Oh, you pay for a permanent slip for a year? They walk the docks 3 times a day and if your boat is gone, they let transients dock there, but don't give the slip owners any of that transient money. If that's not bad enough, that means transient boats (of which there are a ton since there is a 5 year waiting list for permanent slips) always have to be ready to move their boat in case the original owner shows up. It's a cluster, let me tell you. And the best part? If you want to leave your boat here for the winter, you need to show up in Sitka in September when they assign winter slips in person and with your boat. Then you get your name on the list and hope for the best. What happens if you they run out of slips before they get to your boat? You are shit out of luck. And if you are lucky enough to be assigned a slip, it's still a transient slip and you may be required to move during the winter. So if you were hoping to leave your boat unattended, once again, shit out of luck.

OK, I didn't mean to rail against Sitka that much - it's a gorgeous town. The people are nice. It's just that the harbor is not my favorite.

Did I mention their breakwater does nothing in the right condtions?

They actually have that picture on display in the harbormaster's office - is that some sort of advertisement? Apparently there were some ugly results after that storm:

Anyway, we finally decided on Wrangell. We loved that town from the minute we stepped foot in it. The people are awesome. LaDonna, the woman who pretty much runs the harbormasters office is amazing and we love her. The harbor that we'll be in is brand-spanking new. It's about a 15 minute walk from town, but we won't be there, so that's no issue. Also? $1300. For the year. That's about what we'd pay for 2 months in Seattle. So yeah, we heart Wrangell.

Now we just have to find ourselves some jobs...

Yay for friends!!

Sitka, July 21

Jason and I looked at each other as we sat amongst great friends in Sitka and realized that we hadn't met anyone sailing up north that was our age. We're not counting s/v Maclas since they were heading to Mexico. It's not to say we haven't met people, we have, and great people. But there's something about hanging out with folks your age that we've been missing. And we got a giant, needed dose of that when we arrived in Sitka.

Our good friends Greg and Nicole on s/v Baraka sailed up here last spring, never to return to Seattle. They landed in Sitka, got themselves jobs, 3 vehicles and then got themselves pregnant.

We managed not to take any pictures of these guys while in Sitka, so we'll have to settle for a cute one of them at our wedding

Despite that, we managed to make daily (and sometimes twice daily) visits to the local brewery here (turns out they make good rootbeer too).

Next thing we know, our friends on s/v Bolero showed up after stalking us all the way from Ketchikan! More trips to the brewery ensued (we had to let them in on this little secret). Sadly, after a few days of being social butterflies, Greg and Nicole took off with some other friends for a week long cruise and Bolero had to start heading south.

As we were wallowing in sadness, we passed by a familiar face on the dock. I met Dena on a flight from Seattle to Boise over a year ago. Somehow, we recognized each other and poof! We had friends in town again!

Other than many trips to the brewery, we did manage to see a bit of town. It's adorable and not overrun by cruise ships because the town refuses to build them a dock and turn into a "Ketchikan". Go Sitka! The mountains are gorgeous and there are a million little islands around.

Jason finally got his gigantic SUP board and we did a bit of paddling, but when we come back next year, we have big plans to dinghy the boards out to some of these islands and do some destination paddling.

And the highlight of our trip to Sitka had to be the Fortress of the Bears. Nicole had been working there and her last day happened to coincide with our arrival, so we got a behind the scenes tour and got to hand feed three of their brown bears - turns out they love baby carrots!!

How cute are these guys?? I think we could one into the quarterberth.

57° 03.4200'N 135° 21.2700'W

Heading into town

In order to get to Sitka, we headed north around the top of Baranof and through Peril Strait, stopping at Takatz Bay, where Jason got to pull up the anchor in a spectacular downpour.

(I did get a little wet when I stuck my head out of the enclosure to take that picture, so you can feel badly for me too)

We discovered that charts in Alaska are sometimes on par with Mexico. We haven't anchored on land yet, but there are places that they're off. Hello World was mid-channel when I took this shot.

From Takatz, we headed into Peril and stayed the night in Appleton Cove. It was carpet-bombed with crap pots, so I figured there would be nothing left if I put a trap out. But when the 5-year old next door to us hauled in 3 keepers just off his boat, I gave it a try. And collected from the paddleboard!

Then it was off to Baby Bear Bay. It was a crazy entrance, which might have explained why we had it to ourselves. It was 65F and sunny and we just played all day. Jason even ventured past the bowsprit in my paddleboard!

57° 26.2784'N 135°' 33.4508'W

The hottest we've been in Alaska

Warm Springs Bay - July 16

You didn't seriously think we'd pass by a bay named "Warm Springs" did you? Even though it was about 12 miles from Red Bluff Bay and an extremely short day, we had to make a stop. Unfortunately, a few fishing boats had the same idea, stacking themselves 4 deep on the free dock. We decided against rafting and found a little cove in which to anchor.

We found out later that the way to do Warm Springs is to bring your boat here in April and just leave it. For the entire summer. Maybe we'll do that next time.

The "town", if you can call it that, is adorable. Probably 20 houses, all connected by boardwalks. And all with hot springs water piped directly to their porch bathtubes or other various hot tub containers.

If that weren't amazing enough, the town is situated right next to a gorgeous waterfall.

There is a set of private rooms with really funky wooden tubs, overlooking the bay for the out-of-towners.

But if you skip by those, walk up the boardwalk past the houses...

...follow the sign...

...you get to the pools - hello relaxation!!!

The real question is, why on earth they call this place "warm" springs - these suckers are HOT.

57°' 05.3336'N 134° 50.0043'W