Three@Sea Voyage Blog
Three@Sea is the name of our 43-foot Nordhavn trawler, and it refers to the three of us, Kathryn, David, and Ayla (16-years old), who live and voyage aboard her. We are in the midst of a multi-year journey to discover the world. Visit the Three@Sea web site to learn more about our voyage.
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July 12th
4:29 AM GMT-5

Glacier Bay

Author:  Kathryn
Location:  Juneau, Alaska
Coordinates:  58° 18.073’ N   134° 25.676’ W



"The Master Builder chose for a tool, not the thunder and lightning to rend and split asunder, not the stormy torrent nor the eroding rain, but the tender snowflake, noiselessly falling through unnumbered generations."

John Muir 

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I have been siting at my computer now for hours trying to begin this blog entry, but I am truly at a loss for words to describe Three@Sea’s first journey into Glacier Bay National Park. There is no one superlative that captures the experience. No catchy phrase, or playful alliteration. Not even a litany of adjectives can do justice to the enormity of beauty and power that lives in this land. In 5 years 11 months of cruising, having traveled almost 30,000 nm, this is the most heart-stoppingly beautiful place we’ve visited. Spectacular!

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We arrived at Park Headquarters in rain and light fog, filled with anticipation. We were joined by dear friends from Boulder, who mentioned over dinner last November that seeing Glacier Bay was on their “bucket list”. With Ayla away at camp, and their kids busy for the summer, this seemed like a perfect opportunity for their first voyage aboard Three@Sea. So the four of us left Juneau the evening of July 2nd, anchored for two nights along the way, arriving at 7:30am, July 4th (the day our permit began). The welcoming committee were several humpback whales, scores of sea otters, and squadrons of sea birds. 

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Glacier Bay National Park (GBNP) allows only 25 private vessels in the park each day, and entry requires a permit between June 1st and August 31st. Permits can be difficult to procure, and must be arranged 60 days in advance. Fortunately luck was on our side—of course, David faxing the request at 12:01am may have helped too! :) A mandatory boater orientation is required for all first-time boat visitors regarding safety (for both wildlife and humans), weather information, area closures (due to nesting, or landslides) etc. The park staff are incredibly friendly, knowledgable, and extremely welcoming of visitors. While the stats say that 500,000 people visit the park each year, the vast majority of those visitors are on cruise ships (2 per day are allowed in the park).  Only about 8,500 people actually visit the park HQ and nearby lodge, with only 850 of those visitors actually going up bay on their own, like we were doing. So exciting!

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We spent about 8 hours meandering up bay in light rain, and while we couldn’t see many mountains or any glaciers, we thoroughly enjoyed the wildlife along the way. We all had perma-grins as we watched the whales feed, otters drift by, and sea lions play. Giddiness was certainly in the air. We anchored that evening in Blue Mouse Cove, sharing the large open cove with only four other boats. There are not a lot of anchoring spots in Glacier Bay, as the waters are usually very deep right up to shore, and where there is shoreline, you need to be careful because of the ~20-foot tidal range. Once you find a location to anchor, the anchoring can be a bit of a challenge, as the bottom tends to be plates of rock, with thin mud or gravel on top. Patience and a gentle touch are required to get the anchor set. Thankfully, David has both.

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Rain is the norm for Southeast Alaska, but the weather forecast predicted two partly sunny days while we were in the park, so fingers were crossed the next morning as we pulled up the anchor to head toward John Hopkins Glacier. The cloud cover was low and heavy, the temperature chilly, but at least it wasn’t raining.  A couple of hours into our cruise we saw our first iceberg. Okay, “iceberg” may be generous, but it was the first chunk of ice we’d ever seen in the water. We were all very excited, and I snapped multiple pictures of our first “bergie bit”, as they are affectionately called. As you might expect, it was not our last, and we marveled as they floated by—each its own piece of art, sculpted by nature. We were like kids on a summer day identifying shapes in the clouds, but with icebergs instead. What fun!

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The low cloud cover gradually began lifting, and we started to see our first glaciers. WOW! Really, WOW! I had no idea of all their shapes and sizes: hanging glaciers, valley glaciers, piedmont glaciers, tidewater glaciers, etc. Okay, here is a quick Glaciers 101:  Glaciers, quite literally, are rivers of ice. Snow falls at the top of the mountain (in this case the Fairweather Range) and lands in a small depression of the land. Snowflakes pile up over the years, and compress under their own weight into ice. As the accumulation continues, the amount of ice and snow continues to build, and gravity takes hold, slowly moving the ice downhill. Once that ice is on the move, it’s called a glacier. 

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As the ice moves downhill, following the path of least resistance, it picks up rocks and gravel, which grind away at the underlying rock, thus carving the glacial valleys we are seeing today. Once the ice reaches a lower, warmer elevation, it begins to melt and ceases further progress. If there is no significant change in climate, the glacier is constantly renewing itself, like a one-way conveyor belt moving the ice down the mountain. Glaciologists estimate that it takes about 200 years for a snowflake at the top the mountain to make it down to were we were watching it calve off the glacier into water (obviously, this can vary greatly based on size of glacier, climate considerations etc.). The words to describe the process are simple, but it is witnessing the event that is truly breathtaking. The intense beauty in the color and shapes of the ice; The incredible power and persistent scouring force; The thunderous sound of ice calving into the water; The pure rawness of the process. Humbling.

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Visiting Glacier Bay is also a journey through time. You enter the park in the modern era with an old growth forest surrounding the park entrance, and travel back in time to the ice-age with its barren landscapes. The voyage is a mere 65 miles, but the evolution of plant life is nothing short of astonishing. Scientist began studying “plant succession” in this pristine wilderness in the early 20th century, with life lifting its arms out of rocky crags just a few feet from the glaciers, and progressing through the park as shrubs, adding the sporadic trees and finishing with a full forest in just a one-day journey for observers. Mind-blowing. 

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I’ve managed to explain what we saw, and tried to explain how it happens, but I have not even begun to express how it stirs the soul. It’s not just the vastness nor the beauty; the wildness nor the power. No, it is more alive and complete than those words. It’s a bit like trying to describe a person as combination of limbs, functioning organs, and hair color—obviously we are way more. So is Glacier Bay. This place has a soul, it has an icy breath, and sings its beauty in the sounds of glaciers on the move and in the voices of its wildlife. The Tlingit people are native to this land. They know Glacier Bay to be a spiritual place. I now know it too. 

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COMMENTS
June 17th
10:12 PM GMT-5

Passage to Juneau

Author:  David
Location:  Juneau, Alaska
Coordinates:  58° 18.073’ N   134° 25.676’ W



We cruised from Ketchikan to Juneau over the weekend. Kathryn and Ayla are traveling in the lower 48, so our friend Dick Costigan came to Three@Sea to be my crew for the three-day voyage.

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Three days from Ketchikan to Juneau is a pretty aggressive schedule, but I needed to get there over the weekend to accommodate a variety of constraints. As anybody who cruises knows, one of the most dangerous (or at least uncomfortable) things you can do is cruise with a fixed schedule: the weather gods will usually slap you down. We were also departing on a Friday (another superstitious no-no), with a date of the 13th. Yikes! Fortunately Mr. Costigan’s luck over a lifetime of cruising is legendary among his friends, and I was counting on some of it to result in an uneventful voyage.

Destined for Wrangell, we left Ketchikan at 4:30am on Friday morning to try to avoid some potentially bad weather coming up the Clarence Strait. The weather prediction was for 15-20 knots of wind on the nose, which can whip up some nasty seas by late morning. Our plan worked, and we were able to cut into the back route to Wrangell before the seas got too snotty. The back route through the Zimovia Strait was quite protected from the northwest wind, and we arrived in Wrangell late afternoon, pleased to have this Friday the 13th behind us! We also had a welcome encounter with four of our Flotilla boats in Wrangell Harbour.

Dick was curious why we don’t cruise at night in this area. After all, we could cover much more distance if we did an overnight passage; and the bodies of water seem large enough to allow easy night cruising. Shortly after we left Ketchikan he had his answer, when we passed this tree. Although the “drift” seems to be less in Southeast Alaska than it was along the coast of British Columbia, it is still prevalent enough that I would not risk cruising in the dark here. Of course, that constraint is not very limiting since it currently gets light at about 3:30am and stays light until about 10:30pm!

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We departed Wrangell at 4:30 Saturday morning, in low clouds, spotty fog, and rain. This early departure was not because we had a particularly long day of cruising—we were headed to the Portage Bay anchorage, approximately 63 nm away—but we had to transit Wrangell Narrows en route. This narrow passage connecting Sumner Strait to Frederick Sound has up to 6 knots of current at maximum ebb, and we were cruising during a full moon, so it was likely to achieve that. We had to time our passage to arrive at the worst part of the narrows at close to slack current, which was about 9am on that day. The plan worked, and we never saw more than 2 knots of current through almost all of Wrangell Narrows. However, right before we got out into Frederick Sound, just after we passed the town of Petersburg, we encountered about 4 knots of current flooding into the narrows. We burned a little extra diesel, and got through it without issue, but it was a bit of a surprise. I’m glad we left as early as we did, or it would have been worse.

Our uber-early departure was going to put us into our target anchorage by early afternoon, so we decided to change the plan and cruise longer. After all, it was raining, so what were we going to do at anchor all afternoon? The seas were mild and behind us, so we decided we might as well lengthen today to shorten tomorrow. We plotted a route to a little anchorage behind Good Island at the mouth of Gambier Bay, which turned out to be a nice spot. We arrived at about 5:30pm and set the anchor in about 30 feet of water (at mid-tide). It looked like a great place to see some wildlife on shore, but nothing showed itself except a curious otter off our stern.

We slept in Sunday morning (relatively speaking), and pulled up anchor at 6:30am, destined for Juneau. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day, with calm winds and clearing skies. As we cruised north in Stephens Passage we saw many whales leisurely swimming along, spouting regularly to reveal their location. We also had a pod of Dall’s porpoise surf our bow for awhile.

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As we passed Holkham Bay we saw our first glacier: Sumdum Glacier. The morning light sparkled from its craggily surface, and it made me excited to visit Glacier Bay in a couple weeks.

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We arrived in Juneau and received a mooring at Harris Harbor. On our way up the Gastineau Channel we passed five massive cruise ships moored on Juneau’s waterfront—one of them was anchored because there is room for only four at the pier! Dick and I got the boat settled, and then walked into town for a celebratory dinner at the Twisted Fish—a nice end to a successful voyage. And it looks like that Costigan luck is still intact—thanks for your help (and luck), Dick!

I have been fascinated with something they have up here called “tidal grids”. The tides are quite large here: about a 22 feet during full/new moons. A tidal grid is essentially a natural dry dock that fishing vessels and pleasure boats can use when they need to work on the underside of the boat. At high tide you moor your vessel to the tidal grid wall, and when the tide drains, your boat gets gently lowered onto the timbers. Boats using the tidal grid need to have a full keel so it can sit on the timbers without damaging the running gear. This is a very inexpensive (free) and relatively painless way to get access to the bottom of the boat. If we had any work we needed to do on the bottom of Three@Sea, I would be tempted to give it a try.

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So we made it to Juneau, and we will be based here for a couple weeks. Shortly after that we’ll head to Glacier Bay for another new adventure.

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COMMENTS
June 7th
10:48 PM GMT-5

From the Pilothouse, with Ayla:  The Inside Passage to Alaska

Three@Sea and a flotilla of nine other boats voyage from Washington to Southeast Alaska via the Inside Passage along the coast of British Columbia.

COMMENTS
June 6th
2:05 AM GMT-5

Alaska!

Author:  David
Location:  Ketchikan, Alaska
Coordinates:  55° 20.336’ N   131° 38.512’ W



Our Flotilla has arrived safely in Ketchikan, Alaska: 740 nautical miles cruising through some of the most beautiful, rustic, scenery we’ve ever seen. It was both exhilarating and exhausting; and it’s also a bit surreal that we travelled to Alaska on our boat. I mean, a couple years ago we said to each other, “Hey, let’s go through the Panama Canal, and cruise up the west coast to Alaska.” And now here we are. Pretty cool!

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I posted my last blog entry from Shearwater, which was the last bit of civilization until Prince Rupert. From Shearwater we cruised to Rescue Bay, which was a beautiful and well-protected anchorage. Ayla had just completed her final exams, so we decided to host a celebratory party on Three@Sea. Although 24 people makes it a bit crowded aboard our little vessel, everybody had a good time. We gathered on our bow to get a photograph, and I think the propeller was out of the water at that moment.

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Wildlife sightings increased during this section of the voyage. We saw several bears foraging at low tide, a number of whales lazily feeding along the shore, and the bald eagles are starting to outnumber the seagulls. These few days were definitely the most remote part of the journey.

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Our next stop was Buttedale, the site of an abandoned cannery that is falling apart. The hydroelectric generator that powered the cannery is still running, being kept alive by the sole resident of Buttedale, Cory the caretaker. The docks are simply floating logs with planks across them, and you had to watch where you stepped so you didn’t end up in the water. Ayla loved this stop—I think the ghost towns are her favorite part of the adventure. Later in the evening Cory built a campfire on a concrete slap that used to be part of the cannery, and we roasted marshmallows in the wilderness. What a life!

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From Buttedale we were scheduled to go to Bishop Bay to visit the hot springs there. However, a couple of the larger vessels in our Flotilla couldn’t tie up at Buttedale the night before, so they went on to Bishop Bay, and their experience with the anchorage there was not good (very deep, with lots of stray logs). So as a fleet we called an audible the next morning, and decided to skip Bishop Bay and go directly to Lowe Inlet. This was a spectacular setting, with a roaring stream (which became a waterfall at low tide) flowing into the anchorage. We had beautiful weather, and many people dropped their dinghies and kayaks in the water to play. Lowe Inlet was our deepest anchorage yet, at about 90 feet. In the middle of the night we had 25 knot katabatic winds, but our new anchor held firm with only about 325 feet of rode out.

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There are many waterfalls along this part of the route. Sometimes they show themselves roaring into the main waterway; other times they are whispy lines carving through the forest on the mountainside. It’s fun to use the binoculars to try to follow them up the mountain to their source. Wild country indeed.

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From Lowe Inlet we cruised back into civilization at Prince Rupert, the northernmost town along the coast of British Columbia. Our next leg would take us across the Canada-U.S. border into Alaska; and it would also take us across Dixon Entrance, which is open to the Pacific Ocean. The winds were blowing pretty hard, so we had to take a one-day weather delay in Prince Rupert to let things calm down. Several people organized a progressive dinner aboard three of the boats: we had appetizers aboard one boat, main course at the next boat, and desert at a third boat. We’ve all gotten to know each other quite well at this point, and we feel so lucky to have made new friends with these intrepid voyagers.

Kathryn and Ayla were supposed to fly out of Prince Rupert to go to Stanford for Ayla’s school’s graduation weekend (Ayla isn’t graduating this year, but it’s a gathering weekend for her online school) so I was going to be single-handing from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan. But because we made up a weather day earlier in the voyage, and we skipped a couple planned stops, they were able to cruise all the way to Ketchikan with me. This made us all very happy because we could all arrive in Alaska, completing the passage together.

We left Prince Rupert at 4:30am, crossed the Dixon Entrance with easy 4-6’ swells, and arrived in Ketchikan at about 4:30pm. The rest of the fleet stopped in Foggy Bay for the night, and then they continued to Ketchikan the next day. We decided to go directly to Ketchikan to give Kathryn and Ayla a day to prepare to leave the boat for a month. Three@Sea looks right at home nestled in Thomas Basin amongst the fishing boats and giant cruise ships.

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Once we had all arrived, the Ketchikan Yacht Club hosted a cookout for the Flotilla at their floating clubhouse to welcome us to Ketchikan. It was our last chance to be with our Flotilla friends before we  scatter in different directions with different cruising plans. We are really glad we joined the Flotilla, and we are grateful to Mark Bunzel for leading us up the Inside Passage with knowledge, patience, and humor. Well done, Mark!

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Kathryn and Ayla flew to San Francisco this morning, and I’m here on the boat with Dilly. After graduation weekend, they will go visit several colleges on the east coast, and then we will rendezvous at a friend’s wedding in a few weeks. I will explore Ketchikan this week, and then next weekend I will cruise from Ketchikan to Juneau with the help of a friend who arrives the middle of next week. Once in Juneau, I will travel for a couple weeks, returning to the boat in late June. After that, it’s on to Glacier Bay!

[Note: Larger versions of the photographs can be seen here.]

COMMENTS
June 2nd
1:56 AM GMT-5

Life Consists with Wildness

Author:  Ayla
Location:  Prince Rupert, British Columbia
Coordinates:  54° 19.210’ N   130° 19.165’ W



The British Columbia wilderness lends itself quite beautifully to the imagination. With its heavily forested islands that shoot up out of the water and scrape the sky, colors that dazzle both in the rare sunlight and the dreary rain, and a great sense of wildness, B.C. is nothing short of magical. A few days ago, the magic of this area was given a face and a name with Nikki Van Schyndel.

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For a year and a half, Nikki survived off the land in this area, living in the woods and learning the ways of the native tribes and wild animals. Since returning to civilization nine years ago, she has been active in preserving the untouched beauty of British Columbia and spreading her message of following dreams and pursuing a life founded in bliss and centeredness. Indeed, it’s hard not to feel a sense of possibility when listening to her talk about her extraordinary experiences. Our Flotilla group had the fantastic opportunity to hear Nikki speak about her survivalist year and the many things she learned. As someone who grew up with Island of the Blue Dolphins as a favorite book—and was even named after a survivalist heroine in Clan of the Cave Bear—I have always been fascinated by the idea of heading into the wild unknown, something Nikki did and succeeded at. She is incredibly inspiring: honest about the struggles she faced in the wild; respectful of the animals, land, and sea; and extremely thoughtful when it comes to her philosophies about the world and our purpose in it. Her message of tranquility and creating your own path came as a welcome reminder of the important things in life amidst the chaos of finals and school. 

Nikki offers four-hour tours around the Broughton Islands where she spent her time surviving. The day after hearing her speak, the crew of Three@Sea and one of our newfound friends from the Waggoner Flotilla joined Nikki for a day of exploring, thinking, and discovering the seemingly infinite possibilities this land has to offer. It was, without question, one of the most incredible days I have ever spent. We began on a very small island we later nicknamed The Farmstand, as everything on it was edible. Nikki’s been cultivating wild onions there for quite some time, and we had the chance to get our hands in the dirt by helping her harvest a few for our lunch later in the day. Various berries, leaves, trees, grasses that one might usually pass over turned out not only to be edible, but incredibly flavorful. Each seemed to have its own purpose as well, whether as a moisturizer, a natural healer, or seasoning for a stir fry. One could have lived on the resources of this island alone (which also had an impressive crop of barnacles, something I had tried, per Nikki’s recommendation, the previous night; surprisingly, they were very good!). We spent a fair bit of time learning about the plants on the island and harvesting them in a beautiful cedar basket Nikki had made. It was as if we had stepped back in time; civilization was nowhere to be found. For miles and miles, the only life was eagles, bears, wolves, and us, all living harmoniously with the land. As I said, the imagination can run wild in these woods, and I felt as if we were in an entirely different time and place—someplace pristine, untouched, and untamed. Someplace wild. 

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After leaving The Farmstand, we took Nikki’s skiff to Village Island, where she spent the first six months of her time in the wild. Village Island used to hold a native village, and the only signs of human life are a few abandoned homes and some overgrown totem poles. It is easy to imagine surviving in that wilderness; the trees, beaches, and waters are gloriously pristine, and after trekking through the dark woods, we arrived at a lovely shore to make camp. Along the way, Nikki showed us what had once been a totem pole. Even now, though it has fallen, is overgrown, and is rotting, it is also incredibly beautiful. While the intricate carvings are mostly gone, it is still possible to make out the shape of a leaping wolf and a bear’s paws. It’s haunting to imagine the people that painstakingly created this work of art, now reclaimed by the land. 

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Along the way to our camp, we collected an impressive number of different herbs and plants, each with a unique flavor and purpose. As we spread out on the beach, Nikki started to show us how to make a friction fire, something I have wanted to do for quite some time. First, we stripped down cedar bark and made a sort of birds nest from the fibers; this birds nest serves as a starter. Nikki then created a hot coal using a combination of wood, sticks, and a clever, bow-like instrument to create enormous friction that ultimately gave way to a delicate, hot coal. It was amazing to me how gentle the process of starting a fire is. Fire often has a sort of violence associated with it, but watching Nikki slowly breathe it into existence was remarkably peaceful.

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Our cedar bark nest eventually started to crackle merrily, and soon, we had a hot fire over which Nikki assembled a sort of stove with various sticks, and began cooking lunch. Nikki’s cooking—mostly with things we had collected that day—was phenomenal. With a dash of olive oil, some dried kelp for salt, and a plethora of delicious herbs and vegetables, a stir fry was soon sizzling over the fire while tea made of Western Hemlock and mint (both collected on Village Island) steeped beside it. It would be hard to recall everything that went into the stir fry—there were well over a dozen different plants—but some of the highlights included: Indian Parsnip (a member of the carrot family that you must peel before eating, lest it burn the insides of your throat and cause all sorts of nasty consequences), Sea Asparagus (a salty, crunchy stalk that grows in droves on the beaches), Miner’s Lettuce (a spectacularly delicious wild leaf that might be the next Arugula), and Salmon Berries (which are astoundingly juicy and the color of the sunset). With a handmade fire and flavors of only the land, we soon had a gourmet meal unparalleled in its raw, organic flavor. Standing on the beach next to a cedar fire, eating a meal we had helped create by tasting and understanding the land (we were, by the way, eating out of clam shells with an mussel shell as a utensil!), I felt at peace. The whole world could have been miles and years away. Everything was right. 

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Eventually, we cleaned up camp and trekked back through Village Island, hopping in Nikki’s boat for our trip back to the modern world. On the way home, something spectacular happened. We were just about to cross a channel between two islands when we noticed an odd-looking log in front of the boat. Distracted by a feeding frenzy occurring with some seagulls and what we thought might have been a whale, we didn’t give the log a second glance… that is, until its head moved. To our astonishment, the log was, in fact, a wolf, something Nikki said she hasn’t seen in this area for nearly three years. There are some moments in life when everything is perfect; this was one of those. Sitting in a boat, surrounded by vaulted mountains and wild woods, spring rain pouring down, and watching a wolf swim bravely across a stormy channel… there simply could not have been anything better. We made sure to give the wolf plenty of room, but we stayed to watch as it scrambled to shore on the other side. Once it got on shore, it stopped for just a minute and looked back at us; it was massive, astute, and one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen. It gave us one look, then turned and ran into the woods. We all sat in the boat for a few minutes, just listening to the wind and the rain, before turning the engine back on and resuming our trip back into civilization. 

Pretty soon, things settled back to normal; as always, there were finals to study for and things to accomplish, but not before taking a moment to reflect on the day that had just passed. I took my collection of Henry David Thoreau’s Natural History essays, and sat on the dock in the rain until I found the following quote: 

For I believe the climate does thus react on man,— as there is something in the mountain air that feeds the spirit and inspires…I trust that we shall be more imaginative, that our thoughts will be clearer, fresher, and more ethereal as our sky, — our understanding more comprehensive and broader, like our plains, —our intellect generally on a grander scale, like our thunder and lightening, our tiers and mountains, — and our hearts shall even correspond in breadth and depth and grandeur to our inland seas. 

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And one more:

So I would say, “How near to good is what is wild!” Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him One who pressed forward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself surrounded by the raw materials of life. 

Nikki, indeed, has made infinite demands on life, and has not only found herself surrounded by, but surrounded others with, the raw materials of life. It was a day of magical thinking, feeling, exploring, and becoming wild. Thank you, Nikki!

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COMMENTS
May 28th
7:34 PM GMT-5

Alaska Flotilla: Over Halfway There

Author:  David
Location:  Shearwater, British Columbia
Coordinates:  52° 08.863’ N   128° 05.237’ W



I has been a whirlwind the last six days, with several dawn departures for both weather and currents. Our Flotilla is now more than halfway to Ketchikan, we are one day ahead of schedule, and we have one of two open ocean legs behind us. So far, so good!

[Photo note: Several of you have asked for full resolution versions of the photos. We don’t have enough Internet bandwidth to upload full resolution photos, but I did upload larger (screen size) versions of the photos from this and the previous blog: click here to visit the album.  I will continue to add photos from our Alaska voyage to this album.]

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We departed Prideaux Haven early last Thursday to time the transit of three tidal narrows: Yuculta Rapids, Gillard Passage, and Dent Rapids. These are near one another, but they still go to slack current at different times, and unfortunately in the wrong order for the direction we were transiting. Dent rapids is the worst of the three, so we timed our progress so we would have slack current through Dent. But this meant we had to transit Yuculta and Gillard early, while they were still flooding. We were able to wait until each had only about 2 knots of current (against us), and the turbulence wasn’t too bad. Our transit through Dent was subsequently smooth and uneventful. We soon arrived at Blind Channel, which is a small family-run marina and restaurant. Our 10-boat Flotilla filled them up. Ayla and Kathryn walked up (in the rain) to see an 800-year-old cedar tree that is 16 feet in diameter. That’s a big tree!

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We were up early and off the dock again on Friday to time the transit of Green Point Rapids and Whirlpool Rapids. Green Point was uneventful, but we slow boats (four of us) could not get to Whirlpool Rapids before it was running fast again, so we had to kill four hours waiting until the current moderated enough for us to safely pass—it was a long day that didn’t cover much distance. We arrived at Port Harvey, which is another family-run marina and restaurant along the waterway. This appears to be pretty common in this area: small family-run marinas with a restaurant, and maybe a store, catering to summer boaters as they transit the area. Port Harvey opened up their clubhouse for dinner, making delicious made-to-order pizzas for each boat.

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Ayla took a final exam underway on both Thursday and Friday. The proctors were able to submit them to Ayla’s high school using the complimentary Internet provided at Blind Channel and Port Harvey. The logistics of this are all a bit daunting, but Kathryn has organized everything perfectly, and the proctors are doing a great job.

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On Saturday morning we had another early start to time the transit of Chatham Channel at slack current. This channel has a smooth flow—not too much turbulence or too many whirlpools—so we were able to transit a bit early to get to our destination earlier. We were headed for Pierre’s Echo Bay Resort, which is a legendary spot in the Broughton Islands. Pierre’s marina and resort sits in a beautiful cove surrounded by high granite bluffs, and Pierre has created a very welcoming and relaxing environment. On our way into the marina, we passed the floats that were attached to the prawn and crab pot that were to provide our dinner that evening.

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Upon our arrival, our Flotilla host had arranged for a special guest to speak to our group: Nikki Van Schyndel is a survivalist and naturalist who lives on the other side of the hill from Echo Bay. Nikki spent a year-and-a-half living on a remote island, surviving completely off the land. She has recently written a book about the adventure called Becoming Wild. Nikki is one of those special people you meet along the way who causes you to say to yourself, “This is why we travel.” I think Ayla or Kathryn will blog about our experience with Nikki, so I won’t write more here.

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After listening to Nikki’s fascinating talk, we walked to the other side of the island to meet Billy Proctor, and see his eclectic museum. Billy has lived near Echo Bay most of his life, and he has collected a variety of artifacts from the area, and displayed them in a cozy museum. Billy is full of experiences and stories, and it was really fun to meet this legendary figure.

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The next day (after spending the morning on a “survivalist tour” with Nikki, about which we will blog separately) we cruised from Echo Bay to Port McNeill. We spent the evening preparing for our first open ocean transit across Queen Charlotte Strait and Sound.

On Monday morning at 4am, well before sunrise, everybody in the Flotilla was up and preparing to depart. The weather for the 66 nautical mile passage to Fury Cove looked good, but the earlier we departed, the better it would be. So there we all were, sleepily stumbling around the dock, coiling up electrical cords. We left as a fleet at about 4:30am, just at first light so that we could see the logs in the water.

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There are two spots on this Flotilla that are open to the Pacific, and might cause either a weather delay or an uncomfortable ride. The weather gods were with us on this one, and we had a completely benign passage to Fury Cove—we even saw several humpback or gray whales breaching along the route.

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We arrived at Fury Cove mid-afternoon, and we all anchored under beautiful sunny skies, and warm calm weather. It was one of those perfect days on a boat, and the whole anchorage was giddy with satisfaction, basking in the warmth and beauty inside Fury Cove. Many of us dropped our dinghies in the water to explore the beach, and one of our Flotilla members organized a bonfire in the evening. Perfection!

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On Tuesday we cruised up Fitz Hugh Sound and Fisher Channel to Ocean Falls at the end of Cousins Inlet. Ocean Falls has a hydroelectric plant powered by the river that feeds into Cousins Inlet. There used to be a paper mill there, but it shut down more than thirty years ago, leaving a completely intact ghost town today. 

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The confluence of fresh and salt water in the inlet made for excellent crabbing: Several of our Flotilla members hauled in some beautiful dungeness crabs, and they were nice enough to share some of their catch with us. Yum!

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Today’s passage was a short twenty miles to Shearwater, so we slept in until a a decadent 7am—it felt quite leisurely after the previous days’ early starts. Ayla took one exam underway yesterday, and another this morning, so she has only one more to go. Shearwater has a bit of infrastructure, so her proctors were able to submit her exams to her school when we arrived today. We’ll do a little grocery shopping here, and catch up on Internet before going off-the-grid until we get to Prince Rupert next week.

On a mechanical note, our fresh water pump failed after five years of service. Fortunately we carry a spare aboard, so I was able to replace it in a couple hours late one night. This sounds pretty easy, but our 6 am departure came too soon after my head hit the pillow at 2 am! :)

On a navigational note, the waterways here are littered with trees and logs. We need to keep a sharp lookout at all times because they tend to sneak up on you when you least expect it. One day there was almost an impassable steam of telephone-pole-sized logs along one of the current breaks, and we had to navigate parallel to it until we found an opening. We’ve hit only one log, coming into Port McNeill; Fortunately it was a glancing blow, and did not do any damage to our running gear.

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On an Internet/cellular note, the coverage in this area has been surprising. We have been able to get cellular Internet through Telus almost every day (at some point), and once we get into port in the evening, the marina usually has some kind of WiFi. Only one night so far did we need to rely completely on satellite for e-mail and weather. I think it gets worse from here north, but it’s been surprisingly good thus far.

That’s all for now.  I hope to write again from Prince Rupert.

COMMENTS
May 21st
8:02 PM GMT-5

Alaska Flotilla - Day 4

Author:  David
Location:  Desolation Sound, British Columbia
Coordinates:  50° 8.464’ N   124° 41.259’ W



It’s the fourth day of our cruise to Ketchikan, Alaska, and the Flotilla Fleet is anchored in Desolation Sound this evening. The scenery is spectacular, and it’s easy to see where this area gets its name.

Nine boats departed Anacortes on Sunday, and we headed for Ganges Harbour on Vancouver Island, stopping to clear Canadian Customs in Bedwell Harbor on the way. Everybody eventually made it through Customs (some with more ease than others), and we soon found ourselves tied to the dock in Ganges. We rendezvoused with our tenth boat in Ganges, which happens to be a sister ship, Alamo, another Nordhavn 43.

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We decided to celebrate the end of Ayla’s classes and the start of our journey with a lovely dinner at the renowned Hastings House Inn and Restaurant. The atmosphere was cozy, the views were gorgeous, and the food was delicious. It was a good start!

The next day we all got underway early. We were headed to Nanaimo, and we needed to pass through Dodd Narrows to get there, so we wanted to be there at slack tide (along with everybody else). The current was supposed to be against us all the way up to Dodd Narrows, but once we were on our way up the channel, the current was not nearly as strong as we feared, so we had to slow way down so we didn’t arrive at Dodd Narrows early. We timed it well, and the whole fleet passed through Dodd Narrows without incident. Here we are approaching Dodd Narrows:

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Our Flotilla leader is Mark Bunzel, the editor of the Waggoner’s Cruising Guide. He’s doing a fantastic job preparing everybody for each day’s cruise. Our fleet is made up of two Nordhavn 43s, a Nordhavn 63’, an American Tug 48’, a Carver 47’, a Tollycraft 34’, a Grand Banks 42’ (Europa), and three boats who’s manufacturer I don’t yet know: a 45’ pilothouse trawler, a 40’ sailboat, and a 60’ cabin cruiser. These are all very capable boats, with very capable crew. And just as important: everybody is really nice, and we’re enjoying getting to know them. Here is our flotilla moored a Cameron Island Marina in Nanaimo:

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Yesterday we had a pretty short and easy day, cruising from Nanaimo to Pender Harbour. The reason it was easy is because the weather cooperated for our crossing of the Straight of Georgia. We were tucked into Pender Harbour by early afternoon, and everybody enjoyed a truly gorgeous British Columbia afternoon: sunny, mid-60’s, and light wind — it doesn’t get any better!

For dinner we decided to walk up to Hotel Lake, about 30 minutes away, and look for a place to spread out a picnic. We commandeered somebody’s swimming raft, and drifted peacefully on the lake as the sun dropped below the mountain ridge. Ahhhh….

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This morning we were off early again for the longest day yet, 53 nm to Prideaux Haven anchorage in Desolation Sound. The seas were a little sloppy for the first couple hours, but then they flattened out, and it was an easy cruise up the Malaspina Straight and into Desolation Sound. It got progressively cloudier as we made our way north, and a light rain began to fall shortly before we anchored. This gave us the opportunity to try out our new rain gear, which worked great. And of course, Kathryn’s new Ultra Anchor set quickly in about 50 feet of water (she’s very happy).

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Tomorrow we need to time our cruise through three “gates”, the worst of which are the Dent Rapids, which has up to 11 knot currents a maximum ebb. I don’t like the sound of “rapids” when it comes to cruising, so we’re going to be as buttoned up as possible to get there at slack.

I mentioned that Ayla finished classes, but now she has final exams this week and next. Tomorrow and Friday are her first two, and then she has three next week. Several people on the Flotilla have agreed to proctor her exams, so they’re all busily downloading test files as they become available. Ayla has been very disciplined, studying about eight hours each day, at which point you can see the knowledge spilling out of her ears, so she takes the rest of the day off. It’s difficult, but she’s looking forward to being finished with her junior year next Friday!

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All of Three@Sea’s systems are performing well so far. Tonight is our first night at anchor, and as soon as it stops raining we plan to drop the dinghy in the water to do a little exploring. Or not. We’ll see where the rest of the day takes us.

COMMENTS
May 18th
12:49 AM GMT-5

Three Weeks to Alaska

Author:  David
Location:  Anacortes, Washington
Coordinates:  48° 30.870’ N   122° 34.999’ W



Tomorrow morning we depart for Ketchikan, Alaska. We are cruising in a 10-boat “flotilla” being sponsored by the Waggoner’s Cruising Guide. We will move almost every day, and the schedule has us arriving in Ketchikan on June 6. Here’s the route:

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If you would like more detail, you can click on the map above to visit a larger, interactive version of the map.

Our daily destinations include some of the most interesting and beautiful places along the inside passage, and we’re really looking forward to the variety. Some nights we will be in small towns, while other nights we will be in remote anchorages. Here are each day’s destination:

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We’ve spent the last couple days provisioning, and finishing last-minute projects. As of this evening, we’re ready to go. As usual, we will update Three@Sea’s position each day so that you can follow along.

Allons-y!

COMMENTS
May 16th
8:46 PM GMT-5

Paging Optimism

Author:  Ayla
Location:  Anacortes, Washington
Coordinates:  48° 30.871’ N   122° 36.251’ W


Hi everyone!

Most of you know I spent the Fall of this year off the boat and in Washington D.C., participating in the U.S. Senate Page Program. It was an interesting and exciting semester filled with great experiences and some fantastic new friends, but I am thrilled to be home on Three@Sea. As my junior year comes to a close, and we prepare to cruise north to Alaska, I wanted to share some concluding thoughts on the Page Program. I wrote the following reflection shortly after arriving home, and I feel it captures many of the thoughts I had while in D.C. Like I said, it was an interesting semester—very challenging, often stressful, but ultimately worthwhile—and I walked away with a new perspective of the current political climate. Enjoy, and thank you for reading!

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I was working on the floor of the United States Senate late one evening after a tumultuous few months that included a government shutdown, when a bicameral, bipartisan appropriations bill was finally passed. Senators and their staff members, many of whom had worked for months on this very agreement, erupted into celebration: hugs, applause, and shouts of triumph echoed around the chamber, as I watched in awe. At 17-years-old, I was being exposed to the Senate most people don’t see—the Senate that values forward motion, and pushes onward despite the arguments that threaten to overwhelm it on a daily basis. Though the five months I spent working in the U.S. Senate were some of the most disheartening in recent history, I walked away feeling optimistic.

When I arrived at the Capitol to participate in the Fall 2013 session of the U.S. Senate Page Program, my perspective of politics had primarily been shaped by The West Wing. Idealistic, I was unprepared for the months that would follow. From September 2013 to January 2014 the Senate was engaged in a war with itself. Three weeks into my time, Senator Ted Cruz filibustered for twenty-one hours. Less than a week later, the government shut down for the first time in seventeen years, and stayed that way for over two weeks. Over the next months, debate seethed, and tensions rose between the parties. Republicans adamantly filibustered judicial nominations, and Democrats countered with a rare change in Senate rules. The “greatest deliberative body in the world” (as it has been called) had ceased to deliberate, instead spiraling into an anger-fueled clash between two, polarized sides. Though my job as a Page was to fetch water and open doors, I still had a front row seat to an exhausting and enraging (and, yes, exciting) five months.

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With the above in mind, it comes as no surprise that I experienced some intense moments of disappointment. However, the more hours I spent in the Chamber, the more hopeful I became. The combination of an outspoken minority and the 24-hour news cycle creates a deep sense of disillusionment within our country. However, away from the public eye, levelheaded, passionate Senators who comprise the majority of the Senate are creating a powerful future. As one Senator put it, the public sees only around fifteen Senators on a consistent basis; The other eighty-five are working behind the scenes—away from the conflict that permeates the news cycle—with a fundamental belief in United States democracy and its potential to meet the challenges of the 21st century with grace and enlightenment. Senators on both sides of the aisle hold our government to its highest standard, and though they recognize its current issues—most Senators I spoke with said they had never seen the body more polarized—they do not doubt its ability to overcome them. Though the 24/7 presentation of conflict sets a national tone that exaggerates divisions instead of applauding unity, for every fiery debate seen by the public, there are quiet moments of statesmanship. The media reports Senators fighting and filibustering, yet the camaraderie and celebration seen when a new Senator is sworn-in (Senator Booker, in this case) is a sidebar; the public sees hatred between Senators, but they don’t see the moments of friendship as political adversaries discuss their Thanksgiving dinner, or celebrate their kids’ most recent accomplishment; while politics dominate the dialogue, human relationships are the foundation for progressive dialogue when Senators don’t otherwise see eye to eye. It is a symptom of our increasingly divided time that hope and inspiration are often lost to more sensational stories of the Senate’s ongoing battles.

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I have no delusions: politics in our time are partisan, and we have a long way to go before statesmanship returns. It will always be difficult—it was designed that way, to prevent rapid change from throwing us into chaos—but we will eventually return to deliberation as progress, not as impediment. Often, it looks as if that day is far away: I did spend a great deal of time frustrated, but optimism eventually won out. Party lines divide friends and force debate, but on an individual basis, most Senators can find something on which to agree, whether it’s the budget, the environment, or something as small as parenthood. At a core level, most Senators are there for the same reason: to progress, to move forward, and to craft policy that will positively affect not only their constituents, but the whole country. The needs of people in the marshes of South Carolina are different than those in the plains of Texas, which are different needs than the industrial towns of Michigan, or the port towns of Maine. In the Senate, fierce pride in one’s own state and beliefs sometimes clash with the contradicting needs of the country. Navigating that conflict with poise and success is no easy task, and the big picture is too-often lost in the floundering that occurs on the journey from idea to end-goal. But fear not: we have a group of distinctive Senators that, despite some issues, are coming out the other end of a long winter.

Bringing our country out of such intense turmoil cannot be left to only the voices of the House and the Senate; it is our—citizens’ and voters’—responsibility as well. Political disagreements between family and friends can leave our personal lives as shattered by partisan politics as the Senate itself, but I’m here to say that not all is lost. With the same passion, grit, and raw belief in America that our Senators have, we can all face the facts of modern politics, and work to evolve. I sat in the Chamber of the U.S. Senate for some of the angriest five months in most Senators’ living memory, but I emerged from it with the conviction that we’re ultimately headed in the right direction. The friendships seen between Republican and Democratic Senators (against all odds) can be reflected in how we see those who disagree with us. When you have friends that span the scale from right to left, and everywhere in between, it becomes difficult to rail against someone simply because of where they’re from or what they believe. We must find respect for a difference of opinion, and bring that to the future. It would inevitably be easier if we all agreed, but it is more valuable that we don’t.

When I saw the Senate in celebration that evening after passing the budget, I found confidence in its ability to tackle the oncoming issues in a way that shows a little more hope, and a little less fighting. I am also optimistic that in the long run the American people will see past the veneer of conflict, and embrace quiet statesmanship as a more productive form of governing.

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The Senate was quite an experience, but it becomes increasingly obvious that the boat, salt, and sea are my natural home. Home has never felt so poignant or so fantastic (Dad already wrote that I burst into tears after stepping aboard for the first time in seven months!), and I look forward to all the adventures ahead.

Thanks folks, and see you around the seas!

COMMENTS
May 11th
10:57 PM GMT-5

Pre-Alaska Projects

Author:  David
Location:  Anacortes, Washington
Coordinates:  48° 30.870’ N   122° 36.253’ W



We are one week away from our departure for Alaska, and we’ve been busy with a number of boat projects.  As the saying goes, “Cruising means getting to work on your boat in exotic places.”  That sounds about right.

We had new house batteries installed when we were in Port Townsend a couple weeks ago. We went out to anchor last weekend to make sure everything was working well. Our house battery bank had gotten quite weak after eight years (six of them ours), so it was definitely time to replace them. It was refreshing to see how strong they were at anchor, and how well they charged up by the generator.

We installed a 200’ reel of “flat rope” to facilitate tying our stern to shore in tight anchorages. We’ve done this a few times during our voyage using normal 3-strand nylon lines, and it’s a lot of work. There are many anchorages in Southeast Alaska that are too deep to anchor with swinging room, so you set your anchor, and then back towards shore so your anchor sets on the uphill slope, and then you take a line to shore to keep from swinging around.

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We did several projects with our anchor rode. First, we reversed our 400’ of chain so the seldom used half is now the 200’ that comes out first. Second, we remarked the chain every 50’ with rubberized yellow paint. Third, we had a link that was rusty, so we cut it out and spliced in a new link. The replacement link isn’t as strong as the rest of the chain, but that’s something we’re going to live with until we want to replace the 400’ of chain. Finally, we’ve been advised to have at least 500’ of rode for Alaska, so we spliced 150’ of 3-strand nylon onto the end of our 400’ chain. Fun stuff!

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This a bit mundane: Our combination washer/dryer wasn’t drying very well. It turned out that the vent hose was pretty clogged with lint, so I cleaned it out. I can tell you that some of the service spaces on our boat are clearly meant for smaller men than I!

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We have a wonderful Davis anemometer on the boat that reports wind speed very accurately. But the associated wind direction is completely inaccurate because the anemometer doesn’t have a compass in it, so it has no idea what direction the boat is pointed. I installed a wind vane on the bow rail so we can clearly see from the pilothouse which way the wind is blowing.

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The gas shocks that hold up the bow deck hatches had failed, and it was a safety hazard—Kathryn and Ayla have both been hit on the head by a closing deck hatch! I replaced the gas shocks on both hatches, and they work better than ever (and safety has been restored).

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As you know, I work from the boat, and I spend a lot of time on the phone. As we cruise to more remote areas this summer I will be using our satellite phone for more business calls. While the connection is pretty solid, the satellite phone has a lame little headset with mono audio, a short cord, and a mediocre microphone. I have wonderful Bose noise-cancelling headphones that I normally use with my iPhone, and I wanted to be able to use them with the satellite phone. This required me to adapt from 2.5mm to 3.5mm, and from TRS to TRRS, with the appropriate mappings. After some trial and error, I was able to rig up an adapter that works great (held together by duct tape, of course).

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After five years, Dilly Too needed new registration numbers. Don’t they look great!

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Our stern camera was failing, and it was also pretty old technology. I replaced it with a HD IP camera, and the picture is amazing! Now we can actually see what’s behind us when we’re running from inside the pilothouse.

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We moved from Friday Harbor over to Anacortes this afternoon, where we’ll provision for our departure to Alaska next Sunday. We stopped at the fuel dock on our way in, taking on 600 gallons of diesel to top up our 1200-gallon capacity. We probably won’t need to get fuel again until we return to Washington.

So Three@Sea sits on the dock in Cap Sante Marina, waiting to go. We’re all very excited about our Alaska voyage. We will post a “float plan” blog before our departure next Sunday.

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COMMENTS