"Our Voyage to Alaska"

by Charlotte Blytmann

Chapter 5.  Homeward Bound

Wednesday August 13th - The fog was lingering around this morning, so we laid at anchor until 11:50 and then got started out to finish the passage of the Grenville Channel. At the mouth of the inlet we found strong northwest winds, so Tage hoisted the sails and they helped push us along at 8 to 9 knots all day. It turned into a nice warm sunny day and the following wind kept us just cool enough. We dropped the hook at Coghlan Anchorage at 5:45 in the afternoon. A nice time to sit in the warm sun and catch up on our reading before dinner. They are predicting a very windy day tomorrow as a cold front passes through.

Thursday August 14th - A brilliant clear day and the wind hadn't arrived as yet, so we got underway at 8:00A.M. and hoped the gale force and in some places storm force winds would butedale.gif (59690 bytes)not affect us too much. The day progressed uneventfully as the winds never materialized and all we were left with was a sunny, very warm day, with a following northwest light wind. Along the way we encountered some Dall's Porpoises and got a look at the abandoned town of Butedale. It was still very much intact, surprisingly. It was a 6:45 arrival at Bottleneck Cove in Findlayson Channel, where there were three other sailboats already anchored. At most all of our anchorages we usually find ourselves alone. I like to see the other boats around but Tage likes to have the coves to ourselves.

Friday August 15th - Wow! Another crystal clear very warm day and by getting up at 9:00A.M. we found ourselves the only boat left in the cove. The other boats had long departed. We were not in a particular hurry this day and finally got underway at 12:00 noon for a rather short easy day, a welcome relief after so many long ones previously. Tage bounced around in just his shorts, putting up the jib and navigating us along our journey. A brisk northwest wind was with us for most of the day and the jib steadied us in the rough places. We got to Fancy Cove at 7:30 in the evening after passing Bella Bella in the Lama Passage. There must have been a fishing derby going on here, as we had plenty of small boats to pick our way through, and the fish were jumping out of the water everywhere you looked.

Saturday August 18th - It must be because we are going home, as we seem to be arising later every morning. We found yet another clear sunny day at 9:15 and the cove was so lovely that we went ashore with Koki and took some pictures. Upon leaving the cove, when we got out in the Lama Passage, we were very surprised when suddenly around the point appeared the old Holland American "Rotterdam". She was on her very last voyage, after many around the world voyages, for the line. We understand that this fall she will be retired and turned into a luxury hotel in Rotterdam. In retrospect, we have heard from other sources that she has been sold to another cruise line and will be refurbished and used by them as a cruise ship again.

The day went uneventfully in hot, mind you, sunshine. The sails were raised and there was nothing else to do but read and wait to arrive at our favorite anchorage at Fury Cove. We arrived at 6:30 with the mainsail up, a little machismo here with all the other boats around us; Tage sailed into the cove without the engine, dropped sail and anchored and we were both very pleased to be here. The sun was lowering in the sky and the lighting was into that special time of day. It was just as beautiful as the last time we were privileged to be here, on our way north, many weeks ago. We went ashore again to the nice white "sandy" beach, but this time being well seasoned veterans taking Koki ashore for six weeks, we remembered to wear our rubber boots, not like last time here. It was an absolutely perfect evening with the rosy sunset and Venus, the evening "star" on one side of the picturesque cove and the mauve washed sky with the full moon shining on the water, keeping company with Mars, on the opposite side of the cove. Altogether, a very memorable scene, and to top it off a gentle breeze with no biting white socks or mosquitoes.

Sunday August 17th - Black Sunday arrives!! Hey, what a startling difference from yesterday. We had planned a relaxing layover day in this lovely cove and when we awoke, our plans were drastically changed for us. The fog had come in so densely, that visibility was about 50 feet. On top of this situation, Koki became ill. He threw up in his bed during the night and when we got up, he had diarrhea all over the floor, carpets, his bed and himself. He was plainly mortified, for he is such a clean dog. A hose job in the shower and part of an Imodium tablet was all we could do for him, as we were two days travel away from the nearest veterinarian. Finally he was passing bloody stools and by 12:30 the fog had thinned enough to enable us to see about 150 feet. These two events combined for a decision to push on to Port Hardy and the vet, for Koki was not getting any better.

Well, such began the day from hell for all three of us. Leaving that secure anchorage to grope our way out beyond the shore rocks, using only the radar and charts, as we couldn't see anything around us, was for me most terrifying. I was tense from staring into nothing for hours, trying to spot drifting logs, so we could miss them and anything else the radar missed. We could hear large ship horns nearby, and on the radar we watched, as one smaller boat came speeding right at us from the side. Captain's orders ....... lay on the horn - five quick honks, the boat turned when seeing us at about 150 feet. On top of all this excitement Tage wanted to raise the sails to steady the boat in the rolling seas going around Cape Caution. We had a brisk northwest wind and six foot swells from the west on our stern starboard quarter.

I guess after being out for so long in all kinds of seas, we kind of felt somewhat invincible and didn't take our Bonine. Tage was up and down from below checking the charts and whatnot and eventually suggested that it might be a good idea to take some pills. I volunteered to make it to the head, and after some hanging on and scrambling about, made it back with them, but Tage said it probably was too late for him. He was only too right as he spent the rest of the day being seasick over the side while keeping us going on the right course during his great distress. You have to give him a lot of credit and admiration as a captain, seaman, and navigator, that he was able to bring us through the day safely to Skull Cove for the night. The dratted, persistent fog stayed with us right up until the last hour of the trip, continuing to make my day a hell. I tried not to pay too much attention to Tages plight as I knew that it was very infectious and really didn't want to be sick myself. The Bonine did the trick for me at least, even though it was too late for Tage.

To top the day off, while we were approaching the entrance to the Cove, Tage, now feeling somewhat better, was checking the chart that we had brought up on deck to spare him having to go below too often, when a strong gust of wind caught the chart and sailed it overboard. Tage's comment was, "Oh, Nooooo, Dammit ........, but don't worry, I have it all memorized". How I love my captain. The whole scene still makes me chuckle. Well, actually we did fine coming in, and missing all the rocks in the anchorage. Even with the preceding events, we were pleased and excited to see at least three gray whales, just outside the entrance to the cove, as we were heading into the wind and dropping the sails. I must admit as scary as this sailing business becomes at times, Tage does instill great confidence in me with him.

Koki is still having his problems and has now decided not to eat as well. The Imodium tablet and one half that he had yesterday has kept him bound up, so that he was at least not losing any more fluid. Altogether today, the day from hell, was one I would rather have been at home in my garden, and on this day, so would Tage he admits with some emphasis.

Monday August 18th - This day came forth with some early fog, but this gradually cleared as the day progressed and eventually turned into a beautiful sunny day with northwest winds. We set off for Port Hardy at 11:15 in the morning when the fog lifted enough. Koki is still bound up with the Imodium, but he decided to eat his breakfast today. We still feel the need to get him to Port Hardy though, in case he needs the vet. Otherwise it would have been interesting to get another look at the gray whales. There were at least eight of them outside the cove amongst the rocks, and there was a party of five kayaks going out to observe them, as we were leaving. But, with the chart we would need blown overboard, this will have to wait for another trip.

On approaching Port Hardy we saw the whole fishing fleet spread out before us. We had to take a detour around them, as they get upset if you get too near their nets. I counted at least two hundred boats. It seems they opened the fishing time at 12:00 noon and it would be open for only 24 hours, so everyone was out getting all they could. We managed to work our way through the rest of the advancing fleet and arrived in port at 2:30P.M. We managed to get the only spot left on the dock, you guessed it, another outside rolling exposed berth, but we were happy to get anything at this point. I know I was very glad to be in Port Hardy at least.

We then gathered ourselves together and made a hike to get our car parked about three miles away. It was comforting to see the car was still there. The car was very dusty, but seemed to be okay, at first glance. It was only after we arrived home and had it washed that I discovered a dent in the front fender and a long scratch on the door of the same side. I guess someone else came in to park next to us too closely. We finished the day by going out for dinner at a local steak house. The service was very poor and the waitress was so bad it was almost comical. When Tage asked if they had draft beer, she thought that this was the name of a brand of beer. The food we were served was about average at best. I would not recommend the place to my friends.

Tuesday August 19th - The fog was in again and hung around until 10:00A.M. or so and we were not in a hurry to get out of bed. Unfortunately Koki was. He was very distressed and wanted out right away. I was up in a flash as he was not over his problem, but definitely. He could not even make it all the way off the dock to the land, much as he wanted to and tried hard to hurry. Seeing this, I immediately got an appointment with the local veterinarian and in one and one half hours he was seeing his doctor. She felt that he had an infection in his intestines, quite possibly giarrdia. It is possible that he lapped up some stream water on his shore walks that had some of the organisms in it. At any rate, it is no food or drink for the rest of this day and three Metronidazole tablets all at once, then starting tomorrow he gets special canned dog food and three more tablets, and so on for the next five days.

I decided to stay in Port Hardy for an extra day until Koki's bowels settled down. If all goes well, Koki and I will leave early Thursday. I got a call through to Tiami at 1:30 and she said all was well at home and was glad to hear that I would be home soon. I'll bet she is plenty tired of running up to our house to take care of the garden every other day.

Wednesday August 20th - Koki seems much better today and was very thirsty and ravenous this morning. After breakfast we decided to take the car and tour around the Port Hardy area. family.gif (68873 bytes)We went to a nice rare sandy beach called Storey's Beach on the shores of Beaver Harbour. It only appears at low tide, and today was a minus three foot tide, so there was plenty of beach. At any rate, Koki enjoyed running about, as long as he could keep his feet dry. After our nice long walk, we drove over to Coal Harbour and had an ice cream cone. In the afternoon after lunch, I started on the big job of polishing all the stainless fittings on the deck. I want to get this all done before winter. When "Kittiwake" gets down to her new home in the John Wayne Marina in Sequim, I will continue the polishing. We again went out for dinner, this time to another place called the Sportsman Steak House. The service here was even worse than at last nights place. I guess people don't expect much when they eat out in these parts.

Thursday August 21st - Yea!! yea!! Today was a happy day for me and a rather sad one for Tage. Koki and I get to go straight home and now Tage will be all alone as he takes the "Kittiwake" the rest of the way home to Sequim. I got off at 9:05A.M. and I was glad to see it was not pouring down rain, such as on our journey northward. Though I was not looking forward to the long drive ahead, I was eager and excited to be getting back home after having been away for so long. I was planning on catching the 7:20 evening ferry for Port Angeles, which was the last boat out for the day. If all went well, we would arrive in plenty of time before departure. A two and a half hour lead time was recommended.

Things started to go wrong early on. First it started to rain off and on. Then, when stopping for gas in Campbell River, I had to leave Koki in the car alone, while I used the restroom. While I was gone, he got scared spitless, when the attendant cleaned the car windows and checked the oil. At this point, much beyond his control, he proceeded to again release his scent glands in fear. So for the rest of the trip, Koki "perfumed" the surrounding air, which I had to share with him in close quarters, and he was definitely not socially acceptable. We had a quick lunch stop in Duncan and were on our way shortly and doing very well, I thought. The traffic kept getting heavier from here on and in Victoria it was a real zoo. I was not quite sure where to go to load on to the ferry, it all looks different coming the other way, but I did manage to see a few directional signs. At least right up to the point at which they were really needed.

Here it just so happened I had to stop at a red light and had a chance to study the route ahead and it didn't look at all right. So, I turned the corner here, or at least I tried to. With all the scads of dazed tourists, slowly wandering around, with ice cream dripping off their chins, crossing when they should not have been, it wasn't easy. The important sign I needed was, you guessed it,........around the corner, naturally. When all was said and done, I finally made my way through the droves of swarming tourists, to the ferry dock. I am sure my ungracious attitude towards these people in the streets derived from my tenseness to get to the ferry.

By now I am starting to relax, my goal in sight, thankful for having finally found the place, only to be told by the attendant at the gate, that the 7:20P.M. ferry was all sold out, and that now they were accepting cars, in the parking lot, for the first ferry out in the morning at 6:20A.M. I could hardly believe my ears, as it was only now 4:15 in the afternoon and I was over three hours early; thirty minutes earlier than they had recommended being in line. The attendants explanation was that the boat had sold out at 3:00P.M. due to the arrival of the West Coast Indians that lived on Vancouver Island. They were all getting together with all the other coast tribes in Neah Bay for their biggest potlatch of the year. On this particular weekend they were also having their annual championship war canoe races.

This being a Thursday night was bad, but tomorrow he said that it would be even more crowded. In contrast, last night they didn't even manage to fill the 7:20 boat, so this was not the usual loading, it just happened to be their busiest weekend of the year. I really didn't know what to do at this point as I had a dog with me that was not completely well., but thought I should at least try to find a motel room. As I had feared, Koki was the sticking point. All the many places, that I walked to around the ferry dock, said they were either full, or that their "pet rooms" were all occupied if they did have a vacancy. After finally running out of places to try, this left me with only one rather unsatisfactory choice. I had to sleep in the car with my smelly Koki.

I guess it was good that I got the car in line for tomorrows ferry, for by 5:00P.M., the 6:20 in the morning boat was sold out. But, at least I could relax now, as I was in line amongst the "war canoes" my passage assured with a ticket in my pocket. Koki and I now had a lot of time to kill, so we took a very long walk down towards the point where there was a fishing marina. The only way to get something to eat was at a walk up to an open air restaurant where I got an order of greasy fish and chips. Oh well, at least I would not be hungry in the middle of the night. I had a distinct feeling now that the day definitely was not turning out very well. When we arrived back at the car parked in line, I found out the 10:20A.M. boat was almost sold out. As many more Indians and canoes kept arriving that ferry did indeed sold out by 9:00 o'clock that evening. Who knows how long a person would have to wait that arrived tomorrow to take the ferry. I was glad that I had decided to stick it out, waiting in line, instead of coming back in the morning.

Now came the depressing part of trying to prepare some sort of "mickeymouse" sleeping arrangement in the car. It was not difficult for most of my neighbors as they had arrived in campers, trailers and motorhomes, for the majority.....no problem. One good thing was that I had my pillow and "dyne" with me in the car, that had been taken off the boat when I left. So now with all that settled, there was nothing to do but read my book until it became too dark to do so, and then just sit and stare blankly out the window at the comings and goings around me until I got at all sleepy. The hours passed slowly. Finally about 10:00, I thought I might try out my "bed" and see if I could get any sleep at all, before the customs people arrived at 5:30 and woke everyone up.

One of my biggest worries now was how to cope with the middle of the night visit to the john. There was one restroom way off in the corner of the parking lot that was going to be left open for ferry patron use, but that meant getting out of the car about three in the morning and getting to it and back again. Not a very pleasant thought, but as it turned out there was not a soul around when I did have to go there. Victoria is pretty quiet and deserted at that hour I found out. Fortunately I did not run into any strange no goods lurking about which was what I was nervous about. Everything went off as scheduled and after a lengthy loading process we were off to Port Angeles.

After going through immigration, I was on my way by 8:30. Needless to say there was not much sleep to be had during the night so I was rather tired driving home. A quick stop was made in Port Angeles for a snack of an egg McMuffin, for the food onboard the ferry was atrocious, not that McDonalds food is any better really, but it is somewhat cheaper and I wasn't really hungry that early in the morning. Then I decided to swing by the John Wayne Marina to check out the location of the new berth for Kittiwake so that Tage would know where to go when he arrived there. All was in order and they blocked out the slip from transient rental, so that it would be empty for him, whenever he got there.

I continued on toward home and arrived at long last at 10:30A.M., the end of a very long journey. I watched Koki as we got to our neighborhood, and when we turned into Rhododendron Lane, without any clues from me, he sat up and started to get very interested in the surroundings. He had mostly slept all the way from the ferry to home, so I knew that he knew exactly where he was and he got more excited when we turned into Kekamek Drive. He always looks for the neighbor dogs whenever we go by and he did this too. At the house he raced up the stairs and grabbed some of his stuffed toys, that he is so fond of, and happily ran all over the house squeaking them.

Of course an immediate tour of the garden was mandatory and I was happy to see all was in order and that nothing had perished during the summer. Tiami did a fine job and Michael had just mowed the lawn the previous day, so that everything looked very nice. The garden had that late August look though, which no one could do anything about and I had missed the best part of its display for this year. Oh well maybe next year. Tage agrees that we will be staying around home next summer as he is planning to reconstruct the deck and I can enjoy my garden then. I got in touch with the family and was glad to see everyone and catch up on their news.

Friday August 29th - Today is the expected arrival of Tage and the "Kittiwake". I went up to the marina in Sequim at 12:30 and wanted to be there by 1:15 in plenty of time just in case Tage arrived early. He expected to be there at 2:00 in the afternoon and wouldn't you know it, at exactly 2:00 as Koki and I were standing on the point looking out for him, around the end of the jetty he appeared. It had taken him ten whole days to complete the journey due to very bad weather he ran into in the Georgia Straits. He had to actually lay up for two whole days and turn back another day as the weather was the worst, according to him, that he had ever been out in with the "Kittiwake" in fourteen years. He said he was very glad to be home again, and I sure was sure glad, glad, glad to see him.

Kittiwake is now settled in her new berth in the marina, where she will remain for the winter, after we close her up this fall. In giving a summation of the whole trip, now that it is truly over, I would say that it was very long, too long actually, but I was glad I came and experienced it. The visit to the glaciers and the close encounters with the whales were the highlights and the best parts for me. I must say that I would not care to do this trip again in the same manner. There was too much slow repetitious boat motoring periods through B.C., too much rain, and after weeks the scenery became rather monotonous in B. C., though in Alaska it got much more spectacular, but for me the highlights did not quite outweigh these impressions. As the saying goes, "Been there, done that, got my tee shirt, got my hat!!!". - Tage has already begun talking about a return trip in a couple of years - maybe I will have to join him in Alaska!


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TAGE & CHARLOTTE BLYTMANN, CONTACT US Telefax: (1) (360) 697-6253. copyright , 1998 - 2003