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Old 11-20-2013, 09:27 AM   #21
City: Carefree, Arizona
Country: usa
Vessel Name: sunchaser V
Vessel Model: DeFever 48
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 5,341
Originally Posted by MurrayM View Post

Can't imagine that stretch of water in 15' seas...Skeena River sand banks to port, Hecate Strait to starboard
The Skeena and Hecate would have been well behind him by then.

Dixon Entrance is a real boat and crew tester when ebb tide and winds are plus 25 knots from the WSW. Three years ago when trying to cross we decided hole up in Dundas Is as 35 - 40 knot gales were blowing. After 2 days we finally ventured out and it was still nasty but moderating. We were running // with a Nordhavn 64 for the crossing and ended up talking with the Capt. in Ketchikan later in the day. He remarked on how bad the crossing was for him, especially with the new owner leaning over the rail for most of the trip. By mid the next day the owner was once again enjoying cocktail hour and his new boat - at the dock!

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Old 11-20-2013, 09:43 AM   #22
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City: Holladay, UT
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Dream Catcher
Vessel Model: Nordic Tugs 37 2002
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 398
I had posted this story a while back, but thought it might fit in this thread. In hindsight, we were pretty lucky, and learned a thing or two, in this episode:

Some years ago, we were on our first SE Alaska cruise in our C-Dory 22. We had worked our way north from Sitka, toward Cross Sound and Elfin Cove along the outside of Chichagof Island, and ducked inside some of the small islands just north of the Khaz peninsula via an intricate route called Piehle Passage. Back outside maybe 15 miles further north at Imperial passage, and then back into protected waters at Lisianski Strait. Weather was fine, we loved that run.

Two weeks later we headed back south along the same route, anchoring for the night halfway down to Sitka. This time we had with us a guest, who had never seen waters any wilder than Lake Powell.

Next morning the SW wind was up to 15 knots or so, but it didn't look too bad. We were inexperienced interpreting barometer changes for weather prediction, and were out of weather radio range.

We proceeded down through Piehle Passage, poked our nose out of the narrow opening, and found we were heading into 8-10 foot relatively gentle waves. Thought they might be just swells piling up as they came in to shallower water there, and if we crossed them to deeper water it might be OK to head SSE on the outside, down toward Sitka. Turned out to be not such a fine idea.

Just outside the narrow exit into open water, we manage to get kelp wrapped around our 90hp outboard, shutting off the water flow and activating the overheat alarm. (We might have remembered, from our northward trip, that the big kelp patch was there). We shut down the motor.

Now we’re in big waves, on a rocky lee shore, without power. I fire up the 9.9hp kicker (it started right away, thankfully), but then we could go only basically straight out into the waves while the big motor cooled down. So I sit out in the rain steering the kicker, watching the bow go up and down ever higher for maybe 15 minutes, while every so often Cindy tries the big motor, until finally it comes on without the alarm. By this time we're a mile or so offshore, and the waves are getting really big. I come back into the cabin, and we try to figure out what to do.

Don't want to head SSE to Sitka, because there would be 15 miles of unprotected water and the waves in our face are already up to 15+ feet. Wind is only maybe 20 knots, but later we learned that the waves tend to pile up especially big in that area (where the bottom comes up from very deep to only 100 feet or so) when the wind comes from certain directions. After all, there’s nothing west of us until the Aleutians.

We don't want to go back into Piehle Passage, because of the kelp, and the narrow rocky entrance. We decide to go with the wind and waves, NNW 8 miles to Khaz Bay, a much wider opening. Heading that way is tricky, as over toward the shore there are big rocks just below the surface. They create huge explosions of spray when the water is moving up and down that far. On and off from the massive wave tops we can see these boomers, looming out there in the rain.

The waves keep driving us closer toward the boomers, and we decide we'll never make it on this course, so we have to bear left. The size and steepness of the waves keep us from going just a bit left, so we have to tack WSW to gain sea room, then come back to our desired NNW course. After a mile or two of WSW, we turn back NNW, eventually get to the mouth of Khaz Bay, and slide in to safe anchorage.

We had estimated the following seas at 15-25 feet. While Cindy was navigating, I had been concentrating on steering and continually adjusting the throttle, so we would climb up the back of a wave, slow down and mush through the top of it, then maintain our heading down to the next trough, not going so fast as to stick our nose into the next wave. The C-Dory was so good! We never once took green water over the bow, in maybe 1.5 or 2 hours of this (we were too busy to look at a watch - sure wish I had videotape). I would hate to try the same thing in our present much bow-heavier deep-V boat.

At anchor later, whilst thanking our lucky stars (with the gin bottle out), we were scanning the radio and listened in on two commercial fishermen who had been out in the same stuff in a 38 and a 54-footer. They clearly had not enjoyed it. We broke in, told of our adventure, and asked them how big they thought the seas had been. They said 20 to 30 feet, with an occasional 35. Thank you again, C-Dory!

Over the next three days we moved north some on the inside, and then holed up in Portlock Harbor (still out of VHF weather broadcast range), waiting for the seas to moderate. We tried poking outside three times (~10 nm each time), and each time came back in with our tail between our legs. We called fishermen who were on the outside for conditions reports, and finally got one that said waves were down to halfway reasonable. We asked him if he thought we’d be OK in our 22-footer, and he said yes.

We knew we were low on fuel, but had not yet calibrated the fuel gauge, so we weren't quite sure how low. We thought we ought to take a shot at it - didn't know how many more look-see's our fuel would allow us. As we came out of Imperial Passage heading north, he called us back. He had been talking to his mate, and revised his opinion. “You could make it, but it sure won’t be a cake-walk.”

At that point we figured we had to continue or risk running out of gas. I hoped that if we at least got well inside Lisianski Strait we might be fairly safe, and could maybe get a tow if we ran out. Two hours of 10-15 footers later, with our hearts still up in our throats, we gratefully rounded the nun into the mouth of Lisianski, and began to relax. Pulled into Pelican, refueled, and found we had been down to 5 gallons of gas – maybe fifteen miles worth.

It was ten years before our guest was willing to travel SE Alaska with us again.


Richard Cook
Dream Catcher (Nordic Tug 37)
New Moon (Bounty 257, Volvo KAD44P)
"Cruising in a Big Way"
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Old 11-20-2013, 10:06 AM   #23
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City: Valley Forge, PA
Country: US
Vessel Name: Stella Maris
Vessel Model: Defever 44
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 999
Biggest blunder covers a lot of waterfront. ONE of mine happened on a borrowed runabout. My brother-in-law and I were fishing in Breach Inlet near Charleston, SC, almost underneath the highway bridge. We'd been having problems all morning with the outboard stalling as soon as we put it in gear. The incoming tide started running pretty hard and we wanted to fish the backwaters, so I started the motor, goosed it to prevent a stall and started accelerating -- too fast -- under the bridge. My brother-in-law was sitting in the bow, facing aft.

People fish from this bridge and I noticed, as we emerged from underneath, some monofilament draped over my brother-in-law's shoulder. I realized at the speed we were already going we were going to bring the hook up and it might snag him, so I just reacted. I jumped up, grabbed the monofilament, struggled with it for a moment, and then managed to break it. Steve told me that it all happened so quickly he didn't have time to tell me to stop. He saw an elderly lady on the bridge with her fishing rod bowed double and an expression on her face like she'd just hooked the largest fish of her life. Then the rod sailed out of her hand and into Breach Inlet just as I broke and threw down both pieces of line. Good bye rod and reel.

Her two adult sons, who looked pretty rough, were literally dancing with rage and screaming obscenities at us. The boat had stalled again, but I finally got it going and went ashore to face the music. The rod and reel, it turns out, were a gift from her dear departed husband and according to the elderly lady and her sons, there was simply nothing to equal them on planet Earth. Nevertheless, I apologized profusely, and invited them to go to the store on the Isle of Palms side of the inlet and pick out any rod and reel she wanted--on me. I was pretty sure I'd be buying the fanciest Penn rig they stocked. Lo and behold, she fell in love with a $20 Zebco combo that she said was just like the one her husband had given her. I also bought her a new bait bucket and some mud minnows and we all parted on friendly terms.

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