Sailing Adventures

Sailing in Yosemite

Many of the fjords of Alaska are glacier formed. As glaciers develop, they freeze into the landscape. As they move, they rip up some of the landscape and carry it with them. Some of the rocks end up in vast moraines as glacier retreat. Other get carried away on icebergs.

It is interesting to sail between the icebergs, some of which are the purest deep blue ice that is tens of thousands of years old. All the oxygen has been squeezed out of the ice. It is the densest, longest lasting ice great for cocktails, both in practicality and in a spiritual sense. Other icebergs look like floating rock piles. Some are a mix of the two, with some white ice where the old ice is reoxvgenating and losing its blue tint.

The result of all this movement of glaciers, which are sometimes two miles deep, is the carving of deep valleys, typically shaped like massive half pipes. When the underlying rock is solid granite, the scraping of the glaciers against the walls of the fjords polishes the rock to a smooth surface. In these places, a boat can sail within rock chucking distance from the cliffs with 1,000 feet of water below and several thousand feet of granite cliffs above. Throw in a dozen or more waterfalls and the scenery is beyond spectacular. It is like sailing in Yosemite.

A fine example of this sort of terrain is the Misty Fjord area, located 30 miles northeast of Ketchikan off the Behm Canal. We anchored in Punchbowl Cove (55*31.59N x 130*46.86W) in early May, 2016. Although it is close to Ketchikan as a crow flies, Punchbowl is extraordinarily remote. There is no cell service and VHF radio won't reach outside its deep ravines. Other than a few fast tour boats hauling loads of tourists from the cruise ships in Ketchikan during middays, we saw only two other boats in the three days we stayed in the area. Not surprisingly, one of them was another Nordhavn, owned by an Australian couple on their way to Prince William Sound. The other, an older converted fishing vessel, delivered four kayakers to the middle of the area, where they took off for a few days of wilderness exploration. Presumably the mother ship picked them up later and returned them to civilization.

There are two reasons why Misty Fjords has so few boats. One is that, like much of Alaska, it is difficult to anchor in the deep waters. With the steep cliffs that dominate the area, there aren't many places shallow enough to reach, even with the four hundred feet of chain we carry. More telling is its location. Boats coming north from Canada are required to clear Customs in Ketchikan on the other side of Revillagigedo Island. Once cleared in, most boats continue north rather than double back to take the long way around to the east side of the island.

For those who aren't in a hurry and have the necessary adventure gene, Misty Fjord is an incredible experience. Be prepared you must be self sufficient here!

Good Reads

One of the luxuries of life is a good book. Recently I've been reading biographies of successful businessmen of my generation: Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk. With one exception (Buffett), these guys are real jerks to work for. They are totally focused on what they are creating and will trample anyone who gets in their way.

And sadly, again with one exception (Musk), what these bright minds have created is fairly inconsequential. Tiny communication devices ala Dick Tracy, easy ways to share baby pictures, joke videos, or what we had for dinner, ways to make a lot of money in the stock market (but never spend it), and a modernized Sears and Roebuck with super fast deliveries.

Meanwhile we can't provide clean air or water to our cities. Our roads, dams, and bridges are crumbling from neglect. Educational standards continue to drop and intellectual discussion is reduced to 140 characters per thought. Only Musk is building things that improve the infrastructure or address problems like pollution and global warming. It is a sad commentary on our priorities.

What have you read lately?