Service Opportunity Karma

I am thinking that maybe I should not have made the service opportunity blog post. It seems to have prompted new service opportunities. The current one has to do with the… shall we say… sanitation system. Most of us living on land rarely give this topic a thought, but it is very important on a boat. In our home cruising grounds all Marinas have pump out stations, where we can remove waste that accumulates in our holding tank.  That is not the case way up here.  Therefore, boats are equipped with an overboard discharge pump, which does exactly what the name implies, of course only in locations (offshore, deep water) permitted by Coast Guard regulations (and common sense).

So, what to do if said pump does not appear to be in working order? Check all of the easy possibilities first… maybe the vent is clogged, maybe the through hull is blocked, maybe the tank tender is not reading correctly. When that is done, you recall that you had the system serviced in May, wanting to avoid just this situation… and you also recall that you do not have a replacement pump or spare parts on board. Uh Oh. Fortunately, we have both phone and data service where we are, so I was able to look up the model numbers for the relevant parts and call Piston and Rudder in Petersburg to see if they can order the pump and/or parts for me. I feel that I am getting to know them quite well, since they also ordered the generator fuel injector pump for me.

We should find out today if they can order parts, and we plan to be in Petersburg by Thursday or Friday. Then the real fun can begin…

Meanwhile we are enjoying beautiful Takatz Bay (post coming) and a couple of sunny days.

Sitka

We finished 3 days in Sitka on Friday. Sitka is definitely our favorite town so far in Alaska. It is the most picturesque of all the towns we’ve stayed at with multiple mist shrouded islands off the mainland and beautiful vistas, a number of excellent museums and wildlife facilities and terrific hiking trails to explore.

A scene on the walk next to the harbor downtown.

The Sitka National Historical Park has a lovely trail with 18 totems collected over the years from around Alaska. The main focus is the history of the area, first with the Tlingit settlements and then the Russians. The pole below is about the battle in the early 1800s between the Tlingit and the Russians, which the Tlingit lost.

At the presumed site of the Tlingit fort.

The Raptor Center for rehabilitation of eagles and other raptors was fascinating. They have a flight training center for the birds large enough for them to live in full time with realistic landscape, openings to the weather and a running stream to mask human sounds so they have as little exposure to humans as possible. They put out lots of dead fish for food so the birds don’t fight with each other. Birds were there recuperating from multiple types of injuries, including one hurt in a bear attack! They also house raptors that are permanently unable to fend for themselves in the wild. I loved the owls.

There is a fish hatchery at the science museum in the downtown area. We got a tour and then saw all the pink salmon leaping in the harbor – apparently the heavy rains has them thinking it’s time to spawn so they are coming in. The hatchery had to close the waterway so the fish don’t come in early.

We also toured the Sheldon Jackson museum with innumerable artifacts and exhibits collected and preserved from all the native groups in Alaska in the late 1800s by this Presbyterian minister. I was impressed with level of detail and artistry in the implements used in daily life for sewing, cooking etc. I was somewhat horrified by the idea of wearing clothes made from fish skin, even if they were waterproof. The most surprising item for me was this complete suit made from oogruk (bearded seal) that was waterproof and somewhat bouyant. It was worn for whale butchering since the whale was left in the water while being harvested. A precursor to our modern dive wear.

Maintenance and “Service Opportunities”

Routine (and not so routine) maintenance is part of the joy of boat ownership. For instance, our main engine requires an oil and filter change every 250 hours and our generator requires the same every 200 hours. We carry the necessary spares and supplies, and I did the generator in Hoonah and just did the main engine the other day in Sitka. They are both plumbed into an oil change pump, so it is really easy to do – the biggest issue is properly disposing of the used oil and filters. Fortunately, most Alaska ports have oil disposal tanks.

While doing the generator oil change I noticed some fluid collecting on one of the motor mounts. Not sure of the source, I cleaned it up with an absorbent pad and decided to keep an eye on it. In Sitka it became clear that it was a fuel leak coming from the injector pump.

The injector pump assembly. The pink stuff on the lower right, under the bolt, is diesel fuel. This is a “service opportunity”.

Coincidentally, I had gotten a call the day before from Northern Lights diesel guru “Lugger Bob” Senter to discuss an inspection of Miss Miranda in preparation for the CUBAR rally. I called Bob back and he was able to diagnose the problem over the phone. The cause of the leak was likely that the inner o-rings on the pump became stiff and lost their ability to seal. Basically, time to replace the injector pump and have this one rebuilt, as the o-rings are not user-serviceable. I did not have a spare on hand, but called the local Northern Lights dealers. The dealer in Sitka probably could have gotten a replacement here in a day via “Gold Seal” delivery – basically putting the part on an Alaska Airlines flight, but at a cost of $100+ in shipping. I elected to have the part shipped to the Petersburg dealer, as we will be there in a week.

The only other “service opportunity” we’ve dealt with recently was with the ABT Trac stabilizers, which mysteriously went into “SAFE MODE”. Trac service Guru Dave Wright was able to diagnose that issue as a failed “roll control” unit, which we had shipped into Juneau while we were there. That was a very simple part swap and configuration job.

I’m glad that our scheduled maintenance is behind us, and am hoping that we don’t have any more service opportunities.

Update: Self-inflicted “service opportunities “

So, getting ready to depart Sitka this morning, go to start the engine and…. nothing. Crank crank crank, no start. Almost NEVER happens with a Diesel engine. And almost always a fuel issue. So, I checked all the obvious things, and even some difficult to get at non-obvious things (bleeding the injectors) and still nothing. Oh, and I was missing the proper wrench for the injectors. Fortunately, another Nordhavn owner was able to lend both a tool and some experience. Two things. 1) There is a manual fuel pump to prime the system after changing filters, but it only works if the crankshaft is in the right position. 2) it is best to only bleed one or two injectors and not try to do all six. Finally, metric 17 mm for the injectors, and better yet a “crows foot” wrench… look it up. End of story- engine started, all good, now underway. Thanks, Jim!

Tenakee Springs

We left Hoonah a few days ago and headed down the east coast of Chichagof Island toward Tenakee Inlet. The weather was rainy and the trees were dense on the sloping walls of the island. Often we didn’t see any boats for long stretches of times, and there were no homes at all. It was beautiful. At one point we did see a number of purse seiners all working close together off a point.

The weather picked up and things were getting choppy when we saw at least 10 whale blows near the shore, so despite the choppy waves we stopped and watched for a while. Then we turned into Tenakee Inlet to head to the village of Tenakee Springs.

Tenakee Inlet

I was beginning to think there was no village after all when suddenly the community appeared behind a rock outcropping. The town has about 120 year round residents, and is a vacation spot for folks from Juneau.

The village of Tenakee Springs

We pulled into the harbor and tied up at what we were fairly sure was the transient dock since no one mans the harbor office, and paid at the honor system box. We walked into town to explore. There is a single dirt road leading through the village, lined with some pretty nice homes and in the center of town the key post office, shop and hot springs building. One side of the road is the shore side and the other goes steeply uphill into dense woods, so homes on that side are built into the hills with steep stairs and sometimes tram systems to get supplies up.

The general store – and the stoplight! We didn’t see it turn green.

We walked a long way so did need to use the public toilet.

People were quite friendly and told us about the hot springs – its community run and has been there for many decades, one man said he didn’t think the community would be there if it weren’t for the hot springs.

We all took advantage of a soak the next morning before departing during our respective gender hours. It was great – very hot and relaxing. The water flows at a good pace out of cracks in the rocks around which a cement soaking tub was build, and around that is the building with nice cedar changing room.

Glacier Bay – Sandy Cove

After Blue Mouse Cove we headed further south in the Bay to Sandy Cove.  This area has several islands and coves to anchor in, and shallow shore ledges where whales like to feed.  We anchored in North Sandy Cove and spent the next two days watching incredible amounts of wildlife from our deck and by kayak and dingy. 

During the first evening we were visited by a sea lion who spent a half hour next two our boat surfacing and diving repeatedly and breathing hard, working on something down below. We speculated either there was an epic battle going on underneath us or he was just feeding really hard.   

The birdsongs from land were also the richest I have heard on this trip.  I could pick out at least 10 different songs – although I have no idea what birds they are from.  This was a wonderful difference from some other areas where the crows seem to dominate.  In a previous anchorage they were quite irritating – I want to tell them to let the other birds get a chance!

Larry tried putting down a crab pot in an area two coves over, but we should have known that the presence of curious otters meant there wouldn’t be any crab left.  When we went into the area, one very curious otter watched us and would dive down then surface a little closer to the dingy each time, standing way up in the water – they use their flipper feet to propel their upper bodies up to get a good look at things.  Wished I had my camera.  He finally spent a few seconds just a few feet in front of us looking at us, then dove and swam away. 

Otter buddies

When Larry went to get the empty crab pot the next morning by himself, he had a close encounter with whales.  He was surrounded by two humpbacks surfacing and one breeching very close to him, one on each side.  Nowhere to go but sit and bang on the dingy to make sure they knew he was there.  Humpbacks don’t have echolocation so if you are silent they don’t know you’re there, so advice is to make noise.   

We kayaked around the area watching eagles and other sea birds.  Before dinner we spent an hour out in the Bay in the dingy just watching the whales – they were all around near the shores.     Still quite smoky so I didn’t take much in way of photos – just absorbed it all instead.   

On our last full day we headed back to Bartlett Cove.  On the way we stopped alongside Marble Island  – a sea lion and sea bird refuge.  Boats are allowed within 50 yards so it was easier to get some good photos.  The one thing the photos can’t capture is the noise of the lions barking and grunting and groaning and the birds all calling – it was intense! 

Glacier Bay – Glaciers and Blue Mouse Cove

Back to the Glacier Bay week….

Last Monday dawned even more opaque with smoke.  We could barely see Reid Glacier a mile away.  The weather prediction was for smoke and low winds the next several days. We determined we would press ahead on our plan and see what happens. 

Puffins!  I got my wish – orange beaks appeared in the haze, the two birds floating on the water.  These would be the only puffins we saw during the week. 

We negotiated through many icebergs in Tarr Inlet on the way in to Margerie Glacier, particularly to avoid the smaller chewed up bits from the cruise ship in front of us.  They reflected the sunlight in otherwise murky haze and appear like white beacons in the grey.   

For scale with the cruise ship in front of it

Cracking sounds were fairly frequent but no calving happened while we gazed at the glacier for an hour or so, although some ice did fall. 

On our way out of Tarr Inlet we picked out seals lounging on icebergs, but sometimes what we thought were seals turned out to be very dirty ice.  We really didn’t see any good examples of bergie ice to harvest for drinks this time. 

We then headed into Johns Hopkins Inlet to see Lamplugh and Johns Hopkins Glacier.  Lamplugh was easy to see with very few icebergs around it.   It had a distinct blue tinge and an amphitheater of ice carved out of its’ face. As we approached Johns Hopkins though, the ice in the water became pretty dense and we decided the better call was to turn around rather than risk our propeller. 

By the evening we made our way into Blue Mouse Cove, one of the recommended anchorages encompassed within a grassy and wooded cove made up of two islands and a peninsula.  We anchored alone and woke up alone.  Two cruise ships a day are allowed in Glacier Bay, and a total of 25 private vessels are allowed to be present on any given day, so we have not seen a lot of boat traffic.

Larry spotted a black bear disappearing into the woods in the evening, and I stayed up late listening to whales outside the cove and seeing their spouts.  The greenery around us gave some contrast to the smoky hazy air around us and made us feel like it was not such an apocalyptic landscape.

Hoonah – Crabs and Halibut

We left Glacier Bay in the fog this morning to make the 30 mile crossing of Icy Strait to Hoonah. It was a glassy calm morning and along the way we saw a bunch of fishing boats anchored in the Strait, presumably fishing for Halibut.

We arrived in the Harbor, which is amazingly well protected with huge rock breakwaters all around, and got moorage at the transient dock – no power, no potable water (but cheap). I heard there was good crabbing in Hoonah, so I asked the Harbor master about it. He said right around behind the breakwater in 20(!) feet of water. So I went over and dropped a pot – there were plenty of others in the area so I assumed it was pretty good.

I decided to check the pot after dinner, since my limit is three per day. Here is what I saw when I pulled it up after a three hour soak.

Plenty of crab!

I didn’t count carefully, but I think there were 8-10 males in there and probably half of keeper size (6.5″). I took the three biggest, released the rest and re-baited the pot. Hoping for more of the same tomorrow!

We also saw some local fishermen come in with a huge haul of Halibut, probably 8-10 of various sizes. The largest must have been 5 ft long and weighed who knows how much… must have been 100+ lbs. Here is a photo of the two big ones. Too bad there is nothing to give a sense of scale.

Barn door Halibut.

Update:

Gwen bought a Fishing License and we pulled up six more (the limit for two licenses) this morning.

Best crabbing we’ve ever done!

We love Hoonah! And not just for the crabbing… the local restaurant, the Fisherman’s Daughter, is outstanding!