Electrical System Repaired!

We got to Petersburg yesterday and got a list of service providers from the Harbor Master. This morning I called Mattingly Electric and by 9 AM Darby was on the boat. He cut off the bad ends of the old wires and managed to locate the proper breakers, grumbling a bit about the flimsy plastic box and how tight the fit was. Well, he got everything wired up and as he was pushing the whole assembly into the box, the case of one of the breakers cracked.

This would not do. He left and assembled a heavy duty metal box and mounted it on the generator sound shield, as shown below.

The new breaker box

Inside are non-marine, but much heavier duty, 50 Amp, 250 volt breakers.

Much more robust breakers.

This seems to me to be a much better solution. It is easy to access and replace the breaker, if necessary. We are running the generator right now and everything seems to be working normally (and nothing is burning).

We are actually on a maintenance roll today. I got Gwen a 29th Anniversary gift, which was just what was needed to clear the clog in the insinkerator unit that we use to dispose of food waste.

Happy Anniversary honey!

Finally, a surprising number of people have asked about the water pump issues. All resolved by installing the little Jabsco Par Max pump that was bought 9 years ago as a spare by the previous owner. Here’s a rule of thumb… if we aren’t griping about something, that means it’s OK (or we have bigger issues to worry about).

Now it’s time to explore Petersburg.

Electrical System – a scary failure

Yesterday we departed Stedman Cove for Cannery Cove. We often run our generator while underway, allowing us to run the water maker, charge up the batteries and do laundry. Today was no different… except that I noticed that the water maker stopped running. When Gwen went back to check, she noticed an acrid electrical smell. I went down to the engine room and saw no smoke, but then I noticed that we had lost one leg of our 240 V AC power from the generator. I quickly shut everything down and went to investigate. I suspected a problem with the main AC circuit breaker from the generator. Sure enough, it was tripped, and the box was hot… and looked like it had melted a bit. We decided to keep moving on to our destination and investigate further once we arrived.

When we got to Cannery Cove, I opened up the breaker box and found that one of the connectors to the breaker had burned right off – see the photo below. The breaker showed clear signs of overheating and the box had indeed melted on that side. Furthermore, the wire insulation (at least) had melted and essentially fused all of the wires together. We are DAMN lucky that we didn’t have an engine room fire.

The culprit was quite obviously a loose connection on the post that burned off. You can clearly see in the picture below that the screw holding the connector to the post is loose. Loose connection = high resistance = high temperature = electrical fire.

So, what to do? We are off to Petersburg today to see if we can buy or get shipped in a replacement circuit breaker. I did not have a spare for this breaker, nor do I have the connectors or crimping tool for this heavy gauge AC wiring. Lesson learned, both in terms of spare parts and tools.

Oh, by the way… it is our 29th wedding anniversary today. I did promise Gwen that we would spend it cruising, but forgot to add that the definition of cruising is repairing the boat in exotic locations.

Point Baker and Port Protection

Our moorage on the state float at Port Protection, looking out to Sumner Strait. We could see whales blowing in the distance. We are the boat at the far left. Our friends Ted and Sarah are on their boat Sanwan in the middle (which is the same model as our old boat).

Visiting Point Baker and getting a local’s view of Alaska and the area has been the highpoint of our trip so far. We made it a stop for two reasons, The first – Point Baker was where our hero Joe Upton, author of Alaska Blues and other books on fishing and traveling in Alaska built a cabin when he was a commercial fisherman in the 1970s. The second is that my friend Tom lives here now most of the year.

We first stopped in Point Baker which is a small bay to see if there was room at the community doc. No luck there, and too small of a bay to really anchor.

Point Baker community. The red structure houses the fire boat and just beyond it is the Post Office.

Next we went around West Rock, and I was pretty sure I could pick out Joe’s cabin in the woods since I had reviewed the photos from the book.

You can barely see the cabin, to the left of the dock. Once I looked closely I could see that Tom is on the porch looking at us with binoculars.

We then pulled into Wooden Wheel Cove and community called Port Protection. There were two docks there, and we found space on the state-owned dock. It was quite rickety, essentially level with the water, and part of it was covered with a blue tarp which made me worried there was a hole in it that I could fall through. But there wasn’t, fortunately. The state docks are there for the community, first come first serve, no power or water but also free.

The other dock at Port Protection at sunset.

Tom brought his skiff over to meet us and took us on the Grand Tour of rocky passes that require local knowledge and to see the Upton cabin and the masterpiece of a home he has built himself over the past 5 years. He has used wood that one of his neighbors mills in his personal sawmill – a common thing here since it is pretty easy to collect good logs out of the water and people tend to build their own homes it seems. It was very impressive to see how self-sustaining he is with solar power, cistern water, etc.

The Upton cabin is in nearly its original condition. It was great fun to look out to the water and see the same view that Joe described all those years ago, and it looks exactly the same as his pictures. We were treated to whales right outside the window off the rocks.

Tom then took us to the neighborhood Solstice Party. Had to arrive by skiff – there are no roads (and they fought and won a major lawsuit to keep roads away!) and skiffs are their cars. It was a lot of fun to meet some other folks from the area and hear their stories. We enjoyed more wonderful salmon and hanging out on the porch in warm weather. We took ourselves home in our dingy but did not try to wind our way through the rocky local “roads” after having seen the immense number of rocks lying in wait.

The view through the local channel to the mountains on Baranof Island in the distance.

The next morning we explored Port Protection by following the boardwalk sidewalks through the area. Beautiful wooded walks with homes scattered off paths from the boardwalk. They have an extensive water system that follows the pathway.

The communuity center basketball court.
We shot baskets and I made a few good shots!

Later we kayaked around Wooden Wheel cove with Tom for a couple of hours before heading off toward Rocky Pass and our next stop. Our last bit of learning about Port Protection will have to come when we get home for a bit in August. There is a reality TV show – Port Protection– that is in it’s fifth season from National Geographic and the BBC.

On our way out we paused around West Rock and were rewarded with seeing a bunch of humpback whales feeding.

Then it was on to Rocky Pass as Larry described already.

One of over 30 markers we followed through Rocky Pass, a bit of a nail biter at times.

Tolstoi Bay and Exchange Cove

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Ketchikan Harbor during the day.

We left Ketchikan and the epic rain Tuesday morning after fueling up, heading for Tolstoi Bay on Prince of Wales Island. We had to cross Clarence Strait to get there, and conditions were just a bit snotty, with 15 kt winds from the southwest creating a bit of swell up the long fetch of the strait that was right on the beam. As we got across into the lee of Kasaan Peninsula, the wind dropped and seas flattened out. Did I mention that it was raining? Rounding Tolstoi Point, we saw several fishing boats working the banks, and also saw several shrimp pots dropped along the bay. This was looking promising. Entering the West Cove, we found a couple of cabins on floats in the NE corner, but still plenty of room to anchor.

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The floating cabins in Tolstoi bay – taken near sunset when the sun came out!

We set up the shrimp pots and took them out. The other pots around seemed to be in really deep water, more than 400’, and we weren’t sure that we had enough line. So we dropped ours in slightly shallower water. By this time it was raining hard, and we wound up getting pretty wet, despite our foul weather gear.  

We had a very nice dinner aboard, serving up the King salmon that was given to us by a local commercial fisherman that bought our previous boat. He paid us a visit to Ketchikan and told us a bit about the area and his experiences over decades as a fisherman.  We later heard that it is the custom that the first King Salmon caught in the season is not too be sold – it is shared with friends, and the carcass fed to an eagle.

Anyway, early the next morning, I went out to check the pots, and… nothing. Well, not quite. I think there were 2 in one pot, and 1 in the other. I re-baited, moved them to different spots, and hoped for the best. Not much luck… half a dozen in one, bone in the other. Fortunately, Sarah and Ted did better… landing a couple of dozen.

Low tide shoreline in Tolstoi – I love the layer cake look of the shore at low tide.

Meanwhile, it was a beautiful day. The sun was out, and there was no wind. We left Tolstoi Bay around noon and headed up to Exchange Cove off Kasheverof Passage. It was a big, beautiful bay, empty save for one other boat.

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Looking into Exchange Cove, you can barely see the one other boat off on the right
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Seal checking us out as we anchor in Exchange Cove

After a pleasant evening, we headed out in the morning to try our hand at fishing at the North end of the Passage before heading around to Point Baker. We use our wing engine, otherwise known as the get-home engine if our main engine fails, to troll because we can go 2 knots or so easily with it. We had no luck trolling for Salmon, but it was good to get the gear out and re-orient ourselves with all of it. Along the way, we saw a couple of whales in the distance and enjoyed another sunny, calm day.

We arrived at Point Baker to meet one of Gwen’s work colleagues. More to come on the next post on that terrific experience!

Leftover picture from Dixon Entrance crossing on way to Ketchikan -the Green Island Lighthouse Station.

Stedman Bay and Rocky Pass

Friday morning in Wooden Wheel Cove, Port Protection

We are anchored in Stedman Bay just North of Rocky Pass between Kuiu and Kupreanof Islands with a tiny trickle of cell service. We will fill in the past couple of days, especially a terrific visit to Point Baker, with photos, etc when we get better connectivity. For now, let me just describe our memorable day yesterday.

We had a late departure from Port Protection in order to transit the narrow, shallow and, yes, rock strewn, Rocky Pass on a rising tide. We spent a little while right off of West Rock at Point Baker, where we saw several groups of humpback whales feeding. It was really cool and provided lots of photo opportunities for Gwen. Sumner Strait gets shallow right off Point Baker, and significant tide rips form, making this a preferred feeding spot for the whales.

It turns out that it also makes it a choppy and sloppy piece of water to cross, particularly when afternoon winds build to 25-30 knots. What happened to the 10 knots and 2ft seas forecasted? I don’t know, but we had an interesting ride across white-capped seas that were at least 6 feet on the quarter and the beam.

The seas calmed considerably but the wind remained high as we entered Rocky Pass. The navigable channel is very well marked, but it is shallow, and there is a lot of current to contend with in addition to the wind. The biggest challenge was at Devils elbow, which involves making a 90 degree turn in a very rocky area with several knots of current running through it. We found ourselves traveling sideways through the tightest spot in order to stay within the narrow channel. The rest was uneventful. We never saw depths of less than 13 feet, and never came too close to the namesake rocks. It’s just a challenge to maintain precision piloting for the 3 hours or so that it takes to get through.

We anchored at Stedman Bay, just North of the Pass. We were going to raft with Sanwan but it was just too windy to do anything but hunker down, have a celebratory drink, a good dinner and a good nights sleep.

Today we are off to Pybus Bay on Admiralty Island.

Provisioning in Ketchikan

We spent yesterday in Ketchikan doing boat chores (filling the water tanks, laundry), provisioning at the local Safeway and enjoying the abundant liquid sunshine.

Here is Gwen taking her turn dragging the heavily laden grocery cart the mile or so from the store back to the marina.

We also stopped at the local AT&T store to get a SIM card because our vaunted T-Mobile (not actually) “Unlimited” plan cut off our “domestic roaming” data at 200 MB. It turns out that they have no service here and need to buy from AT&T. What we also learned is that the cruise ships lined up at the edge of the harbor effectively create a cellular dead zone…

I also purchased a King Salmon stamp in hopes of being able to a) understand the rules and limits in the various management areas, and then, b) actually catch one.

Dinner in town last night with the crews of Sanwan and our neighbors from Anacortes on Swede Dreams. Lots of stories shared along with tips on great anchorages and places to visit.

This morning we fuel up and head out to Tolstoi Bay on Prince of Whales Island.

Prince Rupert

Larry beat me to the punch yesterday on posting so this post is not in order chronologically. But hopefully still interesting.

We arrived in Prince Rupert on Friday afternoon and stayed for two nights before heading to Ketchikan yesterday. Prince Rupert is the last port in British Columbia before heading into Alaska and has some interesting history.

Our marina was called Cow Bay Marina in the Cow Bay neighborhood. It’s kind of quaint and cute, in contrast to a lot of the struggling appearance of the downtown area. I didn’t even notice the eagle hanging out on the piling at the top of my photo, but they do like to hang out here and hence the name Eagle’s Rest for one of the shops.

Some of our dockmates turned out to be the 3 naval training vessels we had traveled with earlier, along with a lot of fishing boats and other folks like us passing through on our way north.

Looking up to the marina from our slip. Notice eagle at the top.

I love to take advantage of not cooking when we have access to a good meal elsewhere, and our meal in Prince Rupert did not disappoint. We had a terrific sushi dinner at a local place called Opa. The only disappointment was that the navy trainees got to the beer selection before Larry did and drank up the one he wanted.

Prince Rupert is primarily a shipping town – it has the deepest waterway on the North American West Coast, and is actually 1-2 days shorter for ships coming from China to reach the US markets as containers can go straight onto trains here. They are going through an expansion right now but are still challenged by the fact they can’t fuel the huge container ships.

Nearby were many fish canneries until the 1970s or so. We explored the best preserved of these on a tour with a very knowledgeable guide at the North Pacific Cannery after taking the bus to the area called Port Edward about 30 minutes outside of Prince Rupert.

The train tracks ran right in front of the cannery to get their products to market faster. Europe and Great Britain were their primary customers.
Everything built on stilts including the homes.

The salmon cannery business ran strong for about 80 years. At the time the water was teaming with so much fish they only had to put their nets in from boats like this for 20 minutes before they were so full they came back to the dock to unload and send the fish into the cannery.

Typical gill-netting boat.

Then the fish were sent into a production line that was at first very manual and staffed by First Nations, Chinese and Japanese laborers who lived each in their own housing areas. All of it suspended on stilts over the water.

The more automated canning line. The fish same in at the far end of the building off the boats, went through all the prep stations to the canning and cooking areas and directly onto the train.
The “slime” station where First Nations women cleaned off the scales and any remaing guts from the fish after they had been deheaded and cleaned.

We also explored the Museum of Northern British Columbia, which has an extensive collection of First Nations artifacts and educational material. One of our favorite pieces was the headdress made of grizzly bear claws. I am sure only the toughest dudes ever got to wear it!

Made of grizzly bear claws.

There were a few charming spots in town – like this car turned planter and painted like a cow.

Overall a very interesting change of pace on land!