February boating with Larry

I flew down to Craig with Larry, an old workmate, to help him bring back a boat he bought there. Brian and Ellen gave me a 135 hp outboard to replace my 115 for more power.  We spent a few days in Craig for Larry to understand the new boat and get any last minute items.

The container was in good shape. Except that some mice got in. At least 2 were dead in the bottom of a dry bucket. I have no idea why they went into a bucket they couldn’t get out of. They weren’t able to get into any food stuffs, and so maybe they were looking for food. I cleaned up their mess and then spray foamed around any line entering through the wall.

The water line was frozen under the floor in the container. I opened up the faucets and got to thinking about how to thaw the line.  I turned up the heat in the house and left. When I returned a few hours later, the temperature was up to 42 outside, and the pipe had thawed and the water was flowing. We left a trickle on the rest of our time there.

Mike, a former captain for this boat, helped Larry everyday to learn maneuvering with the twin jet motors, as well as the systems on the boat. We worked on the boat all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The boat was only making 12 kts, but the former skipper didn’t think it was out of the ordinary, although he hadn’t run the boat in years. We were a bit worried that it was going this slow without much of a load. We loaded the outboard on Sunday afternoon, had dinner with Brian and Ellen on Sunday evening, and left on Monday morning, anticipating a 10 hour run to Wrangell. Before we left the container, I turned off the water at the service port, then used the spigot below the house to drain all the lines in the house and hope that solves the line freezing problem in the future.

After several days of the boat only operating at about 12 knots, when we left town, we were soon up to about 20 kts as we sped north toward El Capitan Passage. Something must not have been right with the trim tabs or the cups jet units during the shake down cruises around Craig, but we don’t know what it was. The boat was running now as its builder thought it should.

We headed north and Larry had me drive while he went through one “issue” after another and was able to fix about all of them. Fans that blow engine heat up to the cabin were out of order, and he figured out one had a broken wire and bad switch and the other may have been a fuse. The winch that pulled up the bow door had a tripped breaker. The batteries that were for the electronics and accessories were not charging, and Larry found the switch near the engines that sends the alternator current forward and solved that. The boat was looking like a good rig the more we learned about her.

Larry was eager to see the sea otters that have populated the area since he lived in the area on his dad’s logging camp in the 1970’s. As we entered the Passage, we started to see otters. Lots of otters. Soon, they were old hat.

As we headed further north and then west, the passage got tighter and tighter. When we got to the narrowest section, it was at low tide, I was driving, going about 20 kts and could see the bottom. Larry was confident it was fine as he’d been though here in the 70’s so I stayed on step and we squirted out to the other side and into Sumner Strait and back to the bigger ocean. There was a little chop but no eventful seas or weather as we rounded the tip of Prince of Wales Island, skirted Zarembo Island, and coasted into Wrangell.

The boat’s builder in Wrangell was our first destination. My friend Dave Svendsen built this boat in 2007 for a logging company to haul loggers and equipment around Prince of Wales Island. Larry needed some information on the boat for some of his business ventures with the boat from Dave, which Dave didn’t have in his records, so we overnighted  in Wrangell first before heading to Juneau.

We spent the day with Dave and then went to dinner at Bob and Chris’s, where we spent the night. Chris cooked a turkey and we drank lots of home made wines and talked about our food gathering trips and canning from the past year.  I sent them some deer meat in November, and hope Bob can come over and hunt himself with Chris and his new knees next fall.

The next morning Kyle, Dave’s shop supervisor, and Dave did the measurements on the boat they needed to do, and Larry peppered them with questions about the boat’s operation and options he had for adding things to the boat for his business. We had hauled an old Cummins engine and 2 old transmissions this far, and Larry offered the transmissions up for the taking.  Dave and Kyle said they’d take them and Larry and I used the harbor crane to drop them at the city dock for Dave and Kyle to come get them, and we headed towards home about 1 pm.

We knew the trip would take us running the last ~ 2 hours in the dark, but we had a good weather window and thought we’d be alright running at night as even if we hit a log, it was unlikely to do damage with the get propulsion.  As we cruised up Stephens Passage, it was getting dark as we passed the entrance to Tracy Arm. We saw something white in the distance and thought it was a boat. When we got closer, we saw it was an iceberg from the glacier in Tracy Arm.   We might skip over a log, but an iceberg was another story.  As it got darker and harder to see when the snow started, Larry mentioned going to Taku Harbor for the night and I readily agreed and we headed that way. It was pitch black entering the harbor as there were no other boats at the dock, but we idled in and tied up without incident.

I suggested going up to use the public use cabin there and Larry said it could be hip deep snow getting to it, so we decided to sleep on the boat. We had prepared for this and had sleeping bags. The cabin was nice and warm when we shut down the engines and turned off the lights. By 430 am, the heat was gone and I was cold. Larry heard me stirring and suggested starting the engines again, which he did. It didn’t take too long for the cabin to warm up, and we got a couple more hours of good sleep. We rousted out of our bags at  645 as it was getting light, and we were on our way at about 7. There was not much chop crossing Taku Inlet, and we were tied up in Juneau an hour later.

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