I found a boat Sara might like. A Sundowner Tug. Kind of like a Nordic Tug, but in our price range.
The boat had come up for sale a less than a day before and I just happened to see it on Alaska Boat Brokers. It was a similar situation with our house 25 years ago. We passed our house on our way to work. One morning there was a for sale sign in front by owner. At noon, the sign was now for a realtor. We called him to try to be the first to look. A little house on a big lot. Not a common occurrence in Juneau. We looked, and Sara liked. I told her we needed to offer full price now or it would be gone if we hesitated. We’re still here today.
The one difference with this boat was that I had already scheduled my fish delivery for the following day. I could not change the delivery date now. So I told Sara if she was really interested, she needed to fly down to Ketchikan and look at it. Somewhat surprisingly, she did. And the report was two thumbs up. Looks like we were going to buy a tug.
We had 2 weeks to close the deal with a haul out and inspection, and the next time the broker, who was a friend of our friends in Ketchikan – could get a haul out date was for 10 days later. That worked for me. Sara would be out of town then at a conference, so I asked my friend Kurt, and he was excited to go.
Our flight arrived in Ketchikan a little after 8 am, and Jeff was there to meet us. A little after 9 am, we were at the harbor launch, with a haul out service pulling out the boat on a trailer on the ramp. The hull bottom looked like it had never been even scratched. The mechanic who was a friend of Jeff that we hired to look at the boat with us was familiar with these Yanmar engines and a tug owner himself. Like Sara, he gave it two thumbs up. He also checked the shaft and propeller, and said the prop showed some signs of electrolosis. Peter, the owner, said he thinks the prop had the pinkish hue when he bought it, and he thought he had addressed the electrolosis issue with bonding. I paid the mechanic, and we put the boat back in the water for a sea trial.
We toodled down Tongass Narrows for a mile or two. Peter went through the controls and electronics with me. Soon, we were back to his stall in the harbor. A done deal. Money was transferred by wire from my bank to the documentation company, and it was now our boat.
I texted our good friends Jen and Bill, and soon Jen and her car arrived. She took a tour of the boat, then we took her home and borrowed her car. We went to Walmart to look for a small freezer, which Peter said he used on the boat when out fishing and I thought was a good idea. Kurt talked me out of getting it there, but we did find all the groceries we needed. We had an excellent lunch of Mexican food from a food truck near Walmart, then stopped for a half rack of PBR at the liquor store, and back to the boat. Off we go. Just like that. It was only 130 in the afternoon.
We steamed north on calm seas and made our way up Clarence Strait. We thought we’d tie up at the dock in Meyers Chuck for the evening, as neither of us had been there. When we got into the bay, the dock was full, but it was great to see the place.
We continued up Clarence Strait and decided to anchor in a cove in Onslow Island off the channel with Eagle Islands.
The next morning we were up early. I checked the oil and coolant. This was my first check. The engine looks brand new. Never had something like this before. Engine hardly turns over before it jumps to life. Much quieter than the old two stroke Jimmy motors I’ve had in the past. We steamed north and picked out some spots to fish.
We fished near Mabel Island on the advice of my inlaws, but no halibut. We traveled further north to Snow Pass, where there were humpback whales all over the place. The tide was really running, and it was hard to get the salmon gear down very far and still try to make any headway. We caught a pink and a coho here.
We decided we’d travel to the entrance to Wrangell Narrows, and then run the narrows in the morning. I’ve never known anyone having a problem in the narrows, but it’s legendary for tide currents and groundings. As we got to the narrows, we still had plenty of light, so decided to head on to Petersburg. We were traveling at the last two hours of the flood tide, and this may be the best time to go. I thought it might take us 3 or 4 hours, but we made it in about 2 hours with the tide whisking us along.
I called the night attendant at the Petersburg Harbor, and got my stall assignment. We picked our way in there, and when we tied up I realized we were right across from Paul’s boat, Cisco, and right at the bottom of the ramp. We had pizza for dinner. The galley in the boat is as nice as our house. A 3 burner propane cook top and a stove.
We went up to the harbor office and paid our moorage. Then stretched our legs the short block to the liquor store, and back to the boat. We took care of our purchase, and had a restful sleep tied up to the dock.
The next morning, we met Paul and Eric for breakfast at the Salty Pantry restaurant. Paul and Eric had brought 2 vehicles, parking one at the harbor and the other at the fuel dock. We all went back to the boat for their tour, then headed over to the fuel dock to give them a little ride. We took on about 50 gallons of fuel, and Paul and Eric departed up to their car. I suggested we fill the water tank, but Kurt said we’d be fine with what we had. For some reason I had thought Petersburg was most of the way to Juneau from Ketchikan, but it’s only half way. About 117 miles from Ketchikan to Petersburg, and 115 miles from Petersburg to Juneau.
We made our way out the narrows and into Frederick Sound. Another calm day. On Paul’s advice, we fished at Cape Fanshaw, and caught a pink and a coho. We then steamed over to Five Finger Lighthouse, which used to be leased by a good friend of Kurt’s, and Kurt had been to the place. There was a sailboat full of tourists on site at the lighthouse, and I wasn’t sure if there were residents at the lighthouse or not. A humpback whale was feeding right next to the shore of lighthouse island. I mean right next to the shore such that if you were casting from shore, you might cast over it. We anchored up in a spot that looked like money for halibut, and tried for a couple hours. There were several humpbacks feeding around us, and one came right next to the boat to check us out before diving and being on its way. We had a few nibbles but no halibut. We picked up and headed north.
We made the cove at Point Ashley at dark. There were two smaller cruise ships and a yacht in the anchorage. We ran the heater and it was pretty luxurious sleeping on a heated boat. But we ran out of water in the last washing of dishes. Kurt said “I told you we should have got water in Petersburg”.
The last day there was a little tail wind and chop. We traveled up to Taku Harbor and tried trolling for salmon. We got a fish on soon after putting the gear out, and it was a 23 inch undersized king salmon that we released. We were in our country now, and recognized our geography. We made our way with a 1 to 2 foot sea the rest of the way to Juneau.
Back home, we got a slip in Aurora Harbor. Jeffy had dropped Kurt’s truck at the harbor, and soon he was dropping me off at the house. I returned to the harbor office to register the new boat, and later signed up for the waitlist for a slip.
The next morning, I was up and got started on my priority project: installing mounts for the downriggers. My nephew Eaton was arriving tonight, and so I needed to get these on so we could fish for salmon. I had been thinking of lots of different ways of doing it, and took supplies from the garage for the different options. In the end, the simplest seemed the best: I bolted a piece of 2 x 10 across the curve of the stern rail, and then put the downrigger mount on the board. Simple and stout. The boat was already starting to look more like a hand troller than a quaint tug. Sara was not surprised.
What is surprising is that there are no scuppers in the stern. Just two little floor drains about an inch in diameter, with a grate over the mouth of the drain. They get clogged just looking at them. So, that’s the next project. There’s lots of free board in the stern. I’m just a little nervous cutting through Sara’s new boat.