Welcome to Ocean Vagabonds! We are a family of nine who became disillusioned with the “American Dream”, sold everything, bought a sailboat and sailed her to Alaska. We are now working to outfit our boat Nadejda so that we can see where the wind leads us. We hope you enjoy our story as it unfolds.
We decided to go on a trip to see an old mine, lighthouse, and homestead, with a few stops in between of course. Now, we have found by experience that not everything goes as planned, which in this case didn’t disappoint, now here is how our first trip of the winter went.
Day 1. We planned on heading out a couple weeks ago and were all ready to go until the night before when we realized we had forgotten dentist appointments the next day. We postponed until the next week, we left in the early morning of Friday January 20th, it was looking to be a absolutely beautiful day, starting with a spectacular sunrise as we made our way down the Tongass Narrows. Our first stop was the fuel dock; otherwise we wouldn’t have been heading anywhere. As soon as we had a full tank we headed south to Thorne Arm, where the remnants of an old gold mine were still to be found. Dad had visited the mine some twenty five years ago with his grandfather, they had found a narrow gauge locomotive rusting away in the woods. We were excited to retrace their steps and to see how much everything had changed. After securing the boat to the mooring buoy, we quickly put together the port-a-boat, but our hopes were almost dashed when the outboard refused to start for the better part of ten minutes. Imagine our relief when it sputtered to life! We quickly hopped in and sped toward the beach, as soon as the skiff scraped bottom the little kids were out and running around and climbing the rocks. We meandered our way looking carefully for any evidence of the mine, we found some cabins that had been built more recently near a pile of tailings, we followed a trail up into the woods and found the mine shaft opening, it was mostly collapsed with just a small opening, we peered through it and found long icicles hanging from the ceiling. We also found a couple of old barrels, train tracks that had been pulled up and thrown into a pile, a hit and miss engine overgrown with grass and weeds, and pilings all along the shore and into the woods. We looked around quite a bit (not quite sure where it was) for the locomotive but were unsuccessful, we were rapidly running
out of daylight so had to make our way back to the boat. That night as we ate dinner we discussed the possibilities of where we could look, sadly we were pressed for time with an approaching storm that was due to hit in the next few days, we were only able to stay that one day. We decided as soon as we had the time we were going to come back and do some more exploring. Before we headed in for the night we baited and set our crab pot near the boat, hoping to have some fresh crab the next day.
Day 2. We awoke early to find that during the night the water had frozen over, there was about an eighth of an inch of ice surrounding us and a little way down the shore. We warmed the engine before pulling the line attached to the mooring buoy and crunched our way through the ice to open water. We picked up our crab pot on our way out, finding four large crabs sitting inside, we started some sea water to boil then started cleaning them for the pot. Our next stop was Ryus Bay, where there was an old run down homestead, this was to be our second visit to this particular spot and were excited to return! The trip there was a little rough, upon arriving and dropping the anchor we once again hopped into the skiff and made our way (very warily and with a tight grip on the outboard, with our last visit forefront in our minds) to the rocky shore, after securing the skiff we made our way down the beach, watching out for Moon Snail shells among the rocks. We found the large concrete disks lying on the shore in even more disrepair then the last time we had been here, we still haven’t quite figured out what they had been used for. As we walked up the creek to the fallen chimney we found millions of dead krill laying in clumps in the creek and washed up on the beach, it wasn’t until we returned to Ketchikan that we found out what they were. We explored farther then we had last time, finding an overgrown board walk leading to a field in the woods, also the axles to a truck and lots of chicken wire. After spending some time walking around we headed back to the boat, we set out shrimp and crab pots again before turning in for the night.
Day 3. The next morning we found no change in the wind, which was still blowing from the North East, we had been hoping (from listening to the weather station) that the wind would change to the South East. Upon finding it not so we were all quite disappointed, for with the wind unchanged as it was we would be unable to go and visit the lighthouse on Mary Island, which was the highlight of our trip. So we went and pulled our traps, finding one female crab full of eggs which we set loose, and about twenty shrimp all too small to eat, we once again set them all free. We pulled anchor and set out, not sure yet where we were going, as we looked at the charts we saw a bay that was quite near that looked like it would be protected from the wind and waves, and it was a place that Dad had been wanting to visit. We made our way there, spraying sea water as we headed into the wind, soon reaching the opening to the inlet. We motored in to find that it was little better in there, so we turned around and decided that we were going to head to Icehouse Cove for the night. A place that every time we visited was a pleasant place to stay. As we passed Village Island, one of our favorite places and at the top of our list to revisit, we all waved and once again said goodbye as we found the anchorage was to rough to moor in. The next couple of hours were fighting against the wind as we made our way North once again. It had been a long day by the time we reached calmer waters and motored into a perfectly calm and glassy Icehouse Cove. This place was given it’s name for the lake that was near by, it had been used to cut blocks of ice, which were then hauled to Ketchikan an hour away. As soon as we were tied up to the mooring buoy we once again hopped into our skiff (which we had been pulling behind us for the duration of our trip) and went to set our shrimp pot in a promising spot nearby. That night we had a barbecue, we sat outside on deck and laughed and talked about the places we had just visited, making plans for if we went back.
Day 4. We pulled our shrimp trap the next morning to once again find the catch to small to eat, throwing them back into the water we went back to the boat to pick up the others and go explore. We hiked up to the lake (about fifty feet from shore) to see what it was like, we found it frozen over, not really strong enough to hold any of us except for in a few places. We wandered around a little exploring the woods around the lake, stalling for time before we had to head back to town. But we soon ran out of things to do, so climbing back into the skiff we went back to the boat to head home. The rain hit as we were leaving the cove, thankful for the rain fall to wash all the salt off the boat, because the dock had no running water. We made it back to the dock about midday on Monday January 23rd, as soon as we reached home we sat down and started looking for another weather window to take the boat out again and find a new place to explore!
If you have wondered where we have been and why we have not been updating our blog, well it is because as one person put, “we are no longer interesting.” While maybe I should take offense at such a statement, I just can’t bring myself to do so; because to an extent it is true. Having seven children on a boat has been a journey, we never went as many places as we had hoped and as the children grew the boat continued to shrink making being a live aboard family all the more difficult. Add living on a boat in the Winter in Alaska to that equation and it slowly became obvious to Molly and I something would have to change. So last month we signed a two year lease on a apartment in Ketchikan and will be hauling Nadejda this spring where she will be going through a major overhaul.
We are still unsure what the future will bring whether we will move back aboard once some of the kids go their separate ways (our oldest is almost 18! Yikes), or we will take on the major project of lengthening and re-rigging Nadejda. We are currently researching cost materials and talking with the local ship yard about rolling some steel to see if it is an option. If we do decide to go ahead with the project I will try to update the progress as we make it but I do also know that I will be very busy working long hours at my job and then burning the midnight oil on the boat; so updates will more than likely be sporadic at best.
What I do know is that for now is that we will be land lubbers for two years until the lease is up and that no sooner did Molly and I sign the lease papers that we were missing boat life. So hopefully in a couple of years a almost new Nadejda will be splashing into the cold clear waters of SE Alaska ready for some more adventures. Hopefully much further from home this time!
Well as many of you may have noticed; maintaining our web page is not one of our strengths. Once again we have been struggling with the world of “social media” and weighing the time verses reward and how all that affects our family. I am sure this will not be the last struggle we have with it, but in all honesty much of our absence was due more to us living our lives and not having the time to put into it.
This post was originally going to be titles “Places Been, Lessons Learned” but after thinking about it I decided that the “Lessons Learned” part can wait for another article. So where have we been this winter, well, we went for a little boat trip to the lower forty eight to visit family and dispose of an old storage unit.
October found me (Peter) finished with work and the sun shining on Ketchikan, winds from the NW and holding. So we loaded up the boat and headed south….. well no we didn’t because in all of our wisdom we had forgot that Caleb now sixteen needed a passport So we spent our time in the autumn sun painting Nadejda, something that really needed to be done and waiting for a passport. The passport arrived in late October, so on November first we headed south, to our first stop in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
When we arrived I hopped on the internet to see how the weather was shaping up for us. What I saw was discouraging to say the least, once again the fall storms were in the staging area of the north pacific and lining up to hammer NW coast. It felt a lot like last year when we made the decision to head back to Ketchikan as opposed to fighting the weather, but as I looked I saw a small opening to cross Queen Charlotte Sound (the next open to the ocean part of our trip) in about forty hours. So I laid out our course and found we had just enough time to make it if we ran straight through, so that is what we did. We arrived in Port Hardy, British Columbia with a storm on our heals and spent the next ten days holed up waiting for the weather to let up to get down the Washington coast.
I primarily use passage weather for most of my planning and supplement it with NOAA and Environment Canada. So when we saw a window opening up a week out we headed south to hopefully be in place to use it. One of our reasons for staying in Port Hardy as opposed to heading further south was due to the private Quarter Deck Marina had fantastic winter rates and we had already paid for a month there and didn’t feel like paying the more expensive rates further south. This run turned into a six hour on six hour off system in which we ran with the tide for six hours and anchored up for six hours waiting for the tide to change.
Our first leg was to Port Neville, on this leg we learned and had it confirmed on the way back that the currents do not match what is published in fact they are almost opposite (food for thought for any one thinking about cruising this area). After port Neville the currents are correct and we left at midnight to make it through Seymour Narrows at close to slack water. Just south of the narrows is where the tide meets on the inside of Vancouver Island so if one times it right you can have the tide with you for twelve hours, so that is what we did arriving in Deep Bay about sunset. We anchored up and waited for the tide change and then headed south to make an anchorage just south of Nanaimo around midnight. One more note here for people that have not been there, The Strait of Georgia can get really nasty so don’t take them lightly.
The next morning we weighed anchor and headed to Lady Smith to wait out a storm that was scheduled to run though the next day. We spent two nights there and after heading on to Port Angeles, Washington, then to Neah Bay for a night, it was then on to the Columbia River. And to our favorite little port on the west coast, Ilwaco, Washington; this would be our home port while we were on the Columbia.
We spent the next three months on the Columbia going as far up river as The Dalles, Oregon to visit family, it was interesting to be on our boat in the desert. We ended up spending a good amount of time roaming from one free dock to another and also visiting my brother in Vancouver. Those visits were great with our children and their cousins getting to know each other for the first time and really enjoying spending time together.
One of the best parts of moving around is the people, with very few exceptions you meet great people in every port. While in St. Helens, Oregon there was a Ranger Tug tied up there and as we walked by a young man waved to us. Later we were up at the city park overlooking the marina and a young woman was there walking a huge mastiff puppy (I think he may have been walking her, but that is beside the point). They along with her husband were the owners of the tug and we ended up talking and hanging out a few times while on the river. We never would have met them nor become friends if we did not live the way we do. Great times!
February found us anxious to start heading back up the coast and on to Alaska. So we started back up and basically reversed the order of the way down with the exception of stopping at the Nanaimo Yacht club for a couple of nights. We are now in Port Hardy and will be for about ten days waiting for weather to head north. We had originally planned on going up the inside and enjoying our selves but the weather window coming up Wednesday will be long enough to make it to Ketchikan and as the thought of being stuck in Prince Rupert waiting on weather is more than we care to take, we will shove off Wednesday and hopefully be home by Friday afternoon.
We learned a lot on this trip, mostly about our boat and what on it works and what does not, this will be covered in another post. I will also try and write about the towns we visited, the good, the bad and the ugly. There were definitely some we loved and some we did not, I will try and break it down for those who might be coming this way.