Good-bye to sailing dream

Such a long time has passed since my last entry. It looks like many of my blog entries have not been published from the system. Maybe memory overflow on the blogspot page as I had posted so many photos.

We finished our Alaska / British Columbia /Washington experience by sailing to Victoria, Port Friday Harbour (San Juan Island), Port Angeles and Port Neah Bay. We visited all these places while waiting for the right passage weather to sail south. After two weeks of waiting we finally had a decent long weather window which took us all the way to San Francisco with a one night stop at Bodega Bay (where the Alfred Hitchcock movie „birds“ was mainly shot). We arrived in SF at a time when the fires were going on. So despite it being a clear, beuatiful day, the air was full of smoke. At least we got a good view oft he Golden Gate bridge as we motored under it. Once you get to  the other side of the bridge, you get some nice wind going which makes for awesome sailing. However, since our destination, the St. Francis Yacht Club, was just behind the brigde, we did not bother pulling out these big sheets of fabric called sails. At the Yacht Club we got prime estate slip with view to the bridge on one side and SF on the other side. 

We celebrated our California arrival with drinks at the prestigious Yacht Club. It’s more of a social place, not so much a sailing place. They have the prime view, but not really space for any boats except for a dozen of sailing dinghys. So there is not really a sailing community.

After four days in SF – having walked the major tourist attractions, done some groceries and having bought some boat parts we left the big city to sail further south towards our destination – Marina del Rey. We stopped at Ventura Yacht club for 3 nights as not to  be in LA too early. Why? My brother, Alex, flew in on the 19th of November from Germany to welcome us together with our stepmother. The nice surprise was, that my friend Mary came out to Ventura to welcome us! That was such an exciting moment to acutally have a friend waiting for you, greeting you in and helping with the lines. Wow!
So we waited and were lucky that the weather played with us. We arrived in Marina del Rey on schedule at 4pm on Nov 20, 2018. What a day. Many dolphins guided us the way home. They visited us and put on a nice show for us. Just before sunset we pulled into our slip at the beautiful California Yacht Club, where we greeted Alex and my stepmom in person. Finally. It was a magic night. I was soso happy to give them a big hug. It was so very special to have my family there to welcome us into our last port!!! We had snacks and wine on land at a fire place directly in front of Alita, enjoying the sunset and the beautiful evening sky. Once it got cold we went aboard, where we had a wonderful salmon dinner together. It was so exciting to have my stepmom on board after she had followed my trip over th last 7 years. She loved finally meeting Alita. The salmon was caught on my dad’s birthday. My dad was a sailor as well. So in his honour and thanking him for watching over us in those years of travelling we enjoyed that wonderful alaskan silver salmon. 

In Marina del Rey my personal sailing journey on Alita found its end. It was a magical journey, where I have learned a lot. About myself, about nature, sailing and food. It was not always easy. But once you learn to cope with whatever comes up, it is a great life. And I miss it already. Keeping my masochism going (just kidding), I just bought a VW Vanagon (T3 bus) for travels – and repairs – on land. I am already enjoying that new adventure called Betty. 

So while Alita is now in Mexico with her new owners who are being accompanied by Marcus until they reach Florida, I started my new landlife already. Exciting. 

It was great to come to the city, doing things I might have mised. But honestly, it’s already too much for me. Can’t wait to get out again. Betty will carry me to more lonely places. So, from sailing to driving, but always on the move. 

There will be a blog from Betty adventures. I will post a link soon. 

Thank you to everyone who has been following our sailing trip over the last years. I hope you all enjoyed it!

Cheers, Michaela


Princess Royal Island

We do not regret having driven back up to Princess Royal Island. No, we have not seen white bears. But: we have done wonderful hikes up rivers. We had to climb over rocks and trees, crawl underneath trees, wade through the rivers over very slippery rocks and through deep mud where once I had a hard time getting my boot back out, balance on fallen for a while until we could jump back down, walk through thick bush while eating the bear's berries, walk or climb up little waterfalls, do some rock climbing up and down, very much enjoying every step we take. In our second river, once we had gotten past the rock climbing we found a nice sandy riverbed, flat enough (due to the drought) to be able to cross back and forth as we needed it, around that one corner behind the bush I saw a big dark rock. Oh no, it was moving. And ate fish. We were lucky. We found three decent size grizzly bears eating fish about 50m (50yards) ahead of us. Of course I only had little battery left on my camer
a. So I first took out the film camera to take a video of them eating. Then I shot some photos. As grizzly kids stay up to two years with their mom we believe, from their sizes and fish catching skills, that two were older cubs and one the mother. They all had funny different hair style. The biggest one had a kind of blondish head, one was completely black and one a mix. The smaller ones took off, wish a fish in their mouth, once they saw us. Only the biggest one looked at us and continued its hunting and and feeding on fish. Could not have been many. We had seen a bunch of salmon (all pinks and three sockeye)a bit further down in a pool which is too deep for the bears to get them. After I had my pictures we slowly moved backwards and walked away back down. That "encounter" gave us hope and we returned next day. Well, that next day we met two locals (indigenous) who do fish counting, but no bears. We walked all the way to the natural fallen tree barrier which is another 45 m
in upstream. There we found lots if carcasses of chum salmon, any many skeletons, heads without eyes and dug out holes where bears had looked for eggs in the ground as the eggs carry lots of nutrients and are their preferred winter storage food. We so loved that hike. 3 and 4 hours, so cool. Same with the other walks along rivers that we did. No bears, but partly really challenging, especially the one yesterday with it's bigger waterfalls and higher rocks/ almost cliffs. Did I mention that we're hiking all of this in our gum boots, our "XTraTuff". They are standard in Alaska. Everybody has them, especially fishermen/-women, but really everyone. They're made from neoprene and as such are really flexible. That makes them somehow more scratch resistant. So far they still keep the water out. They are brown on the outside and the women's have cool inside designs like octopus, salmon etc.
Yesterday along the river we saw tracks of wolves. The two people we had met the day before told us they often come out and check you out, especially if you imitate wolves sounds. We did not dare to as we were still hoping for bears. Last chance today/tomorrow. It's finally supposed to rain tomorrow, that means the remaining salmon are going to come and run up the rivers. That makes food for bears so they will come out. We'll see.
We just drove into a bay with active logging. They are crazy. There are people cutting down the trees and then the heli comes and flys them out (without any people on the ground to help). They operate a grabber from above from the heli. Once the heli has two or three trees in its two finger "hand" it flies them over a so called "float" and drops them. Makes for great pictures and very much reminded my of the calving glacier I witnessed. The "floats" is an area made up by floating trees which are tied together so any tree thrown into there will remain within these boundaries.
So far for now, we're continuing on to Klemtu and possibly to another bay. There is a hatchery there and they say there are lots of salmon waiting. We hope to get some more finally, we're running low.


Princess Royal Island

From Port Hardy, which is in the very north -NE corner of Vancouver Island, Marcus and I sailed back up to Princess Royal Island in two long but very beautiful days. Tue fog had lifted early in the morning on the 29th so when we started our way up we had a spectacular view of the BC mainland panorama, where we even could make out some of the glaciers that are far away. The day ended with a spectacular sunset accompanied by quite some whales blowing peacefully into upcoming darkness. Clouds had come up and fog started to move in which made the scene so amazingly beautiful. There were little wind/rain sections in the cloud creating super beautiful shapes. Some looked as if someone had taken a brush and just brushed a bent stripe into the yellow-orange-red colored clouds that were following the mountain range in their shape or were just straight where there were no mountains. Some birds flying into the scene topped it all up. We could barely see where we dropped the anchor...Early next morning we left our anchorage, crossed the straight that quickly picked up lots if wind and waves. We had decided that it would probably be better to drive up outside in the open water than against the wind in a channel where the wind would be stronger. And it worked. We even got a couple of hours of amazingly beautiful and calm sailing in. Again the scenery was amazing. We were at the northern end if a low that set foot around Vancouver giving us interesting, soft cloud cover that made for a beautiful fake blue whilst from the direction we were sailing to it cleared up so that we ended the day in sunshine. But I loved the mood before. So peaceful (if you know you're sailing out of it) and quiet. We were sailing through a landscape of many little rocky island, each one of them really pretty, some with trees in them. Then we heard noise and smelled the typical smell. There had to be sea lions. Sure enough we found them. A gazillion sea lions dozing on a pile of rocks. Actually on topf of the biggest one, way over the high tide mark (we were sailing by at low tide). Even though we were far away, about 200m, some got nervous and quickly made their way down into the water. Haha, so funny.
Then yesterday we drove up in beautiful weather from the outside of Swindle Island to Princess Royal Island. We did not move today. This is our try to find white bears. Or bears at all. Only few salmon have been seen. Our problem is this beautiful summer. It has hardly rained here in BC. Everything is really dry, even the evergreen trees turn red and yellow. The bush and trees with leaves loose their leaves all ready due to them being dry. They went from green to brown and off to the floor. One spark would burn down whole BC. That means the rivers and creeks have now water. That means the salmon can't get up there - or can't even find their home creek as there is little fresh water mixing into the ocean water. Maybe sometimes not enough to guide the salmon the way. Here and there we see some jumping outside. Or even here in the river. But they are mostly already changed to spawning and dying state- so they don't taste good anymore- or are so rare out there you can't catch them. In the past three weeks Marcus was only able to catch two. Seems like the season is over. But we keep trying. We had a good tip a week ago, but he had to drive down to Port Hard to deliver crew. So we could not get to that spot and now it's probably too late. But, we'll pass by there anyways in a couple of days.

So far so good. It was great to NOT move Alita for a day. All I did was drive around in the Kajak and in the Dinghy. At night I was able to record some strange calls. No animal I know, so it sounded like little bears whining. I'll have to find out. A super echo amplified their cry. Stupid crows disturbed the silence a lot. When they talk - and they do most of the time- you can't hear anything else. That's called sound pollution.


Whale firework

Back at the inside passage of British Columbia we entered into a bay at Royal Princess Island where there were supposed to be white bears. Well, unfortunately we did not see them- but at least we could have. The passage into that bay was very tricky. We had to wait for 100% slack time, meaning the change between the tides where tue water does not flow in either direction for very few minutes. I had to go up to the rapids with the Dinghy and check the situation and wait for the water to calm down- which was not until 1hr40min later. Finally it was calm enough that I went through with the Dinghy and gave thumbs up for Marcus to drive Alita through the narrow channel, which still had quite a current going but not dangerous anymore. Once through a beautiful bay opened up to us with ling inlets. It took us another hour to get to the actual anchoring spot. The beauty was that finally we did not only see forest but also rocky mountains. Beautiful and smooth rock, I guess granite. Ve
ry similar to Patagonia/ Tierra del fuego.
We left there yesterday with the same procedure, hanging out in front of the narrow waiting to be able to get through in the other direction. This time I did not have to go in the Dinghy first.
We continued our path to the next hot springs once we entered the Inside Passage. And then we received a whale fireworks. How so? We saw a bunch of whales and all of a sudden, while our friends had already given up waiting for them and I was still sitting there knowing they'd come back, one started breaching, into my picture. And then the next one breached and the next one. They kept taking turns in breaching, for a couple of minutes. That was truly crazy. Very beautiful to see against the sunlight- difficult for photography. But just amazing. Our friends of course got their cameras out again and we shot side by side, hoping to get a good one. I haven't looked at the pictures yet, but I am sure I got something.
Continuing our way towards the springs we came across another bunch of whales, further away, and one also decided to breach a couple of times. Just so beautiful to watch. This morning as we just left in the sunrise the whales were still hanging out here in the bay, showing us their blow and tales in the morning light. A moment to treasure and never forget.
We're gonna continue the Inside Passage towards Vancouver Island now. Lots of miles every day.

Another highlight of course were the hot springs again. We soaked ourselves last night in the sunset, before we went over to the boat we were tied up to, Nomad. We were last tied up in a package in Elfin Cove. Early this morning all except Marcus got up in the crystal clear night, beautiful clear and cold starry night, we soaked again in candlelight. That was truly amazing. Upon our return to Alita, at 6.45, we took off and are now on the way again.


Ketchikan - Alaska's first (and for us last) city

14,000 people live here - at least in the summer. Pretty, historic down with a pretty red light district. Great for a walk and photo shooting. After 6pm it's window shopping only (and in many shops - with jewelery) not even that (all packed away). Thank god we had food at home. Could not even find a restaurant, only two little fast-food like places at almost the price of good restaurant. And the few bars were not very inviting since music was loud, people drunk and smoking inside permitted. This is the first town where I constantly stumbled over drunk and homeless. Sad. Other than that I really enjoyed my stroll around this charming old cannery- mining - now tourist place which closes up as soon as the last cruise ship leaves.

Ketchikan and off to Canada

We're just on our way to Ketchikan and tomorrow morning we're leaving the US and thus the state of Alaska and sail over to Canada. It has been sure a great time here. Definitely coming back one day. By land and hopefully again by sea. The morning fog in all but the first two pictures made for a beautiful and yet sad good-bye scene.


Bearly fun - watching a bear swim the bay

Today I was out on the water all day watching nature. For a couple of hours I sat in my kayak in the next bay, mostly watching and filming jumping salmon. As suddenly a bear appears on shore (I had not expected one), walking over the rocks. I grabbed my backpack to get out the film camera as this guy / girl decided to go for a swim across the bay. So I was so lucky to see and film that. He/she did not even realise I was there. But was scared of fish and/or algae touching him as he was swimming over, making him paddle and turn like crazy twice on the way. And once he reached the shore he jumped out, shook the water off and ran away. Hahaha, that was so funny! I saw quite a few bears today walking around. And two jumping into the pools hunting for salmon, without success. I tell you, they are stupid. During the day, when the tide was low, the salmon beach themselves. They are in super shallow water where they can't escape. It would be so easy for the bear. But no. Tonight, back on Alita, I watched one with binoculars. Boy he jumped into the water, full body splash, and kept jumping and jumping in the water. All he did is make sure the salmon swim off. The most talented ones are the mums (ladies). They watch, one jump, and out of the water they come with a salmon for themselves and the kids…. So much fun to watch them. So grateful we had a day staying in the anchorage, where I could just watch „my" bears a whole day long. And they walked around. Here and there. Fun


Busy chasing nature

Our alaskan sailing friends have left us in Petersburg leaving great memories of an amazing time together behind. We left Sitka on a beautiful day, heading for Baranof Springs. Once we got there it rained, which was a blessing. Why? Cool water drops from above made the hot open air springs more bearable. The location of the springs is just stunning. From the harbor you walk on a mostly prepared wooden pathway until you turn left into a kind of moderate rainforest. Not far into the woods you can already smell a bit of sulphur and you don't know if you have an eye problem or why you can't see clearly anymore. It's the steam that turns the scene into a fairytale forest with natural pools. There we were, on top of the Baranof waterfall in a place where very cold water just rushes by in high speed while you sit in a natural hot pool on rocks inside it, relaxing into the day. Boy we enjoyed it. We got so hot that Marcus and I climbed down to the river and plunged into a little side pool of the river where we were sure not to get sucked out and down the waterfall. 

Once we left Baranof we crossed the strait to the next island across. In the middle of the crossing of the channels we came across some whales hanging out. Needless to say we turned the motor off and just watched on this beautiful morning scene with amazing light through still dark rain clouds scattered of the the blue sky that was just opening up. 


When the whales got too close we took off and continued our morning journey to Security Bay. When I dropped the anchor I looked over the flat to the land (as I always do) and was sure to have seen a bear. Back at the cockpit I looked through the binoculars only to see that there are at least two bears. So we quickly packed our stuff, jumped into the Dinghy and off we went - Marcus, Fran and I. Little did we know that we would be seeing not only one or two bears, but a couple. Mom and kid and more grown ups and half grown ups. We spent I think about 3 hours just sitting in the Dinghy and watching, getting as close as we safely could. When the tide was going out we had to move. Marcus and I went on land, Marcus for fishing and I was looking around to see if I could find a bear with a fish. Then I saw one coming on the other side of the now creek. And he was going for fish. The nice thing about them going for fish is that they are not after anything (or anyone) else. They are focussed, but still afraid. Maybe even more afraid that someone could steal their fish. When the guy moved closer into the water where I was on land of course I backed off. I got some amazing shots, I guess my best bears ever, because it was in nature and not raining. When the water moved out even more we had to move out as well. I drove back to Alita to get Charly, the drone, to take some footage. Which I did. One bear was scare and ran away, the other one was still busy fishing. I did not expect them to be afraid of a drone flying high above them in some distance. Flying back from where the bears were to where we are I saw how many fish were already in the process of beaching themselves, dieing, or already taken apart by bears. While Marcus was still fishing I kept on watching the bears. There was the one who took my heart, he was limping holding his left front paw up. Seeing that big heavy bear jumping on three feet made me feel so sorry for him. He still jumped into the water trying to get fish. He was kind of slow and did not even take the fish right in front of his face. But he ended up with two for eating. I still wonder what was wrong with his paw and hope it heals. Then I watched another one fishing. As he was back out in the grass eating a third one came, walked across the water, did not catch anything and then decided to go to the other one and take his fish. So the one who caught the fish before left his fish, got back into the water and picked another fish out. Interesting to watch. Usually we see only one bear, they al hang out alone. Which seems sad to me as well. And then that scene where one lazy one takes away the fish of the other, just because he can. Lucky enough there are enough fish for all of them to get fat for the winter break. The next morning I flew the drone again and so an incredibly amount of dead (and alive) salmon in that creek. And bears. Only two in the morning. 

Here: limping bear and dead salmon

The morning when we left Security Bay we not only saw Otters (hadn't seen them in a while) but also feeding whales again. What a treat!

Every since that experience we're hoping to see more of that because sadly we had to leave that scene in the morning. We have been looking in so many bays but didn't find anything like this anymore. Until today. We finally found a coastline / bay / creek /flats layout that is bear friendly and photographer friendly. And there are salmon. We drove up to the creek with the Dinghy and sure enough I saw a bear eating fish behind a fallen tree. We hid away on the side in some distance and watched him (through my super zoom film camera). Right where he was was a pool in the creek, perfect for catching fish. Even better when the tide goes out more, so we're hoping for tomorrow morning as today it was already late and the light not so good. But, so unexpectedly, I was able to film a bear chasing and catching fish and some cubs coming and eating the fish as well and climbing up and down a tree (in the distance). Funny of course, that we only drove to land to check out the possibilities for tomorrow. I did not even bring my photo camera, just grabbed my phone and film camera. We'll see what tomorrow brings. 


Love the ice sculptures

Last Prince William Sounds Ice and first SE Alaska Images

SE Alaska

On July 9 we left on a 3,5 day passage to SE Alaska. We did get a bit over a day of sailing out of this passage. The weather was beautiful in the last 12hrs we spent motoring through Prince William Sound (PWS) before we reached the Golf of Alaska. We had a stunning sunset with clear views all the way down to Kodiak Island, a rare view, just like when we arrived in Alaska and also at PWS.
We arrived in SE Alaska, at the town Elfin Cove on Chichagof Island in fog and drizzle, rafting up with a sailing vessel.
Elfin Cove is a pretty little place on a little island with a walkway around. It has a small store which is cheaper than all the big stores we've been to in the last 2 months. Also a laundry (also cheaper), showers, post office, school, gift shop and most important: nice people. During summer season there are about 40 people, in the winter it's only 5. Lots of fishing vessels pull into the harbor in summer, get gas, laundry, food, shower etc. Also there are two big lodges for tourists who want to do fishing. Really nice place.
A couple of days and anchorages later we pulled into the harbour of Tennakee Springs. You can go to a natural hot spring pool which has a bath house built around it. The hours of the day are split between men and women. Luckily when Tina and I got there it was 5 min before women time. We met nice local ladies there. One talked the most, she is a musician. Beautiful voice. She sings and plays mostly string instruments. We even visited her in her house later. Very nice and local. Most of the houses are built over water on stilts and very old. And expensive. One house is on sale for 400.000$. Decent size, but not huge. In a town which counts 60 people, the only "street" is a path and really all there is is that spring. Ferry comes twice a week and a regular plane service exists between there and Juneau. A lovely little town though where I could have easily stayed a week. Peacefully calm. Great bay view in front of forest.
Now we're in Sitka, the biggest place in long. Already too big for my taste. And still small :-) "Downtown" with a couple of shops for all the cruiseship tourists is only a 10min walk. The supermarket here is smaller than Valdez, Seward or Kodiak! There is also a salmon hatchery, but it is small and by far not as cool as the other ones, especially Kitoi. And not a good location. No bear will come here. Not good for my photography...
Tomorrow our alaskan sailing friends are coming aboard for 8 days. Very much looking forward to that!!