Ocean Swells and an Underwater Hazard
This morning we listened to the marine weather forecast to determine the feasibility of making our passage across Queen Charlotte Sound, exposing us to about 50 miles of ocean swells coming in from the Pacific. The weather forecast for QCS calls for a gale warning to continue in the southwest, with winds ranging from 15-25 knots, and 25-35 knots over the southeast section in the early morning; easing to 10-20 knots in the afternoon, and 10-15 knots overnight. Seas will be three meters (nine feet), easing to 1-2 meters (3-6 feet) overnight. Not ideal, but it will give us an improving window towards the afternoon before a second front develops over the north coast of Vancouver Island late Friday. We decide to go for it, and separate from the mooring buoy at 7:47 a.m.
Around 10:00, as we head north out of the protection of land from the west, large low-frequency ocean swells roll in. I estimate their height at in the 9-12 foot range. We are taking them on the port beam. Some of these waves are so big that Andanté rolls from side to side, sometimes touching her toe rail into the water. Most items are well secured below, but the noise is clamorous as dishes, pots, and pans adjust to the rolling and pitching. These huge swells pass under the boat and roll off towards the coastal islands where we can see them crashing onto the rocks along the shore, spraying foam and white water 20 feet into the air.
Around 13:30 the swells start to subside as we gain protection of land once again. As we enter Fitz Hugh Sound the wind builds to sailing speed, so we take a much appreciated opportunity to unfurl our main and genoa, and are able to sail at eight knots under 16 knots of wind. By 18:30 we have anchored in Pruth Bay--a 62 mile day.
We haul up the anchor at 8:30, and are motoring out of the bay at about 1-1/2 knots. The tide is near low low. Suddenly and unexpectedly we bump into a submerged rock. We hear a loud thud. I am below, and am thrown hard into the table. Tracey almost falls off the stern. Guy is at the helm, but the responsibility is mine because I failed to check the chart. I curse myself for my lapse as I tore the companionway steps off so that I could check the bilge. Good news: no water. We are still water tight.
From what we can see, damage appears to be minor. The force of the impact has thrown the stove off of its hinges, and that appears to be all. But I worry about the damage I can't see. However, the good news is that tonight's stopover point, Shearwater, has haul-out facilities for 90 tons. I check the chart, and, sure enough, the @#!*rock is marked. After checking the bilge several times again (it's dry) we decide to proceed, and head north.
This morning we find a lot of traffic in Fitz Hugh Sound—mostly cruise ships returning from Alaska. Around noon we are passed on port by the Sea Princess—one of Princess Cruise line's newer ships. To say that she is large is an understatement. She is so large that I can't gauge her dimensions. I'm thinking possibly 300-400 feet long, and 15-20 stories high. But between us and the Sea Princess is another more interesting sight; one that preempts our attention. We have spotted a school of porpoises.
There are possibly 30 or 40 porpoises in the school, which is swimming toward the Sea Princess. But the Sea Princess is too fast and too far away for them to reach her. Giving up the chase, they turn towards us. As they approach, about six of them swim to the bow of the boat, where they often like to surf the compression wave. After taking a closer look, they veer off to join the main school, which is now to our starboard side, about 1/4 mile away. The encounter was thrilling but all too brief.
Friday evening, tied off in Shearwater, we meet Dick and Donna Yellam on their boat Happy Wanderer. They have just purchased NavTech, and are having some problems. My crew have informed Dick and Donna that I'm the guy for tech support. (Can't seem to get away from it.) Although I haven't used NavTech before, their question is simple and the software intuitive enough that I can answer it for them.
We awaken to fresh scones in the cockpit--courtesy of Donna, in grateful appreciation of solved computer problems. Around noon the tide is high enough to haul the boat. As Andanté lifts out of the water, we discover an impact point at the bottom of the keel. In addition, there are several chips broken off of the leading edge where the keel attaches to the hull. In addition, there is a small gap between the keel and hull. Since I've never seen this area exposed before, I don't know if this is a problem, or not. We must wait until Monday for the full crew in order to make the determination.
It's heavily overcast, dark, and raining hard. Nothing to do, so we pull out the marine DSS (it can track the satellite even while at anchor), and fire it up to determine if we can receive signal this far north. We can. Although the dish points almost directly to the horizon, the signal is clean and clear. The rain is more problematic. I've been told that when the rain drops are the same size as the frequency wave of the DSS signal coming down from the heavens, they interfere with reception. Although it rains all afternoon in frequency-disrupting-droplets, we're able to watch several movies, including Airforce One and The Doors (two hours of Val Kilmer portraying Jim Morrison drinking hard liquor, doing cocaine, and dropping acid. No wonder Morrison died at age 27.)
This morning the Shearwater Marine folks suggest that I contact Hallberg-Rassy about the keel to determine if there might be structural damage. It is now 19:30 Sweden time. My friend, Vickie Vance, is probably already home by now. But on the other hand, she has been working hard at starting her new parts and accessories business in Ellös, where HR is located. I decide to give it a try. The phone rings once, twice, three times, and Vickie answers!
After explaining the situation, Vickie informs me that there is always a small gap between the keel and hull, even when the keel is initially bolted on. She advises sealing the gap with Siecaflex (sp?), re-glassing it, adding some bottom paint, and moving on. Great news. Shearwater is working on the repairs as I type away.
Vickie and Roland will meet us in Juneau mid-July, when they'll take Andanté on their own for almost a month. They have received their permits for Glacier Bay. You'll be hearing more about them later.
To conclude this update, hopefully we can get Andanté back in the water tomorrow. It depends on how long it will require for the new fiberglass and bottom paint to dry.
Coming up next: completing the repairs and getting underway. Will we have time to make a stop at the greatly anticipated hot springs before arriving in Prince Rupert on Sunday June 6th to pick up new crew members? Stay tuned to find out.
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