Log #11

Arriving Juneau, Menhenhall Glacier, new crew

Friday June 25th

We sail sailed from Fords Terror out into Stephens Passage, and then north to Taku Harbor--a small bay less than 20 miles south of Juneau. The number of boats in this anchorage indicate that we are starting to approach something that resembles civilization, or at least what qualifies as the largest city we've encountered sine leaving Seattle. There are about a dozen boats anchored here, and another dozen small power craft tied up to a float (or pier) about 1/4 mile away.

Saturday June 26th

We remain in Taku Harbor today. Guy and Tracey take the dinghy out at noon and don't return until 5:00. The goal is to catch more fish. It rains the entire day, virtually non-stop, and they return soaked and empty-handed. I have decided that I am not a fisherman.

Sunday June 27th

We depart Taku Harbor at 10:30, and turn north into Stephens Passage again. The sky is clearing, and we have a 15 knot southerly. Tracey wants to haul out the main, and I guide her through the process. When she has the mainsail almost full-out, I tell her, "tighten your foot." She stops cranking and gets a funny expression on her face as she looks down at her feet. I respond, "the foot of the sail, not the foot in your shoe." An expression of revelation follows, as she concentrates once again on the sail.

I am concerned about sailing on a run in these conditions (with the wind directly to our stern), because of the rocky shore so close to our starboard side. Instead, we sail on a broad reach port tack(wind coming across our port quarter) to the northwest. This requires us to tack up the channel, executing controlled gybes each time we tack. (A controlled gybe is when you sheet the mains'l in centerline to the boat before, and only then allow the wind to cross the stern. This prevents the main from dangerously sweeping the deck at high speeds, which is not only rough on the rigging , but also potentially fatal to anyone standing in the wrong place.)

Tacking north in Stephens passage is wonderful--sunny, warm, light winds, fun, and relaxing. We have so much fun that we tack and gybe all the way into Gastineau Channel and Juneau.

Monday June 28th

We get a little rest, take walks on shore, and visit a real restaurant.

Tuesday June 29th

Guy and Tracey depart for their return trip home to Sidney, BC. They were great crew, and I will miss their company.

Wednesday June 30th - Friday July 2nd

I spend these days by getting Andanté ready for the next crew, doing laundry (the Laundromat is called the dungeon, confirming that I am, indeed, at the bottom of the food chain), maintenance, repairs, and provisioning. There are more projects than I anticipate, and one project leads to another new one. For provisioning, there's a Costco in Juneau. It is sailor's provisioning heaven.

In addition to my work, I also have some time to do a little exploring of Juneau, which, as the largest city in southeast Alaska.


Holland America Cruise Ship, Juneau Alaska


In the spirit of participational education, I have developed a little Juneau quiz. for you:

Juneau has a population of: a) 8,000 b) 30,500, or c) 50,000? If you selected 30,500, you were right.

But the city also has an adult eagle population of a) 2,500, b) 5,000, or c) 10,000 adult eagles? If you selected 'c,' you win again, with 10,000 adult eagles.

Juneau receives 250 days of rain annually, with 278 cloudy days, and the heaviest rain months occur in: a) November and December, b) September and October, or d) January and February. Those selecting September and October are right again.

On the summer solstice, Juneau receives 18 hours and 18 minutes of daylight, but dawn and dusk makes it light from about 2:30 in the morning until 23:30 at night. During the winter solstice, they only get six hours and 21 minutes of sunlight--it's pitch dark at 15:00.

According to a survey by the L.A. times, Juneau is the fifth most popular cruise destination in the world, based on scenic beauty and shopping. Consequently, Juneau receives the following number of cruise passengers each year : a) 250,000, b) 500,000, c) 750,000? The answer is closer to 'b,' with 570,000 passengers arriving via cruise ship, out of 680,000 total tourists.

True or false: You can get to Juneau by air, road, and sea. The answer is--false. You can only get to Juneau by air and sea. Although there are several hundred miles of paved road around Juneau and its environs, all roads dead-end. (Actually, many of them have round-abouts at the end, so you can turn around in the circle.)

The story of Patsy Ann--local towns-dog. Patsy Ann lived in Juneau during the 1930s, and became famous (it's a relative term) for meeting every ship that came into the harbor, even though she was deaf since puppy-hood. In fact, more than famous, she became a legend (also a relative term), and in 1934 the mayor bestowed upon her the title of Official Greeter of Juneau, and made her exempt from licensing. (You know you've made it when the local government gives you tax-free status.)

How did she do it? Some suggested she could 'feel' the boats coming (no specific explanation of how she did this). Some suggested canine premonition. More plausible is the suggestion that, because she hung around the longshoremen's hall, she simply followed the longshoremen down to the docks.

Although Patsy Ann died in 1942, the town erected a memorial statue in 1992. According to Director Linda Blefgen at the Gastineau Humane Society, she continues to receive letters from people all over the world who have visited the statue and want to know more. These are people who lead relatively secluded lives, but that's OK, I'm not making any judgements here.

If all this wonderful history has only whetted your appetite about Juneau, and you have to have more information, check out these web sites:

  1. Links to Juneau and other Alaska sites: www.juneaualaska.com
  2. The Juneau newspaper and visitor information: www.juneauempire.com
  3. Nice photography of the area: www.juneauphotos.com
  4. Alaska Division of Tourism: www.travelalaska.com
  5. Also: www.commerce.state.ak.us/tourism/
  6. Inside Passage: www.alaskainfo.org/

In addition, I found several web sites for some of the previous towns we've visited along the way (as well as some towns that we haven't). I haven't had an opportunity to test any of these, and so hope they're accurate ...

  1. Ketchikan: www.ktn.net/
  2. Petersburg: www.petersburg.org/
  3. Sitka: www.http.ptialaska.net/~scvb
  4. Skagway: http:skagway.org
  5. Wrangell: http:wrangell.com

Saturday July 3rd

Dave Mumper, a sailing friend from Tacoma, arrived today. Dave and I had the pleasure of sailing from Fiji to New Zealand together about 18 months ago. After settling his gear into the boat, we head off to the Mendenhall Glacier.


Mendenhall Glacier

The Glacier, as it's known by the locals, is a short taxi ride north of town (short but expensive--although only 13 miles north, the ride cost $23.00. It reminds me of New York, only here the cab drivers speak English, or at least Alaskan). The glacier's ice ranges from 400 to 800 feet deep, stretches 12 miles across Mendenhall Valley, and sometimes reaches 1-1/2 miles across. Mendenhall Glacier is part of the Juneau Icefield which consists of 1,500 square miles of ice (larger than Rhode Island). Since the mid 1700s the glacier has been retreating an average of 60 feet annually.

Snow accumulates and, over a period of years, slowly compacts into dense ice. The ultra-dense ice, with an oxygen content of less than 20%, absorbs all colors of the spectrum except for blue, which continues to pass through, giving the intense ice-blue color. Ok, enough for the Bill Nye stuff.

Dave and I hike the East Glacier Trail, which climbs up to Nugget Creek. Although we can't actually get to the glacier, we gain enough altitude to have a closer look and terrific view.

In the evening, we experience Juneau's fireworks celebration from close to the boat. "But this is July 3rd!" you exclaim. "How dare they shoot fireworks off on the 3rd!" More Bill Nye stuff: The scientific explanation is that you have to wait until dark before shooting the fireworks off. Because it's not dark enough here until midnight, Juneau's department of fireworks displays are accurate in waiting until midnight of July 3rd, because after midnight it technically becomes July 4th, and so they are, in reality, shooting fireworks off on the 4th of July. Waiting until after midnight the evening of July 4th would technically be July 5th. So that would be unacceptable. This is somewhat similar to Port Hardy, British Columbia, where you can order Chinese dinner for three for two, but not in portions of two--only three. But that was an earlier story from an earlier log, and not worth repeating.

Sunday July 4th, 1999


Jon Wells and Dave Mumper
New Crew in Juneau


Jon Wells, close friend from college and long time sailing buddy arrived from Boston this afternoon as 2nd crew member for the next leg to Glacier Bay. (Jon says, "YES.") Having awakened at 03:00 east coast time, he is sitting watching me type out this final paragraph with blurry eyes, since he has not slept now for 25 hours. He's still so excited that he refuses to go to sleep. Nevertheless, his spirit remains undimmed.

Up Next ...

Log #12—Glacier Bay

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