Warm rain fell as lines were cast from the tug Pacific Warrior to whom Dream Catcher had been secured for the evening at the Anchorage tug float. Five days later than our target departure date for South East Alaska finally found us on our way to start a 4 year NOAA whale study out of Juneau. The project will span 28 days a year out of Juneau. Computerized new engine controls for the brand new 660 horse CAT engines had delayed our departure. It now seemed like the major bugs were out we hoped!
Star, Shaylen (brother Scott’s oldest), Carol Masters (Star’s childhood friend), and I now were in a race to not be more than two days late for the start date of the charter. Fourteen hours later we slid out of the semi protected waters of Cook Inlet into the Gulf of Alaska. I had two choices, sail along the coast for the next 550 miles or cut straight across the gulf placing us over 12 hours from any secure port and shave close to 80 miles off our journey to Juneau Alaska, in South East Alaska. Our estimated speed with moderate seas was 8 to 10 knots per hour with our total short cut distance across the gulf being 750 miles to reach Juneau.
Gambling that a fair weather forecast for the next three days would hold; we cut across the gulf. The weather gods, were nice for 24 hours, then they gave us a 6’ following sea which finally gave way to confused seas with 150 miles to reach the inside passage. With 10 hours to make Cape Spencer the seas smooth out with a 5’ swell. Once inside Cross Sound it was a mere 9 more hours to Juneau! Pushed the engines a bit more than I wanted and they had guzzled down 40 gallons an hour but we’d cut our transit time by a third coupled to crossing straight across the gulf.
With in two hours of pulling alongside the NOAA dock in Juneau our team was on board and we were off! Night one was grueling as to make up for lost time we ran all night to make Petersburg by morning. Not that we hadn’t been going 24 hours a day but now Star and Carol had to get up at 5 AM to cook breakfast. So Shay and I were to spell each other though out the night. Least that was the plan, Shay slept though his alarm as we were all pushing exhaustion and I let him sleep. My decision, so he could be semi fresh for the next day. Seven Diet Pepsi’s, multiple candy bars, and waking Star twice to drive while I took 15 minute power naps saw us arrive Petersburg at 6 AM! Long, long, night!
Over the last 5 days we’ve been assisting as the team surveyed Harbor Porpoises in the Wrangle area. Now we are heading back north turning our concentration to Orcas which they will be surveying and taking tissue samples with the use of arrows and a blow gun!
The photos Star took are:
Tonight we are anchored in Cannery Cove, with three other vessels. We head to Hoonah tomorrow morning at 5 AM and will spend the remainder of the charter in that area and Glacier Bay.
We should have better cell internet service up by Glacier Bay so hopefully I can get some more photos off to everyone.