San Diego Experience… Let’s Get To Mexico…

Sänna San Diego

“Whilst I kneeled behind Marie to listen in on the speaker a guy walked around the corner of the building then stopped suddenly when he saw me kneeling right behind Marie on her hands and knees. “Whoa,” he said, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, it’s a free world and you guys should do what you wanna do.” He sheepishly disappeared back around the corner embarrassed. Marie and I looked at each other quite shocked.” Dave.

The Harbour Police office had a notice posted saying that all transiting vessels must use the communication kiosk located at the outside corner of the building. The notice said this provided a link to the main police office downtown for processing incoming boat traffic and arranging for the requisite vessel inspection… except the kiosk didn’t do any of that. There was a keyboard on the kiosk but some of the keys didn’t work, so when dialling any of the four numbers given we then received a message on the screen saying we’d dialled an incorrect number. After fifteen minutes of trying our luck with the keyboard we somehow struck lucky and got the number right, a faint voice on the line then gave instructions that we could not quite make out because the voice seemed to be coming from somewhere around our feet…

Continue reading “San Diego Experience… Let’s Get To Mexico…”

Storm…

“First off, a storm sized wave swamped our stern sending our bucket under the steering wheel which then jammed, that then tripped our autopilot which meant we broached beam-on to the next big green wave that nearly capsized us. All because we’d forgotten to tie down the bucket. Then the same thing happened again five minutes later because once more we didn’t tie down the bucket.” Marie

We knew we’d left things late but what could we do? Dave said everything would be fine but the engine setback in Port Townsend cost us time, precious time we couldn’t afford meaning that we’d have to make the eight hundred mile passage from Port Townsend to San Francisco towards the end of October. October is when the Pacific winter storms start to build and is why every sailor worth his salts on the American west coast who’s heading south reckons to be gone from Townsend by mid-September. October is way too late they say…

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The Chichagof Mine

“I said the old mining camp would be nothing but trouble but we still went there. It took five days to find the mine, what happened afterwards will stay with me for the rest of my life. Then it turns out Dave knew about the rumours all along…” Henry

So we finally left Elfin Cove to head for Sitka. The route first took us east along the tide driven Lisianski Straits to the Pacific Ocean shoreline of Chichagof Island, then we laid a course southwards through the stunning outside passage – taking us between countless small islands that protected us from the worst of the long Pacific swells breaking along the outer coastline. The route, often used by Alaskan fishermen, afforded a number of secluded anchorages that we could use to day-sail our way south. It is difficult to find words to describe to you this spectacular journey, this part of Alaska that appears in no tourist guide or cruise itinerary yet must easily rank as one of the most scenic passages we’ve made since leaving the Mediterranean twelve years ago…

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Sänna Sitka

Latest News & Blogs…

“Things are changing fast in Alaska and our own complex situation changes too. Life on a sailboat is often not easy and the influences of the real world create social and family pressures that are sometimes difficult to ignore. There’s always an intrinsic reason to move on…”

Together we decided to leave Alaska to slowly make our way home. Our upcoming blogs and latest news will reflect our feelings that we must perhaps face things as they really are.

In July the three of us, Marie, Henry and myself left Hoonah for the last time to sail south. We left behind exceptionally good friends we’d made during our three years there, it was a heartbreaking decision but one we deliberated knowing it was time to move on. Partly this was because of the changes in Alaska in the face of relentless growth in huge monster-sized cruise ships that often brings tacky tourism and also because of our ongoing engine issues that finally put paid to our plans to attempt a transit of the Northwest Passage… and after listening to lots of advise it was clear that we must head south to get things fixed once and for all. It’s notoriously difficult to fix an English sailboat in Alaska.

Continue reading “Latest News & Blogs…”

A Right Good Alaskan Adventure…

Louise Ungless & Sarah Carter Glacier Bay Alaska

In June my youngest daughter Louise travelled out to Alaska to join me onboard Sänna. To meet up with her I sailed Sänna the forty miles or so from Hoonah to Auke Bay just north of Juneau, all the way there worried about docking solo in the absolute chaos that is Auke Bay’s Edward Statten Harbour…

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All photography Copyright ©️Louise Ungless


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Sänna Sitka

Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas

“I will give you water and share the fish we have for food. I will teach you when to sing our song and dance our dance, but you must not then plant your flag in this land and call it your land. Your King is not our King and your Lord is not our Lord.” Chief Kaawishté of the Tlinkit, Shakes V, 1878

The First Nation fisherman from Yankee Maid asked if I’d like three king crabs they’d caught earlier in the day. Sure, I said, I’d be more than pleased to take them off him. We got talking, his name was Robbie, he was true-blood Tlinget descended directly from Kaawishté, the tribal Chief Shakes over on Shakes Island… the Naanyaa.aayí clan still reside in present day Wrangell. Robbie bought over the crabs which he’d cooked up already so I dressed them down for my favourite crab & cucumber sandwiches (always cut diagonally) and fresh-crab salad. This was just fine. Afterwards I wandered over to Yankee Maid to thank Rob again. Come aboard, he said, you can meet Gerry our cook…

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Sänna Sitka

Slow Grown Alaskan Gold…

“Wes Tyler said it didn’t matter what got into our new cabin ceilings, yellow cedar could take anything without warping, twisting or bending even if we ended up at the bottom of the ocean.”

Well, our cabin ceilings and hatch linings had taken a hammering over the cold winter, condensation having formed and then frozen several times over until they began to rot. But we were in the best place to get new timber… the timber growing in Chichagoff’s Tongas Forest is probably some of the best available in the whole world…

Read about how my step-brother Gary and I both turned craftsmen and made an amazing discovery about slow growing Alaskan Gold…

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Sänna Sitka

By Gum It’s Good News From Alaska

“If it wasn’t for my bad luck then l would have no luck at all. The curse of my bad luck is in my head but my good luck is always on the horizon where the sun rises every day. I head that way but the sunshine is all the time in the same place each morning when I wake. Now I am old and my bones are creaking like the bending trees in the wind I thank my good luck each day I see the sun rise from the horizon of my dreams.” Chief Eagles Fist of the Huna.

So I got a call from Braden to say there’d been a really heavy snowfall and Sänna was much too low in the water. He said many of the fishing boats in Hoonah harbour were bad but not to worry, because they’re gonna get their shovels and clear the snow as best they could. Then he called to say everything was OK but a few days later he called and said there’d been another bad storm and this time everything had froze over… meanwhile we’re sitting in the sunshine of sunny Norfolk all stressed out wondering what the hell we’ll find in a few weeks time when we get back onboard…

Continue reading “By Gum It’s Good News From Alaska”

Wild Alaska

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Henry BealOur latest VIDEO production details our voyage deep into the Glacier Bay National Park from Hoonah in Southeast Alaska during 2016. Crossing the Icy Straits in gale force winds of thirty-five knots made a splendid change from endless engine work… all three of us relished the challenge of intense sailing to seek shelter in Bartlett Cove, where we needed to validate our permits with Park Rangers who vigorously restrict the number of vessels allowed into the immense Glacier Bay area. With over 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, frozen glaciers, temperate rainforest and exceptionally wild coastlines of the St Elias Mountain Range, Glacier Bay is an undoubted challenge for any sailing vessel.

We transported photographic and video equipment ashore to find and film Alaskan wildlife at its most extreme. Please take time to view this ten minute film production expertly produced by www.davidungless.com. Continue reading “Wild Alaska”

THE WILDERNESS THAT IS CHICHAGOF

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“If you do go there, and I really don’t think you should, if you do find the old mine and perhaps the young girl in the ragged white dress, if she begs you to take her with you, keep walking. Don’t listen or turn to look back, just keep walking…

That’s all I’m gonna tell you about that.”

Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska is huge, the second largest island in US territory. It’s a remote and wild place in a wilderness that is itself spectacular and largely unexplored; all of these mountainous islands create the fabled Inside Passage, the sheltered thousand-mile sea route stretching southwards from the Glacier Bay National Park and Skagway in the north to beautiful Vancouver and mighty Seattle in the south. Together with close-by Baranoff Island, almost impenetrable Admiralty Island, the more sedate Prince of Wales Island and numerous other islands, a small sailing vessel like Sänna could spend years exploring this region using the countless anchorages and remote fishing harbours hiding amongst the Sounds, fast flowing Straits and deep fjords.

Rugged Hoonah is much the largest settlement on Chichagof but not the remotest. There’s the infamous whiskey-watering-hole of Pelican… which is incredibly difficult to reach, the small hippie community of Elfin Cove and the rusting remains of the Chichagof Gold Mine, a ghostly camp hidden in the mists which many in Hoonah beg you not to visit, to not go there for a very good reason…

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Port Frederick, Hoonah