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S/V NATARAJA

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Updated 09/10/04

S/V NATARAJA BACK IN SAN FRANCISCO

September 2004

Eric and Emmy returned after 2 years of cruising in the south Pacific and Alaska to their home port "Brickyard Cove" in San Francisco Bay

More news from Alaska

NOTE: (The last letter is on top)

NATARAJA wintering in Alaska

 January 7,  2004

Ketchican, Revillagigdo Island, Alaska

55 21N/131 40W

 Whatever possessed us to winter in Alaska? Well, back in August, while still in Sitka, we received an offer to work for the Nature Conservancy on Palmyra Atoll. The current caretakers are very good friends of ours from Lake Tahoe and called upon us to fill in on short notice when the assistant cook had to leave. We had to be in Honolulu to board the charter flight to Palmyra on September 9{\super th}. We were then faced with the dilemma of what to do with Nataraja. In talking with yachties from the Pacific NW, Sydney, B.C. sounded like the perfect place. The job was a temporary one, through the end of November, with a possibility of a longer contract after the first of the year. If we could get the boat to B.C. and put her on the hard , we would be in a position to slap on a new coat of paint, add some new zincs, and actually pick a weather window and set sail for Palmyra in January. Crazy, but doable. Sitka was all we had seen of SE Alaska, and we felt a bit cheated and decided to explore at least a small part before setting sail for B.C. After only a week, we had decided that we couldn't rush through. There was just way too much to see. While in Craig, on Prince of Wales Island, I contacted the harbor in Ketchikan to see if it would be possible to get a slip for the winter. Not a problem, and get this, it would only cost us $207 for three months for a 37 boat! We explored several more anchorages as we made our way to Ketchikan, and arrived on September . Our flight out was scheduled for the 6th. In reality, we had two full days to get the boat secured and winterized before leaving her for three months. Eric's sister has a friend here, who agreed to boat sit for us. The water taxi picked us up at the boat the morning of the 6{\super th} and took us to the airport, which is actually located across Tongass Narrows on another island. After three airplanes and four airports, we were in Honolulu being picked up by friends.   Our stint on Palmyra ended on November 24'th} when we flew back to Honolulu, visited with friends again, then boarded a plane to Oakland on the 26'th. We were met at the airport by friends. We spent Thanksgiving with them in Modesto. The next afternoon, we headed off to Oakland for a visit to West Marine's bargain store, then on to their boat at Brickyard Cove. On Saturday, we headed off to the Marina Bay YC for an impromptu gathering in our honor. What a great afternoon! We were up and moving bright and early the next morning to catch our flight home . Our plane touched down in Ketchikan at 1530, we boarded the water taxi and went home to Nataraja who was waiting for us at City Float Harbor.   So, here we are, in Alaska, on a boat, in the winter. Well, believe it or not, it really isn't all that bad. It is rather temperate here. The lows are normally in the mid 30's, while the highs go into the mid 40's. We do get several hours of daylight, and the sun has shone itself a couple of times. Our second night aboard was quite a night. A strong low passed over bringing with it winds in the 50 knot range, and gusts that were clocked at 90. Wow! The VHF weather reported 23ft seas in Dixon Entrance, which isn't all that far from us. That is the body of water between Alaska and Canada. Another storm packing sustained winds to 60 snapped our SSB whip antennae in half. Strong winds are the norm, and some days, we have chosen to just stay aboard and not venture out. The barometer is getting quite a workout, it's dropped as low as 989, and then springs as high as 1035. Until this morning, we had only received light dustings of snow . We awoke to four inches of snow on the boat. As we cleared off the boat, the harbor staff was going up and down the docks with snow blowers. Snow isn't all that common at sea level, for the most part it just rains. We have had clear skies for the past week and the temperatures have dropped into the single digits overnight. These extreme temperatures actually froze the layer of fresh water and we found ourselves frozen in. We watched as the harbormaster powered through the harbor breaking up the ice. The biggest problem is the ice on the docks, one must tread carefully so as not to fall on one's bum. We were able to secure a slip in Bar Harbor, the main harbor. While leaving our slip in City Float, I was slipping all over the foredeck and the dock lines were frozen. As we approached our new spot, I told Eric he had better not make me jump. I was afraid I'd slip on the ice and end up in the drink. This spot puts us closer to the bathrooms, laundry, showers , grocery store, and post office. Now all we need to do is stop procrastinating and find some work.  Nataraja came with a Force 10 propane heater, and we hoped it would be sufficient to keep us warm. Couldn't have been more wrong. It barely takes the chill off, and does little to help with the massive amounts of condensation. The only thing it does well is burn up massive amounts of propane. It was fine in the bay area while at anchor on cool nights, but temperatures in the single digits and teens are too much for it. We do have shore power and are using a ceramic space heater. Since it's metered power, we don't run it too much. Diesel heat is the way to go and we will add one to our inventory if we decide to stay in the northern latitudes. The cold is tolerable, and so is the rain. It is the condensation that is testing our patience. Everything just drips, no matter what we do. The only time we got things relatively dried out was when we ran two space heaters and the 12v fans for a whole day. We are not comfortable leaving the space heaters running when we aren't aboard, and they are power hogs. It has been said that dehumidifiers work well, but we haven't been able to find one. Electricity is very expensive here. Our power bill runs about $70 a month, and the only thing running is the heater! Good thing the slip is cheap.   It is possible to cruise this area in the winter months. To be honest though, we are a bit soft after being in the tropics for three years, and other than changing harbors, we have no desire to go out. Guess we are just a couple of weenies. The weather systems can be very violent and when venturing out, it is imperative to keep an eye on the barometer and an ear on the weather. Anchorages with good holding can be found, although there are few that we would be comfortable riding out near hurricane force winds in. Many of these are also covered in ice due to the many creeks and waterfalls emptying into them. The fishing boats go out regularly, but then their local knowledge and shallow drafts keep them safe. We have read a number of accounts where boats and lives have been lost due to sudden changes in the weather . We will wait for the spring thaw before we head off to explore. Ketchikan itself is an interesting little town. The population is around 10,000 in the winter . The economy is driven by fishing, crabbing, and tourism. The latter being supported by the cruise ships that visit daily May through September, bringing as many as 5,000 people ashore a day. The winter is rather quiet around here. Many of the fishing boats return to their homeports in Washington leaving the harbors only about half full. The majority of the boats in the harbors are working boats. Sailboats are definitely the minority. The Ketchikan YC hosts cruise outs and races throughout the spring and summer. We have visited the yacht club, but there isn't much going on this time of year. We were offered a slip ($40 a month!) but we had already paid at the city harbor. There isn't much here to do in the winter . Summer offers quite a bit more in the way of hiking and biking. Due to the inclement weather we haven't pulled he bikes out, but have done lots of walking. The island of Revillagigedo is volcanic slate and the roads are all very steep. There isn't much in the way  of flats along the edges and the waterfront roads and buildings are built on piers over the water. When you look down while walking, you can see through the boards into the water below. so do not drop anything, you will never see it again if it falls through the cracks.

At this point, we have no definite plans and have no idea where we will end up. We do have to find someplace to call home for a year or two in order to work and build the "cruising kitty" up again. We will keep you posted!

Emmy & Eric

s/v NATARAJA

 

September 2, 2003

The Inside Passage applies to the channels, bays, and narrows that make up the intricate waterways of Southeast Alaska. It conjures up visions of fog, churning water, and tight passages in rock strewn channels, and excitement around every corner. I think, to fully appreciate the area, one must read of the adventures of the area' s earliest explorers, such as Cook & Vancouver, and of the whalers and fur traders who traversed these waters under the power of sail alone. This is not sailboat country. We have motored practically every where. The wind, when it does blow, is almost always on the nose. The currents, eddies, tidal rips, and whirlpools will keep you on your toes. Navigating can be incredibly challenging. There are numerous uncharted rocks and shallows. Massive logs and kelp piles linger in the tidal lines. We have a new found respect for those men. The area is quite beautiful, and rugged, but the touch of man is visible. The area has been heavily logged, clear cut in places, and the scars will take many, many years to heal. But, nature has a way of taking care of herself, and repairing the damage man has done.

We cast off those pesky dock lines on Monday, August 18 and headed out of Sitka. In order to get to the heart of the inside passage, we needed to go through several narrows and straits. Looking at these areas on the chart was enough to raise the pucker factor . They looked so narrow. The first one was Olga Strait, where we passed two ferries. The next, narrower one, Whitestone Narrows, then into Neva Strait. As we went along, it got easier and easier to breath, it really wasn' t so bad. Even when one of those huge ferries passed us in an area where it felt like we had no less than 10 feet on either side of the boat. Guess it was much wider. The next big challenge was Sergius Narrows. The chart showed  swirls,  tide rips ,  whirlpools, Coast Pilot says  Vessels should pass through the narrows at or near slack. At the strength of the current it is not safe for any vessel bound either way The cruising guide says  At ebb tide,  Narrows is dangerous, with tide rips and turbulence, except near slack. Does that sound scary or what?! We arrived about two hours before high water slack, and headed into a small bay to await the safest moment of chance. We watched as a couple of fishing boats went through. Eric says  look at those guys, they didn' t have any trouble, we can go\. No I say,  that' s local knowledge and lots of horsepower. We can wait. Then a tug with a tow went through, and well, I lost ground. If the tug and tow can get through, we sure as heck can. I had these horrible visions of poor Nataraja spinning out of control in one of those swirling whirlpools, rocketing towards a rock pile, oh, it was an awful feeling. There was still another hour to go before slack. We stuck our nose in with four knots of current behind us and shot through like a watermelon seed. The eddies & whirlpools were all around us, but we were able to dodge around the worst of them. We made it through unscathed, and I could finally breath again. Our first anchorage awaited us at the end of this wild ride, and it felt good to set the hook and relax.

The sights never ceased to amaze us. We saw many bald eagles, Sitka black tailed deer, humpback whales, fur seals, sea lions, sea otters, salmon, black bear, river otters, weasels, geese, and numerous types of birds. Each anchorage was unique. Several had small rivers and streams which led to lakes or lagoons. Cool areas to explore by dinghy. But these trips had to be carefully planned to avoid shooting the rapids. If you went in at the wrong time, you\rquote d be faced with one heck of a white water ride. We made that mistake once, but it happened so fast we couldn\rquote t get turned around. Once the current caught us, we shot through the gap and were spit out in a salt water lagoon. The tide had just turned and we figured we had better turn around right away before it got stronger and trapped us for hours. We turned and headed into the current, but our little 3.5 horse was no match for it. It put up a valiant effort, before clipping a rock with the prop and breaking the shear pin. Eric took the painter and walked along the shore, while I poled. We only got a little wet, but we got out. It was actually quite the adventure. Maybe not too bright, but fun. Stupid human tricks at their finest. At another anchorage, we spotted another stream that led to a salt lagoon. Coast pilot said \ldblquote it could be entered by small craft at high tide\rdblquote . So, of course we headed to check it out. The tide had just turned and was heading out. We approached to find a small set of rapids, which we were making good progress in. The problem lay in that we could not safely negotiate the one foot uphill jump to the flat water. We watched as the salmon leapt up and over, but try as we might, we just couldn\rquote t make the dinghy launch itself over the top. We turned around and found a safe place to tie up the dinghy and ventured in by foot. This was no easy feat either, as we clamored over downed trees, waded in the water, scaled rocks, and walked across logs over the water in places. Eventually, we came across the lagoon, but couldn\rquote t get to it. We could only look from our spot at the end of the trail. On the way back out, we commented on how much the tide had gone out since we came in. The real evidence came when we got back to where we had left the dinghy and found the poor thing hanging from it\rquote s painter, and a raging set of rapids coming off a six foot waterfall! Good thing we didn\rquote t get that dinghy to leap. Warm Springs Bay offered us a real treat. A short hike through the woods brought us to three sets of sulphur springs of varying temperatures. It felt so good to sit in the hot water and soak up the heat. The pools were right next to a raging waterfall. This bay also had three bath houses that were plumbed with water from the springs. While sitting in the privacy of our tub, we overlooked the bay and the waterfall. Our shore excursions were sometimes scary for me. This is brown bear territory, and they aren't as tolerant as the blacks. We never went ashore without our flare gun. We never actually saw any browns, but we did see evidence that they were around. I really had hoped to see at least one, from the safety of the boat of course. At least the blacks were cooperative. Any time we are on the boat, the binoculars are handy, and one of us is usually scanning the shoreline for critter activity. Patience is a virtue and the rewards are truly wonderful. One evening, I spotted a huge black bear, sauntering along the shore towards the mouth of a stream. Of course the mouth was just out of our line of sight. We got in the dinghy headed along the shoreline and poked around the point. Once clear, we cut the engine and saw not one, but two black bears feeding on salmon. What a sight! We counted a total of four in that one area. We had stopped at one anchorage on the east side of Baranof Island that was notorious for brown bear. Unfortunately, there were a few other boats there, and they were zipping around in their dinghies and fishing along the shore. No chance the bears were going to show, and they didn\rquote t. Bummer. But, we did get to see a truly beautiful waterfall and a big rock covered with fur seals.

We paid a visit to the town of Craig, on Prince of Wales Island. Interesting little place, not much going on. There is a grocery store, bank, fuel dock, couple of restaurants, a library with internet access, and one paved road. It has a small harbor, home to mostly fishing boats. Readers of Latitude 38 may remember the article on  that had sailed to Hawaii last summer. And, if we are not mistaken, she use to be on E dock at Marina Bay, right up in front by the gate. Well, this year  is exploring Alaska. We were docked right next to her, but never saw the owner. He is probably stretching his legs in a motel room. Her mast was down, and she was ready for her ride home to the Bay Area.

From Craig, we headed off and had to transit another of those high pucker factor narrows-Tlevak Narrows. Well, we got there and the tide was rippin . There was white water all the way across. Funny, don' t remember the chart mentioning anything about rapids. Guess we hit this one at the wrong time. After double checking the currents, we pulled into the nearest anchorage and called it a day. It was just after noon, so we had all day to goof around. After a quick lunch, we took off in the dinghy to explore all the little islets and coves. We came across a group of sea lions feeding in the tidal rip. After cutting the engine we just drifted and watched them. They watched us watching them, but didn't seem to mind that we were there. They are noisy buggers, grunting and snorting like they do. Next we headed over to a point where we could watch the water in the narrows, there were more sea lions over there. Seems the tidal rips hold some yummy snacks. The next morning, we put on our brave faces and headed into the narrows. Even at slack, those whirlpools were rippin . Eric did a really good job avoiding most of them, but it was impossible to miss them all. Nataraja would just swoop her bow into them, then pull up again. The GPS showed us going almost nine knots through there. At least it was over quick! The spookiest part, was having to dodge logs and kelp. Because of the spring tides, there was an abundance of logs floating around. From this point on, the logging evidence was very strong. The shores of the islands were literally piled with logs that had washed ashore. I\rquote m not talking about firewood sized logs either, I am talking tree sized logs. We saw some complete with the old root structure, and some of the biggest ones were five feet in diameter! Needless to say, this is not an area you want to transit after dark. As we entered Dixon Entrance (the water way that separates Alaska from Canada) we saw the most incredible line of logs floating in front of us. There was a definite tide line, and it was full of logs of all sizes for as far as we could see. It was like passing through a mine field. I was on the bow, directing Eric through it. This whole area has strong currents due to the exposure to the open ocean, two major straits and several smaller ones coming down from Alaska, and one from Canada. The entrance to Nichols Bay, where we planned to spend the night, is on the southern tip of Prince of Wales Islands. We had to claw our way through the tidal rips, even at slack tide, to make our way in. Then of course the fog had descended on us too, and with only half a mile of visibility. With help of the navigational software and radar we slowly entered the bay, dodging rocks and islets. Another one of those high pucker factor moments. Once inside, the fog magically lifted and the sun was shining upon us once again. We ended up staying in this bay for several days due to some nasty weather. Gale warnings were posted, and it rained buckets for three days. Finally the weather broke and we made our way out. The seas were still pretty stacked up and the tidal rips were brutal, but we made it out and headed for Ketchikan.

We have found a spot in one of the city harbors to call home for the winter. Are we nuts or what!? As it turns out, there is just way to much to see up here in one season, and the weather offshore wasn't sounding very enticing. So, we came here. From what we have gathered, it rains alot, but not usually much snow. There is a yacht club, the Ketchikan YC, who knows, maybe they have a full cruise out schedule for the winter. We'll check it out and give a full report.

Emmy and Eric

s/v Nataraja

 Sitka, Baranof Island, Alaska

Red Bluff Bay

57 03 N 135 21 W

In the wee hours of August 4'th, w e arrived in Sitka after a light wind passage from Prince William Sound. It actually gets dark at night now, and this was a really dark one thanks to thick storm clouds. We picked our way through the outer islands and found our way into the harbor. As we approached an empty spot along the dock, Eric shifted gears and the whole boat began to shake. Hmm, that doesn\rquote t sound or feel too good. He couldn\rquote t get her to go into gear, every time he tried, she\rquote d just shake violently. We managed to drift alongside the dock and get tied up for the night. Next day, Eric dove down in the cold water to see what was up. We had lost a prop blade. Flashbacks to last year when we threw a blade in Samoa, almost a year to the date. Luckily, this time we had a spare fixed blade prop and just needed a few minor parts. While waiting for those to arrive we spent the time exploring Sitka.

There is a lot to see and do here, the town is dubbed \ldblquote the most historic city in Alaska\rdblquote . It is believed the Tlingit (pronounced \ldblquote clingit\ldblquote ) people settled this area more than 10,000 years ago. In 1799, the Russians settled the area in hopes of expanding their fur trade. Needless to say, there was trouble between the two groups. In 1801, the Tlingits destroyed the Russian settlement. Three years later, the Russians returned to fight in another battle to regain possession. The Battle of 1804 was won by the Russians and the Tlingit fort was destroyed. The Tlingits left Sitka and settled in the surrounding areas. The Russian Orthodox Church served as an official extension of government. In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. On October 18 of that year, atop Castle Hill, the Russian flag was lowered and the United States flag was raised to mark the transfer of ownership. Shortly after midnight on July 4, 1959, the first flag with 49 stars was raised in the same location, to mark Alaska\rquote s entry into statehood. We visited several museums and enjoyed historical walks to learn all about the area. One afternoon, we watched the \ldblquote Naa Kahidi Dancers\ldblquote perfrom Tlingit dances. Their songs and dances have been passed from generation to generation, telling the stories of their people. It was a beautiful display of costumes, instruments, song, and dance translated by the tribal dance manager. Also in Sitka, we visited the Raptor Center which is home to a number of wounded and recovering birds of prey. The center has a full staff of veterinarians, a full clinic, and ICU ward to care for sick and injured birds. The birds go through rehabilitation after treatment, in an effort to make them strong and healthy enough for release. Sadly, most of the residents are there because of humans - having been shot, hit by cars, colliding with power lines, injured in logging areas, and some were taken from their nests and raised in homes. Of course there were some with diseases, and self inflicted injuries (i.e. falling out of the nest, crashing while fledging).

Sitka boasts miles and miles of hiking and biking trails. Try as we might, we weren't able to do it all. But, we covered quite a bit. One hike took us to the top of Gavan Hill ( is Russian for harbor), over three miles of uphill hiking, with more than a mile of it in steps. The trail began in the  bog, then wound through the spruce and hemlock forest, giving way finally to the alpine. The views from the top were absolutely stunning. Needless to say, our legs were rather sore the next day. The Starrigavan Recreation Area had number of interpretative walks and trails that led through the muskeg, along estuaries, and into the forests. Baranof Island boasts one of the largest brown bear populations, so we always carried our flare gun, and made noise while on the trails. Many of the trails border prime berry areas, where the bears like to feed. We picked lots of blueberries and huckleberries while walking, always remembering that the bears have the right of way. We also passed along many streams and rivers where the salmon were spawning, another prime bear area. The salmon are quite amazing to watch. They\rquote ll just launch themselves out of the water, and belly flop back down. We figure they are practicing for heading upstream. We visited John Brown Beach on Japonski Island. The beach is dedicated to John Brown who is buried there. The headstone tells us he died at the age of 30 in 1901. That\rquote s all we know about him. We came across another memorial. It was rather odd, because the only thing on it were the dates 1947-1966 and over 130 names. There was no explanation. We asked a couple of ladies on the trail and they thought maybe smallpox. We asked at the library and the lady said TB. Who knows. Japonski Island is also home to the Coast Guard Air Station and buoy tenders and the Sitka Airport.

For a town that is home to only about 8,500 residents and 14 miles of paved roads, it sure knows a thing or two about boat harbors. There are eight and a half miles of docks, plus a mile of side tie transient docks. That translates to about 1,360 slips. During peak fishing season, there have been as many as 1,800 boats packed into the cities harbors! The walk from the top of the ramp to our boat was one mile. We always made sure we had everything we needed before leaving the boat. There is no electricity on the transient docks, just water. The harbor is a hubbub of activity, fishing boats coming and going at all hours. The spot on the transient dock where we were, was where many of the fishing boats tied up to wait for their turn to unload their catch. It\rquote s very entertaining watching the seaplanes that take off and land in the inner harbor. The tides run about 10 feet on average here, so there is also a tidal grid for haul outs. It\rquote s more for the fishing boats, or full keeled sailboats, a deep fin keel like ours wouldn\rquote t be able to use it. We made friends with the captain and crew of a mega yacht that tied up across from us. I jokingly gave the captain grief that their big boat was blocking all our wind and our sunsets. He actually offered to plug us in to their generators, but they were running 250v. Bummer! One evening, they had a cocktail party at the end of the dock off our bow (so they could be in the sun). They all wore leis and were drinking margaritas (we were a little confused-were they thinking Hawaii or Mexico). We weren\rquote t invited to join, because the owners were there, but they did sneak us some margaritas. The chef would slip us cold smoked salmon every time he made up a batch. Now that was a real treat. The fisherman are very friendly and generous with their fish. We scored all the salmon and halibut we could eat. Another treat, was the opportunity to see \ldblquote Wn. Ragland\rdblquote , Neil Young\rquote s 100 foot (or so) schooner. It was actually quite funny, Eric stopped by to chat with the captain and the captain says \ldblquote Hey, aren\rquote t you the guy from the West Marine in Honolulu?\rdblquote Boy, I can\rquote t take him anywhere! Neil wasn\rquote t around though. We had kinda hoped he\rquote d show, because we wanted to know what inspired the song about the Southern Cross that Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young do. Guess we'll never know.

The locals are super friendly and the ones we met gave us phone numbers and insisted we call if we needed anything. They offered rides, and their help. The poor little town gets inundated with cruise ships. At times there are as many as three in port, adding upwards of 5,000 people to the town. The local paper runs a \ldblquote cruise ship calendar\rdblquote so you can plan your trips to town, museums, and other places of interest. Town was not the place to be when the ships were in! One thing we found that was really cool, is that the grocery stores will pay round trip taxi fare for the boat people. All you have to do is spend $50, how hard is that? It sure made it easy to re-provision in one trip, instead of several with full backpacks. We finally got to meet some other cruisers in Sitka. It was fun to finally enjoy the company of other yachties, to have dinner, pupus, or cocktails aboard each other\rquote s boats. There were three other boats,  Gone With The Wind Pacific Voyager (friends from Hawaii who left after us), who all had engine trouble of one kind or another. You know, misery loves company, and we drowned our sorrows in cheap wine and beer. In addition there were a few boats from the Seattle area, one each from the U.K., France, and Germany. There is a yacht club of sorts here. The Lord Baranof YC has a membership base, a burgee, a newsletter, and a shell of a building. It seems the building was donated to the club, but no one has time to work on it. We gave them an MBYC burgee, their first visiting YC burgee. Hopefully it will get a place of honor when the club house is operational.

Our engine parts finally arrived. With a borrowed hooka rig, Eric dove on the boat and switched out the prop. The old stuff came off without a hitch, and the new prop went on almost effortlessly. Yippee! We are back in business and very excited about exploring the inside passage.

Emmy & Eric

s/v Nataraja

 

Hello from Ketchican Alaska!
We arrived in Ketchikan yesterday afternoon, and will call it home for the
winter.
We will be gone for a couple of months to work, but should be back
at the boat in late November, early December. From what they say, it rains
a lot here, so I'm thinking we won't be shoveling much snow. Should be
interesting after three years in the tropics. Maybe, we are just mildly
insane, you know, that hot, tropical sun does it to you. We will be
incommunicado until our return.

We left Sitka on the 18th, and really enjoyed ourselves as we headed through
several narrows and straits on our way to Sidney BC, but decided we
shouldn't be in such a hurry. There is just too much to see here! We found
some wonderful hot-springs at one anchorage and soaked for hours! Lots of
wildlife out here too. Seen a few bears, lots of humpbacks, and even a river
otter. Really cool!

Until next time.....Emmy & Eric, s/v Nataraja

 

57 03 N  135 21 W
Sitka, Alaska


Hello everyone! We are having a wonderful time here in Sitka. Overall the
weather has been spectacular, clear, blue sunny skies and warm days. But, a
low pressure system moved in Wednesday evening and it's been raining ever
since. Not complaining, cuz that's an excuse to sleep late and  lounge
around and read all day. Anyway, we have been on the go since we got here.
The situation with the prop has been taken care of. Eric dove into the balmy
55 degree water to check things out. The good news is, we didn't have
anything wrapped up in it, but the bad news is we seem to have lost a blade.
AGAIN! It was almost exactly a year ago while in Asau, Samoa that we
replaced a missing blade. Oh well, we only needed a couple of small parts to
put the fixed blade back on. We ordered them, and they arrived in only a
couple of days. Eric donned the wet suit once again, and with a borrowed
scuba tank was able to do the change. We are back in business.
Sitka has many miles of hiking and biking trails. We explored a good
percentage of these. On one hike, we had a horticulturist along who pointed
out all the different plants and berries. We came home with a lot of
blueberries. Many of the trails pass through "muskeg" which is like a bog.
The ground cover is thick and spongy, the trees are stunted because of the
water content in the ground. There are also areas of spruce and hemlock
forests, and on one of the higher altitude hikes we explored the alpine
areas. On this trail, we walked up over a mile of stairs! Needless to say,we
were very sore the next day.

TUNDRA TRAIL

Lake Creek & Prospect Glacier


There is also a raptor center here that treats and rehabilitates injured
bald eagles, owls,etc. They are really doing some great work there. It is
really sad how many birds are there because of humans. The Sheldon JAckson
Museum has an amazing display of local indian and eskimo artifacts. We spent
quite a bit of time in there learning how they made clothes, hunted, fished,
and just plain survived in such a harsh environment.
We have also been eating well. The fishermen and the chef on the motor yacht
next to us, have been very generous. We have had more salmon, smoked salmon,
and halibut than you can imagine!
We hope to sail out of Sitka this weekend and begin exploring SE Alaska on
our way down to British Columbia. The weather is a major factor. It's one
thing to go sailing in the rain when it's 80 degress outside, quite another
when it's only inthe 50's. Guess we need to toughen up! We'll keep you
posted on our progress.
Emmy & Eric
s/v Nataraja

ALASKA

Hello all! Well, we finally tore ourselves away from Prince William Sound,
and are safe and sound in Sitka. Arrived about 0300 local time August 4th.
We really enjoyed the sound, absolutely spectacular! Just us and the bears and
lots of other critters. We went all the way up to Whittier, but there was no
where for us to tie up or to anchor for any period of time. The manager of
the fuel dock allowed us to spend the night there, way cool. Not much to see
there anyway, but we did get to buy some fresh produce and eat in a
restaurant, and bond with society for a few hours. We visited many
anchorages, and were even given a freshly caught salmon after the fishermen
practically netted us in in one of the bays. Not sure how long we'll be in
Sitka, we have once again lost a blade on our prop and are waiting for some
parts. While waiting, there is lots to keep us busy. Many miles of trails to
explore, and many berries to be picked. We'll keep ya posted. Love to all!
e&E, s/v Nataraja

 

CONGRATULATIONS!

(see story on the bottom of page)

The story of Emmy Newbold and Eric Wilbur aboard their 37 foot Flying Dutchman sloop "Nataraja" in the South Pacific.

Eric and Emmy, members of WYC left the Tahoe area in 1998.They purchased their sloop in San Francisco and departed the bay area for Hawaii in 2000. After a year of getting their boat ready in Hawaii,  they sailed for Palmyra and to American Samoa than back to Hawaii. Emmy and Eric got married on the island of KAUAI in Hawaii. "NATARAJA" left Hawaii on June 1, 2003 has arrived at SEWARD, ALASKA. You can follow their progress on the Internet YOTREPS OFFSHORE REPORT. Go to the web site

                    www.pangolin.co.nz, click on YOTREPS Offshore Report, then click on BOAT REPORTS. On the list of boats that are being tracked look for KD5SIT (Nataraja) click on TRACK this will show the track of NATARAJA>

 

Eric and Emmy.jpg (20647 bytes)

     Savaii beach.jpg (25498 bytes)              TOGITOGIGAWATERFALL.jpg (22506 bytes)
Christmas Island, Kiribati 01 28 N 157 28 W

Hard to believe, but the time finally came to start making our way back to reality. On October 2nd (Tongan time) we sailed out of Vava’u. The wind and swell directed us to Apia, Samoa. We crossed back over the dateline and I got to celebrate my birthday twice. Eric baked a chocolate starboard tack cake for me and we hooked a 25 lb. mahi mahi. Does it get any better than that?! It was a very pleasant sail, and we arrived off the southeast end of the island at about 10pm on the 3rd (the 2nd one). We still had to make our way up and around to the north side. The wind lightened up and we moved along at about 1 ½ to 2 knots, which put us at the harbour entrance at sunrise. Perfect.

We spent a week in Apia, eating all the chocolate ice cream we could find. Aggie Grey’s Hotel does a “traditional Samoan Dance & Fire Dance Show” with a buffet featuring local eats. We had heard it was really good & worth the money. A group of yachties braved a torrential rain storm to attend (we all showed up soaking wet), and all decided it was about the hokiest thing we’d seen. But, the food was good and we did have a really good time. We visited every market in Apia stocking up on beef, cookies and other necessities for an ocean passage. We saw what we thought was a decent weather window, and sailed away on the 12th.

Anyone who followed our progress to Christmas Island may argree that maybe this wasn’t the best window. But, hey, it’s weather, you take what you can get. Our first 24 hour and our last 24 hour days clocked our best times. There were definitely some really dismal days-48 miles in a 24 hour period. Could have been worse, we could have been getting pasted and been getting only 48 miles. Finally on the 25th we had the equator in sight. I did not sleep all day for fear I’d miss it again. As we neared, we got everything ready-the video camera, the still camera, the bottle of rum, our message in a bottle (glorified litter?) and stood there staring at the GPS. Yippy! We’re across, back in the northern hemisphere! We took video & photos of the GPS, then hurried to the cockpit to make a toast and pour rum, and throw our message bottle. There is no sign “Welcome to the Equator”, no dotted line or anything. We sat and reminisced about all we’d seen and done together. Eric reminded me of his promise to show me the world and we decided he was doing a pretty good job. Then he asked me to marry him. Now I know why I missed the first crossing, apparently he was going to ask me then but lost his nerve. Like I’d say “no” in the middle of the ocean. Very memorable equator crossing. New horizons, new hemispheres, new beginnings. We arrived off of Christmas Island at 10pm on the 26th. Exactly 14 ½ days since leaving Apia. We hove to and waited until daybreak to make our approach. There are two anchorages, one that is a roadstead and the other that is inside the reef. To get to the one inside, we needed a high tide. The water is only about 7’ deep in places (Nataraja's draft is 6.5') and there are no markers. With the sun in our eyes, we opted to take the easy route and headed to the open roadstead and anchored with the tuna boat fleet in deeper water. We spent the day aboard enjoying the sight of land and green stuff. On Monday, we headed to shore to get checked in and were surprised to find that it was actually Tuesday. Now how did that happen? The capitol of Kiribati is west of the dateline so Christmas & Fanning are on the same day to make it easier to conduct business.

Christmas is a funky little island. Not a whole heck of a lot there. It is very arid, gets only about 30 inches of rain in a good year. Eric said he felt like he was on Highway 95 in Nevada. The people have got to be the friendliest of all the islands. They just smile and want to chat. We met lots of people. One guy we met was an Aussie who was here heading up the water development team. There are fresh water lakes under the coral and they have drilled to tap into it. They use windmills and solar panels to run the pumps. We were referred to him when we asked about filling our jerry cans. He was nice enough to drive us and our five 6 gallon jerry cans back to the dinghy, then offered to take us along when he drove out to the water pumps. So, after lunch at Kristina’s Restaurant ($2.50 Australian or about $1.75 US we got two scoops rice, chef selection of two proteins -chicken, fish, or omelet, and a piece of pumpkin. We ate there three times and always had something different.) we piled into his truck and headed off down the road. He was a great tour guide, and told us about the different projects. The Sea Bees out of Tennessee had built the school and hospital. The Catholic church has built a small college. The water pump station was quite fascinating and he explained how it all worked. We even got to climb the scaffolding up to the top of the big water tower, about 75’ high. From up there you could really see how flat this island really is. As if not being able to see it from 5 miles offshore wasn’t enough. He took us to the village of Main Camp where we visited the Captain Cook Hotel, then through Banana where we saw all the stuff the British abandoned after the WWII. Then a quick trip to the airport. They get one plane a week and it comes from Honolulu.

On another adventure with another yachties couple, we hitchhiked and were picked up by a nun. We were on a quest to track down customs and immigration so we could check out. A big swell and storm system had passed over and we decided to go to Fanning where the anchorage is protected. It was so bad, the boats were rolling rail to rail. Things were crashing to the floor and we were rolling in the bunk. The nun took us as far as Main Camp, which is about half way to the airport. She then ran out to the road (habit & all) and waved down the next truck. She told them to take us to the airport. Cool, not catholic, but good to have a nun on our side. Upon arrival at the airport, we fanned out and tracked down the officials. Of course, customs didn’t have the right forms, so we had to go back to London (forgot to mention-that’s the town by the harbour) and they would be back after lunch. Hitching back was a bit of problem, because all the trucks were loaded with coolers, suitcases, cargo, and people. We found a cab (little blue pickup with benches in bed covered by canopy) and he had room. When we got to London and asked how much, he said the other guy had paid our fare. Wow, what honesty, how many US cabbies would have passed up additional fares? The air raid signal sounded so we headed back to Kristina’s for lunch. You can’t help but love a place that uses an air raid signal to signify lunch time. It goes off at 12:30, then again at 1:30. Everyone then goes for a nap, then the next one sounds at 2 and everyone goes back to work. Customs did not show up at 1:30 as promised and we camped on the doorstep until 4pm. Geez, it was Friday and we wanted to go and were afraid we’d miss them. Of course, by the time we got back to the boat after our whirlwind day and sitting in the sun, we were to tired to sail off. The swell had mellowed out and the sky was turning black. OK, we’ll have some dinner, and take a nap. It’s an open roadstead, don’t need daylight to get out. We'll leave whenever we wake up. So, we were underway at 0700, we both slept like rocks, through the night.

Fanning Island, Kiribati 03 51 N 159 21 W

Our trip from Christmas Island began at about 0700. The sea was flat and there was no wind. A pod of dolphins saw us clear of the island. The wind never filled, and we actually motored the whole 175 miles to Fanning Island. We did enough bobbing around between Apia & Christmas, and had no intention of doing that again.

The approach in to the anchorage was pretty cut & dry. The current ripping through sure can make it interesting, but not bad at all. We picked our spot and dropped the anchor in 13‘ of water. What a beautiful lagoon. The water is so incredibly green and blue, just spectacular. The lagoon throws a green glow onto the bottom the clouds if the sun hits it just right. It’s really quite pretty, but eerie, too. So, while at sea, if you see such a thing as a cloud with a greenish tint to it, stay clear, land is near. This island is much more lush than Christmas. Norwegian Cruise Lines has two ships that come here. The local people set up booths and sell their crafts.

We wandered around, exploring the area. On one of our walks, we met a guy collecting shells to make necklaces to sell to the cruise ship passengers. I found a few shells and put them in his bucket. He invited us to his home for coconuts. When we got to his home, he scurried up the palm tree and cut down a few coconuts. We then went over to his sitting area-an open air, elevated, covered platform. He had us sit on the mat while he opened the nuts. We talked for awhile, then his wife and daughter came home for lunch. They joined us on the mat. She told us how they had moved from the capitol island of Tarawa to escape the high cost of living. Because she works for the government, they are currently living in a government home. Once they save up some money, they’ll build their own home on family land. Since I had the digital camera with me, I took some family photos and promised to return the next day with copies for them. They didn’t believe me, because they thought I had to take the film in to be developed. This was the first time they’d seen or even heard of a digital camera. When we showed up with the family photos and a surprise one of him in the coconut tree, he was speechless. He really liked the one of him in the tree, and thought that one could be a post card. We were each presented with shell necklaces as a thank you.

The managers for Norwegian Cruise Lines on the island, just happen to be acquaintances of ours from Honolulu. We had dinner with them and enjoyed a wonderful evening. Andrew’s father is married to a Kiribati women and Andrew has spent many years in the Line Islands and is fluent in the Kiribati language. He and his wife live in a converted container. They’ve built on a thatched extension and even have air conditioning. It’s pretty cool.

The coolest thing we did was the channel dive. We hooked up with a couple of other cruisers and headed out the channel in their dinghy (our outboard wasn’t strong enough). Once clear of the strongest part of the current, we all put on our fins, mask, & snorkels, grabbed a line that had been tied to the dinghy and jumped in the water. We drifted back in to the flow, then went whooshing down the channel with the 4 ½ knot current. It was really cool, and right below us all the fish were getting swept along, too. The coral was OK, there were some really nice spots. I found the fish more spectacular.

Ke'ehi Lagoon, O'ahu, Hawaii 21 19 N 157 53 W

On November 6th at 1200, we weighed anchor and headed for Honolulu. The first few hours were picture perfect, 15 knots from the ESE and small seas. But, that was short lived. We passed through a storm cell and the wind built to about 25. It then shifted to the ENE, and that’s pretty much where it stayed the whole trip. The wind increased at times to 35 and sometimes came form the NE, sometimes the gusts topped 50. We were pretty lucky as far as the seas were concerned, they never really got big until we were in the Hawaiian Island chain. Life underway while beating to weather in strong winds isn’t easy at all. The galley is on the starboard side which happened to be the 'high side' of the boat. Anytime we opened a cabinet things would tumble out. Nothing stayed where it was put, for even a second. The hardest thing was trying to do the dishes. I would wash, rinse, dry, and put away one thing at a time because I couldn’t use the dish rack. Believe me, nothing is easy. All things considered, it wasn’t a bad trip. Kept telling ourselves it could be worse. The farther north we got, the fewer storm cells we encountered. The lightening was quite spooky. One night the clouds were so dark and thick, it was absolutely pitch black outside. The only thing we could see was the phosphorescence caused by the waves and the wake coming off the back of the boat. The only problem we had was when we ripped our main, but luckily we were less than 20 miles from the marina. Our friend Deb met us in the channel in her kayak, her sheltie Madeline perched in the bow. I grabbed her bow line and we towed her in. We were back in our slip at Ke’ehi Marine Center after a 10 day trip.

We are so fortunate to have been able to make this trip. Wow!! To actually have done it after dreaming and talking about doing it. The people we met, the experiences, the beauty, getting our butts kicked in the heavy weather, wallowing in the big swells when there was no wind, sitting at anchor watching the sunset, seeing a rainbow, sailing with the dolphins, hauling in the giant mahi-mahi, doing nothing all day but reading, getting lost in a foreign city, missing the last bus home, hitchhiking, dancing on the foredeck, watching the sunrise, showering in the rain, doing laundry in a stockpot, eating turkey tails, pig on a stick, hiking in the rain, walking along lava flows, trading little toys for papayas…..oh, so, so many memories. We are in Honolulu only temporarily, and will most likely end up in the bay area sometime next summer. We’ll keep ya posted…….

Emmy & Eric s/v Nataraja Ke’ehi Lagoon, O’ahu, Hawai’i

 

Aloha All!
The lovely Nataraja has arrived in Honolulu. We got in Saturday afternoon
around 1300. Cannot tell you how good it felt to sleep on a motionless boat.
This last 1,045 miles was hard work. Last everyone heard we were at
Christmas Island and would be heading to Hilo. Well, a big northwest swell
rolled into the anchorage and we opted to leave and go Fanning Island. We spent a few days there, then headed straight for Honolulu.
Fanning was a bit more lush than Christmas, but not much there either. The
one really cool thing we did while there, was a channel dive. What is that
you ask? Well, there is a 4 1/2 knot current in the channel. You take the
dinghy (not ours, not enough horsepower) out the channel, put on mask,
snorkel, & fins then grab onto a line that is tied to the dinghy. Everyone
goes in the water and goes flying down the channel. Way cool! There were
four of that did it and we had so much fun. We let the current carry us all
the way into the lagoon.
Our trip home took 10 days, and if you were able to track us on the
internet, you saw we had pretty strong winds. Luckily the seas weren't too
bad, until we were about 100 miles west of the big island. That's when they
got big, steep and sloppy. But, nothing we couldn't handle. The winds
averaged 25 knots, we had 35 at times, and even gusts over 50. But, the boat
did really well and we actually made really good time. We did rip our
mainsail, but at least it had the decency to wait until we were only 20
miles out. It's a clean rip along a seam and we caught and got it down
before it got really bad, so it'll be an easy fix. We didn't fish, we had to
eat up everything we had in the freezer. It was to rough to fish anyway.
We haven't decided if we're glad to be back or not. We have been so out of
touch for the past several months. Eric turned on the TV, and all we heard
was bad news, terrorist threats, etc. Maybe we'll just go back down to one
of those little islands where it's peaceful and stress free. We will spend
the winter here, then head to the west coast in the spring (location TBD).
Overall, this was a most awesome trip and are really hope to be back out
again soon. The sea gypsy lifestyle has grown on us. But, it really did feel
good to take that first hot shower in a real shower in over 6 months. Most
awesome. Although, we will miss standing in the cockpit, in the pouring down
rain, soaping up and hoping it'll rain long enough to get rinsed.
We will have regular email access, so it'll be great to hear from everyone.
I hope to get caught up on all the emails that were sent to us over the past
months real soon.
Emmy & Eric
s/v Nataraja

Hello from 60 degrees north!  We have fianlly arrived safe & sound in
Seward, Alaska. It is a balmy 50 degrees outside with  misty rain. The
mountains are capped in snow, and it is absolutely beautiful!
We left our slip on O'ahu on May 10th, and spent a few days at anchor on the
west side of the island before sailing to the island of Kauai. While there,
we made a stop at the justice of the peace and got married on May 19th.
Finally! We spent about three weeks exploring Kauai, what a beautiful
island! Really put Oahu to shame. The Na Pali coast is spectacular. The high
cliffs come right to the water's edge. We acquired a pair of folding
mountain bikes, and put many miles on them touring the island. On June 2nd,
we left Hanalei Bay and headed north to Alaska. The trip itself was pretty
uneventful, and a bit of a test of patience due to light winds. But, we had
a good time anyway. We landed three great fish-2 mahi mahi, 1 tuna. Once we
crossed 37 degrees north, it started getting colder and colder. We found
ourselves wearing multiple layers of clothes on our night watches. We even
had snow flurries one afternoon, and sleet on another. Our tans are quickly
fading. The farther north we got, the longer the days got. Finally land ho!
We could see the small islands and big rocks, and then off in the distance
the snow capped mountains. A pod of Dall dolphins escorted us in towards
Resurrection Bay. the Dalls are really cool, they are black & white and look
like miniature orcas. As they darted back & forth across our bow, we could
see their white bellies flashing under the water. They stayed with us for
about an hour.  I saw my first glacier, Bear Glacier, and even though it
wasn't daylight, I could still see the beautiful aqua coloring. What's
really cool, is that it doesn't get dark, just dusky, so we were able to
safely make our approach in the middle of the night. Once in the harbor, we
motored around until we found an empty slip, pulled in, and went to sleep.
Our time of arrival was 0230, just as the sun was preparing to rise again.
Not sure how long we'll stay in Seward, but we will keep everyone posted.

Emmy & Eric
s/v Nataraja

 

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