We are done voyaging for the day. The anchor lies deep below the boat, a heavy chain descends from the bow into the dark depths. Switched off, the steady thrumming of the engine is silenced after a long day.
The boat floats upon dark still water, the deep green of the spruce forest surrounds the little cove we selected for this night’s anchorage. Otters play in the bight across the cove, the call of a loon echoes over the water.
Cheery lights spill from the salon, inside dinner is eaten, the dishes are done. It is just a bit to early to retire to the bunks below. Instead cards are scattered about a cribbage board, the game too close to call.
A radio recites a weather forecast, charts are consulted, a plan a sketched out for the next day. Down this channel, across that passage, a stop the hot springs, and a couple possibilities for the next anchorage are plotted.
Tomorrow will bring another day of voyaging, there are hundreds of miles to go before Bellingham, a journey along the Inside Passage is not yet done. We have plotted the next day’s course. After we pull the crab pots we again turn south, tomorrow…
There is always something broken. It is just a rule on boats. Usually is is more than one thing, you have a list. Just so long as nothing on the list is truly critical.
Our journey south along the Inside Passage has been documented by adding things to the list, and crossing a few off as they get fixed. Washdown pump not working? Bad crimp in the power connection. The defrost vents on the bridge… Fixed. The anchor light atop the mast? Fixed… That took some work and dismantling half the ceiling. Door latch on a galley cabinet… Fixed.
Still, the list does not seem to get any shorter.
Nothing really critical… Until we noticed the batteries were not charging.
Hmmm… That might be a problem.
I spend a few minutes poking about in the engine room. The battery circuits are fairly simple, everything is just bolted to the forward bulkhead and fairly easy to get at. There is some complication in that we also have a battery charger that runs off AC power, that adds a few more wires, circuit breakers, and other electrical boxes to the setup.
Yeah… The alternator is dead. It is putting out 2.9 volts, not 12 to 13 volts..
Hmmm… That is a problem.
Fortunately we can charge our batteries. We have to run the generator and use the battery charger. We can keep cruising, with no redundancy. Lose the gen-set or the battery charger and we will soon be dead in the water when the batteries give out.
Of course this happens in the middle of a rather large bit of wilderness, a long ways from any substantial port that would have the needed parts.
So we run the gen-set for a few hours each morning, and a few hours each evening charging the batteries. The nights are punctuated by getting up to check the battery voltages, on the panel just outside my cabin door.
Those few days of cruising allow us to get to Shearwater. This little port serves the cruisers coming up from Vancouver and transiting the Inside Passage. Shearwater offers a fairly good marine supply house and a small boatyard.
Of course they do not have an alternator for a Cummins diesel in stock. They can however fly one in the next day from Vancouver. Just $400 for the alternator and another $90 to have it couriered to the airport. The final bill is $515… Ouch. Only somewhat softened by the conversion rate to $US.
We spend the night in a very pretty little cove a few miles from Shearwater. In no hurry to run back to dock I take a couple hours to kayak around a saltwater lagoon playing tag with a family of otters. One nice result of the breakdown.
At 1:30pm the water taxi arrives from Bella-Bella with our alternator aboard. Good, this will take 20 minutes… Not.
A broken 1/2″ ratchet… Run up to the marine supply for a 1/2″ breaker bar. $20 later we can get the serpentine belt off.
We do not have a socket big enough to get the pulley off the old alternator. Run up to the boatyard where the mechanic quickly swaps the pulleys with an air ratchet. We slide him enough loonies for a round of beer.
Done. The batteries are now charging! We head south towards Queen Charlotte and a open ocean crossing with all systems good to go. Everything critical at least.
The 61G lava flow has been flowing into the sea at Kamokuna for several months now allowing the lava tour boat business to resume after a three year pause. I have biked to this flow, but a view from the water was an attractive option for photography. After multiple discussions with a few photographers I know I had decided to go out with Kalapana Cultural Tours, a local business with years of experience on these waters, a choice which proved to be a good one!
Ten days on the boat out of Juneau, our annual family trip fishing in Alaska is complete. This summer it was an all family affair… My mother and father, my brother and his wife, and their grandson Andre. Add Deb and myself for a total of seven aboard the Nordic Quest for ten days of fishing and exploring. The plan was to head south of Juneau, down Stephen’s Passage for the Frederick Sound area.
First stop was Taku Harbor for the night with the following day spent attempting to fish salmon in Stephen’s Passage. A pretty day, but no fish. The only luck we had was a single crab in one of the pots left overnight in Taku.
On to Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. The weather was not great for visiting the ice, but we did arrive at low tide, the best time to see calving. We were rewarded by the sight of several ice-falls as the water level fell and the face of the glacier crumbled.
An afternoon spend fishing Halibut was rewarding as well, plenty of fish landed along with one hundred pound specimen caught by Andre. A halibut that big can not be gaffed and simply lifted into the cooler. Instead I harpooned the fish off the swim deck. My first harpoon shot was a bit off, hitting low, a second was much better, right through the spine behind the gills. Good this too, the fish promptly broke the steel leader. Two harpoon lines attached insured this fish was headed for the freezer.
No good fish tale is without peril, and this is a good tale. We were retrieving our crab pots across the channel from Ketchikan. There was a gale bearing down with those terrible words coming from the Coast Guard on marine radio “Small Craft Advisory, repeat Small Craft Advisory”.
No problem. Just get our pots and scoot back to harbor. A couple of hours tops! It is a beautiful Ketchikan day in advance of the storm. Beautiful for Ketchikan, which as any local knows means pouring rain. It had been pouring all week, more rain than I had seen in a long time. The rain had not stopped the fishing and we had done quite well. It had been a trouble free fishing trip, ’til now.
This is when our alternator belt broke.
We were in trouble.
Well, maybe not that much trouble. We were in a nice safe anchorage and the worst probable fate was that we would be anchored ten miles from civilization eating crab for two days… In the rain.
Dan, as always was prepared for anything and had spare belts on board. With a little digging under the seats and other odd compartments we locate the tools and spares needed. An hour of breaking knuckles on pulleys should have us heading home. Of course the Amber Dawn’s engine is just under a cover in the middle of the open rear deck. We just have to do this job… In the rain.
Not quite so easy… Of course the belt that broke is the rear-most of the three, so two others must come off, to get at those the heat exchanger must be lifted out of the way. We get the new belt in place and tighten it up… and find it is the wrong size belt, too long by a couple inches. Again we are left floating… In the rain.
A little yankee ingenuity was needed, this consists of about twenty minutes of four men chewing ideas and telling each other what won’t work. Eventually I have an idea that does not get an immediate negative from the assembled wisdom. We look at each other… “That might work”.
The parts to make it work are found; a bolt, a nut, and a three-eights open end wrench. A bracket is fashioned, using the wrench as a spacer to hold the alternator away from its mount. Start the engine… The belt holds, the alternator turns and we are under way home… In the rain.
Most of the Kona side dive operations operate out of Honokohau Harbor, giving access to dive sites from Kailua Bay to well north of the airport. These are the operations most divers visiting the Big Island are familiar with. The diving is good around Honokohau, but can be limited, island divers know that the character of the reef is different as you move north or south.
Experienced divers will often recommend diving the Puako and North Kohala reefs. Here the shoreline is notably older, where the volcanoes have not sent lava flows into the sea for many thousands of years. The reefs have had much longer to establish themselves, resulting in heavier coral growth and rich sea life.
If you want to try the sites further north, along the Kohala Coast, you need to choose another outfit to dive with. Two local dive ops operate along the Kohala coast, Blue Wilderness and Kohala Divers. Both outfits are small businesses, locally owned and operated, the owners often on the boat with you.