Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Friday, February 10th, 2017

AVANTI at Hot Springs Cove, Vancouver Island BC, 2016


The trip started out to go to Haida Gwaii, the original and correct name for the former Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, but weather happened and adjustments were made.  So we sailed to Bella Bella and a few points beyond.

Joe won’t mind us stopping for the night.

Entrance to Elizabeth Lake

We revisited the beautiful Joe’s Bay at the mouth of the great tidal lake Elizabeth Lake.  There, the tide goes out and the lake falls into the sea, then the tide comes in and the sea falls into the lake.

In Iceland with Chris.

Thursday, June 30th, 2016


Chris met me at the gate having arrived earlier and spending a long night sleeping in the Keflavic International Airport and  make that heavy on the “International”.  What an influx of people from all over the world!  It seems everyone wants to visit Iceland and for good reason.  Icelanders are some of the nicest, friendliest, helpful and beautiful people in the world.   Our rental car was waiting and down east we went.  It’s 405 miles or 653 Km from the airport to Breiðdalsvík (Brad-dols-vic) on the east coast of Iceland.  It took us no less than 8 1/2 hours.

Breiðdalsvík is where Chris left the NORTHERN REACH two years ago.  His dear friends Helga and Ingo took good care of her and had her on a trailer and ready for work in their beautiful shop.  The atmosphere was that of one long huge family reunion with people coming to welcome Chris home (his Iceland home anyway).  It was such a privilege to witness it all.  Their warm feelings for Chris spilled over to me and made me feel as welcome as ever I have been.

Chris’ reunion with NORTHERN REACH was quick and simple with a touch of sentimentality.  How could he not have deep feelings for something he has put so much hard work into and trusted with his life for so many long sea miles?  Then, out came the work list and the fun began.  Chris had two years to think over every detail he wanted to change, add and make better.

Follow Chris on his Facebook page at Chris Duff.

Dances with Whales

Friday, June 10th, 2016


Perhaps I should call this “Dances With Whales, West Coast Style” since I have already used that title in my blogs about the CAP’N LEM and the Belugas’, but to have had such an experience twice in a lifetime must be revisited. The morning they came to the CAP”N LEM was much like this one, quiet, still and magnificent. I was alone then but this time I had Tim along.

Off in the distance they blow. It was our first sighting of Humpback whales. Tim saw them first. It happened just after we passed Ivory Island Light Station and had entered the Seaforth Channel heading north. Tim had the camera and I had the binoculars, the auto pilot had the helm. Tim, “it’s coming this way!” and come this way he did, right straight for AVANTI off the starboard beam. Just a second before collision, he sounded and passed under the keel. Then he exploded into the air on the port side as though he meant to fly! All I could do is howler over and over, “Did you see that! Did you See that! Did you see that!” …to which Tim replied “See it! I think I got a picture of it.” And get a picture of it he did, When the whale breeched and crashing back into the sea, Tim had the good presents of mind to point the camera and click the shutter. A whalefish is a bit big for hook and line but Tim always the Fisherman, caught this one with his camera.


If whales could fly this one would have


To Bella Bella and beyond

Sunday, June 5th, 2016
Lake Elizabeth Falls on Joe's Bay

Lake Elizabeth Falls on Joe’s Bay

The quietness of the night at anchor in Joe’s Bay was broken by the whistle of the tea kettle for morning coffee.  Even that was quickly silenced.  Every noise, the spoon sturring  coffee in the cup, a creaking of the cabin sole was drumbeat loud in such stark silence.  On deck, I sat still as the waveless water around me, drinking in the morning and my coffee.  Then Tim  move in the quarter berth, arose, and the day began.

A boat such as AVANTI fits well in Joe’s Bay.  Boat noises don’t seem to be too out of place in the rising sun.  The engine and the clank of the anchor chain over the bow roller as Tim hoist it home signals to the forest, “We’ll be leaving now”.  Anchor home and free of the bottom we creep slowly up to Lake Elizabeth Falls, the only communication of seawater into and out of the not quite landlocked lake.  AVANTI’s deep draft keeps us on our toes and this is as close as we can get, then we left.

The truth at first light holds through to mid-day and we fish our way up Fitz Hugh Sound toward Bella Bella.

Port Hardy and Beyond

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Slugging out the Johnstone against the wind but with the current we came into Port Harding late and in darkness. AVANTI felt her way toward the back of the harbor for an anchorage, then bump, a log, bump bump, more logs. We had sailed right into an open log pen as invisible in the night as a Klingon Starship. AVANTI backed and pushed and bumped her way free and we found our anchorage for the night.

Next morning we fueled, watered and started out for some Canadian fishing. Tim’s the fisherman, but to just describe Tim as a fisherman isn’t enough. I search for just the right phrase. Tim is the fisherman who fishes just for the fish of it. His knowledge and respect for fish set him in a class to himself. Me, I just drive the boat and watch and learn. Not long and it’s salmon for dinner!

It’s a might skinny channel into Harlequin Bay on Hurst Island. (50° 50’ 34”N 127° 34’ 33” W) but it’s just the sort of place that draws me like a magnate. Tim takes station on the bowsprit and pilots us . It’s the kind of place a shore bound sailor visits in his mind when the days work is done, but the clock drags.


Tim with fish

Tim with fish

Harlequin Bay resized

Harlequin Bay on Hurst Island BC

North To Alaska, the great sail of 2012

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

p7152426-resized On July 15, 2012, Captain Tommy and 1st Engineer Tim Roberts departed Port Angeles Washington on their epic voyage to Glacier Bay Alaska. You come to.


Wednesday, September 1st, 2010



After an uneventful run to Terrington Basin, I dropped the anchor near the Otter Creek Sea Plane Port having sail, motored and drifted some 5678 nautical miles from Two Harbors Minnesota.  Now the most dangerous leg of the trip begins the highway home. 


My Labrador friend Jim N. took me to the Goose Bay Airport and I retrieved Thumper and the boat trailer.  Like so many things on the voyage a process must take place to transcend from the water to the land.  I often felt the ground move under my feet as I walked during the first few hours, a reaction to unexpected stability sailors often experience when coming ashore.  I adjust, quickly. 


There are lots of preparations to be made to the trailer and to the CAP’N LEM to bring her back to being a land animal, too.  I take my time.  It’s a long way back to Port Angeles and 500 miles of it on gravel road.


I spend the week-end just resting and thinking about the wonderful things that happened on this voyage of self-discovery, the lessons I’ve learned, and the people I’ve met, the highlights and low points, the moments of truth when the choices are clear

And the moments of doubt when everything is fogged in and trust comes hard.  Like a Hemmingway character who battles and battles only to have the sharks eat his prize in the end, the sea reminded me I am a stranger on the waters whose mistakes will not be forgiven. 


I learned some very useful things.  I learned how to be a lone without being lonely.  I learned to trust the vessel when I could not trust myself.  I learned solo sailing is fun, but sailing with someone is more so.  I learned where to anchor and where not to anchor.  I learned about shortening sail before the storm and about timing the tides to my advantage and about the slow agony of going against tides and wind.  I learned the darkness magnifies fear and how most fear is unfounded.  I learned that sometime you just have to live with the fear and press on.  I learned that some fear is healthy if I allow  it  to spur me into heightened awareness and action.   I learned to never go on deck without being tied to the boat, thus I traveled 5678 miles and did not fall off the boat.  I learned how to think in terms of the moment and the mile ahead and not the overwhelming length of the entire voyage.  One day at a time living became one moment at a time when the seas were huge and the land was far away. 


And about people, I learned first hand over and over their abundant kindness, generosity and helpfulness.  From the first day of launch in Minnesota to the day of recovery in Goose Bay, I’ve encountered the most interesting people.  They wish me well, they wish me luck, and many wished they were going with me, too!  The beautiful old gentleman, Uncle Jim, from the little village of Makkovik will ever be my reminder and symbol of all those dear people who touched my life along the way. 


The adventure is not ending, but changing.  This voyage has given my whole life a renewed sense of adventure by reminding me to never take anything or anyone for granted and to greet each sunrise with gratitude for yet another day of life.  But one does not have to sail to the Northwest Passage to learn that!  One only needs to open their mind and heart to what is around them. 


Check back with me from time to time.  There are still some ideas bubbling to the top of my mind about where to go and what to do next.  Write me about your dreams and give me the chance to be your encourager as you have been mine.  Tell me when you set sail!


Hold Fast, Shipmates, Hold Fast!  




Up with the sun

Sunday, August 29th, 2010



Up with the sun, up with the anchor, up with the sails.  I depart the fabulous anchorage that was so welcoming last night.  The wind is right but light out of the north east.  Clear of the bay and out on the lake I can see a wind line building and coming this way from the southwest.  It was not unexpected, just earlier than I had hoped.  Ten miles from the anchorage my stern wind died and was replaced with yet another strong headwind.  Rather than fight it with endless tacks and little progress I head toward small cape offering a lee to the wind and waves.  It lies across a shallow sandy shoal of 8 feet.  I’ve crossed shallower.  At 1000 or so, I anchor and wait at Latitude 53° 30’ 20.0” N ~ Longitude 59° 11’ 28.3” W in 14 feet of water.


By 1400 the wind has slackened and I venture out around the point into the main body of the lake and hoist the sails.  By making a long sweeping starboard tack can gain 1 mile for ever 2.5 I sail closer to my goal of Goose Bay.  Thunderstorms are predicted for tomorrow night and the storm of last year on Goose Bay is still fresh on my mind so I press on.


The wind backs ever so slightly and ever so slowly and I’m able to curl around the point and come into Kenamu Bay to anchor at Latitude 53° 30’ 20.0” N ~ Longitude 059° 55’ 44.8” W in 26 feet of water.


My last Lake Melville sunset

My last Lake Melville sunset


Friday, August 27th, 2010

Excerpt from the song  Sailing, By Chris Cross


It’s not far back to sanity
At least it’s not for me
And when the wind is right you can sail away
And find serenity
The canvas can do miracles
Just you wait and see
Believe me 


Canvas and wind

Canvas and wind





Leaving the Dark Tickle Harbor astern, there was first a puff, then a breath, then a wind and all from the north.  Up the main and out the jib.  The clouds are few and the sun is, yes, warm.  Passing quickly by Puffin Island, I see there really are Puffins and by the hundreds if not thousands.


The days of pinching into the head wind dissolve into a memory before a glorious beam reach sometime hitting 9+ knots.  The windward amma flies while the leeward still holds above water, the telltale sign that all is in balance so I let her go as she will. The hours turn into miles.


Flying Amma

Flying Amma





My intentions of calling at Rigolet were superceded by the need to transit the Rigolet Narrows on the flooding tidal currents.  As the wind slacked at sunset the currents picked up and the CAP’N LEM progressively built speed through the narrows toward Henrietta Island.  The chart plotter flashed a warning and I called it up to read “Do not attempt to pass the east side of Henrietta Island on any tide other than a neap tide at anything other than slack water”.  I double check, yes I’m on the west side and still the currents increase.  The narrows fork again around Eskimo Island and I take the eastern deep water route rather than save the mile of the western shallower route would afford.  The vessel is making a slow 5 knots through the water but 10.5 knots over the ground. 


All the tidal waters of Lake Melville spill through just three tributaries of the Narrows separated first by Henrietta and then by Eskimo Islands (see lat 54° 08’ 02.7”N ~lon 058°  26’ 39.0”W) and this was a spring* flood due the full moon that was just rising to the east.  In the failing light if day I see the tidal bore and its 3 foot chop all this water is making as it spills with such force into the large lake against a wind I have not yet felt.   I furl the jib and do the only thing I can do, square the bow to meet it at a clean 90 degree angle.  What happens next was… nothing.  As scary as that line of rough water looked the CAP’N LEM simply skimmed through the chop and out into the lake to be caught by a fine wind astern.  Still, it was a full 10 minutes before I stopped shaking.


The tidal bore behind me and the wind in the right direction (sail long enough and it will be in the right direction at least some of the time) I start the long journey to the only anchorage available within a nights sail.


The cloud covered sky glowed with the light of the full moon rising on its other side and gave the islands ahead a foreboding blackness.  But darkness doesn’t change the world, only my perception of it, and I perceived them might close.  I check the radar and the chart plotter obsessively drawing from them short lived comfort.  I check again.  The seas are building behind keeping the progress down the track line steady and fast. 


I’ve explained before.  I am a sea fearing man.  I know the only thing separating me from life and a cold watery death is the hull and integrity of the vessel that carries me and the choices I make.   The CAP’N LEM has proved her integrity time and again.  I ever remain the weak link.  It is situational awareness that is my only edge over the forces of nature that keep pummeling me on these adventures I thrust myself into.   But, at night, at sea, my eyes become liars, my feelings untrustworthy, my mind, a fabricator of false terror.  In the dark, the seas are bigger, the wind stronger and the time, slower.  Only the truth will do.  And the truth is this:  I can not trust myself! 


So, once again, I’m alone, on the water, with a building wind, in the dark.  And I know…I can not trust myself or my senses!  What can I trust!  Luck?  I don’t believe in luck.  Prayer?  Well I do some of that to be sure, and the echo of my mother’s words comes back to me from the past, “God helps those who help themselves”.   Yea, but not even God suffers fools for long.


So, how is it that I can do these things, go these places, experience these experiences and still be here to write to you about them?   Because there are some things that are completely and perfectly trustworthy and they are “Principles”.  The clear and clean principles of good seamanship and good navigation are trustworthy!   The principles of situational awareness!    The principles of knowing where I am and which direction I am going and keeping track of how fast I’m moving in order to predict where I will end up.  The principle of shortening sail before the wind blows.  And this, first and foremost, the principle of telling myself the truth about the situation in spite of how I feel!  And to this end, I must use ever resource available to me to discover the truth and every ounce of the will to make the clearest judgment possible based on that truth to keep the vessel safe and moving toward the goal.  Judgment then must be rooted in the knowledge gained of many nights looking into fog and darkness, the lot that is the sailor’s life.  And this too, I must not allow my fears and feelings to cloud the truth for that is the cloud of which nothing can penetrate!


My only company is the soft glow from the running lights reflecting back off the tips of the ammas, the little flashing symbol that says “your vessel is here” on the chart plotter and the clockwise sweep of the radar antenna.  I use the radar to double check the GPS.  I use the GPS to double check what I see.  I can even use my senses now that I admit their limitations and draw reassurance that dark mass against the sky really is the island I must get around.    


There is 35 miles to be transited between Eskimo Island and Etagaulet Bay where I can tuck into a cove hollowed out of the stone mountains by glaciers long ago, drop the anchor and sleep.  The islands at the north end of the lake only buffer the running swell for a short time and I continue to wallow along down wind with the main rolled down to the first reef. The CAP’N LEM often comes off the face of the swell at 9 and sometimes 10 knots.  I stay huddled in the companion way under the hard dodger bathed in the warmth from the fireplace.   Several times I jump out of my skin at the “quick snap of sheets and canvas as the boom swings wildly from starboard to port or back again in an accidental jibe from the strong winds fickle directions.   Anticipating this, I kept the main sheets at short stay.  This both increases the chance of a jibe and lessens its effects.  Sailing is a series of trade-offs.


When I reach the bay, I force a controlled jibe and work my way into the lee of Point Etagaulet then to the comparatively calm waters south of the hills guarding the bay from the north wind.  Here I bring down the sail, and motor toward the great blackness of the cliffs.  Just when it seems impossible to get through, the blackness of the water changes to reflect the moonlight coming through the clouds and the CAP’N LEM enters the channel to the anchorage.  At 0217, I drop the hook at Latitude 53° 45’ 00.9” N ~ Longitude 058° 58’ 51.3” W in 26 feet of calm water, turn off the running lights, turn on the anchor light and go to sleep having traveled 94 nautical miles from anchorage to anchorage.











*The term “spring tide” is often confused with the season Spring, but spring used in describing a tide simply means those tides of greatest range between high tides and low tides that occur when the moon is either full or new and is a function of the sun and moon working together to create the greatest movement of sea water.  The term “neap tides” are those tides occurring when the moon’s gravity is pulling at a 90° to the suns gravity at the half moon phase thus giving the lower ranges in tidal differences and the weakest tidal currents. 




The Northwest Passage in an Open Boat

Monday, August 24th, 2009

-Ken here. Kevin Oliver and Tony Lancashire, both Royal Marines have made it into Cambridge Bay in their 17.5′ open boat. Check them out over at Arctic Mariner