Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 July 5:

 

 

     Despite being way west in the Alaska time zone, Juneau is probably the first place in the country to celebrate the 4th of July.  Since it doesn't get dark until nearly midnight anyway, the fireworks here start at 12:01 am on the 4th.  Revelers began to gather along the downtown waterfront even before the last cruise ship left the dock for the night to give everyone an unobstructed view across the channel to Douglas Island--where the flickering lights of bonfires dotted the beach and a few amateur pyrotechnic displays were already underway.  A light rain began to fall as it so often does up here.  The light of the sky faded agonizingly slowly and by 11pm I was seriously thinking about going home to bed.

      A small boat paraded up and down the waterfront with a brass band playing patriotic tunes.  Children began to get fussy, teens strolled up and down the boardwalk purposefully seeing and being seen.  Finally around 11:30 a barge chugged slowly down the channel and stopped in front of the town just as darkness seemed to be finally taking hold.  And the show began.

      It didn't seem quite right to be huddled in the rain with a stocking cap and sweater on to keep warm while watching 4th of July fireworks.  But one must learn quickly here to not expect any favors from the weather. 

 

 

July 15:

 

    I took another trip out to the little town of Gustavus to be the town doctor for the day.  Being the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park, things are relatively bustling out there during the summer months.  They even have a daily flight by Alaska Airlines.  But as a commuter, I was once again relegated to one of the tiny planes that "Excursion Air" flies out of Juneau to the surrounding area.  Things are a bit different on Excursion Air.

    I was warned at check in that the pilot was running about 10 minutes late.  Sure enough, about 10 minutes after my scheduled departure time, a dude in a flannel shirt and a baseball hat stumbled out with a giant "Rockstar Recovery" energy drink in one hand and his flight manifest in the other to call out the names of his 4 lucky passengers.  We followed him anxiously as he dragged himself out to the plane.  But the energy drink seemed to be doing its job because by the time he had us all seated plane he was looking a whole lot less hung over.  I made some comment about the unfortunate lack of cup holders in the cockpit and he regaled us with a tale of how he once spilled coffee all over himself and the plane's instruments when he climbed too steeply on takeoff.

This will be your pilot today...

    "Well, this is not encouraging," I thought to myself.  He managed to not drive our plane into the ditch on the way to the runway, though so I decided not to attempt the emergency exit procedures he rattled off as we taxied along.  Once we were safely 20 feet off the ground or so the captain's in flight beverage service started--consisting of another big gulp of Rockstar before safely wedging it between his thighs to begin his not-too-steep-this time ascent.  Before long, I was absorbed by the beautiful scenery of Southeast Alaska and forgot all about any apprehensions I had about our pilot.  A half hour later he made a perfect landing and pulled up next to the shack that is the Gustavus airport terminal.  And before the two European tourists in the back had even figured out how to crawl out of their little hatch, our pilot was scurrying around and pulling out luggage left and right.  I've never tried it myself, but nonetheless I think I'll have to give a ringing endorsement to Rockstar beverages...the stuff appears to really work. 

 

July 18:

 

    I must be over my bear anxieties by now because it seems like every free day is spent hiking up the many trails that lead up the steep mountainsides that surround Juneau.  The trails are usually steep, muddy, or both.  If the cloud ceiling isn't too low, one is typically rewarded with some spectacular views up above the tree line.

view from thunder mtn--just below the cloudsalpine meadow flowersTop of the Mt. Roberts tramway

    Downtown near the cruise ship docks, the local Tlingit Indian tribe has built a tramway that lets you bypass the first 2000 feet of steep, muddy forest and get straight to the view.  I have to confess that several times we've done that. 

 

 

July 22:

 

   Finished up my last day in clinic and now the process begins:  changing back again from my doctor life to my sailor life.  My pockets get emptier as I turn in keys.  My wallet gets emptier as I unload the library card, the video rental card, the grocery store cards...man there's a lot of cards to carry around in the USA!

    Then there's the packing.  We've done this enough times that you'd think it would be easy by now.  We HAVE gotten pretty good at stuffing exactly 45 lbs into each one of our allowed checked bags, but it's always stressful trying to figure out what we're going to need/want/be able to fit into those duffels.

Our luggage at LAX

    Emmett's bags are usually filled with schoolbooks and clothes to replace the ones he's out grown.  Kathleen packs on house wares (boat wares?):  towels, pillows, cocktail napkins... whatever clever decor items she's hunted down during our time at home.  As for me, it's engine parts and maintenance items for the boat.  These are at least available in New Zealand, but at anywhere from double to 8 times as expensive.  Kathleen and I still have plenty of clothes that fit us on Uliad, but they're all tropical clothes, so we have also stuffed in a few heavier shirts, long pants, and the like to help us cope with the chill of a New Zealand winter.

    Finally there is the last flurry of secretarial work that needs to be done before it gets really inconvenient to do abroad:  banking, signatures, forms to submit, packages to send.  And a last round of goodbyes.

    By the time we get to the aiport we look like refugees:  tired, stressed out, and lugging a huge mound of worldly posessions.  As soon as we checked all the bags, though, my burden suddenly lightened in both a physical and a metaphorical sense.  We cleared security and took a seat at the gate; there was nothing more to do now but go exploring.  Now I feel like a cruiser again!

 

 

July 25:

 

    After about 36 hours of flying and sitting in airports, we arrived in Auckland to find that the South Island was being hit by a winter blizzard.  Basically, all the flights heading south were being cancelled, and flights heading North (like ours) were still flying.  We landed in Whangarei and stepped off the plane to be hit by an icy cold rain.  This didn't seem right.  Doesn't Uliad mean palm trees and tropical beaches?

    We quickly shuttled all the bags down the docks to the shelter of the cockpit and dove below were everything was dry, but equally as cold.  Now when we first bought Uliad, it came equipped with a nice diesel powered heater ducted throughout the boat and that certainly would make her nice and cozy in weather like this.  But such a device needs an exhaust pipe, and the one on Uliad was badly corroded around the through-hull.  All things considered, I figured that we were mostly going to be sailing in warm places with this boat.  So for the sake of having one fewer hole in the boat to worry about, I had that exhaust pipe welded over before repainting in Trinidad and never gave it a second thought until today...when I quickly remembered that big diesel heater and how nice it might feel  to fire it up right now.  In it's place, we have a tiny electric heater which the boat's wiring can handle as long as we only turn no higher than "medium".

    Kathleen dug through the lockers to gather up every blanket we own and pile them on the bunks.  She was about to do the same with beach towels and Lord knows what else by the next night.   But, like the Little Engine that Could, that tiny electric heater slowly chugged away and eventually did the job.  Or maybe the weather just warmed up after that storm passed.  In any event, the beach towels remain packed away, next to the swimsuits, waiting for their turn in the sun someday. 

 

July 31:

 

     I don't mean to brag, but the dinghy motor started right up on the first pull of the cord!  I suppose that doesn't seem like a big deal to all of you, but it's a real victory for me.  Every time we pack up the boat for storage, there are rituals of putting everything away designed to minimize the chances for unpleasant surprises on our return:  The clothes get folded and packed in hopes that then not have musty odors on our return.  The toilets get flushed with chemicals and their seacocks closed in hopes of avoiding god awful stinks.  The watermaker gets "pickled" to preserve its delicate salt-excluding membrane.  The engines get de-comissioned in hopes they'll not rust up and refuse to start after a long rest...

    Anyone who owns an outboard motor knows that they can be pretty finicky after spending the winter in the back of your garage.  My shut down process consisted of flushing the cooling system with fresh water then cutting the fuel supply and running the engine until the motor quits--sucking all the fuel out of the lines.  Change the oil and gear oil.  Then a final squirt of fogging oil into the cylinders and a couple of pulls on the starter cord to spread that fogging oil evenly on the cylinders.  And then give away all the gasoline remaining in the tank so I'm not tempted to economize and use it on return.

    We've had variable success with our shut down procedures over the years.  This year was probably one of our most successful in terms of returning to find everything working and ready to go.  It might be a case of practice making perfect, but I think a lot has to do with the environment the boat is left in.  6 months in hot, humid Raiatea was definitely the hardest on the boat.  It was hot and humid in Trinidad, but we left an air conditioner running to keep the interior dry and that worked great.  It's rather humid here in New Zealand, but the cold weather seems to make a big difference in preventing mildew, corrosion, and such.  I try to remind myself that as I climb out of my warm bed when the interior of the boat hovers at 60 degrees in the morning.

 

                                                                                                                                               

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