Guests aboard-opposite of my one man charter attempt

Dear friends and family,

This summer’s  cruising was largely shared with guests. It’s so much fun for me to show my guests a little taste of the Alaska that I get to enjoy for season after season. They only get it for about a week, but we try to pack in what’s available here to see in that week.

Close friend Ron came and for the first two days, so did the fog. When it cleared, the temperature rose to the low seventies and the sky cleared, so we headed west towards Point Baker, where Sumner Strait turns to the south. Tidal logistics of low tide at the wrong time and potential strong currents getting in and out, kept us out of Red Bay, which is the logical halfway point. Instead we opted for a short day to St John’s harbor.

Alaska cruising still mystifies me in the judgement of distances as everything is so big here. Here’s an example:

When Ron and I approached St. John’s Bay, we saw a boat already anchored in what appeared to be deep within the cove, potentially in our target spot. “Would there still be room for us?” I thought, with my ingrained memories of tight anchorages in most of my cruising.

As we motored slowly in, we could see that the other boat was actually anchored towards the entrance of this cove and once we passed them there was room for about twenty boats, if we were in a busy place like Desolation Sound, where it gets very crowded in the summer.

Our challenge was the full moon tidal exchanges were nearly twenty feet so we wanted to make sure there would still be water under the keel at low tide. Once again, the shore looked might close, so I took a distance check to see over three hundred feet from shore and just to be safe, Ron and I rowed in the dinghy with the portable fish finder/depth sounder to guarantee enough water if the tidal turn should stretch our anchor chain in that direction. Yes, enough of a margin for safety. But just enough.

Fog greeted our morning, so we chilled out until it cleared about eleven o’clock . We did take a preliminary start earlier, but as we poked our nose ( bow) out into the Strait, could only see fog towards our intended direction, so it gave Ron another chance to use his newly learned hand signals in re-anchoring. 

As the fog cleared for real, we could start to see the big mountains in the distance in almost every direction. 

It was busy the next night as we had to share the anchorage with another sailboat. The solo sailor came by in the morning for a gam on his way out. A gam is where two sailboats greet each other for a chat while at sea. He explained that he had been living on his boat for sixteen summers while cruising southeast. He seemed pretty feral, and gave me something to think about in only my third summer here. What impression might I give by my sixteenth year? Shit, I’d be  eighty three!

Only a few short miles to the south brought us to our target destination: Hole in the Wall. Our timing was exact as we had half tide and rising to go in. If we ran aground, the rising tide would float us off quickly.

Ron was at the bow looking for the entrance. He pointed to what appeared to be a creek running out through the forest.

“No, that little waterway can’t be it” I thought, as we edged closer. Maybe it’s further on.

As we snuck near, it became obvious matching eyesight with the chart plotter that it was indeed “ it”.

It seemed about twenty feet wide at the entrance, with overhanging trees the entire length in. 

I called on the radio “ securite,securite,  securite,  we are a sailboat entering hole in the wall, heading east” to alert any possible boats that might be heading out from around the bend. There would be no way to either pass another or turn around in the channel. 

Ron asked “ do you see how close you are to the rocks on this side?” 

To which I answered “ I sure do, but equally close on the other side” 

Maybe somewhat an optical illusion, but we seemed to just fit our thirteen foot beam through the channel. I registered five feet under the keel on the depthsounder as we motored deeper inside.

Both of us were very focused on our route in, following the visible rocks and looking for help from the chart plotter for the deepest channel. The tree cover was so thick that both chartplotters showed us driving over land as they couldn’t reach a satellite through the dense cover. That didn’t help my confidence, but the state of the tide ( rising) did give me confidence for our path. 

Soon we were in the open area, about half mile in diameter. Plenty of room to turn around and hang out. 

We didn’t dally, as I still wanted to exit on the last of the rising tide, just in case I got it wrong. By now the incoming current was slow, so exiting was less stressful and I could look around and enjoy the ride out.

Ron woke the next day, our time to start our return trip, with talking of visualizing whales, since we hadn’t seen any up close yet. We did see a few blows way in the distance, but only that.

No wind, so we were motoring around Point Baker as I spotted a humpback just in front of the boat, surfacing between feeding sessions.I instantly slowed way down, put the boat in neutral and called Ron. Now another whale would surface just to starboard and then another to port and more behind us. We had intersected a pod heading west as we headed east. 

It felt like they were close enough to touch, but of course I’m exaggerating as they were maybe  100 feet away. That was close and we enjoyed about twenty minutes with them till they cruised behind us.

Ron’s wish came true.

. Nice job Ron with the manifesting! 

Other than having some trouble raising the anchor one night, we had an uneventful trip back to our home base of Wrangell. Ron got to experience retrieving a stuck anchor by us using the power of the boat instead of the windlass to pull it sideways and free it.

“ Has that ever happened before?” He asked.

“ Nope, you are lucky to be with me for these new learnings ” I replied, not sure whether that felt special or dubious to Ron.

Exploring all new places, especially wild ones like the HOLE IN THE WALL is why I’m here. Getting to share  it can be even better. Exploring by day and long philosophical discussions by night are a great mix.

What having these guest aboard reminds me of is the time I thought of myself as a charter skipper, mate and cook many years ago.

I was living aboard Lily, our 36 foot steel boat, in a marina in Cumana, Venezuela. One day a mini tall ship of approximately 80 feet pulled into the marina. They flew a Swedish flag and had an all Swedish crew, mostly female, all appearing to be in their twenties. Think tall and blonde.

Since I had already been in the country for months, I thought in the interest of helping I would offer my services helping them navigate the land life of this city and other nearby places. Kind of a community spirit kind of thing. 

Two of the crew were a couple and were looking to explore the Caribbean islands on a smaller boat with more stopping as they were frustrated by the speed that this boat went through these island on their way to Panama. The allure of sailing with this large crew had worn off for them.

I happened to be preparing to leave and sail up through the island on my way north to a job that I just accepted on an island off of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. 

I had an idea and thought to myself “ What if I ran a one person charter boat to take this couple north through the islands having them pay all costs? I could get to my jumping off point ( St Thomas) for free”

It seemed a good idea at the time, so I offered, they accepted, and we departed two days later.

Sailing back into the trade winds towards Martinique was a challenging sail and was hard on the boat and her crew. Bashing to windward got everything covered with salt water by the time we made that island. 

My job was to sail the boat, deal with finding a suitable spot to anchor, them Anchoring before I would clean everything up, make three meals per day and wash up, only to be ready to do it again the next day. Their job was to pay for all the food and fuel as they enjoyed each island we stopped at.

Like I said earlier “ Seemed a good idea at the time”.

For dinners I would go ashore to shop, which was fun using their cash in the French islands to buy gourmet ingredients for cooking. I would serve dinner in something like a carved out pineapple with edible flowers as adornment. They ate with gusto, but disappointed me as they didn’t gush over it like I was hoping.

One of the last nights, as I was completely exhausted from my singular chartering business (?) I only had the energy to make a double serving of Mac-n-cheese. This simple and cheap dinner lit them up and they told me how wonderful it was and how this was their favorite meal! 

I finally received the accolades I was hoping for, but not where I expected.

As I dropped them off in St Thomas, I had to sleep most of a couple of days to recover and tell myself that the next time I got a “ good idea at the time” to maybe sleep it off.

My guests on Hongvi this summer were just the opposite in that they all pitched in on the cooking, organizing, sailing, and anchoring. I actually ended up doing less, not more. I picked the right guests so far

sending love,


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1 thought on “Guests aboard-opposite of my one man charter attempt”

  1. Yeah, I always thought I wanted a bed and breakfast. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Luckily I never did. Having a restaurant was bad enough. But you had the experience and now you can write about it.

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