Squaw Bay

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 27 Oct 2014 05:31
Position: 60 50.07 N 147 48.91 W
At anchor Squaw Bay
Wind: calm
Sea: calm Swell: nil
Weather: clear and cold
Day's run: 28 nm

This morning dawned calm and still. The forecast was for variable winds to ten knots, increasing to fifteen in the afternoon. Given the fair forecast, and that we were in relatively sheltered waters, I decided to once more tow the dinghy. This was a mistake.

The day started well. We were under way by ten, motoring out of Knight Island Passage and into a relatively open patch of water about eight miles across, to Perry Island. At 10.45 sufficient wind had filled in to allow me to set sail and stop the motor. By 12.45 the wind had increased to about eighteen knots from the north west and had Sylph heeled well over to starboard. I reduced sail down to one reef in the main and rolled up some of the jib, which made for a more comfortable ride without losing any speed. I was now starting to cast a few anxious glances astern to the dinghy trailing in Sylph's lake. While the conditions were nothing to worry about, the sea had picked up a little, spray was being regularly thrown across Sylph's bow, and the dinghy was doing a merry dance on the end of its painter, bouncing over the waves. Now Sylph's tender is a good seaworthy little dinghy, so I was not too worried, my only real concern was that if conditions continued for some time, or worsened, then the spray might slowly fill her with water, causing her to strain on her painter and maybe cause her to break free.

By 14.00 conditions had indeed worsened, with the wind freshening to about twenty to twenty five knots. I reduced sail further. (I think it is safe to say that any grime that might have remained from the Seward refit has now been well and truly washed off.) Meanwhile, the dinghy continued to dance and bob and jump about, ever so slowly increasing in weight as spray found its way over the gunwales, and dollops of water squirted up through the dinghy's dagger board case.

My original intention was to go west of Perry Island, but with the fresh wind and with the dinghy looking like it was ready to dance away on its own solo voyage, I decided to go behind the island's lee, that is pass to the east of it. This worked out well, as the seas calmed down behind Perry Island, and, once we were past it, while the wind increased again, and I had bring Sylph hard on to the wind to pass clear of some nasty rocks that lie to the west of the Dutch Group of islands, after about another hour of bashing to windward we started to get some shelter from Esther Island. While we managed to clear the Dutch Group it was clear that we were not going to be able to pass to windward of the next hazard, Bald Head Chris Island, so I bore away to pass to leeward of it. Here the wind and sea eased dramatically and I breathed a small sigh of relief for the sake of the dinghy. We made a few short tacks to make the entrance to Squaw Bay, which offered two possibilities for an anchorage for the night; Papoose Cove on its western shore, and an unnamed cove on the shore opposite. The Pilot recommends both coves as being suitable for small craft, with good holding. I liked the look of the unnamed cove better as offering better all round protection, and as we motored the short distance into the Bay, the wind now having died away almost completely, the sun was still shining on the unnamed cove, whereas Papoose Cove was starting to fall into shadow as the sun slanted away to the south west. This settled the matter for me. I motored Sylph slowly in through the narrow entrance, and, at 16.00, dropped anchor in the middle of the cove in seventeen meters of water; a bit deeper than I would ideally like, as it now means that I have a lot of chain to heave in tomorrow morning.

With a couple of hours of sunshine left, the shore looked inviting. The dinghy had made the twenty eight mile sail on the end of its tether in tact, and now that I was able to see just how much water was in the dinghy I was pleasantly surprised at how dry she was. And here she was ready to row ashore without having to go to all the trouble of hoisting her off the deck with the main halyard. Maybe towing her wasn't so bad after all.

The land surrounding the cove is largely muskeg. It must be starting to get cold as the all the pools of water had a thin layer of ice over them, and the ground, instead of being springy like a foam mattress, was crunchy underfoot. It was just a short walk for a bit of a leg stretch, and back on board I enjoyed a good wash and a hearty dinner. Despite the concerns over the dinghy, it has turned out to be an exhilarating sail for the day, and we have made some good ground to the north of the Sound. A piece of trivia I found in my little guide book this evening is that Bald Head Chris Island is named after a fox farmer that used to breed foxes on this island. As we sailed past it I thought it a rather strange name. Presumably Chris' bald head must have been a very noteworthy feature of the fox farmer's anatomy to have earned him such immortality.

The forecast is for light winds tomorrow so, given that the entrance to Esther Passage is just around the corner, and it is likely that we will have to motor, I am planning on taking this narrow passage which will save quite some distance from taking the long way around west of Esther Island. This will leave us with only twenty miles to go to Harvard Glacier, the only tricky bit from there being to find somewhere safe to anchor that will be close enough so as to be able to get to the glacier and back again within the rapidly dwindling hours of daylight.

No bears.

All is well.