Words by Les and Kel Rohlf Photos by Kel Rohlf (unless otherwise indicated)
Sunday, June 27, 2021
Madan Bay to Wrangell Heritage Marina
Distance: 18 miles
Cumulative distance: 921 miles
We had less than 20 miles remaining to today’s destination at Wrangell, so we slept in a little and ate a relaxed breakfast. While retrieving the anchor, a section of our rode jammed in the windlass. No amount of tugging from above or below would dislodge it. I opened up my PC to pull up a copy of the manual, so that I’d have a better idea of how to partially disassemble it; unfortunately, the windlass manual seems to be the only one I did not download to my PC before leaving St. Louis. Realizing I wouldn’t have an internet connection until we arrived in Wrangell, I pulled up the rest of the rode and anchor the old-fashion way and left it sitting in a pile on the deck for our trip to Wrangell.
The cruise to Wrangell up the rest of the Eastern Passage was smooth, and we turned around the northern tip of Wrangell Island toward the town. We were told by the harbor master to go the Heritage Marina about a mile south of town. It’s the newer basin where they seem to put transients, and includes a long side-tie transient dock with 30- and 50-amp power stations. We’re sharing the transient dock with just one other boat tonight.
Once docked, I set about downloading the (not very good, IMO) documentation from Lewmar for my windlass. After analyzing the exploded view and instructions for removing the gypsy, I grabbed a couple tools and headed (with great trepidation) to the bow to start surgery. I’ve dropped enough tools and small bits into the water in my short time as a boater to view this as a high-risk operation. Not only am I not terribly familiar with the inner workings of my windlass, but losing a small part to Davy Jones’ Locker would make it that much worse. Kel sat in the cabin and held each part as I removed it. Apparently a section of the line (perhaps a twisted, rather than straight section) jammed and got mangled between the gypsy and rope guard, instead of falling into the anchor locker. Two of the strands were mangled pretty badly, so I didn’t have much confidence in integrity of the line. The mangled section was a little more than 100 feet into my 300 feet of line, so cutting and using the remainder of the line was not my preferred approach. I have two shorter backup rodes, but both only have 20’ of chain, so I wanted to stick with my primary that has 50’. I called the Sentry Hardware in Wrangell, and they had 300’ of ½” 3-strand nylon line available.
Kel and I headed toward downtown Wrangell to get rope and ice. On the way, we passed a garage sale, whereupon I (Les) rolled my eyes while Kel checked it out. Fortuitously, they had a basket-style cart for $5. This would be cheaper than a cab ride back once we were loaded down with ice and 300 feet of line. We picked up the line for a very reasonable price, grabbed two bags of ice across the street at the City Market, and headed back to the Marina.
Some of our St. Louis weather has followed us to Alaska. It was almost 80 degrees in Wrangell today. We’ll stay here in Wrangell for at least another day – it usually only takes me several hours to execute an ugly 3-strand to chain splice. I know they’re not supposed to be that difficult, but mine never seem to look quite as tidy as those in online tutorials.
Monday and Tuesday, June 28-29, 2021
With warm, sunny days in the forecast, we decided to devote Monday morning to boat cleaning. I’m sure we looked a little like the Clampetts doing spring cleaning, but we weren’t in anyone’s way and were uncertain when we’d have another day in port with weather this nice.
In the evening I worked to splice my new line to the anchor chain. I was in no position to be picky about the quality of this line, but it sure feels soft and kink-free. It ran smoothly through the windlass when we re-loaded the rode today.
After we re-loaded the rode, we headed toward Wrangell for some non-boating adventures. We walked north of town to Petroglyph Beach State Historical Site, which was quite cool. We finished wandering the beach by ourselves searching for petroglyphs just before three tour buses arrived.
We walked back to town and had lunch at the “Queen’s Booth”, an outdoor breakfast/lunch spot which raises funds for the Wrangell’s July 4 extravaganza. We then went to the laundromat for showers before backtracking to the Wrangell Museum and City Market. The museum located at the civic center provides an excellent history of settlements in Southeast Alaska and Wrangell in particular.
The weather looks good tomorrow for the run across Sumner Strait to the Wrangell Narrows and north to Petersburg. We expect to stay there through July 3, with a possible out-and-back to Le Conte Glacier during that time.
“Have you ever painted a flounder?” asked the young boy who was intently trying to remove the hook from the mouth a small flounder. His grandmother and younger brother sitting nearby watched our interaction. I answered “No, I haven’t. How do you paint a flounder?” I was imagining it was some unique Wrangell tradition, when the grandmother explained, “You paint a flounder, then take a piece of fabric and place it over to pick up the print.” I responded with, “Oh. This is the first live flounder I’ve ever seen.” She said, “We also have got a pretty good imprint of a salmon and a halibut.” One never knows what kind of conversation might happen on the dock. The boy broke part of the hook, and the grandmother commented that the flounder would end up being bait.
When we arrived in Wrangell, our moods were a little sour because instead of our routine of shower, laundry, dinner, we had the chore of fixing our rode in the forefront of our minds. Les had called to scope out where we could buy rope, and as he mentioned I found us a rolling cart to haul it in. After we got back from the rope, ice and garage sale adventure, I was tired and sticky. We weren’t expecting these higher temps in Alaska.
After we stowed the rope, cart and ice, Les asked if I wanted to walk to town in a bit to get our showers. I replied, “Not really.” It sounded like too much effort, since we had just walked two miles round trip into town, and we’d have to cover that same route again to get a shower at the laundromat. He said something about dinner, and I thought he was bribing me with dinner in town, so I’d agree to the shower hike. (Really, he said we could have dinner on the boat first.) Once I realized the miscommunication, I laughed in spite of my mood and told him what I had heard. We agreed dinner in town would be a good treat after our showers. We packed our clean clothes, towels, soap and quarters in Les’ backpack, and he graciously carried our gear into town. At the laundromat/showers, Les handed me a handful of quarters. I didn’t bother counting them because our past experience was that the time limit was usually longer than either of us really needed. So when I realized I had $2.75 worth of quarters, I wasn’t concerned. I didn’t need the 5 minute and 40 sec shower for $3.00. I could save a quarter by shaving a few seconds off my time. So I got ready for my shower, and deposited my quarters. I turned on the shower. A trickle of cold water came out of the shower head. I waited for the water pressure and temperature to increase. No luck. I realized I could ask Les for another quarter, but that meant putting clothes back on and finding him. So I decided to make the trickle of cold water work. I probably spent less than two minutes washing my hair and splashing myself with cold water. I dried off and got dressed, and exited to the laundromat to wait for Les. I found a book and a couple free magazines that interested me. When Les came out, I told him my story. He was irked, but I said it made for a good story.
After that we ambled over to the only restaurant that we could find open in town on a Sunday evening. We stepped inside, and immediately knew that we were the outsiders. No one came to seat us, so we seated ourselves. Thankfully, the friendly bartender, saw us sitting there, and she took our order for drinks. I walked over to an adjacent table to get the menus from other patrons who had just ordered. When we were in town earlier, I noticed they had a movie theater, and we had hoped to get showers, a quick dinner and then make it to the movie. Alas, Les’ prediction that dinner might take 45 minutes, turned into what seemed like 2 hours. We enjoyed our beverages, and when the food arrived, a pizza for Les and a burger for me, they were delicious. We had long missed the movie date, so we walked back the mile to our boat and went to bed before the sun set.
Monday we woke up to another beautiful sunny day, so we decided to clean the boat. Wash off the salt water and swab the decks. We hauled out the floor coverings to hose them off, and then let them dry in the sun. To get those out, we also removed all the gear we stow in the cockpit, plus I decided to air out our sleeping bags and sheets. I wasn’t ready to walk the mile to the laundromat, so I put off that chore until our next stop in Petersburg. Since our arrival in Wrangell was colored by the rope situation and the shower situation, we extended our stay for an extra night, so that on Tuesday we could do some sightseeing. After the cleaning chore was done, we relaxed on the boat and caught up on our travelogue notes and musings.
On Tuesday, we packed Les’ backpack again with shower gear and plenty of quarters. We walked first to a beach two miles away from the marina to see the petroglyphs. The entrance was under construction, and a helpful worker told us where to see the most petroglyphs. We walked back to town, and I found a table full of free items. I picked through them and told Les I’d only take what I could carry. I found a T-shirt, capri leggings and a well-worn Bible with a purple cover and the word “Encounter” emblazoned on it.
In town, we looked for a restaurant for lunch. Out of the 4 or 5 places in town only a couple were really open. We ended up getting lunch at a booth, where the proceeds were going to the Fourth of July festivities. We might win some money, since our lunch cost included a booklet of raffle tickets. (We don’t have to be present to win.) After lunch, it was time for our showers.
I was confident that I had enough quarters, so I was excited for a luxurious full pressure, hot shower. I deposited the $3.00 worth of quarters and turned on the shower. I specifically picked a different stall, hoping that it would be better than before. A cold trickle came out, and I was not going to add another quarter! So I proceeded to splash myself with cold water, and then it occurred to me that there was a sink with running water right next to the shower. I just happened to bring my empty drink cup into the shower, because you have to keep all your stuff with you. I dumped out the ice and turned on the sink faucet. All this time, I could have had a FREE hot “shower” by using the sink. I luxuriated in the hot water, and it still took me less than five minutes. I didn’t bother to get a refund. Once again, Les and I met in the laundry area, I laughed and told him about my experience. He was still miffed, but I just was glad to feel a bit cleaner. We headed to the Wrangell Museum, which was very good. Then we stopped by for some ice and other sundries at the City Market, and hiked the mile back to the boat. Since we’re having warmer temps here, pretty much our showers were useless. We cooled off a little and slumped into the berth for an afternoon nap.
We are looking forward to going to Petersburg tomorrow. We hear they have showers right at the marina.
I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God. (Psalm 9:1-2 The Message)