Sailing with the

Updated 12/08

In the spring of 2000, Larry and I decided that after much contemplation it was finally time to buy a boat.  Much to my surprise, Larry suggested a sailboat.  He'd been sailing a bit with friends in southern California, but I'd never yet stepped foot on a sailboat.  The thought of quiet cruising sounded good to me, though, as did the idea of using an ancient and ingenious method of transportation without burning fossil fuels.  The first boat we looked at when we began to search in earnest was the Limpet, a 22' Alberg sloop; though we scoured the harbors and advertisements for other boats we never found another that moved us.  The Limpet turned out to be just what we were looking for.  The years we sailed her conincided with my summers as naturalist on tour boats so we were precluded from taking long trips.  We went on two overnight adventures and a number of day sails.  In the spring of 2001 we spent long hours repainting almost the whole exterior of the boat and even more hours sanding, oiling, and varnishing the teak.

Our first overnight trip was on the 4th of July, 2000.  We learned much on that trip about sailing, not least of which was never to leave port without enough time to get to a safe harbor for the night unless you're comfortable sailing in the dark!  We cruised down Gastineau Channel on a brisk NW wind, only to lose our power when we tried to round Marmion Is. in the lee of Douglas.  Being impatient (it was already getting on toward dusk) we motored through it toward the mild chop in the distance.  Moments after we shut down the engine the Limpet drifted into the wind and was violently heeled over until our rail was in the water (which was rather alarming for me).  What followed was a somewhat chaotic hour in which we exchanged the genoa for a working jib, flew half way across Stephen's Passage in what turned out to be rigorous three foot chop, and finally turned around in the dark just as a cruise ship was bearing down on us.  We were utterly soaked from the spray coming over the bow and the cabin was a mess of spilled dog food, life jackets and groceries, inhabited by an amazingly stoic Nigel (the dog).  It was a great relief to round Marmion again into the calm water of its little bight on the northern side; by then it was ten o'clock and we still had to set anchor for the first time!  Luckily, all went well.

Dall's porpoise off our bow
Limpet DPNigel still needed to go ashore and was surprisingly willing to climb into our tiny inflatable raft, the Hyrax.  My relief at being safe at anchor rapidly turned to intense frustration, however, as knats quickly swarmed and bit mercilessly as I struggled to row, every stroke followed by a flailing of limbs at the myriad insects.  The tide was out and as we came aground Nigel jumped out onto the mussels and barnacles coating the ground; for some reason I have yet to recall, I had decided that going barefoot was preferable to getting my shoes and socks wet (didn't I have rubber boots, I wonder?).  Consequently, I was forced to walk agonizingly up the beach, cutting my tender feet the whole way, and then to retrace my steps all the way to the Hyrax when Nigel was through.  Hoping only for a good night's sleep, I encouraged Nigel to climb into the dingy and quickly followed him, only to have him promptly get out again.  Nigel got in, I got in and started to pull away, and Nigel got out.  Nigel got in, I pushed off and leaped it, Nigel jumped out again.  This repeated a number of infuriating times (especially since I needed to step onto the shells each time to coax Nigel back in) before I made my way into water too deep for Nigel's comfort; then all I had to deal with was my friendly horde of knats!

Back at the boat, Larry and I had a little snack, cleaned up, and climbed into our sleeping bags, Nigel laying between us.  Just as I was about to drift off, Nigel began to pant, then shake uncontrollably, the stress of the sail evidently catching up with him.  Seeing no alternative, I took Nigel on deck, which calmed him, and sat there for an hour while exhaustion nagged at me, watching salmon jump and harbor seals steal glances at us.  Across the channel, a fleet of fishing boats and a tender or two lit up the night in orange.  Finally, Nigel allowed me to leave him and I crawled back to bed. The next morning, we decided to do a little sailing in Stephen's Passage and then head back to port.  There was still a brisk breeze blowing from the north and we sailed across to Green Cove in no time flat, doing about six knots the whole way.  After looking around we sailed back and were escorted into Gastineau Channel by a small pod of Dall's porpoise who played with us beautifully, despite the fact that we could only have been going two or three knots by then.  I took a nap as Larry sailed home.

Limpet at anchor in Port Snettisham
Limpet at anchorOur other adventure took place shortly after the fourth of July 2001.  We took off one morning bound for Port Snettisham where we hoped to explore some property that my parents own.  Though we meant to reach Taku Harbor the first day, we anchored up in Slokum Inlet where we promptly went aground as the tide rapidly fell beneath us (this was after wasting an hour or two valiantly trying to sail past the "Lucky Me Doldrums" at the end of Gastineau Channel without using our motor.  We finally gave up, but had lost much time (and more patience).  Luckily, the cove was sheltering two tenders and a number of gillnetters, one of whom kindly pulled us free by taking hold of our jib halyard after a rather embarrassing radio plea for help.  Good thing he knew something about sailboats.  The brisk SE winds that had blown us across Taku Inlet held for the next two days and the sailing was beautiful.  We reached Snettisham at about three in the afternoon the second day where we anchored up in a small cove around the corner from an old cannery that my parents own.  The green water was glassy calm and Larry rowed us in the Hyrax around the corner to the old pilings which is all that remains of the structure  We took a quick stroll through the beautiful old growth forest, noting the numerous bear trails, the dug up roots, and the nearly bare salmonberry bushes.  I rowed us home and we slept through a peaceful, uneventful night.

The following day we decided to head home, motoring out of the calm fjord and into the center of Stephen's Passage.  We didn't think the wind was very brisk, but decided to raise the sails and see what happened.  Astonishingly, the wind was much stronger than the seas indicated and we were soon plowing our way toward home.  We kept the wind behind us on one long run all the way past the Admiralty side of Grand Island and to Point Arden, the bow slicing through the chop beautifully.  As we crossed Taku Inlet, we wove our way through gillnets before the wind died as we neared Gastineau Channel; we motored the rest of the way home. 

The next summer we purchased a skiff with an outboard motor to facilitate diving and, with that hobby, sailing quickly waned.  Today I have neither the skills nor the time to properly care or sail the Limpet and it was sold to a nice family in 2009.

The Limpet crossing Taku Inlet