Did I say the Gulf of Alaska? Must have been an error. This is more like the Lake of Alaska. It has been so calm that a few days ago we only made eight miles from noon to noon and could not run the engine. It is now the beginning of day 21, Saturday and the second day of a complete calm, and the fifth day of ever diminishing winds, 66 miles from the harbor at Sitka, and we are dead in the water. On Wednesday we started the engine because the wind was dying. Ten minutes later we found the engine temperature over the top and shut down quickly. After many hours in the engine room, looking for the problem, changing pumps and a lot of bruised knuckles and, yes, a few four letter words, we discovered that the problem which requires a new welded part and is not reparable at sea. The engine can be run for about five minutes without damage, just long enough to reach a dock once in the harbor. But we have to sail all the way in… with no wind.
Late that night a tiny breeze was offered by Aeolus and Neptune. Slowly but surely it increased to a light sailing breeze… making two knots, then three and four and finally during the next day we were up to six at times. Sitka, here we come! But the unknown was whether we could get close enough to the harbor to allow us to run the engine for just a few minutes, long enough to dock and short enough to avoid burning it up. The tide was coming in, and the wind was dying. Right at the opening to the breakwater, the wind went from 1 knot to .9 and finally zero, but Holy Grail drifted in on the tide. We lost steerage too soon, forced to start the engine for a few minutes, then off and coast, on for a few more, then coast. The tension was high, and maybe the blood pressure too. But at the harbor opening we started the engine for the last time rounded the corner and came to rest in the slip assigned by Sitka Harbormaster by radio. He picked a big one for us with easy access, and offered to come tend our lines. Moreover we were right next to a big fishing boat that had arrived just a few hours earlier. We had fresh King Salmon filets for dinner. How’s that for hospitality???
Sitka proved to be an extremely interesting and delightful town, a jewel dropped on the edge of incredible natural phenomena, dramatic scenery we had never seen before.