Up a Lazy River
August 6, 2008 Distance Traveled: 6 miles.
Today is my last day in Alaska. As if Alaska wanted to taunt me, the weather today was spectacular, a balmy 68 degrees, and the seas were as calm as glass.
I have spent the last several days winterizing the boat. The inflatable, the generator and the outboards are now below deck. The fresh water tanks are empty and the freshwater lines have been filled with non-toxic antifreeze. I have covered the exhaust for the stove with plastic so high snows will not melt and run down the exhaust into the salon. The outside instrument panel has been covered and all the boxes on deck have been moved inside. I sold my last 20 gallons of gas (intended for the genset and outboards) at $3 per gallon and I gave away my last 8 Coors. Anything else that can freeze has been thrown out and I drank my last glass of diet Coke, cooled with ice from the Tracy Arm Glaciers, before shutting down the frig.
At 3:30 I disconnected the power and cranked up the engine, one last time, before heading the 2.5 miles to Smugglers Cover at the mouth of the Mendenhall River. At 4:00 promptly, Tim Smith of Gastineau Contractors arrived in a skiff to pilot the boat the last few miles up the Mendenhall river. The trip was relatively easy. At low tide, we would be able to walk on the mud flats but at high tide, there was between 10 and 15 feet of water. (Albeit fresh, silty water, to which the Sea Spirit was unaccustomed..) The current from the Mendenhall river was cancelled out by the flooding tide, so we meandered up the Mendenhall River at around 6.5 knots, hitting bottom only once (as the depth gauge plummeted to read 4 feet). The bottom is muddy so we just slid on into deeper water. Tim Smith calmly suggested that I stay out of the grass that poked through the surface just a few feet to starboard.
And then as quickly as the adventure had started, it was now almost over. We arrived at the basin owned by Gastineau Contractors where waiting at the dock was a loader and a trailer ready to haul the Sea Spirit out of the river. Within an hour, the Sea Spirit sat on the hard. Tim wished me well and told me that he would see me in May and he left.
I then spent the next few hours finishing the process of winterizing the boat. I drained the fresh water from the raw side of the engine. I back flushed the heat exchangers with non toxic antifreeze and then drained them. I drained the raw water pump. I pumped out as much of the bilge as I could, and then closed all the ports and through hulls. Finally, I stuffed a towel in the exhaust and taped over the exhaust outflow. (I learned that cold damp winds can blow up the exhaust and actually rust or damage the cylinder closest to the outflow.)
I stood on the now empty top deck where I enjoyed one final view of Mendenhall Glacier in the distance. I reflected on my voyage from Anacortes to where I stood now. Every minute of this trip was worth it and I realized that subconsciously, I had already begun to plan next year's route.
Although quite the sad moment, I knew it was time to bid the Sea Spirit adieu.
I climbed down the ladder, carrying just a small pack of gear (as I had earlier removed most of the gear to my hotel room), turned my back on my trusty home for the last two and half months and quietly walked away down a dusty road. The adventure was now done.
From the Upper 1 to the Lower 48
August 7, 2008 Distance Traveled: 2100 miles
Today, I awoke at 4:30 to catch a 6 AM flight from Juneau to Seattle. I kind of savored the feeling of Alaska as I waited in line to check my baggage. It is the rare airport where you find people lined up at the counter with guns and frozen fish. Some weeks earlier, I had rented a car and before turning it in, I stopped and bought an additional fuel jug for the boat. When I dropped off the car, I wandered through the Airport carrying the jug and wondering, just what it is that you cannot carry through the airport? Apparently, shotguns and rifles are as acceptable as fuel jugs. How much harm could you do with any of these items? On the line to security, there was a box to drop off lighters, knives and your bear spray cannisters, should you have forgotten to leave those items home before heading to the airport..
Two planes later, I was in San Diego. Damn it is hot and sunny here. How does anyone survive in this?