Bang! Scrape, scrape, scrape! Mark shouted "What the hell was that!". I was already out of bed and half way down the galley. It was 3 am. The boys up front were also awake and mostly dressed by the time I had made it outside, assessed the problem and called down for all hands on deck.
Wake up calls in the middle of the night are never fun and we had been pretty lucky on the trip so far. Its dark, disorienting and in this case cold and rainy. I do my best to try to think of anything that might be a problem over night when pulling into an anchorage. I also try to do things to solve the problem before nightfall so we don't have 3 am wake up calls. In this case, when we were anchoring, I identified the problem and decided to ignore it. Which was why I knew what was happening before anyone else had even had a chance to wake up. As always, hope and praying are poor substitutes for doing.
We had tied a single stern line to the fisherman's line across the small narrow bay using a small scrap of line to keep it from slipping one way or the other. This combined with a tight anchor in front would keep us off the steep rocks to either side of the boat. By tying this way instead of using our own stern lines, we were able to avoid the extra work of launching the dinghy, tying them on shore and dragging the lines back to the boat. It also meant we could leave the anchorage much quicker the following morning. Unfortunately, our small line didn't hold in the gusty winds that had just come up and now the stern line was sliding along the fisherman's line with the wind, our stern inching closer and closer to the rock. Now we got to do all the work we should have done when it was calm and not raining... in the dark.
My crew being the troupers that they are, jumped into action without any complaint and in short order (about an hour) we had secured the boat the way it should have been done in the first place. We were lucky and managed not to run aground. I was able to add yet another lesson to my slow to learn brain and maybe wouldn't make the same mistake again.
The next morning was slower than expected. The winds were up and blowing in the rigging so there seemed to be no hurry to depart. By mid afternoon though things had calmed down significantly and we could no longer see buffaloes racing down the strait. We headed off with a plan to stop just 15 NM further NW. Soon after we departed the current started helping us, the winds died down to 15 on the nose and we were making 4 to 5 knots... The best we had done in a while. We decided to push for the next anchorage expecting to arrive just before dark.
By the time we'd arrived there we were making great time and the latest forecast was for conditions to continue to improve. An unplanned window of opportunity to make very good distance over night suddenly had appeared and surprisingly everyone was game to take it. We cooked a quick dinner while underway and settled in for the night, running two hour watches in pairs. It was still bumpy but we were making reasonable time until around midnight when a number of squalls started blowing off one of the many glaciers on the north side of the channel. Winds would increase to 40, it would start snowing/raining and then things would calm down again. The pattern continued through both shifts keeping us all on our toes.
Traffic was unexpectedly heavy that night and it seemed many boats of all sizes were also taking advantage of the slightly better weather. Our crew were quick studies in identifying the many different lights coming out of the darkness and we had no trouble avoiding the passing ships.
We arrived at the long inlet that contained what I'd hoped would be a safe anchorage just before sun up. The weather was starting to deteriorate again and our window to be on the water was closing quickly. As soon as it was light enough to see we motored our way up the unsounded channel hoping there was nothing lurking below the surface. By 8 am we had completed our overnight passage and after a few challenging moments getting the anchor set and backing the boat up to the stern lines we were snug in a little cove surrounded by rock and ice. Another 6 lines to shore made doubly sure were wouldn't get a 3 am wake up call and after a quick celebration breakfast of blueberry pancakes we all crawled into our warm beds happy with the 60 NM miles we had managed to scratch off this horrible strait.
We only needed one more jump like that and we'd be done the hardest part of the trip. While looking at the forecast it seemed that opportunity would not happen again for a long while so all I could do was hope and pray for better weather. As always we were forced to make our own luck, but we will leave that story for another day.
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