#53 Baranof Island

I had reset the mileage counter in Victoria, British Columbia which seemed like ages ago. Glancing up, it read 1,234 nautical miles. It's been just the two of us since Campbell River. We had gone as far north as planned, but now wanted to go westward and explore the less traveled Chichagof and Baranof Islands. We lost telephone service. No dialtone. I looked out the window and sure enough the mountains alongside Lisianski Strait were so close and vertical, they were blocking the satellites to the south. There hadn't been any other boats for miles other than some fishing boats clustered around Cape Bingham. But now wasn't the time to worry about that. We needed to pass a narrow, rocky bar to the Pacific before heading back south. The serene, protected water we had enjoyed throughout the Inside Passage was about to become less comfortable.

I had checked weather, although I'll admit a bit casually. Crossing the bar was no problem. But conditions on the other side were not as forecast. It was apparent conditions were changing quickly. We set our course for the nearest shelter we could find looping back coast wise through rock banks and islands. Conditions gradually became more protected until we were finally able to slip through a narrow inlet to a place called Porcupine Bay. We dropped anchor as darkness fell and it began to rain. So much for our good luck with weather.

The forecast was now calling for a solid week of rain and wind. We decided with regret to skip the beautiful Chichagof Island. It would be impossible to explore using Sweet Charlotte outside the tiny cove we were in due to rough water. So we prepared a southbound route offshore, then via Peril Strait to Baranof Warm Springs. Under the circumstances, natural hot springs sounded nice.

Baranof Island

The name Baranof was given in 1805 by the Russian Navy to honor Alexandr Baranov who ultimately became the chief administrator of the area. It's slightly smaller than the state of Delaware with one major city, Sitka. Otherwise, today the island is mostly wilderness and lies within the Tongass National Forest.

This isn't a place you have to fight the crowds. A few cruise ships visit the town of Sitka, however the remainder of the island is a rich wilderness with few visitors other than commercial fishermen.

I have prepared a short, one minute video called Baranof Island Waterfalls. The link is at the end of this post. Otherwise, here are a few pictures from our stay...

Our snug little anchorage near Warm Springs.

Most of Baranof is nature untouched.

A family of brown headed ducks pass by. Maybe someone can help me again with the species. I can't find it in Sibley's.

Baranof Warm Springs. It once had a post office. Today is comprised of only a handful of summer cottages.

Residents built a boardwalk to mark the beginning of the trail back to the natural hot springs.

But the further we went, the less marked the trail became until we were pushing brush aside to get through.

Debbie, towel in hand, ready to get in the hot, 103 degree pool which coincidentally is at the top of a huge 100' waterfall.

Speaking of waterfalls, this beautiful one in Red Bluff Bay is representative.

Baranof has no black bears, but is famous for grizzly. Note the eagles in the background.

Small World

We continue to be amazed at coincidental rendezvous of old friends and other boats we've seen before. Here are even more examples.

We celebrated a reunion with the crabbing boat North American and her skipper Barry Nichols who we first saw going through the Ballard Locks in Seattle just two months before. Since crab is off season, she is serving as a fish tender between the local fishing boats and the cannery. North American was one of the vessels in Season 4 of "Deadliest Catch". Both of us stopped completely side by side to visit by VHF radio and take pictures of one another!

Here's our first rendezvous with North American. Had no idea we would see her again so soon.

This must be the zillionth time we've stopped within camera shot of National Geographic Sea Lion. The first times were in the Sea of Cortez, but over time we keep seeing her wherever we go. From the perspective of a complete tour boat novice, I believe the Nat Geo itinerary goes to the coolest, out of the way places. Like Eliana, they drop their anchor and launch dingys for their guests. Very cool.

Yet another Nordhavn! This is Doug and Stephanie Klappenbach on N7611 Tango based in Sitka. We met Doug and Stephanie while we were building Eliana as they allowed us to come aboard Tango for ideas. They, like us, have sold their land home to live aboard full time!

Shop Talk

Recently I wrote about replacing the pump impeller on our hydraulic oil cooling system. It's been working well since then so you can imagine my surprise when during a routine engine room check, the hydraulic oil was beginning to heat up again. I took a flashlight to view the sight glass flow indicator and sure enough, no cooling water was flowing. Starting at the beginning, I checked to see if seawater was able to flow freely to the inlet strainer. Turns out it was plugged. I removed the hose from the fitting and found seaweed had jammed tight in the through-hull fitting. I was able to clean the inside portion easily with a hook shaped pick. But that left the outside portion still plugged. Since there was an elbow fitting, I couldn't find anything to bend around the elbow and through the valve. So I magic taped the end of a garden hose to the fitting, turned on the faucet and applied house pressure (about 60 psi) to the plug from inside out. It blew the obstruction out completely. After reinstalling the inlet hose, we were right back in business!

Strainer in the foreground. Behind that is the through-hull fitting and valve plugged with seaweed. The garden hose is attached with what I call magic tape. It worked, but I will probably build a better fitting to do it right next time.

Before Signing Off

We are currently southbound enroute to Bellingham and then Seattle. You may now use the "Track Eliana" (link below) feature again! Both Eliana and Sweet Charlotte are celebrating their first birthday so our next post will be focused on the annual checkup.

As always, we appreciate you, our dear readers and hope you enjoy Eliana's Journal. Don't forget to visit our website to leave comments or questions. I promised a short 1 minute video: Baranof Island Waterfalls.

Rick Heiniger

N7617 Eliana

Lying: Hammond Bay, BC

Total Mileage: 7,220 Nautical Miles

Track Eliana


All I can say is WoW!! what an adventure!! The learning curve alone must have been massive just to learn how to operate the boat..then the actual navigation and driving it (not sure if that's the right nautical term..ha!). If I were making the choice to buy either an RV or a boat to travel with, the boat would win hands down. Good decision. The pictures...(in my best Harry Carey voice) Holyy Cowww!!! I enjoy reading your posts as well. God speed and have fun!!
Cedric Rhoads 8/15/2011
Welcome back to Seattle (AIS is so interesting!) and congrats to you both on a wonderful odyssey. Yourselves, mv Dirona, mv Last Mango, etc etc etc. It's all such a tease yet such a thrill as well. Special thanks to all of you that take the time to share your experiences with the rest of us. It's very much appreciated. Rick, your tech entries have always been a special treat for me; as such, I'm very much looking forward to your annual maintenance report. By the way, noticed the videos in your gallery.me of the stabalizers; what was up with that? It seemed like there was a high-frequency oscillation from the controller; was the sensor bad? Again, thank you so much for sharing, Rick. Best to Debs. Cedric, The stabilizer video you saw was part of a troubleshooting exercise between me and ABT. The stabilizers were operating fine, but we were getting an odd sound coming from them. It later turned out there was some seaweed caught on the outside rubbing against the hull each time the stabilizers moved that caused the sound. So all is OK. Thanks for the question. Rick
Richard Dunn 8/12/2011
Your brown-headed ducks are Goosanders as we over here in the UK call them or Common Mergansers as you over the pond call them. Scaly-sided Merganser are from the other side of the Pacific and are rather rare, not a species to be expected where you were!
Shawn Kimble 8/11/2011
Rick, I recently started reading your posts, and I'm working to get caught up. Thanks for including us in your journey. Beautiful photos, as usual. You might have mentioned it in an old post, but what camera are you using? I'm planning a father/daughter trip to Alaska and will use your posts as a guide to the coastal regions. Smart thinking on the cooling pump. As I was reading, I wondered if you'd be able to backflush the inlet. Seems like something you'll add to your regular maintenance activities, and it might be worth contacting the builders about. Adding a dedicated backflush circuit would be a welcome feature. Say hi to Debbie from the Kimble family, and thanks again for keeping us Kansans up to date. Shawn Hi Shawn, My main camera is a Canon 7D. It's quick and can do both stills and video. Lens selection is important. I interchange between a standard angle and a telephoto. If you don't like to carry that much around, I also occasionally use a Canon SD4000IS pocket camera. Doesn't do a bad job. Rick
Alex Cooke 8/10/2011
Rick, Bernie Francis told me years ago about a great fitting for blasting out anything that is plugged up. You can see it at: www.blastitout.com Keep the reports coming. Cece and I enjoy them very much. We met at that flea bag hotel at the Nordhavn rendezvous in Bristol, RI a few years ago. Alex
Payton Fenner 8/10/2011
Hi Rick, The brown headed duck you saw was a scaly-sided merganser. The females have brown heads and the males have black. :) - Payton
Vic Lafrank 8/10/2011
Kudos on yet another highly entertaining blog post, with pics to die for! And you deserve additional strokes for effecting that repair of your plugged-up thru-hull fitting. I'd have had to call the Coast Guard - or worse! Keep on living the dream for the rest of us, and I'm anxious to know how the one-year haul out will go. Do keep us posted, please. Enjoy!