Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pea Soup

I woke this morning to fog. I had about 30 minutes of this stuff yesterday afternoon, but I think I'm in for more of it today. I just passed Fanshaw Point yesterday so technically I passed from Fredereick Sound to Stephens Passage, and the fog started as soon as I passed Fanshaw. Not sure why Stephens is foggier--cooler air coming down from Skagway? Warmer water? Whatever the reason, I've got 100-200 feet of visibility, and the first thing I have to do this morning is make a 3+ mile crossing of Houghton Bay. It'll be the first real test of my compass skills on this trip--do I add 29 degrees to what my compass is reading or subtract it to get true headings? I discovered soon enough that the GPS map page is a good back-up to the floating compass mounted on the deck. Which is good because the test of my skills was not turning out that well.

Just before heading out into the great gray unknown, a humpback surfaced in front of me and slowly dove again. It's so magical when these huge creatures make their surprise appearances. It reminds me how alive that half of the world that's below me really is. I think I've just entered Humpback Alley because I heard them all night long.

It's very strange to paddle with no horizon. The winds were calm, and there was a small swell from the north. My eyes would try to pick out a shore line through the fog, and sometimes I could actually "see" trees on a hillside ahead. But then I would look upwards and see that the "trees" extended vertically as far as I could tilt my head back.

The bay crossings this morning went fine, although maneuvering through islands was tricky since most of them don't show up on my topo, and I didn't know if they were islands at all.
The fog persisted for 6 1/2 hours of my paddling while I covered 21 miles of coast that I never really saw At one point, a fishing boat appeared out of the fog. It was a young crabber about to start on a 14 day circuit of his pots, and he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. No one is supposed to be moving in the shallows in this kind of fog. Later, I paddled by a seiner also, but there was loud cursing coming from below so I slipped by silently.

I stopped for lunch (a trick in itself to find a spot when the shoreline is this obscured), and while ashore, the fog disappeared and there were 2 seiners starting to set their nets nearby. I had heard there were a few one day openings for purse seiners coming up, and I guess one opening started at noon today.

But what a change in my surroundings. I now was living in sunshine,blue sky, steep, tree-covered hillsides so steep they are just cliff faces in places. My world just went from black and white to color in minutes.

But this sunny period wasn't going to last as the whole sky behind me to the southwest was solid dark gray. Rain was coming. The sun lasted an hour, then a south wind freshened to 15 knots. I expected the rain any minute, but it held off. In fact, it held off for the next 2 hours of paddling and gave me time to set up camp in Sand Bay, a few miles south of Holkham Bay, before it unloaded.

It was a good day, but I hope I don't have too much more fog. The novelty was definitely wearing off.

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