River Maneuvers

Alluvial (River) Flats… Light blue is dry-out zone, deep blue is deep water.

It had been a beautiful, but stormy autumn. We’d been heading down Lynn Canal / Chatham Straits, a 200 mile long wind cannon, after visiting with my Brother’s family near Haines, Alaska (very near the top of the Inside Passage). SLACKTIDE was passing her heavy weather sea-trials in measured, ever increasing doses.

We’d worked our way down to one of our favorite estuaries.

The Chilkat range bounds these wetlands to the west. Lynn Mama (our pet name for one of our most beloved mountains) dominates the southern view. To the east, the Chilkoot Range rises over the wave-shot waters of Lynn Canal.

Peaks all round had already donned their solemn white hats in anticipation of winter. Somber sweeps of spruce and hemlock were enlivened by blazes of birch gold and alder orange; the grasses of the marge were gone sere and sienna.

A small river flows down from eastern peaks, carrying their substance downslope and westward to form an estuary and an alluvial fan. Storms of three seasons fling river-borne debris back upon itself, stacking it in berms… malleable walls of sand and gravel whose inconstant shapes nevertheless afford protection to we transients who’s lives are measured in mere heartbeats.

We enjoyed a week in the safe embrace of this natural harbor, while the moon above us first closed her eye, then shyly peeked once more. The high spring tides following the New Moon passed apex and had begun to fall.

It was time to go, but we were in a bit of a quandry.

On the one hand, if we stayed where we were – high on the hard – past high springs, we’d be neaped for a whole month, with winter hard on its heels.

On the other, we were southbound, but it was blowing SE Force 6 to 7 (strong breeze to moderate gale). Right into our river mouth. At high tides (when we could move), the river was backed up into steep and lumpy series of waves. Once free of the river, it would be a hard slog against wind and Chatham chop.

To add spice to the soup, yet another 70kt storm was moving in, due later in the week, following a two day window of winds light and fair.

Our third option, on which we settled, was to move across the river to lower ground. This would give us three extra days floating on the highs, before we were committed to stay. If the forecast fell through (not uncommon), we would be able to float from there on the next, lower springs at a much earlier date.

The challenge was that we’d be close-hauled, crossing from our present position. The shallows at either side of the river meant no help from the boards (lots of leeway). With the mauling we’d receive in the rollers, chance were we’d be pushed higher upriver, grounding without the protection of a berm.

Warping is an old technique for moving boats. One sets an anchor or ties to some fixed point – a piling, tree, rock or ring – and hauls the attached warp (line), pulling the vessel up to the point made fast.

The diagram shows how we managed. Trick was to pull up high enough into the wind that we could reach across (boards up) and into shelter.

With our slack anchor line flaked and  running free from the aft, windward quarter, it went like clockwork.

Until, that is, we nosed up to the shore behind shelter. Boy Genius, here,  stepped off the bow in the dark, having forgotten to pull up his reefed sea-boots. Over the tops and you’re better off not wearing them at all.

Good thing I love the sound of  Anke’s laughter!

PS. Two days later, we got our fair wind… well… breeze.  We warped back out to the anchor, pulled it and ghosted forth. In wee hours, we tucked into a slough some twenty miles south. Snug as bugs by the time the storm blew over our heads, tearing the clouds and shaking the trees.

Looking S across River at high tide from 1st position…
Our protecting berm is covered
.

 

Originally posted 2016-05-04 18:59:29.