Peripheral Vision

Jupiter’s arrival in Alaska is remarkable because Ketchikan is sunny enough to cause taxi drivers and shopkeepers to whinge to visitors about the heat – a curious form of mackerel aggression.

The crew, of course, is thrilled to have two days to reprovision without running around town looking like re-enactors of Shackleton’s Boat Journey.

Friends are arriving soon and every compartment aboard Jupiter must be filled with provisions and stores for unexpected dietary detours. Parts of Jupiter that can be cleaned are, mechanical and domestic systems are checked, and planned routes reviewed to avoid embarrassing rocks and u-turns.

Hasty Pudding

An ambiguous weather forecast yesterday for a 50 mile passage tomorrow becomes an inconvenient truth today propelling a rapid advancement of plans.

By mid afternoon we are off the dock churning a wake to our guest rendezvous with sausages, cabbages, fishes and foods lying about awaiting stowage assignments while underway.

Early departure to transit Nichols Passage and the Clarence Strait proves a good strategy. The boat attains her selected anchorage at Nichols Bay and is tethered reliably to the rocky sea bed with enough chain deployed for the coming gales. The forecast blow arrives and the many Sea Otters and their daughters spotted on arrival depart into cosy kelp cottages.

Late into the summer twilight—the time recognized in June as night—the wind shifts then dissipates. Morning is draped in low cloud steaming off the coniferous corridors of our anchorage.

A VHF call from Misty Fjords Air confirms our guests are minutes out. The tender casts off for retrieval of passengers and packing from the floatplane.

Having landed in a remote location, pilots become immediately anxious to depart, and luggage and guest crew recklessly tossed aboard the skiff find their way to the the mother ship within minutes. The newly arrived guests are seasoned seafarers adept at high-density packing which today has altered the specific gravity of their luggage to that of Molybdenum.

The Gang of Four

Jupiter’s crew always enjoys having shipmates aboard, and Wayne and Sally are particularly collaborative, given decades of shared adventures on islands and boats, and with children of similar ages. Wayne is an accomplished mariner of vessels of every conceivable size and style, and Sally broadcasts wisdom with intractable honesty. Their guest designation falls away and crew they become.

Cocktails aboard Callisto aboard Jupiter at Wrangell.

The planned itinerary includes exploring the peripheral coastlines of Dall and Prince of Wales Islands. These waters are often inaccessible to small craft owing to the march of steep southwestern seas spilling their lives on the rocks of the weather coast.

The sea swell forecast for the week proves temperate. The wind forecast proves wrong.

Jupiter and her crew endure more than one night at anchor with wind wailing through the antenna forest and flag halyards, as the boat boxes the compass. the anchor chain clangs against itself—like a soundtrack for a B psycho thriller.

Backwater Record Breaking

Meal preparation, eating, and cleanup records are crushed. Coffee and tea consumption reaches incomprehensible volumes. The only currency on board is laughter and that is spent freely.

Whale sightings near and far are common in our orbit day and night. The depth and breadth of bird species leave onboard ornithologists boof-headed. Fish are jumping and the sea otter population is high.

Crab fishing is a total failure due to the “Sea-Otters First” maxim, delighting some aboard. Other findings along sea and shore become all encompassing.

Crab free

Mysterious Matters

The geology of Jupiter’s outside passage is volcanic rather than glaciated, and striking rock formations invite more questions than provide answers. We detour to view vertical rock where horizontal is expected.

Jupiter ties up at Craig on the transient dock. The floats are full of fishing vessels ready for the current fishing season or retired after the last, or the one before that. Echoes of a bizarre unsolved murder from 1982 hangs over the harbor like smoke from the crime scene – a burning boat.

Jupiter tucks in with Craig’s fishing fleet at North Cove Harbor.

Shoreline explorations lead to mysterious finds.

Petroglyph Beach at Wrangell: Surveyors ancient and modern mark this prominent point of land.

Habitats Without Humanity

The Pacific Ocean arrives at the Alaskan islands carrying an endowment of food which feeds the manifold species living or migrating within the coastal tidewaters. Plants, fish and mammals are in healthy abundance and seem unruffled by human interaction. We have an opportunity to observe many creatures, and many creatures have an opportunity to observe us eyeball to eyeball in close proximity.

On Dall Island a swimming Black Bear surprises the crew aboard Jupiter’s tender, then hauls ashore.

Orcas follow Jupiter into Warren Cove showing off or warning off their babies.

A trip to LeConte Glacier finds newborn seal pups and furnishes glacier ice to chill drinks.

Aboard Jupiter we live in a present tension between maps and machinery, knowing that we will never run out of one, but might quickly be curtailed by the other. Friends and family aboard are a wonderful opportunity to stretch our own and our boat’s capabilities, and everyone with whom we share a voyage advances our appreciation of, and love for them, and for the watery environment we share.

Being an explorer sounds
absolutely exhausting.
I want nothing to do with it.

Brendan ~ History Nerds United


  1. Dana Starr says:

    Randy & Fiona – Your Jupiter posts never cease to amaze. The 2 most recent harken me back to our sailing days in the BVI’s , St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Your photos of all the wildlife tell the story so well and, as usual, the accompanying descriptions are awesome.
    Bon Voyage!! And keep up the Jupiter’s Way!

      • Dana Starr says:

        I hear that! Love the BVIs, Jost Van Dyke and Foxy’s. And the Bitter End, Virgin Gorda, and The Baths. Safe Journey and have fun! 😎💕

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