So, What about that Alaskan Winter Weather?
We finally did it. We had to shovel snow this week, for the first time during our winter stay here in Wrangell, in SE Alaska.
We thought we would run into snow in October and it would not leave until March. But that has not been the case. We have had remarkably temperate weather this winter.
Our prior home was in Everett, WA, so we tend to compare what we have here to what they are experiencing. Typically, this year, Everett has had more sun, calmer days, and less rain. Why do I say that? Because we have experienced a wild ride during our time here. We thought that we would easily be able to get out and cruise the waters around Wrangell during the winter months, and we were able to accomplish that through October. After that, not so much.
In November, we were hauled out by the shipyard here in Wrangell to have a bulbous bow added to Sea Venture. While we were propped up on stilts, out of the water, we had a fair amount of wind and rain. It is always disconcerting to have the boat move or shake unnaturally when it is on the hard. But when large gusts blew through the boatyard, yikes! Even the cats were spooked by the strange sounds and creaks Sea Venture made. I will take windy weather on the water any time!
While on the hard, the rain was even more notable because the boat was tipped forward from its normal rake to keep the keel level for the bow work. So, the bow of Sea Venture was tilted down from its normal position when in the water. It rained buckets. The rain would puddle in the unnaturally low positions on the boat. So, twice a day we had to get the Xtratuff boots out to slosh through the water and get the water swept off. We would start with getting the water off the flybridge, by sweeping it onto the lower side decks. Then we would need to sweep water uphill from the side decks. The water would puddle at the steps going forward onto the Portuguese bridge. By sweeping the water uphill towards the stern, we could get the water to reach the scupper drains where it could exit the boat. I hated the feeling of having all this water puddling on Sea Ventures’ decks. Fortunately, when the bulb was solidly in position, to finish the job, we had the shipyard reposition Sea Venture to her normal rake to get rid of all the puddling rainwater. Rain---aaarrrgggghhhh!
In December and so far in January, the wind and rain theme has continued. We have had gale, after gale, after gale. It has not been unusual to have over 30 knots of wind in the marina. Add to that the driving, horizontal rain and you get a lively, noisy combination. We often lay in bed at night just listening to water pouring off our bimini. We covered the bimini in a tarp to protect the solar panels from the snow and ice, so now it puddles and pours the rainwater off in unnatural bursts and splatters, on to the decks. Add to the gushing water, the sounds of our winter dock lines creaking and stretching with every gust of wind that comes through. To keep things interesting, we have two distinct wind directions, winds from the north and winds from the south. It has not been unusual to wake to the boat shimmying with northerly winds in the 20’s and 30’s in the early morning hours. What makes it worse is when we get southerly winds, which hit our stern, and it is the unusual direction that makes the canvas creak and whips it around. It really tests the integrity of the canvas. So far, it is holding up and we are doing ok, but it can really blow. When the wind comes off the Stikine river valley from the north, it is usually on the bow, and while we handle that so much better, Sea Venture really dances around in the slip.
We usually have a storm come through, then a day of calm, then another storm. Even the locals were remarking on how much wind and rain we have had in December and January. The weather settled out a few days ago, so we decided to take Sea Venture out to get her topped off with fuel and remember how to cruise. It feels like it has been way too long. We both had big grins on our faces, just enjoying being back on the water. At the fuel dock, the attendant Bill informed us that it had rained 16.5 inches so far in January. This was on January 21. We knew it rained a lot, and since our rain gauge quit working, we did not have any good information. It was nice to get some validation of our experiences.
Now, in late January, we are getting into a clear, cold weather pattern. It has been in the upper 20’s and low 30’s for a few days, with lots of sunshine—yes, sunshine! Wow! A few days of cold was followed by 4-5” fresh snow on Sea Venture and the rest of the community. Everything looks so bright and clean with the fresh layer of snow. The brightness gives us such a renewed sense of energy and excitement about each day. We wandered around town to film and share some of the sights with you. We visited the Petroglyph Park and found petroglyphs on the beach, we hiked around Volunteer Park, we visited Shakes Island, we hiked up Mt. Dewey and we joined some other boaters and hiked the Rainbow Falls Trail. Where did all that energy come from—oh yes—daylight, the days are noticeably longer (maybe because we are looking for it) and sunshine. It was fun to be a bit of a tourist in town, but it sure has been cold, particularly when the winds come up…. brrrrr.
We have another week or so of 20–30F degree weather to look forward to, then it looks like the rain may return. We never did see any single digit cold temperatures, at least not yet!
Here are two views of Wrangell taken from Mt Dewey. The left one was taken on a rainy day in November. The right photo was taken on a really cold day in January, with sunshine!