S/V Tango. Crew Tips

Intention:
Tango's voyaging is dedicated to joyful exploration of some of the world's finest cruising waters. The itinerary provides plenty of time to enjoy sailing remote fjords, drifting among humpback whales, anchoring in snug harbors, and experiencing local and indigenous cultures. Whenever we can, we'll anchor in a remote harbor instead of tying up at a marina, shunning civilization as much as possible. Although we will make every effort to be at the ports listed in the itinerary on the dates specified, seafaring is necessarily an inexact art and some itinerary adjustments may be required if weather or boat problems intervene.

Ship's safety:
The safety of the crew and the vessel is paramount. Tango is well equipped for security and comfort. Sisterships, well known for seaworthiness and fast passagemaking, have sailed around the world. She has a full complement of navigation equipment and charts, a life raft, EPIRB (emergency position indication radio beacon), first aid kit (including allopathic and natural remedies), VHF and SSB radios, emergency flares, and PFDs (personal flotation devices). Emergency assistance is available throughout the Inside Passage. Canadian Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard services are supplemented by local and commercial emergency providers. There are areas where radio communication is difficult and phone service is unavailable, but emergency calls can usually be relayed by other boaters or shoreside dwellers.

Duties and responsibilities:
Every crew member will be assigned shipboard duties, possibly including piloting, standing watch, keeping the log, navigating, maintaining the vessel, cooking, and other tasks. Information on safety, navigation, natural history, and other matters will be shared. We'll also share onboard expenses, including food, fuel, moorage, internet access fees, and miscellaneous small expenses.

Customs and passports :
Passports will be required for all international border crossings. (If you're flying between the lower 48 and Alaska, you don't need a passport.) When Tango makes landfall at a port of entry, the captain will report to the customs office. Nobody but the captain may leave the boat until the whole vessel and everybody aboard is cleared by customs.

Mail drops:
It's best to avoid mailing anything to or from a Canadian port--customs can take weeks to clear a package. However, mailing packages to yourself at a port in Alaska is a practical alternative to carrying too much luggage on a plane. If you have reserved shoreside lodging where you're meeting Tango, your lodging may be willing to receive and hold mail for you. Many harbormasters provide mail drop service as well. Call before you mail to confirm the availability of this service, and when you address the package, include your name, "S/V Tango," your cell phone number (if any), the expected pick-up date and the harbor office address. Note that commercial freight services, such as UPS, do not serve every port in Alaska, but the U.S. Post Office does, so choose your carrier carefully.

Harbormaster offices:
Ketchikan: 2933 Tongass Avenue, Ketchikan, AK 99901. (907) 228-5632
Juneau: Aurora Harbor (907) 586-5255; Port of Juneau (907) 586-0292; Auke Bay (907) 789-0819
Sitka: 617 Katlian Street OFC, Sitka, Alaska 99835-7312. (907) 747-3439
Hoonah: PO Box 290, Hoonah, AK 99829. (907) 945-3670
Petersburg: PO Box 1047, Petersburg, AK 99833. (907) 772-4688

Travel connections:
See the travel options page at svtango.net Please add to the information by sending your hints and tips to Dennis.

Communications:
Cell phones work well in most urban areas thoughout the Inside Passage and in many coastal areas of BC. Be cautious, however, because some service providers charge hefty airtime fees in addition to roaming charges. Dennis's cell phone is (541) 554-0359; Peter's is (541) 505-1952. Out of cell phone and internet service areas, emergency calls may be transmitted or received by VHF radio. Tango will be equipped with a high-powered wireless network and two or more onboard computers, enabling e-mail in many locations. Crew members are encouraged to contribute text and photos to Tango's website during the passage.

Personal items:
Good deck shoes are mandatory for safety. The deck shoes available at the local shoe store will rarely serve the purpose. The best shoes are available at West Marine, Fisheries Supply, Englund Marine, or other marine supply stores. They have soles made of sticky rubber and siped (razor cut) for traction on wet decks. Shoes made of synthetic materials are better than those made of leather because they dry faster and are less vulnerable to mold and mildew. "Xtratuf" boots are as common in SE Alaska as Birkenstocks in Eugene. Commercial fishermen wear them on pitching decks covered with fish slime. Hikers wear them to get through the muskeg. Try Englund Marine for availability or buy them in any town or city in Alaska.

Avoid natural-fiber outerwear, including wool, cotton, and down, which loses its insulating ability when wet and takes a long time to dry. Synthetics, such as fleece and nylon, will insulate even when wet. They dry quickly and resist mildew. Several layers of light- to medium-weight synthetics make the most adaptable and useful wardrobe. A set or two of Patagonia Capilene long underwear, some nylon shirts and pants, a fleece vest, fleece pants and jacket, a couple of bill caps (deep-crowned so they don't blow off your head) and a good set of foul-weather gear would allow you to be warm no matter what the weather might be. Tango is well equipped with life jackets, so there's no need to bring you own unless you are especially fond of it.

Pack your clothing in duffle bags or other collapsible containment. There's no place on Tango to store suitcases. Onboard, you will be assigned drawers, cabinets, or cubbies in which you will stuff your personal effects. Large zip-lock bags are very useful for organizing and protecting clothing from the elements. Nylon bags of various sizes are handy.

Bring sunglasses. Polarized, wrap-around glasses provide the best eye protection. A personal mug is handy. Make sure it's spill-resistant and has a broad, non-skid base. Travel cups with narrow bases should be left in your car. If you have a favorite bug spray or seasickness remedy, bring it along. Bring a couple of paperbacks to exchange with new reading matter along the way--many marinas have shelves of pulp fiction free for the taking, and it's customary to take no more than you leave. A headlamp is the handiest flashlight--a 3-LED lamp from REI costs only $25, and the first time you have to use both hands in the dark, you'll think it's worth every penny. Tango is equipped with a battery charger for flashlight batteries, but it would be wise to include a few batteries in your luggage. A digital camera would help you keep the memories. Tango will be equipped to download and show photos on her onboard computer.

Culinary matters:
Groceries are readily available at most major towns and cities, but not at remote villages, where supply ships might visit only once a month. We'll stock up when we can, eat fresh seafood when it's available, and rely on dried and canned staples when we must. Crew members may fish and set traps for crabs and shrimp. If you have dietary preferences or restrictions, please make them known. Cooks and scullery knaves will be treated with great respect by other crew members.

Tango has a dorm-sized refrigerator, a capacious ice chest, and extensive storage for non-perishable items. You are encouraged to bring your favorite snacks, granola, or other dried food, for your own use or to share.

Cooking facilities include a 3-burner gas range with a small oven, a small microwave oven, and a gas barbeque mounted on the stern rail. Pots, pans, a pressure cooker, plates, glasses, cutlery, and cups provide a fine dining experience.

Trash disposal is problematic in many areas, so please re-package dried goods in ziplock bags or biodegradable containers. Avoid hard plastic packaging. Empty cans may be flattened, paper trash can be burned, glass bottles can be scuttled in deep water, but hard plastic is incompressible and unburnable.

Comforts and conveniences:
Tango has berths for seven (double berths in the forward and aft cabins, a dinette that can be converted to a double, and a settee that can be used as a single bunk), two heads (AKA bathrooms), and two showers (one in the cockpit and one in the forward head). She holds about 100 gallons of fresh water and has a reverse-osmosis watermaker. We still must be conservative with water use, turning off the faucet even when brushing teeth or scrubbing hands. Engine heat is used to heat domestic water. The hydronic heater that heats the cabins and main salon can also be used to heat water. Heat exchangers in each cabin and head can be individually controlled.

Electricity is available in 12V and 120V flavors. You may bring your favorite music on your phone, iPod, or USB media.

The center cockpit is sheltered by a dodger, bimini top, side curtains, and bug screens and is accessible by ladders from the main salon and the aft cabin.

Shore boat "Clara T," an 11-foot wooden dinghy, is equipped with oars and a 2-hp Honda outboard..

Showers and laundry facilities are available at most public and commercial marinas. They may consist of only one coin-operated shower stall, one washing machine, and one dryer. Bring enough clean clothes to last at least a week unless you want to do hand laundry aboard the boat.

Reading recommendations:
Alaska & Canada's Inside Passage Cruise Tour Guide. Coastal Cruise Tour Guides. A fold-out map of the entire Inside Passage.
Alaska's Southeast: Touring the Inside Passage. By Sarah Eppenbach. Globe Pequot Press.
Coastal Companion: A Guide for the Alaska-Bound Traveler. Joe Upton. Coastal Publishing, Seattle.
The Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship and Discovery in the Alaskan Wild. Lynn Schooler. 2003. Recounts the relationships of a photographer, a guide, and their elusive quarry. Recommended by several residents of Southeast Alaska.
The Curve of Time. M. Wylie Blanchet. A widow and her five children explore the Inside Passage in the 1920s and 1930s.
Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings. Jonathan Raban. A solo sailor explores the natural world and the depths of his soul. Vintage Books. 2000.

More information:
The Waggoner Guide is the Pacific Northwest cruiser's best source of information on harbors, services, hazards, and a multitude of other important matters. Its web site is a treasure trove of information for the traveler.

Learn how to tie knots at Animated Knots by Grog.

See aerial photos of marinas and harbors at http://marinas.com/.

Follow the weather at NOAA's Ocean Prediction Center.

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