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An Apology to Kayley

Airship Goes to Alaska


We didn’t always get along with Kayley. Our friendship was the kind of friendship that started out too glowing and too perfect too early, and then slowly its faults and personality quirks were realized as they moved quickly into annoyances. But let me back up and tell you the whole story.

We first met Kayley (well, kind of) using the Active Captain plug-in app on our iPhones and iPads to scope out new anchorages and coves. The app gives you general information about the marinas and obstructions and fuel docks and water and nearby grocery stores and such, and then people write and post reviews of places they’ve been, and those reviews show up along with the other information about a place. It’s very helpful to hear what real people think about a spot…how good or bad the holding is in an anchorage, whether there’s wildlife or great scenery, tricky navigational challenges, etc.

We started to notice certain reviews in Active Captain that stood out from the rest. Most reviews are standard, to the point, factual mainly with a little bit of opinion thrown in but not much. Kayley’s reviews were different. They were flowery, but well written. Kayley told us about some pretty cool places with great, detailed descriptions of what we’d find there. We were pals. “Do you wanna go to such and such cove?” “I dunno, what does Kayley think of it?” 

I’m not sure exactly when it began to happen. I’d be reading the reviews of a place out loud to Kevin (and Tiffani and Deke, when they were traveling with us) as we tried to decide where to go next, and then I’d stop mid-sentence. “Oh. It’s Kayley.” I got so I could recognize her reviews from the first few words. The more places we read about, the more we got to know Kayley. It started to seem like Kayley had been everywhere, and loved everything. We were suspicious.

“Bears are present on almost a daily basis during the summer. Snow capped mountains loom above you in all directions. Bald eagles seem to perform an ‘air traffic control’ mission above you, the shorelines beg for exploration…” (December 2012)

In the span of a week or so, almost every place we read about, according to Kayley, was just the most amazing place on earth, with howling wolves at night, bald eagles gently flying overhead, goats covering the cliffs above you, sea otters and dolphins playing around your boat, a plethora of brown bears on shore, humpbacks whispering in your ear, tranquility you can only find in heaven, blah blah blah blah BLAH.

We began to distrust Kayley. We’d go to that little cove, and sure it was scenic (because, Alaska, duh), but there were no wolves, no goats, no orcas jumping over swimming unicorns next to your boat. (Of course there were always bald eagles because they’re everywhere up here, so do they really need special mention?) We started to give Kayley a personality that she probably didn’t have in real life. We made up our own Kayley to talk back to, because it was funny. 

Once, when we were at a little cove that Kayley said was “just okay” (but not in those words, of course), we saw two brown bears fighting on shore, and we could HEAR them growling from our boat. It was incredible! Tiffani and Deke had already flown home, and I texted Tiffani: “Brown bears fighting on the beach! Kayley can suck it!”  

We had a good laugh at that one. 

But something is different now. As we spend more and more time exploring this incredible area, and the more times we’ve consulted Active Captain to see what was waiting for us through the next narrow passage or inside that next cove, the more respect we’ve developed for Kayley. Kayley really HAS been everywhere…tiny, difficult, rock-guarded inlets that require a ton of skill to navigate — random “who knows why you’d even go in there” places — Kayley has been in all of them, and she’s taken the time and effort to write a rich, thoughtful review of each place, complete with navigation advice, comparisons to nearby alternatives, and yes, flowery, metaphor-laden Chamber of Commerce descriptions about the wildlife and quality of scenery. 

But you know what? It FEELS like that after you’re up here for a while. Each day you get to add some new incredible experience to your tiny little life, and it becomes a bit overwhelming, in a really REALLY good way. It is amazing and gorgeous and fabulous and fantastic and rainbows and breaching humpbacks all freaking day.

The extent to which Kayley has explored SO many nooks and crannies of this beautiful and remarkable area is mind boggling. Plus, most of her reviews are dated 2012. How did she cover so much ground in one season? 

Kayley is actually a total rockstar.

We realize now that we may have gotten off on the wrong foot with Kayley, and we jumped to some unfair conclusions about her and her prose. We feel badly about how we misjudged her.

Kayley, if you’re listening, we want to say thank you — we think you and your adjectives are the best! 


  1. Martin DeYoung Martin DeYoung

    Have you contacted the guys at PYI? I have used the PSS Shaft seal on several sailboats over the last 30 years. The version of shaft seal I have does not have the cooling water vent hose but several times, in surfing conditions the sea water is sucked out of the bellows as the boat surges ahead.
    The last time this happened on our 43′ sailboat the shaft seal SS rotator and the carbon end on the bellows heated up and started squeaking. We heard the squeak before any smoke was created and “burped” the shaft seal by pulling back on the bellows enough to allow them to fill again. Once cooled by the sea water all was well.
    Contact me at if you have any follow up questions or could use some assistance in contacting PYI.
    BTW, I am Larry Benson’s (Thelonius) son-in-law. Thanks for all the great pictures and stories from your Alaska voyage.
    Martin DeYoung

    • Hi Martin,
      Thanks so much for your feedback. We will contact PYI first thing in the morning. We definitely heard a squeak before the smoke…could be exactly what you described. The vibration issues we’ve had have been mellow but ongoing. We found a nut that came off one of the bolts where the drive shaft connects to the transmission…and all the other bolts were loose when we checked them. When we tightened them we noticed a much more pronounced vibration…with the bolts loose things ran smoothly, when they were tight, we had a lot of vibration. We were thinking that might be the problem, although your “following sea, air in the bellows” theory sounds even better. We’ll let you know what we learn after talking to PYI tomorrow.

      Thanks again (so much)! And say hi to Larry for us!

      • Hi Martin, Kevin talked to PYI this morning and it sounds like it could easily have been the overheating due to cavitation in the following seas. The vibration was likely a separate issue (fishing line or kelp around the shaft that we lost as we went from forward, to neutral, to reverse and then back?) and also the vibration in the shaft/transmission area is probably again a separate issue. We’re going to try to locate a good mechanic here in Juneau to have him inspect all of it, and get under the boat to make sure we’re clear there as well. Thanks again so much for your help on this! -L&K

  2. Sam Landsman Sam Landsman

    As far as I know there’s no bearing in the PYI PSS shaft seal. It’s just a graphite (maybe carbon?) on stainless steel seal. The compression of the bellows provides enough pressure to keep the two surfaces watertight.

    I assume you also have a cutlass bearing in the stern tube. If you’re getting serious vibration, I’m guessing the source of the problem isn’t the PYI seal. Perhaps a bad cutlass bearing could cause this?

    • Kevin’s on the phone with PYI now. (Yes, carbon, stainless). Sounds like he’s getting some great support. Also, see Martin’s comment above…could easily have been the deal (and the vibration where the shaft connects to the transmission could be its own separate issue). Thanks so much for your help and thinking on this! We’ll let you know what we learn.

  3. Wow. I imagine that (edit: that support response) could have an impact on your future boat considerations… I can’t believe they just sent you a link to search results and an implied, hearty “Good luck with that”.

    Random side thought: one benefit of working with a good boat dealer, I suppose, is that they become the first line of support.

    • They did a little more than that, but yeah, it seemed funny to us too. We got some good support this morning from PYI (the maker of the shaft seal, which is what overheated) and we’re in contact now with the dealer here in Juneau…so we’ll have it all checked out well before moving on.

    • We didn’t contact our dealer because it was such a specific mechanical problem we were having….that’s the reason we contacted the factory directly. Had we been in our own home area, we would have probably contacted the dealer first (we have a good relationship with them), but we figured they would likely be going to the factory guys for guidance on this one too…and you know, 5 foot seas, Southeast Alaska. 🙂

      The dealer here in Juneau has been really helpful and is working to connect us with a good mechanic…so I think we’re in good hands.

      • Glad to hear it 🙂 Now you’ll be yawning at those piddly 4-footers…

        In the video, what was that port windshield wiper up to?

        • Do not even get me started with the lack of rhythm in the windshield wipers, Michael! 🙂

          Each wiper has its own switch, so I normally try to time it equally (verrrrry smooth) as I switch them all on one at a time. But when things get rough and the boat’s bouncing all around, it’s hard to time it nicely and you just get what you get.

          Also, during all this craziness, the two left windshield wipers quit at one point (for a few minutes!!) and then came back. Then, the right one quit for a few minutes and then came back. They were all on the highest setting, so I assume they stopped to cool off, but man…not really the time when you want to be worrying about not having working windshield wipers!!!

          • No kidding. I wonder how well that marine version of RainX performs.

  4. Nancy Nancy

    We’re attending the boat show in Seattle in September. May pass on the Nordics. Glad you are safe!

    • Nancy, Kevin just talked to the local dealer and he’s got a mechanic on the way down to help us out. (And the factory contacted us again this morning to check in.) The Nordic is a great boat…I wouldn’t write it off just yet. 🙂

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