Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Behm Canal

Our Behm Canal Route
An evening in Punchbowl Cove

New Eddystone Rock

Sean & Margaret Kayaking in Punchbowl Cove

Margot and Margaret enjoying the placid waters

The steep sides of Rudyerd Bay

This really looks like Norway

The back side of Punchbowl Cove

A brief glimpse into Walker Cove

Sean relaxing with a book in the sunshine

Cracking Crab
and working for dinner

Our evening dinner on the flybridge
Sean & Margaret made spring rolls

Celebrating Margaret's Birthday early!

July 25, 2010

We left City Floats in Ketchikan at 1020 and headed down Tongass Narrows under sunny skies into Revillagigedo Channel and the entrance to the Behm Canal, the passage of water that stretches some 130 miles around Revillagigedo Island. Right at the entrance to the Behm Canal a large group of purse seiners was fishing, so we got some good photos. Three years ago when we went through the Behm Canal it was foggy and raining, giving the name "Misty Fiords National Monument" true meaning. Today, however, we had clear skies and were able to get good photos of New Eddystone Rock, which is an ancient volcanic plug jutting up in the middle of the channel just outside Rudyerd Bay and Punchbowl Cove. When we arrived in Punchbowl Cove, it was deserted and the USFS buoy was vacant, so we tied up to it rather than anchor, although we have anchored here in the past. Both cartography systems (C-Map and Navionics) have the buoy in a significantly different location than the GPS indicated. The black cliffs of Punchbowl Cove are as spectacular as those in Princess Louisa Inlet. During the rest of the day we watched float planes landing further out in the bay with loads of sightseers from the cruise ships. The shrimp pots and crab pots were set and the kayaks were launched for paddles around Punchbowl Cove. The sunny weather allowed us to have dinner of crab cakes and flank steak with garlic roasted potatoes out on the aft boat deck when the tenders and kayaks were launched and out of the way.

July 26, 2010

Waking up to more sunshine and mild temperatures, we checked the crab pots and found 2 legal crabs, but no shrimp in the shrimp pots, just these curious creatures that look like a cross between a crab and a prawn, we called them "crimps" but later found they were "pinchbugs" or galatheid crabs. We decided to spend another day in Punchbowl Cove in the sunshine. All day long we watched one float plane after another land and spend 10 minutes taking photos before heading back to Ketchikan. Dinner was an extensive taco bar on the flybridge as we watched the sun set over the steep cliffs.

July 27, 2010

We headed out at 0930 after making a crab omelet and went further up Rudyerd Bay to look at the sheer cliffs and the "Rookery" before heading back out into the Behm Canal. We could have been in one of the Norwegian Fjords, the scenery is so similar. The weather continued to be sunny and warm as we set the shrimp pots in Saks Cove before anchoring in Fitzgibbon Cove several miles further up the canal. Fitzgibbon Cove turned out to have quite a bit of wind channeling in, but the bottom was mud and held well. At this end of the Behm Canal, the topography is far less spectacular than in Rudyerd Bay, the heart of "Misty Fiords". However, the water color is a strange green from all the glacial runoff into the canal. Even with the wind the temperature remained in the 70's until after 8PM. Margaret and Sean prepared chicken enchiladas with green sauce for dinner.

July 28, 2010

Waking up to another sunny morning we continued our journey around the Behm Canal. First we pulled the crab pots which contained 4 more legal crabs, and then went back to Saks Cove to retrieve the shrimp pots. There were just a few shrimp and a lot of "pinchbugs", but enough for part of our dinner. After Saks Cove we passed through Behm Narrows and motored past Bell Island Hot Springs, which has deteriorated even further in the three years since our last visit. Just a short distance away was Yes Bay, our destination for the evening. We anchored in the innermost cove and set the crab and shrimp pots in the next cove out. It was another warm and sunny day, so the kayaks and tender got a workout before a dinner prepared by everyone. Margot made appetizers, Patrick cooked crab cakes and Sean and Margaret made spring rolls with the shrimp and crab. We ate dinner out on the "sun deck" and then celebrated Margaret's August 9 birthday early with a surprise birthday cake baked by Miriam. We were also going to have a crab risotto, but decided we were too full of crab cakes and spring rolls.

July 29, 2010

For the first time in several days there were clouds in the sky when we got up. After a hearty breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy we pulled the anchor and headed for the crab and shrimp pots. The crab pots were empty, but we got a nice haul of coon striped shrimp before we headed for Naha Bay. We tried to tie up at the small public float, but we were really too big and there was a lot of current coming out of Roosevelt Lagoon, so we headed back out to Helm Bay on the Cleveland Peninsula, skirting the restricted area in the middle of the channel. We pulled into the public float area behind Fors Island and although there was empty space, the other occupants (apparently a commercial salmon fishing guide operation) quickly moved their small boats to fill the space and then called us on the radio with a story that the dock was high and dry at low tide, even though they had a Bayliner 38 and another large fishing boat tied up to the same dock. They also sent one of the small boats over to the USFS buoy to prevent us from considering that option(note: the buoy is in front of the USFS cabin, and when you have a cabin reservation you also have the buoy reserved, so we thought they were just protecting their rights). We decided we would not have wanted to tie up with such a negative reception (the first we had seen in SE Alaska). We continued to the head of Helm Bay and anchored in 90 feet of water in the middle of a field of crab pots. By now, the skies had finally clouded over and the wind had picked up, but it was still pleasantly warm.

Sean and Patrick cooked the crab and basil risotto that had been deferred from the night before and we relaxed watching a movie and looking for wildlife on the beach.

July 30, 2010

The skies are clearer than last night as we pull the anchor at 0815 enroute to Meyers Chuck. We passed the now empty dock behind Fors Island but did not go in to see how deep the water actually was, although the dock does look very close to shore near low tide. The dock at Meyers Chuck was full when we arrived so we anchored in the harbor, but no sooner had we launched the tender and gone ashore when a boat left, opening up a gap long enough for us. We pulled the anchor and tied up astern of a 42 foot Nordic Tug and across the dock from another one, both travelling together. After visiting the gallery and purchasing some handmade wood bowls we spent the rest of the day relaxing in the sun.

July 31, 2010

Another sunny morning as we departed at 0715 for Ketchikan, docking at City Floats in a brisk breeze shortly before noon. There were no cruise ships in today and most shops were closed as well as restaurants. Sean, Margaret and Margot depart tomorrow and John Duvall arrives to join us on the trip south. We went out for dinner at Annabelle's, one of the only places in town that was open. Although the weather is sunny, wind and seas too rough to cross Dixon Entrance are predicted for the next several days, so we plan on going to Foggy Bay and waiting for a favorable window.

We are now finishing up Day 92 of our trip and show 3240 nautical miles on the ship's log.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ketchikan Interlude

July 23, 2010

We are really glad we headed to Ketchikan early. Several of the cruise ships cancelled their stops in Ketchikan due to the high winds in the channel. However, by early afternoon, the front passed by and the skies cleared as we headed to the Ketchikan Yacht Club for their Friday evening BBQ. We really lucked out, as they had a fish fry of halibut and salmon prepared numerous ways along with salads and dessert. It was fun renewing connections from our last BBQ night three years ago. The Roche Harbor Yacht Club burgee we had left three years ago is still awaiting processing for display on the wall of the clubhouse, along with perhaps 40 other burgees. They will join about 140 burgees already on display.

July 24, 2010

This morning Ben and Connie departed and shortly after noon Sean, Margaret and Margot arrived via water taxi from the airport. We re-provisioned the boat at Safeway, discovering that no eggs were available since the barge was late, and the vegetables were scarce as well. While Patrick and Sean were at the store, a 42 foot Tollycraft made a disastrous attempt at docking. Spirit narrowly escaped being hit, but the 80 foot Alaskan ahead of us was not so lucky, sustaining several thousand dollars in damage to the hull. We had hoped to go to the Ketchikan Coffee Company for live jazz, but there was no music on Saturday night and so we decided that homemade pizza was a good option for dinner.

July 25, 2010

It looks like we will have a favorable weather window for the next few days as we head for the Behm Canal and Meyers Chuck and then return to Ketchikan. We will have no internet or phone service for several days.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Craig to Ketchikan

Fog Formations in Clarence Strait

Patrick At El Capitan Cave

Some of the 370 steps to cave entrance

The entrance

Lots of tubes and branches, don't get lost!

Some of the flowstone formations

This formation is called "drool"

Ben and one of the USFS Guides in the "Pool Room"

July 20, 2010

The weather continues fair and warm, for SE Alaska as we depart Craig and head back up towards El Capitan Passage. We have made reservations for a tour of El Capitan Caves for tomorrow morning, so we are just looking for an anchorage close by. Along the way we see numerous shrimp pots set, so we finally settle on Devilfish Bay as our destination since there is reputed to be a good prawn location close by. Along the way we sighted numerous humpback whales feeding. The entrance to Devilfish Bay has a large rock right in the middle, but we found the water to be over 20 feet deep on the south side between the rock and shore, with a width of about 100 feet. The bay is fairly long, and the wind funnels through a cut at the end, so we were not impressed with the location, although the anchor set well. We launched the tender and ran back out the entrance to set the pot, and then back to set both crab pots. There were several sea otters present, so the crabbing may be poor.

As the sun set, the wind abated and we had a peaceful night at anchor after a grilled salmon dinner.

July 21, 2010

Today is going to be a long day, so we were up pulling the crab pots at 0600 (only a flounder in one pot) and underway shortly thereafter, towing the tender out to the shrimp pot location. We did have a few dozen spot prawns in the pot, but a lot of effort for a small haul. We anchored across El Capitan Passage from the USFS float, which is falling apart and limited to boats of less than 25 feet. Ben and Patrick went ashore for a 0900 tour of the caves. There were only 4 people on the tour, and two USFS guides. Hard hats and flashlights are provided, and we suited up for the 370 step climb to the cave entrance. The tour is fascinating and the guides were really knowledgeable about both the cave and the surrounding flora and fauna. When we exited the caves, which are at a constant 40 degrees, it was raining. The tour takes a little over 2 hours, so by 1130 we were back on board Spirit with the anchor hoisted for the trip back through Dry Pass and the rest of El Capitan Passage. The second time through was much faster and by 1200 we were back in Shakan Strait. The rain abated, the wind was relatively calm, but we encountered patchy fog as we rounded Point Baker at the northwest tip of Prince of Wales Island. We continued to spot humpback whales and finally sighted some orcas in Sumner Strait. We were making good time, so we continued down Clarence Strait and into Coffman Cove. There was plenty of space on the public float, which has been rebuilt since our copy of the cruising guides was published. The float now goes out into the channel much further, so anchoring off the public float is not an option.

July 22, 2010

The weather report calls for deteriorating conditions and winds increasing to 30 knots in Clarence Strait, so we leave at 0700, determined to go straight through to Ketchikan, rather than overnight in Meyers Chuck. We stopped at Meyers Chuck for 1 hour so Ben and Connie could visit the gallery, and we stopped again near Ship Island and fished for a while, no luck, although the charter boats were doing well on pink and chum salmon. The charter boats were sharing the area with several humpback whales. The wind continued to hold off until we docked at City Floats in Ketchikan at 1600. The weather report has gone from small craft advisories to gale warnings, and the rain began, so we were glad to find a spot where we will not be kicked out by a fishing boats also running for cover from the gale.

The log now stands at 2867.5 nautical miles on day 83.

We all went uptown to a Chinese restaurant on Creek Street, which turned out to have pretty good food. The rain increased, along with the wind.
July 23, 2010
We woke up to a windy, rainy and bouncy morning, even sheltered behind the cruise ship "Norwegian Pearl". We are really glad we pushed on to Ketchikan, since Clarence Strait is likely miserable, and moorage is really scarce as everyone runs for cover. We would likely still be stuck in Meyers Chuck until tomorrow. The purse seiners continue to stream in looking for moorage. One of them reports that the wind is now blowing 40 knots out in Tongass Narrows when they came in. The reports from Dixon Entrance have seas at 10 feet and 30 knot winds. The rain is heavy enough we have to dog the wheelhouse doors to keep the water out. Patrick also doubled up the mooring lines since we are being blown off the dock with the winds right on the beam.
Ben and Connie headed up to sightsee and geocache, while Patrick and Miriam start getting the boat ready for Sean, Margaret and Margot's arrival in the morning.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Petersburg to Craig

Ben & Connie Dancing Under the Stars in Sarkar Cove

Miriam and Patrick dancing under the stars

Spirit at Port Protection, State float

Patrick Kayaking at Port Protection

The main store and float at Port Protection

More Kayaking Photos

Fuel dock at Peterburg that Wilmer Oines Used to Run

Black bear in El Capitan Passage

Enjoying the sun at Port Protection

Ben & Connie

Our Grilled Salmon Dinner
on the sun deck.

Part of El Capitan Passage does not look like 70 feet wide, but it is!!
Saturday, July 17, 2010

The voyage continues to the west coast of Prince of Wales Island and the town of Craig.

We decided to ride the morning flood tide through Wrangell Narrows so we would have plenty of options for a port or anchorage this evening. There was more traffic in the narrows than we have ever seen, but we hit the slack water at mid-point perfectly and proceeded in calm weather west in Sumner Strait, now riding the ebb tide out, which increased our speed by nearly 2 knots. We pulled into Port Protection and found space at the State Float. After a trip to the small store, and negotiating a price for a 5 pound Coho salmon for dinner, we set the crab pots and then went kayaking around the bay in the sunshine.
Dinner was grilled Coho Salmon, served on the sundeck, now that the kayaks and the tender were launched, as we watched the sun set over Summer Strait.
We checked the crab pots, but no joy. We think there are too many otters, hence the name Sea Otter Sound just a few miles south.
The next morning, Sunday, July 18, 2010, we had a lazy morning, paddled around the bay, stowed the water toys and left about 1100 to ensure we enter El Capitan Passage shortly after low slack. The channel is scary, only 70 feet wide and dredged to 7-8 feet at zero tide in the shallowest places, but at least we can see all the obstructions. We slowed down to 5 knots, called on the VHF to warn oncoming traffic and headed into the passage.
The trip turned out to be spectacular, and keeping in mid-channel was not difficult, since there was little wind, minimal current and sunny skies. Ben and Connie spent most of the passage on the bow seat in the sunshine drinking in the scenery, which included one black bear on shore. After several hours we were out in the deeper sections of El Capitan Passage, where we checked out Devilfish Bay before heading to Sarkar Cove for the evening. The tender was launched as soon as we arrived, and serious explorations took place before a twilight dinner of grilled burgers (we can't be gourmet all the time!!) while we watched the sun set in the northwest. Before dinner, we motored to the head of the cove in the tender and part way up the creek watching the eagles feed as dusk approached. After dinner, dancing commenced on the aft deck, but we discovered that none of us was particularly good so we adjourned to watch several more episodes of "The Big Bang Theory".
Monday, July 19, 2010

After a peaceful night at anchor, we made a frittata for breakfast and then we headed the rest of the way down El Capitan Passage, wound our way through the Harmony Islands, and eventually docked at North Harbor in Craig under mostly sunny skies and pleasant temperatures. Along the way we were able to see numerous humpback whales and dozens of sea otters. The transient dock is fine, but we are the only Selene. The rest of the cruisers are all Krogens, ranging in size from a 58 footer to several 39 footers. Patrick walked up to the medical center and had some stiches removed and discovered a painting done by J. Craig Thorpe decorating the clinic office. We have known Craig for many years, and we now attend the same church in Bellevue.

Dinner this evening is at "Ruth Ann's" in Craig. They were out of oysters and spinach salad, but we made out OK. Back to the boat for after dinner drinks.

We are now at 2684 nautical miles on day 80 of our cruise.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Humpbacks and Bergs

The last three days were spent retracing our path from Petersburg to Endicott Arm via Frederick Sound, Stephens Passage and Tracy Arm Cove. As we rounded Cape Fanshaw we could see dozens of spouts and splashes from humpback whales feeding and playing from Storm Islands all the way to Windham Bay. We had never seen so many humpbacks in one place, and from the radio chatter, they were also on the Admiralty Island side putting on a show for yachts and cruise ships alike. At least one came totally out of the water and more surfaced and sounded close to the boat. We finally just put the engine in idle and enjoyed the show. Along the way we snacked on Miriam's freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Arriving at the Tracy Arm Bar well past slack water we bucked an ebb current of more than 4 knots for a few minutes and then anchored with six other boats in the cove. By dark, there were 13 boats as they returned from their trips up Tracy Arm in the clouds and rain. It seemed to be a magical time as the clouds lowered and the rain reduced visibility in the cove as the light gradually faded. We sat in our warm cabin and toasted Connie's Birthday with Margaritas before sitting down to a birthday dinner of prime rib roast, salad, scalloped potatoes and birthday cake baked on board by Miriam. Connie picked the movie for the evening, "It's Complicated", and we actually all stayed awake to the end.

The wind and rain increased overnight and the wind was gusting to 25 knots as we pulled the anchor for an early start up Endicott Arm for the third time. Visibility was very poor, the rain was heavy and we seriously considered staying at anchor for the day, but we detected a slight improvement and headed out anyway. The Tracy Arm Bar buoys were only occasionally visible since they were mostly underwater from the current. Fortunately, both the range marks and the electronics allowed us to shoot the channel carried out by a 5 knot ebb current. We briefly panicked as a barnacle encrusted ancient buoy surfaced in mid-channel directly ahead of us. We think it had been held down by bergs in a previous season and finally broke loose.

The visibility improved as we headed down Endicott Arm, and the ice concentrations were remarkably clear, allowing us to motor at near full speed to within 1 mile of the face before we had to slow down and pick our way for the last portion. Two other boats were there, and we launched the tender to get even closer and take more photos. There was a large section of the Dawes Glacier that calved and sent rollers down the arm while Ben and Connie were out in the tender. There were frequent smaller calvings taking place so the water was constantly rolling. After enjoying the scenery and collecting more glacial ice for future libations, we headed back to Tracy Arm Cove for the evening and relaxed from the long day. Connie has now photographed every blue berg between Dawes Glacier and Tracy Arm Cove. We were surrounded at anchor by small floating bergs that had found their way into the cove, little knowing that they were going to end up in our drinks! One of the bergs decided we were worth hanging out with and stayed right alongside for hours. No gourmet meals after this long cruising day, but leftovers converted into stroganoff.

The evening turned glassy calm and after watching a movie, we retired, only to be awakened at 0430 by a horrible crunching scraping noise outside. We instantly knew that the berg had decided to snuggle up alongside and parts of the berg could be seen underneath Spirit. We tried just fending off, that did not work. We then just raised the anchor and headed back down Stephens Passage to Petersburg. The porpoise and humpback whales were out in force and we stopped for nearly 2 hours just drifting with the engine turned off and watching the whales. At times we could see them pass under Spirit and then surface alongside, breathing in and out with whooshes and just ambling along. The humpbacks finally departed to the north and we continued our trip into Petersburg, arriving at 1530. We looked at the hull as far as we could see and the berg appeared to have not even scratched any bottom paint, just created noise.

The log now stands at 2556 nautical miles on day 76 of our voyage.

Endicott Arm and Humpbacks Again

Celebrating Connie's Birthday with Glacial Margaritas

Ben & Connie Exploring the face of Dawes Glacier

One of several calvings on Dawes while we were there

Ben & Connie exploring

Another potential christmas card photo of Spirit

There were still a lot of seals on the ice flows

Miriam running the boat, but not at the wheel

An evening reflection in Tracy Arm Cove that reminds us of totem poles

Our friendly berg at 0430

Just another tail

Mother and young whale sounding

A family group, we think?

Another family pair as we finally depart for Petersburg

Monday, July 12, 2010

Intermission is Over

After our brief, but hot return to the Seattle area, we arrived back in Wrangell ahead of schedule by 20 minutes on Alaska Airlines and were greeted by cloudy skies and much cooler, but still pleasant temperatures.

Spirit was fine, and we began the maintenance tasks that we had deferred pending bringing spare parts back from Seattle. We have replaced the "duckbills" on the macerator pump and it now works just fine. We also replaced latches on one of the ice chests, replaced some burned out bulbs, filled the water tanks and re-organized and inventoried our remaining supplies. The rain started late in the day, so we waited until Saturday to re-provision Spirit. The grocery stores are closed here on Sunday, and we intend to leave on Monday morning, perhaps early. The rain continued, heavy at times on Saturday, so the grocery store free delivery service was very welcome. The Selene 55 "Bonaventure" docked close to us in the early afternoon.

We set one crab pot and were rewarded with our legal limit of Dungeness crab, which we cooked and cleaned Saturday evening. We awoke Sunday morning to brief periods of sun, which then changed to rain and much cooler temperatures. Later in the morning "Facing West", a DeFever 47 from Anacortes Marina (just one dock over from us) arrived and we exchanged information on fishing, crabbing, prawns, etc. Like just about everyone else, they said the fishing has been very poor, but they are hoping for a good Coho season.

Ben and Connie Mikaelsen arrived a few minutes early on Sunday evening on the milk run flight from Anchorage (via Juneau and Petersburg). It was raining, of course, as we got the luggage down the dock. Patrick had prepared crab cakes as an appetizer with the fresh crab, and dinner was grilled mesquite marinated tri tip steak and potatoes au gratin accompanied by a green salad. After dinner, Patrick and Ben walked back into town in the rain so that Ben could get a feel for Wrangell. On a rainy Sunday evening, after dark, nothing was open, the streets were deserted and the bars had even started closing early.

Monday morning started out partly cloudy, with a few patches of sunshine. The plan for the next two weeks includes a detour back to Endicott or Tracy arm so Connie can experience glaciers from the water, and then back down to Craig on Prince of Wales Island via El Capitan passage before working our way to Ketchikan on July 23. The detour north will also allow us to replenish our supply of glacial ice.

The crab pot had several more crab, and we had some light rain as we headed for Wrangell Narrows, but then it cleared off and boosted by the flood tide, we zoomed up to the mid-point and then rode a little of the ebb into the marina. It was like old home week, with Panta Rhei, Ponderosa, Augenblick and Misty One all in the marina. We had an appetizer potluck on Misty One, drinks on Augenblick and then pork burritos (the only item left) at La Fonda Mexican restaurant (part of Kito's Cave). We all hope we do not regret that decision.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Spirit is moored in Wrangell's Heritage Harbor after an easy cruise down Wrangell Narrows while Patrick & Miriam return to the Seattle area tomorrow to celebrate Miriam's Mom's 98th Birthday on July 6. Patrick & Miriam return to Wrangell on July 9 and will be joined by Ben & Connie Mikaelsen on July 11 for a yet undecided itinerary which will end up in Ketchikan on July 24.