Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sitka Interlude

June 16, 2011

After arriving in Sitka, we spent two days re-provisioning and cleaning and then went to Kalinin Bay on Kruzof Island to check out the fishing. Miriam and I took Spirit out into the ocean outside of Salisbury Sound and managed to catch one King salmon and 5 Coho salmon before entering Kalinin Bay and rafting to Sea Jay.

June 17, 2011

Today was a fishing day, in the morning from Sea Jay's tender and in the afternoon from Spirit. We landed one King and four Coho salmon before returning and celebrating Jim Matheson's birthday.

June 18, 2011

Today was also a fishing day, spending the morning on Spirit looking for salmon, but only finding one Coho. A pod of Orca went through the fishing fleet and after that incident, the fish disappeared. We returned to Sitka in the afternoon and had a dinner at the Channel Club with.

June 19, 2011

Miriam and I spent Father's Day deep cleaning Spirit and getting off the fish scales and other debris from fishing. Ron and Bonnie Zuckerman from the Selene 48 "Z-Worthy" joined us for a BBQ dinner in the evening.

June 20, 2011

We tried fishing in the morning, but the wind came up and the seas were too rough to go fishing in the tenders. In the evening we attended a "Winemaker's Dinner" at the Westmark Hotel, to introduce the new chef at the hotel and also Rodney Strong Wines. The winemaker, Rick Sayre gave a very interesting talk about the wines and the food as the evening progressed.

At 12 PM this evening, near the longest day of the year, the sky is still light to the west!

June 21, 2011

Today we leave Sitka, perhaps for the last time this season and head back to Kalinin Bay where we will fish for one or two days before heading north around Chicagof Island and then down to Wrangell via Petersburg. We will only have intermittent cell phone service and no internet until we get to Petersburg.

We have now travelled over 1550 nautical miles.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Around Baranof Island Pictures

How to ruin your whole day

Island in Cameron Pass, west coast Baranof

Rock formations in Biorka Sound

Entrance to Dorothy Narrows

Another view of the grounded fishing boat.

Entering the North Pacific via Cameron Pass

The rock formations here are devoid of vegetation due to storms

Windswept tree in Still Harbor

Still Harbor in the evening

The sun setting in Still Harbor

Aptly named Sea Lion Rocks, west coast Baranof Island

Wooden Island, south tip of Baranof Island, Cape Ommaney

Small King salmon, east coast Baranof Island

Spirit anchored in Patterson Inlet, Baranof Island

Another stunning vista in Patterson Inlet

Waterfall in Warm Springs Bay, low tide

Failed B&B, snow loads in the winter

The small halibut from Saook Bay

Around Baranof Island in Five Days

June 10, 2011

Under partly sunny skies we cast off the mooring lines at 0810 AM and headed out the north breakwater entrance to exit Sitka via the Western Channel. As we headed out into Sitka Sound, the northwest swell increased to 3-4 feet, but with no wind, it was just a smooth up and down ride across Biorka Sound and into Hot Springs Bay. We decided, even though the swell was no problem, to take the scenic inside route south as far as possible. The first challenge was Dorothy Narrows, where the water depth was only 4 feet below the keel. We transited at dead slow speed with Miriam on the bow looking for rocks.

Safely exiting Dorothy Narrows we headed down Windy Passage and then through First and Second Narrows. Second Narrows was tricky due to lots of rocks, but plenty deep. A fishing boat was not so lucky, being hard aground, high and dry just outside Second Narrows. This was as far as we could go on the inside route, so we headed down Middle Channel and Cameron Pass to the open ocean. We stayed about 2 miles offshore and headed for North Cape. The NW swell was on our stern quarter, so the stabilizers worked hard all day.

From North Cape to Cape Ommaney you are really on your own, so we decided to find an anchorage for the evening. We chose Still Harbor on the south side of Whale Bay and after picking our way into the entrance anchored at 1330 PM in 25 feet of water at the head of the bay. There were numerous sea otters and seals in the outer bay. The cruising guides were correct in that there are uncharted rocks in the anchorage, but they are visible at mid-tide.

The inner basin of Still Harbor is essentially landlocked and we had a quiet evening watching the sunset, which implied we would have good weather in the morning. The only wild life we saw were some black tailed deer.

Today's run was just 42 nautical miles, of which 20 were in the North Pacific and the rest in the protected inner passages.

June 11, 2011

The night was peaceful, although you could hear the surf pounding on the rocks at the harbor entrance. Even a three foot swell makes a racket. Today is predicted to be the longest day of the circumnavigation, so we departed shortly after 0600 under partly cloudy skies and winds, with the same swell pattern as the day before. Two hours later we diverted from our offshore course and explored an unnamed cove that the Douglass cruising guide called "Reanne's Relief" and "White Cliff Cove". The cove is protected by an entrance island with two entrances, both deep. Inside the cove was exactly as described and looked like a great place to return to. It was perfectly protected and calm, with good depths for anchoring.

We continued down the coastline, past Sea Lion Rocks and at 1030 rounded Cape Ommaney, the southernmost tip of Baranof Island. Turning north nearly 180 degrees, we started up Chatham Strait, passing by Port Alexander, which appeared full of fishing boats.

A few miles ahead, we could see an AIS target, a fellow Selene owner on "Z-Worthy", Ron and Bonnie Zuckerman. They were fishing for king salmon at Point Armstrong and having good luck, so we stopped and joined them. As luck would have it, it was raining, but the cockpit remained dry while fishing. The new downrigger installation worked great. Within 20 minutes we had landed a nice bright king salmon, our limit for the day. Zuckerman's landedtwo nice kings, one of which turned out to be a white king salmon, due to feeding on anchovies rather than shrimp and krill.

We were both headed to Patterson Bay on Baranof Island, where "Maximo", owned by Kim and Steve Oberto, also members of Roche Harbor Yacht Club, was already anchored. This bay reminds us of Norwegian fjords, with steep cliffs and snowfields. After anchoring both Selenes in a little cove at the head of the bay where we were held in position by the current flowing out of the river at the head of the inlet, the prawn pots went down, and by later that evening we had a nice haul of spot prawns. The evening was spent chatting as we all gathered on Maximo for raspberry sorbet and drinks while swapping stories about fishing, crabbing and prawning locations.

June 12, 2011

We were rudely awakened by a navigation alarm which we thought was the anchor alarm, but turned out to be a GPS "loss of fix", caused, we suspect by our proximity to the high sheer cliffs. Pulling the prawn pots (in light rain at times) resulted in another nice haul and after processing them we reluctantly pulled the anchor and headed towards our next destination, Warm Springs Bay. As we continued up Chatham Strait, the weather continues to improve and we can see blue sky ahead.

About 18 miles south of our destination we passed by Red Bluff Bay, which refers to the curious, out of context red stone which is in stark contrast to the uniformly gray, black and white stone which the rest of the landscape consists of.

The scale of Chatham Strait is immense. While Baranof Island is approximately 90 nautical miles long, Chatham Strait stretches even further, about 120 nautical miles from the southern entrance to the junction with Icy Strait and the Lynn Canal. Chatham Strait averages more than six miles in width. This body of water is far larger than Puget Sound from Port Townsend to Olympia, but is just a fraction of the coastline of SE Alaska.

We entered Warm Springs Bay and put the anchor down in the south cove. This cove has a hard rocky bottom and we were not satisfied with the way the anchor set, so we moved to the public dock. After launching the tender, Patrick went halibut fishing, but only landed one Pacific Cod, and lost lots of bait. We grilled some of the king salmon for dinner and it was delicious.

June 13, 2011

The current can run very strong along the dock at Warm Springs Bay except at low slack water, due to the volume of water coming over the waterfall. We got up early and left in the rain at 0645 in ideal slack tide conditions, stopping to fish for halibut on the way to our next destination. No luck, except to feed the fish our herring. The halibut are smart enough to avoid the hooks while getting the herring, even though we had tied the herring to the hook. We will just keep trying.

We decided to investigate Saook Bay and possibly anchor there for the evening. The bay was deep except for a 100+ foot deep area right at the head of the bay next to a steep shelf and shallows leading into the river delta. We anchored anyway and threw the halibut jig over and instantly had a small halibut on the line, about 30 inches overall. We will get a few good meals from it. However, the wind came up fairly strong from the north and we felt uncomfortable with the lee shore, being so shallow, so we pulled the anchor and headed further up Peril Strait to Deep Bay, which is well protected and has Dungeness crab.

Arriving in Deep Bay at 1640 we anchored and put out two crab pots before filleting the halibut from Saook Bay. A check of the pots at dark showed only lots of females and small Tanner crabs, so we moved the pots to a new location.

June 14, 2011

Although it rained overnight, there was almost no wind, so it was a quiet night. Checking the crab pots, we found 4 legal and nice Dungeness crab, which were quickly cooked before we pulled the anchor at 0918 for the transit through Sergius Narrows. The rain continued off and on, mostly on, the rest of the way to Sitka where we docked at 1325 PM, completing our 246 nautical mile circumnavigation and rejoining Sea Jay.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sitka Interlude

We have spent the last six days relaxing and completing maintenance on Spirit after the first 1200 miles. It was time for an oil change on the generator, cleaning of the watermaker prefilters, cleaning the fresh water system filters, cleaning sea strainers, fueling the tender, general cleaning and just playing tourist in Sitka. The weather the past six days has alternated from rain to sun, wind to calm. On Monday, when we had tentatively planned to leave, it was really windy and raining, with seas to 8 feet at a 6 second period at the weather buoy off Cape Edgecumbe, which makes them very steep and nasty, so we decided to just stay put. We later heard from a Nordhavn 50 that they were unable to get into the entrance of Kalinin Bay, where we had planned to go to, due to the seas at the bay entrance, so our decision to stay in Sitka was wise.

On Saturday when we arrived we went to the Channel Club in Sitka for a arrival celebration dinner, and last night was an evening with Mathesons and their guests for the past three days, the Lambertsons, at Ludvig's Bistro, reputed to be one of the best places to eat in town.

Ludvig's has space for just 20 people and the only reservation we could get for six people was at 8:45 PM. However, they called about 8 PM and we actually got in about 8:20 PM for a very well cooked and served meal. Our menu choices included oysters on the half shell, white king salmon, filet mignon, seafood paella and capped with either a vanilla bean crème brulee or a chocolate torte for dessert.

Tomorrow, Friday, June 10, is our 39th wedding anniversary. The weather forecast for the next 5 days is favorable, so we will celebrate it while heading out of Sitka, southbound, on a 5 day circumnavigation of Baranof Island. We will be in the open water of the North Pacific for about 50 miles until we turn the corner at Cape Ommaney at the southernmost tip of Baranof Island and head back up Chatham Strait. We will not have internet or cell phone until we return to Sitka on June 14, in the afternoon. Our stops along the way will all be new destinations for us.

This trip will be about 225 nautical miles, or about 45 nautical miles per day.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

More Photos between Swanson Harbor and Sitka

Sea Jay in front of Kasnyku Falls, this gives a good idea of the size of the falls
Eagle feeding on the beach

Another whale tail in Icy Strait

Some of the mountains in Glacier Bay from Swanson Harbor

Camping on the dock in Swanson Harbor

Strolling down the main street in Tenakee Springs

The public restroom at the end of the pier, complete with old magazines

A troller fishing in the unusually calm waters of Chatham Strait near Ell Cove

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tenakee Springs to Sitka

The bath house at Tenakee Springs

The general store and main intersection

Kasnyku Falls, Baranof Island

Entering Takatz Bay

On our cocktail cruise with one of the many waterfalls in the background

Spirit and Sea Jay rafted in Takatz Bay

Another Takatz Bay Vista

May 31, 2011

The skies remained clear overnight and the wind died down to calm as we prepared to depart Tenakee Springs. We walked up into the center of town, expecting the store to be open at 1000 AM, but no luck, it would not open until 1215 PM and we had a long way to travel so we tallied the status of our fresh food (and wine) and decided to leave for Takatz Bay, a run of 50 nautical miles. The weather was sunny and almost no wind the entire way. We saw a few humpback whales, mostly in the distance, but lots of porpoise following the boat. There was very little marine traffic, just two tugs, the occasional cruise ship and a few commercial fishing boats.

Along the way we stopped at Kasnyku Falls for a photo opportunity and then a few more miles into Takatz Bay where we rafted alongside Sea Jay. Takatz Bay is one of the most scenic bays we have ever anchored in, with waterfalls, glacially green water, snowfields and it is nearly totally protected from winds. The water temperature was a cool 40 degrees due to the glacial water coming in from the falls. After settling in we took a "cocktail" cruise with Mathesons on their shore boat, taking photos, eating crab cocktails and stopping briefly at the salmon hatchery in the outer bay. As we were heading back, a small cruise ship "Safari Explorer" also anchored in the outer bay, out of sight and sound from our anchorage.

Dinner was a marinated and smoked flank steak, and then we watched the Clint Eastwood movie "Gran Torino", which was surprisingly good. We retired for the night, serenaded by the sounds of all the waterfalls.

We have now covered 1120 nautical miles.

June 1, 2011
The day started out sunny, with light winds, so we decided to stay another day and go fishing for salmon in the afternoon. The crab pots were totally non-productive, with a haul of 5 giant starfish, so we moved the location of the pots to try and improve the luck. In the afternoon Jim and Patrick went fishing and were modestly successful, with one sea bass and two small but legal Chinook salmon. The sea bass and one of the salmon became dinner, smoked on Jim's Traeger smoker/grill.

June 2, 2011

The morning started sunny as we checked the crab pots and once again found nothing in them. We pulled anchors at 0855 and headed back up Chatham Strait with a stop for more photos at Kasnyku Falls. We entered Peril Strait at 1200 and by 1405 were anchored separately in Appleton Cove watching a brown bear on the beach just a few hundred feet away. Later in the day the wind came up to more than 22 knots, and we were concerned about the lack of swinging room between Spirit and a reef, so about 100 moved the anchorage into the lee of Anderson Island, in the middle of the cove.

Today's run was 38 nautical miles for a total of 1158 so far this trip.

The crab pots we had set earlier yielded 2 large Dungeness crab, with a lot of females that were returned to the sea. The rest of the evening was quiet, with only Spirit and Sea Jay occupying Appleton Cove.
June 3, 2011

The wind decreased overnight, but the clouds had returned, with only occasional glimpses of the sun. We checked the crab pots and found two large Dungeness crab. Although the limit is three per day per person, we do not have the room in either our stomachs or freezer for that much crab, especially since these are so large with such firm meat. The brown bear we had seen the evening before had returned to the beach for more foraging, but our new anchor site was too far away for photos.

We pulled the anchor at 0955 and continued up Peril Strait towards our destination for the day, Baby Bear Cove. There was a solitary humpback whale in Deadman's Reach, but too far away for photos.

Baby Bear Cove has a tricky entrance, but we have navigated this entrance before, and by 1245 we were anchored right at the head of the inlet, with Sea Jay anchored ¼ mile further out. The head of the inlet is very calm, but there were several crab pots in the prime spot for safe anchorage so after watching Spirit swinging in the wind, we decided we needed to move to have adequate clearance between the beach and the crab pot floats. We ended up rafting alongside Sea Jay where we got our own pots ready, and then placed them on the other side of Peril Strait in Deep Bay, where we have anchored before. We checked the pots in the evening before a dinner of crab and salmon chowder with fresh sourdough bread. We each found one more large crab. Since we had an early departure, we brought the pots back to Baby Bear Cove and placed them among some other pots in the cove.

Today's run was a short 22 nautical miles, bringing the total to 1180 nautical miles.
June 4, 2011
Miriam and I set the alarm for 0500 so we could pull the crab pots and still get underway at 0630 for slack water at Sergius Narrows at 0717. Sergius Narrows is about 6 miles from the anchorage and it is best to run it near slack water. When we woke, the rain had returned and the crab pots were empty except for starfish and immature Tanner crab. We timed it well, except that the Alaska ferry Taku was also aiming for slack water. We beat the Taku through Sergius Narrows by about 15 minutes. We headed through Kakul Narrows, across Salisbury Sound, where we got a taste of the ocean swells, and then down Neva and Olga Straits into Sitka Harbor where we docked at 1015 in the morning. By the time we were docked the rain had mostly disappeared and there were glimpses of sun, but not enough to see Mount Edgecumbe.

The days run was 30 nautical miles for a total of 1210 nautical miles.

After collecting mail and parts from the post office, we had dinner with Matheson's at the Channel Club in Sitka and called it an early night.

We will spend the next few days in Sitka catching up on maintenance.