Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Southbound from Port McNeill

August 23 to September 10, 2014

The now familiar route south from Port McNeill and eventually to the homeport in Anacortes held few surprises.  Taking our time, spending several days in each location brought a welcome end to the routine of getting up early to either fish or make use of the tides.  The improving weather was enjoyable after the rainy SE Alaska summer.  Our route included Port Harvey, Mound Island, Thurston Bay, Dent Island, Rebecca Spit, Pender Harbor and now Montague Harbor.

Even the fishing was more relaxed, with several more Coho Salmon brought aboard our now full freezers.  We also enjoyed an informal rendezvous with five other Selenes at Dent Island the end of August.

We are now at anchor in Montague Harbor and will visit Miriam’s cousin Dean Sevold in Ganges tomorrow.  We intend to clear back into US waters on Thursday.

We never tire of watching the marine life, always something new and interesting.

Gull in Thurston Bay

Pacific Whiteside Dolphin Nodales Channel

More Gulls

Orca in Johnstone Strait

By the time we arrive back in Anacortes, Spirit will have covered more than 1000 nautical miles since leaving Ketchikan on August 6, and approximately 2860 nautical miles since leaving Anacortes on May 15.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Alaska 2014 - Wrangell to Port McNeill

August 1, 2014

Since we did not have to be in Ketchikan until August 4 we spent the day in Wrangell, finished off with a potluck dinner hosted by Dance’s on Peregrine, with Lennons from Tranquility and Millers from Hathor.  Doug and Karen Dance had prepared black cod for the main course, which was delicious.  We ate al fresco on the fly bridge in warm and sunny weather.

August 2, 2014

Spirit left Heritage Basin in Wrangell for the last time in 2014 at 0935 under sunny skies.  Heading south through Zimovia Straits we anchored at 1435 in Santa Anna Inlet where Patrick placed a single prawn pot near the entrance.  By evening we had several dozen large spot prawns.

August 3, 2014

Under sunny skies we raised the anchor at 0800 and headed for Ketchikan, stopping to fish at several locations, but with no luck.  Cruising by Meyers Chuck, we could see it was full, so we continued down Clarence Strait, stopping several times to drag lines in the water, again no luck. We finally docked in Bar Harbor, Ketchikan at 1740 and were greeted by our normal rain showers.

Patrick walked to Thomas Basin, about 2 1/2 miles away and visited with "Coccinelle", the dismasted French sailboat, who were planning to cross Dixon entrance the next day.

August 4, 2014

We spent the day on maintenance and cleaning in preparation for the arrival of Dianne and Bob Tucker the next day, while watching the “Duck Tours” splash down the launching ramp in front of our slip, each one playing the theme song from Gilligan’s Island as the Ducks departed for the harbor tour.

August 5, 2014

The day started out sunny, but we still had some rain during the day.  Tuckers arrived on schedule in the late afternoon, and after a sightseeing walk downtown we returned to Spirit for a grilled King Salmon dinner.  The evening finished with a quick trip to Safeway for some last minute items, just enough to get us across the border to Prince Rupert and still be legal on vegetables, fruit and alcohol.

August 6, 2014

We departed Bar Harbor at 0645 for the last time in 2014 and headed for Anderes Oil to top off the fuel for the trip south.  The harbor and docks were full of seiners and tenders, but we squeezed in astern of a large tender and put on 350 gallons of diesel fuel before heading down Tongass Narrows.  Reaching Mountain Point we slowed down and put the fishing lines in the water and soon had several Coho salmon in the boat, as well as several Pink salmon.  The fishing cooled off and we continued down Revillagigedo Channel to Foggy Bay where we anchored with one other vessel.  Bob and Patrick took the Grady White out fishing and returned with a Coho and a small 15# Halibut to add to the freezer.

August 7, 2014

Leaving Foggy Bay at 0500, just as it was getting light, we started trolling as soon as we cleared the outer bay and could not keep the Pink Salmon off the hooks, so after four of them in just 20 minutes we pulled in the gear and headed across Dixon Entrance, through Venn Passage and into the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club, where we cleared customs and headed for Safeway to buy the items we could not take across the border.  While there we received an email from "Coccinelle" indicating they were looking at trucking their boat to Anacortes rather than motoring another 600 miles.

August 8, 2014

Today we motored out of Prince Rupert at 0805, stopping several times to fish, with no luck, heading down Grenville Channel and finally anchoring in Lowe Inlet, where a bear was feeding on Coho Salmon jumping up Verney Falls.  We tried to entice the Coho to take our bait, but with no success.  We dined on halibut under the setting sun in the cockpit.

Bear feeding in Verney Falls, Lowe Inlet
The Tuckers in front of Verney Falls

August 9, 2014

Raising the anchor at 1000 in light rain and fog, we headed back out into Grenville Channel, stopping to fish at Gribble Island.  By noon the skies had cleared and we headed down Princess Royal Channel to Khutze Inlet where we anchored in 110 feet of water at the base of the waterfall.  Patrick set two crab pots for an overnight soak.  The fog started rolling in and there was patchy fog overnight, but no wind.

Summer scenery in Khutze Inlet

Seal colony in Khutze Inlet

August 10, 2014

Patrick pulled the pots in the morning and found 18 legal crabs, well within our combined limit for four licenses.  At 0805, after cooking the crab we headed back out Khutze Inlet and continued down Princess Royal Channel, Tolmie Channel and Klemtu Passage before crossing Milbanke Sound. Bob and Miriam spent quite a bit of time picking the crab meat from the shells.  The swells increased to 6-10 feet, but smoothed out as we turned in at Ivory Island into Seaforth Channel.  We anchored Spirit in sunny weather at 1835 in front of Shearwater along with many other pleasure craft.  We enjoyed fresh crab in the sun for dinner.

Boat Bluff Lighthouse

Longhouse at Klemtu
Super Full Moon at Shearwater

August 11, 2014

After the fog cleared we pulled up the anchor at 1155 and headed into Gunboat Passage to Ocean Falls.  By 1515 we had moored at the Ocean Falls dock in brisk winds, but sunny and very warm weather.  Bob, Patrick and Dianne toured through the deserted town up to the dam and Link Lake before returning to Spirit where we enjoyed more of the crab from Khutze Inlet, now made into a crab and corn chowder.

Ocean Falls Mermaid
The Tuckers in Ocean Falls

Some of the remaining deserted houses slowly falling apart

August 12, 2014

We wanted to fish today, so we left Ocean Falls at 0845 and drug a variety of lures at different depths, getting only two strikes, both of which we lost.  Returning to Shearwater via Gunboat Passage we briefly anchored and went grocery shopping at the Shearwater store, which had a good selection of fresh vegetables.  After pulling the anchor we headed down Lama Passage, across Fisher Channel and into Codville Lagoon, which was full of boats.  Our favorite spot was still available, so we anchored and set out both crab and prawn pots and then had dinner in the sunshine in the cockpit.  We were surprised to still have cell phone reception in Codville Lagoon.

August 13, 2014

Bob and Patrick headed out in the fog to find the prawn and crab pots.  They came back with only one crab, but 10 dozen prawns.  Seeing the fog beginning to lift, the decision was made to head for Pruth Bay.  We pulled the pots again, getting several dozen more prawns and headed into Fisher Channel, where we were greeted by dense fog.  By the time we got several miles north of Hakai Passage the fog cleared so we headed down scenic Ward Channel and across Hakai Passage though Meay Channel and into Pruth Bay.  Already at anchor were cruising friends Lisa and Mike Haistings on “Legasea”.  We made a trip into the beach to visit West Beach, which was littered with blue sailing jelly fish known as Valella Valella”, as well as a large “88” jellyfish in the clear water at Pruth Bay.  The prawns we had caught became a pasta and prawn dinner in the cockpit under sunny skies.  

Jellyfish in Pruth Bay

Dianne and Bob Tucker at Mosquito Tree, Pruth Bay

Valella Valella on West Beach, Pruth Bay

While preparing dinner we heard a “Pan Pan Pan” on the radio and responded to a distress call from a 30 foot sailboat that had run aground on an ebb tide entering the south arm of Pruth Bay, within sight of us.  Bob and Patrick took the Grady White over to see what they could do.  Patrick attached a tow line to the main halyard and pulled the boat over to a higher angle of heel, freeing the keel from the reef, then pulling them off the reef and guiding them into safe water.  They claimed the chartplotter they were using did not show the reef, but all three of our programs showed it clearly.  After freeing the 30 foot sailboat from the reef, we resumed our prawn dinner in the delightful sunshine.

Pulling a sailboat off the reef in Pruth Bay
Prawns from Codville make great pasta

August 14, 2014

Surprisingly the fog was not in Pruth Bay when we awoke.  The couple from the sailboat we had freed dropped of Vietnamese Summer Rolls which we put in the refrigerator.  After breakfast, Patrick, Bob and Dianne headed into the beach and spent the day on West Beach and hiking to North Beach.  Returning to Spirit, we had the summer rolls in the cockpit.  That afternoon we met on “Legasea” for happy hour.  By the time we were finished, both Miriam and Dianne were under the weather, and by the next morning, everyone but Patrick was feeling ill.

North Beach, Pruth Bay

August 15, 2014

Miriam, Patrick and Bob were awake early for a 0500 departure from Pruth Bay, in the dark, for the long crossing to Port McNeill.  As we headed down Fitz Hugh Sound we ran into dense fog near Cape Calvert, which persisted until we approached Malcom Island.  There was a moderate westerly swell, but little wind, and the swell died out by the time we passed the Walker Group while in Gordon Channel.  After 84 nautical miles we arrived in Port McNeill at 1610 under now sunny skies.  The trio who were feeling ill seemed to recover, but we cancelled dinner with Alex Benson on Wild Blue to make sure everyone was really well.

Spirit has now covered an additional 456 nautical miles since leaving Ketchikan on August 6.

August 16, 2014

Bob and Dianne spent the day in Alert Bay, visiting the cultural center, while Miriam and Patrick worked on minor maintenance items on the boat and watching the parade of pleasure craft heading south for home.  After the Tucker’s returned we had dinner at Gus’s Bar and Grill.

August 17, 2014

It was a long night since the trio had not really recovered fully from what we think may have been some sort of food poisoning which Patrick was immune to.  Bob and Dianne felt well enough to depart on the bus to Victoria mid-day.

August 18, 2014

Today was another maintenance day, working on the bow thruster issue and other items before having an evening get-together with the crew of “Adventure”, a vessel that used to moor next to us at Anacortes Marina.  Both Port McNeill marinas have more and more vacant slips at night as people keep heading south for the season.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Alaska 2014 - East Side of Baranof Island to Wrangell

July 27, 2014

Underway at 0745 in fog and rain, we followed “Salty Dawg” south along the shoreline of Baranof Island, passing Warm Springs Bay.  Just north of Red Bluff Bay we stopped to fish, since Salty Dawg had stopped and already landed a Coho salmon.  In just a few minutes we had also landed a nice Coho.  The action slowed down, so we continued south to Patterson Bay.  The visibility deteriorated and we entered dense fog, with only a few hundred yards visibility.  As we rounded Patterson Point we picked up “Maximo” on AIS, and then as the fog lifted we could see them deep in Patterson Bay.  Proceeding up the 6 mile long bay we could see the remnants of a huge landslide, which was new since our last visit in 2012.

Landslide in Patterson Bay

Looking up Patterson Bay

Fog rolling in along Baranof Island

We anchored near the head of Patterson Bay in 100 feet of water, in the lee of a small point which protected us from the SE wind blowing up the inlet.  Naturally, the rain returned in intensity as we anchored.

July 28, 2014

We pulled the anchor at 0800 to hit low slack tide at a possible halibut fishing location.  Anchoring in 200 feet of water we put down the lines, but only got a few nibbles, so we headed back up the east side of Baranof Island towards Gut Bay, a new location for us.  We saw Salty Dawg headed south and they told us that the Coho were thick in an unnamed cove south of Gut Bay.  We stopped and within 90 minutes had 8 Coho salmon in the cooler.  We stopped only because we were running out of freezer space.

Heading into Gut Bay we found out how bad the charts are.  None of our electronic charts had the correct land contours or correct depths.  We were glad that Maximo was familiar with Gut Bay and guided us into an anchorage that was in the uncharted section on Jeppeson C-Map and on dry land on the Navionics charts.  We ended up anchoring in 125 feet of water near the stream at the head of the bay a few hundred feet from Maximo at 1415.

Processing the 8 fish took several hours, and we finished just in time to have dinner on Maximo.  While eating dinner, Steve Oberto’s rod hooked up a halibut from the anchored boat.  Suspending dinner briefly and landing the halibut was a team effort; it was a 60 pound fish from 140 feet of water.  Steve said they have caught halibut at anchor in Gut Bay on numerous occasions.

Gut Bay anchorage, the rain quit for awhile

July 29, 2014

Sometime overnight the rain ceased and we could see most of the hills surrounding Gut Bay.  This is definitely a place to return to on future trips.  Moving our anchor location west would put us on a mud bottom, more to a halibut’s taste, rather than the rocky bottom where we were anchored.
At 0715 we departed Gut Bay.  It takes 45 minutes at our speed to reach the entrance where we were greeted by light fog and calm seas as we headed diagonally across Chatham Strait to the entrance of Frederick Sound.

The low visibility was replaced by heavy rain as we headed to another possible halibut location.  Arriving, we anchored in 210 feet of water and after about 30 minutes hooked a small 14 pound halibut.  That fish totally filled the freezer, so we will be looking for an additional small freezer when we get to Petersburg.  After several more nibbles, but no takers, we headed across Frederick Sound to Portage Bay on Kupreanof Island where we anchored at 1750 for the night.  The entrance appears to be shallower than indicated on the charts, so we will have to watch low tide in the morning.  We have now covered 236 nautical miles since leaving Sitka.

July 30, 2014

The wind calmed overnight and the rain finally stopped.  We are getting less enchanted with Portage Bay, even though the scenery is good.  The current, even deep in the bay runs at several knots, and with the rocky bottom in much of the bay the noise of the chain dragging is annoying.  The entrance depths are definitely less than charted.  We pulled the anchor at 0515 to minimize the ebb tide currents in the entrance, as did several other boats.  With the tide at zero feet, there is actually only 10 feet minimum at the entrance rather than 21!

Our alternate halibut location had too swift a current due to the minus tide later in the morning, so we slowly motored the 21 miles to Petersburg, docking at 1000 in the midst of many vessels unloading fish at the fish companies.  The smell was indescribable, but according to the local people it is the smell of money when lots of fish are coming in.

As we docked, it became apparent that all the anchoring has taken its toll in the forward battery bank.  Load testing showed one of the two batteries is failing, so we will judiciously use the pathmakers when docking to increase the battery capability until we can replace the batteries in the fall after we return.  We have a fallback solution when we get to Ketchikan if the one weak battery totally fails in the next week.

Across the dock was 49 foot Nordic Tug, “Scarlet Lady”, which moors right next us to at Anacortes Marina.  That now makes four boats from “A” dock which we have met up with in SE Alaska this season.  We also talked to the Millers on the Selene 60 “Hathor”, who we met for the first time, even though our vessels were delivered close to the same time in 2009.

July 31, 2014

The sun returned, finally after a period of fog that lifted by 0800.  After some last minute grocery shopping we got underway from Petersburg for the final time in 2014 at 1330 and headed south through Wrangell Narrows into Sumner Strait and eastward to Wrangell.  We managed to time the currents so that we had an adverse current from the middle of Wrangell Narrows to Vank Island, where we once again had favorable currents.  As we approached Vank Island, the water color changed to milky gray/green from the outflow of the Stikine River.  Arriving at 2000 in Heritage Basin we enjoyed the last of the sun as we barbequed flank steak on the flybridge without having to wear raingear.

We moored just behind Doug and Kaen Dance on “Peregrine”, who were also enjoying an al fresco dinner with guests on their flybridge.  Also in Heritage basin were “Seeker” and “Tranquility”, two more Selenes.  Wrangell seems to be a gathering place for Selene Trawlers.  In past years there have been as many as seven here at one time.

Later that evening we were surprised that a porcupine joined us on the dock.  What will we see next?
Porcupine on the dock in Wrangell

Our strategy for managing bow thruster and windlass battery power appears to be working, but there are still a lot of days to anchor before we return to Anacortes.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Alaska 2014 - Departing Sitka for the final time

July 24, 2014

It has been 10 days since we have posted, primarily since we were back in Bellevue for a visit with family, routine medical appointments and checking on the house.

We carried some of our processed fish home as baggage and filled both freezers with 175 pounds of salmon fillets, halibut, prawns and crab.  We may have to buy a third freezer if the remainder of the trip is as successful fishing.

We had great visits with our granddaughter Josie, and her parents, son Sean and daughter-in-law Margaret.  One of the highlights was spending the day watching the West Seattle parade, where Josie was fascinated by the motorcycle drill teams with the flashing red and blue lights. 
Josie at the Hiawatha Park wading pool

Sean and Josie

Getting ready for the West Seattle Parade

Margaret and Josie watching the motorcycles

Our older son, Cameron is well into his new assignment as the store manager of the Helena, Montana Safeway, a great promotion for him.  We hope to visit Cameron in October.

We arrived back in Sitka on July 23, but by the time we had re-provisioned with fresh food it was too late to depart, so we spent a final night in Sitka Harbor.

Heading out of Sitka at 0710 for the last time in 2014, we headed towards Cape Edgecumbe, stopping at Vitskari Rocks to troll for a while.  In just a few minutes we had landed our last King salmon of the 2014 season, filling our licenses and then in another few minutes landed a nice Coho.  Within 30 more minutes we had another fish alongside the boat, but since it was a King, we had to let it go.  It was now only 0930, so we altered our plans and headed away from Cape Edgecumbe and north up Sitka Sound through Hayward Strait into Krestof Sound, then through Neva Strait and on to a Halibut hole on the way to Peril Strait and Sergius Narrows.

The Halibut ate the bait and ignored the hooks, so after a few rockfish were landed we pulled the anchor and transited Sergius Narrows, bucking a 4 knot ebb current for a mile or so and then anchored for the evening in Deep Bay.  Deep Bay was a maze of commercial crab pots, making anchoring a challenge, but we found an open area just behind Grasstop Rock in 50 feet of water.  By the time the anchor was down, the rain had returned as we processed our catch for the day, saving a filet of Coho salmon for dinner.

July 25, 2014

The rain continued all night and was still raining hard when we pulled the anchor at 0640 and continued eastward in Peril Strait, catching a boost from the flood tide.  The wind was initially light, but continued to increase to 27 knots as we exited Peril Strait, now bucking the flood tide and turned south into Chatham Strait.  The wind was blowing in excess of 20 knots, with 3 foot seas as we passed another potential Halibut location, much too rough for safe anchoring in 200 feet of water.

We continued south in increasingly rough seas which were coming out of Frederick Sound, ending up in Takatz Bay, where we still had cell phone coverage.  As we turned into the bay the seas rapidly subsided and the wheelhouse windows were no longer being drenched with salt spray from the wind waves.  The windows were now just drenched with driving rain.  There was one other boat in the inner basin of Takatz Bay when we arrived, anchoring at 1440, but by late afternoon the Krogen 48 “Salty Dawg” had arrived, and later the brand new 131 foot Delta yacht “Onika” also anchored nearby.  We found out from Salty Dawg that our other potential destination, Warm Springs Bay several miles south, was full of anchored boats as well as a full public float.  The weather forecast deteriorated and small craft advisories were now posted for Chatham Strait through Saturday evening.
Megayacht "Onika" from the wheelhouse, in the rain

Spirit has now covered 96.5 nautical miles since departing Sitka yesterday, nearly 10% of the distance back to Anacortes.

The rain continued, often heavy, with visibility often only ¼ mile throughout the night.  The sound of the rain against the hull even drowned out the sound of the waterfalls we were anchored in front of.

July 26, 2014

With the rain and wind continuing, we stayed at anchor in Takatz Bay, where even in the innermost corner the wind and waves were creeping in, gusting to over 21 knots, and driving sheets of rain against us.  We are glad to be at anchor.

The only upside we see is that with the heavy rain we are seeing more and more waterfalls appear, cascading down the hillsides.

July 27, 2014

The rain quit sometime overnight, to be replaced by light fog as we depart Takatz Bay, headed south out of cell phone range for the next several days.  We should arrive in Petersburg by Wednesday.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Alaska 2014 - Sitka Interlude 3

July 2-14, 2014

We alternated working on Spirit and day fishing out of Sitka.  We picked up one nice Coho on the 3rd.  Fireworks were on the evening of July 3, and we spent the evening with the Benson’s on Wild Blue, using the Grady White as our taxi to the other end of town where Wild Blue was moored.  The fireworks started at 1130 PM, so it was very late getting back to Spirit.
The rain left and a great sunset over Sitka harbor

July 3 Fireworks

More fireworks

Some of the local USCG - lots of applause for them!

The highlight of the parade was the flyover by 2 USCG helicopters

On the morning of the 4th we left the dock at 0450 and picked up Alex Benson.  By 0930 we were back alongside Wild Blue and transferring our daily limit of King salmon to Big Blue.  We have only one King salmon left to catch to reach our annual non-resident limit.  While fishing, we began experiencing intermittent throttle/gearshift issues on the main wheelhouse control head, so we used the corded remote control the rest of the day.

In the afternoon was the parade, which included a flyover by two of the USCG helicopters.  The rain held off until after the parade.

On July 5th, we swapped control heads with the unit on the flybridge, fixing the problem for a while.    We left the suspected bad unit out of the system pending discussions with ZF Marine after the holiday weekend.  We finally had a sunny day.

Sunday, July 6, was another pleasant day in Sitka, and we met up with the Dance’s on “Peregrine”, who had just arrived.  We last saw them in Northern BC in May.

On Monday,, July 7, fishing for the last King salmon seemed like a good idea, so we left the dock with Spirit at 0600, but no luck, just a couple of bites, and then the weather turned windy and rainy, so we returned to the dock empty handed.

 While underway we talked to ZF Marine and found they will not allow the control heads to be repaired, apparently a liability issue, and that this intermittent type of problem is not uncommon.  We may have accelerated the failure with the amount of shifting we are doing while trolling from Spirit.  Parts are not even available for at least six weeks, so we will only fish from the Grady White the remainder of this season to cut down the possibility of another failure on the control head we moved from the flybridge.

We hosted a farewell dinner on Spirit, with both grilled King salmon and steaks since Pat Benson was leaving in the AM, and Alex Benson will be heading out with friends fishing.  We will probably not see them again until winter.  Dance’s also were leaving on Peregrine in the morning and we will probably not see them until Fall.

Tuesday, July 8 was rainy and cold all day, sometimes torrential.  The troller fleet is returning, since the initial summer King salmon troll fishery has reached the quota in just 7 days, so the harbor is full.  The charter fishing boats continue to come in with lots of fish, even though the King salmon limit is down to 1 per person per day.  The Coho salmon seem to be in abundance, so we will go out on Thursday, weather permitting.

July 9, 2014

Even though it rained off and on all day, we decided to try and install the trolling motor autopilot for the Grady White in the water.  Launching the AB tender, we pulled it into the stern of the Grady White and in just a few hours we had all the components installed without dropping anything into the water.  After filling the system with hydraulic fluid, we tested it and it worked as advertised.

July 10, 2014

We had a sunny day for a change, so we headed to Viskari Rocks for fish in the Grady White, but with no luck.  Returning to the harbor for lunch, Patrick went out in the afternoon to Biorka Island and after losing a nice King salmon alongside the boat, netted a nice Coho instead.  By the time Patrick returned to the harbor the wind had started to increase significantly, as predicted.

July 11, 2014

Patrick went fishing with Alex Benson and his guests on Wild Blue, coming back with a 22 pound halibut and a large Quillback rockfish big enough for dinner for four people.  One of Alex’s guests landed a nice King salmon in terrible wind, rain and waves in the Shark Hole at Kalinin Bay before we called it quits due to weather.

Returning to Sitka Harbor and unloading the fish onto Spirit, we noticed a sailboat without a mast wandering around the harbor looking for a place to tie up.  We called the harbormaster and got permission to have the 36 foot Jeanneau “Coocinelle” raft alongside Spirit.  We found the French couple (Gilles and Armelle Ruffet) on board had been dismasted 25 miles from Sitka earlier that day and had no VHF radio antenna after the mast was cut away from the boat.  They also had no cell phone.  The couple had been at sea for 24 days, transiting from Honolulu, with their two young girls (Apolline & Camille), about 5 & 7 years old.  The couple was from La Rochelle in France and had been travelling the Pacific for 2 years.  They were exhausted and still in shock from the incident, which also damaged lifelines.  We invited them on board for a glass of wine and some cheese and the use of our cell phone to report into US Customs.  It was a short visit since they were very tired.
Coccinelle rafted alongside Spirit

July 12, 2014

The French couple did not arise until late in the morning when the harbormaster, who did not know about the dismasting, came by to get them registered.  Even without a mast they plan on cruising to Glacier Bay and working their way to someplace where the mast can be replaced, eventually returning to the Marquesa Islands in December.  The couple appears to be both very resilient and competent and we think they will do just fine.  They spent the day getting showers, groceries and doing laundry, planning to move out into the harbor to anchor either later today or tomorrow.  Gilles and Armelle Ruffet have a blog (in French) that has some great pictures.


Some years ago Gilles Ruffet circumnavigated the world on a sailboat.  He is an author and journalist, having written books on offshore catamarans

We decided to splurge this evening and went to Ludvig’s Mediterranean Bistro where we tried the white King salmon and scallops over a bed of squid ink risotto as well as the Cioppino with halibut, black cod and calamari.  Everything was delicious, with large servings.

July 13, 2104

Patrick headed out at 0530 in the Grady White for Salisbury Sound, in the rain and occasional fog.  Salmon fishing was unsuccessful, but Patrick brought back 2 halibut and a large Quillback rockfish, our final fish before we return to Bellevue for a short visit.

Coccinelle moved out into the harbor at anchor this afternoon, and already have a temporary VHF antenna mounted so they can communicate as they head to Glacier Bay and then south.  Gilles Ruffert has also identified a used radome in Juneau to replace the one lost with the mast.

July 14, 2014

The morning was spent fueling Spirit and the Grady White so both are ready to go when we return from Bellevue in a week.  Aside from some fog, the rain has quit for the day, a welcome change.
We have covered 1510 nautical miles on Spirit so far, and another 350 nautical miles fishing on the Grady White.  The fish box score for the boat is 23 King salmon, 6 Coho Salmon, 7 Halibut, one Yelloweye and 2 Quillbacks, along with the all the Dungeness crab and Spot Prawns.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Alaska 2014 Sitka Interlude Two

June 25, 2014

This was a maintenance day in Sitka, changing the oil on the generator, cleaning the watermaker plankton and pre-filters, doing laundry and cleaning Spirit in anticipation of Weedman’s arrival.  Somehow the entire day just slipped away until afternoon, when Alex Benson arrived back in Sitka with his college friends, and later Mike & Susie Miner on the Selene 50 “Seeker”.

We had an informal potluck dinner on Spirit, with halibut chowder made from the scraps from the 56 pound halibut the day before, supplemented by adding smoked salmon and bacon to the chowder, salad and fresh baked sourdough bread.  Steve Oberto from “Maximo” joined us, so we had nine people crowded around the table in the salon, serving the chowder in abalone shell bowls made by one of Alex Benson’s college friends.

June 26, 2014

The Sitka harbormaster moved us to a different dock in Old Thomsen Harbor about noon, just behind “Josie”, a Selene 53 which moors on the same dock as “Spirit” in Anacortes when not cruising during the summer.  Jill and Vaughn Weedman arrived right on schedule at 1800.  After unpacking bags and delivering spare parts for Spirit we grilled some steaks on the barbeque and prepared for fishing the next morning.

The bald eagles provide constant entertainment

Looking for food

And finding it on the cleaning dock

June 27, 2014

Spirit slipped the mooring lines at 0510, leaving the Grady White in the slip.  We headed out to Viskari Rocks to try our luck fishing, but the southwest swell was running to 12 feet and we had no luck.  Our guests were still developing their sea legs, so we headed over to Biorka Island, which is in the lee of the swells.  The water was nearly flat calm, and we soon had 5 King salmon and 2 Coho salmon in the cooler.

Returning the 13 miles back to Sitka harbor, we cleaned the boat and met Alex and Pat Benson and Mike and Susie Miner for dinner at Agave Mexican restaurant before attending the grand finale concert of the Sitka Music Festival.  After a great concert we re-connected with the members of the Cypress String Quartet, who had performed that evening.  Making arrangements to take them fishing on in the morning, we decided that Miriam would join the string quartet and other performers on “Wild Blue”, taking over driving the boat while Alex helped the musician’s fish, while Patrick would take Vaughn and Jill Weedman fishing on “Spirit”, with Jill driving “Spirit” while Patrick & Vaughn fished.  Complicated, but it worked!

June 28, 2014

Spirit left the dock at 0500 and headed directly for Biorka Island.  Arriving at the fishing location at 0630, downriggers were deployed and fishing lines were put in the water.  By 0730 we had 3 King salmon in the boat.  By noon we had 6 King salmon and called it a day, since we had reached our daily King Salmon allotment.

Weedman's with King Salmon

Returning to the dock at 1440 we rinsed the salt from the boat and headed to The Channel Club for dinner.  Although the food was good, the service was not due to the number of people in the restaurant at the time.

June 29, 2015

The weather was relatively calm so Patrick and Vaughn took the Grady White fishing.  After a late start (0930) and getting nearly to Biorka Island they discovered they had left the bait in the freezer on Spirit, so they returned to Sitka.  Finally getting to Biorka Island at 1130 they discovered fishing was very slow, so they headed three miles offshore to Biorka Reef to try for halibut.  There was a moderate SW swell at 6 feet.  Finding a likely halibut hill the jigs were deployed.  Patrick thought they had a bite on one rig, but it turned out they  had snagged the bottom and the Grady White was anchored.  While unsuccessfully trying to get free they snapped the line and broke the rod in half.  Meanwhile, a Yelloweye Rockfish, also known as a Red Snapper had hooked up on the other jig.  Patrick reeled in a nice Yelloweye.  Heading back inshore Patrick & Vaughn decided to try one last time for salmon and picked up a nice King salmon.  Heading back the 13 miles to Sitka in increasingly rough seas, our friend the rain returned in a deluge.  The seas were rough enough that the VHF antenna mount on the Grady White failed, breaking the welded bracket.

Returning to Sitka Harbor the scenery is superb even in the rain!

Dinner turned out to be fresh Yelloweye and mushroom risotto, preceded by spot prawns. Everyone was tired from the day’s activities, so the attempt to watch a movie was unsuccessful, with everyone falling asleep.

June 30, 2014

This was the last chance for the Weedman’s to catch more fish, to we slipped the mooring lines once again at 0500 and Spirit headed for Biorka Island.  When we arrived at Biorka Island we were concerned over the weather, with the wind steady at 21 knots, gusting to 30 knots, and a moderate chop, even though we were out of the main swell.  The wind pressure on Spirit was enough to provide ideal trolling speeds just by drifting.   By 0630 our lines were in the water and by 0705 we had 3 King salmon in the cooler.  The fishing slowed down slightly and we released 2 small King salmon before landing 2 more legal King Salmon.  The Weedman’s had caught their annual non-resident limit of King salmon.  We finally released another small King before heading back to Sitka.  Spirit arrived at 1105 in the morning in light rain, which had started on our return.  The balance of the day was spent shopping, replacing fishing tackle, lunch at the Bayview Pub and then a gala dinner on Maximo with the Oberto’s.

July 1, 2014

Since we were not fishing today, everyone slept in and then Patrick cooked his traditional biscuits and sausage gravy for a hearty breakfast before Vaughn and Jill departed for the airport at 1130.  Patrick and Miriam spent the balance of the day repairing the broken VHF antenna on the Grady White, installing the satellite phone external antenna and doing laundry.

By early evening some Sitka residents were already setting off fireworks in anticipation of a noisy 4th of July.  It sounded like a war zone for a while with the blasts for the aerial fireworks.  The movie we had tried to watch several days before was finally watched to completion.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Alaska 2014 - East Side of Baranof

June 20, 2014, continued.

The shipwreck at the entrance to Olga Strait continues to rust away

Departing Saook Inlet at 0850, in rain of course, we headed into Peril Strait towards Chatham Strait.  Low clouds and rain limited visibility to only several miles.  We followed Maximo, retracing our path through Thatcher Passage and past Warm Springs Bay.  There were several Humpback whales feeding, but too far away for camera shots.  There will be a purse seiner fishing opening soon, and the fishing boats were flocking to the harbors nearest Hidden Falls, where the opening is scheduled.  Places like Takatz Bay, Cosmos Bay and Warm Springs Bay will all be full.

The wind picked up from the SE, along with the  seas as we continued south past the tip of Admiralty Island’s Point Gardener, where the fetch from Frederick Sound increased the sea height and gave us pause as to continuing south.  However, we knew the bays behind us were probably full, and the next closest anchorage was our destination, Red Bluff Bay, some 20 nautical miles further south.  We just gritted our teeth, stowed loose gear and plowed through the sloppy, short seas until we were at the entrance to Red Bluff Bay, where both the wind and the seas disappeared and the skies briefly parted.

Red Bluff Bay Entrance - Large Magnetic Variations here

Proceeding to the head of the bay we anchored at 1530 in a spot we had used before, since our favored spot was occupied by the charter vessel “Alaskan Song”.  We had covered another 52 nautical miles, for a season total of 1119.  Maximo had stopped at the entrance area to set their prawn pots on the way in, then came and anchored nearby.

Shortly after anchoring we went back and set prawn pots in our favorite location, which produced about 4 dozen nice spot prawns by 2000 that evening.  The rain continued into the night.

One of nearly 100 waterfalls in Red bluff Bay when it rains hard

June 21, 2014

After checking the prawn pots in the morning, getting a nice haul of another 10 dozen, we moved Spirit to our favorite spot, more sheltered from the SE gale that is predicted to occur this evening into Sunday morning.  The rain continued without letup all day.  Later in the afternoon two other pleasure craft, both from Orcas Island, joined Spirit and Maximo at the head of Red Bluff Bay.  Aside from checking the prawn pots it was a good day to catch up on reading and relaxing onboard.

Late in the afternoon Patrick went halibut fishing in gruesome rain.  After losing the bait three times, and with the seas coming in off of Chatham Strait Patrick returned and prepared the BBQ for the prawns that had been marinating all day.  Steve Oberto came over for appetizers of grilled prawns on the BBQ and then both went to pick up the prawn pots.  Numerous prawns were frozen for another day.  While Patrick was gone, a megayacht came in, the Cielo Mare, and anchored in the middle of the bay.

After processing more prawns, and with the rain continuing as a tropical downpour, we called it a night and retired to bed with our books.

June 22, 2014

Hearing the wind pick up at 0400 Patrick checked on the anchor and it seemed to be OK.  By 0600 however, the wind was gusting to 27 knots, bouncing off the hills and changing direction from SE to NW.  The bay had changed color to muddy greenish brown from all the runoff.  The steep hillsides were covered with new waterfalls bringing more silt down.  Patrick put out more scope on the anchor and everything seemed fine.  Checking the prawn pots in gusty winds and chop, along with heavy rain punctuated by periods of even heavier rain, we brought back our limit from the pots.

Turning on the Nobeltec navigation system, we discovered that the AmbientNav display had failed, so we jury-rigged the TV set from the forward stateroom, which can be used as a computer monitor, using Velcro to hold it in place until we can get a replacement in Sitka, and a permanent fix when we return in the fall.

June 23, 2014

We picked up the prawn pots on our way out of the bay at 0700 in driving rain.  The seas were a little lumpy until we passed Point Gardener, where the wind calmed, the seas became glassy smooth and the fog set in.

Contacting SYS on the phone when in cell phone range, we found the display is repairable, so we will send it back to Seattle next week.  Meanwhile the TV set is working fine as a navigational display monitor.

Continuing north in Chatham Strait we took an impromptu stop at a possible halibut hole, along with Maximo, who was already anchored in 200 feet of water.  We pulled several hundred feet away and also anchored in 200 feet of water, the most we have ever done.  Within 20 minutes we had hooked into a halibut, which when we finally got it to the surface, required harpooning due to the size.  After slitting the gills, while still in the water we let the halibut tire out and then pulled it aboard with the harpoon rope.  The halibut measured 49 inches, with a predicted weight from the tables of 56 pounds.  We tried to weigh it, but it was more than our 50 pound scale could handle.
The halibut went onto ice and we continued to fish for another hour, but with no luck.  Maximo also caught 2 halibut while there.  We finally called it quits, since the tide was now running hard, and cruised into Rodman Bay where we anchored for the evening.  The bay was carpet bombed with commercial crab pots making it an interesting anchoring exercise to avoid the floats.

Miriam's Halibut - 56 pounds

The halibut was filleted, portioned, vacuum sealed, and frozen until we transfer it to Big Blue Seafoods for storage and shipment to Bellevue.

June 24, 2014

Pulling the anchor at 0630 to hit slack current in Sergius Narrows, we headed across Peril Strait and investigated the public float at False Island.  The float looks like a good alternative in stormy Peril Strait weather, tucked into a small sheltered cove on Chichagof Island.  The skies partially cleared momentarily and we saw blue for the first time in days.

Another brown bear on the beach at False Island, Peril Strait

Heading back west towards Sergius Narrows, our brief glimpse of the sun was replaced by fog and rain.  The rest of the trip into Sitka was uneventful, just low visibility, often less than 500 yards.  As we approached Sitka the skies lightened marginally as we docked at Eliason Basin, on the end tie of float 7.

We have now covered 1234 nautical miles on Spirit, and over 250 miles on the Grady White tender.  The box score for fishing includes 5 halibut and 5 King salmon, countless Dungeness crabs and spot prawns, and even a few rockfish:  not great, but a good start.

The next two days are maintenance days and housecleaning prior to the arrival of Jill and Vaughn Weedman, who will fish with us until July 1.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Alaska 2014 - Sitka Interlude

June 12, 2014

Today was a maintenance day, changing the oil and zincs on the main engine and fueling the Grady White.

June 13, 2014

Today Patrick fished with Alex Benson on “Wild Blue”, along with Dave and Roger.  No joy, nothing but a few rockfish, and only one of them was a keeper.  Patrick caught the only fish.  Dinner was at Agave Mexican Restaurant and then all five of us attended a Sitka Music Festival concert.  We walked back to Eliason Harbor in a torrential rainstorm.

June 14, 2014

Today we had a day of rest, with lots of rain.  The rain is becoming a persistent theme this year, along with big swells coming in from the west.  Wild Blue headed out for a few days of fishing.

June 15, 2014

Today we took the Grady White to Kalinin Bay and picked up one small King salmon and another halibut of about 15 pounds.  Not large, but still a good size for eating.  One way took a little over one hour, since it is 25 nautical miles each way.  The rockfish from the day before became dinner.

June 16, 2014

We took the Grady White out to Viskari Rocks for the first time.  It is about 8 miles, so takes only about 25 minutes, accounting for the idle speed until clear of the breakwater.  We lost two fish in the morning, at the side of the boat while trying to get them in the net, and ran out of leaders and bait, so we headed back to Eliason Harbor, purchased more bait and lures and went back to Viskari Rocks, where we landed a 15 pound King salmon.  We returned to Eliason Harbor about 1600 and turned the fish into Big Blue Seafoods for processing and storage.  Surprisingly, the day turned out sunny and warm, with very little wind, just the big ocean swell.

June 17, 2014

Today was rainy and windy, with large seas and a SE gale outside in Sitka Sound, so we stayed in Sitka and shopped and mailed packages back to Bellevue. Dinner was a potluck on Maximo, which had just returned from a fishing trip to the Whale Bay area.  Potluck was good, with crab cakes, grilled marinated spot prawns, salad, homemade sausages and fresh baked bread.

June 18, 2014

The seas and winds were still high, so we took Spirit to Viskari Rocks about 0830, leaving the Grady White tied to the dock.  By 1030 we had landed 3 King salmon in really miserable weather conditions.  There were winds to 27 knots, swells of 8-12 feet, with wind chop on top, and rain showers.  There were times that Miriam was up to her knees in water sloshing over the transom while we netted the three fish, 20#, 13# and 10#.  The salt water over the swim step shorted out the switch for the Glendenning Cablemaster reel for the shore power cord, so the switch had to be replaced when we returned to the dock.  We invited Steve Oberto from Maximo for dinner and cooked up half of the smallest salmon, along with a risotto.  The rain showers continued off and on all evening.

June 19, 2014

Spirit departed Sitka at 0800 bound for the east side of Baranof Island, along with Maximo.  We stopped for the night in Saook Inlet and were also joined by “Yachette”, a yacht we have seen several times here in SE Alaska and in Northern BC.  Crab pots were set out, but there are a lot of commercial pots at the head of the bay, so we may not have much luck.  By the time we had anchored in 110 feet of water, there were 1067 nautical miles on the ships log.

Update, by 1900 we had two legal Dungeness crab, even with all the commercial pots, so there is hope for the morning.  The rain has returned, but with little wind the anchorage is really peaceful.  Patrick reset the single pot we set out in light rain, which finally settled in as a steady downpour.  We seem to have attracted rain and squalls while at anchor and tonight is no exception.  Also, the TV satellite dome is still receiving signals so we could watch the Food Channel while having left-over king salmon and crab cakes for dinner.  At this time of year it never really gets fully dark, and the Coast Pilot indicates we will have 24 hours of combined daylight and “nautical” twilight.

June 20, 2014

The rain continued all night and when Patrick checked the single crab pot we left out overnight there were 4 more legal Dungeness crab, even with the pressure from the commercial crab season, which opened on June 15.  There are two commercial boats fishing in Saook, with about 60 pots set out.  We managed to find a spot to place our pot where it did not interfere with the commercial pots.

Departure is set for 0900 to take advantage of the ebb tide as we make our way to Red Bluff Bay, a trip of about 50 nautical miles.

This will be the last post for a few days as we move through the cell phone reception zone opposite Angoon, until we return to Sitka on June 25.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Alaska 2014 - On To Sitka

June 6, 2014 – Continued

As we headed out of Petersburg at 0725 we waved goodbye to the Krogenites on the dock and quickly cleared the entrance buoy at the north end of Wrangell Narrows.  Frederick Sound was a millpond, with no wind and sunny skies so we opened up the flybridge and drove Spirit from there.  Aside from a few small fishing boats close to the shore there was little marine traffic.  Cell phone coverage stops quickly and by the time we reached Sukoi Islets coverage had disappeared.
Just past Portage Bay we encountered our first good Humpback whale sighting in Alaska this year and managed to get some a few good tail photos.  Continuing down Frederick Sound past the lower end of Stephens Passage we had several encounters with Dall’s porpoises.

The Devil's Thumb leaving Petersburg

Humpback in Frederick Sound

Sea Otters are cute, but destroy the crabbing

We began picking up cell phone coverage as we passed the town of Kake and coverage continued until we entered Warm Springs Bay, where Baranof Hot Springs is located.  The public dock did not have enough space for us, so we anchored in the south inlet where we were treated to 2 different brown bears foraging on the beach.  The anchor was set in 90 feet of water at 1800 after a 75 nautical mile day.  The bottom in this inlet is hard, so we have had issues in the past getting a good set, but not this time.

Brown Bear out for breakfast in Warm Springs Bay

The inlet has such steep sides that the GPS occasionally lost lock, as well as the TV satellite dish.  We are at the northern most limits of coverage with this unit, so it has now been turned off.  We still have our DVD movie collection, if we ever find the time to sit down and watch one.

June 7, 2014

As predicted, the rain began shortly after midnight, but with no wind the anchorage remained secure.  It starts getting light before 0300, so with light coming in the cabin windows it can be hard to sleep.  We pulled the anchor up at 0622 and headed out of Warm Springs Bay, intending to fish.  However, 2 large sea lions had also decided to fish in the same location so we just kept going.  The visibility in Chatham Strait was initially less than ½ mile, but within a couple of hours had increased to several miles.  We altered course several times for Humpback whales feeding on the surface directly ahead of the bow.

Taking a small shortcut through Thatcher Channel, which cuts over a mile off the entry into Peril Strait we ran into more rain and fog.  The wind, which was from the SE in Chatham Strait, bounces off the hills on Chichagof Island and changes direction by almost 180 degrees.  We entered Saook Inlet with a 10 knot breeze behind us from the northwest, with a 1 foot chop.  Anchoring in 100 feet of water off the end of the inlet, in a good mud bottom, we had only travelled 37 nautical miles, for a grand total of 940 nautical miles.  Most cruising guides do not recommend Saook Inlet, but only because of the deep water anchorage and the steep shelf on the delta at the head of the inlet.  Many cruisers are not comfortable, nor have the length of anchor rode to safely anchor here.  Today we are the only boat in Saook Inlet.  Patrick set two crab traps, and when we checked them 4 hours later, had to pick the six largest crabs from the 24 legal sized male crabs in the two pots. 

The non-resident limit this year is three crabs per person per day, with the possession limit equal to the bag limit.  We had no sooner brought the pots back to Spirit when the Alaska State Wildlife Police showed up in their large RIB and boarded us to check our licenses and the number and size of crab.  Fortunately, everything was in order and after a nice chat they motored out of the inlet.  After the troopers left we cooked the crab and then made crab cakes with some of the crab and froze the rest.  The rain continued, heavy at times, all night.

June 8, 2014

Checking the two pots the next morning we realized we should have only set one pot.  We kept the six largest crab and returned 20 back to their home in the inlet.  After cooking the crab we pulled up the anchor at 0800 in rain and fog, sunshine and rainbows and continued through Peril Strait riding a modest ebb tide through Sergius Narrows to our destination, Kalinin Bay on the north end of Kruzof Island.  By 1300 the anchor was down in 25 feet of water and after lunch we headed out for our first salmon fishing expedition in Alaska.  Alas, the fish ignored our bait, while we worked through the logistics of a new boat and downriggers, so we returned at 1900 empty handed.  Talking to one of the other boats anchored in the bay we discovered that fishing has been spotty for everyone in this area, the fish are still mostly offshore.

June 9, 2014

We headed out for the shark hole outside of Kalinin Bay at 0530 in rain.  A blown fuse on one of the downriggers cut the morning short, and we had no action with the identical rig and technique that had proved successful in the past.  We spent the afternoon watching eagles fish in the bay.

Eagles Fishing in Kalinin Bay

Brown Bears in Kalinin Bay

June 10, 2014

We did not get underway for fishing until 0600, and hoped for the best when we had our first salmon hooked on the gear.  Unfortunately, the fish was too small and was released.  We had two more fish on that escaped our grasp while reeling them in, but did catch 7 sea bass.  Six of the sea bass were big enough to convert into fish tacos at some later date, so we finally called it quits and returned to Kalinin Bay and filleted the sea bass.  That afternoon we headed for a halibut fishing spot at high slack tide and in just a few minutes had landed a small 13 pound halibut.  Putting the line back in the water, no more than 5 minutes later we had hooked another fish, this time taking quite a while to get to the side of the Grady White.  The halibut was too large to safely get into the boat until nearly dead, so our friends from “Jericho”, who were guiding us to the fishing spot in their tender, came over with their halibut harpoon (we had left ours on Spirit) and speared the fish, passing us the harpoon line.  We spent the next 45 minutes getting the 38 pound halibut on board, since leaving the water was not on the fish’s wish list.  Returning to Kalinin Bay we spent the next several hours filleting and vacuum packing the fish.  We finally set ourselves down to celebrate 42 years of marriage with a fresh halibut dinner.

The halibut is harpooned

Patrick with the 38 pound halibut

June 11, 2014

At the relatively late hour of 0700 we pulled the anchor from the mud of Kalinin Bay and carefully headed out the channel on a -1.1 foot tide, avoiding the rock in mid channel which has only 5 feet of water, whereas we need 6 feet.  By 1045 we were docked in Eliason Harbor, having covered 992 nautical miles on Spirit since Anacortes.

We have some maintenance to perform, and will fish from the Grady White for the next several days before heading back out to somewhere close to Sitka and continue our hunt for the King Salmon.  The weather is predicted to deteriorate for a few days, with small craft warnings through Thursday evening and seas increasing to 11 feet offshore by Saturday AM.