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.