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.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Alaska 2014 - Petersburg Interlude

June 4, 2014

Our planned maintenance day in Petersburg took several interesting twists.  There are a group of Kadey Krogen yachts in the three harbors in Petersburg that we have met in prior years, everywhere from Swanson Harbor in 2007 to a Krogen rendezvous in Craig, Alaska in 2010.  At the Craig event in 2010 we were the lone Selene surrounded by a dozen Krogens and their Krogenite crews.

Spirit at the new North Harbor docks in Petersburg

This year, in Petersburg, many of the Krogen yachts are here for the book signing event at the Sing Lee Alley bookstore for Rolynn Anderson’s new book.  Steve and Rolynn Anderson are moored right across the dock from us on their Krogen 42 “Intrepid” and we met them in 2012.  We will go to the book signing event on June 5, 2014, so have decided to stay until Friday morning.

Some public art in Petersburg

The fishermen's memorial outside the "Sons of Norway" hall

While working on “Spirit” during the morning, two children, a boy and girl, were on the docks with their fishing rods and buckets, jigging for herring and other fish.  There were also some men jigging for herring close by, rather than buying bait.  Herring are plentiful and easy to catch, even from the docks, and one of the best locations is just off the North Harbor docks.

Patrick happened to be watching the children fish when the girl stumbled and did a slow roll into the water.  Fortunately she was wearing her life vest, but the current along the docks in North Harbor was swift.  Patrick rushed out of Spirit and grabbed her arm, while one of the other men ran over and helped.  The two of them lifted the girl back onto the docks, which are higher than the older docks.  The girl was wet, a little scraped up from the wood edges of the dock, but otherwise unharmed.  We thought it appropriate that the girl was wearing a “kids don’t float” life jacket.  Miriam had a towel ready and she helped the girl, whose name we never found out, dry off.  Later that day, her dad stopped by Spirit and thanked us for helping.  The dad was part of the crew of “Kestrel”, moored at the end of the North Harbor, only 75 feet away.  Kestrel is an Alaska fisheries enforcement vessel.  Not long after the incident, the two kids showed back up in dry clothes and fished the rest of the day.  Life jackets for kids (and adults) are important, especially with the new higher docks!

Kids fishing on the dock, one of these fell in!

By afternoon, the sun started peeking out and the cool morning temperatures started to climb.  We attended a late afternoon gathering in South Harbor, a BYOB and BYOA event on a new Krogen 48, and then went to Papa Bear’s Pizza, almost the last remaining place in Petersburg for an evening meal out.  The 8 couples were all people we have met on earlier cruises up here.

Some of the BYOB attendees on the Krogen 48 "Salty Dawg"

June 5, 2014

The skies remained mostly sunny, but cool in the morning, and even in the afternoon the temperatures were on the cool side when the sun briefly disappeared behind a cloud.  We spent the morning working on maintenance projects and laundry.  In the afternoon we attended the “book signing event” at the Sing Lee Alley Bookstore, where Rolynn Anderson, from the Krogen 42 “Intrepid” was signing copies of her newest book “Lie Catchers”.  This latest novel is set in the town of Petersburg, so it was really appropriate to have the book signing event here.  In late afternoon, we, the Krogenites, and some De Fever trawler folks all went to the Elks Club for fish tacos.  The fish tacos were good, but the conversations with the group were better, and after an enjoyable event in the crowded Elks club dining room we all dispersed, with Patrick & Miriam ending up on the DeFever 49 “Adventures”, which will be spending the winter in Petersburg.  At 2230, still light, we finally returned to Spirit and began preparations for an early departure from Petersburg.

June 6, 2014

Today is “D Day”, with clear blue skies as we prepare to depart on the morning ebb tide and head out into Frederick Sound, past the lower end of Stephens Passage and across Chatham Strait to the east side of Baranof Island.  We will decide later which inlet or bay will be our destination for the evening.

We have had a great time in Petersburg and can appreciate why three of the boat crews we reconnected with have decided to relocate to this delightful town.  We will be out of cell phone and internet for the next few days as we fish our way the 160 nautical miles to Sitka. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Alaska 2014 - Ketchikan to Petersburg

May 31, 2014

Today we played tourist in Ketchikan.  Walking from Bar Harbor to downtown, Miriam and I window shopped and observed how quiet the town was with only one cruise ship docked.  The jewelry stores were mostly empty and the souvenir stores had few shoppers.  The “Disney Wonder” was on the last stop before returning to Vancouver to start the cycle all over again and we think people were tired of shopping.

We had hoped to get fish & chips and have them with something to drink at Fat Stan’s, where we had gone before.  However, Fat Stan’s now has a pizza and burger menu and you can no longer have the Alaska Seafood House deliver your order to Fat Stan’s.  We decided to head back to Spirit and stopped instead at a place called “Alava’s”, recommended by locals we talked to and had delicious fish & chips with generous servings for less money than the tourist places downtown.

June 1, 2014

The weather report sounded marginal, with small craft warnings, but we thought we could be far enough up Clarence Strait towards Wrangell that we would not be affected too much.  After refueling, taking on 635 gallons of diesel fuel, we left Ketchikan at 0830 and headed north up Tongass Narrows for Clarence Strait.  In past trips we have taken on between 600 and 615 gallons at the same point in the trip, so the fuel penalty of towing the tender is not too bad.  The weather was fine for the first 12 miles, until we approached Caamano Point at the tip of  the Cleveland Peninsula, and then it took a turn for the worse.  The winds started blowing a steady 25 knots, with gusts to 34 knots.  The seas were steep and we had continuous spray over Spirit, with no end in sight.  Passing by Meyers Chuck we could see into the harbor and also on AIS that the docks were full, so we continued on rather than attempting the narrow entrance in the wind and what would have been steep beam seas.  We elected to head up Ernest Sound, through Seward Passage to Santa Anna Inlet.  When we arrived at 1630, after a 57 mile day we found only one other boat anchored.  The wind was blowing straight into the inlet, gusting to 22 knots, but the bottom has very good holding and lots of room, so Spirit was anchored securely in 65 feet of water.
Patrick set two prawn pots and by 2030 that evening we had 4 dozen nice spot prawns, so a third pot was set out.

June 2, 2014

The wind was consistently 10-15 knots all night, with even a small rain shower.  The morning check of the pots, at 0600 yielded 8 dozen more large spot prawns, which were processed and frozen before our departure at 0900 under partly sunny skies.  Our route took us up Seward Passage, past Frosty Bay and into Zimovia Straits, where we intended to take advantage of the flood current.  However, this time of year the flow of water out of the Stikine River and the north wind overpowered the flood current and instead of a 1.5 knot boost we experienced a 1.5 knot adverse current.  Nonetheless, we arrived at Heritage Harbor, our preferred moorage in Wrangell at 1430 after a 36 nautical mile run, docking in a brief rain shower.  Spirit has now travelled 789 nautical miles since Anacortes on May 15.

Some spot prawns from Santa Anna Inlet

Heritage Harbor is about one mile from the main town, an easy run in the Grady White tender.  Arriving at Reliance Floats in the main harbor, we checked in and then headed to “Summer Floats” closer to downtown Wrangell.  The combination of winds and tidal chop made “Summer Floats” untenable for our boat, so we headed back to Heritage Harbor and walked into town for supplies.  Since our last visit the street paving project has been completed, which was a pleasant surprise.  Rather than walk back, and since we had not planned dinner yet, we stopped at the Stikine Inn for dinner and a free courtesy ride back to Heritage Harbor.  The food and drink at the Stikine Inn was as good as we remembered, and hope it continues if the Inn is sold (it is for sale).

June 3, 2014

We have some broken rod holders on the Grady White, and replacements are non-existent up here, but PVC pipe will work just fine.  A walk into town to the True Value Hardware was successful, with 4 pieces cut from a longer length.  Patrick returned from the store and Spirit was underway at 0950 for Petersburg.  Although we had overcast skies, we had no rain during the transit of Wrangell Narrows.  The rain started just as we pulled the Grady White alongside for the approach to the dock in an adverse current now running at 4 knots.  Naturally, the rain now arrived in earnest, continuing a pattern for the last few days.  We docked at the new “North” floats, only in operation for two weeks and after registering, had a nice visit with one of Miriam’s childhood friends, Marj Oines.  We may stay here for two days since we really have a relaxed schedule to get to Sitka.