Monday, July 27, 2015

Slowly Southbound - Sitka to Petersburg

July 12, 2015

Spirit departed Sitka for the last time in 2015 at 0940.  We departed from our usual route north, instead going up Hayward Strait and Krestof Sound, rejoining Neva Strait at the southern end.  Along the way we caught a large black sea bass, enough for two meals for the two of us.  Retracing our route up Sergius Narrows and Peril Strait we stopped for the night at Saook Bay.  The rain was now heavy.  Anchoring in 125 feet of water over a sticky mud bottom we settled in for the night and cleaned the sea bass.  Later that evening we were joined in the bay by “Mist Cove”, a small cruise ship which we see often.

Eagle snatching a seabass we released

July 13, 2015

The halibut rod and bait had no takers overnight, but we left it out and set one crab pot among the string of commercial pots across the end of the bay.  Although cloudy, the rain held off most of the day.  Our crab pot was empty and the commercial crabbers were also having little luck, pulling some pots up and taking them to other places.

July 14, 2015

Pulling the anchor in heavy rain shortly before 0900 we departed Saook Bay and headed east in Peril Strait.  Taking a small detour we investigated the anchorage in Hanus Bay at Point Moses Cove.  The small cruise ship “Safari Explorer” was anchored there and it looks good if the wind is not too heavy from the SE.  We had timed our departure to hit slack water at Point Lull on Catherine Island to go halibut fishing.  We anchored in our selected spot in rainy, windy, choppy conditions and after 2 hours had landed three halibut (27, 31 and 36 inches) and three rockfish.  The visibility in the rain and low clouds was down to less than one mile as we pulled the anchor and headed to Takatz Bay.

The bay was empty, but soon we were joined by two small cruise ships, the Safari Explorer and “Discovery”, a classic 82 foot wood vessel from Juneau.  The fish we caught were fileted and vacuum sealed, adding another load to our nearly full freezers.

July 15, 2015

After a leisurely morning, watching the passengers on the Safari Explorer kayak around the bay, we headed out shortly before 0900 and soon picked up 2 pink salmon, releasing 2 more and a small king before heading to our fishing spot near Warm Springs Bay.  We soon had 2 pacific cod and 2 more halibut in the boat, one 32 inches and one 37 inches.  The public dock was full at Warm Springs Bay, so we anchored over a hard bottom in the westernmost south arm behind the Selene 47 “Jean Marie” at 1515, in 85 feet of water.  After processing the fish Patrick took a soak in the hot springs.  We were later joined in the south arm by the Selene 53 “Three Wishes”.  Although we had occasional light rain showers, the glimpses of the sun were a welcome sight after so many days with heavy rain.

July 16, 2015

Light rain greeted us as we departed Warm Springs Bay at 0910.  Our intended destination was Red Bluff Bay, but as we headed south, bucking a 2 knot flood tide current, we realized we could be at Gut Bay near slack water.  Heading down another 10 miles we put out the downriggers and immediately started getting strikes.  After 3 hours of fishing we had 8 nice Coho salmon, 2 pinks and 2 large black sea bass.  We had one double header, which made for interesting maneuvers to get the net ready for the second Coho.  Spirit was at anchor in Gut Bay by 1740 in 154 feet of water.  Cleaning and processing the fish took nearly three hours, standing in the heavy rain at the cleaning table on the swim step.  Our freezers are now essentially full, so we may not fish again until we offload our fish in Petersburg for shipment home.

July 17, 2015

The rain was still falling when we left Gut Bay, though now with fog limiting our visibility.  Exiting the bay, the seas got progressively rough as we headed north.  There were a number of vessels heading into Red Bluff Bay, so we continued north and anchored in Takatz Bay.  We tried fishing in the entrance, but no luck, even though the salmon were almost jumping into the boat and schooling up underneath us.  The seas were still too rough for the Grady White to go to the halibut hole.

July 18, 2015

The sun was shining when we left Takatz at 0840.  We had mostly calm seas, mostly sunny skies and little wind as we headed to Portage Bay.  We stopped several times to photograph both Orca and Humpback Whales.  One pod of Orca suddenly surfaced dead ahead and we stopped Spirit as the Orca passed down one side and disappeared astern.  Spirit anchored in Portage Bay at 1705 under mostly sunny skies with light winds from the north.  The west side of the bay is still filled with commercial crab pots.

Orca Pod near Turnabout Island

Orca Pod

Orca Pod

You can see why we stopped dead in the water!

July 19, 2015

0540 came early as we pulled the anchor and departed Portage Bay before maximum ebb current and headed slowly to Petersburg to hit slack water.  A slip was available, but the current was still over three knots as we headed into Wrangell Narrows.  Even with the current, docking was uneventful at the north harbor docks.  By 1000 we were docked and shortly thereafter Patrick contacted the fish processors and shippers. After purchasing shipping boxes, we delivered five 50# boxes to the cold storage plant and made room in our freezers for more fish.  Patrick then changed lube oil on the generator, which we have been running more than normal to keep all three freezers running.

Sea Lions using the buoy for a hotel

July 20-21 – Maintenance stop in Petersburg.  We replaced the exhaust gasket for the third time this trip, although we now have the OEM Cummins metal gasket which was waiting at the Petersburg Post Office.  On Tuesday Patrick took the Grady White to Wrangell to pick up mail, rather than spend two days doing that with Spirit.  It is 40 nautical miles each way, and even with fog the round trip took less than five hours.

The fishing boats are crowding into the processors and the smell is indescribable, but is the smell of money.

Vying for space at the processors in Petersburg

July 22, 2015

At the early hour of 0600 we cast off the lines and joined the parade of vessels exiting Wrangell Narrows northbound at slack water.  After a 75 nautical mile transit we stopped at our halibut hole near Warm Springs Bay and took a 30 inch halibut and a pacific cod aboard, despite windy and choppy conditions.  By 1730 we were anchored in Takatz Bay after a total trip of 81 nautical miles.  Later that evening the rain started, heavy at times.

July 23, 2015

The rain continued all night, but about 1000 Patrick loaded the halibut gear on the Grady White and headed the short distance to the halibut hole.  Anchoring in more than 200 feet of water Patrick soon had his daily limit of two halibut, plus one more Pacific Cod.  The two halibut were 37 and 42 inches long, so we had more than 50 pounds of halibut to process, with a net weight of about 25 pounds.  The rain let up briefly in the afternoon, but returned in the evening.

July 24, 2015

Today was scheduled for Coho fishing, so at 0805 we pulled the anchor from Takatz Bay for the last time this season.  We stopped first south of Gut Bay and after two passes had six Coho salmon in the ice chest, along with two pink salmon.  Deciding to save some of our daily limit for another location, we continued south along Baranof Island and made two passes near Mist Cove.  These Coho did not like to stay on the hook as well, but were somewhat larger than the first location.  Even so, after two passes we had five more Coho salmon on board.  Since it was now after 1600, and we had a lot of processing to do, we headed into Patterson Bay where we finally anchored at 1745.  

Aptly named Mist Cove

Our catch for the day

View up Patterson Inlet

Shortly after starting the cleaning process, the generator ingested a jellyfish into the water intake and we had to shut it down, since the sea strainer was totally clogged with a slimy mess.  Deferring cleaning the strainer until the fish were done, we finally finished the fish about 2030 and the sea strainer after 2100.  It was a late dinner of baked chicken, since neither one of us could face any fish after the lengthy process of fileting, vacuum sealing and freezing we had done for the last two days.  We both felt our mission to get halibut and Coho had been accomplished, so we start the return to Petersburg tomorrow.

July 25, 2015

We had a long run to get back to Petersburg, so the anchor was pulled from the jellyfish infested head of Patterson Bay at 0620.  The run back north across Chatham Strait was under calm seas, little wind and finally sunny skies.  There were numerous whale sightings, both orca and humpback, but none close enough for decent pictures.  Salmon were jumping the entire trip as we passed Kingmill Point and headed into Frederick Sound and our destination for the evening in Cannery Cove, Pybus Bay on Admiralty Island.  We anchored at 1445, having come 58 nautical miles from Patterson Bay.  By now the sunny skies had been replaced with high overcast, but no rain.

Some of the permanent snowfields on the east side of  Baranof

July 26, 2015

Spirit departed Cannery Cove at 0655 under overcast skies.  Heading out into Pybus Bay we had to slow down and thread our way through the numerous humpback whales feeding in the bay and in Stephens Passage.  Most of the time we just looked at the tails, but did get some photos.  It appears that the white tail markings on the humpbacks are all different, just like fingerprints.  This may explain how the biologists can track individual whales from year to year. 

Humpback Whale tail flukes

Unique Patterns

Different Again

No two the same
The top of the flukes all look the same

The differences are on the bottom of the flukes

As predicted, the wind changed to the SE and we could see rain clouds over Petersburg as we headed east Frederick Sound.  Approaching Wrangell Narrows, we had to wait for two tug/barge combinations to exit, then we headed to North Harbor and tied up in stall 32 at 1515, where we had been before.  To our chagrin, we had planned on having pizza at “Papa Bear’s”, but it was closed on Sunday.  We travelled 52 nautical miles today and have put in just under 500 nautical miles since leaving Sitka on July 12.  The rain returned in earnest later in the evening and is predicted to continue the rest of the week.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A month in the Sitka Region - updated

Alaska 2015 Part 9 – Cruising to Hoonah Sound, Sitka and Kalinin Bay

June 10   After Cameron departed we headed out to Kalinin Bay, catching some fish before heading back into Peril Strait and up Hoonah Sound to catch some Dungeness crab before the commercial season opens on June 15.

Bear with two cubs - Kalinin Bay

Not every day had rain - sunset Kalinin Bay

Moser Island – first day of crabbing/prawning was not so good, just a few crab.

Moser Island – second day – found the place for prawns – got our limit.

Kalinin Bay – King Salmon fishing and bear watching.

June 17, Return to Sitka – prepare boat for trip back to Seattle.  We had to arrange for a local “boat watch” while we were gone.  Our processor, Big Blue, had a freezer failure, so we had to buy an additional freezer for the fish we have caught.

June 18-20, 50th Queen Anne High School reunion in Seattle for Patrick.  It was fun catching up with classmates after so much time.  There were 160 classmates from a class of 714 who showed up.  After 50 years it was a little sobering to realize that 90 of Patrick’s classmates had already passed away.

June 21 – We return to Sitka, prepare Spirit for Sean and Margaret and the granddaughters, Josephine and Brita.

Sean and Josie looking at the bear

And the bear looks back

Miriam sharing a bedtime story with Josie

June 22-28 – Sean, Margaret and the grandkids tour Sitka and fish for 2 days in Kalinin Bay, catching 4 King salmon and rockfish.  Josephine now knows were some of her food comes from, watching the fishing and cleaning process with great interest.  Sean and Josephine also got to view a brown bear up close from the tender while in Kalinin Bay.

Sunset near the summer solstice in Sitka Harbor

June 29-July 2 – On our own for a few days.  We headed to Kalinin Bay, but had poor fishing results.  When we return we find that there is a mid-season change in the king salmon limits down to 3 annually effective July 1, so we are finished fishing for king salmon for the season.  Now we are looking for Coho salmon and halibut.

July 2-10, Miriam’s cousin Reidun Crowley and her friend Keith Ackerlund visit.  Fishing is spotty, but King, Coho and a halibut, along with rockfish make their way into our freezer.  Reidum and Keith take home a box of their catch.

Sunriseon Mt. Edgecumbe as we head out fishing

Puffins at St. Lazaria Island

We celebrate an old fashioned 4th of July with fireworks the night before and a hometown parade on the 4th.  We watched the fireworks from Steel Tiger along with Jim and Cheryl Matheson from Sea Jay (they cruised with us to Alaska in 2011).

July 11 – Maintenance day in Sitka.  Dinner at the Channel Club for a farewell to Sitka for the 2015 season.  We retrieved our last fish from Big Blue, who finally fixed the freezer situation as we were leaving.  We will have to ship our catch from Petersburg when we get there.

July 12 – Depart Sitka for the last time this season, heading back through Peril Strait to fish and prawn.  We hope to be in Petersburg in 10 days.  Limited internet and cell phone coverage until Petersburg.