Thursday, May 28, 2015

Alaska 2015 - Glaciers and Whales - Petersburg to Hoonah



May 17, 2015 – Petersburg to Portage Bay

We know we have lost a day somewhere, but so what.  This morning we finally departed Petersburg and fought a 5 knot flood tide against us for several miles as we headed out of Wrangell Narrows and up Frederick Sound.  The seas were calm as we motored the short distance to Portage Bay where we anchored about one mile into the bay.  Even one mile in, the peak current was over 2 knots, but he bottom was mud and held well, since Steel Tiger rafted alongside of us.  Our Delta FastSet anchor had no problem at a 4:1 scope holding the combined weight of 135 tons as the current ebbed and flooded during the night.  Crab pots were set, but with no success.  We suspect we were not far enough into the bay.

May 18, 2015 – Portage Bay to Tracy Arm

Both boats departed Portage Bay at 0635 to take advantage of the ebb tide out Frederick Sound and then the flood tide up Stephens Passage to Holkam Bay.  At Cape Fanshawe we encountered a large pod of Orca, then Dall Porpoise near Fife Finger Islands Lighthouse.  Off Windham Bay we encountered humpback whales, which were mostly feeding on the surface.  One came to the surface right in front of Spirit and we had to go into reverse to avoid hitting it.  We just stayed in idle for a few minutes until we were clear of the whale.

Part of the large pod of Orca

We almost ran into this one

Lots of tails, no breaching

Just another humpback tail


Foot shaped rock on Entrance island, Holkam Bay

Brown bear on the beach, No Name Cove
 Crossing the bar at Holkam Bay, we entered No Name Cove (also known as Tracy Arm Cove).  There was a solitary brown bear on the beach when we arrived.  Spirit rafted to Steel Tiger.  We took Steel Tiger’s tender from the anchorage up Tracy Arm to assess the ice conditions for the next day.  We turned around at mile 15 since the ice was easily navigable.

May 19, 2015 – Tracy Arm

We broke up the raft at 0750 and headed up Tracy Arm.  Stopping at Ice Falls for photos we shortened the tow lines on the tenders and continued up the arm, easily dodging the sparse ice.  Passing Sawyer Island we reached to within ¼ mile of the South Sawyer glacier face about noon.  Shutting off the engine, we just drifted for several hours and watched the calving and listened to the noise the glacier made.  We returned to the cove and anchored separately at 1715.
Looking up the "S-Curvess"

The icebergs are constantly changing

Finally - South Sawyer Glacier

Calving every few minutes

This one set up a large wave from the face


May 20, 2015 – Tracy Arm to Taku Harbor

Spirit departed Holkam Bay behind the cruise ship “Star Princess” at 0850, and after an uneventful trip, docked at the public dock in Taku Harbor at 1255.  The crab pots were set and by evening we had 2 large Dungeness crab.  The harbor was windy, so we were glad to be at a dock.  There is also another public float, not connected to shore further south in the harbor.  Several humpback whales entered the harbor and provided entertainment during the evening.



Departing Holkam Bay behind the Star Princess

Abandoned building - Taku Harbor

Public dock - Taku Harbor

The last of the squat lobsters became cocktails

Harry Johnson's famous crab spaghetti


May 21, 2015 – Taku Harbor to Auke Bay

After pulling the crab pots, with 6 more legal crabs, we headed for Auke Bay.  Leaving Taku we were treated to a breaching humpback whale.  We were able to get on the inside of the breakwater and shut off the engines at 1220.  After picking up the rental van from Juneau Car Rentals, we picked up Steel Tiger’s guests at the airport.  All eight of us headed for Mendenhall Glacier, Costco and then Alaskan Brewing, before returning to the boat.  We grilled steaks to celebrate the last night with Bob & Dianne Tucker before taking them to their hotel in downtown Juneau.  They will continue to travel to Anchorage and Homer before returning to Anacortes.  Juneau was very warm, with most people in short sleeved shirts and many in shorts.

Taku whale show




May 22, 2015 - Juneau

After a leisurely group breakfast of blueberry waffles and homemade German sausage we all piled back in the van and headed to downtown Juneau where we dropped of the Tucker’s at their hotel and then spent several hours mingling with the thousands of cruise ship passengers browsing the jewelry stores, souvenir shops and Alaskan Native art shops.  By now it was lunchtime, so we headed for the Red Dog Saloon where we managed to get a booth with no waiting time.  The sawdust on the floors, the server’s costumes, the piano player and the d├ęcor all attempting to recreate a Gold Rush era saloon atmosphere.  The beer was good (Alaskan Amber) and the food passable for pub fare, so we had a good time.  Leaving downtown, we headed back to the airport where we picked up our friends, Jon & Suzanne Liljegren.  After a stop to pick up fishing licenses we repeated the tours of Mendenhall Glacier, Costco, Alaskan Brewing and then Safeway for some last minute provisions before returning to Auke Bay.  We had a “welcome aboard” BBQ and enjoyed the warm, sunny evening.

May 23, 2015 – Auke Bay to Swanson Harbor

After returning the rental van we said goodbye to Auke Bay for 2015 and left the dock at 1030 for the 30 nautical mile run to Swanson Harbor.  Heading around the north end of Admiralty Island past Point Retreat we encountered windy, choppy seas in the southern Lynn Canal.  As we headed south the seas and wind gradually slackened and it was mostly calm as we entered Swanson Harbor and found space at one of the two public floats, docking at 1445.  By evening the floats were full of people coming out from Juneau to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend.  Crab pots were set in the usual locations, but were empty at the evening check.

May 24, 2014 – Swanson Harbor to Glacier Bay

Patrick picked up the crab pots, there were only 2 legal crab in the pots, and Spirit tossed off the lines at 0702 and we headed to Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay.  Just outside Swanson Harbor we observed a number of Sea Otters, which may explain the lack of crab in the harbor, since they can decimate the crab population quickly.  We crossed the boundary at 1100 and after getting permission, docked in Bartlett Cove at 1224.  We all visited the lodge, watched the movie, and then the skipper’s orientation at 1400, where we signed the logbook.  Both Spirit and Steel Tiger departed Bartlett Cove at 1455 and by 1830 we were rafted alongside Steel Tiger in North Sandy Cove.  Along the way we stopped at South Marble Island and viewed the massive colonies of Stellar Sea Lions and looked for Puffins, to no avail.

Stellar Sea  Lions, South Marble Island


May 25, 2014 – Marjerie Glacier

After a leisurely departure from North Sandy Cove at 0810, we headed north and stopped just short of Tidal Inlet to photograph Mountain Goats.  We proceeded up Tarr Inlet, passing to the east of Russell Island and directly to Marjerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers.  We had to share the glacier views with the “Star Princess” for a while, but then it departed and we had the glacier face to ourselves.  Marjerie Glacier is very active, with some calving every few minutes.  Patrick collected some glacial ice and then we headed to Blue Mouse Cove.  We spent nearly two hours enjoying the sounds and sights at the glacier face.

Mountain Goats, Glacier Bay near Tidal Inlet
Cormorants Hitching a ride

Majerie Glacier comes into view

The Star Princess is dwarfed by the glacier face

Calving - Oftne

The rivers of ice stretching into the Fairweather Range

The Fairweather Range makes cruise shiips look tiny

A final calving as we leave Marjerie Glacier
Our haul of glacial ice from Glacier Bay


Departing the glacier at 1600 we headed back down Tarr Inlet, passing west of Russell Island, passing the entrance to John Hopkins Inlet, past Lamplugh Glacier, Reid Glacier and finally anchoring in Blue Mouse Cove where Steel Tiger rafted alongside Spirit.  As the sun set we were treated to great views of the Fairweather Range and portions of the Brady Icefields.

Skinny Moose on the beach, South Finger Bay

Brady icefields from Blue Mouse Cove



May 26, 2015 – Blue Mouse Cove to South Finger Bay

At 1000 we broke up the raft and by 1220 both boats were anchored in South Finger Cove.  Jon and Suzanne took the tender out to the other side of the bay near Tidal Inlet to photograph more Mountain Goats.  We put prawn pots down in Berg Bay and had to dodge Humpback whales both in Berg Bay and in the entrance to South Finger Bay.  There were hundreds of sea otters floating at the mouth of the bay, many with babies on their chests.  Our halibut fishing expedition was unsuccessful, but the Steel Tiger crew landed one nice halibut.  Returning to the bay, we watched two skinny moose wander down the beach right behind the boat.

May 27, 2015 – Glacier Bay to Hoonah

Spirit pulled the anchor at 0750.  Patrick and Jon took the Grady White down to Berg Bay to retrieve the prawn pots and Miriam and Suzanne drove Spirit behind them.  We got about 2 dozen, a disappointing haul, but enough for an appetizer.  Heading out of Glacier Bay, we checked out of the park with Bartlett Cove and headed to Hoonah.  The wind peaked to 22 knots and the seas to 4 foot as we headed back east in Icy Strait.  Heading up Gedney Channel we were treated to more Humpback whales and a rock covered with Bald Eagles.  We docked at the transient float in Hoonah at 1440 and after checking in, refueled the Grady White and refreshed our produce at the Hoonah Trading Company.  We have decided to stay an extra day in Hoonah so we can fish for halibut in the morning.

Sunny evening in Hoonah Harbor

Eagle Rock

Chickens Wander the streets in Hoonah









Saturday, May 16, 2015

Alaska 2015 - Ketchikan to Petersburg


May 9, 2014

The day was spent sightseeing around Ketchikan.  A surprise from previous visits was the $5.00 per person charge to even walk the outside grounds at Saxman Village and still not be allowed inside the longhouse, which is reserved for cruise ship passenger shows.  Completing provisioning and purchasing Alaska fishing licenses took part of the afternoon.  That evening we met up with Mike and Susie Miner (Seeker), Tucker’s and Johnson’s for dinner at the Cape Fox Lodge.

May 10, 2015

Steel Tiger and Spirit left City Floats shortly after 0800 and headed to the fuel docks.  Our preferred fuel dock was unavailable due to a fuel barge offloading fresh fuel, so we used Petromarine.  Prices were surprisingly close to those we paid in Anacortes for similar quantities.  Spirit took on 635 gallons of fuel.  By 0900 we were all underway once again under clear skies.  Heading north up Tongass Narrows, past Caamano Point, we followed the shoreline up Clarence Strait until turning in at Meyers Chuck.  By this time the clear skies had turned into rain, the public dock was full and the anchor would not set.  Since we suspected the art gallery would be closed this early in the season we agreed to continue on to Santa Anna Inlet. The Meyers Chuck dock has been transferred from the state to Wrangell Borough, which now must repair/replace the dock.  Wrangell’s intentions are to start charging for moorage July 1 at the rate of 0.20$/ft/night, which is really nominal.  The rain quit as Steel Tiger anchored first and Spirit rafted alongside.  The prawn pots were set and we enjoyed the now sunny, but breezy weather.

May 11, 2015 – Santa Anna Inlet

The morning check of Spirit's prawn pots yielded about 7 dozen large spot prawns and great quantities of squat lobsters, with Steel Tiger's pots doing about the same.  Even though there is not much meat on each squat lobster, only about the tip of your little finger, the meat is tender and sweet.  We cooked everything up and had a feast on the back deck of Steel Tiger.

Some of our Squat Lobsters

Enjoying prawns on the aft deck of Steel Tiger


May 12, 2015 – Santa Anna Inlet to Wrangell

The morning check of Spirit’s prawn pots yielded 10 dozen large spot prawns.  After processing them, both boats left Santa Anna Inlet at 0800.  Our route was through Zimovia Strait.  By 1325 the engine was off in Wrangell’s Heritage Basin where we reconnected with the Lennon’s on the Selene 53 “Tranquility”.  The balance of the day was spent touring Wrangell and looking for a new trim tab pump for the Grady White, with no success.  Larger cruise ships now come into Wrangell, like the “Seven Seas Navigator” with 450 passengers, so there were a lot of people walking around downtown.

May 13, 2015 – On to Petersburg

Slack water in Wrangell Narrows required a 0500 departure from the dock.  Under sunny skies and calm seas we had an uneventful transit of Wrangell Narrows and were tied up in Petersburg at 1030 am.  We were assigned a slip in North Harbor on the docks which were new last year.  The town is preparing for The “Little Norway Festival” or Norwegian Independence Day celebrations, which begin today and run through Monday.  Patrick searched for a replacement trim tab pump and actually found one, which was delivered to the harbormaster’s office early in the evening.

May 14, 2015 – Le Conte Glacier

After breakfast and installing the new trim tab pump, a group of 8 of us (Gill's, Johnson's, Tucker's and Jim & Christie Caldwell) headed out on a 4 hour jetboat tour of Le Conte glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier in the US.  On the way we saw a humpback whale.  The ice was thick at the upper end of the fjord, so we were only able to get within ¾ mile of the face, but it was still spectacular.  There were a number of seals on the ice floes getting ready to calve, which should happen any day.  Returning to Petersburg we had “dinner” at one of the celebration beer gardens while some of the contests were still going on.  Most of the contests seemed to involve tossing herring into targets.  We were still a little hungry, so we hurried to Papa Bear’s Pizza before they closed at 8PM and shared a “Carnivore” pizza.

Bald Eagle on a berg - Le Conbte
Le Conte Glacier from 3/4 mile away

The ice floes we pushed through on the jet boat

Curious Seals 

Our tour group


May 15, 2015 – Parade Day


The festival continued with several blocks of the main street blocked off.  There were all kinds of food booths, arts and crafts and finally a parade followed by a “herring toss” competition, open to all.  Beer gardens were set up in several locations, there was live entertainment in the evening and everyone seemed to be having a great time in the warm sunny weather.

School children in Festive Norwegian clothes

The Viking longboat

Herring flying through the air during the herring toss


We will be in Petersburg until Sunday afternoon, then on to Juneau via Tracy or Endicott Arms, so no internet until May 21.

Farewell to Petersburg

Friday, May 8, 2015

Alaska 2015 - On to Ketchikan


May 4, 2015

After pulling the pots (8 crab, 57 prawns) we headed into Lama Passage and stopped for one hour at Shearwater to fix a problem with one of the fishing licenses, take on water and some provisions.

Heading out Seaforth Channel we nosed out past Ivory Island and ran into a big westerly swell made worse by an ebb tide.  Both boats called it quits and turned back to go up Reid Passage, Perceival Narrows and then Oscar Passage to Finlayson Channel.  Our destination for the evening is Bottleneck Inlet, a bombproof anchorage with good mud for holding.

While underway the crew of Spirit cooked and cleaned the crab and prepared crab mac & cheese for a late dinner after a long day, with pouring rain most of the day.  At 1930 we rafted alongside Steel Tiger and hoisted the cocktail flag and then dinner.

The rain continued all night long.

May 5, 2015

Since we have only 30 miles to go today, we broke up the raft at 0945 and headed out the inlet.  At a +5 ft. low tide we only had 15 feet in the shallowest part of the entrance, so the charts are correct.
The trip through Heikish Narrows and Princess Royal Channel was uneventful from a weather standpoint, since the sun came out, but still occasional rain showers.  We saw our first humpback whale of the season, and the first black bear on the beach as we entered Khutze Inlet.  The anchorage in front of the falls was empty.  The greenery was the most we have ever seen, so spring arrived early.
First Black Bear sighting of the season


We made a short trip up the Khutze River until the water was too shallow to go further, but only saw seals and lots of moss on the trees.

Spirit and Steel Tiger in Khutze Inlet

Trees with more moss than needles

Some of the bountiful crab in Khutze Inlet


After setting the crab pots we relaxed and prepared for our Cinco de Mayo celebration with Steel Tiger.  About 1830 we pulled the pots and were pleasantly surprised at the number of legal crab.  We kept the 12 largest and released 18 others.  Steel Tiger did the same.

May 6, 2015

Departing Khutze Inlet at 0800 we immediately ran into dense fog in Princess Royal Channel which persisted to about 5 miles beyond Butedale.  The sun came out with a light breeze as we exited Princess Royal Channel, crossed Wright Sound past Gribbel Island and entered Grenville Channel.  With the current assisting us, we changed the destination from Lowe Inlet to Baker Inlet.

The favorable current ended as we approached Klewnuggit Inlet and the tide was more than 2 hours past high slack water as Spirit entered Watts Narrows, the entrance to Baker Inlet.  The current was about 3 knots against us, and all the GPS receivers on board lost lock in the middle of the 1000 yard long by 200 foot wide channel.  Pushing on through, followed by Steel Tiger, we both went to the head of the inlet and rafted together for the evening.  Steel Tiger reported the bottom was sticky black mud as they anchored.

Fog begins to lift in Princess Royal Channel

Cruising to the head of Baker Inlet


May 7, 2015

Both boats departed Baker Inlet shortly before 0600.  The high slack water occurred at 0400, so Watts Narrows was running at full ebb by the time we arrived at 0625.  It was a wild ride out, sharing the narrow fairway with logs also heading out.  Sometimes full rudder was required to keep Spirit in the middle of the channel as the strong eddies tried to move us all over.  After a successful exit, both crews decided that doing that again at other than slack water would not be a good idea.

Proceeding up Grenville Channel, we contacted US Customs and got permission to anchor in Foggy Bay for the evening.  Entering Chatham Sound, the wind remained light with nothing more than a 1-2 foot swell as we headed for the Green Island Lighthouse and then across Dixon Entrance to Foggy Bay.  The wind and seas were as calm as we have ever seen, so by 1445 we had crossed back into US waters and at 1620 were anchored in Foggy Bay.  Shortly after Steel Tiger rafted alongside and after an early dinner we all retired for the final push to Ketchikan.

We have now covered 655 nautical miles since leaving Anacortes on April 22.

May 8, 2015 – Final Leg to Ketchikan

Pulling the anchor from Foggy Bay at 0700 we headed out in glassy calm seas north up Revillagigido Channel and after an uneventful trip docked at City Floats at Ketchikan at 1210.  Bob and Dianne Tucker met us shortly after docking.  They will be with us until Juneau.  The skies were sunny, the temperature warm enough for shorts and after rinsing the salt off the boat we headed out sightseeing in a rental car, stopping at Totem Bight and Settler’s Cove before returning for cocktails on the dock in the sun.

Another beautiful evening in Foggy Bay

Totem peeking out of the trees in Totem Bight


The details are incredible!

Eagle and Raven

Totem in Totem Bight

The Johnson's and Tucker's at Settler's Cove

This time of year the skunk cabbage is prolific
"Docktails" at City Floats, Ketchikan


We covered 691 nautical miles reaching Ketchikan.  We will depart Sunday for points north.