Friday, July 22, 2016

Anan Wildlife Observatory

July 21 - Anan Wildlife Observatory

The weather is predicted to deteriorate over the next few days, so we investigated whether we could do a tour of Anan Wildlife Observatory.  Two spaces were available through Alaska Charters and Adventures, so we took them, taking a chance the rain would hold off for a few days.
We were picked up at 0645 at Heritage Basin and boarded a jet boat for the slightly more than one hour trip down Eastern Channel between Wrangell Island and the mainland.  After a brief stop to look at some faded petroglyphs we arrived at Anan Bay right at a negative 2.6 foot low tide.  This required the boat to cross a shallow bar at high speed on a plane and then stop and beach the boat in the outfall from Anan Creek.

Wet Landing at Anan Creek


Safety Briefing at Trailhead

Anan Lagoon Nearly Dry

The USFS manages the site and after disembarking we were given the safety briefing at the lower trailhead.  Our guides were armed with rifles and we had to stop once and wait for a brown bear to cross the trail.

With the extreme low tide, Anan Lagoon was nearly dry, with Bald Eagles fishing in the pools.  Anan Creek is home to the largest Pink Salmon run in SE Alaska, both in numbers and in the size of the fish.  By the time we arrived at the viewing platform and blind we understood why, since the waterfalls and speed of the current means only the largest and healthiest fish make it to the spawning grounds beyond the second waterfall.  The viewing area is alongside the first waterfall.

The Pik Salmon must be tasty

Early in the season the bears eat the entire fish

Looking for fish

Still Fishing

Later in the seeason the bears only eat the roe and bellies

With lunch over the brown bear disappeared into the woods

Shortly after we arrived the brown bear that crossed the trail appeared walking upstream in the middle of the creek.  We watched him fish and after he left the black bears re-appeared, mostly one at a time.  We observed five different black bears feeding, some better fishers than others. 

Black Bears begin to appear

Many went to eat away from the creek

The bears have worn the logs smooth from use

This black bear was really scruffy looking

The young black bear mostly just scared the fish away

The view from the blind was great when there was a bear fishing since you were only a few feet above them as the splashed through the water.  Not only did we watch the bears, but also many Bald Eagles and crows watched, waiting to feast on the scraps left by the bears.

Waiting for scraps

There were at least a dozen bald eagles waiting

The USFS has installed two pit toilets, one at the trailhead and one a short distance from the viewing platform.  To use the upper one, you must have a guide check out the trails for bears, since three trails converge around the outhouse.  When you are finished you put your fingers out the hole in the door and signal you are done, and if clear the guide gives you the OK to return to the viewing platform.

After about 4 hours of viewing, with very few people (we were the only group after the first two hours), rain arrived along with more and larger groups, since the USFS grants 60 permits per day.

The second waterfall is around the corner

The famous outhouse with the fingers signalling for an all clear

The group all decided it was time to return to the trailhead.  The tide was now high and we boarded the jet boat right at the head of the trail.  The rain settled in solid as we headed back up the channel after a great day at Anan.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Petersburg, Wrangell and East Baranof Island

June 29, 2016

Slack tide was predicted for 0900, so at 0730, under sunny skies, we pulled the anchor from the mud in Takatz Bay and headed out in Chatham Strait.  There we were greeted by dense fog lying against the shore.  We made a radar approach to our favorite spot where there was already one charter boat anchored.  Moving a short distance away we pulled the Grady White alongside and anchored Spirit in 220 feet of water, Miriam almost instantly hooked into a quillback rockfish and a few minutes later Patrick felt a sharp tug on his line and the line spooled off the reel.  After 20 minutes of gaining and losing ground on the line, with the rod bent almost double at times, Patrick brought a nice halibut to the surface.  Deciding to keep it, knowing it was near the maximum size we wanted, we harpooned it.  The halibut did not like that at all and ran back down, taking the harpoon line right out of Miriam’s hands.  After a few more minutes we brought the halibut back to the surface, retrieved the harpoon tether and lashed it to the stern, then putting in a second harpoon for good measure.  No sooner did we get the second harpoon dart in the fish the hook came out of the halibut’s lip, so we were very fortunate.  Slitting the gills and letting the fish bleed out for a while we finally dragged the halibut on board and measured it at 58 inches.  The tables indicate that is about a 90 pound halibut.

Deciding we had no freezer space for another fish, we pulled the anchor shortly after 1000 and headed across Chatham Strait towards Petersburg.  Stopping at Pinta Rocks we investigated a possible anchorage, but decided that with the prediction of westerly winds and thunderstorms in the afternoon, combined with a hard bottom might provide poor holding for the anchor, we continued to Portage Bay, a familiar stop.  We had several hours to get there, so the halibut was fileted and packaged, taking all the rest of our freezer space.July 2, 2016 - Petersburg to Wrangell

Portage Bay should really be called Portage River, since the currents the entire length of the long bay run at up to two knots. Fortunately, the bottom has very good holding and setting the anchor is easy.  We anchored Spirit at 1745 as light rain began.

June 30, 2016

Realizing we could make morning slack current at North Wrangell Narrows, we departed Portage Bay under cloudy skies with some rain showers at 0745 and headed to Petersburg where we hope to offload our freezers into Petersburg Community Cold Storage, as we did last year.  They will hold the fish until we return to Anacortes and then ship by Alaska Air to Seattle.

Naturally, we arrived in a rain storm, which only got worse later in the afternoon as Patrick walked to the Cummins engine dealer for a new coalescing filter on the Walker Airsep.  No filters were available in Petersburg, so a call to Seattle got one on the way via priority mail from Fisheries Supply.

The rain continued on and off the rest of the day as we arranged for fish storage, boxes and shipping.

July 1, 2016

Rain, heavy at times, as the fish was delivered to the cold storage facility.  The forecast is rain for the next week, but fortunately little wind.  We intended to have pizza for dinner, but Papa Bear’s pizza was closed for the next 4 days, so we cooked a pan of lasagna and shared it with Roger and Arlene from the Krogen 55 Kama Hele Kai.

July 2, 2016 - Petersburg to Wrangell

Departing Petersburg’s North Harbor at 1100 we headed south for the 40 nautical mile trip to Wrangell.  No matter when you leave, you will have adverse currents part of the way.  Minimizing the currents in Wrangell Narrows means fighting the ebb tide from the south entrance to the narrows the 20 nautical miles to Wrangell.  We finally arrived at 1645 and took the next to last spot in Heritage Harbor.

Purse Seine Nets - Wrangell

Seiner in Wrangell Narrows working nets

July 3, 2016 - Wrangell

The morning was spent changing the generator oil and filter at 2538 hours, then halibut fishing in the afternoon.  The halibut were good at removing the herring from the hook and leaving the salmon bellies.  No halibut chose to hook up.  That evening we hosted the crew of Tranquility for dinner, serving a miso glazed halibut with baby bok choy and mushroom risotto.

July 4, 2016 - Wrangell

Celebrated the 4th by going to the parade, then lunch at the Stikine Inn before touring the booths at the street fair.  Returning to the Stikine Inn later in the evening with the crew on Tranquility we enjoyed drinks and appetizers before returning to Heritage Basin and taking the tender out in front of Wrangell Harbor for fireworks, which did not start until 1115 PM.

Wrangell Parade 1

Tossing free candy for the kids

The horses were the final part of the parade

Walking back to Heritage Basin with the sunset

Sunset on the 4th

July 5, 2016 – Wrangell

Patrick fished, with no luck.  A few strikes but nothing on board.

July 6, 2016 – Wrangell to Petersburg

Departing Wrangell at 0835 we travelled the 40 nautical miles to Petersburg and entered a harbor with lots of empty slips for the day, due to a purse seiner opening on Thursday.  We were assigned stall 536 on D Dock in South Harbor, close to the ramp.  After picking up Walker Airsep parts and fresh groceries we had dinner at Papa Bear’s Pizza.  We found out that although Petersburg had fireworks on the 4th, the rest of the activities including the parade and carnival were cancelled due to a multiple fatality car accident near South Harbor.  We could see the accident site from our slip and the police were still investigating it 2 days later.

July 7, 2016 – Petersburg to Cannery Cove

After fueling the Grady White we left at 0835 to take advantage of the last of the ebb tide going north in Wrangell Narrows and immediately ran into dense fog.  With both radars running we headed out at slow speed and had one close encounter with a gillnetter, who guided us around the end of his net.  By Cape Strait the fog had lifted and we sighted a number of humpback whales as we set a direct course for Pybus Bay, Cannery Cove.

Entering Pybus Bay we had to slow down and alter course for a pod of Orca crossing our path.
There were already three yachts in Cannery Cove when we arrived, including the 167 foot yacht, DoubleHaven.  By the time the sun had set we had eight yachts anchored in the calm bay with the spectacular hills as a backdrop.  Three sailing vessels had followed us through the fog from Petersburg and were glad we had suggested the destination due to the scenery and whales.

Ocras near Pybus Bay - 1

Orcas -2

Orcas - 3
Cannery Cove on a sunny day

July 8, 2016 – Cannery Cove to Patterson Bay and Port Walker

Knowing we had a long run ahead of us we pulled the anchor at 0635 under sunny skies and headed out of Cannery Cove into Frederick Sound, past Kingsmill Point and into Chatham Strait.  We were getting a modest boost from the ebb tide as we set a direct course for Mist Cove, our fishing destination for the day.  We were surprised at how far south into Chatham the cell phone reception lasted, nearly to Gut Bay from the middle of the channel.

Sea Otter at Kingsmill Point

Arriving at Mist Cove the calm winds increased locally due to the tide rips, but we put the tender astern on a short tie and began fishing anyway.  Fishing was difficult due to the amount of kelp and seaweed in the water.  After losing two fish, probably due to dull hooks, we finally landed a nice Coho salmon and called it a day about 1600.  Heading into Patterson Inlet, the 5-10 knot southerly breeze funneled through the narrow opening at the end to more than 15 knots.  The wind would not have been an issue except for the masses of jellyfish infesting the inlet.  The last time we anchored here we clogged the generator sea strainer with jellyfish and shut the generator down.  The wind, combined with the jellyfish made us decide to find another anchorage for the evening.

The rockslide in Patterson Inlet has not changed much in three years

Lions Mane Jellyfish

Since we were fishing further south in the morning anyway we headed for Port Walter and anchored in Denmark Cove in 75 feet of water over a hard bottom shortly before 1900.  After cleaning the Coho we grilled burgers for dinner and then enjoyed some HGTV for an hour while we ate.  The Satellite TV has been working better after changing the tracking frequencies, but is still dependent on boat orientation and the height of the hills where we moor or anchor.  We had covered 81 nautical miles and have now travelled 1900 nautical miles since Anacortes.

July 9, 2016 – Port Walker to Gut Bay

We kept a close watch on the anchor all night due to the uncertain holding on the hard bottom, but we were set well, even with the substantial current flowing in and out of the inner basin.  This bay also had a lot of jellyfish, but not nearly as many as in Patterson Bay.  The wind also does not funnel in the same way, so it was a more comfortable night at anchor, hearing the anchor chain dragging across the hard bottom as the wind and currents shifted.  The weather was not as nice, with moderate fog in Chatham Strait.

At 0805 we pulled the anchor and travelled the short distance south to Point Armstrong, where we hoped to pick up a King Salmon like we did in 2011.  No such luck this time, but we did land three Coho Salmon, one 31 inches long and weighing 13 pounds, which would have been a legal King.  The fish were at 50-70 feet and were caught on both red and green flashers with herring.  We called it a good fishing morning at 1130 and set a course for Gut Bay, our destination for the evening.

The visibility had improved at our location, but as we headed north the fog was till thick in many of the inlets, including Patterson Bay, and yet we could see to Kuiu Island on the other side of Chatham, a distance of more than 12 nautical miles.

Arriving at our not so secret location for Coho, the wind had piped up to 17-20 knots making fishing difficult.  After two passes, and getting increasingly worried about drifting into shore we pulled in the lines and headed into Gut Bay.  The bay has been partially surveyed in 2013 since our first visit and the charts are now more accurate, but still blank close to the head of the bay.  As we approached the anchorage at the head of the bay in front of the river, the winds again increased and after anchoring in 125 feet of water watched the winds gust to 23 knots.  Patrick took the Grady White and surveyed the bottom closer to the river mouth and after looking at the wind, we moved Spirit closer, into 80 feet of water, and re-anchored.  The wind continued to gust to more than 20 knots as we cleaned and fileted the three Coho into 14 meal sized portions which went into the freezer.

We hoped that the wind would abate when the sun went down, but no luck.  Even at 2330 the wind was still gusting to over 15 knots and steady at 8-10 knots.  However, the anchor is securely set and we can sleep well this evening.

July 10, 2016 – Gut Bay to Red Bluff Bay

Sometime overnight night the wind died and we awoke to a calm anchorage.  Heading out fishing at 0710 we had the lines in the water shortly after 0800 and the first Coho on board at 0815.  At 0845 we hooked up again, only this time it was a 17-pound King salmon.  We had a few more strikes, but no more fish, so at 1015, with the ebb tide at maximum current we quit and headed to Red Bluff Bay, just a few miles away.  Red Bluff Bay anchorage was a minefield of commercial crab pots and all the good spots were full of pots.  Two other yachts were anchored, so we headed out into the middle in 90 feet of water, setting the anchor hard since winds to 20 knots were predicted for the evening.

The morning catch was fileted and frozen into another 14 meal sized packages, each about 1 pound.
By evening two other vessels had arrived, so now there were five of us anchored in the bay.  We decided that shrimp primavera sounded good for dinner, so vegetables were sautéed and linguini boiled as we enjoyed a pasta dinner in the now peaceful waters of Red Bluff Bay.  We continued to watch episodes from “Victory at Sea” as the sun went down, now much earlier than one month ago, and finally shut off the lights at 1030PM, with the bay now mostly dark.

July 11, 2016

Light rain greeted us as we pulled the anchor from the mud in Red Bluff Bay at 0835 and headed back out into Chatham Strait.  After a calm transit we turned the corner into Warm Springs Bay and headed for the public dock at Baranof Hot Springs.  We were too late for the inside dock, just a few minutes behind a 100-foot charter boat from Juneau, but managed to squeeze into a spot on the outside, narrowly beating another charter boat racing into the bay about ½ mile behind us.  After settling in, we headed out in the tender and landed a 25-pound halibut and a rockfish, which were fileted after dinner.

July 12, 2016

Patrick fished the morning high slack tide and returned with two large quillback rockfish.  As boats left we moved Spirit to the end of the dock and turned around to port side against the dock to make departure the next morning easier.  Evening high slack tide produced 3 more rockfish, but no halibut.

July 13, 2016

The rain started sometime overnight, so we just remained at the dock and did not fish, but did enjoy the hot springs.

July 14, 2016

After a morning soak in the public hot spring baths we cast off the lines at 0855 to catch the morning high slack tide on our way to Cannery Cove in Pybus Bay.  Anchoring Spirit in 220 feet of water we began fishing and by 1030 had 5 large rockfish and 2 halibut on board.  The current had started to ebb so we pulled the anchor and headed across Chatham Strait past Point Gardner and into Frederick Sound.  Frederick Sound was full of humpback whales feeding and one even breached totally out of the water.  There were at least 100 whales and we had to keep slowing down and steering around them, since they seemed oblivious to our presence.  Shortly after 1600 we anchored in Cannery Cove next to several mega yachts and enjoyed the last of the sunny skies as we cleaned and processed the morning catch.

Hympback Whales in Frederick Sound

Our "Neighbor" in Cannery Cove

July 15, 2016

Knowing we had 55 nautical miles to Petersburg and wanting to make Wrangell Narrows before the current was too adverse, we raised the anchor at 0620 and headed out of Cannery Cove.  The whales were just as numerous as the previous day, feeding near the surface, which was almost a mirror since there was no wind or waves.

As we approached Petersburg we met a flotilla of Jeanneau sailboats cruising with Jim Rard from Anacortes.  Leading the 11 boats was our previous Jeanneau 49, back from a five-year cruise to Australia from Anacortes and now named “Dilligaf”.  We chatted on the VHF radio as we headed into Petersburg and they all headed to Hobart Bay.  We had last been aboard Dilligaf for coffee the morning it departed for the South Pacific.

The former "Spirit", now "Dilligaf"

Arriving in Petersburg at 1330 we purchased some more insulated shipping containers for our fish and arranged to add them to the ones already in storage.  The frozen fish will remain in Petersburg until we return in September and then will ship to Seattle as air freight on Alaska Airlines.

We have now covered 2100 nautical miles, with about 1200 nautical miles left on this year’s journey.