Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2013 Alaska Cruise by the Numbers

We arrived back to our winter moorage on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, September 12.  With luck, we’ll fill in the blank weeks since the last log posting sometime this fall.  In the meantime, I’ll provide a summary of the trip by the numbers.

151 Total days on the cruise
99 Nights at anchor (66%).
51 Nights at a dock (34%).
3667 Nautical miles traveled
630 Engine hours
23 Days in which the generator operated
53.3 Generator hours

In terms of fuel consumption, we fueled up on the way north in Anacortes our first first port of call and again at Anacortes near the end of the trip (day 143). We tried to top off the tanks on both occasions.

1185 Gallons of fuel
600.6 Engine hours
3485 Nautical miles traveled
48.4 Generator hours
??? Hours of furnace operation

With regards to engine hours, this is from the time the engine is started (before lines are untied or the anchor is pulled) and the time the engine is shut off (after the lines are secured or the anchor is set and snubbed).  The miles traveled are from the chart plotting software I run (Coastal Explorer 2011) on my navigation computer. 

Our total trip average speed (distance traveled divided by engine hours) is “slower” this year than in previous years mostly because we did more fishing from the “big” boat rather than from the dinghy. I have not tried to back out of the data the time spent trolling at a slow speed or drifting while mooching.

Below is a map showing all of the places we stayed overnight at.  If you select one of the place markers, it will show its name and some data on our visit to it.


View Cruise 2013 in a larger map

Friday, September 6, 2013

Week 19 - Guests and more time in the Broughton Islands

On Monday, August 19 we headed for Port McNeill early (to beat any afternoon wind, which is always strong there). Indeed the wind picked up, but we were secure and started to do chores, including laundry, getting the forward cabin ready. On Tuesday, I provisioned with freshies, and our friends Ginny and Ken arrived around 4:30. We had dinner that night at Gus's Pub where they have nice prawns items on the menu. The following morning was final provisioning at 8 when the grocery store opened and then we're off.

First stop Cullen Harbor, and we saw several whales, Humpback and Orca on the way to Cullen. As soon as we arrived we launched the dinghy and Kurt went into Booker Lagooon and dropped the prawn traps. In the evening a few hours later, he and Ken went in to harvest and rebait. They were gone a long time, well the currents were stronger and they waited 15 minutes for the whirlpools to calm down in the narrow entrance. They brought back a good haul. It being Ginny and Ken's anniversary, we had a nice steak dinner. We even brought up a good bottle of wine (from the bilge wine cellar) to celebrate. We had a fabulous sunset. This has become a favorite anchorage for me, in no small part due to the very nice supply of prawns nearby!

After retrieving the prawn traps the next morning, with another nice haul, we headed to Turnbull Cove, via the outside of the Broughtons, in Queen Charlotte Strait, and we saw more whales. Shortly after arriving, we took the dinghy to shore and the others went on a short hike to a lake while I tended the dinghy (due to an injured knee I didn't go on hike). That evening we were the only boat in Turnbull and it was quite lovely. Dinner featured the prawns harvested from Booker Lagoon just that morning! They were really good.

From Turnbull we headed to Echo Bay, where we had reservations for moorage and the pig roast on Saturday night. This gave the opportunity for Ginny and Ken to do a hike to visit Billy Proctor's museum/collection. He is quite the interesting fellow, who has lived in the Broughtons for over 60 years, and done a variety of jobs, fishing, logging etc. And he has written a few books on the area and his life that are quite interesting. On Saturday we made two potluck dishes and went to the pig roast. It was lots of fun and we had a nice chat with another couple at our table who have a Nordhavn 62.

On Sunday we headed to the Monday Anchorage area, which we thought would be nice for our last night out with the Crowders. Well, we didn't like our first anchor drop location (we drifted too close to an island), we then secured in a slightly different location but concluded that though it was a good "stick" and plenty secure, the anchorage was exposed to the anticipated wind direction. Up comes the anchor again and we head to another nearby location, Joe's Cove, which was quite lovely. While there, we saw a Krogen 42 we had seen in 2007 (I recalled they had a cat)! I got their boat card and Kurt paddled over in a kayak and said "hi". Later the fellow came over in his dinghy after dropping crab pots and we asked if he still had his cat, yes he still had the cat, but then added his wife had passed away 2-1/2 years earlier. We expressed our condolences.

The next morning, Monday August 26 , after downloading the latest weather, Kurt rouses me while still dark around 6 AM (Yikes, the days are really getting shorter) because the forecast talks about SE winds from 30-35 in Queen Charlotte Straits. We've docked at Port McNeill in 25 knot winds before and don't want to repeat that experience. The trip across QC Strait is fine (see more humpback and orca whales) and the winds stay benign until right before the harbor when they rise to the upper teens. Fortunately, the Port McNeill Harbor Master gives us an easy side tie to use and is right there on the dock to catch our line as we come in. We dock without incident. Since it is just late morning when we arrive, the Crowders take a BC Ferry over to Sointula on Malcolm Island in the afternoon while Marcia and I do chores and provision.

Week 18 - A Few Days in the Broughtons

The weather reports were indicating a 2 day window for favorable conditions so Monday August 12 we headed to Fury Cove to position to do Cape Caution. On Tuesday we rounded Cape Caution and the seas were the best we had ever experienced for Cape Caution. We had our poles out, but never dropped our stabilizers into the water. We made our way to Carriden Bay in the Broughtons, the place we had departed from when we headed north around Cape Caution on April 30. The grounded log we had moved anchor to get away from back in April was still in there in Carriden in August.

We had decided to leave Alaska the end of July/first week of August and spend time in the Broughtons. And we had planned to visit most of the small marinas in the area. So we headed to Echo Bay, hoping to tie up and partake of the prime rib night there. Well we could get a place to tie up, but they were completely booked for prime rib night. So we passed on the moorage and instead went to Shoal Bay. It was windy getting to Echo Bay and windy in Shoal Bay, around 10-15 kts for a lot of the evening. The next morning it was calm and we headed to Cullen Harbor. We dropped the dinghy and tried fishing outside the Cullen entrance. No luck. Early the next morning, Kurt and I reconnoitered the entrance to Booker Lagoon and dropped prawn pots in the big hole in this large lagoon. At slack we took the big boat in and anchored. Kurt went in the afternoon to check the pots and we had prawns galore! As he said when he got back: lots! We had a quiet night and next morning pulled the pots and had more prawns, but not as nice as the haul the day before.

We departed Booker and headed to Shawl Bay, hoping to enjoy their famous pancake breakfast the next morning. They were full, so we wandered around awhile looking for a good place to anchor and finally decided to head to Turnbull Cove, as it is very large, with great depths, plenty of swing room and a good mud bottom. We saw a vessel from our yacht club anchored inside, we anchored near them and they invited us over for cocktails. We had a very nice visit.

Sunday morning we had a slow start as we were waiting for favorable current in Wells Passage, then left and found anchorage in "Let Her Rip Cove" in Monday Anchorage. The weather forecast was for settled weather and it was a fine place to spend the night so we didn't have to see if the anchorage would live up to its name.

Week 16 & 17- Getting out of SE Alaska

After departing on Saturday, July 27, I spent a few days in Virginia helping my sister with issues regarding my brother's estate. Kurt and the cats remained in Ketchikan doing boat chores (the cats supervise). Upon my return on August 1, we prepped to depart Ketchikan, though we had dinner out in celebration of my birthday. We also did the usual prederture laundry and provisioning.

On Saturday, August 3, we headed out with quite favorable conditions and anchored in Port Tongass. This is within spitting distance of the Canadian Border and allows the next day for a very short stretch of exposed waters, though the conditions the next day were benign. So we got to Prince Rupert Sunday afternoon, fairly early. Upon inspecting a document I had signed, had notarized and left with my sister and receiving her email regarding a legal document for selling Mark's property, I realized a page had not been completed. I needed to find the Canadian equivalent of a notary and notarize and fill out the incomplete page plus the new document. Unfortunately for our original schedule, it turned out that the next day, Monday August 5 was BC day, and a holiday.

While waiting out this unplanned day in Prince Rupert, I provisioned for Canada with the prerequisite forbidden-to-bring-in produce, "eyes, ears and pits" (e.g., no potato, corn or any fruit with pits such as cherries), and a few other items. I also got a Canadian salt water fishing license. Tuesday morning I tracked down a notary on the third try, first to a bank, then government offices, and finally a solicitor (attorney). The next stop was to the Post Office to express mail the documents to Cindee in Colorado. As an aside, it took longer to get from Prince Rupert, a major seaport, to Colorado Springs than when our boat builder express mailed documents from Doumen China to Seattle! We were able to depart around 11 a.m. and were glad to be heading out.

We went the inside—outside route, which avoids Grenville Channel. We had two anchorages to ourselves (the second was a total blank for prawns but sure had lots of jellyfish!) and the third anchorage, was selected because it routed us back inside, because the weather was kicking up.

When entering Cameron Cove, around 2 p.m. August 8, I couldn't help but notice that the fish (read salmon) were jumping as the song goes. Lots, in fact constant splashing sounds of fish jumping, right in our anchorage and the bay outside. So I got my gear, and we started trolling shallow. I got a bite and got a fairly large fish near the boat, but it got away, the barbless hooks you are required to use in Canada when fishing for salmon give the fish a real sporting chance! Though it started to rain, I was a little excited and so we continued. It started to rain harder. We were at a good turn around spot and I was about to say, "let's head in" when, I got another bite. I told Kurt, troll faster, I want to tire this guy out some. And so we did a lap, and I brought the fish in closer and it was fair sized and I worked really hard not to lose it, and I was able to get it into the boat, using the gaf, then bleeding it and putting it on a stringer. I did not mind the rain at all on the way back as I was fairly positive I had a king and when we got to the big boat, confirmed this and recorded the catch. A 28" king! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I gutted the fish, put it on blue ice and shortly thereafter filleted it.

The next day was a long one and we did Princess Royal Channel and then anchored in Bottleneck Inlet, a favorite, and one we have stayed at every trip north, either going or coming back. The next morning we timed our crossing of Milbanke Sound, which is open to the Pacific, to be at slack water to reduce the sea state due to swell and wind opposing the outgoing tide. It was very foggy and we watched with concern as two opposing radar targets, not far from us, came very very close to one another. And the fast boat had not slowed down much if any. We were all three converging, but we knew we were out of the way, and saw them pass, close—to close. But they did not collide. We headed into Seaforth Channel and found the fog had cleared and tried fishing where everyone else was fishing. And I caught a nice sized silver! We were able to hail our friends on Passages and arranged to meet at an anchorage, Wigham Cove, where we had a lovely potluck dinner, each bringing our own dinner, as they mostly eat vegan and we don't. Our dinner was leftover king salmon with a nice salad. Yum.

On Sunday we headed out and went to Ocean Falls. It was windy and we had to dock in the 15 kt wind. Oh joy. It was blowing us off the dock and it took two tries. There were a couple of folks on the dock that helped us and we secured ourselves OK. It continued to blow and calmed down ~ 9 p.m. We were sound asleep when around 12:30 a.m. we were awakend by a rushing noise. I thought it was the dam releasing lots of water above us, in my sleepy state. It turned out to be a BC ferry that was a very short distance behind us, with engines rumbling. Nothing to worry about, but sure noisy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Week 15 - Crabapolosa and Boat Chores in Ketchikan

Monday, July 22, Kurt went out bright and early to check the crab pots and sure enough there were 6 keepers (our limit) plus some undersized—those for next year?  So I set to work and cleaned, cooked and picked the 6 keepers. Whew.  I was tired after this.  Of course we had crab for dinner, with fresh bread.

Tuesday morning we discovered 4 more keepers and headed off to Yes Bay.  I cleaned and cooked them before we left then picked them after we got to Yes.  On the way into Yes Bay, we dropped the two prawn traps and once in one of our favorite little spots, put out two crab pots. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon, but I did pick the crab.

2013-07-179x2013-07-185xIt takes several hours of hard, tedious but meticulous work to turn the pile of cleaned and cooked crab in the photo on the left into the two shallow containers of crab meat and much larger container of crab shells in the photo on the right.

The next morning we checked the crab and prawn traps and had both crab and prawns to harvest!  So prawns for dinner with a crab appetizer. The weather was decidedly showery with periods of heavy rain and wind followed by bright sun and calm conditions.

On Thursday morning, bright and early, we pulled the crab pots, which had two more keepers. As we motored out of Yes Bay, we pulled the prawn pots with another batch of prawns.  I cleaned and cooked the prawns and crab as we cruised down Behm Canal towards Ketchikan.

We arrived in Ketchikan shortly after 11 in the morning.  We like to get to Ketchikan in the morning because it is often windy in the afternoon.  As it turned out, a shower rolled through just as we arrived and it was both windy and rainy.  Fortunately the wind died pretty much as we entered the Bar Harbor marina but the rain remained.

The rest of Thursday and all day Friday were chores to get ready to leave and go to Virginia to help my sister with my brother’s affairs.   I put away gear and cooked food that needed to be eaten for Kurt during my absence.

2013-07-189xA diversion and the talk of the town in Ketchikan was the appearance of the mega-mega-yacht Serene in Tongass Narrows. The vessel is listed at 440 feet long and 59 feet wide.  Mega yachts are not unusual in SE Alaska but this one is reportedly the 10th or 11th largest in the world and owned by a Russian billionaire.  For comparison, the largest of the Alaska state ferries, M/V Columbia, is 418 feet long.

On Saturday morning I headed off.  Those that live in Alaska know how far it is from the east coast.  I walked to the airport ferry, took the ferry across Tongass Narrows, flew to Seattle, waited for 12 hours for my next flight, spent a 3 hour layover in the airline's hub then finally arrived to Virginia 11 a.m. Sunday, about 23 hours after leaving the boat. Because it is summer all the flights were jammed, but I did manage to sleep on my night flight. 

Meanwhile Kurt worked on boat projects including removing one of the toilets that has been misbehaving, due to backflow. He found that the discharge hose had been crimped during installation, and probably the backflow preventer valve slowly quit working.  He also gave the boat a badly needed wash, not something it had had since leaving Bainbridge Island 3-1/2 months ago.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Week 14 - Salmon!

2013-07-156yOn Monday July 15 we departed Sarkar Cove and stopped at a potential halibut spot and I tried jigging. Current and wind kept moving the boat too much so I pulled in gear and we headed off to Bay of Esquibel where I switched to mooching gear for salmon and we tried a spot along the east coasts of the Maurelle Islands. I definitely got some nibbles and then ... another rockfish, which I threw back. So we headed to a delightful anchorage, Nagasay Cove, with a scary narrow, shallow, kelp-obscured entrance. The location experiences afternoon sea breezes but these calmed down in the evening. We were rewarded to a lovely sunset (partly thanks to fires in the Yukon sending sun-reddening smoke into the upper atmosphere).


2013-07-159xOn Tuesday, July 15, 2013 it was beautiful morning and we launched the dinghy and geared up for trolling with the downrigger and went off to try again. Initially we put the gear down to 50 feet. After some time, I said—let's go to 70 feet. And 10 minutes later the rod tipped in a very telling way. I said, yes we do have a fish. And I hoped it wasn't a rockfish mimicking a salmon. Kurt pulled the downrigger in while I fought and reeled in the fish. At last, after 3 cruises to Alaska I caught my own salmon, a silver (Coho). I confess I was very excited. We secured it to the boat and cut the gills to bleed it and I got the gear in the water again and we continued to fish. But the wind was coming up and really I just wanted to go back to the boat and tend to the fish. Once back I measured, photographed and then successfully gutted the fish. (I think my laboratory years payed off) Put blue ice blocks on it and brought it in and filleted it. A total of 3.4 lb plus I saved and froze the trimmings for prawn bait.

On Wednesday we timed our scary exit from Nagasay Cove to be at high slack. It was fine, and the key is distance from two islands in the middle of the entrance channel. You need to be 30 yards from the two islands, and 55 yards from the south shore, and this worked well for us. We crossed the sound and went into Craig. Initially we were told to find a place in the north harbor, but there was no space there so the harbormaster said go to the south harbor, and he moved a boat to accommodate us. Very kind. We like Craig. The only problem is there is no internet wifi at the south cove so we went to the library to access internet. We spent two nights in Craig and did laundry, reprovisioned, internet and had dinner at a fishing lodge that specializes in gourmet food. The seafood was fresh, Alaskan and really well prepared. Yum.

On Friday we left at low tide early (4:15 a.m.) because we were timing slack at Tlevak Narrows a few hours later. We transited the Narrows at exactly the time we wanted to, we had modulated our speed to be there at the high slack. We then did a lovely run down Cordova Bay, planning to spend the night along the way. But based on the forecast, Kurt proposed pushing in our good conditions to a further anchorage, Nichols Bay, immediately west of Cape Chacon. It was a grind to get there, as we had not put the stabilizers in the water but we got there OK. We then proceeded to have the worst experience anchoring that we have ever had. The first location we didn't like the way it suddenly shallowed up (shoaling up). There was someone already in "the spot" in the second location in Nichols Bay. We tried nearby in a deeper location but the anchor was dragging and we had a lot of chain out and were too close to that other boat. So we pulled and went to the head of the bay, which had two rocks we needed to steer clear of. The wind was blowing us around. Well we dropped the anchor and got a really good hook but we were being blown back while dropping and I went and checked the depths at the stern with the handheld depthsounder and was alarmed to see shells and the bottom and 12 feet. Too shallow when the tide went out, soooo….we pulled and tried another spot that was quite deep, would be windy, but we got a good stick and so we called it an anchorage. It was fine, though we would not want to have to wait out bad weather in this spot. So all in all, Nichols Bay did not endear itself to us.

On Saturday morning we pulled anchor at 5:00 a.m. put the stabilizer fish in and headed out of Nichols Bay. Our timing was aimed at rounding Cape Chacon at low slack, which we more or less did and then cross Clarence Straight and flood through Sealed Passage/Felice Strait between Annette and Duke Islands. All went really well and it was very calm and pleasant conditions. We crossed Revillagegido Channel and entered Behm Canal and Misty Fiords National Monument and made our way to Shoalwater Passage to anchor. A section of Shoalwater Passage is charted at 1 ½ fathoms (=9 feet), and with a 4 foot tide we thought we would be in 13 foot depths and have 6-7 feet under our keel. Well, transiting this shallow spot, which is quite long actually, we noticed a least depth of 9 feet, and lots of this section were less than 11 feet. Fortunately we did not ground, made it to deeper waters and in 12 kt of wind, dropped anchor, it was a nice stick but this was not an anchorage protected from the prevailing SW winds.

On Sunday we had a leisurely morning and reflected on having put 25 hours of engine run in the previous two days. We were also waiting for the tide level to reach 6 foot and so we pulled anchor and left around 9:30. It was still windy, and we headed east in Behm Canal. We passed by Punchbowl Cove which can be spectacular, but because it was low clouds and we realized we would see nothing. So we continued on to Fitzgibbon Cove. 2013-07-171xThe satellite weather report suggested: "Areas of drizzle and fog with showers". Just as the Eskimos may have 27 words for snow, so too the NOAA weather forecasters in Alaska have developed a variety of terms to describe rain. Here might be a typical long range forecast: "Monday, rain. Tuesday, rain. Wednesday, rain—heavy at times. Thursday, rain. Friday, rain likely. Making up for the grey skies were a pod of a half-dozen orca heading down Behm Canal.  We put the boat in neutral and watched them go past.

We arrived at Fitzgibbon Cove around 2 p.m.; there were two other vessels, a sailboat and Ranger Tug (really cute trailerable cruising boats) and later a larger vessel came in too. We still have a good bit of wind (10-18 kts) in our anchorage; this was not the 10 kt that was forecast!  We put our crab pots out in the hopes of repeating our 2011 Crabapolosa remarkable harvest.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Week 13 - Tebenkof Bay and around Cape Decision

2013-07-113xMonday, July 8, we planned to spend the day at Shelter Cove and suddenly in the morning saw a bear on the beach! Actually a black bear mom and three tiny cubs! She really worked the beach during low tide. It was very nice to watch them. We also share the cove with several sea otters, who are in really shallow waters and seem not the least bit bothered by us. We put the dinghy in the water and went off fishing at the high slack, but didn't catch anything. But it was a good trip because we used the downrigger and successfully deployed it and I got some nibbles and we didn't lose gear or have to deal with any tangles etc. Good to get the practice. The conditions were not very pleasant, it was raining and the wind came up. Anticipating a genset run for the afternoon I had made bread dough, punched it down before we left for fishing and upon return we fired up the genset and I baked the bread in the toaster oven. Yum. I had thawed prawns and made garlic prawns with spaghetti for dinner.

Tuesday morning we pulled anchor and slowly motored to Petrof Cove, also in Tebenkof. The conditions for going around Cape Decision were not forecast to be acceptable to us until Friday to leave Tebenkof.

2013-07-118xWe are seeing lots of jellyfish in Tebenkof Bay anchorages, which makes fishing and dealing with the ensuing mess on the line unpleasant, plus jellies affect the fishing. No bear on the beach in Petrof, but 3 rafts of 30-50 otters in the cove Wednesday morning. Just curiously looking at us and seemingly unbothered. We headed for a cove in Explorer Basin, (close to Southern Chatham Straight) to spend two nights. We saw a black bear in the west part of the cove, who seemed to know we were there, and was somewhat shy.

2013-07-124-127-Stitch

There were lots of nice kayak areas and we explored first by dinghy across the basin, where we got out into Tebenkof Bay proper and were treated to great humpback whale activity. 2013-07-105xThere were probably 6-10 whales that we could see in the Bay, working separately. One was doing lots of double-flipper slapping. The humpback has flippers that are 1/3 their length, so these are 15' flippers they are slapping around. I don't know why they do this but once they start they continue with the behavior for some time. We also saw several of them breaching. Our main concern was that we didn't want them anywhere near us in the dinghy. Later in the afternoon we brought in the dinghy and launched the kayaks, but by then the wind had come up so we stayed in protected waters. It was a fun area to paddle in, despite the wind.

Later, after putting the kayaks away, we lowered the poles for our stabilizers for travel the next day. The wind had shifted to SW and blew us to the end of our chain putting us quite close to the east shore. We were OK but it was a little nerve wracking. With a good anchor alarm and being well within our anchor circle we had set, we were able to sleep OK. We heard on the weather radio that Cape Decision was blowing 30 with gusts to 38, a little disconcerting as it wasn't forecast to be that high. Friday morning, we left at 5 a.m. so we could round Cape Decision at slack tide. This was before the updated weather would be available. We were in unpleasant head seas. Kurt got the weather via sat phone a little after 6. As it turns out the forecast had changed and our anticipated weather window was no longer forecast. The 3 foot seas were now forecast to be 4 foot seas, and there was special mention of Cape Decision in the forecast discussion. Conditions worse than we expected or wanted. So we decided to bail out in the cove on south east part of Port Malmesbury. But not before both cats suddenly threw up in a bout of "synchronous urping". Everybody on Alpenglow hates the crashing and hobby-horsing of head seas!

We saw a black bear while heading into the anchorage and by carefully looking Kurt was able to spot another black bear, or perhaps even the same one working the low tide beach in our anchorage. This bear was visible for some time as it worked the exposed buffet of clams, seaweed and other goodies.

2013-07-131xOn Saturday, July 13, we headed out and the conditions were worst at the entrance to Port Malmsbury because the current was ebbing strongly and this was against the west wind. Once out and into Chatham Straight proper, we turned beam to the chop it was more comfortable. The stabilizing "fish" really did their job. Cape Decision itself was quite pleasant, with swells but OK. All in all, we named this day "Whale Dodge" because on 4 different occasions whales surfaced in front of us and very close, or next to us and with an apparent path to collide with us. So we took evasive action, turning away from their path. They were all intent on feeding and I don't think paying attention to the vessel traffic. Of course we always give the right of way to whales, especially fishing whales! We passed into Sea Otter Sound of Prince of Wales Island and headed to anchor at Sarkar Cove in El Capitan Passage.

One of the reasons we chose Sarkar Cove was the fishing lodge there that is friendly to cruising boats. The next day we dinghied over to their docks and inquired if that had any guided fishing available (no, fully booked, no cancellations) or if we could procure dinner at the lodge (no, the entire lodge occupied by one large party, so it is theirs, and finally inquired if we could purchase 5 gallons of gas for our dinghies outboard. No problem for the gas. So at least we filled up which allowed more flexibility since we were getting low. We had a leisurely day and it was foggy in the morning but this burned off, and a beautiful day was at hand. I baked bread during genset run and plotted my next fishing attempts.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Week 12 - 4th of July in Sitka

On Monday July 1, we got an early start. Just outside of our anchorage, Samsing Cove, we looked out and two gillnetters had essentially blocked our route, so we had to do a lot of end running to stay clear of their gear. There was an fishery opening on July 1 and we saw lots of other fishing boats headed out. We went in to Sitka and had no problem getting a slip and we were tied up by 10 a.m. and off doing errands. Some folks from our yacht club stopped by and said hello and invited us to appetizers on there boat, m/v "Shot Eight" that evening. I thawed some crab and made crab dip. As is often the case, appetizers become dinner.

Our friends on m/v Passages came in, their children and grandkids were leaving before the 4th. I invited them for dinner on the 3rd and we had a lovely evening. It turns out the fireworks are actually started around 11:30 p.m. on the 3rd. And so we watched the fireworks.

2013-07-017xOn the 4th we went to the parade, which was fun.  Children really look forward to the parade because the tradition is for those in the parade to throw candy to the spectators.  The kids all come prepared with bags into which they put their bounty.  After the parade, I did final provisioning of freshies. 

We were headed out Friday July 5th after we paid our moorage at the harbor office opened at 8 AM.  We headed first to Kalinin Bay to try mooching for salmon, while waiting to do a 4 p.m. transit of Sergius Narrows. We had considered going outer coast to get to Kuiu Island to the east of Baranof Island, but the forecast was for higher seas. So it was the inside for us. Just a few minutes before we had to quit fishing and head to Sergius, I got a bite. No doubt a good size fish. And it didn't feel like a rockfish. I yelled fish-on and reeled it in. 2013-07-035xAs it came into view, I thought I had caught a halibut, because of a white belly, but as I reeled it all the way up I then thought, huge rockfish?? Then it flipped around and I saw the huge head with huge teeth. I had caught a ling cod. So Kurt secured the boat and put us in neutral and came back and we netted the fish, put the net on the swim step and I raced in to check the regulations for Ling Cod. I could keep a 30-35 inch or > 68 inch fish. I thought it was between 30-35" and I got the measure tape and concluded it was between 30 and 35 inches in length. So I was going to keep it.

We passaged through Kakul Narrows, 3 miles before Serguis, and Kurt found a cove just beyond that was calm so we could sit there while I dealt with the fish. I bled it, secured it with cord through the gills and mouth and also the tail and washed it down. Once it was dead, I did a more careful measurement, 34 inches! I covered it with a white towel and keep it wet as we made our way through Sergius Narrows just before slack and to our evening anchorage, a few hours away. We ate dinner underway and got to our anchorage ~ 8:30 p.m. As soon as we were secure, I got out my knives and filleted the Ling Cod. Then a shower and to bed, a tiring day! But I got a good fish!

2013-07-039xWe pulled anchor bright and early on Saturday and left about 4:30 a.m. so we could take advantage of a favorable current, and we got to our next anchorage, Takatz Inlet around 8:30 a.m. It was our first time here and it is yet another beautiful anchorage with plenty of room and nice kayaking. So we did a nice trip around this inlet. When we arrived there was another boat already at anchor and late afternoon two pocket cruise ships, which are common in SE Alaska during the summer, came in and spent the night. Probably each had 4-10 passangers. 2013-07-042x


Bright and early Sunday we pulled anchor and headed south down Chatham Straight – again to take advantage of the current being in our direction. Just past the junction of Fredrick Sound with Chatham Strait we saw lots of whale activity. They were really slapping the water. We stopped to watch two different groups on two occasions before heading off to Tebenkof Bay about half way down the west coast of Kuiu Island. This is a huge bay, rather remote and with many nice spots to anchor. A good place to wait for several days for better conditions for rounding Cape Decision and heading to Prince of Wales Island. We anchored in Shelter Cove to wait out some rain and wind.

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2013-07-069x

Week 11 - SW Coast of Baranof Island

On Monday June 24 we headed out in the dinghy from our anchorage in Herring Bay with halibut gear to fish the slack, and I caught another 2 rockfish. We moved fishing sites and I got nothing. We spent the night again in Herring Bay then on Tuesday headed to Scow Bay where we had a rainy evening.

2013-06-164xThe forecast for the seas were for nice conditions on the outer coast for several days so on Wednesday we headed south in exposed waters. We put our stabilizers out and that made a very nice difference in the boat's ride. We went to Still Harbor, just inside Whale Bay, and a stones throw from the wild coast of Baranof Island. There were lots of whales and once anchored we kayaked to the beach and attempted to get to the outer beach, but the brush was too thick and we were dodging lots of bear poop, constantly calling "Hey bear bear", "Hey bear bear". You never want to surprise them, and certainly we didn't want them to surprise us!

2013-06-171xOn Thursday we headed further south on the outside (there is no inside route on the SW side of Baranof Island) and saw 5 AIS targets in the anchorage we wanted to go to, and it seemed they were getting ready to head out. We had a good hunch as to who they were, the Grand Banks mothership charter group from Bellingham NW Explorations. We had run into them in 2011. We called and asked if they were leaving, and they said yes, and we said we would wait until they had all cleared the narrow entrance before entering a lovely spot known as Reanne's Relief (also has been named Cat Head Cove because of the shape). The entrance is OK, but surf breaks on the rocks on the sides of it and white foam often covers the entrance so it is thrilling but safe in most conditions. We had a lovely day and went kayaking, and it was delightful.

2013-06-192RxOn Friday we headed north back towards Sitka and while underway had a nice chat with our m/v Passages friends, who were having great success fishing. They were in Whale Bay but in a different anchorage than we had used two days earlier. We headed up to Baidarka Cove (First Narrows Cove) which has a narrow entrance with a rock that extends out over half way into the channel. We did it at low tide, so we could see the hazard. This was another lovely place to kayak. The next day, Saturday we waited for low tide to exit and headed back to spend the night in Herring Bay where another vessel, Prime Time came in and after anchoring began to clean fish, salmon and several of them. I had seen the boat in Sitka and knew that the owners were skilled fisherpeople.

2013-06-195xOn Sunday we went to Samsing Cove via Viskari rocks and sightseeing the St Lazaria Island for birds etc. I had been trying to fish for several days, Friday, Saturday and today. I caught a large rockfish, and decided to keep it. So I made rockfish for dinner.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Week 10 - Sitka and South

Monday June 17. With gear to fix, the AP1 to pick up, we decided to head over to Sitka and needed to time the Sergius Narrows for a noon transit. So Kurt was up and out early to pick up the crab pots. There were three keepers. Next he and I went out and retrieved the prawn traps. There were some very nice spot prawns. Yes! So it was back to the boat and a flurry of activity. I got water going to cook crab, and cleaned the prawns (took their heads off and treated the tails in bleach water) 26 large spot prawns and 10 side strip shrimp. Then cleaned the crabs and cooked the sections. Got everything complete and secured and we were pulling anchor by 8:09. The crab sections were cooling off in cold fresh water and I picked them while underway.

We got to Sergius ~ 45 minutes before low slack, and transited. It was fine, not swirly. Next we went through the Neva Straight and to a favorite anchorage, the Magoun Lagoon, 12 miles from Sitka. It was a bit of a nail biter as we entered through the narrow and shallow entrance, we calculated we had about 6 feet under our keel. Inside we noticed it was windy, 10-15 kt wind, but the anchor stuck really, really well. One nice thing about wind is no bugs! Dinner was a crab and shrimp salad.

On Tuesday we got a prompt start and pulled into Sitka ~ 9:30, were given a slip assignment and were off doing errands. I took my reels to the repair person, turned out to be a 5 mile round trip walk; there is a bus, but I must have just missed it. On the way back, I looked out at the entrance to the harbor and saw m/v Passages, owned by our friends Doug & Jill, and called Kurt and told him they were coming into port and to go catch a line, which he did.

Doug and Jill arrived to get ready for the arrival of their son and grandkids. Doug is a top notch fisherman and had been having excellent success fishing. He is also an excellent source of tips. I know he really wants me to catch a king. They had us for dinner that night and by the time we left Sitka I was armed with a number of suggestions and tips.

The next day, we continued with boat chores including taking our dirty laundry the quarter mile to the laundro-mat and installing the repaired autopilot control unit retrieved from the Sitka dealer to whom it had been sent by the manufacturer. Also Dr. Reel came by with my reels, how nice and prompt. So I continued to tie hoochies, etc. And get tips from Doug.

A week or so ago, Kurt noticed that the engine room temperature was more elevated than usual and tracked that down to the failure of the engine room intake fan, which it turns out had some corrosion. So, as soon as we got to Sitka he ordered replacements for that plus the exhaust fan. They arrived the day we planned to leave, Saturday, and he went and collected them at the post office and we left for Viskari Rocks, where it was rather lumpy then to Kalinin Bay.

We hoped to use our new trolling valve on the transmission and the downrigger that now had the part so we could use it on the big boat. We were ready to catch a king! When we got outside the bay, we prepped and went to the hot spot where we discovered that the trolling valve was not working (the trolling valve allows the boat to travel slower than the normal idling speed of 3.5 knots) at all. When we engaged it, the boat was dead in the water and the shaft did not turn at all. We had tested this last March before heading north to Alaska!! It worked then, but not now.

2013-06-150xIt is disconcerting to have a boat dead in the water, especially as close to shore and rocks as we were. So we quickly got ourselves back to "normal cruising" and I tried using the gear at the lowest speed we could go, but all I got were tangles of the flasher and the hoochie. Back to the drawing board. We went in to Kalinin so we could do some troubleshooting. The next morning, Sunday Kurt saw 3 bear on the beach, brownies. Also we confirmed in the protected waters of the Kalinin Bay, the trolling valve was not working. So we headed out and south, and tried "mooching" near Viskari Rocks, and I proceeded to catch 2 rockfish, so I quit. I just don't like catching rockfish. We headed to Herring Bay, where we had been in 2011, it is lovely. That evening, we saw one bear on the beach, a brownie, just moseying along the shore.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Week 9 - On to Juneau and Fishing Flop

2013-06-115xMonday, June 10 we voyaged back to Bartlett Cove, and in the afternoon went on a hike, passing by moose # 15 on the way to the trailhead (the number was on a big collar, with satellite tracking equipment in it). If you are fond of lichen, mosses and fungi, you’ll love hikes in Alaska forests. After the hike, we took a shower and then dinner at the lodge. When we dinghied back to the boat were treated to views of a humpback that was up close and personal, passing within 20 feet of us on 3 different passes. When they are that close you appreciate how big they are! We saw no bear in Bartlett Cove and left after breakfast Tuesday morning. 

2013-06-126xDuring our stay in Glacier Bay the weather changed from the expected Alaskan grey and rain to simply glorious weather, some of the best we had ever experienced in Alaska.  At the head of the dock in Bartlett Cove is a display showing a photo of the Fairweather Range in the NW corner of the park as viewed from Bartlett Cove.  Our weather matched that in which the display photo was taken.

2013-06-137x Our Tuesday night destination was Funter Bay, where we tried to catch crab, didn’t get any keepers and left two pots soaking while we went on Wednesday to Juneau for a couple of days. While motoring northbound on Lynn Canal, we passed by 8 to 10 humpback whales actively feeding near the shore of Admiralty Island. The sun passing through their spout was dramatic.

We got to Auke Bay, Juneau by around 10:30. In contrast to almost all of the other harbors in SE Alaska, the harbormaster does not manage the slips. It is first-come-first- serve, sort of a free-for–all. As we approached the rather full looking docks, Kurt spied someone leaving and he superbly backed into the spot they had vacated. We were lucky and doing laundry by 11:30 and had lunch at the Wafflehouse, and realized we could take the bus to the post office downtown to pick up mail and get that out of the way. So we did and picked up some parts from Fishery Supply and our forwarded mail. The prescription for Prozac gel for the cats was not there, so we called the compounding pharmacy and after some investigation, they called back chagrined and said they had sent it regular mail and not by priority mail, which I had specified. Priority mail is how we get things sent to us. Regular mail takes 2+ weeks. So they will refill the prescription and send it along to Sitka-via priority mail.

2013-06-040xThursday was a flurry of activity and the weather was quite lovely. Kurt picked up a rental car at the airport at 8 and we were soon off doing errands. First was to Petco to get a kitty litter refill. Maggie is very particular about the brand of litter she uses. Then I saw they had an intriguing selection of Fancy Feast canned cat food. The variety pack we normally get at Costco contains 1/3 of the cans as Cod and Shrimp, which neither cat seems to like all that much. So we decided to relegate that flavor to crab bait for the 3 cases of catfood on the boat and just get more of the salmon (Annie’s fav) and whitefish and tuna, which Maggie loves. I also bought one can of 3 new flavors and we were off to Costco. We loaded up with things such as diet Coke, Talking Rain, and an assortment of other things (but no cat food!) and went back to the boat. I opened the three new flavors and boy did the cats inhale all three. So after lunch at Hot Spot CafĂ© at the top of the dock we went off shopping, part two, and back to Petco for more of the new flavors. We also went to the Western Auto and Sporting Goods (and fishing store), where I discovered they had baby octopus—which is an excellent bait for halibut. Turns out there was none available last year, and supplies just came in a short time ago. I had been looking for it ever since Ketchikan to no avail. Then we hit the Alaska Brewing Co. to sample what is new and lastly went to Fred Meyers for more freshies, then back to boat.

We noticed the vessel Seaducktress, on the docks when we returned. She is an early cousin of our boat, built in the same yard in China. No-one was aboard, so I went back and left our boat card. Later the owners came by, and we had a lovely chat and then after dinner went over to their boat for some wine and further conversation. We had never met, but know some of the same people. We had seen the vessel in a shed having some paint work when we were ourselves hauled out in Port Townsend in March. And they had seen our vessel too.

On Friday, after Kurt returned the car, we left Juneau and went to Funter to pick up the crab pots. We had one keeper and put him in a bucket with water, being careful to keep him out of the sun. We then went on to Swanson, got on the public dock and dropped two pots. A 61’ boat, The Office came in wanting the 40 foot spot behind us on the dock. We moved our dinghy from behind our boat, and they were able to squeeze in, with 20+’ sticking out the front of the dock. They had several halibut on a stringer, so the day had been good to them. I was excited about going halibut fishing the next morning to the spot where I caught my first halibut (in 2010). I occasionally watched as the fish were cleaned and filleted on their swim step, about 2’ behind our boat. Later there was a knock on our boat and I opened the door to be presented with two very nice size halibut fillets! I said thank you and was told “This is for being so nice about moving your dinghy”. So halibut, and a good thing because the next morning, we went out and I experienced equipment problems with the star drag, which I had forgotten to relearn, and also upon examination I realized it had been damaged and bent. So I ended up cutting the line, we came back with our tails between our legs and then Kurt checked the crab pots. All undersized crabs. So Swanson was not good to us this trip. We decided to leave. I still had the crab from Funter Bay and I made sure he wasn’t in the sun. I had wanted to cook him with other crab, but that was not to be. So we secured things, untied and headed for Pavloff Cove. By now we had named the crab—Funter for the place he was taken.

It was a hot day, and I made sure Funter was kept out of the sun. I decided on a crab cocktail to have with the halibut for dinner. We got to Pavloff, no bears on the beach. And dropped anchor. I got my crab dispatching tools, the cleaver, mallot and tongs. Kurt pulled him out of the bucket and placed him on the tray. I looked in dismay, as clearly Funter had died. Lifeless. And I had checked him just prior to anchoring, perhaps a half hour earlier and he was alive. Lesson learned. When you are having record heat in SE Alaska, you need to process the crab more quickly.

2013-06-143xWe left early Sunday morning and headed for Hoonah Sound, recalling all the wonderful prawns we had caught ~ 3 weeks earlier. There was a lot of commercial fish activity in the sound including ~ 30 crab pots in our anchorage. Despite this we decided to set two of our own pots and Kurt went out to do this. Meanwhile I heard the unmistakable breathing of Orca and there was one just at the entrance to our cove who later proceeded in and circled the cove, presumably feeding. We left in the dinghy with the prawn pots and headed to 250 feet of water where we had previous success and set them. We saw the Orca working the next cove over from us. It was quite hot in our anchorage and boat because the sun was out and because it was not windy. This meant the no-see ums and deer flies descended upon us. So we couldn’t sit outside. I had reasonable success with the tennis racket zapper, which when you get a deer fly is very satisfying. After a tasty dinner of halibut tacos (no, not deer flies), I looked out and………bear on the beach, not all that far away. A brownie. Possibly the same one we saw three weeks ago.

Week 8 - Very sad news

2004-04-054xOn Monday June 3, we departed very early and were at the outer dock in Hoonah by around 9 a.m. We then tracked down the harbormaster and were able to get an assignment in a slip with power and water. We had the laundry done by around noon and were working on our to do list when Kurt cleared messages on his cell phone (my T mobile wouldn’t get anything). There was a message from my sister saying “call me asap”. I called her cell and thru some static learned that my brother Mark (far left in the 2004 photo taken on our first boat) had passed away. Cindee was in Virginia working through everything. Mark had health problems and died in his apartment—hopefully peacefully. I provided a notarized statement granting permission for Cindee to serve as administrator, something she really needed to continue handling things. We determined there was nothing I could do at this time so Kurt and I provisioned to proceed with our cruise.

2013-06-007xOn Wednesday we departed Hoonah at 4 a.m. and headed for Glacier Bay, where we had a permit for 6 days. Following breakfast at the lodge and the required briefing at park headquarters in Bartlett Bay, we headed out to Blue Mouse Cove where we anchored for two nights, with much of it rainy. We did see a bear on the beach on Thursday, the very beach we had hiked during a clear spell. It was a blackie. I also took advantage of the “down” time to try a cinnamon roll recipe from one of my cruising cookbooks.

2013-06-014xOn Friday we headed for the Marjerie Glacier; there was a lot of ice in the water and we decided not to go to the face of the glacier. We have been there two times before, in better visibility with blue skies and so we left to look for other park treats. On the way to the Marjerie , we passed close to Gloomy Knob and could see it really well and there were lots and lots of white cotton puff colored goats, many with babies. Also on the way we saw a brown bear on the beach across from Russell Island.

2013-06-035xThat evening, a new anchorage awaited us, Shag Cove in Geikie Inlet. On the way in to Shag Cove or that evening we saw 4 black bears in different locations, and presume the bear we saw the next morning was one of the 4. Wow. This cove is beautiful, with towering snow covered mountains all around. The next morning, Saturday, while getting ready to pull anchor, I glanced up out our pilothouse window to be looking eye to eye with a humpback whale who had risen ~ 10 plus feet out of the water to take a look at us. This is called spyhopping. The whale was between us and the shore and less than 100 yards away in rather shallow water. S(he) continued slowly circling the cove, and then headed out. And so did we with our next destination Sandy Cove via the Wachusett Inlet. It was a blue skies kind of day and spectacular. Then off to our anchorage, for a night with a black bear on the west beach and a brownie and her cub on the east beach. She suddenly started to smell the air, and then hurried off with her cub. I suspect she caught a whiff of the black bear (or was it me!) No it was likely the blackie, as the bears especially in this area of the park are fairly used to the non-threatening boats and the people they carry.

2013-06-089xOn Sunday we headed out to North Finger Bay via the Marble Islands, renowned for birds and Steller Sea Lions. We saw quite a few Puffins but not as many as seen in the past. We did see a lot of the sea lions hauled out, including the big bulls bellowing at each other. We felt like we might be disturbing the wildlife because of the racket, but after moving away we realized, it was the bulls jostling for position that caused upset in the sea lion groups and groups of birds fighting over nesting territory. We hadn’t bothered them at all. Our next Glacier Bay treat was to come upon a group of ~ 10-20 humpback whales bubble feeding. Later there were two bears on the beach, on opposite sides of the cove in our North Finger anchorage plus we had a visit by a humpback, a bit in the distance, while there. The beautiful weather continued.

Week 7 - Bears on the beach.

Monday May 27, Memorial Day, we pulled anchor and headed to Peril Straight and Appleton Cove. We were intent on doing some crabbing before the commercial season started. We placed two pots, the skies were blue and in the evening we were able to spot brown bears, a momma and cub on one side of the cove and then two other brownies on the other side. They had come down to graze on the grasses. WOW.

On Tuesday morning, we pulled blanks so we weighed anchor and headed to Hoonah Sound to try our luck at prawning. We set two prawn traps and three crab pots. Kurt and I each placed guesses when the sun would set behind the ridge in our new cove, I guessed 9:00, and it set at 9:03. Not bad! I rarely win those type of competitions with Kurt. It all had to do with where on the ridge and our boat position. A short time later, Kurt spotted a brownie on the beach. We are seeing bears in nearly every anchorage where we would expect to see them it seems.

2013-05-209xWednesday May 29th, Kurts birthday and no rest for the weary. We started checking pots early. Found 1 keeper crab in the pot in our cove, and one undersized in two pots in another cove. But we hit the bonanza with the prawn pots. Forty two nice sized spot prawns and two coon stripe! We reset two crab pots in our cove and pulled everything else and were really glad we did because the wind really kicked up in the afternoon, so it would have been quite a challenge to retrieve the pots that were a distance away. But the wind died down, and around 5 p.m. Kurt pulled the crab pots in our cove and each had a very nice size keeper, one over 8”. I was cooking the birthday dinner, including fresh bread during our genset run. I hurried out to dispatch the crab, and clean and cook them before ending the genset run. I then finished making dinner—spaghetti with prawns and the crab sections were cooled and refrigerated overnight.

On Thursday May 30 we headed back out Peril Straight to Chatam Straight with a bright and early 5 a.m. start to take advantage of a favorable ebb current and try to get off Chatam Straight before the afternoon winds hit. I picked the crab and packaged it and froze it. Along the way we saw a big brownie on the beach along Peril Straight. Later for the first time this season the Alaska State Ferry HSC Fairweather (High Speed Craft) 35+ kts passed by us, they were heading southbound in Chatham Straight to Peril Straight and Sitka. They go 5-6 times faster than us! We suspect they will pass by us at other times this cruising season.

2013-05-208xJust as we were getting near the turn into Pavlof Bay, our anchorage spot for the night, we spotted a humpback whale who put on quite a show for us, with lots of jumping and water slapping. In fact we needed to change course to make sure we gave the whale a nice wide berth before turning into Pavlof. There were ~ a half dozen eagles to greet us at the entrance and ……… three bears on the beach! Brownies all, grazing the lush grasses together and we think they are a momma bear and her two yearlings. With the rangefinder, I determined they were 271 yards away from where we anchored, a distance that changes as the boat swings around due to wind or current.

2013-05-213xFriday May 31 we left early again, and the whale waved goodby as we left Pavlof. Very grey day but conditions not as bad as we thought they would be. We went to Port Fredrick and past Hoonah, a Tlinket town just off Icy Straight and further in into Neka Bay, north bight. No beach bear upon arrival, but there was a humpback who greeted us as we turned into the bight. We anchored and spent 3 nights in this very lovely but bear-less setting. We did not see any bears. We set crab pots and one shrimp pot and got one crab 7” but otherwise struck out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Week 6 - Going to new places (and some old favorites)

2013-05-156xOn Monday May 20, we departed Petersburg around 9 a.m. No drama due to currents even though we weren’t at slack water. Once out and nearing the confluence of Fredrick Sound and Stephens Passage, we began to experience first, 3 foot choppy seas, then 3-4 foot chop as the wind picked up. The forecast was for even higher winds and stiffer seas, so we looked for a bail out from our original plans and went to Read Island, in Farragut Bay, a new anchorage for us. Not as nice as our original destination, Pybus Bay on Admiralty Island, but that would have taken 6 or 7 more hours of unpleasant and worsening conditions. Read was nice enough, and we set two prawn traps. But nothing in either, except one small shrimp.

2013-05-161xOn Tuesday, we did a weather day in Read, waiting for things to calm down and on Wednesday headed out, in much improved conditions from when we left Fredrick Sound. Even then it was a bit lumpy. Our next stop was Goose Cove on Kuiu Island, another new anchorage where we hoped to do some crabbing. We noted sea otters as we headed south in Keku Straight towards our anchorage but stopped seeing sea otters quite a ways before Goose. We also got cell phone service in Keku Straight, and seeing message, I called our friends on m/v Passages. We had just missed them in Petersburg (by an hour!) had a nice chat and expect we will see them in Sitka. At Goose Cove, there was a big float house at the head of the cove, still plenty of room for us. No-one around though. We set some crab pots found 1 small crab in one the next morning, not a keeper. Thursday, and reset a total of 3. Lots of eagles in the anchorage and a carcass on the shore for them…. probably a large deer. The weather was nice blue skies in the evening.

2013-05-165xThe next morning, Friday, we pulled pots and drew all blanks. Pulled dinghy in and then left and went to the Tlinket village of Kake to the brand new dock a fellow cruiser had said they had used the year before. No other boats on it, and we docked and started walking looking for someone to ask about it. Well, the person in charge found us, he drove up and asked if it was our boat and what our intentions were. As it turns out, we weren’t supposed to be there, it wasn’t open yet; We apologized and were told we could not spend the night, but a couple of hours was OK. We indicated perhaps we would seek out the totem pole (tallest in the world) and were provided directions to get there. So we did ~ 3 mile round trip walk to the totem pole then returned to the boat and left. We thought we would go to an anchorage we used in 2011, Honey Dew Cove a couple of hours from Kake. Well, when we approached we saw there were two boats rafted and anchored in this very small place. No room for us. Sooooo, we looked for another anchorage nearby, and tried Lord’s Pocket, which has rock strewn entrances, and once anchored we decided it was just too small for us. A 40 foot boat might do OK here, but we were just too big, and didn’t like the depth under our stern. Soooo, we left and headed to “Honey Dew” backup. We were slightly on edge. We found it to be a very nice anchorage, that wouldn’t do in a big storm, but our weather and winds were fine, and it was lovely. The forecast indicated we could get to Bay of Pillars on west coast of Kuiu Island but would face 3 ft chop in S. Chatham.

On Saturday morning, we left bright and early at 5 and the conditions were quite good, and if the chop developed it was after we left Chatham and turned into Bay of Pillars. There were a few fish boats anchored in coves near the entrance to this large bay, but we motored past and found a lovely spot completely secluded with very fine vistas. We had lunch, dropped the dinghy and near high water slack set off to explore.2013-05-169x There is an inner basin that is accessed by a narrow channel with rocks and fast current and swirlies that would require transiting this area at slack water with a careful lookout and proceeding slowly in a big boat, but in the dinghy we entered the basin. The current was still flooding and we would not have wanted to be there in Alpenglow. The inner basin is huge, the reason why the current through the narrow channel. We decided it was not lovely enough to risk the entrance, and when we got in there we found it to be more windy than where we were anchored! We saw a black bear grazing on the beach grasses in the evening back on Alpenglow.

2013-05-181xWe had a leisurely start Sunday morning, waiting for favorable flood current for Chatham. The conditions are calm, a good day to get out of Southern Chatham Straight. On the way out of the Bay, we saw a Selene (a brand of yacht) anchored in another cove and headed north to Ell Cove, a very well protected and lovely anchorage. Second time we have been there and it is a favorite.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cruising SE Alaska 2013 – Week 5

WEEK 5: Petersburg this week! On Monday May 13, we passaged through Zimovia Straight, which we had not previously done. There are a lot of rocks and foul ground in this straight, but navigation markers show the safe route, and it was fine. We got into Wrangell around 12 noon and were off to buy a few things. Kurt’s troubleshooting of AP-1 caused us to conclude it was the unit itself and we sent it off to the manufacturer, ComNav.

The next day, Tuesday, we figured out the timing and left at 11:50 to transit Wrangell Narrows, which is a tricky piece of water with 60 navigational markers. Our goal was to not go through the parts with really strong current when at the maximum velocity and yet to arrive in Petersburg at high water slack. Because Petersburg, being right on the end of the Wrangell Narrows channel can be a real challenge for docking due to current. Both times we have visited Petersburg we have experienced problems with current --white knuckles and by the skin of our teeth avoided damage. This time we did just fine and we now know exactly the best way to run this northbound with our boat; we kept a careful log of the passage, recording predicted current and taking our actual data. We entered (Pt Alexander) 20 minutes after the predicted maximum flood current for South Ledge, so that when we got to South Ledge it was 1 hour 20 minutes after its maximum flood current. And we were entering Petersburg Harbor 2 ½ hours after entering Wrangell Narrows and were within 5 minutes of high water slack. And the docking was no problem and we were right next to where we were in 2011.

The next day, Wednesday we got information and had questions answered on the Petersburg Little Norway Festival, timed to celebrate Norway’s Constitution Day on May 17 and Kurt changed the oil and tested the pump for autopilot 1 to confirm the pump is not the cause of the problem for AP-1. The pump works fine. To test Kurt devised a button switch with inline fuse and hooked that up to the pump electrical with me watching to confirm the action of pump in the lazarette. Kurt also changed the engine oil and ran the 4th hose for defroster (something we have done without, because the builder ran out of hose when installing this system) It will be nice to have additional defrost capability, because in the wet SE Alaska, the windows do fog up.

Petersburg certainly is a great place to come to if you want to see eagles. There are two seafood processing factories in town, and the eagles have figured this out. There is one tree in which I counted 14 eagles in 2010. The fishing season hasn’t begun in earnest yet, but there is lots of activity getting boats ready. But the eagles are ready and waiting.

Thursday there were two events-- I went to the Rosemaling class, this is a Norwegian art form, then an afternoon of rain followed in the evening by a comedy musical presented by the Mitkoff Mummers (the local thespian group) about a fellow who thought he inherited a saloon, but it turned out to be a salon (as in hair!). It was great fun, and we really sensed the community spirit of Petersburg. Two cruising vessels we have anchored or docked near came in today, one we helped with their lines in Wrangell, and the other who anchored in same location as us on Dundas Island the night before crossing Dixon. We also saw the m/v Wildelife in Ketchikan.

2013-05-099xOn Friday I was in line at 11:15 for tickets to the always-sells-out fashion show and luncheon in the Sons of Norway Hall. So we had great seats for this, and enjoyed seeing 75 or so model their traditional Norwegian Bunader, the traditional fancy dress of Norway. It was really enjoyable. 2013-05-094xWe didn’t just see each outfit, but heard the history of it; many had been handed down, often for multiple generations, many had been sewn from Norwegian fabric then embroidered by the owner. Quite a few had been purchased in Norway, and several were gifts from Norwegian cousins! There is a Petersburg Bunader, designed especially for Petersburg children, that were shown off first at the fashion show and then when groups of schoolchildren danced through the streets during the parade that took place a couple hours later down Main Street (renamed Nordic Avenue by those folks in Juneau) but still referred to as Main Street in the program guide. The parade was followed by the Herring toss. Then we headed up to Beer Bites, deep fried beer battered halibut bites. They were really good. That was dinner and we were both tired enough to fall asleep during the Nova episode we tried to watch.

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2013-05-152xSaturday morning we went to the Coast Guard Station for a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa and also Elderberry (a coast guard navigation marker tender), then to the Moose Hall for beer bites by the Moose women followed by standing in line for 30 minutes, much in the pouring rain to get back into Son of Norway Hall for Kaffe hus – Scandinavian sandwiches and pastries and goodies. 2013-05-154xWe were soaked to the bone by the time we got into the building. We missed the festival pageant, forgot the time, when we got to talking to Silver Star owners, who provided us with some good fishing tips. Many of the events at the Festival are for fundraising purposes, for example, the all-you-can eat shrimp dinner is for the basketball team. We got tickets for that on Wednesday. Still you lined up and waited, in the buffet line. It wasn’t raining, but kind of windy. This event was held at the Petersburg Fisheries Cookhouse. The shrimp was good and everywhere we go, we chat with people while in line, and at tables. We are made to feel welcome, and made to feel like we belong here. It is a great community, with great community spirit and respect and care for their heritage. This is not a theme town like Leavenworth—this is the real deal. The buildings don’t look Norwegian, though a sign or design may be painted with Rosemale, because this is not Norway, and materials are Alaskan, not what might be found in Norway, but when the people go to a special occasion, they probably wear their bunader!

Sunday is wind down day for the Festival, just a couple of activities. We attended the pancake breakfast at St Catherine Catholic Church; there was no line and the pancakes were great. We decided to skip the lunch seafood bake at a beach 2 miles out of town so we could prepare for our departure on Monday. Plus there are still some very heavy shower downpours, and it sure is cold, in the low 40s. With gusty winds etc. We woke up to see fresh snow in the trees at about the 700 foot level on the mountainous island across the channel. We had pancakes, paid our moorage bill, went grocery shopping for freshies, then stocked up on wine and beer, and some new fishing gear, all in between showers. We expect to be about 15 days out before coming into a town, Honnah, with grocery store, internet and cell coverage before going to Glacier Bay on 5 June. Then to Juneau and after that make our way to Sitka. Plans after that are highly dependent on conditions and weather.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Alaska 2013 – Round Three

Since I have been so delinquent in posting to the blog, Marcia is pitching in. The following post are her notes summarizing our activities week by week.

PRE TRIP PREPARATIONS: Provisioning—now this being our third SE Alaska trip, provisioning is based on previous years. At the end of 2011, I took inventory of what we started with minus what we had left, and that has become some very useful data. So filled the ships stores with lots pasta, oatmeal, tea, coffee, rice, beans, no salt added diced tomatoes, tomato paste, low salt chicken broth, dry cereals, soy milk, coconut milk, multigrain chips, pita chips, walnuts, almonds, trail mix (human Kibble), and lots of Fancy Feast cat food, including the newly discovered favorite, gravy lovers whitefish and tuna. Plus lots baby food, (special treat for cats when we stop the monster engine) the small duck kibble (for Maggie) and of course an adequate supply of kitty litter for the trip. Then found Tillimook shredded cheese for really good price, and with good shelf life bought quite a few pks of these. Plus other cheeses. In addition, cooked and froze “tubes” of ground turkey, in Mexican spice flavor and sausage flavor and also made packages of meatballs. Plus froze 8 packages of chicken breasts, and 9 steaks, and also got a really nice 12 lb pork shoulder and pre-cooked half as BBQ pork, and the other as Pernil, and froze aliquots of these. Also laid in frozen petit corn and peas, and green beans and spinach. So all needed is to buy “freshies” And of course catch crab, prawns and fish in Alaska!

2013-03-030yWhile I worked on provisions, Kurt was making ready the mechanicals, often “breaking the boat” (i.e. temporarily making it inoperable) while he performed maintenance, testing the dinghy outboard, etc, etc, etc. Oh, and in March, we took the boat to Port Townsend where we hauled out for first time since taking delivery, and removed our perfectly good rudder, and replaced it with an articulated rudder we had engineered by Bayview Engineering. Since we are a single engine (with a bow thruster) we were interested in improved performance for close quarter maneuvering that is the promise of an articulated rudder. We also put on new bottom paint, although the bottom looked really good, and replaced the forward sonar transducer, we crunched on ice in 2011. It is fairly forward on the bow. Plus a last minute project, we welded on some protective fins for this transducer. We are pleased with the results, as the sonar transducer seems to work well and we believe will be protected from damage due to logs and ice in the future. In addition, we purchased a satellite phone (and minutes!), for emergency contact, text message emails AND for downloading the weather, done by email request for specific areas.

There are several cruxes of a passage north to SE Alaska, which start in WA and may be quite easy or nasty depending on wind, current and sea conditions. Weather and currents are carefully reviewed in advance to determine routing and whether we go or wait. These crux locations are:

1. Admiralty Inlet, the east entrance to the straight of Juan de Fuca, where you can look out at where the Pacific Ocean enters the Salish Sea. This can be very rough and hazardous if winds are high, swell is big and this all opposes the current. This straight separates Vancouver Island from the state of Washington. Admiralty Inlet can be avoided by going east of Whidby Island if conditions aren’t good. The name of the Salish Sea has recently been approved by USA and Canada agencies to describe the body of water that is the inside passage, and also Puget Sound and the waters between Vancouver Island and BC. So it is official.

2. Haro Straight, can be difficult when high wind and current oppose. Plus you really need to watch out for freighters at Turn Point. You cross this to get from San Juan Islands to the Canadian Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

3. Straight of Georgia, 110 miles long and 15+ miles wide separates the mainland from Vancouver Island. The wind gets funneled and with opposing current the waves can be steep and close.

4. Choke points: There are three ways to north Vancouver Island and Johnstone Straight: Seymour Narrows, Okisollo Channel or Dent- Yuculta rapids. All must be timed to passage at slack water, which usually lasts just a few minutes (4 minutes?). Even at slack there are lots of swirls and while there are many locations in the inside passage that must be timed, especially by us, everyone times these. So on this trip we plan to passage Seymour Narrows on 26 April, when slack before the ebb north is 0556. These choke points all occur north of where the current changes for Vancouver Island, from flood north/ebb south to flood south/ebb north. (Puget Sound floods south and ebbs north since there is only one inlet.)

5. Johnston Straight is north of Seymour Narrows and especially susceptible to funneled winds and opposing current and the nasty conditions these cause.

6. Queen Charlotte Straight is where the Pacific swells and sea states come in between north end of Vancouver Island and the mainland. A lot of this can be avoided by crossing to the Broughton Islands and taking inside channels.

7. Cape Caution is one of two areas on the Inside Passage Route exposed to the Pacific Ocean. It is the point of land north of Vancouver Island and on the mainland, fully exposed to the Pacific Ocean swell and sea states that must be rounded to get back into protected waters.

8. Dixon Entrance is the body of water that separates SE Alaska from British Columbia and it is open to swell and sea states of Pacific Ocean.

9. Storms in general can turn most of the waters into difficult or hazardous situations, we are always monitoring the weather and when a big storm is coming we head for cover to wait it out.

SNEAKING NORTH TO PETERSBURG

For this year’s cruise we decided we wanted to attend the Petersburg Little Norway Festival, May 16-19, and so to accomplish this we left earlier than we have in the past.

2013-04-012xWEEK 1: We headed north April 15, immediately after the Bainbridge Island (BI) outstation work party for our yacht club, where we moor the boat during offseason. We left our car in a secured storage facility on BI. Our first port of call was Anacortes, after using Admiralty Inlet route. It got a little bouncy, not bad for us but bad enough that both cats got sick. We had our Kabola heater serviced on Tuesday then took on 600 gallons of fuel the next morning before heading out to Stuart Island in the San Juan Islands, our last US anchorage for awhile. Next morning we crossed to Sidney BC, cleared customs, bought freshies we couldn’t bring across border, and headed to Todd Inlet to anchor. We found a pair of eagles and three offspring, different ages that are in residence at Todd Inlet. On Friday, in the rain, we took our dinghy to dinghy dock of Butchart Gardens and after a bit, the rain abated and we had a lovely day wandering around the gardens, with their spectacular bloom of spring flowers. Because the gelato stand was closed (where we were hoping to get blood orange gelato) we ended up doing high tea, which was good and nice to do. Back to boat for another night in Tod then next day off to Ganges on Saltspring Island, where out yacht club has docking privileges. The restaurant we were looking forward to had closed down, so it was off for more freshie provisioning, and we were delighted to find that the gelato store had blood orange gelato! Yum.

On Sunday we headed north and decided to make a push and cross the straight of Georgia in the afternoon. Tsk, tsk. We faced 10-15 kt north winds and head seas, and then suddenly the winds clocked around and increased to 20-25 kts now producing following seas. It didn’t take long in the head seas, which are loud as boat crashes up and down for both cats to get sick and they retreated to corners of master stateroom, the quietest place in boat. Kurt and I switched helm duties every 5 miles, and I would go down and comfort the cats, who were meditating about life in Tucson, just sure of it. The following seas and winds had the benefit of increasing our speed. Finally across and into Pender Harbor on the mainland, which was not windy, no wilderness but a good anchorage for the night.

2013-04-052xWEEK 2: Monday, April 22, we headed north, in benign conditions. We noticed smoke shapes over Texada Island. A heart, question mark, other things, then a ring. We wondered if this was a proposal! The mountain ranges have plenty of snow and they were all out. Both on mainland and also on Vancouver Island. Two things we have noticed heading north, lots of gear, prawn and also crab and lots of Buffleheads and Barrow Goldeneyes (both diving ducks that winter over in WA and BC.). We went into Squirrel Cove on Cortez Island, to spend a day at anchor while waiting for our date with Seymour Narrows. Lots of birdlife, including Common loons, Common mergansers, Surf Scoters and a pesky eagle who is scrounging around for some tasty ducklings or some such. On Tuesday it was lovely weather, though the long range forecast was for something to come in on Saturday. We kayaked to shore and hiked to the inlet 1 ¼ miles across the island through beautiful forest with outstanding moss. There were lots of large tree trunks to go up and over, huge Doug Fir and cedar. After lunch back on the boat and near high tide we kayaked to the entrance to a lagoon, best done at high tide, and easy in. Was very nice though it seems we startled several birds. It was 66 degrees and certainly flybridge weather. Wed. morning we pulled anchor and went to Gorge Harbor, which is on the same Island, has a narrow but scenic entrance and is the location of fish farms, lots of second homes and the Gorge Harbor Marina Resort. We anchored but took dinghy in hoping to dine at their well regarded restaurant. Not open this early in the season except weekends. There seems to be a theme, we are very early, and we don’t see other pleasure craft. Thursday we pulled anchor and headed to Campbell River to do shopping for freshies, laundry, wash salt off the boat and make ready to transit the Seymour Narrows bright and early Friday. We departed the dock in the dark at 0430 and were 3 minutes early for the slack at Seymour Narrows, perfect timing. Seymour was no problem, but later, in Race Passage, with the increasing ebb current we got to 12 knots speed, and had to deal with a lot of swirly water. Also, lots of logs. We made it out of Johnstone Straight into our anchorage just as the waters were starting to get choppy. High winds were forecast for Friday afternoon and Saturday, so we planned to be in Port Harvey for a couple of days. It was windy in Port Harvey, and we decided to leave next morning and take Havana Channel inland, timing Chatham Narrows, and on to Waddington Bay in the Broughton Islands. No other boats seen, just logs. We finished the week on Sunday motoring to Claydon Bay, and saw Orca and a HUGE convention of Grebes, hundreds of them floating in a giant patch on the water. At first we thought a large seaweed patch, but no, it was a Grebe patch!

2013-04-086xWEEK 3: On Monday, 4/29, we decided to stick our nose out and try to get to Allison Bay, which is only 16 miles from Cape Caution. The forecast for Tuesday was favorable to Cape Caution. But as we headed out, yet were still in the protected waters of Wells Passage we started to encounter head seas indicative of rather rough water in Queen Charlotte Straight / start of Queen Charlotte Sound. So we turned around and went to Carriden Bay and anchored to wait until Tuesday morning. We couldn’t get the weather on the VHF radio in the anchorage, which would have given us the real time buoy reports and so headed out early Tuesday, and started monitoring the buoy and lighthouse reports. The deck was icy, and we were underway at 6 a.m. We dropped our poles and headed into it, 3 ft head seas, not too much on the beam, the conditions did not worsen and we made it around and into protected waters and anchored at Kwakume Inlet. The conditions for the rest of the week were forecast to be worse, and we later confirmed this via weather reports, so we did hit the weather and sea condition window just right. Being in inside waters we continued Wednesday to Discovery Cove, a new anchorage for us, pleasant enough, still not seeing hardly any vessel traffic, we saw more Orca and also a humpback, all heading north in the same protected waters as we were in. Based on the weather forecast we downloaded via sat phone, we took a storm day in Discovery Cove on Thursday, inside we were OK, some winds in the teens but not in the 20-30s. And on Friday we headed north and did a brief section of outside waters, Milbanke Sound, which was quite OK, and the lighthouse reports (Ivory Island and also McInnes Island) indicated we would find Milbanke OK as we did. Then to Khutze Inlet on the east side of Grenville Channel, an anchorage where you set your anchor on a bar with deeper sections on either side. We did so and pulled the anchor chain to the inland deeper water and this strategy worked well, when the current changed to ebb, i.e. flowing out of the inlet going to low tide, the chain draped down from the bar kept us in a tight area. It was a very pleasant evening, and we sat on the flybridge and watched a group of Steller Sea Lions moving around the anchorage, I assume they were feeding. On Saturday we went to Kumelon, the last inlet on Grenville, and last good anchorage before Chatham Sound, where the Skeena River outlet combined with opposing strong winds can make for some distasteful sea conditions. We passed the Nat Geo Sea Lion small cruise ship, who was outside Baker Inlet and we came to realize they were holding there while small tenders were taking passengers into this inlet, just 6 miles south of Kumelon. We read up on this inlet and later after we anchored and downloaded the weather report decided on Sunday to go back to spend a couple of days in Baker Inlet while waiting for the weather and conditions to improve for crossing Dixon Entrance to SE Alaska. 2013-05-022xBaker Inlet has a very narrow entrance to the inlet, with a blind corner that you must time to transit it at slack waters, which we did. Once in we were enchanted with the beauty of Baker Inlet. As we have found in all our anchorages, we were the only vessel. The mountains surrounding the anchorage are stunning, and a huge black bear did some beach grazing on grasses to entertain us.

WEEK 4: On Monday, May 5, we stayed put in Baker Inlet, as planned, based on weather forecast and were joined by two other pleasure craft traveling together, including m/v Wildelife, whom we met while cruising in 2007. We also, with a wind shift, decided we were too close to the shallow water and so we pulled anchor and moved into some deeper water, about 100 yards 2013-05-032xfrom original spot. Next morning, we headed out, to catch the morning 6 a.m. slack water to depart the Watts Narrows entrance into the inlet. The conditions became a little rough in Chatham Sound but still OK and we made it to Dundas Island, in position for Dixon Entrance and the favorable forecast for the next day. On Wednesday, May 8 we crossed Dixon Entrance and were tied up in Ketchikan at 12:49 p.m., with no drama in docking. (Ketchikan can be windy!). We had a list of errands to do, laundry, including all the rugs, as the cats had thrown up on all of them by the time we got to Ketchikan! We also did grocery and beverage shopping, obtained fishing licenses, checked email, paying bills, etc, etc. We did really well and were ready to leave Friday morning so we could passage the unavoidable 20 miles of Clarence Straight when conditions were good (but forecast to worsen the next day). We headed for Santa Anna Inlet, which is actually on the mainland, thinking we would try some crabbing and prawning. There were a lot of Dall Porpoises who played on our bow wake along the way, always wonderful. I mean a lot, and a set of three accompanied us into Santa Anna. We set our pots and the next morning discovered nothing, except starfish. So we decided to move to an area we previously had some luck in, Thoms Place on Etolin Island. Along the way, we saw a humpback whale and our autopilot failed! That was disturbing to say the least. As it happens, in contrast to most pleasure craft, we have a backup autopilot and so we were able to switch to this. Thom’s place was lovely as we remembered it, we set out crab pots and did some further investigation of the failed autopilot, AP-1. A 20 amp fuse had blown and provided an error message. So we decided to cut anchorages short and stop in Wrangell on the way to Petersburg. But not before getting several crab in Thom’s Place.