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.