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.


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.



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.