Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Where we were

The map below shows all of the locations at which we stopped overnight.  If you click on one of the place marks, more information (distance, engine hours, anchor chain) will pop up. 

View Cruise 2014 in a larger map

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Back on the Dock

2014-09-011xAfter passing the last of the rapids, Yuculta, that separate the Broughtons from the Desolation Sound area, we were anxious to get across the Strait of Georgia.  We went first to Cortes Bay, then traveled down Malaspina Strait on the east side of Texada Island to Pender Harbour.  From there we headed across the Strait of Georgia but not before encountering a pod of a half dozen orca near Thormanby Island.  We entered the Canadian Gulf Islands via Porlier Pass, anchoring for the night on the north side of Gray Peninsula by Montague Harbour. 

Other than strong opposing currents in the Boundary Pass area, crossing the border was straightforward. Our first port of call was Deer Harbor Marina where our yacht club has dock space.  The only other club boat there was Sea’s the Moment owned by Chris and Sandy Benson who winter moor in Winslow directly ahead of us on the dock.  We spent our first evening back gabbing for several hours with them catching up on travels.

Some winds were forecast on the Strait of Juan de Fuca the next day so we spent a second night at the dock.  An early start on Tuesday, September 9, got us across the strait in time to catch the start of the flood current down Admiralty Inlet.  We wanted to add some fuel in our tanks to get us through the winter so we headed to Poulsbo for the night with the intent to go to the fuel dock first thing the next morning. We took advantage of the reciprocal dock at the lovely Poulsbo Yacht Club marina for our nights moorage.

After taking on 300 gallons of diesel at the Poulsbo fuel dock, we headed to our winter spot on the dock in Eagle Harbor.  We arrived at 1130 on September 10, 20 weeks after departing on April 23.

During the 140 nights we were away, we anchored out 86 nights, moored at public docks (i.e., no services) 7 nights, and paid for moorage 47 nights.  Using my navigation program’s trip log as the arbiter, we covered 4052 nautical miles during that time.  Our main engine operated 720.8 hours including 48.5 hours spent at idle fishing or taking photographs.  Subtracting those idling hours, we averaged 6.03 nm/hour which is our normal speed.  This average speed includes the time spent anchoring and docking at the begin and end of each day’s travels.  Fuel economy calculations will have to wait until next Spring when we fill up ahead of our trip north.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Three Weeks in the Broughtons

The fog lay thick the morning of August 12 as we departed Fury Cove and it remained thick for next nine hours.  Electronic charting, radar and AIS were how we navigated and avoided other vessel traffic in the less that 1/4 mile visibility.  We put the stabilizers in the water less than an hour after we left the anchorage.  With the visibility as poor as it was, we didn’t want to have to worry about sea conditions on top of our other concerns.  The anchorage for the night was Carriden Bay, about 68 miles from our starting point.

While in Alaska, we arranged for my brother Mike and his wife Jo to join us in Port McNeill for a weeks worth of cruising later in the month so we had some major inside & outside boat cleaning to do before their arrival.  In addition, we wanted to insure that some of the destinations we were going to take them still had the prawns we were promising them.

After visiting Sullivan Bay Marina, we headed to Port McNeill for fresh water, provisioning and the first round of cleaning.  While there we crossed paths with Doug and Cathlyn MacQuarrie from our yacht club.  In 2012, we sublet the slip at Shilshole Marina where they live on their Nordhavn 46.  They offered some suggested destinations in the Broughtons that we had not visited before.

The cruising in the Broughton archipelago is far more intimate than what you encounter in Alaska.  The channels between the many islands are numerous, intricate and well protected from the outside waters.  In addition, there are a half dozen or so small family operated marinas catering to pleasure craft.  They provide an opportunity to socialize with other boats at the organized evening happy hours or dinners. During the three weeks we were in the area, we stopped at Shawl Bay, Sullivan Bay, Echo Bay, Kwatsi Bay and Port Harvey.  We also stopped at the docks of the closed Greenway Sound Marina.  The docks are showing the wear of several years without maintenance and we chose to anchor in the cove behind Broughton Point on our subsequent visits to Greenway Sound.

2014-08-054x2014-08-028xWe had regaled Mike & Jo with the bounty we had pulled from the waters on our cruise so we were determined to produce while they cruised with us.  The prawn gods were smiling on us and we were able to feature prawns several nights.

After Mike & Jo left us, we made one more pass through the Broughtons then headed south.  We elected to take eastmost route which necessitates timing five rapids, Whirlpool, Green, Dent, Gillard & Yuculta.  We hadn’t been this way since our 2007 trip in our first boat.  We split the rapids in two by stopping for the night at Cordero Lodge which is a few miles after passing Green Rapids.

In contrast to the rainy Alaskan weather we experienced June and July, the three weeks we spent in the Broughtons were almost uniformly sunny.  According to the marina operators, they had only a few days of rainy weather all summer.  We made a conscious effort to try new places, anchoring in five new locations, and found several new spots for prawn fishing.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Heading South – Petersburg to Cape Caution

From Fredrick Sound we head into Petersburg for a few days to provision.  Arriving on Thursday, July 24, our stay was originally to be two days but we stretched it into three when heard the windy forecast in Sumner and Clarence Straits through which we had to travel. A very stable low was sitting in the Gulf of Alaska and it would send periodic waves of rainy and windy weather through SE Alaska, especially the southern portions.

We transited through Wrangell Narrows in mist interspersed by rain showers the afternoon of 7/27 and headed to St John Harbor, directly across Sumner Strait from Wrangell Narrows. 

The next morning, after reading the weather report we downloaded via the satphone, we chose to avoid the northern section of Clarence Strait and head down Zimovia Strait and use Ernest Sound to join Clarence Strait only 30 miles north of Ketchikan.  Santa Anna Inlet was our anchorage for 7/28.

On the morning of Tuesday, 7/29, we headed for Meyers Chuck, a small Alaskan community at the NW corner of the Cleveland Peninsula, right where Ernest Sound meets Clarence Strait.  The forecast we downloaded, updated as of 0648, said Clarence was SE20 knots going to SE15 in the afternoon with 4 foot seas.  No problem, we thought as we were only traveling 2 or 3 miles in Clarence before entering the protected cove of Meyers Chuck.

As we approached the area where Ernest Sound met Clarence Strait, the forecasted E10-15 winds of Ernest Sound gave way to first SE20-25 and then SE30+, the seas began to build and our forward speed dropped from 6+ knots (our typical plodding pace) to 3+ knots on account of the head seas we were pounding through. 

After 45 minutes of nerve wracking pounding followed by and an even more nerve wracking 120 degree turn in order to line up with the entrance to Meyers Chuck, we rode the following seas through the narrow entrance.  The salon was a bit of a mess as books came crashing out of the book case during the rolling we did while executing the turn.  After anchoring, we listened to the weather radio and found out that the weather service had issued a 0940 update which changed the Clarence Strait forecast to SE30 knots with 50 knot gusts and 6 foot seas, going to SE20 in the afternoon.  In 2011 Clarence Strait beat us up pretty good and it did it again this year.

The next day, the forecast and reality agreed on a pretty nice day, and we arrived in Ketchikan mid-morning on July 30.  After our weather experiences of the previous week, we decided get into British Columbia ASAP and we did lots of chores in order to leave the next morning.

July 31 was a beautiful day, we thought the Alaskan weather gods were trying to persuade us to stay a bit longer but we weren't buying its story.  We dropped anchor in Foggy Bay, one of the last good anchorages before crossing Dixon Entrance into Canada.

August 1 we headed into Prince Rupert in order to clear customs and immigration.  We stayed at the Prince Rupert Rowing & Yacht Club, probably the most accommodating moorage in the town to transient pleasure craft.  It is also convenient to shopping for those forbidden items (most fruits and many vegetables) or customs limited items (beer & wine).

After a lovely night at anchor in Lowe Inlet on August 2, the morning of August 3 we continued down Grenville Channel to do some fishing around Gil Island. After an 1-1/2 hours of trolling, Marcia had one silver and one king salmon and we headed to Cameron Cove for the night.

The next day, August 4, we tried trolling around the south end of Gil Island, a few nibbles but no takers.  There was lots of humpback whale activity in the area so that provided some amusement.  We also had one near collision with a whale who decided to take a nap (or at least a facsimile of one) on the route to our anchorage.  I was pretty close when I noticed this grey mound in the water was neither a wave nor an uncharted rock.  I maneuvered around him but he was not alarmed and remained there drifting along.  Our Hawk Bay anchorage on Fin Island was only a short distance away.

On August 5, we had the first rain showers since our Clarence Strait experience, a week earlier.  That didn't dissuade Marcia from putting her hooks in the water around Gil Island one more time.  After 2 hours we were ready to throw in the towel when a beautiful 27" silver salmon took the bait.  The rainy weather was a blessing because we travelled nearly 60 miles to Bottleneck Inlet with the fish in a cooler filled with cold water before Marcia got her chance to clean the fish when we anchored.

We headed down Finlayson Channel in a thick fog the morning of August 6 but it burned off as we rounded Ivory Island into Seaforth Channel.  The wind was picking up so we didn't fish Idol Point.  We tried a new (to us) anchorage in Troup Narrows.

The winds were calm the morning of August 7 as we headed back out to Idol Point.  Lots of trolling but no fish was caught.  We did see and greet a vessel of another member of our yacht club who was also fishing the area.  We hoped to spend the night at the dock in Shearwater but they were fully booked so we dropped the anchor in a satisfactory but not exciting anchorage, Bob Bay.

2014-08 Silver 1The weather and winds were pretty mellow on August 8 as we cruised Fitz Hugh Sound southbound to fish along Hakai Passage.  Our dock neighbors in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island spoke highly of the area.  We first tried the north side where 10 or so boats from nearby fishing lodges were fishing.  After one pass and no action, we crossed over the the south side.  After a half hour or so and right outside the entrance to our anchorage, Marcia hooked and landed a 29" silver salmon.

2014-08 Silver 2The next morning, August 9, we started early for the morning bite.  It took a little over an hour of trolling but in nearly the same spot as the night before, Marcia landed a 28" silver salmon.  Since the freezer is getting full, we headed to our anchorage in Pruth Bay.  That afternoon we paddled our kayaks to the beach at the head of the bay and walked the trail over to the lovely sandy beach that looks out onto the ocean. For dinner that night Marcia grilled on a cedar plank some of the salmon she had recently caught.

The sunny weather continued the next day, August 10, as we crossed Fitz Hugh to explore Fish Egg Inlet.  We worked our way towards its end and anchored the night in Oyster Bay.  It is totally landlocked with trees down to the high tide line, a very different feel from Pruth Bay which, while protected from ocean surf still has an outer coast feel. 

With a favorable forecast for the next day, on August 11 we drop the anchor in Fury Cove, a lovely anchorage and conveniently located for rounding Cape Caution.  There are already four boats here but before the day ends, another six follow bringing the total to eleven boats (including ourselves).

2014-08 Fury Cove

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Starting the Journey South

For cruising in SE Alaska, Glacier Bay is the furthest north without taking the major commitment to poke your nose a ways out into the Gulf of Alaska.  We've not felt the calling to do so and we use Glacier Bay as our turn around point for our cruising season.

After we said good bye to Marcia's sister and brother-in-law at Bartlett Cove on July 6, we first visited Excursion Inlet, about 30 miles away but still technically in the park.  It turned out to be a real treat, a lovely anchorage that we had to ourselves.  From there we did a little fishing (two too small salmon) along the route to Swanson Harbor.  The rain found us there and followed us the rest of the way to Sitka (with an overnight stop at Appleton Cove) on July 9.

While in Sitka we met up with Wade Biggs (“Honu”) and David Cohn (“Shearwater”).  David has a Seahorse Marine Diesel Duck (a cousin ship to ours).  David brought the boat back from the factory in China on its bottom in 2013.  Wade crewed for David on that trip.  Wade and David buddy-boated from Puget Sound having left in early June.

The SE Alaska weather this summer has been generally wetter the normal.  For the month of June, both Sitka and Ketchikan had about twice the normal precipitation.  The fact that last year, 2013, was below normal precipitation and above normal temperature makes the contrast even more stark.  The table below shows the June monthly precipitation for a “normal” year and in the last three years.  We weren’t here in 2012 but when we were here in 2013, everybody talked about 2012 as the “summer that never was”.

  Normal 2014 2013 2012
Sitka 2.89 5.95 2.44 4.47
Ketchikan 6.60 12.25 4.65 9.85

When we saw a window of nice weather, we headed out on July 14 for some cruising south of Sitka.  We stayed at two new (to us, anyway) anchorages, Presidents Bay and Leesoffskaia Bay and one tried & true anchorage, Scow Bay.  Despite our best efforts, the fish eluded Marcia's fish hook.  We returned to Sitka on Thursday, July 17.

2014-07-138On Friday, we enjoyed a visit with Wade, David and Dave & Dorothy Nagle, who arrived on their Seahorse Marine Diesel Duck, "DavidEllis."  Dave Nagle also crewed on "Shearwater" for the Hong Kong to Hawaii leg of the crossing.

We took off Saturday, 7/19, for the next leg south.  Since the weather forecast suggested continued marginal weather, we elected to do a conservative protected water route over to Petersburg rather than a more open water route along the outside.

While we have no firm data, it seems like there are a more boats cruising SE Alaska this year than last.  Certainly it felt that way when we started towards Douglass Bay in Hoonah Sound after leaving Sitka and we saw five more boats behind us.  Since we are always the slowest boat in the "parade," we knew we would be the last to arrive.  We made a quick decision and changed our destination for the night to Pt. Moses Cove in Hanus Bay on the north side of Baranof Island.  We ended up sharing that with one other boat. 

On 7/20, we started off with the intent to reach Red Bluff Bay.  Partway down Chatham Strait, the light winds we had been experiencing increased to S15-20 knots with short choppy waves all on the nose.  While the conditions were perfectly safe, they weren't pleasant.  We again made the quick decision to change our destination to Takatz Bay, a five-star anchorage.

2014-07-145The next day, 7/21, the winds were light again and we headed into Frederick Sound with a stop along the way at Pt Gardner at the SW corner of Admiralty Island for some fishing.  Despite our timing the stop for slack currents, they seemed to running at least one knot which made fishing for halibut challenging.  No halibut grabbed the hook but Marcia landed a nice 30 inch Pacific Cod.

With fish in hand we headed into Cannery Cove in Pybus Bay on the SE corner of Admiralty Island.  We had been texting with some folks from our yacht club also cruising in SE Alaska.  We coordinated a rendezvous with Craig & Ann Wilbour ("Shot-8") and spent the evening sharing our cruises to date and plans for the remainder.

2014-07-164On 7/22, we used Cannery Cove as a base for a fishing trip out into Frederick Sound.  Marcia identified a likely area for halibut and after a couple of hours effort had two nice halibut (32" & 34") to show for it.  Back to Cannery Cove we went where Marcia spent the afternoon processing her catch.  Despite only a vague hint of precipitation, a steady rain hovered over our anchorage for the afternoon giving the boat and Marcia a fresh water rinse.

We like to arrive in Petersburg at high slack because the currents that speed through the docks there are minimized.  We’ve had enough near docking mishaps in Petersurg that we want as many of the controllable elements working for us. To get the right timing, we split the journey to Petersburg up and anchored the night of July 23 at Ruth Island Cove in Thomas Bay.

A leisurely start on July 24 got us into Petersburg at high tide and with the currents modest.  The forecast is for the winds and seas to kick up for the next few days so we may take a few days off from travelling.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Glacier Bay Extravaganza

2014-06-108Joining us for the next leg of our 2014 cruise was Marcia's sister Cindee and her husband Steve. Steve is an accomplished nature photographer but had not yet visited Glacier Bay National Park. In order to give him the greatest opportunity to capture images in the best light, we agreed that spending the entire 2-weeks of their visit with us in Glacier Bay made the most sense. Since the NPS only issues permits for a maximum of 7-days at a time, it took some effort (mainly by Steve) to obtain two permits back-to-back (the NPS allows vessel operators to have two permits at a time).

2014-06-161To maximize their time, Cindee & Steve flew directly into Gustavus, a 9-mile shuttle ride to Bartlett Cove, the NPS Glacier Bay Headquarters. We agreed to meet them in Bartlett Cove at the public dock.

2014-06-133All of the logistics worked fine and we arrived the morning of June 22 at the dock about the same time as their ride from Gustavus dropped them off. Alaska's "finest" weather (i.e., rain) welcomed them to Glacier Bay. After we attended the boater orientation, we tanked up on water and discarded our garbage and recyclable material and took off for our first night's destination.

As it turned out, the worst weather of our 2-weeks in Glacier Bay was the first day. We had steady 15-20 knot head winds with 3-4 foot head seas pretty much all of the way until we turned into the calm waters of the entrance channel into North Sandy Cove.

2014-06-269Since we had the time, we worked hard at seeing as much of the park as possible from a boat. We covered over 400 miles cruising through the various bays and inlets, used 8 different anchorages (2 of which were new to us). We saw bear (brown and black), moose, mountain goat, wolf, river otter, sea otter (lots), stellar sea lion (lots), puffin, orca and humpback.

2014-06-309The best whale viewing was in the Bartlett Cove anchorage, arguably the most developed part of the park. Both orca and humpback whales cruised by within 50 yards of our boat.

2014-06-339The weather was okay but often cloudy and moist. Fortunately, the winds were generally light to moderate (i.e., less than 10 knots).

2014-06-193The best weather day was the day we went to the head of Tarr Inlet where the tidewater Margerie Glacier terminates. We stayed the night before in Reid Inlet about 12 miles south so our early start put us at the glacier before the cruise ships, tour boats and other pleasure craft arrived. It is a special treat to drift in the water a quarter-mile off from the face of a cracking and rumbling glacier. The occasional ice fall from the glacier to the water and subsequent wake persuaded us to move a little further out where we drifted with engine off to fully appreciate the setting.

2014-07-063The two permits were separated by a day in which we anchored in Bartlett Cove. We used that time to walk the trails at the park headquarters, do laundry at the Glacier Bay Lodge and take a provisioning trip into Gustavus for some fresh food.

2014-07-096On the morning of July 6, we tied the boat to the Bartlett Cove public dock once again and said good bye to Cindee and Steve whose return flight left later that day. We headed out for the next leg of our trip, back to Sitka.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Next stop, Glacier Bay

Our first full day in Juneau, June 16, was laundry day. It is a bit of a hike, close to 1/2 mile, from the transient docks in Auke Bay to the laundromat. Fortunately it was a pretty nice day and we made an event of it by bringing our computer with us to check e-mail as we had breakfast at the waffle house next door. Internet is a problem in Auke Bay (there isn't any). After laundry, Marcia cleaned the interior of the boat while I did the exterior. I am still cleaning pollen from Puget Sound from the nooks and crannies on the boat.

Our shopping day on June 17 was assisted by the rental car we hired for the day. This year we used a local "rent-a-wreck" and had a perfectly adequate 18 year old Ford Escort station wagon with over a quarter of a million miles on the odometer. The rental was about a quarter of the price of the rental from a nation-wide rental company we used last year.

We were glad we had a station wagon as we filled it during our visits to Fred Meyers, Petco, Costco, Safeway and Western Auto (an automotive/sporting goods store). We also got our requisite visit to the Alaskan Brewing tasting room. It took 3-1/2 cart loads to get everything from the parking lot to the boat. We timed the tide level well so that we didn't have a steep ramp to contend with. The rain showers that occurred throughout the day were harder to time.

Our original intent was to depart on June 18 but the marginal weather convinced us another day at the dock was a perfectly reasonable decision. It worked out well since we were able to meet up with our friends on Peachy Keen and Outbound that we had bumped into in Swanson Harbor. It worked out well for Peachy Keen as they ended up rafting to us for the night since Auke Bay had filled up with gill netters after their closure on 6/17 brought them to port until the next opening.

The weather was much calmer as we pulled away from the dock on June 19. Peachy Keen hovered a short distance away so that they could swoop back into our spot before any of the other boats rafting to moored boat could take the spot. We have a few days to try fishing again before meeting up in Glacier Bay on June 22 with Cindee and Steve, Marcia's sister and brother-in-law.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

On to Juneau

2014-06-002Douglas Harbor and Hoonah Sound proved to be another mixed bag. The prawn pots produced at a steady, but not extravagant pace, while the crab pots were total busts. Over our two visits to the anchorage we did 8 crab pot drops in widely varying locations and depths and not one crab showed up, legal or not.

Fortunately, as we were heading up Hoonah Sound, we had a radio conversation with someone leaving who suggested Cosmos Bay, a few miles south of Kelp Bay on Baranof Island. The anchorage in Cosmos is a little funky in that, if you use the inner site, you cross a shallow bar find the "deep" 4-fathom hole and drop the hook. Everywhere around you it is 2 fathoms or less. While it the inlet is only open to the ESE, we had a persistent 15-20 knot WNW wind from the head of the inlet the entire time we were there. The crabbing was good and we pulled our limit of 6 crabs the next morning (6/12) though.

We decided it was time to head towards Juneau and do our major provisioning before our guests would arrive for our Glacier Bay visit. From Cosmos we headed first to Pavlof Harbor on Chichagof then to Swanson Harbor where we did some more crabbing. While in Swanson we discovered the vessel "Peachy Keen" (a classic wood Ocean Alexander Mk I) owned by Billie & Mike Henry whom we know from Puget Sound. They were with a buddy boat, "Outbound". We joined them for dinner one night onboard their boat and scored a nice hunk of halibut from the 57 pounder they had landed.

After a couple of days there and a few more crabs in our freezer, we headed towards Juneau on Sunday, June 15. Normally, we have to look hard to find dock space in Juneau (transient space is unassigned in Auke Bay and it is first-come, first-serve) but when we arrived, it was as vacant as we had ever seen it and had no problem finding a spot. A busy few days are in store while here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

. . . And Back

We always enjoy our time in Sitka but eventually we get itchy feet to start moving. The morning of June 6, we head out of Sitka towards the popular fishing area on the north side of Biorka Island, about 15 miles SW of Sitka.

We are anxious to use the trolling valve on transmission which will allow us to travel slower than our normal idle forward speed of 3-1/2 knots. Also, we have a new electric downrigger installed in the cockpit. We've tested both of these pieces of equipment but not together nor gone fishing using them.

We arrive at the fishing grounds (we know its the right place because other people smarter than us are here) just before the slack current before the flood tide. After a bit of fussing, everything is working and Marcia has her gear in the water and we are idling along between 1-1/2 and 2 knots, a good trolling speed.

2014-06-006For someone impatient (Kurt), it seemed a long time. For someone patient and who has researched the topic (Marcia), it was just long enough and the call "fish on" occurred after about 1-1/2 hours. Marcia pulled the king salmon close to the boat and Kurt netted it. The tape measure came out to verify its legality at 30 inches.

We pull into an anchorage near the fishing area and Marcia cleans and filets the fish before we proceed to our final anchorage for the evening, Samsing Cove about 4 miles from Sitka. Salmon is on the dinner menu, of course.

The next day, June 7, we head towards the fishing area on the north side of Kruzof Island. Again, we know we've arrived as we see other boats trolling. The gear goes down and we work our way into the loop of boats trolling the area. Sad to say, after about 3 hours we conclude that there won't be a repeat of yesterday's good fortune. We head into Kalinin Bay for the night. We share the anchorage with six other boats, the most we've seen all season. We recognize two of the boats from previous visits to Alaska as serious recreational fishers.

While it had rained for much of the afternoon on June 7, the winds were light to moderate. That changed overnight and we had wind driven rain the morning of June 8. We figured the sea conditions were also going to be choppier, so Marcia whips up a batch of cinnamon rolls instead of going fishing on the morning bite. Later that morning we time the transit of Sergius Narrows and head back into Baby Bear Bay for the night.

The next morning, June 9, we retrace our steps from a week earlier and travel from Baby Bear Bay back to Douglass Bay. The prawn and crab pots are now soaking, and we are hopeful.

To Sitka . . .

On Saturday, May 31 we traveled the 49 miles from Ell Cove to Douglass Bay in Hoonah Sound. Last year we did pretty well with crabs and prawns so anxious to try again. The prawn pots went down before we got to the anchorage.

We've started dropping the prawn pots from Alpenglow because those pots are generally in fairly deep water (250-300 feet) and usually far enough from shore that we don't worry about blowing onto shore before the pots are down. Once at the anchorage, we launched the dinghy and set two crab pots.

The next morning (June 1), Kurt goes and checks the crab pots and both are pots are totally empty. Hopes for crab at dinner vanish. Rebait and move them to a slightly different location.

Kurt takes the dinghy out to check the prawn pot with some trepidation. Fortunately, the first pot brings in a nice haul of prawns (mostly the larger spot prawns) and the second pot somewhat fewer. Rebait and reset.

Our greed gets the best of us in the afternoon and Kurt goes to check the prawn pots again. The wind had come up and it was a bumpy, wet ride in the dinghy to where the pots were set (about 3 miles from the anchorage). The haul was a disappointment. We've used this strategy, a 7 or 8 hour soak, in British Columbia and done well with it. Not here though and we probably won't do it again.

On June 2, we retrieve the crab pots and each contained only a large starfish. The prawn pots, though did produce a dinner's worth of prawns from the overnight soak.

Rather than heading straight to Sitka, we decide to check out a new to us anchorage, Baby Bear Bay, about 3 miles east of Sergius Narrows. The entering the anchorage requires avoiding some rocks, the "Shark's Teeth", which only show themselves at tide levels below 6 feet. Since we were above that level as we entered, the key is to stay about 75' off a small islet opposite the rocks. After you pass the unseen rocks, a 90 degree turn is executed and you transit a narrow channel between a different small islet and Baranof Island. It was an intricate entry but the hazards are known and charted.

Our anchorage in Douglass Bay was unpleasant not just on account of the poor crabbing but also the weather and conditions. A NW wind was producing a chop in Paterson Inlet just outside the anchorage that wrapped around a corner and buffeted the boat. It became very annoying so the quiet waters in Baby Bear Bay were a wonderful relief.

The next day, June 3, we time the currents through Sergius for slack and head into Sitka. The commercial fishing seasons are only just beginning so the docks are pretty full with commercial fisherman getting ready. In Alaskan marinas, transient boaters like us "hot berth" slips vacated by their permanent tenants who are away for a period of time. Since the seasons are just starting, the number of available slips are small. Fortunately, we did get a slip rather than having to go on the outer breakwater dock without any electricity and a long walk to shore.

Our three days in Sitka are spent doing the usual boat chores (laundry, provisioning) and taking advantage of Internet and cell coverage to catch up on things.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Craig and Beyond

While in Craig, we rented a car for the day and visited some of the sites accessible from paved roads. I knew Prince of Wales (PoW) Island had many roads, but didn't realize the quality of the main paved roads. In our one day car rental, we drove nearly 200 miles going from Craig to Hydaburg, then to Coffman Cove then back to Craig. Klawock is at a junction so we passed through it several times.

2014-05-037Both Klawock and Hydaburg have strong NW native indian heritages (Tlingit and Haida, respectively) and strive to preserve their cultures. Carving totems is part of it and each has a totem park with many recently carved totems.

PoW Island reminded me a little bit of the Olympic Peninsula on account of the evidence of past logging. There isn't as much active logging as the Olympic Peninsula (we only saw one or two logging trucks) but there are many logging roads and many clear cuts of varying ages. Regardless, PoW is very scenic and offers many opportunities for hiking and exploring.

2014-05-064For Memorial Day weekend, we headed out for a couple of nights (we needed to be back on Monday to be prepared for our guided fishing trip on Tuesday). We tried to visit two new anchorages but ended up at a familiar one, Kaguk Cove, and one new one, Salt Lake Bay (both on Prince of Wales Island). Salt Lake Bay, despite a narrow entrance with submerged rocks guarding it, was very lovely and worth repeat visits.

The guided fishing trip was good. We hoped to pick up fishing tips we could use in general and local knowledge for our future trips to the Craig area. We also hoped to catch a king salmon (the only kind running currently). Unfortunately, no salmon chose to take our bait.

We did end up with two halibut, one ling cod and seven black bass. Many fisherman going out with a guide might pass on the last two kind of fish since they lack the name appeal of salmon or halibut. We kept them as we are not "catch and release" anglers but rather "catch and eat."
On Wednesday, 5/28, after picking up our cleaned, fileted, frozen and vacuum sealed catch (Marcia especially liked that part of a guided fishing trip), we headed out again.

The plan was to position ourselves on Warren Island for a trip around Cape Decision and up Chatham Strait. As we were crossing the Gulf of Esquibel, the wind kept picking up and the chop became more unpleasant. We weren't exposed to the ocean swell yet but we could imagine the unpleasant conditions that awaited us. While Alpenglow is certainly capable of handling those imagined conditions, we weren't as sure of our feline passengers could (at least without getting seasick). A quick course change had us heading up the more protected waters of El Capitan Passage. The stop for the night was Sarheen Cove, a little south of the El Capitan Caves.

The next day, 5/29, we set the ambitious goal of taking the somewhat long but more protected route to Chatham via El Capitan Passage to Sumner Strait, then Rocky Pass between Kuiu Island and Kupreanof Island to Fredrick Sound and connecting back with Chatham Strait. It was engine on at 0400 (sunrise is 0415 so it is plenty light) and the anchor didn't drop for the day until 1830. We did take an 1-1/2 hour break for lunch at the south end of Rocky Pass waiting to enter Devil's Elbow at the right time. The anchorage that night was Honey Dew Cove on Kuiu Island, an anchorage we used when starting our southbound Rocky Pass transit in 2011.

After that long day, we traveled a shorter day on 5/30 to Ell Cove on Baranof Island, one of our favorite anchorages. From here we'll head up to Hoonah Sound for some seafood foraging (hopefully crab and prawns). Sitka is a day's journey from there even for a slow boat like ours.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Poking Around Prince of Wales Island

We arrived in Craig on Wednesday, 5/21.  We had good weather going around Cape Chacon but it started going downhill that afternoon as we headed up Cordova Bay. 

Since we weren’t in a big hurry, we traveled only 30 – 40 miles a day and checked out three new (to us) anchorages along the way.  We anchored in Max Cove (Klakas Inlet), Dunbar Inlet (Sukkwan Island) and Port San Antonio (Baker Island) before finally arriving at Craig.  All three of the anchorages were very secure with good holding bottoms.  We appreciated the holding because 15-20 knot winds were common in our anchorages.  Fortunately, none had long fetches that built up big waves and the wind generally dropped at night anyway.

2014-05-016xSince the neither the commercial nor the sport fishing seasons are really underway, we had our pick of spots on the transient docks at Craig.  We chose to go into the north harbor since in our previous two visits, we were in the south harbor.

Similar to Ketchikan, we’ll be here a few days, go cruising in the local area, then return for a few more days.  While here we intend to rent a car for a day and drive around Prince of Wales (PoW) Island.  As it turns out, on account of past logging, PoW Island has more roads than the rest of the islands in SE Alaska combined.  We’re also going to go out with a fishing guide for day of instruction and fishing. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

On to Craig

After spending 3 days in Ketchikan, we headed out around Revillagigedo Island (where Ketchikan is located) for a 5 days. We visited our favorites at Yes Bay and Fitzgibbon Cove and also spent a night in Walker Cove in Misty Fjord National Monument. We were successful crabbing and prawning along the way but the catching was slower than our previous visits which were in June and July.

2014-05-006xNevertheless, Marcia made some tasty meals and put away some crab in the freezer for later.

We returned on May 14 to Ketchikan where we had our outboard serviced and picked up a piece of metal work we had fabricated to improve the mounting system for the downrigger we purchased to fish from Alpenglow.

2014-05-010xOn Saturday morning, shortly before we departed, Dave & Dorothy Nagle on DavidEllis came into Bar Harbor where they'll meet their daughter and her family for a brief cruise. We had a whirlwind visit and set up a tentative rendezvous for later in the summer.

We are now anchored in Gardner Bay on Prince of Wales Island. From here we'll head around Cape Chacon and explore our way through Cordova Bay towards Craig. In Craig, we'd like to go out with a fishing guide to pick up fishing techniques and local knowledge about the Craig area.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May 6 - Ketchikan

The last post talked about our steady northward jog to Alaska and it continued all the way to Ketchikan, arriving at the Bar Harbor marina in Ketchikan in the early afternoon.  From Campbell River to Ketchikan we plodded along for seven straight days averaging 11 hours of engine operation and covering an average of 72 miles a day.  The only variation to the normal route was taking Principe/Petrel Channel on the west side Pitt Island rather than Grenville Channel for the last section of the “ditch”.

Mostly we saw very few vessels, commercial or pleasure.  We were passed by one pleasure craft north of Cape Caution and then did not see another cruising boat until we churned up Revillagigedo Channel towards Ketchikan.  Even the commercial traffic was light.

The most “excitement” we had was when we were boarded by the RCMP on the north side of Dundas Island as we were rounding the corner to go into Brundige Inlet for the evening anchor.  I think they boarded us partly out of boredom because of so little vessel activity and the fact that we had not been inspected when we cleared into Canada at Montague Harbour (we had a telephone clearance number and waited at the dock for the required 15 minutes but no one showed up).  A few routine questions and we received a copy of their completed inspection form for our boat book.

We’ll be here three nights then will do a short trip to some favorite anchorages around Behm Canal.  We have an appointment to get the Honda outboard motor serviced at the local shop on 4/15.  They are very busy right now as everyone is getting ready for the local fishing derby coming up.

Ship’s log is 120.2 hours and 761.5 miles since leaving Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island.

Friday, May 2, 2014

When the weather is good . . .

The answer to the question is " . . . keep moving." And so we have.

We arrived at the Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River the late morning on Tuesday, April 29. We’ve been targeting that day because the slack current before the ebb flow at Seymour Narrows (8 miles north of Campbell River) was 6:22 AM right after sunrise. The ebb current from Campbell River north to the end of Vancouver Island flows north. When you are travelling in a slow boat like Alpenglow, you pay attention to the current because it makes a huge difference in your speed.

The weather on April 30 set up well and we took off at 5 AM in the early twilight. We hit the narrows about five minutes late, going through with several other boats (including the Alaska high speed ferry MV Fairweather). The moderate winds were on our tail and blowing in the same direction as the current making the ride easy. We motored along between 8 and 10 knots boosted by the current.

While the current wasn't always in our favor, by the end of the 13 hour day, we reached Cullen Harbour, 89 miles from Campbell River. While at anchor that evening, the sun warmed the surrounding air to the low 70's, pretty good for the last day of April.

May 1 dawned equally as nice and another early start found us in Queen Charlotte Strait headed north around Cape Caution. While we dropped our stabilizer poles in case we needed to deploy the stabilizing fish, the very low swell and modest chopped made them unnecessary.

We were surprised how light the vessel traffic was having seen only one other north bound pleasure craft and only a few other commercial craft going in either direction. We ended our day, 84 miles further along, in Kwakume Inlet on the mainland side of Fitz Hugh Sound. While the evening wasn't quite as warm, we did enjoy upper 60's from the flybridge seats after dinner.

The plan is to continue moving so long as the weather permits safe & comfortable travel.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cruise 2014 - Jogging to Alaska

While describing our summer cruise to Alaska to someone, it struck me how different its pace is from most other modes of powered travel. We cruise the interstate highway's at 70 miles per hour. Jet airliners are speeding along at 500+ mph. Even the advertised "leisurely" pace of large cruise liners is in excess of 20 mph.

We normally cruise just below 7 knots. That works out to about 8 mph which means one mile is traveled every 7-1/2 minutes. As it turns out this pace is pretty close to that of a brisk jog.

As we travel to/from and within SE Alaska this summer, probably close to 3,500 miles, I'll visualize the trip as from the perspective of a persistent jogger, one with far better endurance than I ever had.


On Wednesday, April 23, the first "jog" was from our winter homeport in Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island to Anacortes. The cats, Annie & Maggie, reminded us to mind the sea conditions by both throwing up within 20 minutes of leaving the dock. Fortunately, our route shortly turned north and the following seas and current smoothed the ride out pretty well the rest of the way to Anacortes.

After a few chores and final provisions, we crossed on April 25 into Canada, stopping at Clam Bay on Penelakut Island for the night. We cleared Canadian Customs at Montague Harbour easily when the Canadian Customs officials chose not to show up to verify the veracity of our declarations (we NEVER lie to customs officials).

While crossing the Strait of Georgia on April 26 was a little rolly on account of quartering seas, we got to Pender Harbour without issue. The anchoring was another issue and we ended up taking three attempts before finding a spot for the night that we like on account of wind and the moored boats.

The bad experience continued next morning, April 27, when the anchor chain jumped the anchor roller and we had to fuss a bit to get it back in the track. Fortunately, the weather improved as we continued to Prideaux Haven in Desolation Sound where we shared the anchorage with one other boat (in August there will probably be 40 other boats).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Homeport

Last March, we closed on purchasing a house in the Tucson area (Executing the Plan).  Marcia spent a grand total of five nights in it before closing up for the summer and returning to the PNW to get ready for the 2013 cruising season.

2013-10-016xLast October, we stuffed the remnants of our Seattle house, that had been stuffed into a 10’ x 10’ storage unit, into a 8’ x 16’ moving pod for shipment to our new house, 1600 miles away.  About 10 days after our possessions left the area, we (Marcia, myself and the cats) followed on the first “great migration”.  We arrived at our new winter homeport on Halloween and have been busy settling in to it and the area since then.

View from houseSince we kept only a few pieces of furniture, we’ve had to improvise until we’ve acquired new items.  One improvisation was taking the middle row of seats from the minivan and using them as our “couch”.

So far, the transition to a land based living has been easy and luxurious.  Living on the boat forces us to compromise on space and resources (e.g., water and electricity) in ways we don’t in the house.  The weather this winter has been exactly what we hoped for, moderate temperatures, ample sun and generally dry.  We’re able to do pleasant walks directly from the house, and even better hikes a short drive away.  We’ve used our bikes more now than since 2008.

While the weather is comfortable now, we know that the hot season here will return and our enthusiasm for the area will wilt.  We plan on returning to the boat towards the end of March, prepare and provision the boat, then depart for our 2014 cruising toward the end of April.