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.