Friday, July 31, 2015

Being Flexible

So we’ve postpone our departure from Ketchikan another day on account of the “snotty” weather.  We were all prepared to leave despite the rain and wind because the forecast was for improving conditions as the day progressed. 

All of the electronics, including the VHF radio were operating, when we heard two recreational boaters conversing on the radio.  One was just leaving Ketchikan (they were transmitting their position via AIS) and the other was about 6 or 7 miles from Ketchikan on the way to Prince Rupert as we were intending.  The vessel further out said they were turning around on account of sea conditions (“The dog was howling”).  The closer vessel said they were pushing on based on the forecast.  The further out vessel shortly thereafter called back to say they were pulling into a temporary anchorage in order to wait for conditions to improve.  Both boats had Foggy Bay as their destination for the night (same as us).

We already knew that a “Mother Goose” flotilla of six boats from NW Explorations had left yesterday for Foggy Bay with the goal of Prince Rupert today.  If conditions were poor just a few miles from Ketchikan, we thought that there was a high likelihood that they’d take a weather day rather than pound their way across Dixon Entrance.

We knew that on account of our speed, we’d likely be one of the last boats to arrive to a very crowded Foggy Bay.  We’d also be one of the last to arrive the next day to a very crowded Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club marine (just about the only marina for transients in Prince Rupert).  Since the weather for Saturday, August 1 is forecast to be better yet, we’re being flexible and spending another day in Ketchikan to let this wave of boaters heading south to get ahead of us.  Of course there is another “wave” all ready building around us by that is just the way things are.

In the mean time, I am taking this opportunity and Internet connectivity to post a video of Dall’s Porpoises surfing our bow wake.

And another video of us crossing the entrance of Behm Canal as it meets Clarence Strait just north of Ketchikan. The wind was blowing SE 15-20 knots and the seas were 3 to 4 feet with a short period. We were meeting the waves on the starboard forward quarter so we weren't rolling much, just the bow crashing a bit.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ketchikan - The Rain Continues

Now I don’t want to sound like a broken record or a “weather brat” but this rain is starting to get to me.  For additional “amusement”, we’re now getting a touch of wind added to the precipitation. 

2015-07-196xIt hasn’t been all bad, though.  We did harvest prawns in Hoonah Sound and Pybus Bay, and we broke our fishing dry spell by catching 3 halibut in Fredrick Sound.

We also had some of the best whale activity of the season in and around Pybus Bay.  The whales were feeding in the same area where we placed our pawn traps which caused us 2015-07-161xconcern that the traps might be inadvertently dragged away by a humpback whale chowing down on a herring ball near our float and line.  Fortunately, the whales avoided our lines while they did their fishing.

While we had wind and rain, we avoided the major thrubbing we had in Clarence Strait that we experienced last year.  Rather than 30 knot winds and 6 foot seas which we mostly avoided by holing up in Meyers Chuck last year, we only had 15 knot winds and 3 foot seas.  Of course these were Clarence “3-footers” which means they were closely spaced and steep, making for a bouncy, wet ride.

We plan on leaving Ketchikan tomorrow, July 31, having spent an extra day here waiting for forecasted calmer conditions crossing Dixon Entrance into Canada.  We’re hoping the overall weather begins to improve as well. 

2015-07-126xWhile I whine about the weather, the cats only whine/meow about food or its absence.  The rest of the time they sleep.

P.S. – Our sistership, Laysan, that crossed the Pacific to its homeport in Honolulu in 2011-12, is now relocating to the Pacific NW.  Its journey can be followed at

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Rainy Visit

While in Juneau we picked up Marcia’s cousins Chris, Diane and Diane’s husband, Ron, for a 2-week cruise from Juneau to Sitka with a visit to Glacier Bay National Park.  Chris and Diane have lived in Arizona for over 40 years so we warned them that Alaska weather would be radically different.  It turned out the weather was a bit more “Alaskan” than even we expected.

Below is a table showing the Juneau Airport weather summary for the first 3 weeks of July.  Our guests flew in the evening of July 7 and departed today, July 22. The highlighted dates coincide with their full days visiting.

Date Max Temp Min Temp Avg Temp Precip
July 1 64 46 55 0.42
July 2 57 52 55 0.20
July 3 58 48 53 0.09
July 4 74 44 59 0.00
July 5 76 48 62 0.00
July 6 84 53 69 0.00
July 7 76 55 66 T
July 8 63 55 59 0.64
July 9 66 55 61 0.01
July 10 61 54 58 0.34
July 11 62 54 58 0.40
July 12 63 56 60 0.92
July 13 58 54 56 1.26
July 14 60 52 56 0.66
July 15 59 52 56 0.38
July 16 59 52 56 0.04
July 17 59 53 56 0.26
July 18 67 54 61 0.08
July 19 59 51 55 0.63
July 20 66 50 58 0.04
July 21 76 46 61 0.00

While our local weather as we cruised certainly varied from that of Juneau, this isn’t a bad representation of what we saw along the way. Fortunately, they heeded Marcia’s warnings and brought their rain gear.

We ended up cutting short our visit in Glacier Bay by two days (using 5 days of our 7 day permit) because Marcia & I felt we had hit the highlights given the weather we were experiencing.

The left photo is Chris, Diane & Marcia at the Bartlett Cove NPS dock.  The right photo is Chris, Diane and Ron at the end of Tarr Inlet with the Margerie Glacier in background.

2015-07-014x  2015-07-019x






Fortunately, wildlife viewing isn’t adversely impacted by rainy weather. The birds around South Marble Island were abundant and we had a wonderful “whale dance” outside of North Sandy Cove.







2015-07-076xFrom Bartlett Cove we headed to Sitka via Chatham Strait and Peril Strait.  Along the way we stopped at some of our favorite anchorages.  We shared anchorages with other boats, adding to our impression that this has been a busy cruise season in Alaska.  In Douglass Bay in Hoonah Sound, the other boat there was David Cohn’s Diesel Duck Shearwater which he brought across the Pacific on its own bottom from China in 2013.

2015-07-094xThe weather began to clear a bit as we headed into Sitka from our last anchorage.  Low clouds hovering above the hills outside Sitka provided a dramatic back drop as we headed into to conclude Chris, Diane and Ron’s cruise with us.

From here, we’re starting our trip south to Puget Sound.  For a number of reasons, we’ve decided to wrap things up early and hope to be back around the third week of August.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Feeding the Fish

So we left Petersburg with high hopes for equaling last years fishing results in Fredrick Sound.  As we entered Pybus Bay on the way to Cannery Cove, we dropped three prawn pots in the same location as we did last year that gave us good results.

After a quiet night at anchor being the sole boat, we headed out to the fishing grounds on the west side of the West Brother Island. First we stopped to reap a disappointing prawn harvest. Probably it was the hubris of taking the area for granted and putting three pots down instead of our normal two.  We reset two pots in a different area using the tried and true method of looking where somebody else, hopefully better informed than us, placed theirs.

When we arrived on the fishing grounds, Marcia began her utmost to repeat her 2014 performance.  As Marcia joked, she must have caught the two stupid halibuts last year because the wily fish underneath our boat repeatedly stole the herring and octopus off of her barbed circle hooks.  The worst offense occurred when one fish (or perhaps a “gang”) took all three chunks of herring from each hook of a treble hook.

Eventually we called it quits and headed back to Cannery Cove for the night.  Perhaps it was the forecast for wind and rain that prompted boats to head for the protection of Cannery Cove, but in any event, there were four other boats in the anchorage that night. 

The next morning, after a rainy and blustery night, we headed out and pulled our two prawn pots from the previous day.  We had been sufficiently humbled by the prawn gods so they rewarded us with a nice haul, sufficient for a couple of meals.  The halibut gods, though were not appeased and the fish remained elusive.  The night was spent in the nook between West Brother Island and the small islets on its west shore.  A very scenic anchorage but not one we’d want to weather a storm in.

From there we continued up to Gambier Bay and some more disappointing fishing, both for halibut and prawns.  We tried a new (to us) anchorage behind Good Island.  It too was scenic but not one we’d want to be in during any significant weather.

The next day we crossed Stephens Passage headed for Port Houghton and Sanborn Inlet.  We dropped a couple of prawn pots near the entrance just in case our luck had changed.  The next morning upon departure for Tracy Arm Cove we were pleasantly surprised to find dinner waiting for us in the pots.

2015-06-239xAs we approached our destination, Marcia saw what she first thought was a log or dirty piece of ice floating in the water.  As we got closer, we saw it was a moose swimming in Holkham Bay.  We were quite far from shore and its origination or destination weren’t totally clear.  Currents are pretty swift there so it could have easily been taken well off its intended course.

From Tracy Arm Cove, you can visit either Tracy Arm and the Sawyer Glaciers or Endicott Arm and the Dawes Glacier.  We’ve been up Tracy Arm twice but had never been up 2015-06-280xEndicott Arm.  We decided to try the new (to us) area and headed out the next morning. 

As we started down Endicott Arm, the ice chunks in the water were large but infrequent enough they were easy to dodge.  As we got further in, smaller chunks of ice were common and often difficult to see in the filtered light from the cloudy sky.  At the head of Endicott Arm was the Dawes Glacier, the source of the ice in the water.

2015-06-267-269 stitchX

Our original plan was to do Tracy Arm the day after Endicott Arm but a weather forecast for 30 knot winds persuaded us to head for the public dock in Taku Harbor and wait out the blow.  Other boaters had similar ideas and the dock was pretty full when the winds started to pick up.

From Taku Harbor we made our way to Juneau and its Statter Harbor Marina in Auke Bay, where we were fortunate to find a spot without a lot of searching.  From here we’ll pick up Marcia’s Arizona cousins whom we’ll take first to Glacier Bay National Park and then to Sitka where they will depart on July 22.