Friday, June 4, 2021

Ketchikan to Sitka

After last year's strange, hurried and very wet Alaska cruising season we hoped to return to some normalcy in this year's season.  We started off with our "traditional" half loop around Behm Canal.  Ketchikan is on Revillagigedo Island which is surrounded on three sides by Behm Canal and Tongass Narrows/Revillagigedo Channel on its fourth.  We dislike retracing our entrance route into Ketchikan along Revillagigedo Channel so instead we continue out Tongass Narrows and work our way north along the west leg of Behm Canal, around the top of Revillagigedo Island and partway down the east leg of Behm Canal.  It is usually less crowded and it visits many sites that have yielded crabs or prawns for us in the past.

2021-05-001xOnly a short distance (~12 NM) from Ketchikan, we encountered an unusual sight.  The US Navy has an acoustic test station at the south end of the west channel of Behm Canal.  In all our past trips, one or two large barges sit lonely in the middle of the channel.  This year there was a buzz of activity, including a Coast Guard Cutter patrolling the perimeter.  The hub of the activity was a Trident nuclear submarine sitting on the surface between the two barges.  We have no idea of the kind of testing being done (and wouldn't tell you if we did).  When we returned by the area a few days later, all was quiet again.

While we saw a half dozen cruising boats when we 2021-05-007xstarted up Behm Canal, they were all exiting and we saw only a few other boats along the way.  We did manage to get on the USFS buoy in Walker Cove in Misty Fiords National Monument.  We usually see bears on the beach foraging on the sedge grass but they weren't there this year.  When we went to shore, we understood why. The sedge grass had only just sprouted, was sparse and only a inch or two high.  Hardly enough to feed a hungry sow and one or two cubs.

2021-05-017xWe attribute the grass's stunted condition to the cold and wet weather.  Since we've been in SEAK, we've had above normal rain and below normal temperatures.  We've gone several days in which the high temperature we see on our outside thermometer never cracks 50°.  Our furnace is getting a workout this season.

After our Behm Canal foray we headed up to Ernest Sound and spent a couple of nights at Santa Anna Inlet, prawning nearby.  We then positioned in Roosevelt Harbor on Zarembo Island for our transit of Wrangell Narrows.  While there we met a couple of boaters from nearby Wrangell who knew our friends Jim & Rosy on Sea Venture who wintered over in Wrangell.  An attraction of Roosevelt Harbor is the USFS dock and access to logging roads.  We took Drake ashore in our kayaks for a well deserved walk (we were 8 days out from Ketchikan at this point).

Our arrival in Petersburg was at high slack and the notorious currents were quiet so the docking was uneventful.  We secured a slip just down from our friends, John & Kathleen on our sister ship, Laysan.  They wintered their boat in Petersburg but wisely return to their home in Hawaii for the winter.

After a couple of days in Petersburg and with 2021-05-048xoutstanding weather (but a poor forecast for the next day), we made the long day's journey to Takatz Bay on Baranof Island.  We sat out the poor weather in Takatz and spent part of the day watching a helicopter ferrying loads from a frontloading craft to some nearby location.  After talking with a guide from a small (<200') cruise ship (it was taking its guests on excursions in Takatz), we believe the activity was the stocking of a nearby lake with smolt.  The fish were carried in the water tanks of tanker trucks which were driven onto the front loader.  The front loader beached itself and pumped the water and fish into canvas bags in a frame structure.  The helicopter would lower a short haul line down while hovering, the crew attached the short haul to the frame structure, the helicopter would fly off and dump its load and swap its empty load for a new load (they had two bag structures).  This went on for 2 to 3 hours.  The helicopter landed on the beach at the beginning and ending of the process and once in the middle (not sure if the helicopter refueled from a tank on the front loader).  It was all very interesting.

After our two nights2021-05-063x in Takatz we continued to Appleton Cove and then to Baby Bear Bay.  In Baby Bear we took Drake to shore on an island (at least at high tide) since it was several days after leaving Petersburg.  After two nights in Baby Bear (again sitting out some rainy, blustery weather), we transited through Sergius Narrows and make our way to Kalinin Bay for the night.  An early start had us fishing the morning bite along the north shore of Kruzof Island outside Kalinin.  No luck.

Our final night before Sitka, was in the outer cove of DeGroff Bay on Krestof Island.  We find that anchorage to be well protected and convenient for an early arrival in Sitka.

We're planning three nights in Sitka, tending to chores and attending a concert associated with the Sitka Music Festival taking place this year after last year's hiatus.  After that, we’ll go cruising for a week or so and return to Sitka for another concert later in the month.

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