Sunday, July 26, 2015

Juneau and Coots Bay 7/20/15

A couple of rainy days in Juneau along with a day of sunshine.   Juneau is a capital city but you would not know it from our visit.  About 40 miles of roads, including a 4 lane section, are isolated to the area just to the north and south of the city center.  Our docking arrangements were at the transient dock between our friends on Antipodes and a 75’ aluminum fishboat.   Overall length of our part of the dock was about 60 feet.   With lots of help and missing having a stern thruster we got WORKNOT secured to the dock just as the rain stopped. 

WORKNOT was docked about 5 feet behind PACIFIC PREDATOR and about the same distance from ANTIPODES.  As they left the crew of the fishboat made sure they did not have to deal with scratching a cruising boat.  Both young ladies on the boat were working for the summer before returning to college and seemed to be very enthusiastic about life on a fishboat.

We liked Juneau much more than Ketchikan but can’t really say why.   The feel of the city was different even with 4 cruise ships in port and the usual collection of tourist shops.  We met a couple of people on the docks who call Juneau home and they all had good things to say about living there.    We made our way to Walmart thanks to a fisherman we helped get some fuel to on our way north.  LITTLE RED  ran out of fuel about 10 miles south of Juneau and with the help of our fuel can, Antipodes gave him 15 gallons to make it home.  Don't have an easy way to get fuel from my tanks to jug but will remedy that next time I can find a 3 way valve.  The captain Doug, found us in Harris harbor the next day and stopped by to say thanks and offer a ride to get supplies.

Picking up our empty fuel jug “Deadliest Catch” style

Here is LITTLE RED getting fuel transferred.  Doug also shared his favorite fishing spots for halibut and salmon.   They would bear fruit later on…..

Leaving Juneau in the rain we traveled south back down the Gastineau Channel to Stephens Passage.  Along the way another cruise ship was making its way to port to unload well over a thousand passengers for the day.  Trips to the Sawyer Glacier where we just left as well as Mendenhall Glacier a highlight of a trip to Juneau.  Fishing is reported to be very good as we go north and our plan was to fish Skull Island. 

Weather along the way was very calm but rainy and foggy.  Winds were less than 10 knots most of the 15-20 miles to the fishing grounds but as we rounded the corner to Skull Island the wind picked up to 20 knots and it was very cold.  Weather drove us off of the intended fishing spot but we moved across the channel where several other boats we fishing.  Turns out they knew what we did not and finally caught salmon!
The technique is called “mooching”.  Mid sized frozen herring is rigged to rotate when retrieved at a slow speed.   The weighted bait is cut to make it spin and it works.  Lots of excitement as we landed our first salmon.  Really not well prepared for success, we lost the first fish we hooked as the net, gaff etc were not ready for action.  We are learning and next time will have the net, fishbag and crew ready for action. 

With the weather still rainy and overcast we headed to Coots Bay about 20 miles away.  As we moved south again a pod of whales appeared just behind us.  After turning back to see them we were greeted by at least 6 whales feeding near the shore.  The scene was unreal as they repeatedly smacked their tails against the surface, breached and put on a show.  Below are some shots taken by WORKNOT and an incredible set of shots by Randy on ANTIPODES.  A whale breached between us and it was just too close.  Less than 100 feet from us.  See for yourself just how spectacular the day turned out to be.

Here is the scary shot taken by Randy, I was too awestruck to get a shot....

Capping off the outstanding day arrived at Coots Bay anchorage in fog and rain that reduced visibility to less than 1/3 mile.  By the time the anchor was down the rain stopped and the rest of the afternoon and evening were quiet, dry and peaceful.. 

Box Score   7 hours (including fishing and whale watching)  41 miles, 22 gallons……..

Monday, July 20, 2015

Myers Chuck, Wrangell and Anan Bear Reserve 7/15/15

On our way to Wrangell stopped at Myers Chuck and stayed at  the state float.  There are many of these well maintained docks scattered along the way.  Myers Chuck is accessible only by float plane or boat.   Very small community with a few dozen homes.   The bulletin board had an ad for a cabin priced at $95K.   Looked nice, 2 bedroom with a killer view.  Also a local lady was advertising sticky buns.   Gave her a call and next morning she delivered warm, homemade buns to the boat in time for breakfast!   The source of the sticky buns is the two tone roof behind the post office in case you drop by.

Wrangell is a fishing town with large transient docks geared to the fishing fleet but welcoming to cruising boats as well.

Traveled from Wrangell about 20 miles to the Anan Bear Reserve aboard Antipodes.  It was fun to a "guest" aboard another boat and not have any duties.   Permits are required and the number of visitors is very limited.   We anchored about 150 yards offshore and took kayaks to the beach in shifts to allow someone to watch the boat as the anchorage has poor holding.

After a warning about the dangers of bears, meeting a ranger complete with shotgun and being sure not to have any food or other temptations hiked about half a mile to the observatory.   Along the way there was fresh bear "scat" on the trail.   That's a "scat" provider casually walking across the trail we just came in on.....

Anan Bear Reserve delivered the bears as advertised!!

 Just like me this guy can't seem to catch a salmon...

Eagles were also hanging around the stream in hopes of finding so scraps from the bears.

After seeing half a dozen bears we got to walk back along the trail also shared by the bears.  A guide from one of the boats was leaving and we joined him along with his two clients for the walk back.  The guide was armed with a pistol.  Don't really know if it was for show or truly a safety measure.  To add a little excitement the clients kept stopping to pick berries along the way.  It was a very long walk back to the kayak .....

Keela is not happy to be in the rain.....

Box Score 7 hours, 21 gallons, Flood tide most of the way so 62 miles...

Petersburg to Tracy Arm Alaska (Holkham Bay) 7/18/15

Traveling to this stunning location included Stephens Passage as we left Petersburg Alaska.  We only stayed one night in this hardy fishing town.  Known as the Halibut capital of Alaska we found the docks and the small town friendly.  Landing at Petersburg was a flashback to a tough landing at La Paz Mexico over a year ago where the current swept WORKNOT to the dock broadside.  This time experience won out and on the second attempt made a fairly good landing in 3-4 kts of cross current.  The harbor actually had an eddy current going opposite of the arrival current.   No battle scars this time.  

Petersburg is very proud of its Norwegian heritage and the Sons of Norway museum was having some type of show when we arrived.  A school bus load of folks a little older than us were greeted by young girls in full costume as they arrived.   Sorry, we did not have a phone or camera available to get more pictures.  I can just imagine Sig from “Deadliest Catch”  strolling the streets of Petersburg.

The current was on our side as we headed north giving us about 1-2 kts of push almost the entire way to Hoolkham Bay.  Our original plan was to make this trip in two nights but the added speed got us into Tracy Arm Cove just before dinner.  Rain and fog were with us all day but never totally blocking visibility or slowing our pace.  

Entering Holkham Bay requires crossing a bar that shallows from over 300' to just over 40’.  The opening is 1.75 miles wide but navigable at a width of only 0.3 miles.   The channel is marked by two buoys with a note indicating one of them is often carried off its location by icebergs. 

We anchored in Tracy Arm Cove with several other boats, one asked us to move after we had set our anchor-announcing he was 100 ft long and needed more room, and settled in for a quiet evening as the rain had ended and the air was very calm.   About midnight winds picked up and by 1 AM wind was blowing 20-30 kts in sharp gusts.  This is known as a Williwaw wind and it is caused by cold air rushing down the face of the glacier and mountains.  Localized but strong they can reach over 50 kts in some areas.   Added about 75 ft of scope to our anchor and slept in the pilot house to be ready if we moved.  By 3 AM winds had calmed down and WORKNOT was still firmly attached to the bottom by our dependable Rocna anchor.  (If you want to start a dock argument;  just ask any boater which is the best anchor). 

A few of our neighbors at Tracy Arm Cove.

Our friends on Antipodes led the way during the 22 mile trip up Tracy Arm to see the glacier.  We saw some ice early on but things were fairly clear until we got about 4 miles from the split where Tracy Arm branches into the North and South arms leading to the face of the Sawyer Glacier. 
Along the way stunning water falls on both sides of the fjord provide enough water that the normal current flow is always and ebb.

Fog and mist hung low in the air but our trip was not hampered by the low ceiling.  Running in the ice flow with heavy fog would not be possible and we kept a close watch behind us to be sure we did not get closed in.

Several tour boats from Juneau raced ahead of us to the face of the glacier.  Following Antipodes (Steel Hull) took plenty of effort and several times had to push “bergy bits” off the bow to make a path.  Even the small pieces of ice made a terrible sound against the hull. 

The color and shape of the bergs was mesmerizing.  Blue tones and exotic shapes drew your attention from piloting the boat to staring at them in wonderment. 

Finally we made our way to the face of the glacier.  Caught a calving of pieces about the size of the boat but too slow with the camera.

The granite face of the fiord walls is rubbed smooth and towers up to 2,500 ft above us.  Loss of VHF, GPS and satellite communications is normal in some of the areas.  According to the charts the glacier has retreated over half a mile since 1995.   Just 20 years ago the spot we were floating in was on the face of the glacier.  The dashed area was glacier when the chart was drawn...

As you can see we had a very spectacular day.  A few more pictures to better express what we got to see.

Simply amazed........

Keela came to help, in spirit, as I pushed ice away from WORKNOT

Box Score 10 Hours, 40 miles, 21 gallons (VERY slow moving in the ice field) 

Many thanks to Randy, Nancy and Adam on Antipodes for the pictures of WORKNOT...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ketchikan to Kasaan Bay 7/12/15

Yes Bay to Ketchikan to Kasaan Bay

After a great few days in Yes Bay our trip took us to a quiet anchorage across from Yes Bay on the Revillagigedo Island side of the Behm Channel.  Plans were to anchor at Naha Bay but NaNa was the word.  The head of the bay was steep and narrow with very little room to swing.  Even with settled conditions we did not want to chance it.  The "float" that we hoped would lead us ashore to a lagoon was damaged and not connected to the shore.  The only way to enter the lagoon was by dinghy and with the tide race over 2' we would have to stay in Roosevelt Lagoon for almost 10 hours to have slack tide going in and out.

 The  Navy was conducting testing along the shore and limited access was available to Helm Bay.   We asked for clearance but were directed almost 10 miles out of the way to avoid the test area.  In an 8 Kt boat this is a delay of an hour and a half both into and out of the bay.  

With no luck fishing settled on an anchorage near Moser Bay in a small unidentified bite. It was great with good views, no traffic and little to no wind.  Since WORKNOT was just about an hour and a half to Ketchikan next morning we returned to Ketchikan for some more fishing supplies, groceries and propane.  The day began rainy and it continued to be overcast and drizzly the next few days.

With our errands run (except for the propane) we left early the next morning for Kassan Bay.  A fairly short ride across Clarence Strait.  Winds were blowing against the current and we found ourselves in short, choppy 3-4 ft seas right on the beam.  A reminder that we were in real water after days and days of flat clam seas in the protected parts of Behm Channel.   Our choice for an anchorage was Happy Harbor on Kasaan Island.  Very well protected but only enough water at the entrance to come and go at mid tide or better.  Our entry registered less than 2 ft under the keel but at least we were on a rising tide.  We could escape if we got grounded.  Just off the narrow entrance to the lagoon was a telephone booth.  Like most the phone was missing.  There must be a story to this item being on a small island with no roads or other access other than boat.

Guide books claimed the floats at Kasaan Village, a small native community across from our anchorage were in poor repair and anchoring was marginal.  Much to our surprise we found very nice, new floats with excellent walkways at Kasaan.  There are many of these high quality floats and most are funded by a mixture of state and local agencies.  Alaska has money and seems to be willing to spend it.  Wonder how long this will last at $40/barrel oil? 

The village has an active carver shed and is restoring a native building at the end of a very maintained trail along the shore.

Totems are scattered along the trail and around the small village.   Since it was Sunday we missed the carvers at work but could see some of the craftsmanship they use to build the totems and other articles from native wood. 

No mistaking where you are in Kasaan

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Walker Cove to Yes Bay 7/7/15

Walker Cove to Yes Bay 7/7/15

Our circumnavigation of Revillagigedo Island continues as we move from Walker Bay to Yes Bay.
Walker Bay is a few miles north of the famous Punchbowl area which is heavily visited by cruise ship and others from Ketchikan.  

The peaks around Walker Bay are in the 3,000 ft range and snow was still visible on the eastern slopes.   Took the dinghy fishing and even when less than 50 ft form the wall the depth was often over 200’ (Limits of dinghy depth finder).  Only the sounds of nature penetrated the area.  No float planes or other reminders of civilization.  GPS signals occasionally blocked by the high walls.

Our first bear sighting occurred on the morning we left.  He was eating grass at low tide.  So much for walking Keela along the beach. 

The days are getting a little shorter and occasionally stay awake long enough to catch a sunset.  Sunrise however remains elusive around 4 AM.  The lack of darkness is really messing with our sleep patterns and its been to warm to shut all the doors to the stateroom.  These are the kind of problems I like to deal with.

While on the topic of problems our water maker continues to be a source of irritation.   After replacing one of the boost pumps in Ketchikan the other pump failed.  It was recommended both pumps be replaced at the same time as they operate in parallel.  Naturally, had to take the newest pump out to get to the older one.  Fixed a nuisance leak while the system was apart and it produced the most water ever!  Right on spec at 14-15 gal/hr.   So far the controller, membrane, high pressure CLARK pump and both boost pumps have been replaced.   There are not many other moving parts to the system.  With a little luck maybe it will work for more than 2 weeks without a wrench touching it.   In fairness the watermaker was left unpickled (preserved) for too long when we bought the boat.  With the recent repairs most of the items that could be impacted have been replaced.   Time will tell.  
Next stop is Yes Bay.   The fishing resort has two important things; internet and dinner cooked by someone other than crew members.   Both are a welcome break. 

The place is beautiful and staying there along with fishing trips is almost $1000/night.   That includes float plane from Ketchikan and the guides really produced the fish.   All the gear needed including raingear, fishing tackle, boats, guides and vacuum packing the catch is included.  After seeing the number of salmon each boat returned with it was tempting to sign up.  Staff was very pleasant and helpful.  Even as just dinner guests we were treated like we belonged and constantly asked if they could make our visit better.
Anchorage was about a mile away but the lodge provided a great dinghy parking arrangement.  Just drive onto the float, it sinks with the weight of the dinghy and step out on the dry side of the dock.

The crew of Antipodes posing for the years Christmas card?

Next morning we were greeted by another bear sighting, this one much closer.  He swam out to a float just behind our boat, walked around then back to shore.  A bit unnerving to see how easily the bear transitioned from the water to the float.  The swim platform on WORKNOT would be no challenge.

BOX SCORE 7 hours 22 Gallons 48 Miles 

Our plan is to fish another few days and return to Ketchikan to catch up on internet and another round of provisions at the Safeway.     More as we head to Wrangell and continue north.....