Tuesday, June 23, 2009

#26 – Big John Bay to Kake

After a quiet night on Big John Bay, we looked forward to hauling our traps. Eureka! At last we hit the crab jackpot as eight huge male crabs visited our two underwater, chicken-leg dinner houses. The prawn trap also yields a few, but we have a difficult time hauling the trap in the swift Keku current. While maneuvering the boat around the trap, we back over a kelp patch and suck kelp into the generator seawater intake, causing a steam plume to be ejected from its exhaust. Alex immediately shuts down the generator, which will be repaired later in Kake.

Our route from Big John to Kake

Just after 11AM we are on are way to Kake, a Tlingit Indian town on Kupreanof Island. Bill and Karen prep the crabs and prawns, and begin cooking them. The girls plan a crustacean based menu for tonight's dinner.

Crabs and Prawns from Big John Bay and Keku Strait

It's another Wild Blue crab feast

By 1PM we've arrived in Kake at the fuel dock to add diesel and top off our tender's gasoline supplies. We then moved to the marina in Portage Bay on the southern end of town. The marina has a new breakwater, some newer and some older docks, fresh water, but no power for transient moorage. It's filled mainly with local and visiting fishing boats, and just a small number of pleasure craft. Kake's population is about 700 who earn a living fishing and working in the local hatchery and fish cannery. However, the cannery wasn't operating and the town had some financial issues. It took two days of inquiring to locate a person to accept our slip fees. This only happened because our taxi driver turned out to also be the city bookkeeper, or so he said, and accepted our fees.

Kake has a 128-foot totem pole, the world's tallest, carved in 1967 for the Alaska Purchase Centennial.

From almost anywhere in Kake you get an awesome view of the mountains of Baranof Island

The Kake marina is a busy place for work boats. A large seiner was repairing and arranging his net; the local pilot boat was always coming and going with pilots for cruise ships entering-exiting Frederick Sound; and at low tide, welders worked on a fish boat hauled out on a tidal grid. We spent three days in Kake, seeing the sights, provisioning and exchanging crew.

At extreme low tide, it was tough getting from the float to the pier, and vice versa.

Low tide allows this welder access below the waterline of this fish boat. He needs to finish his work before the tide returns.

On Wednesday, we rallied early for a tour of the Kake fish hatchery. This private non-profit, funded by salmon and crab fishing associations, captures spawning salmon coming up Gunnuk Creek. As the fish start upriver, they are diverted to a slew and large vats inside the hatchery. During a the salmon run, a large crew of workers mans the hatchery, capturing the fish, removing the row, and saving the fish carcass. The row is then fertilized, incubated, hatched, uniquely marked, and later released up river to complete their development. This process insures a high hatch yield and great increase in the survival rate of the salmon. The salmon carcasses are ground up for bait and sold to the crab association. The unique marking on the fish allow researchers to track the salmon throughout the North Pacific. Mature salmon from the Kake hatchery have been caught off Siberia and Japan.

During the salmon run, as many as 50 bears fish the creek just outside and below the hatchery. According to the caretaker, several times a bear has become a bit impatient fishing the river, and walks inside the open garage door of the hatchery, right over to the vats, and pulls out a fish in front of startled workers! They've found it best not to interfere, and let these few occurrences happen, the bear typically running off with his fish. He says it gets a bit scary when the bear turns towards the workers and consumes the live salmon while they watch!

Gunnuk Creek dam is closed, diverting spawning salmon to hatchery vats

Salmon eggs are incubated in these

These hatched babies are raised then later released to the wild

Wednesday afternoon Bill and Karen, our crew since the 15th leave for Juneau. Thursday, Dick and Harriet Squire arrive from Malibu to crew with us to Sitka. You probably remember them aboard Seagate, their Offshore 54, which they cruised alongside us last year to Alaska and the Queen Charlotte Islands. See the 2008 Alaska Blog for the full-story.

Wild Blue's guest stateroom has to be specially prepped for Commodore Squire and First Lady Harriet.

Sunset on Kake's Portage Bay Marina

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