Monday, June 22, 2009

#25 - Hole-in-the-Wall #2 thru Keku Strait to Big John Bay

Our anchorage today is near the northern end of Keku Strait. Once again we need to exit Hole-in-the-Wall #2 on a rising tide and continue into Keku Strait while the rise continues.

We ran the tender over and collected our crab traps, one was empty, the other lost. Apparently the trap set just outside the anchorage entrance was swept away by the high tide and ocean swell. No crabs and now, no trap. Hopefully this crabbing will get better.

Today's Route through Keku Strait

The tide dictates a 10:30AM exit with +3 feet, just enough to clear the 8-foot minimum depth with breathing room, and we're able to safely navigate our departure. Outside, the ocean swell has diminished and many commercial fishing boats ply the waters near Point Baker in their quest for salmon.

We motor north at 9 knots crossing big patches of kelp. Since the boat is equipped with kelp deflectors in front of the stabilizer fins, we're not worried about snagging the larger bull kelp. Suddenly we are startled to hear the boom, shudder, and bounce of a hard object down the hull's starboard side. Apparently a submerged log was tangled in the kelp and scraped our side. All bilge pump lights stayed off, so we continued towards Keku Strait. Later this day, far into the shallow water of the Strait, we discovered the Interphase forward looking sonar no longer displayed objects on our right side. The submerged object has obviously damaged the underwater sonar sensor.

Kelp entangled log similar to the one that gave Wild Blue a “black sensor eye”

In Exploring Southeast Alaska, Douglass describes Keku Strait as follows: “Rocky Pass is an explorer's dream and a marginal navigator's nightmare. We do not recommend it for boats larger than 30-feet. The channel is shallow with numerous mud flats on all sides, strong currents, and thick kelp patches.” Luckily Pat and our guests have not read Douglass.

As we approach the south entrance to Keku, just ahead we note Yachette and Shearwater entering the Strait. Then we enter the Strait single-file. Soon the lead boat slows for another just ahead. Welcome to the Keku Strait boat parade! It's Me Too, a Nordhavn 40, Shearwater, a Legacy 65, and Yachette, a Delta 71 models followed by Wild Blue, a Selene 53. The parade continues for awhile until a wide spot allows safe passing.

Yachette has just passed Me Too.

Wild Blue waits for a wide spot to pass Me Too, the slow one.

Our slow progress up the Strait gives us the opportunity scan the small islets and islands. Biologist Karen spies a moose on a small island watching our boat parade. The moose, a cow, is statuesque just like a mannequin. If we didn't know we were in remote Alaska, a Disneyland wilderness ride comes to mind. No camera was ready to capture the moment. Perhaps moose replica pancakes for breakfast?

Small Islands can be home to moose too

At last we approach our anchorage for the evening, and drop a prawn trap, baited with Friskies Salmon Dinner cat food, in the deepest hole we can find, 158 feet. Big John Bay is a large, flat and shallow anchorage just off the east side of the Strait. It is filled with crab pots, maybe as many as 200 or so. We slowly run the slalom course, dodging traps to the head of the Bay, and drop anchor in 18 feet. With so many traps, how can a single crab elude capture? We drop two traps, baited with chicken legs, just off our stern. We'll let the traps soak overnight.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, various commerical crab boats haul, bait, and reset their traps. They even boat some big crabs, and return the undersized crabs and the females. (Girls are always being favored.) Perhaps there is hope for us and crabs yet? At least let us capture the small ones and the females, cast off the commercial crab boats. We won't know until morning.

St Jo, a commercial crabber, hauls a crab-filled trap.

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