Sunday, June12, 2011 - Seattle Airport
Alex was leaning against the wall at the Seattle to Ketchikan gate, when two old guys approached. The guys said hello, waiting for a response, as it took a few seconds for Alex to realize these old guys were his college roommates up for another cruise on Wild Blue. Willie and Mike had arrived together from San Francisco. Willie is a turkey rancher and Mike owns a CPA and audit business. A few minutes later Joe, another college roommate and chicken rancher, joined the group arriving from San Diego. The group has been cruising together in Alaska and British Columbia during the past three summers. All four graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1971 and all now are aging gracefully..... sorta.
After landing in Ketchikan the college crew dined at Annabelle's alongside a handful of cruise ship passengers looking for something not found aboard. Willie has been feeding everyone else ever since those college days and once again he arrived with a large cooler packed with product. Smoked turkey, smoked chicken, duck breast, prawns, turkey bacon, chicken wings, lamb steaks, baby shrimp and Cajun spices were tightly packed into the giant cooler. This bag was definitely overweight and costly to check. Needing just a few more items, the crew final provisioned at Safeway for a week in the Alaskan wild, as wild as the Wild Blue can get. After just a few libations, the gray haired crew retired for tomorrows cruise to Prince of Wales Island.
Monday, June 13, 2011 - Ketchikan to Thorne Bay: Too Many Girls
By noon the Wild Blue was off in a northwesterly direction towards the northeast coast of Prince of Wales Island. The course took us up and across Clarence Strait to a small town on well protected Thorne Bay. The town harbor was quiet and Wild Blue secured moorage at the transient dock. With $220 recently spent on licenses for 7 days of Alaska fishing, the crew immediately launched the tender boat and placed two crab traps for an overnight soak. Willie then created his New Orleans spicy gumbo to the delight of many a taste bud!
Our Route from Ketchikan to Thorne Bay
Entering Thorne Bay
Overcast skies and more light rain awakened the crew to a 5AM dawn. The tender boat was manned for crab trap retrieval. Joe did the honors and was initially excited to see 11 crabs staring back at him from inside the cage. Heck the limit is three each so this was just one short. However, they were all female.....yes, just too many girls! All fisherman know there no equality of the sexes in the sea, as only male crabs can be harvested. And to add insult to our crab injury, just outside the Bay in deep water, our two prawn traps yielded just 3 small prawns, or about $72 each in license fee costs. Let's get out of this Thorny Bay....
Chicken Rancher Joe knows too many girls means the roosters will get tired, but crab ranchers only harvest the males.
These three small prawns were relished and consumed.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - Thorne Bay to Exchange Cove: Too Many Males
Today we fished the northeast coast of Prince of Wales Island on our way to Exchange Cove. We choose fishing spots near rocky outcroppings in 60 to 100 feet of water. We also employed the sonar to assist us. After locating what appeared on the sonar to be amazing fishing spots, we had no bites, hookups, and our fish box was empty.
Our Route from Thorne Bay to Exchange Cove
The sonar shows a crowds of fish down there, but none seem to want to ride our hooks to the surface. (Note: The water temp really wasn't 111 degrees. It's a sensor issue).
After what seemed like hours of tedious fishing, actually it was several hours, we arrived at Exchange Cove, dropped two crab traps and our anchor. This is a beautiful and large anchorage with easy access. The water is calm. We decided to fish in the shallow 24 foot depth and were surprised to get a bite. Willie reeled up a large crab, that promptly fell off the hook, a promising sign. We didn't wait too long before pulling our traps and reaping our reward. Willie prepped a spicy seawater boil and cooked all twelve large male crabs. We stuffed ourselves with warm cooked crab dipped in garlic butter, then picked the remaining crab meat for storage. Awesome!
At anchor in Exchange Cove.
Scenic Exchange Cove.
Twelve large male crabs take up space, These claws are ready for cooking and dining.
Willie is at home in the galley displaying 1/2 of large crab, ready for boiling seawater.
Wednesday - June 15, 2011 - Exchange Cove to Red Bay: Epicurean Delight.
On Wednesday we continued our bottom fishing ways around the top of Prince of Wales Island. And as before, the fish stayed in the water. We entered Red Bay late in the afternoon near slack tide to navigate two narrow channels inside the Bay. After a long day of fishing, we dined on crab salad and Willie's own grass fed lamb chops. After that awesome epicurean experience, some of us even finished the last episode of HBO's War in the Pacific. Hopefully the fish will bite tomorrow.
Exchange Cove to Red Bay
Thursday, June 16, 2011 - Red Bay to Wrangell: There are fish in the sea.
The sun appeared for the first time in several days. We cooked up the remaining crabs and decided to pick the meat for easier storage. Then we will continue our fishing ways on the way to Wrangell.
Red Bay to Wrangell with Fishing Stops
After picking the crab, the boys are ready for reel (or real) fishing. Alex stops the boat outside St. John Harbor to fish the rocky points. After an hour without excitement we move onward toward Wrangell. Alex stops again off the south end of Vank Island, about an hour outside Wrangell. Finally Willie gets a byte and pulls a small ling cod. After returning the juvenile fish, Alex and Joe return similar fish. Willie's "Well you caught something" didn't really help our mindset. Then Willie got a big tug, the pole bent good, and he eventually landed a good-sized fish which we learned was a Pacific Cod. Mike then promptly landed a larger Cod. And as if that wasn't enough, he then reeled in a 36" halibut! At last the fish were biting but after a busy hour, we cruised into Wrangell, docking at the new Heritage Harbor just south of the downtown.
Always one for the spotlight, Willie shows off Mike's halibut for his local newspaper.
The makings of a crab salad. Of course lettuce, tomatoes and onions are optional.
Wrangell always reminds Alex of the "Leave It To Beaver" set.
Moored on the float next to Wild Blue were three other Selenes: the 53 Peregrine, the 53 Tranquility and the 59 Raindancer.
Friday, June 17, 2011 - Wrangell to Wrangell Narrows Anchorage:Another Epicurean Extravaganza
Once again we awoke with full bellies, our breath reeking of crab salad, fried fresh cod and halibut. We decided to work our way to a point near the entrance of Wrangell Narrows and anchor for the night. This would give us a leg up for entering the Narrows and making Petersburg earlier on Saturday. Soon after leaving Wrangell the Alaska Marine Highway, in the form of a ferry, passed to starboard. We fished our hot spot again, but it was now cold, I mean frigid! We anchored in a cove near to the southern entrance to Wrangell Narrows and planned another seafood feast.
Wrangell to Wrangell Narrows Anchorage with fishing stop.
The Alaska Marine Highway is really a ferry.
Yet another way to dine on crab: Crab cocktail.
How about crab cakes? But what about the other 5 pounds in the refer?
Saturday, June 18, 2011 - Petersburg: La Fonda for a Mexican Fix.
Usually you want to enter Wrangell Narrows at the end of a high tide cycle. That allows the boat to be pushed up the Narrows until reaching a mid-point, where the tidal current reverses and pushes the boat some more. Since high tide occurs late in the day, we decide to buck the current by entering at the end of a low tide at 9AM this morning. This puts us in Petersburg in time to enjoy this Norwegian rooted town.
We start up the Narrows with a 1 to 2-knot current against us. At 10AM slack we are halfway there and the current is zero as expected. By 11AM we are nearing Petersburg with just a 1-knot adverse current. Not the optimum approach but good for this day. Once there we head for a town tour and visit to La Fonda, a Mexican restaurant inside a bar. The food is great but as you might guess, no one orders seafood.
It's been a fun week of reliving our college experiences. Some of the things we did back then seem quite absurd today. The college crew is looking forward to another year and another cruise.
Petersburg via Wrangell Narrows
Just had to have one more fresh fried fish sandwich!
Petersburg South Harbor is filled with fishing boats. Wild Blue is on the far right.