Monday, July 16, 2012

#27 Sitka to Juneau: Salmon, Crab, Whales and Prawns

On Friday, July 6th, our son Max and his gal Katie arrived from Chi-town (Chicago) for a week of Alaska cruising.  Max is an Software Applications Consultant with Model N working at a client site in Chicago.  Katie in a charter school teacher who has just taken a position as Master Teacher in a new charter school near Chicago.  

On Friday we provisioned the Wild Blue for all things that Max and Katie like including a bottle of smokey Laphroaig scotch, now among Max's new favorites.  The plan is to go fishing on Saturday morning at local Biorka Island then do the Sitka Music Festival finale in the evening.

One last fishing trip to Biorka.

On Saturday, we rallied at 6AM for the 90 minute motor to Biorka Island for one last Sitka fishing experience.  Katie and Max we amped up for landing a salmon and after a sloppy ride, we started trolling upon arrival.  Pat, dressed in her morning crew uniform of pajamas and robe, drove the boat and Alex tended the poles.  As soon as the lines were in, Max and Katie went below to layer up for the cooler weather.  Within minutes the call of "fish on" had Pat stopping the boat.  Alex reeled in the fish and with no other crew on deck, Pat had to net the salmon and haul it aboard, while carefully keeping the fish blood, slim and scales off her robe!  The landing was a success and the rest of the crew made it up to see a 31 inch Silver salmon in the box.  The   excitement made the eager out-of-town fisherman even more eager. As we  have said many times, salmon trolling is "many hours of boredom, punctuated by a few minutes of extreme excitement".  Unfortunately Katie and Max spent a lot of time outside in the cold experiencing the boredom part.  By noon we started back for the Harbor, cleaning the fish for Sunday's BBQ.

Dinner and a musical performance: Max and Katie at the Larkspur in Sitka. Note Katie isn't really this tall. She sits on a stool here, teacher like, relishing a rare opportunity to tower over Max.

After Saturday's memorable music concert at Sitka Harrington Hall with the Attacca String Quartet and super cellist Zull Bailey, we again rallied at 6AM Sunday for the cruise to the top of Kruzof Island.  By 9AM we were trolling the so-called "shark hole" king salmon fishing spot just outside Peril Strait.  With no bites, at 1PM we started up Peril Strait to make Surgis Narrows with the currnet in our favor.

Sergis Narrows in Peril Strait is calm today even with 5 knots of current.

The view looking north in Peril Strait.

Dining on the Wild Blue greatly improves when our kids visit.  Today's lunch menu included quesadillas with fresh made guacamole by Katie.  Delicious!

We moved over in skinny Peril Strait while the Fairweather Alaska Ferry sped by at 38 knots.

In early evening we pulling into Hanus Bay, on the southern side and near the east end of Peril Strait.  We set two crab traps and started the BBQ.  Fresh salmon sushi appetizers and BBQ salmon on a cedar plank highlighted a busy day in Alaska.

The Chicago Tender Team examine Hanus Bay.

Sunset over Hanus Bay.

Katie and Max this week's Wild Blue crew.

On Monday we pulled our crab traps, returned the females and juveniles to the sea, and harvested 3 good-sized male crabs.  Alex immediately prepared the crabs and dropped them in a boiling water seasoned with Pappys.  We'll enjoy the crab meat later.

After pancakes and bacon, we headed out of Peril Strait into North Chatham destined for Tenakee Springs, a small Alaska community on Chigagof Island.  At Tenakee, there is free hot springs bathing and many homes in the town are heated by the hot water from the Springs.  As we reached Tenakee Inlet, we noticed a small passenger ship following a group of humpback whales.  We videoed the scene.

Every home has an ocean view in Tenakee Springs.

Max leads the Humpback whale chase.

The Manuska is considered a slow Alaska ferry, traveling at just 15 knots.

Yes we like crab!

It continued to rain all day, so no one was driven enough to venture into downtown Tenakee.  On Tuesday morning we continued our journey up Chatham Strait to Hawk Inlet.  The wind and seas were up, 20 knots and 5 feet respectively, but with those and the current on our back, Wild blue easily surfed northward.  After four hours we entered Hawk Inlet, avoiding the feeding Humpbacks, and set our prawns traps in deep water.  We anchored in shallow and calm water 4 miles deep inside Hawk Inlet in what the Douglass Guide calls a "bombproof" anchorage.  It was very quiet. 

The view from the bitter end inside Hawk Inlet.

Hawk Inlet on Admiralty Island and Wednesday's route to Oliver Inlet.

 On Wednesday we started early to allow fishing time.  After picking up and emptying our prawn traps, we trolled northward along the west side of Admiralty Island towards Juneau.  Once again we experienced the boredom part of salmon fishing.  At last we needed to leave to make Oliver Inlet by 8PM high slack water.  The Inlet is one of those that allows entry only at high tide.  The Douglass Guide assured us that with today's 14-foot tide we will still have 8 feet under our keel at the shallow entrance.

The Wild Blue Prawn Team in action.

At 8PM, some 30 minutes after high tide, we entered Oliver Inlet with the flow inward pushing a 3-knot current.  The depth was 5 feet less than the prediction, so either the entrance has shallowed since the Douglass' did their survey, or Coastal Explorer tide tables were incorrect.  Either way there was 5 feet of depth missing and one of the three depth meters was reporting consistent 6.8 feet, or 1.2 feet of water under our keel!  The other meters were recording 8.2 feet, or a little less than 3 feet under the boat's bottom.  Not much of a reassuring feeling.  We made it through the nearly 1-mile of shallow water and found a 30 foot deep anchorage area inside the Inlet.  We felt much better after we consumed a quick Laphroaig on the rocks! (Oh no, don't say ROCKS).

Entering Oliver Inlet

Inside Oliver Inlet

After the scotch it was time for a Wild Blue favorite: linguine and prawns.  Yes we nabbed about 50 prawns, twisted their heads off and par-boiled and peeled them for insertion into the cooked linguine, crushed garlic, parmigiana cheese, sliced tomatoes, capers and olive oil just before serving.  Wow! What an delicious epicurean experience.

Linguine and prawns: a Wild Blue favorite!

The birthday girl celebrates 25 years a few days early with Pat's chocolate and chocolate chip cake.  Note the 2 candles and 2 candles in a row for those of you that can count.

Two local "yakkers" pass us.  One looks to be from San Francisco?

On Thursday, the original plan was to exit Oliver Inlet on the 8:30AM high tide and make Juneau by noon for touring. However the morning hide tide was only +10 feet so that meant we would run aground on the way out.  This of course would probably make Katie late for her new job, so we played it safe and waited for the 9:30PM high tide.  This meant extra time inside Oliver Inlet, so we took a hike along the narrow gauge rail which serves as portage to Seymour Canal to the south.  Then we kayaked around a bit and then one of use when swimming in the cold Alaskan waters.

Enduring the cold Gulf of Alaska waters for a swim.

A little after 9PM we hauled the anchor and cautiously exited Oliver Inlet.  It was less tense than the entry and uneventful.  We made course for Juneau passing two cruise ships leaving Alaska's capitol city.  We entered the Harbor near dark, an appropriate ending to a great week of cruising.

Cruise ship exiting Gastineau Channel and turning for Stephens Passage at 10PM.

Entering Juneau Harbor at 11PM with plenty of light to see the docks.

Although max and Katie had no luck fishing for salmon in the wild, this commercial seiner (a net boat) easily lands thousands of fish inside Juneau Harbor.  Oh well.

We had a fun time with Max and Katie.  They make a good team.  Hopefully they'll be back next year.

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