Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016-17 A Counterclockwise Circumnavigation of Chigagof Island with The Boat People

2016-17 A Counterclockwise Circumnavigation of Chigagof Island with The Boat People

Tuesday, June 14, 2016: The Boat People as Crew

Over the years the Wild Blue has hosted many a crew, most of whom seldom if ever get on the water. They've learned while crewing and do excellent work for little or no boating experience. On the flip side, there is this week's crew: the opposites.  These folks are on the water as many as four days a week, every week.  They are experienced boat owners, and yacht club enthusiasts with years of sailing and power-boating.  In short the folks are..... The Boat People!

Alex met Dick Squire in the early 1980's  and soon thereafter Denny and Lori Haythorn, all of us members of the California Yacht Club, Marina del Rey. We've raced and cruised sailboats as well as power boats many times over those years.  We've enjoyed the many highs, as well as a few scary times on the ocean.  More Boat People information here. These folks arrived today and Pat flew in on the afternoon Sitka flight from Seattle to join us.

After a few Sleemans and Alaska Ambers, the crew began discussing their desires for their time aboard.  Fishing has never been The Boat People's priority but dining on fresh salmon or crab is desired.  A decision was made: attend Wednesday's "Cafe Concert" at the Totem Square Inn.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016: Sitka

Provisioning and dining out kept the Boat People busy.  There was some crew grumbling about the quality (and quantity) of excellent bourbon whiskey available in Sitka.  A survey was commissioned with payment in fine whiskey, and by the end the the day, the Wild Blue's stores were burgeoning with bottles of various tea-colored distillates.  Then the Boat People, with Alex and Pat, journeyed to hear a world class cellist and pianist from the Sitka Classical Music Festival at a Cafe Concert.  By the end of the day all were exhausted from the 7 miles of walking.

Thursday, June 16, 2016:  Ushk Bay

Ushk Bay is in Peril Strait on the north side of Sergius Narrows.  Our destination means departure timing is needed to insure crossing the Narrows at a slacker tidal current, so we departed at 5AM, a time considered unhealthy by the majority of The Boat People.

We rode the favorable current through the Narrows, avoiding flotsam and jetsam and the Alaska Ferry LeConte.  Around noon we turned left at Point Marie and noted the yacht Orion moving slowly in Ushk Bay near where we hoped to anchor.  As they passed us on their way out, our hail on VHF was answered and the skipper gave the anchorage high marks.  He also assured us he didn't reduce the crab population one bit!  We decided not to set our traps here.

We anchored in the lee of the peninsula on the NW shore in a light NW breeze.  Even with a 10 knot wind from exposed southerly compass points, the anchorage was secure, but quite noisy!  The Boat People consumed just enough spirits to dull the noise of the anchor chain as it loudly dragged across the flat-rock bottom.  Others made good use of ear plugs.

Friday, June 17, 2016: False Island Float

By this time the Boat People had decided they wished to cruise over the top of Chigagof Island, a clockwise circumnavigation.  Chigagof is the "C" island in Southeast Alaska's ABC Islands: Admiralty, Baranof and Chigagof.  Tenakee Springs was our next stop and we since passed close to the False Island USFS float on the north side of Peril Strait, we decided to check it out.

On the way we were hailed by the Orion who wanted confirmation on our stay in last night's anchorage.  Turns out the Orion crew was also kept awake by the chain dragging demons.

We've checked out the False Island float last year but all the charts we have, including raster, vector and even Navionics, show depths of 1 foot, or just that scary "shallow" color for the last 100 yards to the float.  Bonaventure, another Selene, had told us they tied there so we decided to sound our way in.  The tide was six feet and still rising, so we had more height to go just in case we slid aground.  After inching our way forward to the float using forward looking sonar and both sounders, we noted 21 feet  depth, or 15 feet at zero tide.  Awesome!  We secured the lines to the float for the evening.

Wild Blue at False Island USFS float with 15 foot depth at zero tide.
A nicely protected float.
The Boat People wished to stretch their legs so we took a stroll ashore.  We noted scat and, as usual, had forgotten the bear spray.  We walked east along the one lane road about 1/2 mile until the frequency and size of scat intensified.  We thought it prudent to reverse course and head west.  Along the way, we checked each scat pile and none were fresh: there was no steaming poop!  At the logging landing at the far west end of the area, we stopped for photos and headed back.  As we turned from the road to the dock path, a fresh pile!  Suddenly all crew were clapping, singing and talking loudly.  We quickly returned aboard. A few of us got a good night's sleep.

The roads on this side of Chigagof apparently have been developed for logging.
These vehicles here apparently are parked in the "Long Term" lot.

Saturday, June 18, 2016: Tenakee Springs

We disconnected from the False Island float early Saturday and headed east in Peril Strait with the current.  Flat water, light winds and overcast skies prevailed.  Not many boats around but did see the Nordhavn Ocean Voyager heading into the Strait.  Turns out there is a Nordhavn Rendezvous in Peterburg next month which accounts for the most Nordys we've seen in AK in the past eight years.

As we entered Tenakee Inlet, Orion checked in with us. They had enjoyed a fine anchorage in Long Bay.  Around 11AM we tied up to Tenakee's transient dock having discussed this with the Harbormaster, who turned out just to be a voice on the VHF.  Well I guess it was Saturday anyway.

Tenakee has a hot mineral spring that has been used since about 1900.  In 1940 the buildings sprung up around the spring. There is a public bathhouse which allows nude bathing only with separate hours for men and women.  The Boat People chose to bathe in the ........ free wifi "pool" at the public library with all our clothes on!

Tenakee offers hiking along the coast road both east and west up to 7 miles.  Hikers are cautioned to prepare foe bear encounters especially during salmon runs. The town sports a lodge, rental cottages, diner and volunteer fire company.  After walking the town, all crew headed back to the boat for a nap with public bathhouse dreams.

There is no room in the inn,
the Morris Reef buoy at east end
of the Peril Strait.
Nordhavn Ocean Voyager off east side of Chigagof Island
ready for the Nordhavn Rendezvous next month in Petersburg.
First view of Tenakee Springs.

At Tenakee's transient float.

Sunday, June 19, 2016:  Hoonah

By 7AM we were moving east in Tenakee Inlet headed for Chatham Strait, Icy Strait then Hoonah.  It was a touch bouncy with winds to 15 knots but a comfortable ride.  On the way into the harbor, we passed the empty cruise ship dock and faux waterfront cannery buildings at the northwest end of Hoonah.  At one time this was an active cannery but closed, then renovated and reopened for cruise ship visitors.  Besides the shops and demonstration cannery, the biggest attraction is a long zip-line from the top of the 1500-foot mountain above Cannery point.  Unfortunately we non passengers are not allowed inside the fenced compound, and our pining for the zip-line went unfulfilled.

The real Hoonah is a busy Tinglit marina and village with market, hardware store, liquor store, brew pub and about eight restaurants with multiple dining options.  We enjoyed lunch out at Mary's Cafe and the free-to-take bookshelf in the harbormasters office.

Monday, June 20, 2016: Idaho Inlet

Today we moved westward over the top of Chigagof Island and Point Adolphus.  There were whales around but no bubble feeding frenzies.  After a few hours we pulled into Idaho Inlet checking in on VHF with Orion and Shearwater as they exited.  Crews of both enjoyed the Inlet's Anchorage.  Next we started fishing along the west shoreline with a few other boats.  After an hour we decided frozen salmon is a good as fresh and moved to the head of Inlet anchorage.  

There's a bunch of fresh water flowing from the rather large river.  We decided to run the water maker and fill our water tanks.  After a couple hours of running fine, the machine stopped abruptly as a clump of something blocked the seawater intake.  We replaced filter, cleaned strainer and ran the power washer down the thru-hull but, no-joy.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016: Lisianski Strait USFS Float

We scurried out of Idaho headed for a brief stop at Elfin Cove, "A Drinking Town with a Fishing Problem".  Once out of the Inlet, Orion called us with the information that there was space at Elfin's float since they just departed.  Soon we tied up and visited this quaint community known on the Wild Blue for it's high-priced potato chips.  Those store people know that sometimes boaters will pay any price for a bag of chips.  One of The Boat People, the one that lives on the Malibu waterfront, paid big bucks (over $9) for a bag of Fritos. Yikes!

This little town is on the move with more homes and fishing lodges being built.  I would say Elfin's stock is on the rise.
The marina in the Cove behind the town.  Note new construction far right.
We were off again towards Lisianski Inlet and eventually the Strait.  Note the Inlet goes to the town of Pelican.  We stayed there last year and IMO it's stock is on the decline.    

About halfway down the Inlet, we turned right into the Strait, which actually curves to port.  Just a few miles into the Strait is the USFS Float on the right behind a small spit with about 8 feet of depth at zero tide.  It is a pretty stop with shelter ashore for kayakers, small boat people, or those that just want to sleep nearer the bears!  All crew sleep aboard the Wild Blue.

Hole in the island along Icy Strait,
with Glacier Bay National Park mountains in background
The Alaskan Ferry LeConte passes us on the way to Pelican.

Our approach to Lisianski Strait USFS float.  There was a 
bit of current which made backing in just a bit tricky.

View  southwest from the Lisianski Strait USFS float. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016: Kalinin Bay

Today we head south along Chigagof's west coast towards Sitka.  We plan to anchor at Kalinin Bay on the north end of Kruzof Island. We'll spend some time in the ocean, some miles in protected waters, navigate skinny Piehle Passage, then back into the ocean until Kalinin where we'll troll the mouth. 

Our early departure allows us to ride the ebb down the Strait to open ocean.  The forecast for 6-foot seas and 15 knots of breeze hasn't materialized yet and we enjoy 90 minutes of mostly gentle swells with the occasional deep roll prompting a question from the Admiral down below: "Are the stabilizers on?"  On or off, the answer is always the same: "Of course dear!"

Exiting Lisianski Strait to open ocean.
We joined the inside route via Kukkan Passage into Smooth Passage to the Admiral's delight.  After a couple hours we encountered the northern entrance to Piehle Pass and finally woke up the Boat People.  These Southern California boaters are used to very straight courses to Catalina, Santa Cruz and the other offshore islands.  More than two course changes in four hours is a big concern so it was fun for them to watch the autopilot drive the Wild Blue through the maze of rocks in Piehle.

At last we exited the Pass and re-entered the sea for the short cruise to Kalinnin.  Once there we trolled the entrance with 4 other boats.  Earlier John Little on Prime Time landed a BIG king salmon, but The Boat People didn't, at least this year.

While trolling we heard squealing and yelling from the Pilothouse as the Admiral and Lori spied a single Orca.

A southbound view into Peihle Passage.
Pay attention!  There are rocks out there!

It doesn't take much to impress these folks! 
Keep your eyes about 100 yards just to right of the course.

Thursday, June 23, 2016: Sitka

After a restful night with Orca dreams, we departed for Sitka and the end of a fun cruise with The Boat People.  We'll see this group in October as they crew the boat from Seattle to San Francisco.

Peter and crew on Seaducktress is an Alaska veteran.

1 comment:

  1. Another great trip with the Pat, Alex, and Dick. Lori and I really enjoyed ourselves. Denny and Lori