Saturday, July 27, 2013

#2013-48 Inside Passage Fork in the Road

When southbound from Prince Rupert just before existing Arthur Passage, one has a choice:  Inside Route or the Outside Inside Route.  Bear left for Inside Route, the most direct and boring Grenville Channel. Bear right for Outside Inside Route via Odgen Channel which is longer, wilder, and can be rough in places.  Alex, being a right wing kind-of-guy, set the course for Newcombe Harbour on Pitt Island. The sun is out and it's another perfect day.  We huddle in the bow while the autopilot steers for us.

Front: Chuck & Carolyn French, Vince and Marianne Fonte.
Back: Alex and Pat Benson
We've cruised this route before.  It's pretty with endless, uninhabited bays in which to anchor. Newcombe is new to us, we find it by 4 PM, and anchor in the northeast corner.  The crab traps are set and Chuck is already licking his lips!

Sunset over Newcombe Harbour.

Friday, July 26, 2013

#2013-47 Underway to Pond Bay, across Dixon Entrance, then Prince Rupert

On Thursday the girls arrived from SLO Town at noon.  Pat, Marianne Fonte, and Carolyn French, joined by Chuck arrived at noon.  The three couples (Fonte's, French's and Benson's) will be together to Shearwater-Bella Bella in British Columbia.

The weather is good for crossing the Dixon Entrance tomorrow morning.  We need to get closer to it so we decide to cruise to Foggy Bay tonight, leaving Ketchikan in a few hours.  Most of the crew heads to Safeway as we need groceries for a few days, with as little fruit and vegetables as possible as Canadian Border Services won't let most of those cross the border.  We expect to do heavy provisioning in Prince Rupert.

Alex met up with the owners of Selene 40 "Ginny" Dave and Ginny Morthland, who were moored nearby.  Dave has been following the Blog as this is his first cruise to the Alaska area in several years. They are arriving into Southeast as we're leaving.  Alex gives the Ginny crew the latest on cruising clockwise around Prince of Wales Island and into Craig.  Crab, salmon and pawn fishing locations are highlighted on his chart.  Later Dave calls in his thanks as loads of large prawns filled hid prawn traps.

By 4 PM we're on our way towards Dixon Entrance, dodging the cruise ships which left just behind us.  Foggy Bay is small.  It is the desired anchorage being close to the Entrance, but as we approach it we notice there are a couple boats already at anchor showing on AIS.  Upon looking for options we find Pond Bay on the north side of Duke Island, just across from Foggy Bay. This is a large bay and we arrive just before 10 PM to enjoy a spectacular sunset in a quiet anchorage all by ourselves.

Pond Bay is just across from Foggy Bay

Early Friday morning we fire up the engine for our 6 AM departure.  The plan for crossing Dixon Entrance is always the same:  time your arrival in the middle of the Entrance at slack current.  We were just 8 minutes early for the 9:01 AM zero current today and our ride was super smooth.  We made good progree entering Venn Passage at 1PM and making the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club before 2.  We docked and called Canadian Customs and they immediately cleared us once again without boarding.

New bulk loading terminal for booming Prince Rupert
The crew of Y M Virtue gather at the bow ready to set the anchor if needed.
Bulk carrier is on the way to get loaded.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

#2013-46 Touring Ketchikan

We were in town a couple days before scheduled so on Monday the crew got up to date on Ketchikan by visiting shops, watching the cruise ship tourists, and dining out.  It doesn't take long.  Vince and Alex took a long walk 5 miles to the south and back. Then we tested a few salmon recipes for dinner.  

Tuesday was boat prep day as a new crew with women arrives Thursday. Bob and Marvin head back to SLO Town tomorrow.   We figure out the frozen fish packing limits based on cooler size and it all just fits.  We've had a great week with the SLO Town Homies

Ketchikan Creek Mall.
The brothel is no longer operating.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

#2013-45 Cape Chacon, McLean Arm then Ketchikan Hospital!

After yesterday's sojourn, we slept late then headed out to fish the Cape.  Once outside, the seas were just too sloppy for comfortable trolling so we proceeded to round the Cape in the mist of a seiner opening. About 30 seiners and their tenders were working the water from the Cape along the eastern coast of POW Island.  We watched the fishing excitement then entered McLean Arm expecting to anchor for the night. We had lunch then fished at anchor for halibut and rockfish in about 50 feet without much success.

For the last couple days we've been noticing the back side Bob's hand swell larger and larger.  He was bitten by a deer fly some days ago.  The deer flies have been out in force this summer up in Alaska.  Alex was bitten twice without much swelling but plenty of itch. With Bob's hand growing larger by the day we decided it was best to get him to a doctor.  So our cruise into Ketchikan began at 4:30 PM and we hoped to arrive just before dark.  After 5 hours we made Ketchikan City Float and pulled into a loading zone where a cab took Bob to the E/R.

The doctor confirmed the deer fly bite saying some people have different reactions.  He gave Bob a prescription for what turned out to be over-the-counter Sudafed.  A couple tablets at bedtime had the swelling under control by the next day.

Seiner fishing off  eastern edge of Cape Chacon
An anchorage in McLean Arm.
Bob's hands still worked fine for chefing.
Here's his smoked duck breast or salmon salad on cracker.
Sauteed Polenta in Marinara with Parmesan

Saturday, July 20, 2013

#2013-44 Hydaburg to Nichols Bay

On Saturday Alex had to do 30 minutes of payables verification but needed cell or wifi service.  So we pulled into Hydaburg mid-morning.  The dock floats we in a state of construction so we tied up where we could and headed into the small native village.  After asking around at the market, school and library we found out that AT+T cell service is needed.  We all have Verizon, but a nice local Hydaburh resident gave Alex his phone to call the office and complete his work. What nice folks!

Hydaburg harbor was under construction with new pilings
and floats being installed. 
The Haida Girl was here in 2010 our last visit.  
Think globally, but act locally!  We were hot from all the walking
and needed a Popsicle but couldn't locate Hessa's Nana's house.
We exited Hydaburg for Cape Chacon area.  It was an 8-hour motor but included some sunny weather, spectacular views and the sweet perfume of boiling crab.  We finally pulled into Nichols bay at 8 PM and were treated to fresh crab salad dinner.

The town of Hydaburg as we pass southward.

Approaching the Cape Chacon area.

Vince is goo-goo eyed over this crab.
Bob shows off the crabs of Natzuhini Bay.
Crab salad with accouterments.
Marvin, Vince and Bob toast to the rough life in Alaska with
wine from San LUIS Obispo!

Friday, July 19, 2013

#2013-43 Craig to Crabbing near Hydaburg

On Friday after a nice breakfast we shoved off for cabbing near Hydaburg with fishing along the way.  As we approached Cape Flores headed southwest, we noticed about 6 boats in close to the shoreline reeling them in.  So we set the troll lines and started really getting lots of Cohos.  We became a bit selective attempting to release the smaller fish in hopes a bigger to follow.

Marvin is always the best dressed fisherman.
Here his nicely pressed crew pants are are
in need of a blood splatter specialist.
Where's Dexter when you need him?
Is this a keeper?

Bob gets a big Coho.

A barge load of fish guts builds the crab population.
 We landed about 7 fish in 90 minutes then needed to leave to make Tlevak narrows at slack current.  This Narrows is the choke point for lots of water moving around the south side of Prince of Wales Island.  Once through we found a cove on Dall Island and dropped the hook for lunch.  Afterwards we headed towards Hydaburg via South Pass but then north into Natzuhini Bay.  The Douglass Guide discourages anchoring here because of uncharted rocks and shoals.  But we felt our way inside without problems and found a secure anchorage in the western most corner of the Bay.  This bay looks crabby so we set two traps baited with salmon heads.  After just a few hours we had a couple keepers and reset the traps for the morning haul.

Bob's New Orleans Jambalya with prawns, halibut, and vegetables.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

#2013-42 Cape Addington and the Jumping Orcas

On Thursday we're up early but take the time to demolish a leisurely breakfast of salmon and eggs. By 11 AM we are fishing off Cape Addington in hopes of a King, but the Cohos are all around and we land a few.

Cape Addington is quite calm on he eastern side.
Seal "king" of the Cape.
Marvin lands a Coho.

After a few hours of trolling around we moved a few miles northeast of the Cape and set the anchor for lunch.  We also baited up for halibut and dropped our lines while dining.  Vince has caught his share of fish but we all "felt the pain" when his halibut hook connected with an odd looking sea creature.
Hard to believe this came out of the
ocean.  We all "felt the pain" from
the halibut hook in this sea creature.
Maybe a little blue pill would help?
There are times when the Captain is allowed to fish.
After a busy day fishing for Kings but hooking up only with Cohos, we stowed the rods and decided to head back to town for a last minute grocery run.  The route takes us back through tiny Pigeon Pass just west of Pigeon Island.  The Pass shoals up to about 20 feet and narrows to 100 feet.  As we approached the Pass, an Orca pod of 11 whales suddenly appeared just in front of our bow.  We immediately idled the engine and prop. The tidal current was pushing us at two knots and it looked as though we would squish through the Pass at the same time as the Orcas.  Crew was scrambling for their cameras as the Orcas breathing was close aboard.  Vince started shooting photos and luckily Bob just had enough battery to video the jumping Orcas.  As Orcas and Wild Blue squeezed through the Pass, the pod was split into two groups.  The whale family did not like being separated, and the females and juveniles sped towards the big male Orca soon after we cleared.  They "flipped us off" as can be seen in the second video below.

Orca pod nears Pigeon Pass

Orca jumps as Vince misses the shot!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#2013-41 SLO Town Cowboys Fish Craig

Tuesday, July 16th

The SLO (San Luis Obispo) Town Homies arrived today. This crew is made up of a poker player, a deep sea fisherman and a fly fisherman.  Alex has known "the boys" for years now and as a group we seem to be able to stay mostly out of trouble.  This crew is looking to do some salmon fishing as we cruise around the southern end of Prince of Wales Island and end up in Ketchikan.

Vince Fonte, the poker player, recently was dealt the best hand in poker.  No, not a Royal Flush as we play with a joker that's good for aces, straights and flushes. Vince had 4 Aces and the Joker for a total of 5 Aces!  In over 50 years of poker playing, that's just the second time I've heard of 5 Aces happening in non-wild card poker game. So of course Vince thinks his luck is running good and hopes to land a BIG salmon.  He has crewed on the Wild Blue many times but is a bit worried after our 2008 rounding of POW Island.  You can see why just read the June 27, 2008 Blog entry.

Marvin Dee, a deep sea fisherman, is also a retired Insurance Broker.  He has traveled the world's oceans with other SLO Town Homies to seek fish.  We hope the salmon are listening.  This is Marvin's second cruise on the Wild Blue.

Bob Silva is the fly fisherman and a great chef, the most desirable crew talent.  He knows all the fishing knots and came equipped with lots of gear including two deep water rods, two deep water reels, two salmon rods and a Boca.  Turns out the rods and reels are from Roger, Dave and Sid who fished with us off Sitka last month.  Nice of them to make sure Vince, Marvin and Bob are well-equipped!  This is Bob's second cruise on the Wild Blue.

Wednesday, July 17th

We shopped last night after dinner but since we won't be able to provision until Ketchikan, we need to shop for a week.  This morning we add milk, cereal, and more bait then cast off from Craig.

Across the dock from Wild Blue is the Silverado.  Silverado's captain is an affable guy and we chatted about where they have been fishing for Kings.  He says the kings are in the outer waters and suggests St Nicholas Point off Noyes Island and Cape Addington. So we motor out with visions of fat salmon swimming in our heads.

We try southeast San Fernando Island first then St Nicholas Point.  We land a few Cohos but the Kings are elusive. Bob seems to be landing the most fish. After 28 miles of cruising and trolling, we set the anchor in a quiet cove on the north side of Baker Island known as Port Real Marina after an OK day of fishing.  The marina's only bar is aboard the Wild Blue.

Bob demonstrates the Boca, a device with
 handhold for moving dead fish. 
The tuna reeling technique for landing a salmon.

Monday, July 15, 2013

#2013-40 Fishing Craig

Over Saturday and Sunday we fished just off the various Craig island points including Amargura, Diamond, Agueda and Cuerbo which are all close.  Despite these easy to reach sites, witha single trolling rig Bill managed to land six Coho salmon.  We cleaned and freeze bagged most but cooked some as well.

Bill battles a King, or is it the 12-pound down-rigger ball.

Learning to fillet.

Our neighbor is a pro at teaching filleting.
Now Bill is an expert.
Nice sunset over Craig Alaska
Baron Hilton's Silverado is a Willard 120
here tied up across from the Wild Blue

Bill had a great time, is a good crew and quick learner.  Just a few days around him and it's easy to see why he's such a successful business builder.  We hope to get him to crew next year.

Friday, July 12, 2013

#2013-39 The El Capitan Caves to Craig

We launched the tender this morning and speeded the 6 miles back up the Pass to the El Capitan Cave US Forest Service float.  We were just a couple minutes late for the 9:30AM tour so Bill let out a caveman yell and one of the Forest Rangers came back down to get us.  We were issued cave helmets complete with LED headlamps and started our hike up the roughly 400 step staircase to the entrance.  Thanks to our USFS tour guide for occasionally stopping allowing us to catch our breath, we made it up to the gated cave for the cave exploring safety session.  Soon we were in pitch blackness except for helmet headlamps.
Bill in four weather gear and helmet
 is ready for cave exploring.
The tour moves inward some 600 yards.  Most of it fairly walk-able but sometimes handholds are needed. One goes from bending and crouching through narrow, low passages, to standing tall in cave rooms with 50-foot ceilings. The temperature hovers around 40 F inside, and moisture drips from the rock walls and ceiling.  The guides talk geology for those interested, claiming that based on fossils found, the cave was created in the central latitudes before ending up north in Alaska, millions of years ago.

Inside with headlamps on.
Cool formations when exposed to light.
The puddle requires wading the knee deep water to get deeper.
This is where the cave tour ends, but with ropes and a long piece
of string, you could probably go another mile or so.
Our USFS guide Jennifer and Dale.
It's still 400 stair steps down to ground level.
By noon we are back at the boat with tender stowed and on our way to Craig.  We made it before 8PM and got a spot at the dock.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

#2013-38 Rocky Pass, Shakan Bay then El Capitan Pass.

The passage between Kuiu and Kupreanof Islands is a narrow, shallow and winding route in protected waters that saves 6 extra hours of motoring around Kuiu Island on an exposed ocean route.  The current speed in Rocky Pass determines when trawler speed boats can safely cruise through.  This mornings high tide slack current (aka zero current) at Devil's Elbow in the center of the Pass happens just after 4AM.  So we're up before then and get under way in the dark, predawn hour.  Already we have a knot of current against us but soon able reach zero current just before entering the Elbow.  All is well and we squirt out of the Pass with 2 knots pushing us towards Prince of Wales Island.  We looked for a place to take a nap and found the cove in Shakan Bay on Prince of Wales Island northwest of Middle Island, just right, dropped the hook and went to bed at 10AM.

Pretty Shakan Bay with El Capitan in the distance.
By 2 we left our nap bay heading towards the entrance to El Capitan Pass. This Pass runs along the western part of Prince of Wales Island.  It is also narrow but clearly marked without major current challenges.  We headed for Devilfish Bay to anchor then tomorrow we have scheduled a tour of the El Capitan Cave.

Remember to pay attention!
El Capitan Pass: Stay between the red and green posts!
Entering El Capitan Passage

Stay between the lines.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

#2013-37 Sitka, Appleton Cove, Warm Springs Bay and into Rocky Pass

On July 8th Bill Lee arrived to crew on Wild Blue. Bill is a good friend and lodging business competitor, operating the Back Bay Inn just across the street from our Baywood Inn.  However he is famous for starting the US's largest broker-owned commercial real estate brokerage, Lee & Associates. Alex has been enticing Bill with stories of cruising Alaska for several years and at last he made it.  We'll be cruising from Sitka to Craig along the west coast of Baranof Island, or that was the plan until the first stormy weather in many weeks stared pounding our area.  It's just 13 hours motor time to Craig via the outside ocean route, but 26 hours through protected Peril Strait, Rocky Pass and El Capitan Passage.

On Tuesday, the 8-foot seas ocean forecast drove us and many others into protected waters.  We exited Sitka mid-morning to make Sergis Narrows by slack high water.  About 10 different boats, ferries, tugs and tows squeezed through the Narrows within 20 minutes.

Tug tries to keep barge in the channel at Sergis Narrows.
Reminder to pay attention!
By 4PM the winds were over 20 knots from southeast generating big chop as we headed east near the end of Peril Strait.  Bill was fast asleep in the forward birth with a side port opened for air.  He was suddenly awakened when the sea came through the port hole onto his berth.  We decided to anchor in nearby Appleton Cove, on of eight other boats that made the same decision.

On Wednesday, July 10th we were underway to Warm Springs Bay early in hopes to get a spot at the public dock for a hike to the lake and falls. The weather was sunny and calm.  We paused at Kasnyku 300 foot Falls for a photo op then made the Bay around noon. 

It is a nice hike past the public baths, through the tiny community of Warm Springs, along a lengthy boardwalk and path to Lake Baranof.  No bears just plenty of sun and bugs.  Bill checked out the local real estate prices as there were two "homes" for sale.  Even at $159,000 it really wasn't much of a place. We were back for lunch and on our way into Rocky Pass in search of an evening anchorage.

Bill at Kasnyku Falls

Same Bill, same Falls.
The public dock at Warm Springs Bay was open.
Main Street, Warm Springs Bay
Water flows from Baranof Lake faster and faster as it approaches the falls.
Water is racing past the hot springs and over the Falls.
It was still a fair distance to Rocky Pass.  We had a quiet crossing of Chatham Strait and Frederick sound entering Keku strait at 6PM.  we decided to get as far into Rocky Pass as the current allowed.  By 9PM we dropped our anchor just south of High Island near the top of the Pass.  There was a pretty sunset and Sleemans Honey Brown lager to welcome us.

Sunset near the center of Rocky Pass.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#2013-36 July 4th Celebrations in Sitka

It's been a busy three weeks and the Blog has taken a backseat while the crews have been fishing like crazy. We'll be updating the Blog, going back in time, over the next few days.

July 4th in Sitka, like all Alaska communities, is a BIG deal.  In Alaska, fireworks begin on July 3rd, about 11PM, an hour or so before  July 4th. It's a huge show, with fireworks launched from at least four different locations around the community.  It's so big that the Coast Guard issues a special Notice to Mariners alerting vessels of the safety zone near the launch sites.  In Eliason Harbor, we are in the center of three displays: from the east at the high school, from the south in downtown, and from the west at the airport!  The fireworks are extensive and lengthy, continuing past 1AM. See the video of just one display below. In the afternoon, the town closes down for a big parade.

Fireworks from the Airport.
Fireworks from the High School

For the past 3 weeks or so, while hooking some 400 pounds of salmon, we've been hooked on cookies.  The Sitka Cookie Kids walk the docks selling fresh, homemade cookies, and these aren't like your mother's cookies....they're better!  The Wild Blue crew is one of the Kids best customers.  The cookie selections are chocolate chip, rice-crispy squares with M&M's, and backpack style oatmeal with fruit chewys, our favorite.  We interviewed these future business tycoons for the Blog below.

Our chef for the week has been Willie of Willie Bird Restaurants and Willie Bird Turkeys, Santa Rosa, California.  Willie has prepared some really tasty dishes for a top notch epicurean experience.  And not once did we dine on turkey!  

Willie describes our July 4th dinner.  

Next week we leave Sitka and head south in the Gulf of Alaska along Baranof Island's west coast.  We'll see what the Gulf deals us and plan to be in Craig on about July 14th or 15th.  Hope to Blog then.

Monday, July 1, 2013

#2013-35 How Many Fish Can We Lose?

By 8:30AM on our last day in Whale Bay, we're again fishing the hot spots.  Too sleepy and a bit hungover, our technique is rusty and within 1 hour we have lost 5 fish! But, by the end of the day we have landed 9 Cohos and released 3 King salmon, one a 36-inch 20+ pounder.  Commercial salmon season opened today and now the Bay is filled with many trollers.  It's a good day to return to Sitka, so we head back to town but stop short anchoring at Hot Springs Bay. Willie cleans fish while Joe and Mike bag them.  We end the day with delicious ribs or salmon steaks in our stomachs.

The Wild Blue college crew spent the next few days exploring Sitka and cleaning the boat.  Everyone was anticipating yet another spectacular 3-D July 3rd Fireworks show.

Two college graduates demystify the Seal-A-Meal.

This Canadian ship is from the International
Pacific Halibut Commission (IHPC) and enforces halibut fishing. 
Enforcer is a Alaska Fish and Game vessel.
The meat eaters dine on Cajun pork ribs.
The non-meat guy is stuck with day old fried King salmon steak.