Thursday, September 3, 2015

2015-20 Orca Torpedos

It was just a little before 7AM on September 2, 2015.  The Wild Blue was anchored just off Discovery Passage in Small Inlet on the eastern side of Kanish Bay.  We were about ready to haul the anchor and get underway so to make slack current at Seymour Narrows.  Suddenly Alex hears shouts and a muffled scream from the crew.  Just then five Orca whales take a bead on the boat's port side and accelerate towards the hull.  We braced for a bump or two but the pod glided down and under the hull coming out on starboard.  Whew!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

2015-19 Rescue Bay, Shearwater, Cape Caution, Miles Inlet, Sullivan Bay, Echo Bay and Port McNeill

August 22, 2015: Rescue Bay to Shearwater

This morning we followed calm Mathieson Channel to its southern end, shot through Perceval Narrows, then down Reid Passage to Seaforth Channel where we ran across Saltheart reeling in fish.  We moved eastward down the Channel eventually ending the day in Shearwater.

It was time for a hike and Dick led us through the trails and back country around Shearwater.  Later we provisioned at the mini-market and dined at the Fisherman's Bar and Grill.

The Saltheart, a Selene 62, fishing in Seaforth Channel
Tribute to the native people who make their home in the area.
Denny and Lori on the trail on "Denny" Island.

August 23, 2015: Shearwater, Cape Caution then Miles Inlet

The weather is supposed to get stormy in a couple days and we don't want to be caught north of Cape Caution.  A low might stall over Northern BC creating  nasty ocean off the Cape delaying our southward progress. So today's 7-ish start allows us to get close to the Cape for an early morning transit tomorrow.  

After nearly circumnavigating Denny Island in a counterclockwise path, we plop out onto Fischer Channel headed south just before 9AM.  By noon Fitz Hugh Sound's current is adding to our speed abeam of Calvert Island, but were not nearly fast enough for a most beautiful cruise ship, the Disney Wonder.  Soon Mickey's and Donald's giant bodies are fading away off our bow after she passes close to the Wild Blue.

The prettiest cruise ship is the Disney Wonder.
The light winds and seas continue all the way to Rivers Inlet and since Millbrook Cove has a couple boats already at anchor, we change our plans.  Here off Smith Sound we are so near Cape Caution, the weather is good so we press on.  The open ocean is lumpy but our semi-inside route towards the Cape behind the rocks, islets, False Egg, Table and Egg Islands means we avoid most of the big seas.  By 3:30PM we are surprised to be passing just 1/2 mile off Cape Caution in 30 feet of depth and near calm conditions.  By 5 we pull into the glassy waters of Miles Inlet and set the hook.  It's been a productive day.

Miles Inlet is glassy.

August 24, 2015: Miles Inlet to Sullivan Bay

Our 7:30AM sunny start from deep inside the Inlet turns into patchy fog on a mile out.  We're glued to the radar and sound the foghorn but keep the speed at 8 knots.  Suddenly just off the port side a lonely kayaker appears through the haze, headed north.  Eventually the sun burns off the fog as we turn eastward up Wells Passage.  By noon the boat is tied up in the suburbs of the Sullivan Bay Resort.
Lone kayaker off the rugged BC coast in Queen Charlotte Strait.
Looking up Wells Passge and clearing fog.
Lori was a naughty girl!
As soon as she was released, she chef-ed up a delicious salmon omelette.
Hard hats can become targets for branches.

August 25, 2015: Sullivan Bay to Echo Bay

Today we journeyed just 2.5 hours over to Echo Bay and Pierre's Resort.  Along the way we passed the Seeker, a Selene 50, with crew Mike and Susie also residents of California's Central Coast.  Shortly thereafter the Selene 55 Spirit with crew Patrick and Miriam of Seattle passed.  We've been cruising near these boats in the same Alaska and BC neighborhoods all summer.

After secured to the Resort dock, we did a hike to see Bill Procter's museum.  Billy been living close by and collecting local artifacts all his life.  At around 90 something years he has collected enough to fill his museum which attracts lots of visitors. Old bottles, fishing gear, down-rigger balls, anchors, and almost anything that you could find on the ocean floor is here, and some of it can be purchased.  Next to the museum is Billy's bookstore with works from local authors.

The Selene 50 Seeker of Shell Beach, CA
The Selene 55 Spirit of Anacortes, WA
The Selene 53 Wild Blue of Morro Bay, CA
On the trail to Billy's Museum.
Dick yaks with Billy Procter then heads inside.
Pierre's resort is quite tidy even on the back side.
This weather forecast is never wrong!
Cruiser gathering spot for refreshments and snacks.

August 26, 2015: Echo Bay to Port McNeill

Today is the last day for our professional crew from California YC.  Alex enjoyed Dick, Denny and Lori's company and expertise.  They will depart from Port McNeill, today's destination, via Port Hardy airport.  By 8:30AM we're off the dock headed down Retreat Passage.  Next we cross Blackfish Sound heading west along Malcolm Island's southern coast pulling into the North Harbor Marina just before noon.

Down Retreat Passage towards Port McNeill

Friday, August 21, 2015

2015-18 Ketchikan through Northern British Columbia: Pond Bay, Prince Rupert, Spicer Island, Patterson Inlet, Estevan Group, McMicking Inlet and Klemtu

August 16, 2015: Professional Unpaid Crew; Ketchikan to Pond Bay

Yesterday Alex's new crew arrived from Los Angeles.  These are professional boat mates yet remain unpaid!  Dick Squire, Denny and Lori Haythorn are very experienced sail and power boaters who Alex met decades ago at the California Yacht Club.  Dick, Alex and Denny served as consecutive Club Commodores from 1998-2000.  Over the years, we have cruised up, down or through the coastal waterways of Alaska, BC, Washington, Oregon, California and Mexico.  We've shared many of the "do I really like boating" experiences including running aground, high-water bilge alarms, sailboat knockdowns, giant seas, 200 mile upwind legs, gyrating spinnakers, grounded dinghys and sinking tenders.  We also shared the highs: spectacular sunsets, bright moon risings, super-scenic anchorages, 15+ knots under sail, whale breeches, and memorable seafood dinners at sea.  It will be fun to relive these stories, and hear how they have been embellished over the next 10 days or so.

Dick has owned over 40 large sail and power boats.
He single-handed a 40-footer from Los Angeles to Hawaii
Lori's specialty is night cruising down Baja California's west coast.
She speaks fluent Spanish.
Besides years of racing and cruising, Denny has spent decades in
on-the-water regatta operations.
Last evening we enjoyed another delicious dinner at Bar Harbor Restaurant.  During our walk to dinner we passed the pretty white church and Lori's parents home when they lived in Ketchikan.

Who knows maybe Lori's parents attended this church just down from their home.
Lori's mom and dad's house in back also decades ago.
We woke weary from telling and re-telling sea stories. Next we lightly provisioned the boat so as to not supply fresh vegetables to all the Canadian Customs staff in Prince Rupert.  By 10:30 we were on our way south towards Canada followed shortly there after by two other Selenes: Saltheart, a 62, and Escapade, a 66.  It was an easy run and at 2PM although Dixon Entrance looked flattish, we choose to anchor at Pond Bay just above Duke Island.  We noted Saltheart in Foggy Bay while Escapade was up Boca de Quadra in Vixen Bay.  Seems like a gaggle of Selenes would be targeting Dixon Entrance and Rupert tomorrow.

Sunset "On Golden Pond" Bay

August 17, 2015: Pond Bay to Prince Rupert

The Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club is the marina nearest town that caters to cruising yachts.  It's busy this time of year with southbound traffic exiting Alaska.  It's also a stop where Canadian Custom will allow clearance.  We called PRRYC last week to reserve a spot, however they couldn't guarantee one so we started early as insurance.  At 5AM we pulled out into Revilla (Revillagigedo) Channel and by 8AM were in the middle of the Entrance at slack current as planned.  If you have to cross Dixon Entrance, without current is a good thing.  Today it didn't matter as the wind and seas were calm.

Dixon Entrance was docile for our crossing today.
Just a bit after noon we pulled up to PRRYC but needed to wait for two other boats ahead of us.  Eventually we tied up, cleared customs and set off for heavy provisioning.  Later the Selenes Saltheart and Escapade landed and cleared at PRRYC as well.  We had a great dining experience at the Crest Hotel a PR landmark and discovered a local secret: The chef prepares excellent seafood dishes.

August 18, 2015: Prince Rupert to Spicer Island

Today at 7AM we left PR fully provisioned for 10 days with visions of salmon and crab dinners dancing in our heads. We're destined for the Spicer Islands and with a couple salmon fishing stops along the way.  The water just south of PR is nice and we drag raced a couple crabbers up to Marcus Pass.  The upper end of the Grenville Channel was flat so we dropped the down-riggers with fishing gear at the Oona River delta trolling southwest.  We had a big hit but no fish stayed hooked,  After 40 minutes we moved SW on down to Bully Island and trolled for an hour.  No joy.  At 1PM we anchored in the protected are along the north side of South Spicer Island.

Light fog patches cluttered our view upon leaving Prince Rupert
The town of Kitkatla located at the top of Dolphin Island
near own anchorage in the Spicer Islands.  This community
is really isolated.
BBQ burgers (and portabella mushroom for Alex) with grilled onions.
Misty afternoon at Spicer.

August 19, 2015: Spicer Island to Patterson Inlet and Double Hookup

August is the big Coho salmon month in BC as the fish gather to go up river and spawn.  They feed first on their way up to the river mouths then mill around until it pleases them to go upstream.  So we plan another morning of periodic fishing on our way to anchor at inside at Patterson Inlet on the SW coast of Pitt Island.  Note: Vancouver named the island after a former Prime Minister of Britain, William Pitt.  Hopefully he wasn't related the Lieutenant Pitt of Vancouver's expedition who required flogging and jailing to keep controlled, and whose brother later beat Vancouver to death.

At 8AM we moved across Beaver Passage in the open ocean for about 40 minutes until we turned Wild Blue down Principe Channel. By 1PM we were at the entrance to Patterson Inlet and the fish were jumping so we trolled into a circle.  Lori drove while Denny and Alex fished and withing 15 minutes we had a double hookup.  In all the excitement Alex lost his but Denny fought his fish landing a good sized Coho.  As our dinner dreams were realized, we dropped two crab traps inside the Inlet.
The entrance to Patterson Inlet yielded a nice Coho.
Lori displays her fish filleting talent.

August 20, 2015: Patterson Inlet to Estevan Group then McMicking Inlet

Last night we enjoyed BBQ fresh Coho with an ice cream dessert.  And today at 8AM we tooled around the head of Patterson Inlet hauling crab traps, filled with a half dozen legal crabs!  Looks like crab surprise tonight.

We're on our way down Nepean Sound towards the Estevan Group.  Mike and Susie on the Selene 50 Seeker recommend anchoring in these Islands, so we will see.  No more salmon fishing stops until we consume what's aboard.  Alex cleans the crab and fires up the convection hot plate with seasoned, boiling water.  Soon the aroma of cooking Dungeness filled the air.  Lori spent a long afternoon harvesting crab meat.

Yes the crab were around and a few crawled into our pot.
At 1PM we entered the Estevan Group along the SE end of Trutch Island.  We followed along Gillespie Channel a couple miles up to Tennant Island, looking for a protected anchorage, and set our anchor due S or Tennant.  The breeze was up, making wind wavelets across our spot and causing the boat to sail a bit, so after lunch we decided to move East to Campania Island and McMicking Inlet, one of our favorites. We set our crab cages again hoping for some overnight action on the sea floor.

Estevan Group was too windy for the Wild Blue crew,
so we moved across the Sound to McMicking Inlet.

August 21, 2015: McMicking Inlet to Klemtu, then Rescue Bay

At 8:30AM we harvested yet even more crabs, then turned south towards the bottom of Laredo Channel.  We will eventually cross Laredo Sound and enter Meyers Passage stopping in the village of Klemtu.  We hope to "borrow" some wifi Internet from a generous Villager that leaves his router unprotected.  Our crew needs an Internet fix.  By 3:30PM we made Klemtu, connected and drifted around in front of the town Googling, emailing and wifi calling.

The seiner Christian S lead us into Klemtu.
After our fix, we crossed Finlayson Channel, through Jackson Pass and into Rescue Bay for the evening.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2015-17 Petersburg, Wrangell, Anan Creek Bears, Santa Anna Inlet, Ketchikan

August 9th:  Petersburg, Wrangell and Zimovia Strait

Last night after walking the town, we ignored Petersburg's dining and enjoyed dinner aboard.  It's an easy run down Wrangell Narrows towards Wrangell.  We need to leave around 8:30 this morning to ride the tide up to the Narrows midpoint and high slack, then down exiting into Sumner Strait.  Sunny weather with calm winds and seas ushers us into Wrangell at 2PM for a 3-hour tour.  After some light provisioning, we did a walk-about town, then up to Wrangell's Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park.  Here we photo'd some interesting Petroglyphs.

A wide spot on a sunny day in Wrangell Narrows.

 Petroglyph #1
 Petroglyph #2
 Petroglyph #3
By 5PM we were ready to motor down Zimovia Strait for an anchorage closer to Anan Bay and the Anan Creek bear viewing site.  Three hours later we set the hook just south of the S-turn in the lee of the islands due east of Whitetale Cove.

August 10th: Zimovia, Anan Bay Bears, Santa Anna Inlet

By 6:30AM we hauled the anchor and got going to arrive at Anan Bay before the bear viewing crowds.  We couldn't break through the USFS website to make a reservation as the all the bear viewing slots were booked.  This is typical as the commercial passenger operators out of  Wrangell get preference, or at least know the secrets as to when the reservations will be offered by USFS, leaving none available for private boaters.  It costs $10 per person for a reservation with USFS and the commercial operators charge $200-$400 round trip, depending on demand.

We arrived at 8:30AM and took the tender boat to the base of the USFS trail to see if we could go "standby".  The very friendly USFS interns, who carry large gauge shotguns, said they were booked, but invited us to hang out.  Three hours later, they called us on VHF 16.  We paid our $10 each and spent several hours with the ursine.  See last year's Blog entry for some nice bear video.  Back at the boat, we fetched a nice bottle of red vino and delivered to the intern's quarters, a float home anchored in the Bay, as a thank you for accommodating us.

At 4PM we stowed the tender and departed for Santa Anna Inlet.  This is one of Pat's favorites and we've missed it since August 2009.  On arrival at the Inlet, the waters were calm and the salmon were jumping.

August 11th: Santa Anna to Ketchikan

At 8AM we started towards Ketchikan and once around Lemesurier Point and abeam of Meyers Chuck the sea had a bit of current against wind, creating some stomach churning wave action.  I hope the crew chewed their breakfast well!  We eventually arrived in Ketchikan at 3:30 on City Float.  The Floats were booked so we moved to Bar Harbor and then walked to dine at the great restaurant of the same name, which moved from Bar Harbor and has new home near City Float!

A great local favorite has relocated near City Float.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

2015-16 Juneau to Petersburg: Calving Glacier, Big Halibut, Elusive Bears and Waving Humpbacks

Wednesday, August 5th:  Juneau to Tracy Arm Cove

Unless you're on a cruise ship, it's such a pain to see the glaciers in Glacier Bay.  First you need to get a permit, usually reserving months in advance.  You pay a fee and are required to get educated before you can enter.  Upon entering, your boat speed and course are closely monitored by the National Park Service.  After you do get in, it's a two-day motor just to get up to view a glacier.  You really do have to put in a great deal of time and effort to see the Glacier Bay glaciers.

On the other hand, between Tracy and Endicott Arms, there are three easily accessible glaciers, without reservations, fees, education and procedures.  And by scanning various VHF channels, especially VHF 19, you can hear other boats exchanging information on which glaciers are currently the most accessible.

On Wednesday we departed Juneau for Tracy Arm Cove, a small anchorage nearby three glaciers.  Stephens Passage had flat water and a light breeze.  After a 7-hour motor we set the hook in Tracy Arm Cove.
Cruise ship heads into Juneau as the Wild Blue heads out.
A smaller 20 passenger cruise boat anchored in Tracy Arm Cove.

Thursday, August 6th: Tracy Arm Cove, Calving North Sawyer Glacier, then Sand Bay Halibut

We needed an early start to catch the current up Tracy Arm so at 5:30 the anchor was stowed and we were off .  Yesterday from the VHF radio we learned that North Sawyer has just a little ice, but South Sawyer is filled in.   There's not enough room in front of North Sawyer for a cruise ship to turn around, so the big ships are forced into South Arm.

After 5 1/2 hours we turn left into the North Arm dodging the ice flowing mostly from the South Arm.  Almost before we can see the North Sawyer Glacier face, we are off the charts into "Unsurveyed Water".  Soon after we get our first glimpse of the face, the chart shows we are "on top of the glacier".  Obviously, the charts haven't been updated for this area in years, despite all the boat traffic.  After reviewing the boat's GPS position, we estimate the glacier face has receded about one mile from when the chart's last update.

North Sawyer Glacier has receded almost 1 mile since the chart's last update.

We hold Wild Blue just about 1/2 mile off the face in case there is any big calving action.  A big chunk of glacier falling into the water generates a wave that then washes up, back and across the Arm.  It's just a big washing machine, with chunks of giant ice cubes.  And we're chickens!

We hear the cracking and groaning of the glacier.  Then a piece calves off the face with boom and a wave!  

Lucky for us we are away from the glacier face and ice chunks, aka "bergie bits", and with the bow pointed at the wave we get some moderate pitching action. As the ice flow gets close we fill the cooler with bergie bits.  Time for an outstanding Alaskan refreshment..... 15 over 15,000.

There's some vivid rock colors on the west side of the North Arm.  These
look like iron deposits, or is it maybe gold?
When the ice flows get close, crew Bill uses
his fish netting skills to capture numerous pieces
of floating glacier.  He's polishing his netting
talents in hopes of landing a big fish.

This week's crew are Bill and Karen Almas of San Luis Obispo.  Both are Wild Blue veterans having braved some nasty Alaskan sea conditions, only to come back for more.  We thought it would be fun to get a video of them under the waterfall in the background above.  See how we did below:

A super clear piece of glacier ice.
Bill collected a bunch of ice expecting many 15 over 15,000 year drinks!
15 year scotch and vodka over 15,000 year old glacier ice.  Yes!
After our midday celebration, it was time to ride the current back down Tracy Arm and find an anchorage. While idling in North Arm, the South Arm was filling with ice and the current was creating a large ice field in Tracy Arm.  By slowing the boat to less than 1 knot and pushing the small pieces away, we are able find an exit.  See our 2011 Blog Post for some good video examples. The radar shows the field.

The radar only shows the bergs.  The are numerous bergie bits
 floating in between.  Don't get near those orange targets!

A glacier carved valley on Tracy Arm.

The Douglass Guidebook lists Tracy Arm Cove as the best anchorage in the area.  We need to get closer to tomorrow's Pack Bay destination.  Looking at the chart we notice Sand Bay on the east side of Stephens Passage.  It's looks good although a bit exposed, but should be OK since the wind is supposed to stay calm overnight.

We arrived at Sand Bay after 3PM, set two crab traps among the many in the area, set the anchor, then baited Bill's halibut rod, dropping the gear to the bottom.  Years ago when Bill moved jobs, he received this deep sea fishing rig as a gift.  It sat in his garage for years then he left it aboard about 5 years ago.  Since then the rig has become popular among other crew as it seems to always land a halibut.  It is unique because the rod is equipped with fishing line has a different color every 25 feet.  For whatever reason Bill hasn't caught a fish on his rod yet.

We set the "clicker" and retire to the salon for more 15 over 15,000.  The rod is forgotten as we admire our beautiful surroundings.  After an hour of snacks and refreshments, a loud zinging sound alerts Bill to his rod. Before he can get to it, the force turns the rod holder requiring Bill to exit onto the swim step to retrieve it.  Too many 15 over 15,000s!

The rod holder is tweaked but Bill gets to it before the rod goes swimming!
The fish goes towards the bow.  Worried that it will wrap the anchor chain, Alex operates the thrusters turning the boat.  After 15 minutes of so, the fish begins to surface.  It seems like a halibut, but something is different.  Just as we think it should be visible, the line reels out straight off the stern.  In half a minute, a large sea lion surfaces 80 feet off the stern, and it looked like he was hooked!

Now the sea lion is not the fisherman's best friend.  These animals typically surface just before you land your fish and bite off the back half.  However, we couldn't just cut the long line as the lion would wrap the line around his neck and eventually drown.  So, Bill continued reeling while Alex readied the line cutters.

As the line came in we noticed the lion coming closer.  We could now see he wasn't hooked!  Alex quickly grabbed a couple herring tossing them off the side and distracting the lion while Bill reeled a 70 pound halibut up next to the boat.  Alex harpooned the fish but this halibut was all tired out.  We quickly netted the fish and pulled it aboard before the sea lion could react!  Wow!

Bill lands the first fish on his rod after many years!
Bill and Karen work into the night cleaning this big halibut.  Surprisingly,
this halibut had three medium sized crabs in its stomach.

Friday, August 7th: Pack Bay Bears, then Mole Harbor 

Today we head to Pack Creek up Seymour Canal to see the brown bears.  We're up early, retrieve the traps, saving the large male crabs, then on our way across Stephens Passage by 7AM.

Karen commemorates yesterdays big catch with a halibut looking pancake! 
Our southwest heading takes us around Point Hugh to the Seymour Canal entrance.  On the way up, we stop at Mole Harbor, tonight's anchorage, and set our crab traps among about 300 others.  By noon we anchor across from Pack Creek off the southern end of Swan Island.  The tender is launched and we zip ashore to meet the Forest Service and State Park Rangers.  We have paid reservations to view the bears and are welcomed by the young Rangers.

See our July 2011 Blog Post for the bears we saw back then.  We hope to be as fortunate today.  After a 1-mile trek up the creek to the elevated bear viewing station, we settle in for some bear activity.  The bears must be snoozing but a river otter comes out to say hello.

The elevated bear viewing tower works here as brown bears are not adept
at climbing, and there aren't any black bears around Pack Creek. Whew!

With no bears inland, we moved back to the Creek's delta.  That beach viewing location yielded a few views but apparently the bears have been gorging on salmon for many weeks and aren't too hunger. Best for them to sleep.

I'm fat. I'm happy.  So don't bug me!

We hung out until 5PM then retrieved the tender and zoomed back to the boat.  Wild Blue then took us back down the Canal to Mole Bay for the night.

Saturday, August 8th:  Whale Flippers, then Petersburg

It's 9 hours down to Peterburg and we have to haul the crab traps.  It is bright in summer Alaska at 6AM when we stowed the hook and headed out.  A simple route down the Canal, then Stephens Passage, bearing to port at Cape Fanshaw into Frederick Sound and Petersburg.  The crew sleeps in after several very busy and long days.

About 10AM as we approach Akusha Island a whale waves at the Wild Blue.  We slowed and zoomed on for a close up video.

Peterburg shows up at 4PM.  Nice to be back with civilization in this busy fishing town.