Monday, July 27, 2015

2015-14 Up Chichagof Island's West Coast to Pelican

Saturday, July 25th:  Northward from Sitka up Chicagof's West Coast

We have a busy plan this morning then an 8-hour motor.  Let me back up:

After spending the last ten days back in California, we left San Luis Obispo via car up Highway 101 meeting our local crew along the way.  Veterans Vince and Marianne Fonte, and Chuck and Carolyn French, joined with us at a new San Jose hotel close to a favorite restaurant: Vito’s Trattoria on Skypark Drive.  Early Friday we flew to Sitka, arriving late afternoon.  After unpacking, we made our provisions list for stocking on Saturday.

Today, we have to unload our on-shore cold storage locker into the boat's freezer, provision at the market and fuel the boat.  Once completed, we will get motoring northward, hoping for a secure anchorage this evening.  The girls get marketing while the boys head to the fuel dock.  A line of boats at the fuel dock adds almost an hour and it takes another hour to fuel.  The girls have the groceries delivered to the fuel dock where we load, and go. The Wild Blue has been in and out of Sitka since May 5th.  By 1PM we are saying good bye to this pretty Alaskan town after almost three months!

Our route today is a bit different. We will follow the standard inside route northward towards Peril Strait but at Salisbury Sound, instead turning right into the flat waters of the Strait, we head out to sea.  At Piehle Pass we turn for the inside route again, up Smooth Channel, then Ogden and Surveyor Passages, through Portlock Harbor, Golding Harbor and into Baker Cove.  About 9PM we pulled into Baker and set the hook.

Our route northward from Salisbury Sound, outside Chicagof Island,
through Piehle, Smooth, Ogden, Surveyor, Portluck and Golding
into Baker Cove.

Sunday, July 26th: Lisianski Strait, Bohemia Cove to Pelican

This morning we cruised out of Baker and Portlock Harbor dodging a seiner set.  A seiner season had opened early this morning and we watched from our anchorage as the fishing boat set his net across the mouth of Baker Cove.  We left between two sets and it looked like a good catch of coho salmon.

We exited Portlock via Imperial Passage and were in the ocean for about an hour.  6-foot well-spaced swells rocked the boat on our way to the southwest entrance of Lisianski Strait.  At the entrance a couple humpbacks feeding almost too close!

Short of the top of the Strait we pulled off at Bohemia Creek and tied to the National Parks provided float.  It was a nice respite from the rain and we enjoined a great lunch.

A robust dock built by the National Park Service for recreational use.  No charge!
Crew Vince and Marianne are playing in the rain.  These two are less than
 3 months away from celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.  
After 2 hours of hiking, lunching and napping, we slipped our lines and headed for Pelican.  We arrived about 3pm to very quiet community.  Only about 120 folks live here year round and maybe as many as 250 in the summer months.  Pelican Seafoods closed for business in July 2008 and the population has dwindled. Rosie's Bar amd Grill was very quiet, the brightest light being her "OPEN" sign.  With no harbormaster, we just picked an open slip and hoped for the best.  It had no power so we occasionally ran the generator.  After walking the town and chatting up a few folks, we decided to leave an envelope with our dock fees at the harbor office.

Because of a storm forecast we spent two nights here.  We walked the Pelican boardwalk, saw the near new schoolhouse, visited the power station, and spied on as two large halibut were filleted on the boardwalk.  It was a quiet time for Scrabble, Mexican Train, rain watching and book reading.  It was just too rainy to get any decent photos of Pelican.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

2015-13 Last Whale Bay Fishing Trip

Friday-Monday, July 10-13, 2015

It took us two days to complete the windlass repair so by Friday afternoon we were headed back for one last fishing soiree to Whale Bay.  We fished the northern side of the Bay until 8PM then moved to Rakovi Bay for the night. Out early on Saturday, we fished the north and west sides of Krishka Island as before.  The bite was way off and by mid-morning with just a few in the box, we headed south in hopes to fish halibut at Snipe Bay and Kekur Head.  This unprotected ocean was a bit rough with southwest waves and wind, but we found we could comfortably fish in the lee of the Kekur Islands.  Apparently the halibut liked the rougher water, so by 3PM we headed up coast towards Sitka.  We set the anchor at Rakof Island in the bay just northwest of 2nd Narrows.

On Sunday we fished the east side of Legma Island, a place we had caught several in the past.  This place was also quiet so we moved to Biorka Island and landed a king and a coho.  Finally we headed back to Sitka and processed the few fish we had.

Our last day fishing Sitka this season was Monday.  First we fished the Rock Pile without success then it was out to Biorka Island for two fish.  We headed back to town about 3PM running into a pod of Orcas off Zenobia Rock and nearly grinding one up!  Alex had to immediately slow the boat, going out of gear to keep from colliding as the whales were gorging on salmon, and ignoring the Wild Blue.  It was a fitting end to a slow fishing week for these SLO cowboys.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015-12 Windlass Repair

July 9, 2015: Windlass Repair

Can't set the anchor without a functioning windlass, or four guys that like a 20 minute upper body workout each time the anchor needs hauling.  So once back at the dock in Sitka, we broke down our Maxwell HWC 2500 windlass.  Both anchor chains were removed from their chain wheels and secured to the boat.  Then both wheels and their associated washers, nuts, keys, brake shoes, etc were removed from the winch shaft.  The housing was unbolted from the deck and turned upside down to reveal the problem:  the windlass gear box lay in two halves!  It was clear that the four bolts that fastened both haves together had vibrated loose and sheared apart.

The options were to order a new windlass for $4000 and have it shipped via US east coast for another $600, or fix it.  The speediest would be an in the field repair, and we just needed four bolts.  As you would guess, these four bolts were special.  Metric thread, barrel head,  and 1 3/8 inch length with Allen wrench drive.  The bolt heads seat flush into machined recesses on one side of the gearbox half, and thread into the opposite half.  Vince and Alex spent several hours on foot visiting Sitka's True-Value Hardware, Murray-Pacific Marine, Carquest, and finally locating the exact part from Napa Auto, about 2 miles outside of town.  Amazing!

Back at the boat we eventually were able to match the worm gear to the sprocket gear and secure the two gearbox halves, seating the boats with red Locktite!  We cleaned and reassembled the windlass, lubricated the gears with SAE 90W, attached the anchor chains and tested.  All is well and the fishing can continue.

The many parts of the Maxwell HWC 2500 windless.
Four barrel head bolts thread into opposite half
keeping gearbox together. Photo is from similar Maxwell model.

2015-11 The San Luis Obispo Cowboys Raid Sitka

Monday, July 6th, 2015
We had the exceptional group of San Luis Obispo cowboys crewing again this week.  Caballeros Vince, Marvin and Bob have crewed many times before, and enjoy fishing the wilds of Alaska.   This year they're here for 8 days or so to fish Sitka.  And the fishing has been supurb up to July 4th.  We hope it and the weather holds.

Great weather continues to saturate Sitka.
One change impacted the fishing on July 1st.  The Alaska Fish and Game reduced the yearly King Salmon limit for non-residents from six to three fish.  Looks like we fisherman were just too successful, early this year, so in order to preserve the King Salmon species, we were regulated back.

On Monday evening, the cowboys treated Alex to a great dinner at Sitka's famous Ludwig's Bistro.  We also enjoyed after dinner drinks and desserts at the Rio Room, just above Ludwig's.  The best in Sitka by far.

Tuesday, July 7th
We provisioned up and headed southward, in hopes of repeating our fishing successes at Whale Bay.  A short afternoon troll at Biorka then Legma Islands netted the first King for this crew, but it was a long-time coming, so we pushed on to the Bay.  The evening troll at Whale Bay netted a couple and we set the hook in Rakovi for the evening, just three in the box.

Wednesday, July 8th
The morning pace picked up a bit and by the end of Wednesday we had a nine and processed them. We dined on a salmon for dinner.  We've been fishing on the west and north sides of Krishka Island in Whale Bay which has been just fine.

Deer seem to be dining on Krishka Island kelp this year.
Chef Bob detailed the complete fresh salmon dinner.  It was epic-currean!

Thursday, July 9th
We had pretty good luck this morning, adding another five fish, but the problem started after lunch.  It's that sinking feeling you get when it happens and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Look Out Below

We had anchored in our lunch spot in about 45 feet of water, inside Rakovi Bay.  As Alex went to haul the anchor and begin the afternoon fishing session, there was a "pop" sound, and the anchor chain began paying out at full speed.  Of course the inclination is to do something to stop it, but that's dangerous.  You don't do anything to stop a freight train, or an anchor chain.  Alex watched helplessly as all 400 feet feed out onto the ocean floor, except the chain stopped at the bitter end as the nylon braid tail-line stretched, but did not part.

The windless was broken, so any chain hauling would need to be performed like the old days..... by hand.  Luckily there were four of us mostly healthy men aboard who were just eager for an upper body workout.... at least that's what we told ourselves.  So it was "Yo, ho, heave ho, and a bottle of rum" as 400 feet of 3/8 inch chain, including a 120 pound anchor,  s_l_o_w_l_y  worked it's way to the surface.  After about 35 minutes of grunting, groaning and sweating, the anchor was aboard and stowed.  We continued fishing for a couple hours, then headed back to town for parts and repairs.

Yo, Ho, Heave Ho pooped out these cowboys!
Blogger Note:  After thorough examination of all cameras, cell phones and video cameras, no record of the face of Bob Silva can be found, and thus his facsimile was not included in this Blog post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2015-10 We Caught a Salmon Over 1000 miles from Its Home

Those Salmon Really Do Get Around!

Most know that Salmon are born and raised in a freshwater area, then eventually migrate out of the freshwater to live in the ocean for a couple years or so.  Then a large percentage return to their birth location to spawn and continue their species.  It is always amazing to learn that while in the ocean, the salmon roam 1000 or more miles, and when you land a fish, it could be from far, far away.  As it turns out, the Wild Blue crew did just that.

Along with other States and Provinces, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game examines landed salmon to determine, among other things, where they originate.  A fish missing the adipose fin, that is the top fin just before the tail, indicates that a pin-head size coded wire tag may be located in the snout of the fish. Each juvenile salmon is tagged when it is quite small at the hatchery were it was born.

As the Wild Blue pulled into Sitka on June 28, an AKF&G Biologist met us at the dock and asked to examine our fresh caught fish.  Of course we allowed the examination, and out of 7 or so fish in the box, one King salmon had a missing adipose fin.  The biologist asked to take the head, and when we said it might make for a less dense eyeball soup, she told us we could keep the eyes! She cut the head and took it, along with Alex's email address.

A couple weeks later, Alex received an email letter from the Alaska Fish and Game.  We learned that a 33-inch King we caught in Whale Bay Alaska originated from the Umatilla Hatchery, 260 miles and 3 dams up the Columbia River!  That's over 1000 miles from where we landed it!  It was born in summer of 2010 and released from the hatchery in March 2012, along with 47,325 others, by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Amazing!

After our encounter with the AKF&G Biologist on June 28th, we began to note missing adipose fins, retaining the heads of those fish.  We shrink wrap each hatchery fish head, note the pertinent catch info on the wrap, and freeze the head. Three heads were turned over the the biologist on arrival of July 2nd.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

2015-09 47 Years Later A Mysterious Voicemail

49 Years Ago

In the Fall of 1966 a bunch of us kids started college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.  Over that first year a group of us became friends and moved from the on-campus dormitories to an apartment.  By the end of school year 1967 our group consisted of about eight close friends living off-campus.  Over the next few years some transferred to other schools, all graduated,  and we sort of lost contact.

Over the next 40 years, a few of us occasionally visited each other. Then in 2008 Joe called to invite Willie, Mike and Alex to his daughter's wedding.  Of course we didn't regularly chat with Joe and hadn't met his daughter.  Joe said the three of us were at his wedding in 1972, and that Becky and he were still together, and that we were their "good luck charm".  He needed us at his daughter's wedding.

It was a fabulous wedding and we had a bunch of fun.  It seemed like a yearly reunion aboard the Wild Blue fit everyone's schedule so in 2009 the boys started their yearly cruise.  Of course these adventures are documented in this Blog. The post from our first cruise together is here.

A Mysterious Voicemail:

This past week, we pulled into Sitka earlier than usual, on Wednesday, as the weather was turning and we had limited out on King salmon fishing.  About an hour out, we came into cell range and a curious voicemail was left for Alex. The mysterious voice asked to go cruising with us on the Wild Blue.  The caller wondered if we recognized his voice.  Then an email entitled "Not Invited To Go Cruising" was received from a Brian Jorgensen. Wow!  What a surprise. Brian was one of our original college roommates from 1966.  At the end of his sophomore year he transferred to the University of Washington, and we lost contact.  By coincidence, he was checking to see what happened to his college buddies and googled Alex's name.  The Wild Blue Blog appeared and he immediately saw a picture of Willie, Joe and Mike from the June 29th post.  Without hesitation he booked a flight to Sitka and arrived on Thursday, and after 47 years, Brian has joined the crew.  He'll be cruising with the group next year too.

Of course we visited with Brian and relived the past. He still acts,talks and looks much the same as in 1966.  What's surprising is that all five us graduated, avoided Vietnam, and ended up in business for ourselves:  Brian owns a pharmacy in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  It was great seeing Brian and hearing about his life.

Cal Poly College chums from 47 years ago:
Willie, Brian, Joe, Mike and Alex
2015 4th of July Finale at Sitka Harbors


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015-08 The Wild Blue Crew is on the Fish!

July 1st
We've just returned from our third fishing expedition in past 10 days to Whale Bay, 40 miles south of Sitka, Alaska. The fishing has been just overwhelming.  Hard to believe that four old guys could land 59 salmon in just a few days.  A total of 21 King salmon, 37 Cohos and a halibut made for a fabulous fish week.

For the complete fish count including the ones that got away, see the Wild Blue Fish Report at the end of this post.

From the Fish Report, most of he fish were pulled from the Western and Northern edge of Krishka Island.  The western side is exposed to the Gulf swell but the northern side is flat.

We fished in close to the edge of the Island, in 100 feet with the down-riggers at 75 to 85 feet.  When we saw bait on the sonar, we started a slow turn, and this seemed to cause most of the action,and hookups. One particular spot along the north shore of Krishka Island is directly across from a fallen tree, where the shore line curves inward.  See the photo.  The water is deep here and in a way resembles the Shark Hole just outside Kalinin Bay at the top of Kruzof Island.  We were more likely to see bait adjacent to the tree and would start our turn, then "Fish On!".

On prior trips to the Bay, Krishka Island would only be fished when to swell was up. So it ranks after King City, Whale Bay North and Whale Bay South for fish landed.  After this week, it's on top!

The magic tree on the North Shore

m/v Wild Blue Fish Report, June 25th - July 1st, 2015

NbrDateTypeSpecLenBaitDeepLocationTODSlack +/-Comments# King
125-JunTroKing33Hoo120Biorka Isl8:05AM +020 m1
F25-JunTroCohoBIGHoo50Whale Bay S8:30PM +000mNet Error
F25-JunTroKing?Hoo50Whale Bay S8:45PM +015 mNet error
225-JunTroKing28Hoo50Whale Bay S9:00PM +030 m2
F25-JunTro??Hoo50Whale Bay S9:16PM +046 mOff hook
325-JunTroCoho34Hoo50Whale Bay S9:16PM +046 mDouble H
425-JunTroCohomHoo50Whale Bay S9:29PM +059 m
526-JunTroCohomHoo50Whale Bay S9:02AM -030 m
626-JunTroCohomHoo60Whale Bay S9:08AM -024 m
726-JunTroCohomHoo60Whale Bay S9:28AM -004m
826-JunTroCohomHoo50Whale Bay S9:42AM +010 m
926-JunTroCohomHoo50Whale Bay S10:05AM +033 m
1026-JunTroCohomHoo50Whale Bay S10:33AM +061 m
1126-JunTroKing35Hoo50Whale Bay S11:07AM +095 m3
1226-JunTroCohomHoo50Whale Bay S11:28AM +116 m
1326-JunTroKing32Hoo50WB N Krishka Isl3:45PM +075 m4
F26-JunTroKingBIGHoo50WB N Krishka Isl4:01PM +091 mOff Hook
F26-JunTro??Hoo50WB N Krishka Isl4:03PM +093 mBad Hook
1426-JunTroCohomHoo50WB N Krishka Isl4:35PM +126 m
1526-JunTroKing36Hoo50WB N Krishka Isl5:05PM +156 m5
F26-JunTroKingBIGHoo50WB N Krishka Isl5:20PM +171 mNet Error
1626-JunTroCohomHoo50WB N Krishka Isl5:50PM +201 m
1727-JunTroHali41Hoo90WB N Krishka Isl8:50AM -100 mBall hit bottom
1827-JunTroCohomHoo90WB N Krishka Isl9:10AM -080 m
1927-JunTroKing32Hoo90WB N Krishka Isl9:48AM -042 m6
2027-JunTroKing28Hoo110WB South10:05AM -025 m7
2127-JunTroCohomHoo80WB South10:35AM +005 m
2227-JunTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl11:28AM +058 m
2327-JunTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl11:42AM +072 m
2427-JunTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl11:55AM +085 m
2527-JunTroCohomHoo65WB N Krishka Isl12:05PM +095 m
2627-JunTroKing37Hoo65WB W Krishka Isl12:25PM +115 m8
2727-JunTroCohomHoo50WB W Krishka Isl5:25PM +100 m
2827-JunTroKing34Hoo85WB W Krishka Isl5:38PM +113 m9
2927-JunTroKing29Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl5:53PM +128 m10
3027-JunTroKing30Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:15PM +150 m11
3127-JunTroKing29Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:24PM +159 m12
R27-JunTroKing27Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:45PM +180 mReleased
3227-JunTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl7:15PM +210 m
3327-JunTroKing35Hoo65WB W Krishka Isl7:29PM +224 mDaily Limit13
R28-JunTroKing<27 td="">Hoo80WB W Krishka Isl6:42AM +092 mReleased
F28-JunTro??Hoo65WB W Krishka Isl6:50AM +100 mWrap on D/R
3428-JunTroCohomHoo65WB W Krishka Isl7:11AM +121 m
3528-JunTroCohoBIGHoo65WB N Krishka Isl7:31AM +142 m
3628-JunTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl7:40AM +151 m
3728-JunTroKing37Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl7:50AM +161 m14
3828-JunTroKing33Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl8:01PM +172 mVideo w/weed15
3928-JunTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl8:42PM +213 m
4030-JunTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:55AM +025 m
4130-JunTroKing31Hoo65WB N Krishka Isl7:20AM +050 mHatchery Fish16
4230-JunTroCohomHoo65WB N Krishka Isl8:10AM +100 m
4330-JunTroCohomHoo65WB N Krishka Isl8:20AM +110 m
4430-JunTroKing30Hoo75WB W Krishka Isl8:56AM +146 m17
4530-JunTroCohoBIGHoo75WB W Krishka Isl9:10AM +160 m
4630-JunTroKing32Hoo65WB W Krishka Isl9:13AM +163 m18
4730-JunTroCohomHoo75WB N Krishka Isl9:47AM +197 m
4830-JunTroKing35Hoo85WB W Krishka Isl9:52AM +202 m19
4930-JunTroCohomHoo75WB W Krishka Isl10:29AM +239 m
5030-JunTroCohomHoo75WB N Krishka Isl10:49AM +259 m.
5130-JunTroKing31Hoo85WB N Krishka Isl10:58AM +268 m20
5230-JunTroKing34Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:01PM -030 mDL,Hatchery Fi21
531-JulTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:10AM -060 m
541-JulTroCoho31Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:18AM -052 m
551-JulTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:23AM -047 m
561-JulTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl6:28AM -042 mHatchery Fish
571-JulTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl7:01AM -009 m
581-JulTroCohomHoo80WB N Krishka Isl7:19AM +009 m
591-JulTroCoho34Hoo80WB N Krishka Isl7:23AM +013 m
Nbr: Landed Fish Number, or F-Farmed (lost), or R=Released
Type: Bot=Bottom Fish, Tro=Troll, Moo=Mooch
Spec: King, Coho, Hali=Halibut
Len: In inches,or m=medium sized, or BIG=large
Bait: Hoo=Hootchie, or Herr=herring, or Watr=Watermelon lure
Slack: Minutes before (-) or after (+) high or low tide
Total Fish = 59: 1 Halibut, 21 Kings, 37 Cohos