Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2016-23 Single-Handing Around Cape Caution

Sunday, August 14:  Shearwater, Around Cape Caution, to Allison Harbour

Alex saw the Gray Clan off this morning as they boarded the Shearwater to Bella-Bella shuttle.  The shuttle meets a van at the Bella Bella pier for transport to the airport.  After securing the tender aboard Wild Blue, with the help of Bill from the Selene 55 Amavi, Alex shoved off for points south at 10AM. The goal is Port McNeill on northeastern Vancouver Island but first one needs to round Cape Caution, a cape on mainland British Columbia that's open to Queen Charlotte Sound's ocean.

The next crew meets the boat later this summer in Port McNeill.  The plan is to moor there for a couple weeks.  Normally we always have at least one crew with Alex, but sometimes single-handing is necessary.  It definitely helps polish one's docking and anchoring skills.

Alex has a mid-week flight reservation out of Port Hardy airport.  When pressed for time, the deal on the Cape is always keep going, if the going is good.  Environment Canada's afternoon-evening marine forecast called for light North-westerlies, and 1 meter seas.  So Alex motored late into the afternoon down Fitz Hugh Sound.    By 4:30PM the boat steamed into dense fog.

Everybody's favorite cruise ship.
The Wild Blue and Disney Wonder seem to cross routes
here in Northern BC about the same time each summer.
Even famous stars like Donald Duck have to do crew work.

We have 32 miles to cover in about four hours to make Allison Harbour in the daylight.  With the excellent sea conditions we push on into the fog.  The visibility drops to 1/4 miles then to less than 200 feet.  It lightens then thickens along the way.  The radar shows just one commercial target ahead.  Prince Rupert and Comox Vessel Traffic report no other traffic near us.  At Kelp Head, the southern point to Rivers Inlet, we move close in along the eastern mainland shoreline, passing inside of False Egg, Ruby Rocks, Table and Egg Islands, our standard inside route.  Passing close to islands and measuring the distance on the chart-plotter, allows us to re-calibrate our visibility at 100 yards. We pass without seeing the Cape turning east towards the Slingsby Channel outlet.  The current is near slack, there is calm water at Slingsby as we cross it, and eventually enter Allison Harbour.  The power boat ItsAFisher shows up on AIS inside Allison.  At last the fog lifts and daylight fades, as we enter the anchorage.  The anchor is set on the south-eastern edge.

Entering Allison Harbour as the fog lifts.
Monday, August 15, 2016:  Port McNeill

It's so good to have a working windlass, especially when single-handing!  The anchor is secured and the Wild Blue is out of Allison and into the fog, once again.  To save fuel and time, we shortcut by skirting the BC Mainland, passing east of Southgate and Knight Islands to find a gaggle of sport-fishers just next to us as we enter Queen Charlotte Strait.  Conditions are good, eventually the fog lifts, and the boat is secured to the dock at Port McNeill by noon.

Canadian Coast Guard checks us out.
The gravel loader from Orca Quarry located a mile inland
between Port McNeill and Port Hardy on Vancouver island.
Who would think that with all the granite in California
the State would need to import and and crushed rock from Canada?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

2016-22 Ketchikan to Shearwater

When the Windlass Fails

On Tuesday morning, August 9th at Captains Cove on Pitt Island, BC, the anchor was set in 40 feet with 175 feet of rode deployed.  While raising the anchor with 30 feet to go, and the hook off bottom, the windlass abruptly failed.  With the wheel stop paw not engaged, the chain wheel spun rapidly, dumping chain.  This is a noisy and dangerous time, as chain spills uncontrollably into the deep.  It's a time when fingers, hands, arms, feet and legs should be well clear of the windlass.  With heavy chain spilling overboard rapidly, the force would part the safety line tied to the bitter end, and Wild Blue's primary anchor would be lost.  Alex carefully reacted, slowly setting the brake on the unused, locked port chain wheel, binding the winch shaft, and eventually the chain wheel slowed then stopped.  Unfortunately about 300 feet of chain had escaped overboard, and the windlass was broken.

On boats cruising in remote areas, it's always a good idea to carry spares.  Most boats stock spare filters, lubricants, critical parts, and even backup auxiliary engines. Some even have a second generator.  

On Wild Blue the anchor is set and retrieved maybe 75 times a year.  The anchor winch, or windlass, is a large electric motor, gearbox and dual chain wheels in a heavy package, over 100 pounds.  The boat doesn't carry a spare so when the anchor windlass breaks, a backup retrieval method is needed.  

The Maxwell Model HWC2500 windlass provides manual retrieval using a breaker bar.  The bar fits in a slot next to the chain wheel.  Each pull on the bar rotates the wheel a bit.  The anchor is retrieved s-l-o-w-l-y, just one chain link at a time.  300 feet of chain requires about 2,400 pulls on the breaker bar, making for a very long day.  However, in remote BC with 7 more days of anchoring ahead, the Wild Blue crew needed and found a faster, if back-breaking, method to raise the anchor.

How did we get here......

Saturday, August 6, 2016:  New Crew Arrives in Ketchikan

We have a new crew arriving from Central California and Utah.  It's the Gray family with brothers Gene and Al, and cousin Phil.  These guys have crewed Wild Blue several times with this their first time fishing.  Once in K-town over-flowing with passengers off five cruise ships, taxis were scarce.  It took an hour to get the two miles from the airport ferry to downtown's City Float. It didn't help that the Grays were inadvertently offloaded at Bar Harbor first, complicating and delaying there arrival at the boat.  Gene made it clear to the taxi folks that their service sucked!  After a beer or two, all crew calmed down.

We enjoyed a fine dinner at the new Bar Harbor Restaurant, next to City Float, then Al and Phil headed to Safeway for provisions while Gene and Alex readied the boat. Soon the boat was replenished, and ready for an early morning departure.
Gene, brother Al and Cousin Phil of the Gray Clan

Sunday, August 7, 2016:  Ketchikan to Prince Rupert

We were free of City Float by 6:15 on the way to Petro Marine for fuel.  The fuel station wasn't open so we tied up and waited.  The hose was transferring fuel at 7AM and in forty minutes we loaded 800 gallons.  The ocean and wind forecast looked good until late afternoon.  We could bail out at Pond Bay at Duke Island if needed.

Once settled onto course, the wind stayed light.  We transited Dixon Entrance with a 1 knot push in generously-spaced small ocean swell.  It was one of our Top Three Most Comfortable crossings.  We pulled into Prince Rupert via Venn Passage, clearing Canadian Customs at the government dock.  Then we moved over to the new city operated Cow Bay Marina for the night.  After purchasing fishing licences for the Grays, we had an excellent dinner at the Crest Hotel on the waterfront.

The 130 foot sailing yacht "Janice of Wyoming"
moored at Cow Bay Marina, Prince Rupert

Monday, August 8, 2016:  Captains Cove

We departed Prince Rupert well ahead of the afternoon  westerlies.  We headed south towards the bottom of Chatham Sound, pointing towards the north end of the Grenville Channel.  There we bore right into Ogden then Petrel Channel, settling on the "outside" Inside Passage route.  Eventually we fished off every trawler skipper's namesake, Captain Cove.  Unfortunately our Captain rank was somewhat diminished as the crew didn't hook anything.  We set the anchor in 48 feet at the SW bay inside the Cove.  It seemed like a normal set.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016: Busted Windless to Patterson Inlet

It took us about an hour of figuring to devise a method to raise chain and anchor.  3/8 inch chain weighs about 1.5 pounds per foot.  So at this morning's low tide, there would only be about 60 pounds of chain.  The last 40 feet would add 190 pounds of anchor, not including the mud.  With gloves and 4 somewhat beefy older men, we handled the chain fairly easily.  Using the boat's anchor bridle as a come-a-long, the last 40 feet caused some grunting and groaning.  We pulled about 10 feet at a time, setting the loaded-up chain into the braked chain wheel, as we re-rigged the come-a-long.  After securing the anchor aboard, there was encouragement from the crew to navigate to the most shallow of anchorages.

Underway, we moved down Petrel Channel fishing Gibbons Point and Foul Point, eventually ending at the entrance to Patterson Inlet, usually excellent for Coho salmon.  After an hour, we moved to the shallows near the top of the Inlet, setting two crab traps along the way.  We had not bagged a fish yet.

We were hailed by a couple on the Nordhavn 55, anchored in the deeper part of the Inlet.  Having heard about our windlass breakdown, they kindly offered to allow us to side-tie for the evening.  For some unknown reason we declined, dropping the hook in 21 feet, or closer to 30 feet when we planned on hauling chain tomorrow.

Now setting could not be controlled by the broken windless.  Instead the anchor set was accomplished by a "controlled" free fall of anchor and chain.  The manual windlass break on the unused chain wheel was released, then manipulated, slowing the "free fall" descent.  Again, human exposure near the chain-wheels was minimized.  After set and secure for the evening, all crew were allowed extra rations of Wisers whisky!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016:  Patterson to McMicking Inlet

With a huff and a puff, the four of us again hauled the anchor.  Except for the morning's flying insects, it was getting easier.  Exiting Patterson, we pulled the traps to find inside....... emptiness. We fished the northern ocean entrance to Douglass Channel with other boats without success.  In the afternoon the anchor was set at the bitter end of McMicking Inlet in 21 feet for easy hauling.

Sunset over McMicking Inlet

Thursday, August 11, 2016: McMicking to Klemtu

There is a small dock at Klemtu available for transient boats.  If open, we can tie up for the night avoiding anchor duty.  Today's "pull" went OK.  Once outside, we moved to the southern tip of Campania Island and joined 20 other guided sports-fishers trolling there.   After no boats landed a fish in for the hour we spent there, we moved to down to Surf Inlet.  Finally a couple of hookups, but no fish landed.

After 6 hours of "fish" cruising we arrived at Klemtu to see the moorage float stacked high with commercial fishing tackle.  The boat was anchored in the pretty cove about a 1.3 miles south of town, in 40 feet, ugh!
The Boat Bluff Light Station, just north of Klemtu, was
lifting their skiff as we passed.

Friday, August 12, 2016:  Klemtu to Shearwater and Fish in the Box!

Now experts at manual anchor pulling, we efficiently hauled from 40 feet.  Just 5 miles south, on the west edge of Finlayson Channel we trolled up two nice Coho salmon.  Then we moved to the other side fishing up three lingcods at Gaudin Islands. The day turned into a fishing success so we headed into Shearwater, with a float to tie up, and an windlass to disassemble.

Modern channel light.  This one
was near our fishing spot on the
west side of Finlayson Channel.

Ivory Island Light Station at the intersection of
Finlayson and Seaforth Channels, Northern BC.
It's always a plus to have talented crew aboard when needed.  This was exactly the case when it came to diagnosing and repairing the Maxwell HWC 2500 windlass as crew Phil has spent a lifetime in diesel engine repair.  This isn't the first time Wild Blue has had a windlass problem and Alex had an idea this breakdown was related to last year's winch issue.

With anchor chains removed and secured and the circuit breaker off, the winch was unbolted and flipped over.  The problem was obvious: the bolts securing the winch gearbox assembly had vibrated loose, allowing the motor driven worm gear to disengage with the winch drive gear.  This was exactly the same as last year's winch issue.  With Phil's expertise, the gearbox was removed, cleaned, reassembled with red Lock-Tite, and within a  day, the windlass was re-installed and operating again.

We enjoyed fresh lingcod, breaded with Panko, seasoned with Pappy's and lightly cooked with garlic in olive oil.  Gene, Al and Phil had the rest of the fish frozen and packaged for travel.  It was fun again cruising with the Gray Clan.  Next time we look forward to a workout from hauling fish, instead of the anchor!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2016-21 Fishing Our Way to Ketchikan

Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, July 27-28-29, 2016:  Moored at Craig's South Harbor

The Movie People crew headed back to California today.  Vince and Alex had a couple days free time in Craig.  Most was spent walking the town and shoreline and sampling pizza offerings.  We also keenly observed the fish being caught by other boaters moored at South Marina, also known as Shelter Cove.
A pretty graveyard for Craig folks just near the Cape Suspiro trail-head.
A beautiful manicured trail terminates
 at Cape Suspiro shoreline.  Then a narrow
pathway leads along the shore, through
dense woods eventually connecting
 with a return trail.
This semi-improved trail returned us
 from Cape Suspiro to town.
Each day, the Albin 31 Snow Goose moored just across from us, left the dock by 7AM.  By noon the Snow Goose returned with several salmon and large halibuts.  Each afternoon the crew spent hours cleaning and packaging fish while Vince and Alex watched.  There's nothing like fishing info from locals or veterans so we invited the Snow Goose crew over for cocktails.  Figuring that secret fishing info is sacred, we planned to sacrifice lots of Wisers.  Turns out Jim and Linda are from Tacoma-WA, this is their first time fishing Craig, and they don't drink. Luckily one of us stayed sober enough as the Snow Goosers were way too kind and disclosed their fishing methods and the sacred GPS coordinates.

Friday, July 30, 2016:  Fishing Snow Goose Halibut Spots

Two new Wild Blue crew arrived last evening.  Marvin and Lee are from San Luis Obispo and we all belong to the same cowboy club, Caballeros of SLO.  Cowboys like fish too, especially halibut so the crew wants to take advantage of the Snow Goose hot spots.  Jim and Linda left this early morning for a long fishing ride through SE Alaska and BC, home to Tacoma.

After some morning provisioning, we got going just before 10.  We motored SW for 90 minutes out of Bucareli Bay to a rise on the ocean floor just 3/4 mile due N of Point Arboleda.  We baited two halibut poles using weighted circle hooks with frozen herring and mooched using a lead-head hook with white wiggly on the third pole in 180 to 200 feet on the ocean rise.  It wasn't long before Marvin had a big fish hooked and struggled reeling in a 47-inch flattie.  Once on the surface Alex speared the fish insuring it stayed connected to the Wild Blue with a 1/4 inch line. (Yes Roger we did it right this time, thanks!) Once exhausted, Vince's cowboy instincts caused him to lasso the fish tail, and he now has a good tale to tell!  Needless to say Marvin was pooped after 20 minutes of reeling a 48 pound fighting fish and needed a nap.

After 2 hours, we moved further SW to a new halibut hotspot 1.33 miles due W of Point Arboleda.  We fished with the same gear in 120 feet and Lee caught a good-sized fish.  We stayed 45 minutes then the building wind and current drift was too fast, so we moved inside to 1.75 miles due E of Point Cocos.  This 150 foot ocean floor plateau depth yielded a yellow eye rock fish and two more halibut including a 47 1/2 inch fish at 50 pounds.  Vince didn't gloat too much, and as Marvin extended his nap.

By 2PM we were finished fishing for the day.  Next we had a 5-hour motor ahead to get over near St Joseph Island where we hoped to fish for king salmon tomorrow.  After a long motor we anchored in Anguilla Bay just off Anguilla Island.  The fish processing crew then went to work, withholding alcoholic drinks until the knives were put away.  I believe Dr Lee uses the same policy in his medical practice!  All anyone can say for sure was the fish fillets were expertly carved!

Fishing waters near Craig, AK
Lee, Vince and Marvin process and package fish.

Saturday, July 31, 2016:  King Salmon Fishing

Early Saturday we motored the five miles over to St Joseph Island.  The Island's west side is a excellent King salmon fishery.  Numerous guided sport fisherman regularly fish there and land the king salmon.  In 2014 Bob Silva landed one of the largest Kings we have boated.  Although the west side is the sweet spot, its open ocean means wind and seas have to be calm for Wild Blue fishing.  Today's seas were 5 feet spaced close together and the wind was over 10 knots at 7AM.  After coming all this way, we were confined to fishing the east side of St Joseph.  We landed no Kings but did boat 6 coho salmon.  By noon we headed back to Craig for full provisions and dinner at the Shelter Cove Lodge.

Sunday, August 1, 2016: Craig to Natzuhini Bay

We provisioned for our expected 5-day cruise to Ketchikan and departed Craig by noon.  The plan is to  fish salmon along the way to Natzuhini Bay near Hydaburg.  There we will soak the crab traps overnight.  Seems like crabs are always near native villages, and funny thing is, sea otters aren't.

First we trolled along the eastern side of Bucareli Bay just beyond Point Tranquil.  We caught and returned two small cohos.  We then moved across Ulloa Channel to Cangrejo Point and found a great fishing spot in the waters between the point and the small group of nearby islets.  There we landed 5 coho and a 33-inch King salmon.  Actually Marvin landed the big King and barbecue will be light tonight.

At 2pm we pulled the lines and headed down Ulloa Channel to insure we crossed Tlevak Passage near slack current.  We coasted through Tlevak Pass with a 2-knot push into Tlevak Strait.  Eventually we turned to port into South Pass headed towards Hydaburg.  We continued past Hydaburg into the sparsely charted Natzuhini Bay, setting our traps near the Bay head at the river outflows. By 9PM we were enjoying fresh caught fillet of King salmon, barbecued to excellence.

Monday, August 2, 2016:  Natzuhini Bay to Nichols Bay

With our bellies still filled with King salmon, it was tough arising.  So afterour 10am start we hauled the crab traps.  Yikes!  The cages were filled to the grill with male Dungeness crabs.  We selected 10 of the largest and returned the rest.

Our goal today is Jackson Island off the near the SE end of Tlevak Strait.  As we motored, Alex cleaned the crab, we fired up the convection hot plate and boiled a pan of saltwater with crab boil mix.  It took two boils in our largest crab pot to complete the cooking.  Once seawater cooled, the crew picked, and picked, and picked crab, until it was again time to fish.

We trolled Jackson and Lacey Islands for a couple hours with just a couple cohos then motored southeast looking for a secure anchorage as big winds were starting to fill in.  We tried Leading Point, Hessa Inlet and Buschmann Pass anchorages but all had a bunch of wind or irregular bottoms.  We finally bit the bullet and made time to Nichols Bay nearer to Cape Chacon, enjoying Vince's crab meat pasta along the way: totally spectacular!

At 10PM we entered Nichols Bay under the floodlights as night was falling.  Our first anchor set left us just too close to the big rock in the NW cove.  We had to re-set, and eventually shut off the engine after 11PM.  At 2AM we were awoken by the floods from an 120-foot commercial fishing vessel setting up next to us for a seiner opening.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016:  Nichols Bay to Ketchikan

By 7:30 this morning, we raised the anchor slowly as the windlass was making a low grinding noise.  The winch pulled so much current that the 250-amp breaker popped!  Once the anchor was secured, we made way to Ketchikan.  We'll need a backup anchor system for the Ketchikan crew.

This was a day early end to our fishing expedition but the freezer had so much fresh processed fish, it could not reach freeze temperature.  In town we will take the fish to a processor and pay a fee to have it frozen and boxed for air travel.  The ocean and winds at the Cape and across Clarence Strait were placid.  We cruised by seiners readying for a south Prince of Wales Island opener.  But otherwise it was quite an uneventful 6-hour motor.  By 1:30 we spied open dock space at "hard to get" City Float in the downtown zone.  We quickly parked before someone else did, facing the cruise ship float.

Now here's the best part of the Marvin, Vince and Lee crew, who was thinking of future crews.  Having caught the elusive crab with salmon heads as bait, we ended up with a rather large package of the cheapest chicken thighs, an excellent crab bait.  Even though there was lots of crab on hand to dine on, the crew thought it best to season and barbecue those chicken thighs!  After 45 minutes on a rather greasy and semi-controlled fire, the charred (but delicious) thigh remains were served to a hungry crew.  Needless to say the next Wild Blue crew will be most thankful that crab remains.

As always we enjoyed our time with Vince the chef, and Marvin the fisherman, and new crew Lee, the fish processor....