Friday, July 22, 2011

#10 Heavy Selene Trawler Traffic in Alaska

So far we have passed 11 Selene Trawlers cruising Alaska this summer, more than any other builder.  It's as though there's another Selene in every port and anchorage.  Perhaps the fleet should organize an Alaskan Selene Rendezvous?  I've probably left someone out, but here's the list so far:

1. Z-Worthy, a Selene 48, Z-Worthy Blog
2. Tranquility. a Selene 53
3. Raindancer, a Selene 59
4. Peregrine, a Selene 53
5. Morning Star, a Selene 53
6. Spirit, a Selene 55, Spirit Blog
7. Elipsis, a Selene 59
8. Porosity, a Selene 59
9. Maritime, a Selene 47
10. Oriana, a Selene 53
11. Kononia, a Selene 59 *

There are two other Selenes we've heard are in Alaska (see the Spirit Blog) but we haven't yet run across.  They are:

12. Sojourn, a Selene 53
13. Moonstar, a Selene 62

So including the Wild Blue, there are 14 Selene Trawlers (owners) presently cruising.  That is pretty amazing!

* Note: Just like in sports, some records have an asterisk for special situations.  We ran into the crew of Kononia on a Juneau street last month.  We wondered just where their boat was moored. After several beers among the screaming people inside the Red Dog Saloon, the Kononia crew finally admitted to cruising to Juneau in a jet plane, instead of their beautiful Selene.  Oh well.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

#9 Sitka, Goddard Hot Springs, Kalinin Bay, Warm Springs Bay, Red Bluff Bay, Port Walter, Coronation Island, to Craig, Alaska

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - Sitka:  The New Crew Arrives

Vince has stayed behind to help crew the boat this week. Over the last couple days, he assisted Alex in completing "mid-cruise" maintenance.  This includes main and generator engine oil and filter changes, and raw water strainer clean-out, including the seawater cooled deep freezer.  We inspected the zincs, engine fluid levels, and finally added 600 gallons of diesel at $4.20 per gallon.

Sitka's Eliason Harbor our home for the last 6 days

This afternoon Rick from the Selene 53 Tranquility came by and we swapped fish stories.  He reports that many boats are catching "white" king salmon this season.  The "white" salmon appears the same from the outside as a "red" salmon.  Only when filleted, can you determine whether a fish is white as opposed to red. Rick says less than 1% of king salmon are white fleshed.  We just hope to land a king salmon of any color!

In the middle of this white salmon fish story, the new Wild Blue crew arrive -- all geared up!  Suddenly we're loading special fishing poles, boxes of lures, multiple reels, and two hefty down-riggers with custom made mounts.  Gerard Ages and Greg Gubser have arrived and they are twitching to get fishing!

Gerard, a general contractor from Los Osos, California. is a water guy and a fishing maniac.  He's has his own boat and regularly fishes off Morro Bay.  He's crewed on two prior Alaska expeditions aboard Wild Blue and holds the record for the biggest fish farmed (approximate 200 lb halibut) as well as the biggest fish boated (111 lb halibut), breaking Vince's record.

Greg, a harbormaster at Oyster Point Marina in San Francisco Bay, lives in Pacifica, California.  He too is a water guy and fishing freak.  A prior US Coast Guard officer, this is Greg's first cruise aboard the boat.

We immediately go into fishing prep mode.  The mounts are installed and the down-riggers are tested and adjusted. We visit the local marine store, Murray Pacific, to stock up on bait, rigger weights, more lures, hooks and fishing licenses.  Along the way Gerard chats up all the locals gathering fishing techniques and preferred locations. After several store visits we're geared up for fishing.  Finally we top off the day with a provisioning spree at the local market and settle on a light dinner aboard.  We hope to be up early to fish south of Sitka.

Friday, July 8, 2011 - Fishing Our Way from Sitka to Goddard Hot Springs

After consulting the Alaska Fishing Guide and the upcoming week's weather forecast, we decide on a route that places us in Craig, Alaska on the 14th.  8-10 foot seas are forecast for Baranof Island's the west coast, so we'll need to take the longer but more protected route north, through Peril Strait and down the east coast of Baranof.  Today we re-route to fish south of Sitka, in East Channel, around Biorka Island and in the Necker Islands, ending up at Goddard Hot Springs for the night.

This week's route from Sitka to Craig, Alaska

Sitka has many benefits for the fisherman, the best being it's proximity to the most productive fishing grounds in Southeast, Alaska.  By 7:30AM we are off the dock, and by 8AM we are fishing East Channel 4 miles south.  In just 20 minutes Gerard hooks our first king salmon and the 32-incher is in the box!  Wow, this seems too easy.  The license limits us to 2 kings salmon per day, or 8 for the boat.  Each must be greater than 28 inches.  We troll up and back in East Channel and soon Greg has boated a few silver salmon. Even the rockfish are biting.  By 9:30 the bite is off and we move further south to Biorka Island.

New down-rigger at work aboard Wild Blue.  A 12-pound lead ball keeps the trolling gear deep in the water where the king salmon swim. 

Just a couple hours fishing near Sitka.

Next we head out to sea following a current line near Biorka.  The commercial troller fleet is out in force.  The seas are a bit lumpy and Wild Blue's stabilizers don't operate at our 2-knot trolling speed.  We spend an hour without action then begin trolling the protected passes between the nearby Necker Islands.  We note other commercial boats doing this and soon we have boated several more silver salmon.  About mid-afternoon we head for Dorothy Pass and the Goddard Hot Springs, just a few more miles away.

Navigating Dorothy Narrows

Once anchored near the hot springs, we take the tender, some beer and towels ashore.  As we arrive the group ahead of us is undressing for the springs and the first hot tub is filled with naked bodies.  Unused to this avant-guard approach to hot tubbing, Gerard, Greg and Alex continued on up to another tub.  Later, we did share some cold beer with our cooked neighbors.  Smelling like sulfur, we returned to the boat and consumed a tasty salmon dinner.

The upper of two hot tub soaking rooms fed by Goddard Hot Springs.

View from the hot tub.

The first of many seafood dinners. This one is a silver salmon entree.

Saturday, July 9, 2011 - Goddard Hot Springs, Sitka, Kruzof Cove, to Kalinin Bay

Early Saturday morning we left Goddard for Sitka.  We needed a few more provisions and fishing gear and decided to temporarily tie up.  We timed our cruise to arrive at East Channel about the same time as as yesterday's good fishing and we were trolling again by 8:30.  The kings were off the bite but Gerard a small halibut   

While fishing in East Channel, a large white yacht approached us from Sitka.  It was the ubiquitous Yachette, a Delta 70 out of Vancouver.  Anyone who has cruised Alaska in the last 3 or 4 decades has had to have passed by Yachette.  I called Mike on the VHF to confirm this is his 33rd year cruising somewhere in AK.  Of course he asked about fishing the Channel, and was bit bit surprised we had only landed one king here.

We continued back to Sitka where Greg prepared the ingredients for fresh rock cod taco-burritos.

Entering Sitka from the south.

Gerard is a Licensed General Contractor.  He knows taco-burrito construction.

The finished construction project.

While docked in Sitka, we met Carl and Melody from the Selene 59 Ellipsis.  He was looking for fishing tips and we gave him all of our experience leaned in our first day of king fishing.   For the afternoon we fished north of Sitka in Katlian Bay and Krestof Sound.  We landed a couple silver salmon and then temporarily anchored for dinner in the cove just south of Sukoi Inlet.  Vince prepared our favorite pasta carbonara.  At 9PM we left for Kalinin Bay off Salisbury Sound, a 4-star king salmon fishing area.  We arrived at 11PM and there was just enough light to allow us to anchor in the middle of 20 other boats.  

Genuine Italian pasta carbonara, our favorite.

Sailing into the sunset on the way to Kalinin Bay.

Cruising North from Sitka.

Sunday, July 10, 2011 - Kalinin Bay, Peril Strait, Waterfall Cove to Warm Springs Bay

Today we need to be at Sergius Narrows in Peril Strait promptly at the 7:30AM slack current to make Warm Springs Bay by early afternoon.  But the boys want to fish and it's a good thing daylight starts before 4AM.  By 5AM most of the commercial fishing boats are on the troll just outside the Bay.  We start trolling circles close to shore just a mile west of Kalinin Bay.  Soon Gerard hooks up a good-sized king.  After 90 minutes of  fishing we leave for Peril Strait.

A happy fisherman.

Ready to be shrink-wrapped and flash frozen.

There is little boiling water in the Narrows this time. Once Peril Strait widens, we stop the boat and drift fish.  We're dragging the bottom for halibut and casting on the surface for silvers.  We catch a few of each including a good-sized halibut.

A good-sized halibut.

Greg adds to the freezer haul.

Halibut Cerviche and chips anyone?

After Greg cleaned the big halibut, he served us cerviche and chips.  We landed a king just off Elovoi Island then saw the Selene 59 Porosity on the AIS.  We chatted with Bill with who last year we side-tied next to in Tofino on Vancouver Island's west coast.  This makes 9 Selenes we have seen cruising Alaska this summer. Eventually we cleared the Strait and turned south along the east coast of Baranof Island.

The Selene 59 Porosity with Bill and crew passed us in Peril Strait.

Landing a king salmon.

Baranof Island's pretty east coastline.

In the afternoon we anchored inside Warm Springs Bay with a stern line tied to shore. We took the tender ashore for another hot springs experience. Once there, Vince recognized the owner of George Lepp's old photography school from Los Osos.  Amazing that you can go 2000 miles away and run into a neighbor!  Some of us enjoyed the springs while other stretched their legs.  

Gerard, Greg and Vince:  The all-star fishing crew!

Stern tied to the shore.

Processing the catch.

Fun in the hot springs.

More fun riding down the waterfall?

Tonight's dining experience: barbecue halibut, grilled onions, chibatta rolls, and brussel sprouts.

Kasnyku Waterfall

Warm Springs Bay Waterfall from the top.

Warm Springs Bay Waterfall from the bottom.

Monday, July 11, 2011 - Warm Springs Bay to Red Bluff Bay

It's a short cruise to Red Bluff Bay so we'll fish along the way.  Kings and silvers seem to want to jump in our boat so we let them.  About 10 boats are anchored deep in the Bay, so after setting two prawn traps near the entrance, we anchor on the bight half-way up.  Then we launch the seal team for an assault on the waterfalls and bears at the end of the Bay.

Looking into Red Bluff Bay from our anchorage

Seal team deployment. Ever since the Navy Seals got Osama, we want to be just like them.

. Seal team assaults waterfall.

Bear thinks seal team mighty tasty!

Gerard is king of the falls.

The silver salmon herds in Red Bluff Bay.


The Selene 53 Oriana with Jan, Vicki and family have the choice anchor spot, just next to the bears ashore.  They may not know that bears are good swimmers!

Finally, a non-seafood dinner with Pat's homemade meatballs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - Red Bluff Bay to Port Walter

This morning we pulled our prawn traps.  Some 50 prawns rode the basket to the surface. We fished our way further south along Baranof's east coast, dropping our lines in Gut Bay and other spots.  Surprisingly we landed one of the rare "white" king salmon today.  After setting the anchor at Port Walter, we set out two crab traps to soak overnight.

There is a better boat than Wild Blue?

Entering Port Walter

NOAA Fish Testing Facility inside Little Port Walter

It's time for a taste test!  We prep both flesh colors for a cedar plank barbecue using fillets from the same areas of the two fish.  The cedar plank is thoroughly soaked for two hours.  Greg mixes up some cilantro butter and spreads equal amounts on each fillet.  The salmon is slow-cooked to maximize cedar smoke infusion.  Fresh prawns are added for palette cleansing.

Please twist my head off.  I like it!

Red and white salmon.  The only question is taste.

Ready for serving.

Plated for taste testing.  See the video!

Red vs White: The taste test video.

After dinner we enjoyed another spectacular Alaskan sunset.  It was a good moon arising.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 -  Port Walter, Coronation Island, to Bob's Place on Prince of Wales Island.

We pulled the traps and counted three legal Dungenous crabs, just enough for a crab snack that won't ruin tonight's dinner. Today we head for Coronation Island, beyond Chatham Strait, out in open Gulf of Alaska ocean.  The weather is clear and the ocean calm as we leave Port Walter.  Once past the end of the Strait, the sea builds, and a fog blocks our sunlight.  Visibility is running about 300 yards and thankfully the radars aren't showing any targets. The seas and winds build as we pull into Egg Harbor.  A 30-knot gust encourages us to continue on to Prince of Wales Island and sheltered areas. Crossing the top of Coronation Island turns out to be a pretty rough ride for 20 minutes.  Crashing sounds in the salon: damage report is just one broken wine glass but the portable ice maker takes a nose dive to the deck.  We'll have to check it out later.

At last we get on a decent run in the lee of the Island and enjoy less intense sea and wind.  Once inside the many islands surrounding Prince of Wales Island, the ocean flattens and the winds lessen.  We start a trolling run for more kings.By the days end we've made it ti Bob's Place, an old Indian village anchorage.  We're just a 90 minute cruise away from Craig.  We'll get in early tomorrow and prep the boat for the next leg.  

Coronation Island Run

Approaching Coronation Island

A crabby crab.

Thursday, July 14, 2011 -   Bob's Place to Craig, Prince of Wales Island.

About 7:30AM we started our engines for Craig.  The flat water, gray skies and calm winds ushered us along.  Just a few miles from the harbor, a humpy gave us a nice sendoff by jumping out of the liquid and into the air.  Greg was ready and captured two great shots.  

Our Alaska cruise will pause for a short while.  Alex will travel back to SLO to assist Pat while we make care arrangements for her mother, who has a health issue.  Be back soon......

Humpback whale send off.

Quick, turn on the stabilizers!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

#8 - Juneau to Sikta

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - Juneau

A new crew flew into Juneau today. We provisioned lightly hoping to empty the freezer still packed with poultry products.  We'll get underway tomorrow after dinner at the busy Twisted Fish restaurant. The Black Cod pan fired in lemon, butter and capers is awesome!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - Juneau to Funter Bay:  Crab Time Again

Obviously in this time of high fuel prices, one tends to cruise the least distance between destinations.  The shortest route from Juneau to Funter Bay is via Gastineau Channel across the Mendenhall Bar.  This Bar is marked with clear navigational aids, but drys completely at low tide, at times leaving a few boats high and dry as well.  A Mendenhall Bar crossing saves two hours but requires very high tide and steeled nerves.  Fortunately, we have neither so opt for the long way around Douglass Island.

This could happen if you misjudge the tides.  Unfortunately this was the case for Scrimshaw, which was anchored on July 2010 near Ketchikan, and got hung up on a rock on a minus tide.  Click for the Coast Guard summary.

After making a U-turn over the top of the Mansfield Penninsula on Admiralty Island, we cruise south to Funter Bay and find an open spot on the State float.  Since most of Alaska recreation is water bound, the State spends money on "water parks" in the form of docks in protected waters. These are heavily used by boaters and fill quickly as ours did today.

Funter Bay once had a cannery like so many well-protected Alaskan bays.

After tying up, we launched the tender and set a couple crab traps soaking for the night. We hope the males muscle out the females for our traps.

The Droid Group includes Carolyn French, Marianne Fonte, Vince Fonte and Chuck French all of San Luis Obispo.  Like most crew these days, when a cell tower is in range, their attention moves to smart phones.  Hopefully somebody is looking out for deadheads!

Our crew this week in the Fontes and Frenchs of San Luis Obispo.  These folks have a lot in common including real estate, retirement, poker, cowboy-ing and Droid phones.  The Droid Group has crewed with us many times in the past, held the biggest fish record (87-pound halibut) for the 2008 season, and survived the worst storm aboard Wild Blue (rounding Cape Chacon in 2008).  They are a fun group.

Thursday, June 30, 2011 - Funter Bay to Tenakee Springs: Dining on Fresh Crab

This morning we pulled our traps and found 5 legal sized crabs.  Only one was a female, so that left enough for dinner hors douerves.  We clean the crab at the handy fish cleaning station mounted on the end of the State float.  Unfortunately a crab kicked our best butcher block knife overboard.  Don't tell the Admiral.

We left Funter Bay cruising south in North Chatham Channel (the one in Alaska not British Columbia).  We were against the current and wind and ocean spray splattered the foredeck which was promptly washed away by the continuous rain.  Don't get me started on he rain.  This was supposed to be a sunny year per the weather almanac.  It's been raining since mid-June with one full day of sun. We arrived at the town of Tenakee Springs and tied at the nearly empty transient dock. We took a rainy walk "uptown" and were surprised to see a good mix of new and vintage buildings.  We chatted up a local resident who explained to us about Tenakee: it is its own city, has about 60 year-round residents, has city owned fuel and power station, a natural hot water spring and bath house, and has some homes that are heated with hot spring water.  Sounds like a nice place to be, but after living here 23 years, this resident is yearning for warmer winters!

A newer beach home and beach garden in Tenakee.

There are interesting character older homes and some are being restored.

The Tenakee beach collects various flotsem which become house decorations.

Crew Vince was raised in Italy and is an expert Italian chef.  Tonight's entree, after fresh crab with garlic butter, is Pasta Carbonara a Fonte family favorite.  It's now a Wild Blue favorite too.

Remove shells and boil crab legs in seawater with Pappy seasoning. Add hot spices if desired. Remove from boiling water after about 10 minutes as crab will continue to cook.  Serve warm with garlic butter.  

Vince prepares Pasta Carbonara per his family recipe.

Friday, July 1, 2011 -  Tenakee Springs to Sukoi Inlet via Peril Strait

We left Tenakee at 9:30AM hoping to transit Sergius Narrows in Peril Strait at 5PM slack current.  Our goal is to get to Sitka for the July 2nd spectacular fireworks show and we want to be beyond the Narrows for an Saturday morning arrival.  Sitka harbor fills up with boats arriving for the show which is sponsored by the local fuel company.  The fireworks emanate from three locations around Sitka harbor.  This year a pirotechnologist is orchestrating the show near midnight July 2nd, as he has show in other locations for July 3rd and 4th.

Our route through Peril Strait between Chicagof and Baranof Islands

After about 6 hours we near Sergius Narrows with lots of other traffic bent on crossing at slack current.  The Narrows current will reach 8 knots or so on the peak flood tide which of course is beyond our cruising speed, so timing is everything.  When there's lots of boat traffic, chances are all these boats can't have miscalculated slack time, so lots of traffic is a good thing.

Boat traffic means you timed the transit correctly.

Boiling Water

Tug and Tow

We crossed with minimum excitement and after another hour dropped two crab traps and our anchor in Sukoi Inlet.  The rain continues so once again we plan a feast which this time is Williebird's BBQ duck breast.

Barbecue Duck Breast.  Caution: when barbecue-ing duck fat will ignite!

Saturday, July 2, 2011 -  Sukoi Inlet to Sitka: The Fireworks show is Tonight!

At 9AM we pulled our anchor then our crab traps.  They were empty this time. We moved on to Sitka through the narrow but protected passages named Neva and Olga.  Luckily we arrived at Elaison Harbor Sitka soon enogh to be assigned a slip for 6 nights while we enjoy the city and exchange crews.

Empty crab traps.

Whitestone Narrows

The Sitka fireworks began at 11:30PM on July 2nd this year.

Sitka July 4th Parade features US Coast Guard helo flyover.
It stopped raining for a bit near sunset in Sitka.

Happy to be in Sitka.

Sitka fawna.

The Sheldon Jackson museum of native culture is quite entertaining.

The town cemetery is also interesting.

20 to 40 pound King Salmon litter the dock.  I wonder if these guys will miss just one?

Chuck French celebrates his 69th with a home made cake prepared by Sous Chef Carolyn