Tuesday, September 4, 2012

#32 - Port McNeill to Anacortes: The End of Our 2012 Alaska Cruise

On Friday evening, August 24th, we borrowed the Fuel Dock van and picked up crew Dick Squire at Port Hardy airport.  Dick is the perfect crew having owned and operated some 40+ large boats through the years.  He and his crew aboard Seagate, an Offshore 54, accompanied the Wild Blue on our first Alaska Cruise in 2008.  We have crewed for each other many times over the years.

On Saturday, we got an early start in the dark hours of the morning in order to catch the flood tide down Johnstone Strait.  The wind was down and flat seas greeted us again.  We motored for 10 hours pushing against a 5-knot current at upper Rapids in Okisollo Channel before setting the hook in Octopus Islands.

Sunrise in Johnstone Strait

Sunrise over Alert Bay, Cormorant Island

Alaska Ferry Columbia northbound in Johnstone Strait

Market logs destined for the saw mill

A unique Coast Guard fishing vessel?  So do they fish to feed the Canadian CG?

M/V Sin or Swim passes Wild Blue in Johnstone Strait.

Otter Cove just south of Chatham Point offers a close anchorage to Johnstone Strait.  Here M/V Surfbird enjoys this quiet bay.

On Sunday we pushed hard again leaving at first light to make slack water at Surge Narrows.  Flat seas, calm winds and sunny skies are now filling these days, the opposite of the 2012 Alaska Summer.  After 8 hours we tied up at the Port of Pender Harbor docks.  

On Monday we moved early yet again towards Vancouver's False Creek. Now the barometer had fallen and the wind was wound up a bit sending good-sized ocean chop directly at our course.  These waves crashed on the bow, slowing our progress and salting down the boat.  We eventually made Quayside Marina at 2PM.

Salt water splashes aboard.

On Tuesday in the dark morning hours we un-docked bound for the United States port of Anacortes, Washington.  Sunny skies and flat water continued for the day.  We entered Cap Sante Boat haven in Anacortes for US Customs inspection at 2PM.  The border agents were clearing passengers at the ferry terminal so we relaxed until they arrived at 4PM.  For once US Customs decided we weren't likely smugglers and didn't do an onboard inspection.  We continued on to Skyline Marina tying up at 5PM to end our 2012 Alaska Cruise.

It's been a great summer cruising with family and friends and we're already looking forward to a few winter cruises and the 2013 Alaska Cruise.

The End of our 2012 Alaska Cruise.

Monday, September 3, 2012

#31 - Single-Handed Around Cape Caution

Normally we like to cruise with at least one crew.  In fact Alex likes a crowd aboard.  But there are times, due to unforeseen circumstances, crew is just not available. Such was the case Sunday, August 19th once Alex placed Admiral Pat on a flight home.  Once back aboard, it was time to shove off for points south to eventually round Cape Caution.  New crew arrives in Port McNeill on Friday, so Alex has a few days to make the rounding.

Just before departing, the Selene 53 Albannach arrived at Shearwater towing a sport-fisher tender.  The skipper was single-handing his boat and tender.  Once tied to the float Alex shared single-handing tips with the owner before casting off.

Namu seemed like a good target destination for today.  Once underway, Alex has a checklist of crew tasks to accomplish along with his captain duties; fender and line stowage first, then making lunch, and all while cruising by autopilot.  It was clear sailing around Denny Island into Fitz Hugh Sound.  The Sound was calm and Namu was easily fetched, but the Sound's water was so flat it seemed best to move down to Pruth Bay for it's wifi capabilities.  The boat was routed west of Nalau Island through Ward Channel then across Hakai Strait as a shortcut to Pruth Bay.  Upon arrival, the Bay was crowded with 16 at anchor, nevertheless Alex set the hook to surf the net.

Pretty shortcut to Pruth Bay

After net fun, it became clear that the anchorage was just too crowded.  So with several hours of daylight remaining, Alex set a course for Safety Cove, just 90 minutes further down Calvert Island.  Safety Cove turned out to be too exposed to passing ships, so course was set to Pierce Bay.  Once there it too was filled so as a final destination, Little Frypan was it.  This nearly landlocked bay is bullet proof from storms so you would think it would be crowded.  It wasn't and Alex set the anchor in the dark with only a small Nordic Tug as companion.

On Monday, the 4AM weather was perfect for crossing the Queen Charlotte Sound and Strait.  At 6AM first light the Wild Blue was heading for the inshore route around Cape Caution in flat waters without wind.   The flat seas and calm winds held all day so after a 9-hour run Port McNeill was gained and the Fuel Dock Marina served as moorage for the next several days while waiting for crew to arrive.

Friday, August 24, 2012

#30 - Ketchikan to Port McNeill: The Admiral breaks her foot!

On Monday, August 5th while relocating the boat from a side-tie to open dock space in City Float, Ketchikan, Pat rolled her foot over a dock-line in a bad way.  From the pilothouse Alex heard some unique profanity coming from the cockpit area. Next there was Pat limping around as we tied up at the dock.  She immediately knew her foot was broken so we iced it down and arranged for a cab ride to Ketchikan Emergency.  At the hospital they expedited her to x-ray and discovered the break, the most common bone fracture on the outside of her left foot.  She was fitted with a boot to keep the foot immobile and told to stay off it for 4 - 6 weeks.  Realizing it would be easier, she decided to stay aboard until Shearwater then fly home to California.

Pat is strapped to a loading chair.

Hoisted aboard by captain and crew.

On crutches, Pat boards Pacific Coast for the first leg of her long journey home from Shearwater:  by boat to Bella Bella; by air to Vancouver, Seattle and San Jose; by rental car to San Luis Obispo.

It's a thrill to know the fresh water fire hydrants work at the City Float dock in Ketchikan.

With a few days to spare before the next crew, Pat tests her pastry skills.

Amazing how it rises all by itself.

The final product, ready for consumption by Alex.

Back in Ketchikan, our new crew arrived in on Wednesday.  Pat and Lonnie Hood  are friends from San Luis Obispo.  Pat operates an active CPA practice while Lonnie is retired.  Both are boaters and members of the Port San Luis Yacht Club in Avila Beach, CA.  This is their first cruise aboard the Wild Blue.  They will be joining us to Prince Rupert, Klemtu, Roscoe Inlet, and south to Shearwater.

Pat and Lonnie Hood are the Wild Blue crew to Shearwater.

All week we have been watching the weather for crossing Dixon Entrance back to BC and Prince Rupert.  Friday looks to be the best day to cross with less than 15 knots and seas of 1 meter or less.  Alex gave our new crew a quick tour of Ketchikan including the native run salmon hatchery.  By mid-morning Thursday we were on our way to Foggy Bay and further if the weather allowed.  It was an easy run and we pulled into the Bay and anchored with 8 other boats, headed south.

Friday morning at 6AM we quietly prepped the boat for crossing the Dixon Entrance, not wanting to wake up our boat neighbors.  Just as we started the engines, ready to pull the anchor, we realized the Bay was almost empty.  Most everyone else has beat us awake and exited for the early crossing of the open ocean separating us from British Columbia.

At 9AM, at the center of the Dixon Entrance, we crossed into Canada.  The seas were as predicted and by noon we were approaching Venn Passage the northern entrance to Prince Rupert Harbor.  We tied up at the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club.  Canadian Customs allowed us into BC even though they were unhappy we were bringing in our potted plants that stay aboard for our personal use. Can't please everybody!

Entering via Venn Passage

In Rupert we re-provisioned with fresh fruit and produce, and of course, Sleemans Honey Brown Ale and Wisers Whiskey.  The town was busy and the store was quite crowded.  Seemed to us the recession was not happening here.

Crutches haven't curtailed Pat's "cheffing" prowess. Here we have stuffed bell peppers in tomato sauce with arugula salad for dinner in Rupert. 

On Saturday at first light, Alex departed the Yacht Club dock.  There was lots of boating activity including ferries, commercial fishers, sports fishers and pleasure craft leaving the harbor this morning.

BC Ferry loading at Prince Rupert wharf.

Another BC Ferry waits to unload.  Wow Prince Rupert is a busy harbor.

A pretty Offshore 68 passes us while exiting the Harbor.

We reached Watts Narrows near the 10:30AM slack current and entered into beautiful Baker Inlet, setting prawn and crab traps then anchoring at the head.  It was a pretty day and we all relaxed, then took the tender for a shore excursion, minus Pat who "cheffed" some more.

Entering Baker Inlet.

On Sunday, we pulled all four traps, counting just a few prawns, and no crabs.  We made the 11AM slack water in Watts Narrows exiting Baker into the Grenville Channel.  It's just 3 hours or so to Lowe Inlet.  We were anchored in Lowe Inlet last August 12th with thousands of salmon.  We hope to catch a couple or more today.  

We arrive at Lowe and are able to anchor just is front of the Verney Falls outflow.  The flow holds us tight against the anchor.  The salmon are running and we can spy a bear fishing at the base of the falls.  We take the tender up close and watch the jumping salmon attack the Falls.  This year is a bit different:  there's no crowds of salmon in the water surrounding the outflow like last year.  Either this is a smaller run or the salmon have already run.  We decide to fish from the tender and Lonnie quickly lands a fish followed by Pat Hood catching the largest. We retire to clean fish and prepare yet another salmon BBQ.

Verney Falls at high tide.

Salmon are jumping up the Falls at high tide.

Anchored in the outflow form Verney Falls.

Fresh caught Lowe Inlet Coho salmon, barbecued per the standard Wild Blue recipe as follows: Olive oil, soy sauce, crushed garlic, and white wine mixed together into a marinade and basting sauce.  Room temperature marinated salmon fillets skin-side down on a water soaked cedar plank.  Slow cooked so the burning planks smoke infuses the salmon.  In the last several minutes, top salmon with lemon juice, butter and capers.  Serve on planks.  Re-use planks up to three barbecue sessions.

On Monday we move on down Grenville Channel, past Hartley Bay, and into Princess Royal Channel looking for someplace different to anchor.  The guide books talk up Khutze Inlet on the east side of the Channel just below Butedale.  We pull into Khutze anchoring just on the inside of the submerged reef, about 1 mile inside.  It's a great anchorage with lots of mountain views.  We set the crab traps with high hopes.

Whale or no whale?

Wild Blue anchored at Khutze Inlet

Pretty scene at the head of Khutze Inlet.

We dined on Lonnie's salmon bisque and Pat Hood's salmon salad pitas.

Tuesday and it's already time to water up.  We've been taking long showers every day to combat the numerous midge bites plaguing Pat Hood and Alex.  We found the best medicine to relieve the itch is Benedryl. It works.  But why are Pat B and Lonnie exempt from the midges wrath?

We pulled the crabless traps and then headed further south and stopping temporarily in Klemtu to fill with water.  We did beat the crowd and several boats jammed the small dock just after we arrive.  Then we continued on through Jackson Passage stopping for our free wifi fix at the Jackson fish farm.  After responding to the critical emails, we continued onward into Mathieson Channel and eventually pretty Arthur Island cove, a one-boat anchorage north of Arthur Island.

We've been hearing on the VHF how the fishing is good.  Earlier we had texted the Selene 53 Seeker whose crew was fishing these waters last week and boated many fish.  Except for two Coho's in Lowe Inlet, our trolling reels have been silent.  On Wednesday morning, following up on Seeker's success, we trolled Mathieson Channel for a couple hours.  We trolled deep and shallow but received no joy.  By 1PM we had cleared the Channel turning east in Seaforth towards Shearwater.  Later we cruised northeast up Troup Passage entering Roscoe Inlet.  We motored deep into Roscoe making Quartcha Bay late in the afternoon, but were unable to find a suitable anchorage spot.  So we backtracked to Clatse Bay dropping the hook in calm, warm waters on a sunny evening.  Of course we set the crab traps.

Roscoe Inlet's large granite dome reminds us of Yosemite, Princess Louisa, or Fords Terror.  John Muir would have been right at home here.

Clatse Bay was calm and warm.  We also found out it was pretty crabby too!

On Thursday, we hauled crab-filled traps.  There was hardly any extra room at the crab trap inn.  Turns out these Central BC crabs must like chicken thighs.  Today we're heading once again to Ocean Falls to fill up on the best tasting water in the world, and tour the town once again.  We cook crab in shifts along the way using two pots of boiling seawater.  We leave the last batch warm for lunch appetizers.  The rest we pick for future crab delights.

Crab haul at Klatse Bay: 15 legal males!

It's a crab picking marathon.

The Golden Maiden has been returned to it's permanent mounting along the shore overlooking the Ocean Falls marina floats.

We dined on fresh crab salad, a secret Pat and Lonnie recipe.

On Friday we exited Ocean Falls early as our crew needed to catch the 1PM Bella Bella flight to Vancouver.  It's a 3-hour motor westbound through Gunboat Passage.  The Passage is narrow and one needs to avoid the rocks and pass to the north of E28.  It can be confusing without a chart in front of you. Be cautious!

We drove the boat to the floats alongside the public pier in front of the town of Bella Bella.  The floats were filled with boats so we squished in between them and backed the boat partially into the fuel dock.  There crew Pat and Lonnie jumped ashore with the help of a kind Native resident.  We then motored over to Shearwater taking moorage at the Marina while waiting for the Admiral Pat's flight home on Sunday.

Our route through Gunboat Passage.

Looking west at Buoy E28 in Gunboat Passage, either side looks passable .  The Buoy marks submerged rocks on the south side, so pass to the north.

Just across from Bella Bella is a recreational Indian lodge.

Bella Bella approaching from the North.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

#29 - Petersburg to Ketchikan: Anan Creek Bear Videos

Over the next week or so, on our way south to Ketchikan, we'll cruise to various SE Alaskan bays including Kah Sheets, Wrangell Harbor, Berg, Anan, Frosty, Vixen Harbor, Neets, Yes, and Naha. We'll view the bears at Anan Creek and hope we are as successful at fishing (as the bears).

About half past midnight on Friday morning, July 27, our new crew arrived from Ketchikan on Taku, the Alaska Ferry.  Son Ryan and future daughter-in-law Cailin traveled from Baltimore over two days via planes, a train and a ferry. The marraige is this Fall and we're eager to hear about the big day.  After lots of chatting and a couple Alaska Amber beers, they calmed down enough to catch up on some sleep.  The engagement photos and wedding plans are online at Duy Ho Photography and Wedding Wire.

Later Friday afternoon after touring Petersburg, we headed down Wrangell Narrows using the favorable current most of the way.  Once out into Sumner Strait we turned west to Kah Sheets Bay, an open roadstead anchorage.  The weather was cloudy but settled and the water glassed off.  We were the only boat for miles, as far as we could see.  It was a comfortable night at anchor in the Alaska wild.

Traffic in Wrangell Narrows

Kah Sheets Bay is large.

Fish tacos.

Saturday morning we headed east in Sumner Starit to Wrangell.  We slowed at Woronkofski Island to troll for salmon.  After a few hours we conceded the waters to all fish and set out the fenders for the Wrangell City Float.  On approach we took note of a floating condomium complex, The World.  The World is a cruiseship of condos owned by individuals.  It's expensive but the ocean view changes every few days.

We toured Wrangell and did our final provioning for the week and Pat fired up the ovens creating a tasty strawberry-raspberry pie using an old Allomong family recipe.

The World is cruise-ship condo complex: $6 million for the condo, and several thousands a month in fees for a different ocean vista every few days.  We would recommend a Selene trawler instead as an economical alternative.

Cailin makes a friend in downtown Wrangell.

Pat's fresh strawberry-raspberry pie with "no sugar added".  She's uses corn syrup!

On Sunday, we had reservations for bear viewing at Anan Bay but didn't realize it until a day later.  Making Anan Bay Forrest Service reservations for bear viewing is a challenge as there are only 60 slots per day.  Private viewers and sighseeing businesses compete for the same slots.  48 slots are made available online in March each year but all those evaporate within a few minutes.  The last 12 slots are made available online three days before the visit date. So last Thursday Alex entered all the demographic info ahead of time.  At precisely 8AM 12 slots appeared and Alex promptly clicked submit, but was only able to get three of the 12 slots.  After paying for the three slots, he thought we were booked for Monday.

We cruised down the eastern side of Wrangell Island and anchored in pretty Berg bay for the night.  We launched the tender so Ryan and Cailin could set the crab traps and play.  They did!

Wrangell ocean front home with "boat" view.

The nearly newly-weds booking it together.

The Wild Blue Scrabble Championships.

On Monday we rose early to arrive at Anan Bay by 9AM.  After trap pulling and finding a couple crabs, we cleaned and cooked them.  They will be a nice appetizer. 

Alex glanced at the bear permits and realized it was for Sunday, as in yesterday.  We decided to show up at the bear site and talk our way into viewing.  At Anan Bay we anchored in 80 feet and launched the tender and the four of us were greeted by a friendly Forrest Ranger.  Alex played dumb and showed our expired permits.  The Ranger said no problem and re-booked us for the day, adding a 4th permit.  Wow...What a nice Ranger.

The Ranger then briefed us on the bear situation.  It's about a mile walk on a elevated trail to the viewing facility.  There are bears along the way.  A Brown Bear sow with two cubs has decided to nurse next to the trail.  The Ranger guided group ahead is stopped, waiting the feeding session to end.  The Ranger sends us up the trail without escort, except for Alex's bear pepper spray.  We sing and clap  along the trail to alert any stary bears. It's so loud that the Brown sow stops nursing and stands up as we round a blind corner, meeting up the escorted group ahead.  At least now, a bear has more options than just one of the four of us!  We eventually make it to the viewing facility and video bears all morning.  

At lunchtime we headed back down the trail, again singing and clapping quite loudly.  Back at the boat we set our course for Frosty Bay, a small cove 10 miles down from Anan.  We set the traps again.

These folks are getting crabby in Frosty Bay.

On Tuesday the wind and seas were building.  Seems like a fast moving storm would be pushing the wind speed up to 30 knots or so for the southeast, per the NOAA weather reports.  We changed plans and shortened Tuesday's cruise opting for tiny Vixen Harbor on the north side of the Cleveland Peninsula.  It was blowing 20 knots as we entered Vixen 2 hours later at high slack tide.  We finally set the anchor just away but in the middle of 30 crab trap floats.  The crew hunkered down by cooking.  The wind built all day and the boat sailed around on it's anchor in gusts over 25 knots.  The wind went calm in the late afternoon.

Bad omen in Vixen Harbor as the wind builds.

Winds blowing 25+ from the southeast even here inside Vixen Harbor and the tracking shows our wild side-to-side swinging at the end of the anchor.

The wind dies as the tide falls.  Vixen entrance is nearly dry at low tide.  Couldn't leave if we wanted.

On Wednesday morning the skies were clear but we waited for a +10 feet tide at 11AM in order to exit from Vixen's shallow entrance.  We cruised southwest, around Cleveland Peninsula, past Meyers Chuck and turned northward into Behm Canal deciding on Neets Bay for the day.  The trollers were in force at Neets, at least 50 boats we working the Bay for coho salmon.  We anchored in a little cove on the south side of Neets.  We got out the toys, set the traps, and prepped the BBQ. It was everyone's favorite spot of the week.

BBQ coho on Cedar plank in beautiful Neets Bay.

Fresh BBQ Silver salmon (aka Coho), garlic mashers and bacon green beans. 

Gulls enjoy the serenity of Neets Bay.

These yakkers seem way too happy!

Wild Blue is all alone at Neets Bay.

On Thursday it was just a couple hours to Yes Bay, located across Behm Canal. Our traps had yielded 6 big crab so Pat's crab cakes were somewhere in the future. We set the prawn traps on the way into the bay, then passed Casino Royale anchored in front of the Yes Bay Lodge. We set the crab traps too and settled in for the evening.

Casino Royale anchored just in front of the Yes Bay Lodge.  We saw James aboard drinking his shaken, not stirred.

On Friday, our last day of cruising before we needed to be in Ketchikan, we checked out the bays on the west side of Behm Canal.  Loring, Naha Bay, Roosevelt Lagoon,  Long Arm and Moser Bay were explored, but we had been spoiled by Neets Bay.  None of these anchorages piqued our interest. At last we gave up and turned the boat into Tongrass Narrows and Ketchikan.  At 9:30 in the evening there wasn't any dock space left so we tied up in a 15-minute loading zone, and went to sleep.

We tourist-ed in Ketchikan on Saturday, dining out for the first time in 9 days or so.  The crew flew home to Baltimore on Sunday.  We enjoyed our time fishing, crabbing, prawning, Scrabbling and talking with Ryan and Cailin.  They are a great team.

The end of Naha Bay just at the entrance to Roosevelt Lagoon.