Saturday, November 22, 2008

Winter Moorage

Once again Rhapsody is back in her winter slip, snugged up tight to the north side of the finger pier so the prevailing southerly storms will blow her off, not onto, the dock. Just check out the number of mooring lines visible at the bow and midship! The Capt specializes in secure, spider web tie-ups. We may bounce a bit during a windstorm, but we shouldn't have any unscheduled departures.

We plan to spend a lot of time aboard this winter, but won't post any Cruise News cruising updates until our 2009 spring travels. You'll find some occasional entries on one of the other blogs, OTM-at Home and OTM-Road Trips... unless blogging begins to feel like work.    

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cute, huh?

What's with the outfit? It may look strange, but it proved to be effective. Swarms of no-seeums were fierce that day, ready to attack, but we were eager to set off in the dinghy.  The Capt. braved the world with baseball hat and bug spray for protection. Laci and I did just fine, thank you, covered from top to toe as we went fishing and exploring.

A varied diet

Some trip memories are all about the food. Whether it's cooking in my own galley, dining aboard with friends, sharing a potluck at a dock or at anchor, or enjoying a picnic on a hike or a dinghy exploration.  I have many more delicious memories than I have photos, but here are a few pics to share.  

What a fabulous birthday gift... a large grocery sack full of newly picked chanterelle mushrooms. (Thanks Jean and Dave) We enjoyed these treasures for many days in a variety of preparations. My first choice was sauteed in butter and herbs to accompany grilled steak strips. Divine! 

Black rockfish just wouldn't stay off the line one day when the salmon wouldn't bite.  The Capt. brought these back to the boat for seafood something at dinner. 

Check out those teeth! now click on the picture to REALLY be impressed.

Our shrimp and rockfish stew in saffron sauce was pretty tasty... and much prettier than the rockfish before dinner.

An August pig roast at Pierre's in Echo Bay exceeded expectations. We "porked out" on the potluck buffet and thoroughly enjoyed a large serving of the slow-cooked pork. Nope, we won't be trying this at home or  on the boat, but it was mighty tasty. 

My favorite bear cubs

This Petersburg bear sculpture prompts a smile on every trip but the real joy comes with bearwatching in the wild. We spent hours watching these two cubs this summer while they spent countless daylight hours raking the shoreside rocks and nibbling on the loosened barnacles.  

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Great Herring Experiment

I love seafood, really really LOVE seafood! I love it cooked simply, or with elaborate preparation and exotic ingredients. I love it plain, or wrapped, or stuffed, grilled, baked, sauteed or pickled. It's  terrific  raw (sometimes), hot or cold. I just love seafood. But... Petersburg herring have challenged my love of cooking with fresh seafood.

The herring are so plentiful around the Petersburg docks that anyone can jig up a bucketful in no time… and they do. You can see youngsters barely old enough to hold a pole sharing tips and dock space  with oldsters who could be their great grandfathers. It’s a local pastime, and a popular time filler for visitors with unscheduled moments or a desire for free bait.

Our freezer drawers would not hold any more bait, and the captain needed a diversion that wasn’t another boat project.  After some prompting I volunteered to try pickling his next catch of large herring. Volunteered, mind you. A quick search through my various seafood cookbooks turned up a seemingly effortless recipe. Pickled shrimp is already a regular menu item, so how tough could this be? Uh huh.

Capt. caught, washed, beheaded and gutted the critters. That left me to do the easy part -“open the fish out flat. Pinch the bone at the tail end and carefully lift out, pulling the bone towards the head. Remove any small bones with tweezers.”  This was too easy to believe, right up to the end and the tweezer part. You can’t imagine how many tiny little bones poke through the flesh, and don’t want to release. (Flashback memory to childhood and how I hated to pick through a serving of fish to find the bones.)  Tweezers didn’t work so I opted for needle nosed kitchen pliers. Hey, they work on salmon pin bones. After one or two pulls the tips gummed up too much to close on any more bones. A boning knife proved too large to lift just the bones and leave the meat intact. Sigh, back to my thumb and forefinger pinching out each sharp, stubborn, almost invisible little bone. Hundreds of them, lurking everywhere, resisting detection.

One hour and ten herring later, these flat, butterflied little critters are brining in a saltwater bath in the refrigerator. They are waiting for their final resting place, rolled around an onion slice and gherkin in a spicy vinegar pickling brine and stuffed inside inside glass jars. Me, I’m thinking of how easy it will be next time - when I buy rollmops at the store.
Tasting note 1: Omigod! those suckers are sour.  At the Capt’s suggestion I poured off a third of the vinegar brine and added water and a bit of sugar. We’ll be brave and schedule a second tasting for tomorrow. Did I mention buying pickled herring at the store in the future?

Note 2: The following day Swedish friends thought the herring were quite tasty as appetizers and we polished off the entire batch. Pickling herring will stay an “interesting” experiment and memory. Me? I’m sticking with pickling shrimp.

Burnett Inlet

North Burnett Island anchorage is one of the prettiest spots to linger on the west shore of Etolin Island, and one of the quietest.

One troller transited the long inlet, in and out, and a small cruiser powered in toward our cove, made a u-turn and powered out again. The occasional seaplane passed overhead, one circling the boat twice before disappearing over the ridge. The rest of the time it was us, a lone resident loon, one transient seal, scores of eagle and hundreds of jumping salmon.
We followed the sound of rushing water and found two stream outlets, a small one choked with downed trees and brush and a larger, rushing torrent tumbling down rocky hillside ledges. Eagles flew up and down the channel, perching on boulders, ledges and tree branches, looking for stranded fish who misjudged their leaps or were resting or just spent.

While the captain was out fishing (yes! he returned with yet another big coho/silver salmon) I sat out in the cockpit and tried to read. It’s tough to relax and concentrate with the plop! and splash! of so many fish jumping every couple of seconds, the warbling trills of eagle cries, the whoosh and roar of the streams, and an occasional call from the resident loon. I’ll welcome this kind of noisy distraction any day.

It’s August 8 and finally we can break out the tank tops and shorts for 75+ degree weather. I wonder where the hot weather clothes are stored. All visible storage is packed with long underwear, polar fleece, rain gear, etc. I guess it’s time to dig into the secondary storage lockers under the bunks, behind the seats, and into other forgotten spots. The captain is an ultra-organized guy who enters all boat items on an Excel spreadsheet so they are easy to locate. Hmmm, it would have been helpful if I had entered summer clothes on that file.

No hurry, today is August 10 and we’re back to 55 degree water/57 degree air temperature. There’s plenty of time to find summer clothes for 2008, if summer weather ever stays for more than a day at a time. 

Cosmos Cove

The Cosmos Cove of memory (MY memory, not the captain’s) was a pleasant anchorage with a lot to recommend it. On a previous trip a group of seiners clustered at anchor near the entrance, waiting for an early morning opening the next day. We were snug and comfortable near the head of the bay, anchored in the sunshine. Capt. even caught a salmon off the boat deck while we were anchored (and wasn’t it fun trying to net that one?!) After dark the seiner deck lights and anchor lights glittered like some magic floating kingdom.

Fast forward to 2008 and there is NO, I repeat NO rerun of that memory. In a SE storm it blew like crazy from all directions in Cosmos. A southerly 37-knot gust was be followed by a 32-knot northerly, and the lines of approaching williwaws could be seen sweeping across the water. With a 6:1 scope on the anchor chain we didn’t drag a bit, but Oh! did we rock and kite in these winds. It felt like we rode the wild end of a pendulum. While there was no official anchor watch, we both woke repeatedly during the night to check our position on Nobeltec and the radar. 

Was I seduced by a memory of sunshine when I suggested Cosmos as our anchorage? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. The captain has announced we don’t need to overnight in Cosmos again.

Monday, September 8, 2008

One more day in town

Sunday, August 3

What kept us moored at the dock for "just one more day" in Petersburg? It was a not-to-be-missed invitation to join friends on a berry picking adventure. A thoughtful Petersburg resident loaned them a family car while Doug waited for winch parts to be flown in. Overnight or even two-day shipping has a whole different meaning in SE Alaska. It usually means a minimum of two days to Anchorage, and then another day or two to arrive where you want it to be - unless it's a weekend, or it was shipped by barge instead of plane, or it was bumped off the plane for lack of space. We have learned to request shipment by US mail instead of UPS; mail takes priority over cargo. This works for small items, but not refrigerators (but that's another story from 2007).

We drove about 12 miles south on Mitkof Island, stopping occasionally to check out roadside shrubbery. The first good berry patch was at the turnoff to the city dump. Hmmm, both berries and garbage dumps attract bear so we stayed alert and made a lot of noise while harvesting blueberries and huckleberries. One for the bucket, two for me, two for the bucket, more for me... Farther south along the main road Britt and Ron scouted promising real estate with muskeg, bogs, ditches and hills. Swell stuff for berries, but tough to tromp through in our rubber boat boots. With each squishy, sinking step I expected a boot to be sucked off my foot.

Blueberries I recognize. Huckleberries I know. Salmon berries are distinctive and easy to identify in yellow, orange and red. But whoever heard of cloudberries? Well they do exist (Rubus chamaemorus) but are nearly invisible groundhuggers that live on the uphill rise beteen the soggy ground and the low hummocks. Red when immature, cloudberries are a pale creamy yellow when ripe and taste faintly like vanilla, or maybe baked apple. Once you spot a few, others pop magically into view, especially in ground you have already covered. We put a lot of energy into picking a few Ziploc bags apiece of these berries and loved the cross-country romp out of town. Too often we just see the shoreline as we travel.

Lunch was a decadent afternoon potluck of Britt Marie's homemade Swedish treats and my typical picnic fare, enjoyed at a sunny picnic site on the boardwalk at Blind Slough Park. The best deal of the day? we traded our day's berry hoard for two jars of Britt's huckleberry sauce.

Huckleberies and blueberries are fun to pick and eat straight off the bush - until you clean your first batch. Fill the sink with fresh water, pour in the berries, and watch the tiny green worms wriggle out of the fruit and float to the surface. Yuck! It's an effective way to sort the produce from the protein, but nibbling berries straight off the bush will never again be as tempting.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Too Much Jellyfish

These intriguing, ethereal sea creatures are seen everywhere. Pulsing, drifting, seemingly floating, suspended, tendril-trailing organisms move singly or in organized masses that can be tiny globules or giant colonies. They might be white, cream, chartreuse, terra cotta or salmon in color; intriguingly beautiful or mud ugly. A recent truth is that jellyfish are best viewed from a distance and never from the inside of the engine room.

One night in Kalinin Bay, after an evening of company, the generator shut itself down... it just quit. Okay, it's supposed to do that when it overheats, but WHY would it overheat? Apparently a ten-gallon jellyfish tried to explore the generator water intake. Most of it arrived in the two-quart sea strainer as jellyfish slime. A large mass jammed into a small space was NOT a good thing.

Step 1. Capt. Sleuth quickly located the problem and set to work trying to remove the metal strainer from its glass jar holder. (The newly-sharpened edge on a favorite filleting knife was sacrificed to release the suction holding the strainer in place.)
Step 2. Rubber gloved up to the elbows, I poured jellyfish goo into a bucket and scrubbed the seive-like sea strainer with a stiff brush... and scrubbed... and scrubbed.
Step 3. Reassemble the strainer assembly.
Step 4. Restart the generator and monitor the temperature. Shut down manually if the temp skyrockets.
Repeat steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 above.
Repeat steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 above... you get the idea.
Finally, at 11:00 pm run the generator to partially charge the boat batteries while trying to stay awake and alert, and pretend your neighbors don't hear a thing.
Oh yes, jellyfish are best viewed from a distance.

The Captain’s Rainy Day Project

July 28, 2008

It was too wet, too windy, too rough and too cold to head outside to go fishing, or hiking or dock walking... and that's unusual. A boat beautification project beckoned - well no, that was actually step three.

* First came the assessment that the brass instruments in the pilothouse were ugly, heavily tarnished, probably beyond recovery.
* Next was the price check in the West Marine catalog for replacement items of equivalent size and quality. Oh, my!
* THEN came the Brasso and elbow grease episode. The three pieces now look suitably spiffy, sporting a patina of experienced service instead of the tarnish of neglect.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What DO you do?

"What do you
DO all day?" ask non-boating friends. Well, there are sunny day/rainy day preferences, but the real answer is "whatever we want".

When we're traveling we're always looking for black bear, grizzlies or deer on the shore and checking the water for signs of whale spouts. We love to explore new inlets,bays, niches, etc. just to see what's there. Between Petersburg and Juneau we scan for small icebergs. 

There's always the routine of daily life, whether on shore or afloat. Some days the Capt. is deep into maintenance, fixit or improvement projects. Laundry, cleaning, shopping and cooking show up on my activity list. We find a lot of time for the fun activities like salmon fishing, crabbing, prawning, shoreside explorations and hikes, socializing and games of Mexican Train with other boaters, photography, reading, just looking at the scenery and enjoying SE Alaska, cooking...

Cooking? it's still in the top five of my list of favorite activities. I am the sourdough queen this year with bread, English muffins, pancakes, waffles, pizza crust, pretzels and crackers coming out of the oven so far. Salmon favorites have been the Captain's barbecued with special sauce, garlic/butter/lemon baked and lox. Crab and prawns are best quick-cooked and peeled or cracked at the table, though pickled shrimp disappear fast as snacks. Gotta keep active or we'll be sporting a few extra pounds soon.

Okay, I'm having photo issues today so you have to imagine the rest of the shots." The server is not responding" is the latest message explaining the latest hiccup.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Baranof Bears

2008 must be the year of the bear in SE Alaska. We are spotting them in all of the usual spots, typically inlets with one or more river estuaries. A cold spring and several very late snows kept the grizzlies in their winter dens longer this year (according to some locals and 3rd hand from a Forest Service ranger. They emerged late, looking gaunt and very hungry. We see bear along the shoreline and in the grass at river mouths, feeding on the greens which are their primary food source until the salmon return. Plants?! yes, those enormous omnivores bulk up on vegetation - grasses, tubers, berries, etc. - and add protein when it's available. Several salmon runs are late this year, and others are showing light returns, so the bear spend hours grazing the lush meadow grasses. Salmon arrival means protein and the bear maximize the intake rate by eating the belly meat and the roe. We've seen them grab a salmon, eat the good stuff in one or two bites, and then toss the rest of the carcass aside.

Grizzlies welcomed us in Red Bluff Bay (Baranof) at the head of the bay and later in our anchorage cove, grazing slowly along the shore about 100 yards from the boat. They were visible during most daylight hours (roughly 3 am till 11 pm) - when not obscured by fog or heavy rain! It's fun to watch them through binoculars, but WOW! it's a much better show when they stroll along the near shore.

A Gut Bay (Baranof) grizzly "posed" for hours, nibbling on wildflowers and bear grass while we shot photos from the skiff and then from the big boat.

The long Appleton Cove (Peril Strait) grizzly at our end of the anchorage kept to the beach and the woods near a Forest Service cabin (unoccupied at the time). We wondered if he had become a nuisance bear who had discovered a food cache and garbage opportunity, or was it just a coincidence. He was wary and ran back into the woods when our pennant snapped in the wind. A bit later he peeked out of the bushes, then roamed around the cabin again.

Kalinin Bay was a terrific base for coho fishing and bear watching at anchor. A sow and two yearlings grazed the adjacent shore, ignoring boats ad skiffs in the bay. This trio somehow skirted several groups of hikers and dog walkers without appearing to adjust their pace or direction. The people walking the beach never saw the bear, and the three bear just watched  from the woods. That was an experienced mama grizzly - and those were some lucky humans

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kasaan Village Totems

A previous trip to Kasaan Inlet in 2002 was memorable for our first view of the longhouse, with its 3 impressive interior totems, and a half dozen old poles collected from the neighboring villages and islands which are displayed along a wooded, winding path. How startling to see the weathering effect of six years on both the structure and the exterior poles.  Several totems are split or missing pieces, and only traces of paint remain on many exterior poles. The water side/weather side of the longhouse is rotting away with one corner fallen in. The interior house posts are in much better condition, due to their sheltered location. Nothing remains of the old sawmill or cannery, or perhaps the ruins have been covered by the aggressive growth of brush.

What a contrast to the new library, open only 2 months, where everything is still shiny and new and the adjacent school with it's new totem. Librarian Bonnie and Julie C, a village elder, chatted with us about life in Kasaan now and in the past. 

Later Eric, a 17-year old local artist, came aboard to discuss art, technology and marketing. Wave action at the dock kept us rolling all night, so we moved on the next morning, though it was tempting to linger and do more photography.

Later in the summer we found several Alaskans with links to Kasaan - a Meyers Chuck couple met there as teens when their parents were employed at the mill or cannery, a Ketchikan harbor worker reminisced about playing high school basketball against a tough Kasaan team... Alaska is a large state with surprisingly close networks.

Petersburg Big Tides

Anchoring at any tide is routine... as long as you check the depth and allow for high tide/low tide swings. It's no big deal and it minimizes shallow water alarms sounding, re-anchoring, etc. When you're in port for a few days the tidal swings have a different impact.

The week's wide tidal range of -4.3' to +18.4' added interest to dockside life. First felt is the very steep incline of ramps connecting floating docks to fixed piers - usually noticed with a big bag of garbage to carry UP or a heavy load of groceries to cart down the ramp. Rule 1: plan to do your shoreside trips at high tide.

Next the aroma of rotting organic matter from the extensive mudflats tickles the nose, and you realize it isn't someone nearby just being rude. Rule 2: don't moor at the shoreside end of the dock, or plan to keep doors and windows closed at six hour intervals.

The sight of large vessels rushing toward the bow and accompanied by the sudden sounds of revving engines and roaring bow thrusters adds to the sensory experience as new arrivals are sometimes surprised by the strong currents around the Petersburg docks. Nope, no collisions to report but there were a few anxious moments as we leapt up to grab bumpers, ready to fend off. We made new friends as we grabbed lines and hauled in bows and sterns of arriving boats... and occasionally visited while they touched up paint scrapes, etc.  Rule 3a: relax, but stay alert to vessel movements in your fairway. Rule 3b: keep your insurance up to date.

Monday, June 9, 2008


The Ketchikan harbormaster assigned us to Thomas Basin, one of the city's three harbors. We moored amongst the trollers, seiners and the occasional long range cruiser or sailboat. Our pilothouse view features cruise ship docks to port and historic Creek Street to starboard. Tatsuda's grocery is one short block away from the harbor, but delivery service came in handy again at a minus tide. We've dined out, toured shops ad galleries and a totem center, walked a lot in town and along the docks, located some new-to-us totem poles, and visited with boaters and residents. 

Now it's time to get out of town and slow down while we enjoy some freshly caught seafood, explore new coves, get the kayaks wet, spot some grizzlies... 

More from Petersburg in a week or two... maybe.

Making the miles

Tues. June 3

It usually it takes a day after a storm for waters to settle down, but the 4 a.m. wind and water reports were too tempting to pass up. The captain's routes always have several optional anchorages for us along the way, but we didn’t need them today. Sunshine and long, smooth rollers kept me smiling, and Capt. R loved the 1 to 1.5 knot current push. North of Prince Rupert/Skeena River the drift was impressive! Whole trees as well as low-floating logs littered the surface and hid in the troughs. It was unusual to see an entire tree, upright, floating by. Maintaining log alert while traveling for 10+ hours made for a long day. Distance traveled today? around 110 miles. I know, it sounds puny by land standards, but at 8.5 to 10.3 knot cruise speed it’s a very good day. Fuel consumption? about 80 gallons of diesel.

Moving to inside waters

Sun. June 1 Patterson Inlet

Drat! the mid-morning VHF broadcast announcing upcoming gales got our attention. We headed to a more protected, inside route - and passed a Canadian coast guard cutter heading outside on patrol.  Environment Canada puts out extensive forecasts 4 times a day, supplementing them with almost hourly wind/wave/swell height updates from lighthouses and buoys. This really helps with route planning and the occasional decision to just stay anchored for a day or two.

100+ white-sided Pacific dolphin cruised Blackfish Sound with us, but showed no interest in playing with the boat. They were too busy feeding. Just the memory of those sparkling black and white bodies leaping and slicing through the water makes me smile!  Finally, several dolphin pods traveling Nepean Sound  broke away to ride the bow wake.
Patterson Inlet looked like the best anchorage in southerly gales. Entering in mid-afternoon, we had time to anchor -- and re-anchor -- in the southerly arm. (ask the captain for additional information, I’m not talking.) The weather front must have stalled, because we only recorded moderate wind gusts.

Mon. June 2                                                                              Patterson Inlet

The predicted gale arrived this morning, but not inside our sheltered bay. A weather station west of us reported 40 knot winds with higher gusts, but we’re comfortable here in light to moderate winds. That’s a good thing since we’re sitting in 90 feet of water with more than 300 feet of chain down. The captain prefers shallower water and more chain during a blow.

May 28 departure... finally

Port Neville

After years of early departures to catch the slack current at Seymour Narrows and enjoy the ebb tide in Johnstone Strait, our cruise schedule has changed. The Nobeltec “best time” ETA calculator recommended a noon departure. Okay, We can handle sleeping in and enjoying a late breakfast and one last dock walk. We headed for Farewell Hbr but hit really ugly short, steep chop around Kelsey Bay (never a favorite place because the waters are peppered with logs, limbs and other evil flotsam). We plowed on but adjusted the destination to Port Neville. Once there we had the the dock to ourselves. Heavy current required extra stern lines and a fat bumper forward to keep the bow well away from the piling. Next time we’ll moor on an inside float. Whew! The “fragrance” of otter was potent, and a big otter ran the small dock, marking it repeatedly.

Red pot, bread pot sourdough

I was well focused on my provisioning tasks, and then SHAZAM! the temptations of store displays grabbed me. Nope, that gorgeous red cast iron bread baking pot was definitely on the Buy List, but it DID call out my name as I toured my favorite Campbell River kitchen shop. Come to think of it, that shop wasn't on my errand list either.

Storage is a constant issue aboard, so any multipurposing is a bonus feature. I will know that this beauty is truly meant to be a bread pot, but it might also cook up a fine mess of Betsy's baked beans, a baked pasta dish, or maybe some shellfish with chorizo, wine, tomatoes and herbs. OK, now I'm hungry!

Tues, May 6 Discovery Hbr, Campbell River

Boat projects and provisioning fill up the days, and the project list keeps growing. This is not a good sign. Autopilot repair has turned into autopilot replacement, and now the boat interior looks like a tornado hit and scrambled things from room to room.Meanwhile I shopped. Eight boxes of groceries and “stuff” later, I stood at the top of the very steep ramp wondering why I had returned at a super low tide. The crew at the water taxi shack came to my rescue, used their ATV and cart to deliver the groceries to the boat. Cost? one batch of homemade cookies.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Looking ahead

It's April already, and it's time to organize the 2008 cruise. No more procrastinating. No more list writing. ACTION... well, sort of. But today it's still fun to scan photos from previous trips and recall some of the highlights... 

We love the wildlife viewing. Red Bluff Bay grizzlies were were plentiful and fearless, allowing a variety of motorcraft and kayaks to approach for photos. How close? well, a long lens helped both humans and bear stay calm.