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.