Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guest Log: July

The kids' cruise...

Spring 1952

Ron's two sisters arrived in Sitka on an 80 degree afternoon, and poof! there went our cautions about traveling light, using collapsible luggage and packing warm clothing to layer up in Alaska's cool summer weather. But who's complaining? not me. Those bags held some clothing (and only a few pair of shoes), Mustang suits to donate to the boat, and fresh ears of corn and poblano peppers which we devoured almost immediately.

This is traveling light?

We strolled along the waterfront to downtown Sitka, checking out the scenery, historic buildings, and ever present eagles and ravens. A scenic tour? no, just an excuse to head to the drugstore soda fountain for huckleberry ice cream in waffle cones.

Then it was time to check out the boats in the harbor. This vessel caught our attention with it's unusual design for NW cruising and the small chopper on top.

A sailboat of classic design had been converted to a longliner that will fish deep in offshore water for halibut or black cod (sablefish). We paused to watch the crew slowly bait each one of hundreds?thousands? of hooks with a chunk of pink salmon. It's a tedious and smelly job that takes days.

Then we were invited aboard the Miss Corrine to check out it's automated baiting system. Now that's a whole different approach!

The scenic cruise along Sitka’s outside islands turned out to be a trip inside a fog bank for almost all of the thirty miles to the entrance to Kalinin Bay. Ron spotted a grizzly sow and two cubs on shore inside the bay and then the fog melted away and sunshine took over. How good can it get?

It takes a lot of camera clicks to capture a breaching whale out of the water. Too often you hear a blow or a splash and just catch a fin, or the back, or one more tail shot, or worse yet! just the splash when you're too late.

Kathy caught the perfect shot with this one.

A grizzly sow and three cubs cavorted inside Baby Bear Bay - so where were they two weeks ago when we were here with Mom and Hilary?!

Donna and I kayaked the nearby coves, probably laughing and talking enough to warn off any wildlife.

We kayaked again in the morning and then we all cruised south in Chatham Strait aboard the big boat for another wonderful wildlife day. A pod of six humpback whales breeched and showed lots of fins and tails around Lindbergh Point. Pacific white-sided dolphin and more humpbacks showed up in Chatham Strait. Another pod of whales, this time orca (killer whales), worked the Takatz Bay entrance and pink salmon were jumping like crazy inside the anchorage. The bay was packed with dozens of seiners - whose crews are occasionally known for their wild life between openings.

Ron caught two chum salmon - yum, salmon for a few dinners and the fish frames to use for crab bait. We put our crab pots down among dozens of others and only harvested one crab. I had no luck when I tried to trade a fresh loaf of French bread for some crab, so we made do with salad, cracked crab, grilled steak and fresh bread for our late dinner. I did cheerfully give away the extra baguette to a seiner skipper who came by to warn us that a fish opening was scheduled at 0500 the next morning and we were anchored on prime netting ground.

Oh yeah, rise and shine at zero dark early today! A 0315 wake up call followed by a speedy exit out of Takatz put us in range to view scores of seiners set and pull their nets after the starting countdown was broadcast over the VHF radio… and at least a few of us stayed awake to watch the boats complete a few sets. The fishing outside Takatz and Hidden Falls did not net many fish for the first hour or so of this opening.

Magoun Islands anchorage
Just a few miles NW of Sitka, this area is a favorite spot to begin or end a Sitka-to-Sitka trip. It feels remote without being a long run before or after a long plane ride. Donna and I set out in kayaks intending to explore the nearby bays but instead we were totally sidetracked by the sight of blueberry and huckleberry bushes along the shore's high tide line. The branches, arching down just barely within reach, were loaded with tempting, big, ripe, tasty fruit. We paddled and picked and harvested berries without stepping on shore - and never had to worry about running into a berry-picking bear. (note: One grizzly romped along the beach just before we upped anchor in Magoun the next morning.)

Warm sunshine, one last whale sighting and a bear on the shore... pretty good memories for July's guests and a perfect way to end their visit to SE AK.

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