Saturday, September 26, 2009

Guest Log: June

Mom and Hilary visit

The California travelers arrived midafternoon in the Sitka sunshine... and the rain began shortly after. Where did all of the sunshine go? Welcome to changeable SouthEast Alaska! This was such a fun week for all of us, in spite of the winds and the weather!

Photo: Sitka's busy harbor with Mr. Edgecumbe in the background.

Photo: Truly this was weather for ducks to enjoy!

We do try to cover all of the major food groups in our healthy cruising diet, this breakfast of sticky buns and huckleberry ice cream to the contrary. Dessert-for-breakfast is a long standing tradition for Hilary and Uncle Ron. We did alternate sweets with healthier sourdough pancakes, omelettes and cereal with fruit and granola, honest.    

Kayak Touring

We set out for Kalinin Bay, 32 miles north of Sitka, but strong winds and rough seas (plus a report of poor fishing in the area) suggested the alternate anchorage of Baby Bear Bay inside Peril Strait instead. The crabbing across the channel at Deep Bay was another lure. Our crab enchilada dinner, with corn and black bean salsa prepared by sous chef Hilary, finished the current supply of fresh crab so we needed to set some traps.

Baby Bear's name alone suggests terrific bear watching, and other boaters reported recent bear sightings, but the critters must have been hiding when we arrived. Hilary and I enjoyed our kayak excursions to the neighboring coves but never spotted one single grizzly here.


We set crab pots in Deep Bay and then had fun watching two grizzlies along the near shore. While we were taking photos of “our” bear (Pooh Bear with a yellow flower-like thing in his ear) a second bear wandered along the treeline. When he caught sight of Pooh the second bear reared on its hind legs and then scrambled off, running into the underbrush. Pooh didn't notice the intruder but also stood upright after a few moments when he smelled the other bear. Everyone scored with terrific bear photos. Ron and Hilary did some Photoshop magic on the one shot showing both bear, but most pictures were terrific as is. And that "yellow flower-like thing" in Pooh's ear showed up on screen as a tag, sometimes used to mark relocated bear. My favorite memory is the wide-eyed look on Hilary’s face as she turned to check with Uncle Ron while the dinghy drifted closer and closer to the grazing grizzly. "Don't tell my mom we got this close." Okay.

(click on the bear pic for a better look at Deep Bay's Pooh Bear)


We cruised farther east along Peril Strait and anchored in Douglass Bay, Hoonah Sound, an area known for shrimping/prawning. First you catch some fish, keep the fillets and then use the fish heads and frames to bait the traps. Locate a level spot between 200' and 400' deep, and drop a baited trap with a very long, weighted line attached to a marked and labeled buoy. Then you wait... some of us wait more patiently than others.

Hilary and Ron set out the prawn traps to soak overnight but building winds sent us back out in the late evening to retrieve them again before the weather really kicked up.

After a long search in the dinghy, trying to spot our small red and white floats in the lumpy water, we finally recovered the traps and counted over two dozen prawns. Hilary helped to pinch off their heads while Mom just smiled and declined firmly. Tomorrow night we’ll add a few dozen more prawns from the freezer and enjoy some New Orleans style barbecued prawns for dinner.

We had a great crab feed as we enjoyed our Baby Bear crab.


Gusty winds blew us out of our exposed Hoonah Sound anchorage the next day and we cruised back to the shelter of Baby Bear. Lumpy seas and heavy winds kept us tucked inside the bay for three days, comfortably at anchor instead of traveling elsewhere along Peril Strait. We played a lot of Mexican Train and other games, relaxed, read, worked on photos, chatted, etc.

Hilary did sous chef duty again with a lunch of Thai summer rolls filled with shrimp and vegies. Lox and smoked salmon crostini appetizers and a shrimp Louis dinner salad were followed by root beer floats for dessert that night (and the next). Oh my, how I need to work off these calories!

The big excitement was watching a commercial crab boat go aground on one shore after ricocheting off a reef on the opposite shore as he entered Baby Bear on a falling tide. Big drama - with no damage to anything but the captain's ego. Maybe not even that. We radioed an offer to assist but he said it was no big deal, running aground comes with the territory for a crabber.

Back to Sitka

The trip south down Olga and Neva Straits took us past Ship Island and it’s famous nesting tree. Mom could hardly keep a straight face as Hilary gazed at the amazing pink birds perched in the tallest evergreen while Uncle Ron explained the facts as he knew them. (Uncles always know the most interesting details.) It didn’t take long for Hilary to catch on and grin at the story... and at the sight of those pink flamingos.

Hilary and I kayaked around our Magoun Island anchorage, explored shoreline niches and nearby islands, shot through some peppy channel rapids, watched eagles and looked for bear. (no bear) Later we went fishing in the skiff, hoping for a salmon, but never found the fish. 

Back in Sitka the ladies' shopping excursion for take-home treasures began with a taxi ride. We three enjoyed a light lunch and a general browse through downtown Sitka. That evening as we dined at The Channel Club, a dozen or more eagles provided an aerial show, entertaining us as they circled and swirled and dove for fish along the shoreline directly outside our window. Sitka's harbor area has a large population of eagles and huge ravens, swooping about and perched in trees or atop sailboat masts. How do they balance on such a small perch?

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