Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baranof Warm Springs

August 13-14: Baranof Warm Springs

We were delighted to find room to tie up at the dock. Blue skies and sunshine welcomed us to Warm Springs and stayed with us all day. Who wouldn’t prefer sunshine to rain for hiking the boardwalk up to the pools and beyond to the lake?!

Salmonberries come in a variety of reds and golds
A raft of seine boats... and two hanging fish
The seiners began to arrive late in the day, trickling in to offload fish at the packer and eventually rafting 4 and 5 boats deep across the dock from us. The packer and several other boats, seiners and commercial charters, anchored out in the harbor, their skiffs darting around like busy mosquitos as they ferried crew in to the dock. Most of the fishing boats were the smaller, older craft of the seine fleet, arriving at Baranof to use the pools and work on equipment repairs until the next salmon fishing opening. Note the two hanging fish in the photo above: I had a few thoughts (link) about that sight.

Slone and Peter departed by float plane, heading over the mountains back to Sitka. We stayed put for another day to do some boat chores and plan the next leg of the cruise. 

August 15
A weather system moved into the area; wind gusts of 37 knots rocked the boat, white caps topped the ocean swells that rolled into the bay, and float plane service was suspended. What happened to yesterday’s warm sunshine and settled weather? I can't complain, since we remained comfortable at the dock with access to shore, hot springs, hiking trails, and fresh water. As other boats arrived we heard reports of 55-60 knot winds, dragging anchors and miserable conditions outside the bay. Warm Springs never looked better, even in the rain. 

Red Bluff Bay

August 11-12: Red Bluff Bay

Fog and low clouds made whale watching a bit challenging, but we counted four whales on the cruise south along Baranof Island's east shore. The mountaintops and waterfalls surrounding Red Bluff remained hidden for most of the first day, peeking out one at a time as the clouds rolled through from the west.

Drat! Skunked again crabbing for Dungeness, though we may have found a snow crab nursery. Prawning was a bit more successful, with around 50 critters in two pulls. Though not plentiful, they were very tasty!

Highlights of Red Bluff include kayaking, spin casting for salmon and the on-going search for bear. For two days we watched bear roam the estuary to graze on tall grass along the shore and riverbank. One memory that lingers is a grizzly chasing salmon at the river’s mouth. He splashed along the shallows at low tide, romping, even swimming after those fish, catching one after another and ignoring our presence.

Peril Strait

August 9: Appleton Cove

Two humpback whales cavorted in Peril Strait near False Island. Their breaching and fin slapping continued until we got close enough to grab a few photos. A 600x lens just didn’t seem long enough, but the whales put on quite a long-distance show.

Seiner Archangel transits Peril Strait east of Sergius Narrows
What's so perilous about Peril Strait? It's not worrisome, IF you pay attention to the Tides and Current Tables and travel through Sergius Narrows at or near slack current. I had thought the English explorer Vancouver named this passage, but Wikipedia says otherwise:
When a Tlingit canoe party was going through the tide was going against them and they had to stop and camp there until the tide was right to go through. Háat means tide, Ishkáak means to sit down; eel'é is also referred to where the tide goes in and out really fast.
The strait was named Proliv Pogibshy by Russians because of a fatal incident during a fur seal hunting expedition led by Alexander Baranof in 1799. According to V. F. Lisianski, Baranof employed Native Aleut hunters, ate poisonous shellfish from the strait, which resulted in approximately one hundred and fifty deaths.[1][2] Beyond the strait are the points Poison Cove and Deadman's Reach, also named for the incident. Peril Strait is the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey translation of Proliv Pogibshiy.[2]

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guest Log: August 7-14

Sitka Harbor to Kalinin Bay 
Slone and Peter arrived on the 9:00 a.m. flight and we were out of the harbor by 10:20, cruising through the outside islands south of town and heading north to Salisbury Sound. There was a brief pause around the Magoun Islands for a photo op with an obliging sea otter, then on to anchor in Kalinin Bay for two nights.

This latest Kalinin stay featured sunshine, fishing trips (catch-and-release pinks, some cod and 1 nice coho), frequent eagle sightings, a close encounter with a whale who surfaced about 200 feet away from the skiff, and a distant grizzly spotted on the beach after dinner. Nice start to an Alaskan cruise with guests.

Some afternoon sunshine encouraged a hike up the Sea Lion Cove Trail. 
We climbed up giant steps through forested hillsides,

 ... trod boardwalks across boggy muskeg and meadows, 

Why is there a diving board here? recreation for an aquatic bear?
... and trekked up boulder-filled and tree-root strewn paths. 

Finally, we stopped at the lake high above the bay, part way to the westside cove - I ran out of energy and enthusiasm at that point. No matter, the outing was still fun. Amazing how the downhill return to the bay went a lot faster than our ascent! 

There were a few scattered bear pawprints in the mud along the estuary’s saltwater shore when we arrived in the skiff, and piles of bear scat all along the trail as we hiked, but we had no actual bear sightings that afternoon. That was fine with me, I would rather see grizzlies when they are on shore and I’m not.