Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Waiting Out a Storm

Lake Bay: a sheltered anchorage in a gale

Photo: Lake Bay by moonlight
We left Petersburg in mild, settled weather and enjoyed a routinely smooth passage down Wrangell Narrows but had to plan for forecasted stormy days ahead. Passing up several closer anchorages we headed directly for Lake Bay, a familiar, well-protected spot that would provide good shelter from the upcoming southeaster. If the predicted gale-force storm didn’t arrive, we could enjoy some fishing and shrimping opportunities.

Photo: our weather station reflected almost calm weather during our storm-caused stay inside Lake Bay

Stormy? Oh yes, the wind howled ferociously up Clarence Strait, while huge, ominous storm clouds piled high, their looming presence darkened the day far earlier than usual. Inside the anchorage our wind gauge registered steady 5-knot winds with mild gusts, never anything over 15 knots. No big deal. At the same time Lincoln Rock, six miles directly across Clarence Strait from our location, reported steady 48-knot winds gusting to 62! Lake Bay never felt so welcome.

We spent several days on anchor in Lake Bay, rocking gently in the barely discernible swells that wound their way around the point into the bay, and marveled at the continuing downpour – an “unseasonably wet” storm according to NOAA weather radio. I don’t know about that "unseasonable" label, we’re less than 50 miles away from Petersburg and they routinely receive about 109 inches of precipitation, half of that falling September through December. It feels like the deluge has begun a few weeks early. I'm commenting, not complaining, honest.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Petersburg Harbor and the Fleet

Petersburg, reported to be one of SE Alaska’s most productive fishing ports, is very active and D Dock in Petersburg’s South Harbor vividly illustrates this fact. D dock is packed with seine boats and fish tenders - when they are in port on the days in between openings.

This same dock looks deserted when the commercial fishing boats are away, busy fishing or traveling on days when there is a scheduled opening..

Other docks in Petersburg's South, Middle and North Harbors hold more of the fishing fleet, and their routine comings and goings vary. Seiners, Longliners, Gill-netters, Trollers, Crabbers and Dive fisheries (sea urchin harvesters, etc.) fish different openings - for different species - on different schedules - or according to IQRs (individually regulated quotas). It sounds complicated.

Charter boats, cruise boats and larger visiting yachts often fill some of the empty D Dock slots for a night or two on a temporary basis, but it’s evident that Petersburg's working harbors are homeport to a large, successful and varied fishing fleet. 

The local visitor’s guide notes the following fish-related factoids for Petersburg Borough's population of 3,273:
  • Petersburg is home port to 591 commercial fishing vessels.
  • Petersburg fishermen hold over 1000 fishing permits for a variety of fisheries conducted statewide.
  • Fishing is the economic force that drove the creation of Petersburg and continues to be a driving force in today’s economy.
  • According to a 2012 survey, Petersburg generated $50,000,000 in fish landings, the 20th most in the nation.
  • The community is ranked 24th in millions of pounds landed with 52 million pounds landed.
  • The town’s seafood processors employ a total of about 1,100 people during a busy summer season.
Lots of interesting Petersburg facts, but we enjoy the town for the setting and the wonderful welcoming people.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bear, Bear. Bear Everywhere

"Where are the bear?" In spring it seemed the bear must still be denned up (they weren't) or in hiding, since bear sightings were rare and we didn't see a single cub. Cruising along Baranof Island in July changed all that. Finally we have seen grizzlies of all sizes and ages as they gather at the mouths of creeks, streams and rivers to feast on the returning salmon. I'll share some bear-watching stories in a later post, but here are a few photos of my current favorite bears.

These are just teasers, c'mon by and see the really good photos.