Saturday, May 30, 2015

Petersburg Welcoming Committee

May was awesomely warm, sunny and dry as we traveled through miles of gorgeous scenery. Now we're ready to spend more time on wildlife photography, fishing, crabbing, prawning and exploring new-to-us coves and inlets. The next wi-fi connection may be long miles away, but I'm sure we'll have more adventures to share soon. Check back and see what happens next - or follow by email and get a notice of the next post. Now it's time to leave the dock and get cruising!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lake Bay and Coffman Cove

30.2nm          Lake Bay

It’s always tempting to linger at Meyers Chuck, but with so much more to see and do ahead of us, it was time to move on. We traveled to Lake Bay on nearby Prince of Wales Island and dropped anchor in a sheltered cove that offers protection from any strong winds howling down Clarence Strait. Rhapsody rode comfortably in this quiet spot, rocking us to sleep at night lulled by the rhythm of gentle wavelets. Seals fished in the bay (catching more fish than we humans), half a dozen eagles circled overhead and one small black bear appeared briefly on the near shore before disappearing back into the bushes.

A dinghy excursion to Coffman Cove through some shallow back channels brought terrific photo ops, but called for occasional paddling and poling to ease the skiff though shallow passages on the ebbing tide. One juvenile eagle watched our passage with interest from his perch high atop a dead cedar tree. 

Coffman Cove is a quiet settlement: the marina was less than half full, the small take-out restaurant closed until Thursday, the store empty of customers and the library locked up tight. The town lacks cellphone service, but we did find wi-fi available at the library, comfortably seated in wooden chairs on the covered porch. When the library opened we were surprised and touched to find a small memorial to Wrangell resident Pat Roppel, a boating friend, who died in January. Pat, an accomplished woman of many talents - teacher, mentor, writer, historian, explorer, world traveler, and all around amazing individual -  was an avid supporter of the Coffman Cove Library.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Whale of a Visit at Meyers Chuck

32.3nm          Meyers Chuck
The fog cleared midway through Tongass Narrows as we departed Ketchikan and we enjoyed a sunny albeit somewhat lumpy run up Clarence Strait to Meyers Chuck. There was plenty of room to moor on the inside of the dock, a welcome surprise at the beginning of a three-day holiday weekend. We love The Chuck and make it a point to stop and visit at least once each year. (Check the archives for previous posts and photos in and around Meyers Chuck.) A salmon barbecue potluck with two other boats, a community crab feed on the dock, a big community potluck in The Back Chuck and a final three-boat hamburger dinner meant we ate a lot, laughed a lot and swapped a ton of stories during our stay. Just the memory of those meals makes me hungry all over again. One example: that amazing community potluck included grilled scallops, venison tidbits, oyster stew, just-caught Dungeness crab, BIG local prawns prepared two ways, barbecued pork ribs, grilled marinated beef strips, baked beans, a corn casserole, salads galore and several tempting, ooey-gooey desserts.

We did more than eat, really. All of those dining events encouraged multiple walks ashore and along the dock. Not power walks I’ll admit, but we kept moving. Native plants added color to the path along the water’s edge, and towering old lilacs perfumed the air at a nearby homestead. Aromatic cedar sawdust gathered from the small sawmill now sits in a plastic bag waiting to be transformed into sachets. The local gallery held some tempting artwork, craft items and jewelry. I couldn’t resist buying a stunning, multi-toned, turned wooden bowl. It’s an eye-catching decorative item as well as a functional serving piece.

Just outside The Chuck a lone humpback whale surfaced and slapped the water with its enormous flukes to drive its feed tight up against the steep, rocky shore of nearby Misery Island. The whale opened its huge mouth and scooped up the small, silvery fish by the hundreds. As its mouth closed the baleen retained most of the fish while letting the water stream out. Then he did it again, and again. What a sight!

Monday, May 18, 2015

On to Ketchikan

Day 13     58nm 

Oh my, be careful what you wish for. The weather gods might have heard my earlier offhand remark that I didn’t care what the sun did when I wished for less wind and flatter water. A thick blanket of fog hid the sun completely, but there was no less wind or flatter water. We had a slow, lumpy crossing from Dundas Island, BC, across East Dixon Entrance and the International Border to Ketchikan, AK. A series of very high tides this week, whoppers topping 19 feet, eased a lot of big logs off the beaches, carrying them out into open water. That kept us on our toes, continually scanning the water ahead. Log watch!

We moored just inside the breakwater entrance, near the outboard end of Ketchikan’s newly-replaced Pier 9. With a great view of the Tongass Narrows traffic, we enjoyed the parade of tugs, barges, fishing vessels, sailboats, powerboats, ferries, workboats, duckboats, cruise ships, kayaks and everything else that passed by. The floatplanes… not so much enjoyment there. Dozens of them land and takeoff constantly while the cruise ships are in the harbor, zooming about overhead like annoying swarms of pesky mosquitos... really big, noisy mosquitos.

The weather gods chuckled again, gifting us with yet another early-morning departure in dense fog. Winding our way down an often busy channel, keeping an eye on the radar screen, hearing the deep-throated blast of cruise ship foghorns somewhere in the distance, and scanning the shore for the fuel dock made for a quick transition from sleepy to full alert status.  The fog lifted, we headed north with no fog-related drama to report, and that’s a good thing.    

Occasionally a cheeky bird decides to hitch a ride along the route, hopping from rail to rail and squawking noisily for miles as we cruise along at 9 knots. Did this crow mistake us for a fishing boat and land, hoping to find a snack?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sunshine, Salmon and Still in Canada

77.5nm          Brundige Inlet
Wind and wave conditions and a steady barometer determine the timing for a transit of Dixon Entrance East, the stretch of water where we cross the international border into Alaska. While it is tempting to linger in northern British Columbia, exploring interesting coves and inlets, we don’t want to miss a good weather window to make this big, open-water crossing. Today’s easy, protected run along Dundas Island was so smooth that we were almost tempted to run farther and make the crossing. Almost tempted, but wind and waves kicked up a bit and after nine hours of running we were ready to head for a quiet anchorage.

The next morning VHF weather reported ocean swells in Dixon Entrance West at 2-3 meters… yes, that’s meters, not feet!  We chose to spend a second night in Brundige Inlet at the north end of Dundas, waiting for winds and water to calm down. Relaxing on anchor in a beautiful setting isn't hard, but we were anxious to enter Alaska, arrive in Ketchikan to clear U.S. Customs, and get on with the SE Alaska adventures.

The M/V Jericho crew brought in a near-20 pound salmon (trolling a black hoochie, if you're interested) and Ron grilled one big fillet with our not-so-secret sauce for a terrific dinner entree. 

The day was warm and sunny and we were content to hang out for an extra day or two  to wait for conditions to improve. I don’t care what the sun does tomorrow, but I am asking the weather gods to calm the wind and flatten the water. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Crazy Ivans and Bottleneck Inlet Crab

Day 8     Bottleneck Inlet

Dee had another “Crazy Ivan” moment while switching the autopilot from one route to a waypoint on another route, resulting in a wild course swing. That’s two in two days, we definitely don’t need a third. We reviewed the procedure and stepped through the process again… cautiously… Dee at the controls with the Capt. supervising… and worked out the issue. Aha! I get it now. In the future we’ll I’ll change routes with less potential for excitement. No more “Crazy Ivans” for Dee.   (If you have read or seen The Hunt for Red October you’ll understand the reference.)

The Dungeness crab in Bottleneck Inlet must have been hungry this month. It didn’t take long to catch the daily 6-crab limit of these big boys, even with minimal bait. Mmmmm, the first crab of the season seems especially tasty, so loaded with rich, sweet flavor that it doesn’t need any sauce or fancy accompaniments. Later on we’ll enjoy indulging in crab enchiladas, crab quesadillas, crabby eggs Benedict, crab bisque, crab salad, crab pizza, crab cakes, pasta with crab, crab dip etc. Whatever the preparation, fresh crab is worth the effort it takes to clean one… or two… or six. My favorite? all of the above, just so it's fresh-caught, just-cooked Dungeness crab.