Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday, July 30, Hakai Pass to Port Hardy – Dead In The Water!

A lot has happened since my last update. Mostly good, but one major bad! Let’s start with the good… Tuesday morning, we made the short run into Bella Bella/Shearwater and took on fuel, water, got caught up on communications, had lunch, etc. By the time we got cruising again, it was 2:30. It seems like every time we stop at a marina, we burn so much time that could be spent exploring or fishing! We ran about 10 miles before we just couldn’t stand it anymore and just had to fish. Within 30 seconds we had a real nice Coho on board. We fished for about 45 minutes longer and landed another and threw a few Pinks back. We needed to keep cruising so that we could get to Fury Cove by dark as we wanted to make the big Charlotte Sound crossing on Wed. morning. But, nature called and an hour later, we were fishing again. We were catching Cohos left and right! We landed 4 more nice size fish in about an hour and half. We lost at least that many too. What a blast! But, once again, we knew we needed to keep cruising. Val had to pry the pole out of my hand and give me a “time out” in the captain’s chair. We promised the boys we’d stop at a beach and we were flat running out of day. We cruised for an hour or so and went into Hakai Pass and anchored in Pruth Bay. We decided that we couldn’t spend time on the beach and still make it to Fury Cove…it just would mean an earlier morning on Wednesday. That turned out to be a great decision. We walked across a narrow forest between our safe little cove to the wild west coast beach! It was so pretty there. The beach was sugar sand, the waves were crashing, the sun was warm, the driftwood was stacked high…it was just plain great! The boys and dogs were off running, laughing, playing in the waves. Within minutes, they braved the initial chill of the water and were body surfing. Tanner wasn’t to be left out. He doesn’t miss much adventure and this was no exception. He sucks the marrow out of every drop of life. He would roll end over end in the big waves and keep right up with the boys. Once again, we all laughed and laughed at him.

Lucky and Mom built a nice beach fire for when the boys got done swimming. I ran around with cameras in hand capturing all the fun. We watched the sun go down, while we roasted sausages, and talked and talked. They boys wanted to stay another couple of days and so did Mom and I, but we need to cross Queen Charlotte Sound and Straight and I wasn’t sure the weather was going to cooperate. Being we needed to be home by Saturday, I wanted to allow a day for holding up for weather. So, at 5:30 Wednesday morning, we were anchors up and heading back out of Hakai Pass with hopes of returning again someday.

We did OK making the crossing but the swells were kind of scary. It was dark, foggy, and we were taking them right on the starboard beam. Climbing them, we’d slow to a snail’s pace and then we’d go surfing down the other side. We were running in fog, dodging the blips. It was the most white knuckle crossing we’ve had so far, but it looked much worse than it actually was. We made it to Port Hardy a couple of hours later and saw lots of fishing boats working Duval Point. We simply couldn’t let that opportunity pass so we dropped our gear and put two nice Coho in the cooler and caught a half dozen Pinks, which we released. What great fun. I had a monster on the line, (no doubt a trophy King, haha) but it spit the hook, NUTZ!

Near noon, we landed in Port Hardy fueled the boat, ate lunch, and set sail again mid-afternoon. We were planning on doing some more fishing at Malcom Island and then heading to Pierre’s Bay for the evening. I mentioned to the family that there was a certain sound in the engine area that didn’t seem quite right. No one else thought they could tell any difference and thought I was just overly cautious and paranoid again. I inspected the engine room and the outdrive; everything looked fine so we started cruising again. Within a couple of moments we were dead in the water. The boat just quit. I suspected right away that the outdrive had blown. My heart leapt into my throat! Now what?

I ran to the back, threw open the engine room hatches…no leaks, thank God. I knew we’d be ok as we were within 9 miles of Port Hardy. My cell phone was getting a strong signal. A phone call to the folks at Island Marine Center yielded no good news. With a strong current and the wind, we were slow poking our way back to Port Hardy on the kicker engine, making a whopping 2.8 knots…ouch! We all thanked God for the nice weather, that we were close to town, and that we were safe. We also prayed that we’d have enough kicker fuel to make Port Hardy. It was a long, contemplative ride back to Port Hardy. I worked the phone along the way and got Volvo Penta and Islands Marine Center working on the problem. They were very accommodating and got on it right away.

We got back to Port Hardy around 7PM and were very glad to be tied to the dock, safe and sound. We all praised God that this happened when, where, and how it did happen. It could have happened in the big waves and the fog in Queen Charlotte Sound earlier…that would have been terrifying!

This morning, (Thursday) Ron from Islands Marine Center had a new drive on the airplane into Seattle, transferring to Port McNiel tomorrow morning. I’m glad to have a reputable dealer backing me. Ron speaks highly of Volvo Penta and the dealer in Port McNiel. I am optimistic that this will all be behind us tomorrow, Lord willing. Thankfully, this is still covered under the Volvo Penta warranty.

So, today, we’re paying bills, making calls, etc., Unfortunately, we’ll have to high tail it home from here with no more fishing! Nutz!

Well, send up a prayer of praise for us, if you would, and also ask the Lord to bless our repairs and that we’d make it home safely. Blessings to all of you. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, Horsefall Island (Near Bella Bella/Shearwater) –

This morning, Cody dropped Val, Connor, the dogs, and I off at the log dump before he went fishing. We hiked up the old logging skid road hoping to find Lake Alvin and some nice Rainbow Trout. We hiked for about an hour and half but kept running into overgrown logging trails. Bummer. Cody came back with one nice Rock Fish and one crab from the trap. When he picked us up at the log dump, Tanner had nearly perfected his high diving routine. It was 11AM and the tide was almost out. From the water to the top of the log dump was 22’ and he dove off after his stick without hesitation time and time again. We couldn’t believe it and all laughed and laughed at him. By the time we got done with lunch and ready to cruise, it was noon; perfect for a slack water exit of Watts Narrows. By the time we got out of the narrows and on plane, it was about 12:30. We throttled up to 23 knots and didn’t shut down until 130 miles later. We were at our anchorage by 6PM; not a bad day. Even though there were gale warnings out, the wind was at our backs and we had smooth sailing for the most part. We took just a bit of spray but never had to throttle back once.
Val had a lovely Crab Carbonara ready for dinner. Yum. After dinner, the boys and Tanner went off exploring/fishing. Val cleaned up the inside and I washed the salt spray off the boat. It was really warm today…it hit 78 but it felt a lot warmer. There hasn’t been any bugs, either….which is really nice. Alaska had a lot of little bugs.
We’re only 6 miles from Bella/Bella Shearwater. Tomorrow, we’ll stop and do some laundry, communications, fuel, water, etc. and then hopefully get a couple hours of cruising in. We need to be back by Sunday as Cody’s best bud, Andre’, is flying in for a visit. It’s hard to believe, but we’ll be back in South Dakota in three weeks. Officially, our summer will be over: major bummer. This one will go down as the best in history, so far, barring anything unexpected (knock on wood.)
How’s your summer going? Send me a note! I haven’t heard nearly enough from you lately.

Monday, July 27, Baker Inlet, Grenville Channel –

Val loves her new reel and I’m a bit jealous; it’s silky smooth. She got to give it a whirl yesterday. After we pulled up anchor on Dundas, we trolled for a bit. Sure enough, we couldn’t keep the Pinks off the line; constant action. Then, a bigger bite hit my pole. I could tell right away this one had some size. Val took over the pole and I netted a 9 lb. Coho. That was really fun; however, my cheapie dip net from Wal-Mart snapped in half in the process. We fished some more and another big bite hit my pole. This one felt bigger again. We weren’t sure how we were going to land it with no net. When we got to see it, we could tell it wasn’t a Salmon. It was a Halibut. I’ve never caught a Halibut trolling before. It wasn’t very big for a Halibut but sure made for adrenaline pumping during the fight. I gaffed him and brought him on board. It wasn’t a bad morning of fishing; although I wish we could have caught less Pinks and more Cohos.
A little after noon, we made the 20 mile run into Prince Rupert, cleared customs, filled with water, fuel, and grabbed some lunch and groceries. Then we went to the fuel dock, filled up, found a new semi-cheapie dip net, and set sail again about 6PM.
The forecast is for 30 mph North winds for the next two days. We had hoped to take the more Western passage back home but with the forecast, we opted for the narrower Grenville Channel again. We cruised a couple of hours until Baker Inlet. We had to pass through Watts Narrows to get in. It was deep but very narrow with trees encroaching from both sides. As we entered we were faced with a lot of current from the dropping tide. At times, I had to give it about ¾ throttle to keep steerage. I’m very glad that it was deep enough…I had memories of the dinghy prop bashing on the rocks powering up the creeks. Once we made it through the narrows, the bay opened up into a gorgeous flat water anchorage. We dropped the hook and settle in for the evening. Cody went fishing but didn’t catch anything worth keeping…thankfully; I’ve cleaned enough fish for the day.
This morning, we woke up to another sunny, warm day. I can hardly believe the forecast for this area is for gale force winds. We’ll poke our nose out and give it a try but we need to wait for a bit more slack tide to get out of Watts Narrows. There’s an old logging skid road we’re going to explore now. By the time we get back, the tide should be ready for us…I hope.
Have a great day!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday, July 26, Dundas Island, BC, Misty Fjords: NOT So Misty Anymore! –

Yesterday, a massive high pressure moved across the panhandle and burned off all the clouds and warmed us right up! We prayed that we would be able to see Misty Fjords; at least above the 100’ cloud deck that we’d seen the previous two days. The sun felt great after being in the rain for two days. By the time we had everything ready to cruise, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and everything was drying out nicely. Thank you, Lord! The scenery was better than expected. We cruised through Punchbowl Cove in awe of the 3,000’ granite wall. The fantastic scenery, rugged cliffs, waterfalls, grizzly bears, etc. continued to leave our jaws hanging open as we cruised in silence through the rest of Rudyerd Bay. It reminded me of the song, “How Great Thou Art!”
O Lord my God When I in awesome wonder Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made I see the stars I hear the rollin' thunder Thy power throughout The universe displayed. Then sings my soul My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art How great Thou art Then sings my soul My Savior God, to Thee How great Thou art How great Thou art! When Christ shall come With shouts of acclamation And take me home What joy shall fill my heart Then I shall bow In humble adoration And there proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!" Then sings my soul My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art How great Thou art Then sings my soul My Savior God, to Thee How great Thou art How great Thou art! How great Thou art How great Thou art!...
A few miles south, we dropped anchor at a 230’ spire coming out of the middle of Behm Canal, called New Eddystone Rock. After lunch, we dinghied in and played on the island for a couple of hours.

The tide was rapidly rising and our little beach was disappearing quickly. The sun felt great and it really warmed the water rising over the hot beach. I went for a swim and the water was really quite warm and refreshing. Val played fetch with the dogs. Tanner ended up on another 30 minute marathon swim chasing birds. The boys played with their Air Soft guns until an argument broke out about who shot who…it was time to go anyway. It was such beautiful, warm, sunny, calm day and the cruise was so beautiful. We were thinking we’d stop just north of the border, in Foggy Bay, for the night; but upon receiving the forecast, we decided to keep going. We called Canadian Customs and asked if we could anchor in Dundas Islands before heading into Prince Rupert in the morning. Being Nexus holders, they approved on an “exception basis.”

That brings us to this morning…another glorious bright day. It’s Val’s birthday today. The boys and I had a new reel wrapped up for her when she got out of the shower. She hates open face reels and loves her halibut reel so we got her a spool salmon reel. She knows she’s loved now! Well, I better go get some line on that reel. There are salmon to be caught! You all have a great Sunday.

Friday, July 24, Punchbowl Cove, Misty Fjords National Monument –

Last night, we went to explore the Forest Service cabin. There was no one around but we could tell there were people who had set up camp there, so back to the boat we go.
On our way out of Blind Passage, we pulled the shrimp trap and found the biggest shrimp we’ve ever caught, if not seen. I should have measured it before we cleaned it. Val and I estimated it to be about 9” from head to tail.
We got half a dozen shrimp and half a dozen longistinos. (I can’t even get close enough on the spelling of this for spell-checker to help me.) These fellas look like little tiny lobsters with really long, skinny claws. It would take several hundred to make a meal, but we kept them just for a taste.
Misty Fjords is very appropriately named. During our cruise through Behm Canal yesterday it was raining all day with very low ceilings. We had to run on radar much of the time. Yesterday was the darkest, dreariest, rainiest day we’ve had yet. It was a steady downpour from before we got up until after we went to bed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see much of the majesty we were hoping to; although, we could still get a flavor for how wild and rugged this place is. We putzed through Walker Cove stopping by numerous waterfalls which pummeled from thousands of feet into the bay. We could nose our boat as far as we dared to the cliff walls and still be in hundreds of feet of water. The charts in this area often show 1,800 feet deep…too deep for our sonar to even detect. There aren’t too many places to anchor in these fjords because of the deep depths going straight down off the mountains. It’s very mysterious with all the fog layers and cloud covered peaks. It almost seems like the mountains could go all the way to heaven and the depths could go on forever. It all makes me feel pretty small and humbled. About 8-10 miles south of Walker Bay, is Punchbowl Cove, where we actually found a Forest Service mooring buoy, which we tied too. Connor and I donned our rain gear, launched the dinghy, did doggie duty, set the traps, and did a little exploring. It’s just raining too hard to stay out. When we got back to the boat, Val and Cody had dinner ready. We had our devotions, played our nightly poker (I won!) and crashed into bed early, finally!
This morning, we awoke to more fog, rain and low ceilings. Nutz! We did get a momentary glimpse of the 3,000 ft. granite face that we’re moored directly under. There must be a dozen waterfalls pouring into this cove. The tide is very low today…-4’ at 9AM. This afternoon, at 3PM, it’s going to be +18’…a 23’ lift. It’s amazing how the cove changes with 23’ less water in it. Beaches that didn’t exist before are now several hundred yards wide. Rocks are poking up that didn’t appear anywhere when we explored the cove yesterday. Thank God that we haven’t hit anything. The charts in this area aren’t nearly as detailed as the ones down south. On the picture below, look at Connor vs. the high water line; which nearly touches the bottoms of the trees. Crazy! We’re going to get geared up for a hike to Punchbowl Lake. The cruising guide makes it sound like a hike similar to the one we did in Thomas Bay. Mud, rain, slipping, sliding…bring it on…let’s go! It’s gonna be a great day! Hope yours is too!
Friday Evening Update – After the boys heard about the Punchbowl Lake hike, the “pretty boys” decided they didn’t want their make-up to run, so they decided to stay back on the boat. Connor has the Narnia books he’s reading and he’s into Gilligan’s Island. We have the whole 3rd season on board. Cody has to get his school work done…its Friday.
With the 23’ tide, the beach was way too long for our anchor rope and all the ropes we had on board. I couldn’t figure out how we were going to be able to get our dinghy back if we beached it at low tide. On the other hand, when the tide is high and it’s beached, it would be a couple hundred yards from the water. So, we took our walkie talkie and had the boys drop us off at the beach. Val and I hiked up along the creek for about an hour and a half. It wasn’t too bad of climb other than a landslide area, where we had to scratch our way up the mud, trees, and rocks. At the top, we found a canoe and a little shelter on the beautiful Punchbowl Lake. The Forest Service really did a nice job here. It felt good to get out of the rain. We met a group of kayakers from Anchorage that were there too. We got into a nice visit with John, Greg, Lenny, Jeff and Dave. I had carried Connor’s little fishing pole all the way up and I had fishing on the brain. Val wanted to stay under the shelter and visit so I launched the canoe to see what I could catch.
I fished along the granite cliffs enjoying the scenery even more than the fishing. I decided to go get Val. As I was landing the canoe, I reached down for the pole, which I was about to crank in, when I realized it was snagged. All of us a sudden, the snag started fighting back! I had a fish! He fought hard on Connor’s lightweight pole. I was surprised to even catch a fish. He was a big one too! I got him to the boat and he launched out of the water, flipping and spinning, and he was gone! That bugger spit the hook. Nutz!
This got me fired up! I cast out again and that very next cast, wham, I had another big fish. This one fought even harder and ran the line out a couple of times before I got a look at him. This time, he launched in the air and wrapped himself up several times in the line. Not having a landing net, I figured this was my chance. I grabbed the line and yanked him the boat! What a beautiful fish. I brought him to the little shelter and Greg identified him as Rainbow Trout. Evidently, this is quite a large Rainbow. He looked like a nice size salmon with lots of pretty colors to me. This was the first Rainbow I’ve ever caught.
This got Greg in the fishing mood so we went out in the canoe together while the other got a nice fire going to roast the fresh catch. Greg and I got skunked but really had a nice time enjoying the scenery and the fellowship. When we got back, the fire was ready for the fish. I filleted him and set him on a couple of cedar planks on the hot fire. I offered up a prayer of thanksgiving and soon, we were all sharing fresh trout cooked over an open fire up in a granite-walled alpine lake. What another great day. By early afternoon, Val and I headed back down to see if the boat was still afloat, half expecting it to be on fire or rock n’ roll music blasting through Punchbowl Cove. We called the boys on the walkie talkie to come get us. Everything was fine. It was nice to get some alone time with my bride and I think the boys enjoyed their alone time from their parents.
After a nice meal of fresh halibut and crab, the boys went off fishing, discovered a sea plane had landed in front of the granite face, and decided to go off and race him when he took off again. When they came back, they had caught the biggest Yellow Eye Rock Fish (Red Snapper) I’ve ever personally seen. They were really amazing fish and we hadn’t caught any yet this year. I’m so glad they had a great time together and had fishing success.
Well, the rain FINALLY quite. I’m glad the boys are off having fun. The marine forecast sounds great. A big high pressure is supposed to push the clouds out of here and the forecast is for record highs…84 degrees in Ketchikan on Sunday…we’ll see if it happens. Unfortunately, we’ve got to be high-tailing it home soon. We’re still in Misty Fjords and we need to be back on Orcas Island a week from Sunday. I don’t want to go! We’ll linger here tomorrow hoping to see the mountains and then we’ll cross the border back into Canada on Sunday, or so, Lord willing.
Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, July 23, Behm Canal, Very Neet!

Hey, did you see our new boat? We traded ours in yesterday! The boys really liked the helicopter! How much do you suppose it costs to fill that baby with fuel? We did see one of Paul Allen’s yachts in Ketchikan…the Me’duse. I’m not sure if he still owns it or not. It’s always kind of fun to google the name of some of these mega-yachts to see who owns them.
This morning, its pouring rain! We’re anchored tightly in a little bight in Blind Passage. Val’s making corn bread for breakfast. We’re comfy and cozy inside. The dogs have to go potty though and the boys are still sleeping (at 10AM) so I guess, I’m going to have to leave my comfy abode for the sake of my furry kids. I’ll be right back.
After de-watering the pooches, I stopped to pull the crab trap. We thought we’d try again as the crab craving outweighed the frustration of getting skunked. Yes! I got two nice males and a slimy sun star. I’m thrilled.
Back on the boat again; warm coffee at hand… Yesterday, we left Ketchikan mid afternoon and headed north to circumnavigate Revillagegiddo Island through the Behm Canal. We saw a bunch of fishing boats along the way so we stopped and caught two more salmon. We really don’t need any more but this fishing thing is in our blood. They were Pink Salmon and not that big so we kept on cruising into Neets Bay. 8 years ago, Val and I had taken a shore excursion here with my folks. We took a sea plane to the head of the bay to watch bears feast on salmon. We weren’t sure if we could take our boat here or if there would be bears but we thought we’d give it a try; if nothing else, it’s a beautiful cruise along the way and not that far off our planned route anyway.
We got to the head of the bay, where there was an operating hatchery. The guys there were nice enough to let us tie up to their dock, saving us from having to anchor and launch the dinghy. Pepper spray and cameras in hand, we set out to find the creek and, hopefully, the bears. We just got off the dock before we saw our first bear on the beach. Cool. Within minutes, we saw another one. Very cool. As we walked, the second bear started heading towards our trail. I was really glad we left the dogs on the boat (although Lucky ate a whole pack of orange gum while we were gone!) We weren’t sure where he went so we walked cautiously. All of a sudden, the bear heard us and bolted out right in front of us and ran across the trail. He looked like a young black bear and I think he was more scared of us than we were of him. I took the strap and cover off my pepper spray, just in case.
As we neared the creek, there were a couple more bear; maybe the same ones, who knows. We watched them pounce for salmon, eat grass, and lollygag around. Sherlene, a bear naturalist approached us, and introduced herself as the excursion guide. They’re still running the shore excursions up there from Ketchikan. The last tour had just flew off and we had the creek and the bears to ourselves with our own personal bear naturalist. How cool is that? Sherlene did a great job making us feel welcome and explaining all about the bears, salmon, etc. Cody and Connor really enjoyed themselves and Val and I were so glad we could experience this again and see it anew through their eyes! By now, it was 6:30 and we hadn’t even thought about an anchorage yet so we reluctantly said goodbye to Sherlene and the bears and set off to find a safe little cove to drop the hook. We cruised about 12 miles and found a tight little inlet with a bight that we could tuck into.
Cody got the grill set up. Connor launched the dinghy and did dog duty. Val grilled Pink Salmon and King Salmon. We did taste tests. Although we all preferred the King, Cody and I didn’t think there was much difference, mostly just in texture. Mom thought the difference was more substantial. We all would have been plenty happy with the Pinks. I think they’re going to smoke up just great. As we cruise, we can see salmon jumping in the air at almost any time. I think they’re all pinks. We could catch them all day long. We’d rather catch Kings, Sockeye, and Coho. We’re all feeling very blessed to just to be here catching anything in this beautiful place. No one is complaining…just hoping for that big trophy prize fish, you know!
Well, the boys are up now. On the way into our anchorage last night, we saw a little forest service cabin we’re going to go check out. Hope it quits raining soon.
Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday, July 22, Craig to Ketchikan –

Well, it really feels like we’re on our way back home now. We’re back in Ketchikan again. We picked up our mail and got caught up with communications this afternoon. After we left Craig Monday mid-afternoon, we ran about 80 miles to a beautiful anchorage in Gardner Cove and got settled in about 6:30 or so. We had nice, flat seas the whole way and this was a big crossing. A month ago, I’d have been freaked out about it but we’re gaining confidence and trust in our vessel. We still pray a lot, though!! Val, Connor, the dogs, and I went for a dinghy exploration while Cody stayed on the boat and worked on his schooling. The shores here are weather beaten and rugged with high rocky shores. Connor took the dogs rock climbing while Val and I watched from the dinghy. Tanner decided it was time to swim. Soon, Connor was playing fetch with him and Tanner was jumping off of 15’ cliffs! That dog is totally fearsome or stupid, I’m not sure which. He wouldn’t flinch for a second if he had to jump off a high diving board. He jumped about half a dozen times and we all laughed so hard at him. Crazy dog. (Click on the video.)

We had another big crossing through Clarence Straight this morning. We got going by 8AM to beat the expected north winds. It was only a 30 mile run. Everything was fine and we were near Ketchikan by a little after 9AM. We stopped to fish for a bit and caught a King Salmon.

This afternoon, we did our chores, got our fish shipped home, and we should be ready for our last side trip starting tomorrow. We’re planning to cruise the Behm Canal, circumnavigating Revillagigedo Island, the island that Ketchikan is on. Then, it’s back to Prince Rupert, BC and further south.

So, our next update may not be for a while. Hope you’re all having a great summer!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday, July 19, Craig, Another Big Halibut! –

This morning, we woke up to a pretty nice day. We wanted to head up El Capitan Pass and find the caves but the cruising guide said we needed a reservation with the Forrest Service. We had been trying to call them whenever we had a cell signal but couldn’t get an answer. It was 1 hr. each way and, although, it would have been scenic ride, we decided it wasn’t worth it only to get denied access. So, we decided to head for Craig and do some Halibut fishing along the way. Val just had to have her Halibut fix…she loves to catch Halibut and has been asking for days to go again. I told her we have to wait until we can get it frozen and shipped home. Our little boat can only handle so many frozen fish and we’re already at capacity.
As we cruised out of our little cove, Tanner spotted a deer swimming between islands! We cruised up beside him and got some video and pictures. He was pretty freaked out so we left him on his commute and continued on our way.
Half an hour later, we had our anchor set in 150’ and drifted back off the knob to about 300’ of depth. Val and I dropped our Halibut gear. Much to Val’s surprise, I actually caught a fish! Yes, even me! (She got skunked!) Sure enough, within 15 minutes, I was reeling up my catch. It turned out to be 4.5’ long and weighed 73 pounds! The harpoon worked great and it thrashed around beside the boat and splashed us all. We had a good time getting him bled and inside the boat. High fives around! As we were fishing, the whole time, there were half a dozen Orca Whales (Killer Whales) swimming not too far away. Val saw them do a full body breach a couple of times. I was busy cleaning my big Halibut. Catching Halibut is fun but it only took 30 minutes to catch him and land him and 2 hours to clean him, clean the goo off the boat, package him up, and get him in the cooler. That’s big work! (But still fun!) Our boat smells really fishy, for some odd reason!?!? So, Cody and I got out the buckets, soap, brushes, and started cleaning. We opened all the hatches, scrubbed the bilges, and got all the blood, scales, and goo off the boat. Now it only smells moderately fishy! Cruising to Craig, we saw many more Humpback whales, dolphins, seals, and sea otters. The clouds and rain are here again, which I don’t mind…it cleans the salt off the boat. We got to Craig mid-afternoon and took on fuel and water. Val and Cody went to the Laundromat and Connor and kept working on cleaning and organizing the boat. I can tell we’ve been on board for over a month already. Surprisingly, everything is working great, everyone is getting along wonderfully, and we’re all having a great time. This has been the best vacation ever, by far, at least for me. The boat is clean. The laundry is done. The fish are being frozen overnight at the grocery store. (We’ll ship it all home from Ketchikan.) All is well in our world. We hope it is in yours too!

Sunday, July 19, Cyrus Cove, Fun In The Sun!

We woke up in Red Bluff Bay all wishing we could stay another couple of days. It is so amazing here…big fish, bear, huge waterfalls, canyons, ice coming right down to the water…I really can’t wait to see heaven...this has got to be close! We really didn’t get to see all of its majesty as it was rainy and foggy while we were there. The fog and clouds came in waves and layers. At times, I couldn’t even see our boat from the dinghy a few hundred yards away. At other times, the fog was layered and we could see a long ways but it was only 15 feet over our heads. Wild! We stopped to fill our cooler with ice/snow on the way out of Red Bluff and putted through the beauty taking lots of pictures and video, which always disappoints us compared to the real deal.
Once we got out into Chatham Straight, we could run on plane but had to use radar as well. We had about a 70 mile day planned and I was hoping the fog wouldn’t come back. Every mile we cruised, it got brighter until the sun broke out at the ocean turned to flat glass. Wow! What a nice day this turned out to be.
I was a bit nervous about crossing the southern part of Chatham and the open ocean swells but God granted us yet another flat crossing. It was so flat, that we could tuck in behind a little island, out of the way of the swells for some lunch. I dropped Connor’s fishing line in while Val did dishes and instantly caught what felt like a huge fish. His pole is pretty light weight and it did turn out to be quite a large Rock Fish. Of course, Connor wanted his pole back so I tied mine up and we both caught two more very large fish. Mom came out and jumped in on the action. Within 15 minutes we had our limit of the biggest Rock Fish I’ve ever caught! Very fun! Smiles abound. Then we headed for Warren Cove to check out a beach I had read about in the cruising guide, but, as usual, the day got away from us, again. Whales, right in our path, just had to be visited. We sat right in the middle of a couple of pods of Humpbacks feeding. They bubble fed time and time again. Several of them swam right beside our boat, within maybe 70-100 feet. The sounds and sights are amazing but the smells are kind of disgusting. Every time they blow, it smells like rotten fish…bad breath! (Of course, by now, our boat smells like rotten fish too. I finally threw all the rotting fish heads overboard. I had been saving them for crab bait but I’m giving up on catching crab until we get further south.)
We didn’t get to Warren Cove until 5PM. We dropped the hook, dinghied to shore, and played on the beach for a couple of hours. It was a wide, flat, sandy beach. Mom and Cody played football with the dogs. Connor made sand castles, bridges, and dams. I walked around with the cameras capturing it all. The sun was warm and it felt great to go for a nice walk and stretch our legs. The dogs ran like wild animals! The tide was rising over the warm sand so Cody decided to go for a swim. He did it…not for very long but he swam in the Alaskan waters! He also found a hidden treasure…a rope that was attached to something buried in the sand. He dug and pulled and rigged up levers to get that treasure up. He finally concluded it was just an old fish net but it kept us intrigued for quite a while. It was after 7PM and we hadn’t even found our anchorage yet. Val had a wonderful halibut meal planned for us, so we found Cyrus Cove, about 30 minutes away and were anchored securely by 8PM. The days are sure getting shorter the further south and east we go. It’s dark here now by 11PM.
Dinner was awesome. Everyone rated this halibut recipe the best one yet. Val lightly dusted halibut cheeks in flower and fried them. Then she put them in a pan with some cream sauce, stewed tomatoes, and asiago cheese. Wow! Halibut is kind of like chicken breast…it takes on flavor. This recipe is a winner!
And then poker…I won! What a great ending to another perfect day in paradise.

Friday, July 17, Red Bluff Bay -

Yesterday, we pulled up our traps and only got 4 shrimp and 3 large female crabs, which we can’t keep. Bummer! We ate the last of our crab for lunch today. We all had such a good time those Cohos out at Cape Edgecombe that we sailed North to Salisbury Sound and tried our luck off of Cape Georgiana. No luck today.
We wanted to catch Sergius Narrows before the currents got crazy and got through shortly after noon. We just drifted in the entrance of Peril Straight while we ate our home made clam chowder (we didn’t catch enough clams so we added halibut) and then headed South through Peril Straight. I hate the scary names of these passages. Why don’t they name it Serenity Straight instead?
Right at the junction of Peril Straight and Chatham Straight we saw a ton of fishing boats so we decided to try our luck amongst them. Sure enough, we caught salmon. Within about an hour, we had seven! They were all pretty small and they didn’t look quite the same as the ones we caught yesterday. I found out today they were Pink Salmon, shucks! Some people don’t like them and others say that they’re great but I think all would agree that they’re not as good as King, Coho, or Sockeye. I love smoking my own salmon so we may have to smoke the Pinks. We still had a great time catching them, though.
We picked up a beautiful anchorage in Ell Cove, almost directly West of Sitka; although we had to go all the way back around Baranof Island to get here. The topography is getting much more rugged and we’re starting to see more snow again. The seas were flat and everyone had a nice time.
Val made the most amazing meal of the trip. We had King Salmon stuffed with a few asparagus stalks and topped with crab, bacon and Asiago cheese. Everyone rated it a solid 10! I hope the Pink Salmon taste this good but I doubt it.
Today, we had a light cruising day. From Ell Cove, we headed South down Chatham Straight for Baranof Warm Springs. They have a public float there we got the last dock amongst all the commercial fishing boats. We hiked up to the natural hot springs and relaxed in the hot pools alongside a massive waterfall. It was so pretty and so relaxing. It was foggy and rainy and it felt great to soak in the hot tub and enjoy the sound of the rushing water and the rain.
After our crab and “leftovers” lunch at the dock, we cruised about another hour down to Red Bluff Bay. It was really foggy and we ran on radar most of the way. Red Bluff is an amazing bay. It reminds me of Yellowstone and also of Ford’s Terror. We set our hook on the first try at the head of the bay beside a waterfall and a river.
While we were getting settled Connor spotted a grizzly bear and her two cubs on the tide flats. He jumped in the dinghy to check them out while I launched the kayak to paddle up the river to see what I could catch. The river was rushing to fast and I couldn’t make any headway against the current.
By the time I got back to the boat, the boys had the shrimp and crab pots down and were finished with the dinghy so I thought I’d try powering up the creek. The tide was out and the current proved too much for the dinghy. More rocks on the prop! Ouch! I drifted into the shallows and waded up the stream pulling the dinghy. I finally beached it and walked as far as I could before giving up. My goal was to make it back to the lake and try for some Cutthroat Trout. There were fresh bear tracks everywhere!As I walked back to my dinghy, I could see salmon running up stream so I started casting. What do you know? I caught two nice salmon but, again, I wasn’t sure what kind they were and I didn’t know if they were any good if they were spawning. That was so much fun; standing in the creek with my boots on, in the rain, casting for those salmon. When they hit, they fought hard jumping out of the water, flipping around, and running downstream. What an adrenaline rush. So, back to the boat to check the book and butcher them to see if they were any good. Darn it! We found out they were Chum Salmon. I think they rate about like the Pinks. The meat looked good so we vacuumed them up and stuck them in the cooler. I hope we don’t end up with a bunch of yucky fish. I really want to get into the Kings, Cohos, and Sockeyes!
The boys were playing cards. Val was cooking cheeseburgers and buffalo wings for dinner followed up with oven-baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Val is feeding us oh so good. Once again, the scenery here is amazing. I wish you could be here too. Well, it’s 9PM. Time for devos and poker. Have a great night!

Thursday, July 16, DeGroff Bay, Something’s Fishy!

Have you ever had one of those nights you just couldn’t sleep because you just had one of those incredibly exciting days and you just kept re-living it in your head? It’s 3:30AM and I am wide awake. (For those of you who really know me, I’d rather die than get up before the sun! Although, I guess the sun is already up here, or close to it.) Yesterday will go down in my history as one of those really great days and I just can’t wait to get started on today!
One of the boats, a couple slips down from ours, got a radio report from his cousin that the Cohos were hitting a few miles off of Cape Edgecombe so, after we got done with our chores in Sitka and had a Subway, (wow, was that good again!) we headed out there. It was about a 45 minute beautiful cruise from Sitka until we saw the trollers out in the ocean off the cape. I’m glad to get back out in the wilderness. We settled smack in the middle of the big fishing boats which made Val nervous, but I wanted the best chance at catching salmon! I re-tied all my flashers and hooks according to Ken’s advice and dropped the down riggers to 60’. Within a couple of minutes we had a fish! Bummer…just another Rock Fish, but a really nice one! A couple of minutes later, we had another fish…could it be? Yes, a Coho! We were all so excited.

We really had a lot of action. We fished for about 3 hours and ended up keeping 2 Rock Fish, 4 Cohos, and 2 Kings! We must have lost half a dozen others and threw back that many as well. We all took turns fighting the fish while the others pulled up the down riggers and netted the fish. It was a great team effort and everyone really had a great time, except Tanner who was leashed up in the cabin. He’d have been in the water in a split second at any sighting of a fish. Boy, did he whine! He could hardly stand it; he wanted to be where the action was so bad. These are really the first ocean-run salmon we caught this year. While we appreciate the “sympathy salmon” from Ken, these were ours! We caught them! Wow! Finally! We had to wait long enough, but God answered Connor’s prayer for “lots of salmon today.” The Kings were an extra special blessing! After fishing, we had another 45 minute cruise to our beautiful little anchorage in DeGroff Bay, (where we left the crab and shrimp traps on Monday,) and Val cooked dinner while I cleaned the fish. We feasted on crab and recounted the day, play by play. What a great day it was. Everyone rated it amongst the best of the trip so far.

It is so beautiful here. Words cannot begin to describe it. Pictures don’t do it justice. It’s really “sensory overload” all the time! As I sit here sipping my tea and looking around, I am reminded of the words in Isaiah 40, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. (Do you think Columbus read this verse? Hmmm?). He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing! Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.”

That’s my God, all right, and He is awesome! Another profound truth is found in John 15. Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” This God, who created all this and is allowing me to enjoy it, calls me His friend! Wow! How can you get your mind around that? What a great friend He has been!Well, it’s going to be a few more hours before the rest of the gang gets going, so I’m going to go lay down and re-count yesterday’s memories yet again.

Make the most of your day today and don’t forget to share some quality time with your friend.