Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday, July 12, DeGroff Bay (Just North of Sitka) – A Golden Day!

We woke up in our beautiful Klag Bay anchorage to a nice, sunny, warm day. Hallelujah! We all jumped in the dinghy and putted along through Klag Bay until we found the gold mine ruins.
Here is a typical view from the dinghy captain's chair...The gold mine was was much more dilapidated than we expected. It must have been abandoned in the 30’s or 40’s. The old engines looked quite primitive. We did find some of the old ore cars and the kiln where they melted the gold. The rest was just fallen down old buildings, rusted pipes, etc. It was all very interesting but we didn’t find any gold. Nutz! It was great to get out and walk around in the warm sun. We got back to the boat at lunch time and fried up the fish we caught yesterday and then set sail. I had expected the westerlies to be blowing up the open ocean but when we got out there, it wasn’t too bad at all. We tried to fish but the swells rocked the boat just enough to throw everyone but me off kilter. Within minutes, Mom couldn’t stand up so she went to go lie down. Cody was laying on the back deck gasping for fresh air (like the fish I never caught) and Connor dove into bed. I, on the other hand, was the only one ready to fish, but avoiding mutiny, I cranked up the equipment and gave up…there’s no salmon in Alaska anyway!
The boat is really stable under power and we were able to run 24 knots in the swells no problem. We only took spray on the windows once, which was just enough to salt up my nice, clean windows. Nutz! We only were out in the big water for less than an hour and then were able to get back in the outside inside passage. Make sense? We got to DeGoff Bay, which is only about 10 miles north of Sitka by mid-afternoon. I love getting settled early to relax, fish, put the traps out, explore the area, etc. We found a great little cove and the anchor grabbed on the 2nd attempt. Connor and Tanner are out racing around in the dinghy, giving us a gentle rocking, while Cody and Mom are the last two standing in poker. (I didn’t do so well tonight.) Overall, Cody is leading Mom by one and me by six. Connor is way back in the dust somewhere. Mom promises him a consolation prize to ease his pain. Lucky is snoring under the table keeping our feet nice and warm (and furry.)
Tomorrow is Monday and we’ll head into Sitka for communications, supplies, fuel, and water. Cody is ready for civilization and Mom needs fresh veggies but I’d like to stay out in the wilderness. I’m going to ask her to pickle up some kelp slices…then maybe we won’t need as many fresh veggies?!?! I guess I better go wash the salt off the windows now. It’s just too beautiful outside to not maximize our views.

Sunday, July 12, Klag Bay, Chicagof Island –

I just can’t get used to the compass reading “S” after so many miles of heading “N.” Yesterday, marked the real beginning of our trend back home. We left Elfin Cove about 7:30, after filling with water, in pretty thick fog running slow and on radar but within 45 minutes, it lifted enough to get the boat up on plane again. We headed through a beautiful channel called Lisianski Inlet, stopping along the way to try again for salmon. I think they must be extinct! We did get some Greenling Kelp, which I never caught before, as well as two Rockfish. After cleaning the fish, we toured Stag Bay, which reminded me of Ford’s Terror, without the ice and not quite as dramatic but still very impressive. As we headed out of Lisianski Straight into the open ocean, the swells and wind through us around a little bit. I don’t mind the swells but they really freak Val out. The boat climbs them and about 20 knots and surfs down them at about 25. It is a pretty weird feeling. Then, we had about 2-3’ wind waves on top of that and it was a bit of a sloppy ride but, again, nothing that we couldn’t all handle just fine. We only ran a few miles before ducking into a little harbor called Mirror Harbor, which looks like someone spilled a pepper shaker on the chart. I read the cruising guide on how to enter. It was very hairy! Both boys on deck looking for rocks, Val reading the step by step navigations directions…the charts here are not like the ones back in WA. We had to back up several times to miss rocks but we picked our way to a temporary anchorage hole and launched the dinghy. Just as we were ready to leave, it quite raining and got a bit brighter out. We met some folks in Elfin Cove who had just come up that way and told us about White Sulfur Hot Springs. So, we set out to find them. Sure enough, after a 1 mile dinghy ride and another mile hike, we found the little Forrest Service cabin complete with a natural indoor and outdoor hot tub!

This was pretty neat! The hot water bubbles up and in and washes over the edge. We spent a couple of hours soaking, swimming, and exploring. Cody even jumped in the ocean for a second! Brrr! Tanner and Lucky even got to try the hot tub (no worries, they self clean with the constant water flowing through.) Tanner and Connor were totally out of control wild while Lucky, Cody, Mom, and I enjoyed the relaxation. Back to the boat, stow the dinghy, pull the anchor and pick our way back out to the open ocean. We ran with the last of the incoming tide with the wind slopping along another few miles to Imperial Pass, which some call the “Outside Inside Passage.” This proved to be a flat route but I nearly got dizzy navigating around the “peppered” islands. My GPS charts aren’t lining up with the real world in this area, which makes things real interesting. But we got to our Klag Bay anchorage about 6PM in fine order. I think we’re about half way between Elfin Cove and Sitka.

Oh my, we had the best meal last night! For appies, we had some canned smoked salmon we got in Juneau; then, Val made this great Sockeye Salmon that we caught the other day. After that, we had these huge monster Dungeness Crabs that we bought off the fuel dock in Elfin Cove. They were the biggest, fattest dungies I’ve ever seen. We paid $7 each for them. In WA, they cost $16 each and are half the size! I hate to admit that we’re buying crabs and I even felt bad doing it, but we’ve put our stinkin’ pot out every night and come up with nothing! We gave up on the shrimp pot because I can’t get anyone to participate in pulling it up hundreds of feet each time. At any rate, we are getting a lot of good eating in!

Well, the family is up and it and ready for the next big adventure, so I better wrap this up. We’re going to Chicagof, at the end of Klag Bay here to find an old abandon gold mine. I think our chances of finding gold are better than finding salmon! Hope you are all having a fabulous summer!

Friday, July 10, Elfin Cove – A Cool Little Drinking Village With A Big Fishing Problem!

Yesterday, I left off when Connor was getting bites. Sure ‘nuf…he got an 18 pounder. Good work, Connor! So, our freezer and coolers are getting filled up! We explored Dundas Inlet and picked up an anchorage for the night right beside a colony of sea otters and their babies. It was a bit breezy and the clouds and fog are setting back in…nutz! This morning, we set sail for Elfin Cove, a short 13 mile run through the fog. We are out of food, water, and need to get out and stretch a bit. Along the way, we came across a colony of sea lions. We just sat there and watched them play “King Of The Mountain.” They are so cool the way they fight and wrestle and play with each other. They are noisy and stinky. We got lots of great video.

Elfin Cove is cool little drinking village with a big fishing problem. It’s a boardwalk community with 10 year round residents. We ate burgers at the little cafĂ© which had 4 tables. The little community is mostly made up of fisherman and resorts. Everyone was so friendly and gave us lots of fishing tips and navigation advice. We even got invited to a salmon barbecue tonight, where we got to know some of the locals. Val did some shopping in the tiny little store but found enough food to tide us over to Sitka. Connor met a little buddy on the docks and played with him all day. Cody got his fix “texting” his friends. I got caught up on some phone calls, but no internet, and still got to go for a nice kayak ride around town. We all had a really good day today. It was good to be off the boat for most of the day.

We were debating about taking the west coast back south or turning back and taking the inside passage back down. Talking to the locals gave me the courage to make the attempt tomorrow. So, here we are again, nervous, scared, and excited all at the same time. The weather looks favorable other than fog, but the wind usually doesn’t blow when it’s foggy.

Thursday, July 9, Ripple Cove, Glacier Bay – Salmon, Finally!

Yesterday, we spent most of the afternoon at Glacier Bay National Park Lodge. Val did laundry, the boys washed the boat, and I took care of e-mails and voice mails. We love the lodge and they have great food on a lovely deck with a killer view. We fueled up, filled with water and headed back to Berg Bay for the night.
We found a cool little cove with a creek that dumped into it. It looked like bear territory. The water was mirror smooth and the mountains were perfectly reflected. We were all full from our late lunch so we had our devotions and played poker…the little gnats were too bad to be outside. Turns out to be a good thing…I won the poker game!
We all slept great. I got up at 7:30 and took the dogs for an exploratory dinghy ride. We saw the salmon jumping all over so I went back to the boat, grabbed my gear, and went back out. Finally, I got two sockeyes and one pink. I didn’t have my rule book so went back to the boat to check sizes and properly identify them. Then everyone got excited and wanted to go. We read the book and found out everything was legal…yeeha! We got salmon!
Off we go to catch some more. Two more salmon later and we’re back on the boat enjoying fresh baked bread and wild rice soup. Yum. I cleaned the fish, vacuum packed them and stowed them in the freezer. Well, our permit in Glacier Bay expires today so we’re heading out, stopping to do some halibut fishing along the way. The boys got their lines out and I think Connor’s getting bites, so I better get ready to help him.