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.