Sunday, August 13, 2017

A picture is worth a thousand words....

We didn't know it would turn into the "ABCD" trip yet!
 We are finally back in cell range, with Juneau in sight. It's been an amazing two weeks for Kyrie and her crew. I don't think any of our descriptions could do justice to some of the places we have seen, so now that I finally can, I'm going to post some photos of just a few of the things we have done and the beauties we got to see on this trip.  Obviously be warned this post is extremely picture heavy.  Click on a picture for a higher resolution image.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Enjoying the sun

Vacation is nearly over and what a time it has been! After leaving White Sulphur--once again threading our way through the gauntlet of Mirror Harbor--we cruised up the coast to what Joe and his family refer to as "the long sand beach." In order to reach it, Kyrie and Sandpiper anchored in the south forty of Hoktaheen Cove, which is an area they spent a lot of time in while Joe was young and they commercial fished the nearby waters. The weather was beautiful and the kids had been begging for a campfire and hot dogs on the beach some time on this trip. Perfect time to do this! We packed up everything and loaded up the skiff for a trip to the shore.
That wasn't our target beach, however. "The long sand beach" is a trip through the woods, across a small peninsula from the beach we landed on. On both sides, there is a ton of brush to bushwhack through, but inside, it is like fairyland. I've only been through those woods a few times, but each time I have a sneaking suspicion there are elves and fairies watching our passage from behind the trees and humps of moss. Something certainly lives in those woods, judging from the well-used trails. My elves and fairies are most likely of the brown furry types--some with teeth and claws and others with hooves and horns.
Our exit required some hacking through the brushy trees at the end and then there was the beach! The tide was going out as we arrived, so the beach kept getting bigger! Shoes and boots and socks came off and the kids ran off to explore. Staying in sight wasn't a problem, but the big bear tracks convinced us all to not go too far from the rest of the group. I have so many pictures from that visit alone! The kids found a gigantic buoy to roll along the beach, there were crabs everywhere, along with little needlefish, left stranded on the sand when the tide retreated. We all collected wood for a campfire, but agreed it was too warm for a big one. We contented ourselves with enough wood to cook our hot dogs and marshmallows.
All too soon, the sun disappearing behind the trees announced it was time to head back. I, for one, had no desire to find my way back through those woods in the dark.
After wrestling the skiff from its place high up on the beach, someone noticed the sunset. I don't have professional photography equipment, so there was no way to capture the sight. I had never seen a spire of light shooting up from where the sun had disappeared below the horizon before. It was an awe-inspiring sight and definitely made it worth leaving the beach, because the spire wasn't visible through the trees.
The next day was quiet and relaxing. Joe and his dad went ashore to walk in the meadow beyond the beach. His mom and I and the kids stayed on the boats to read and play games. Levi, Rachael and I got out at separate times in the kayak to explore a bit. Later on, we made the decision to move farther up the cove, hoping that position would be less rolly. Same as the previous night, a bunch of trollers anchored up in the south forty also, although Joe and his parents both said there were hardly any. They remembered nights when there were so many boats, it seemed as though one could walk from boat to boat!
Joe discovered that the Pacific Horizon, the packer his friend and boss from last summer runs, was anchored on the other side of the rocks from us, so he and his dad went over to visit.

Monday, August 7, 2017

White Sulphur

Well we made it! 3 separate hot springs in about a week and a half, but it has been quite the travel to arrange for.

Last afternoon about 1pm we pulled Kyrie into the west arm of Mirror harbor - an entrance not for the faint of heart. Thankfully, with good charts, good directions (thanks to the Douglas's "Exploring Southeast Alaska") and a apt bow watch, we made it in unscathed. We were supposed to meet Joe's mom and dad here, but they hadn't arrived yet and were not answering our hails on VHF so we made the hike to the springs with the kids.

The redone hot springs were spectacular. The reconstruction is top notch, and as always the setting is as beautiful as it gets. After a long soak, we waddled back up the 45 min. trail to the boat and sat down to dinner, wondering what on earth had happened to Mom & Dad.

They finally pulled in at 8:15 last night, exhausted and obviously frazzled, with quite the story to tell. Not only was the trip out a rough one, they had engine troubles.. It appears their fuel pump on the engine is on their last legs, but they were able to nurse it along by using the primer squeeze bulb. I don't envy their trip out like that though.

Now that they arrived, this morning Dad, Levi, and I took the skiff out to scout the area, and even saw a deer on the beach. As we came back, the sun arrived in spades, and we were able to hike over to the springs all together and really enjoyed our day.

Weather will dictate our itineary for the next few days, but we're not sure which direction we are headed. We are trying to arrange via email to get spare parts flown out for M&D, and intend to play thoroughly the next few days while we wait.

Current position:
Lat 57 degrees, 47.788'N
Lon 136 degrees, 20.066'W

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Catching up

Moon: noun. Earth's natural satellite, controls the tides. On rare occasions, when it takes on a blue tint, conditions are optimal for sailing.

Obviously, there is not a blue moon right now because the wind has been terrible for sailing this trip. As is typical for Southeast, the wind has either been on our nose, or nonexistent. It doesn't mean, however, that we haven't been thoroughly enjoying our trip. Let me back up a couple of days. Today, I think, is Saturday.
Thursday, we left Still Harbor in Whale Bay, and motored directly into a fog bank. We had to round North Cape and Aspid Cape, and then pass Beauchamp Island before we would be able to turn away from open water and enter calmer waters. Kyrie's intrepid captain steered her through Second and First Narrows, which were well marked and not complicated. Levi and I stood up on the bows during the trip through Dorothy Narrows, however, which was a bit more exciting. It was longer and more narrow, with patches of kelp everywhere. As every boater knows, or very quickly finds out, stay out of the kelp and away from the breakers! Not long after emerging from the Narrows, we rounded a point and there was Goddard Hot Springs.
That was a lovely stop. We anchored Kyrie not far from shore in about 30 feet of water and ferried ashore in the dinghy. Goddard has two stainless steel tubs in little log huts--one lower and one a short walk up a hill--that look out over the southern edge of Sitka Sound. Our family had the lower tub to ourselves and we must have soaked for an hour and a half before finally deciding that if we were going to try to get to Sitka that day, we ought to haul ourselves out of the tub and back to the boat.
It was a good thing we got out of there. The wind wasn't so bad at first--about 12 knots from the northwest, but the seas were crazy. Southerly six-foot swell with a northwesterly five- to six-foot chop. It was weird and uncomfortable. Then, it got worse. As we got into the lee of Cape Edgecumbe, the wind decided to blow 20-25 knots on our beam and the seas decided to kick up into six feet, very close together. All we could do was grit our teeth and go for it. After pounding into that mess for three-and-a-half hours, we finally ducked into Sitka Harbor. Our original intention was to play it cheap and anchor in the harbor. However, the two-foot chop made us very leery of using the dinghy, so we gave in and called the harbormaster to find a spot to dock. After turning in the wrong harbor and Joe doing some very fancy footwork to get us out of there, we finally found the right spot, only to have the wind blow us right past it. We said, "Screw it," and docked in the one we could get in, happily accepting offers of assistance. Docking in 20 knots is not for the faint of heart, nor should it be taken lightly.
Docklines tied, buoys out, engine off. Cue a huge sigh of relief. We discovered our neighbors--fellow cruisers--are former Prout owners and knew we needed to talk more with them, but first, the crew required feeding. Off we walked to find dinner, noting that the land absolutely did not move right. It was late when we got back and we were all exhausted, so it was off to bed. Safe in Sitka!
Friday dawned beautifully. It had all the hallmarks of a gorgeous day--has summer finally arrived in Southeast? The wind, however, told us we were definitely not leaving the harbor that day. The wind was predicted to be 25 knots northwest, but that usually means a higher number. Most of the fishing fleet got scared back to the harbor, if that tells you anything. We spent the day wandering the town. Sitka was the capital of Russian Alaska and was originally called New Archangel. Saint Michael's Russian Orthodox Church stands right smack in the middle of downtown--unfortunately the original building burnt down in the 1960s, but nearly all the sacred relics and icons were saved and put back in the new church went it was rebuilt. We toured the Russian Bishop's house and Sheldon Jackson Museum before deciding we better do our grocery shopping while we still had energy left.
Once settled back on Kyrie for the evening, we were visited by some friends we made while their sailboat, Pegasus II, was in Douglas Harbor. Hello to Brett and Barbara! Hello also to Paul and Cate, and Mike and Linda on Dreamweaver. I hope you all have smooth sailing and a safe return home!
Today was long. After filling the fuel tank, Kyrie and her crew departed Sitka. At first, you guessed it--there was no wind. The sun shone however, and it was warm! We exited Sitka Sound, transiting Olga and Neva Straits and then entered Salisbury Sound, which is open to the Gulf of Alaska. It was choppy and made for a long slog past Pt. Leo, around Klokachef Island, and past Khaz Point so we could enter Piehle Passage, which is a back way behind little barrier islands and a much more comfortable ride. Khaz Bay was a gauntlet of seiners, which was fun to see and a bit of a maze to negotiate. At last, we ducked into Ogden Passage and followed it back to Kimshan Cove, pointing out sea otters all along the way. What a relief to drop the anchor and turn off the engine, finally at rest after a long day! Tomorrow will be much shorter, as our target is White Sulphur Hot Springs!
Where's that blue moon? I want to sail on this trip for longer than an hour!

Current position:
Lat: 57 degrees, 41.234' N.
Long: 136 degrees, 06.570' W.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Day of Deliciousness

Today was somewhat less eventful than the last couple days, but still quite enjoyable. We pulled anchor after a leisurely breakfast in Redfish Bay. It was a lovely morning with multiple bears on the beach, including one about 100' away from our starboard side.

Upon exiting Redfish Bay, the promising wind we had in the anchorage completely petered out...  We were seeing mighty gusts of up to 5 knots, not even enough to fill the sails.

So - we went fishing!

We motored about an hour north to just in front of the Kekur Peninsula and dropped two lines. Within 10 minutes we had our first fish, a nice coho - and were thrilled. We figured it was a fluke and put the line down again, hoping against hope. Not 5 minutes later, the same pole bent in half and sung out line. This time we handed the rod to Levi, and he landed his first salmon, a nice coho, about 8-9 pounds. We put the line down again and not 10 minutes later it went off again, with Kristen then landing her first salmon in years, and finally dropped it a last time, and within 5 minutes, Rachael got her first ever salmon, another 8-9 pound fish.

All in all, we fished less than an hour and had 4 nice coho and one large brown bomber. Just terrible times around here. The only reason we stopped fishing is the fish kept swallowing the hooks, and we couldn't release them without killing them.

For lunch, we made a blackened salmon and rockfish salad which was readily devoured. For dinner appetizer, we had salmon sashimi. For dinner, we had baked spicy teriyaki salmon with rice pilaf. We still have 3 whole salmon we will need to choke down somehow in the next week or so. It's a tough life.

To top it off, it was sunny again, with temps in the mid 70's. I'd say it was a good trade for not being able to sail today.

Tonight we are anchored in a beautiful bay, Still Harbor, right off of Whale bay.

Current Position:
Lat 56 degrees 32.405N
Lon 135 degrees 00.822W

-The Kyrie Crew

Another Amazing Day

Yesterday (Tuesday) was another one for the books. It is incredible how the days keep getting better and better. I wonder how we are going to top this one though!

We awoke to bright sun in Port Armstrong, tied to the dock at the hatchery. The Marsons - the boat I (Joe) crewed on last year - had arrived late last night and was getting ready to seine for the hatchery's cost recovery. I should mention we woke up a number of times last night to fish bonking into the hull - there were so many of them schooling in the bay. Well, Ben, the hatchery manager, was running his skiff around to scare the fish into the seine net. Levi got up and Ben offered to take him along when they made their next set. I should mention this was all happening not 100' off of our starboard side. Levi got a little more than he bargained for, and Ben ended up taking him over to the tender, Viking, as they were offloading the 21,000 pounds of fish from the first set. He even got to help sort the fish as they came aboard.

After the first set, the Marsons quickly got ready for another one, and Ben and Levi were again out doing donuts in the bay to help scare the fish out of the shallows. It looked like quite a wild ride and Levi returned to us a little green, but smiling!

About 10am we left Port Armstrong for parts further south and were actually able to set the sails for about an hour before the wind died, which was the first sailing we have been able to do this entire trip. We put out a couple fishing lines, but no luck yet. We hope to get the salmon skunk off of the boat pretty soon! After a couple hours, we pulled into Port Alexander for a day stop.

Port Alexander is a remote, cute, fishing village that hasn't succumbed to the tourism bug so prevalent in the area. It still has the quaint feel of the old time fishing villages, with a boardwalk connecting the homes in the community and a skiff being the primary mode of transportation. We walked the boardwalk with the kids - stopping every couple hundred feet to pick and eat red huckleberries, blueberries, and salmonberries. I have never seen so many currants in one place! On the boardwalk we met up with Sage and Torin, a couple kids Levi's and Rachael's age and were invited back to their place. As it turned out, their parents run a small lodge and homestead in PA. We timed the visit right because they had 4 ducklings and 20 chicks. The kids had a ton of fun playing with kids their own age, even for a short time, and holding the baby birds. There was even a trampoline for them to play on.

After a couple hours, we went back to the boat and put the skiff in the water to head into the inner bay of PA. I remembered from my childhood there was a ship graveyard that I wanted to see again, and it didn't disappoint. The large wooden minesweeper I remembered from 20 years ago was still there, although much more severely deteriorated. It was joined by a group of smaller wood fishing boats that had been beached directly adjacent. Everyone had fun crawling around the wrecks for half an hour.

We then untied, and made our way to the southernmost point in our journey as the weather was good to round the cape. We rounded Cape Ommaney at the southern tip with a gentle 5' swell from the south at about 3pm. Unfortunately the wind didn't cooperate and we were not able to sail, so we ended up motoring about 3 hours further up the coast to Redfish Bay. There is a run of sockeye coming into the river at the head of the bay at the moment and the whole bay is full of jumping sockeye. This also attracts brown bears. We were able to sit in the mirror-calm anchorage all evening watching the fish and the bears, and admiring the smells and sounds of the wilderness.

All in all, one to really try to top, but it will be hard!!

-Posted via Winlink over Pactor Modem, so no photos until we get near civilization again!

Current position:
Lat 56 degrees, 21.097'N
Lon 134 degrees, 51.502'W