Thursday, June 28, 2018

A day in Sitka and Goddard

     Geek out time! One advantage of Joe working for the Coast Guard and having a job site at Air Station Sitka is that he got permission for us to check it out. After breakfast, we piled into the dinghy and rode it over to the Coast Guard dinghy dock. We got to see a Jayhawk fueling up and then taking off. We got a little bit of a tour in the galley remodel that Joe is in charge of. The kids were tickled to finally be able to see one of Dad's jobsites in progress.
     Soon, it was time to walk over to the airport. While we waited for Pat and Michael's plane to arrive, we enjoyed pie in the airport restaurant--coconut cream and Reese's. Yummy! Shortly, the plane arrived and it was time to go greet our family.
     After walking back to the air station, Joe was able to track someone down who let us walk through the hanger and check out the other Jayhawk, including letting the kids inside it. I think they were impressed. I know the three adults were! Then it was time to get everything back to Kyrie and then go get lunch in Sitka.
     Seven of us meant two trips in the dinghy (which we have christened "Special K"), but at last it was time to walk to Joe's favorite restaurant for lunch. I don't remember its name, but it is a Filipino restaurant and we all thoroughly enjoyed the pancit and chicken adobo. Joe and Pat pigged out on the sisig, since the rest of us weren't big fans.
     We decided not to stay in Sitka too long, since we wanted to get to Goddard for the afternoon. After a stop at the fuel dock for diesel and water, Kyrie was on her way again, rather full with seven people! Goddard is definitely not our favorite of the three hot springs we visit on these trips, but there is no arguing with how good a soak in hot water feels...
     After converting the table for the first time into our "guest bed," we got all the kids settled and the adults thoroughly enjoyed a visit in the cockpit with some adult beverages. We hadn't had the chance to visit with Pat in a couple of years, so it was an evening of really good conversations--only one of many on this trip.
     The next day, we left Goddard with the idea of sailing out around Cape Edgecumbe. At first, it seemed like it would work. There was about a 6-foot swell with a 1-foot chop on top, but the wind was lovely and Kyrie kicked her heels up. Unfortunately, Michael got rather seasick and even Rachael needed to come outside for some fresh air, requiring a change of plans. Instead, I pointed Kyrie's bow toward the entrance to Krestof Sound. It was time to go find a fun beach to explore and have a short day on the water.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Too much fun to remember to write

All right, all right. Guilty as charged. I have been sadly remiss keeping an up-to-date log of our trip this time around. What can I say? Even the family scribe has been having too much fun to stop and write down what all we have been doing. I don't think we had even arrived in Baranof the last time I wrote something. *sigh* I have some catching up to do. ;)
Baranof, as usual, was a welcome stop. We already donned our swimsuits and packed backpacks with towels, water and snacks while on our way into Warm Springs Bay. That way we could go straight to the natural springs as soon as we docked. It was beautiful there as always, but one slight problem. Because it hadn't rained in a while, the springs were HOT! I know, I know, it's a hot springs--don't we want it hot? Yes, but not so hot that we couldn't really get in and enjoy them. Oh well. Back down the trail and try out the bathtubs. Those were a lot better and after soaking in the tubs for a half hour or so, it was time to head back to Kyrie and make dinner.
The other two boats planned on staying all the next day, leaving the following morning, but we pulled away from the dock about 12:00. Joe was afraid of waiting too long and getting hit by currents trying to get up Chatham Strait and into Peril Strait. It actually wasn't a bad run. The wind of course was almost directly on our nose, but the sun shone and the back deck was a lovely place to hang out. Joe rigged up the hammock on the back deck and Megan ended up crawling in with me later in the afternoon and fell asleep for an hour. Not a bad run at all!
We entered Peril Strait and enjoyed that stretch as well. Appleton Cove was our destination, but we slowed down shy of it to check something out. Joe saw something shiny on the shore and through the binoculars was able to see it was a fishing troller on its side. He detoured Kyrie over so we could check it out--partly because that is just not something you see often (thankfully) and also because he thought we ought to be absolutely sure it hadn't just happened, even though we hadn't heard any radio traffic about a boat needing help. As we approached, it became obvious the troller had been there for a while. Such a shame. It looked like a really nice working boat. I found myself wondering what had happened, and hoping the crew were all okay...
Appleton Cove was only a few miles beyond, so it was time to continue. Don Douglass's book Exploring Southeast Alaska called Appleton one of the best anchorages in Peril Strait, so we thought we would give it a try. Of course, that meant there were five other boats in the cove with us that night--four pleasure boats and a seiner--and crab pots everywhere! Unfortunately, those annoying little gnats that had been plaguing us the whole trip were in residence in Appleton Cove as well. They chased us inside and at least encouraged us to go to bed a little early. We wanted to be sure to catch the tide right for going through Sergius Narrows the next morning.

Not so peril-ous and the next stage of the trip

By 7:30 Wednesday morning, the motor was running, the anchor was weighed and cleaned of super silty mud and Kyrie was underway again, with an entourage of pleasure trawlers who quickly passed us by, headed the same direction. As the strait narrowed, Joe set the hammock up on the bow again and the kids vied for turns. I sat up on the bow with the camera--hopefully my photos turned out and they will get on here.
I could see why Joe was concerned about the currents. It is very narrow through Sergius itself. In fact, there are two big red buoys that often are sucked underwater by 10-knot currents during the ebb and flow. Thankfully, we only saw 1 knot of current against us. I have to admit, I'd like to be somewhere safe and witness those buoys being sucked down by the current some time... All in all, it was a lovely and uneventful trip through Peril Strait.
A quick pass through a corner of Salisbury Sound and on to Neva Strait. The wind let us actually sail for a little while, although we only were going about 2.5 knots. However, that was perfect for dragging a fishing line behind us. No luck there either though, and then the wind died, naturally... There were a lot of fishing boats working and we wanted to be sure to stay out of their way. Neva Strait is pretty narrow and there were a fair of number of boats coming out of Sitka. Instead of going through Olga Strait as we had upon leaving Sitka last year, we turned toward Krestof Sound to check it out. It is completely bordered by a bunch of small islands, so it's a sheltered area with lots of nooks and crannies. We came back later to explore, so I won't say much about it here, except to say it was definitely worth coming back to! :)
As we neared Sitka Sound, the fog settled in, which made for an interesting run into Sitka itself. Unlike our last visit, it wasn't super windy and choppy even inside the breakwater, so there wasn't a need to find a spot at the dock. Instead, we found a clear spot and dropped the anchor. After a dinghy ride to the dock and a walk to the grocery store, it was time for dinner and a movie--Levi had just finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, so Joe and I decided the theatrical version was in order.
Tomorrow would be a busy day with family arriving at the airport.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Another adventure begins!

     Our 2018 vacation is off to a great start. Kyrie and her crew left Douglas Harbor about 4:00 Friday afternoon to head down to Taku Harbor for the night. Unlike Memorial Day weekend, the weather was pretty decent and there were a fair number of boats with kids at the dock when we arrived. Consequently, the kiddos stayed up way too late playing outside, but we knew they wouldn't get much time to play with other kids for a while. I think we finally made them all go to bed around 10:30.
Our crab pots were full of huge sun stars!
Next morning was pretty nice. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and a cutthroat trout Joe caught the evening before. Then of course the kids had to go out and play with their friends again. Joe brought back the crab pots we set on our way to the dock, but all they held were big sun stars and snails. No dinner, but a huge source of fun for the girls. Rachael and Megan, along with two other girls about their age, sat on the dock and poked at an upside-down sun star, watching its little tentacles move around as it tried to figure out where it was. They also sat around the pile of huge snails, squealing whenever one grew brave enough to venture out of its shell.
Joe is holding one of the giant
snails we caught in the crab pot.
Escargot, anyone? 
     Eventually, it was time to let the sea creatures go back home and get ready to move on. Two other boats from the sailing club were all that had signed up for the Admiralty Island Rally this year and we planned on joining for part of the trip. There wasn't much wind when Kyrie stuck her nose out of Taku Harbor and we only saw one sail, so Joe and I decided to rig up the fishing poles and troll down to Limestone Inlet for a while.
     Limestone Inlet is lovely--I wouldn't mind going back there some time when it's just the two of us. Usually we go to Taku Harbor because it's easy to get to and is just a fun place to hang out as a family. However, if we happen to get a kid-free weekend and want to get out to be by ourselves, I think Limestone might fit the bill nicely. It's a narrow inlet with hardly any wave action on the shore, and there are mooring buoys to grab in the middle. We ended up eating lunch and trying to fish, but no luck.
Onward down Stephens Passage! Past Port Snettisham, I noticed a whale watch boat hanging out around the Midway Islands. We decided we would slow down when we got down there to see what they were checking out. It proved to be a sea lion haulout. Sea lions covered a rock pile on the west side of the islands and you could hear them snorting and growling at each other. Rachael kept yelling, "Noisy!" at them and laughed when I said I thought they sounded like pigs. :)
     From there, it wasn't much farther to our planned anchorage for the night. We motored past Rainier, a NOAA research vessel, and anchored in about 40 feet of water in the little bay between Wood Spit and Point Astley. About an hour later, the other two boats, A Little Romance and Thalia, showed up. It was a little different being the big boat and having them both raft up to us! Quiet night, but the gnats were out in force so none of us wanted to be outside very long.
     Next morning was foggy! No wind to speak of at first, so the three skippers made the decision to cross Stephens Passage to Point Hugh, the tip of the Glass Peninsula on Admiralty Island. We started sailing about 10:00 and managed to sail for four hours before the wind died and the current picked up. Once our speed dropped below 2 knots, it stopped being fun! Sails were furled, the motor fired up and away we went. It quickly became fun again because two porpoises came along and frolicked in our bow wake for a while. Then sea lions and sea otters popped up and swam around us.

The maritime animal show really began when Joe caught sight of some big splashes around Point Pybus. We were still three miles away, but it became obvious quickly there was a whale at play. It put on quite a display for us! I can't remember the last time I got to see a whale breach that much. It would rise about 3/4 of its body length out of the water and come crashing back down. Then it might roll on its side, and wave its giant flipper up and down a few times. Suddenly, it would show us its tail flukes as it dove down deep, leaving us to watch and wait breathlessly for it to leap out of the water again. This spectacle must have gone on for a good hour as we approached and eventually passed it by! I think Joe managed to get a couple photos of our cetacean friend in action.
Not long after, Kyrie turned the corner into Pybus Bay. I haven't been in that bay in six years--not since the last AIR we went on in 2012. I forgot how breathtakingly beautiful it is in there. I remember it being pretty, but I think by the time our slow little Shiva arrived, we were so tired and ready to be done for the night that we just didn't appreciate it enough. A Little Romance and Thalia were still out trying to sail, so we figured we had time to stop in the bay and try fishing. Joe caught the tiniest little Irish Lord I've ever seen--maybe only an inch-and-a-half long. How it managed to take the hook, I have no idea, but thankfully, Joe was able to shake it. I caught a little quillback rockfish, but it spit out the hook as it came to the surface. Thank goodness--we love to eat rockfish, but we would have needed four more that size to make a meal!
Cannery Cove was our destination last night and we gleefully lowered the property values as we entered it. Our neighbors already anchored included two megayachts that were over 100 feet long--one of them even had a helicopter on its upper rear deck. After anchoring up ourselves, we braved the bugs and went out for a dinghy ride, hoping to find a beach to turn the kids loose on. No such luck, but we had a ball cruising around Cannery Cove. The ride was during high tide and it was obvious there were some areas that would be high and dry during low tide. We could see Dungeness crabs skittering around on the bottom and little fish swimming all around. At last though, the growling of our stomachs announced it was time to head back to Kyrie and make dinner. Chicken thighs in mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and cabbage crunch salad--yummy!
The other two boats arrived as we finished eating, and like before, they rafted off to us. Neither boat sailed the whole way, but I think both crews had a good day.
No one was in a huge hurry to get moving this morning, but I think we finally cast everyone off and hauled the anchor at about 10:00. At almost 1:00 now, there is still almost no wind and I haven't seen any type of sail up. But, it's sunny, about 60 degrees and Frederick Sound looks like glass. Joe rigged a hammock up between the mast and the front stay and all three kids have spent some time in it. I think we all are thoroughly enjoying this beautiful day, but the fleet has a hot bath in mind. Baranof Warm Springs, here we come!