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Trying for a Three-peat

With a forecast for 4 foot seas on the outside waters, we departed Sitka on Friday, June 21 to fish near Cape Edgecumbe.  Marcia had heard that it was the current “hot” area.  The several dozen boats, about half of which were guide fishing boats, certainly confirmed that a lot of locals thought it was the place to be.  Sadly, the salmon did not think it so “hot” and had gone elsewhere. 

After a night in the cove outside the entrance to De Groff Bay, the next morning we tried Dog Point for the early bite, but nobody bit. We were “oh for four” with our Sitka fishing efforts so we decided to head back to Chatham Strait which had proved productive a week earlier.

2019-Cruise-084xWe retraced the previous steps we took to Sitka, this time substituting Ell Cove for Takatz Bay, before we reached the fishing area in Chatham Strait on Monday, June 24.  After about an hour of trolling, Marcia had a hit on her line and reeled in a 32-inch, 15-pound chinook salmon.

The Alaska annual non-resident limit for chinook salmon is three fish if caught before July 1 but only one if caught after.  Marcia figured she had six more days to get that last fish and was determined to try.

After anchoring the night in Gut Bay, we went back out into Chatham early the next morning.  The weather pattern had changed and a blocking ridge in the Gulf of Alaska brought an end to the rain that we had seen earlier. Unfortunately, better weather often means higher winds on inside waters.  2019-Cruise-086xThe winds can either be afternoon sea breezes driven by warm land and cool waters or the prevailing northerlies of building high pressure.  In any event, the forecast for Chatham Strait was now 15 knot winds and 3-foot seas.  Where we were fishing it was a steady 15-20 knots with short choppy seas because the flood current was opposing the wind.  After about 2 hours of fishing with no action, we called it.

We tried again the next day but the winds and seas were the same or a little bit worse so we decided to head into Fredrick Sound looking for quieter conditions and perhaps a halibut.  While we found light winds and calmer seas, after fishing two locations we had no halibut to show for the effort.

With Marcia’s chinook salmon clock running out, we headed back into Chatham on Friday, June 28 and anchored the night in Security Bay on Kuiu Island.  A half-hour after we dropped the anchor, the 5-10 NW winds in the anchorage clocked around to 10-15 SE winds and stayed there the entire night.

The next morning, we headed out hoping for the best but by the time we reached Kingsmill Point on Kuiu Island the 15-20 S winds convinced us that it wasn’t safe for us to fish.  Even if we were lucky enough to hook a fish we couldn’t safely land it as it requires standing on the swim step to net the fish.

With two king salmon in the freezer, we changed our plans and headed up Chatham aiming for Juneau.  After stops in Ell Cove and Funter Bay we arrived in Juneau on July 1. 

Last year we had an extended stay in Juneau necessitated by waiting for a furnace part to be repaired.  We ended up having a wonderful time.  We’ve decided to repeat that this year voluntarily.  Our guests, Debbie & John Wick, arrive on Sunday July 7.  We plan on departing Tuesday, July 9.  We’ll do a week in Glacier Bay, do some more fishing in Chatham and Fredrick Sound, visit the Pack Creek Bear Observatory and end their visit at Petersburg on Saturday, July 27.

This is the Alaska I Remember

The last couple of years, it seems like the weather during our time in SE Alaska has been extraordinarily nice bordering on record setting. The recent stretch of weather during our travel from Ketchikan to Sitka has restored my sense of normalcy to the world.

2019-Cruise-060xAfter we arrived in Ketchikan on June 4, we decided to do a partial loop around Revillagigedo Island and hit some of our favorite anchorages along the way. We departed on June 6 and stayed at Yes Bay, Fitzgibbon Cove, Walker Cove and Klu Bay before returning to Ketchikan on June 10. We did some crabbing and prawning along the way, enough for some meals with more to go in the freezer for later.

We raced back to Ketchikan a day earlier than planned to beat a strong couple of fronts passing over SE Alaska (I read the dreaded word “atmospheric river” in one of the forecast discussions put out by the Juneau weather office). We were glad the slip we were assigned in the Bar Harbor marina was next to a purse seiner fishing boat whose heft protected us from 25 knot winds blowing across the channel,Tongass Narrows, running in front of the harbor. We were In the section that only had a floating breakwater for protection and not “real” rock breakwater barrier.

Devils Elbow RouteAfter about 36 hours of stiff winds, they relented and we were able to start the next leg of our trip towards Sitka on June 12. To cut a day or so off the journey, we took the most direct route through Keku Strait/Rocky Pass. Our first night out of Ketchikan was in bight outside of Red Bay on the north side of Prince of Wales Island and the second night was at an anchorage about a mile WNW of Honey Dew Cove on Kuiu Island bordering Frederick Sound.

2019-Cruise-066xOur destination for June 14 was Gut Bay but Marcia wanted to fish the mid-day bite in Chatham Strait along the east shore of Baranof Island. Her instincts were good and after about an hour of trolling, she hooked and landed a beautiful 25-pound Chinook salmon. To say she was overjoyed was an understatement.

The next day, we tried to see if “lightning would strike the same place” but to no avail and we moved on to lovely Takatz Bay. 2019-Cruise-079bwShortly after we anchored, rain began in earnest. The way the clouds threaded their way through trees and past ridges was reminiscent of our time in Misty Fiords during rain.

Fortunately, the heavy rains were not accompanied by high winds and Chatham and Peril Straits were not uncomfortable when we headed to Douglas Bay in Hoonah Sound. The next day, June 17, we ran 2019-Cruise-063xCanoe Pass next to Sergius Narrows, fished the north end of Kruzof Island outside of Kalinin Bay then headed to the cove outside the entrance to DeGroff Bay for the night (and more rain).

On June 18th, the winds and waves in Sitka Sound convinced us that fishing Viskari Rocks was not a good idea, so we took the protected water route through Sitka Harbor and the islands to the SW over to Biorka Island where we again fished unsuccessfully. We anchored the night in Samsing Harbor just a few miles south of Sitka.

Despite the leisurely start that morning, we were tied off in Sitka by 10 AM.  We’ll spend a couple of nights here before heading out on our slow journey to Juneau…

Back in Alaska

After our return from England on May 2, we quickly turned our attention to getting ready for our cruise (the ninth, Yikes!) to Alaska.  Once again, an astounding amount of stuff found its way from grocery shelves to our lockers.

A predawn start on May 15 allowed us to maximize the benefit of currents and arrive at Reid Harbor on Stuart Island mid-afternoon.  The next day we went to Port Sidney where we cleared customs, ran an errand in Victoria and did our Canadian provisioning of fruits and vegetables we aren’t permitted to bring across the border.

2019-Cruise-040 one-halfxThe next day we motored over to Tod Inlet then dinghied to the boater’s entrance for Butchart Gardens.  They were lovely as always and we enjoyed a high tea meal at the restaurant (they should provide more clotted cream with the scones, IMHO).  It was early enough that we decided to pull anchor and spend the night at Montague Harbor to better position ourselves for slack water at Dodd Narrows the next day.

2019-Cruise-042xThe trip up to Port McNeill went smoothly with generally smooth waters (Lasquiti Island, Gowlland Harbour and Port Harvey).  While at Port McNeill, we took part of a day to visit the U’mista Museum in Alert Bay.

Rather than stay in Port McNeill while waiting for suitable weather to round Cape Caution, we headed into the Broughtons for a couple of nights (Waddington and Turnbull) then positioned in Blunden Harbor.  Conditions were pretty good around Cape Caution and we ended up not putting the stabilizers in the water (but the poles were out and the stabilizers were ready to be dropped overboard).

Unlike in past years, we decided to try our luck with fishing in BC on the way up rather than race through.  We did pretty well with prawns in Fish Egg Inlet but struck out with salmon fishing in Hakai Pass.  After three night’s in the Fitz Hugh Sound area (Joe’s Bay, Lewall Inlet and Pruth Bay) we decided to keep heading north.  Fishing attempts were made in Laredo Channel and Otter Channel but no luck.

2019-Cruise-055xThe next area we tried was in Chatham Sound west of Prince Rupert.  On the final troll through the area and minutes before we were going to call it quits, Marcia felt the tug on the pole and reeled in a lovely chinook salmon.  Within a few minutes of bringing the fish on board, a Canadian Fisheries patrol boat came by and inspected our fishing licenses.  I think they were impressed with the efficiency Marcia presented them with the just caught salmon already recorded.  The winds and seas were calm so we drifted in the channel and rain while Marcia cleaned and fileted the fish.

We tried for a repeat success in the same area the next morning but to no avail.  We headed north and with the permission of the CBP we crossed border to spend the night in Foggy Bay before arriving and officially clearing in Ketchikan the next morning, June 4.

We’re going to do a short trip around Revillagigedo Island (the island on which Ketchikan is located) then return to Ketchikan for a day or so.  After that we’ll start heading towards Sitka.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Our normal process for the Spring is to leave Arizona when it starts getting hot (>80° by my wimpy PNW standards), return to the boat, take care of chores and start north.  We are doing something different this year by squeezing in some foreign travel during April between our return to the boat and summer cruise.

Rather than distract from the cruising nature of the MVAlpenglow blog-site, I’ll be doing posts about our April trip on OldTripsRemembered blog-site.  We return on May 2 then putting our efforts towards readying ourselves and the boat towards a May 15 departure.

Maggie-Cat – In Memoriam

2004-12-003xAt the end of the 2018 cruising season we could see that it was Maggie’s last voyage.  The chronic kidney failure that claimed her sister, Annie, two years earlier was taking its toll on Maggie.  She ate specialized prescription cat food and was medicated with an appetite stimulant, anti-nausea and Calcitriol, but her weight loss continued.

In recent weeks the weight loss increased.  She had lost over 20% of her weight since we arrived in early November.  She became not much more than fur, skin and bones.  Her gait was wobbly and her jumps to laps or chairs uncertain.  Rather than have her suffer any further, we decided today would be her final visit to the veterinary office.

2017-06-190xBoth Maggie and and Annie joined us in 2002, adopted through Purrfect Pals.  Maggie (short Magellan) was always more adventurous than her sister.  She was the kitty who would sneak into any “forbidden” room or area if the opportunity presented.  More than once, we’d search through the house calling her name, getting no response, only to find her tucked quietly in a closed drawer or cabinet than had been opened briefly.

Being an indoor cat, the out of doors, were a particular attraction.  Fortunately, she did not have a strong hunting instinct.  The few times we took her outside, she was content to find a bit of greenery she could munch on.  We grew many containers of cat grass which she thoroughly enjoyed (often to excess based on the number grassy “urps” we’d find afterwards).

2012-09-035xShe was first introduced to boating in 2006 on our first boat.  Since then, she has traveled with us on virtually every boating trip longer than a few days.  While initially fearful of the loud noise of the “monster” in the engine room, later that sound would signal her to head to the pilot house anticipating the lap that would appear for her at the helm chair.

Even on our drives to/from Arizona, she became a good traveler.  While she had a large enclosed “den” in the van, most of the time she rode shotgun style, curled up on the front-seat center console.  She was comfortable enough with car travel to use the litter box while we drove.  Even the motel rooms became an opportunity to find a new hiding spot.

The 2019 cruise will be a quieter and lonelier voyage without our ship’s cats.


Cruise 2018 – Where we went and some numbers

Below is a map of the places we visited on our 2018 cruise. If you click on a mark it will name the location and give some numbers associated with our visit to it.A link to the map that will open in a standalone window is here.This was our eighth cruis…

Port McNeill to Bainbridge Island – The End

2018-Cruise-381xSeveral times during our cruise this season we encountered groups of jet skis. While in Port McNeill, we saw this group come in to refuel.  The similarity between these jet ski groups cruising the Inside Passage to motorcycle groups cruising the highways is striking.

2018-Cruise-383xFrom Port McNeill we headed into the Broughton Archipelago for a few days. We visited Turnbull Cove where we took the2018-Cruise-388x dinghy to the outlet of Roaringhole Rapid, a reversing rapids connecting to Nepah Lagoon.  We then anchored in Greenway Sound and did the hike to Broughton Lake.

Our last night in the Broughtons was at the Lagoon Cove Marina where we again met up with Billie & Mike Henry on Peachy Keen.  Billie is a great Seahawks fan and they invited us to watch the last preseason game of the year with them (they hooked up their dish antenna and got it synced with a satellite).

The transiting of Johnstone Straits was the usual improvisation of piecing together channels to time rapids and avoid the strong afternoon winds that were blowing in Johnstone.  This year we ran Whirlpool Rapids a couple of hours before slack against the ebb current (it was a Neap tide and not too bad) in order to hit Greene Point Rapids at the slack before the flood. We spent the night at Cameleon Harbour then the next day transited the Upper Rapids in Okisollo Channel on the morning slack, lunched in the Octopus Islands and transited Beazley Pass on the afternoon slack.  The night was spent at Rebecca Spit in Drew Harbour.

We had generally excellent conditions in the Strait of Georgia when we ran from Rebecca Spit all the way to Nanoose Harbour.  The southeast winds were picking up as entered Nanoose Harbour and we tucked behind the spit at Fleet Point for some protection against the chop.  Of course the wind clocked 180 degrees and soon we had 15 knot northwest winds sending chop the length of the harbor.

The next day, Labor Day, the northwest winds were still blowing as we left Nanoose Harbour, worked our way through Nanaimo Harbour and hit Dodd Narrows at the slack before the ebb.  We spent a quiet night with several dozen other boats in Montague Harbour.

2018-Cruise-391xThe next morning we made an early crossing of Boundary Pass, cleared US Customs by phone (thanks to our Nexus cards), anchored in Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island and hiked out to Turn Point.

After our night in Prevost Harbor, we headed to Deer Harbor where our yacht club has an outstation at the marina.  We were able to get a space at the dock and spent 4 nights.  We took advantage of the fast Internet to research and order materials to be delivered to our Bainbridge Island mail box for the list of projects we’ve identified to accomplished in the Fall. 

As we departed Deer Harbor on Sunday, 9/9, the weather was clearly changing and we had heavy rain showers while at anchor in Parks Bay on Shaw Island.  We spent the following night in Echo Bay on Sucia where I walked the trails for a couple of hours. 

On Tuesday we headed to Anacortes where we spent a couple of nights.  While there we added fuel, had our furnace serviced and met our friends, Natala and Don Goodman, for dinner.

An early start on Thursday, 9/13, allowed us to get back to our yacht club’s outstation in Eagle Harbor in the late afternoon, completing our summer 2018 cruise.

Miles traveled this leg – 428.2; engine hours – 69.6
Total miles traveled – 3169.5; engine hours – 528.6

In Port McNeill

This will be a short post as I’ve been lazy.  I’ll probably amend this once I get back to the homeport in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island

We arrived yesterday afternoon in Port McNeill after rounding Cape Caution from our anchorage in Frypan Bay on Penrose Island.  While not super rough, we put our stabilizers (i.e., the “fish”) in the water to attenuate the rolling from the waves for the first time in 2 years.  Maggie-cat, bless her heart, did not get sea sick the entire time.

The trip south from Ketchikan was fine.  We stopped in Prince Rupert for a night and at Shearwater for a night.  Otherwise, we had many fine anchorages with generally good weather. 

As we did start to see the effects of the fires in the BC interior.  First it was orange moons and suns, later it was smoke and smoke mixed with thick fog.

Some fish were caught along the way, although not as many as last year.  We did some prawning and added them to the freezer.

We visited a few new (to us, anyway) anchorages, which we can add to options for stops in future years.

Miles traveled this leg – 740.2; engine hours – 141.4 (lots of trolling)
Total miles traveled – 2741.3; engine hours – 459.0

On to Ketchikan – July 16 to August 1

After filling our water tanks and disposing of our trash/recyclables in Bartlett Cove we head east in Icy Strait than south down to Chatham Strait to Pavlof Harbor.  There is a perfect “bear beach” in the anchorage which didn’t disappoint, with two youngster bears (perhaps only recently sent packing by their mother) in the evening and then a sow with two cubs the next morning.

We continued south in Chatham Strait and as we approached Kasnyku Bay we saw lots of whale activity.  Since we had seen so little activity up to this point, we stopped the engine for a short time and drifted while listening to the whale exhalations.  Since whales are mostly below the water (barring the very exciting breaches), often times it is the auditory “viewing” of whales that is most enjoyable.  The sound of exhalations easily carry a mile across the open water on a calm day.  2018-Cruise-291Just outside of Takatz Bay, our anchorage for the night, Marcia put a hook down and we trolled for salmon for an hour before going in.  Lots of salmon jumping but not much biting. 

The next morning, July 18, we continued down to Warm Springs Bay, and fished for halibut outside the entrance.  Marcia lost some bait to a wily fish but nothing to the bait with the hook in it.  We crossed to the east side of Chatham Strait to try fishing at Kingsmill Point but the wind had kicked up at this point and we elected to go in for the night.  The anchorage was a new one to us in Security Bay on Kuiu Island.

Bright and early the next morning, we were out at Kingsmill trolling for salmon on the morning bite.  It was pretty clear that the coho/silver salmon had not started their run yet as a couple of hours of trolling yielded only a feisty pink salmon.  We called it quits and headed over to Gut Bay for the night.

The next morning the plan was to continue the fishing activities but when we popped out into Chatham we changed our plans.  An offshore ridge was forming giving SE Alaska 2018-Cruise-293xmost sunny weather but as the ridge was building, the north winds were starting to build.  Chatham Strait, which runs for 120 miles in a N-S direction (200 miles if you include Lynn Canal with which it connects), offers a perfect channel for the wind to run.  We beat our way north to Red Bluff Bay. Turned out others had the same idea and we ended up in the outer bay rather than at the head.

2018-Cruise-308xThe next morning, July 21, we beat our way across 2018-Cruise-310xChatham Strait to Frederick Sound where the winds were light and the seas calm and worked our way up towards Pybus Bay.  We spent 3 nights in the area during which Marcia caught two nice size halibuts.  We also watched some glorious sunsets and moon rises.  Both the sun 2018-Cruise-313xand moon had an orange cast but we heard nothing about what might have contributed to it.

Before we headed to Petersburg, We checked out a couple of anchorages we had not been to.  The first was Hobart Bay and the second was Cleveland Passage.  On Thursday, July 26, we docked in Petersburg at high slack when the currents are running less strong pass the docks.

After two nights in Petersburg, we caught the afternoon high tide through Wrangell Narrows and spent the night in St John Harbor on Zarembo Island, due south of the 2018-Cruise-326xentrance to Wrangell Narrows. From here we headed first to Thom’s Place and then to Santa Anna Inlet, doing some prawning along the way.

All during the previous week or so, we were having stunningly clear skies, warm temperatures and calm winds.  Most evenings were spent watching the sun go down from the flybridge and, this being Alaska, killing horse flies.  But by this time, the forecasts were hinting of changes.  On July 31, we made for Meyers Chuck (full size version of photo below), at the junction of Ernest Sound and Clarence Strait.


With an early start to catch the southbound ebb tide we arrived in Ketchikan on August 1 and will stay here a few days while some rain and high winds pass through.

Miles traveled this leg – 511.2; engine hours – 88.8
Total miles traveled – 2001.1; engine hours – 317.6

Glacier Bay – July 9-16

We have visited Glacier Bay National Park every time we’ve come to Alaska.  This was our 8th time (not counting the 1-day visit on a cruise ship in 2006) visiting the park and we still enjoy it.  It is a wonderful combination of scenery, wildlife, natural history and solitude that makes every trip worthwhile.

Different from past years was that we chose not to get an advanced notice permit (obtainable 60 days in advance) but rather a short notice permit (48 hours in advance).  That worked well this year on account of all of the disruptions we had to our typical cruise schedule (i.e., late departure and furnace repair).  By being prompt with our application we were able to get the dates July 10-16 for our visit.

We left Juneau on Sunday, July 8 and headed to Excursion Inlet on the north side of Icy Strait. The forecast we for increasing westerly winds and we thought Excursion Inlet better protected than Flynn Cove our usual pre-Glacier Bay anchorage.  When we checked the forecast on the morning of July 9, the forecast for the next day had deteriorated further so we phoned the Park Service and were able to get a 1-day permit to enter the park on July 9. This allowed us to anchor in Bartlett 2017-07-256xCove (the park headquarters) rather than getting beat up in Icy Strait while entering the park on July 10.

2018-Cruise-064xWe ended up spending two nights in Bartlett Cove but took advantage of the time to visit the Huna Tribal House and do the short forest walk around the pond.  The tribal house is just gorgeous inside and we saw a moose with her calf while on the walk.

A2018-Cruise-183xt our N Sandy Cove anchorage we had quite a bear show.  It started with a black bear working the shoreline, followed up with a brown bear sow with two cubs and concluded with a confrontation 2018-Cruise-195xbetween the sow and a male brown bear pursuing her.  All of this transpired a few hundred yards away. The sow chased off the male once but as the sun set, the male resumed his dogged pursuit and the drama was not resolved.

2018-Cruise-269xThe day we went up to the head of Tarr Inlet and glacial ice, we had calm conditions and very little floating ice to deal with.  That gave us the opportunity to anchor in the small bight on the west shore of Tarr Inlet a mile or so south of the Margerie Glacier.  2018-Cruise-284xWe were rewarded with a view of the glacial face overnight (along with periodic rumbles and crashes) and bits of ice floating by.  Fortunately, nothing large floated by to hang up on our anchor chain.

2018-Cruise-135xAt South Marble Island we had the usual assortment of birds and sea lions. Unlike last year, we saw no goats on the cliffs of Gloomy Knob. Also not present in the numbers we’ve seen in the past were humpback whales.  Research indicates that the number of whales in Glacier Bay/Icy Strait have dropped by over 40% from their peak in 2011.  This is distressing news as humpback whales are such a key element to the Alaska experience.

Miles traveled this leg – 230.3; Engine hours – 37.1
Total miles traveled – 1489.9; Engine hours – 228.8