After a week of gloomy Ketchikan rain, Thursday May 1st came sunny, clear and warm with temperatures in the high 60’s. We jumped on the bus to downtown, stopped at Murry Pacific, and loaded up on all the fishing stuff we neglected to buy during our last Murray Pacific trip. Love that place and by now they probably love to see us coming in the door, too. Friday morning was overcast but we didn’t have rain as we left the Bar Harbor marina for the Misty Fjords. Unspoken until later on, both David and I had our own separate worries about finding the correct fuel dock; we needed to turn our old L16 batteries for recycling. They were sitting in the cockpit—weighing over 120lbs each and we were happy to be rid of them.
We motored down the still unpronounceable Revillagigedo Channel. Visibility was good but we still had the radar on. Near the entrance to Behm Canal I was thrilled to learn that our new B&G 4G radar can indeed see very small things on the water. In this case, it was the minefield of floating logs we were picking up very clearly. We picked our way through and turned left to enter Behm Canal. A brief time later, we were moored nicely inside Alava Cove. Yup, you read it: moored. Not anchored. The forest service has placed mooring buoys and even floating docks in a variety of locations throughout Alaska including several that we took advantage of as we visited Misty Fjords National Monument. It was a huge and new looking mooring ball so we were very happy to tie up to it rather than anchor in the deep waters of the cove.
We dropped our crab pot and prawn pot both baited with tuna cat food (one local method for catching things) and waited. A short 3 hour soak showed us: nothing. Down the pots went for an overnight soak. It was spotty raining in the afternoon and evening but the rains cleared as big winds swept in from the east and pushed all the clouds away. With a lot of wind noise, I was up at 5:30 am peering out at the mooring, our boat track, and the lee shore behind us. The sun had been up for at least an hour—my they have long, long days here in Alaska. David rowed out and snagged the line for the prawn pot and brought it to me on deck. I brought up the prawn pot, thinking “this is too easy, not a whole lot in there.” No prawns, just a 10” little fishy—looks like a herring—wandering around the pot. Well, at least that gave us some live bait for next time. I pulled in the crab pot next. No crab but a lone sunflower sea star that I returned to the water.
Moored in Alava Cove
David getting ready to set a crab pot
The view from Alava Cove
It was a beautiful sunny day but fairly windy. The forecast was for 20 to 30 knot winds all day coming from the direction we wished to travel in—but the forecast also was for a calm and rain-free remainder of the week so we decided to sit at anchor and enjoy the scenery and wildlife we might see. On the previous evening, David had photographed a brown mink-like animal running around on shore and pointed the same out to me later in the day. Two brown mink? This morning we saw a deer walking on the rocks down to the waterfront behind the boat and another deer just staring at us from the shoreline to the north of us. Several eagles were seen including two soaring together in formation that was quite spectacular. I saw a pair of birds that I haven’t been able to positively identify but they really look like Eider. The usual mix of seagulls enjoyed the shoreline and there’s a little brown and yellow bird that keeps flying out to the boat to say hello and then flits away again.
On Saturday, we took in our pots and figured we try our luck in another anchorage on another day. Late in the day, right before dark, an old wooden fishing boat dropped anchor near us and put down crab pots in a couple places including the spot we’d taken in our crab pot from. Too bad we left early Sunday morning so we don’t know what they managed to catch if anything.
On Sunday, we were underway by 6:30 heading to Smeaton Bay, one of three majestic fjords along the Behm Canal. We weren’t disappointed, we saw breath taking views one after another as we motored up the fjord and into one of the upper arms. Unfortunately, we were against tidal currents and headwinds the whole way up. As we turned around, we were able to put up the foresail and took advantage of the winds to help us along motorsailing downwind at 8 knots for a bit and then enjoying a beam reach for a bit longer. As we exited Smeeton though, the winds were back to on our nose—coming directly down the Behm Canal. We motorsailed for a bit but dropped the sail near our anchorage for Sunday night: a quiet little channel, Shoalwater Pass, tucked between the shore and Winstanley Island. Oh—and again our anchorage had a mooring ball available. The moorings at many of the locations in the Misty Fjords are set up for people who have reserved a US Forest Service cabin. And there on the shore was a nice little cabin but no occupant.
As soon as we had the boat tied to the mooring, David was off setting the crab pot at about 60 ft depth and prawn pot at close to 200 ft depth. We used the bait fish along with catfood for a fishy-smelling bait, yum. David also fished with a little chunk of our bait fish and had nibbles within minutes of dropping a line in the water. Nibbles that took our bait but were crafty enough to avoid the hook. Durn.
Just as we were settling in to our nice solitude, along came a nice little 24′ aluminum fishing boat. He’d reserved the cabin for several days. We figured we’d be off the mooring and anchored in the deep little bay. Instead, he immediately, offered to raft up so we could spend the night on the mooring rather than anchor. He was planning on sight-seeing and fishing with an early start so we’d be able to sort-out the raft up in the morning. From him, we learned that the US Forest Service stocks the cabins with wood for the fireplace or wood burning stoves each of the cabins have. He lived in Wyoming—or was it Montana? I forget—and had been trailering his boat to Southeast Alaska for several years to enjoy the fishing here. We got out the charts and he pointed out his favorite sights in the Misty Fjords as well as good fishing, crabbing, or prawning locations he’d experienced.
After he left to see the cabin, David went out to check the pots. A crab! Yea! We’d caught something we’re supposed to catch. Barely regulation size at 6.5” we could keep it. We crossed fingers that we’d have both prawns and crabs in the morning. We had a really peaceful night and David pulled the pots at 6:00 am Monday morning. Three more crabs, none of regulation size so we couldn’t keep them. No prawns. I learned, from cooking our single crab the night before, that my huge canner/stockpot which barely fits on the Taylors stove could probably only handle three or four of these big crabs at a time. Not that it looked like we were in danger of catching too many at once anyway.
A too-small crab gets to go free
On Monday, it was another bright sunny day. We visited Rudyerd Bay, another of the three big fjords. It was narrower and twistier than Smeaton and had numerous waterfalls, awesome granite cliffs, and lots of great scenery. The arm called Punchbowl Cove is very popular with the tourists who do flyovers of the Misty Fjords. We saw several seaplanes while there—about one every two hours. Punchbowl Cove has yet another of the US Forest Service moorings, so even though it was early in the day, after touring the fjord, we picked up the mooring, set the pots, and David went exploring a trail along a nearby creek which leads to a lake, Punchbowl Lake, high above the fjord. He took numerous photos of his trip and I’ll just say I’m glad to view the photos rather than climb up that cliff that can in no way be described as a trail. We had yesterday’s crab for lunch in a crab salad and overall we felt like the Misty Fjords were treating us very nicely.
On the way to Rudyerd Bay, there is an impressive spire of an island in the middle of the Behm Canal. It is called the New Eddystone Rock.
Beryl helping navigate around Eddystone Rock
Rudyard is a very lovely fjord with many waterfalls and grand scenes
Tuesday, again David pulled the crab pot and prawn pot at 6 am and we were underway very quickly. Getting off the mooring takes a few minutes compared to hauling anchor which typically takes us 30-45 minutes. Oh, back to the pots. No crab but we got our first prawn haul! 17 prawns, 14 of which were quite big. So it appears that Punchbowl Cove is a good place for spot prawns. These prawns are very tasty–a little more like lobster than regular shrimp. Here’s a link to information about them.
See the white spots on the prawn? There are six on this one, but most have four spots.
All cooked up, our first batch of spot prawns
Spot Prawns and pasta shells
Pulling the crab pot
The Misty Fjords have wisps of misty clouds even on a sunny day. The early morning in Rudyerd Bay is spectacular.
Walker was yet another awesome fjord. Rockier than the previous two and with huge waterfalls going from the top of a mountain all the way, circuitously, to the water where we were, far below. Even trying hard, you couldn’t even get the entire waterfall in one photo. By this point, both David and I were beginning to become seriously overwhelmed with the scenery. Stunning view after stunning view to behold. Our trip was becoming a blur of grand proportions.
Beryl is often very interactive while we’re underway. In the two pictures below, I’m holding Beryl. In the first, she’s being all sorts of sweet and purring as I hold her and look out the charthouse door at David. Happy cat, happy Brenda. In the second photo, I’m steering the boat through a very narrow passage in upper Walker Cove. The charthouse door is open so I can see all instruments and chartplotter while steering from the outside helm. I’m only at idle so the engine is queit and thus, Beryl has come outside to look at everything. I don’t want to lose track of her on the deck since she doesn’t have her lifevest on–only her harness. So I hold her. She is actually struggling to get down and I’m looking really angry in the photo. Weird time for David to take a picture. David has also accidentally put the camera on some sort of random artistic mode so for the rest of the day, our photos are “interesting” colors–washed out, B&W, contrasty, etc.
Not so Happy Pair
Majestic Walker Cove
There is yet another US Forest Service mooring in this fjord, but we decided to continue onwards up the Behm Canal to either Fitzgibbon Cove or Burroughs Bay. Although many people love to anchor in Fitzgibbons, I really wanted to see the two rivers, The Unuk and the Klahini that empty, side by side, into the end of Burroughs Bay. We’d heard there was a mooring at the mouth of the Klahini so we figured we’d pick it up if it existed. Otherwise, we’d backtrack to anchor in Fitzgibbon instead. Out of Walker Bay, up the Behm Canal and into Burroughs Bay we went. I cooked the prawns along the way. We trolled a line but with no live bait and going over 7 kts we joked that the only thing we were likely to catch was something too big for our rod and reel. As we got closer to the head of the Burroughs Bay, I thought we’d troll at 3 or so knots for the last bit, but as I brought back the engine power to simply idle, we still scooted along at 5 knots. The currents were definitely with us on this leg.
When we pick up a mooring ball, usually I manage the helm while David scrambles around on the bowsprit with the boat hook and a special clip and shackle for hooking onto the mooring eye. I’m not an especially good scrambler but I’m usually good getting us to the right spot. This mooring was especially difficult for me to line up with and moderate the power to not overshoot. The fickle currents may have had something to do with it. Further, I’d ventured too close to the mud bar between the two river mouths and seen depths of only 8 ft before approaching the mooring from a different direction. So I was a little spooked to get too close to the bar again and that was influencing my efforts.
After we were hooked into the mooring, as Mahdee swung over towards the bar, we had about 15 ft under the keel. That was sufficient to keep us off the mud during the next low tide we’d see in the night, but the following day’s low tide would have us grounded if we didn’t depart as planned in the early morning. The mooring was nowhere close to its indicated location on the charts and we could see logs and deadheads up the river in that charted location. The US Forest Service must have relocated the mooring due to the mudflat extending further down into Burroughs Bay. We wondered how many more seasons it would be before they’d have to relocate it again.
The location was spectacular, in a different way than the fjords were. This, with two wide open river valleys beckoning the viewer to a canoe trip up river or a hike along the shores. The site is known to be full of wildlife from bears catching salmon to moose and trumpeter swans. The reference atlas we have for the area, lent to us by our friend, Steve, states that the area between the Unuk and Klahini Rivers is the site of an old native settlement. The fish found in the vicinity of the two rivers include trout (Dolly Varden, rainbow, steelhead, and cutthroad) and salmon (silver, pink, and chum). We enjoyed the scenery but didn’t glimpse the broad assortment of wildlife. Our goal of leaving before we were literally high-and-dry precluded a longer stay than overnight. If we had stayed another day perhaps the story would be different.
I fished for little while from the mooring but with no luck
Early Wednesday morning we were up and off the mooring by 6:30 headed out of the Misty Fjords to continue around the Revillagigedo Island to ultimately end up back at Ketchikan without ever retracing our path. It was a lovely day, again, with plentiful sunshine and warmth. I had downloaded the text weather forecast files on the HF radio on Monday night. Therein we learned that we could expect Wednesday to be our very last sunny day. It wasn’t looking very sunny but rather overcast with the sun trying to break through in the morning.
After the Behm Narrows, which really weren’t so narrow, we briefly visited a little bay on the west end of Bell Island where up to about 10 years ago there existed a resort with hot springs feeding mineral baths and a pool. The place looked pretty run-down and we wondered about its demise. We then cut down through Hassler Pass, Gedney Pass, and Shrimp Bay towards our destination of the US Forest Service mooring on Klu Bay. There were two spectacular waterfalls on Shrimp Bay and a nice creek, Klum Creek, that we visited via dingy while moored in Klu Bay. Unlike the previous night’s mooring, this one was a piece of cake to pick up.
We were settled in in a matter of minutes and had the entire afternoon to enjoy explorations; I baited the crab and prawn pots and David rowed them out to appropriate depths. He took the prawn pot over to the deeper waters of Shrimp Bay to drop it in about 300 ft but left the crab pot between us and the Klum Creek in less than 100 ft of water.
We visited the Klum Creek and took pictures of the shoreline reveal during the low tide.
Baiting the crab pot with prawn heads
One of the waterfalls in the “double” waterfall off Shrimp Bay.
I baked a double batch of chocolate chip cookies as a treat. While pulling out ingredients, I found a smashed Trader Joes bag of pita chips hiding behind my spice bin on the pantry shelf and took that as a sign that I should make a batch of hummus with the starting-to-look-rusty can of chickpeas I’d found in the bilge storage area a couple weeks ago. My hummus turned out too salty but otherwise OK. I complained to David about this since I hadn’t added salt—so how could it be? He asked me if I’d rinsed the peas with salt water? Duh…yes. That explained the salt.
David and Beryl waiting for the cookies and hummus to be done.
The propagation curves for getting our SSB HF radio downloads show that we’re most likely to have success in the middle of the night. I got up around 3 am to download the weather information and Beryl “helped” me by bringing a clothespin to play with and then when that didn’t get the response she wanted, she brought her smallest mouse toy—we call it her “Milly Mouse” because it was a gift from our friend Milly this summer—and proceeded to play with it between me and the radio cabinet, impeding progress on my weather downloads until I managed to grab Milly Mouse and toss it for a game of fetch.
Thursday morning was another 6:30 am start. This time overcast and sprinkling rain as David gathered the crab pot to find a tiny Dungeness crab on one side of the trap and a giant sunflower sea star (this looks like a starfish with about 15 legs) on the other side. The crab looked like “get me away from that thing before it eats me!” and since the crab was way too small for us to keep, both catch went free.
We dropped off the mooring and headed over to the twin waterfalls where David had set out the prawn pot the night before. In the misty rain, David pulled up the trap and—bonanza! We had 42 spot prawns in there. Yum. As soon as we had the dingy tied in midships and the prawns in a bucket, I boiled some water and quickly cooked them up so we could have them later in the day. Spot Prawns are extremely perishable; as soon as they die, there is an enzyme produced in the head that quickly turns the meat to mush. Thus, we cook them asap so we don’t have to worry about the enzyme of death so to speak.
A bucket of spot prawns
Cooked but not peeled yet
Ginger Prawns over rice for dinner.
The remainder of the day was cloudy but we didn’t get rained on while we motored on to the next anchorage we wished to visit: Naha Bay. This one was a real treat—the US Forest Service has provided visiting boaters with a float (that’s what they call docks up here) and a ramp up to a lengthy forest pathway. The path is very pretty. The path is not well maintained anymore, thanks to Federal budget cuts, but it is still a very nice place to visit. We learned there is a local group of boaters who do maintain the path as best they can. We appreciate that.
Cloudy trip day
The float at Naha Bay. This float is 48′ long, there’s another long one for seaplanes and a third area that a smaller boat under about 25 ft could tie up.
The well-kept part of the path at Naha
After climbing up the hill on the path for a ways, you get to the height of Mahdee’s foremast and can see it through the trees just off the path.
We heard and saw the Trumpeter Swans at both Naha Bay and Klu Bay, but only managed one photo–David got this one, a silhouette of the fly over, on the trail near the boat.
It wasn’t all that deep so we didn’t bother putting out the prawn trap. We did put out the crab pot but only caught tiny crab so nothing to put in the pot on the trip back to Ketchikan Friday morning.
As we arrived back in Ketchikan, it was sunny and warm; we also were in the middle of seaplanes taking off and landing on the waterfront adjacent the Bar Harbor Marina. Sort of strange to have to look all around on the water and then up in the air to make sure you’re out of everyone’s way.
We spent a lazy weekend in Ketchikan doing little projects and ignoring all the bigger ones. By Tuesday May 13th the weather turned towards the more normal overcast and rain of southeast Alaska. We did a round-about on the bus system in the pouring rain—going up to the recreation center to swim, sauna, and shower and then to the A&P grocery store to check out the prices and pick up things we hadn’t found in the local Safeway. Rain, rain, and more rain. I’m wearing my dayglow orange slicker and I don’t even care that I look like a cross between a road sign and the Great Pumpkin because it’s keeping me dry.
The A&P grocery name isn’t part of the chain by that name. Here it stands for the full name of Alaskan and Proud. They had my favorite crispbread, too! So I bought another two packages and thanked my lucky stars for all the Norwegians who must live up here and make a good demand for it. We have had sticker shock at the prices of most foods. It’s sort of at the point that if we find something at a “normal” looking price in the lower 48, we’ll just automatically buy that item and think we got a good deal here. When David and I were first married, I baked our bread because it was such a better deal for me to do so. It has been years since I’ve baked our bread simply because I’ve been able to buy good bread easily and reasonably priced. Not so, here. I suppose I’ll be baking bread again soon. The good whole grain loafs here are between $5 and $8 per loaf and I just can’t see paying that. Similarly, English muffins were $3.79 for 8 whereas I’m used to paying between $0.99 and $2.29 for 6 to 12. I’ll have to dig out the English muffin recipe, too. The only bread near normal pricing are bagels. Strange. We also are baking all our own cookies, cakes, nutbreads and that sort of thing since the baked goods in general seem quite steep.
On expenses—we did expect things to be more costly here so we were pleased to see diesel at less than California prices and most marine items at only a slight premium. Slip rates are a good deal though. The food items vary—prepackaged things being spendy but raw ingredients not too bad at all. This trip, we are spending beyond the expected budget but food and consumables are only a very minor part of that. The $1500 we spent on four new L16 batteries for the house bank was really an unexpected expense that makes me say “ouch!” and is what takes us out of budget. Since we expect to enjoy much of the summer at anchor or moored at free spots, we’ll likely have everything cost-wise sort of even out sometime later in the summer.
That’s it for now. Today is Thursday, May 15th, it’s sunny and bright outside. David just caught a ride with a local boater to pick up a couple spare parts at the Cummins dealer. The weather is forecast to be sunny for a few more days so we may take this as our Que to continue on our trip north to Glacier Bay via Petersburg and a few other points between.