Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sanak Island to Nagai Island, Shumagin group, Alaska

August 21, 2014

Sanak Island was a favorite. Salmon Bay lived up to it's name and was truly awe inspiring to see tens of thousands of salmon nosed up to the beach ready to head up the creek to the lake and streams beyond. At high tide we stood at the edge of the shallow creek as hundreds of fish attempted to navigate the shallow rivulets of water crossing the threshold of the beach. We witnessed many die trying as they skittered out of water and flopped helplessly as gulls swooped into peck out their eyes. We gave many a helping nudge back into the water, but nature was at work selecting only the fittest. The unlucky and weak perished and they lined the beach by the thousands, the sheer scale was incredible.

Seeking new adventures we moved to Northeast harbor and spent the afternoon fishing there on two occasions, the first involved some good catching with a bag limit of 5 beautiful bright silver Sockeye and the second only 2 as we timed the tide wrong and the falling water dispersed the fish throughout the bay. Pavlof Harbor was tricky, but the abandoned village was a treat to explore with half a dozen buildings, some with the most unlikely contents like a tractor parked in a kitchen and the wall boarded back up so outwardly nothing was askew.

One building was in very good condition and appeared to be used as a hunting outpost, it was stocked with literarily enough food to survive a winter in style, but the food was all expired in 2009. Writing on the wall indicated only occasionally used by passing fishermen and a 2007 Sanak Island clean up crew. The most recent date on any thing was 2013, but most things were from 2004.

Nearby maybe 20 test / monitoring wells had recently been installed and we suspect oil/gas or mineral exploitation is forth coming.

Sanak Peak beckoned and we made an exploratory trek about 1/3 of the way up in search of blueberries of which we found none. The slopes are either bare rock or a thick spongy carpet of moss that is so thick and springy that it defies explanation. Wild horses and cows roam the island and we deduce that a ranching operation failed around 2004 leaving the heard to fend for itself. Piles of both cattle and horse bones were frequently found at the base of cliffs near the shore, maybe the cows were trying to reach that tasty morsel just a little to close to the edge?

We set crab and prawn traps in several areas, but disappointedly pulled zeros. Late in the evenings we've been watching Deadliest Catch, but any tidbits of knowledge gained have yet to produce results. I even baited my pot with freshly caught Cod and after 6 hours all that remained was a skeleton, so whatever is down there is hungry. We've tried setting gear in 44 to 57 fathoms, but still no luck.

We over-nighted from Sanak last night and after a 2 hour session of beach combing at a cove called Saddler's Mistake, Nagai Island we're moving on to Falmouth Harbor for the night. We're happy to report that the beaches on Nagi are much cleaner than any others we've encountered, very little fishing net or floats, lots of 5 gallon oil buckets and only a few cans and plastic bottles and only one glass Saki bottle in several miles of beach.

That's it for now.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sanak Island

August 20, 2014

Pavlof Harbor, Sanak Island, Alaska

Anchor: 54 27.301 N 162 41.806 W (very shallow and rocky bottom)

We're having a banner time at Sanak Island, great fishing, beautiful scenery and super awesome weather. We spent 2 nights at Salmon Bay and it's aptly named with the bay full of many thousands of Pinks and for the very lucky cast a few Sockeye. Watching hundreds and hundreds of salmon swim up the small ankle deep creek was truly a priceless experience, best viewing is at high tide. Seals and sea lions were feasting on the salmon and one sea lion swam into shallow waters until he could stand on his front flippers and then just waited for the perfect salmon to snatch as hundreds of unwitting salmon swam around him. We tried to catch some Dungeness crab, but no luck as we only have a hair crab pot and it has an open top that the acrobatic Dungeness can easily escape from.

Yesterday, we explored Canton Harbor, entering via Devils Pass and leaving via Lida Anchorage then made our way to Northeast Harbor.
Northeast Harbor on a calm clear day was a striking scene with aptly named Eagle rock as it's centerpiece. We found fish jumping and fishing superb for bright silver Sockeye. It was hard to leave Northeast harbor after only a few hours, but with so many coves to explore we pushed on toward Pavlof Harbor.

Entering Pavlof requires calm settled weather and a little luck as the chart is cryptic at best. Isolated dangerous underwater rocks line the starboard side and rocky boulders lurk laying wait for the unwitting in extensive shoals on the port side. Once inside it's bliss if not for the extremely shallow rocky bottom. We spent 15 minutes trying to get the anchor to hook to anything, again a calm weather anchorage with very poor holding. On the plus side there is an abandoned village to explore and the harbor is conveniently located within a mile of the islands namesake mountain, Sanak Peak. We're hoping we might find blueberries on the ramparts of Sanak Peak and that's the plan for this morning, then we'll pull our crab pot and then maybe back to Northeast Harbor to catch another Sockeye for dinner.

Our weather the past few days has been Alaska's finest, warm (60F), clear skies with calm winds and flat seas.

That's it for now.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Salmon Bay, Sanka Island.

August 18, 2014

Salmon Bay, Sanka Island

54 23.51 N 162 36.46 W

Fish, crab, clear blue skies and amazingly tall volcanoes finally visible. Having too much fun to write more at the moment.

That's it for now.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dutch Harbor to Sanak Island

August 15-16-17, 2014

August 15
The morning was grey, cold and blustery, so we stayed aboard getting precious little accomplished due to slow internet. Eventually, the skies cleared a bit and we decided to go berry picking. Most land on Unalaska island is owned by the Ounalaska Corporation (Native) and off limits without a $6 p/p day use permit, with no car and no idea where to pick blueberries, we opted for the small city park next to boat harbor, it lacked the elusive blueberry, but we did pick 9 cups of beautifully ripe Salmon berries. We made our first ever attempt at jam, ours seemed a little runny when we were filling the jars and was not 'sheeting off the spoon' as our directions indicated it should, not enough reduction? not enough sugar? a big mystery. We used 2/3 cup sugar for each cup of Salmon berries, mixed everything in a pot and brought it to a boil, then transferred to pint jars and pressure canned them for 8 minutes at 5 pounds. Any and all advice welcome.

August 16
Dave was ready to spend the winter in Dutch, lots of job options and even some unsolicited offers. Everyone we met was really friendly and super positive about finding good jobs, earning a bit of income is now a priority as we wrap up 9 years of spending. Winter in the Aleutian's seems the pinnacle of adventure to Dave, but the Admiral said 'No way! Too cold! We're not staying, don't even think about it'. And so it was that LightSpeed sailed out of Dutch Harbor around noon battling 20 knot head winds. It's 10 miles to get out of Unalaska Bay and we were happy to round Cape Kaleta and ride the ebb tide through Akutan Pass. Akutan Pass is definitely one that requires proper timing due to very strong currents. The early morning ebb hit a whopping 8 knots followed by a flood of nearly 7 knots and then the tame 4 knot ebb that propelled LightSpeed nicely with a 20+ knot NW tailwind. Perfect.

Our initial idea for the day was an overnighter to Sanka Island about 160nm distant. However, as the day progressed we looked at a few options to break up the trip. After-all it was Dave's Birthday and would be nice to relax at anchor for the night.

Chimney Cove on Avatanak Island is spectacularly beautiful with 2 huge rock pinnacles and an inviting sand beach, but swing room would be tight and south swell was making into the cove with vigor.

Avatanak Bight a bit further to the east on Avatanak Island looked ok initially, but the valley at the head of the bay was shepherding in the occasional gust of wind to 30 knots when zonal wind was only 20. In strong NW it would appear Avatanak would be wracked with williwaws. We didn't expect stronger winds, but random 30 knot gusts would not be conducive to a sound nights sleep.

Derbin Bay on Tigalda Island was our last chance to anchor and it turned out to be acceptable if you don't mind southerly ground swell making into the bay and attendant crashing of huge waves against the nearby rocks. The motion was a gentle on LightSpeed with her 24' beam, but that same swell would make a miserable night on a mono. Wind protection was good for NW with no gusts, so we dropped the hook in about 25 feet just off the black sand beach in the NW corner of Derbin Bay 54 04.92'N 165 08.33' W.

August 17
The alarm sounded at an early 5AM, nearly 3 hours before sunrise here in the Aleutians. Rising early was the trade-off for catching some decent sleep in Derbin Bay vs going overnight. Derbin is wide open to the south, so navigating out in the dark was safe and easy with the assistance of radar and some moonlight to guide the way. Our planned destination of Sanka Island looks really good on the chart with a number of interesting harbors with names like Salmon Bay which provide positive indications that many fresh salmon dinners in our future.

As I write we're 15 miles out of Derbin and struggling against opposing tidal currents. We need a 6 knot average speed to make the 100nm to Sanka Island with enough daylight to navigate the extensive off lying shoals and make safe harbor. At the moment we're motor sailing and using BOTH engines in light winds, pushing 8.2 knots through the water, but only making 6 knot good. It's working, but we're burning lots of fuel. When Kathy wakes up we'll probably launch our biggest spinnaker and shut down the engines. Sunset tonight is 10:47PM and at our current speed of 6 knots we should arrive around 8PM.

That's it for now.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Random Aleutian Pictures

 Cape Kigun, Atka Island.  Rough landing between pinnacles of rock and Pacific swell..
 Wreck of f/v City of Seattle at Cape Kigun, Atka Island, Aleutian Islands Alaska.
 Looking through a broken pilot house window into the shipwrecked City of Seattle crabber.
 Looking seaward through fog toward LightSpeed anchored just offshore of ship wreck.
 Bechevin Bay Bomber is just beyond berm at the head of Bechevin Bay.

Graffiti on inside skin of plane.
Panoramic looking seaward form head of Bechevin bay to the NE.
 Reindeer on Atka Island were prolific.  Usually, we see a dozen or more in every bay on Atka.
 Fishing along the north coast of Atka was more catching than fishing.
 Dave trying to outrace a sly fox for a recently landed fish.
 Fox, Fish, Dave.
 Curious fox picking up scraps.
  Curious fox picking up more fish scraps

  Male Sockeye Salmon
 Half a Sockeye salmon deboned and ready to dry with a brown sugar and salt dry marinade.
Cove on east side of Island point.
Continuation of panoramic more to south and east.  Note: This calm bay had 50+ knots of wind gusts, maybe near 60+ knots when there was a S or SW wind blowing 35-40.
 Cabin on isthmus of Island point, Atka Island had initials and dates from 1978 and 1980 outside the door.
Cabin overrun with wild flowers
 Nice rack.
 LightSpeed in side arm bay of Deep bay, Atka Island.
 Double click on this photo and zoom in to see all the fish fins, lots of Sockeye here.
 Fish, rod and Kathy lounging in the distance.
 Nice Sockeye Salmon

 City of Seattle Shipwreck on Atka Island

Dave building a crab pot from scavenged scraps.

Female Sockeye Salmon

Yep, this was pretty good visibility.  Only rain, not thick fog.
Kathy sporting some warm clothes, boots and scarves thanks to Dave B.
Cooper delviering some Halibut from his super dinghy.
LightSpeed on the dock at Dutch Harbor.
Crab thanks to Helen.
Kathy ready for all you can eat crab.
Kathy casting for salmon in Martin Harbor, Atka.
Dave fishing in Side Arm Bay, Atka Island