Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14, 2011 Underway Stepens Passage

July 14, 2011
Underway Stephens Passage
Position @ 4PM: 57°17.9451N 133°32.9061W

Started our days adventure by weighing anchor in Thomas Bay in the southern bight of Ruth Island near 56°58.7944N 132°49.0800W. Headed out of Thomas Bay on a North Easterly course up Fredrick Sound. Rounding Cape Fanshaw we encountered a number of salmon purse seiner's working near the cape. I'd been planning on some halibut fishing behind Whitney Island in Fanshaw Bay so passed fairly near the seiner and close enough to watch them purse the net and to see salmon jump inside the cork line. Once near the proposed fishing area I set out to produce a detailed bathometric chart of the seafloor. I drove a grid pattern in the area near the narrows with the island using the sparse depth sounds from the chart as a rough guide. After a few passes I'd developed a good idea of where I wanted to drop the anchor and try my luck for Halibut. In about 80' of water I dropped a line baited with fresh herring chunks, put the rod in the holder and set back to watch for some action. Within minutes the rod tip was trembling and making some slight dips. I let it ride and continued to watch. After 10 minutes of nibbling I went out and gave the pole a good yank and set the hook in my first Halibut. As promised the Halibut is a powerful fish and despite the heavy duty pole the fish took some line off the reel with a big tug or two. I began to lift the rod tip slowly and reel down quickly as the dip dropped. Before long the fish began to become a faint image in the murky waters below. Kathy, outfitted with the fishing belt, took over the reeling as I grabbed a gaff in preparation for landing the fish. All went smooth with the gaff and then I carried the fish up to our trampoline where we dispatched him with a stab to the brain then cut the gills to bleed him out and then pithed the spinal column to quiet any lingering nerve action. Pulling out our new fish scale the fish weighed in at 25 lbs. The perfect size for a great eating halibut, but ironical smaller than our last couple of King Salmon. Ironic because the Halibut can easily grow to several hundred pounds making a mere 25 pounds a small fish. Filleting the fish and skinning the fillets was accomplished quickly with team work of one person holding on to the slippery fish and the other wielding the knife. After cleaning up a bit we began cutting the fish to fit in pint jars and fired up the pressure canner. We almost fit half the fillets into 8 jars. Taking careful notes we are experimenting with a variety of seasonings from a pinch of salt to olive oil to our newest venture which is liquid hickory smoke.

Continuing our Journey north up Stephens passage we continually observed humpback whales while up ahead I spotted a huge log. As we approached the 'log' it seemed to morph into a sleeping whale. We coasted closer as the beast blew, discharging a briny breath of steamy air in confirmation that it was in fact a whale and not a log. Then a bit of the barnacle clad head appeared and with a forceful rush the whale woke from it's slumber. Amidst swirling and churning waters the whale disappeared briefly then rocketed out of the water abeam of LightSpeed and in a huge breach crashed down with an enormous chest shaking thud. To say we were shocked surprised, thrilled and scared witless would just begin to describe the moment. We had an adrenaline rush coursing through our veins amidst thoughts of being crushed by the behemoth sinking the boat and us clinging to the wreckage while icy waters quickly ebbed away our remaining life. Lucky us the whale didn't decide to land on the boat and instead repeatedly breached crashing down at least five more times. Wow! Lucky us we caught the whole episode in HD 720p video. In the future we'll steer more clear of logs on the off chance they are sleeping whales.

Pulling into the tiny bay of Entrance Island in Hobart Bay we found our friends Mike and Linda of s/v 'Dream Weaver' tied to the dock. With a very low minus tide early the next morning Mike generously offered a raft to s/v Dream Weaver for the night to avoid the shoal waters on the open side of the floating dock. Also tied to the dock was m/v 'Ben-My-Chree' with Bob and Lois hailing from Whitehourse Yukon as well as a visiting Kiwi friend Tracy. Before long happy hour was underway aboard m/v 'Ben-My-Chree' as the group was inturn regaled with stories from far flung adventures long into the night. Rising early we pulled off the dock at 5AM to avoid he low tides and headed north toward the many glacier clad fjords that beckoned.

We stopped briefly to catch one of the innumerable salmon jumping around the boat and put aboard a 4lb pink salmon for canning. Before long we began to spot our first icebergs. Turning up Endicot Arm huge bergs became much more prevalent and small bergy bits required a sharp lookout to avoid. Advective fog formed on the icy waters and visibility was nil as the grey fog blanketed the opaque cloudy glacial waters. The eye strain of looking for bergs was giving me a headache so we stopped for a few hours hoping the fog would burn off. After a nice nap I woke to found clear sailing towards 'Ford's Terror' inlet where we hoped to spend the night. Timing the tidal currents correctly is paramount to making the passage through 'Ford's Terror'. We arrived right on time and entered the narrows on the end of the flood current. The glacier carved fjords are not charted thus this absolutely magnificent fjord is infrequently visited and one can mostly enjoy the striking pristine beauty in solitude. We decided on an anchorage in the East Arm of 'Ford's Terror' where we had the pleasure of sharing the anchorage with George and Teri of s/v 'Viking' hailing from Portland, Oregon. After a dinghy trip up the creek at the head of the inlet we invited George and Teri over for happy hour and the sharing of the many adventures of our respective journeys.

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