Cruising Southeast Alaska - 2009

By Linda Lewis


10. Royal Sounder - Sitka to Tenakee Springs


This is a partial look at Eliason Harbor (formerly New Thomsen) in Sitka.

We stayed in Sitka for six days. The nice, long stopover gave me the opportunity to catch up on the cruise photo/emails that inundated all of your email inboxes (apologies again). The time here also gave us a nice chance to just kick back.

The harbormaster came by the boat one day while Dave was out fishing. He said the slip owner was going to be coming back rather suddenly and could we move the boat – like right now if possible. I said sure, if he would be kind enough to slip my lines and then pick them off the rails at the newly assigned slip. As I brought the boat in to the new spot, he said: “Did your husband teach you to do that, or did you teach him?” Now that’s what I call a politically astute harbormaster.

There are lots of things to see in Sitka. This little guy wanted a starfish he could see clinging to the dock. Tall Dave reached down and plucked it off the piling for him. Aiden was delighted.

I am fascinated by all of the fishing-boat activity in the harbor and out on the water. Most of us don’t realize how labor-intensive the fishing industry is. These young men are repairing a fishing net on a purse seiner.

It’s very fine work. The ‘master’ repairer has a tool that he weaves through the net to “sew” it back together. It looks like a pair of wooden tongs with fiber wrapped around it.

The skiffs the purse seiners use are incredibly robust boats.

Even their propulsion-steering gear is massive. Very protected; very powerful. The round part you see in the photo (around the propellor) is called a "cort nozzle"; the whole ring pivots to direct the prop wash and steer the boat, which is driven by a 300 hp engine. Notice that there is no rudder! So... there is nothing to foul the nets. (That prop is four feet in diameter!)

When the sun finally began to show itself again, we were ready to move on. We had seen nothing but fog and rain for weeks and weeks. It is strange how cruisers seem to move in windows of weather. Many people we met were raving about the great sunny cruising they were having this year. Ours had been nothing but overcast, rain, and fog for days on end. That’s the way it goes up here. You just never know.

Here’s the prize that we saw in the sunshine as we headed north out of Sitka.

We really regretted that our geologist guest did not see Mt. Edgecumbe in the flesh. Here it is, Mike. Sorry that we didn’t have any sun when you were onboard to see it for yourself.

We had hoped to go up the outside of Chichagof Island this year, but the weather said “no!” Thirty knot winds and nine foot seas are certainly a no-go for most cruisers. So we made our way back through Sergius Narrows and east into Peril Strait.

Anchoring in Deep Bay, then in Sitkoh Bay (at the east end of Peril Strait) we found lots of deep water and some slippery holding. When we brought the anchor up in Sitkoh Bay, this newspaper kelp-laden anchor explained the difficult set. Just as I took this picture, a little crab leaped out of the kelp and went splashing into the water. Time to bail out! You can just see the splash on the left side.

When we set the crab pot, we hope for crabs. One year I brought up a (very small) halibut in the crab trap. This year, Dave brought up an 18-armed starfish.

But, of course, this is what the crab pot is really for. This fellow had been out there for a long time.

Terrific eating after the work of cleaning, picking and cooking is over.

As we proceeded up Chatham Strait, Dave continued to regret the poor mountain viewing Mike had endured during his rainy cruise with us so he took lots of pictures in the sun. Mike, what is this?

Mike had already explained to us that the whole Baranof Island – Chichagof Island land mass (to our west) was moving northward compared to Admiralty Island (to our east). The subduction zone is right in Chatham Strait. This is where the tectonic plates meet, much like the San Andreas fault.

This mountain rises to 3,870 feet from the waterline, two miles inland.

Here is one of the purse seiners working their net in North Chatham Strait.

We pulled in to Tenakee Springs on another sunny day! This is one of our favorite spots in SE AK. Main street is the ONLY street.

This is the kind of home you see.

This one too. Can you read the sign?

In case you can’t, it says: “Never mind the dog, beware of the man.” And above the door? “Let cares cease.”

We like signs.

Here’s the local library.

I was delighted that we were in Tenakee for David’s birthday. There is a nice little bakery here. So… David had a Bakery Birthday Breakfast. It was complete with a cinnamon roll, topped with a candle (supplied by the Bakery).

The final gift of the morning was a black lab that took one look at Dave and raced to the water, clearing signaling: “You may now throw a stick for me.” Dave joyfully complied.

Dog and man were thrilled.

Well, we finally had to close the door on Tenakee. David promises me he will build one like this for me.

Next, we are off to Hoonah.



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