What's in her name?

What's in her name (Salish Aire)?

from her new home the Salish Sea

Aire as in a melody of song.

Salish + Aire = The melody of the Salish Sea.

Salish Sea:
In the late 1700's Captain George Vancouver wandered around the waters of what are now known as British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA. He did the usual 1700's explorer thing and put names he chose on everything he saw. The names stuck and are recognized and used to this day.

New lines were added to Captain Vancouver's charts in 1872 (after a near war with Great Britain over a pig) which made waters on one side of the line Canadian and those on the other side of the line American.

It wasn't until 1988 (officiated in 2009) that someone finally realized that fish and various critters, (to say nothing of the water itself) were never involved in the boundary treaties and really ignored them completely. (This is best illustrated by the problems that Homeland Security has with Canadian Canada Geese and American Canadian Geese - it seems they refuse to carry passports and have been known to poop on the head of any border patrol person who tries to challenge their right to cross the border when and where they choose!) In reality the waters from Olympia to the well up the East side of Vancouver Island are pretty much one ecosystem.

The Coast Salish are the indigenous peoples who live in southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington state along the Salish Sea and share a common linguistic and cultural origin. The Salish Sea is named in honor of the earliest recorded peoples who plied her waters and learned to live in harmony with her.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spring Cruising Begins

There are those that say you should never start a journey of any importance of Friday – much less Friday the 13th but for better or worse that’s what we did.  April 13, 2018 we slipped our moorings in Sitka and headed to Olga Strait.  Our friend Elizabeth stopped by for final hugs on her way to work and our radio pals wished us the best as we reached the limits of the VHF repeater and then the first sight we saw of Sitka back in September when we arrived became the last sight before heading behind the first of many islands.  I made a comment to someone about the “three months” we had spent in Sitka and Clarice quickly corrected that it had been nearer to eight.  Perhaps that says everything about our stay – we had held some trepidation about how long the winter would be in a small Alaskan town and instead the time passed faster than we knew.  So with the sky now being light before we get up at 6 AM and remaining light when we go to bed at 9:30 PM we are eager to continue our adventure.

We had been told that Deep Bay, just past Sturgis Narrows might have Dungeness Crabs in it so after passing through the narrows during the slack tide we turned in for our first night at anchor.  We did find a couple of crabs in our trap after a long walk with Jarvis on the river delta at the head of the bay on low tide.  It was a lovely day with lots of sun but the snow still lingered on the beaches.
Back out on Chatham Strait

One of our few orca sightings

Baranof Island

We had never taken time to visit the Native Village of Angoon.  As we headed across Chatham Strait we were able to reach a local sail boat on the VHF radio who explained that entering the east side of the peninsula that Angoon sits on to reach the village docks was not advised in a displacement boat on an ebb tide as the currents were quite swift and rocks very plentiful. After some discussion we decided to anchor next to the new Alaska State Ferry Dock on the Chatham Strait side of the peninsula behind some small protective islands.  We launched the dingy and carried our bikes to dingy docks conveniently co-located with the ferry landing.  We then rode our bicycles the 2.5 miles to town.  Many of the buildings on the way to town were well kept and fairly new but a fair number of the buildings in the village itself were boarded up and/or in poor shape.  We walked to the historic Russian Orthodox Church that is now boarded up and starting the process of returning to the soil.

Chatham Strait side of the Village of Angoon
Looking from the Russian Orthodox Church back towards the bay side (east side) of Angoon

Looking over the Village of Angoon towards the Russian Orthodox Church. Grave crosses on the hillside and in the forest beyond the church.
One day in Sitka a new skiff arrived at our dock and we invited the young couple who owned it over for dinner.  They explained that they were permanent staff at a fish hatchery on the eastern side of Baranof Island and had come to town for one of their few outings to the “big city”. Their names were Emily and Jon – more about them and young folk like them later.  We decided to take them up on their invitation to visit the hatchery for our next stop.  They showed us around the operation and explained that it is the largest hatcher in North America producing several million salmon a season.  Many of the salmon they release in the bay where they are located but even more are taken by boat or plane to other bodies of fresh water and released.  Some of the lakes where they are released have waterfall outlets that the salmon can’t return back up so they make a one-way trip as smolts down the falls (or in one case, down a water slide) and then go to sea to grow for four or five years.  When they return the plan is that natural predators and human fisherfolk will eventually catch them all. The hatchery is owned by a private not-for-profit company that makes its income by charging the fisherfolk for the hatchery grown fish they catch.  To identify the fish they “bar-code” their otoliths (ear bones) by varying the temperature of the water they are raised in soon after they hatch.  Each hatchery has a specific code that can be interpreted under a microscope and then the number of fish interpolated and the hatcheries paid accordingly.  Apparently the fisherfolk feel they get a good deal and plenty of stock in easy to catch locations and we the consumers have plenty of wild raised salmon to eat.  After a dinner of fresh caught BBQ shrimp tacos we slept soundly at the hatcher dock and then moved on the next day.

On the Hidden Falls fish hatchery dock
Entry to Hidden Falls hatchery

Emily and Jon's house at the hatchery

Hidden Falls hatchery

Our next plan was to spend enough time at Baranof Hot Springs to be able to really enjoy the springs and to explore the area a bit.  On arrival we walked up to the lake that supplies the waterfall which still had a layer of ice over all except the exit stream.  It was really rather beautiful with the surrounding mountains.  We laughed when we learned that row boats and canoes grow on trees (or so it appeared the way the locals stored their craft for the winter).  On our way back down the hill Norman took time to soak in the natural hot springs pools next to the hot spring source of the village’s warm waters.  

Apparently boats grow on trees in Alaska (or their owners only want to carry them up to the lake one time and choose to store them this way over the winter)

Baranof Lake above the hot springs (still mostly ice covered)

Clarice enjoying the sun at Baranof Lake

Family "selfie" at Baranof Lake

Natural hot spring pool next to the river outlet from Baranof Lake

We met a young couple with their one and three year old children that served as this winter’s caretakers for the homeowners association.  They explained that after sailing for years across the open seas they didn’t find staying at a cove with only a very rare visitor to be too much of a challenge.  For lunch and dinner we were invited by the caretakers of the fishing lodge next door.  

The Baranof Hot Springs Potluck breaks up for the night

During the day we launched the kayaks and rode the rising tide into a tidal lagoon.  We decided to leave before the tide changed and learned a lot about paddling against a strong current and using back eddies for rests until we eventually paddled clear of the entrance slot.

Jarvis navigates as we head through the channel into the tidal lagoon

Clarice rides the incoming current into the lagoon

Inside of the tidal lagoon off Warm Springs Bay (Baranof Hot Springs)

Waiting for the current to let up so we can exit the lagoon

Before the evening was out a couple that run deliveries to these scattered outposts with their retired army landing craft pulled in to get out of the weather. Speaking of the weather, after it being sunny and warm for two days we planned to leave the next morning.  We woke to rain and decided caution would suggest listening to the weather forecast.  It seems a nasty cold front is bringing gales for two days and so we decided to sit tight.  When two much larger commercial craft joined us we knew we had made the best choice.

April 20, 2018

Today the weather turned for the better and Lituya left followed shortly by us with both boats headed to Petersburg about 9 – 10 hours away. Lituya is owned and operated by Hillary and Chase who join a number of young couples we have seen who have joined together not only as a couple but also as business partners.  Emily and Jon at the Hidden Falls Hatchery are another such couple.  When we were in Sitka our friends Jacquie and Zack are another such couple who recently purchased a fishing boat, the FV Axel, as their family business.  Hillary and Emily especially stand out as they are both very petite (and Hillary even has the blond hair and blue eyes to carry out the "full ultra-petite look") but after watching Hillary handle the lines on their landing craft I would not suggest asking her to arm wrestle.  The same goes for Emily whose husband proudly tells the story of her bagging her first mountain goat after climbing a trailess mountain requiring crampons and ice-axe and then carrying the 125 pounds of meat down the mountain on her 95 pound body.  The characteristic that all of these young men and women share that stands out to us is their self-confidence – these are “strong women” (and men).  Clarice commented that she has noticed that they are comfortable joining in conversation with folks of any age group.  I once commented that seeing kids from high school on up that appear comfortable with themselves without feeling the need to dress up or make sure their makeup was on just right before leaving the house has been refreshing.  These “kids” are the future of Alaska and they are taking it seriously as demonstrated by Jacquie and Zach’s involvement in the local seafood cooperative and Jacquie’s getting involved in reaching out to get training for the next generation of fisherfolk (we simply saw too many women involved in the trade to think “fishermen” is the correct term anymore). 

Hillary and Chase in front of their landing craft Lituya

Jacquie and Max on the family fishing boat Axel (https://www.alaskagoldbrand.com/2014/09/18/family-friendly-seafood/ ) 

Zack and Max on the family fishing boat Axel. (https://www.alaskagoldbrand.com/2014/09/18/family-friendly-seafood/ ) 

April 26, 2018

After a fair weather run to Petersburg we watched heavy rain for 3 days. We didn’t exactly sit as there were indoor places to visit and stores to check out but it was not what we had hoped for as Petersburg is a lovely little Scandinavian village at the north end of Wrangell Narrows.  We had made a special effort to go there as we had nice memories of the place from visiting for the Nordhavn rally in 2015 and wanted to get a chance to check out favorite sites and to see new ones.  We did visit the local Episcopal Church on Sunday morning with its tiny congregation. We immediately recognized Heidi from a discussion with her the day before about some luggage we need to get repaired but I kept feeling that I should know her from something else.  We finally put it together that she was one of the primary hosts for all-things-Norwegian during the Nordhavn rally (providing meals, leading dances and dancers, etc).  It was good to get a chance to enjoy her and the other folks company.

Finally the weather broke on Wednesday and we planned to leave fairly early but we still had not had a chance to check out the south end of Mitkof Island.  I was walking Jarvis when Chase from Lituya drove by and stopped to say hi.  Later in the morning he took Clarice and I for the tour we had been hoping for. Mitkof Island was well worth the effort and along the road we saw our first black bear (rather than Alaskan Brown Bears that are common on Baranof Island), a cow moose walking in the road and a couple of dear.  (Since leaving Sitka we have seen our first pod of Orca, Dahl Porpoises playing in our bow wake, geese flying north in huge Vs, and mountain goat since our trip began.)

We are currently heading out of Tracy Arm. Tracy Arm is a bit of a gem well known to folks in SE Alaska but not well known elsewhere as it is not a national park or monument.  It IS an incredible fiord that has two tidewater glaciers at the far end.  When we visited in 2000 we followed the advice of locals and took time to go into Tracy Arm on our way to Juneau and have always considered the side trip to be one of the highlights of the trip.  We were a bit concerned as there were low clouds and rain when we pulled anchor this morning but the clouds rose and rain stopped and the “WOW” factor began as we travelled up the fiord.  The chart shows water over 1000 ft deep only yards away from 1000 ft tall cliffs and higher mountain tops on both sides of a channel so narrow that when we were here in 2000 a cruise ship had to radio and ask us to take the inside of one curve as he could barely make the corner.  This is where we saw two tiny dots on the cliffs that turned out to be a pair of mountain goats and twice we watched dramatic ice waterfalls come down the cliffs.  The South Sawyer Glacier was pretty impressive but we were limited in how close we could get as the channel in front of it had a solid layer of ice for some distance out.  Our memory was that the North Sawyer Glacier could be seen from the main channel when visited 17 years ago but this time all we could see was a steep walled curving channel.  On our way back out we turned into the channel and passed over a bar that was located where we remember the glaciers snout to be in 2000.  We continued on for another 1.5 miles, past the point where the glacier was charted to end on our 2015 charts and came to the snout; it was well worth the trip.  The sun was trying to break through and the ice bergs were spread out enough that we could get as close as we wanted to the intense blue ice.  The canyon walls themselves were quite dramatic as well having only recently been exposed after being scraped by the ice. In the end we agreed that Tracy Arm is in many ways much more dramatic than the much more storied Glacier Bay National Park.

Tracy Arm North Sawyer Glacier closeup

Tracy Arm North Sawyer Glacier

Tracy Arm mountain goats
May 2, 2018

We visited Juneau for several days (a bit longer than we had planned due to foul weather and looking for a lost piece of mail). We rented a care with 213000 miles on it (that sounded like a logging truck until it warmed up) and made runs to several stores for provisions and other supplies.  On April 29th we drove to the south end of town (AKA: Cruiseshipville) and noted that it was still pretty vacant except for a few establishments setting up their wares and doing employee training.  On April 30th we visited again when the first cruise passengers of the year were disembarking.  We can’t understand how every cruise port can support several blocks of jewelry stores but they do.  I walked into several stores and looked at watches and was immediately accosted by at least three salivating salespeople per store eager to practice their newly memorized scripts about how wonderful their brand of watch was.  It was fun to be in a “big city” for a few days but even better to move on.

Today our plan was to return to an anchorage that holds very fond memories from our trip in 2000. We first had to find the entrance and since GPS coordinates were just finding their way into guide books and weren’t always accurate it was a bit of a challenge.  We remember going through a “J” shaped narrow channel against a fairly strong current to get into a totally enclosed bay.  There were hundreds of salmon jumping all around us.  Since we couldn’t figure out how to catch any a commercial fishing boat tossed us two fish out of sympathy. Clarice had made a note on our chart, based on her guide book research, to only enter on a high slack tide.  We arrived early (at the now correctly charted entrance) and looked at the current through the binoculars as we motored past a couple of times.  Our final decision was that a 60,000 pound boat with a top speed of 9.5 knots just doesn’t maneuver like a very light 25 ft boat with a top speed of 18 knots and that we would need to either wait for full slack or it would not be prudent to try entering. Instead we travelled a bit further north to a well protected bay where we can enter or exit on any tide. 

Since we have been here we went ashore in the dingy and enjoyed the beach (especially Jarvis) and checked out some old logging equipment abandoned from days gone by.  Later I took the dingy for a fast ride around the bay and once again was glad we had purchased the newer, lighter, and bigger boat before we left Everett. It was fun to zip along and then when a small creek or flock of birds caught my eye to slow down and take a closer look.  One group of white “rocks” also caught my eye and I couldn’t tell from the water if they were covered with guano (but why would the birds only choose to poop on one set of rocks??), or a grounded iceberg, or???.  I finally pulled ashore and walked over to discover that there was a natural outcropping of white and gray marble that had been smoothed by the water to look just like melting icebergs. Its these little discoveries that break up the times of boredom that make this adventure worth doing.

May 13, 2018

After our night at anchor described in the last entry we moved on to the town of Haines.  Getting into the marina was a bit of a challenge as the wind was blowing at about 15 knots and wanted to push Salish Aire’s bow anywhere but into the assigned slip.  After about five tries and with calm support of my deck crew and the harbormaster we got her settled in and tied to the dock without hitting anything or anyone.  The wind was just the warning of what was to come with 20 knots steady and 25 knot gusts the next couple of days.  We finally got a break in the weather on Sunday May 6th and headed up the final short distance to Skagway. 

Haines held fond memories for us from our visit in 2000 as it was one of the few towns in SE Alaska that have not sold their souls to the cruise ship companies.  For this trip we had planned to spend some time touring on our bicycles but the wind and rain made that idea not sound entirely fun so instead we hired a local tour guide who gave us a generous guided ride around town in his van (it was good practice for him as well with the tourist season just about to ramp up).  We learned that there is a Chilkoot River and a Chilkat River with Haines on a peninsula between the outflows of both. The Chilkoot River is fairly short and small to the north of town.  The Chilkat River is interesting in that it carries so much sediment that it’s delta extends outward at a rather fast pace.  The river and the mountains around it can be seen as stand-ins for the Tiaya River and Chilkoot Pass for the Disney movie White Fang. (The original movie set was moved to the Haines fairgrounds where it stands today making a viewing of the movie mandatory while we were there to see if we could pick out the landmarks and buildings.)

Clarice lived with Nancy Bayer while she was in nursing school in Seattle.  Nancy is a native of the Juneau-Douglas area and now lives in Fairbanks and remains a very good friend.  For years she has talked with “sparkles in her eyes” and written with “glitter jumping off the page” about her family’s cabin in Atlin British Columbia.  I have always wanted to see this place of wonder after hearing and reading about it for 40+ years so we rented a car in Skagway and drove up over White Pass into British Columbia Canada then swung north into Yukon Territory Canada and back south into British Columbia and finally arrived at Atlin town on Atlin Lake where we were greeted by Nancy’s sister Susie and her husband Jerry.  It was one of the shortest 150 mile drives I have ever done because the weather was perfect (we both ended up with sunburns) and the scenery so spectacular.  Atlin was the sight of a “gold rush after the gold rush” and continues to produce a lot of the yellow metal even today.  As the stampeders to Dawson discovered that all of the claims had been staked on the Klondike River they heard about a new strike in Atlin and headed south.  Today the active claims move mountains of gravel with heavy machinery but are reported to be finding enough gold to make it well worth their time. Atlin Lake itself is simply incredible to see and the town was fun with its long gold rush history.

Road to Atlin - White Pass

Road to Atlin - White Pass

Road to Atlin - White Pass

Road to Atlin - wild flowers

Road to Atlin - 2 Moose (one is in the brush and barely visible)

Clarice and Susie explore downtown Atlin

The view from main street in Atlin

Atlin Lake from Atlin

Gold claim posts (likely they represent the corner of 3 active claims)

Original miners' cabin and lake boat abandoned in Atlin

Another bucket list item for me (Norman) has been to ride the narrow gauge White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  The railroad was built in a short 26 month time span (can you imagine even getting permits in 26 months nowadays) up over White Pass and made the Chilkoot Pass and White Pass trails no longer necessary.  The track width was designed and built at 3 ft (rather than the standard 4 ft 8 inches) to save cost and very importantly to allow the trains to turn sharper corners that were blasted out of the sheer cliffs.  Looking at the track today I kept expecting to see a Disneyland train show up rather than full sized engines and railcars (one of the railroad employees told me that they don’t find the trains any more top heavy despite the narrower wheelbase).  Unlike many gold rush era railroads the company made money, and continues to make money, first moving stampeders and their supplies, then road building supplies for the Alaska Highway along with military supplies in WWII, and finally now is strictly a very busy tourist railroad.  They pull most of the trains with legacy diesel engines but also have two steam engines (currently getting refurbished) that most summers run the route and until 6 years ago pushed the working steam powered snow blower over the pass.

The beginning of the fabled Chilkoot Trail to the gold fields of the Klondike

The Chilkoot Trail follows this valley up to the Chilkoot Pass over the mountains in the distance.

White Pass and Yukon Railroad taking us up into the clouds

The WP&YR cars are kept cozy with oil stoves.

Exiting one of the two tunnels on the way to White Pass

This bridge is no longer in use but considered to be an engineering marvel (it is now bypassed by a shorter bridge and tunnel)

The border of the USA and Canada at White Pass

Looking back down the valley to Skagway

Final bridge over the Skagway River on our way back down to town.

We enjoyed hiking the hills around Skagway as well as visiting the historic buildings and seeing the start of the famous Chilkoot Trail but we keep asking how much jewelry can the cruise ship passengers buy? The clerks in the seasonal tourist focused stores really need to learn that pouncing on every potential customer can lead a lot of us to avoid walking in the door. After staying in Skagway for a week (primarily due to more high winds) we jumped at a short weather window to start moving south today with the goal of getting out of the Lynn Canal wind funnel while there is a half-day lull forecast.

The plan is to get to Juneau sometime this week and pick up our final supplies, fuel, and crew member before meeting Dale and Glenda Findlay on Nordhavn 43 Serenity in Hoonah next Sunday in preparation to cross the Gulf of Alaska together.

May 15,2018

Finally: Enjoy some humpback whale photos we took as we sailed into Juneau.