Blog Reader, Blog Reader, Blog Reader, this is vessel Domino with Tammy at the Blog. Weather forcast is for 25-30 kts of wind with 5-6 foot seas so we may be sitting in Petersburg for a day or so waiting for things to calm down a little. I don’t mind 1-4 foot seas but I am not keen on intentionally going into 6 foot or worse waters if it can be prevented.
So perhaps this is a good time to talk a little about Petersburg. As you know most of the exploring that we have done this summer has been on water but when we hit an anchorage or dock I am always glad to stretch my legs and many times the exploring just continues but on land. If we are at anchor then we just drop the dinghy and motor to a nearby shore or beach and talk a little walk or hike. Mitkof Island is an interesting place to explore. If you only had a day in Petersburg you might go away with the wrong impression and you might not even like the place. However, upon closer examination, I have discovered there is more than meets the eye. Mitkoff Highway follows the coast from Petersburg to the southern end of Mitkoff Island and is very scenic. There are trails, boardwalks, salmon streams and various rapids like the Blind River Rapids. There is also a swan observatory and camping seems to be quite big here because there are several nice camp grounds. The fishing is supposed to be spectacular here and when my little brother arrives the fishing is going to be ON! My brother Tom lives in Ohio and fishes the great lakes in his boat. I love going up there to go fishing with him in the summer. The lakes are known for perch and walleye and I love to eat them both! He arrives in two weeks and we are going to get all suited up in our XTRATUF boots and Grunde rain gear and we are going after Salmon and Halibut. I can’t wait. The first peoples in Alaska believe that it is a good sign to dream of the fish that you are going to catch and I have been dreaming BIG! Once you catch it you have to kiss it and thank it and be respectful and kind to the fish that is about to feed you and your family. I can’t wait to see my brother kiss a big halibut! I will definitely get that in pictures. We have booked a trip with Dan on his FV (fishing vessel) Julie Kay. Dan’s website is SecretcoveCharters.com and I am told he is the man that knows these fish!
Petersburg was named for a Norwegian settler by the name of Peter Buschmann. Petersburg is located on Mitkof Island and is relatively protected from the open sea. I think I read that Buschmann settled in Petersburg in 1890. In 1900 he open Icy Straits Packing Company because he had figured out that the glacier ice nearby could be used to pack fish and Petersburg is abundant with fish year round. Today Petersburg is fished commercially for Salmon, Herring, crab, shrimp and of course Halibut.
In the old town there is an alley built on a board walk above the tidal flats called Sing Lee Alley which is where you walk to see the Sons of Norway Hall and the massive memorial statue of a fisherman called Bojer Wikan who was lost at sea and the fences and benches around the statue also celebrate the lives of other Petersburg residence that have been lost. There is a replica wooden ship behind the statue and it is called the Valhalla and this ship is used in the little Norway festival every year. Wish I was going to be here for that!
I am looking through email and text today and there are so many questions so I thought that I would add them to the blog and answer them in one big swoop.
Q: Is it light all day and night this time of year?
A: Yes, We have had to buy black out material and I made covers for the bedroom portals and windows. The sun does appear to set in the evening but then never goes completely down. Twilight lasts pretty much all night. We have seen some magnificent skies with brilliant reds and oranges and blues. I can see how sleeping patterns can get really messed up here.
Q: Do you see whales every day and how close do they come?
A: We don’t see whales everyday but we do see whales most days. It really depends on where are? There are areas that better known for whale viewing and that is typically because there is plenty of food and very deep water. I was surprised that whales do however feed in very close to shore sometimes. It is really not that surprising when you look at the navigational maps of the area and understand that the water can still be a couple of hundred feet that close to shore. I have been reading about the migratory patterns of humpback whales and how marina biologist follow these whales back and forth from here to Hawaii every year and there patterns are consistent and pretty darn predictable. These whales like lumbering giants in the water. They are clearly not afraid of the boat and often come very close. The first few times we were that close to a humpback I admit made me more than a little nervous but the awe and excitement of being so near to these massive creatures just takes you over and you just can’t wait for another one to surface. There have been times when we were just lumbering along ourselves at 6 kts when out of nowhere a massive black spot has surfaced next to the boat and spouted and lingered and then just rolled forward and back down to the deep giving us a last look at his Fluke or the underside of his tail which is generally white. There have been other times when we motored into an area that was just filled with whales, probably feeding in groups. From a safety standpoint, when a whale is within a ¼ mile of the boat we put the boat in neutral and just watch. We have had the pod dive and swim around us for quite a long time and in some cases we have been lucky enough to see a frisky whale breach right in front of the boat. It doesn’t matter how many times I see them breach it is always exciting and I feel just like a kid waiting for the next exciting leap! I have taken thousands of pictures and can’t wait to go through them all. Guess what our Christmas card will look like this year?
Q: How much boating experience did you and Andrew have before you set out on this trip?
A: Well, we both had some boating experience on sail boats and smaller fishing boats. We had chartered sail and power boats for a week at a time. Neither of us had ever dealt with such a large tidal swing or rapid tidal currents. Andrew thinks that GPS makes it less dangerous for a relative novice to explore unfamiliar waters but nothing replaces experience and we are certainly getting that experience this summer. We have the early days in the flotilla to thank for their help and guidance and we are still learning along the way.
Q: Would you do this trip again?
A: A thousand times would not be enough for me so yes! We have only just scratched the surface and I would like about 10 more seasons. I certainly understand why people buy boats and leave them in Alaska for the winter and then just pick up where they left off the next summer.
Q: Couldn’t I take the same trip by boarding a cruise ship and letting some experienced captain stir the boat?
A: The large cruise ships would never be able to go into the some of the interior arms and canals that we have traversed this summer. We have privacy and complete control over our trip. We decide how much time that we spend in each port and anchor. I can fish when I want to! I can crab and shrimp and provide food for our dinner. I can dinghy into little rivers and streams and see some very secluded and beautiful spots. I can have the peace and quiet away from the crowds that I personally have been craving for a decade. Now there is certainly a place for cruise ships. I have been on one with my own family. In fact the cruise to Alaska on Princess Cruise lines is exactly what drove Andrew and I to take this trip. We got a taste and it simple was not enough and for two years the inside passage was calling and we answered the call this summer. Andrew and I also wanted to be challenged. We wanted to rely only on each other, change the oil, work on the engine, fix whatever was broken and chart our own voyage. We are getting plenty of all of that this summer.
Ok time to get back to boat chores. On this last leg the engine reached 1869 hours. We need to fill the water tank, change the oil, file the bolts on the bar for my new Scotty Pot puller! Also time to go spelunking in the lazerette to get the V berth ready for a set of Andrew’s parents, mom Carol and Michael. We pick them up in Juneau and we are both very excited. They have been keeping up with us on the blog and communicating via the satellite pager so they have a pretty good idea what they will experience.
This is Tammy on the vessel Domino signing off for the day and standing by on Channel 16.
- Left Dock/Weighed anchor: Docked for the day in Petersburg
- Weather Conditions: Windy and cloudy
- Navigational Obstacles: Navigating around several groups of loud and happy guys walking rapidly (almost running) to the Hammer and Wikan store (hardware and fishing supply store). Every year this hardware stores sells thousands of dollars of fishing gear and fishing licenses to very excited visiting fisherman from all over the world. This is the place to fish! I will be at the dock tonight catching small 4-8 inch Herrings to use as bait to catch both Halibut and Salmon.
- Wildlife Sighting: Eagles, massive sea lion swimming in between the boat slips eating Herring. Oh, and a lot of wild eyed, excited fisherman dashing for the Hammer and Wikan.
- Slip for the night: $40
- Lessons learned: Don’t get knocked over by an excited fisherman on the way to the hardware store (Wikan). When you arrive spot a local fisherperson and quietly follow them around the store. (They are pretty easy to spot. Look for the guy or gal in their fishing boots and overalls and smell for fish! Follow them around until you see what they are buying for flashers and lure and then buy some of the same! Locals always know what works and it saves you time and testing. If they see you watching then duck for the rain gear and wait it out and pick another local. Fishing lures are pretty personal so people like to keep those kind of secrets!
- Fun Meals underway: I can’t believe I am going to say this but I am tired of cooking and we are eating out!