Monday, September 14, 2015

My Very Own Xtra Tuf Boots! -- 7/30/2015

It is a shopping day in Petersburg!   I get my list – put on a warm cap, Alaska jacket, blinding bright yellow raincoat, mostly dry blue boat shoes and walk the long dock and up the ramp into town.  First stop is the Trading Union store, which houses a grocery store on the first level and awesome clothing, shoes and gifts upstairs.

It is way past time to get our Xtra Tuf boots and we know what they are for.  Rain, puddles.  I have hope today, and try not to think about the many times I have looked at the sizes written on the boxes and seen NO WOMEN sizes, and the smallest MAN’s is a size 5.  Way too big for my foot!

The clerk in the shoe department brings many, many sizes and styles and I finally find one that works.  She suggests the cushion-ey sock like Herb has selected, and it makes the boot mine!  As I walk back to the boat, I find myself still wanting to walk around puddles -- even while wearing my Xtra Tuf rain boots.

Choose:  shoe or boot?

Boots Made for Puddles!
Next on the list are hardware items, and I am puzzled about the laundry aisle.  Starch?  Iron? I think of the store as one catering to boaters, and don't have a blouse on the boat that I would starch.  Also I have no iron along, but I suppose some locals shop here also.

Need Laundry Items?

Lunch is halibut bits and chips at Coastal Cold Storage CafĂ© and Seafood Market, which does not have malt vinegar, but a lady at the next table brings her own bottle and shares with us for the halibut.  How friendly is this?

Coincidentally, I finally post an entry on my blog from when we were here earlier in July, and Stuart comments on Facebook about Petersburg having good pizza.    I should mention at this point how cold, wet, and rainy the weather is outside while I sit in my warm and dry boat, but I do feel Papa Bear’s Pizza parlor calling me.  Last chance – we may leave tomorrow.

So we go.  The cafe is full; no one in Petersburg stays home because of the weather.   Herb orders spicy Italian sausage and I opt for pepperoni (of course) with mushrooms and pineapple.    The clerk tells us it will be 20 – 25 minutes, and we are greeted by Papa Bear himself while we wait.  He tells us he imports the Italian sausage and guarantees Herb will enjoy it.  He gives us a bit of history of Petersburg and his previous work before coming here.  One point makes us laugh – while Kake is a Tlingit village, Petersburg is Norwegian because the Tlingits didn't like the weather here, so traveled farther north to Kake.

Herb tells Papa Bear you can tour several harbors by booking a Petersburg to Petersburg passage on the ferry.  You will see Juneau, Haynes and Skagway.

Papa Bear explains the mural in the dining room, pointing out which bear represents him, his wife, his daughter, and says the one fishing for pizza on the extreme right is the satisfied customer.    Well, that would be Herb and Willie.  I can’t remember when I have had a pizza this delicious.   The 12 inch pies are still hot when we get them back to the boat and I eat a little more than I should, but still have left-overs for tomorrow’s lunch.  I make hot tea in my cheery red strawberry cup, mostly to warm my hands.

Pappa Bear, your team is a winner!

In the mural the black bear on the left is Papa Bear tossing pizza dough, and the bear in the red coat at the right is on a purse seiner drawing in the net that has caught a boatload of pizzas.

Papa Bear
 Willie of Willie's Tug,
    and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
    Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Moving Day and Wet Boots in Petersburg! -- 7/29/2015

In Petersburg today it is laundry day!  I grab my raincoat, the large red laundry basket and look for my black shiny $13.80 rain boots to head up to the laundry room.

Oh, no!  

Who left my boots outside in the cockpit last night with the Bimini curtains open?  I now turn them upside own to drain out the rain water and cram towels inside to soak up as much as I can.

While in the laundry room, we get a call that we need to move Willie's Tug from the hot berthed slip to another available one, because the owner plans to return sooner than planned.  What this means is if no guest moorage space is available in a marina, a transient vessel will be assigned to the slip of a permanent client, who is away for an extended period of time.  

To complicate matters, Herb is in the middle to changing the oil in the boat, and it is fortunate that the owner is giving a few days' notice.

With Willie's Tug's service complete, the Harbormaster comes down to hold the stern line while Herb uses the bow line and together they walk the boat around from one side of the slip to the other, in order to free the 'bow in/starboard side' for the returning owner.

With such a busy day we have comfort food for dinner – ham and wild rice chowder, with a healthful dessert of sliced apple.  Oh, and we run the heat to dry my boots.

Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Whale of a Lifetime! --7/28/2015

Instead of leisurely enjoying my cup of coffee this morning at the City Dock in Kake, I sip while I quickly dress for whatever the day may bring. 

Wise choice!

We cannot believe our eyes when we see Timothy coming down the ramp at 7A! He is  usually  gone by 4A to fish for several hours.  We hurry to the cockpit to visit and he tells us he will not fish today; he is only checking his boat and will spend time with his wife, Margo.  He asks our plans, and Herb tells him we would leave if we could get out of this corner without being pushed by the wind and current against the small boat in front of us.

Timothy says he can hold us off, so he and Herb plan the strategy:  Release the bow line, hold the stern in until Herb can point Willie’s Tug out into the channel.  As I pull in the stern line, we say Goodbye, then I quickly grab my camera for one last photo, but it rebels.  We have only a memory of his kind, smiling face.

Our empty slip (or Timothy's) shows only the bull rail, with skiffs peeking up from across the dock. The small boat at the left of the photo is left unscathed as we cruise away.

More scenes of Kake toward the supermarket and ferry dock.

As predicted, we have 15 knot winds, and seas vary from less than one foot to 2-3 feet. It is a comfortable ride.  Clouds are more defined over the channel and reflect the sun, which is trying to shine hope for us.

Glacier on Baranof Island

We take it on the beam for a few minutes as we turn around Point Macartney, but it is not too rough. Whales are in the distance, but I do not try to photograph, because I am holding on, then seas settle down to one to two feet. Herb chooses this time to shave and put on sunscreen, demonstrating his ability to multi-task.

More whales feed off our port side as we cruise in calmer waters around the northern tip of Kupreanof Island near Pinta Rocks to head south to Petersburg.

Traffic is light this morning, but we now begin to see the fishing boats about.  The gill netter Lady Helen is Herb’s favorite design.


Lucky Star, purse seiner and my favorite design, overtakes us north of Portage Bay.  

Rain begins and AIS shows HSC Chenega going 34.4 knots to Auke Bay, north of Juneau,  will come within 1.9 miles of us in Frederick Sound.  She is barely visible in the rain and haze.

What is….?  Wow!!!   Fluke!!!

I am speechless, frozen in time at this once in a lifetime experience.  I don’t want to take a photo.  I simply want to enjoy this beautiful scene forever.

What did I see? 

Ten feet off the starboard bow at position 1400 a scary thing appeared – and before I can figure out what it is, I see the fluke!  Bigger than life.  So close to us!  Every bit twelve feet wide and its skin shining as he gracefully glides back down into the sea.

Recovering quickly, I grab the camera and run to the cockpit to film more, but he does not delight me with his presence again.  I will never be the same.

Misty Fjord comes close enough to be visible in the haze.

One More Waterfall

Thirty minutes out from Petersburg, I call the Harbormaster, who tells me to stand by while he looks up where he put us last time.  He assigns us Slip 110, across the dock from where we were with Nudibranch July 6.  We come to the end of our cruise today to see some vessels just starting out for fishing.  Zeus looks to be hauling crab traps.

Petersburg, Alaska

We anticipate a bit of current as we approach the slip, but Herb glides in easily without use of thrusters, and the bonus is a lady from a boat nearby stands ready to catch our lines.

It is a good day.

Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Of Eagles and Carcasses-- 7/27/2015

My worst nightmare – or one of them – is seeing a white SUV back down the narrow strip of land that juts into the channel and leads to a board drive above the ramp and boating dock below.  I think it is the Police car that sits behind the Community Center in full view of Willie’s Tug at the City Dock in Kake, AK. 

The weather has gotten really bad with 20 – 25 knot winds and I hope we will not be asked to leave our safe harbor.  Surely not!

With my heart in my throat, I watch a man come down the ramp and Herb opens the helm door to greet him.  He responds, “Hello, I am the harbormaster….and we charge 50 cents a foot for moorage.”


Herb (as he pulls out his wallet):  “Oh, sure.  The literature advertises it as a free public dock, but we will be glad to pay.”

Harbormaster:  “No, if that is the case, no problem, you are fine.  But you may want to move to Portage Bay, a more protected marina.”

Herb:  “Sounds good, but on a day like today, I would not want to get out on the channel.  Besides, we are happy here.  We have been able to visit with Timothy, the halibut fisherman, bought fresh baked bread from his wife, walked all the way to Portage Bay, went to the grocery store which is actually closer to where we are, and went to the Presbyterian Church yesterday.  All this is better done from the City Dock.”     
Les, the harbormaster, insists we stay without a fee and a long visit ensues.  He answers my burning question about the exposed water pipes.  They will be buried seven or eight feet before winter. 

With every passing moment, I like Kake more and more, and would like to do an internship here during the winter.

Timothy has good luck fishing again today, catching both halibut and salmon.
Many eagles come in this morning to feast on the trimmings he left early after processing the fish on the dock.  The young ones, who are distinguished by their spotted feathers, vie for the choice pieces for breakfast, and it is eye opening to see the adults – Mom and Pop – take food away from their children.  Every bird for itself!

What about Me?

Traffic on The Rocky Pass channel out our port side window has been quiet, but today we see Double Hull, our first tug and tow in many days.   

Soon Swell comes in, and we recall having visited with her passengers and crew last week in Baranof Warm Springs.  

Herb hails her and switches to VHF Zero Nine, telling the Captain what we know about Kake and recommending places to go.  Herb helps hold their dinghy to our dock, as the passengers alight for their walk-about.  We hope they get to the top of the hill to see the tallest totem pole in “The Southeast.”

Guests from M/V Swell

Herb Assists

The updated marine forecast confirms tomorrow would be a day for us to cast off and continue our cruise south.  We hear the same wind speed of 15 knots and three foot seas, rain likely.  Fifteen knots is no problem, three foot seas are not a problem, and we don’t mind the rain with the windshield wipers.  The issue we see is getting off the dock with the wind blowing us against it.

Willie’s Tug bounced less last night, so we assume the winds are calmer, but when we look at the fast current and the US flag standing straight out, we think conditions are not better.  But in reality, if we were on the seas with chop no greater than this, we were riding smoothly along.  We go through our checklist to be ready to go if we are confident about getting off the dock.

As we enjoy lunch of halibut and salmon with more of Margo’s yeast bread, I wonder if I have ever had tastier food!!!  And I think about the local people who have oceans full of wonderful fish, just for the taking.

Boaters from Portage Bay marina farther down toward Rocky Pass dinghy to our dock with a package to mail, but find the Post Office closed after 4:30P.   Seeing our boat rocking, one of them tells us about the protection in the marina where they are moored.  They offer to release our lines to help us get away, but our thinking is that if we left here, it would be to head to Petersburg, and at this late hour, we would not want to set out. Herb thanks them and asks if they would be coming back to the post office in the morning.  The man says it would probably be late afternoon.

A few fishermen come to bail the water out of their skiffs tied around the float plane dock.

We will check the WX again in the morning and make a decision.  It surely would be nice to have someone by chance come down the dock early tomorrow to help hold us off the dock if the winds are still up…..

When we came to Kake Tuesday, the priest passing by said we would see more eagles than any other place.  I believe him, and call this Eagle Paradise.

Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Monday, July 27, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

All You can Eat Halibut -- 7/26/2015

After that long walk yesterday, we 'sleep in' this morning in Kake, AK, until the late hour of 6A.  Looking out the window we see  Matanuska, Alaska State Ferry, heading north after her exchange of passengers, and also note that our halibut fisherman has left on his daily run.

The WX prediction for Frederick Sound still shows strong winds, so we stay in Kake another day.  Seas are fairly calm here, but all will change in the afternoon.

On our walk around town Friday we had seen a Presbyterian Church, so I Google it for the service times.  11A gives us plenty of time for breakfast, eagle watching, and checking eMail (so good to have Internet here).   On the road to church I am so overcome with excitement to see the red chiminea on the deck of a building, and especially enjoy the dog, who is sleeping at the edge of his yard.  In the words of our friend Ray, the dog decides we are worth opening only one eye to watch us as we walked by him.

Life is Good!

A 15 minute walk gets us to the street corner where we can see the church – uh, oh, there are no cars here.  Is it possible they are a seasonal church?  But wait!  It is summer and this is the mild season.  Then we see the children on the swings and the church door open.  Good.  So maybe everyone walks to church.

Near the entry is a small wooden model of a house or church with a slit in the roof for offerings.   We find a seat and are soon greeted by many local people and the Pastor, Joey Chang, originally from South Korea and a five year resident of Kake.   We realize we had actually met him Friday, and learn the group with the children dressed in white shirts and ties is from the church, and had been to Grave Island for a burial.  From a window of our boat we can see Grave Island, part of the Mosquito Islands.

The drums and projection screen near the piano make us  feel right at home, being reminiscent of our days at St. Michael and All Angels, Longview TX.

Near the end of the service a man takes the offering box to Pastor, who says a blessing.  I think this is a discreet way to make monetary gifts private.
After the service we are invited to the Parish Hall for lunch, and when I hear ‘halibut,’ I unilaterally accept!  What a feast.  Halibut sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, watermelon, and cookies.   We go back for seconds.

We are joined at lunch by Pastor Joey and a couple from Pennsylvania, who work with the organization, Friends of Southeast Alaska (FOSEA).  Dr. Harvey B and daughter Sarah visit churches and town leaders in various villages to assess the needs and later put together teams to help.  Some of the things they help with are construction, education, and largely providing support for the local leaders.

The church’s website notes a Mission Statement in addressing the problem in Kake with substance abuse and family violence, and Herb and I actually saw evidence of that on the first night we were here at City Dock.   We haven’t seen it since then, so maybe progress is being made.

In some cases FOSEA members are able to assist in the work itself.  Years ago Dr. Harvey's team painted the kitchen in the Parish House, Kake being the first place they visited when they began working with FOSEA.  Of interest is that Dr. Harvey is in his third career, the first being an English teacher, then a Presbyterian Priest, and now member of FOSEA.  He laughingly says he is handing his work off to Sarah, the new generation.

I am so fascinated with the First Nation art and find an opportunity to take a photo.  Pastor Joey takes my camera and says he will capture Herb and me with the art.

When we return to Willie’s Tug after lunch, our new friend, the halibut fisherman, comes back from fishing and shows us many, many beautiful salmon.  Herb visits with him quite a while and learns that he has lived here all his life and his wife, Margo, is the lady who bakes the fresh bread.  We tell him we are sorry to have missed her yesterday, but our walk was longer than we expected.  We will be here today and place our order, if she bakes again.

Herb asks Timothy, as we learn his name, if people dock their boats where Willie’s Tug is, as we see the inside of the dock is filled with skiffs.  He replies that is is a public dock.  “No,” Herb says, “I am asking if anyone regularly has this space on a daily basis, as we see some skiffs are rafted.”  Timothy laughs and says, “I do.”

He always rafts to a boat that never goes out, and we had also noticed his boat is larger than the others here and he would have an easier time and shorter walk up the dock each day with his fish if he had his regular place. We all laugh at this and Herb tells him we will give the space back on Tuesday.  We have made a friend.


Margo brings a warm loaf of fresh baked yeast bread in late afternoon, and dinner tonight is pan sauteed fresh salmon and hot buttered bread.  Dessert is this wonderful bread drizzled with wild honey given to us last year by friend, Nancy.  Can’t get any better!

Do we go or do we stay?  Tonight there is a bit of chop and wind to bounce us.

Our reason for the cruise to Alaska is to get to Sitka and immerse ourselves in the history, beginning with the Russians.  Fate led us to Kake, and we are having a rich experience learning about this Tlingit village and the wonderful, friendly, hard working people we meet.  I still have many questions – like what about the intricate network of exposed water pipes I see – will they be covered in winter?

First Nation Art in the Parish Hall
Willie of Willie's Tug, 
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Sunday, July 26, 2015