Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beached Whale at Helm Bay -- 7/2/2015

I wake at 5:30A to hear barely audible sounds coming from the marine forecast channel.  Herb has been up since 5 listening to the repeated broadcasts and updates.

Do we go or do we stay?

Seas are quite benign in Helm Cove, but our concern is Clarence Strait, where we need to travel for several miles en route to Meyers Chuck.  The Strait runs from Dixon Entrance north joining with Behm Canal (where we would enter it) and would be considered big water and long fetch at that point.  Prediction today is 20 knot winds and 4 foot seas, decreasing to 10 knots and diminishing to 2 foot late in the afternoon.  Friday looks better.

So we stay!

A few drops of rain fall softly under partly sunny skies; the temp is 59.

The neighbor men and a boy come back from fishing about 6A and move their small boats across the dock farther back, knowing the tide will drop another five feet by 8A.  One confirms that where we are on the outside of the dock will be good and we will still have eight feet under the Ranger Tugs.  He points out that the shoal drops off precipitously under us and we could conceivable walk off the dock to land – in my $13.88 boots.  Amazing!

A stream continues to run into the bay, as the beach quickly drains with the falling tide.

Neighbor's Boat Moves to Deeper Water

Low Tide

Herb and Ray take crab traps out to fish for our next meal.  

Ray joins us in the dinghy this morning to explore and search for the beached whale the local neighbor tells us about.  He thinks there could be some bears there.  We do find the whale on a grassy shelf on the north shore of Helm Bay.  Our clue is a small metal fast boat cruising slowly, and we think she knows something, so we follow her.

View from Dinghy

Scenery as we cruise toward the site of the whale.

Yes!  We see what is left of the humpback.  Herb gets us to some mossy rocks and Ray takes the painter to secure the dinghy.  While he examines the mammal, we tend the dinghy and visit with the metal boat pilot, who has let his family off to see the whale.  He is from Ketchikan and tells us the whale was discovered mid-March and has since deteriorated quite a bit.  We can still see a gray mound and a huge jawbone.

When Ray comes back, he tells of seeing bear tracks around the whale, and shows us a sample of a whale’s 'tooth' – a baleen.  It looks like a piece of weathered palm frond.
  1. Baleen is a filter-feeder system inside the mouths of baleen whales. The baleen system works when a whale opens its mouth underwater and the whale takes in water. The whale then pushes the water out, and animals such as krill are filtered by the baleen and remain as food source for the whale.
  2. Image result for baleen
  3. (Whale mouth image courtesy of Google)
Here begin the photos of the whale from our view, still in the dinghy.

Children take a look and hold their noses....

We await Rays return and watch our painter he took to secure us down below. Oh, how agile he is!  This is a clue why I did not go up to the shelf!  Don't need to fall.

He shares part of what he has seen and brings us a baleen.

We are back to Willie’s Tug by late morning and have a tasty lunch of steaming chili and fresh baked cornbread.  Naps follow.

A large pleasure craft, Black Ice, cruises in near us and a man dinghies over to inquire about anchoring.  Herb suggests he use his depth finder to chart a circle of possible anchoring spots.  He thanks Herb for the information and says he will report to the Captain.  They move across the channel to a larger area, as they are 80 ft long and expect two more similar boats to join them.  Later we see all three, as well as a red Nordic Tug.

When the neighbor fishermen return, they give Herb some halibut for crab bait.  Life is good.

Higher Tide

Herb decides to put the fresh halibut in his crab trap for better luck and moves it to a deeper part of the stream that runs through Helm Bay.  For his effort he gets two awesome crabs on the late afternoon trip to check the traps.  When they return, I ask Ray how he got sea grass across his boot.  He replies that he sat in the bow of Herb’s dinghy as they scooted across the 2 ft seas.

Tonight’s dinner is fresh crab again.  Life is still good.

Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Thursday, July 2, 2015

We do not see a bear!


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