Seiners and Whales (But Not at the Same Time)

We stopped back in Sitka for a few days – who can pass up the chance to go out to dinner after cooking Every. Single. Day?  The lazy sea otter that seems to be at home in the harbor was still hanging around, sleeping near our boat.  He eventually cracked one eye open to look around, but quickly resumed his afternoon nap.

The harbor was busy with purse seine boats coming and going, and it’s so interesting to see these fishing boats with their big pile of net on the stern and their seine skiff perched on top.As I described in an earlier post, the seine skiff is used to pull the long net out and then around to encircle the salmon.  It’s a powerful boat – all engine with no muffler.  When the end of the net has been brought back to the big boat and they start to haul in the net using that big power block on the boom, the seine skiff pulls on the opposite side of the big boat to help stabilize it, and to keep it in position – so the boat pulls the net rather than getting pulled to the net.  These commercial fishing boats are serious business investments, with a brand new seine skiff (the small boat) costing as much as $250K.  The best fishermen take good care of their boats and gear, and these complex machines are always interesting to see.On the other hand, not everyone takes good care of their boats.  This inflatable boat has been in the harbor for years, and apparently no one seems to care.  The grass sprouting wasn’t planted there by human hands, and the growth on the bottom is plentiful and healthy.After enjoying some good cell signal so we could catch up on email and phone calls, we headed to the Magoun Islands to explore for a bit.  The weather was not nice – windy and rainy, but when we tucked into a little anchorage to hide out we found our friends Gerry and Knut on their Krogen 48 – a happy surprise.  We stayed an extra day so we could have dinner together and catch up.  They are serious fishing people and their freezers were already full from a successful summer, though they planned to fish more before the season wrapped up.

We enjoyed the wonderful pause, and then headed back up Peril Strait on a rainy gloomy day.  The only color came from the occasional navigational marker that stood out against the shades of gray.  But we find that the scenery is beautiful rain or shine.  Moody days are just beautiful in a different way.As we got into the more open section of the strait we started seeing more whales, which have been somewhat scarce for us this summer.  We saw some bubble net feeding at a distance, and some whales doing half-hearted breaches.  Watching something that large erupt from the water never fails to thrill!  YOWZA!After an overnight anchored at the top of Peril Strait, the weather cleared and we had a pretty ride down to Baranof Warm Springs, on the east side of Baranof Island – the opposite side from Sitka.  Warm Springs Bay has a roaring waterfall, a tiny cluster of houses along a small boardwalk, and a natural hot spring.  The hot sulphur-y water is piped down to a little bath house with three separate rooms each with a big tub for soaking.The bath house overlooks the bay and the waterfall – a lovely view to enjoy while you soak in the steamy hot water.You can also hike up to the natural hot pools in the woods, avoiding the bear scat on the trail, but there’s no cold water tap handy to help cool down the water up there.  I like the natural pools – they’re right next to the top of the waterfall, but sometimes a more civilized soak closer to the dock leaves more time to go out for a paddle in the kayak.  The tide was very high so I could get through the narrow entrance and explore the hidden pond… so pretty.…and then a quick stop close to the waterfall, backlit in the late day sun.  With all the rain we’ve had this summer, the waterfall was running as though it was spring!

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