Sunday, July 26, 2009

Paella, Crab and Costco Dogs

Lest you imagine that we are always eating delicious seafood only moments ago swimming freely in the vast ocean, let me make one thing absolutely clear: Such is not always the case. However, we do try.

Mary Lee and Jerry sit before one of Jan's signature dishes - Paella made in an electric skillet. All seafood except the calamari was freshly caught for this wonderful dish.

Doug's favorite to share with guests is quite simple - all the freshly cooked crab that you can eat. But occasionally we hanker for a new taste.

The Costco dogs are made more gourmet with Doug's clever adaptation of Jan's home made bread into hot dog buns. Canadian chips come in many unique flavors. We had already finished the Dill Pickle and Ketsup types but found the Sea Salt and Pepper to add nicely to the lunch.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Octopus Who Dined and Dashed

In British Columbia the prawn are found at about 300 feet. We are proud of the cardio workout when we pull the pots by hand rather than using the dink. Today was a pull day and we anxiously we anticipated a haul of spotted prawns since the pots were so heavy. Up came the first pot loaded with spot prawns and hermit crabs. Up came the second pot with a very surprised Giant Pacific Octopus. He had entered the prawn pot through a three inch opening. He was delighted with the menu of captive prawns.

Despite our love for calamari, it was quickly agreed that Mr. Octopus would return to the sea. However, we had not a clue how to abet his escape. Quickly, he solved our dilemma and headed for the deep blue. Octopi change color with stress. Typically, a Giant Pacific Octopus is red brown in color rather than the bright red displayed by Mr. Octopus. Although Doug and Jerry declined to hold him for measuring but we estimate his size to be six to eight feet across. The largest found measured 16 feet and weighed over 600 lbs.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tremble Island and the Nakwakto Rapids

The Guinness Book of World Records lists Nakwakto Rapids as the fastest flowing tidal rapids in the world that can be navigated. Tidal currents flow as much as 16 knots on large spring tides. In the center of the narrow passage that drains several hundred miles of fjords from Seymour and Belize Inlets stands Tremble Island. It is reported to actually tremble from maximum currents. Brave Captains and their crews have tacked vessel names to the trees that grow on the island. We were not so farsighted nor did we wish to dawdle since on big Spring tides the slack current is reported to be less than 6 minutes.

Although the Nakwakto Indians were experts at predicting current flow based upon their knowledge of the moon's influence on tides our captain favors more scientific methods. We carefully charted the time of our passage and planned to be at the rapids shortly before high slack which is the safest time for passage. Fortunately, we were not traveling on a large tide and the predicted currents were well within a safe range for our vessel. Carefully we nosed into the edge of the rapids heading for the smooth laminar flow bordered by small whirl pools and boils. It was thrilling for us but not a dangerous passage.

Not all captains take the responsibility for their crew and guests so seriously as does Captain Doug. In a harbor on Eden Island a captain told us that his 36 foot cruiser had been stood literally on end in a whirl pool as he entered Nakwakto Rapids. Take care who captains your vessel.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fishing and Wishing plus Real Life at Sea

Doug had the hot lure during our rock fishing trip. Of the fish caught all but one was on a pink zinger that was attached to his pole. My green zinger did not hold the same charms.

The larger fish is a small ling cod. Doug wants a blog titled "The King of Ling" which pictures him with a fish that breaks my mother's family record of a 32 lb ling. So far no King of Ling status for this Captain.

Local rock fish have spines that have a venom that does produce a sharp sting. They are a delicate white fleshed fish that is quite delicious.

The smaller fish are kelp greenling. The females are yellow finned with orange spots and the males are blue with brown spots. Very tasty fish.

Lest you think that all we do is photograph wild life and catch fish....we also have opportunities to work on our boat in exotic places. Our fishing trip ended with a problem with the dink motor that was highly annoying to Mister Maintain-Your-Boat man. Two kindly fishermen from Tri Cities towed us back to the big boat where Doug pulled the lower housing off the 30 horse. Note how he deals with the unforgiving sea in the East of Eden anchorage. Somewhat easier at dock in Port McNeill where Doug installed two new house batteries. Believe me, I know more about electricity than I ever dreamed.

That nice 8lb Coho was caught off Malcom Island out of Port McNiell. Fishing is starting to get hot with the Coho runs and Springers.

PHEW! What is that Smell?

We looked at one another somewhat suspiciously and said, "What is that smell?" Immediately there came in to view a sea lion rookery with three adult Stellar sea lions hauled out. They had little concern about the photo shoot and cooperated.

Sea lions (surprising to some of us) are a declining species with an estimated population of 116,000 world wide. A bull sea lion can weigh up to 1500 lbs and females weigh about 600 lbs. At birth a pup weighs 45 lbs and hangs with mom for up to three years.

Our second "What is that smell?" moment came a few days later when we were fishing. We heard a loud snort and a noxious odor filled the cockpit. A whale broke the water about 30 feet off the boat and snorted his bad breath our way. By the time I got the camera he had moved on and we only photographed his fin which we believe is that of a Minke Whale but it is difficult to tell. Any whale experts out there?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blondy Carlson and the Logger Boys

The Inland Passage of British Columbia has a long and colorful logging history. In the late 1800 into the 1930s there were a special breed of men known as hand loggers. Often working alone or in small groups and these hearty souls would fall the timber on ]steep slopes. They would then slide the logs into the sea for transport. It was a tough and dangerous business that attracted many characters. One of those early loggers was a man named Blondy Carlson. Blondy had many colorful and peculiar habits. One habit was "borrowing" trees not located on his claim. According to Bill Proctor, author of Full Moon Flood Tide, Blondy was out "borrowing" a big old growth cedar one fine spring day. He had peeled the cedar and got it sliding down the hill. Trees sliding that fast don't slow when they hit the water but dive down and will shoot high into the air when momentum changes and when they become buoyant. Just as Blondy's big cedar shot high out of the water a Forest Service boat happened to be passing. The crew waited for Blondy to amble down the hill. When asked what he was doing Blondy quickly replied that he was getting a fire log which was perfectly legal. When the forester remarked that most people burned fir, Blondy quickly clarified, "Oh, I just needed some kindling".

A nights anchorage in Napier Bay (Tracey Harbor) showed much evidence of decades of logging. A water line led to the former floating camp of Japanese loggers who worked the area in the 1920s. Their camp was situated in a drying inlet and their houses floated on high tide and went tilting at low tide.

Old equipment rusts in the coves. Roads, log slides and traces of old log dumps are still are to be found in the reflecting waters. But the only logger we saw was caricature with a yellow helmet lying sleeping on a tree root above the beach left by a recent crew.

Doug's First Salmon and Memo to Crabs

The major runs have not begun in the Broughton area but there are some salmon here early for the fall spawn or late for the spring spawn. Now there is one less male to enter the foray. Doug caught a nice 20 lb King (also known as Tyee, Chinook, Springer and Blackmouth)just off of Point James in Wells Passage.

As you look at him, notice his shape and snout. Guides with experience can often tell you the fish's spawning river. This identification is due to a long evolutionary process that adapts the sub species to the river. In example, Columbia River salmon have through the ages had to fight their way over water falls to the spawning ground. Consequently, the nose on Columbia River fish is blunted. Native fish on the Cowlitz River underwent a different evolutionary process. They were often five feet long and very slender almost eel-like. It is not certain where Doug's fish was headed but it must have been an easy trip. He was fat, sleek and had a well shaped snout. The ladies will miss him.

PS. This rock crab did not get the memo that mating season is Spring.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Doug's Got Crabs

Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes not so much. Doug's catch of the Shield Backed Kelp Crab was biologically interesting but not of culinary interest. His next venture was better. A hearty pull showed a savory bounty with large crabs. The required size in Washington is 6 1/4 inches while British Columbia's size translates to 6 1/2 inches. In this pull Doug got his record breaking crabs with two over 8 inches with a giant 8 5/8 inch crab.

Crab Facts:

Dungeness Crabs are found from Alaska to Baja Mexico.

Dungenss Crabs are named after Dungeness Spit located in Port Angeles, WA

Dungenss Crabs mate in the late winter and early spring.

Males only mate with females that have recently molted (shed their hard shell)

In the fall the female lays about 2.5 million eggs.

In about one year the eggs begin to resemble a crab rather than an amorphous egg.

In 2 to 3 years they mature to reach minimum harvesting size.

Crabs are estimated to live 8 to 13 years.

The largest Dungeness male crabs an reach 10 inches.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grizzly Sighting

We have been out of communication for several days and enjoying the wilds of the Inside Passage. The scenery is spectacular with high mountains, shear granite cliffs and dazzling water.

A quiet voyage up Sargeaunt Passage heading for Tribune Channel provided a special treat - two grizzly bears having lunch at the Low Water Buffet (a popular dining venue in B.C.). One bear spooked but the second stayed for a photo shoot before ambling off. The two bears were identical in coloring and size and we estimated their weight in the 350 lb range. Perhaps they were young males looking for new territory or perhaps a mating pair. Locals told us that our sighting was quite unusual. We considered ourselves very fortunate to have the fun of watching the bears safely from the boat.

Grizzly Facts:

Males weigh 300 to 850 lbs while females are smaller at 2oo to 450 lbs.

Grizzly bear can run at 35mph.

Cubs wear 1 lb at birth and 20 lbs when they emerge from the den.

Grizzly bears live for 20 to 25 years.