Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Allisons Fish and the Eagles Eat

Nicky is an avid fisherman who has caught such exotics as barracuda off of their boat in Guatemala. But even two guided days on the Kenai Peninsula had left her without a salmon. Finally the curse has been broken! Nicky caught her two Chinook salmon. And John was quick to follow suit with his limit of two. Both bigger fish weighed in at 24 1/2 lbs but there is an ongoing discussion about who holds the size record. What is your vote? The Allisons did not stop there - they caught some really nice yellow eye, several big rock fish and a small halibut! Great fishermen!.

When the eagles hear the dink heading for the big boat they know treats are coming. They perch in hierarchical order in the trees and watch our every move. We lay out the fish scraps the show begins.

Eagles can only carry about 4 lbs and carrying off a big salmon head is a chore. They swoop in, sometimes drop their prize and threaten one another with loud squawks. Occasionally an aerial dogfight will take place and feathers have flown. But since eagles have 7000 feathers they can lose a few without harm.

Interesting eagle facts: Eagles weigh between 10 and 14 lbs with females being slightly larger than males.

Their wing span is 72 to 90 inches and they can fly as fast as 35 mph in level flight and they can soar as high as 10,000 feet.

Juvenile eagles are speckled and each year they become more distinct as they develop the adult coloring.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Magical Day

Sometimes in life there are times with touches of magic and we have been so blessed. After a fairly smooth crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound we entered Fitzhugh Channel and were greeted by three or four whales which we believe to be humpbacks. Shortly after they left us we were surrounded by a pod of at least 1000 white sided dolphins. They played in the wake and leaped out of the water.

Jan always gets excited when they big fish symbol shows on the fish finder even when Doug is the catcher. A nice yellow eye which looks like a snapper but is actually a big rockfish. This one weighed in at about 8 lbs.

But the real excitement came when the Orca whales arrived. A transient pod of three - a mama, a daddy and a baby. That would indicate that they are transient whales. We just put the boat in neutral and they passed close by.

The sunset was spectacular and the magic went into the next day when Jan caught a 28 lb salmon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

From Cul de Sacs to Coves

Turning our city girl, Heidi into a mariner was a delight. Getting from Phoenix, AZ to Port McNeill, BC is no small feat taking more than 13 hours. Jan drove to the airport while Doug fine tuned issues evolving from our vigorous shake-down cruise north. Driving from the airport Heidi got a glimpse of what was to come as we watched two huge black bear nonchalantly munching on sedge grass at the road's edge. Reality set in with a thump and Heidi realized that she was not in Phoenix any more.

As we entered our first anchorage, Lady Boot Cove, Heidi asked what a cove was - a reasonable question for a desert girl. Jan took out the chart and pointed out Lady Boot. "Cool", Heidi responded, "tonight we are going to park the boat in a cul de sac." "Never heard it put quite that way", Doug commented. A journey had begun.

We headed to Napier Harbour in a blinding rain that Heidi brought with her. After lending Heidi her trusty Costco raingear, Jan donned her newly-purchased, overboard-safe neon orange pants and coat. Heidi looked up somewhat laughinly said, "You look just like a crossing guard." Jan is firm that her cruel remarks are the result of fashion envy. The day was squandered digging cockles and gathering crab.

Determined to make Heidi a full fledged mariner, we headed for the Nakwakto Rapids which are reported to be the fasted flowing navigable tidal rapids in the world. Seldom visited by any save the intrepid, it is a wild and wonderful place. Last time we visited we surveyed a niche deep behind small islets and dubbed it SnowHawke Cove North. No more cul de sacs for Heidi she was gaining mariner status. She caught fish on her first ever fishing trip, pulled crab pots and helped Doug clean crab. She went out on prawn pot pulls and never batted an eyelash when the dingy engine faltered and Doug had to tie the boat to the prawn buoy and make emergency repairs.

The continued and it seemed that the Ark might float past Charlotte Bay at any moment. Rough weather forecasts headed us back to civilization (or a facsimile thereof). We headed toward Mamalilaculla the site of the last great potlatch. A potlatch is a northcoast cultural tradition where to demonstrate wealth a great feast is held and the chief gives away possessions. In the 1880's the tradition was banned because it was believed that the Indians would not "progress" if they remained mired in their old ways. Potlatches were then held in secret often in the winter when intrepid weather kept the Indian agents home. On Christmas of 1920 a great potlatch was raided and the participants jailed. Masks and dancing regalia were seized and shipped to East. It was a very sad day for many and it took until 1970 to have the items returned to the band in Alert Bay where they are housed in a museum. We put the boat on a lunch anchor and went ashore. Fresh bear scat that looked to be grizzly brought out our bear whistles and slowed our pace. The island is badly overgrown. We saw the school, the hospital and the mission houses but were unable to plow through the wild roses to the remains of the longhouse.

An early morning trip to the airport and opening sunny skies as Heidi flew South. Jan and Doug head out for new and unexplored territory around Bella Bella.