(July 19th, 2017)
After Soda Bay we moved north to the sprawling metropolis of Craig, AK. We fished on the way of course, catching one more Coho. The North Cove Harbor was short on dock space so we rafted to s/v Zephyr who had become the honorary harbormaster for the rest of the fleet on account of arriving first and it being Sunday with no harbormaster on staff.
Once secure off Zephyr’s starboard side, we walked in to town but stopped on the dock to check out the burned out fishing boat. Apparently back in late May one of the fishing boats on the dock caught fire and since it’s fiberglass it burned fast and hot. The two neighboring boats were steel but experienced a lot of damage. We spoke with the owner of one of the two steel boats and he explained that he had an aluminum fly bridge that melted and the entire wood and other interior bits are all destroyed, but the engine room and everything aft was relatively unscathed. The insurance company totaled the boat but he bought it back from them and assuming the hull is still sound, he will rebuild it and end up with a boat he no longer has a loan on.
The second steel boat was not so lucky. While the hull is steel, the entire superstructure was aluminum and melted down into the engine compartment. The hull is all that’s left. Investigators have not yet ruled on the cause of the fire but the owners speculate it was due to faulty dock power, a situation that would not be the first occurrence in this city-owned harbor.
After checking out the burned boats we went on a walking tour up around the hill to check out the public swimming pool. After noting the free swim hours (6-7:30pm daily) we headed back down to the main road to discover the NAPA and Sporting Goods store, then walking back toward the harbor we came across the coffee shop/bakery where we holed up for a few minutes consuming some much-needed caffeine (and milkshakes for the girls).
Then we checked out the clothing store and Papa’s Pizza. We were told by a few people that Zak’s Pizza a few blocks away was better than Papa’s, but Zak’s is not open on Sunday so we could not test this recommendation. The fleet dinner in Craig was already set to be pizza so that mean Papa’s or nothing. After warning the restaurant that close to 30 people were coming at 6:30pm, most of the crews pre-ordered their pizza so it would be ready when we got there, which turned out to be a really good idea because we found later that it takes them a while to make a pizza.
The pizza at dinner was good, not as good as Fat Stan’s in Ketchikan, but just fine otherwise. They have free WiFi there as well which was handy for the whole fleet since everyone needed to catch up on various happenings in their home lives. The WiFi was slow but it worked okay.
After dinner, the teens from s/v Otter came over to watch Captain Ron (two of them hadn’t seen it). Morgan and Ellie had a great time watching it with the boys, having a hard time no spoiling it for them when certain things were about to happen. Oh well, much of it is obvious anyway.
Monday was errand day with Devon starting off early getting the first load of laundry going at the laundromat in town. We ended up doing a couple laundry runs with the dock cart, after which we stopped for lunch at Papa’s Pizza. It’s just too easy and the WiFi is too useful. During lunch Devon got several more books downloaded to the girls iPads from the online King County Library, then Morgan got some good boots from the clothing store (XtraTuff’s, the sneakers of SE Alaska). I worked on some bills, budgets, and blog posts (getting very little of each done).
Later we checked out the Sporting Goods store for some fishing tackle. We’d lost two of our three diving planes and a running low on squids. We also wanted to get a circle hook for halibut fishing.
I walked to the True Value hardware store and got some propane, a corded (not cordless) phone for the Iridium satellite system and a few other little items. I also picked up a propane torch so I can try and modify our BBQ for smoking. After that we wound up at the grocery store to restock the food stores and headed back to the boat.
The girls still wanted to swim but I wasn’t feeling it, so I stayed behind to clean the fridge, freezer, and stow all the groceries while Devon took Morgan and Ellie to the public pool. They were gone for a few hours, which is about how long it took me to get everything done. When they got back around 8:30pm we ate leftover pizza for dinner and crashed.
Tuesday morning we departed North Cove Harbor and stopped at the fuel dock across the way to refuel. They have nice new pumps and handles and we experienced none of the foaming issues that we had in Ketchikan. We also refilled our dinghy tank (about 1 gallon). This refueling totaled 47.5 gallons of diesel for 194nm of travel, diesel heater, and battery charging with the genset.
Out in the main channel we fished for a while, bringing two more salmon on board. We saw sea otters everywhere, including several otter rafts where dozens of otters floated together. We traversed several small channels and emerged into Sea Otter Sound where, of all things, we saw a TON of sea otters, everywhere. It’s like they owned the place. We had one humpback whale surface about 50ft off our port side, startling us, and then it was down and surfaced again way behind us.
Devilfish Bay is broken into two parts. An outer bay which is nice and open to the channel, and an inner bay which you get in to through a narrow and shallow channel marked with two rocks. We successfully navigated through the channel into the inner bay and anchored in 25 feet of water.
There are several references to Devilfish in Wikipedia, but the one that seemed most likely to be related to this bay says the following…
“Devil Fish may refer to octopus-like, carnivorous cryptid, supposedly seen and killed by Czech adventurer Jan Eskymo Welzl in 1906 on the coast of Alaska”
Maybe Welzl grappled with a giant Pacific Octopus in Devilfish Bay 111 years ago? Or maybe he made it all up? We will never know.
Shortly after anchoring we dropped two of our salmon off at Ruby Slippers to be prepped for brining and smoking along with the other 20 salmon from the other boats. After the fileting was complete, Morgan kayaked all by herself to Ruby Slippers to get the heads back for our halibut and crab bait. It was a long distance with a bit of wind and current against her getting back. So, Devon eventually went to her in the dinghy to tow her back. But she did awesome by herself. It was only the second time she has been in the kayak without an adult and the first time by herself.
Devon made a really tasty salmon chowder for dinner. She also dropped a crab pot a couple hundred feet away, and a halibut line off the boat to see if we could catch anything.
Today (Wednesday) is a lay day, and most of the crews went ashore to work on setting up the campsite for the potluck and smoking the salmon that was being brined. We borrowed a hand mixer from s/v Glendora to make banana bread for the potluck. While Devon and the girls worked on banana bread, I sat on deck to cut out the old caulking and reseal around the deck cover over the companionway hatch. The caulking was old and cracking, and rain water has been getting through the old seal, which drains down the side of the hatch into the cockpit, running along the floor into the scuppers. It’s not a real issue, but it’s sort of a nuisance that I’d like to fix if possible. We have a fully enclosed cockpit and I’d love to have a dry cockpit floor if I can.
Cocktail hour kicked off on-shore followed by the potluck. The fleet shared good food, wine, music, and discussion while our salmon smoked over the alder wood and coals. Each of the 11 boats took back two smoked salmon (4 filets) from the fire at the end of the night.
Tomorrow we leave early, stopping at a limestone cave on the way north.