Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Anchor Buddy - hold your dinghy off a rocky beach

The Anchor Buddy is a great addition to your nice dinghy!

A simple solution to an age old problem; you want to take your dinghy to the beach, but the tide is going out.  Keep her off the rocks with an Anchor Buddy!

It comes in black, blue, red, and yellow.  Simple & effective!

When about 30-40 feet away from the beach or rocky shore, toss out a stern anchor tied on with the elastic Anchor Buddy.  Unload the boat on the beach, keep a long bow line in hand and then let the Anchor Buddy pull your boat back out to deeper water.  Tie the bow line to something fixed on the shore and go have fun.  Your dinghy can ride out the waves safely away from rocks.   When you come back to the shore just pull in the bow line retrieving the dinghy and load up!

This is is a simple device, a length of heavy elastic inside a 4,000Lb capacity woven tube that is used for an anchor rode, it stretches from 14 to 50-feet.  I would replace the end hardware with quality stainless shackles.

The Anchor Buddy, use any type of anchor with it.  Click for larger.

Cruising in Alaska last month we had the opportunity to use an Anchor Buddy multiple times, and it worked very well.  The Puget Sound area the tide cycle can be 8-12 feet, in Southeast Alaska the tide is normally 16-20 feet which means that in just an hour it can change by over 3-feet.  If you leave a dinghy on the beach and go for a hike, you may find your dink 20-feet from the waters edge, or worse sitting on sharp rocks.

We used the Anchor Buddy to keep the dinghy off the rocks at the Anan Bear Observatory.

About $28 at Fisheries Supply or West Marine.  


PS:  If you have found a piece of gear that works for you, let me know and I will give it a try, and then report back here on the American Tug News.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: Our final day, back to Ketchikan

Day 24:  Fishing at Clover Pass and back down Tongass Narrows to Ketchikan.  20-miles

The city of Ketchikan - Ports & Harbors, operates multiple marinas such as the Thomas Basin, Bar Harbor (both in downtown) and the fairly new Knudson Cove marina out on the southwest corner of Revillagigedo Island.  This is a great location and nice facility near Clover Pass which historically has been good fishing.  We spent the night there in anticipation of finally getting my salmon...

Ketchikan's Knudson Cove Marina - early morning.  Cinnamon Girl at left.

If you have been a loyal reader of this series then you know my relationship with the salmon thus far has been a one-way affair.   In the past we have been fishing on incoming & high-slack tides, bait fish flashing, known good spots, but never with any other boats in the area which would indicate that currently the fishing is productive.  Clover Pass on this morning is different as there are a bunch of boats here.  This could be my day!

The cruise ship was not trolling, everyone else was.  Click for larger image.

We trolled for three hours.  No strikes.  We did see one of the professional charter boats net a small salmon, maybe 6-8 pounds, but that was the only action.   Later at the Bar Harbor docks I met Rick, a commercial fisherman who said that all the fish are down at the south end of Prince of Wales or out at Sitka, that they have not come "inside" yet.  He did mention that anyone can limit on Kings just south of town at Herring Cove, near the hatchery.  In fact the State had just raised the possession limit to six Kings in that specific location because of excessive hatchery fish beyond their need, if I had only known that a day earlier...

Alaska Marine Lines - the lifeline from Seattle to Southeast.  Trucks & boats on top!

Tongass Narrows is the 14-mile long channel that separates Revillagigedo and Gravina Islands.  Gravina provides the protection for Ketchikan and is the home of the Ketchikan Airport.  You may remember the "bridge to nowhere" issue during the 2008 presidential election; it was to span this channel leading to the airport now served by a 5-minute ferry ride.  It is a fun passage as every kind of boat imaginable is here, some never to leave, others just arriving.

Former Navy PT boat, now a yacht moored on the Narrows.  Very cool!

There is tremendous activity along Tongass, I must admit it is a bit of a shock after so much solitude.

Cruise ships docked & anchored in Ketchikan.  They will be busy at Thomas Basin today!

Bar Harbor Basin, slip #9-13, Ketchikan Alaska.  Our final destination.

I would like to thank Marc & Myra for making Cinnamon Girl available to us for this fantastic trip.  Cindy & I really enjoyed her.  The American Tug is a wonderful expedition cruiser, she was all systems go all the time.  A comfortable and capable passage maker.  We did not want to go home.

British Columbia and Alaska are incredible, the scenery is gorgeous and the wildlife was way beyond our expectations.   We had so much fun!

I want to go back; it seems to me that Southeast Alaska has two ecosystems and we navigated the southern coastal region, that still leaves the northern glaciated fjords to explore.  The areas north of Petersburg includes Tracy Arm, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Icy Straits, and others. I want to chip clear ice into my drink.  I would like to see the Anan Wildlife Observatory when the Pinks are running.  I would like to see two fishing poles with simultaneous hook-ups.  There is so much more...

Our trip was a one-way delivery with a little extra time in Southeast Alaska.  The schedule was tight and we moved at a fast pace.  I would have enjoyed another month there, or more, much more.  We passed through the central British Columbia coast very fast, there is a tremendous amount of cruising to be done between Cape Caution and Prince Rupert.  I have been fortunate to have cruised Desolation Sound and the Broughton's several times and look forward to seeing this area again soon.   The Inside Passage is an incredible cruising paradise that begs to be explored.  We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful area with friendly neighbors. 

Trip stats:
24 days
1238 nautical miles covered over ground (per Nobeltec & GPS)
1179 nautical miles covered over water (per the Log)
188.7 engine hours total
2.99 gallons per hour average includes travel, trolling, furnace and generator.
0 salmon (that one hurts)
Many, many crab...

Thanks for reading our blog, 

Steve & Cindy Scruggs
Expedition Yacht Sales, LLC
Cell: 206-930-6139

Call me for your next expedition yacht!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: Southbound in Ernest Sound & Clarence Strait

Day 23:  Moving towards Tongass Narrows and we find Orcas!  60-miles

Thom's Place will become a wonderful Alaska Marine Park.  It is beautiful.  Apparently the crab also like it here, based on the number of commercial crab pots.  It was fun to watch the fisherman aboard the Heidi J work their boat and filling a plastic barrel in only ten-minutes.

The Heidi J - typical Southeast Alaska crabber successfully finding Dungeness.

Stacey bet us he could get a crab with a fishing pole & chicken.   Not so easy!

Today we are taking Cinnamon Girl towards Ketchikan, down through Ernest Sound and then south past Meyers Chuck into Clarence Strait.  This is really pretty country with larger passages than we found up north.

Immmature Bald Eagle and Harbor Seals on Blanche Rock.

The water color has changed significantly from the area around Wrangell.  Where the Stikine River with its silt flows brown, the waters of Blake Channel and Ernest Sound are deep azure blue with good visibility.


A very large group of Dall's Porpoise came to play in Cinnamon Girls bow wave.  This photo shows two porpoise with the more classic V-rooster tail splash on the right, and a rare leap out of the water at left.  This pod stayed with us for twenty minutes, very cool mammals.

We had some debate about how far to travel, Stacey was flying out of Ketchikan the next day, but we could always get up really early... In the end we decided to keep pushing south as the day was beautiful and we were not reay to stop.  I looked at the tide table and we were going to be near Ship Island at high slack water, and that is reportedly a good trolling spot.

We finally had a "strike" at Ship Island.

Once again all the indicators for salmon were here, baitfish, slack high, a strike, tide rip...wait...did he say "strike".  It is true, we had our first salmon strike and it was over just that fast.  He was gone along with the bait.  We did a quick reset when Cindy said "whales"!   A pod of Orca's was also working this tide rip.  

We tried to figure out the pod size, guessing 12-18?

Mother and a calf.

Leap of faith or just showing off?


Spy hop, where the whale puts his head up to look around.

Tale slap.  One of the whales was very vocal.

We finally found two things we had been looking for; salmon and Orca's.  Unfortuneatly it is tough to catch a salmon while they are hiding from the top alpha predator of the ocean... that is the Orca for those of you that were trying to decide if the alpha was the whale or me...

A fantastic day with Alaska wildlife putting on a private show.  It would have been nice to get that salmon but it was awesome to spend nearly two-hours drifting with a pod of Killer Whales, engine off and no other boats around for miles. 

We docked at Knudson Cove near Clover Pass, just outside of Tongass Narrows.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: The Anan Bear Observatory

Day 22:  Exploring the Anan Bear Observatory and Thom's Place.  25-miles

We delayed our trip to the Anan Bear Observatory as long as possible, going to Petersburg & Wrangell first so that we could wait a bit longer.  The bears come to Anan Creek to eat Pink Salmon.  Unfortunately the Pinks have not started to come in yet...   We hoped that by waiting an extra week it might make a difference.  We did not see any bears.

Anan Creek has the largest run of pink salmon in Southeast Alaska; three-hundred thousand fish come here to spawn or be eaten by bears while trying.  Cindy really wanted to see the bears win!

The National Forest Service has built the Wildlife Observatory in one of the prettiest places I have ever been.   Pictures will not do this justice.  The Observatory consists of a shelter with great views, a photo blind, observation decks and a boardwalk leading the 3/4-mile in from shore.

The Anan Wildlife Observatory.  Click for larger image.

We anchored Cinnamon Girl in the shallow bay near the mouth of Anan Creek.  The Exploring Southeast Alaska book warns of poor holding here, and to have someone stay aboard and keep watch.  I took the American Tug over a 12-foot deep hump, and put out the anchor in 25-feet of water using 175-feet of chain, and then allowed the 10-knot wind to blow me back over the shallow hump with an in coming tide.  That way if the anchor drug, it would have to drag up hill.   She did not budge in the three hours we were there.   Stacey and Cindy took the dinghy in and went up the trail, I stayed aboard.  Later Stacey came out and I had my turn at the Observatory.

The dinghy approach is to a rocky shore, there is no beach, dock or float here.  We used an elastic "Anchor Buddy" to pull the dinghy back away from the shore after hopping out, and tying a long bow line around a rock.  This way the dinghy can stay safely in deeper water, and upon our return we can simply pull her back to the rocks and climb aboard.  

The Forest Service has a Ranger on site in July and August.  Permits are required from July 5th until August 25th, that must be the time to visit...  There are plenty of bears in the area with fresh scat all over.  We made lots of noise while hiking up the boardwalk.

River Otters in Anan Creek.  They were playing while we were there.

This is what my pictures were supposed to look like, photo borrowed from NFS gallery.

This is a very cool place even without seeing any Blacks or Browns.  With bears I am certain that it would be the highlight of our entire trip.  We will come back.

Cindy shooting Eagle photos.  The Eagles are also ready for the Pinks to arrive.

Our evening anchorage was Thom's Place, a new and undeveloped marine park.  Thom's Place is beautiful, full of crab, good holding, empty.  It is a fairly large bay and not particularly protected.  

Thom's Place at midnight. 

Day 22 was a treat.  I had fun messing around in boats.  Cindy and I look forward to visiting Anan again.

Thanks for following the blog, you can subscribe over on the right side.

Alaska Trip 2011: Clockwise around Wrangell Island

Day 21:  More fishing and another fantastic moorage all to ourselves.  39-miles

The barometer has bumped up to 1029Mb, the highest of the trip.   Sunny and warm.  The weather for the past 3-weeks has been fantastic.  A couple of small rain showers to rinse the salt off the boat, a little breeze way back on day 11, mostly overcast mornings burning off in the afternoon with smooth water.  Just like the brochure advertised!

Cindy with the big halibut rod & reel.

We are going fishing again, confident in our ability.  We spoke with the commercial fisherman aboard the tender Cape Ommaney, moored across the dock at Heritage Marina last night.  They gave me the ol' "ten minutes and we get a halibut" story, when I mentioned that we had not seen any Orca's one of the guys jumped in with "I saw two pods today, they always are near that point at 10am..." .  Fish tales, got to love them.  One of the fellows came over and pointed at our chart giving us his best advice, which I appreciate.

We went back to Two-Tree Island and fished the flat area on the south side.  The fisherman said give it twenty minutes and if no bites move on, which we did.  We trolled for salmon between Sokolof and Vank... and moved on. 

Chief Shakes House in Wrangell harbor

We stopped back by Wrangell to see Chief Shakes House, on Shakes Island in the middle of the old marina.  This is a recreation of a Tlingit longhouse, built in the late 1940's with the help of the last Chief Shakes.  Very cool and well worth touring. 

Inside Shakes House - Tlingit longhouse.

Tom Nelson suggested "The Babbler" between the point and where the rocks stop, 1/3 mile to the west.  Troll at the 120-foot line about ten-feet off the bottom.  We timed this for just before high-slack.  Surely we would get our king here.  Babbler Point is on the mainland side of Wrangell, clockwise around the top of the Island.  We trolled this line for several hours...and then moved on.  Nothing, no hits, zippo.  You cannot catch what is not there, no fish.

Eastern Passage on the west side of Wrangell Island is gorgeous.  Cindy was taking pictures of bald eagles and Stacey drove Cinnamon Girl south through The Narrows.  His small boat sailing career may be waning, he just helped deliver a Swan 100 form Virgin Gorda to New England.  Now aboard the American Tug.   He seems to be enjoying the good life aboard comfortable boats.

Berg Bay - a nice little anchorage.  The red sure looks nice.  Click for full larger image.

The Forest Service Cabin - Click for a link to their description of this cabin.

Berg Bay at the north end of Blake Channel is the perfect Alaskan anchorage.  It was protected, full of crab, gorgeous and empty.  The Forest Service cabin at the head of the bay was not occupied.  We launched the dinghy and headed to shore for some exploration as there is a 1/2-mile walking trail over to the mudflats in the next bay.  The trail is 100% on wood boards above the soil.  This is bear country and we were careful to make some noise as we walked through the woods.  The Forest Service has a network of 150 cabins all over Southeast Alaska, available to use for a very small fee.  The cabin was clean and looked like fun.

The 1/2-mile boardwalk to Aaron Creek. 

Aaron Creek, large grassy delta & mud flats.  Watch for bears!

Did I mention the crabs!

Cinnamon Girl is back on the move and it feels right.  We did not see another boat on Eastern Passage or while anchored.  Solitude. 

Berg Bay at dusk.

Alaska Trip 2011: Our day fishing near Wrangell

Day 20:  That's why they call it "fishing, not catching".  29-miles

I woke up early today and was looking forward to going fishing; having never caught a really big fish this should be fun. Our friend Stacey Wilson was flying in to join us for a few days aboard Cinnamon Girl.

Wrangell Alaska, famous for salmon & halibut fishing.

The "nose" is a Wrangell fishing hot spot; it does not show on the charts as "the nose" but everyone calls it that since it looks like an elephants trunk, it is technically Woronkofski Point.  The nose sounds better. 

It does look like an elephant trunk.

My log entry reads:

11:40am     Trolling the nose.  1-hr before high slack, bait fish in area, all systems go!

At Noon I called Mike Schoppert, president of American Tug, he was raised here in Alaska.  I told him where we were trolling, that it was high-slack, we were at a tide line and we had good bait fish flashing in the water.  These have always been excellent indicators for finding salmon.  Mike immediately asked if there were any local fisherman or charter boats working the spot...  Nope, just us tourists on Cinnamon Girl!  Dang, there would be others here if it was being productive.

The excitement was incredible, my day to catch a big salmon.

We fished the nose, fished Two-Tree Island for halibut, fished Sokolof Island, back to Two-Tree.  Cinnamon Girl put in a full day of fishing and never had a strike. Did not see another sport fishing boat all day.  Later we talked to the guy at the fuel dock, he would certainly know what is happening.  Apparently it has been quiet for two-weeks, no fish in the area.

Local crabber, typical of the smaller commercial boats around Wrangell.

It was a great day.  I really enjoyed hanging out with Cindy & Stacey.  The weather was perfect.  Totally relaxing, no agenda, no plan, no stress, no fish.  The boat sure stayed guts, no glory!

Stacey Wilson, former small boat sailor.  He sure loved driving the American Tug!

Stacey's entry in the Cinnamon Girl "bull head derby", it won biggest...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Inside Passage relative distance table, a handy tool!

Click on the table for full size pdf. 

This table is a different way of presenting the distances between anchorages, tidal convergences and other useful points along the Inside Passage.  I pulled the information from a variety of sources and put it all in one handy chart. 

Call me for your next cruising boat!   Steve Scruggs, Yacht Broker  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: Fishing our way down to Wrangell

Day 19:  Thomas Bay to Wrangell, back via the Narrows.  62-miles

Center Islet viewed from Ruth Island Cove.  First light.

Steve working the down riggers for salmon in Thomas Bay, morning slack water.

Now heading south we slid into the Wrangell Narrows and past Petersburg, with current pushing us an extra 2.5-knots!  I timed the passage to arrive at the tidal convergence an hour early, as I wanted to anchor near Pepkes Landing and mooch for a salmon.  This was interesting as all the large north and south bound boats ride the flood in the channel and converge at roughly the same time and place, then each gets to ride the ebb for the second half of the trip.  We saw many cool boats including the Sumdum, a Ketchikan local that knows these currents. The Sumdum was built by Tom Nelson back in the eighties, Tom later founded American Tug. 

The Sumdum, a local cruiser moving up Wrangell Narrows.

The area around Blind Slough and Pepkes Landing has several fishing resorts.  All the resort boats were tied to their docks, apparently they have not been getting fish here yet this year.

We rode the current to Point Alexander, eventually getting 2.5-knots of push which makes for a fast trip.  We trolled at Point Alexander with the down riggers, but this was now an ebbing tide.  We saw a lack of fish and other fisherman at this popular spot.  If you are keeping track of our fish count, still zero.  If I gave you the crab count you would have absolutely no sympathy for me on the fish, so we will leave it at that.

One of the 5-ranges along Wrangell Narrows.  Very well marked channel.

The new Heritage Marina in Wrangell is nearly complete.  It is Alaska sized with big nice docks, a huge rock breakwater and will soon have other amenities.  The harbor master told us to grab anyplace on the large transient docks, very friendly.  Heritage Marina is a half-mile walk from town and I must admit the walk felt good.  This will be great facility; soon the parking area will be done and the uplands developed.

Wrangell is a town of 1,700 residents.  It is a smaller town than Ketchikan or Petersburg, with its economy based on the Stikine River.  It has gone boom & bust a few times; three gold rushes in the Stikine area, fires that burned their downtown in 1906 & 1952 and the ebb & flow of fishing.  Wrangell has a commercial fishing fleet with more small trollers and local crabbers, not the mega net boats of Petersburg.  The downtown is two-blocks long, with a large wharf at the north end.  Smaller cruise ships (125-600 feet) call here weekly.  The cruise ship terminal has none of the tacky tourist traps of Ketchikan, just a gravel driveway and a coffee stand.  Definitely a more authentic Alaska experience and more what I was hoping to find.  This is a boater friendly town and I am very glad that we came.

This may be the small aluminum fish boat capital of the world, they are everywhere.  Sport Fishing is a huge here.  Jet boats, river boats, charter boats, and all in aluminum for the mighty Stikine River.  I counted 42- aluminum boats in yards and on the street during my walk back to Heritage Marina.

Discarded outboard power heads torn up by jet pumps & an aluminum boat dumpster?  Only in Wrangell.

Sport fishing is why Cinnamon Girl is here; it is time to put some meat in the freezer.  Cindy wants to catch a halibut and I want to land a king salmon.  We have the boat, the gear, those "top secret" NOAA fish charts, and are in the right area.  Time to get the fish count where it belongs!  Wish us luck...
Steve & Cindy Scruggs, aboard the Cinnamon Girl American Tug 41.