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Our Journey on Scolamanzi II
Our Journey on Scolamanzi II

Katmai National Park

Time to catch some salmon

Time to catch some salmon

26th – 30th July

 

We managed to get the choice anchoring spot in the NW corner of the inner basin of Geographic Harbour. This allowed us a close and unobstructed view of what happens at the river mouth. This is where the bears congregate and hunt for salmon. We shared the bay with 3 tour boats, hosting groups of photographers that come to see and photograph the bears close up and in their natural environment. It was magic to be able to watch bears all day long from the comfort of the boat and being able to go with the tender to get up close to the bears doing their thing. The salmon was starting to run up the river which attracts large numbers of bears. At times there were up to six bears in the river at the same time.

On our second day at Geographic Harbour  John and Jo-Ann Richardson arrived from Dutch Harbour in their large power catamaran MV Savanna. They build the boat in Thailand and is heading to Florida via Japan and Korea. Adventurous couple that was easy to get along with and fun to be around. The next day Josh/Natasha, John/Jo-Ann and us two was dropped ashore by their crewman to view the bears up close.

What a treat to sit quietly on the shore and see the bears fish for salmon a few yards away. They seemed totally uninterested in us but we did have protection – flares and bear spray. We even saw a wolf up close and personal. The wolf was patrolling the shoreline but was repeatedly chased away by the bears. The wolf even ran off with someone’s camera case and chewed up a lens. When one of the guides went to retrieve the case the wolf threatened to attack the person leading to a tense standoff for a few minutes. After an exciting 5 hours ashore, we were collected by the tender and returned to our boats. A fantastic encounter with nature which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

After 3 days in Geographic Harbour it was time to move on. Samba and Scolamanzi departed together on the short cruise round to Hidden Harbour in Kinak Bay. A lovely anchorage but with a very narrow entrance. On the way Josh noticed and issue with his stuffing box on the main engine prop shaft which unfortunately forced them to return to Kodiak to get it sorted. We were sad to bid them farewell the next morning as we really enjoyed their company.

They went back to Geographic Harbour to wait for favourable weather to cross back to Kodiak and we went onwards to checkout Kukak Bay.

We did see a few bears including one swimming across the bay. The bay was very large with shallow deltas where the rivers flow into the bay. That makes it difficult to get close the see the bears. All in all we were not very impressed so the next day when the forecast looked OK we crossed Shelikof Strait back to Afognak Island. Again the winds, currents and waves made for a challenging crossing which thankfully improved as we neared the Kodiak coastline.

We anchored SE of Ban Island in a small well protected cove in 8 meters with a mud bottom. What a picturesque anchorage! To add spice 30 meters away was a bald eagle nest with a big juvenile bird and two very attentive parents in attendance to look after their very demanding child.

The area begged to be explored by tender, so off we went to check out the 2 nearby river mouths. At the one we saw 2 bear cubs playing in the water and trying to catch the salmon waiting to get upriver at high tide to spawn. As we got close mom must have called them away as they disappeared into the forest. There were hundreds of pink salmon all round us.

The plan was to return there the next day to snag some salmon. On our way back to the boat we passed a Fish and Game Patrol vessel that had arrived and was anchored nearby. These vessels are manned by State Troopers and make sure all abide by the regulations. They were friendly and forthcoming with information. On their suggestion we took the tender the next morning up Long Lagoon to see the salmon run there. Amazing to see thousands of salmon swimming up this 2-mile-long narrow lagoon to spawn and lay their eggs in the gravel amongst the eelgrass beds. Unfortunately, we saw no bears that day.

On the way back Johann caught a nice size Halibut and then we were off to the other river to go snag some pink salmon. What fun and excitement. The fish is so thick that you cast a weighted treble hook into the school of fish, reel in and you hook or snag a fish every time you cast. With 3 nice salmon and one halibut on ice we left for Blue Fox Bay late that afternoon.

I caught my very first salmon and was over the moon with joy. With the salmon already gutted and cleaned, I was getting ready to have a picture taken with my salmon, but its jaw ripped right through as Johann picked it up to hand it to me and my salmon went straight back to the deep waters! Sadly, with salmon gone, so was the picture opportunity too! I am not sure what the punishment for that should be. The captain escaped a heavy sentence by the skin of his teeth that day as no foul play was suspected. It was a Pink Salmon and apparently not the nicest of the lot.

 

Blue Fox Bay lived up to its name. Nice safe anchorage and we even saw 3 foxes scavenging along the shore near the boat. The weather started to look promising for a crossing from Kodiak back to the Kenai Peninsula. The waters east of Barren Islands, which guard the entrance to Cook Inlet is known for strong currents and winds which leads to uncomfortable and potentially dangerous seas. The next day we had strong westerlies 25+ knots making crossing impossible.

We sheltered in Waterfall Bay but then had to go out into open waters to get satellite signal and VHF signal for our weather forecast. West 15kn was forecast for the following day but with large swells. Johann decided to go regardless. We sheltered behind Big Fort Island near the top end of Shuyak Island to allow us an early start and shorten the distance to cross to about 75 Nm. About 10 hours. Apart from an uncomfortable SW swell and a 2 knot current heading us for most of the way, we crossed without incident and was anchored in McArthur Cove on Ragged Island on the Kenai Peninsula by late afternoon. We at least had some entertainment on the way : a few Dahl Porpoises  playing around the bow of Scolamanzi for ages and a bunch of killer whales were feeding all around us.

In beautiful calm sunny weather, we completed the trip to Seward the next day.

We were lucky to take the last berth in the harbor for our size vessel. This is peak season here! Much to our surprise and delight Savanna was docked 2 boats away. Another surprise was when an old friend of ours that we have met in Trinidad 6 years ago, showed up as well for a coffee. With our 32 anniversary on the 4th of August, we were planning to go out for dinner. A couple of late nights followed as Savanah became a much nicer option to celebrate it in treacherous weather than going down town.

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