Monday, October 24, 2011

Seattle to Juneau, Up the inside passage

I spent too much time last spring not guiding (or making money) due to weather, and way too much time on the internet looking at ridiculous things, like the Craigslist wanted section. Not sure what I was doing there, but around nine pages deep I found an add looking for help on a yacht headed to Juneau from Seattle. The number on the add turned out to be wrong, and the guy on the other end apparently didn't have a yacht, and even if he did (I didn't ask), he wasn't interested in my services. I did a little digging, found the business that was interested and got the right number. After a brief conversation with a little bit of exaggeration about my seafaring ways, I was on board, so to speak.
Three weeks later, I was leaving the ballard locks with $25 bucks in my pocket and the salty sea breeze in my hair. The captain (Bob) had his girlfriend (can't remember) on board, and there was a retired guy named after a dog (Rex) who volunteered as well. It takes about 100 hours to make the trip. We ran around 10-12 hours a day. Most mornings I would wake up, help pull the anchor, or untie the lines from the dock, and make coffee and Bob's tea. The tea became my most important job. Apparently nobody knew how to brew a cup of tea like myself, much to the girlfriends chagrin. Bob would go back to bed while Rex and I manned the helm, making sure we didn't hit anything. We read books, we talked about fishing and life in general, and we looked through the binoculars a lot. It was a good time for a guy with $25 to his name.

A pod of porpoises swam right in front of the boat for miles. Everyone else on board was napping and the boat was on auto pilot so I stood on the bow and took pictures of them right under me for twenty minutes.

We stopped in Petersburg for a couple of days. Across the channel from the docks is Petersburg creek. It was too late in the year to expect any steelhead and too early for salmon. The timing was perfect for cutthroat, and I have always wanted to catch them in SE AK.
I paddled as far as I could get in my raft, and then hiked up through the tidewater until it turned into a proper creek. I fished three holes, two of which I caught nothing, the third I found some fish. A lot of fish. I spent the next two hours catching cutt's from 12-18" on old school streamer patterns.

These AK cutts have lots of spots!

I stayed on the boat in Juneau for a few days before I left for my summer employment. On the morning before my departure, Bob woke me up early. He was worried that the boat would be grounded if we didn't move it soon. The wind had blown us toward shore in the night and the tide was going out fast. He was explaining this while leisurely putting together breakfast. At this point the boat was already listing. I convinced him breakfast could wait, but it was already too late. Pictured below is a 95' yacht stuck in the mud. I felt bad for Bob, but I was inwardly delighted. We made the radio news, and the papers the next day. A steady parade of people came out on the beach to take pictures, ask questions, and offer to drag us off the beach for thousands of dollars. I tried hard to look like I wasn't enjoying the moment. Several hours later the tide came up and we were floating again, no harm done.

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