Monday, August 27, 2012

Alaska Anchorages and Summary of Raven Song's Cruise to Alaska 2012

Overview Map of Places Visited in Southeast Alaska;
Black Dots Are Anchorages;
Red Dots Are Town and Cities 

Arrived in Alaska on May 19, 2012 - Left Alaska on August 25, 2012 - Spent 14 weeks cruising

Distance travelled in Southeast Alaska, from Prince Rupert, BC, returning to Prince Rupert, BC:
1931 Nautical Miles
2221 Statute Miles
3577 Kilometers

Distance Vancouver to Prince Rupert, Northern BC:
510 Nautical Miles
587 Statute Miles
945 Kilometers

Details of Southern Half

Details of Northern Half

Kasaan (between "Sun and Wind" and "Misty Fjords")

I left out Kasaan.  At the end of the entry "Sun and Wind", we sailed into a bay near Old Kasaan.

In the 1700's, several groups of Haida canoed north from Haida Gwaii to settle in the area of Prince of Wales Island, in the south of Southeast Alaska. One group, the Kaigani, settled on nearby Dall Island and then later moved to Old Kasaan. 

Old Kasaan, or "beautiful town", was situated on Skowl Arm, Prince of Wales Island. Chief Skowl was a firm defender of Native customs against Russian Orthodox missionaries during Russian rule. At the end of the nineteenth century, Kasaan had seventeen long houses and sixty of the finest poles in Alaska.

In about 1892, a copper mine opened about 7 miles away in what is now Kasaan. Canneries and a sawmill also opened. Many of the Haida of Old Kasaan moved to Kasaan to find work. One source said that many houses were destroyed in a fire in the early 1900's. By 1905, most people had moved from Old Kasaan to Kasaan.

Old Kasaan Mortuary Poles ca 1890

Mortuary Poles 2012
Old Kasaan Waterfront ca 1890
Old Totem Pole 2012, Partially Burned
Old Kasaan ca 1890
House Posts and Beam
Orca Pole at Old Kasaan
House Beams

Chief Son-I-Hat built his long house a little way out of town next to a salmon spawning river. This is the site of the current Totem Pole Park.

Interior of Chief So-I-Hat's Long House
Reconstructed House Post
Spawning Salmon
In the 1930's, there was a revival of Native pride. Many groups retrieved their totem poles, restoring or reconstructing them. This was also the case in Kasaan.
Grave Marker at Old Kasaan ca 1890
Reconstructed Grave Marker
When we were at Old Kasaan, a young Haida arrived with his girl friend to collect berries. He told us where there were old totems, grave stones, and the remnants of a longhouse.

At Kasaan, we walked to the Totem Park and cemetery. On the way back, we met the father of the young man who had helped us in the morning. The father is a carver; he showed us the small canoe that he was building.

When we left Kasaan, we headed into the Behm Canal.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thoughts on the Education of Alaskan Natives in Earlier Times

I'm reading a very interesting book, "A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska". It is from the memoir of Hannah Beece, which was edited and researched by Jane Jacobs, the writer on American cities, the inspiration for Jane's Walks, and Hannah's great niece. From 1904 to 1917, Hannah was a teacher mostly in northern Alaska and The Yukon but her story and Jacobs's research enhance my experience here.
Reading "A Teacher in Old Alaska"
In Sitka, we visited the Sheldon Jackson Museum. It was a wonderful collection of native artifacts from all over Alaska. I remember being conflicted by my interest in the cultural items on display and my concern about how they were acquired. It turns out that Jackson hired Hannah. Hannah describes the beautiful fish-skin clothing of some of the peoples; we saw samples of that fascinating clothing. Jacobs's summary of Jackson's written disrespectful (and grossly inaccurate) description of Native Alaskans' culture and practices is hair-raising.

Then I read about the school that Jackson opened for Native children. Parents had to sign a contract giving over their children for 5 years. He also had other methods of forcing children to go to his school. Conditions were slave like, with no mention of play, just chores. Children were punished for speaking their mother language at any time of the day. Two people took Jackson to court in order to retrieve their young relatives. They won and 50% of the children walked away. Hannah's methods were more sugar coated.

Remember that very nice, well-to-do woman who gave me a ride to the main post office so I could mail a parcel to Canada? I peppered her with questions. I described the often deplorable conditions in Canadian residential and missionary schools and asked if something like that had happened in Alaska. She said that Native children received education but the conditions were good.

This week, CBC aired a program that ended with the description of a documentary on residential schools, "We Were Only [Just?] Children". I was surprised to hear that many Canadians do not know about the children's experiences in these schools, especially since the last one was closed in the 1990's.

Have Alaskan Natives not been as vocal as Canadian? Were the Alaskan schools closed earlier than in Canada? Did the Land Claims Settlement in 1971 with Native Alaskans help heal the emotional wounds?

And now I'm remembering the conversation with the taxi driver who drove us back from the grocery store. He is Native and married a Philippina, because most of the Native women in Sitka were drug users. So maybe the legacy of the Native schools, etc is still being felt.

Behm Canal and Misty Fjords

Monday August 20 - Friday August 24, 2012

The Behm Canal and Misty Fjords are behind Ketchikan, between Revillagigedo Island and the mainland. Everyone told us that it is like Yosemite, the California national park famous for its sheer granite walls and domes.

As we entered the canal, we saw an accumulation of military boats and a spot on the chart labeled "Restricted Military Area". In Georgia Strait, there is a military area labeled WG (Whiskey Gulf in the radio alphabet); the weather forecast indicates if Whiskey Gulf is inactive and therefore, safe to transit. We had heard nothing. An inflatable with 4 seriously big guys with guns was on our right. A surfaced submarine between two huge barges with lights were on our left. We slowed down and discussed what to do. We radioed the inflatable; they told us to stay 1000 yards from the barges and we'd be ok.
Rapids into Naha Lagoon
Soon after, a coast guard boat (without mounted machine gun) came along side. "Have you been boarded by the coast guard?" "No." "Just keep going." The spokesman mumbled into the radio. "Have you reported your entry into Alaskan ports?" "Yes. We phoned in this morning." More mumbling. "Ok. You can go."

Then we had to slalom through about 15 trollers. Enough excitement for one day!

Anchored in front of the rapids to Naha Lagoon. Very deep and anchor didn't want to hold on the first two attempts. We went for a hike along the lagoon and to the rapids.

Fish for Chocolate, Anyone?
Sport fishermen tied up at the dock. Urs went over with Lindt chocolate and came back with half a coho (silver) and three pieces of halibut. Win win!!
Walker Cove
We found a very deep anchorage in Fitzgibbons Cove. Again, a deep anchorage and 2 tries before the anchor set.

Walker Cove was our favorite. Spectacular steep, glacier scraped walls; waterfalls.
At the far end of Walker Cove
Punchbowl also had a steep wall. It is very popular with the cruise ship passengers from Ketchikan. There must have been 6 float planes landing in an hour. 
At Shoalwater Pass, we tied up to the Forest Service buoy. On the chart, the buoy was on top of the shallows. Urs reassured me by circling the buoy before we tied up. I saw eel grass and two floats. We decided to put down our crab trap despite the rain. 7 crabs in the morning!!

Our last anchorage in Alaska is probably Foggy Bay. We may decide to stop at an anchorage east of Cape Fox. But the weather is supposed to be good tomorrow.

We'll stay a couple of days in Prince Rupert and head south without too many side trips. From now on, I probably won't update the blog regularly.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sun and Wind!!

Raven Song Under Full Sail
Saturday August 18

Today was another sunny, warm day! The fifth in a row. All of 65 degrees, which is about 18 in real degrees! And the weather forecast is for another couple of days of sun.

And we were treated to enough wind to sail. Sometimes our speed was 3.5 knots with wind of 10 or 11 knots but at least we were sailing, under full sail. Toward the end of the day, the wind was 28 knots, the current was with us, and we were making 8 knots speed over ground.

A whole blog entry just about wind and sun!
Paul's Bight, Near Old Kasaan

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Anan Creek Bear Viewing

Friday August 17

Black Bear Caught a Salmon
The day promised to be warm and sunny! The fourth sunny day in a row!!

We anchored in front of the ranger's float on a steeply rising slope. We made sure the anchor was well set, because we didn't want Raven Song to sit on a shallow ledge that came way out into the bay. We took the dinghy to the trail head and listened to the ranger explaining the rules.
Brown Bear (Grizzly) Mother with Two of her Three Cubs
In front of us, another group was waylaid when a mother grizzly decided that she and her 3 cubs should take a nap on the boardwalk trail. She covered the boardwalk with dirt and settled down for a 40-minute nap! When we arrived, they were in the lagoon wandering away.
A Favorite Fishing Hole
At the end of the trail is the covered observatory platform overlooking Anan Creek, a salmon spawning river. We were seeing the final run of the summer, that of the chum or dog salmon. Under the platform was a photo blind, where we could get closer to the creek.

A Lot of Butchering Just for the Eggs
The location of the platform was a cascade of 8-foot waterfalls, where black bears fish in the morning and grizzlies in the afternoon. The bears had their favorite feeding spots, usually between two rocks where the salmon were channeled on their way up or back down the creek. It was toward the end of the run, so the bears were pretty well fed and round. We watched one bear pick up one salmon after another. He nibbled on the salmon's belly; if it was a female, he ate the eggs (caviar) and left the rest of the carcass; if there were no eggs, he just dropped the carcass and went back fishing (he was not interested in sperm sacs)!
Cub of the Year - "I am just waiting here on this rock until mother
 has caught another salmon."
One cub sat between two rocks as she'd seen her mother do. We watched the mother catch salmon to share with her cub; then she caught one last fish but dropped it. The cub seemed to want to eat it but mother just walked away, so the cub followed and left the fish behind for the crows to eat.

Mother Black Bear at the Favorite Fishing Hole,
while another Bear Waits his Turn in the Cave
Another bear was in a cave behind a mother. At first, we thought it was her cub. However, after she caught a fish, she walked toward the forest and her cub emerged. Then the bear peered cautiously out of the cave. We saw that he had a recent wound on the snout, which explained his caution. We were surprised at how big he was, as he squeezed himself out of his cave. When he caught a fish, he retreated back into the cave. Obviously, he felt safe from attack from larger bears.

Turning over between Naps in the Tree
When we emerged from the photo blind, a man pointed to a tree -- a bear was asleep in the branches, about 20 feet off the ground! Then we saw another bear climb a tree and fall asleep using a fork in the branches as a pillow!!

After about 3 hours, we decided to go back to the boat for lunch -- no food was allowed in the park. The wind had come up to 20 knots. Raven Song had swung around into just 21 feet of water, 16 feet of which was tide! We would have liked to return to the platform but we decided we'd had a good experience and did not want to risk leaving the boat alone under the circumstances, so we left. We anchored in Santa Ana Bay.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blips on the Radar; More about Currents; Wrangell

Blips on the Radar Might Not Be Boats

Last week, we left an anchorage in fog with 1/4-mile visibility. We turned on the radar. There were the islands nicely 1/2 mile away on the port (left) side. However, every once in a while, a blip appeared in front of Raven Song. I looked and looked but could not see a boat. Just kept looking. Then Urs took over and I folded laundry. Suddenly, Urs yelled, "You've got to see this!" The fog had cleared and there was a humpback lunge feeding! That was the cause of the blip on the radar screen. When he came up with a mouth full, he appeared on the screen; when he went down for another bite, he disappeared. I watched for another couple of minutes. He came up completely out of the water for a beautiful breach!

The Current in Frederick Sound really is Unpredictable Sometimes

We found that the ebb current went from Dry Strait around Frederick Sound towards Chatham Strait but the flood current often did the same, at least in the eastern part of Frederick Sound. A couple showed us their book on the currents of Southeast Alaska. There is was officially in black and white, "Flood current in Frederick Sound is unpredictable"!! One arm of the Stikine River flows through Dry Strait. So when there is a lot of water flowing in the Stikine, the flow of the river may be stronger than the flood current. So there it is.

This couple also told us that the Stikine affects the currents into Wrangell, which was our next port of call. Again river flow increases the ebb. The only sensible time to go into Wrangell is on a flood.

When Opposing Currents Meet

We headed south from Petersburg through Wrangell Narrows on the way to Wrangell. Fishing boats and Alaska ferries traverse the narrows but not the cruise ships. The narrows are well marked but can be quite narrow and dredging keeps the depth at 25 to 30 feet. The length of the narrows is 22 miles long. About half way through, the current meets water from the opposite end and from there on flows in the opposite direction. So with careful timing, it is possible to go in with a favorable southward flood from the northern end and, when the current changes, pick up the southward ebb on the southern end. It is nice to have the current with us all the way.


Downtown Wrangell
We had two gloriously sunny days in Wrangell. Wrangell has the feeling of a sizeable shipping and fishing port as well as a town out of the wild west. The Tlingits are an important part of Wrangell heritage. The local Tlingits were the most powerful natives in Alaska because they controlled the Stikine River, which was a lucrative trading corridor with the interior. We walked to Petroglyph Beach, where a friendly dog "helped" us find the petroglyphs. Then we visited the museum and learned more about the local natives. We walked around town, stopping at all the totem poles. And we got permits to go into the bear-viewing area Anan on Friday. We got glacier ice from the Le Conte glacier from a local nature guide. That will make a nice gin and tonic for happy hour.

Totem Pole in Wrangell
Petroglph of Orca
House Pole from Chief Shakes House
Old Totem Pole
House Wall Based on a Chilkat Blanket

Old House Pole from Chief Shakes House
Totem Poles at Chief Shakes House (under construction)
Chief Shakes House Under Construction