Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Weatherbound in Barrow


At anchor off Pt Barrow

Anchored off Point Barrow in building wind and chop

It turned out that we were very lucky with the timing of our passage to Point Barrow. The strong winds we’d had on the passage moderated enough for us to safely enter the lagoon behind the point, but then the wind came right back up in the ‘night’ (the sun didn’t set, of course). For two days we were weatherbound, unable to go ashore!

Despite being anchored not too far from the beach, Celeste endured some unpleasant chop: the 40 knot winds screaming over the low gravely spit kicked up waves that quickly in the 7-8 foot depths. She was fine – her anchor held with no problems (thank you, Mantus! and also thanks to our 175 feet of chain!) – but our 7-foot rowing dinghy was no match for the gale so the two of us were denied a walk ashore until conditions moderated. We passed the time reading, getting in touch (via satellite phone email) with our contact in Barrow (more on him below), and trying to steady the camera and binoculars to see all the amazing birds around us, particularly the colorful eiders!

King eider

King Eider in gorgeous breeding plumage

Longtailed duck breeding plumage

Male Long-tailed duck (oldsquaw) in breeding plumage, interestingly less colorful than basic plumage

We also did some chores: replenishing our heater’s fuel – Barrow was significantly colder than Point Hope, with highs never more than 35*F – and changing the engine oil.

Ellen changing filters

Ellen changing the primary fuel filter

On August 4, three days after our arrival, the weather finally improved and we were able to meet our Barrow contact. Craig is an incredibly knowledgeable bowhead whale biologist and a friend of Pat and Sue (our friends from Nome), who had put us in touch with him. Although we could have gotten ashore in our dinghy, he actually came out to get us in his skiff, providing an excuse to see our boat and an excuse for us to show him around. After a wonderful salmon dinner at his house (and a very welcome few loads of laundry!), Craig collected two of his neighbors – including a man who runs a dog team (more on him in a later post) – and we all headed back to Celeste for a couple beers.

Craig, Cyd, Ellen, Seth

Craig, his wife Cyd, and the two of us at Craig and Cyd’s house later on in our time at Barrow

Amid a whole lot of great conversation that lasted well into the ‘night’, Craig told us about walrus sightings at the ice edge just a few miles north. That got us really excited – walrus were another critter high on our wish-list of Arctic sightings – so we decided to make a little trip the next day. The forecast looked perfect for it: a lull before the next ferocious low pressure would come crashing into Point Barrow. We would just make a day trip and then return to Elson Lagoon.

11 thoughts on “Weatherbound in Barrow

  1. I Just found your blog. its great. Do you have a youtube page. I love videos. My blog has some helpful ideas on cabin heaters and DIY solar panels, making space in a small boat and other cool comfort projects. Hope you enjoy it.

    Fair winds.
    Jean Mondeau
    S/V Carmela
    Oyster Point Marina San Francisco.

    • Hi Jean,
      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoy the blog. We don’t currently have a YouTube channel, but we do have a couple videos hosted by our sponsor Katadyn and by Ocean Navigator magazine – please see our videos page: https://gonefloatabout.com/media/videos/

      We’ll check out your blog when we have a better internet connection – it’s a bit spotty in Alaska… – thanks for pointing the way! I write a lot about DIY projects like low-draw power systems and high latitude outfitting in magazines – those are on our articles page if you’re interested! (https://gonefloatabout.com/media/articles/)

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!
      All the best,
      Ellen and Seth

    • Thanks for the links. Ill look at them. Glad to hear there are others out there helping to keep the boating community appraised of alternative repair and rigging methods that work and are inexpensive. I love West Marine but there are alternatives for them youngins trying to get into the boating lifestyle with little money.

  2. Pingback: Anchored at the top of America, Part 1: Shifting winds, tundra town, and muktuk! | Gone Floatabout

  3. You both are really amazing sailors and explores. I have had out 200 feet of chain in Block Island, but that was because it was 30+ feet deep and we did have a little front. I can not imagine the courage it takes sail this far north and to deal with the high winds, cold temps and remote locations. Amazing job. You both are so BRAVE. Thank you for the insight.
    Hayden and Radeen

    • Hi Hayden and Radeen,
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! You’re right that it’s not an easy place to sail but the people we met and the wildlife we saw made it all worthwhile for us. That said, I’ve been following your Bahamian sailing with some serious envy! Have to get back to warm climes and coral reef diving at some point!
      All the best,

  4. God it looks like you are underway in that feature image, not at anchor! And in this a whale bone Seth and Craig are holding onto in the last image?

    • Doesn’t it look like that?! It felt a bit like we were underway, too. We were certainly pleased with how well our anchor held! And yes, it is a whalebone that Seth and Craig are holding. Pretty huge animals!

  5. As always, the adventures, writing, and the photographs are such a pleasure! and I confess to being disappointed to come to the end of each entry! Kudos.