Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Dutch Harbor to Kodiak: Great sailing and great wildlife!


Sea Otter, Unalaska Island

Sea otter, Unalaska Island

With repairs complete, we departed Dutch Harbor/Unalaska on June 26 for the big, beautiful Alaska Peninsula. The first challenge was to sail between the Aleutians out from the Bering Sea and back into the Pacific. The passes between the islands are notoriously rough, with tidal currents running strong. On our way into the Bering in 2014 we had used Akutan Pass and had encountered a 3-knot favorable current at the supposed slack tide. We’d had bumpy conditions (contrary wind – wind against current) but nothing bad, and the 3-knot boost made it fast. This time things went even better! We chose the smaller Unalga Pass and had glassy calm seas despite a 2-knot current with us. There was thick fog, but otherwise it was very pleasant.

2016 Alaska_Dutch to Kodiak_small

Route from Unalaska Island to Kodiak, June 26 – July 8, 2016

After a few hours sailing in the Pacific, the fog started to lift and we could see mountainous Aleutians.

Fog shrouds the Aleutians

Fog-shrouded Aleutians, seen from the Pacific

The SW wind had built to about 15 knots since leaving Dutch Harbor and increased to 20 overnight, but then moderated back to 15 the next morning. Unimak Island and its immense snowy (and smoking) volcanoes – Shishaldin reaches 9,000 feet – were stunningly clear in the bluebird skies.

Volcanoes of Unimak Island

Unimak Island’s glaciated volcanoes

That afternoon (June 27) we reached Deer Passage, the stretch of water at the tip of the Alaska Peninsula that winds through the tundra-covered Shumagin Islands.

Sunset in Deer Passage

Beautiful Deer Passage at sunset

After another night and day of perfect sailing in flat seas (the passage totaled about 60 hours and covered 330 nautical miles) we reached a little bay where we dropped anchor to wait out the two days of easterly (contrary) winds that were forecast. The bay was deserted save for wildlife – foxes, otters, seals, and a big colony of nesting kittiwakes and gulls. We spent two days there while easterly winds blew, making time to explore ashore as well as work (computer work – not work on the boat so much).

Ashore in the Shumagin Islands

Ashore in the Shumagin Islands

We weighed anchor on July 1 for our next passage east and had glorious sailing for the first day as we came out of the Shumagin Islands into the open Pacific again. We’ve been amazed (we still haven’t gotten over it!) at how warm and pleasant the sailing has been this year in this part of Alaska, as compared to the conditions we encountered last year in the Arctic. It’s all in one’s perspective, of course, since we found the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands quite cold and windy when we first came through them in 2014! Of course, part of that had to do with the fact that coming west (in 2014) we sailed in low pressure systems in order to have favorable (east) winds, whereas this time (going east) we can sail in fair weather (west winds). But a lot of it does have to do with perspective: We’ve met two other sailboats this year who found Dutch Harbor really cold when we weren’t even bothering to run our heater….

Chart table on a nice day

Feeling downright tropical navigating to Katmai

The remainder of our passage up the Alaska Peninsula delivered strange conditions – 30 knots of wind for a few hours dying down to a dead calm before coming back up to 30 knots, repeat, repeat. It made for rather unpleasant waves, but at least the sun was shining! We reached Katmai National Park on July 3, having sailed for around 60 hours and covered about 300 miles.

Stiff winds along the Alaska Peninsula.jpg

Stiff winds sailing up the Alaska Peninsula

Exploring the Katmai area was wonderful. We revisited a bay we’d been to in 2014 where we’d seen a lot of bears, as well as sailing to other coves. We again encountered many brown bears, always happily from a safe distance! We marveled at waterfalls, and we met the two wilderness park rangers, stationed in a tiny primitive cabin in one of the bays. It’s the first year the Park Service has put paid employees there and they seemed thrilled to have visitors! (They don’t get many two-legged ones, though plenty of four-legged ones!)

Bear and Parks Service cabin

Four-legged visitor

Celeste leaving the Alaska Peninsula for Kodiak Island

Leaving Katmai for Kodiak

We left Katmai four days ago for Kodiak and had a decent overnight passage (about 16 hours, 80 miles) across Shelikof Strait to Kodiak, where we’ve been catching up on chores like laundry, email, and filling our diesel tank. Kodiak is a pretty big town – bit of a shock after a couple of weeks in the wilderness – but it’s been a good stop. Lots of really friendly people, a nice hike up a nearby hill, and a beautiful public library. Weather permitting, we’ll soon be off again, for a wilderness bay here on Kodiak Island. And we’ll once again be out of Internet access for the foreseeable future – so if we don’t immediately respond to comments, that’s why!

Dawn arrival on Kodiak - first trees this summer!

Beautiful Kodiak Island at dawn – first trees of the summer!

7 thoughts on “Dutch Harbor to Kodiak: Great sailing and great wildlife!

  1. Pingback: Happy 2017! | Gone Floatabout

  2. Hi, looks like you are having a great time in general ,the weather is sort of fair for you and the photo shots are looking terrific. Good to see the local rangers looking after the animals, I bet they were surprised to see you drop in to see them working the area.It looks like you are having a wonderful trip, half your luck so go man go.

    • Thanks for your comments and encouragement, Terry! It’s always great to hear from you! It was certainly a lot of fun to spend some time with the rangers (and the bears!) and also to have good weather for most of that part of the voyage! Since then it’s been a bit more windy and rainy, but still a ton of fun! Stay tuned – more posts coming!!

  3. Don’t know if this will reach you before you push off but just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed this entry and all the others. The article on the bears was fascinating. Just as well it was you all and not me for I’m not sure I could have stayed so still with them so close. But the photos were something else! Way to go. Love, caroline

    On Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 2:20 PM, Gone Floatabout wrote:

    > Ellen & Seth posted: ” With repairs complete, we departed Dutch > Harbor/Unalaska on June 26 for the big, beautiful Alaska Peninsula. The > first challenge was to sail between the Aleutians out from the Bering Sea > and back into the Pacific. The passes between the islands are no” >

    • Thanks so much for your message, Caroline. So glad you’ve been enjoying the posts and photos! There should be more bear photos coming soon!
      Ellen and Seth

  4. Fantastic photography… and sailing! Wow, you’ve made great progress guys!