Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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Last stops in SE Alaska

Thanks to everyone for being patient about our lack of internet.  We have finished winterizing our floating home Celeste and have, after much struggle (that story comes later!), arrived back in our land-based home where we’re dying of the 68 degree heat 🙂  Now that we have an easy Wi-Fi connection, I have no excuse not to post more about our Alaskan voyage!

Hoonah

We used our time in Hoonah, our last real town in SE Alaska, to do chores: laundry, stocking up on fresh groceries for our passage to Prince William Sound, and filling up with fuel and water.  We tried to access the internet, but a small earthquake had put it out of commission throughout the area.  So we left Hoonah on July 27 naively thinking we might be able to put up our August blog posts and pay our online bills in Elfin Cove. Continue reading


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Brown bears!

Sailing past waterfallWe left Baranof late in the morning of the 23rd and sailed across the strait to Whitewater Bay on Admiralty Island. It looked like a good anchorage; we had decent charts of it; and the stream and lagoon beyond the anchorage looked like good grounds for a dinghy adventure.  The sail was beautiful, passing by an enormous waterfall cascading from Baranof’s glaciated mountains down into the sea.  We were snug in Whitewater Bay by mid-afternoon, so as soon as we’d dropped the hook we were off to see what wildlife we could spot in the lagoon. Continue reading


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Whales and Hot Springs

Diving FlukesOn the day following our hike in Thomas Bay (July 17), we’d planned to sail about 30 miles and be well on our way to our next big stop on Baranof Island. We only made it 5 miles. Almost as soon as we’d left our anchorage, we saw a whale spout, then five, then dozens. Frederick Sound was teeming with humpbacks! We motored a little closer to a big pod, then cut the engine and drifted, watching them spout lazily on the surface and dive every now and then, showing their distinctive black and white flukes.

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Glaciers and Trails in Thomas Bay

Sea lionsOur destination leaving Petersburg was only about 10 miles away, but it was all the incredible wilderness we could have asked for. We turned out of the northern entrance to Wrangell Narrows, passed a buoy covered in sea lions, and crossed the strait to mainland Alaska. Thomas Bay opened out in front of us and we threaded between the navigation markers across its bar entrance, the current taking us in. Suddenly the water turned from deep blue to milky green/gray/blue, a color close to what we’ve seen in glacial melt streams while hiking in Switzerland and New Zealand. The breeze off the water was also noticeably colder. We sailed up the bay, craning our necks to look up sheer cliffs and the 5000ft peaks beyond. When we turned the corner to the head of the bay, we could see the tongue of Baird Glacier reaching down to the sea and we saw our first bergy bit (small iceberg) floating just off Celeste‘s port side! Continue reading


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Ketchikan to Petersburg

Thirteen feet of rain fall in Ketchikan every year, but we almost couldn’t believe it in the days that followed our departure. A high pressure built and the sun shone warm on Celeste as she sailed north. We had a brisk beat to windward leaving Ketchikan on July 10, the kind of summer sailing people associate with Seth’s home waters in Maine.

Beating out of Ketchikan

With the sun sparkling on the ripples, Celeste charging ahead at 8 knots, and forested mountains surrounding us, we didn’t mind taking all day to tack upwind to our next anchorage on Prince of Wales Island. The sun was setting over the distant snow-capped peaks by the time we came level with the cove, bathing the sea in purple and pink, and the moon was rising full behind us. As we were admiring the sunset, thinking it couldn’t get any better, the spouts of a whole pod of humpback whales broke the golden surface. They spouted and dove and showed their flukes repeatedly while we ghosted into the bay and made our way slowly to our anchorage – magical!

Midnight whale

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Maps and Dates

In response to a couple of requests for maps of our route, I’ve put together the one below that shows the locations of the previous few posts.  We also wanted to clarify a couple things about Gone Floatabout.  The blog posts tend to lag our actual journey by about a month.  This is mostly because we have such sporadic and unreliable access to internet, so we put together posts recounting our previous experiences when we do get a chance to go online.  We also like to take some time to think about our writing and to process our hundreds (maybe thousands!) of photos.  So although we posted “Shakedown Passage” on July 31, our departure was in fact on JUNE 27.  The posts over the next month will recount our adventures in Southeast Alaska throughout July. Continue reading


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North to Alaska

Jib repair

Repairing the blown-out jib

Our last day in Winter Harbor we used to repair the jib—each stitch took a blow with awl and hammer so it was an all-day project—and making a bug screen for our main hatch, a project we’d put off in Port Angeles in favor of more pressing ones. We also repositioned our autopilot’s compass to reduce magnetic interference from the engine and worked out what was wrong with our wind vane, adjusting it to steer correctly. But all this was pleasant—there wasn’t too much to get done in the day and the sun shone warm on the decks as we did it.

We had a short weather window to head north before a big low pressure would bring 35-40 knot winds careening over our area, so we took advantage of it by sailing an overnight passage to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Continue reading