We wrote our last post from Kodiak, a wonderful town where we met a lot of very friendly people. As well as completing necessary chores like laundry, internet, fuel, and groceries, we had fun hiking the hill behind town. We really fell in love with the island of Kodiak, though, when we left town to sail to a deserted bay. Deserted, that is, except for humpback whales, sea otters with babies, and hundreds of puffins and auklets! Continue reading
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.
In previous posts we’ve mentioned some of the rough conditions we had to contend with in the Arctic last summer, both at sea and at anchor. Now we’ve got a video out on Ocean Navigator magazine’s YouTube channel that shows what this was like at anchor. Check it out!
Thanks very much to Mantus Anchors for holding Celeste in place this summer, and to Ocean Navigator and Mantus Anchors for making this video possible! (Please note that although Ocean Navigator approached Mantus to sponsor the video (and they agreed), all this footage was taken well before we had any thought of licensing it.)
Thanks for watching! Hope you enjoy!
After a great visit to scientist George Divoky and his seabirds, we headed back to Barrow to say goodbye to Craig and Cyd before beginning the return passage to Dutch Harbor. While much of the reason why we’d spent so much time around Barrow was because we’d been having so much fun, another factor was the weather. There simply hadn’t been a favorable window long enough to permit us to head south without getting a complete thrashing. Low pressure system after low pressure system kept sweeping across the Arctic Ocean from Wrangel Island north of Siberia and hammering the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
There’d been 24-hour windows between lows, of which we’d taken advantage to visit George and to explore the edge of the polar pack ice. But there’d never been a window long enough to make tracks south. Not only had the systems been frequent, but one thing about very cold air is that it actually makes bigger waves than warmer air. It’s denser and thus exerts more force on the water, so that 20 knots in the Arctic feels a lot worse than 20 knots in the Caribbean. We didn’t realize this on our own – Craig the bowhead whale biologist pointed it out to us. However, as autumn – a notoriously bad season in the Chukchi and Bering Seas – approached, our standards for what constituted ‘good’ weather got lower and lower. Continue reading
Our sojourn at the top of America could be summed up as sailing back and forth around Point Barrow to anchor on one side or the other each time the wind shifted. The low, gravely spit of Point Barrow itself shelters Elson Lagoon from the west and a series of low, constantly shifting islands shelters it from the north. But the lagoon is so big and shallow that when the wind blows from the south or east there’s really no protection in the anchorage at the northwest corner. So we’d sail around to anchor in the open sea, protected from the wind by Point Barrow again. We never encountered any problems with this strategy, but it was different than much of the cruising we’ve done before where the goal is to find an anchorage sheltered from all weathers for each place we visit. Here’s a Google earth screenshot Point Barrow (red dot) and Elson lagoon (teal green water to the southeast): Continue reading
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! Continue reading
After our wonderful, unanticipated stop on Point Hope, we weighed anchor on July 30, 2015. Both the GRIB files and the National Weather Service forecast strong southerly winds, just what we needed for the ~400 miles to Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of the United States. The southerlies would, of course, also make our exposed anchorage off Point Hope untenable, so it was time to go. We were a bit sad to leave, as we’d had so much fun there, and we also had a sense of anticipation about the passage since the winds were supposed to be quite strong – 30 knots – and the seas quite high – 10-12 feet. Continue reading