Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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Arctic Voyage Video 4: Arctic Circle and Bering Strait

We’ve just uploaded our 4th episode of our Arctic Voyage video series! Hope you enjoy!

This episode covers sailing from Nome, Alaska through the Bering Strait and across the Arctic Circle to Point Hope in July 2015. It’s a rough passage in cold fog until north winds cause an unplanned stop at the longest continuously inhabited village in North America. As so often happens, the best experiences are the unexpected ones, and here we become immersed in the subsistence culture of Alaska’s North Slope. With south winds finally in the forecast, we end the video explaining how to read sea-ice charts and weather files downloaded by satellite phone.

Since it’s been a long time since we posted the last episode, here are Episodes 1 – 3: Continue reading


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1300 miles in 19 days: Passage from Point Barrow to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, August 13-31, 2015

Celeste at Point BarrowAfter 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.

Wrangel Island screenshot

Google map screenshot of Wrangel Island (red pin) across the Chukchi Sea from Barrow

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


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Windy passage north through the Bering Strait, July 17 – 22, 2015

After our fantastic bicycling exploration around Nome, we had a day of chores (including trying to help our Dutch friends on Necton with filling their European propane canisters – sadly only moderately successful) and saying goodbye to Pat and Sue before setting sail for our passage north through the notorious Bering Strait!

Map to Point Hope

The Bering Strait – formed by Siberia to the west and Alaska to the east – is the gateway between the Bering Sea (to the south) and the Chukchi Sea (to the north), both known for their storms.  So far we’d done well in the Bering Sea, only experiencing moderately strong winds, up to 30 knots.  The weather forecast showed ceaseless strong winds, but fortunately from the SW so that once we were clear of the Seward Peninsula, we’d be on a broad reach headed north. Continue reading


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Exploring the Seward Peninsula by bicycle, July 13 – 16, 2015

Our new friends Pat and Sue (who took us fishing in the last post) very kindly lent us bicycles for the remainder of our stay in Nome, so we put them to good use exploring the beautiful mountainous tundra of the Seward Peninsula.

The peninsula is the American shore of the Bering Strait (across the strait is Siberia) and it’s quite wild, filled with migratory and arctic birds as well as musk-oxen, moose, brown (grizzly) bears, and caribou.  Unfortunately we never spotted the latter three, but we saw many birds and musk-oxen! Continue reading


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“There’s No Place Like Nome!” Arrival in Nome, AK, July 11, 2015

We arrived in Nome on July 11 after the 460 nautical mile passage from the Pribilofs.  The town’s slogan is “There’s no place like Nome!” and they’re certainly onto something – the place is full of character! We got our first taste as soon as we tied up to the dock.

Beautiful sunset sailing

The beautiful penultimate day on passage to Nome

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Passage to Nome, Alaska, July 7-11, 2015

With the forecasts predicting moderating SE winds, it was time to leave St Paul Island and head out once more into the Bering Sea.  So after saying goodbye to all our new friends, we prepared Celeste for departure and cast off the docklines.

Red-legged kittiwake

Red-legged Kittiwakes on the dock, St Paul Island

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