Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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Anchored at the top of America, Part 2: Migrating birds and a sled dog team

Welcome to BarrowWhile a lot of our time anchored near Barrow was filled with sailing and socializing, we also enjoyed some great land-based outdoor experiences: hiking, bird watching, driving around on ATVs, and watching an incredible dog team on their summer exercises. Here are some photos from the “top of the world”, as Barrow calls itself! Continue reading


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At the polar ice edge

(In the last post, we finally got ashore in Barrow, America’s northernmost town, after being weatherbound on board for 2 days. A fun night with our new friends Craig, Cyd, and a few others inspired us to try to find a walrus at the ice edge the next morning!)

Celeste among growlers

Celeste approaches the polar ice

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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! Continue reading


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Sailing to the top of America

 

Weighing anchor

Weighing anchor at Point Hope

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


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Snowy Owls, Spotted Seals, and an ATV: Good times on Point Hope!

Snowy Owl on whalebone

Snowy Owl perched on bowhead whale bone, Point Hope, Alaska

Although getting to know the people of Tikiġaq was what made our stay there so special, the wildlife and the landscape were wonderful, too. No, we didn’t see a polar bear but yes, our probable snowy owl sighting was in fact a snowy owl! These beautiful birds are high on the wish lists of both birders and Arctic travelers: 2 feet tall with a 4-5ft wingspan, they’re majestic birds – the largest species of owl. The almost completely white plumage of the male makes him a kind of Arctic symbol. Fortunately they’re not endangered or threatened, but their habitat (tundra) and range (strictly Arctic in summer, further south into Canada and Eurasia in winter) make them not so easy to spot in the wild. Owls in general aren’t easy to spot, being nocturnal, but of course the 24hr sunshine of the Arctic solved this problem for us. So it was with excitement akin to what we’d felt on seeing the muskoxen that we saw our snowy owl a second time, and this time without a doubt as to what he was! Continue reading


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A chance encounter and the fascinating history of Pt Hope/Tikiġaq

Our unexpected but wonderful stop on Point Hope stretched into a week.  From July 23 to 29 the northeast wind blew constantly, increasing in strength all the time. It would have made for unpleasant upwind sailing and slow progress; furthermore, our Dutch friends aboard Necton had reported from further north (they’d left Nome ahead of us) that the north wind was pushing the sea ice down on shore and they’d had quite a bit of trouble, getting trapped several times.  All that combined with the fact that Pt Hope was rapidly becoming our favorite place on the voyage so far made the decision easy: we would stay until the wind changed.

Fish net

Fishnet spread on Point Hope’s leeward beach

A chance meeting with two Tikiġaq (Pt Hope) residents – Pete and Pauline – cemented that decision. We’d rowed ashore again to verify our potential snowy owl sighting with the zoom lens and, while tramping around the tundra twitching at every white bird, two Inupiat on an ATV approached us and introduced themselves at Pete and Pauline. They were headed out to the ruins of the original village of Tikiġaq (on the end of the peninsula, about 2 or 3 miles from the modern village), to dig for artifacts.  We were immediately interested and ended up spending the whole afternoon with them, poking into the sod and whalebone iglus there, opening up Pauline’s cold cellar and crawling on the permafrost within, and learning a lot about Point Hope’s history and their own lives and culture. Continue reading


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First day on Point Hope, Alaska’s North Slope

When we dropped anchor off Point Hope following our passage north from Nome, our first thought (after seeing the boat secured) was that there was a ton more to the place than our chart had shown. The chart had the word “Ruins” written across the whole peninsula, and while there were ruins, there was also a small but thriving village, populated – it turned out – by Inupiat.

Although the wind was already strengthening significantly, we got together our water bottles, life jackets, and windbreakers and launched the dinghy to row ashore.

Boat and us on Pt Hope

Celeste and us on Pt Hope, Alaska’s North Slope

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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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Fishing outside Nome, July 12, 2015

In my last post, I introduced Pat and Sue, a wonderful couple who take Arctic sailors under their wing.  Seth and I had talked (with each other) about rowing our dinghy up the Snake River that empties into Nome’s harbor, but on our very first full day, Pat and Sue took us up it in their motorboat for a fishing expedition!

Fishing outside Nome

Sue fishing on the Snake River outside Nome, Alaska

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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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