Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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Inside Channels to Open Ocean: Ketchikan, Alaska to Juan de Fuca Strait, Washington, August 2016

brown-bear-fishing-alaska

Brown bear fishing for salmon, Southeast Alaska

Our last post ended in Southeast Alaska, where we’d encountered a whole range of sailing conditions, revisited places we’d enjoyed in 2014, and discovered new places including a river where both black and brown bears fished for salmon.

Upon leaving the touristic town of Ketchikan, we once again entered deserted channels between forested islands. Our last stop in Alaska was a little cove just a mile or two north of the Canadian border, and then we set off to Prince Rupert to clear Customs into Canada.

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Glaciers, bears, and crossing the Gulf of Alaska: Kodiak to Ketchikan, July 2016

Sunset on Kodiak IslandWe 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


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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.

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Back in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska

 

In my last post I mentioned that we were back on board Celeste in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. So here’s what we’ve been up to:

Fishing boats tied up near Celeste

Bering Sea fishing boats moored near Celeste

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Memories of skiing in the Swiss Alps

Hi everyone,

Although we’re actually back with Celeste now (posts to come!), we promised a post or two about life in Switzerland. So here is a three-part photo series on the blog of our partner ZEAL Optics – all about skiing in the Alps! Enjoy!

And here’s a few more photos that weren’t in the ZEAL posts:


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VIDEO! Rowdy Arctic weather!

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!


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End of the 2015 Voyage: Decommissioning, Salmon, and Aurora Borealis

Our last post, recounting our rather difficult 3-week passage from Point Barrow, ended with just one day to go to Dutch Harbor and with the highest mountains of the Aleutian Islands (namely Shishaldin Volcano, 75 miles away) just in sight. That final day was overcast and a little foggy, but the sea conditions were happily just as kindly as they had been the day before, when the fin whales had paid us a visit.

Ellen reading on passage

Ellen in the companionway on our last passage day  (no more wool hats – amazing!)

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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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Seabirds and sea ice on Alaska’s Arctic coast: August 10, 2015

Black guillemot in flight

Black guillemots, Alaska’s Arctic coast

As you can probably tell if you’ve been reading Gone Floatabout, the two of us are amateur birders. And the Arctic – particularly Barrow (see last post) – is a wonderful place for spotting lots of unique species. So when Craig and Cyd told us about Cooper Island, we had to go!

Route Map_2015 to Barrow

Our route to Point Barrow and the Beaufort Sea, June – August 2015

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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