Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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Whales!

Since everyone seems to have a different date for World Whale Day, I figured today was as good a day as any to share some whale photos 🙂

The humpback whales are here in Hawaii for the winter – saw five just the other day, including a baby! Seeing whales from a little outrigger canoe is possibly even more exciting than seeing them from CELESTE – one is so much closer to the water and very aware that the whale is a 40-ton creature and the canoe is a very tippy 40-pounds (she’s made of carbon fiber, hence why she’s so lightweight – and fast and fun!). Didn’t get any photos of the whales from the canoe (didn’t bring the camera), but here are some from back up in Alaska:

Breaching whale

Humpback whale seen from CELESTE in Southeast Alaska, 2014.

This is probably my favorite. I love how well it captures coastal Alaska – the rocky shoreline, the steep forest climbing up and up in background, the wispy clouds, the cool, overcast weather, and, of course, the star of the show, the breaching whale. Do you see the two black specks above him? Those are bald eagles… gives you a sense of how immense this landscape is….

Bubble-net-feeding whales

Humpbacks bubble-net feeding in Southeast Alaska, 2017.

Here’s another image I love. These whales are bubble-net feeding in the deep water right off the shore. Bubble-net feeding is a clever and cooperative technique that humpback whales use to corral small fish and krill into balls, whereupon the whales burst up through the center of the fish ball, mouths open wide, to enjoy their feast! There is incredible footage of this in the new BBC documentary Seven Worlds, One Planet – Antarctica. Highly recommended!

Gray whale tail

Grey whale diving off Mexico, 2018.

Here’s a grey whale in Bahia Magdalena, Baja, Mexico. Grey whales make the longest migration of any mammal, more than 6000 miles each way between the Arctic and tropical waters. It was pretty exciting to see these grey whales in Mexico after having seen them in the Arctic. Just like it’s wonderful to see the humpbacks here in Hawaii after having seen so many up in Alaska!

Spinner dolphins

Spinner dolphins, Hawaii, 2019.

Obviously these aren’t whales, but as I don’t have any pictures of whales from Hawaii, I thought I’d throw in spinner dolphins instead. I love spinner dolphins – they’re so playful and they often show up around the outrigger canoe. It’s always so much fun to jump in the water with them. Though this photo was actually taken while scuba diving – this was a wonderful dive!

 


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Monterey, California, October 2017

Sailing through Golden Gate

Sailing out the Golden Gate, October 2017

Sailing out of San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, was a much more relaxed experience than coming into the Bay in the fog and dark. We had sunshine, no ship traffic, and a light breeze – just enough to be able cut the engine and sail through this famous waterway.

San Francisco in our wake

Goodbye, San Francisco

The Golden Gate is an iconic strait in nautical history – it actually acquired its moniker prior to the California gold rush, because the strait was a departure (and return) point for the lucrative trade with Asia. I’d spent a fair amount of my childhood looking at it, and sailing under it, so it was a treat to sail my own boat out of it on a voyage to the South Pacific.

Trimming the jib, sailing for the Golden Gate

Trimming the jib to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge

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Inside Passage, express style. (September 2017)

Fishing boat in Cross Sound

Fishing boat in Cross Sound, the evening we reached the Inside Passage again

After a couple days of rest upon reaching the sheltered waters of Southeast Alaska, we set off for a nearly non-stop trip south down the rest of the Inside Passage. We started on this marathon on September 9 and our goal was to be back in Port Angeles, Washington in two weeks.  Continue reading


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Arctic Voyage Video: Episode 2

Episode 2 of our Arctic Voyage video series came out on Cruising World magazine’s site earlier this month, and now we’ve just posted it on our YouTube channel. Here it is:

This video covers our first passage north in the Bering Sea, to the windswept but wildlife-rich Pribilof Islands. We were thrilled to get some great footage of puffins and fur seals, and really enjoyed celebrating Fourth of July in what’s got to be one of the world’s coldest ball-fields!

 


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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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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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New pages on Gone Floatabout

Hi everyone,

Bear and sprayWe’ve been doing a little renovation to Gone Floatabout and added some new pages. Finally the Arctic Voyage tab now has a full account of the voyage, from our first shakedown cruise in British Columbia in 2013 to our rounding of Point Barrow and return to the Aleutians this past summer. If you’re really ambitious and or really bored, all the posts are in order now on the 2014: Alaska page and the 2015: Arctic page 🙂

Much more exciting is that we finally did something about the Photography page! It’s now under the new Media tab and has three extensive galleries: Wildlife, Nature, and Adventure & People. We had a lot of fun putting that together, so hope you enjoy it!

Finally, sorry for the last post that got sent out – it was a snafu that happened when we were editing our home page.

Hope everyone enjoys floating about the revamped site 🙂

Cheers,

Ellen & Seth

 


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Anchored at the top of America, Part 1: Shifting winds, tundra town, and muktuk!

Polar ice

Bits of sea ice near the edge of the polar ice cap north of Barrow, Alaska, August 2015

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


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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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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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