Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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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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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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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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“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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Off to the Pribilof Islands! June 30 – July 2, 2015

Leaving Unalaska under the last of the evening sun

Leaving Unalaska under the last of the evening sun

As promised, the story resumes! After our whirlwind last day on Unalaska, we finally pulled away from the dock at 9:30PM on June 30 with the sun still golden on the green hills.  We were warming up the engine and untying the lines when our friend Josh called across the dock, asking when our departure date would be.  “Now!” we shouted back, and a few moments later Celeste was gliding out of her slip and Josh shouted back to us, “Oh, you mean really, really now!  Good luck! Look me up if you come back to Unalaska!”

Then we were off, puttering past the familiar sights of the crab fishing boats, the pollock plants, the Russian Orthodox church with its onion domes, and the lovely green mountains – so many of which we’d hiked.  We hoisted sail and set Celeste on a course to round the northern headland of Unalaska Bay. It was sad to be leaving behind so many good friends and beautiful familiar places, but new adventures were just over the horizon! Continue reading


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Last projects before departure from Unalaska, June 27—30, 2015

Our Japanese friends sailing

Our Japanese friends sailing

The day after our test sail was devoted to provisioning. We have a lot of non-perishable food left from last year, but we wanted to top up on a few things like hot chocolate, cereal, snacks, etc. etc. We also topped up all our diesel jugs, adding 50 gallons to our main tank’s capacity. We took with us our new friends from Japan, a nice couple with whom we’ve been sharing the dock for the last week or so.  (I’m writing this on June 30.) They sailed in a few days after our arrival, after a 27 day passage from a small island south of the main Japanese islands. They’re hoping to continue on to Kodiak and further east, so they were provisioning too. We’ve enjoyed spending time with them and sharing the coordinates of our favorite anchorages from sailing out here last year. Continue reading