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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Port Angeles, Part Two

Installing solar panels, varnishing hand rails

Installing solar panels, varnishing hand rails

The ten days following our hoped-for launch date of June 10 were dominated by installing equipment. Once all the paint and varnish had dried, Seth mounted and wired our new solar panels: two on the forward end of the cabin top, two aft where the old Dorade vent was, and one on a swivel mount on the stern pulpit. (There had been a large one there, but it didn’t seem to be producing much—if any—power, so we replaced it.) Meanwhile, I was hard at work back in our hotel room putting together our Jordan Series Drogue.

Continue reading


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Safe and Connected with OCENS and MVS

ocens (2)

After circumnavigating with almost no communications, we knew we wanted good services for our high latitude voyage.  Friends had spoken highly of OCENS, so we approached them for sponsorship.  We only work with companies whose products we would use regardless of sponsorship.

We’re thrilled to have OCENS Satellite Systems and Service, and their partner MVS Satellite Communications helping us stay safe and connected as we voyage north!

MVS_logo (2)Communications are vital for voyaging in higher latitudes where weather is volatile and can be severe, and where ice conditions can change even faster.  Aboard Celeste we’ll need access to good weather forecasts starting upon departure from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  They’ll become even more vital when we cross the Gulf of Alaska and when we enter the Bering Sea.  Upon reaching Arctic waters we’ll also need daily ice charts so we can make informed and safe decisions.  Thanks to OCENS and MVS we’ll be able to do all that reliably and quickly through OCENS’s excellent weather and e-mail services and through our Iridium Extreme phone and airtime.  Continue reading


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Capsizing, why it happens, and how the Jordan Series Drogue helps

Seth and I are grateful to have Ace Sailmakers and the Jordan Series Drogue supporting our voyage!  Ever since weathering a Force 10 storm off South Africa, we’ve wanted a series drogue on board, so we were very happy when Dave at Ace Sailmakers agreed to be a supporter.

Despite modern forecasts, ‘weather’—the sailors’ classically understated euphemism for a storm—is still a fact of life at sea. If you spend long enough traversing the world’s oceans, you’re bound to run into gales if not full blown storms. Waves begin to break (think of surfing) in storm conditions, and boats can capsize or pitch-pole in breaking waves. Drogues, especially the Jordan Series Drogue, can prevent this.

acesail_r1_c1_new Continue reading