Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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Southeast Alaska, May-June 2017

Whale flukesIn my last post about this summer’s sailing (Back to Alaska), I mentioned that we were in Petersburg awaiting parts for our engine. Well, that ended up dragging on for over two weeks! We thought we’d have them in just a few days, but it turned out that they didn’t actually get shipped from the place we’d ordered them until 11 days after we’d placed the order!!  Continue reading


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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 our last post we 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

Continue reading


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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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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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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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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