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.
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:
We’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 🙂
Ellen & Seth
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
Our new friends Pat and Sue (who took us fishing in the last post) very kindly lent us bicycles for the remainder of our stay in Nome, so we put them to good use exploring the beautiful mountainous tundra of the Seward Peninsula.
The peninsula is the American shore of the Bering Strait (across the strait is Siberia) and it’s quite wild, filled with migratory and arctic birds as well as musk-oxen, moose, brown (grizzly) bears, and caribou. Unfortunately we never spotted the latter three, but we saw many birds and musk-oxen! Continue reading
In my last post, I introduced Pat and Sue, a wonderful couple who take Arctic sailors under their wing. Seth and I had talked (with each other) about rowing our dinghy up the Snake River that empties into Nome’s harbor, but on our very first full day, Pat and Sue took us up it in their motorboat for a fishing expedition!
Morning dawned with even thicker fog than at our arrival the night before. But we were determined to find as many birds as possible – one of the three reasons for stopping here (the other two being the fur seals and that the island was on our way north). St Paul is known for its many unique sea- and shorebirds that aren’t easy to spot elsewhere. It’s famed in bird-nerd circles (a term I use affectionately!) for red-legged kittiwakes, crested auklets, least auklets, parakeet auklets, horned and tufted puffins, etc. Bird nerds come from all over the world and brave the long toilet-less flight from Anchorage – and they bear with Spartan accommodations and cold and wind and fog – just to spot these little feathery friends. So Seth and I were most definitely going to find the famed birds, too! Continue reading
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
While our wonderful friends Andy and Daneen looked after Celeste in Unalaska, we went back to work and life in Switzerland, where we’ve been based for the last few years. We said a sad goodbye both to friends and boat (a friend too, of course!) on September 12 and boarded the plane to Anchorage. That was quite a ride! Continue reading