Lindisfarne – Forgus 37 – 7,5t (more than 9t equipped)
New Zeeland, Tahiti, Hawaii, Alaska and Canada BC
Part 4 of 7
Dutch Harbor to Seward via Kodiak and some coves on the mainland
6 August – 3 September
We left Small boat harbor in Dutch Harbor on 5 August and via fuel dock filling 63-gallon diesel, we sailed through the strait east of Unalaska. When we studied the current in the strait we had to pass going south, there was a south going current of two knots between two and five o’clock, the rest of the day had two to six knots north going. Sometimes decisions when to leave are easy to make!
All the way east along the strait we sailed wing-wing with apparent wind 90-130 degrees over the boat, depending of the directions of the current. Our downwind sail configuration including a staysail is very convenient, allowing us to sail out pooled with wind from dead astern to across the boat.
Our tidal calculation program is obviously perfect. Almost accurate by the minute and knot!
By passing the strait, we left Bering Sea and went back into North Pacific. We left a cold 20 knot northerly wind and got a southwest of 15 knots. Later in the afternoon the wind, once again became cold when the wind from Bering Sea came through the next strait and we got the northerly back, now much stronger. South of Akun the wind had increased over land and we sailed the last two hours to our anchorage down reefed. Full speed in no swell condition close to the island made the trip quite comfortable in spite of the strong wind.
The bay we chose had low land to windward and no williwaws and as soon we came close, the wind dropped to strength that is more comfortable.
Sunday came with the usual foggy weather, but the dense fog patches was most of the time not very close. The program of the day was the Puffin colony on Kaligagan Island, 17 Nm east of our anchorage in Trident Bay. When we yesterday in full speed arrived at Trident Bay we were too busy to notice the amount of Tufted Puffins around the outer part of the bay. Now we motored in no wind through thousands of Puffins. Looking at these birds it was hard to understand why Kaligagan had been pointed out as “the colony”. OK there were many Puffins there too, but not more than around Trident Bay.
Having visited the colony we continued east across the pass all the ships going to or from the Bering Sea uses. There were not many anchorages that we could reach during daylight east of the pass. The decision was to continue throughout the night and arrive late Tuesday evening at Unga Island. This was mainly because we wanted to meet Ice Dancer and we had also an appointment to meet Berit, a friend flying in from Sweden to Sand Point on
Wednesday afternoon. Sand Point harbor is only ten miles away from the anchorage at Unga.
To the north we could see the peninsula, often hidden in fog and clouds. Before sunset we had an hour with clear skies above the clouds and could see the top of some of the snow and ice covered mountains. One had the shape of a perfect volcano, just like Mt Fuji.
In the dark we passed one mile north of Sanak Island which we only saw on radar when we confirmed the accuracy of the chart (or in fact the GPS datum).
Before noon Tuesday we had wind enough to shut down the engine and had a nice downwind ride all the way to Unga Is, where we arrived just before sunset. Ice Dancer had given us a good description of the bay, which is very useful when you arrive late and have no chance to change anchorage if conditions are bad. We drove by Ice Dancer, and all four of us agreed on meeting tomorrow, we were in need of a whole nights rest after been on the run for the last 35 hours.
Next morning we woke up to sunshine!! No fog and almost no clouds.
Dick and Gail went in their dinghy to the Horned Puffin colony on the island at the bay entrance, while we had to change oil and filters in the engine and gearbox. We had done 200 hours since last change in Hawaii.
We spent the evening in Ice Dancer with dinner and a late movie on their big screen. Just after midnight we were back in Lindisfarne after a temporary goodbye to Gail and Dick. They were on the run to Kodiak, where they would park Ice Dancer leaving for their home in Anchorage for some days.
We had to motor to the next island, Popof Island, to meet our crew Berit from Gothenburg, in Sand Point, who was coming to join us for a few weeks. Still a sunny day!
On the way to Sand Point Ice Dancer called us on the VHF and told us that they had seen many Humpbacks in the south bay between Popof Island and Unga Is. Perfect, just where we would pass in the afternoon.
When we arrived we fueled at the fuel dock and then got a berth in the marina. Almost all the fish boats were in the harbor. We learned that it was because it was not jet allowed to fish for salmon.
Sand Point was a much bigger town/village than we had expected. OK our references are from the scarcely populated Aleutian Islands. Everybody we met were enjoying the fabulous weather and told us not to tell anybody about it. Of course it was a joke, but the underline was that they wanted to keep their surroundings undisturbed from mass tourism. We didn’t think that ever could be a problem, people would never believe us if we tried to convince them about this weather taking place in foggy western Alaska!
Thanks to the clear weather there was no delay, Berit arrived on time, and after a walk and some shopping we left Sand Point to find an anchorage on the east side of Unga. But first, on the route, hopefully some whales.
We had passed a small island in the narrows between Sand Point and Unga when we saw the first blow. Half an hour later we were surrounded by Humpbacks, completely occupied chasing small fish. There were more than twenty Humpbacks in our close vicinity, some almost too close… We had the whales around us almost all the way into our anchorage. This was really a perfect occasion. Not only a bunch of Humpbacks close to the boat, the sea was quite flat, the sun was relatively low and the depth was just that deep to give the right fluke lift, with a lot of water running of the fluke with the sunray nicely reflecting in the water… Can you imagine the scene, if not go to our albums and enjoy the photos of diving Humpbacks.
The plan for Thursday was to go around Popof Island, fish for dinner and later have an anchorage on the north coast of Korovin Island in Grosvold Bay. But we couldn’t resist some more photos, now in the morning light, of “our” Humpbacks. Still sunshine from a cloudless sky!
One of the whales were obviously sleeping, because we saw him/her not moving above the surface for several minutes and suddenly it “jumped” and disappeared rapidly. The sound of our propeller was probably enough to alert the sleeping beast.
The fishing whales didn’t seem to take any notice of our presence, in fact they were sometimes uncomfortable close to the boat by “their choice”. A fantastic experience, even if it was a bit too exciting to have this 30 ton creatures that close to the boat.
After an hour, we continued around the island and stopped above a 60 feet shoal for some fish. Half an hour later we had three nice codfish and one perfect dinner sized halibut.
We anchored of the shallow shore in Grosvold Bay and it was too far to row so we had to use the outboard to get ashore.
A long walk ashore gave us some nice photos of birds and a family of sea otters.
Friday morning and we still had bright sunshine from a blue sky, but no wind. We motored along the peninsula looking at the scenery and came close to a Stellar Sea Lion group. The night we spent in Kupreanov Bay on Paul Island.
Saturday the 13th of August, early start because we had to make a longer trip, the coast didn’t offer good anchorage for the next 50 miles.
At noon when we approached the first fjord of the day a short chop came on the otherwise calm sea. Having experienced that several times we reefed the main which had only been stabilizing during motoring the whole morning. Sure, there was a sturdy wind of 20 – 30 knots blowing out of the fjord. Rolled out part of the genoa and we sailed nicely the six miles across. The wind died and we had to motor again to the next fjord, where the pattern was repeated, but this time the wind kept blowing 20-30 knots. Very refreshing and a nice change compared to the calm in the morning. When we arrived to the fjord where we had planned to anchor, again there was a strong wind blowing out of the fjord, and our anchorage was ten miles up the fjord. Not possible in that choppy steep sea. Next anchorage was 30 degrees to windward! After a brief study of the chart and in the pilot, we found a possible anchorage 15 miles across the bight, giving us an open reach. The daylight was running out and when we reached the cape where we attended to anchor it was getting dark. On top of that, the wind was now added with williwaws that made our attempt to make the last mile to windward into the windy anchorage hopeless. In the short steep sea and the 40 knots of wind we did almost no progress.
The only possible safe solution in that situation was; go to sea!
We turned Lindisfarne around 180 degrees and sailed downwind out at sea. Before pitch dark we had passed the reefs and small islands and after another 20 miles we could set course for the south cape of Kodiak Island another 100 miles to the east. Kodiak was on our itinerary in a few days, so this was actually no change of plans!
We arrived in the early afternoon after a fast downwind run throughout the night. The wind was still strong, this time when we turned into the anchorage from the approached fjord we once again had strong wind in our nose. But this time there was only a normal choppy sea and some extra revs on the engine easily overcame the pressure from the wind. After 15 minutes into Lazy Bay we could turn into Rodman Reach where the wind almost died between the 10-15 m high shoreline and we dropped anchor after an exceptional long “daytrip” of 200 Nm. Under these conditions the anchorage was excellent.
On Monday morning we had a late departure to time the current passing the south cape. The day trip was only 30 Nm and the cape was 5 miles away where we should be around four at slack water. After been ashore and admiring the surroundings we weigh anchor after having had lunch. Sunshine from a clear sky, nice fresh northwesterly wind and the current in our direction made the passage of the south cape very easy. Then along the east coast we first had a shallow area with a lot of kelp, after having dealt with that sailing along with our folding propeller folded, we had an open reach along the coast in fresh wind over land. The first alternative anchorage was very nice and before dark we got company with a lot of salmon fishing boats, none that close that we could hear their generators running. A perfect full moon came just as our sun and windswept faces wanted to meet a pillow…
The difference in numbers of boats compared with further west in the Aleutians is extreme. Ok the salmon fishery has started, and along the coast of Kodiak the number of boats is fantastic.
Tuesday we continued among the salmon fishing boats up to Old Harbor, where we moored at the floating dock in small boat harbor. The harbormaster charged us $20 and gave us some salmon. He told us that Jennifer, another Swedish boat, had been there some weeks ago.
The polis at Public Safety showed us around in his car. Unfortunately there were no bears at the normal places. Eventually it was too hot in the sun and they were waiting for the sunset.
The grib file on Wednesday morning showed a coming low with rain and strong wind, starting on Thursday. The sunny weather was ending after almost ten days, but hopefully we would still be able to reach Kodiak town before the rain started. We continued east looking for bears, but all we saw were numerous of traces after their trails all over the surrounding sloops. After some hours in the archipelago east of Old Harbor we came out to open water and got a nice breeze from behind. Wing on wing and shut down the engine. We sailed the remaining 50 miles to Kodiak most of the time with clear skies and got a slip in the marina at 9 o’clock in a fantastic sunset. No bears, but Humpbacks, Grey whales and a lot of Sea Otters was the more notable result of the day. Our slip was next to Ice Dancer and we decided to spend Thursday night together eating our “Old Harbor salmon” before Gail and Dick had to fly to Anchorage.
The heavy rain started on Thursday morning but after breakfast it was possible to walk into town, although in full foul weather gear… We visited the tourist information, library (for internet access), harbor master office and a nice café with lovely sandwiches. We did no shopping as we had to move the boat from the outer harbor to the town harbor next morning after Ice Dancer had left.
Back in the boat, it was soon time to join Gail and Dick for dinner, a nice evening that we finalized quiet early because the flight they had to catch was early next morning.
Friday morning we motored into the central harbor to get easier access to town.
Elaine, harbormaster in Adak, had as we have been writing about earlier given us two stones to be delivered to her mother in Kodiak. We got hold of Elaine’s mother and she came down to the harbor and we brought the stones to her car. We were given four nice T-shirts from Kodiak as a token for her gratitude, a nice gesture and a good memory for us.
Friday was almost as rainy as Thursday, but because we were in a short walking distance to everything, the rain didn’t bother us. After breakfast the propane ran out. Yes, it was not when making breakfast; it was when the tea water just was boiling! Never happened before, and will probably never happen again. We took the empty bottle and a short walk to the Gas station. Filled the bottle that had a NZ valve (the same as in US) and paid $20 for 6,5kg, much cheaper than back home.
We visited the local Brewery, tasted some of their flavors, and had a good chat with two locals about politics, life in general and other comparison between living in US contra Sweden. After beer tasting we visited the local chandler, bought an Alaska flag and a pump! Our feeding pump for the WM has had to have some help to get started. We have knocked on the motor to get it running a few times, a sign to get a spare one we thought, and suddenly here in Kodiak we found the exact one to a good price. We had then the intension to have dinner in one of the restaurants, but after walking around we decided (as usual) that the best restaurant was in Lindisfarne. Berit our crew was polite and agreed…
Saturday morning we all had a shower after breakfast and then topped up the water tank before leaving for the mainland across Shelikof Strait. We motored on flat water between lot of wooded islands for 45 miles before we came to the strait where we saw a lot of Sea Otters and Humpbacks in Whale pass. We got strong current with us over the strait, which actually was necessary to be able to reach an anchorage before darkness. Nothing happened during the first 35 miles across the strait, but then suddenly Björn saw a glimpse of a great black dorsal fin that could not belong to anything else than a Orca. Alert all cameras and two minutes later two Orcas came close to the boat. Nice photos in spite of the late hour. Just after sunset we anchored in a perfectly seclude pond, only reached by a less than 100 m long narrow channel.
Sunday morning before breakfast we continued further into Geographic Harbor, which was the name of the fjord we anchored in last night. At the bottom of the fjord we found three boats anchored, two rafted together. They were from two different bear watching companies and used as a base for tourists that were taken there by floatplane. Immediately after setting the anchor we saw our first bear. Then we saw a group of tourist up the stream with bears around them. We saw bears between them and the shore… After some internal discussions we decided to take the dinghy and join the group, even if that seemed to be very close to the bears.
As we approached the shoreline two bears came down the river between the group and us. We stopped the dinghy and waited out on the water until the bears had “strolled” away along the shore. Then rapidly, before the next bear took the same route, we went ashore and joined the group. They said good morning and the guide asked if we knew that bears liked to chew on dinghies? If it was o joke or not we don’t know, but we answered that we have had a Leopard seal chewing on our dinghy in Antarctica, but bears? Although we looked to the dinghy, a bit troubled every time a bear came close to it.
A fine rain and a lot of mosquitoes, but also a lot of bears, some of them almost too close. The closest one came only five meter from the camera, chasing salmon in the river! Their fast reflexes when catching a salmon was scary to watch…
Nothing dangerous happened in spite of all these fast runs into the water.
It was somewhat scary to get back the dinghy. Two bears turned around and suddenly they were on their way towards us and the dinghy. We stopped immediately and waited until they had past our route to the dinghy. One of the bears laid down (for a lunch break?) just 40 feet beside the dinghy! Very carefully we continued towards the dinghy and launched it without making unnecessary sound and movements. We sigh when we were out of the close by situation. Coming back to the boat we thought the “frightening” trip was justified because of all the nice photos and videos we had got. We had never dreamed of getting that close to a bear and get so many close ups.
In the afternoon we weigh anchor and after some result less attempts to fish, we anchored close to the mouth of Geographic bay.
Monday the 22, we left for Kenai Peninsula. The plan was to have a night on the island east of Kodiak 60 miles to the east, but the wind was weak and the current was more than one knot against. The sea state because of the current against the wind made it hopeless to gain speed without engaging the engine, but still the progress wasn’t enough t get to Kodiak before sunset. The only reasonably decision was to go overnight directly to Kenai, and so we did. By midnight we got a fresh westerly that pushed us along relatively fast and by morning we had passed Cooks Inlet and had the peninsula west of us.
We anchored in the afternoon but before we decided to stay for the night we looked at the grib file. There was a gale warning for Thursday! Now it was Tuesday and we wanted to be in Taz Basin on Granite Island before Wednesday afternoon. Between Granit Island and us was Macarthur’s pass, not to be passed in windy conditions unless in slack water. We decided to weigh anchor and motored the 15 miles to McArthur and anchor just east of the pass for the night.
Wednesday morning came with no wind and low clouds. We motored to Granite Island and tried to anchor. We did not get good holding during our two attempts with our 45 pound Delta anchor, in spite the pilot talked about the bottom being good for anchoring. During our attempt the sky had cleared up, and we decided to give the Glaciers in Northwestern Fjord a chance. This turned out to be a wise decision. The sky cleared and we had two tidewater glaciers in sunshine 300 feet in front of us. The last thousands of feet we had to motor carefully through the ice to get to the ice wall. We met an inflatable with three French climbers that had climbed one of the glaciers and told us about which one was the best, as if everybody used to climb glaciers. We thanked them for the information, but told them that that was above our horizon!
Back in Taz Basin on Granite Island we anchored using our Bruce anchor and now we got a good holding. A shoreline towards the predicted wind completed the anchoring. For once we had another boat in our anchorage, a local 39 feet sailing boat, Raven from Seward, and we took the dinghy to say hello. There were three people aboard, and after a beer they asked if we know anything about the weather. They had been sailing around among the nearby islands for some days and hadn’t had any information. They were somewhat surprised to learn about the gale next morning.
They left at sunrise the next morning and called us on the VHF when we were having breakfast. They were back and anchored in front of us without us noticing. They came over for coffee and a freshly baked cake. They used our SSB to send an e-mail to their wife’s about being delayed due to heavy weather. Later on the same evening the gale was replaced by a storm warning.
During coffee the wind increased and the williwaws got mad. The main problem that now occurred was that the williwaws came 120 degrees from the predicted wind we had in mind when we anchored. We were too close to shore and the shoreline didn’t help in the williwaw direction. We decided to move the shoreline towards the “new” wind direction and then put out a second anchor.
The operation was not without difficulties in the strong gusty wind. While Berit, our guest, was ashore trying to reach a tree to tie the rope around, Björn was in the dinghy trying to keep it along a rock with the outboard idling in gear because of the wind. Suddenly an extreme severe williwaw (+60 knots) came screaming down towards the bow of the dinghy. In part of a second, the dinghy had flipped upside down, leaving the engine and Björn under water. Instantly Björn came above the surface inside the dinghy and then dived to tow the dinghy the ten meters to shore. Shore was only a bunch of big blocks, covered with slippery kelp. Standing in two feet of water Björn tried to turn the dinghy without succeeding. The shoreline to Lindisfarne stretched in the strong gust and Berit had to let it go. Now the situation was more critical. No working outboard and no line to use to get back to the boat! Luckily two of the guys from Raven were in their dinghy looking for a tree. They managed to hand us the rope, and Björn rapidly tied it to the tree while Berit secured the flipped dinghy. Björn and Berit managed to turn the dinghy and then pull themselves along the line to Lindisfarne. With the shoreline in a better position we were far better off.
Shortly after Berit and Björn was back the captain of Raven called us asking us to help his crew, stuck ashore without petrol or oars… They were leeward of Lindisfarne so we tried to put a floating line out, but close to shore the line was pushed back out again. Annika took the dinghy, without the outboard, along the line and at the end she paddled towards the guys handing them a line. Between the gusts Annika retrieved the line in the dinghy and Björn did the same on the aft deck of Lindisfarne towing the guys. Safe at Lindisfarne they got some petrol and could return to Raven. By this time Björn was shivering and had to rapidly strip all clothes off to have a hot shower.
Having got dry clothes, we started planning for a second anchor. Strong wind made it impossible to use the stern windlass, no chance to back up against the wind and lower the anchor where we wanted to put it. The solution was to carry the stern anchor and chain from the aft chain chamber and place it nicely on deck, close to the bow windlass. Then releasing the bow chain from the windlass (after securing it with a chain hook), locking the stern chain to the already moved stern anchor (Manson Supreme 45 lb) via the now empty windlass. Move the bow to the selected position and lower the anchor. We were disappointed to discover that our first attempt failed, no holding. The procedure was repeated about 40feet further out, and now we got a very good holding. Now we had two anchors and a shoreline keeping the bow in position even if the gusts altered in direction, only the stern moved to leeward. The shoreline even prevented the boat to go forward on the two chains between the gusts. We felt very relaxed in spite of the brutal williwaws, our only concern now was the situation for Raven. They had ongoing problem getting a good holding for their two 30lb CQR anchor with 50% chain and rope. We handed over our 25lb anchor rider so they could improve the situation at least for one anchor. They had anchor watch in the cockpit until the wind decreased early morning.
The grib files on Friday morning showed a new pattern, low winds along the coast, increasing again Saturday morning. Raven took the opportunity and left for Seward after breakfast. A little rough, but they managed to motor sail back home. We used Friday for a shore trip, picking mushrooms and lingonberries and made a new cake using those berries.
Saturday morning the wind picked up again but nothing like the wind we had on Thursday.
A lot of indoor work was done…and the wind died on Saturday evening.
On Sunday morning the rain was gone and the sun was shining from a completely clear sky. Retrieving all our gears took an hour and then we set of for Seward. This weather was really worth waiting for. Ok the sea was still showing traces from the last day’s strong winds, but motoring with a stabilizing main was almost comfortable. Great views including some more glaciers, the biggest was Bear Glacier, almost a tidal one close to Seward. We got a good berth in the marina and Dave on Raven had invited us to use the facilities in the Yacht club so a shower was on top on the list. But before that, Lisbeth and Janne from Nordic Lady (another Swedish yacht in Alaska) came to pay us a visit.
Monday was research day. Laundry, outboard repair, how to get Berit to Anchorage…
We rented a car for a trip to Gail and Dick in Anchorage, got the outboard to a shop where they manage to fix it, and moved Lindisfarne to more protected berth, filling up fuel on the way.
Tuesday morning it was time for Berit, our guest since almost three weeks, to start her long trip back to Sweden. First we stayed at Barnes residence all three of us over night. Dick and Björn got up early on Wednesday to get Berit to the Airport before five o’clock. All went well and Berit had no delays, in spite of two changes of aircrafts on route to Gothenburg.
After coming back to a quiet house they had a nap, and later Gail made breakfast. Annika and Gail drove to town before lunch. After lunch we took a walk in to town, doing some errands and visiting the nice museum. After that, it was time for dinner back at the house together with Dick and Gail and two of their grandchildren. Before dinner, Annika managed to get all our laundry done.
Thursday morning was almost clear. We could see the mountains across the water from the living room, a spectacular view!
After lunch Dick drove the four of us around in town to be able to buy all the things we needed to bring back to the boat. Back at the house we loaded our rental car with all stuff, thanked Gail and Dick for their hospitality and wished them a pleasant flight back to Kodiak and Ice Dancer.
We forgot to tell you that one other reason for the trip to Anchorage was to collect the items Dick had ordered for our account to his address in Anchorage. One tele lens for our Canon and one remote control for the autopilot were in that package.
We had a nice trip back to Seward and this time we could see all the mountains in sunshine.
Back in Seward, we “filled” Lindisfarne with all stuff we brought from Anchorage and before we left the car, we collected our repaired outboard. We were lucky to have it working again, and the repair including new oil in motor and gearbox was not more than $185.
Cheap compared to a new outboard that easily could have been the result from the drowning last Thursday.
After consulting the weather report we decided not to leave on Friday for Prince William Sound. Gale force and northeasterly wind made us stay and work with our website in the Yacht club, and talking with our new friends here in Seward.
It looks like we will have to wait a couple of days to get favorable winds for sailing east towards Gulf of Alaska and then across to southeast Alaska.
Annika & Björn