I cannot speak for the other GSSR boats, but I suspect that the conference call this afternoon was momentous for all of us.
We spoke with John Kennelly, of the Nordhavn 62 Walkabout. A couple of years ago, John ran the same route as we have planned, and is somewhat the “father” of our expedition. It was his crossing of the Pacific, via our same routing, that provided the inspiration for our journey. Our group wanted to speak with John, to ask about his trip, and to start thinking ahead to our path beyond Japan. John has ventured on to Korea, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, and is currently in Singapore, as he circumnavigates with his wife and three children (ages 14, 8 and 5).
We also spoke with Bill Harrington, a Kodiak-Alaska based commercial fisherman, who has decades of experience in the Aleutians, and has agreed to act as our “tour guide” for the run. To say that Bill has fished the Aleutians, or has run the Aleutians, is only a small part of the story. Add to that his passion for the islands, their history, and the history of the war that was fought there.
Being able to speak directly with these gentlemen about their adventures, really brought home the excitement of our upcoming trip, much more so than just reading about these places in a book, or seeing them on a chart. There’s a saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, I’ve seen pictures of these places, but the thousands of words tonight did much more to generate enthusiasm for the trip. After the meeting, I was jotting a quick note to a friend, and mentioned that I had just had a two and a half hour call, during which these guys described places, that are generally considered as “difficult”, as though they were the greatest destinations on earth. I’m from the generation that hoped to avoid going to Cambodia or Vietnam, and certainly never dreamed I’d be going to the Bering Sea, but by the end of the call, I was eager to get rolling.
Much of the discussion centered on specific ports and the logistics associated with various ports and countries.
Japan was a major topic. My research on Japan has indicated that there aren’t many large powerboats. I had serious doubts about our ability to find moorage for our boats. John quickly put me to ease. He said that only on one occasion did he have a hard time finding moorage. We asked about power, and John indicated that the marinas use 50 cycle current, and usually only 20 amp or 30 amp service is available. I joked, semi-seriously, that this meant I would have to pick between running one light bulb or two. 20 amps doesn’t accomplish much on my boat. John did confirm that there is a surplus of bureaucracy, and that each time we move the boat we would need to clear in and out, but also said that the Japanese are very helpful, language is rarely a barrier, and that the system is very efficient.
Bill relieved any anxiety any of us might have been feeling about the Aleutians and the Bering Sea. He did say that there were times when he had been caught in 100 knot winds, but described these as rare. Most of his discussion centered on describing the places we would visit, to sightsee, in Kodiak, Dutch Harbor and the Aleutians.
Here are a few random memories from the call, that stand out in my mind:
– John saying that when he took his boat into Shanghai he was told that his was only the 5th international boat in modern history to enter the port
– Asking Bill how long it would take to cross from Dutch Harbor to Kamchatka, and his clearly trying to think how to convince us to slow down and enjoy. I asked if it could be done in two weeks, and he responded that a month might not be long enough to see all that there is to see.
– John talking about the incredibly friendly people in Japan, and how they would bend over backwards to move boats, or whatever had to be done, to find space for him in marinas.
– Bill talking about Dutch Harbor being bombed during WWII, and his father serving in the Aleutians. I had no idea that Dutch Harbor had been bombed…
– John single handing his Nordhavn 62 from Yokohama to Nagasaki, into an approaching Typhoon, accompanied only by his dog.
– Bill offering to send all of us his Nobeltec tracks, so we’d see where all the good anchorages are, and saying he’d be working hard to see that we have a great time
– John talking about running his tender within 20 feet of bears, at Geographic Harbor
– Bill saying that we would be seeing islands that virtually no one in history has ever seen.
– Both Bill and John talking about the experience of visiting Adak, where there once were six thousand personnel living, but now the population is closer to 70. Everything was just left behind. Both spoke of driving through an empty city, and how creepy it was.
– John saying that VHF radios are not used in Japan. Cell phones are used to communicate with ports and the authorities. There is no way to communicate with other boats. His experience was that many freighters do not have AIS.
– Bill saying that although the Aleutians are volcanic, he has not had problems with losing ground tackle. He said he had never lost an anchor.
Overall, it was a good day for building confidence, and a milestone, in that it was the first time we really started thinking about “what comes next?”
And, on a completely different topic:
I mentioned in my last blog entry that I had been thinking about whether or not I needed to buy a dry suit. I decided to post the question on a scuba diving message board. Here’s the conversation:
I’m a certified, but relatively inexperienced diver. I Captain a boat that is crossing the Bering Sea this July. If I tangle a net on my prop, I need to be prepared to dive in and cut the net off.
Response by “divebri”
but first off, you will NOT be comfortable (and it might actually be a little dangerous, IMHO) to use a 5-mil for that water.
I do have a dive compressor onboard (Bauer Junior II). And, the good news is that I am the “backup diver.” One of my crew is a much better diver, although far from professional. The good news is that he has at least dived in a dry suit a couple times before. My plan is that I would be the backup diver, just hovering nearby in case assistance is required.
Response by “bobcat”
While the task might appear to be simple, It can be very dangerous. A few issues. Is this boat free floating or docked? What about currents, What type of nets? What about wave movement and the hull rocking and rolling slapping around the waves and your head? What are you going to cut the nets with? Taking nets off a prop might take 30 mins or more. In that temperature of water your hand movements will be very limited based on the gloves you’ll be wearing. Certainly a 5MM is not going to do it. I suggest you practice these skills and master the techniques and equipment you’ll be using before you attempt this in a real emergency situation. Being teathered to a boat can be very dangerous too as you can be easily entangled. What happens if you become entangled in the net you are cutting off?
Response by “Crystal”
Wow… when I read this, my first thoughts were one of the “Lessons for Life”; I think there was one exactly about this kind of situation.
Response by “bobcat”
Its not up to the Dive shop to screen who they sell a Dry suit to. Its called responsibility, owner responsibility. Most dive classes stress the need for additional diving, experience and training. Is a new diver lacks common sense for their safety, that their business. I hope they are prepared for the situation and consequences. Pssst. In case no one told him. Diving can be deadly as can driving a boat or car. Accidents do and will happen especially to those who are unprepared.
Response by “aceupmysleeve777”
At least a 7mm wetsuit, thick hooded vest, 6mm booties and the thickest glove that will still allow you to work with your hands!
Probably my favorite response came from Bill Harrington, who said that it was much ado about nothing. He has run the Aleutians for many years, and never tangled his (single) prop. I have two props, with line cutters on them. I’m leaning towards just equipping Kirt, and buying a 7mm full body wetsuit, and then hoping diving is never an issue.