The above exchange occurred as we were entering the fish processing plant to meet for the first time with Bill Harrington, Sans Souci’s newest team member.
But, before I speak about Bill…
I should report that all three GSSR boats made it safely to the dock in Kodiak.
Overall, we had a relatively smooth ride. As I mentioned, going into a head sea, even when it isn’t much of one, produces an uncomfortable motion in the boat. Those who are susceptible to seasickness, such as myself, need to take precautions. I usually put on a scopolamine patch, but convinced myself I didn’t need one for this particular trip. Mistake! I spent two days so weak I could barely move. Happily though, I probably lost a couple of pounds.
The last day of our three day passage was a little unusual, in that the winds did pick up, but it wasn’t an issue. During the first couple of days, we had 5-15 knot winds directly in our face. The last day, we had heavier winds, consistently over 20 knots, but because they were slightly to our side, instead of directly in front of us, the ride was much better. Or, perhaps the last day felt so good simply because I put on the patch, and was back amongst the living. One way or the other, we had a great final 24 hours to our passage.
The only bit of excitement on the final day of our passage was that we spent the last 12 hours or so of our run in heavy fog. All of our boats are equipped to run in fog, so this was mostly a non-issue. Until our final approach to Kodiak, there were no other boats or anything to bump into. The only mild annoyance was that I really did not want to arrive in a strange port in thick fog. On the charts, the approach to Kodiak appeared fairly straight forward, but as a rule, I don’t like arriving strange places after dark or in fog. Happily, at 4:30 am, about 5 miles from Kodiak, the fog lifted, the sun appeared and I was able to report on the radio: “GSSR Group. I am happy to report that Sans Souci has land in sight!”
The Kodiak marina rolled out the red carpet for us, despite out 5:30am arrival. We were assigned slips at the “in town” marina, and the harbormaster himself caught our lines (Marty Owen).
The GSSR owes Mr. Owen, the Kodiak Harbormaster, a huge favor. Thank you Marty!
When Roberta and I first considered making the run across the Bering Sea, Roberta said, “I insist that you find someone to crew on our boat who has been to the Bering Sea before.” This became a big challenge. There are people who have fished the Bering Sea, but I really need to find someone who had captained a boat. I was having a heck of a time finding someone to talk to. Finding someone to tag along with us was going to be impossible.
Early in the trip planning we did find one tug boat skipper who had crossed the Aleutians. I arranged a conference call with him, and our GSSR crews. It wound up being a major disaster, and could have killed the whole trip. When the call started he wasn’t sure why we wanted to speak with him. I explained that we were planning a trip across the Bering Sea to Japan. He listened patiently, and then said: “Are you F[censored]ing nuts?” The conversation went downhill from there. He delivers 135 foot tug boats to Japan from the west coast of the US. He had made the run we’re on many times, and said that he had now swapped routing to a southern route, which is twice the distance (or, more – I forget the exact route). He was exceptionally passionate about why we would be absolutely crazy to make this trip. His arguments were many: rough, unpredictable seas, non-stop head-seas, poor shelter from the weather due to the low islands, nothing to see, etc. Our group argued with him, but he held his ground. The GSSR group shrunk from four boats to three shortly after that call, although purportly for non-related reasons. The rest of us said we weren’t shaken, but it was demotivating.
It was about that time that I contacted Mr. Owen, the Kodiak Harbormaster. I was grasping at straws to find someone who could restore our faith that this trip was possible, and perhaps even agree to come along with us. Mr. Owen said he had a friend I should speak with: Bill Harrington.
Bill was as passionate about the Aleutians, and the Bering Sea, as our first contact had been passionately against it. Bill has fished the Aleutians for years, and genuinely seems to like them. His father was stationed in the Aleutians during WWII. Bill has an active interest in history, and has hiked the Aleutians seeking old WWII artifacts. He asked me about signing on, before I was able to ask him. The chance to take time, to properly explore the Aleutians, rather than cramming exploration in between fishing, was too appealing. Most importantly, Bill has anchored many times in the Aleutians, and should the weather turn nasty, Bill knows the good places to hide.
We held another conference call, this time with Bill, and it went as well as the first one went poorly.
Bill’s boat; the Miss Lori.
Various pictures, taken by Bill, of WWII artifacts, still in the Aleutians
An unexpected side benefit of our Bill Harrington connection is that Bill was able to introduce us to a National Weather guy who has been doing forecasts for the eastern Pacific, including the Aleutians, for twenty years. We’ve been in constant email and phone contact, as well as him dropping by the boat for briefings.
As I type this we are still in Kodiak. Tonight the group is having dinner with Bill and his wife Cindy, just to let everyone meet each other. Roberta and I did meet Bill, face to face at his boat, as he was unloading thousands of pounds of halibut at a fish processing plant. Thanks to Bill, Roberta and I were able to tour the factory, watching the fish being guillotined, one by one. Oh boy….
From here, we will go to Dutch Harbor, a run of about 600 nm. We don’t know if this will be a non-stop run, or if we will drop anchor each night or run around the clock. We do know of at least one stop: Geographic Harbor.
Here’s an excerpt from a cruising blog speaking about Geographic Harbor:
Although we have been in Kodiak for three days, we haven’t had time yet to see the town. All of the boats have had “projects” to do. Kodiak is ideally suited for boat work. There is a True Value hardware store, a marine store, a marine electronics outfit, and a Napa auto parts store, all within sight of the top of the dock. Our goal tomorrow is to finally ‘see the island.’
Our boats look out of place here in Kodiak. There are two large ports, with hundreds of fishing boats. Recreational cruising yachts, such as ours, are a rarity here. Several fishermen have stopped me on the docks to ask about our boats. The local paper stopped by the boat to interview us. It’s a reminder that we are somewhat ‘off the beaten track’ for cruisers. As I was posting this message, the Cornelia Marie, one of the crab boats from the TV show Deadliest Catch, ran past my window. It was another reminder of how far we’ve come, and how near we are to the Bering Sea.
Here is a video I threw together, with footage from Glacier Bay to Kodiak:
If the video does not appear below, use this link to view it:
N6805, Sans Souci
PS We are constantly amazed by how many people read my blog. After my last blog entry, saying I had sea sickness, the Harbormaster’s office said they were getting calls wanting to know if we had arrived ok, and how Shelby and Ken were doing. Also a surprise: I need to thank Andy, from Switzerland, who sent three picture books to Bill Harrington’s home (no idea how he found Bill’s address). The books are loaded with pictures that we can point at, when we get to Japan, as a way of communicating without words. There are pictures of vehicles, various body parts, various foods, furniture, clothing items, appliances, etc. It will come in handy!
There are grizzlys around us in every direction. Roberta and I were lazy yesterday and stayed on the boat, except for one brief tender ride. During our ride, we didn’t see any bears, but once back on the boat, we could see three from the back deck. It’s raining here now, but as soon as the rain stops we’ll go exploring.
I watched one bear, on shore, stand up yesterday. He seemed large before standing up, and much larger after standing. The grizzlys are huge!
I meant that the low itself is moving to the northeast.
So how are the bears?
PS — A northeasterly isn’t all bad news. We’ll be moving southwest for the next 500 miles.
Hal: Yes — we blew it. We may be stuck here for a while. It appears our luck has finally run out.
Roberta looked at the report and said: “This is why we bought Nordhavns! Let’s just go for it, and don’t worry about it.” I may make her go sit in the tender overnight for that comment.
And .. on a happier note:
Another Nordhavn just pulled into the bay – an N40 that spent the winter in Lake Union. Totally bizarre seeing it enter, and an amazing coincidence. Samba – Josh and Natasha Tofield.
I see you are now at Geographic Harbor. Looks like you might be missing a pretty good weather window for the westward run to Dutch Harbor. Hope you don’t get slammed by the northeasterly moving low.
Thanks-a-lot Bill….she looks well cared for. Not many of the ole wood boats remaining that have been kept in good condition
Here is one based in Petersburg…she is a 1955 also built in Seattle
F/V Dream Maid
In response to one of the reader’s request: Miss Lori was built in Tacoma Washington by Jones Goodell in 1962 as a salmon seiner. Originally named “Pacific” then “Terrigail” then “Miss Lori”. She is powered by a D343 Caterpillar making all of 250 hp. She is 56ft. LOA by 19.5 wide by 8’6″ deep.The build is clear fir on oak. She is an incredible seaboat and I have had her in 75 knots of wind, running with it, and I was more scared than the boat was. Since 1985 we have seen all waters between Seattle and Attu in the Aleutians.
Just forgot in include the link…
Ken & all members of the GSSR
When you get to Dutch Harbor you’ll want to do the Sunday Brunch at The Grand Aleutain
The fellow that is in charge of that has a great Dutch Harbor Blog and always shows what was served…he goes by CB
You may never wanna leave there…!
Here is CB’s blog: (with a aerial header photo of Dutch Harbor)
Ken….. great post as usual.
Not at all surprised to read that so many, perhaps world-wide, are following your blog.
Now the real fun begins, heading out west.
Would love to know all the details on F/V Miss Lori, she looks like a very well-kept Pacific Northwest ole wood survivor, from the 50’s