When we left the port at Sand Point, Alaska our goal was to run the 30 hours to Dutch Harbor.
Our good luck with weather has continued. The seas have been exceptionally calm.
About five hours in, we started noticing what looked like small bubbles in the water. They stretched for miles, and I couldn’t figure them out. I called the other GSSR boats, and they had also noticed them.
Braun on Grey Pearl had the best guess. We’ve been running along a slew of volcanoes (sorry – no photos, they have been hiding behind the clouds). Braun’s guess was that we were seeing volcanic ash. Bill’s guess is more likely, and also interesting. Bill believes we may be seeing “salmon scum”. This is salmon season, and they are everywhere. Apparently they leave behind fish oil that floats to the surface.
After about 100 miles of running, we were passing the town King Cove. The seas were calm enough to continue, but the town looked interesting, so we decided to stop for the night.
It’s always kind of amusing to call the harbors.
“King Cove Harbormaster, this is Sans Souci.”
Before we could even tie to the dock, locals were arriving to take pictures, and send their kids running along the dock to see us.
It’s actually very cool. We’re excited about visiting their town, and they seem happy to have such unusual visitors.
For instance, here’s an email I received from the local fire chief:
Actually, we’ve received a warm welcome everywhere, and even made the local papers, including the cover of the Kodiak Daily News. That article was picked up by many other Alaska papers, including the Anchorage Daily News.
This morning, the crews of the GSSR boats met, to discuss the next leg of our trip. Last night, when tying up the boats, we loosely said that we’d be getting underway sometime in the afternoon. This morning we gathered up all the latest weather, tide and current data, and started studying. We met on Seabird at 9am, and started looking at Dutch Harbor.
Currently, we are on the southern side of the Aleutians, and Dutch is on the north side. We are 175 nm east of Dutch Harbor, and need to find a pass between the islands, in order to transition from the Pacific into the Bering Sea. There are several passes, each with different pros and cons. The first we’ll come to is the largest, Unimak Pass, which is nearly six miles across.
Here’s the weather report:
This is actually a very good weather report. Assuming we arrive at Unimak pass sometime this evening, we’ll have 15 knot winds from the west. Yesterday evening, I pulled this same weather report and they were projecting 25 knot winds from the northwest.
The other factor we needed to evaluate is current. Currents through these passes run up to 9 knots. If we hit the pass at the wrong time we could be in a situation where we are unable to make progress against the current.
Another deciding factor for us was the interaction of the current and the wind, and the width of the passage. We have three possible passages we are focused on. Because the Alaskan peninsula runs roughly southwest here, we are partially sheltered from the wind, as long as we stay in the Pacific. By waiting until the last minute, just prior to Dutch Harbor, to cross to the Bering Sea, via Unalga Pass, we would be sheltered from the wind for as long as possible. However, Unalga pass is narrow, which can amplify the effects of wind and current. Even the coastal pilot, which is fairly conservative in their writing says about Unalga Pass, “… treacherous seas, particular in the narrow part of Unalga Pass, caused by wind opposing the current, often sweep a vessel without warning. These have caused severe damage, and men have been washed overboard, with resultant loss of life…”
Ultimately, we decided to go through Unimak Pass, with the current slack or pushing us. After studying all the materials, we computed our optimal departure time. “9am”. Hey, that’s 30 minutes ago! We decided to start engines immediately. So much for sightseeing at King Cove.
Here’s Grey Pearl leaving King Cove.
Note in the snapshot from my Nobeltec above how close Grey Pearl is running to me. That’s because Sans Souci is often used as a floating internet café. We have broadband internet aboard. If the other boats run close, they can use my internet. They do have alternate ways of getting internet, but I have the fastest connection. Steven on Seabird has had great success, and speed, by using the Hughes 9201 Bgan unit that I used going to Costa Rica. It’s not a stabilized antenna, but it is very forgiving, and gives decent internet at a semi-reasonable price.
And, on a completely different topic…
Several of you sent me copies of an article about a couple of Alaskan fisherman lost at sea:
We were quite aware of this story as it was occurring. One of the guys, Rod Whitehead, is an acquaintance of Bills, and we happened to be tied up next to some relatives of his in Sand Point. There was plenty of concern on the docks, and great relief when the good news came in that they had been found. We’ll be in Adak in a couple of weeks, and hope to speak with the guys about their ordeal.
And, on a vaguely related topic…
Bill has had a tense few days, as has his wife, Cindy, who is back home in Kodiak. Their daughter is now on a fishing boat, in the Bering Sea (Bristol Bay) doing salmon tendering, and their son has been underway on a sailboat running with a friend from Kodiak to Homer. Bill acted like it was no big deal, but it has to be tough for parents to relax when their offspring are running around offshore. For Cindy Harrington, the whole family is out to sea. We were watching the reports here of major gales along his son Brendon’s route, and watching the sat phone hoping it would ring, with word of Brendon’s arrival in Homer. When the phone did ring, it was Brendon, fatigued, but exhilarated, after his bout with 50 knot winds. I’m sure Bill and Cindy are proud parents, but I think I’d be a nervous wreck if they were my kids.
Lastly, we just passed a shipwreck. Bill said I should get used to seeing them, that there are a lot of these around here. This particular one went aground after dragging anchor.
I’ll stop typing now. We are starting to take a lot of water over the bow. It’s going to be a LONG day.