GSSR#29 – Adak – Sometimes we win, Sometimes the weather wins

Total Distance: 5,276 nm
Run so far: 2,938 nm
Nautical Miles to go: 2,338 nm
Tomorrow’s goal: 240 nm

Greetings from Adak!

There’s a poem, posted at the airport, that greets incoming visitors:
A soldier stood at the pearly gate,
his face was wan and old
He gently asked the man of fate
admission to the fold
“What have you done,” St. Peter asked,
“to gain admission here?”
“I’ve been in the Aleutians
for more than a year.”
Then, the gates swung open sharply
as St. Peter tolled the bell
“Come on” said he, “and take a harp.
You’ve had your share of hell.

The GSSR group has been waiting for good weather for a week. Throughout our time here, the weather has steadily worsened. Our hope is that yesterday was the worst, although today is off to a really bad start.

The weather yesterday was projected to be from the west at 35 knots. However, at the dock, what we saw was 40-50 knots, with gusts near 60.

Sans Souci is moored alongside an old fuel barge, and somewhat protected from the wind. Seabird is tied to Sans Souci on our Starboard side. Grey Pearl has been across from us, rafted to two tug boats.

Yesterday morning, Jeff and I had run into Adak town for breakfast and were returning when we encountered Braun, from Grey Pearl, standing in front of my boat. “We need to move the Pearl,” Braun said. I said what seemed obvious, “You can’t. The wind is too high.” Braun replied, “We have to move the Pearl, or we have to go to sea, but we cannot stay where we are.”

That’s when I realized he was serious, and took another look at the Pearl. The 30+ knot winds were slamming the Pearl into the tug boats she was pushed against. Her fenders were being pushed above the rails on the tug, and it didn’t just look like an uncomfortable ride. It looked like a very dangerous situation.

Braun’s idea was that Sans Souci slide back, and Braun tuck in ahead of us, tied to the fuel barge. At first, I didn’t like this idea. The idea of Braun untying his boat in this weather was frightening. The idea of me untying my boat, in the same weather, was even more so.

Sans Souci was sitting dead center in the middle on the 120’ fuel barge. My boat is 70’ long. By sliding to the end of the barge, we could free up 50’ of space. It wouldn’t be quite enough for Grey Pearl, but Braun wasn’t picky. We discussed having Seabird untie from Sans Souci, but ultimately decided that we could leave the boats together, and with the use of lots of lines, and Sans Souci’s engines, slide the boat backwards. The wind was pushing Sans Souci back, and off the fuel barge. Sans Souci’s engines were used to counter the wind, while a fleet of 5 line handlers collected from the other boats worked Sans Souci back, a few feet at a time. Steven stood by on Seabird, engines running, to be prepared to add his thrusters to my own if needed.

Our careful planning paid off, and 15 minutes later, Braun had a parking place. He only had to move about 100 yards, but I knew it was going to be rough. Braun’s a master at handling the Pearl, and made it look easy. He was able to position the boat within about 10 feet of the fuel barge. This was close enough to where lines could be thrown, and secured to the barge. He then worked the boat back and forth, and we pulled it into the barge, inch by inch. As the wind passed 50 knots, in the afternoon, we couldn’t help glancing over at the Pearl’s prior resting place from time to time, to see how it looked. There is no doubt in my mind, had we not moved the Pearl, there would have been serious damage as waves were now crashing against the side of the tug to which they had previously been rafted.

I mentioned at the start of our Aleutian run that I expected our definition of rough weather would be ‘recalibrated’ by this trip. I chose that word carefully, and it has come to pass.

Yesterday, as the three captains were looking at the weather forecast, and seeing nothing cheery in it, we had a discussion where we tried to quantify the worst conditions we’d be willing to leave the dock in. We all want calm seas, but are starting to believe that it may be weeks, months or years, if ever, before the seas we’d like come along. Our goal with the meeting yesterday was to give the weather routers exact guidance as to what the group is willing, or not willing, to run in.

I looked back to see what I told them at the start of the trip, and this quote, which now looks pretty naïve, is taken directly from the form I sent in:
“… Sans Souci is extremely seaworthy, but we greatly prefer a smooth ride. Happy to
sit for days if it means better weather. …”

Contrast this comment to the email that represents the group consensus after yesterday’s discussion:

As a guideline for this run (and our entire trip) we are using these criteria for departure:

Bow sea or 30 degrees off bow, wind 15-20 waves 6-9 feet
Beam sea wind 20-30 waves 9-12 Following sea wind 20-30 waves 9-12

Admittedly these are ideal criteria and we occasionally expect to experience poorer conditions. Our boats can handle much worse than these criteria and if we get “caught” we will be ok, but we don’t want to knowingly embark into conditions worse than the criteria.

Here is the forecast I just grabbed:

400 AM AKDT FRI JUL 17 2009


Comparing to our criteria above, you see that we should be able to leave tomorrow morning. But, you can also see that we’ll be at the outer limits of what we are willing to run in. We’re moving west, and going directly into a 20 knot head wind; it will be very uncomfortable.

It may also trigger a bit of a controversy. We shall see. Our next major stop is the island of Kiska. It was occupied by the Japanese during WWII, and there are many artifacts to see. Bill has been there and discovered artifacts that probably no one has seen before. I’ve just finished a book about the war in the Aleutians, and want to see the battle grounds. The other boats are less motivated to want to stop. I don’t blame them. Stopping when we have a weather window opens the possibility that we could be trapped somewhere for a week or two. None of us wants to risk being at an anchorage in the kinds of winds we are seeing now, myself included. ‘Wasting’ a weather window to stop for site-seeing, will not be popular. I don’t know how this one plays out. My best guess is that we’ll drop the hook at Kiska, jump off the boat, take a picture of a Japanese submarine, dash back to the boat, and continue to Attu. It’s certainly not the best of ideas, but as good as I’ve got at the present time.

And, with that preamble, I should tell you a bit about Adak….

Adak is one of the largest Aleutian islands; about 20 miles wide. The weather on Adak is best described as harsh. I googled the weather on Adak, and happened into a website for pilots that describes it this way: “The weather report almost never varies: Winds 25-40 gusting to 60, mostly cloudy with layers at 800 feet, 1200 feet, 2000 feet. Visibility 7 miles, rain. Temp 40 degrees F (plus or minus 5 degrees for most of the year).” That’s consistent with what we’ve seen.

During WWII Adak played an important role in the Aleutian war, holding as many as 90,000 soldiers.

After WWII, Adak was taken over by the Navy. From the 1950s to the late 1990s, Adak was a major Navy air base. At its peak, Adak was home to over 6,000 Navy and Coast Guard personnel.

There was essentially no civilian population. The Navy base on Adak had no nearby city that the troops could visit for a little relaxation. The base was essentially in the middle of nowhere, disconnected from the rest of the world. It is perhaps for this reason that the Navy seems to have gone ‘over the top’ to create a livable community here on Adak. Families seem to not only have been tolerated, but welcomed, and encouraged.

In the 1990s, Adak had all the comforts of a ‘real city;’ a college, movie theater, two high schools, elementary schools, roller skating rink, Olympic sized swimming pools, ski lodge, bowling alley, skeet range, auto shop, photo lab, racquet ball courts, day care center, an $18 million hospital, designated bird watching areas, organized fishing trips, hikes and more. The Navy even had a group, called MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) whose only job it was to keep the troops happy.

Even a McDonalds and a Safeway grocery store!

I’m not complaining. If someone is willing to put their life on the line, on my behalf, I don’t think you can treat them too well. If anything, I hope that Adak is representative of how we treat our soldiers around the world, although, sadly, I suspect it isn’t.

The Naval base at Adak was closed in 1997, effectively shutting down the island. The Navy, with no use for the island, sold virtually everything to the Aleut Corporation, a corporation formed by a tribe of native Americans who had lived on the island prior to the 1800s.

Once the Aleut corporation had the city, they made an offer to their shareholders (Aleuts) to move to Adak, in return for a free home. Thirty brave families thought it sounded like a good deal, and moved to the island in 2004.

I have heard different estimates as to the current number of residents on Adak, ranging from 50 to as high as 150. I’m not sure anyone really knows.

Because of the types of missions being performed at Adak, the infrastructure requirements were huge. Two of the longest runways in North America are here. Giant satellite communications towers are in town and on the hillsides. As we have explored the island, we’re constantly running into more satellite dishes. The power generation facilities were built to power weapons labs, atom bombs, submarine bases, underwater surveillance labs, and more. This wasn’t ‘just’ a city of 6,000. It was a military base, with all of the conveniences of home, located in one of the harshest environments in the world.

Adak has a spectacular airport, with twice weekly flights, by full-sized jets, to and from Anchorage. The runways are large enough that they are designated as an alternate landing site for the space shuttle.

When I saw the airport, I started thinking to myself, “How many people does it take to run an airport?” An airport of this size, with two 7,000 foot runways, in most cities, might have more employees than live in the entire town of Adak.

One of the first comments someone made to me, when I first arrived in town, was, “You’ll notice that parts of the town are run down. There is a lot of work to be done here, and only a few people to do it.” That’s a major understatement. The airport was just one example. How many people does it take to run the power plant, the fuel dock, the harbor, the school, the hospital, run the schools, cut hair, provide medical services, pick up the trash, provide water, cable tv, telephone, pump gas, fix air conditioners, patch roofs, patch the roads and more? Whatever the number is, I’m sure it’s larger than the approximately one hundred people who live here.

Sans Souci has passed through some small towns on this trip, including some with only a few dozen residents, but those towns had infrastructure that matched their headcount. People live in old cabins, oft-times with acres of land, and are self-sufficient. And, most have been within driving distance, or a short flight, to a major city. Planes from Adak go only one place: Anchorage, and it takes four hours, a bunch of money, and you have to wait until Thursday or Sunday to travel.

Adak is different. When you first view Adak, the first impression is very positive. It appears to be a modern town. For example, our first exposure to Adak was a party, held in our honor, at the local high school. Standing in front of the school, my first impression was “Wow!” It’s a beautiful high school, across the street from the elementary school which is also huge. Were this the mainland, I’d guess at the high school as being sized for 500 or more students.

However, the current population on the island is such that kindergarten through 12th grade represents only 15 school age kids, total, all grades included.

The residents are not alone on Adak. The population of Adak is doubled by ‘contractors,’ essentially all of whom are here to do clean up.

The Navy occupied Adak for over forty years, and left quite a mess. Here’s a paragraph from a report done on the environmental impact on Adak by the Navy base:
“…Over a 40-year period, hazardous substances were disposed of in areas on the island, including landfills, storage areas, drum disposal areas, spill sites, and pits for waste oil and fire-fighting training. Petroleum, chlorinated solvents, batteries, and transformer oils containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are some of the hazardous materials present at the site. Primary releases include: PCBs (over 2,000 gallons), unexploded ordnance (70,000 items located, not including ranges and offshore disposal), petroleum (1,000,000 gallons), solvents, and pesticides….”

My first reaction is “So, who cares?” There aren’t a lot of people standing in line to move to Adak, and the current population can’t fill the current city. A ‘Do Not Enter’ sign or two, would be adequate to keep people out of the polluted areas. Obviously this isn’t a perfect solution, and I certainly would like to see everything in the world be pristine, but when times are tough sometimes tough decisions need to be made. The people of Adak are lucky I’m not in charge, because all the contractors represent one of the city’s few sources of revenue.

For ten years, crews have been coming to Adak to clean up the island. I spoke with one of the engineers this morning who felt the cleanup was going to take at least another 10 years. Although no actual war was ever fought on Adak, the troops did artillery practice for decades, and fired hundreds of thousands of rounds, a percentage of which are still lying around unexploded. Nuclear weapons were stored on the island. When the base was closed, some items were simply buried rather than being shipped away. One resident I spoke with claims that brand new vehicles, including a couple of new ambulances and a new fire truck were buried. I’m not sure anyone knows for certain what lies under Adak, and where.

Some of the local residents have found it profitable to rent homes to visitors to the islands. Most of the homes on Adak are four-plexes, and can be bought for anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 depending on their condition. Where else can you buy a fairly nice four-plex, in the United States, for under $25,000. I don’t think it exists.

The homes even come with furniture! When the Navy departed they moved all the furniture from the homes into the garages.

There aren’t enough people here to use all the homes. Adak is divided into many different neighborhoods. The residents couldn’t possibly provide power and water to all neighborhoods. Decisions had to be made. Services have been cut to many neighborhoods. Entire neighborhoods are sitting and decaying. They are spooky to drive through. Waterfront homes, with their entire neighborhood just shut down, waiting for the wind to destroy them. One resident described it this way, “The homes survive until the first hole is opened into a residence. A window breaks, or siding is ripped off by a windstorm. As soon as the wind finds an opening, it is all over. The next storm rips the home apart.”

The lack of residents, coupled by the excess of infrastructure creates some unusual problems. For instance, Adak had two giant building-sized generators to power the town. The generators were sized to provide power to a power-hungry military base. The costs to run them, and maintain them, were well beyond the capabilities of the local residents. New, smaller generators needed to be installed, and even now, there are signs that all is not perfect. Power outages seem to be common.

This all raises the question, “Why would someone want to live here?”

I asked a few people and the answer had some good news, and some bad news. One gentleman said, “I moved here because of the tremendous upside potential of Adak. I saw it as the next Dutch Harbor. We have the airport, which can accept full-sized jets. We have the fuel dock. We had a cannery. It’s a much better location to be the hub of the Aleutians than Dutch. However, now that the cannery has shut down, I don’t know what happens.” I heard this same sentiment from several people. There is a fish processing plant here that gave fishermen a reason to come to Adak. Due to a financial dispute between the city and the fish processing plant, the plant is shut down. The fishermen are having to run to Dutch Harbor, to sell their fish. This loss of income to the town hurts, and will hopefully work itself out, before they start losing residents.

One terrific reason to be in Adak is the Aleutian Sports Bar and Grill, affectionately nicknamed for its initials, ‘The ASBAG.’ Be careful with the pronunciation…! It’s the only game in town for dinner or pubbing in Adak, and the GSSR did our part to boost their revenue.

I’ve received a fair amount of email from people who have lived in Adak in the past, asking for pictures. If you click here ( you’ll see a full photo gallery I created with scenes from Adak. It’s worth checking out!

Lastly, I mentioned in a prior blog that the two guys who made national headlines by spending days floating off shore in a 15’ tender were based here in Adak. We were able to track them down, and talk them into sitting for an interview with me. Imagine two guys, in a little raft, in 12 foot seas, 40 degree water, high winds, and waves often breaking into the tender. Frozen, floating alone offshore in the middle of the Aleutians. When I asked Rod what he thought his odds were, he said, ‘Thin. We were under a thick cloud layer, and I didn’t think we’d be found.’ His story of being lost, and his rescue, is riveting. Unfortunately, it is also long. I have a half hour interview, and can’t imagine editing out a second of it. I’m not sure how I’ll publish it, but will figure it out sooner or later.

Thank you,
Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

PS A very special GSSR thank you to Cynthia and Joe Galaktionoff. Cynthia organized our welcoming party, was our tour guide, helped us get spare parts and groceries, and much more.

44 Responses

  1. I was stationed on adak in 1981-83 I worked in the northern facility I had a pretty high clearance but could not get into a couple places on the island and at the time the health care was deplorable I had a child born there and it was not a pleasant experience. I would like to know of any info about health care issues from former military folks I
    Have many issues due to exposure to trichloroethylene.

  2. Riley:

    Many Adak-ians read my blog, so perhaps one of them will comment.

    I have a theory…

    The big money in Adak is at the fuel dock, actually, the fuel storage. I forget the exact number, but there is storage on Adak for something like 20 million gallons of fuel. I was told that Adak is quite profitable for the Aleuts, with fuel storage and fuel pumping. It is important to the Aleut corp that enough people live on the island to keep the fuel dock running. And, seperately, the airport gets money from a variety of sources. The economic drivers for the island are the fuel dock/storage and the airport. Everything else is a pain in the tail for the Aleut corp. They don’t have a huge motivation to invest to build a real town there. Why would they want to?

    I met the guy who operated the fish processing plant (which is currently closed), as well as spoke with many locals about the fish processing plant, and also spoke with commercial fisherman. Everyone would like to see the plant operating, but I’m not optimistic that it is coming back. It would probably be the towns best chance to get a real economy going. As someone said, Adak has more potential than Dutch Harbor (the huge airport, proximity to Russia and Japan, infrastructure and more. It should have tremendous upside potential. But, the Aleut corp isn’t likely to investment spend to create an economy.

    Of course, I’m not an Aleut, and was only there for a week, so I could be talking total nonsense.

    But, of course, this website is really just my blog, so I guess it’s ok to state my opinions… as long as no one gets confused and thinks I know what I’m talking about…

    -Ken W

  3. the people on adak are not going to fix eney of the buildings until they have to and that time will not be for ten more years they olnly provide for themselvs they will NEVER the pool and they will never heat the gym beacause the citizens will olnly pay for the houses that they own and the city can’t aford it they made a stupid deal with the aleuts that is why ADAK WILL NEVER BE IN SHAPE

  4. Thanks Ken! It’s been on my mind for a while. I was curious whether the N62 with the pilothouse sitting further aft would improve the ride. I guess the bulbous bow question will wait for the guy in the mud with the arrow. LOL! Thanks. I hope the ride goes well and the seas are smooth the rest of the way into Russia.

  5. Greetings Dave.

    Prior to this trip I requested a bid from Delta, in Seattle, to add a bulbous bow to Sans Souci. I forget the price, but believe it was in the $15-25,000 range. We were busy with a lot of projects at the time so it became a non-issue. There just wasn’t time.

    My hope was that a bulbous bow might give me another half knot of speed, and increased range. However, my guess is that even if I had found the time, I ultimately would have chickened out on doing the upgrade. Adding a bulbous bow is a serious modification to the hull. It’s tough to believe that there couldn’t be negative side effects. My preference would be to let some owner make the change first, give it enough time for their boat to go out in some heavy seas, and then ask them if they would do it again, and what performance increase they saw. You know that old saying about, “How do you spot a pioneer?”, “He’s the one lying face down in the mud with an arrow in his back.” I usually prefer to let someone else do the pioneering.

    As to the N62 versus N68 performance, I have noted a few things. The N62 outperforms the N68 on fuel consumption 2 to 1. Perhaps this comparison wouldn’t be quite so bleak if I didn’t have twin engines, but for now, whenever we stop for fuel, the N62s take half the fuel I do. Ouch. On the other hand, the N68 is much stabler in heavy seas. Whether this is due to some inherent seaworthiness, or what I’ll call ‘The Law of Greater Mass’, I don’t know. My boat weighs twice what an N62 weighs, and when we’ve been side by side in rough seas, I’ve been very happy I’m on the N68.

    -Ken W

  6. Ken,
    I have a couple of questions for you that you were reserving answers on before. Now that you have some time on bigger seas than what you would normally experience, do you still feel the same about the bulbous bow? Do you feel that it would have been a help or a hindrance on this trip? Comparing the ride on the 68 to the ride on the 62 in big seas, which do you feel has a better ride? Thank you for your answers when you get a chance!

  7. Looks like they’ve passed into ‘Tomorrow Land’ or close to it, where they can look back at Yesterday!

  8. Ken, The person that told you that the Adak Fisheries LLC was shut down by the City of Adak may not have known the facts involved here. It is in the best interest of the community as well as the City to see that the fish plant be operational. The state of Alaska as well as the ADEC shut down the fish plant. Those guys are a lot bigger than us and will not be hurt if we can no longer be a part the Bearing Sea harvest. Fish tax issues and State requirments have much more of an impact on us than meets the eye. We need this fishery to be back on line ASAP but do not blame anyone on this island for it not being up and running. We all want it working again, and the sooner the better. Jim

  9. US Coast Guard has a Loran Station on Attu staffed by 20 brave Souls. My Google Earth photo caption shows a Cruise Ship in Massacre Bay. Imagine that.

  10. Ken, Am I correct that your last chance to stock up, fuel up, etc., was at Adak? Nothing at Attu that I can see on Google earth.

  11. Ken,
    Website working perfectly now! However, your signal is now at a 3 hour interval and Seabird’s is 2 and 3 hours. If you believe their plot, Seabird is way behind you. Maybe hikers and adventurers should not rely upon SPOT?

  12. Adak can be challenging, for sure. But it also has it’s rewards with great scenery, beautiful wild flowers (when they bloom),terrific beaches,an abundance of wildlife unique to these islands and wonderful residents willing to go the extra “miles” for one another.
    I very much enjoyed the 2 years spent as weather observer, unit cleaner, filling in at the post office and even doing a few dishes at the “Old McDonald’s”. It is a treasured memory never to be forgotten.
    Hopefully your time in Adak was enjoyable(no doubt it was memorable).
    Thank you for the blogs.They are very enjoyable.
    Wishing you a safe trip with calm seas.

  13. Well gooooooooolllly! Could it be the SPOT has fixed the problem?!?!?! I have now been able to access Ken’s SPOT page on FF and 3.0.11!

    – John S.

  14. Same problem here on IE8 & Chrome. I get a fozen “Loading” swirl then nuttin, Honey. IE freezes and Chrome does zip, nada, nuttin.

  15. Ron,

    I don’t think the SPOT problem is a Mozilla problem, as I also had problems with IE7 and Chrome. I got the same script error in Firefox as was posted previously, so I would think that the culprit is more than likely a bad script on the SPOT shared sites. (But that’s just my humble opinion… 🙂 )

    – John S.

  16. The weather in Kiska Harbor is now: 7 knots of wind, 0 inches of sea. Very calm.

    We leave for Attu at 10am…

    -Ken W

  17. I just moved the SPOT tracker. Maybe that will help.

    Tomorrow, I’ll send a message to the SPOT company to let them know their tracking page isn’t working.

    -Ken W

  18. San Souci’s SPOT is malfunctioning again – or at least not be displayed. Seabird’s SPOT is working fine and suggests that they have anchored in the lee of Kiska. I cannot zoom or in any way control the SPOT page image.
    Ron Rogers

  19. I’m happy to report that the GSSR just dropped anchor in Kiska Harbor.

    I’m not sure what is happening with SPOT. I’ll call their support group tomorrow. I suspect we are out of range.

    My Mini Vsat also stopped working. I think the high winds and waves were bugging it. We have a forecast for 20 knots from the west, but spent at least half the trip over 30 knots, including the first eight hours which were consistently in the 40s. It made for some great video… which I’ll post when I get time. For now, I’m going to shore!

    -Ken W

    PS Our current lat/long: 51 58.284N, 177 32.454E

  20. SPOT pages load just fine for me on Safari 4.0 on my Mac but seems to cause problems for Firefox on the same computer.


  21. John,
    I’m having the same problem with latest Firefox and it is both Ken and Seabird’s pages. I have to close the latest Firefox every time now. Have told Mozilla about it twice. Probably has something to do with a SPOT script that keeps failing and one must close. Same for IE 8.0.

    At least I can see that both Sans Souci and Seabird are close and making significant progress. It may be too rough for Grey Pearl’s crew to go outside and fix their SPOT emitter. Hope that the SPOT transmitters are well secured in these high winds they get!

    Perhaps Ken or Roberta will get the time to take pictures or video out through the pilothose windows. This slog is likely tiring and a harbinger of weather to come.

  22. Hi John S.

    You’re not alone.

    Each time I would look in Internet Explorer, it would freeze and eventually wipe out all browser windows. I just tried in Firefox and I got the same freeze, but let it sit (I actually forgot about it). It came back about 10 minutes later with this error:

    A script on this page may be busy, or it may have stopped responding. You can stop the script now, or you can continue to see if the script will complete.

    Script: It” rel=”nofollow noopener” title=””>… eventually seems to show enough, where it looks like they’re covering a lot of ground and are serious about forging ahead!

  23. Is it just me, or does anyone else have problems viewing the SPOT pages. I’ve tried IE, Firefox, and Chrome, and all of them pretty much freeze up on me when I try to visit any of the 3 SPOT pages related to the GSSR boats. All of my other favourite sites load up fine, but SPOT….arrrgghhh!!…. and since the MarineTraffic AIS site is no longer available since the GSSR boats are out of range, I guess I’m out of luck……sigh….

    – John S.

  24. Hey Ken,

    Just noticed that your old N62 “Dimma” has been listed for sale on Nordhavn’s Brokerage site…..

    Thought you might be interested…

    Stay safe.

    – John S.

  25. A message to one of the crew members on the San Souci, Jeff Sanson. Thank you for turning us on to the blog. I have boating friends up and down the west coast following your progress on a daily basis. We plan to leave Roche on the Blue Pearl for Desolation Sound on Wednesday. The tow rope you made for me works perfectly! These postings are certainly encouraging us to plan a trip at least to Glacier Bay next Summer. Beyond that, I think not! Rick & Debra

  26. Sans Souci’s SPOT is now working after a period of silence from her position at anchor to her current position coming abeam of the first large island West of Adak. Swabird’s information is unchanged from yesterday when she was at anchor. There is no new information from Grey Pearl other than they were “OK” 5 days ago at their anchorage position in Adak.

    I suspect this would be very different if the SPOT devices could be remotely controlled from inside the pilothouse, but, I think that they were designed to be carried on your person rather than mounted on the pilothouse roof. Let’s just hope that it is not too uncomfortable out there for the crew.

    Ron Rogers

  27. I followed the Vendee Globe solo sailboat race this winter. Those guys and gals sail the Southern Ocean at 20 knots. To save weight the head is a 5 gallon bucket- with a Seatbelt!!

  28. The Dashews have harnesses installed on their boat. Not a bad idea if you are venturing into rough water. But they don’t have a hot tub…


  29. Ron: (posted at 19:00 UTC, July 18th)

    We’ll be leaving for the fuel dock in about 10 minutes, and be out at sea in about 90 mins.

    We have lots of bailouts over the next 12 hours (Kanaga Island, Tanaga Island). It should get better through the day.

    Darn. I forgot to install seatbelts on my helm chairs!

    -Ken W

  30. Looks like you have a marginal weather window for now to Kiska, depending on speed. Being a pilot of course is different than marine captain, but weather nonetheless is easier for me. However, if you miss this window, you may be stuck until next Wednesday. Looking from Adak, coursing for just north of Semisopocnoi would shelter the expected SW lighter wind expected Sun night, and sort of keep you in the lee until Kiska. BUT, it is your call, and the slog with west winds will not change for a while till end next week, but forecasting is imperfect. In any event, your Nordie can take it easily, but the c rews, well, that’s your call. Please be safe and keep it totally enjoyable with minimal stress.

    400 AM AKDT SAT JUL 18 2009

    .MON…NW WIND 15 KT. SEAS 10 FT.
    .TUE…W WIND 20 KT. SEAS 9 FT.
    .WED…W WIND 20 KT. SEAS 7 FT.


    400 AM AKDT SAT JUL 18 2009

    .MON…NW WIND 15 KT. SEAS 8 FT.
    .TUE…NW WIND 15 KT. SEAS 7 FT.
    .WED…W WIND 15 KT. SEAS 7 FT.

  31. Sam M:

    I do believe that there is security on the Alaska flight, in that I thought I saw passengers going through an x-ray machine. It was around a corner, so I’m not sure.

    We were supposed to depart this morning, but the wind is still 15-20 inside the port. We’ll make a call in the next hour.

    -Ken W

    PS I received an email saying that none of our SPOT devices are working. Because we’ve been in port for a week, we powered them off. I had hoped that it would cause them to stop logging new position updates and just show the position reports from our last run. That appears not to be the case. I’ll make sure we all turn on our SPOTs before today’s run (if we leave the dock).

  32. Hal:

    PS – I’ll believe we’re actually off the island only when it is out of site. There’s a side of me that suspects we’ve accidentally fallen into an episode of the TV series LOST, and that no matter what happens we’ll always wind up back on the island.

  33. Hal:

    We’re taking it 24 hours at a time. We need 30 hours to get to Kiska, then another 24 to get to Attu. And, then, we need a 96 hour window.

    Our current plan is to depart tomorrow morning for Kiska, and then see how bad it feels. There are bailouts at several islands along the way. Bucking into a 20 knot head wind isn’t going to be fun. We’ve tied everything down, and are ready for action (we hope!).

    If at any point we can’t handle it, we’ll sit still and wait for another opportunity.

    We’ll need a good three day window to get from Attu to Petropavlosk. There’s NOWHERE to hide…

    -Ken W

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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson