23 September 2010 | Just left Nome
Young Larry Blog - a continuation of Dermot's account of Young Larry's transit of the Northwest Passage. We hope to up-date the blog at least once a week.
23rd September 2010
The low point of our trip from Barrow to Nome was on 15th September when we made little headway against strong southerly winds. Shortly afterwards however, the wind moderated enough for us to motor south, it continued to decline and veered to the east which gave us a fair wind for motor-sailing to the Bering Straits. The Alaskan headland at the Bering Straits is called "Cape Prince of Wales" and it forms a tidal gate. We struggled to motor against 4 knots of current so altered course close in-shore. Here we followed the 7m contour around the Cape where the contrary current reduced to 1 knot.
Once around Cape Prince of Wales, we were able to make for Nome some 75 miles to the southeast. Late in the evening of the 18th September, we entered Nome, berthed alongside, cleared customs and did what everybody seems to do in Nome: hit the bars and drink! Our first food and drink ashore for many months. Bars close at 3 am. The next morning we started work on a fairly typical "to do list": re-fuel, gas, oil change, stores, laundry, repairs and maintenance. All this took a couple of days and left us a little time for sightseeing.
Nome is so called because sometime between 1845 and 1851 two Royal Navy ships, the Plover and the Herald, were searching for the lost Franklin expedition in the area. One of the navigation officers wrote on chart number 1853 "? Name" against the unnamed Cape. This was later interpreted by the Admiralty as C. Nome and the name has stuck. The town became famous in 1898 when "the three lucky Swedes" discovered gold in the area. This triggered a huge gold rush and the following year over 20,000 people descended on the town. Many of the gold miners lived in tents on the beach but they attracted stores, bars, liquor stores, and prostitutes who built up the town. The mining is still going on today as are many of the support services. It has a real "wild west" feel to it.
Another yacht, Precipice, was moored in town. She is based upon a bristol pilot cutter and has been there since last year when her owners, Deb, Roland and their two girls Janelle and Bianca completed the northwest passage. Deb and Roland now have jobs in the area and the girls are attending the local school. They might be buying a house in Nome this winter. Deb and the girls came on board for supper and drove us around town in their beaten up old mini-bus. They also drove us to the gas station where we filled up our 25 22l jerry cans at the diesel pump. The main fuel tank on the boat was filled up earlier that day by the local suppliers, Crawley Marine. They wouldn't fill up the jerry cans because of health, safety and environmental reasons: it seems as if we are returning to "civilisation"!
Sibéal's task was to do the laundry. At other stops, we've had to do this in a nearby stream but, in Nome, the "launderette" doubles as a bar! At about 11 pm, I thought I would see how she was getting on. The laundry was done and she had met a really nice Eskimo man called Arty. Arty is a gold miner and subsistence hunter. His right hand, knee and foot were badly damaged by frost bite when he was caught out in the wild as a teenager. This certainly has not stopped him leading a very exciting life and we now have an invitation to go gold panning and bear hunting the next time we're in town!
Yesterday, we left town at midday and set off into a building easterly breeze - perfect for our passage. We now have two reefs in the mainsail and are romping along at 7 knots in warm sun-shine. Our destination is Kodiak Island where we plan to lay-up the boat for the winter before returning home. It is a trip of about 1,200 miles. I had thought it might take three or four weeks but if we can keep up this speed, we'll be there in little more than a week's time.
We have escaped Nome with a none of us succumbing to gold fever or alcoholism. We have a fair wind, plenty of fresh food, warmth for the first time in many months and life is good.
The picture shows an abandoned gold mining dredge.