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Issuma
Castle Cape
Richard
Wed Sep 28 17:02:00 EDT 2011, Castle Cape, Alaska Peninsula, Alaska

Alternating layers of light and dark colored rock make Castle Cape interesting to look at.

We sailed past Castle Cape, then spent much of the night sailing to windward in Force 5-6 winds in Chignik Bay, before heaving to for several hours to wait for daylight to enter Chignik.

Haystacks
Richard
Wed Sep 28 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Shumagin Islands, Alaska

To get from the Bering Sea to the Pacific Ocean, one needs to go thru one of the passes between islands in the Aleutian Islands. There are tidal currents, often strong, in the passes, which result in tide rips, overfalls, and generally choppy water when strong wind opposes the strong tides. I wanted to go thru the nearest pass to Dutch Harbor, Unalga pass, because it is short and scenic. Being short, you are thru it quickly, even if the ride is exciting, one doesn't need to be concerned about taking so long to get thru that the tide changes and then opposes the wind (causing rough seas).

We were not ready to leave Dutch Harbor until late in the afternoon (too busy getting stuff done), and to go thru Unalga pass would have meant going thru at night--where it could be difficult to see the tide rips as there was not much of a moon, or waiting until the next day. The other option was to take the biggest and farthest away pass, Unimak, where the currents are not very strong. Unimak Pass is much longer, so the current would not always be in our favor, but we had light winds forecast, so no concerns about rough seas that night. So we sailed and motored and motorsailed thru the night to Unimak Pass and into the Pacific Ocean.

Shortly after getting out of the pass and beyond the pseudo-traffic-lane setup they have there, the wind picked up, and we ended up heaving to for the night in the lee of some reefs, which broke the seas up. The next day we continued sailing.

We later hove to near the Shumagin Islands, so we could go thru them in daylight. There was a chance of strong winds funneling between the islands, and we weren't too sure of the currents, so it seemed best to go thru during daylight. As a result, we got to see The Haystacks. The rocks in the picture are part of The Haystacks, and are located south of the Alaska Peninsula in the Shumagin Islands.

I'll talk more about the routing decision later.

Sun Oct 9 15:37:12 EDT 2011 | Amos
Onward!! That looks like some beautiful sailing indeed, but it must be cold as hell. Are you bound for Vancouver or Hilo?
Sun Oct 9 17:46:34 EDT 2011 | george ray
Hove To , what sail combinations are you using?
Mon Oct 10 18:13:26 EDT 2011 | will
i'm loving this, richard. seattle is your destination? where/when from there?
Fri Oct 14 16:46:25 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
It is beautiful sailing--Alaska is a really nice (and often brutal) place to sail.

We were hove-to (forereaching, to be precise) with triple-reefed main and storm jib. That combination seems good for winds up to 40 knots. I've used it a fair amount when not in a hurry to get upwind in moderately strong winds--much more comfortable motion than beating to windward.
Dutch Harbor
Richard
Tue Sep 27 13:40:20 EDT 2011, Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Plane coming in to land at Dutch Harbor airport.

The road runs very close to the runway, so traffic must stop when planes are taking off or landing.

Thu Oct 6 9:54:38 EDT 2011 | george ray
Amazing to pull up a 7 day GRIB that covers the Bearing Sea to Hawaii Siberia to Alaska and watch the very energetic lows spin quickly from west to east. What seem to be a good strategy? Leave southbound for Hawaii as the center of a low is south of you and hope to get far enough south to be below the next low as it approaches ???
Spotlight on the Spit
Richard
Mon Sep 26 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Dutch Harbor, Alaska

There are a few places to dock in Dutch Harbor. The rainbow and light making its way thru a break in the clouds are illuminating the Spit and the boats docked there. The spit is well protected, and easy to enter, but a long way from the rest of town. The harbormaster had us dock there because there was no room elsewhere. The big fishing season is about to start, so harbors are now full of boats waiting for the season to open.

Frequent strong, sudden winds (williwaws) make their way down the slopes of the cliffs in Dutch Harbor. The winds don't last long--up to fifteen minutes or so, but are strong, and it is nice to be tied to a strong dock when they arrive.

Wed Oct 5 10:36:42 EDT 2011 | Gabriela
"Dupa ploia si furtuna vine cer frumos si vreme buna!" is the Romanian saying which translates into "After rain and storm, a beautiful sky and great weather is unveiling" I just got back from Romania and I am happy to see you made the Passage. Sorry I was not there this summer, but I am looking forward to hearing great stories...:)Congratulation to you all!
Wed Oct 5 13:25:17 EDT 2011 | Amos
Delighted to see you safe at dock. Sounds like the run down from the Bering Strait was quite a ride. I hope you get a chance to rest up and replensih stores and all before you move on! Congratulations on your incredible voyage.
Wed Oct 5 13:33:32 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
Thanks, Gabriela and Amos.

Now for the hard part of the trip--getting south in the stormy autumn.
Dutch Harbor
Richard
Sun Sep 25 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Dutch Harbor is all a rugged mountainous area. Lots of williwaws (wind coming down off the cliffs, suddenly resulting in high winds that last for several minutes) keep things interesting.

As we arrived in Dutch Harbor on strong winds, we needed only one small jib to take us into the harbor.

The harbormaster called us on the VHF radio as we entered, and told us where to dock.

Sat Oct 1 5:22:27 EDT 2011 | george ray
Glad to hear you are in Dutch Harbor. How is the Wx?
Mon Oct 3 15:14:45 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
Thanks, George.

The weather is invigorating :)

Richard
Bering Sea Rainbow
Richard
Wed Sep 21 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Bering Sea, Alaska

We had great winds when sailing south from St Paul towards Dutch Harbor, as we left anchor just as the gale started to ease. We didn't need many sails, and made good speed. The rainbow ahead was kind enough to show us the way.

St Paul
Richard
Sat Sep 17 10:02:00 EDT 2011, St Paul, Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea

After sitting out the gales in Port Clarence, we had good northerly winds taking us south. We could have made it all the way to Dutch Harbor, but the forecast showed the northerly winds would be a gale by the time we reached Dutch Harbor, and while it looked like a safe entrance in a northerly gale, I hate entering unfamiliar places in gales--there is little room for correcting problems.

So we went into the harbor of St Paul, one of the Pribilof Islands, about 230 miles north of the Aleutian islands. The cannery manager was nice to us and let us use their dock for a while. When some fishing boats came in later that night needing to unload, we moved out of the harbor and anchored nearby, in a location protected from the approaching NE gale.

St Paul has a church, school, small hospital, weather station, general store and a library with internet access, which was nice.

We spent three days sitting out gales in St Paul. After the wind moved from NE towards NW, we moved around to a different spot for better protection from NW. As the gale started to ease, we left, taking advantage of the gale's strong northerly winds to get us to Dutch Harbor, planning to arrive when the winds were down to Force 7.

Update
Richard
Sun Sep 11 10:01:00 EDT 2011, Port Clarence harbor, AK

After a week of continuous charging, and warmer temperatures in the cabin due to motoring for a few hours (re-anchoring) and a warm front passing, the Iridium phone is working again. As you know from following the comments on earlier entries, the Iridium phone battery died shortly after we left Ulukhaktok (Holman). That was the spare battery, the original also did not work. These batteries are what those that don't rely on them call "smart batteries", as they have monitoring and charging circuits built in and are specialty items not widely available. Attempts to supplement the failed spare battery with external batteries wired into it were not successful. While it is great to have email again, I'm not sure how long the phone will continue to work, so please don't be surprised if the blog stops suddenly again.

Thanks for all the comments! Glad to see the messages sent by Inuvik Coast Guard Radio and Barrow Comm Center were received and posted.

We had strong northerly winds taking us down the Chukchi sea and through the Bering Strait. We left the Bering Strait on Sept 8 at 2000 UTC. With a southerly gale in the forecast, we went into Port Clarence (a well-protected harbor, about 10 miles in diameter, site of an old LORAN station, nearby towns of Teller and Brevig Mission) and anchored. We've had one southerly gale after another since then. The main anchor (Raya) was holding well enough on the third try where we first anchored (with better protection from SW), it held well at first where we next anchored (with better protection from the expected SE winds that were coming), but when the wind picked up in the middle of the night, we were soon dragging the anchor along the bottom at two knots. We reanchored several times, closer to the windward beach in 4m of water, never getting a really good hold, and added the ondeck Fortress anchor as well. As there are three of us aboard, doing anchor watches is not hard, we are just all pretty much staying dressed and ready to reanchor at all times.

I have a bunch of blog posts that I've not been able to put up. If the phone continues to work, or when we reach port (we are just anchored in the harbor, we are not near Teller or Brevig Mission at present), I'll post them. These older posts will appear below this one, so please scroll down to see them.

Sun Sep 11 19:43:18 EDT 2011 | george ray
Glad you are back in touch. It is an amazing and inspiring adventure you have had just so far. Hip hip hooray!!
Mon Sep 12 6:45:54 EDT 2011 | Steve
So glad to hear from you.
Congrats to your passage!
Hope the best for you, crew and Issuma.
Steve and Sini
Mon Sep 12 9:28:19 EDT 2011 | Amos
Great to hear from you!! How bad has the weather been? Vancouver awaits!
Thu Sep 15 14:42:11 EDT 2011 | Amos
Port Clarence is relatively calm today, temps aroound 44 and winds NE around 8-10 knots. I suspect Richard has headed onward toward the Aleutian passage into the Pacific by now. Any news?
Mon Sep 19 13:23:10 EDT 2011 | AMos
2011-09-18 01:09:02
Latitude: 57.1547847N
Longitude: -170.255512

This places Issuma on or by St Paul Island, presumably en route to Dutch Harbor
Mon Sep 19 15:56:58 EDT 2011 | AM
Richard, I'm so glad to see that your incredible journey has turned out successful so far! I am so fortunate to have been a part of it. Have a great rest of the journey, and please pass on my best to Jordan and whomever else may be on board!

AM
Tue Sep 20 17:06:52 EDT 2011 | Amos
Mostly cloudy with scattered showers. Patchy fog. Highs in the upper 40s. Northwest wind 20 to 35 mph.
Tonight, Numerous showers. Patchy fog. Lows around 40. Northwest wind 20 to 35 mph.

This is not catastrophic, but not comfortable, either. THis is for the region around St Paul Island as of 9-20-11.
Cape Prince of Wales
Richard
Thu Sep 8 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Bering Strait, Alaska

Sailing past Cape Prince of Wales with a delightfully favorable wind. Cape Prince of Wales is at the end of the Bering Strait. The Northwest Passage runs from Davis Strait in the east to Bering Strait in the west. While we have now completed the Northwest Passage, the difficult part is mostly still ahead--the trip south, late in the year.

We had had great northerly winds pretty much since Barrow (North tip of Alaska), which really helped us along our way down the Chukchi Sea and through the Bering Strait. We knew of a southerly gale coming, and hoped we could make it through the Bering Strait before it arrived. It was not at all clear that we could beat the southerly. I made plans for where we could go if the southerly gale arrived before we reached the end of the Bering Strait (most likely plan was to anchor off a low, sandy coast with a bit of protection, prepared to put to sea and heave-to or sail far east to Kotzebue Sound in the lee of the shore if the protection wasn't good enough).

In the end, the arrival of the southerly gale was delayed a bit, and we were fortunately able to get through Bering Strait and sail onto the anchor late in the day in the harbor of Port Clarence, to wait out the gale there. As described in the entry called "Update", the southerly gale lasted longer than expected, and we were really glad to be inside such a protected harbor, even if we did drag anchor a lot.

Taking the Temperature
Richard
Tue Sep 6 19:55:29 EDT 2011, Chukchi Sea

Lin came up with the string on a tin can idea for taking the temperature of the sea water. This is better than trying to drag the thermometer in the sea (it tends to hit the hull on waves) or using a bucket to get the water (if someone makes a mistake and doesn't haul the bucket up properly the handle tends to break off from the pressure of being dragged behind the boat). Collecting water by throwing a tin can over the side is easy, simple, and if anything goes wrong, there are other tin cans that could be used :).

We've been taking the sea temperature hourly (for logbook entries) and anytime we are in poor visibility (often) and wondering if ice is nearby. As I see it, a safe speed for being underway is one in which you can avoid hitting any ice you may come across. This depends on visibility (how close the ice is before it is seen) and boat speed. We slow down in poor visibility if we suspect ice is about (in more congested waters than the Chukchi Sea, slowing down in poor visibility is also done to avoid collisions with other vessels).

-1 degrees C is the coldest water temperature we've seen (sea water freezes at about -1.8 degrees C depending on salinity)--0 degrees C and +1 degrees C have been much more common.


For those familiar with boat electronics, yes, a depthsounder with a transducer that measured the sea temperature certainly seems like it would be a nice thing when sailing in cold water :).

Fri Sep 23 14:23:22 EDT 2011 | george ray
You guys are pretty resourceful, it probably helps a lot were you have been.
Fri Sep 23 20:07:33 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
Thanks, George.
Sun Sep 25 18:14:14 EDT 2011 | Donathan
looks cold!
To a photo of your moored boat last year in NYC's 96th st boat basin. It looked ocean worthy. I was going through old photos today, (looking for a photo of some neighbor who died) and saw yours and looked you up. Looks like you guys go anywhere.
I was surprised to see so much sail with a centerboard. Beautiful boat.
What do you think of cats. I might go to the show in MD. Looking for a shoal keel or cat. Any suggestions by an ocean going skipper?
Mon Oct 3 15:22:24 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
Donathan, thanks for looking me up. I'd like to see that picture from NYC some day.

Issuma's centerboard is not a typical centerboard--it has 4.5 tons of lead and also acts as a 650 litre fuel tank. All the ballast in the boat is in the centerboard (or lifting keel), so when it is locked down, the weight is really low (10.5 foot sailing draft), so it can handle a lot of sail.

I think catamarans (production ones) are great tropical boats. I was quite impressed by how well a friend's Leopard cat worked for living at anchor in Brazil (and for travelling in the tropics). They sail really well if you keep them light.

Where I like to sail, I feel I need to carry extensive supplies, tools and repair materials, so I don't travel light. I also have more concerns about hitting uncharted rocks and ice than boats sailing in the tropics do, so for where I want to sail, I want a metal monohull. I thought my boat was much less well suited to tropical cruising than my friend's catamaran, though.

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