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Icy Strait
Sun Nov 13 18:36:17 EST 2011, Icy Strait, Southeast Alaska

Moon over the mountains, early in the morning in Icy Strait.

Mon Nov 14 16:07:10 EST 2011 | Doug
Question - why does your website on always show a location and group unrelated posts at that specific location? Icy Strait, Eagle and Indian Cove are distinct and separate locations. Is this a "user" feature or sailingblogs "bug"?
Thanks in advance for your reply.
Thu Nov 17 21:51:17 EST 2011 | Richard Hudson
The map on generally shows whatever lat/long position I put in. If I don't put in a position, the map position defaults to France (I assume because I started using sailblogs in France). So if I don't have the correct lat/long handy when putting an entry up (which is common when blogging from a library/bar/school/coffee shop), I use a nearby position.
Fri Nov 11 15:11:50 EST 2011, Hoonah, Alaska

Eagles are plentiful in Southeast Alaska. Here an eagle keeps watch over the fuel dock at Hoonah.

Inian Cove
Thu Nov 10 19:38:33 EST 2011, Inian Cove, Cross Sound, Alaska

Early in the morning at the entrance to Inian Cove, where we anchored.

Thu Nov 10 20:35:06 EST 2011 | Doug
Glad you have road access to civilization at Juneau Alaska - I would urge you to keep underway and head south without visiting every village enroute - next stop should be Ketchikan - now that you are a seasoned veteran of the Arctic cold you might not mind winter in S.E. Alaska - I've heard that winter moorage can be arranged in Petersburg but considering the airfare to return you would be much wiser to sail to Oregon where moorage is reasonable as is airfare. So glad you are safe on the "INSIDE PASSAGE".
God Speed,
Sat Nov 12 15:05:30 EST 2011 | Richard Hudson
Thanks, Doug. We are working our way south when the weather permits. While it hasn't been really cold yet (though Maggie may disagree with that), we are looking forward to warmer weather.
Tue Nov 8 15:49:03 EST 2011, Cape Spencer, Southeast Alaska

The gales and storms continued as one low pressure system after another reached Alaska. Unexpectedly, one day we suddenly had a forecast of relatively light (25-30 knots) and often favorable winds for several days.

For the fourth time, we left Yakutat.

We motored (and added sails when the wind was favorable) as quickly as we could, not sure that we really could trust being so lucky as to have several days of light and often favorable winds. The current was at first strong against us, then lessened as we made our way down the coast.

Late the next day, we approached Cape Spencer (picture) in good conditions, with a tailwind, intermittent rain and hail from a mild frontal passage, and 5m/16' following seas.

Wed Nov 9 17:59:17 EST 2011 | George Ray
Hurray!!!, you made to the inside passage, have a nice trip to Puget Sound. Please post a lot of commentary and if you stop in Bellingham, WA say hello to my friend Ben Smith and give him a boat tour, you all would be a real inspiration for him.
Wed Nov 9 23:03:57 EST 2011 | George Conk
Congratulations - and thanks for the beautiful shot of Cape Spencer.
NOAA is reporting winds to 90 mph on the Bering Sea Coast today!
Here's to winter in Vancouver!
Thu Nov 10 4:26:02 EST 2011 | will
glad you're headed away from what sounds like nasty weather . . . fair winds!
Thu Nov 10 6:41:52 EST 2011 | Jesse
Rich and crew,

I am also relieved to hear that you may be safer from what the headlines here are proclaiming to be an unusually significant approaching Alaskan storm. When they're making a big deal in the press in NY about a storm in the Bering Sea, you know that there's a truly big blow afoot. Take care, and smooth sailing in all things large and small.
Thu Nov 10 15:05:28 EST 2011 | Amos
Bravo! Much relieved to hear of your successful escape!! When do you think you'll be in Vancouver?
Thu Nov 10 19:01:06 EST 2011 | Richard Hudson
Thanks for the comments.

George, thanks, if I go to Puget Sound I will look up your friend.

I am really glad to not be anywhere near that unusually strong storm in the Bering Sea! I saw it forecast on the weatherfax the other day as 941mb and 70 knot (64 and above is hurricane force) winds--way more than I'd want to be out in.
Leave, Return, Repeat
Mon Nov 7 2:00:00 EST 2011, Alaska

Picture is of the sea buoy off Yakutat at dawn.

Leaving Yakutat seemed like such an easy trip--about 140 miles southeast to get into Cross Sound (an entrance to the Inside Passage where there are many places to anchor or dock).

Our first attempt to leave Yakutat was aborted when a 49knot squall that was not forecast (and caught the fishing fleet by surprise as well) came up as we were about to clear Yakutat Bay.

Our second attempt was aborted when we found an unexpectedly strong 1.5knot current running against us. We had only two days before a SE storm was to arrive and the timing of getting into an unfamiliar port in time to secure for a storm was too tight for comfort, so we returned to the safety and comfort of Yakutat again.

Low pressure systems kept coming into the Gulf of Alaska, and bringing mostly strong to storm-force SE winds to the coast where we were. There wasn't much of a gap between the storms, and they seemed to be forming faster and faster as October ended and November began.

The pilot chart (which shows average winds and currents for the oceans) showed pretty much no prevailing winds (but that is for a larger area). The Coast Pilot mentioned a current running along the coast that was variable in direction and speed, and mentioned that winds tended to run along the coast (in either direction) instead of crossing it.

On our third attempt, we left before dawn with a forecast for east winds, 30 knots, with 50 knots out of bays and passes, and almost two days before the next southeast storm. It didn't sound great, but it did sound possible.

We couldn't quite sail the southeast course without tacking, so motored close to shore, in relatively shallow water where we expected the least current. This time, the current was running two knots against us. The first bit of the coast was fine, then the wind steadily increased and our speed dropped. Motoring as fast as possible, we spent several hours making 1 to 1.5 knots.

I considered setting sails to go faster, but that would have taken us farther from the shelter of the shore, so the waves would have increased and waves from storm-force (50 knot) winds are never good.

We hand steered to maintain course. Because we were close to shore, the waves were small--less than a metre, but many were crossing the deck and most were getting the tops blow off by the wind, so it was very wet on deck.

The temperature was a few degrees above freezing and forecast to go well below freezing that night.

A friend on a fishing boat ahead of us radioed to say that the wind eased ten miles further. Only ten miles! The sun was soon to set, and at 1 to 1.5 knots, we would need to hand steer outside for several hours after dark until we got to where the wind was less. It would be quite tough on us standing outside steering with the constant spray in the below-freezing temperatures at night.

The critical thing to keep in mind about travelling in high latitudes is how easy it is to get into a survival situation. The Gulf of Alaska (and anywhere that far north) is a really unforgiving place in November. We weren't in any danger, but, if we wore ourselves out by getting cold hand-steering outside for hours in freezing spray, the danger was that if anything went wrong (like an engine problem, or taking on water), we would be exhausted, and not necessarily capable of quick, rational thinking and action.

We had tried for several weeks to leave Yakutat, and knew this break in the weather might be the last one until spring.

It is really hard to turn back, when you know you are likely to make it if you just persevere and tough it out. But while the risk of something going wrong was small, it was still there, and I decided it was better to return to Yakutat.

We turned around. Before easing off the throttle and setting sails (as the wind was now with us), we were making 8.7 knots. We had spent all day coming less than 30 miles, and we were soon back at the dock in Yakutat,

Was Issuma going to spend the winter in Yakutat?


Wed Nov 9 9:52:18 EST 2011 | Amos
Wow, what a maritime mellerdrammer!! I think you made the right call. THere may still be a better window. Maybe even before Christmas. Stay well.
Sun Nov 6 16:22:30 EST 2011, Yakutat, Alaska

November in Alaska. Hmmm.

Website Update
Sun Nov 6 15:56:22 EST 2011, Yakutat, Alaska

My notes on Weather Forecasts for the Northwest Passage are now on my website at Northwest Passage Weather Forecasts

Sun Nov 6 23:44:33 EST 2011 | Victor
GRIB files are very conservative and I agree they show winds on the low side. zyGRIB files are a little better while also shy. Had that last year and this year. NOOA weather maps are updated daily at and are quite good plus text files. Enjoy, Victor
Mon Nov 7 17:32:59 EST 2011 | Doug
With such extensive weather resources your reason for delay in Yakutat is now apparent - you are thoroughly enjoying yourself - KUDOS!!! Roald Amundson thoroughly enjoyed himself for two long winters in Gjoa Haven during his NW Passage... his granddaughter, Leonie Aaluk, is the local radio station DJ. Your direct route to Cambridge Bay bypassing Gjoa Haven missed an important person re 'the rest of the story' of the first NW Passage that the history books seem to have overlooked.
Tue Nov 8 12:31:21 EST 2011 | Doug
A rapidly intensifying storm was approaching the west coast of Alaska on Tuesday and could become "one of the worst on record" for the region, the National Weather Service said in an alert.
Tue Nov 8 14:21:21 EST 2011 | Amos
A visit to Gjoa Haven and Leonie Aaluk:

Weather looks to improve slightly Wednesday night...
Tue Nov 8 16:53:48 EST 2011 | Richard Hudson
Thanks for the comments.

Victor, I like ZyGRIB, and use it when I have a WiFi connection, but for most of the world, I believe it is providing GRIB data from the NOAA GFS model (which is the most commonly used one that I am aware of in general).

Doug, yes, Yakutat is a nice place. I really wanted to stop in Gjoa Haven, but conditions were against me, so I did miss out on visiting that really historic part of the NW Passage.

Amos, thanks for the link.

Fish Truck
Sat Nov 5 20:04:07 EDT 2011, Yakutat, Alaska

This former APC (I think this is a military surplus Armored Personnel Carrier) was used to transport fish in Yakutat for several years.

Sat Nov 5 20:34:51 EDT 2011 | Douglas
Looks like a two day weather window per GRIB this week - you do not want to winter over there. Tally Ho Sailor!
Mossy Trees
Thu Nov 3 17:38:45 EDT 2011, Yakutat, Alaska

The rarely-ending rain in Yakutat results in moss growing on the trees.

Sat Nov 5 17:30:51 EDT 2011 | Terry
we all know ... trees ... moss on the north side ... go south ... the other side with no moss ... hehehehe
Warm Hands
Mon Oct 31 19:20:43 EDT 2011

I used a variety of gloves and mitts this year in the NW Passage. This is what I found to be useful for cold-weather sailing.

As a general rule, insulated gloves of various kinds work well in temperatures 8C/45F and above. For colder temperatures, mitts are the only things to keep hands warm.
Note that I don't pull on ropes with any of these gloves or mitts--I don't think any of them will last long if used for pulling hard on ropes with. As most of ones time is not spent pulling on ropes, it isn't much of a problem to remove gloves/mitts to pull on ropes (reef/tack/gybe/etc), then put the gloves/mitts back on to warm back up.

Sealskin Mitts with Felt Lining (top left):
Not generally found in stores, I got these in the Northwest Territories many years ago. One of the mitts is now missing the (removable) felt liner--otherwise, these would have been the warmest mitts I had. Excellent for keeping the hands warm (especially with a spare set of liners so one can be drying below while the other is in use), and very easy to get on and off. Too hot to be worn above 10C/50F.

Rabbit Fur Mitts with Polyester Insulation (middle left):
These are made in China, and sold in Canada (and probably USA) at outdoor equipment stores for about $30. They are the warmest mitts I had aboard. Even when moderately wet they were still warm (though when it rained a lot, I switched to the blue insulated rubber gloves). Too hot to be worn above 10C/50F.

Insulated Yachting Gloves (top right):
I got the West Marine insulated gloves several years ago and never used them until this year. They work well in mild temperatures, and are a bit warmer than the insulated rubber gloves when it isn't really wet. Quite comfortable to steer with. Warm down to about 8C/45F.

Blue Insulated Rubber Gloves (middle right):
I got a pair of these in Rimouski, Quebec for about $10. I only bought one pair because I wrongly figured I could buy another pair along the way at any fishing supply store. It wasn't until Alaska that I found another pair. Excellent in wet weather, and warm to about 8C/45F. Loose and stiff enough to be easy to take on and off. They take a long time to dry the insulation out, though, so best to have more than one pair.

Green Plastic Gloves with Separate Cotton Liners (bottom):
In Cartwright, Labrador, I was told all the fishermen had switched to using waterproof gloves with separate liners, that way, when the liners got wet, they just changed liners. Though I'm sure it worked for the fishermen, I didn't find this combination all that useful. This combination did work, but it takes a while to take off both an outer and inner glove, so didn't work all that well with my habit of taking off gloves/mitts before pulling on ropes. If I only took off the outer glove (which was easy), then I'd wet the cotton liners handling the wet ropes (and wet cotton has no insulation value). This system would work better if one had enough of the outer gloves aboard that one could just wear the gloves while handling ropes, let the gloves wear out and replace the gloves as they wore out (buying replacements as you go along is not practical in the NW Passage, where you can't rely on being able to buy anything, so if you don't have it with you, you may need to do without it).

Tue Nov 1 13:48:43 EDT 2011 | Amos
Looks like you may get a weather window Wednesday or Thursday? Fingers crossed.

The South awaits!
Wed Nov 2 0:46:14 EDT 2011 | Victor
Very good review and worth publishing. Many people just neglect that. Good work.
Thu Nov 3 14:35:09 EDT 2011 | Amos
.Today...NE wind 25 kt diminishing to 15 kt in the afternoon. Out of Disenchantment Bay...gusts to 40 kt in the the morning. Seas 3 ft building to 5 ft in the afternoon. .Tonight...NE wind becoming 20 kt late. Seas 4 ft. Rain and snow late. .Fri...Se wind 20 kt. Seas 7 ft. Rain. .Fri night...E wind 15 kt. Seas 7 ft. Rain. .Sat...SW wind 10 kt. Seas 6 ft. Rain. .Sun...SW wind 10 kt. Seas 6 ft. .Mon...E wind 20 kt. Seas 7 ft.

Is this feasible? Chewing nails...
Fri Nov 4 17:35:01 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
Thanks, Victor.

Amos, thanks, that was the Yakutat Bay forecast you are quoting. The ones to look at for the coastal route are the Cape Edgecumbe to Cape Fairweather and Cape Fairweather to Icy Cape. Those forecasts (east 30-50 knots) were not quite good enough for Issuma for Wed/Thursday.
Sun Nov 6 15:59:17 EST 2011 | Amos
Thanks, Richaed, quite right. Those coastal stretches do look nasty. Thanks for the correction. Here's hoping you get the break you need soon!

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