Egg Bay, Atka Island, Aleutians
04 July 2018
The first sense of land being somewhere nearby is the wonderful sight of more and more birds around. For the last week in mid ocean, we have only had the company of the Laysan Albatross, with its huge grey wings and white body, it seems the only bird mad enough to brave the harsh environment of the North Pacific.
About 100 miles out from the Aleutian Islands, we noticed more and more birds joining us. Mostly groups of the Northern Fulmar, and closer in Storm Petrels returned.
We went through the wide Amchitka pass for 80 miles into the Bering Sea, and crossed with no fanfare from the East hemisphere to the West, going through the waypoint I had set to match the Greenwich latitude and make it a double whammy! So now our Western latitude counts downward instead of up as we head east.
Finally on Thurday 28th, two weeks after leaving Japan, we sailed into the Bering Sea, and through the very poor visibility finally managed to catch a smudge of land, the little island of Gareloi. Meanwhile the sun was fighting to find a way through the clouds, and seabirds and dolphins were anticing and wheeling around us. I was enjoying all the company so much, when like a hallucination out of the grey appeared the sunlit snow clad volcano of Tanaga surreally rising above a layer of cloud, and lit up by the low sculpting of the evening sun! What a landfall to make, so long in coming, but more beautiful than any dream.
Giles was woken from his slumbers to come and enjoy the sight that felt like one of the wonders of the world - just for us!
The Bering Sea gave us a thoroughly uncomfortable ride after the strong NW winds we had been enjoying, great for sailing, but awful once we turned in front of them and began to run east to Adak.
So we rolled down the Bering Sea for 90 miles in horrible discomfort made worse when the wind died and we had to motor in a hideous lurching fashion, dipping each gunwhale in the water as we rocked from side to side.
It didn't improve once we turned south along Adak Island's east coast to make our approach into Sweeper's Bay to find shelter. The final leg had left us both exhausted! Deep into the Bay, is a small boat harbour tucked in behind the rotting piles of another era.
The entrance is tight, but avoiding kelp seemed the best guide to the channel, and there sure enough were friends on Sagatta, kindly waiting to take our lines. Just as well, as we tied up along a steep quay, which we would have had trouble climbing up with lines, as it was it proved too high for me to throw a line up to be caught!!
Finally we were all tied up, and plenty of stories to swap with Sagatta, who we had left Japan in company with. She is a heavy motor sailer and for the two week crossing they had never turned the motor off, or the heating! So we had done well to be only 24 hours behind them!
Meanwhile we had to do a radical time adjustment, winding forward our clocks 6 hours, while actually having the 28th all over again! So it turned out that although we had arrived at 0745 on the 29th June, we had actually arrived at 13.45 on the 28th!
Sagatta were expecting a fuel delivery, which luckily enough we managed to use as well, although the sudden transition to American Gallons, not even Imperial ones, from litres confused us so much in our hazy state, that we didn't put enough in, but plenty to get us as far as Dutch Harbor.
Sagatta had also worked out the opening hours of the only shop in Adak, which just opened for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so we walked down to the ghost town with them, to buy long life milk, and wholemeal bread, but disappointingly, nothing fresh.
Then we all enjoyed a delicious burger and chips in the only restaurant, and we were for bed!
We slept solidly for 12 hours, waking next morning just in time to wave farewell to Sagatta .
We had decided to have one more day in Adak and have a good walk before leaving. We failed to find any trails, but the grit road that loops behind Adak town provided us with a good 10 mile hike. Only one car came by, who stopped to chat to us. We were lucky to get good views albeit cloudy, and it was a joy to find lots of wild flowers, masses of purple wild lupins, wild geranium, orchids and deep pink flowers of wild strawberries, and many more besides.
By the evening, the sun had burnt up some of the cloud and we were able to see Adak's high snow clad peak. It seems that the weather changes very fast, so cloud might suddenly give way to sunshine, but ten minutes later dense wet cloud might return.
Adak is a very strange place, there are about 60 people living there, some just for the summer, most of them seem to be on contracts of some sort, and virtually no one seems to call it home! In the winter months a large work force appear to process fish.
During the Cold War era, there were 100,000 Navy staff and families living on Adak, and a lot of houses are in a state of dire dilapidation, while others survive and are lived in. It is possibly the cheapest real estate in the world!!
There were a couple of fishing boats in harbour with us, and it was interesting to chat to them, their main catch is Halibut, and one boat was kind enough to give us a large filleted side of Halibut. It was absolutely delicious.
Next day, our start was delayed by the gas not working, and thoughts of being at sea in this climate with nothing hot meant that a solution had to be found! The regulator was at fault, and we managed to pilfer one from the bar-b-q . Finally the morning cup of coffee was being brewed, but meanwhile we had missed our tide through the east going pass we had planned to take, which meant an extra 10 miles round the headland of Little Sitkin. Probably just as well, as we were in thick fog all morning. The evenings are so long, it doesn't get dark until almost midnight, so we managed to get into a little bay at the western tip of Atka island, and find calm water. It was the first time we have dropped the anchor this year!!
We have over 300 miles to move on to Dutch Harbour, where we finally check into America, but meanwhile another Low is approaching, so yesterday, we moved for 30 miles along the north of the island, and found a beautiful bay where we can take shelter from the wind for a couple of days. The thought of choosing to bash straight into 35 knots of wind seemed like a bad option.