21 August 2019 | Sidney, Vancouver Island
06 August 2019 | Powell River
26 July 2019 | Campbell River
17 July 2019 | Port McNeil, Vancouver Island
05 July 2019 | Ketchikan
28 June 2019 | Petersburg, Alaska
17 June 2019 | Seward
04 June 2019 | Seward, Alaska
13 August 2018 | Kodiak town
16 July 2018 | Alaska
17 June 2018 | North Pacific
01 June 2018 | Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan
06 May 2018 | Mihonoseki
22 April 2018 | Marin Pia Marina, Kunasaki
30 March 2018 | Marin Pia Marina, Musashi, Oita
25 February 2015 | Puerta Galera, Mindoro island
07 February 2015 | Pinoy Boatyard Port Carmen

Alaskan Wilderness

13 August 2018 | Kodiak town
Jo
Now we had reached the long south western peninsular of the Alaskan mainland, we were in bear country. This vast wilderness of mountains, valleys and deep bays is untouched by road building. The few settlements in the area, like King Cove only have a few roads serving the local community; connections to the wide world are by boat, an ancient infrequent slow ferry, and air if there is a runway. Lives that are lived here are all about fishing, and the season and timing of the catches.

Bear spotting was on our agenda as we sailed up Belofski Bay, in company with Kiwi Coyote, towards the landlocked natural pool of Captain Harbour. We did find one bear, but we had not expected to be surrounded by humpback whales, blowing and flipping all around us. We had seen several whales along the way including Orcas, but these were nerve rackingly close! So close that we could hear the vast gulp of suction as they surfaced, and were rocked by the splash of the tail flip as they disappeared. Our adrenalin pumped furiously as we chased after them, only to squeak with terror when we felt too close!

The stunningly beautiful Volcano Bay, gave us proper extended bear sightings, complete with the backdrop of snow topped volcanoes and a beautiful river valley. One big Brown bear lay in the sunshine on the shingle at the river mouth challenging any bear who got too close! We launched the dinghy and went over to get a better view, somewhat nervously, as we kept running aground, while the big bear watched us carefully. They are good swimmers, so we had no wish to entice him into the water!

We left Kiwi Coyote there and headed on to the Shumigan Island group. First, Coal Bay on Unga Island, and then to Sand Point, on Popof island, where there is a busy harbour and fishing community, as well as an itinerant workforce for Trident who have a fish processing plant, where they clean and ship fresh salmon all over the world.

Trident dominate the employment of Sand Point, - people from all over the world come to work in the plant, while the local fishermen have a ready outlet for their catch. The system is very organised and replicated in most of the fisheries we have seen. The independent fishing boats, who are only allowed to fish a certain amount, wait in port until the Fisheries department give the signal for a couple of days fishing, at which point a full harbour empties in minutes!

Each fishing boat has a very strong aluminium dinghy or skiff of about 15 foot. These skiffs haul out the net from the fishing boat, and then wait in these small open boats while hopefully the net fills.

For a yacht coming into a bay or going through an area with a lot of fishing boats it is essential to understand what they are doing, and which skiff is working with which fishing boat in order to avoid the long lines of floating buoys which can be very hard to spot in any kind of a sea.

The fishing boats unload their catch into a larger boat, the Tender, who weigh what each boat has given them, and then takes the catch from multiple fishing boats back to the Trident Plant.

We were rejoined by Kiwi Coyote, and caught for five days in Sand Point by strong easterly winds! It was a good place to spend time, with two shops and a chandlery, laundry at the Trident plant and an excellent works cafeteria where we enjoyed a meal with Robin and Simon. We had an interesting visit around the Trident Plant, and good free internet miles away at the library, where we always managed to hitch lifts. John an Irish man who has a welding business lent us his quad bike for a day, so that we could explore some of the tracks on the island. We were given yet more salmon, and then dry smoked and wet smoked salmon, when we invited three John’s for drinks that turned into dinner!

There is a resident community on the island of about 600 people, and one afternoon we went to join in the local Aleut craft week, where teachers and children from wide ranging places learnt to carve, do beadwork and basketry. Sharon Kay, who is half Aleut was leading the group, and has forged world-wide links in her quest to keep some of the Alaskan tribes and skills alive.

When the wind let up, we moved across the short distance to Baralof Bay on Unga Island, where once there was a thriving cannery.

Vast stilted wooden buildings built over the water dominate the northern shore, complete with a few old ships in the port, long past their usable life. We went ashore with Simon and Robin, and were soon greeted by two barking dogs who failed to deter us!

We wondered through cathedral like warehouses stuffed with machinery of all descriptions, particularly astonishing was a work shop complete with vast belt driven lathes and drills, that could have come straight out of the 19th Century. A noisy generator was running, deafening our attempts to make someone hear that there were intruders. Eventually Rick, the sole caretaker of this empire appeared, looking not so surprised to see us, and, and obligingly set the belts and machines whirring in the workshop.

The old cannery buildings had been sold off to an obsessive collector of industrial archaeology, whose enthusiasm for things derelict seemed to be endless although not entirely eclectic! One area was given over to old white goods, washing machines and cookers, although for the most part his collecting eye had gone for industrial machinery.

Rick lives amongst it all throughout the year, never goes even as far as Sand Point, and relies on fishermen and passers by to bring him food. His almost impossible task is to keep the place repaired in some form. Considering everything is built over the water on stilts this seems an impossible task! Meanwhile the owner carries on collecting and bringing in more and more stuff!

We were mesmerised by it all, and moved on next morning to visit the now derelict Aleut village of Unga in the next bay, where Sharon who we had met in Sand Point grew up.

The east wind was moderating so along with Kiwi we continued to Mist Bay on Nagai Island, hopefully a good anchorage and jumping off point for our crossing to Kodiak. The anchorage was tight, and luckily well sheltered for us, as we decided to leave for Kodiak a day earlier than Kiwi as we had to meet our niece Rachel in Old Harbour in 5 days time. The following night poor Kiwi had a dreadful time there with dragging anchor and high winds.

We meanwhile had a very uncomfortable crossing for the 48 hour trip to Kodiak. The wind was on the nose, and I was sick for the whole trip. Joy indeed to get into Japanese Bay at the southern end of Kodiak to one of Alaska’s many sand spit anchorages, where you can tuck safely in behind a sand bar with shelter from all directions. These sand spits area a welcome feature of sailing in this part of the world, where the head of a bay frequently has a spit of sand that has been dumped by years of waves to form in some places a separate lagoon, but in many a spit which a yacht can creep around and get perfect protection.

Heading on to Three Saints Bay next day we spotted another such spit on the west of the bay and going to investigate found another perfect calm anchorage. Not only that but there were deer and dark speckled looking foxes ashore, as well as the first trees we have seen. None of the places further west has trees.

From here it was an easy 10 miles on to the small community of Old Harbour, (150 residents), where we were meant to be collecting our niece Rachel at 6pm from a flight from Kodiak. The tiny harbour of Old Harbour was delightfully pretty, the small Russian Orthodox church on our way in looked interesting, and not only that we got one free night there, and the harbour master volunteered his 14 year old daughter to drive us to the airfield, and take us bear spotting once Rachel had arrived!

We sat in eager anticipation at the airfield only to hear that the flight had been cancelled because of low cloud at the other end. We still went to see the bears at the rubbish dump, which was pretty amazing. We were so close to them that you could get a real sense of their size and power.

Next day there seemed no hope that Rachel would arrive as the cloud was low, but we managed to speak with her and she would await us in Kodiak, in two days!

The intricate channel north from Old Harbour had us concentrating hard to avoid the rocky islets and submerged rocks, and the weather changed rapidly form sun to rain to low fog and back again. The tide flooded from the north east around the island of Sitkalidak, which was counter intuitive, but explained why the buoyage came from that direction. We had left Old Harbor late so as to hear about Rachel’s flight, but we soon realised as we progressed steadily past capes with off putting names like Dangerous Cape, that we did seem to have carried the tide with us latterly, and as there were two more capes where the chart marked strong tides and tide rips, that although it would mean a late arrival we had better keep on trucking. The wind was particularly unhelpful, so we were motor sailing, and the fog set in so that we could not see the shoreline at all.

There appeared yet again to be no boats out, although we had spotted a couple of fishing boats earlier. We now knew that we could not rely on fishing boats to turn on their AIS, and we assumed that the approach to Kodiak might be busy, so we periodically checked our radar, but found nothing.

Eventually the fog lifted enough to take us past Cape Chiniak where we could begin to turn eastwards into Chiniak Bay, the outer bay of Kodiak town.

The coast gave no obvious protection from the northerly wind, but we decided to try what looked like a sheltered anchorage amongst rocky islets in Kalsin Bay, and although we had to creep in at 21.00 there was still plenty of daylight left for us to find a lovely quiet spot.

Next day we were into St Paul’s Harbor by midday, where Rachel found us for a late lunch, and much swapping of stories!!

Kiwi had by passed Old Harbor, and gone straight to Kodiak, and Phil and Lesley on Sagatta had waited a day to see us, so it was great to spend the following evening with friends on Brother Wind to celebrate my birthday, a particularly painful one full of memories of my twin brother Tim who died last year.

Although we had just arrived in Kodiak, Rachel had been here for a couple of days, so we decided to tear ourselves away from the best yachtie facilities we have seen for years, and take her off cruising for a few days! As our friends Lesley and Phil were heading off on Sagatta to Kitoi bay, we decided to go with them!

This turned out to be a better decision than we had realised, as we were going there with we reckoned the certainty of seeing bears! There is a salmon hatchery in the bay, where salmon swim in to their spawning ground and ultimately their demise. This in turn attracts the bears who catch the salmon in the river mouth. What we had not realised was that ten days later the chum salmon were over, and that the bears had gone

Not only was the hatchery fascinating to go around, but there were bears a plenty in the river beneath the hatchery, swimming, catching salmon and trying to climb into the artificial ‘ladder’ of water which leads up to the hatchery. In spite of the rain, we all reckoned we would never have better bear viewing!.

We set off from Kitoi Bay with Rachel only to find that the strong winds of the day before had left some very uncomfortable seas, and she had bad ‘mal de mer’ as we rolled and slid down the big NE swell. Eventually we found shelter in pretty Spruce Island where the little village of Ouzinkie has a delightful harbour, where we could tie up and go ashore. It is a native island, with a small Russian Orthodox church, and a population of 170. We had a good walk next day looking for their dam, which we failed to find, but picked salmon berries and wild blue berries safe in the knowledge that there are no bears on the island!!

We got back to Kodiak in time to drop Rachel ashore, and then go out for a delightful meal with Lulu and Jim, who had been so kind to Rachel when her flight was cancelled! We then put her on the old ferry the Trustomina, nicknamed the ‘vomit comet’, not a great thought for poor Rachel who had endured two days of sea sickness!

We meanwhile settled down to a few days in Kodiak to see how many on-going problems we might get sorted here!
Comments
Vessel Name: Brother Wind
Vessel Make/Model: Island Packet 45
Hailing Port: Blakeney, Norfolk UK
Crew: Jo and Giles Winter
About: Rolling selection of friends and family
Extra: Check my Instagram for pictures jogi_winter
Brother Wind's Photos - Jo and Giles round the world on Brother Wind (Main)
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IMG_0754: Brother Wind in Sydney Harbour
 
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