Passage to Kodiak August 1, 2, 3,4, 2016
22 April 2017 | Passage to Kodiak
Passage to Kodiak
After four days in Chignik, it was again time to go. Our next goal was Kodiak. We had stayed so long in Dutch Harbor that we were wanting to reach Seward before the weather turned. The sailing season is short here in Alaska, and the fishermen were advising us that we wanted to be off the water by the end of August. We also had boat work to do, and wanted to get that done before winter. Thus, we were bypassing a good number of really beautiful places to see. Can't have it all.
So, the weather forecast looked good, and we said good-bye to our friend Gary and his shipmate, Stewart. Kodiak is an island, and to get to Kodiak City, we had the option of approaching from the south, as our friends Bjorn and Annika of s/v Moon had advised, or we could have approached from the north, passing through a narrow pass, called Whale Pass. We chose, again, to "go our own way" (thank you Fleetwood Mac!) This pass had strong current and had to be taken when the water was slack, but we figured we could plan it right. It was simply a matter of timing.
So, for three days, we made our way up the coast taking note of the wind and our time. All was on track...until our last night. The wind was forecast to be on our nose and we would motor. When motoring, we are slow and easy to time accurately. With the forecast conditions we would arrive at the narrows in the pass right about 0600 am, at slack water. Perfect. But, now the conditions broke with the forecast, the wind went behind us and blew in the mid 20s. Nice and fast. Bummer. This calculated to our reaching the narrows much earlier, in the dark, and with a very high speed current. (This translates to not good, bad, and bad.) So, we slow the boat down, sails reefed to nearly nothing. Oh yay, now we will reach the pass a little later, but just a little. We were just moving too fast, and the only way we would slow enough to make the pass as planned would be to turn around and simply loiter in the rough water for a number of hours. It was not an attractive option, so I considered what it would be like to do the pass in the dark. We did have a clear sky, so we would have star light. The channel was well marked, and well charted. Ok, let's have a go. So, we proceeded and reached the north part of the channel about midnight. It was nearing the end of slack. The Current would start carrying us with it soon, building to a near river's pace before dawn when we would reach the end of it. As the night wore on we were passed by many big fishing boats, all, no doubt, wanting to beat the current before it picked up. We had our speed, and that was that. At one point, the sky light up. Well, well, well. That would be the Northern Lights! It was beautiful. The sky was fairly light, and although dark, we could see the shore and the edge of the water. Not too bad.
Did our speed pick up? You better believe it. We had been motoring as slow as we could and still maintain steering. So, we had a boat speed of about 2 knots and eventually an over the ground speed of 10 knots. An amazing sensation. It was a narrow channel, so we paid close attention to leading the turns knowing that if we miss-judged, we could easily be on the bank. But, it all went well and made for a very interesting night. As a final interest, the large pool where the channel opened up was marked with lots of little whirlpools on the chart. They meant it. As big as our boat is, when we passed through this area, we found ourselves facing one way, then turned a full 180 degrees the other way almost instantly. The water was deep, so nothing to worry about hitting, but eerie.
Making the final miles into Kodiak City was easy and beautiful. We passed an area where many otters were living. And, actually while we were coming up from Chignik, we saw a number of Orcas. Now, we were approaching a city. What would that be like?
.....to be continued. Be excellent to each other!