2017 - Another season done, cut short by misadventure, bureaucracy, crew withdrawals, and just plain bad luck. Abd I had wworked hard back home to gather the funds for this season, which evaporated so quickly.
However though I did not make it to Russia or Japan, and covered barely half the distance I had intended, I did get to explore some interesting parts of the central Alaskan Peninsula with Carol who joined me at the last minute when crew pulled out, a short visit from Michael for the Kodiak section, and then last leg out west past Sand Point to Pavlov Bay, Cold Bay and False Pass singlehanded.
My most memorable experiences last year?
A solo high country skiing trip out of Haines, landed on a snowfield by Paul of Mountain Air in his Beaver skiplane, skinned up and skied off several high points, then in mid afternoon started making my way out the route I had selected on the flight in, only to find I hadn't crossed over the critical ridge and ended up in the wrong drainage, bluffed by a waterfall system, and ended overnighting in a steep defile hopefully avoided by the wildlife, making a moss bed on the ice in the lee of a big slab to protect me from the falling rocks, and just ( down to the last match scenario) managing to get a fire going to keep me from freezing until dawn thankfully came. After several committing moves climbing out of the canyon on fractured rock I had an easy line out to the valley 2500' below, then a full day slog thru wet country, dense devils club, moose, and the occasional overpass by Paul in his Beaver checking I was getting out ok. The story could go on, about the "Deliverance hillbilly encounter" but too much to tell now.
Glacier Bay National Park with Carol, nudging up to all the tidewater glaciers, going ashore to explore a retreating terminal face, mixing our cocktails with ages old glacial ice, meeting up with Graham and Lindsay from Haines "Fairweather Ski Works" who were doing some backcountry skiing based from their salmon fishing boat. And then visiting Elfin Cove, a funky little fishing village to refuel before spending a day soaking in White Sulphur Springs before crossing the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak
Kodiak, Afognak, and Geographic Harbor were all memorable for many reasons - (refer recent blog) but unfortunately finding a sharp rock outcrop at extreme low tide not only stopped my progress, but almost sunk the boat. It happened while the "Blessing of the Fleet" was underway, the local Russian Orthodox Priest leading proceedings. When my Mayday call went out, six boats immediately answered the call, ferrying a pump from Kodiak Harbor, and one flown to my location by the Coast Guard (oh, it just happens that Kodiak is the home of the largest USCoast Guard station) so Whakaari made it in to port. Misha, who briefly came to crew for me, stood his watches not as he expected, but instead refuelled and monitored the pump keeping the boat afloat until the morning high tide when she could be hauled at the shipyard.
Six weeks passed in a flash, fibreglassing, removing the Achilles Heel I had exposed (the hull at the bilge area was only 5-6mm thick, the rock tearing her open like a tin can) and replacing the bilge systems and wiring that ripped out. Of course the main effort over all that time was spent attempting to fix the salt water damage to Whakaari's electrical systems
Sand Point became my preferred harbor to winter over. It gave me a chance to get back on the horse and do some single handed exploration out along the Alaska peninsula and redeem some of my 2017 ambitions, and to take stock and faec preparing the boat for another go in 2018. I found this aspect the most challenging -to re-commit to the project, to pour scarce funds into repairs which requires many long hours over the winter months while already feeling exhausted by the 2017 effort, facing the same difficulties in finding experience willing crew for high latitudes sailing, resolving the bureacratic puzzle of actually getting into Russia.
I had brilliant weather for sailing, made it almost to False Pass before it was time to start laying up the boat.
On my second attempt to leave Kodiak ( another story, turned back by the Coast Guard as the Commercial Spaceport out on the south coast was about to test the military's intercontinental ballistic missile defence system - attempting to intercept a mock attack delivered by US submarines near Guam - ah yes, thats close to Korea), a strong easterly made for a fast trip surfing at 12 knots til exhausted I anchored close in the lee of the most southern point of Kodiak where bears, deer and a fox came down to the shore to watch me. I visited Old Harbor, Chignik, several small islands en route to Sand Point ( all having Bear sign), then after calling in at Sand Point to reconnoiter the facilities, I continued on to Pavlov Bay, King Cove, Cold Bay and the approaches to False Pass before turning round to face the week long task of winterising the boat and leaving before the first gales arrived.
2018 - The northern winter was spent partly in the Gulf Islands, BC working at the Gabriola Cider Orchard, and Aspen, Colorado for skiing (mainly uphilling to get fit), searching for crew and boat parts, navigating the protocols for entering into Russia by private yacht, doing a major bathroom remodel and new flooring ( a fundraising opportunity saved up for me by my good friend Jackie, in return for supporting my sailing project.)
Some good things happened, thanks to good contacts, a Russian speaking waiter, Jackie's assistance, and some good luck.
I now have a great crew _ Roberto, a Phuket (Thailand) sailing instructor, John Bisson, retired airline pilot with a sailing background, and Eric Altenberndt, an experienced Atlantic sailor building his own 42 trimaran.
I arrived early April in Sand Point, along with Jackie toting bags full of present for Whakaari, and spent the next four weeks on boat prep and upgrades/repairs & maintenance. Roberto arrived soon after me to help with the long list of repairs and maintenance.
Of course there is always a social aspect to moving into a remote settlement, and of course we are not the norm for such a place, focused on a huge cod, halibut, crab and salmon industry, most of the population involved with the Trident processing plant here. Sailors are uncommon, and for the last year counted on one hand missing a few fingers.So we were made to feel very welcome, invited to various happenings, told about how to get things done and where to find stuff - even bought meal tickets for dinner at the Trident mess hall, went to two "Jam Sessions" at The Shed -a local rock band called One Shot Left, joined the Flying Dentist team for a walk to Sand Dollar Beach, played Right Center Left Dice a hilarious pub game, shared rounds of beers with the local fishermen, played pool of course, went to a Cinco de Mayo event at the Tavern where Jeremy, a harbor employee was DJ, avoided the real mans way to drink Suicide Shots with three raucous fishermen, decided against a follow up round of "Liquid Marijuana" cocktails, invited to a bbq at a local bear hunting guides place and instead helped unload the supplies for his Canoe Bay Outfitters operation as the freight boat was late into Sand Point, learned about Boules Law and Dr Diesel from the best welder in town, John from Ireland, and were often given free fish, caught that day, or smoked, even Octopus Jerky. The advice from these hardened seamen was generous and sincere, but at times very daunting - grizzlies at 2 per sq mile, some 11' monsters, currents and local winds that will take you where you don't want to go, gusts that lay your boat over and pin you down for minutes.....my iPad Navionics charts for the Aleutians are now peppered with pins I've added, noting good and dangerous anchorages, places to catch or shoot virtually every kind of animal that lives out here, including seabird nesting colonies for egg gathering, clam digging, and edible wild plants used by the Inuet for centuries that will help us survive if we are shipwrecked!
Passage Plan - Roberto and I have had a shakedown sail out to Nagai Island ( part of the Shumgens )and had to come back to repair a blown HP hose, sort out some software issues, and deal with a fe wother things found to be not quite right
Now we jhave the rest of May to explore the area between here and Dutch Harbor before we pick up the other two guys and head along the Aleutians, looking for opportunities to climb several volcanoes, across the Bering Sea to Kamchatka, Russia then south to Japan and beyond back into the tropics. Easy to say!
Apparently this takes you to PredictWinds Web Tracker for my sailboat, and providing the IridiumGO! unit is on, you will see where I am, even how fast I'm (not) going