We’ve been sailing through the final frontier of the United States, a land that feels further away from the mainland US than Hawaii. A land of Salmon Berries and wildflowers; of Grizzly Bears and abundant sea life. The islands of the Eastern Aleutians remind me of the remoteness of the Marquesas or Tuamotus archipelagos. There are people, but nature has a much more prevalent reign on the world here. The landscape is striking. The moss and wildflower covered hills of the Aleutian Islands end abruptly at steep cliffs where waterfalls then spill into the sea. Snowcapped mountains paint the backdrop. The air smells sweet and fresh, both from the land and the sea. Bald eagles are always overhead. Otters, seals and sealions surround the shorelines. Humpback and Blue whales have been regular company as we’ve sailed between islands; at times their spouts covering the horizon. There are more seabirds than I have ever seen in my life; Shearwaters, Petrels, Terns, Gulls, Albatross and Puffins just to name a few. On the island of Unimak, we spotted our first BIG Grizzly bear, just two hills over from the trail we were hiking among the wildflowers. The treeless hillsides gave us a false sense of security, but we managed to skirt the coast and make it back to the shore without incident. The Arctic Fox quietly scavenges the kelp and debris along the coastline for a fresh meal. Fish are everywhere, and we have not wanted for fresh food from the sea for long. If we don’t find our fill from our own catch, we have just as frequently been fed by the local fisherman, who have matched the warm hospitality of the locals we have met here. I have been blown away and honestly inspired by the kindness of the people here. This is a special place.
I knew we were sailing somewhere that was going to shock me, that was going to inspire true awe, but I still had not a clue what we were sailing into. The cold has been something to get used to. Time, wool socks, and the diesel heater I had installed aboard have helped me in the transition from the tropics to the nearly Arctic climate. As we sail here, we must mind the strong currents that run through the passes and straights. We experienced this before we even made it to Dutch Harbor, as we pushed through Unalga Pass (between Unalaska and Unalga Islands) just before the tide switched. Here we officially crossed from the North Pacific Ocean to the Bearing Sea. We’ve used these tides to our advantage as well, clocking 11.6 knots as we shot through Sitkinak Straight and past Whirlpool Point off the Southern tip of Kodiak Island. The fog has been another challenge. J. Henry’s radar has never gotten so much use and I have never wanted more for an AIS transponder. Most boats now have AIS and it’s a great tool for sharing vessel location, speed, course and other critical information. Currently we can see them but they can’t us. This makes for a very busy watch with plenty of radio time with local fishman and other vessels passing in the fog. On the upside, we have long periods of daylight. I recall getting back to J. Henry around sunset (2:00 AM), after a nice salmon and mussel dinner cooked over the campfire on the beach of Akun island. It was only when we got to Kodiak that we learned that the mussels in this area have killed several people, only some locals and natives know how to decipher which are safe and which are not. Fortunately, we found the “good ones” and our ignorance was oh so blissful as we savored those fatty morsels for several meals as we sailed the Eastern Aleutians – that will be the last time.
I am now in Kodiak. My crewmate, TK, who sailed with me from Hawaii and my good friend, Matthew, who joined us from Dutch Harbor to Kodiak have departed J.Henry. We had a great experience and I’m looking forward to sailing with both of them again. My new (and former) crewmate, Kiera, arrived a few days ago. We are preparing to leave Kodiak today. We are provisioned and J.Henry feels ready to sail on. Our next major stop will be Seward. We will then make our way through the Prince William Sound and then cross the Gulf of Alaska for Juneau. Please keep taps on our tracker ( Link ). I’m looking forward to sharing a lot more! There’s just too much to share in one post here.
Thanks for following the Apparent Winds journey.