We motored on Thursday in windlessness 45 miles along the south coast of Unalaska from Raven Bay to Udagak strait , then went north into Beaver Inlet. We’d had thick fog until entering Udagak strait, whereupon it burned off and the sun shone. The sun shone on plenty of seabirds, like red-faced cormorants ( I don’t know the issue there), Whiskered Auklets, Ancient Murrelets, Bald eagles, fleeting whales, beach foxes, and us. It also shone on a processing ship moored on Udagak Bay, and a fishing boat secured alongside. Our first sighted evidence of inhabitation. We are anchored now, for a second morning at the very inner end of English Bay. At the moment we are anchored in about 1/2 metre of water, and are sitting on the mud. We had a quiet night as a front passed with 30 knots of wind, and rain. It is raining and 10 C , but the wind has died down. I doubt if Cook brought his vessel this far into this bay This morning we will leave in a few hours with the rising tide to catch high slack water at Unalga Pass. Another 20 miles will bring us to Dutch Harbor. Yesterday we had another great day of rambling in the hills. The sun shone and the walking was excellent. Lapland longspurs, American Pipits, Rock sandpipers, poss Rough Legged hawk, Least sandpipers, and a Cow on the far beach(a lonely cow, like with horns and moos). To be clear, there are no trees here. Koos has been frantically trying to arrange travel over the next week, for a long distance, unexpected trip for family reasons. The emails have been firing back and forth ,several daily, utilizing the radio email system to its maximum, or more. But, it looks like we will arrive at Dutch Harbor in good time for outgoing and incoming flights over the next few days. What will Dutch harbor be like?
The time for crew change in Dutch Harbor approaches quickly, and the weather forecast was for increasing south and SE winds, so I felt some urgency to get within striking distance. However we stayed at Raven Bay all day yesterday, and had a great day. A day that will be remembered. The day started at 0400, after a great sleep, warmed up the engine to do an oil/filter change, and by 0730 we were ashore and walking. Clear blue sky and light winds. The boat was hard aground on the mud, so the anchorage was very secure. Within minutes of starting to walk up the green hills we saw a luxuriantly furry fox staring downhill intently at us. We managed to hike to the top of a lovely 700 metre peak despite 3 weeks of shipboard sloth. The views were (fill in the superlative of choice). By late afternoon, after a bathe in an icy mountain stream, we were back at the shore and each went on a kayak excursion. This morning we set off at 0500 ,in the fog, to complete our transit of the south coast of Unalaska Island , through Sedanka Strait, into Beaver Inlet, into Uldaga pass and then finally into English Bay. where we are now anchored. There is a creek flowing into the head of the bay that is steaming heavily: one suspects a hotspring. we saw another fox, some whales, and ,of course, plenty of interesting birds. Koos and I talk frequently about ‘the gale’ we went through. Of course, for sailors gales are normal. Except, that very few recreational sailors actually go though a gale. That is mostly because they are careful to not go in places or times where gales are very frequent. It was a very intense and interesting experience. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, like many worthwhile efforts. The performance of the Jordan drogue was amazing, and exactly as Donald Jordan described. He deserves a lot of credit. I cannot imagine emerging so unscathed if we had persisted with heaving-to. Of course if the attitude of the boat was perfect while heaving-to, the ‘slick’ to windward would suppress the breaking waves. I considered deploying a parachute on a bridle , but chose the Jordan drogue instead. During a 6 hour period on the second night we had frequent green water breaking on the stern and both sides. It was very active, with a lot of wave impacts. But not even close to knockdown or broach. We stayed dry and secure, if a bit anxious. Now we are anchored in mud in 6′ of water at the head of English Bay on Unalaska Island, about 22 miles from Dutch Harbor. The scenery is outstanding.
It is good to be here. It is 0400 hrs and dawn is well underway. A sparrow sang and a frog croaked. There is even the odd mosquito. We finally motored into the entrance to Raven Bay mid afternoon yesterday, Tuesday June 25th. The approach was prolonged as we sailed along the south shore of this island in gusty winds varying from nothing, in choppy seas, to 35 knots. But it is a spectacular place. Our first sight of the islands was of snow covered volcanoes. Now here we are anchored in this small alpine lake. The anchorage is a little enclosed bay just to the west of the main bay. Our position at the moment is 53 28.37 n 166 53 w snugged up to the north end of the pool with two shorelines. It should be just visible on Google Earth The weather was sunny yesterday, and it is looking the same today. But even so, williwaws are gusting from several directions, down the gully behind us, and straight down the 800′ cliff that starts from the water 75′ from our starboard side. This bay is about 400m by 150 m and is entered through a very narrow kelpy passage winding among rocks, but with plenty of depth. Greg Soroka on Alcidae III told us of this place in a radio conversation we had on the second day of the gale. It is very reminiscent of any alpine lake, above the tree line. There are no trees. But the grassy tundra is fully green. There some alpine peaks nearby, still with a fair amount of snow on them. As we entered the pool, a little rodent that looked like a ground squirrel raised the alarm from a nearby grassy ridge. The lupines are blooming. And of course, because it is an alpine lake, the tufted and horned puffins are plentiful. Ha. Koos went for a kayak paddle in the evening, and I went to bed at 8 pm and slept deeply for 8 hrs. Beauty. What about that passage from Kauai to here? It was very unusual, in that there was a LOT of motoring (164 hours in total, that’s SEVEN days!) mostly in the first 2 weeks. Then we rode out a gale for 3 days. It took 22 days and a few hours in total. ( Despite all that motoring, in theory we still have enough fuel to get to Dutch Harbor, maybe even enough to pump out a few liters for the heater. I shall look into the tank this morning to make a guess at the reserve.) Then we arrived at a very different place. This looks like a great place for foot exploration. We’ll probably leave here tomorrow or Friday and take 2 or 3 days to get to Dutch Harbor, around the east end of Unalaska, via English Bay, where Cook anchored ( where didn’t he anchor?). Imagine the exhilaration we felt to enter this peaceful CALM green place with birdsong, with the fresh memory of the gale’s chaos and uncertainty.