On November 14-15 The Climate Reality Project broadcasted a 24 hour show with the latest updates on climate change in order to create awareness and change. The show was hosted by former United States Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore. During the finale Mr. Gore showed a picture from our expedition.
After spending almost two weeks in Sand Point waiting for a weather window that would allow us to continue towards Kodiak we started to consider a plan B. With the boat covered in snow and the memory of the exhausting and dangerous sail from Dutch Harbour fresh in our minds and the advice from the local fishermen to be extremely careful about heading out into the unpredictable weather of the North gulf of Alaska we realized that it would be foolhardy to continue to sail. Therefore we decided that Belzebub would spend the winter in Sand Point! It was a hard decision to make but we both felt that it was the right one. We are now looking forward to take the time to explore the beautiful coast of Alsaka at the right time of the year next summer.
We felt releived about not heading out into the stormy waters again and put all our focus into winterizing Belzebub as well as making some well needed repairs. Ever since we encountered the Arctic ice there had been some vibrations coming from the propeller shaft and we suspected that the prop had hit a piece of ice somewhere along the way. Finally we had the time to dive down to confirm that the propeller was deformed. We tied up to the dock with stabilizing lines from the mast and dried out with the tide. In the dead of night we took the prop off and managed to hammer it back into shape and got the prop back on the shaft. We where pretty happy with the result. After a week we had fully winterized the boat and were ready to leave. Even though we where very happy to return home it was sad to leave the boat that had been our home for almost six months.
It has been an amazing summer and we are very grateful for all the support and feedback that we have received. We would like to thank everyone that has made the expedition possible and everyone that has been following us on our blog and social media. The expedition has exceeded our expectations by far in every way and we are proud to have spread our climate message way further than we had hoped for. We will continue to post videos and summaries on the blog during the winter so please stay tuned!
We sailed out of Dutch at dawn and had beautiful conditions sailing over the Aleutian islands and while we encountered some strong currents moving South of the islands into the Pacific we made great time. Soon, however, a strong Easterly built up and we were battling upwind on our mission to reach Kodiak. The wind and waves continued to build and soon we were making little headway tacking back and forth in tall but short seas falling off each wave the boat banged and shuttered aggressively. The wind was meant to clock to the South but with every weather forecast we downloaded the wind shift was delayed.
It was dark and rough and we were only a few miles from a well protected bay so we navigated in the dark into the bay and dropped anchor for some rest until the weather clocked. The next morning the wind had intensified and shifted only slightly to the South. We dragged both anchors across the bay until we hooked again and re-evaluated our options.Serious weather was developing due East and we had only a small window to make it to a safe port either King Cove or Sand Point, Kodiak was no longer in the cards. We decided to head through a small passage inland so that we could hide from the wind behind the islands. We tacked our way up the coast to King Cove but decided to push further to Sand Point. All night we tacked up wind through the maze of islands until the next morning when the wind, waves and current essentially stopped us. Moving at a ridiculously slow speed we found shelter behind an island and dropped the sails and motored along its sheltered coast towards Sand Point.
We were now only 12 miles from Sand Point but moving from anywhere from 1.5 to 0.1 knots we battled the waves for hours until we reached the fishing port elated after an exhausting upwind leg. It took us 5 days to do what normally would take us just under 2 days. We were worn out and just as we tied up in the harbour the really bad weather moved in and we were pinned until the next weather window.
The next mornings light exposed the absolute beauty of the Harbour we were in with towering mountains and large eagles swooping through the air. The kind Harbour master picked us up and he drove us around showing us the sights and explaining the history of this amazing place.
Fishing and crabbing boats were everywhere and their crews bustled in and out of the bars all day long. The fishermen here were extremely nice but also amongst the most eclectic people we met on our trip, a true cross section of American society from gun slingers from Oregon to one time businessmen from Boston. Dutch Harbor has been the largest fisheries port in the United States, in terms of volume of seafood caught, for nearly every year since 1981 and the Discovery show “The Deadliest Catch” has attracted people from all over to try their hand at fishing.
We were happy to be in port because for the next few days the winds picked up to 60 knots and torrential rains battered the Aleutians. The locals called it an Alaskan hurricane, it gave us real insight at how vicious the Bearing could be and reminded us of how careful and vigilant we must remain. However, we were slowly realizing how exhausted we were, we were slowing down, losing motivation and just couldn’t seem to get enough restful sleep. I even went so far as to get a hotel room for a couple of nights to try and catch up on some well needed sleep, but being so unused to being in a large bed and with television I did not feel anymore refreshed when I returned to the boat.
That day Morgan flew out to Florida for an important family wedding and Edvin and I were left alone on the boat exhausted to try and identify some way of making it Eastward with all the storms rolling in one after the other. The weather windows were never longer than a day before another storm rolled in, but the season was getting late and we had a long way yet to travel so despite less then perfect weather we sailed from Dutch.
When we came to terms that we had lost the anchor and saw the latest weather forecast witch contained symbols that we had never seen because they represented 60 knots and above, coming up from the North Pacific in a few days. We decided to leave as soon as possible for Dutch despite the 30 and 40 knot winds predicted. We spent the next couple of hours refuelling the engine and stove as well as cooking heavy weather food and set sail South for Dutch Harbour.
Belzebub sailed beautifully through the 3-4 meter breaking waves but what we had failed to understand is that the Bearing sea usually has two wave directions one from the prevailing winds and one from either old seas or rebound from close by land masses. This meant that while we sailed with the wind we had 3-4 meter waves on our stern stacking with 2-3 meter beam waves which slammed over the deck of the boat or poured in over the stern of the boat occasionally filling the cockpit. Add to this that now we were encountering 12 hour nights and it made for long watches.
The winds continued to increase and soon the sails were reduced so much we had to change them to the storm sails. For three days we rolled with the waves and wind and everything on board was wet with spray. We soon encountered the Bearing fishing fleet and the AIS was alive with activity which made us feel more comfortable about our surroundings. That being said despite the difficult conditions the boat handled every situation beautiful and we were never concerned about our safety.
Soon we were approaching Dutch Harbour in the darkness of night, the harbour was surrounded by impressive mountains and the lights of the fishing and crabbing fleet that lined its shores. We tied up in the small boat harbour which proudly stated its location on a carved wooden pilar “Unalaska, Alaska” we had a short look around and slept late into the next day.
We sailed away from Nome in a building northerly and made great speed towards Nunivak Island where we knew that we had to shelter before the next low pressure would hit us. And after three days we reached the south side and the wind decreased and we anchored for the night. The weather forecast showed that we would see a strong Easterly gale the next morning so when we woke up we spent the day cruising around the shallow uncharted bay in search for a better anchorage. We found a small stretch of land that would give us just enough shelter from the East but that meant that we had to go all the way into the beach to only three meters depth. It was a beautiful evening and we decided to take the dinghy ashore for some exploring. The barren beach was lined with tall beautiful sand dunes which reminded me of the Swedish West coast and beyond them a vast marsh land appeared. We waded through the bogs for about an hour in the direction of a few moving dots on the hillside ahead which we assumed to be Muskox. Halfway there we encountered a large furry muskox all by itself. It did not move as we slowly approached it and we soon realized that one of its legs was badly injured. We moved quite close to it but when we realized it was trying to get away on it´s bad legs we backed off and watched it from a distance. It was sad to see the magnificent animal abandoned by it´s herd and we figured that it would be dead in a matter of days. We continued to explore an abandoned summer hunting camp complete with sweat lodge before we headed back to the boat to sleep for the night. At dawn we where abruptly woken by the terrible noise and motion of huge waves washing over the boat. The wind had turned to the East and we swung into it by the anchor, but a large swell came in from the South and at our shallow anchorage that meant huge breaking surf waves washing over the boat from the side. The waves rapidly increased in height and force and the boat was knocked over with only a few meters between the mast and the surface. We fearfully realized that in the time it would take to raise the anchor onto the boat we would most likely end up on the Beach so we decided to put another anchor out to align the bow against the waves or in a worst case scenario we could sacrifice it in order to bring up our main anchor. But with both chain and line in the water it soon turned in to an uncontrolled situation where the anchor line got stuck in the propeller killing the engine and pinning the rudder. At this point we were seriously afraid to loose the boat or worse and while Morgan got into the dry suit Nick and I rigged a blade on to the boat hook and managed to pull out and cut the anchor line. With the adrenaline pumping we decided to abandon our main anchor and 35 meters of chain and tied a line and a fender to it and set a mark on the GPS for later retrieval. At full RPM we motored out into the waves until we reached deeper waters where the waves no longer broke as severely. We got some heavily reefed sails up and headed for a cape 20 nautical miles away that would shelter us from the Southeast where we hoped that the waves wouldn’t be as bad. A few hours later the wind dropped as we came around the cape and we managed to anchor with our third anchor. With the wind howling in the rig we set up the computer and watched at least 4 movies in a row in order to forget the wind, waves and our traumatic morning. The next morning the wind had changed to the north and we sailed back in heavy wind to retrieve our main anchor. At the scene of the close call there was no floating fender to be found. With vague hopes of ever finding the anchor we began to drag the third anchor in circles around the GPS point trying to hook the chain from the bottom but when darkness fell we where tired and out of ideas.