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Hawaii - Kodiak, Alaska 19.7. - 10.8.2003

updates:  19.7.  26.7.  3.8.  7.8.  10.8.  

19.7.2003 Pacific Ocean 27 44 N  157 55 W
A get-together of five yachts from different countries was a perfect end to our stay at the Hawaii Yacht Club. The next day, Tuesday, boats spread to south, north and west: French Chaski, Canadian SawLeeAh and Australian illywhacker (skipper Peter is looking at the camera, NB! wine bottles under the table, we should not have taken own drinks to the club) to south, American Jasmine back to westcoast before heading north. The short meeting reflects the character of Hawaii: it's a meeting place for cruisers in the middle of the Pacific. Almost every port is 2000+ miles away, and everybody are coming or heading somewhere else. The Hawaiian Islands themselves are not a pleasant sailing area. Channels are too windy, the lee sides of the islands are too calm, the wind starts and stops in a second, and it's gusty. The anchorages are unshelter and the harbours growded. But one month's stop was a needed break to the offshore life. Especially the week in Honolulu and meeting all the nice sailors made our stay.
On Tuesday we also left Honolulu, but not yet Hawaii. We sailed 30 miles along the coast and anchored (to an open roadsted again, but luckily very little swell) to turn the Honolulu pace down. In the morning we woke up to voices, which turned out to belong to people in two dolphin charter boats. There were people in the water, snorkling and following a flock of about 20 dolphins. In a moment we jumped in swimming suits, grabbed our snorkling gear and dived into the sea. Dolphins were approaching us and soon we saw them under the green water. Hannu swam further and came very close to them, I was soon left behind. Below you could hear high tones, dolphins communicating with each other. That was a marvellous morning and a best farewell we could get of Hawaii.

On Wednesday, 16th July, we turned Kristiina's bow towards north and started our 2200 miles long sailing to Kodiak. We decided, after all, to head to Alaska, despite that we told in the log book on 22.6. that the six months permits make us to go via Canada. We should get a six months extension, and a stay in an other country for two weeks starts the time from beginning. Three weeks at sea are not counted, however, you really must enter land. So our permits that started on 19.6. are running all the time, even at sea. Obviously the rule is not made for sailors.
Trade winds have been at their best: steady easterlies without gusts, so the beginning of this sailing has been most pleasant. With full sails we have made 145, 129 and 109 miles per day. The wind has weakened day after day, probably because we are getting closer to the North Pacific high. According to the weather map the high is really big, so trying to get the southerlies in it's west end, seems to be vain. This time we are heading straight to the target, without any wind strategies.
Now it's last days to enjoy the heat. Bright blue seawater typical to the tropics is about 26 C, but gets gradually colder before dropping to 10 C at latitude 40. This latitude seems to be the magical line for low pressures, above 40 N there is a constant row of lows arriving from west. We'll see what the winds are up there. Kodiak is situated at 57 North.

26.7.2003 Pacific Ocean 39 55 N 159 18 W
Sharp swell foretold change in the weather. We had motored two days in a calm, but the swell meant wind. The sharp waves rose finally so high, that we were losing our speed. The engine was turned off. Besides the swell also a current of one knot was reason for reduced speed. It was no good trying with force, we switched anchor light on and waited for wind. It came in the morning with rain, and it was - like the swell on the previous day - straight from ahead. We started to tack - or more preciously, to rise as high in the wind we could. Wind was not strong, 15-25 knots, but tacking makes life uncomfortable and the wind speed feels double its real force. We had reached the south edge of the Pacific high, but instead of west-east line, it curved ENE-WSW. The pattern of wind blowing away from an anticyclone's centre added to this curved streamline meant head winds for north goers. First we could reach our target (9 deg.) but on the third day our course had fallen to 330 deg. We tacked. Kristiina wa turning and turning, finally bow pointing almost to south. What the h..? She is not a tacker, but she is not this bad! The wind had shifted at the very same moment we had tacked. Turning back to starboard tack took us to goal again. We laughed to this incredible timing. Spirits were even higher after a shower in the cockpit. The wind had decreased and we were able to wash ourselves from three-day's sweat and salt-greased hair. Before warm shower Auli took a saltwater bath (=throwing buckets of seawater on herself) to find out whether the sea temperature had fallen. It had. We were at the 36. latitude.

The weather fax told that the high spreaded itself far west, so there was no point rounding it that way. We had to go through, which means either head winds, variables or calm. Although the high is at its narrowest at this point where we are, it is about ten degrees, i.e. 600 miles wide.

Soon after we'd crossed latitude 30, we saw the first albatross. Only three of 14 species live on the northern hemisphere: Black footed, Laysan and Short tailed albatross. We saw the Black footed, which is totally brown. Long wings and big size give no room for mistake recognising these gallant birds.
But a flock of dolphins remained unrecognised. They had white bellies, distinctive white line on side, and a white spot on dorsal fin. Maybe Pacific White-Sided dolphin, but it didn't match completely.
Temperature continues to fall being 18-20 C daytime. Our North Face fleece jackets and trousers come to need again, and bed sheet is companied with a quilt. With persistence we still avoid socks during the day. The colour of the sea has changed from blue to grey. The sea is warmer than air causing fogs.

Meals reduced to a minimum during the head winds. We ate little and easy. Canned ravioli, rice-corn-onion with soya, pasta with vacuumed roast beef (a great found in Honolulu). Almost like ordering it, the weather was calm on Hannu's birthday (25.7.) and there wasn't any hesitation for the meny: pizza.
All the fresh food except oranges, some apples and onions is finished. The last brownish bananas were used as a filling in a roll cake, which was baked in some calm day. We continue Kristiina's recipes with this chocolate roll cake, for which we can thank two persons: Antti who e-mailed it to us somewhere between Galápagos and Marquesas, and Lissu, who wasn't content with our modest supply of odd cookies (may even be finished by then), but wanted something tasty and sweet. Since then the roll cake has been a standard baking.

Kristiina's chocolate roll cake
3 eggs
1,5 dl sugar
4 tablespoons wheat flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
1,5 teaspoons baking powder
2 bananas

Whip eggs and sugar. Mix flour, cocoa and baking powder. Join all together. Pour dough on a baking plate covered with baking paper. Bake in oven untill ready. When the cakeplate has cooled, spread mashed bananas on it, and roll.

The original recipe has potato flour instead of wheat flour, but we don't have it. The baking time and oven heat are hard to say, maybe 180-200 deg C and 10-15 minutes. Kristiina's propane oven functions by rule of thumb.

3.8.2003 Kodiak, Alaska, USA

At 3.15 pm Kristiina's anchor went down into the darkgreen water of  Kaguyak Bay in the southern tip of Kodiak Island. Green hills surround the bay, bald eagle nests in the nearby conifer tree, black birds (ravens?) croak ashore. Shore bushes are full of yellow and red berries like raspberry (blackberries?). Someone has been grubbing the bushes (Kodiak bear, the largest in the world?).

 From Honolulu we sailed 2260 nautical miles in 18 days and 5 hours. The Pacific Ocean is crossed second time, 7622 miles and 60 days from New Zealand. Feeling is incredible! Now we open the sparkling wine to celebrate and continue this later.

7.8.2003 Kodiak, Alaska
Let's first go back to sea, between latitudes 40 and 57 north. The low pressures with west winds never came. Instead the high spread way up to north and we got light winds and calms. Two days we motored. Three days before arrival it started to blow from west, caused by the top of the high. It was excellent sailing with low sea. Day after day we wondered the increasing light. It's funny that we have forgotten it in two years, last time we were this high north in summer 2001. Already at three am it starts to shimmer and the sun rises at 4.30. It gets dark around 9 pm. Light is very different than round the equator. The sun is setting unwillingly slow, dim is hanging around.
Temperature continued to decrease finally stopping at 10-13 deg C. Sea water was so cold that baths were unthinkable. We had read that North Pacific is full of ships and carbage. We saw seven ships during the whole trip and saw occasionally some rubbish, less than we had expected. Closer the land we saw huge kelp strings, thick as an ankle, with round balls in the end. First we thought that they were old nets, they looked like rope with floats. The closer the shore we got the more birds we saw. Fulmars, shearwaters, petrels, gulls, terns and all kind of unidentified ones as well as puffins. They are Tufted Puffins with big, red bill, white head and yellow tuft. Different guy than in the Atlantic.
Finally the outer islands came into sight. It was a sunny day, but the mist in the horizon diminshed the visibility. Because the weather was fine and we didn't have to go straight away to a port-of-entry, we decided to stop in a nature harbour before the town of Kodiak.

The first morning we woke up to clear skies. It was 18 deg C already in the morning. During our morning coffee in the cockpit a seal popped it's head up near us. After a while a small, light brown deer walked to the beach. The bald eagles we had met already the day before, they were still sitting in their tree. There was a huge nest in the top, but according to their behaviour it seems that they don't have chicks. Gulls and other sea birds stepped on the shore exhibited by the low tide. Auli was watching them with binoculars and saw mussels. To the shore! We took mussels, which are smaller than in NZ,  first, and went on to bushes next. Bowls were soon full with thumb-size berries. Yellow and red, both ripe and sweet! We started to walk along the shore making noise in case of bears. Bear has poor eye sight but good hearing. The Kodiak bear is largest of all, it can weight 800 kilos. Most of the Kodiak island is protected because of the bears. When we paddled back to boat, we saw movements on the end of the bay. Mother with three cubs! We yelled and rushed for binoculars, but at the same time the mother rushed into the high grass, stood up once and vanished. The little ones rushed after. Had they heard or smelled us this far, about one kilometer away? We were up in the wind, so it might be that we frightened them. They were gone. We continued to stare through the binoculars and soon we saw the cubs playing in the high grass. Maybe it was good that the first meeting happened with distance.
We had mussel paella and chocholate roll cake filled with berries for dinner. After that we didn't have to wait for sleep. No rolling, no rocking, and no wake-up after four hours. What a feeling!

On Tuesday, the second morning we woke up to a full fog. The sea was mirrow calm. We heard an engine running somewhere in the fog, thinking it came from another bay. But soon a fishing boat appeared, from the end of our bay. How had they managed to sneak by us in the narrow bay. They pulled beside us and we chatted for a while. The local skipper had two slovaks with him and they had examined the crab traps in the bay. Skipper asked if we knew how to cook a crab, and next we had three huge, mean crabs with sharp scissors, hardly manageable to our biggest pot. It took three hours to prepare them. First the cruel cooking and then digging out the meat from legs and belly. It made almost one kilo of juicy meet. Cooked in garlic and white wine, served with pasta, yummy! And we had crab meat for two huge meals.


Hannu paddled over to get crabs

In addition to interesting animal sights, we found less attractive life inside the boat. A worm was found among flour and rice, and an unopened oatmeal package had two small moths (butterflies) in it. Yak! All were bought in NZ.

On Wednesday 6th of August, we motored through calm and partly foggy sea 92 miles to the town of Kodiak. We saw a lot of humpback whales and birds on our way.

10.8.2003 Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak has been inhabited some 7500 years. The history of the island, as of the various parts of Alaska, is characterised by three different eras of people: Eskimos, Russian and American. Kodiak is an area of the Aluiit eskimos. Word kodiak means island in their language. Russians came after furhunters in the 1780's. The first Russian settlement was established to Three Saint's Bay in 1784. To the present Kodiak townsite Russians came in 1792 naming it Pavlovskaia Gavan, St. Paul's Harbor. The orthodox church had a strong role within the migration - as churches tend to have. Onion cupolas were rised in many Eskimo villages and local people was baptised. In 1867, czar Alexander II sold Alaska to the Americans for  7,2 million dollars.
Presently, the Kodiak island has 14 000 inhabitants, 2500 bears and same amount of fishing boats. Fishing (salmon, halibut and herring) and crabbing are the main livelihoods.
Alaska is volcanic area. In 1912, the eruption of Novarupta volcano covered Kodiak with ash. In 1964, an earthquake (same that devastated Hawaiian Islands 2500 mileas away) and the following tsunami-waves destroyed several villages. The sea charts still have unchartered areas after the eartquake.

Alaska covers 1 593 439 square kilometres various terrain from arctic desert to mountains and coastline. Alaska is twice the length of Finland (2240 km) and 3550 km broad.
The Bering Strait, behind which lies Russia, is only 47 nautical miles at narrowest.

Alaska has 100 000 glaciers. The highest peak is McKinley 6194 m.
Capital is Juneau (pop. 27 000), the biggest town Anchorage (pop.  220 000). The population of Alaska is 600 000.

Aleutians, Kodiak and the Alaska peninsula make the South-West Alaska.
The 150 islands of Aleutians spread 1000 miles west. Two hundered miles separate Kodiak from Prince William Sound, where the oil city Valdez and our possible wintering town Cordova are located.

We have had incredible luck with weather: +20-25 C and sunny. Had to dig shorts up again. Kodiak harbour is full of different size fishing boats, among them a few local pleasure boats. We are the only visitor at the moment. Every season some 20 foreign pleasure boats visit the harbour. The slip costs 13 dollars per day, including only water. Electricity would be an extra 10 dollars per day. Showers are located at the nearby laundromat, but keeping oneself clean is costly: a shower is 5 dollars! For that the water runs for 20 minutes, so we have managed to wash ourselves with one payment. Also laundry is more expensive than elsewhere: normal size load 3,50 compared to the average 1-1,50 dollars.

People are very friendly and interested on us. The local paper reporter came for an interview, fishermen stop for a chat. We got a good size salmon from the neighbour boat, so culinarism is continueing. We fried huge fillets, made a tasty soup and salted (in the Finnish way) the rest of the salmon. It had also fisheggs.
The three guys that gave us the salmon were not local but working on the boat for the summer. They share the fuel and food costs with the skipper and get 10 per cent each of the catch. They had just been three weeks out, and after a brief call for laundry and provision, they were off for a month again. The boat was middle-size, maybe 15 ft long. They use nets to catch the salmon about five miles offshore. The catch is stored uncleaned in a pool full of cold water.


Digging out different salmon species for presentation


Kodiak harbour

Alaska has five salmon species: Pink, Chum, Silver, Sockeye and King. The meat of the pink is - after it's name - really red. Over half of the Alaskan catch is pink salmon, king being the most rare. Salmon season lasts usually from May to September, and the amount of the catch is carefully regulated and monitored.
Salmon spawn in fresh water, in rivers and estuaries, but migrate to the sea to eat and grow. The time spent at sea varies from species to species, some being out even for six years. As mature they migrate back to the same river they were born. How they find back to their birth stream from the vast ocean is not known.

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