Well, I promised an entire blog section to Adak, so here it is.
As I said in my previous blog, we arrived in a very strong wind and came around the corner, only to see our docking space was a 25 foot high pier in disrepair. Docking against the pilings would have been nearly impossible, even in calm conditions and there was no way to get off the boat after docking. Should the wind pick up, it would have been a total disaster for our boats. Sans Souci was told that they could raft up to an old barge that had not been moved in years, which was rafted to the pier and had a passable exit to a rusty metal ladder that went through a hole in the dock. Grey Pearl was told to raft onto two old tug boats that had not been used for 10 years or more and had a ramp up to the “dock”. Our only choice was to raft off of Ken’s boat, which we did.
One day the wind picked up coming out of the Southwest and Braun’s boat was taking the waves in the harbor direct to his beam, continually slamming him against his fenders between him and the old, rusty tugs. After a day of this and absolutely no sleep at night, he came over to see us telling us that he had to do something because the situation was getting unbearable. We decided that if Sans Souci and Seabird moved back on the barge, there would be enough room for Grey Pearl just ahead of us. This turned out to be a good thing: First, Grey Pearl found out that the starboard stabilizer was not functioning. It’s good that we found out now rather than the day we were leaving. It turned out to be a few wet connections and was easily repaired. Second, later in the day the wind picked up to about 40-50 kts and the waves were smashing against the tugs with a lot of force. I can just picture Grey Pearl if it were still there – not pretty!
Welcome to the Twilight Zone
So here we were in the middle of the Aleutian Islands in a town that used to house 7000+ people with hundreds of houses, churches, stores, warehouses, schools and even a McDonalds….now with a population of, depending on who you talk to……………of around 74 people. The US Military was the largest group populating Adak and several years ago, they picked up and left. My understanding is that the Aleuts, who everything was turned over to, asked that everything be left as it was. This, aside from all of the buildings, power plants and other infrastructure, included trucks, cars and heavy equipment. It is all just sitting there rusting away. I almost expected to see Rod Serling standing there saying “Welcome to the Twilight Zone”. If some Hollywood producer wanted to do a movie about a town that was wiped out by the plague and discovered several years later, this is the place to film it.
After our arrival, we were contacted by Cynthia, the Assistant Harbormaster to let us know that they were having a reception in our honor at the town hall. At least half of the population was there and gave us the warmest welcome you could ever imagine! They had tables of food that had been prepared at the homes of the people and gobs of interest in what we were doing and where we were headed. They were truly happy to have us visit them. Everyone was offering us their help and said they would be happy to take us on tours of the island. We met Joe, the fuel guy, who arranged for us to fuel up our boats. Carol and Carol were befriended by Mario, who took them on an extended tour of the island. He is actually from New Mexico and is here on a contract basis. He really enjoys it here and plans to sign up for another six months if he can.
If I just showed you some photos or videos of the island (outside of town) and didn’t tell you the climate, you would think you were looking at a lush paradise of greenery, waterfalls and stunning peaks and valleys.
The main (and the only one aside from a small breakfast joint) restaurant in town is the Asbag, which is kind of a bar, grill and pool hall. It doesn’t look much like a restaurant (that’s because it wasn’t at one time) but has the best cheeseburgers in the Aleutians and great pizza. It was a great place to go as EVERYONE in the town is there on a given night.
I decided that this was probably the last place I would be able to dump my used engine oil until we get to Japan so I changed the oil in the generator and the main engine. I was told that the guy in the red building would take the oil as he uses it to burn in a furnace for heat (yeah.. you do need heat this time of year here!). We found Ray inside this HUGE warehouse, filled with heavy construction equipment, bulldozers, forklifts and a full machine shop, most of which remains unused. Ray is a great guy and has been here for about 25 years. He is here under contract for the Aleuts to fix equipment on the island, he knows just about everything that goes on here in Adak and is a great resource to have. Anyway, he was nice enough to let me dump my used oil into his bin and on top of that he gave us a slab of his fresh smoked Salmon to take back to the boat. Carol baked a fresh load of brownies and we walked over and gave them to a VERY grateful, colorful guy.
We had a captains meeting today to discuss our schedule. We looked at weather patterns from several sources and decided that tomorrow (Saturday) would be a good time to leave. By good, I mean by Aleutian Island standards. 20-25 kts right on the nose is about as good as it gets here during the summer months. Our plan is to travel to Kiska, which has great WWII relics and has been left untouched. I am not sure how long we will stay there as we need to take advantage of any weather windows that we get from here on in. I suspect that within the next few days we should be in Attu, which is the furthest west of the Aleutian chain, and REALLY in the middle of nowhere!! Check it out on the map if you can find it. Our next stop after that is a three day or so trip to Kamchatka, Siberia and we hope the nasty weather stays far away from us. We just heard from our Russian agent and he informed us that even though he quoted us in Rubles and the dollar equivalent, now that the dollar is stronger, he only wants dollars. This was not unexpected but we will be arguing with him to the end!
Check our actual location in real-time at http://tinyurl.com/cp8m88