We finally arrived at our next big exit platform, Dutch Harbor, Alaska. I really was not sure what to expect because so few people actually go here. If you watch “The Deadliest Catch” on TV you might have this idea (like I had) of this big dock at the town, kind of like the old West or something, teaming with wild bars, wild people and lots of action.
Our trip to Dutch Harbor started in Sand Point, Alaska with our arrival there on June 19th. It, like all of the other towns we visited around here, is small, with one or two restaurants, a grocery store and LOTS of fishing boats! It’s really weird because we are getting further and further from the normal cruising grounds and we have become the talk of the town wherever we go to. Bill Harrington, on Ken’s boat knows lots of people in Sand Point and they were expecting us with great excitement. The dock, as soon as we arrived, had a small crowd of curious people on it. It is hard to believe that they so rarely see pleasure boats. Everyone is smiling and had lots of questions about where we come from and where we are going. When they see Connecticut on the back of Seabird, they are really amazed!
We kind of always feel that we should support the local economies where we travel if we can. Ken and Roberta Williams joined us for dinner that night at the local Chinese restaurant. We were the only ones there and the people were very nice. The plan was to leave the next day but Braun and Tina were expecting a part that they needed to be flown in and the rest of us were looking for a break from cruising. Sand Point is a nice place to kick up and relax. We went for a hike the next day to see the eagles nests. These little tiny birds kept dive bombing the nest with mother eagle sitting in it. She could have easily crushed the little birds but just swatted them away with a wing. Evidently, the little birds are looking for scraps of food that the eagles leave behind in their nests.
Just as we were leaving the next morning, I heard a high pitched noise in the engine room without anything running. I traced it to the alternator that charges the start battery. It is 10 years old and probably was due for replacement. I disconnected it and paralleled the batteries with the house charger temporarily and ordered a new one to arrive in Dutch Harbor. We were then off and running.King Cove
Next stop was King Cove and things were getting much more “way out there”. It was even a smaller town, with a single Chinese restaurant and a town that was very curious about our group. Small groups of people kept coming by, asking questions and taking pictures. We walked to the small food store (the only one on the island), then through “town”. Most of these places still only have dirt roads and since they get a lot of rain, very muddy. You had to cross a small bridge to get to the village and we were told that many times you cannot cross it by foot as the Grizzly bears camp out there.
We had several discussions between Seabird, Grey Pearl and Sans Souci as to when we should leave to arrive at Dutch Harbor, a 20 hour run. It is not as easy of a decision as it looks. The first issue is when to go through Unimak Pass. The tide can run 8 knots through there and if the wind picks up to 25 knots going in the opposite direction, you end up with treacherous sea conditions for several hours. Bill said that there are other options to Unimak Pass but we should decide when we get there as we need to assess the wind conditions at that time. The trip to that point turned out to be a mixed bag of fairly smooth conditions and kind of crappy and sloppy. If we had slowed down to 7 knots we would have had a much better ride but it was important that we arrive at Unimak between 9 and 10pm. We had a current going with us and we got there a bit early, but the wind was fine and we passed through at around 9pm. Carol was on watch and I was trying to sleep when the waves picked up. I have to say that it is not easy to sleep when you are bouncing off the bed! The bow of the boat went under the water several times before we exited the pass but finally I was able to get a few hours sleep before I took the watch at midnight. I got a call on the radio from a 120 foot tugboat hauling a huge barge, He was calling me because he could not figure out what three pleasure boats were doing cruising in the Bering Sea! I had a long conversation with him because he was so interested in our boats and what we were doing. He said it was really rare to see three pleasure boats here.
Our plan was to arrive in Dutch Harbor around 9am as the Harbormaster would be around to assign our berths. We ended up having a strong current going with us the whole way and ended up arriving at 6am. Ken called in on the VHF and was told to dock inside “The Spit”, which is a long skinny piece of land which protects the dock we were to be at. You can see it by clicking the “Our Location” button on the home page of the website and following the instructions there. After clicking to the map, choose the satellite view and zoom in. We were told that we would have to raft 3 boats out and contact one of the local electrical contractors to hook us up with power. They arrived only to tell us that we had to buy a $400 adapter and pay approximately 2 hours of electrician time at $125 per hour to get power. After hours of negotiating, they agreed to let us rent one at $50 per week and we could wire the adapters ourselves if we wanted. It meant taking one of my expensive 50 amp power cords and cutting the end off and installing the rented connector. I hated to do it but the thought of going 10 days running the generator was less appealing. So we rented it and it was surprisingly easy to hook it up with the help of Wayne and Braun. It was kind of inconvenient to track across two other boats to get to the dock, but hey, we are not at Mystic River Marina anymore!!! Fortunately, two days later, the Harbormaster became concerned about three large boats rafting, should a storm come up, so he asked us to move and we now have our own spaces on the dock.
Back to Dutch Harbor and our expectations………..there is NOT MUCH HERE. The town is very spread out and there really is no center. It is a loosely grouped bunch of businesses to support the fishing industry with a lot of dirt roads and rusty boats. Not much to do here either. The good part is that we found an excellent electronics guy from Lunde Electronics here who is repairing all of the nagging problems that we have. We should be in good shape by next week.
The night we arrived we were told that Wednesday night is buffet night at the Grand Aleutian Hotel and we should not miss it. We were VERY skeptical but went anyway. The food was absolutely delicious and fresh. What a surprise! Our friends Wayne and Carol arrived then next day to travel with us and we plan on going to the buffet again this week.One of the managers at the Grand Aleutian, Brian, had written us an email as he had heard about the group traveling to Dutch Harbor and had read Kens website (www.kensblog.com) . He was very excited about our arrival and offered any help that he could give. The crew of Grey Pearl went to the Sunday Buffet and met Brian, who offered to take us on a tour of part of the island in the afternoon. So we piled into our rental cars and followed him to a dirt road that let up to the mountaintop, where there was a lookout from World War II. Dutch Harbor, other than Hawaii, was the only US soil bombed by the Japanese. Believe it or not, it was SPECTACULAR WEATHER!! It is fairly uncommon to have clear blue skies and high sixties weather here, but we had it for our hike, which took 45 minutes and culminated at the top of the mountain with 360 degree views of the harbors. It is a completely different place in nice weather.
A few days ago Carol, Carol and Tina Jones were on the dock with us and started a conversation with a local fisherman originally from Iceland named Captain Krisjan. As always, they are trying to charm anyone they can talk to into some fresh fish and they KNEW that Black Cod, one of the favorites, was being caught here. Just as I would have predicted, Captain Krisjan showed up the very next day with 30 LBS OF FRESH BLACK COD, ALREADY CLEANED!!!! We only needed Wayne (see picture) to fillet them for a sumptuous dinner that very night.
Wayne , after filleting them, tossed the skins into the water, which sparked frenzy among the local eagle population. They started dive bombing the water, grabbing the carcasses and even attacking each other to steal the food. They are amazing to watch (see picture) and are the ultimate flying predator.
We have 8 more days here and plan on finishing up our electronics repairs, getting fuel and getting a few more projects done. It is really nice to have Wayne and Carol here. Our watch shifts will be shorter making the trip a lot more fun. They are both seasoned boaters, good friends, easy to have around and Wayne is a very good mechanic, which is a nice bonus.I think Wednesday night is Buffet Night again at the Grand Aleutian Hotel. We have reservations for 10 and it seems to be, once again, the highlight of the stay here. Oh…I forgot to mention 4th of July. They do have fireworks here but since it does not get dark until about 12:30am, we are planning to stay up late to watch them.
Till next time…….