Thursday, 14 July 2011

Approaching Kodiak

A few more days of mixed motoring and sailing (we still had the two foresails and the top section of the mainsail) took us to Kodiak. On the way we stopped briefly at Sand Point - a small dreary place with a slippery pontoon. Just setting out from there, we had our first undeniable whale sighting - a hump on the horizon and a "Hoosh!" of blown air.
Over the next three days, we navigated between various islands, to the Shelikof strait, an area notorious for gnarly tides, between the Alaskan mainland and Kodiak island.

We had a beautiful sunny day of sailing, with greeny-blue waters, biggish waves, many wind directions, and snowy Alaskan mountains glistening in the distance.

 Towards the end of the day, we passed a ketch (2-masted sailing boat) travelling the opposite direction. At the exact moment we hailed them on the radio, a whale jumped right out of the water in between the two boats. We learned that the ketch was en-route to the NorthWest Passage via the Bering Sea. The N-W Passage is an elusive route from Pacific to Atlantic via the North coast of Canada. This made our North Pacific crossing seem relatively unambitious, but now that more and more polar ice is melting in the summer months, more and more vessels are attempting to make this journey - and succeeding.

Whale splash in the centre; the ketch is just visible to the left.

I thought later about the timing of the whale's jump. While it may be wonderfully romantic to imagine that the whale may have been jumping to wish the ketch luck on its journey, I started to wonder if there was little or no coincidence that the whale jumped precisely when it was smack-bang in between two marine radios that were in contact. I wonder if there is an overlap between the frequencies of radio waves and whale language. Was the whale experiencing interference from the radio waves? Perhaps the poor thing found the transmission deafening...

That evening we entered the Kupreanof strait, and sailed away from a beautiful sunset.

In the early morning P-O and I helped Lars steer our way through a series of red and green lights of uncertain distance, which led us into the town and port of Kodiak.  As well as being the USA's second largest island (after Hawaii's Big Island), Kodiak is also home of the world's largest species of bear. These creatures stay away from the town, however, and the only bear we saw was a stuffed one in the town's museum. It certainly was big - even P-O the Viking Giant was dwarfed by it. Kodiak gave us some time to do some essential maintenance to the boat - I had the job of cleaning the sides of the hull, for which I launched the rubber dinghy and spent an afternoon rowing around the sides of Jennifer, scrubbing hard with a long-handled brush, and getting sunburnt.

On our final day in Kodiak, Theo and I went for a walk in the woods on Near Island, which is reached by a bridge from the town.

 We wandered along trails through a pleasant semi-wilderness, with many views out amongst the various islands, amongst which seaplanes frequently take off and land. In a small woodland on a small island we crossed to by a causeway, we found the rusting carcass of a truck amongst the trees. It seemed surreal, as it is far from any roads, but the only explanation I can think of for its presence is that it was somehow brought there by 1964 tsunami, which wreaked havoc on the area.

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