As we’ve been exploring the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutians, we’ve learned that around here, it’s all about weather, weather, and weather. Small, fast moving, but intense lows barrel through the area every few days. And this is nice summertime weather, we can imagine the winter storms are fierce!
Here our barometer is showing a nasty 5.62 hPa drop in 3 hours. It’s very windy during these drops, and depending on exactly where the low tracks (always W to E, sometimes more northerly or southerly) a wind shift of 90 degrees or so can be expected over the course of the blow. If you are in open water, a very confused nasty sea will quickly build up, combining waves from all the different sectors the wind blows from with whatever swell already exists in the area. In islands or close to shore, there will be protection from waves but not the wind– the treeless vegetation and steep hillsides just don’t stop the wind.
These facts dominate many aspects of moving a sailboat through the area. We’ve adopted the local strategy of motoring daily and anchoring (or sometimes docking if a harbor is handy) mostly every night.
When a low approaches, which is announced by the barometer even when we can’t get a weather forecast on the radio, we stay put for a day or two until the worst of it blow overs.
The harbors are interesting, sometimes full of fishing boats in between “openers” and sometimes almost completely empty of boats. The docks are always nice and strong, and villages are friendly and picturesque.
The locals at one village, False Pass, warned us not to walk without a firearm – apparently a couple of young dangerous bears were frequenting the area.
We never saw bears in town, but at the next anchorage we saw quite a few. Whales and seabirds abound.
On clear days we’ve seen the great volcanoes this area is famous for. No eruptions during our time here …
As sailboat plans are written in sand and subject to tides and wind:
We’ve had a change of plans for this season – False Pass is a turnaround point for us. We’re heading back up the Alaska Peninsula. The offshore hops and open ocean have revealed an engineering issue (hydraulic cylinder) that needs addressing before venturing into wilder country.