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Sad Sayonara at Seward

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Woke up to an unusual sound…  No wind.  Finally the wind had calmed down, and we had swung 180 degrees.  We got an early start and headed out just as the sun came up.  We had substantial left over swell from the front that had passed, but as the day went on, the seas calmed down and the sun came out.  

We were treated to beautiful views of Petrof, Yalik, McArthur, Bear, and Godwin Glaciers; lots of ice, thankfully most on land!!!  We snuck through Nuka and McArthur Passes, as well as squeezed between two islands with widths down to 120 yards.  The glaciers were absolutely amazing as they wound from the high valleys down to the sea, and the blues were tremendous when the sun lit them up.  We stopped counting the waterfalls; however we did name a few in passing.  Most of the water was glacial in nature, as it had a blue milky color as the glaciers emptied into the waters we traveled.

This will also mark the disembarking point for Rebecca and I.   We look forward to following the Geraldine’s last steps home to Sitka where the journey will be complete.  It was a fantastic day with innumerable beautiful sights, and a great milestone as Geraldine clicked over 7,000 miles since leaving Maine.

Shane and Rebecca

Editor’s Note:  Please note that we have posted some of our bear pictures a few days back.  Enjoy!

Going all night

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

We departed 8:00 am in the rain with an uneventful morning heading East. We were very thankful for AIS (Automated Information System) as we rounded Cape Seal and found we were on track to meet a freighter. We were able to alter course in large rollers with a short chop which gave us the feeling of bobbing up and down in a child’s bathtub, however we were doing 8+ knots over the ground so we were happy. We saw numerous other fishing vessels in the area and were treated with some clearing skies. We approached Cape Castle with clear skies and took some great shots and it also marked the end of one of our weather zones… goodbye 155, hello 150. The cape was not hard to recognize as its name does it justice. The clear skies were great as there were shear cliffs with waters falls on all of the islands.

Rounding one of the islands we saw some more Dahl Porpoises and they began to streak back and forth in front of our bow. I snuck out on to the pulpit and was amazed as a porpoise veered left and right just a few feet underneath my feet!! A group would zip in from the left or right and breach briefly to catch their breath. They were so close they tempted me to jump in as they looked to be having a ton of fun, I really did want to catch one.

We have made pretty good progress today, but have to hole up short as the areas to duck in are becoming fewer and farer between. The weather outlook looks good as there are no major systems moving in and the swell is left over from the previous storms. We plan to make Kodiak Island tomorrow and work our way up the west side as far as possible to give us the best chance of a late Monday evening arrival.



P.S. From Walt… We went through quite the expanse of uncharted water with numerous rocks, all the chart said was HAVE A NICE DAY!!!

Late PSS We were not happy with the anchorage situation at Sutwik Island so we are headed for Kodiak tonight. We will work shifts with 2 on at all times: 2 hr off and 4 on. This is not a good system, but it will work for one night. We have each had a nap today.

Whale Tail slapping

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Another good day…We left Dolgoi Island at 8:00 am, the last boat to leave the anchorage. We had a squall come through at 1:30 – 2:30am. I woke up to hard rain and staggered back to the cockpit to take a look. It was an interesting site with the bright floods of the fishing boats lit up and the rain pouring down. Walt woke up around 2:30am as the swells came in and rocked us a bit and Ed slept through everything… again.

The seas were were very pleasant and we saw two whales early on and they treated us to nice tale shots, but we missed the photos. We snuck through Unga Strait at slack tide which kept our average knots up. We saw another unusual Humpback whale behavior. We spotted a large tail slapping the water over and over. We believe there were two whales, one larger than the other. The larger whale kept slapping his tale on the water, sometimes lifting the back third of his body clear before slamming it down.

In total we saw six whales today, a nice treat but we weren’t done. Making one fairly open passage I spotted something breaching the water while we were in some fairly heavy seas. It was startling but we got quite excited as Walt recognized the Dahl Porpoise. At least one made a few passes at our bow and came at us from the starboard side briefly breaching in the trough of a wave. We slowed but they did not continue their fun, but it was a great new experience.

We saw many fishing boats today, many our size which brings a good level of comfort as they know the waters better than us. The fog lifted at times and we saw the ruggedness of the land here. It is hard to describe as the jagged rocks rise at least 400 feet (the fog ceiling limit) with shards at the points. The hills are covered with a green blanket streaked by white falls in the gullies, it is a beautiful and treacherous place. We safely anchored between, Jacob Island and Paul Island in Kupreanof Harbor.



Shane’s Reflections on the Journey

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

It was asked of me numerous times before I left, “Why do you want to do this?” Well now that we are through the North West Passage and only the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to navigate I have a better answer though it has a few parts.

I never had to sign on the dotted line but I did have to do some serious negotiating. My wonderful wife (who I will be indebted to for a very long time for her sacrifice and understanding) has been tremendously encouraging.  I will be honest, the time demands of the trip in our negotiations started at two weeks and we will now be at the two month mark, due to ice conditions and other system failures, before we set our eyes on each other again. She was also supportive as I took a leave of absence from the organization I worked for.   

Not having dreamed of making such a sea voyage or navigating the Northwest Passage it was not something that I have always wanted to do. What I did know is that it would be difficult, dangerous, I would be tested and not many people have made it. It would be a unique challenge with problems that would seem insurmountable and in the Arctic the only help would be on our boat. The many issues early on very easily could have tempted us to turn back but we had a goal and we were determined to succeed. We had a cascade of electrical failures that took out all of our redundant systems. The watermaker failures soaked our main electrical system hub and shutdown our charging capacity as well as took out one of our alternators. This in turn drew down the main engine batteries to such a point that our starter stuck and literally cooked the starter motor and solenoid on our primary drive leaving us with very little power to maneuver. Previous to this catastrophic failure we spent a day working through an ice field 50-60 miles wide with 70-90% ice coverage and that ice now lay between us and our only potential source of parts 140 miles away. It was not an easy decision to work our way back through the ice with only our get-home drive, trusting we could find leads through the ice as we could not see the end of the ever changing ice field.   

To date we still have a repair on our wet exhaust consisting of epoxy, rubber and metal tape that has lasted over 4500 miles, we lost the use of our engine, our watermaker literally exploded 4 times, we had to diagnose our entire electrical system, we went aground twice due to strong currents or bad charts, have run 24 hour shifts with 5 people to fend off icebergs and in the midst one of our crew members left the boat leaving us with four. All that being said it was truly the opportunity of a lifetime and I have not been disappointed and I would not give up any of the challenges that were placed before us; ultimately that was only part of the draw.

When I heard of the trip I expressed my interest and I was very honored to be part of the crew, a responsibility I did not take lightly. The crew would have to deal with whatever issues were presented as help is few and far between in the Arctic. Four hundred square feet is a small place for four people to eat, sleep, problem solve and generally live in a high stress environment. I knew one of the crew members well (my dad), well enough to know that  it would bring its own challenges but also had a great reward to spend this much time together. The other relationships had their tense moments but we were tremendously blessed and made a great team, not one person had to walk the plank, although I found myself in the water twice, not sure what that means.

When I began this trip my greatest desire, no matter the outcome, was to come away from it a better man than when I started and I hope that I am. I know I have changed and I enjoy the challenges and risks as they bring the greatest growth and reward. I will look for those opportunities to challenge myself, not in polar navigation or great sea adventures, but in stretching in what I believe can be accomplished, determined to meet my goals and helping others to do the same in whatever environment I find myself.

It is great to look back on all of the challenges now with the feeling of accomplishment as they knit us together as a crew and tested who we really are down to our very being, they are the times we will remember most. We have gazed upon sites few have seen, tread where fewer have been and persevered and  finished a journey even less have dared to accomplish, and we are blessed because of it.


I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go — Genesis 28:15