Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Kodiak 4th of July

Moving on

Our intention was to leave Kodiak as soon as we got the computer problem solved, but we had forgotten all about the Independence Day, which is today. Because some of the stores are now closed, we’ll go spare part shopping tomorrow morning and cast off hopefully before noon. 

Weather permitting, our next destination will be Port Dick on Kenai Peninsula, a bay we have never visited before. From there we will continue to Prince Williams Sound where we are going to spend a few weeks fishing, shrimping, and if we are lucky, black bear watching. 

Amalik Bay 18th June - 1st July

Fishing and Bear Watching

We left Kodiak harbor early Saturday morning. Because the weather forecast for Shelikoff Strait was NE 25 knots for Sunday, we continued straight to Amalik Bay where we dropped anchor at 00.45 Sunday morning.

The next day was so windy that we decided to stay onboard. So, instead of going fishing, Pekka spent the day installing a filter for the fresh water tank, fixing the holding tank pump, and every now and again climbing up the davits to hammer our old wind generator to life. Riitta, on the other hand, stayed on watch with binoculars and managed to spot a golden-brown bear wandering in the bushes, and a lone wolf sauntering on the beach. 

   (sea otter)

On Monday morning, we went rockfishing and nature photographing. While in Geographic Harbor, we witnessed a territorial dispute between a bald eagle and a crow who seemed to think that the eagle had come too close to its nest. As we know, crows can be pretty vicious, and the eagle was wise enough to yield.

On our way to a great rockfishing place we know near the mouth of Amalik Bay, we detected two cubs resting on the rocky shoreline. About half an hour later when returning to the boat with our lunch (three rockfish!), we saw the cubs go into the water and start swimming across the bay. We gave the bears a wide berth and wished them the best of luck with their ice-cold crossing. 

Before we reached our boat, we saw a sow on the nearby beach. It was probably the same bear Riitta had seen the day before, but we live in the hope of seeing more and more bears in Amalik Bay as the tide becomes more favourable leaving more of the sandy beach dry for the bears to dig razor clams. This should happen in less than a week! 

Early Wednesday morning we motored to Geopraphic Harbor’s inner bay to see how the mussels there were doing. Before going back to the boat, we went fishing as usual. But this time catching a fish was not as easy as usual. We first caught two not-so-good-to-eat fish and then a far-too-small rockfish which we released. And then nothing! Annoyed with the situation, we motored to other side of the bay to try our luck there. During the first fifteen minutes, not a single bite! Then finally when we had already given up hope of catching any fish and Pekka was reeling in the line, up came a good-sized rockfish!  

We also took some Kelp (seaweed) with us to make soup. The recipe (slightly modified) was given to us by our good friends from Capella III.

Kelp Soup:

Kelp or any edible seaweed
Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes
Fresh Ginger
Cane Sugar
Black Pepper
Garnish each serving with Sour Cream and Fresh Coriander

On Thursday morning Riitta woke up at 7 to see if there were any newcomers on the shores. However, the whole bay was engulfed in such a thick fog that she went back to bed. A few hours later, when we finally left the boat to go fishing we first motored to the nearby beach where a young bear was digging razor clams, although at a very leisurely pace. 

As we continued to the fishing grounds, we saw a couple on the shore who were making sure that there will also be bears in Amalik Bay in the future. But that day we never went fishing because quite suddenly the weather deteriorated with strong gusts of wind and drizzle, and we thought it best to return to the boat. 

Later that evening, we saw three bears on a nearby slope. The setting was so interesting that we had to go and observe it closer. There was Goldie (the golden-brown bear Riitta had seen before) and two newcomers, a darker brown sow and her three-year-old cub. Goldie who so far had been extremely reclusive was now up on the slope keenly following the movements of the other bears, and more than ready to defend her territory. When the sow started climbing up the slope, there were all the elements for a conflict. And sure enough, as soon as the sow got closer to Goldie she charged. The bears stood there for a while roaring at each other and then the weaker, in this case, the sow retreated.

We were near the shoreline drifting while watching this bear scrap, the outboard tilted as the water was so shallow. When the sow came down the slope seemingly annoyed and headed towards us, we managed to start our outboard in record time. 

However, she was not interested in us at all but merely wanted to cool off after her dispute with Goldie.

The following day when going fishing, we saw a bear on the shore with such a purposeful stride that we became curious and decided to see where she was going. Hence we motored slowly along the shoreline keeping pace with the bear.

Soon we saw a bigger sow further away digging razor clams on the beach. As we, the bear and us, came closer, it became quite clear that the Clam Digger was not willing to share her claim without a fight.

Suddenly a deafening roar filled the air, and we saw the two bears standing face to face motionless in mental combat. After a while our bear, younger and smaller in size, backed off, turned around and walked slowly away. Because there is a high potential for injury, bears avoid physical contact whenever they can. 

On Saturday, we woke up to an absolutely gorgeous summer day and decided to motor to Geographic Harbor to see if salmon run had already started. Obviously not as there were no bears to be seen on the river banks. But this may be just a matter of days as on our way to the river we saw bears heading in the same direction.

Today is the summer solstice, and the low tide has left the sandy beaches around the bay dry (the difference between high and low tide is more than four metres). There should now be at least a dozen bears in a frenzy of digging razor clams but no, we can only see three bears on the shores. This confirms what we already knew but were not willing to accept: there are no razor clams galore in Amalik Bay anymore. 

In 2014, when we were here last we noticed that in places the bottom of the bay was covered with white clamshells, in other words, the razor clams were dying. The Park Rangers told us then that the matter was being investigated: water and soil samples had been taken, and air pollution, climate change, and the possibility of a disease were all taken into consideration. Whatever the cause for the destruction, it is clear that the clams have not (yet!?) managed to recover.  

Fortunately, razor clams are not the only food for the bears here as their diet also includes bear grass, mussels, roots, berries, and mushrooms. And soon they will start gorging on spawning salmon to build up fat for the winter.


For the past six days continuous rain and strong winds, gusting to 50+ knots, have prevented us from going either fishing or bear watching. As we have encountered another computer problem, this time it is Riitta’s Mac that refuses to co-operate, we’ll return to Kodiak on Saturday when the wind is supposed to finally abate.

Just before leaving, we motored one more time round Amalik Bay to take the last (ever?) photos of some of its residents. 

There is a bald eagle’s nest on top of a high island near our boat that we wanted to photograph as well. Riitta was just about to take a photo of the eagle when something moved in the background, and suddenly a mother bear and her cub appeared on the camera’s display. 

What a wonderful surprise, and a great end to our visit to Amalik Bay!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Kodiak 14th June

Thumb Cove 8th June

On the way

We woke up to a grey and rainy day. After filling the tanks and about a dozen jerrycans with fuel, we motored to Thumb Cove where Pekka replaced our broken autopilot pump with a spare. During the evening, we had two visitors: a humpback who dived under our boat and then disappeared into the drizzle, and a Rufous hummingbird who, after circling the mizzen, hastened back to the nearby forest. 

I would think that there are very few people, especially in Europe, who know that there are both rainforests and hummingbirds in Alaska. At least we didn't know that until we came here. And what is even more surprising is that, although this is our fifth summer in Alaska, this was the first-ever encounter with an Alaskan hummingbird. We now have a hummingbird feeder and nectar to attract them, hopefully in abundance!

Northwestern Fjord 9th June

Melting Glaciers

The next morning we woke up at 4 am and continued to Northwestern Fjord. While we were still motor-sailing along Resurrection Bay, the sun came up colouring the mountaintops golden, and it looked like it was going to be a lovely day for a change. But as we continued our voyage, the sun soon disappeared behind grey clouds, and it started raining again.

We had been in NWF for the first time about ten years ago and then again in 2014, so it was interesting to see what had happened to the glaciers during our absence.  And we were greatly saddened by what we saw!

There was only one glacier left in the fjord that was still able to radiate that magnificent turquoise light we remembered from the past. 

As before, we anchored in Northwestern Lagoon and after studying the tide table decided to weigh anchor around 3 am to be able to get through the shallow pass in high water. 

Tonsina Bay 10th June

Still raining

In the morning, when we looked out the window and saw nothing but grey, we had unhurried breakfast and went back to sleep. Eventually, we left at 2 pm and motor-sailed through a rainy day to Tonsina Bay where we dropped anchor at 9.50 pm. After listening to the weather forecast which predicted SW winds 20 to 25 knots for Sunday, we decided to stay in Tonsina Bay till Monday morning before we'll continue our voyage to Kodiak. 

Kodiak 13th June

Gorgeous weather for a change

The weather was absolutely beautiful when we left Tonsina Bay early Monday morning. However, our timing was not quite right as we soon realised that we would be in Kodiak in the wee hours of the following day. So, we stopped in Izhut Bay for a nap, and then continued to Kodiak Harbor. As we were approaching the slip, there was our friend Marty Owen, retired Kodiak Harbor Master, waiting for our lines and welcoming us back home again.

We will stay here for a few days in order to solve a computer program problem, get a few spare parts, fill our gas bottles, and spend time with our friends, before departing for Alaska Peninsula

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Seward 7th June

Leaving Seward

We finally got the two eagerly anticipated sunny days during which we could finish painting the hull, and Sarema was launched June 1st in picture-perfect weather.

The following week we spent sorting out the disarray on the deck, hauling up the sails, replacing the main engine seawater pump, fixing the generator seawater pump, getting the satellite connection working, buying the extremely important fishing licence, and waiting for the 35-40 knot winds forecast for the surrounding areas to abate. 

And now the time has come to bid farewell to Seward, and head for the island of Kodiak!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Seward 29th May

Chilly and Rainy in Seward!

We arrived in Seward about three weeks ago and after just a few sunny days, it has been rain, rain and rain ever since. 

Despite the rotten weather, Pekka has been working hard on the boat, and Riitta has occupied herself washing more than thirty loads of laundry in order to get rid of the odours of loneliness and neglect developed aboard our poor boat Sarema during her almost three years of abandonment. 

After almost 30 years of sailing in Alaskan waters, our friends Kathy, Vic, and Boat Dog Skipper had also decided to change venue and continue their sailing adventures on the Great Lakes. Vic, assisted by Sharon and Paul, is presently sailing Capella III towards Bellingham wherefrom the boat will be transported to Lake Superior on a truck. 

We are anxiously waiting for the weather to improve. What we need is only about two, preferably sunny days to finish the painting work after which the boat would be ready for launching. But there just seems to be no end to this continuous rain!!!