Vancouver Island to the Aleutians and Beyond - Part Seven

Wednesday June 10th

We are underway from Sand Point at 0900. As we pass through Unga Strait, it is a lovely sunny morning with wonderful clouds. At first the sea is almost calm but the wind increases as the day goes on. We can see Pavlof Volcano reaching for the sky at 8,261 feet. By the time we anchor in Volcano Bay the wind is gusting to 40 knots and the spray is flying. The wind is coming off the land so the anchorage is reasonably calm but Venture swings back and forth in the ferocious gusts.

Thursday June 11th

The strong winds continue through the night and are still gusting to 40 knots in the morning. A strange and ominous looking cloud formation forms and spreads across the sky from the direction of Pavlof Volcano. We are underway at 0846 with the wind from aft so its effect is muted. We overtake a tug towing a large fuel barge on its way to Dutch Harbor and pass through Iliasik Passage. The boisterous wind now comes from ahead, producing head seas and drenching us in spray. Our route takes us south of False Pass which marks the end of the Alaskan Peninsula and the start of the Aleutians. Unimak is the first island in the Aleutian chain and as we approach it the clouds lift to reveal a view of three of the four volcanoes on the island - Roundtop, Isanotski (also known as Ragged Jack due to its jagged summit) and Shishaldin. The latter being the most active and tallest at 9,372 ft.

We reach Dora Harbor on the Ikatan Peninsula mid afternoon and, although there are two fish tenders (which receive the catch from smaller boats) already at anchor in outer section, we initially have the much shallower inner section to ourselves. Shortly after we drop anchor, smaller stern pickers begin to enter the inner bay. The first comes over to welcome us and gives us a salmon even though they tell us that the season has got off to a slow start. Gradually, more boats appear and a second boat presents us with two more salmon. This keeps George busy filleting the fish. Eventually, twenty boats are riding peacefully at their anchors making a pretty sight against the pale blue sky and green hillsides. Two of the fishermen we speak to come from the Port Angeles area near Seattle.

Friday June 12th

By the time we are underway at 0620 only one other boat remains in the harbor. Initially the ocean swell is quite large but calms down as we proceed west along the coast of Unimak. This is a large island with no good anchorages so we have a long way to go today. We are surprised to see another pleasure craft. This is a Nordhavn named Samba proceeding east from Dutch Harbor. Shortly after we see an Island Packet 42 sailboat called Capella 3 also traveling east. We speak with both of them on the radio. As we move through Unimak Pass into the Bering Sea, we are overtaken by an 1150ft Cosco container ship en route for Vladivostok. A strong southerly wind whipped up wild seas especially in the gaps between Akun, Akutan and Unalga Islands. At 1849, we turn into English Harbor on Unalaska to find ourselves in peaceful, almost pastoral, surroundings in perfect calm. The surrounding hills appear to be clothed with green velvet in the evening light. In the far distance we can see snow capped Progromni Volcano on Unimak Island. This bay was named by Captain Cook when he visited it in 1778. Today we have traveled 126.5 nautical miles.

Saturday June 13th

We awake to another sunny morning and English Harbor looks every bit as lovely as yesterday evening. We are underway at 0850 and make our way over the remaining twenty miles to Dutch Harbor. We pass Priest Rock - a pinnacle which does indeed resemble a priest conducting prayers. When we arrive in Dutch Harbor we are directed first to the Small Boat Harbor but it proves to be much too small for us. The harbormaster meets on the tiny dock and directs us to the new marina on the other side of the nearby bridge. Unfortunately it is way too low for us to pass beneath so we have to take Venture several miles around Amaknak Island to reach Captains Bay and into South Channel Iliuliuk Bay to Carl E Moses marina. There we tie up at 1325 and are again met on the dock by the harbormaster who is originally from the Philippines. There is power on the dock but it is three phase and only suitable for much larger vessels for whom this marina was obviously built. First impressions of Dutch Harbor are most favorable and quite different from preconceived ideas portrayed by certain TV shows.

I will be reporting on our stay in Dutch Harbor in my next blog.