10th August 2016 — Noé summarizes the day:
We woke up and it was before eight in the morning. And then we saw many whales and after that we saw a polar bear 30ft away. After that we wanted to anchor but it wasn’t very deep and we would have had to paddle far. So we sailed on instead and we saw 4 bowhead whales. And then one whale came up really really close to the boat it was humongous, I was the only one that saw it though.
What a day! For me, it all started with Andri waking me up saying: “Meret, there are whales.” Most of the adults hadn’t gotten much sleep last night because the autopilot failed and they had to hand steer. I really didn’t want to get out of my warm sleeping bag. Should I have told the children to wake me up if they saw cool wildlife? Had they really seen whales? Turns out they had, but Andri’s second call was what got me out of bed instantly. I ran straight on deck in my pajamas forgetting even my slippers. “Meret, POLAR BEAR!” And sure enough as I came on deck the head of a polar bear floated past Pachamama not 10 meters away. Our first polar bear sighting!!!
While everyone had been on the starboard side looking at the whales, Christina had noticed what she thought was a buoy on the port side. She was worried we were about to hit it and sail into a net, she couldn’t quite believe her eyes when she realized what the supposed buoy was. “En Eisbär!!!”
Behind the general excitement our feeling were mixed. Most of us were a little nervous having a polar bear so close but we were also concerned. Was it ok for a polar bear to be so far out in the ocean? Christina was all but ready to go save or help the polar bear. Afterwards we read in our ‘Guide to Marine Mammals of Alaska’ (Wynne, 2012) that they are ‘Usually within 180 mi of shore.’ Did that mean on the ice or that they could swim that far? Alegra’s German book about polar bears said they can easily swim a few hours or up to 100km. Being about 25 miles offshore our bear may have been fine but if it was looking for ice it was swimming in the wrong direction. It was swimming parallel to the icepack. This brings us to a general problem polar bears are facing. When they swim out looking for ice, they can no longer just swim or anywhere and get to pack ice. The ice is further and further offshore and the chances that they will find it and that it is also thick enough for them are ever smaller. If the ice was at the latitude it was around Point Barrow then it still had far swim.
We had planned to anchor off Barter Island and spend a few hours on shores. However, once we got there it got shallow a lot further out than expected. The charts showed a meter more than we were reading on our depth sounder and we knew the bay was known for shifting shoals. With roughly a kilometer to paddle to get to shore in icy cold water and the wind picking up against us for the paddle back, we decided we’d sail on and wait till Hershel Island to have firm ground under our feet.
On the way we saw 4 whales. They were quite a distances away but we think they were bowhead whales. Some seals also popped their heads up near us.
As we sailed on the winds were light and there wasn’t much swell or waves, we took this chance to empty out, clean and rearrange the actor locker. We had also lost a screw there in Nome and were keen to have another good look for it. We cleaned out all the sand and dirt using toothbrushes and cloths but the screw didn’t show up. We also applied some antirust formula to the pipe of the front heads.
Since the two windows in the heads were still leaking, Dario and Sabine put another layer of silicone around the seals. If this still, doesn’t work we’ll have to thin of a new approach for fixing the leak.
We have our spinnaker up. This light weight sail is ideal for covering decent distances in light winds. We had around 6-9 knots of wind and were going around 4 knots.