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Expedition Report: East of Cape Barrow, Fog, Shallows & Ice

Dario reports on the 8.8.2016 @ N71.27 W154.36:

We are just E of Cape Barrow. It snows and there is fog and there are shallows and ice. Attached ice chart from NOAA shows the limits of the pack ice.
Luckily we made a bow protection in Nome in case we crash into ice. So we attached it and we will see if it does the job?

Cape Barrow is the most Northern point of Alaska. Coming from the West into the Northwest Passage has the advantage, that Cape Barrow is normally much earlier ice free than the East entrance. Like that, you make it through the passage early enough to avoid autumn storms going South exiting the passage.

Tough, this year it is just the opposite: The pack ice at Cape Barrow was blocking for weeks. Not because of colder temperatures- the ice retreated in the Arctic to new records this summer – more because frequent Northerly winds shifted the ice against the coast, where Southerlies would open a passage between the coast and the ice.

For us, this Northerly winds needed a lot of tacking since Nome, so much more work. That’s why we were super happy we made it. But now we have to speed up, so that we got out before storms, darker nights and colder temperatures…

COURSE TO STEER: NORTH TO NOME

After the 17 day passage across the North Pacific, we were warmly welcomed in Dutch Harbor on the 15th
of July. Thank you to Cory, Anna, Elijah, Sofia and Carlin for welcoming us into your home for a few days!

Since we knew we would have to keep heading north as soon as possible ships maintenance was our top priority.
Our autopilot had stopped working just as we approached the coast of the Aleutians. We managed to fix it before
leaving though.

Mia’s haemoglobin counts had been low towards the end of the passage so Sabine went to get her tested in the
local clinic. On Friday her levels were low and we thought we may have to come up with possible alternatives
to doing the North-West Passage. However, after the elders John and Ken kindly came on board on Monday morning
and prayed for her, her levels were perfect on Monday. A miracle. This means we can travel on without worrying.
A huge thank you to John and Ken.

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We got to do a lovely hike to two lakes just above Dutch Harbor, where we found two pieces of plastic, saw a family
of foxes and cooked delicious Salmon over the fire. The kids are happy to be back in Alaska: “We picked sooo many
blueberries and salmonberries!!!”

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Monday evening Dario did a presentation in the library. Then we stocked up on food and got ready to leave Tuesday
midday, while the tides and the weather were still in our favour.

The passage to Nome started off with a burst in wildlife around us. Noé reports: “And then we sailed away and we
saw maybe 15 humpback whales. No wait, for sure 15 humpbacks and around those whales there were thousands of birds.
Alegra and I also saw a sea otter.”

The seabirds continued to whizz around our boat the whole passage. We saw puffins, guillemots, fulmars, storm petrels and
many more we couldn’t identify.We had very good winds to start off with. Even with a drift anchor to slow the boat down we did 170nm the first day.

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The Bering Sea is a very shallow sea, which means the waves can build quite high after coming from
deeper areas. Luckily, they came from behind and we surfed down them. We are nearing the place people probably crossed
to the Americas thousands of years ago!

Our autopilot gave up again two days before we arrived, so we had someone at the helm constantly. Just before we
left Dutch Harbor all of us got some warm fishermen’s gloves, which we were very grateful for at this point.

We didn’t see any marine debris apart from a buoy floating 30nm offshore of Nome. It was a grey wet, morning but
the day ended with a glorious sunset half an hour before midnight.

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As we arrived in Nome we met EJ. EJ is a gold digger. He dives for gold just off the coast of Nome here even in
the winter! He showed us some gold digging rigs in the Bering Sea. They have big excavating arms to dig up the
material and clean out the sediments to get the gold.

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Today Salina, Andri, Noé and Alegra finally got to go fishing! They were very excited. We had seen so many salmon
jumping in the river here the night before. Andri caught at least six. Salina and Alegra gutted the fish. We look
forward to eating salmon they caught.

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We have arrived in Dana Point!

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We have arrived in Dana Point to what can only be described as a rapturous welcome, both on and off the water – including the count sheriff boats water display escorting us into the harbour! Thank you so much to Gary and Laurie of San Clemente Green for organising this amazing welcome and getting a crowd down to greet us. We will be docked just outside the Ocean Institute in Dana Point for the next two weeks. If you are in the area, please do come down and say hi, or join us at our public presentation this Saturday (11th) at the Ocean Institute at 12 noon.Continue Reading →

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