Progress Report No. 3
Saturday July 17th.
And a fine day it is in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island.
The Aleutian Chain stretches 1,000 miles, separating the northern
Pacific from the Bering Sea.
We've been here since midnight on Thursday, getting in just in time
to have a few beers in The Elbow Room, followed by a couple of Baileys
(bottles that is) back at the boat -- oh the euphoria of arrival, and
didn't our heads pay for it on Friday.
This town is all about fish. Everyone works, hard grafting fishermen
on the boats, American mostly and foreigners in the processing plants,
Philipinos mostly, but Mexicans too and from all over.
There are some women too, they say that 'there's one behind every tree'
-- but there are no trees! The few women work as taxi-drivers, in the
hospital, truck-hire and and 'city-hall'.
Most all, bar the few remaining native Aluets, are transients, here for
the money. Among them, reputedly, are quite a few fugitives from the law
of the 'lower 48' states.
Our 1,300 mile passage across the Gulf of Alaska was uneventful, after
we settled in. Mostly we engined in light winds and flat seas. For about a
day and a half we had good wind and the silence under sail was delightful.
Surprising was the effect of the 'Seamounts'. We passed over Dickins Seamount,
with 400 metres of water over it, to suffer very rough water as the half-knot
Alaska Current upwelled.
Thereafter we set our course to avoid Seamounts!
Approaching Unalaska the tides are considerable, the Pilot Book telling
of 6 to 9 knots, with whirlpools, tide-rips and bad stuff. We chose
Unimak Pass, and had no bother, other than a few hours of contrary tide.
The first Aluetian Islands we met were very like the Faroes, windswept and
green with not a house, not a hut, not even a sheep, in sight. Snow lay in
the gullies and on the higher ground.
With about 40 miles to go I thought I saw whales inshore of us breaching
their spent air, but no, they were 'williways', gusts lifting the water off
the sea. Soon we were battling into it, full oilies on now, speed down to
3 knots, sometimes even less as waves broke over us. No joke.
As darkness fell we nosed into the shelter of Dutch Harbor, the copper
domes of the old Russian Orthodox Church at the head of the bay in sight.
Passing by a big Crabber, our Irish tricolour flying, a shout of 'Up Killybegs'
came from her deck!
Between searching for a few parts we need, meeting people at the dockside,
the UniSea Fish Processing laundry and the bar at night, we're meeting friendly
and helpful people such as Dee Dee Hanson, who took our Fedex delivery of
Passports with Russian Visas -- no charge, just a big Irish Hug. And today she
came by with big King Crab claws and scallops.
Chris Gannon, from Westport, has been showing us round in a generous way.
Rob Torkildson, Immigration, Mountain Man and writer, sometime soulmate of
Dutch Shipper Arno Stockmans, friend of Dun Laoghaireman Gerry Pinkster.
Scott Darsley, marine electrician and serious American climber, K2 and
We're still here and restive to be on our way, but the wind is still
blowing freshly from the north-west, exactly where we need to go.
But yesterday was a fantastic day walking on the hills. It was actually
sunny and hot as we walked with Rob, Scott and a few others -- all the
better for my not(!) having done the Ballyhoo Mountain Run on Saturday
evening. Mount Ballyhoo was so named by Jack London, participant and
chronicler of Gold Rush days around here.
And not to forget it as it comes to mind, a resonant phrase I heard
from a local builder -- 'Good Enough For Government'
End of progress report no. 3
The Russian Orthodox Church in Dutch Harbor
Eoin holding Monday's dinner - a red salmon
Look what the boat dragged in - Chris Gannon from Westport
The Elbow Room bar