lauantai 19. lokakuuta 2013

October 19th 2013

59° 23,414' N, 149° 55,476' W

After a little more than 24 hours of sailing, we arrived in Seward where we had begun our polar circumnavigation in 2010. Again, we had friends waiting for us; Kathy and Vic, with whom we have shared some of the best times in south-west Alaska, and hopefully continue to do so next summer. 

The End of A Long Season

During the season, we sailed almost across half the world in less than half a year. It took us five months, 24 days, and two hours to sail from Lagos, Portugal, to Seward, Alaska, making a total of 9,746 nautical miles (18,050 km). We passed from the Atlantic Ocean  into the Pacific and in between crossed nine seas, 16 time zones (no wonder we lost track of time more than once!), and eventually moved from today into yesterday. Our northernmost position was 81° 33,847'.

Now that our exceptionally rough but rewarding season has finally come to an end, it's time to thank those who made it possible. First of all, we thank Meriaura Oy, Wasa Logistics Ltd, and Yacht-Pool for their support. Our special thanks go to the weather men, Esko Pettay from Finland and Evgeny Vizir from Russia, who provided us with up-to-date weather and ice information, without you our passage would have been so much more difficult if not impossible. We also want to express our gratitude to our family who despite their anxiety let us realise our dream, and to our daughter Reetta in particular who not only designed a new website for our good boat Sarema but also took care of the updating of the blogs while we were out of reach of internet connection. And last but not least, we want to thank all of you who have had the patience to follow our nearly never-ending voyage from Alaska to Alaska!


A message from Evgeny Vizir, our Weather Man in Russia:

"Take my best congratulations on the completion of this pretty difficult and quite important part of the voyage. Now we have all grounds to include the name of the yacht Sarema in the list of famous Arctic explorers and adventurers."

The Sarema is now on the hard patiently waiting for next spring and the return of her crew. We are going to spend the entire summer of 2014 in Alaskan waters but, unlike this season, it's going to be all about leisurely existence, pristine anchorages and, if we are lucky, great nature photographs!

Till then, we wish you all Fair Winds and Following Seas!

October 14th 2013

Kodiak City, Kodiak
57° 47,270' N, 152° 24,605' W

We spent only two nights in Sand Point as we were too impatient to stay there any longer. The first day at sea was reasonably comfortable, and we could even take down the foresail and repair the torn seams with sail tape. During the second day which was much more uncomfortable, we received the following message from our weather guru Evgeny:

If you're still in Sand Point it is better to stay.


I see storm wind to the east of Sand Point 12, 13, 14, 15 October.

 Be careful. )
Good luck

Despite the warning, we didn't make a U-turn and return to Sand Point but continued our rugged voyage towards Kodiak and, with good luck and great speed (181 nm per day), managed to stay in between the storm winds lurking on either side of us.

We arrived in the safe haven of St. Paul Harbour, Kodiak City, on the 12th  and were warmly welcomed by Marion and Marty, Kodiak Harbour Master and his wife, who were waiting for us on the dock with a picnic basket the contents of which we enjoyed aboard the Sarema.

The next day we were dined, wined and entertained at their cliff house from morning till evening. Between breakfast and dinner we went hiking in the nearby rainforest where Marion, a professional photographer, documented our walkabout.
The photos here and henceforth are by courtesy of Marion Owen.

On Monday morning, we woke up to a lovely day with warm sunshine and a gentle breeze. Marion and Marty had planned a picnic in the mountains but after listening to the weather forecast that predicted 35 knot winds for the next several days, we decided to continue our voyage. So, although tempted to stay, we cast off in the afternoon and began our final leg of the season towards Seward. 

keskiviikko 9. lokakuuta 2013

October 8th 2013

Through Stormy Waters
55° 19,978' N, 160° 29,937' W

During our second day at sea, the conditions deteriorated somewhat. We were aware of the weather forecast which predicted 40 to 45 knot winds for the area but not until the evening when we thought we would already be in Sand Point. Just to be on the safe side, we had picked a few anchorages along the way where we could find shelter if need be. We passed the anchorages one after another because we thought the weather was not bad enough, and when it eventually got too bad and we were approaching the last possible anchorage, the anemometer jumped to 49 knots which meant williwaws and that was not a place for us. Hence, we had but one option and that was to continue straight to Sand Point.

It was pitch-black and pouring with rain when we entered the narrow strait leading to Sand Point harbour. In the prevailing conditions, the strait acted as a wind funnel and we had 35 to 46 knot headwinds, gusting to 54. Because of the strength of the wind, we didn't have enough speed for the autopilot to keep the course in either navigation or heading mode, and at times we were actually going backwards. Pekka was at the helm and Riitta was navigating, and we were both shouting directions to each other at the top of our voices to overcome the hellish howling of the wind. During the storm, our national flag came tumbling down from the mizzen (we hope it's not a bad omen!), the wind shield canvas was torn apart, and two of the seams of the foresail split. Luckily nothing too serious this time, but the game is not yet over!

October 7th 2013

Dutch Harbor, Unalaska
53° 54,355' N, 166° 30,657' W

One of the reasons why we felt so at home in Dutch Harbor was that, unlike in Russia, we could actually understand what people were saying. And what was most peculiar, almost every other person we met in town spoke Finnish! This invasion by Finns was due to the Fennica, a Finnish icebreaker that was staying in Unalaska for a few days. Pekka naturally took advantage of the situation and got himself invited to a genuine Finnish sauna aboard the Fennica.

Which brings to mind your homework! The Finnish word best known in the world is, of course, SAUNA. For Finns, sauna is not merely a place for bathing, it is a place where we socialize when in company or meditate when we are on our own. It is a place where we cleanse not only our body but also our soul and, therefore, for us the sauna is (almost) a sacred place.

The other thing that made us feel so very welcome to Alaska was the lovely harbour employee who, upon our arrival, showed us the most protected place along the dock and the following day, had left in our cockpit a box containing smoked salmon, salmon fillets, king crab, and two bags of dog biscuits for Latte. If that's not hospitality, I don't know what is!

We stayed in Dutch Harbor for four days waiting for a weather window to open up that would allow us to continue our voyage towards Kodiak, and when we finally left, the day could hardly have been any better. Although there was about a three metre swell left behind by a previous gale which didn't make sailing very comfortable, the sun was shining, the temperature was +11 degrees Celsius, and there were hundreds of seabirds flying around our boat, amongst them both Laysan Albatrosses and Black-footed Albatrosses. What a way to leave the Aleutian Islands!

torstai 3. lokakuuta 2013

October 2nd 2013


When we woke up on our last day in Providenya, there were thin floes of ice floating on the surface of the bay. It was clearly time to leave Russia!

We cast off on the 28th of September local time and sailed along the fjord back into the Bering Sea. About seven hours later, we crossed the International Date Line at 18.34 Russian time and entered the US on the 27th of September at 22.34 Alaska summer time.

On the 30th we crossed the line we had made in 2010 while sailing from St Paul to Nome on our way to the Northwest Passage. This marked the completion of our circumnavigation from Alaska to Alaska which, partly due to our detour to South America, had taken a total of three years, two months, 18 days, three hours, and seven minutes. This certainly called for a celebration but because of somewhat choppy seas, we decided to postpone the festivities until Dutch Harbor.

Since we knew the Bering Sea's reputation, we had hoped to be able to cross it as quickly as possible and with as few gales as possible. We did pretty well during our first three days at sea proceeding between 179.1 and 155 nautical miles per day but on our fourth day, a gale caught us. It was as if the whole sea were full of holes, as soon as we had managed to climb up from one hole, there was another one just waiting for us to fall into it. This roller-coaster continued for nearly 24 hours before we reached the tranquil waters of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where we arrived early in the morning of the 2nd of October.

And it was like coming home!

September 29th 2013

Saving The Day!

We had decided to depart on the 28th and, on our second day in Providenya, we called the Customs and asked them to come and check us out of Russia so that we could leave as early as possible the following morning. As always, all the boat's documents were in order as were our passports and visas but this time, Latte's papers presented a problem.

She has two passports, one French and an older one from Spain with the rabies antibodies test certificate. All her current health data are documented in her French passport which is a so-called EU Pet Passport but now this was not enough. The customs official wanted a copy of a separate health certificate which, of course, we couldn't present because we didn't have one. He asked us to try to find it, and said that he would come back the following morning to see all the documents and check us out of the country.

Before leaving Finland, I had contacted the Russian Consulate in Turku, the Russian Embassy in Helsinki, the Finnish Consulate in St. Petersburg, and EVIRA in order to find out which documents we should have for Latte. According to the information received, all that was required was the EU Pet Passport with valid data. And true enough, when we arrived in Krohnstadt, Russia, the customs officials checked Latte's passport, marked her in the Passenger Customs Declaration Form as Dog Named Latte plus her micro chip number, and that was that. Since Krohnstadt, no official has paid any attention to Latte or her papers until now.

Since we are highly allergic to bureaucrats and always think the worst of them, we were not willing to take any risks. We wanted to get out of Russia and to do this, we needed a health certificate for Latte, it was as simple as that. Thus, we phoned a small animal clinic in Finland, asked them to write the health certificate and send it to our satellite email address. The certificate arrived sometime during the night, we printed it out in the morning and, to our great relief, we now had all the documents required by the bureaucrats.

We have always been happy that our daughter is a veterinarian but never as happy as we were now. Thank you, Saara, for saving the day!

September 28th 2013

64° 25,303' N, 173° 13,455' W

On the 26th as the sun was shining from brilliantly blue skies we sailed into the fjord lined with magnificent mountains, at the head of which Providenya is located. Upon our arrival, we called the Port Control as usual but there was no answer. We kept circling in front of the town until we saw four officials arrive at the port. It soon became apparent that they could not speak any English and that obviously was the reason why there had been no answer to our calls.

For lack of a common language, they showed us where to moor our boat by gesticulating. It was by far the ghastliest place to which we have ever tied our good boat Sarema, mere remains of a wharf with rusty iron bars and collapsed concrete slabs protruding every-which-way and more than ready to scratch the side of our boat. When we had managed to place our fenders, every single one of them, so as to protect the boat as best we could, the officials stepped aboard.

While they were meticulously studying our documents, we were holding our breath and keeping our fingers crossed. I don't know if this did it or whether it was the magic of all that splendour we had experienced two days before, but no one said a word of our already expired cruising licence!