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 do 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!

tiistai 24. syyskuuta 2013

September 24th 2013

Across the Arctic Circle
66° 33,000' N, 170° 34,307' W

Today, on the 24th of September at  06.45 UTC, s/y Sarema crossed the
Arctic Circle, and the Northern Sea Route aka the North East Passage is
finally behind us. The passage was icier than we had hoped for, the winds
were stronger than we had expected, and it took us far longer to traverse
the passage than we had anticipated. At times we were cold and tired, and
especially towards the end of the passage, frustrated and stressed, but
this is exactly as it should be in a truly Arctic Adventure.

As a result of our achievement, one of our crew members received an
honorary title. Since Latte is one of the very few dogs in the world, if
not the only one, who has circumnavigated the North Pole, as of today,
she'll be called Latte the Polar Dog!

Though we still have about 800 nautical miles ahead of us and the
notorious Bering Sea to cross before we get to Alaska, it's time to
celebrate. We just opened a bottle of Russian champagne, so come raise
your glass with us. “Cheers!” everyone or as we say in Finnish “Kippis!”

All That Splendour!

The day we crossed the Arctic Circle was spectacular in many ways. The weather was absolutely gorgeous after so many cold and grey days, and as we were sailing near the coastline, we could see dozens of humpback whales feeding close to the shore, there were walruses swimming near our boat, and thousands of seabirds everywhere, clearly on the verge of migration. In the evening, when darkness had set in and the stars had come out, the magnificent lights of the Aurora Borealis were glowing all around us. We had seen nothing like it while traversing the Northern Sea Route. This was so like in Alaska, and the very reason why we were going back there!

After all that splendour, we feel confident that the one thing that has worried us for quite some time i.e. our expiring cruising licence, will be sorted out in Providenya without difficulty.

sunnuntai 22. syyskuuta 2013

September 22nd 2013

Looking Better!

Luckily we only had to spent two restless nights in the open and windy bay.
The easterlies began to subside eventually and as the wind
direction also started to change, we weighed anchor and the 65 metres of
10 mm anchor chain we had seen fit to use in this occasion although there
was only seven metres of water below us.

In the past 24 hours, we have made a total of 153 nautical miles, and although
it is snowing and the deck is like an ice-skating rink, our spirits are
high. Later this evening we are going to leave the East Siberian Sea
behind and enter the Chukchi Sea. And if we are able to keep up our
present speed which is between seven and eight knots, in about two days'
time, we should reach the Bering Sea, and one major leg of our voyage
around the world would be over.

perjantai 20. syyskuuta 2013

September 21st 2013

Weather Versus Bureaucracy (Or Vice Versa)

Because of the delay caused by the cyclone, we are now badly behind
schedule. We are not too worried about the shortening of the days, the
roughening of the weather, the approaching of the winter, we are confident
that we can deal with all that. What we are concerned about is Russian

It is now the 20th of September and our cruising licence will expire on
the 25th. From our  anchorage, in good weather, we could sail to
Providenya in five days i.e. just in time but, with the current 25 to 35
knot headwinds, it would take at least nine days to do that and the risks
to both the boat and her crew are too high. Hence, the only sensible thing
is to wait until the weather allows us to continue our voyage. We would
call this force majeure, a superior force that couldn't have been
reasonably anticipated or controlled, but how the Russians are going to
interpret our situation, we'll only know when we arrive in Providenya.

September 20th 2013

Blowing Still!
70° 04,726' N, 170° 33,912' E

We had sailed to Pevek as quickly as possible because we knew that there
was a weather front approaching with 15 to 20 m/s easterlies. When we
arrived there after only five days of sailing, the skies were clear and
the seas smooth as silk. For three days we waited for the winds to come
and when we became tired of waiting and were ready to leave, they finally
arrived and with such a force that we were glad to be still in Pevek.

In the morning of the 19th, after four stormy days, the weather seemed so
much better that we decided to continue our voyage. We cast off, bid
farewell to the crew of the small ship to which we had been moored, and
then realized that our good boat Sarema was not moving anywhere. There was
now almost half a metre less water underneath our keel than before the
storm, and we were lying on the bottom. As the engine power was not enough
to free us, we tied a rope to the ship's railing, winched us out of the
mud, and headed for the sea.

We sailed around the corner of Cape Shelagskiy to see what the situation
outside the Chaunskaya Guba Bay looked like. And it looked so bad that we
turned around and continued back to a bay a few miles further south that
would give us at least some kind of protection against the winds. While we
were heading for the shelter, the winds continued to increase in strength
from 20 to 35 knots, gusting 40+, which seems to be the norm out here.

We are now only about 25 miles north of Pevek, anchored in a large, open
bay as close to the shore as we dared. The wind is blowing from behind a
large mass of land but yet sharp, foam crowned waves keep tilting our boat
from one side to  the other, and spray is flying in the air. Clearly, the
storm is not over yet!

September 16th 2013

Held Up in Pevek
69° 42,326' N, 170° 15,792' E

On our way to Pevek, Pekka spent one whole day (eleven hours to be exact)
repairing our heaters. The plural form is quite correct as we initially
had two Webastos but for some reason they both stopped working almost at
the same time. Now, we only have one heater left because Pekka had to
cannibalize the two and take the fan from the one that had developed an
unrepairable nozzle problem and install it in the other one that had given
a 'Fan Error' message. During the eleven hours, the temperature inside the
boat dropped to nine degrees Celsius which was tolerable (after all, this
is an Arctic Expedition) but I must say that we were relieved when our now
one and only heater started working again.

We arrived in Pevek early Saturday morning when it was still dark and
dropped anchor in the bay next to the town. After a few hours of sleep, we
motored to the port and moored alongside a rusty barge that had sunk years
ago and has since been used as a wharf. Pevek Harbour Master and a
friendly Immigration Officer named Yura came to our boat to check us in.
Later the same evening, the Harbour Master arranged both water and fuel to
be delivered to the wharf, and now all our tanks and jerry cans are

During the next two days, we toured the town, visited the city library,
the regional museum, a cafeteria, and several small grocery stores where
we did some reprovisioning. By the end of the third day, we were ready and
anxious to continue our passage.

However, as so often before, the weather didn't agree with our plans.
Yesterday, the Harbour Master hurried to the wharf to warn us of
approaching 15-20 m/s winds. Because of the incoming seas, he asked us to
move to the other side of the barge and moor alongside a small ship, which
we did. So, here we are once again held up, biting our nails, and
listening to the Arctic wind howling in the rigging.

lauantai 14. syyskuuta 2013

September 14th 2013

Latte the Dog Model

As you may have guessed, Latte the Boat Dog also has her own Arctic wardrobe. In order to present Latte's clothes I took a few photos of her dressed up in the different layers of her Arctic outfit. This was not an easy task as she is not one to readily obey orders.

I positioned Latte on the deck the way I wanted to photograph her and said “STAY!” (or actually PAIKKA! in Finnish). I then retreated towards the bow to get to a sufficient distance but when I turned around, she immediately ran to me. I took her back and tried to explain her that this was a photo session but clearly she didn't have a clue of what I was talking about. We then repeated this positioning and retreating (far too!) many times until I realized that I had to start saying the word “PAIKKA!!” immediately I had positioned her and keep repeating it all the while I was walking towards the bow.

This did the trick, and we finally managed to take the photos. After so much effort I do hope you'll appreciate them. Latte didn't enjoy the photo session very much which you can tell from the way she is holding her ears. (But you should have seen my ears after the  session!!!)

Based on this experience, as cute as she looks, unfortunately Latte the Boat Dog will never make a career in the modelling business!

September 13th 2013

Iced Over!

One day before we arrived in Pevek, Sarema got an icy coating. During the night, everything outside had frozen stiff including the wind sensor at the top of the mast as a result of which the instruments showed the wind speed to be zero, and the wind angle had frozen to 45 degrees port.

Everything looked absolutely beautiful but when the sun came out and the ice began to thaw, the conditions on the deck became almost life-threatening; big chunks of ice started coming off the rigging crashing to the deck with a thunderous bang.

We knew that ice would be a hazard along the Northern Sea Route, but we could never have imagined that we should have brought crash helmets along to guarantee our safety!