Monday 28 July – Akutan Bay
At anchor Akutan Bay
Wind: Light and variable
Sea: calm Swell: Nil
Weather: mostly sunny
I regret to say that my sail tweaking was insufficient to prevent Toyatte from gradually overhauling Sylph so, as we rounded Akutan Point to enter the bay of the same name, Toyatte was already snug at anchor, sail covers on. I attempted to sail to anchor nearby to salvage a little dignity but the wind faded as we got into the wind shadow of the surrounding mountains and, drifting, I had little choice but to start the engine and motor the last remaining half mile to anchor off the small village that is on the northern side of the bay. As a consequence, in keeping with much of my solitary lifestyle, I have resolved to avoid sailing in company so as to keep my competitive streak unprovoked. Sylph is still a good boat even if she is not exactly the speediest machine on the oceans. We make do.
Today Toyatte's crew, Rob and Kate, and myself explored the village and set off on a hike to some hot springs that were about five miles away. Rob and Kate made it but my inclination to climb got the better of me and I ended up parting company with my new young friends and hiked up some hills instead. On getting to the top of a ridge I could see the other side of the island but found that I was one cove too far east of the bay with the hot springs and a high steep and craggy ridge disappearing into the clouds barred my progress to the original goal. I decided to turn back rather then venture higher into the cold fog that shrouded any possible pathway.
Back at the village I walked through the fish processing plant which is a huge operation. The village has a permanent population of just eighty nine people but the summer population when the processing plant is in full swing is an incredible eight hundred. The factory has wharves for all the fishing boats to unload as well as the container barges towed in by tugs that support the factory and presumable the village. There appears to be a near constant traffic of tugs with their container laden barges behind them between here and Dutch Harbor, as we encountered several of them coming and going while en route. The dockside has what must be a couple of hundred containers packed in stacks four to five high. The processing plant itself is all enclosed and it was not possible to get any clear idea of how it all worked, but surrounding it were multi-storey dormitories which obviously housed the itinerant workers. Once clear of the factory gates the townscape turns suddenly from a heavy industrial site to a quiet rural village. Perhaps thirty houses, mostly walled with aluminium cladding, are separated by a board walk which acts as a street for the four wheel bikes that are used as transport. Undoubtedly the factory brings significant wealth and life to the village as it is well served by council buildings, a school, two churches, one of which also contains a public gymnasium, and a library which provides free public internet access (via which this update is sent).
Tomorrow Toyatte will be continuing on their way as Rob and Kate have to return to Juneau, there home port to get back to a working life after three and a half years cruising the Pacific, and they still have quite a bit they wish to see between here and there. They are quite an upbeat couple and it sounds like they have enjoyed there time cruising enormously. It has been a real pleasure to have their company over the last few days.
Sylph and I are not in such a hurry so we will remain at anchor here for a few more days to enjoy the peaceful village, and with luck organise some solutions to our communications problems with the help of the library's internet service.
All is well.