Saturday 2 August – Unimak Pass

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 2 Aug 2014 00:57
Noon Position: 54 32.8 N 163 51.6 W
Course: East Speed: 3 knots
Wind: West sou' west F3 gentle breeze
Weather: overcast, occasional light drizzle, cool

We departed Trident Cove after a peaceful night at anchor at a little after
ten o'clock yesterday morning. A light westerly breeze was blowing which
allowed us to sail from anchor and, wing on wing, exit the bay in between
the small islands that surround its entrance. My plan was to use the
remainder of the flood tide which favoured us to get to the Unimak Pass. If
we could make the Pass before the tide turned then, because of the geography
of the straits, the majority of the ebb would also be favourable. From there
I wanted to make for Tigalda Island and perhaps anchor for the night, either
in Tigalda Bay of Welcome Bay, at the northern end of the island. As usual,
nothing happened according to plan.

The fundamental flaw was a lack of wind. It was light to begin with but
before I could reach the eastern end of Akun Island, yet alone get close to
what could be considered the transition point between Avatanak Strait and
Unimak Pass, the wind died and left Sylph drifting. I thought about motoring
the sixteen miles to Tigalda Island but, despite the lack of wind, it was a
lovely day and I was loathe to ruin it with the mechanical noise of the
engine drowning out the natural sounds of the sea and the birds that
surrounded us. I contented myself with sitting in the cockpit in what was
mostly sunshine reading a book, while Sylph drifted slowly backwards.

A light breeze started to pick up towards late afternoon by which time we
were on the other side of the Strait and almost half way back to Trident
Bay. As evening wore on the wind freshened which allowed us to regain our
lost ground despite pushing a foul tide. I had managed to pick up a weather
forecast on the VHF radio during the afternoon which indicated favourable
conditions for crossing Unimak Pass and gaining the Pacific side of the
Alaska Peninsular. So with fair breeze blowing and a good forecast I decided
to make the most of the fair weather and press on rather than anchor for the

The wind has proven more fickle than the forecast predicted at times leaving
Sylph wallowing in periodic calms. I suspect the huge volcanoes that from
Unimak Island create extensive wind shadows which would be almost impossible
to avoid. During a rare patch of cloudless sky while we were in Avatanak
Strait I glanced towards the north and was awestruck by what I took to be
the peak of Pogromni Volcano. It rose in a classic volcanic cone to a height
according to my chart of 6568 feet, it snow covered slopes dwarfing the
landscape around it. Such a peak is bound to play havoc with the wind in its

Thus our progress past Unimak Island has been much slower than I had hoped.
My goal was to make for False Pass, a very narrow strait that separates
Unimak Island from the Alaska Peninsular. My sailing friend from Ushauai,
Roger Wallis, is up this way in his boat Philos. As mentioned in a previous
post he is on his way back through the North West Passage, his hopes to add
the Northern Passage to his impressive list of high latitude sailing
achievements having been thwarted by Mr Putin. We had hoped to rendezvous at
False Pass but my lack of long range communications is going to make the
chances of our paths crossing very remote. In fact I suspect Roger may well
have already gone through False Pass but I thought I would head in that
direction and at least give us some chance of a meeting.

Now we are becalmed in the vicinity of Cape Lazaref, on the southern side of
Unimak Island. So much for the fifteen knot northerly winds we were supposed
to be getting. Not to worry. Some wind will come. Where we will head for
next I have not yet made up my mind. There are an incredible number of
islands and bays to explore in the region between here and Kodiak and will
probably follow my usual strategy and allow the wind to decide where we will
end up.

All is well.