Highlights leading up to North and West of Unexpected

Hoonah, AK

– Not much in Hoonah…except a large population of Tlingit (tribe) natives. But, Hoonah was selected as a good jumping off point for the GSSR boats to begin the crossing of the Gulf of Alaska – a notoriously unfriendly body of water. Several boats gathered “to send us off”; Nordhavn buddies, ‘Crossroads’N50 (Stan & Diane Heirshberg), new Nordhavn buddies, ‘Enterprise’N55 Bob & Darcy Bingham, friends of Ken & Roberta’s, Kent & Pam Williams on their yacht, ‘Carpe Diem’, Gloria & John and more. The evening before our departure, a sushi party on the dock was held in our honor. The weather was beautiful and was predicted to hold out nicely for our 3-day passage across the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak Island. Photos of ‘Grey Pearl’ crew(L to R) Captain Braun, Kell, Tina and Wayne; ‘Seabird’s’ Samuari Capt.Steve and his Russian babe, Carol; Sans Souci and Seabird underway out of Hoonah, AK…and, our mascot, ‘Saki San’ gone native:)


Gulf of Alaska

– There we were…like the ‘Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria’ cruising along in a “V” formation with ‘Sans Souci’ in front. Well, it had been sometime since Braun & I had done any overnighters…like maybe when cruising Central America?? It takes about 24hrs to get into a rhythm. By the third day, we were in the zone. We had periods of relative calm seas and then, when the wind was less than 15 knots we experienced short steep waves on the nose…contrary to what we expected but overall we dodged the bad weather bullet and had a relatively easy 600-mile passage across the Gulf. Thank goodness that galley wench prepared all those ready-made frozen meals these last few monthsJ…the crew was fat and happy with such menu selections as chicken curry, split pea & ham soup, chili mac, etc…A side note – last year, after careful and diligent research, I purchased a Impressa J5 Coffee machine. The short story is – I got a great price on it and it landed in our kitchen when Braun was out of town somewhere…anyhoo, this machine is amazing…grinds the coffee beans and at a push of a button, selection choices vary from espresso, to a single or double coffee, spin a dial, foamy milk appears…it’s just a beautiful thing…and, ALL guests & crew who have been on board love it. In fact, I have taken a liking to the name Kell has selected for my coveted coffee machine…’Our Patron Lady of Big Beans’ J

Kodiak Island, AK –

It was near dawn when we approached Kodiak harbor. The fog had lifted, hues of sunlight were rising behind the snow capped mountains and the near full moon was shining bright…what a way to make an entrance! Even at the very early hour we were warmly welcomed by Harbormaster Marty and soon tied up among the many fishing boats. Kodiak is claimed to be the 2nd largest fishing port in the USA…Dutch Harbor being the first.

This mountainous island, called “Alaska’s Emerald Isle” is covered by a dense growth of grass, berry bushes, wildflowers and such. This lush vegetation is also prime habitat for the largest carnivorous land mammal in the world – the Kodiak brown bear (grizzly bear). Roads here are found only in port towns, leaving the mountainous interior the sole domain for bears and other wildlife. Ironically the largest bears in the world are found on Kodiak Island but you can’t see them from around Kodiak town… you must fly into the interior. So…no bear sightings for us resting in Kodiak harbor but, everyone seems to have a bear story to share. There is also lots of ‘birding here’. I saw my first of many sightings of the cool looking puffins.

Kodiak is home to the largest US Coast Guard Station. They look after the large fishing fleet and fortunately we have not required their services. We passed the time in Kodiak working on a variety of boat chores, touring town, visiting several museums, made a few pubs stops and hiked about. The weather was delightful.

Geographic Harbor, AK

– After a leisurely two-day voyage, we arrived at Katmai National Monument Park. In 1912, Mt Katmai erupted. It was one of the greatest eruptions in recorded history. It was reported the residents of Kodiak, a hundred miles distant, were rained with ash so thick that for two days a person couldn’t see a lantern held at arm’s length! A week before Katmai’s massive eruption, the surrounding area was rocked by earthquakes that were felt miles away. Because of Katmai’s remote location, no human lives were lost. Four years later, The National Geographic Center sent a scientific expedition to study the aftermath of this cataclysmic event…hence, the name Geographic Harbor. In addition, the National Monument was enlarged to protect its significant population of brown bears and other animals such as moose and caribou. Well, it is all about the bears that brings people here to this protected harbor. We toured around in the dinghy and watched a grizzly grazing along the beach at low tide. We got pretty close but not too close! The bears didn’t seem particularly interested in us but they knew we were there. These outings scored “high” on the excitement meter for us…neat to watch them in their habitat with only a few yards between us, versus behind thick glass in a zoo somewhere.

Sand Point, AK –

We elected to forge ahead (275 miles from G.Harbor) while the weather was predicted to be favorable. We arrived early on a Friday morning to an empty harbor at Sand Point which is on Popof Island, one of the Shumagin Islands…like that makes any sense, right? All the fishing boats were out until Saturday evening when the salmon season came to a close. We enjoyed a few cocktails at the local “tavern” and it was the story telling from friendly locals that really held our interest. By late Saturday, the harbor was filling up. The nearby fish processing place was humming (downwind of that plant was really stinky!) and the characters on the dock got more interesting. Throughout the few days we spent in Sand Point, people knew who we were. “You’re on one of those yachts” they’d ask…you can bet not many pleasure boats come this way. Had a forgettable meal at the Aleut Chinese restaurant that served some mysterious red sauce, then later dined at another fine establishment ‘Bozo Burgers’ – not bad. By far the best was dining on board and we delighted in fresh king crab, black cod, and halibut.

From Sand Point we set off for King Cove…clearly a forgettable port with all the now familiar fish processing plant, hundreds of large crab pots stacked about near the harbor, boats salvaged and scrap metal, lines and nets everywhere, drab buildings/dormitories scattered about and another exceptionally forgettable Chinese restaurant. However; I must say we have received nothing but exceptional hospitality in each of these ports, and we’re clearly a never seen oddity. Thanks, to Ken’s blog we are quite popular J.

Dutch Harbor, AK –

Excitement was building among the GSSR fleet for our arrival into “UnAlaska and the International Port of Dutch Harbor”…the gateway to the Aleutians…west of Hawaii, almost half of our voyage behind us…okay – the easy half…”enjoy and marvel at the uncommon natural beauty of our island” as quoted by Mayor Shirley Marquardt. Hold on a minute…about the only comments offered up by the esteemed mayor of UnAlaska I could agree on is “you will not experience anything like us anywhere else in Alaska!” Bingo! I don’t mean to sound negative but comments listed in a brochure of this charming area hardly match this unremarkable port. Suffice to say, we do acknowledge Dutch Harbor’s status as the #1fishing port in the nation, it’s unique significance in U.S. history (bombed by the Japanese)…and, “if you’re an angler or a birder, you have truly found paradise”…that’s what Shirley says!

Seriously, though – Dutch Harbor does have some interesting history. Russian fur traders arrived on Unalaska (the name derived from a Russian spelling of an original Aleut, Unangan meaning “close to mainland”) islands in 1758. It only took ten years for the Russians to kill everything in sight including the natives and move on. With the Russians gone and the native population sadly reduced, not much happened in Dutch Harbor for the next 100 years. After the U.S. purchased Alaska, it didn’t take long before Americans recognized the cash value of the Aleutians. There was a boom in the fur trade and Dutch Harbor served as a base for coaling and supply station for vessels heading into the Bering Sea to fish. In 1940, the U.S. Navy “appropriated” Dutch Harbor. The town was then bombed by the Japanese in 1942. The military went on a building spree and bunkers and fallen quonset huts are a regular feature of the landscape today. After the military pulled out, only a fraction of the Aleuts chose to return. It was the rich king crab fisheries in the 1960’s that brought Dutch Harbor back to life. There are a few museums here in town we plan to check out and maybe some birding is in order. At present, Braun & Wayne are out setting the crab pots and fishing for halibut. Kell is out for a walk while it’s dry out. I’m doing a few odds and ends…in anticipation of tomorrow’s arrival of our final crew member, Pat Davis, Wayne’s wife. J

We did elect to forgo the Peking Chinese Restaurant and enjoy an amazing seafood buffet at The Grand Aleutian Hotel.

We set off from Dutch Harbor July 6th – weather permitting. How could we miss the Annual Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks?? From there…serious voyaging is imminent!

On a further note, we will try and update the blog when we can but, we highly recommend you register on Ken William’s, ’Sans Souci’ blog. Ken’s updates are informative, more frequent and, he’s taken some terrific photographs, too! I apologize for not providing more updates…internet has been spotty & infrequent for the blogmaster, galley wench, chief bottle washer, etc..


Lastly, as I look out the window and reflect for a moment where we are…and, what it is we are doing, I do feel “uncommonly” grateful for this experience. There’s no question how alive it makes you feel!

From the bridge of the good ship, ‘Grey Pearl’…over and out –

Tina & Braun

5 thoughts on “Highlights leading up to North and West of Unexpected”

  1. We follow your adventures with great interest, as we did the NAR.

    Wanted to send our wish for fair winds and calm seas.

    George & Sue Brice
    MV Delight – Portland, Or.

  2. Peter Renaghan

    Ahoy Grey Pearl
    Have been following since we met you in Rhode Island. Your deck box hitched a ride across the States on the stern of our N35 “Miss Betsy”. We now own Oso Blanco N4715 renamed WINKIN. Love the blogs. Good luck.

    Peter & Betsy


    This is certainly a birthday you will never forget! Cheers!

    Love from LA, Karen, Gordon, Alice, Gracie and Augi
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  4. T’was a true pleasure to meet all of you & be part of the bon voyage festivities – we both wish you fair winds, calm seas & a quick voyage. Can’t believe you’ve already made Dutch Harbor – all the best for the rest of the trip.

    Great to see the post, we are currently enjoying the 4th in Craig, AK. An hour & 1/2 of fireworks last night (at least 6 different sources, only one being the city’s commission) & have been told to expect at least that tonight.

    We are now headed south – let us know if/when you’re up for a bit of respite down San Diego way, we’d love to see you.
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  5. chuck and barb dohner

    The eyes of Chuck and Barb are upon you! Expecially, those “Texans” that you have on board!!

    Love reading the blogs and sharing your trip from the warmth of our home. We are on board with you in our hearts; and that is quite enough right now. Keep a good grip! Hugs!

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