Friday, August 29, 2014

Agripina Bay blue sky blowout

August 29, 2014

Agripina Bay blue sky blowout

Blue sky and gusts to 40 knots greeted our arrival to Agripina Bay. The scenery more than made up for the blustery northwest wind blasting through the mountain gaps and cascading down the valleys once filled with glacial ice. We anchored per the Coast Pilot recommended location in the Northwesterly corner of Agripina Bay near 57 06.78N 156 28.50W. The wind here ranged from peaceful calm to a savage 35 knots with unexpected frequency. In a calm patch we launched the dinghy and ventured forth to explore the many miles of Agripina's undulating coastline. The bay is incredible with many smaller bays beckoning a quick landing for some beach combing, we landed and walked quite a few.

Hey Bear! Hey Bear! (Loudly as you care).

Since we're finally on the Alaska Peninsula we're now in bear country and we'd prefer to see all of our bears from the safety of the boat. Landing on a beach we'd make our presence known by calling out 'Hey Bear' a few times and then generally making plenty of noise with sticks smacked together, badly sung, but loud renditions of favorite song lyrics, all with the goal of avoiding a startled bear and a bite. Within a minute of landing on our first shore we found a fresh bear trail leading up to a low saddle that overlooked LightSpeed in the anchorage below. We followed the trail and snapped a nice shot of the Agripina Bay anchorage, then retreated to the beach, picked a few berries and zipped off to the next bay for more of the same. In the NE corner of Agripina a long white sand beach beckons and we couldn't resist checking it out. Landing the dinghy at low tide we immediately stepped over some fresh Grizzly prints in the wet sand at waters edge. Yep, definitely bears here, more bad singing and scrounging for sticks to bang together while we kept a sharp lookout up and down the beach. Lots of bear tracks, some big and some medium size and definitely quite a few in the vicinity of the salmon stream near the middle of the beach. We spotted a few Chum and Pink Salmon in the milky glacial waters of the small stream and then decided we'd seen enough and hot footed it back to our ride.

Back on LightSpeed the wind gusts were getting a bit annoying, so we upped anchor and moved down to bear beach, so at least we'd have some interesting wildlife viewing while we kept anchor watch in the sometimes 40+ knot gusts. Before long Kathy spotted Mr. Bear ambling along the beach we'd walked earlier in the day. Having seen our first bear, since our last Alaska trip in 2011 we decided we'd had enough of the gusty winds. It was late in the day, but enough was enough. Running coastwise overnight is not our favorite first choice, but trying to get a good nights sleep with these gusty winds would be futile.

Plan A, sail overnight the 90 nm to Geograhic Harbor. The forecast for our zone was calling for NW 25, but closer to our destination variable 15, it shouldn't be too bad right? At this point the wind was throwing a tizzy fit gusting to at least 42 knots with lulls dropping only briefly to 25. Apparently, gusty conditions such as these are the norm with NW winds sneaking through the mountain gaps and blasting out the bays. Before we could hoist sail I needed to pick up our crab trap, luckily we've watched no less than 36 episodes of Deadliest Catch this past month, so I was ready for a little spray in my face as we maneuvered up to the 'bag' which Kathy deftly snagged and dragged aboard with the boat hook. The wind was taking no prisoners and unleashing a steady 40 while I held LightSpeed in position while Kathy winched the pot aboard. No joke it was pretty intense.

Heading out of the bay with a tail wind LightSpeed was doing 7-8 knots under bare poles, yep it was windy. Short steep waves stacked up quickly and after about 5 minutes of wave smacking on our beam we decided this was not so fun.

Plan B, go with the wind. The south end of Kodiak island lay a comfortable overnight sail away, just 80'ish miles to Sitkinak Straight where Kathy confirmed we will catch the strong current with what seemed preordained timing. Once the wind abated a bit I unfurled the jib and then a few minutes later it went calm and I furled the jib and started the engine. Then a few minutes later the wind filled in to a nice steady 20, so out went the jib and the engine was shut down. All was looking good until the boat gave a shudder and a white wind devil blasted pass. I dove out the door and tried in vain for about 3 seconds to furl the jib as I watched our apparent wind jump to 42 knots, at which point course became a hell of a lot more important, we need to run with this wind and now or risk capsize. I watched our speed rocket to 10 knots then 12 in a blink as the apparent wind peaked at 48 knots from dead astern. That makes for a conservative 58 knot and very scary gust. The wind eased a bit and I wrestled in the jib, leaving only a handkerchief flying, at this point we were fully 4 miles out of the bay and getting blasted with a Williwaw?

As I write, the faint glow of a new day softly hints the eastern horizon. I'm looking forward to new adventurers along the less traveled SE side of Kodiak Island and hoping we find less gusty conditions.

That's it for now.

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