Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Atka Island Adventures

August 5, 2014

Anchor Position: 52-06.57N 174-42.91W

Unnamed bay on the east side of Island point.

Summer weather in the Aleutian's is pretty extreme, it's either nearly calm or nearly a gale. Our goal was to be in Dutch Harbor, some 340nm distant, by now. However, there are no suitable all weather anchorage for most of those miles and it was either press on motoring 48 hours non-stop to Dutch or go slow and ride out the impending storm here on Atka where we can find a safe anchorage. The big storm thats due to hit tonight will pin us down for several days and probably through the weekend as the winds clock from SW to NW.

Our ability to look ahead at the weather forecast using NOAA GFS GRIB files is proving to be just as useful as while at sea.

Atka is wild, pristine and seemingly unfettered by humanity. Aside from a crashed nearly intact B-24, the wreck of a crab boat and one small dilapidated shack we've seen no other blemish on the north side of Atka. The beaches are even clean aside from the dayglow pink crab floats, tangles of crabbing line and occasional bundle of fishing net discarded from a trawler. What you don't see here is the plastic trash that litters most island beaches, like empty water bottles and broken flip flops.

Wreck of crab boat 'City of Seattle'
South side of Kigun Point
52 00.6 N 175 19.4 W

In calm conditions we anchored temporarily on a rocky bottom in about 50' just off the intact wreck. Landing was tricky as the bay was chock full of kelp, the shore steep and the boulder strewn beach was breaking lightly with a Pacific swell. The forlorn crabber was driven well ashore holing her bottom and ripping one propeller and shaft clear of the hull. Otherwise she sits mostly on her lines and sports a full load of crab pots, but has otherwise been stripped of all gear. Climbing aboard was no small feat without a ladder, but the exploration worth the effort. While aboard I scavenged for some bits to make a recreational crab trap, the ones aboard are nearly 600 pounds, so I was just after some smaller parts to fashion into a more manageable sized pot.

On top of the wheel house I heard some yapping and spotted 4 small foxes and then looked over the side and saw 2 more looking up at us with intent curiosity. We think they're the legacy of a long since abandoned Russian fox farm.

Our next stop was a Bechevin Bay which offered a perfectly flat calm nights sleep, maybe the best we've had in years. Not a sound or the faintest of ripples on the water, no clicking shrimp, no nothing, just peace and quiet. The next morning we ventured ashore to find the crashed B-24 aircraft. Walking over the berm in the middle of the beach at the head of the bay revealed the plane in nearly all it's glory, less the tail being ripped off. The B-24 is a 4 engine plane with a tail gunner, gun turret on top and gun turret in the bow. WOW! My favorite part aside from poking around the engines and cockpit was the WWII grafitti in the cargo hold. A pencil scrawl of "Remember Pearl Harbor and the bloody Sunday".

Reindeer are prolific on Atka, in every valley we see a dozen or more and many times three dozen are in view at any one time. We haven't seen a large group of foxes such as those we saw at the ship wreck, but one wyle old fox at Kovurof Bay nearly stole a salmon I'd just landed. He got within 6 feet, making for some great photos.

We're visiting 3 bays a day as we make our way east along the north shore of Atka, it's go, go, go, but there is so much to explore and little time to write.

Yesterday, we located a Sockeye salmon stream in one unnamed bay and watched as salmon made their way up the tiny creek. On one occasion the fish made a wrong turn and ended up stranded. I walked over and picked the fish up and whacked him on the head with a stick, making for a fine lunch. You know there are a lot of fish when some swim out of the creek!

That's it for now.

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