Monday, November 4, 2013

Video by S/V LA BELLE EPOQUE - Nordwest Passage 2013

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page."
– Saint Augustine

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More of Jurgen and Claudia Kirchberger's cruising story...

Bering Sea!

LA BELLE EPOQUE leisurely drives through the dusk, while on board everything is still quiet. I sit in the wheelhouse and I appreciate the many lights around us, slowly fading into the gray morning light becomes brighter. How long ago was it that we are called at a busy port? Just being long, dark night seemed almost like a new miracle, even if it is still quite a long time and slowly walked into the dark realm of the memories of the arctic day. This makes me a bit wistful thought but still, I have so much enjoyed the eternal light of the Arctic tags and experienced life without sunrise and set free from time and clock.

But wait, now is actually no time for melancholy. After all, the dangerous Bering Strait lies with its strong current behind us, the Northwest Passage is done and soon we run into our first port of Alaska. A port to which we are more than excited, after all, it is said: "There is no place like Nome!" After all, the city is famous for its roots in the gold rush, an era that is now awakened to new life in the Far North!

It does not take long, and the gray light of the morning sun has finally got some color and intensity. The harbor master is notified and is waiting at the pier to take us very warm welcome. We already go between the wild and headstrong "booting" the gold digger alongside and jump on land. But it does not go as fast in the Far North but then again, the border official has their hands full and can clear inward us in the evening. We need to spend the day on board! Do not worry. We wait until ISATIS us alongside and is cool to talk to champagne in the bilge. Today, there's something to celebrate!

Nome is unbelievable, torn between gold rush fortune seekers, failed lives and even some free spirits, alcoholics and well-paid professionals from the South staggers the city in a true wild west retro with one bar after another along the main road, rickety pick-up Trucks and rubber boots as a unit costume. Everything here revolves around gold and beer because there is gold in the sand to wash and beer can be bought with it. Even the laundry Saloon is integrated in a seedy bar.

The dream of wealth, however, the fewest dream, we can enlighten us. The motivations are different: a self-determined life without a boss or an escape from poverty to the south, the up-close experience of history or Knight of the fun of gambling. The success, however, not everyone brings: while a very good make ends meet and have decades of living of their gold income in the summer, living those who are less fortunate in huts made of driftwood on the beach and work on the return flight to the South before the onset To make the cold. Probably the best earnings beat apparently investors and large, South African diamond company out: they bought a long time ago, the reasons to Nome (and the seabed to Nome) and now get from any grains of gold, which is wrestling with mühlseliger work out of the sand their percentages.

And since the sand along the vast beach of Nome during the first phase of the gold rush in the early 20th Century was combed to the smallest granule, the modern Goldschürer have laid on the seabed: the most incredible dive boats, the ride goes from the beach to a few meters deep water, where by its own suction of sea sand is pumped into a small screening plant on the deck of the vehicle combination . A job that requires countless hours of diving in the icy water of the high latitudes. Gold dust stuck in the screen, while the greater part of the sand is transported again over the side with its increased weight. So this evening floating platforms bring a mix of golden sand on land which is separated into more washes and Siebarbeiten. In the end, wait for the work done for an ounce of gold, or almost 30 grams to U.S. $ 1100, depending on the current value of gold and purity of the final product.

For us, however, could still so beautiful shine to the gold time, we would not even attract half as much as the vegetable shelf in the local supermarket! And we are not disappointed: fresh grapefruit and sweet oranges from California smell a race that is so beloved by me Cesars Salad crisp as fresh from the field and a mix of zucchini and carrots, cucumbers and mini pumpkins, onion and peppers wander into my shopping basket. At the checkout we consider, however, but then if there is not a little gold are too hollow on the beach for us to have over 150 dollars for a basket full of fruits and vegetables and a box dougnuts!

Also, the port charges once let us swallow: $ 50 per day at the pier, without electricity or shower, of course! But what the heck, let's not put down roots here anyway and running again and again into the tourist office to suck the new weather maps from the internet. After all, we must not wait too long, the fall in the Bering Sea has already blown the first low-pressure systems at the start and we do well, as fast as possible to get out of this uncomfortable sea area!

But how easy it is not. A look at the weather maps allows us to fear and worry are: a storm with winds up to 11 Beaufort will let off steam in the coming days on the Bering Sea, beyond even wait again two new low pressure systems out whip with their power the lake. Ugh, if this continues, we will probably never get out of here!

The next day the weather maps to see but again quite different, instead of 11 Beaufort's now 10 and the lows of the cyclone track is located further south, while the second low should migrate to the north. This makes the decision any easier, however. After all, we can ausmahlen in our imagination that the weathermen of Alaska will again provide completely different predictions tomorrow. Where and how to pull the lows so seems a bit similar to the choice of the numbers on the roulette table!

Council of war on board LA BELLE EPOQUE. When elk soup (a friendly radio operator from Nome has brought us fresh Elchfleich as a gift), we sit with Jeanine and Jean Pierre of ISATIS together, go our ways through and decide tomorrow morning leak but the new weather maps should not even be worse. In the outlook Louis seems quite happy with his decision to stay in Nome-embark the ship. 's Us doing a bit sorry to separate us here, if we also look forward to the old togetherness on board a little. Also, I'm a little worried, because after all, Louis has been looking to no shelter for him and camping in the land of grizzly bears is probably not a good idea. Our friendly web-neighbor Bob rushes to help me: he has a bunk Louis is free and welcome aboard. For the evening, he invites us also to have smoked salmon and whiskey aboard his BERNARD EXPLORER.

Bob's story is sympathetic: Two of his ancestors operated a commercial boat in the Arctic, discovered places and wrote with her TEDDY BAER history. Many years ago they were donated in honor of Sachs Harbour in a plaque of wood, which was, however, fallen victim to a fire some time ago. Officially, it was thought, however, not at all long and hard to purchase a new board and transported in the High Arctic and the many solicitations from Bob and his family could not change that. Without hesitation, the family put together the money to have finished a new plaque. Bob bought a sailboat, christened there on BERNARD EXPLORER and set sail to bring the panel to the north. Unfortunately, this year's, heavy ice year read his plan did not succeed one hundred percent, because of the way to Banks Island Bob remained blocked by pack ice. He provided the board instead in from Bernard Harbour, looked to a part of the coast and sailed up to the "Smoking Hills" before he made his bow back to Nome. But he will try again at some point it will also allow the pack ice that the board is installed in its old place, of which Bob is easily convinced.

Early in the morning we say goodbye to Louis, a quick hug, a promise to see each other again and then he throws our cast off and waving to us. Still the weather is calm and gentle pulls the Genoa LA BELLE EPOQUE through the turbulent waters of Norton Sound. We unpack the farewell gift from Bob and look forward to the delicious smoked salmon! I have to laugh: the Arctic was so much, but it was not a treat for sure. Fermented beluga whale or seal dried, spoiled, or dried shark Icelandic, Norwegian reindeer heart were always a nuisance for me while trying to appear against our hosts not rude. How much seems to me to, of all people, the United States - the country FastFoot and the supposed lack of culture - as a gourmet country top league!

The Bering Sea is only going to hit soon enough on appetite: already a few hours after the end comes, the expected change in the weather and the lovely hours are over. We propose to Genoa from to make the tiny red Fock space, tie a reef after another in the Grand and check that all lockers are locked, is stowed and lashed everything Storm proof inside LA BELLE EPOQUE and the deck properly and is cleared up, so that no line can be washed into the water. Jürgen closes the valve of the exhaust, so no einsteigende wave can reach the engine, and I download the new weather maps. They show tonight we go!

Even the strong wind blowing at the start: 40 nodes are reached, Jean Pierre lets us know about radio and the lake has already begun to establish themselves. It's no surprise also, we have just about 20 feet of water under the keel! I'm a bit worried but already, after all, is before us an area of ​​8 to 15 feet deep water. Well hopefully we will see there is not a nasty shock!

The full moon shines through the clouds fields and lets the white foamy giant rays of the Bering Sea. LA BELLE EPOQUE But this hardly seems to bother, it runs by itself before the storm wind, chasing the waves before then, and shakes with pleasure sailing. However, on board the peace depends wrong: I would like to slow down, heave. Fear me too much before the shallow lake. Would like to seek protection from Nunivak Island and anchor until the weather allows the car. Jürgen however with the crew of a ISATIS opinion: press and weiterpreschen to try to reach the farther south Hagemeister Island to find there before the next storm protection. We are right but both: how the already wild waves will develop in the still shallow water, is hardly to predict and more dangerous, on the other hand offers Nunivak Island is not well enough protected anchorage for riding safely the rotating storm winds of the coming lows. However, I'm only reluctantly to answer his arguments and hold my concerns, but on top of that because the Hagemeister Island will not bring sufficient protection against reported strong wind from the east.

Fortunately, my concerns are not acknowledged by the swell: Although there is the angry Bering Sea the next day on the shoals further on, four to five meters steep lake runs after us, but LA BELLE EPOQUE works with flying colors in the wild lake and we do not run risk of capsizing, even as the old Schifferl repeatedly surfs with 18 knots over the green waters. In relation to the keel us loose ISATIS seems harder to work at sea: some breakers you get in the cockpit and a wave hitting the boat with such force that even means to break it.

When the strong wind one day later finally decreases, we do not come to rest. We need to reach every place the Hagemeister Island to find shelter from the coming storm. The reef fly out of the mainsail and the strong wind sailing migrate back into the Vorkoje, but also the engine must always help, which makes me agree even more sour, after the diesel to start is incredibly expensive and the engine in this country, just because ' s just can not go fast enough strikes on the mind!

However, we finally arrived behind the hilly, green island and I'm glad to be here, but the weather maps now show clearly that the coming storm will rage with 9-10 Beaufort about us. We still have time and can prepare well: we beat Fritz's little bow anchor in front of our Bruce with a few meters of chain on, dig the 50 meter replacement chain from the bilge and extend our anchor chain to the anchor rope new behind the now 90 meter chain to splice. Already I want to solve the old splice between albatrosses and the anchor chain, the color goes out of my face: two Kadelen the fourfold beaten Square Line are torn - we would have not still noticed we had lost our anchor gear with safety in coming storm ! I could slaps: how could we overlook it, never more closely examine our mooring after so many nights at anchor during the last four years, to break!

Lucky. The pity is quickly remedied by the splices I hawser from the other, still new here at the end of the new chain. Well, from now on the annual inspection of the entire ground tackle is one of the fixed work on board!

Soon we are moored behind the island. We can but for the time being notified Eastsoutheast not expect good protection. After all, the basic Anchor holds only moderately, and instead of a good bay we are on the open coast. But that does not matter, after all, the right storm comes only in one and a half days from the northwest, and we think the opposite mainland shore to find good protection. Thus, the night is also quite uncomfortable and sleep is to think not at first, we are going swinging wildly on anchor watch!

Eventually, the light comes back and also the southeast wind will calm down. Come up the anchor and we run out to find the best possible anchorage. But the pre-selected bay wants to pay me no feel pretty good. After all, here the unchecked lake and hit the Bering Sea beginning with only 2 to 3 feet of water under the keel, this is bad but dangerous. No, once again I am studying the chart and I'm already convinced that we will continue to find better protection behind a promontory on the east. There can hardly stormy sea arrive, the place is too far behind Hagemeiste island. Jürgen has not convinced take long and we turn off. ISATIS of our new plan, however, is not quite excited and looking rather be here a little further.

In the meantime, a tug with Light hits one after another in the Hagemeister street. They are also here seeking protection from the coming storm, lets us know the friendly captain. Where we intend to anchor, he wants to know and he soon confirmed my chosen course: "Tongue Point is definitely the best place for the coming wind here if you up there behind where the wreck of the small fishing boat lies on the beach, goes! , finds its excellent holding ground of sand with some mud., where we have anchored more often. There usually is not a significant swell in East wind, the countryside offers good protection., we can this time, however, moored not. We lack the right Fender to the warping tug alongside the barges. No, we will just drive here in the sheltered waters behind the island in the district in the coming days! "

Soon, Jean-Pierre reports on the radio. The two have listened to the radio interview and now want to try but the anchorage to the east. Is still a rough night ahead of us, because the wind will turn again to East. But our anchor hold excellent and more than uncomfortable is not. For the storm with 50 knot wind from the northwest on the following day we could not be better, however.

Sometime is this low pulled through and the new weather maps show: a high bring to its West flank two days north-west winds with 8 Beaufort, then one night diminishing winds and a few hours of light winds in the morning and a half-day West winds up to 20 knots until the next storm blows for kick off. "Oh, who would have thought that we will assess once 35 to 40 knot winds from astern as a weather window for the onward journey!" I moan then, but what helps it already, we do not want to get stuck here forever, at least in Hagemeister. Because after all those around shifty winds is quite clear - it's so cozy here again not!

No sooner are the weather maps analyzed, we also exchange our headsail out again: once the heavy small jib must do their work. Precaution shall Jürgen two reefs in the mainsail, reefing the third will follow tomorrow after departure. I cook from a few Krautfleckerl and make the boat once again all clear storm. Man I'm glad when we brought this crazy Bering Sea only behind us.

This time it is then still a little thicker than the last trip: to the reported 8 Beaufort come the poisonous local winds through the passing squalls so. Winds that nearly put themselves LA BELLE EPOQUE on their side and we repeatedly see the port side of the wheelhouse hatch dive into the green water. But still to LA BELLE shows unmoved, barely freed again from the inclined position, it shakes and sends the water over her side to perk up and running unabated in the south and defy the next gust of wind or wave.

Just like the weather forecast promised the wind decreases after two days and one night we turn in front of the entrance to False Pass - the passage between the Aleutian Islands in the Gulf of Alaska - in. Here you can not shrink and swell at night and what makes it already, one more night to wait until we know this ghastly waters in the wake!

Residential street in Nome

But ... not every gold rush in Nome gehts equally well: Barackensieldung on the beach.

Nome can experience the wild west again.

Because ... the bad economy after 9/11, to revive a new gold rush.

Main Street in Nome

Some crazy people in Nome: this poor reindeer anschienend must always travel with his Lord through the area.

With large and small companion, the seabed is ransacked for gold!

Gold Digger-timbered be "boats" of aluminum ladders, rubber sausages, generators and screens!

But ... it's also cheaper!

Who can not afford a boat, must be content just to work on the beach.

Live ... and a little cheaper, because the beach will bear not much!

Lie remained in Nome

Everywhere you can find relics of the first gold rush!

But it is time for us to cross the Bering Sea.

Steep, extremely short and high, more gibts on this wild sea hardly say!

Brief respite in the Bering Sea

However, the dawn has something!

And ... here we go again. Move from Hagemeister Island to False Pass! (Sorry, I can do no waves at the non wackeltes picture!)

Managed. We have achieved False Pass. Before us now is the Alaska of our dreams!

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