By all measures, the Gulf of Alaska is a large, imposing body of water. Even in the summer, weather windows to get across are short and can be few and far between. Because of this, many mariners choose to take a longer northerly route to make stops along the way, or they go on a schedule with marginal weather and suffer most of the way across. Having sailed the 560-mile east-to-west passage from Sitka to Kodiak Island in 2017, we knew what we were getting into and that when the opportunity to cross presented itself, we had to take it without hesitation. In our experience, patience pays off.

Yahtzee romps southward towards Kodiak

After a rip-roaring sunny sail from Tonsina Bay on the Kenai Peninsula down to Kodiak, we resupplied and then headed out to a couple beautiful nearby anchorages to meet up with good friends and wait for the weather to turn. We rendezvoused with SV Arctic Monkey at Long Island and spent several days exploring the island’s verdant forests and the interesting remains of a U.S. Army outpost during World World II. Over that time, as we’d hoped, the weather began to shape up. Lows with adverse easterly winds moved through and high pressure was behind it. That was our window.

Both boats scurried back to Kodiak to prep for the crossing and when Tuesday morning dawned bright and sunny, it was go time. Arctic Monkey and Yahtzee slipped dock lines together at 10:45 am and pointed east on the rhumbline with a planned landfall four days later at Goddard Hot Springs near Sitka. Light winds were expected for several portions of the 500-plus mile jaunt across the Gulf and it certainly started out that way. We chugged along under power through the day and into the night with a gap of about 5 to 10 miles between us.

Our crew seamlessly switched into offshore mode and the routines of sailing round-the-clock began to take shape. Porter and Jill took the first night watch together and I came on deck just in time to experience a stunningly beautiful sunset at 11 pm. With no land on the horizon, the ocean lit up and then slowly faded through shades of orange, red and finally cool blues. Certainly, one of the highlights of the passage was the amount of daylight we had. Day three was the summer solstice and most nights never really got truly dark, rather, a dusky combination of sun and moonlight lingered gracefully on the horizon.

Midnight on the Gulf of Alaska
Porter and Jill stand watch together
Champagne sailing conditions with no land in sight for days

A southerly breeze trickled in overnight and by mid-morning on Wednesday we were sailing fast under our big blue spinnaker. All the while, Porter and Magnus did schoolwork and played in the cockpit. We listened to music, read books and told jokes with Yahtzee shooting eastward at a pleasant 6 to 9 knots. A highlight of the passage was how comfortable the boys were back out on the ocean under sail in a variety of sea conditions. Not much phases them, and whether sailing or doing dishes, they love to lend a hand. 

After 12 hours of gorgeous spinnaker sailing, the wind went light. Down came the sail, on went the engine and we plodded eastward through the night with hopes it would return the next day. Much to our dismay, only light zephyrs appeared and Thursday wore on with Jill and I turning our attention toward the fuel gage. We really needed one more full day of sailing so we wouldn’t get low on fuel or have to bob on the sea like a cork waiting for breeze. Sure enough, Friday morning brought party cloudy skies and at 5 am we were under full sail again with the thought that more wind was on the way. Boy was it.