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Panoramic view of the Alaska coast near Lituya Bay (Mt. Fairweather in center) (click for full-size)

Alaska 2018
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: May - July, 3900 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Primary Activity: Hiking and kayaking, rescues, fixing electronics, meeting angry, confused bears.

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Alaska 2017

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First, this is the final installment in my Alaska annual article series — I'm in the process of selling my boat. I've made a field trip to Alaska each summer for 17 years and I think it's time to try something new.

I had many adventures this year, some scary, all wonderful. Here's what I cover in this article set:

I met a lot of bears this season — most were normal trail encounters in which the bear behaved in a normal and predictable way, but one encounter, involving a total of seven brown bears in close proximity, was extraordinary and rather dangerous.

This season I managed two rescues — one of a German woman on a kayaking expedition who needed help both because of perfectly awful, wet, windy weather and because of a defective, leaking rental kayak; another a marginal boat occupied by marginal sailors that ended up requiring a tow back to port.

I managed to repair some boat electronics using a simple method I've used over the years — I describe this easy-to-apply fix to what may seem to be completely inoperative electronic gear.

My primary reason for selling the boat is the increasing amount of rain in Alaska compared to 15 years ago. As time passed I found myself spending more and more time inside my boat, waiting for the rain to stop. This year I waited an extraordinary twelve days for one sunny day — this is bad for one's health, and it would mean I would find myself out of physical shape to take advantage of the few sunny days.

The increased amount of rain in Alaska is more than an illusion or statistical fluctuation — it results from global climate change. As the planet warms up, the arctic ice melts, creating more than the normal amount of water vapor, also recent Alaska air temperatures are higher and warm air can hold more moisture. This moves the region of maximum rainfall northward over the years and decades, resulting in more rain in Alaska and less in California, which has consequently been experiencing epic droughts and wildfires.

There's a funny angle to this rain story. Once I decided to avoid the seemingly perpetual rain by heading back south, upon leaving Prince William Sound for southeast Alaska the sun came out and stayed out, all the way back to my home in Washington State. It was this unexpected sunny weather that made possible the nice, clear-weather panorama at the top of this page.

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