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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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(This article was substantially revised in April 2019.)

First, a digression:

This article set represents a turning point in my Alaska annual article series — I'm in the process of selling my boat. I've made a boat tour of Alaska each summer for the past 17 years. I'm changing to an annual road/bicycle/kayak Alaska travel plan, for a number of reasons including a wish to get more exercise than boat tours allowed.

This transition will certainly change how many articles I write each year and their topics, but in a way I can't yet predict. So stay tuned, loyal readers. :)

End of digression. 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 bears behaved in a 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 was of a marginal boat occupied by marginal sailors that required a tow back to Valdez.

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 coastal areas 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 physical fitness, and it would mean I would find myself out of 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, which has multiple "feedback" effects:

  • The dark, ice-free ocean surface absorbs more solar energy than an icy surface does — this accelerates melting and temperature change.

  • The melting creates more than the historical amount of water vapor, and water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas.

  • 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, the latter of which has been experiencing epic droughts and wildfires.

Some readers may wonder how my decision to transition from a boat to a road trip plan will address excessive rainy Alaska weather. Well, if I'm traveling by road, I can move away from coastal areas to the interior, where much less rain falls:

There's a funny angle to this rainy-weather 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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