Race to Alaska: Gale Wait

Kelsey Breseman
3 min readJun 14, 2022

The Coast Guard was, to quote the race organizers, “unhappy” yesterday about the gale start. They rescued seven vessels and 20 people, two plucked out of the water. I’m not sure how we count in those statistics, but at any rate, the race organizers declared a moratorium on crossing until first light.

That was already our plan. Balancing the wind predictions against the need for slack tide to exit the harbor, we were looking at a 1am wake, hopefully starting the crossing around 4.

We spent the night tied up in Sequim harbor with team Goldfinch, two first years from Bowdoin, and Louistic Supersonic, a French team of two. They’re in much smaller craft than us, so we promised to let them know how things looked in the morning.

The very early start felt awful in my body. It has been a lot of 4ams in a row, and topping it off with an even earlier alarm had me almost falling asleep while pedaling. But it was beautiful: full moon on flat water, sky clear enough to see all of the big dipper. Ert brought me a spoonful of Graham’s espresso fudge to help keep me conscious as we rounded the twisting path of markers to the open water.

Rick on one pedal station, me at the other, we made a steady 1.5 knots on the still water: an hour to exit, but effective for Liam at the tiller, Graham on the bow shining a flashlight off of marker reflectors.

Around 3am, I went inside and crashed, awake only in intervals: wind picking up felt as my body rolled with the boat’s heeling; radio noise; louder voices and steeper chop; more radio.

When I next woke up, the water was calm around me, all quiet.

“What happened?”

Apparently, the race organizers called just as we got halfway up Dungeness Spit to ask us not to continue today. The wind was getting high, so turning back was already under discussion.

Today’s wind is especially scary: calmer on the south side, heavier on the Canada side starting halfway through the strait, and building throughout the day. We had planned to nose out and evaluate: if it felt okay, we calculated a 5-hour crossing in the wind to get in safe before the worst of it.

But it didn’t feel under control. And with the organizers requesting a stand down, a return…