Latest News & Blogs…

“Things are changing fast in Alaska and our own complex situation changes too. Life on a sailboat is often not easy and the influences of the real world create social and family pressures that are sometimes difficult to ignore. There’s always an intrinsic reason to move on…”

Together we decided to leave Alaska to slowly make our way home. Our upcoming blogs and latest news will reflect our feelings that we must perhaps face things as they really are.

In July the three of us, Marie, Henry and myself left Hoonah for the last time to sail south. We left behind exceptionally good friends we’d made during our three years there, it was a heartbreaking decision but one we deliberated knowing it was time to move on. Partly this was because of the changes in Alaska in the face of relentless growth in huge monster-sized cruise ships that often brings tacky tourism and also because of our ongoing engine issues that finally put paid to our plans to attempt a transit of the Northwest Passage… and after listening to lots of advise it was clear that we must head south to get things fixed once and for all. It’s notoriously difficult to fix an English sailboat in Alaska.

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A Right Good Alaskan Adventure…

Louise Ungless & Sarah Carter Glacier Bay Alaska

In June my youngest daughter Louise travelled out to Alaska to join me onboard Sänna. To meet up with her I sailed Sänna the forty miles or so from Hoonah to Auke Bay just north of Juneau, all the way there worried about docking solo in the absolute chaos that is Auke Bay’s Edward Statten Harbour…

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All photography Copyright ©️Louise Ungless


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Sänna Sitka

Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas

“I will give you water and share the fish we have for food. I will teach you when to sing our song and dance our dance, but you must not then plant your flag in this land and call it your land. Your King is not our King and your Lord is not our Lord.” Chief Kaawishté of the Tlinkit, Shakes V, 1878

The First Nation fisherman from Yankee Maid asked if I’d like three king crabs they’d caught earlier in the day. Sure, I said, I’d be more than pleased to take them off him. We got talking, his name was Robbie, he was true-blood Tlinget descended directly from Kaawishté, the tribal Chief Shakes over on Shakes Island… the Naanyaa.aayí clan still reside in present day Wrangell. Robbie bought over the crabs which he’d cooked up already so I dressed them down for my favourite crab & cucumber sandwiches (always cut diagonally) and fresh-crab salad. This was just fine. Afterwards I wandered over to Yankee Maid to thank Rob again. Come aboard, he said, you can meet Gerry our cook…

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Sänna Sitka

Slow Grown Alaskan Gold…

“Wes Tyler said it didn’t matter what got into our new cabin ceilings, yellow cedar could take anything without warping, twisting or bending even if we ended up at the bottom of the ocean.”

Well, our cabin ceilings and hatch linings had taken a hammering over the cold winter, condensation having formed and then frozen several times over until they began to rot. But we were in the best place to get new timber… the timber growing in Chichagoff’s Tongas Forest is probably some of the best available in the whole world…

Read about how my step-brother Gary and I both turned craftsmen and made an amazing discovery about slow growing Alaskan Gold…

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Sänna Sitka

By Gum It’s Good News From Alaska

“If it wasn’t for my bad luck then l would have no luck at all. The curse of my bad luck is in my head but my good luck is always on the horizon where the sun rises every day. I head that way but the sunshine is all the time in the same place each morning when I wake. Now I am old and my bones are creaking like the bending trees in the wind I thank my good luck each day I see the sun rise from the horizon of my dreams.” Chief Eagles Fist of the Huna.

So I got a call from Braden to say there’d been a really heavy snowfall and Sänna was much too low in the water. He said many of the fishing boats in Hoonah harbour were bad but not to worry, because they’re gonna get their shovels and clear the snow as best they could. Then he called to say everything was OK but a few days later he called and said there’d been another bad storm and this time everything had froze over… meanwhile we’re sitting in the sunshine of sunny Norfolk all stressed out wondering what the hell we’ll find in a few weeks time when we get back onboard…

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Wild Alaska

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Henry BealOur latest VIDEO production details our voyage deep into the Glacier Bay National Park from Hoonah in Southeast Alaska during 2016. Crossing the Icy Straits in gale force winds of thirty-five knots made a splendid change from endless engine work… all three of us relished the challenge of intense sailing to seek shelter in Bartlett Cove, where we needed to validate our permits with Park Rangers who vigorously restrict the number of vessels allowed into the immense Glacier Bay area. With over 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, frozen glaciers, temperate rainforest and exceptionally wild coastlines of the St Elias Mountain Range, Glacier Bay is an undoubted challenge for any sailing vessel.

We transported photographic and video equipment ashore to find and film Alaskan wildlife at its most extreme. Please take time to view this ten minute film production expertly produced by www.davidungless.com. Continue reading “Wild Alaska”

THE WILDERNESS THAT IS CHICHAGOF

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“If you do go there, and I really don’t think you should, if you do find the old mine and perhaps the young girl in the ragged white dress, if she begs you to take her with you, keep walking. Don’t listen or turn to look back, just keep walking…

That’s all I’m gonna tell you about that.”

Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska is huge, the second largest island in US territory. It’s a remote and wild place in a wilderness that is itself spectacular and largely unexplored; all of these mountainous islands create the fabled Inside Passage, the sheltered thousand-mile sea route stretching southwards from the Glacier Bay National Park and Skagway in the north to beautiful Vancouver and mighty Seattle in the south. Together with close-by Baranoff Island, almost impenetrable Admiralty Island, the more sedate Prince of Wales Island and numerous other islands, a small sailing vessel like Sänna could spend years exploring this region using the countless anchorages and remote fishing harbours hiding amongst the Sounds, fast flowing Straits and deep fjords.

Rugged Hoonah is much the largest settlement on Chichagof but not the remotest. There’s the infamous whiskey-watering-hole of Pelican… which is incredibly difficult to reach, the small hippie community of Elfin Cove and the rusting remains of the Chichagof Gold Mine, a ghostly camp hidden in the mists which many in Hoonah beg you not to visit, to not go there for a very good reason…

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Port Frederick, Hoonah

Frozen Alaska

Sänna Hoonah

Alaska is starting to freeze and it’s much too cold for an ageing Englishman to keep warm. Sänna is cleaned, wrapped up and winterised ready to withstand the long cold winter ahead. Her sails are down, electrics safely turned off and water supplies all disconnected ready for the big freeze. She’s been a pig to me through the summer and our love affair has sometimes been sorely tested but I’m sorry to leave her floating there forlornly in Hoonah Harbour. So I’m heading back to England to get back into my warm bed beside Marie, she herself left Hoonah a short while ago with Henry who, would you believe, is now fifteen. We’ve had a magical time this summer the three of us…

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Bear Encounter

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“We have been repeatedly warned about the temperamental nature of grizzly bears and so it proved. Our grizzly project, which has been an incredible adventure so far, is on hold after a daunting encounter which Henry and myself are arguably lucky to survive… and Marie isn’t particularly amused either.” Dave.

Of course, at this time, as luck would have it, we weren’t filming anything. We’d anchored in Reid Inlet in extremely remote Glacier Bay, at the foot of the Reid Glacier which comes right down into the sea. We were totally alone, tucked nicely inside the shelter of a small headland spit with no other vessels in the vicinity. We’d only seen a small group of camping kayakers over the other side of the inlet and that was all. The location was about as perfect as we could ever imagine. This is what happened…

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Is This Sailing Race Perhaps The Toughest In The World?

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All you sailboat racers out there will find this Race to Alaska event enthralling… and if you’re not a racing enthusiast then it’s an emotional story of tears, triumph and tribulation set against truly adverse conditions to test even the toughest sailors regardless of their ability…

Continue reading “Is This Sailing Race Perhaps The Toughest In The World?”