We planned to go all night, motoring because of no wind, and arrive at the Islands of Four Mountains in the morning. But I'm such a good boat driver that we had a 3+ knot current pushing us along, so we anchored off Herbert Island about 4:00 or 5:00 am for some sleep.
This morning I got up and went outside. I could hear something that sounded like explosions, except a really deep sound. I looked up and saw a huge cloud of ash in the direction of Okmok volcano, which has been erupting lately. But Okmok is 80 miles from where we anchored on Herbert Island. And that ash cloud looked closer that 80 miles. And 80 miles is a long way for sound to travel.
We took off toward Chuginadak Island, home of Cleveland Volcano. On the way we met a fishing boat and talked to them on the radio. I asked if that ash cloud was dangerous. (It was hidden by the clouds at the time.) He said it shouldn't be a problem, that Okmok had been going off for a while now.
As we got to northwest side of Chuginadak Island, we could see that it was Cleveland Volcano erupting, just about 2.5 miles from us and 6 miles from where we anchored. It was loud and pretty scary. A huge ash cloud was going up, and we could see huge chunks of rock flying up incredibly high into the air. We had a pretty good view of the top from a gap in the cloud cover.
I was thinking about Mount St. Helens, and decided that running away at 8 knots wouldn't help much if the whole mountain went up. So we hung around a while and took a lot of pictures. It was cold, windy, rainy, and exciting.
When we left the northwest side headed south, the clouds obscured the peak, but we could still hear the eruption inside the boat, despite two engines running, a 30+ knot wind, and rain.
We did determine that it would be smelly, dirty, and probably a little dangerous to go around the island on the downwind side, so we backtracked to the south side of the island. We found a bunch of steam coming out of the ocean at the shoreline. I'm not sure whether this was caused by hot water running into the ocean, or by hot gas or material coming out of the volcano, or by alien spacecraft. At any rate, it was really cool looking. Or hot, rather. The ocean was boiling in places.
None of us knew if this was normal, or if it was related to the huge eruption less than two miles to our north, which, incidentally, was very loud at this point. And scary. We still couldn't see the top of the volcano because of the clouds, but it was substantially louder than it had been. We started to go to land so we could feel the earthquakes, but we decided to skip it because of the wind.
Since the ash from the volcano was blowing where we had planned to go in the Islands of Four Mountains, we didn't go there. Instead we moved on to Umnak Island and anchored with 25-30 knots of wind and occasional 5-foot waves. Since then the waves and the wind have subsided, and it looks like we won't be blown to Siberia tonight.
It is now 1:25 am, 7/22. We are anchored off Cape Udak on Umnak Island, 52°55'N 168°48'W. Water temperature is 42.8°, outside air temp is 48, inside is 57. Wind is out of the east at 9 knots. The boat is covered with dark ash, smeared by the rain. Melinda cooked a cake tonight. We watched Tora, Tora, Tora. Melinda and Josh watched The King and I while I slept this afternoon.