Seward

After paddling in the Kechamak Bay my next journey took me to Seward. First, the only reason to come here, was really to visit Christie, daughter-in-law of the captain of Bering Hunter, the tender that brought me to King Cove. It wasn’t his idea, but his son’s Mike, whom I met for all but 30 minutes, when he came to pick me up and drop me off to the ferry in King Cove. Maybe any other time I would not go and visit people I don’t know, but this trip was all about meeting, trusting and spending time with strangers.

The beginning of the trip to Seward was a bit shaky, straightforward journey finished 20 minutes out of Homer, when the coach run out of gas, and the driver called his mum to rescue. Fortunately, time was, what I had plenty on this trip, so it was just a matter of fact of waiting, eventually we reached Seward, and Christie did come and picked me up.

Seward is a small but very important town. It lies on the cruise ships’ route and as it has good links, both road and rail to Anchorage and other important places in Alaska, it gets very busy in the summer. Also unlike other places it kept a little bit of its historical buildings to create interesting enough high street, and calls itself a mural capital of the world.

It is a fishing town in a deep bay surrounded by glaciers. And it has a lot of paddling, too. I could not resist and rented a kayak for a day paddle that took me around Fox Island in the south part of a Resurrection Bay.

First I though that my journey took me to Seward to visit someone with connection to the Bering Sea fishermen of whom I would always think fondly, their work is not easy, their lifestyle hard. But really Seward kind of accomplishes the history tread that goes through my trip.

Alaska belonged to Russia before. Russian hunters and fur traders were discovering the area since 18 century establishing many trade centres along their path, influencing, not always kindly (like any others) the way native people lived. The orthodox religion is very visible on the peninsula, Russian geographic names are everywhere.

But Alaska is not Russian, it had become US state in January 1859. Quite a long time after it’s acquisition on October 18, 1867, it was purchased for 7.2 million dollars, and William Seward was the guy, who negotiated the deal. Why it was sold was up to discussion. In 1725 Vitus Bering started to explore the islands, and an important Russian trading company was established; when the Americans finally started to expand west in early 1800s, the competition started. By purchasing Alaska US gained important access to Pacific, by this time, following Crimean war, Russia might have lost interest in the region, which was expensive to keep control off due to its distance. Maybe Russia was hoping that US will gain more power in the Pacific region against an important rival of both, the British.

So here we go, the journey all makes sense now.

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Kachemak Bay with a Greenhorn

Michal and I always marvelled at people going on trips, journeys and expeditions and making it unnecessarily complicated for themselves by bringing equipment that isn’t up to the job. Unsuitable clothing, too thin sleeping bags, tents that do not withstand winds, the list can just go on. Of course, we have had some experiences, when what we had with us turned out not to be as perfect as promised, but usually it could have been sorted just fine.

I have spent five days last week kayaking in the Kechamak Bay just on the other side of Homer. I packed all my expedition stuff, rented a funky red plastic kayak with rudder, and bought a tent, as we only had one on the peninsula, and it was Freya’s. I had a bit of a pause for thought when I saw its name: Greenhorn. Is that a good idea to rely on something called Greenhorn? Perhaps.

Water taxi took me across the bay and dropped me off in Jokolov Bay early in the afternoon, it was sunny and warm and I kind of just floated with the tide until it brought me to Kayak Beach, two hours into my first day I had enough and decided to spend sunny afternoon on the beach.

The campsite here had wooden platforms for tents, and food storage facilities to hide food away from bears.

I unpacked my tent hoping it’s a free standing one for the platform, although it had rings all around. I started to pitch it and the reality was slowly hitting me, the tent isn’t free standing, and what’s more, it didn’t have any guy ropes. I have five nights ahead of me, with a promise of rain for the following three days. The night wasn’t a peaceful night, I allowed myself to get worried of what if, when it would, and so on. The loud noise in the middle of the night sounding like a bear didn’t help. Then while I was packing it in the morning one of the tent pole holding strap ripped out, so now my tent also had a hole in one corner.

I spent most of next day paddling and worrying, looking up to the clouds and imagining the next night. Not really a good frame of mind, but fortunately the surroundings were too beautiful to allow me to keep going on like this all day. I found a place to camp for my second night. My tent was pitched on a landing of wooden stairs leading from the beach to a cabin, with an idea that bears don’t walk on stairs. I stayed on the beach to cook as the tent was too small for anything other that lying down. The rain started and I had to shelter under the bank covered by some thick leaves and branches. It was time to make a plan for the night. The missing strap was replaced by a stone inside, the tent was propped up by dry bags, I put on my water proofs deciding that if the tent gets wet through, and the sleeping bag, I may actually stay dry.

No bears that night, it was calm and quiet despite the rain, and surprisingly comfortable and warm. I woke up in the morning, it was still raining, and I had to make a plan of how to keep everything as dry as possible, especially when packing without a shelter. Waking up in waterproofs proved to be smart idea, I just rolled out and was ready. Again, the branches and leaves helped. It actually went ok, and while I sat there having breakfast wearing my dry suit watching the rain I started to enjoy it. Who cares that my tent is not cut for the game, I am. Going on trips having good equipment is easy, making it work with bad stuff is a skill, or fun.

Tutka Bay was beautiful that morning, sea eagles and otters for company. I paddled all day until Halibut Cove, a very interesting place of many rather eccentric looking houses. However there was nowhere to camp, all private property around here. The last three kilometres crossing was a bit of a hard work into the force five headwind. The day was exciting, and there and now I fondly thought about my little Greenhorn tent. Yeah! I couldn’t wait for the next adventure that will await us during the night.

I landed on The Right Beach, and luckily there were people here. A family of grandparents, parents, an uncle, a teenager, and two little girls. Fantastic, I don’t need to camp alone. Some of them stayed in tent, the rest in a rented yurt. I was offered food, wine, berries. I pitched my tent closer to them as the bear presence was everywhere here. So glad Greenhorn and I weren’t alone.

They all marvelled at the size of it. And were well impressed when just before rolling into it, I put my waterproof pyjama on.

The following day, Sunday, was the forecasted very rainy one. The family was packing to go home, but before they left, they said they hired the yurt for two nights, only using it for one. And offered it to me. So I acquired a yurt for 24 hours, marvellous. I only paddled a little bit that day as it was raining, and windy, the yurt proved great set up for book reading.

Many people come to Kechamak Bay to hike to the various glaciers that are up in the mountains. On Monday I first paddled to Halibut lagoon, where entry is so narrow that it’s only accessible with the right tidal flow. It was early morning all was still but the rain, and the lagoon became a playground for porpoises.

After that, I went to a place called Saddle. It’s a start of a very popular hike, so I figured out there might not be bears on the trail and I can do it by myself without bear spray and all. No bears just their poohs. I reached the Grewingk lake. There were sightings of sow and cubs during the week, but I was lucky to meet few people there. One couple invited me to walk back with them, so I didn’t need to sing and shout all the way back.

I camped on the same beach as before. Pitched my Greenhorn, last time tonight. However, I was hoping for some other people to come here to not be alone. My plan B was, if I had to be alone, and the yurt empty, I would sneak in there. I stayed out on a beach for a while, and when it was finally time to go in, I’ve been inside a yurt for about 30 minutes when I heard him. A black bear was walking around, putting his head to the door, then sniffing by the window. I couldn’t take any photos as I was very close to hiding under the bed. So that’s me done with going outside until the morning.

Last day, and my water taxi pick up was arranged for just after midday about 2 hours paddle away from here. I left early, and spent some time floating around the Gull Rock watching out for puffins.

Alaska Marine Highway

My journey took me to King Cove, city, yes it has that status, on the south side of the peninsula. From here I can board the ferry to go as far as Homer, however due to the storms it is one day delayed which means one extra day for me here.

King Cove is the biggest town I’ve seen so far, it has two parts, the harbour with the Peter Pan fish processing plant and the village itself. 

I was again lucky, and Peter Pan allowed me to stay in one of their bunk houses. On Sunday Brook, Zain and I took a drive around the village. No walking here much, as the bears are in close presence.

I in the evenings, I joined in the local entertainment and actually won a game of pool, it was 20 years when I last played it.

There was one thing that struck me about the place. Wherever I go people are trying to understand my role in here, I am not local, I am not a fisherman, I don’t work on the plant nor am I an observer. And I was wondering how do they know I am not one of those things. Then, it dawned on me. I do not wear these brown wellies. Everyone wears them here, in many different fashions. So I guess that’s what makes me stand out. The lack of them. 

The Tustumena came on Monday afternoon, and it will be 48hours till I would disembark in Homer. The journey was interesting. I could admire the views of the south of the peninsula that Michal has paddled before me.  

We briefly stopped at Sand Point, and I quickly went to see the Russian Orthodox Church, well weather beaten but still standing. The Russian Orthodox religion well represented here. On the way to the church, just by chance I met a Tina, who hosted Michal and Freya some time before.  It wasn’t planned, and it was a chance encounter, the dog’s name is Charlie. 

The journey continued, with much of book reading, listening to some music, and landscape watching. The boat goes every two weeks, from Homer to Dutch Harbour and back. 

Eventually we reached the Homer Spit. I am hoping to stay here for a bit and maybe get some kayaking done. 

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bering Sea

I am not new to hitchhiking. The first time I remember hitchhiking was with my parents leaving an air show. I hitchhiked a lot when at university, as my uni town and home town were 400km apart,  and the train connection was long and expensive. With Michal we used to hitchhike to go climbing to France and to Spain. I remember one particular trip, that took us across the Alps in January, very cold, six days before my final exam at uni.

Sometimes, with my friend, we hitchhiked as a way to see random places relying on people to tell us where it’s the best to go.

I hitchhiked with big bags, with skies, 2 bicycles. So over time, I thought it would be great to hitchhike with a sea kayak, but haven’t had an opportunity yet. I hitchhiked on roads big and small, motorways, in towns and cities.

What I haven’t expected at all was that I would actually hitchhike on the sea to reach the so called  Alaskan Marine Highway. Yeah, I became a hitchhiker in Bering Sea.

The first boat I ended up on, was the rescue boat, Tony’s. However, I did not get much time to spent there. Just as I was starting to feel perfectly well, and was considering to become a commercial fisherman for the day, a tender appeared in the distance.

It was called Melanie, and was coming over to pick me up. It’s much bigger than Tony’s boat, so me and my stuff won’t be in a way of anyone.

Josh, Patty, Sam and Zack, the crew, made me feel welcome, I got my own tiny cabin, but spent most of the afternoon of the deck watching the fishing boats arrive, empty their fish into the tank, then getting fuel or water.

This went on until quite late in the evening. After that we made a brief stop at Port Moller, however, since it was already eleven in the night, I decided to stay on the boat. It picked up crates with ice, and went on to anchor in a bay better protected from the elements than the harbour is.

The next morning we took off and aimed right inside the Herendeen Bay. There the tender was meeting other two to transfer fish to take to King Cove to Peter Pan Cannery. I got to see how fish is sucked by a “hoover” from one tank into the other. But it wasn’t just the fish that was transferred, later in the afternoon myself and my stuff swapped from Melanie to Bering Hunter, which will be later heading to King Cove.

And King Cove is a place along the Maritime Highway giving me a chance to catch a ferry further east.

The crew of the Bering Hunter, Shaun, Brook and Zain, was very welcoming, too. Even Stanley the dog was stopping to have a chat. It will take good 24 hours for us to teach the Pacific side of the peninsula. Sadly the views were covered in fog and low clouds.

While the fish was still transferred, the hose broke loose spitting some on the deck, just when I came to watch. And as I explored the deck of the new tender, I noticed that it wasn’t just dead fish that was lying there, Freya’s kayak was there, too. So here we go. I think this is it, it almost makes me a hitchhiker with a kayak!

THE RESCUE

Thursday finally came, according to the forecast the calmest day of all four since Sunday. The day we should have been paddling to Port Heiden. Well, one of us is paddling, while the other has to go with the broken boat somewhere else. 

Because I won’t be able to continue on the journey by myself in Freya’s kayak, it was me who drawn the short straw. In the same time Freya made a decision for both of us, that she will continue to paddle, while I will fend for myself. I must admit, however happy I am that it wasn’t me breaking the boat, that no one sustained any injury, that no equipment was lost apart from Freya’s tow line, I am at the moment disappointed of having the trip cut short.

We got up early, as for the rescue we wanted to use the opportunity of slack tide at high tide, when the sea at our beach should be the calmest. Tony, fisherman who we met during our stay in Port Moller, has a dingy on his boat, and has been willing to assist us since Sunday evening.

And true to his word, at eight o’clock in the morning Tony launched his little dingy to come and get me and my stuff, while Freya will tow her broken pieces behind towards Tony’s fishing boat.

It took a bit of faff before we launched, as Freya was high on the fact that a rescue was going on, and that she will paddle, she’s been talking about it every day since Monday. Her and Tony exchanged gifts, and so on. Finally we were ready to go.

Firstly we helped Freya to launch and then Toni brought the two pieces to her.

My stuff and me made the dingy very heavy, and no, I am not a rower, so it was slightly slower progress from the beach to the fishing boat. Fortunately, there was Tony in his full diving gear and flippers pushing us along like a human propeller. Tony and Freya were way excited, to me it felt like journey to the gallows. 

Luckily it didn’t last long. We transferred all that was staying including the wreck on Tony’s boat, where AC was waiting for us. We waved the last good byes, and Freya was off. I immediately had a distraction from my misery, despite how calm it has been, I started to feel sea sick. Ouch.

The only sensible thing was to accept a patch against sea sickness, and make my home on the upper deck watching the horizon. Slowly it was getting better, and after AC’s super sweet ginger tea and some crackers, I was ready to look around. Sun was shining, snow capped mountains were coming out into view, and Tony and AC were getting ready for fishing.

I felt good enough to watch, but kept out of their way, they know what they doing, and don’t need me in a way. Yeah, it’s getting quite exciting not knowing what will follow in the next few days, as I make my way from here. In the meanwhile I watched the net to go in, then be taken out with some catch. 

CAPE SINIAVIN

By the time we leave and move on, we would have spent three full days on the beach just west of Cape Siniavin.

Alaska once belonged to Russia, and Russian fur hunters were the ones moving along this peninsula, this part of history is here, mainly written in the names of the places. And while Cape Kutuzov as named after a ship that was used to explore the Aleutian Islands, Cape Siniavin is named after a political and explorer.

The place where we made our camp was incredible. Long black sand beach, with ridge just behind full of berries and wild flowers, cliffs with birds, and nesting sea eagles on both ends. We decided to go for walk towards the main cliff, the Cape Siniavin. Following previous experience, before we took off along the beach, we decided to check over the ridge what our neighbours are doing, and sure, one of them was there.

Right, we didn’t fancy to leave the tent and risk that the bear would like it and move in while we are away. So we tried yesterday’s tactic to scare him away. Also, it’s not really advisable to go for walk with bear behind our backs. However, this time the bear wasn’t having it, it just would not get disturbed in whatever he was doing. Probably munching on berries, he was slowly zigzagging towards us or the beach. We showed off all our tricks, shouting, Freya’s steel band orchestra, my magic bear scare stick, nothing worked. The bear kept on going towards the beach and the cliff, where we wanted to go, too, seemingly not noticing us at all.

In the end we gave in, and slowly followed behind him. At some point it looked like we just went for stroll on the beach and took our pet bear with us. He was graciously going ahead of us, from the grass to the beach, then further along. Finally our paths split, as he continued under the cliffs, and we joined the path on top of them. The bear found a dead fish, pulled it along a bit, then ate it. I also made a discovery, not a fish to eat, but a glass ball. Hurray, my first glass float!

Since we decided to closely follow the cliff edge as not to miss anything that might be happening underneath, we soon had to wade through high, hard, wet plants drenching our shoes completely. The view was worth it though. First we climbed on top of the navigation light, and took in the scenery, then we went to see the walruses.

They were lying on the narrow strip just under the highest of the cliff, a mass of blueberry brownish pinkish bodies, long tusks everywhere. Suddenly we also saw our bear, just sneaking past them and walking away further east. Probably moving to better place since we invaded and kept disturbing his current one.

We spent time watching the walruses, first from the cliff, then from the beach in good distance away from them as not to cause stampede. Amazing, they swam, then laboureusly climbing onto the beach. It must have been a heck of a hard work for them, as they would move few paces. Then lie down and rest, then move again. The whole pack never seemed to stop, as as soon they all found a space, and lied down, one started to encourage his neighbour to move and to give him space. The tusks were long and strong, although some were missing one or parts of both.

We watch the and watch them until it was time to make our way back over the hill. We followed the well traveled bear trail and reach and our tent comfortably, quite fast without any further issues.

I was please, I brought my crocks with me, hopefully it would be sunny and dry tomorrow, and my shoes would have a chance to dry, as I am not putting wet ones on.

Indeed, we were lucky, the day broke into sunshine, and by one in the afternoon our shoes and socks were dry. It was time for another walk, this time east of the Cape. Again we chose the bear trail and then joined another long beach. It was bit of a glass ball hunt. But really we just walked for the sake of walking until we found a perfect couch to sit on and watch the life go pass by for a while. Tomorrow is the time for rescue.

THIRD DAY OF PADDLING

It was Sunday, and we already spent three nights in Port Moller, it was time to move on. The weather for today was slightly better, the wind was definitely calmer then previous days. The sea height was still a bit elevated, up to 1.5 metres give of take few, but we were wanting to go. After long discussion we decided to go. I was still apprehensive about the size of the surf, but Freya was sure it would be doable. 

We both got up quite early, and I went to look for Aaron or Randy to see if they can give us a ride in the cart to see the shore outside of the headland. We managed to do that, and the surf indeed looked very small. We were definitely going. So what followed was a period of high activity of packing, saying good byes and finally leaving. It felt god to be on the water again.

The wind was very low, the tide with us and we were making good progress along the coast. The shore line wasn’t exciting in a way one may imagine, no dramatic cliffs, no pretty views as it was still a bit foggy, no wild life, no anything that one often associates with sea kayaking.

The shoreline was formed by black sand with green grass on top, there and now it was broken by river mouth, which we could not see, but which announced itself by a change of water colour from grey to brown. Those two never mix. 

It started to be quite warm and sunny, and soon we both took the tops of our dry suits off. Then I joked I was finally paddling like Freya, wearing a black top. She had a different opinion, as I still kept my buoyancy aid on. And why not, I like it, it’s orange, and kept my top dry.

At some point we reached Cape Kutuzov, it looked a bit like Seven Sisters on the south coast of England just made of mud rather than chalk. Because the current was in our direction, we decided to continue further towards Cape Siniavin. We heard that there were walruses, and Freya wanted to see them that evening. The wind was getting stronger and stronger making the waves bigger, and I was starting to get a bit cautious about where and in what we may land. But Freya was fine, saying that around the corners, we might get a bit sheltered landing. What can I do, just paddle forward.

We approached the cape Siniavin, which was a welcomed change in view, as it actually was a cliff raising up, with what looked as hundreds of walruses packed underneath on a narrow beach. We decided to come closer to shore to see them, but could not get really close because of the raising waves and breakers.

After that we started to look for places to land. It was either beach between two headlands or after the next headland. Suddenly Freya thought she saw a place where it was good to land. It had some waves and a dumper, nothing I get very pleased about, but also it looked doable.

We discussed what and how we will do, and Freya went in first. I was meant to wait for her signal to come in, once she gets her boat up. I have no chance to move heavy loaded boat out of waves. Freya went and after a while landed, then the struggle with the boat began. Somehow it was taking quite a time, so I had to paddle around, and mostly turn into the waves and paddle back out as not to be swept by wind and current around the next cliff. Then finally the wave of her arm came and I could go.

It actually wasn’t that bad, a bit confused, but fortunately not real big breakers that usually scare me to stand still. Then it was a matter of waiting for three bigger waves to pass underneath before trying to catch the back of the last one to get to the beach before the dumper forms. Freya was standing there, ready to grab my bow. Done! Landed. But the feeling of victory and excitement was very short lived. As Freya suddenly said, that this was the end of my paddling trip. She wrecked her boat. And there it was, the best boat in the world was lying there with a mouth open bent in two pieces.

No, this is beyond repair here and now. So yes, the trip as it is at the moment is over for both of us, but really once we get of here, Freya can paddle in her other boat. 

Three days on paddling Alaska I have done. And just as I started to enjoy it and was getting into grips of getting most of Freya’s boat setting, it was over. Yes, fortunately no one was hurt, and no other equipment was lost. So that is definitely good, as for paddling, who cares, I might have to do that somewhere else.

After sorting the boats and equipment, we pitched tent on the beach. A brief peak over the top of the grass revealed a bear, but Freya managed to scare him away while I bravely covered behind her. This was really my first bear in the open with nowhere to hide, so I wasn’t the bravest of us. The bear run away up the hill and hopefully won’t come back.

We moved into the tent, I cooked dinner, while Freya started to exchange many messages with Tony from Port Moller of how we can get out of here. We have lots of food, fuel, and some water, so can stay for a while. The weather is meant to be better in few days, Thursday, so they can possibly come and rescue us. We will see. 

Port Moller

We arrived to Port Moller at 10.30 in the morning, and were surprised by the hive of activity here. The information that Michal and Freya had from previous trip was that Port Moller had nothing going on there as it burned down. Luckily, what we found here was a great opposite.

Port Moller has a very convenient position in the lagoon, and is sheltered by sandy spit. A cannery was opened here in the early 1900’s. Nowadays it specialises in fish processing and freezing. It’s run by Peter Pan Fisheries, whose manager Garry was so kind that he allowed us to stay here, gave us beds and invited us to meals. As we would be here for few days due to the weather, it was a welcomed offer.

We were surprised at how extensive the camp was. However it’s all surrounded by electrical fence, so of course when we were moving stuff and boats in, and I had to close it, I got a big electric shock. At least I know how the bears may feel.

The whole place built on sand dunes is on stills and has wooden walkways. There are quite a few workers and fishermen, so it also has a store. Unfortunately last August, almost on its centenary anniversary, part of the original dock and plant burned down. This means that ow there are also several construction workers rebuilding the place. This is why Sacha’s husband has been here, as it is his company doing the work.

We settled in and went for our first meal here, the lunch. The dining hall is the best place where to meet people, and find out many interesting facts about the area.

We were treated to two rides out in the funky little 4×4, they happen late in the evenings, when the low tide provides the highway.

On the first ride we rode to the other side of the bay in the lagoon and to the nearest headland towards the open sea with Sacha and Aaron. Of course, Freya got to drive, too.

The second evening we were first taken on a tour of a fishing boat Nancy Galley crewed by Tony and AC. All very interesting, I was surprised to see how little they can see out of the window, so will be even more cautious next time I see a fishing boat close on the sea.

After that it was time for a second ride out in the car. We went to the top of a hill this time to the site of the former radar station of the Cold War United States Air Force Distance Early Warning Line. It was built in the 1950’s, and deactivated in the 1969. This was also a reason why Port Moller had an airport built, or rather a gravel runway. Unfortunately it has been foggy most of the day, so the view over the bay wasn’t the best.

On the way down we stopped by the original dam which provided drinking water for the camp, now destroyed. And then drove past the current water source, a well.

Similar to the previous trip when we saw sea otters, and eagle, this one was rich in animals’ sighting. We saw a moose standing ahead of us on the path. Sadly, no photos of it.

I was also treated to the sight of my first bear. Now, that was exciting, because really, I’ve never seen a bear out in the open, yet, the circumstance where we saw the bear were a bit sad. The bear was actually coming to feed on the barbecued trash that is being regularly burned in the dunes behind the compound. So we saw it behind thick smoke, eating something from the the pile.

The animal safari was finished by watching Port Moller resident foxes being put to sleep by Randy’s lullabay on harmonica.

The evening was finished by a visit and a tour of a fishing trawler, the one that collects all the fish from the little fishing boats out at sea.

Paddling in Nelson Lagoon

Tuesday 01.08.2018

This is it, finally today we get to do what I came here for: paddling. The forecast is not perfect, but gives us some opportunity to launch and hope that we will be able to get somewhere. We would really like to go to Port Moller on the other side of the lagoon, some 40km away. But the strong wind later in the afternoon might stop us. However, we also have a chance of continuing a little bit the following morning.

As Freya has been here before and knew some of the locals, she asked Mike The Walrus (according to his moustache) to come at 7.30am to give us, the bags, and kayaks a lift to the harbour. Seven thirty was soon gone with no sight of Mike, we retrieved the boats from the shed, squeezed them past many old machinery, and by 8am decided to carry them to the beach to launch from the village. I was a bit apprehensive as low tide was at 9am, and the last thing I wanted was to start the paddle with long haul to the water. Luckily a car suddenly appeared, and someone by the name of Chris, a fisherman from Kodiak, helped us to get the bags from the Inn to the water’s edge. Then he stood watching us packing. In the end he said he was exhausted just by watching our activity, and frankly, that was exactly how I felt, as I was really trying to pack fast so Freya didn’t need to wait for too long.

Finally we were off. For some reason Freya objected to going towards the harbour and its deep channel, and was taking us through the lagoon. I guess it was to stay in calm waters for the start. I have to get used to her boat after all. My worry at that moment was the wast area of green I remembered from the chart and the nearing of low water time. Yet, the start of the paddle was great, I got to show off my pink sun glasses, the grass on surrounding shores was green, what else one needs. Then we hit the shallows. Twice we had a chance to turn towards the deeper channel, and twice we chose to wade and pull the boats towards deeper water. But in the end, we had to give in, and after pulling one kayak together to get it over the dry, we finally started to head towards the deep channel still in the vicinity of the harbour.

By the time we reached it, the sun was gone, the wind got slightly stronger, yet all was good and we continued east. The boat Freya thought was waiting for us turned out to be pulling a net, and once we passed it we were free with no distractions.

Soon the wind picked up quite a bit and settled to be a solid headwind. I could not find my best position within the new set up in the cockpit, and most of the time, I have to admit, I gave in to arm power rather than letting my legs to do the hard work. Obviously Freya was in her element, and quite ahead of me. At some point she had enough of waiting and said she would put me on the tow, so we get there faster. Why not, it was quite interesting to experience the towing at the other end than usual. We settled into the rhythm and went past one, then second island until we reached land on the other side, just as Freya said, faster.

We were at Point Rozhnov, and there seemed to be little sense in continuing and struggling into the wind. If the forecast is true, there would be a better window the next morning.

The place seemed friendly, not too far to carry boats at high tide, a bit of gravel for tent, and some fresh water stream with dead mouse and fish in case we have to stay longer. I had the privilege to spent a nigh in my new home for the next few weeks, very nice and spacious.

Wednesday 02.08.2018

Trusting the forecast and not wanting to get stranded in the shallows again, we set the alarm for half past three in the morning to leave as soon as possible. It was dark when to got up, and raining when we were packing, just what one needs when trying to do it as fast as possible. So at 5.05am we left, fast for me, with some waiting time for Freya, seems like this will be a theme of this trip. The wind was calmish and we flew around Point Edward, then stopped for quick break and breakfast before starting to cross towards Port Moller. So here we are, roughing it, having most hated type of breakfast of all, cereals/porridge; at least I made it slightly more luxurious by having a cup of tea with it. I guess this makes me a true expedition kayaker, porridge by the boat.

After that we launched into the low to no visibility crossing towards Port Moller. At some point the wind settled at being from our side and tail, bringing the waves up a little. It took me a little bit to work out what will the boat, my legs, my paddle, me and my mind do at any one moment, then it was just fine, and I quite enjoyed the conditions. With one little downside, I couldn’t really see where we were going, and had to rely of Freya’s bow pointing, this meant for me to be constantly looking at it, and reacting to its every change in direction. So every time I enjoyed a slide down three waves, we turned more to the right. When the visibility really vanished, it seemed like we were going in huge circles, but if that was the way to Port Moller, I was happy to be circling. I am sure, if I looked at the GPS track now, there would be a straight line, but on the water it sometimes feels strange.

The good thing was, we were advancing quite fast, and soon only had two kilometres left towards the headland with the harbour behind.

As we approached the harbour, two figures could be seen on the wharf watching us, then following us around. It was Sacha, who we met few days ago in Cold Bay, and her husband. That was fun to come to the middle of nowhere, and having someone to greet us.

We were lucky, Port Moller is a fishing port and fish processing plant, and they appreciated us being out on the water and offered us rooms to stay and food to eat. As it looks, we will be here few days.

Nelson Lagoon

Although day to day life seems to go on slowly here in Alaska, some things can change very fast, and for once, I don’t mean the weather. After three full days sitting in the Bearfoot Inn in Cold Bay all our hopes turned to Tuesday. On Tuesday the wind was meant to clam down. Tuesday was also the original day when Freya and I hoped to be paddling. And so Tuesday morning we went again to the airport office to find out whether there would be a plane to Nelson Lagoon. Really, we could phone the office, but since the airport was just across the road from the hotel, we decided to go there personally, same as many times in the past few days. The response was the same as we had several times this week, shrug of shoulders, nodding heads, pained facial expressions. No, it didn’t look like there would be a flight that morning. Back to the room we went, for another session of WiFiying, reading and what have you.

Suddenly there was a commotion in the corridor, Freya burst in and saying that we got the phone call, we were to flight immediately. Such was our excitement that I left my bananas there, in microwave, where I stored them due to lack of space. They would be dearly missed later.

However, we were flying to Nelson Lagoon! When I researched it, I found the following information: “Nelson Lagoon lies in the maritime climate zone. Frequent and erratic weather changes occur, with constant prevailing wind of 20 to 25MPH”. Add the period of strong wind gusts on top, no wonder it took us so low no to get here.

The village is located on a long sand spit with Bering sea on one side, and lagoon waters on the other. I liked the Lagoon when we finally stepped of the plane and were driven to the village. It took a while as the plane has been the first one after few days, and the locals were all waiting for their deliveries.

The place has a real village feel to it despite being fairly new, from the 1960s’, it has been the only Aleut settlement on this side of the peninsula, and in the past was used as Unangan summer fish camp. And one more historical fact from wikipedia: “The lagoon was named in 1882 for Edward William Nelson of the U.S. Signal Corps, an explorer in the Yukon Delta region between 1877 and 1920.” We met local policeman, the settlement only has 35 people living here permanently, but they do have a police man to prevent crime, mainly related to alcohol consumption. Of course my biggest interest was the school building, but it shut in 2012 as no kids live here now.

What I really noticed about the place was a lovely smell of plants, after Cold Bay, it had a real summery feel. Such, that we went for walk despite warning of bear being seen in the area. Fortunately he was seen more on the airport side, probably also picking up his deliveries, so we went the opposite direction.

However most of the day was dedicated to food sorting, boats’ preparation and setting, and kit packing. We decided to take the opportunity of tiny lull in the wind and leave in direction of Port Moller on the other side of the Lagoon. One more thing was great about the place, we had a place to stay, the Bering Inn, a self catering apartment courtesy of Justine.