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.

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.

Weather-bound: “Delayed, halted, kept indoors due to bad weather”

We’re in Cold Bay, Alaska. We’ve been in Cold Bay, Alaska for three days already, still waiting for the weather to improve for us to be able to fly to Nelson Lagoon on the north side of the peninsula.

This is a very strange weather bound period. I have been weather-bound before on paddling trips. I’ve been on a multi month trip where after ten days of hard paddling in the row one was looking forward to bad weather day to have a rest and not to pack the whole circus again in the morning. I’ve been on trips, when the weather was so bad that one was weather-bound every 2 days paddling, and had to keep good faith that the destination will be reached.

I was weather-bound for few days in the middle of now where and one had to learn to entertain oneself with whatever was available. What I learnt here was to do one activity at the time to allow the time to pass easily and to stretch any distraction from waiting for as long as possible.

I’ve been weather-bound for so many times within one trip that we had to change our aim altogether and learn to make the most of both the sea and the being on the land. Giving in allowed us to explore places that we would not have otherwise.

I was weather-bound for so long during one trip that the journey had to be finished after long wait for the weather improvement. And while the time waiting was exciting, as we became farm hands for few weeks, the end was difficult, as we did not step out of a boat at the end, but rather of a tractor.

I am weather-bound now. It’s a new one for me. My four weeks paddling with Freya has commenced, and we are weather bound already. We haven’t placed a blade in the water, we haven’t even pack the kayaks yet. I have never been weather-bound at the start of the trip. But the feelings and anxieties are the same. Is this ever going to lift? And when it does, will there be actually any time left for paddling? How far would we be able to go? We want to go as far as possible, will we make it there? What are the conditions going to be?

How do we keep our sanity and not look at the weather all the time talking numbers (Freya) and colours (me) trying to see when and how long for we can be on the water?

The start of Natalie’s trip to Alaska

My trip of paddling in Alaska with Freya has finally started. I decided to join her long time ago, last Autumn, when it seemed like a great idea and like something that was far far away. And really it still seemed far away even when Michal was already covering miles along the south and later north of the Alaskan peninsula. Then suddenly it was time to get to the airport and go.

The first noticeable thing about my trip was that the planes were getting smaller and smaller as I progressed from London to here. The last smallest plane is still however waiting for us on a wind swept runway in Cold Bay.

It’s too windy and small planes don’t fly in this weather. So as we are waiting for the break in the wind, I’ve been entertaining myself looking around the village. Actually it is called a city, and probably once was by local standards, with about 100 people living here. It has a shop, a hotel, a bar, a library, school which is long shut. The town is fairly new, established during the WWII as a military base, it has no major industry.

However there was some excitement to see at the ferry port, as the ferry comes every 2 weeks.

The flowers frantically waving in the wind made it clear that it still was the summer.

I had a chance to see a bear, hopefully the only one that I would see while here.

MICHAL’S TRIP TO ALASKA PART II.

MUSICAL CROSSING          Sunday 01.07.18

Morning was gorgeous, sunshine, no wind. Tina cooked lovely blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I had three, Freya none, as she cannot eat anything but her oats for breakfast because that’s best for her paddling performance. Or something like that.

After that we set off. First, we were following the coast, we could see otters, white head eagle and arctic fox. Wind picked up a little bit from behind, and we were making nice progress to the beach with petrified trees. Huge lumps of stone wood were laying between boulders with occasional tree stump. We landed and soon were running around taking pictures and calling: ”look, this one, and look there, here…”

Eventually it was time to move on, 40 km crossing was waiting for us. And, as always, when we were about to cross, the wind direction changed. Now we were facing the headwind.

“Would you mind if I listen to music? We have to paddle hard” asked Freya. It was fine with me.

We started to push our way into the wind and the only thing I could hear was noise. Like when you are on London bus with teenagers trying to listen to the latest music on their phones but you can really only hear the bus engine, doors opening and closing, people talking and cars outside speeding. Here, Freya had her phone out packed in Aquapack, with wave hitting our boats, wind whistling and paddles splashing. One thing I didn’t know was that Freya likes to sing. The good thing is, she is better singer than me, just.

scenery

Few hours in, and I started to hope that her phone would die soon. It did, but knowing Freya I should have known that she would have a spare phone battery ready. It took her lest then half a minute to get music on again. Ok, I shouldn’t complain and I’m not complaining, it is more of a fascinating observation. Unlike those teenagers she asked first if I minded. It’s just surprising to see that someone needs to listen to music because open crossing is boring. There was so much to see on this one. Sky was clear, visibility perfect and amazing Alaskan landscape all around us. Rocky islands ahead and behind, mountains on the right dominated by two huge volcanos covered with snow. There were birds, two whales, ferry and a tug pulling a barge. I could go on and on.

At nine in the evening we landed on small sandy beach. There were footprints everywhere. Fox, birds and cows footprints. If there are cows on this island, then there won’t be bears, we decided. It makes cooking and sorting food so much easier. Let’s see if we are right in our assumption.

cow prints

Monday 02.07.18

Sun has woken us up. It was lovely morning with beautiful view of Pavlov volcano. We didn’t have any visitors all nigh, that was good.

scebery by M

We started to paddle along the coast again, Freya kept very close to the shore and was watching all sorts of seaweed under her hull. I didn’t mind, we could afford to have slower start, we did 65km yesterday and there was tail wind on the forecast for later today. I was watching shore rather than seabed. It looked almost like British coastline. It was rocky with green meadows on sloping hillside. There and now there was a herd of cows with an occasional bull among them.

cows

We came to the corner and it was time to cross fifteen kilometres to the next island. Wind slowly picking up only it was straight into our faces again!

We were trying to get into good paddling routine but it was proving to be quite challenging after hard yesterday’s paddle. I eventually started getting reasonable paddling pace but Freya was staying behind. I had to constantly slow down and wait. Almost every time I looked over my shoulder I could see Freya looking down on her deck and GPS. And every time her head went down her paddle stroke changed, cadence increased but blades were hardly touching water. It reminded me of Wendy a lot (sorry Wendy). It was draining!

After what felt like ages we made it to the first island. There was nice little beach just on the corner, perfect spot for lunch. While we were eating Freya was complaining that she was really tired and that she was falling asleep while paddling. True, she felt asleep straight after we finished eating. I let her sleep for 15mins and woke her up just when the incoming water touched our kayaks.

It was obvious we will call it a short today. And yes, after another ten kilometres beach appeared on our right. We quickly agreed this was our destination for today. Shingle was quite steep with dumping surf but I managed to time my landing perfectly. Freya wasn’t as lucky, went fraction of the second too early and caught the wave rather then staying right behind it. She leaned far back in an attempt to release bow from the water. Bang, bang, bang, nose of the kayak was hitting stones and then broached sideways. Fortunately both kayak and Freya survived without any damage.

At the first glance we could not spot any sights of bear activity. It looked promising to be a bear free island. It didn’t last long. When I went to get some water from the stream in the corner of the beach I crossed several holes dug in the seaweed and shingle with poo pile next to it. They are here!

IMG_7676Photo by Freya Hoffmeister

Forecast for tomorrow is strong wind and rain, if it’s from the right direction we might be able to make some progress. Otherwise we will be stuck here for a day or two.

REST DAY     Tuesday 3.07.18

Today we had a day off. Rain was hitting our tent quite hard driven by strong wind gusts. So we slept till ten. Then I had to go out to dig breakfast out of the kayak and put some more boulders on our tent pegs as they came loose in the wind. Then we slept for few more hours. Obviously we needed some good rest. By two in the afternoon rain was gone and wind calmed down significantly. It would be good weather to go but we are on the island. Distance we could make today was either fifteen or forty kilometres. First option was not worth of the hassle of packing everything wet, second option meant we would be finishing too late not giving us enough time to set off at reasonable time tomorrow. We rather stayed in the tent and read some books and watched Kayaking Aleutians on Freya’s computer. Apparently this is a must do on stormy rest day. After was time for yet more reading and sleeping. Tomorrow we would like to start quite early.

green meadowPhoto by Freya Hoffmeister

FOG     Wednesday 04.07.18

Sea was quite flat when we left. There were sea otters in the bay but didn’t wait long enough for us to come close to take good photo.

We went around the corner and could just see the next island to which we were heading under low laying clouds. While we were crossing, the fog descended on us and visibility dropped to few hundred meters. I struggled a bit to get into paddling properly and was really glad when we made it to the island after first fifteen kilometres. Luckily, we had short break on the water with some snacks. When we started with the next crossing, I felt much better, so we could  push it quite hard. Visibility was quite poor ranging between few hundred meters to couple of kilometres. At same point Freya was saying that the numbers on her GPS were her only joy on such a crossing. At that point I could suddenly hear a wave rolling on our right, I looked there but was unable to see anything at first. Then a whale appeared. It didn’t look too big but I got my camera ready. It came up twice more before diving. As it started to disappear her tail swung high in the air.  Humpack whale! My first one ever!

whale M

We continued paddling and could see whale tail in the air twice more. The fog thickened, and soon we couldn’t see anything but could hear monsters breathing all around us. It was quite surreal.

Fortunately after sometime the fog lifted and we our island came into view. We were going quite fast averaging 6.4kph including our breaks. Then suddenly plop! My right foot on the rudder went all the way forward “Shit, something in the rudder gave up” I thought.

Freya started to unscrew rudder cover at the stern to find out what was wrong while I watched whales. I could see two tails in the air before Freya announced that the rudder string came off and the best thing now was to disable the rudder and sort it out after we land. Some boats without rudder are worst than others. We had ten long kilometres to our landing spot left. Fortunately the whales continued in their show. At least five of them were sticking their tails high in the air. We were counting, five, six, seven, sixteen… We decided to stop at twenty. They last trick in the performance was to swing three tails high in the air simultaneously!

Finally we landed, pitched our tent and fixed my rudder. After that we went for a stroll around and across spit we camped on. No signs of bears around but found a dead Sea Lion in the corner of the beach. It was huge male beast. It looked like it died pretty recently and almost didn’t smell. Freya, of course, decided it was time for photo shoot and almost managed to kiss this thing. It looks like she wants to kiss all death sea creatures we would come across.

fox

When I cooked dinner we had a visitor, fox came to see what’s in the pot and it took some stone throwing to scare it away.

Thursday 05.07.18

We camped on Dear Island. That may be a reason why no bear showed up.

Morning was really grey, with  sun promised in the forecast. We went on the water and went around the spit, on the corner, the wind hit us straight into our faces. It was funnelling from the north through Cold Bay straight towards us. Solid F5. With seventeen kilometres crossing ahead of us, it didn’t look pretty. Freya later called it nasty but I wouldn’t go that far. We pushed hard and the shore across the bay was eventually getting closer. When we finally made it across, we could find a little bit of shelter behind the headland. That was nice. We followed low muddy cliffs, almost like in Lincolnshire, with some rocky reefs running far into the sea. There was an open bay ahead, where we decided to stop for lunch, it turned out to have only two drawbacks, we had to push into the wind again, and it was really shallow. We had some wraps with tuna and rushed back on water as tide was running out, still we had to drag our kayaks for a couple of hundred meters before we had enough water under our hulls.

sand dunes

Paddling across the bay was lovely, we had a side wind at first but it changed soon to tail wind and we could surf nicely on following sea. We could if we wanted to, I had few runs but Freya indicated that she ate too much and it wasn’t not worth the effort. Ok, never mind, we had wind behind us and plenty of time.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the wind changed, one second we had nice tailwind, the next it was blowing straight into our faces. We started to follow the coast closely to seek some protection, it didn’t work particularly well,  and there was lots of kelp close to shore too. So we split, Freya stayed close in and I went far out. After a while Freya was indicating that her sciatic nerve was playing up and there was a bay with a calling name ahead, Sandy Cove. Ok, why not, it looked nice so we finished a bit early again. Now, we were camping on sand dunes wondering, as always, if there were bears around.

What a day!    Friday 06.04.18

Yesterday, we discussed a number of times, how to approach the False Pass. It was obvious that the tide through the pass runs quite fast but we were not sure what time it was running which way. We came to conclusion that slack might be at 1pm and tide would be in our favour before that. We thought we might start paddling around 6am to be able to make it on time but somehow overslept.

When we hit the water it was perfectly still and sunny. “Ok, let’s paddle hard and see if we can still make it on time,” we agreed.

Freya switched on the music on her phone again to get into the rhythm. I say music; it was some strange combination of styles, Scottish, classical, gothic and modern. At one point it sounded like a busy train station. Trains were braking with sharp long metal squeaks, people were talking some were very cheerful to meet their friends, some were crying as their relatives were leaving. Freight train was rattling over the points and conductor was using his whistle. Then someone fell under the train and woman started to cry hysterically. Anyway, it made us going.

Slowly some fog banks rolled in. Sometime we could see landscape around us just below, and sometime above the fog. On few occasions it was visible below and above at the same time.

fog

Then one of the fog banks hit us. It came with wind, first we could see some small ripples on the water which slowly increased do solid F4. We were still pushing hard. I mean really hard. If I should describe it in one word, it was brutal. We were not racing, we were paddling side by side and none of us wanted to be slower than the other person. There was a mantra going through my head “I won’t drop back. Let’s make it count, every stroke must count!”. When we finally got to the entrance to the pass, some 35km later, our average speed was 7.4kph and that includes snack and pee breaks and headwind.

Last headland was the windiest, probably F5 but, when we turned the corner bang on slack, we had it behind is. Now we were gliding towards the town, rain came but we didn’t care. We knew we were going to make it. Did you ever noticed that rain water doesn’t mix with sea water? If it’s not raining hard, small drops of rain water float on the surface of the sea like thousands of small pearls.

False Pass M?

 

We paddled to the harbour in False Pass, asked the first person which were the Trident facilities. He pointed us the right way and called Dean (who is in charge) on radio.  In half an hour we had our kayaks moved to safety, and were in warm shower. Now, we are relaxing in our beds while our laundry is being done and dinner cooked.

False pass M?1

Once again, same as in Chignik, we are hosted by Trident Seafood. This place seems to be much busier than the previous one. People everywhere, dining area is still full of people eating, two hours after they started serving. It is also truly international place, people of all backgrounds here, hispanic, tiny asian laddies, huge black guys you don’t want to cross, Eastern Europeans, yet the most common language here is not English. Most people in corridors, dining place or outside are chatting in Russian.

FALSE PASS   Saturday 07.07.18

Last night wasn’t particularly pleasant. It was noisy here. Site has been working all night, forklifts were going back and forward, diesel generators were constantly humming. There is a loud extractor fan from the bathroom in our adjoined wall as I found in the early morning hours, when I managed to disconnect its power supply. And it seems like the best WIFI spot is just outside of our bedroom door as people were gathering there all night with their smartphones in their hands. They tried to be quiet but as you know, group of people standing and waiting somewhere is never entirely quiet. And all of those people standing in the corridor were waiting. Waiting for internet to do something. I have to admire their patience as it seemed to do nothing. I mean we have been checking, not on them standing there, but on the internet. Whenever we woke up we tried to go online and as you know it is bit like an addiction. We haven’t been online for week and suddenly there was a prospect of internet. So we were checking it almost every hour, nothing and nothing. Twice I went to the bathroom next door and number of people standing outside of our door seemed to be constant. Then around four in the morning I managed to send a message, wow.

false pass.jpg

 

Obviously we haven’t slept well.

During a day we visited Trident office and learned that our best chance to go online would be in community hall on Monday. We were lent a pair of brown alaskan wellies each! Amazing, we can now actually walk around as it all looks like big building site in the rain. Mud is everywhere. I don’t know how those ladies manage to keep our building clean, they are out with mops and brooms a lot. Almost nonstop.

Later we paid a visit to the shop, bought some fresh fruit, supplies boat arrived yesterday, and Freya got phone which should work on local network. This network is supposed to be the most common one in small places around the coast further on. We spent an hour playing with it and trying to set up access to her email account on it without much success. Because guy working in the shop was quite helpful before, we decided to go there and seek his advice. He wasn’t there. We chatted with the lady behind the counter, and although she didn’t know how to set it up, she decided after hearing our story about paddling around the coast, to help us. She shared a big secret with us and we promised not to tell anyone. So here it is. She worked in local community centre too, as they are short of staff, and she wrote their WIFI password on a piece of paper for us.

So now we finally gained an online access, it’s fifteen minutes down the road but it works. We tried it successfully today. Hopefully it will work tomorrow too, so I can speak to Natalie.

False Pass Day 2  Sunday 08.07.18

After having breakfast we were wondering why we do actually have a day off. Sun was out and the weather looked very peaceful. When we stepped outside, we realised how deceptive it can be, when one is inside solid building. It was sunny, that’s right but it was also windy. Water in the pass was white with white horses rushing from south to north.

We took a walk to community centre to secretly use more WIFI. We do make attempts to disguise our aim by positioning ourselves in front of the liquor shop to pretend we are waiting for it to open. It seemed to work as a group of guys came to ask us, if they should join the queue. I finally managed to talk to Natalie and as we were about to finish a very strict lady from community centre arrived. We pretended to be on the phone and slowly walked up the road through the village. It is interesting to see all of the things just laying around. Cars, bikes, fuel tanks, ambulances, heavy machinery, old and new. We were told that  about sixty people live here permanently he. We have seen the same number of cars which looked like they were in working order and probably more of those, that will never hit the road again. Well, talking about the road, there are about two or three miles of dirt road here. No asphalt, no concrete, no paving.

After lunch we went to Trident office to borrow their laptop to do some planning for our next paddling leg. We could access the weather and google maps, combination of which kept us busy for a while. Our next section looks like endless surf beach and forecast was promising occasional combination of strong wind (F8) and seas up to three metres high. Anyway we may get a chance to make some progress on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I decided to go for internet stroll before dinner. I still felt quite full from eating too much at midday. Food here is simply delicious, choices great and supply is endless. We are slowly learning how not to put too much on our plates. As I turned to walk back a car stopped and I was offered a lift back. I climbed in, and  immediately started to wonder if it was a good idea. Driver was friendly but there was half empty bottle of vodka next to him. It was apparent that he was the cause of it not being full. Fortunately nobody drives fast here, and Bill, although drunk, wasn’t an exemption. As we were crawling forward being barely faster then walking I was offered weed which I refused, and lager which I accepted. It was american Budweiser so it was purely on the bases of being polite. While we were drinking, and Bill driving, he was sharing with me all the less orthodox crafts he ever saw going through the False Pass. Kayaks, fancy yachts, racing yachts, jet skies, just name it, Bill had seen it all. Then we got to the Trident and I could get out. On my exiting his car, he was lightning something what could be a cigarette, Bill told me with excitement that he was going to get drunk with his mate Mike. I wonder if Mike was also already riding around the town not to be behind when they meet.

MICHAL’S TRIP TO ALASKA

Unlike previous sports we both have engaged in, when it came to sea kayaking, Michal and I started to do this together from the same starting line. However, it soon became clear that our ways of learning differ. Michal is much better at learning anything about movements, he can only hear about it, or see it, picture it, which leads to him being able to do it. Obviously most annoyingly for me I need to do all these three, then practice for long time, and then, maybe, I would get it.

We have shared stories from our trips together here on the blog, we have done journeys shorter and longer. Thank to Michal’s constant need to look for challenges, to get excited about an idea,  his strong desire to execute it, it meant that we have spent significant time paddling in various environments and conditions.

This time, it happened that we took different approach. I thought it would be great idea to join someone else in their trip, and somehow, both me and Freya thought it would be even better idea, if Michal does so, too.

So there he is, paddling in Alaska with Freya Hoffmeister on a trip different to our usual ones. And here are the notes that he managed to send me from different legs as their internet access allowed.

Michal left London on the 21st of June and he and Freya met in Chignik, a little place, where she finished her previous leg with Catriona Woods.

flight

Over to Michal:

ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS THE SAME EVERYWHERE, RIGHT? Saturday 23.06.18

chignik airport

“Today’s highlight was a bit of a language barrier. Freya was worried she would not find the right gas canisters for her stove here in Chignik, so she asked me to bring my multi fuel one.

We were very lucky and were looked after by locals, Clyde, who runs Trident Seafood was really helpful the whole day, trying to source out everything we needed prior our departure, including the epoxy to fix both of Freya’s kayaks.

However, when it came to fuel, everyone seamed to be quite confused.“Petrol? What do you mean? What’s that? Fuel, what fuel? Do you mean kerosine?” After a while we established that cars use diesel and gas. So we asked if it would be possible to have some gas.

It turned out we could, but not before we were told how flammable it really is, and how careful we needed to be. So I brought my petrol bottles and started to fill up the first one from metal canister Clyde showed me.  Lupe came to assist, and  again, while he was helping me with filling of our bottles,  we went through a long discussion about how dangerous and flammable this stuff was. In the end I had to agree to try if it actually worked with our stove. Before I got on with it, I was pointed to fire extinguisher. After that, as a precaution,  I boiled some water for my flask in the middle of gravel car park,  and surprisingly it worked fine like with any other petrol before.

ALASKA IN A NUTSHELL Sunday 24.06.18

Finally, it was time to leave. Boats were packed and floating on incoming tide. I was waiting for Freya to come. She went to make one more attempt to order epoxy resin to be sent ahead to Sand Point, our next port of call. Again with not much success. As soon as I arrived, we had kayak fixing day and used almost all remaining epoxy. Hope these kayaks wont need TLC too often.

Ready at last, I went to afloat first to make sure the kayak was to set up well for the journey ahead. I am using one of Freya’s kayaks, which is quite different to mine. Fortunately, everything was fine, and we could finally set off. After few paddling strokes I noticed something strange floating in front of us, sea otter! We haven’t even left Chignik and here was a Sea Otter. What a start!

sea otter.jpg

First few kilometres took us along cliffs on flat sea, and soon we started to cross Castle Bay, then we noticed spray of water in the distance. It was coming closer and a whale resurfaced. We haven’t even done ten kilometres and already I saw a number of sea otters and a whale, amazing.

We turned around Castel Rock, a stunning headland, I haven’t seen such overwhelming formation for ages, so we admired rocky structures, towers, gullies and faces until the  headwind picked up. Fortunately we could see a sandy beach ahead landed for lunch. This was my first introduction to what is means kayaking in bear territory.  Bear footprints everywhere and an old fridge washed on the beach was completely trashed by presumingly bear claws and paws. Fortunately, no bear in sight, otherwise I could say: “I’ve seen it all” and go home, now.

Soon after lunch headwind increased significantly and it was time we started to look for landing place. First beach didn’t look to good, yet Freya insisted it would be fine. We landed but it turned out, there was no space for  tent, we had to push another 7km to the next beach called Necessity Cove. Landing through damper went smoothly and soon we had the tent up on a stoney beach. One thing that I will have to get used to, is cooking outside. Apparently it is not a good idea to cook in your tent if there are bears around.

bear hand

GETTING TO KNOW MY NEW KAYAK   Monday 25.06.18

I woke up in the morning and first thing I heard was: “It’s raining, what do you think? Would you mind if we have a day off?” I don’t like rain so the answer was easy. “Ok,” I said and continued sleeping. Few hours later I could hear: “It’s not too bad shall we go?” What could I say, we are here to paddle in the end. One hour later we were on the water and paddling. While launching I was introduced to how to use a launching string. I never needed one on my kayak but seems quite essential to use with the rudder on Freya’s kayak. Anyway, soon we were making nice progress along the coast. It wasn’t raining too much, visibility was ok, just top of the cliffs were hidden in low laying clouds. As we were nearing big headland wind started to pick up and waves were getting increasingly bigger. Soon we hit area where the tide, swell and wind were all coming from different directions. Clapoties were reaching two meters and Freya put her buoyancy aid on. It was challenging paddle as I was still getting to know my kayak. Paddling with knees together like on the surfski in those conditions was quite new to me. We turned a corner and decided to head for the beach deeper in the bay rather than crossing and rounding another headland. We had lovely 40 mins run on following sea all the way to the beach. Well, it was rather bouldery wall with no place for camping. We tried hard. But no place for tent at all. It meant we had to go around the next headland and firstly into the wind. Luckily, in the end, it wasn’t that bad. Tide probably turned, sea became more regular. After we turned the corner it was decision time, which beach to head for? We chose place called Herring Lagoon as something containing a word lagoon in the name must be good place for landing, only, it meant another 12km crossing into the fog.

Eventually we reached steep stoney wall, damper wasn’t too horrible and we landed safely. After climbing to the top of the bouldery wall, on the other side of the spite, we could see why it’s called Lagoon. We didn’t cook dinner this time, Natchos and cheese dip were good enough. I almost feltasleep even before finishing eating.

ANOTHER FIRST – PADDLING WITH MUSIC      Tuesday 26.06.18

It was raining again. Everything was wet. But with the forecast for light following sea we had to go. I’m slowly learning what it means to pack quickly. First everything is packed in the tent, then getting changed to paddling gear, tent down, kayaks packed, and then finally, some oats with milk for breakfast while watching dumping surf.

Sea today was significantly smaller, it was still raining most off the day with no great visibility. Soon we started our first 14 km crossing of the day, Freya couldn’t find her paddling rhythm, which made her to switch her music on. With rain hitting my hat I couldn’t hear that much anyway. Suddenly there was big splash just next to me, a whale, only ten meters away! It came up once more and then disappeared. “You see!” said Freya “I told you. They like music.”

whale freya

Now we were paddling in St Kilda like landscape, huge headlands and islands with birds everywhere. Only difference were local puffins they have long white hair on the top of their heads. I hope I managed to take good enough photo. Soon we landed on small rocky beach on one of the islands, rest of the island looks really steep, like St Kilda, so we hope it’s bear free. We set our camp in heavy rain and decided to chance it and cook in the tent.

EATING FRUIT WHILE PADDLING? Another first     Wednesday 27.06.18

It wasn’t raining when we woke up. That was promising. When I got out of the tent I could see that we are on small island just across from Perryville. It didn’t look like much, just few buildings scattered around so we didn’t bother to paddle there.

Before we set off, we had to set time aside to prepare pineapples, yes we had two fresh pineapples with us. Mine was living in my helmet for three days. Now it was time to eat them. Freya cut them to stripes and filled few zip lock bags to be ready to eat on the water. pineapples

Few minutes into paddling the sun came out. As it shined through the clouds behind us sunlight just hitting a rock ahead, we could see an eagle siting on the top. My first eagle on this trip. Sun didn’t last long but eagles did. By the end of the day we saw six of them.

sea eagel

Soon it was drizzling and headwind became quite annoying. We were making progress between islands eating pineapples. When that wasn’t filling us enough we stopped on small sandy beach for lunch. There were bear and human footprints everywhere, we were not sure which were older and which more recent. Freya found round fishing buoy and we spent few minutes playing football to keep warm. In the afternoon we continued into the rain and wind.

football

I wouldn’t mind if we had a dry day for a change sometime soon. Beach, where we were planning to land, had noticeable surf. Fortunately we found a sheltered corner. And again bear footprints were everywhere. We pitched tent on the highest spot of the sand while it was still raining. There were patches of green plants around, I tor off some and placed them in the porch of the tent to reduce the amount of sand sticking to everything. Then it came: “You are very tidy, not messy at all. If you wouldn’t be married already, I would marry you!”

clean tent M      clean tent F

ANIMALS EVERYWHERE       Thursday 28.06. 18

It was raining hard all night.

Did I mention that I don’t like water? And rain is the worst kind of water. So you can imagine I wasn’t overwhelmingly enthusiastic to get ready. Fortunately as we started to pack, the rain almost stopped.

In Freya’s chart it said “large caves” by the headland in few kilometres. We were quite keen to see what it means. Two sea stacks could be seen just of the headland, when we rounded the second one, one its exposed side, we could see lots of holes and caves. It looked like Swiss cheese. We explored the biggest one, unfortunately due to the swell, we couldn’t visit any of the smaller ones.

Next, we had to cross a larger bay, about ten kilometres into the headwind. There is one thing that annoyed me today. Freya asked if we should cross straight for the headland, or if we should go deeper in, and stop on the beach. In the end we agreed to only have a break on water and not to bother with landing. Yet, when we crossed, Freya said: “I fancy to land on that beach, it’s not too far anyway “. Fine! – We had to paddle ten minutes into the wind to get to the beach and then paddle the same back after the break. Why could we just not paddle straight there, right from the beginning?

Anyway, when we rounded rocky headland there were dozens of Sea Lions on rocky ledges. Mostly female, roughly the size of ordinary seal, with one male between them. It was huge! At least twice the size of big Atlantic Grey Seal.

michal by freya.jpgPhoto by Freya Hoffmeister

sea lions freyaAfter that we were paddling along the cliffs into the wind when Freya found a puffin. I mean there was a dead puffin in the water. The next second she was pulling it out with huge smile: “we need to take pictures “. She was shouting in the noise of wind and waves.

That’s not as simple as it looks. “Should I be kissing it? Or should it be on my shoulder? Do I look good? What about my hair? And hair band? I don’t like this hair band, it’s not black. Maybe we should take some on the beach, on the tent. I need to hold it this way. Do I look good?” This all was probably meant to me. And then she goes to puffin:”You will go on my website, you will be famous. Fifteen thousand people will see you…”

puffin 1   puffin 2

puffin 4  puffin 3After long photoshoot she paddled with the puffin all the way to the beach, put the tent up and did more photos with poor puffin. Who cares that there are bears around. I mean there are not just bear footprints on this beach, there is actually a bear walking up and down the same beach we are camping!

This time I cooked dinner outside, just in case. After we had eaten, I started to write down notes. When I finished writing and put my iPad down, I looked out through the open tent porch. Bear! There was a bear standing 20 meters from our tent! Of course, first we started to take pictures, but then as it was still coming closer, we began to make noise. Bear didn’t seem to mind, so I shot a banger.  Freya half jumped out of the tent shouting at the same time. That scared him, I mean Freya, he hardly noticed the bang! Hope that was enough of bear excitement for the rest of the trip.

bear in camp

banger

TACKLING MONSTERS        Friday 29.06. 18

We woke up into a drizzle. First thing Freya asked was: “Did you sleep well? No dreams about bears?” No, weirdly there were strange monkeys in my dream but not a single bear.

Launching was pretty straightforward, swell dropped a lot as predicted and we started paddling on almost flat sea. That was good because we were heading for Sand Point, which was over 60km away with 40km crossing to start with. Clouds were slowly lifting and we were chatting about kayak designs, forward paddling, and so on. Then a whale resurfaced just in front of us. It took ages before it started to go down giving me plenty of time to find my camera and take two pictures before it disappeared.

Slowly sun made it through the clouds and I realised that I was over dressed. Fortunately sea was like a mirror allowing me to take one layer off. It is actually quite fine to try to take drysuit with front entry off while siting in kayak. It took quite an effort to pull it over my head.

I think I mentioned before that Freya is paddling topless most of the time. I mean without PFD, she calls it topless paddling. And of course she believes this is best and most efficient way how to  paddle forward properly. PFD is too restrictive and you cannot rotate with one well enough, so it means your paddling is not good. And of course, if Freya believes in something, you hear about it, not all the time, just there and now, about five times a day, every day.

So, as I had my BA off I decided it was time to make her happy, and not to put it on again. I even called my PFD a monster when asked her to put it on my back deck. That made her day, I think.

Michal paddling by FPhoto by Freya Hoffmeister

We were making nice progress towards the first island insight with brief stops for snacks. Soon, we came across lovely landing spot with waterfall which was ideal for short pee brake. When we started to paddle again, headwind picked up, not too strong but annoying. For some reason Freya became slower and slower. Waiting for her to catch up was a bit irritating. At one moment, when she got next to me, she asked me to put my PFD back on again, apparently I’m too fast without one.

When we turned the corner and could almost see Sand Point, we spotted  a small boat on the horizon. It looked strange, definitely not like fishing boat. When it came close we waved and it turned and came all the way to us. It was actually a welcoming committee looking for us.

committee

They were really pleased to find us, gave us some fruity drinks, took some photos, had a chat and took off towards Sand Point to announce what time we would be there.

Last stretch was slow and took forever, we were paddling into the wind and sun. Eventually were made it to Sand Point.

sand point

Tina, Paul and few of their friends were waiting for us. Tina’s house is just by the water so it was fast to unload. We were taken full care off. Shower, washing machine, dinner, internet and even a beer for me.

kayak TLC

REST DAY   Saturday 30.06.18

Last night I managed to put my first post on FB. Internet is not fast here, it took ages to upload few photos. Then, I exchanged few messages with Natalie before falling asleep by midnight.

This morning we started with some kayak TLC. First we fully unpacked them and dried them as much as possible and left them in the sun. You see, we have a day off and it is sunny! Then we made it to Trident Shop to buy some epoxy. In between I even managed to talk to Natalie, internet is not that slow in the end.

Afternoon was all about sorting our food, shopping for more food, working on kayaks and trying to find some local contacts further along the coast, in Nelson Lagoon or Port Heiden ideally. Those might be crucial as most likely I would have to fly out from one of those, and if all goes well Natalie will have to fly in.

Then we were getting ready for dinner with glass of wine and beer respectively.

Tomorrow’s forecast looks great so we will be paddling.

HOW I BECAME AN ADVENTURER

With Michal gone, there’s no one left to drive the car but myself. Having had driving licence for 20 years, not driving really since we moved to London, makes me someone, for whom making car to leave a perfectly fine parking place is a rather uneasy task. However, needs must and errands had to be accomplished.

I planned this very carefully, selected the time and plotted the route. I took navigation and map with me, as one can never be too cautious about these. The destination was the whole 3.4miles away with a long dark tunnel in between. They say that with true adventures, it shouldn’t be just about the end goal, the journey should matter, too. However, were I was concerned, the end goal was the main reason I put the gear in one, indicated right, and pushed down on the gas.

I was off on my expedition, by definition a journey with a particular purpose, especially that of exploration, research, or war. Yes, this felt like all of these options.

From previous long trips and holidays I remembered the feeling of butterflies in the stomach at the beginning of each trip, the uncertainty of how it all will be, the anxiety whether it was a right decision. And yes, approaching the four lanes roundabout, I had similar feeling of fight or flight moment. I also learnt that soon once the routine kicks in, the butterflies settle.

black-and-white-car-interior-gear-89693The Blackwall Tunnel, was a complete different matter. It reminded me of long open crossings. You know it will finish at some point, you know you will eventually reach the land, you know, you just need to get on with it, stroke after stroke to get there. The relief, when a land is spotted, when it becomes clear that the calculations were correct, and that indeed, it would be accomplished at some point, was comparable to finally seeing the light at the end. Only then, did I realise I was holding my breath, and let go. There, who was I to self limit myself, to think I could not get to the south side of the river by other means than kayak, bike or public transport.

A short feeling of victory was replaced by the realisation, that soon, the car would have to be parked. And that is an issue.

As a true explorer, I planned wisely, and chose the earliest possible time as soon as the opening hours allowed. Yet it took several minutes to choose a place from which one can leave without reversing, park without reversing, and without the need to be too close to any other cars. As I circled the car park for the second time I could just see myself circumnavigating an island looking for the best or rather only available place, where to land and stay for a night after a long long day. Only to realise it to be the same place first dismissed in the hope of finding a more suitable one. Never mind.

I run my errand, filled the boot, and felt positively empowered for the way back. What an amazing, unusual, exciting and without a doubt daring experience – a true adventure.