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!


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. 


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.


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.

Michal’s Trip to Alaska – Part III.

Metal Prison         Monday 09.07.2018

Another rest day.

It started to feel as if we were in one big metal prison with all the sleeping in a metal box on metal frame bed with metallic noise of nonstop working machinery all around us. Even our mats had metal springs inside them. We started to feel an increasing desire to escape.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There isn’t much to do, we ventured to our wifi spot in the centre of the village, in front of the library and post office, by community centre. The next building up the road was medical centre. I was just walking up and down the dirt track chatting to Natalie, while Freya was sitting on the grass in front of the library, when a lady who seemed to work in the library arrived. First thing she said wasn’t “hello, is there anything I can do for you? Sorry library is not open yet.” This is probably the most likely thing one would hear from a lady working in library in England. But no, not here, no. First thing we heard was, “you have five minutes to go, this is not a place to do loitering.” Ok, we went, but it still left me wondering where are people expected to hang around if not by all of those community buildings?

After lunch we walked to the shop to buy few things, mainly milk as we are planning to go tomorrow. We checked the weather forecast in Trident office, and it looks like it’s meant to be calming down. Talking about the weather, either we are quite sheltered here in the False Pass or it was much better then predicted. Freya spent most of the day walking around with one line only: “It looks good. We should be gone today. We would be thirty kilometres further.”

Maybe, but we are here and there is no point to stress about something we haven’t done. So to distract her we walked around the city, that’s how they call this village, through the bear territory. I don’t know how smart it is walking through bushes following bear footprints. Few times our conversation looked like from the Far Side cartoon “Do you think they are any bears there?” “I don’t know, shall we have a look?”


Photo by Freya Hoffmeister

Obviously as I am writing this, I can confirm there weren’t bears in the bushes above the village.

Now we are getting excited about the prospect of leaving tomorrow and are slowly putting things together to be able to pack swiftly in the morning.


Paddling Again          Tuesday 10.07.2018

Yesterday evening I set my alarm for the first time on this trip. I woke up at 4:59am, one minute before alarm would go off. That was good it meant that I could get up without waking Freya. It was early but I went into town to make a call to Natalie. It was the last opportunity to get on wifi for a while. It was good to be up so early. When I came back I headed straight for breakfast, on time for the first time since we came here, it’s served from 5 to 7am.

While I was having pancakes I overheard two girls chatting at the next table. Topic wasn’t interesting at all, something about clubbing, tattoos and police but they were talking in Czech!

I was tempted to join in to find out how someone comes to work all the way here from the centre of Europe. But decided against it, we were just about to leave.

We said good bye to everybody in the office and left in the direction to north. First, we started with hugging the coast quite closely to avoid current and wind, both were supposed to change soon. Suddenly we could see something brown in the bramble. Is it a fox? No it was bigger, a bear. Once we came closer, we could just see the bear’s head. He appeared to be sitting and watching us taking photos, then slowly stood up and walked away. It looked so cute, just like a teddy bear. I’m sure if we had met him yesterday on our walk we would think exactly the same.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_7757

We started to paddle offshore due to the tide turning. For some reason the wind was more northerly rather than the forecasted westerly. And it was getting stronger, soon we were pushing into headwind and agreed that it didn’t make any sense to go out into Bering sea. It would be too big. We aimed for the northeast corner of the inner lagoon planning to land on a sand bar and portage. Wind was now solid F6, partly headwind partly sidewind. We were paddling hard and suddenly we realised that the water was becoming quite shallow. Tide was supposed to be coming in, so we felt quite confident we could make it very close to the corner. Suddenly we were aground. Not really knowing how much the water rises we decided to pull in the direction of what we assumed was deeper channel. For a really hard five hundred meters we sank knee deep into a combination of sand and mud in every step. Fortunately we made it and were afloat again. Just as landed, we could see bear slowly walking along the beach. Exactly where we needed to go. Fortunately, in the end it was wandering away from us, it took us couple of hours to empty boats and carry everything to the top of the sand dune.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we could finally glimpse then Bering Sea our language turned French. We could hear the noise coming over the dunes but we still were not ready to see this wild messy surf violently crashing into black sand. Nobody can make me to go out in this, not even in my nice empty playful Xtra I have at home. In fully loaded expedition seakayak? Forget it. No chance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now sitting in the tent on the top of the sand dunes knowing there’s a bear walking somewhere around, sea crashing madly into the beach, we were wondering what is the chance of it all magically settling down tomorrow as forecasted.

I would almost forget, in the first ten minutes on the beach watching surf I found Japanese glass net float. We were told there are thousands of them on the north side and it looks like it might be true!


Walrus in the Surf          Wednesday 11.07.2018

Freya was awake quite early and eager to go. Well sea was down significantly from the sea state we observed yesterday, but there was noticeable surf visible even from our tent on the top of the dunes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While we were getting ready I thought “if we won’t be able to paddle out in this, we won’t be able to make it to Nelson Lagoon”. So it must be done, regardless how I feel about it.

When we were finally prepared to launch Freya asked who should go first. I volunteered.

As I put my spraydeck on, a wave came and took me. Set looked okay so I started to paddle out. Few strokes and I tried to free my rudder, nothing happened. Again few strokes to keep the kayak straight and I tried again. I had both hands behind me holding the launching string and pulling forward and down. Plop, suddenly the rudder became free. In that meantime I was being pushed to the right and a big set was coming. I just tried to stay upright, pushing hard agains each wave. I was going no where, being smashed, and surfed backwards, I was barely able to hold position. Twice I had to half roll but didn’t go in. Suddenly it looked like there was a break. I pushed hard. My muscles were hurting and I was breathing heavily trying do get in as much oxygen as possible. Few times I was lucky and managed to jump over the wave just before it crashed. It is interesting sensation to have fully loaded expedition seakayak airborne. Finally I was out. I would like to see photo of my fight but I seriously doubt, it even crossed Freya’s mind that she could take her camera out of her pocket while watching me struggling. Now it was her time.

I could see her standing on the beach next to her kayak for a while. Then she disappeared from the view. She is going out, I thought. Suddenly I could see her again, hauling her kayak back up on the beach. Again she was just standing there watching the sea. Then small set came and she was punching through the waves. This time she was lucky and we were both afloat. When we were side by side we chatted about our experiences. None of us liked it, we agreed it was one of our worst surf launches ever and Freya showed me the damage to her foredeck, which happened while she tried to paddle out unsuccessfully on her first attempt. After brief break to cool down from all the excitement we started to paddle.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There used to be village next to the place we camped called Old Morzhovoi village, it actually means Old Walrus village. I didn’t think much about it until Freya pointed to a big group of sea otters. They were really cute. At that moment big head popped out just on the other side. That’s a big seal. “Shit” seal doesn’t have tusks. This is walrus! No, there are two big walruses, and they are heading for us! We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t have a clue how walrus behaves and if they are aggressive. I was taking photos and when they were too close we just started to paddle away. It seemed like the only thing for us to do, although we knew there wasn’t a chance out paddle a walrus. Fortunately they decided not to follow. I have to admit it was quite scary to see big head with two massive teeth coming at you while you can only sit and watch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By now we were passing the third entrance to the Izembek Lagoon. Our plan was to go in through the last entrance and land on the inside of the natural wave breaker. Passing two previous entrances gave us a great opportunity to observe where and how the surf breaks.

After long sixty kilometres we were heading in. Freya lead the way in the lagoon and soon we landed after zigzagging and dogging surf breaks.

We set our tent and went for short walk to get a different point of view from the shore and to look at the path we took through the surf.

Also it was good to see if there were any bears in the vicinity. Today we only saw their footprints. It was a pleasant walk combined with beach combing, we both managed to find three Japanese glass net floats!

Now the question was if we would paddle tomorrow, forecast was on the border line with strong offshore wind so we postponed any decision making till the morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Glass Ball Hunt         Thursday 12.07.2018

Wind was shaking our tent and Freya didn’t wake me up, so I assumed we are not paddling and continued sleeping in till ten in the morning. At that point it looked like Freya would appreciate some help with fixing her boat so I finally climbed out of my sleeping bag.

After glueing some bits and pieces and having breakfast we reinforced our tent with more strings and brought some logs from the beach to weigh down the tent pegs. We were camping on the sand dune and wind was already gusting F6.

Now it was time for beach walk. Freya decided she will take her back pack because we may find more glass floats. I wasn’t that optimistic and when she asked how many I think we would find I said four.

It was low tide and strong wind was carrying lots of sand, fortunately it was blowing offshore and we stayed quite high on the beach. It was quite an impressive sight as masses of sand were flying just past us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Soon I found first glass ball of the day. In the next few minutes I had three more and Freya found one too. We were walking along the beach and there and now one of us would start running and shouting “there, there, it’s mine!”

Freya’s bag was becoming full, now we were only excited if when we found four or five together, or if it had a colour we have not found yet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We filled the bag fully, and Freya took off her waterproof trousers, we filled them too. When we started to fill her jacket I thought this was enough and introduced new rule. We could go further pass the last spotted glass ball only if we can see another one. We managed to fill the jacket too. We were dragging the bag, trousers and jacket full of glass balls back into an increasing wind. Now it was solid F7 and we were becoming more and more worried if our tent was still ok.


Photo by Freya Hoffmeister

By the time we got back it was gale 8. Tent was shaking violently and we knew we had to move it to a more protected spot behind a dune which was not far. That was good. Sand was hitting us hard and the only time we could open our eyes was when facing downwind. One hour later we were in our tent again. It wasn’t shaking too badly but sand was everywhere, in our eyes, ears, nose, clothed, pockets, sleeping bag, pots, tent. Just about everywhere. But we had dinner and were as comfy as possible again. Tomorrow is another day off, wind might last one more day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Windbound           Friday 13.07.2018

We had second day off in the row. That meant we have to stretch the few activities we could do here. Again I tried to sleep for as long as I could and get up half past ten. We kept reading for most of the day. Once we went for short walk on the beach but not too far. It was still pretty windy, probably F7, and we picked up all glass balls yesterday. Only new thing we found today was a skeleton of a small whale.

Main excitement of the day was counting and selecting glass net balls. We spread them in the porch and went through three times to make sure we have the correct number. Without much effort we harvested 101 glass balls! It’s obvious we don’t have a chance to take them all. So we spent another half an hour selecting the best ones. I have chosen 21 and Freya 31 of them. We will see tomorrow if we have enough space in our kayaks to take those.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now is time to read again. I’m slowly running out of books on my kindle. Hopefully there will be a chance to download something new in Nelson Lagoon. If weather lasts we should get there on Sunday evening. Fingers crossed.


GPS Addiction            Saturday 14.07.2018

Leaving Izembek Lagoon was easy. We had two and half days to observe the surf breaking on the sandbars and picking up the best channel. Our chosen line worked smoothly even with the tide running agains us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just after we passed the last breaker I spotted white crushing wave ahead. “That’s strange” I thought “we should be clear of everything by now”. One minute later a whale flew out of the water and dropped back with amazing splash. Wow! Whale in the air! I have seen whale airborne!

Shortly after as we started to follow sandy coast I noticed some boulders on the beach. I didn’t think much of it until Freya said that there are no stones here and we should paddle closer.

She was right, although we could not paddle too close due to significant surf, we could see bear walking on the beach with three cubs. Half an hour later another big bear was walking in the same direction. Until today we saw only three bears all together and now five in less then one hour!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Soon after that the tide turned, we had some current against us with cross wind behind. Sea started to be choppy and our progress dropped. Freya started to watch her GPS a lot. Every time I looked over my shoulder she was looking down on it. Sometimes I think she is really addicted to it. Or maybe there are just two lines showing on her little screen, “paddle in, paddle out”.

She started to complain that our speed dropped to four kilometres per hour because we are paddling in tiderace. I didn’t say much. Nobody should call one knot of flow with wind against a tiderace. What’s more, I couldn’t really say loud what I was thinking “Just put the paddle in the water and stop watching that screen!”

Freya was really proud of her forward paddling and she can paddle well. But when she starts to watch her GPS her paddling goes out of window. She would be such a good example of how not to paddle. When her head goes down to see the little screen on her spraydeck her whole posture is compromised. She stops rotating and paddle barely touches the water.

I wasn’t surprised when she indicated that she is tired and it would be best to call it a day. We successfully managed to avoid nasty breaking waves and surf on small set in to the beach. Now we are camping on the highest point of the beach just under crumbling sandy cliff hopping that tide won’t came too high.

Just as we were getting ready to sleep we could hear a noise which sounded like helicopter. We got up and as we were trying to open the tent to see it came straight above us. It was following the shore very tightly probably less then twenty metres high. Shame we were not fast enough and could take photos, we thought. And then we could hear it again. We got out and started to take pictures. It passed us, did big loop and flue over as again and disappeared.


Whales and Bears          Sunday 15.07.2018

We started to pack when it was still almost dark with the aim to catch morning tide in our direction.

Surf was reasonable. Freya was going first this time. I was holding her kayak at the front just on the water edge. Then, when small set came, I helped her to pull it in the water as she jumped in the cockpit and continued pushing so she could get fast through the first wave without getting much water in the cockpit. Then it was my turn. I waited patiently for small set just on the water edge. When last big wave passed I quickly pushed my kayak on the water and jumped in the cockpit. Timing was perfect, I went over smaller wave which even didn’t splash in the cockpit and paddled out.

As we were paddling along the coast we started to discuss how and where we are going to finish this leg of paddling. More precisely where I will finish and Natalie will take over. After considering our options several times, we concluded that Nelson Lagoon would be best. Freya seemed to be tired a lot in the last few days. I have to admit that I’m tired too. But more mentally then physically. If everything goes well I might be able to fly back to London and see Natalie before she leaves.

Ok, we made a plan and I phoned Natalie to let her know. She was glad to hear me, but sounded were apprehensive about surf on this stretch of coast. It’s hard to say how much surf she should expect, we had two huge days of it, but today is really calm.

One thing I’m learning on this trip is to be patient and don’t stress myself with things I cannot change. Like Freya, nobody can change Freya. Just to give you one example from today. We agreed we will try to make as much progress towards Nelson Lagoon especially in the morning. We knew we will have tide against us and headwind in the afternoon. So we are paddling few hundred meters offshore to have help from tide and to avoid all shallow areas where waves were getting stepper. Suddenly as we turn small corner Freya goes and starts to hug the coast. Apparently, when I pointed out that our speed dropped by one knot, I was told it is more entertaining to see what’s on the shore. Ok, every kilometre we won’t make now when it is easy, we will have to make against the tide and wind. Who cares that this coast is as exciting as paddling south of Withernsea.

Later on we noticed some water sprouts in the distance. We came closer and were surprised to see a whale so close to the shore. It was also resurfacing and disappearing very very slowly. Now we could see some old pods or cabins on the shore and started to consider landing to have a closer look, we spotted bear family, mum and three cubs. At the same time second whale appeared just behind us. We did not know what to photograph first. Just in case it wasn’t enough, small plane came and started to circle above us. It was really intense moment, often there were hours of paddling without any interaction and suddenly everything happened at the same time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before we landed for the day we could see one more bear family, mother with two young ones, one more whale and a ship wreck.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our camp was full of bear prints and a small baby seal was constantly climbing up and down the tall sandy beach.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We should make the last 37 kilometres to Nelson Lagoon tomorrow and Freya is trying to arrange our flight out for Tuesday. I hope it will all work out smoothly.


Nelson Lagoon            Monday 16.07.2018

Morning was grey with drizzle and fresh westerly wind. Fortunately no surf, just some splashy waves, so launching was straightforward.

We had tide and wind with us therefore we were making nice progress even without much effort. Yet again we were following this low sand dunes with grass on top of them. We could not see much more through low clouds and occasional rain. But Freya still found it interesting enough to paddle close to the shore and kept either watching that or her GPS. I know why I became so tired and logging for break. It was all this waiting. It frustrates me when we should be making progress and I have to be waiting even when I am putting in just half of the effort. Ok, eventually this slow paddle was interrupted by whale. Again it was really close to the shore and just flapping around. When we where twelve kilometres from Nelson Lagoon Freya decided it’s time to switch her satellite phone on and check messages. No problem I thought we have plenty of time. Half and hour later she finally putt her phone away. We were sitting in the rain and wind slowly drifting while getting cold and she was texting like a teenager.

Eventually we landed by a dirt track road leading to Nelson Lagoon and my paddling with Freya was over. We walked to the village to find Justine who should put us up and help us to sort out logistics.

We were wondering between houses hoping that either we eventually meet someone or find official looking building and ask for Justine, who works for local government.

We found her in the Post office building, we walked in and there she was: “Hi, you are here. I’m Justine.”

After greetings we asked about flying out. She started to make phone calls and arranged for Grant Aviation to take us to Cold Bay the following morning. From there we booked PenAir flight to Anchorage. Next thing was to change my flight to London.

Next, we had to sort out the transport for our kayaks and equipment from the beach. Justine offered to drive, we loaded everything including our kayaks. We put them across the open back with me standing and holding them. Now it was time to drive into the village. It was tight but we didn’t lose anything, neither kayaks nor me.


Photo by Freya Hoffmeister

We stayed in lovely self catering, the signs around indicate that it is mainly used by anglers. We sorted all our gear, I made a list of things I’m leaving behind for Natalie and packed the rest.

Soon I will become quite anxious as there are three days of travel with multiple flights ahead of  me to get to London.


Flying Out           Tuesday 17.07.2018

This morning we woke up ready to fly out. The only hiccup was we didn’t know when would our flight be leaving. When Justine helped us to book the flight yesterday she said was leaving in the morning. “Ok”, we asked, “what time?”

“I don’t know” she replied, “I have to call them in the morning.”

So now we were up, quite early. Just in case. We were thinking what would be the best way to find out more. Then Justine phoned, “your flight is at 9:30am. I’ll pick you up at 9”.

We got everything ready and stopped at Justine’s place on the way to the airport to drop off bags with gear which will be staying here for Natalie and Freya to continue in ten days.

I was quite taken back by the amount of expensive stuff laying everywhere when we walked into Justine’s place, cars, lawnmowers, power tools, computers, huge tv, drones. Wow. I thought. All of those small places look really poor and run down from the outside. I wonder how people here earn the money. I mean living here is pretty costly. There is no shop here. Everything comes by plane, even bottled water. They have water supply which is absolutely fine to drink but they prefer bottled water!

No wonder that half of the village was on the way to the airport with us.

We climbed out of the car and watched the unloading process. Cars quickly surrounded the plane on gravel airstrip. Dust was slowly settling down and boxes were being passed to different cars. Boxes and boxes.

Boxes of beer, wine, vodka. I hardly could spot anything else being unloaded. I wondered, plane lands here three times a week, is it always like this? No wonder there is police officer here even if there are no more than 35 people living in the village.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We took off. Three of us almost filled the plane, Freya, I and our pilot. Soon we were above the low lying clouds and could admire number of snow covered volcanoes around. At some point, we paddled around most of them.

In half an hour we landed in Cold Bay. We are changing plane and the airline. We checked in, and were told that our handheld luggage is just too big to fit into the overhead lockers because plane is quite small. We made sure our bags were marked ‘fragile’, in the end they are full of glass balls. Then we went for a stroll through the town and stopped in a shop and library.

Our flight to Anchorage was briefly stopping in Sand Point. It was nice to see bits and pieces of coast we paddled around through the clouds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Anchorage we stood on the tarmac watching the plane being unloaded and waited for our handheld bags. There were not coming, I could see my check in luggage being transferred but our bags were nowhere to be seen. When the plane was empty it was time to move to the baggage claim desk, yes our bags were left behind in Cold Bay. Ours and two other. Great.

They worked out that they should be able to deliver Freya’s to Seattle on Thursday early morning. They seemed to have no idea how to get mine to London. Perfect, when it gets there it will be full of smashed glass. Anyway, it would be nice to be reunited with my helmet at some point. Sweet Rocker is not particularly cheap.

Now it was time to go to desk to check in. I went there straight as they opened. I handed my passport over, then my booking reference, and after a long pause I was told that there was no change done to my booking. So I am still on the flight leaving in ten days.

There is no one to help me I was told. I was advised to go and use public pay phone as mine doesn’t work for some reason. “Sorry, there is nobody to help you here,” this line was delivered with a look which clearly said, “and leave now, there is a queue behind you “.

Great. Bag lost. Booking messed up.

I spent few minutes thinking about what to do next. Even if I find a pay phone here it would be bloody expensive. Those phone calls take forever.

So I made my way back to baggage claim desk. If someone is going to be helpful it would be the lady I spoke to earlier. If nothing else she feels guilty about her airline losing my luggage.

And yes. She was incredibly helpful, let me to use their phone to call and call, after half an hour I managed to track down the guy who was updating my ticket yesterday. His response was simple “Yes, I told you that your booking was changed but it didn’t go through. I didn’t have means how to contact you “. What a ….. he had my email, too.

Ok, another half an hour on the phone talking to different people receiving similar answers, it was time to send message to the UK with hope that in couple of hours in the morning there will be someone much more skilled to do magic with airline tickets.

Good thing was that this airport had free WiFi so I could use my iPad to communicate. By one in the morning I had new ticket to London from Seattle for £145. Few air companies were still busy with last departing planes. I quickly researched online prices and went to talk to Alaska Airline, it didn’t take long and I had ticket to Seattle as well. On the other hand, this delay gave me just enough time to retrieve my lost hand luggage before leaving for Seattle.

It took a while, flights were long but two days later I finally touched down at Heathrow Airport. This adventure was over.

Ever since I agreed to join Freya I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sometimes I was quite nervous about it. For two main reasons. I often paddle with lots of different people but when it comes to more serious paddling I’ve always done it with just one person, my wife Natalie. Now I was meant to join Freya, who has paddled a lot, and on her own, and whose image is quite controversial.

Now, after spending weeks of paddling with her, I can say I am surprised how well we managed to get along.

Maybe, because expedition seakayaking is quite straightforward and although we haven’t paddled together before we had same understanding of what to do when. I was quite pleased to find out that although Freya had many more years of paddling experience I didn’t lack behind, neither physically or skill wise.

Probably best thing about this trip was that I didn’t have to worry about Freya. She is incredibly good in being able to take care of herself. Skill, which she honed during years of solo paddling. It was a new experience for me, doing all previous challenging kayaking with my wife meant, I was always really cautious about my decision making. Regardless of how good my wife Natalie is, there is always an extra responsibility when paddling with your partner.

Paddling with Freya was really good in that aspect. We were paddling as equal partners and it worked really well.

If it comes to that in the future, I would happily join Freya on her North America circumnavigation again.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Over to Michal:


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.