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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The start of Natalie’s trip to Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s getting more interesting

It’s getting more and more interesting. The last two days especially. Yesterday we decided to round the most westerly point and have a look at the most westerly lighthouse of Europe. What started as a leisury sunny paddle across a bay past long sandy beach resulted into something, what I can summarise into the following: rolling big southwesterly swell against strong northerly wind, and tide that was doing who knows what. Fortunately we could see none of it too well as in the same moment the fog descended and left us with 100 metres visibility.Just before we also met some bird watchers on a small boat, when they heard we were going round the west corner they told us about the race, and yachts going backwards there. All in all we managed and landed on a minor surf beach. 
Today we set off for a shorter paddle as we decided against any crossings into forecasted headwind. When it started, we decided not to land in a particularly surfy bay, but see what’s round the corner. And then we were paddling against headwind force five and against waves that I can only describe as huge-hugely-huge with small breaking tops. Wasn’t that just fun! Sadly it was beyond us taking the camera out. And just as we were almost out of it, a fishing boat passed us quite close. I decided to demonstrate that we are someone, who negotiates these every day, and waved. So did this fisherman, and also took it, that we were ok, which we were. Only then sped off full blast, so this hugely huge waves with small breaking tops were joined by fast approaching big surf waves of his wake. 

When it all calmed and we looked around, we almost felt that we got lost. There wasn’t any small sheltered bay, but the Patreksfjordur, the same one against which crossing we decided earlier. 

Oh well, we crossed it then, and found amazing campsite with our own cold pool. And many old ruins. We saw old ruins in all our three previous campsites. They were remains of old farms and former summer fishing stations. For example the one from yesterday,  Brunnar, was an ancient fishing station used till 1620, and then as season station till 1880.

Moments to remember

It has been two weeks now since we came back from Scotland, and finally we had the time to go through all photos from our trip. It’s interesting, how some pictures can bring up memories of the moment in which they were taken. Here are few to share.


Already when we were crossing to South Uist, we knew a storm would come during the night. We aimed at the Uisinish Bothy. In the next few days we had first chance to experience what the weather on Outer Hebrides may look like. This photo captures the moment when we were going to put more boulders on our kayaks to ensure they won’t be blown away in imminent force 9.NF 13

We paddled for six or seven hours in a big variety of conditions and ended up paddling into increasing headwind and rain. Shortly after we landed and managed to put our tent up a car stopped by. We were offered freshly prepared crab and selection of cakes. Including coffe and walnut one! What a perfect finish to paddling day.NF

Have we mentioned the weather yet? This was the beginning of summer half term in England and Natalie finally got the snow she was talking about all winter.NF 12

We were looking for somewhere to pitch our tent for the next few nights. there wasn’t much land suitable. Until we spotted this flat patch of grass, which promised some privacy from dog walkers. Who cared it was in plain view of the whole village of Port Ness. This photo was taken at midnight. kilda 14

When we were crossing from Hirta to Boreray the sea was smooth with swell like rolling carpet underneath. The sea and space were so huge that these stacks looked like mere boulders rather than the two hundreds meters high rocks, they were.NF 3

As we were approaching Boreray the loudness of the sea was deafened by the cacophony of the birds. With every meter we came closer the sound of the gannets’ wings slicing through the air got  louder and louder. Boreray, Tiderace, Pace Tour, sixknots, Stac Lee

There were moments, when we thought that the tent would have it, as it often seemed that someone was throwing buckets of gravel on it. Yet, after each episode we were rewarded by spectacular displays of nature’s art. NF 7

At one point, while following he coast of this beatiful island, Natalie decided to claim it her own. She scribbled her initial there for everybody to know.Tiderace, Pace Tour, sixknots,

After a while we got used to the size of the swell. If we thought we paddled in big swell before, here it was much bigger. Several times we were given the chance to have birds view of each other. When the waves hit the cliffs the sea became, even more spectacular and added special features to its repertoire. NF 11 NF 10

We landed in Uig Bay hopeful that the weather would finally give in and we could try to catch up with our original plan. Although this never happened, we spent several nights there being entertained by its people, landscape and weather. uig

This is the moment when I realised how fortunate I am. I was paddling into the sunset. The sea had an atmosphere. I was heading into an iconic location. The time was incredible. And at that point I started to think, what else could one wish for. Then I realised, it was to be able to share this with your most closest and loved one. And here I was,  paddling into the sunset with my wife. kilda 16

Five days is enough!

Five days, five days we have sat on the land. So far the most weather bound we have been on all of our paddles. We enjoyed exploring North Uist making various trip, a combination of walking, hitching and local buses taking along the circular road. We met lots of people, found out many interesting facts, learnt a thing or two about birds. Yet, we are here to paddle, and paddle we did yesterday. The wind dropped from red, orange on XCWeather to green for about 12 hours and we knew that this was our chance. On long journeys we learnt to go with the weather and the flow. This time, we had to add a new skill, to go with the wind as well. And so instead of heading west or north, we allowed us to be pushed east.   


Once we left the bay from Hugharry, the sea changed from calm, clear turquoise to lively, dark and quite hilly. We forgot how it feels to paddle with this great Atlantic swell. We stayed far out away from land, whose cliff or hills occasionally disappeared from view obstructed by waves. We enjoyed the conditions, more so, that we could regularly see each other from the bird perspective. 





We landed just once for an obligatory pee stop at the entrance between islands of Harris sound. The sea calmed straight a way and with wind blowing in our backs we decided to circumnavigate Berneray from the north rather than ferry the kayaks across the causeway. Berneray is appreciated by tourist for its dunes and long white beaches, something that could get quite boring if followed for a prolong period of time in the kayak. Fortunately the island of Borneray, Pabbay and Harris made the views more varied. 

Six hours after launching we landed on the east side of the island and decided to camp in a place in dunes,which will provide us with enough shelter for the forthcoming gales tomorrow. We chose the right spot, obviously, as little later a car stopped by, instead of being bothered by landowner it was the best take-away ever. With shouts of “home baking”, “local crab”, we purchased the latter and coconut, and coffee and walnut cake.  


Happy New Year 2015

To all our friends, visitors and readers of our blog, we wish you Happy New Year 2015 with  lots of great adventures.

Here is a card from Toby with lighthouses to keep us all pointing to the right direction.

Lighthouse Cart

How many can you guess?

We will share the answers in the new year.


Natalie and Michal

Christmas Card


This Christmas we have received this card. On second look we noticed that wasn’t an ordinary Christmas Tree. Slowly, we started to recognise familiar outlines of places we visited by kayak. With little help we managed to name them all.
Thank you Toby!


How many of them you can name?

Merry Christmas everyone!

Natalie and Michal

Selsey Bill

This Saturday I had to drop Natalie off at Southwater early in the morning. Being half way down to south coast I could not resist to surf Pinky Two in Selsy Bill race.

Race is just offshore Selsey.

Selsey Bill

Martin joined me on the water.

Selsey Bill

We had lovely sunshine.

Selsey Bill

I had my paddle.

Selsey Bill

We had some clouds.

Selsey Bill

And we had waves.

Selsey Bill

Lots of them.

Selsey Bill

My new boat put smile on my face;)

Selsey Bill

VORTEX – First Impression

Scotland easter 66

Update: There were few changes made in the construction of Vortex after we purchased ours. The most significant was that Vortex is now made from three layer plastic. We are planning to do more detailed update in March/April when we will have a year long experience of paddling Vortex.

I have to say that I was never big fan of plastic boats. Ever since I started paddling I’ve always preferred composite ones. However there were times when I felt restricted in a nice fiberglass or carbon-kevlar kayak. There and now I was worried to try certain things as I did not want to smash an expensive boat.

So when I saw that Tiderace started to make plastic, too, I didn’t need much convincing to get us some.

vortex (1)

The first trip with our new boats was to Scotland for week of paddling over the Easter break.

I know there are lots of different qualities in which kayakers are interested in when choosing new kayak. So let me start with the most important one; the color.

Currently Vortex is made in four different colors. I had a chance to see them all. Pink, blue, orange and green is the order in which I would choose them.


Now to the kayak itself. Vortex is a plastic kayak, yet, from the first moment it was clear that it is a Tiderace boat. Hatches, deck lines, bungee cords, foot pegs, everything felt very familiar. As soon as I sat in it, there were no surprises, I felt the same comfort and the same connection with the kayak as in my other boats.


We could not wait to get them on the water to find out how does it feel paddling. Vortex is a short, flat hull seakayak with proper rocker. Thanks to this it felt incredibly stable, yet it turned really well. What was most interesting was its speed. It didn’t feel lazy at all and we could easily keep up with the group in longer composite boats and doubles.


To keep a straight line wasn’t an issue. It weathercocked a bit in the side wind, but skeg dealt with this very easily. Planned overnighter looked like a challenge at first since we were used bigger boats but surprisingly we fitted everything with some space left. However the front and back hatch had to take more stuff in as the day hatch is smaller compare to Xplore.

While paddling towards our camp we found the best conditions of the week for playing and even with the fully loaded boat it was great fun ridding waves and rockhopping through gullies and channels. Sadly we could not find any surf to give the boat a proper ride and I am looking forward to it the next time.


Overall the impression from this boat was of one which would be perfect for anyone who’s new to kayaking, but in the same time it is lots of fun for experienced kayaker to play in and to push boundaries.

The boats fulfilled and in some ways exceeded our expectations, however there is one small thing to keep in mind. The boat is made of single layer of plastic and as it is flat to allow the best performance, this has effects on the flexibility of the hull. Which then causes for the bulkhead of the day hatch to become less watertight. However for us this does not deter the good impressions we got of the boats as we never rely on hatches being completely dry at all times.