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PostHeaderIcon Blowholes and broken boats

“It’s windy round here, be careful”, the fisherman warned me today. He was reiterating what another boat skipper and a local pilot had told us about this area. In a north westerly, the winds funnel out of the valleys in the many big bays we need to cross. We’ve been told to add another 10 knots to any NW forecast we’re given. I’d say that’s an underestimate if anything. Today’s predicted 15 knots is still raging, whiping up the bay into white caps and slamming into our Hilleberg tent. We managed to pull off 29 miles today and it felt like we crossed many boundaries into lanes of strong and then weak winds. Sometimes it was obvious that we were crossing a gap between Islands or that a bay would funnel winds in a particular orientation but not always. We got caught out on a 12 mile crossing of Portage Bay, lulled into a false sense of security by a light breeze as we set out. The wind suddenly picked up about 3 miles in but we could sail and make good progress, as long as w e took
an unconservative direct line course. All was well until 3 miles from the end when the wind steped up a notch and changed angle to be more offshore. We had been paddling NE but ended up paddling due North to reach the headland.

Round the corner we met our Kodiak Island fishing tender who was anchored close to shore waiting to take delivery of Salmon from a purse seiner who we’d just passed setting her nets.

“Puale Bay… That’s a blow hole”, he warned referring to the next Bay that we need to cross. And for good measure he added, “Watch out for bears, we saw one on that hill earlier”.

Now camped up less than a mile from “that hill”, but with a raging fire, I got a big shock when carrying Sarah’s kayak up the beach tonight. I heard a sickening crack and the back end felt like it had come away from the rest. It hadn’t totally, 6 clips hold the three pieces of the kayak together and 4 of them had come undone. The metal part that clamps down has bent with the strain on two of the clips and they wouldn’t shut properly. Sarah tried bending then back and she filed the screws down to try to tighten the whole thing up. . No luck. In the end she glued the 2 sections of kayak together with epoxy. Hopefully it will last until we get to Homer which is probably 200-250 miles away now.

PostHeaderIcon Blowholes and broken boats

“It’s windy round here, be careful”, the fisherman warned me today. He was reiterating what another boat skipper and a local pilot had told us about this area. In a north westerly, the winds funnel out of the valleys in the many big bays we need to cross. We’ve been told to add another 10 knots to any NW forecast we’re given. I’d say that’s an underestimate if anything. Today’s predicted 15 knots is still raging, whiping up the bay into white caps and slamming into our Hilleberg tent. We managed to pull off 29 miles today and it felt like we crossed many boundaries into lanes of strong and then weak winds. Sometimes it was obvious that we were crossing a gap between Islands or that a bay would funnel winds in a particular orientation but not always. We got caught out on a 12 mile crossing of Portage Bay, lulled into a false sense of security by a light breeze as we set out. The wind suddenly picked up about 3 miles in but we could sail and make good progress, as long as w e took
an unconservative direct line course. All was well until 3 miles from the end when the wind steped up a notch and changed angle to be more offshore. We had been paddling NE but ended up paddling due North to reach the headland.

Round the corner we met our Kodiak Island fishing tender who was anchored close to shore waiting to take delivery of Salmon from a purse seiner who we’d just passed setting her nets.

“Puale Bay… That’s a blow hole”, he warned referring to the next Bay that we need to cross. And for good measure he added, “Watch out for bears, we saw one on that hill earlier”.

Now camped up less than a mile from “that hill”, but with a raging fire, I got a big shock when carrying Sarah’s kayak up the beach tonight. I heard a sickening crack and the back end felt like it had come away from the rest. It hadn’t totally, 6 clips hold the three pieces of the kayak together and 4 of them had come undone. The metal part that clamps down has bent with the strain on two of the clips and they wouldn’t shut properly. Sarah tried bending then back and she filed the screws down to try to tighten the whole thing up. . No luck. In the end she glued the 2 sections of kayak together with epoxy. Hopefully it will last until we get to Homer which is probably 200-250 miles away now.

PostHeaderIcon Wind and sleep

The tent was shaking when the 5am alarm went off. A look outside confirmed the wind had pulled an all nighter and was at least 20 knots. No point in getting up early for that so we went back to sleep until 8am. The sea was all full of white caps so I turned my alarm off. 11 delicious hours of sleep later I emerged into a sunny, windy day. The gusts must have been at least 35 knots and it’s not dropped below a bracing hold-onto-your-hat blow all day. It’s been great to catchup on sleep after not getting enough recently, phone familyand friends and eat delicious things like pancakes and falafels. We braved a walk in “bear country” to find water. The landscape here is mostly low grass and mosses, none of the thick alder bushes that we’ve started to see in lots of places. The long range visibility made us happier venturing a few miles to look for a river. In the end our steam was dry and we walked all the way back to not much more than a puddle in the dried up bed. But the view s were
well worth it. We could see a fishing boat sheltering in the next small bay and beyond that the string of flat topped islands that stretch like steeping stones across the 12 mile Wide Bay. Hopefully we’ll hop between them tomorrow.

PostHeaderIcon The early bird catches more than a worm

It's always so tempting to ignore the alarm at 5am but when we make the effort we are rewarded with a few hours of magical calm paddling. Under a pink sky, we paddled in rippled mercury, past jagged peaks glowing red and golden. Around us birds of all shapes and sizes chattered away and otters gazed warily at us as we glided by. One otter was fast asleep on his back with just his blonde face and his little paws poking out above the water. I mistook him for Bull keep but Sarah spotted him. We drifted close before he finally sensed us, and he suddenly jerked his head and his two front paws up like he was surrendering. He looked at us for a few seconds before disappearing under the surface.

A breeze picked up about 9am - northerly instead of the forecast NW so it was a headwind. It was 10 knots by the time we started crossing our 2nd Bay and 20 knots by the end. The 4 miles took us almost 2 hours. We continued on along a craggy coastline with low conglomerate cliffs eroded into caves, arches and spires. Behind them, grassy flanks rose up to bare mountains, a few snowy peaks and a minty Blue glacier.

We spotted a fox trotting along a cliff top, it's majestic red coat glowing in the sun.

"No way", Sarah suddenly called with an excited lilt. I followed her gaze and saw a honey coloured mound of fur lying on the grass at the edge of the cliff. As we watched, the bear stood up and walked a few steps to the right revealing a tiny darker Brown little bear. The baby bear also stood up and moved slightly revealing another cute little face, and then another.

"There are three of them", Sarah mouthed with an excited grin. It really was special. The wind was whistling offshore and we were confident the bears wouldn't hear or smell us. We watched them baking in the sun for a bit longer before carrying on with big smiles.

We paddled on until we reached the brink of the next large bay. Rather than take on the 20-30 knot gusts, we finished early and camped on a small sandy beach with views of sculpted headlands, craggy mountains and a grassy valley dotted with ponds. It was really hot out of the wind and I enjoyed an afternoon snooze in the sun.

I always feel that if you paddle enough hours in beautiful wild places then you'll enjoy some great moments. Today was a case in point of that for me!