We thought long crossings were behind us once we reached the Alaskan peninsula but clearly we were wrong. The mainland is indented with so many large bays that we are often crossing them or hopping from one offshore Island to another on our way NE to Homer. Today we had a 15 mile and a 10 mile crossing, visiting 3 Islands with different characters. A light wind was behind us but dropped away after lunch. The hot sun that we’ve become accustomed to was hidden behind clouds for most of the day and the islands teased us, shrouding themselves in mist, then peaking out from the gloom. Only Castle Cape was free from cloud, a dramatic spine of rock, capped by prominent turrets, looking like a child’s sandcastle in stripy layers. This distinctive landmark marks the entrance to Chignik Bay and the start off a new weather forecasting area.
A hundred seals lay on a gravely beach on our lunchtime Island and we collected water from a pretty waterfall. Now we’re camped on a small pebble beach in between red cliffs being watched by about 20 seals bouncing around in small waves.
Tonight I massacred dinner by burning the salami and seeds that I thought were simmering gently, and melting my spoon. The salami was ok if you imagined it was pork scratchings but the seeds ( and spoon) were beyond hope. Fortunately a very hungry Sarah saw the funny side even after 9 hours paddling.
I’d like to share a poem by a friend Luke about an earlier experience!
The sun shone down upon the bay
The conditions were ideal
And out among the ripples
Was frolicking a seal.
Then suddenly there came a cry
which rent the morning air
“That’s not a bloody seal
It’s a hungry looking bear!”
Tonight’s campsite is one of my all time favourites. We’re on a bouldery beach with our very own shipwreck, with sea lions and squawking birds for company. From our small island, our view is the majestic sky scraper ridge of Castle Cape and neighbouring jagged peaks. A couple of whales cruised by as we ate dinner.
Today’s forecast changed overnight so despite sacrificing some sleep for a reasonably early start, we found ourselves battling an unexpected easterly wind. We resigned ourselves to not getting that far but fortunately after lunch, a southerly picked up. Up with the sails and we flew 12 miles North to our current Island, surfing away happily.
We heard and saw lots of whales exhaling today. And our necks got sore craning up at some of the most dramatic cliffs I’ve ever seen. Sarah’s footplate in her kayak broke today and she’s right now trying to epoxy, tie and cable tie the metal back together, a midnight job by head torch. We don’t seem to be very good at getting early nights as we are trying to paddle hard when the weather is favourable, and then we have various jobs to do. On that note. . Time for bed
“We won’t know if the plane’s coming or not until we hear it”, the surveyor said with a grin. That wasn’t helpful to us trying to plan when our electric bear fence might arrive and whether we’d be able to paddle today. But it was accurate. The locals have nicknames for the small airlines Pen Air and Grant aviation that service them several times a week – “When Air” and “Can’t aviation”. Mail and passenger planes are often delayed but usually due to high winds or fog, rather than the airlines incompetence. In reality, the planes bringing people and supplies are a lifeline to these communities with no roads to outside.
The plane finally arrived at 4pm and happily our fence was on it. Rena at the post office kindly let us collect the parcel on a Sunday and we decided to launch. It was nearly 6.30pm when we pushed off the beach and waved goodbye to a few new friends. Ironically the predicted westerly was an easterly across the first Bay and we were cursing the lack of beaches where we could camp nearby. The towering cliffs and spikey pinnacles were beautiful in the evening sunshine. We could see snowy mountains in the distance and the rich reds and greens of cliffs on nearby islands. Once we passed the first Bay, a light wind swung around behind us and Whales were blowing all around. One surfaced 100 metres behind us with a loud hiss. At 10.30pm we landed at the end of a long sandy beach, piled high with a hotch potch of driftwood stacked 5 or 6 logs high.
It took a while to set up the electric fence for the first time but our tent and kayaks are now encased in a 20foot square protected by 2 buzzing wires. Should any curious or hungry bear put his or her nose to the wire he should get 9 volts shooting through to his toes. It’s now late and way past my bed time.
“That’s a bear”, Sarah said in a slightly higher octave than usual. She was pointing at a seal in the water 200 metres from our “bear free Island”. “It’s a seal”, I maintained but at her insistence I got out my binoculars.
Magnified, I saw the light brown fur and two rounded furry ears of a bear, swimming right towards our beach.
I panicked! We were at the shore with our kayaks nearly packed ready to launch but not quite. I threw dry bags into hatches and pulled on my dry suit, imagining the bear had smelt us and was coming for it’s breakfast. Sarah started shouting and the bear suddenly looked up, he obviously hasn’t known we were there before. He changed his course slightly and scrabbled out of the water just the other side of a small sandy bluff. Sarah and I were relieved he wasn’t making a beeline for us and were even more happy a minute later to see the bear on top of the sand dune taking a look at us and then running away. He was only a small one, similar in size to the 2 year old we saw shot in King Cove. So much for our bear free Island plan although the Island was only a couple of miles from the mainland. I was glad we’d made sure we had no food in the tent overnight.
After that exciting start, we had a calm sunny paddle towards Perryville for a few hours. A blue sky sparkled above and jagged headlands, pointy peaks and snowy volcanoes surrounded us on all sides as we snaked through Islands. The wind picked up for the last couple of hours and pushed us towards the native village.
We landed on a broad sandy beach in front of a widespread collection of houses. Gary kindly interrupted his fishing to take us to the post office which shut in 10 minutes. We were too late. At 13.01pm we met the lady who worked there on the dirt road on her 4×4 heading home. But being a small friendly town, she turned around and went back to the post office and returned with 2 packages. Our food arrived ( Thanks Scott) but our bear fence ordered on Monday from Anchorage hasn’t. We were going to get back on the water tomorrow morning to make the most of the westerly winds but we’ll now be waiting for the afternoon’s mail plane with crossed fingers.
Of course spending more time in a community is not a bad thing. We spent the afternoon having a chat and food with some of the locals. We’ve been put up in a room in the city office, we’re clean and about to sleep on a bed.