Sunday, June 2, 2019

Peaceful Solo Paddling

Day 12 - Wrangell - Village Islands 32km

A very easy day today. I left late and paddled slowly down the shoreline watching Wrangell fade away. I has planned to stay on a previous island to the one I'm on and paddled right past it because it appeared low enough to flood right out in tonight's high tide. I saw one whale and so many ermine today. I have a martin very interested in me and my bags so I will stow most of my things in the kayak tonight. This island has so many monster trees inland and a fabulous inter tidal so I must go now and explore it all.
Village Island North
Roor Ball 30' Tall
Scallop shell

Day 13 Village Island to Niblack Islands 30 km

Woke up in the middle of the night to check the tide level and thought I had plently of room so I went back to bed. I woke up dry and figured everything was good until I went to get water. The tide had made it into the trees and floated my water bladder away! I was some upset with myself and wasted a good hour checking in the trees and rocks to see if it had gotten caught up nearby. Later in the morning I was lucky enough to paddle by some canoeists from the Crossings Program out of Wrangell, who were kind enough to give me a spare water bottle. I could at least carry 5L of fresh water with me using the containers I had in my boat.

I made my way out of Zimovia Strait and into Ernest Sound. The winds were strong from the west southwest so I was working hard. I managed to cross halfway doing some island hopping and found an ok bay to rest in. I was too tired to consider zipping around the southern end of the island and working up the eastern shores to check for a campsite so I settled. I landed at low tide so the bay was pretty drained out. Due to my upset at losing my fresh water in the morning, I had messed up my morning routine and forgotten to do a camp sweep. I had forgotten a tent pole at my last site and needed to make a ridgepole out of willow so my tent would be waterproof if it rained.

The bay was very deep and the logs at the back prevented me from getting my kayak up high. I scouted for a tent site and ended up climbing a cliff and using my hatchet to cut out an area. I had to tie my kayak on both ends with two different ropes and hope that when the tide floated it, that boucing into the rocks wouldn't hurt it too much. There was no other option. I didn't have the strength to lift my  kayak up the cliff. I set my alarm for 4am to get up early to finish tthe crossing to Deer Island and hopefully make it to Meyers Chuck in a day.
I pulled the kayak to the left and up the rocks and tied her in as tight as I could.

Her morning resting place.
Find the tent in this picture!
Willow ridge pole made my me.

Day 14 Niblack Islands to Meyers Chuck 54 km   

I  could hear a whale sleeping between the islands last night; every 20 minutes or so I could hear her breathe! It was like having a guardian angel. I'm almost positive it was the same one I sat and watched feed at sunset.

When I woke up at 4am Sedna had been floated 20' up the rocks and had been bounced against them. I inspected her for damage and found a small dent in her starboard side from a rock, nothing more. This hard plastic is sure holding up well. Both ropes had held her into the bay and I was so thankful. The challenge was in sliding her back down to where the water was draining out of the bay.

I made my crossing over to Deer Island and continued down to Vixen Inlet.The cliffs along the way were populated with starfish and sea cucumbers I had not seen before. I went slowly to take in the view. Suddenly I spotted dozens of the rainbow ringed snail I wanted so I plucked one off the wall and put it in a ziploc for safe keeping. Soon after I found some amazing conch as well.

The cliff walls along the shore continued for miles. At one point I really needed a bathroom break and was scouting for a beach when I saw a whale spout. My Dad had asked me to make him some video so I got into position and put the camera on video. The next seven minutes of my life were such a thrill. The humpback whales swam right towards me and the cliff wall. They were feeding and circling. It was all I could do to brace and continue filming. At one point one of the whales came up 10 - 15' from the port side of my kayak and really scared me. I paddled away once they were not in front of me and I had the coordination to do so. The film is one of my favorite memories of the trip. I will post it on its own post once I have edited it.( I forgot to turn it off in my excitement so there is about five minutes at the end that needs to be cut.)

I continued down the coast and hoped to cut across Union Bay however the winds had come up and I had to stay close to shore. When I thought I had paddled into the bay far enough and tried to cut the end of the bay the winds blew up and created confused lumpy water with whitecaps coming from two directions that forced me to shore. I retreated and continued to paddled along the shoreline. At Lemesurier Point I paddled out enough to see huge whitecaps in Clarence Strait at 4pm and decided to tuck into a tiny cove off the point on the north side. I tok off my dry suit and went for a wander to stretch. I checked out the Meyers Chuck side and after glassing big whitecaps I sat down with my book for an hour of reading in the sun with a snack.

When the waves stopped crashing violently against Lemly Rocks I started paddling to Meyers Chuck. The channel between Misery Island and the point funneled some decent 3' waves right at me. I had to focus and work to get into the harbor.

Once into the harbor, Tim greeted me and pointed to the public dock. He told me I could use the green lawn for tenting and a neighbors porch and picnic table and the fresh water hose. Soon after I docked his partner brought me two fresh eggs from their chickens! Those were the best eggs I have ever eaten.My phone had service so I made a call home with the little bit of voice I had.

Day 15 Meyers Chuck - Rest

I am not feeling good today at all. The antibiotics I started taking in Petersburg are helping but today I am feverish, headachy, coughing and exhausted. It is raining today and I am taking the day off to rest. I have decided after talking to my husband that it is probably wise to end my trip in Ketchikan and figure out what is in my lungs. I have had this cold the entire trip and it has become some kind of infection in my chest that steals my sleep when I lay down. Today I will rest with the plan to get to Ketchikan by Sunday to catch the ferry home. I am satisfied that this is a good choice for my health as I am just getting sicker out here and for 15 days I have paddled through it.

The other kicker in this choice, is my forgotten tent pole. Without a proper ridgepole the tent is not waterproof and the geography of the area I am headed to next begs for big storms from the Pacific. I need a reliable stormproof tent for shelter. Using my willow stick is not reliable because it could tear my fly. So I go back to sqaure one with these lessons learned, and know that if I am unwell I need to postpone my launch next year. I also remember next year to do a camp sweep everyday no matter what. I just don't want to be a liability in the big water and very remote wilderness section that is next so I will add that bit to my trip next year.

Day 16 Meyers Chuck to Caamano Point 43km

The idea to paddle south against the tradewinds was crazy! Headwinds are no fun. Today I had a solid 10+knot wind in my face all day from the southeast that would have been lovely to surf. Instead I worked the waves created by this wind all day. Next year I think I may drive south to paddle north.

I am tempted to bivy on the sand tonight as I will be gettig up at 3am to pack and make my crossing of Behm Canal. It won't be a great sleep but it will be an adventure sleep. It will be good to keep the kayak loaded for a quick departure.

A Bivy bed made out of leveled sand
Marbled rocks
The view of Ketchikan from Caamano Point

Day 17  Caamano Point to Ketchikan

Awake at 3am and it is really dark. I can see that Sedna is barely above the high tide line on her log perch. I am so tired again as I have been coughing. My bivy is wet from condensation but I lay back down for a few more minutes of rest anyway. At 3:22am I get up and pack the kayak. Sedna is in a difficult place to pack her so I move her off the loga nd float her to the other side of the beach. I am dressed an paddling out by 430am. The light is starting to lighten the sky. The crossing starts easy and fairly flat with no wind. Suddenly I am caught in my first rip and being pulled south out past the point. I paddle fast and ferry hard to vector towards the big island and make up ground. Finally I can see that I have crossed the line and am back into peaceful water. I enjoy the sunrise to the northeast.

The waves start to build from the southeast when I am about a third of the way across. At first they are only a ripple, but soon build until they are 2-3' and very regular, giving me a nice push. Suddenly I see a huge rip coming from behind the big island where I know Naha Bay is hidden from my view. I lose a lot of ground as I ride the waves backwards on the river in the ocean. When I look ahead I see a small island and know that the calm will be short lived as the rip will continue on the other side. Finally I reach the eastern shore north of Point Higgins and am proud of myself for not being ripped out into the shipping lane. I look for a calm corner of water to sip a cup of tea.

As I paddled into Tongass Narrows I could see a park full of totems and so I pulled up on the beach and visited Totem Bight at 7am. Then I paddled intoKetchikan's Bar Harbor where I met Andy who helped me unload and store my kayak beside his boat. He then drove me to lunch and my hostel while we chatted about fishing and astronomy. I spent the rest of my day cleaning up and doing tourist stuff.
Totem Bight


Thursday, May 30, 2019

3 Whales Outside Petersburg

After days of not seeing whales, I was escorted for awhile by three humpbacks gently swimming along. I suddenly realized I had promised to make video for my Dad and this is the result. I tend to get lost in the moments with them and forget to make sure I'm actually filming them.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Partner for Part of the Passage

Day 1 - Auke Bay to Juneau 23km

Started off at 9am in 1ft waves , paddled to Entrance Point and waited for the tide to come up on a sand bar for about an hour. Made it through Mendenhall wetlands only getting stuck in the mud once; not my favorite place to paddle. Once in the Gastineau Channel the winds really picked up out of the south at 30knots. We crossed to Juneau and paddled hard into the headwind, went past our harbor and had to turn around after the bridge (messy waters under the bridge!) and finally found Harris Harbor. Found a room at the Baranof Hotel for the nignt.

Day 2 - Juneau to Taku Harbor 44km

Rain most of the day. Great colorful starfish colony under and abandoned wharf south of Juneau. First crossing went well. Pushed our distance to see how long the weather will hold. Saw 9 whales today!

Day 3 - Taku Harbor - Stockdale Point 2.2km

Big winds and stormy day put us onto a beach as we left our sheltered bay. We had a terrrible time moving our boats up the beach here as we were forced to land at low tide. Left Taku Harbor as the tide was going out and had to really fight muddy bottom to load the boats in the draining bay. This was the worst experience I have ever had loading my kayak! I learned to check my chart and tide table and never leave a drying bay at low tide again.

Day 4 - Stockade Pt. to Holkham Bay My 41st Birthday

Sunshine Finally. Icebergs and a seal colony were highlights today. My partner telling me to "stop talking" when I tried to explain the importance of channel 16 on a VHF and the ensuing silent treatment for the remainder of the day was not enjoyable. I did attempt to communicate that her behavior wasn't ok and she simply paddled away and ignored me. A VHF radio is not a glorified weather radio and our shared VHF wouldn't work. She refused to allow me to look at the radio.

I celebrated my birthday in the sun with a glass of wine and my book. I dried out all of my things. I refused to let someone else's bad attitude ruin my day. I even sang myself a song. It was a good day after all. As I was brushing my teeth, I saw two beautiful brown bears come down onto the bay across from our camp. Yelling at them only scared them into the bushes for a few minutes. After observing them and seeing that they simply wanted their dinner, I chose to make a fire out of driftwood. My paddling partner chose this mini crisis to begin speaking to me again and offered assistance. A decent fire was built on our part of the beach, below the high tide line and we went to sleep.

Day 5 - Holkham Bay to Unnamed Bay South of Windham Bay 37km

Long Day of headwinds and against the tide. Almost no wildlife until the bay and then so many porpoises. We saw them zooming everywhere. maybe feeding on fish caught in the nets?

Day 6 - Unnamed Bay to Cape Fanshaw 44km

Sunny and clear. What a Day! We made good time down the coast and across Hobart Bay and Port Houghton. Calm seas allowed us to stay far out and cross quickly. Not much for wildlife. The winds picked up after noon so we chose to slide down Cleveland Passage on our way to Cape Fanshaw to give ourselves a break out of the wind. Once out in the bay we could foretell that the Cape would have some fair size waves due to the winds. We rounded the Cape at approximately 5:30pm into 4foot waves and surfed our way down Frederick Sound into a cobbled beach.

Day 7 Cape Fanshaw to Read Island

Paddled 12km in building seas where we landed because the ebb current had created 3-4foot seas and my paddling partner thought it may blow bigger. We landed in a very shallow bay and pulled our kayaks out of the water.

While waiting out the wind we sat against an old beach log and ended up falling asleep in the sun. Some sixth sense woke me up and I immediately spotted a black bear 200 feet to the left of us, peacefully snacking on seaweed. I woke up my partner and pointed out the bear which she could not see until it moved. I stood up and put my hands over my head to make myself larger and spoke to the bear to announce that we were there. The wind had hidden our smell, and he hadn't heard us talking. He ran into the woods, but came back in a few minutes to check us out. We both got up and yelled at him this time and again he ran into the woods. Then back he came so now we moved out onto the gravel beach to get the bear bangers. (Spray was always at hand.) As I was loading a banger that bear popped out of the trees right beside the log where we had been sleeping in the grass. He was way tto curious! I fired the banger over his head and off he went. He was gone for a very long time.

When we see the bear again, he is halfway across the bay. We stayed out on the gravel at our kayaks for safety as I did not like the behaviour of this bear. The bear came out of the trees to some seaweed and sat on his haunches and chewed and watched us for awhile. He learned to stay away from people.

Many hours later the seas are calm enough to paddle so we go again. We paddle to Read Island and find a sandy beach to put up our tent for the night.

Day 8 - Read Island - Petersburg

Beauty Day for paddling in Frederick Sound. Saw millions of herring roe in the shallows everywhere. The bad was my paddling partner. She was snippy with me right from the start of the day and then gave me the silent treatment all day again.

During the crossing at the Sukoi Islets we diverge. I insist that there is a busy shipping channel and as kayaks we should cross directly to shore and handrail into Petersburg for safety. My partner wants to paddle the most direct route, straight down the shipping lane. A large fishing vessel come out of harbor and up to full speed before seeing the kayak in the channel and putting his engines in full reverse. My paddling partner did not make a course change to paddle directly towards shore at that point either. I cannot continue to paddle with a person who is a liability to others' safety any further. I choose to stay ahead and inform her by way of messaging that I will not continue with her after town.

Day 9 - Petersburg - Crab Pot Beach 27.7km

Against the tide! Today started off with coffee and chatting on the phone. I needed to wait for the drugstore as I have been quite sick and needed a few items. Once my boat was loaded and away the shoreline disappeared quickly. The moment I was at zen three humpback whales spouted 200 feet away from me. I hadn't seen a whale in days. They spouted and dove and swam with me for about a half hour.

Day 10 Crab Pot Beach to Wrangell

I forgot to turn on tracking, oops. Had to make it across the Stikine mudflats at high tide so iwas anxious. I wa up and moving on time. Once I made it to Dry Strait it was difficult to figure out which island was which and I headed for the southern tip of what I thought was Rynda Island. I t turned out to be  Kadin Island so I corrected course and continued paddling hard. The crossing seemed to take forever. The rainstorms were constant and so thick I couldm't see through them. I was so worried about getting stuck on the mud and having to wait out the tide.

My other big concern was visibility. I couldn't see Wrangell through the rain and that meant boats wouldn't see me. I prayed for it to clear and it did. I took a compass reaading just in case and headed out. I was so pleased to hit the harbor at two in the afternoon.

The Kah Shakes Tribal House is right next to the harbor and I was drawn to the sound of drums. Inside I found Tlingit and Tsimshian dancers and singers performing songs and dances about paddling. I felt as though they were singing to my soul.

The hostel at the Presbyterian Church is not yet open, however the kind operator made and exception for me and picked me up a the harbor. I had and amazing shower and sleep last night, watched over by a glowing red cross.

Day 11 - Wrangell Rest Day and Chores

I have been eating pizza all day. Breakfast and lunch and most likely dinner. I found a beautiful lady named Jenice at the Busy Bee to repair the tear in my spray skirt. I purchased a few items at the a few other stores and now I'm at the Public Library. Kim from the Presbyterian Church Hostel came to check on me and brought me some homemade canned salmon. I'm waiting for low tide to walk out and see the petroglyphs. I needed a day off.

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