Made it to the Ketchikan! So happy to get the conditions to safely go about 100 miles in 2 days. Will post more later- but safe and sound!
Something like 500 miles done now collectively (Electronics going haywire) after 4 days of rain, rainbows, waterfalls, stormy seas, and huge progress. Made it to the north. Humpbacks everywhere you can hear the ocean breathing all around you nearly all the time. Water depths are well over 1000 feet deep 100 yards from shore- at night phosphorescence dripping off the paddles with schools of fish all lit up below you, Charlotte, looking like a comet in the water. Been soaked to the bone after the boat got swamped a half a dozen times- found the last Laundromat in 150 miles and couldn't be happier! So much broken, so much repaired. Thanks Canadians!
I can't really describe what has happened in the last few days, the experience rich, albeit, at times a little uncomfortable. In short, as it is 1200 am and I have an early morning, I have been victim to some of the closest orca encounters that I every wish to (arms distance middle of a huge pack, the group "playing" with me speeding at me diving under, making eye contact at arms reach), highest winds and speeds on the sailing kayak (over 10 knots surfing down waves hiked off THE BACK of the kayak), coldest (see persistent rain and wind with a swamped boat on a half a dozen occasions bailing gallons upon gallons out of it, everything soaked), generosity (friends from Nanaimo driving 3 hours to deliver something I left behind, made it to Port Mcnall with torn sails and rudder- 2 families sewing me back together and fixing everything at 10 pm), coldest (soaked boat tent, bag, clothes, electronics), luckiest (all you can eat fresh caught Salmon dinner and pie from picked blackberries, multiple nights on various yachts), solitary, intense, and grateful moments. So speechless that my mind is wondering what to think- this is a wild trip.
Going to bed, but happy, comfortable, warm, and stitched up ready to harvest the last of the southeasterlies by sail and trend around Cape Caution onto Central BC. Wow.
More on these last few days later. I love Canada.
Texada proved to be a pretty worthy gamble. As I rounded the southern tip of the island, you could already see a lighter blue color to the water where the NW wind had been blocked. When I arrived there, I slid onto an absolute sheet of glass with a huge panorama of BC's coastal mountains and glaciers, as well as rugged, seemingly uninhabited Texada Island. Satisfied, I trudged up the coastline looking for a water source and a suitable campsite- imagining the land with 16 feet less water on a low tide and how that might factor into launching the boat.
Remarkably, the only passing boat decided to stop and chat, the woman, Erika, offering anything helpful- sunscreen, life jacket (I had lost mine earlier in the day), a beer, water, whatever. As I mentioned being low on water, Ben grabbed a Lifestraw filtering water bottle (for whom he worked) and threw it on aboard with a new lifejacket and with it extending the streak of amazing and gracious Canadian hosts.
The following day wasn't so forgiving. The forecast was awful and expectations were low, but the wind was blasting so hard, in spurts, that I was temporarily unable to feather my oars back from the seas and wind. Rendering my efforts useless. I waited on shore, but to no avail the wind howled all night.
I keep reminding myself that in order to capitalize on any weather anomaly, I need to be on the water, in good position for it. That next morning I set out into another round of sustained headwinds and sloppy seas. I pushed for an hour when the wind started really howling, stopped, and slowly switched directions. The sea state - the kind of slop that might take days to rectify on the ocean- almost instantly abated and left me sitting there puzzled. A following breeze filled in for the first time in 2 weeks as I scrabbled to hoist sails. The following 12 miles I lazily jibed down Maraspina Strait to Powell River being greeted by a pod of orcas spouting in the direction of the falling sun.
There are no provisions or camp fuel near the Harbor in Powell River, not to mention it was 7PM when I arrived. The town is gorgeous and set on a steep hill, to which I could see a constant reminder of the southerly wind that was unusually blowing (even coast guard weather data denied it). I couldn't resist the opportunity, vowed to take care of projects later, and without fuel or food to last any length of time I did what I had to do: order $75.00 worth of Thai food from Thaidal Zone, the token Harbor restaurant. I literally ran with my new bounty of curry back to the boat and paddled furiously out of the lee of the harbor to where I had seen the whales. It was dark now, and alas, the whales had gone, as had the wind. I sat there eating my buffet looking at the stars, wondering what to do with all the Thai food, and returned to the harbor.
Final Ode to Canadians. I crept back into the sleepy harbor around 11pm, found a corner to tie up to, harvested my inner backpacker self, and slept behind some hauled out dingy's on the dock. An older local guy spotted me and came to chat. As he left to his car I noticed a tremendously bad limp and cane- I offered to help carry some boat parts for the poor man to which he graciously declined. 10 minutes later the same man slowly hobbled back, gave me a package of maple muffins, and returned to his car an left.
Made it the next 20 miles the following day to historic, ultra gorgeous, landlocked, a one horse kinda town of Lund ( a Canadian couple fed me a pork dinner on the dock last night after seeing me row in). I'm hoping to hop on the afternoon flood tide today and get to the next phase of the trip- Desolation Sound and the infamous Johnstone Strait weather gods and goddesses permitting.
The wind continues its relentless Northwest assault with it seventh day of High Wind Warnings in the Strait of Georgia and Gale Warnings up ahead at Johnstone Straight. After several days of weather holds, I started feeling anxious to bump out of the Nanaimo wind vortex surrounding me. The scene was almost laughable, attempting my escape through a narrow channel with wind so fierce that I was ultimately reduced to walking the boat beside me as the quicker option. 30 knot gusts whistled through all the rigging in the adjacent harbor.
This was the 3rd attempt at an escape, each time getting blown back to the comforts of Protection island and my newly adopted family who had lived there 41 years. Like seemingly everyone in Canada, they were anxious to put me up, feed me amazing meals, and be generally supportive and helpful. Unbelievably fun people- thanks Jim and Irene!
Although almost certain I would fail, hoist the sails, and scurry straight back to the island, I punched through after a good 14 hours of hard, slow, and wet paddling. I found a 10x10 floating dock in the dark on an Indian reservation that was marked as a harbor. The wind whistled and persistent swell and spray blew over the top of the floating dock onto my sleeping bag. I got up (or never really slept) before the sun and finished off the morning slugging off the rest of the beat upwind to Schooner Cove Marina. I was met at the dock by a gentleman who had seen me paddling and put together a care package for me with an assortment of different nuts and Power bars. Such a generous act of kindness in a pretty tough moment. I rested flat on my back on the front lawn of the marina, badly blistered, beaten up.
After a few hours I noticed a slight break in the weather. Earlier in the week I had decided to completely alter course and cross the Strait of Georgia to avoid wind behind a set of Islands 12 miles away. The straight gets notorious stinky, and although there was a high wind warning in effect for the crossing I cautiously made my way, under sail, out into the middle. The wind continued to be unusually light, and allowed me to peacefully transit the strait to Jedidiah Island. Landed in a perfect cove amongst granite cliffs in the dark exhausted, but feeling refreshed from the long traverse and a land of ‘new opportunity’
I’m now trucking along up the east side of Texada Island, en route to Powell River, to procure some much needed boat supplies. Lee board, stove, hull, and steering have all been taking a beating and the bow is going to need some sort of plastic chaps to keep it from leaking so much. Otherwise, good shape!
Body and mind feel good, too. Even in the most challenging times thus far, I’ve been quick to realize the sheer and spectacular beauty of this place. Amazing sunsets, full moons rising to my aid at night. bald eagles soaring, incredible coastal scenes, amazing people. Pure beauty, tons of gratitude.
While no stranger to wind, upwind kayak row sailing felt nearly impossible for me above 15 knots. A sad sort-of slide is best you can hope for, all the while stressing the rigging, steering, lee boards, etc to the max. Even boats with deep draft keels were having trouble with the added current- lots of spray, lots of wind. After experimenting with several different sail combos in a consistent 20 knots, I was forced to row for a couple hours at a mere 1.5 knots. If you stop, you are blown backwards quicker than you can swallow a sip of water. Tough, wet work.
Stumbling into Nanaimo, I quickly realized the oasis of camping/ cruising beauty tucked into the lee side of Newcastle and Protection Islands. This marine park and anchorage has been my home the last few days as I wait out Gale and High Wind Warnings blowing directly down the Strait of Georgia on my intended course. Twice I left, fully loaded, only to sail back to Nanaimo. Weather improves on Friday, hooray.
August 16, 2016
100 miles of travel boiled down to about 13 miles of sailing and 87 miles of relentless rowing against currents and persistent northwest winds. I long new that sunny weather would hamper my progress due to its high pressure clockwise characteristics- however, being grounded for warm, beautiful weather was never a thought. Well, here I am having been blown back by high winds and gale warnings for a second day straight. 25 knots from the northwest with the wrong tidal direction (flood) and you have yourself a sloppy, hazardous mess very different (and potentially more dangerous) then wind waves experienced on an open sea.
Not to worry, my time spent here has been fantastic. I'm absolutely loving the Canadian hospitality, swimming in 70 degree water (?), stretching, and repairing the boat. Anxious to get back on the road.
Bellingham, WA to Nainamo, BC
August 9, 2016
Race to the finish! With the huge effort by my folks and I on the eve of the trip, the boat was listed as an 'acceptable' work in progress fit to depart (our dog Murphy had other plans, insisting sewing time was over).
I was rushed to catch the final hours of a southerly weather pattern that I could potentially sail with. Slightly behind schedule, my folks pushed me off shore on what became an incredible sail through dark clouds, tanker wake, and a consistent 10-15 knot winds from the southwest.
I met my good college buddy, Travis, at a moorage on Sucia Island 20 miles later. The San Juan Islands continued to prove their gorgeous and awesomeness.
August 10, 2016
The next afternoon was my refresher on tides and currents. I got swept about 5 miles in the wrong direction. Paddling against a current I blistered my soft little healthcare hands. No sailing to be heard of. 17 forward miles later I pulled up to a deserted County Park and camped right there on the dock with beautiful phosphorescence in the water and seals making noises all night.
August 11, 2016
Northwest winds were howling that morning. I didn't think that I was going to get very far but decided to get out there and sail for fun (with no apparent goal) and gain some more experience on the fully loaded and modified boat. I ended up making pretty good headway and ultimately ended up rowing to Montague Harbor where another 150 other boats were moored. Not before being completely surrounded by 4 BC ferries in the middle of a large open crossing to make you feel small and venerable. Montague Harbor is a fantastic cruising hub where I nearly insistantly got adopted by the owner of The Crane and the Robin restaurant, Robin, and ventured to her house to watch an impressive meteor shower with her amazing roomates and sleep on their deck- such a cool group of people.
August 12, 2016
A slower start to today but some pretty decent sailing early- not in the right direction, but fun nonetheless. The Sun has been beating me down- reminding me to slather my body in 70 spf glue. Sans mirror, I sometimes wonder what sort of scrappy, sunblock streaked circus animal I must look like rowing in to an anchorage near you. When I finally got to Telegraph Harbor, I met a friendly couple rowing their dory, and promptly invited to stay at their house convenietly located about 40 yards away with their Klepper kayak sistership (amongst other sailing vessels) right on the water. I went back to their house and enjoyed a home cooked meal, shower, and my own personal room on the water rumored to have been a creative loft space for a famous poet. Gary, also an acclaimed poet, wrote a book about sailing up the Inside Passage on a 31 foot sloop- Sailing Home: A Journey Through Time, Place and Memory. His wife Ann Erikson, a novelist, was researching a book about a women rowing down Vancouver Island. Fantastic evening scanning over a map of the Inside Passage sharing stories. Woke up in the morning and the boat, formally tied up to a dock in deep water, was squarely on land as the tide had drained about 10 feet of water from underneath her. Fortunately, the tide always rolls back in and I was adrift again.
August 13, 2016
All paddling all day. Exhausted, but finally got through False Narrows in the evening and anchored out in a cove for the night. This act (anchoring) is not a pretty sight to behold- first I take half of my stuff out to get other stuff to take out to get the crap in the bow. With about 18 inches of clearance, it takes me about 3 minutes to slither to the bow- often wondering if I'm getting stuck (I actually brought my phone on the second attempt just in case). Mind you my feet are in the air, pumping to to gain inches, shoulders pinched, arms straight out. I then spread personal belongings all over the beach, followed by filling a bag with a couple large rocks, and finally dropping 'anchor'. That night, post delivery of my camp supplies, a couple of locals, Mudge Island's finest, flashed their lights in my direction. Next thing I knew, I was eating lamb kabobs, enjoying an earned Molsten Canadian, staying in my private 'Casita' with these generous hosts. Really enjoyed myself with John and Lisa
Last Minute Prep
3 days to get ready or bust. I was gone teaching Wilderness Med courses in Ecuador and Belize for the entire month of July leading up to the beginning of the trip. Nothing about the jungle felt further away from kayaking in the northwest. As I sweated and graded papers for a month, my rowing calluses peeled off as my hands and transformed back into a nice, delicate, office style digits. Things were going to need to change.
Realizing the imminence of the trip, I created a project list on my last flight home - writing down ‘mandatory to do’s” and taking inventory of time and resources. 3 hours later I sat there staring at the list- overwhelmed, panicky, scattered.
Making the Outriggers
I really wanted outriggers for stability on the kayak, particularly when sailing. However, they resembled a big and daunting project (i.e. no clue where to start) and were first to get mentally triaged from the exponentially growing list.… no time, no outriggers for me, done, over, no materials, no time, moving on, sadness.
“Let’s stop at the garage sale, aye”? I mentioned.
An undeniable vision occurred staring at their pile of junk, and 2 broken surfboards, a toddler camping cot, and $11.00 later, I had materials for outriggers.
I cut the boards in strips, glued, shaped, and fiberglassed them into their newly shaped, buoyant destiny. I cut the cot legs down, drilled a few holes and mounted them on the cabin top of the Klepper in full blown marathon fiberglass sanding project mode. Huge effort all around. While they are 1) different and 2) rough, their functionality (so far) has proven its worth beyond imagination- faster sailing, ability to stand, stretch, etc.
Add to that, about 1000 projects that I would love to spend a week on- custom rainfly/ spray skirt sewing project, navigation, supplies, provisions, sail repairs, mounting seat, etc. Each 'to do' was allocated a mere 3 hour block- Needless to say, enlisting help from friends and family was the only possible way to see this to fruition. Big thanks for those who were part of it.