Mon 20/08-2018 Day 272

Pos: 56.8946,-158.6928
Loc: almost Port Heiden
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 40,7 km
Start: 12:20 End: 19:20

watersearch and 36 glassballs

It was raining early morning, and blowing about 15 + headwinds…tide was high, surf was slightly up, plus the current was against me all morning…ok, I stayed put for a while and decided to wait until at least the current almost changed. Not an easy decision, I was already fully packed and in my dry suit, but I decided to go back into my sleeping bag for at least six hours. Probably a wise idea, I would have only burnt useless energy and might have not reached Port Heiden.

At least my tent was still up…I pulled out my sleeping bag and pad again, and stripped the dry suit once more. Reading, sleeping…reading…around noon, it had cleared up a bit and even the wind felt a slight bit less. The tide was quite low, I had to drag my kayak over some sand bank to get afloat. No big deal, the surf was almost nothing now.

I paddled happily along, but had on my mind I would need some fresh water soon…I had marked a river after about 10 km, this was my first option before Port Heiden. I stopped and had to climb up a high cliff to find the river about 200 m back country in some high dune grass…hmmmm, some walk…bears…? I went at least back to my kayak for bear spray and a large gear bag to carry my five water bags easier when they were full. I should have as usual also taken m sat phone along, just in case… who would have found me out here at the river in high dune grass, half eaten by a bear or with a broken leg?

Well, ok…I made my way via bear tracks to the river, which had some decent tasting and looking fresh water despite being quite large and in a grassy meadow. But it was running fast, and this is as good as it gets here…not sure if I’ll prefer later to boil it or treat it.

On my way back to the dune ridge, I took the most clear straight forward bear track, hoping it would have an easy descent down the steep cliff. Sure it had…bears are lazy! Down back to the beach, I spotted something blue to my right in the distance…another HUGE glass ball? I couldn’t help but dropping my gear bag with the five heavy water bags, and go have a look…the blue thing turned out to be a plastic bucket which came in handy when I couldn’t help but collecting 36 small glass balls instead of the expected HUGE one…the “Pearls of the Bering Sea”…how can one NOT pick those up?

I had no doubt that the five newly filled 4-liter water bags plus another 36 glass balls (additionally to the 33 from yesterday…) would fit in my kayak…I made them fit! All day, I was actually envisioning me paddling with my HUGE glass ball sitting on the back deck… I could have tried…conditions would have allowed…still hoping someone is helping me to get it out from the Illnik cabin…

Tide had changed meanwhile, and despite strong 15kn+ headwind, I could make reasonable speed between 5-6 km/h. Some work…I felt the heavy kayak! I spotted oon the first houses of Port Heiden in the distance, but I was not really counting of meeting people tonight, It will be too late and the village is not really setup close t the waterline. Still, the prospect of some civilization close by felt somehow good…

I had “just” to cross Port Heiden’s wide bay…7 km…no big deal, I guessed…the black sand bar to my right slowly but surely disappeared and made room for a wonderful mountain range view. Really time to see something different than black sand bars with more or less due grass on top! At least for a while…

I knew the bay had strong currents, it was full of sand banks and channels. The tide ran up, so it would push me rather in than out, good. But it was pushing QUITE in…I could not hold the direction of the houses I saw, they disappeared anyway soon behind their sand dunes upfront the village. I got drifted quite some degrees into the back, crossed many jut about covered sand banks with choppy water, tide rips and tide races. My speed varied from fast to slow, no idea what the current was doing on which spot. I just paddled straight to the houses, but drifted into the bay against the wind.

Hundreds of seals were afloat, on low tide probably resting on those dry sand banks. The last two kilometer were damn hard, the current now obviously went locally into the Port Heiden Bay instead of generally up the coast into Bristol Bay. I had to let go of my intended direction, and landed eventually quite exhausted about 2 km south short of the first houses of Port Heiden. I didn’t want to paddle any meter more, and had no desire to meet people tonight anyway. I have all what I need…plenty food, plenty water and batteries, and tomorrow will be a nice following wind day! Hopefully not too strong…it will also whip the surf up a bit…

I had a wonderful freshwater shower from my newly filled up resources! If the sea water here would have been not so muddy, I’d have jumped before right in…but I might have come out more “dirty” than before! And – don’t even think I am cooking outside the tent when I am by myself…I am sitting nicely in my sleeping bag, gas stove besides me, some low-odor pasta or rice is boiling meanwhile, I add the spices mostly later to reduce smell. When almost done, the hot pot goes into my sleeping bag for a while to warm my feet…so NICE! Bears? They have better things to do and to eat…scared away from my large flattering tent and kayak anyway (I think…)…hope they think the same!