I am flying home today! Time to review my first section of the BIG trip around my third continent, the “North Island”.
I had not much time to prepare this trip from home, I just downloaded a few satellite images from the section, a chart from North America, shipped my kayaks, grabbed my gear and started paddling after I made four public presentations.
Starting to go north, I opted to go the “outside” than the “inside” passage through the maze of islands starting from Seattle on March 25th, including the infamous west side of Vancouver Island in early spring.
My major change on this whole trip will be that I am not set to paddle all solo any more, but like to find matching paddling partners! As I decided this a bit late, it was also a perfect coincidence that I could hook up first with my old kayaking friend, famous filmmaker and expedition lady Justine Curgenven to spend 8 days on the water with her along the outside of Vancouver Island. A wonderful start on the rough offshore waters! And I had my first wolf and black bear sighting! Many more were to follow, later also brown bears, but all my encounters felt safe form the water, or in well distance on land. I felt comfortable paddling and camping in “black and brown bear country”, equipped with two cans of bear spray only. The white ones are still to come in two years…!
My next paddling partner from Prince Rupert onward for 19 days was a “blind date” with Mike Dziobak, which finally turned out to be a good challenging paddling partner. We had wonderful favorite weather on most days, enjoyed paddling outside of most islands and had many magical moments of wildlife viewing. Hundreds of whales, sea lion colonies, seals and the lovely sea otters were everywhere to enjoy. We had calm and rougher waters to play with, and Mike was a safe strong paddling partner, although our ideas of “paddling together” were not always the same. We split for a while and successfully reunited and finally parted in good terms.
Paddling partner no. 3 for 8 days was Josh Thomas, who had good paddling skills and learned a lot more while taking high quality pictures and short videos. We got along great with pace and personalities, and the mutual time was too short! Again, next year?
Eyal Saiet proved to be a bit more challenging again as a strong young man with a strong opinion for 19 days, but he also good skills and was happy to learn more. He was physically the most challenging partner, as he loved to compete, and I loved to take him through “Freya’s Boot Camp” to prove what the “old lady” was still able to do!
The last partner for 8 days going south from Seattle was Chris May, a young man with few open ocean skills, but strong paddling on flat and rough water, safe and eager to learn a lot. Also, a wonderful experience for me!
I was about half of my water time by myself as usual, including the very challenging unprotected offshore part from Lituya Bay via Yakutat to Cordova. I had to include once more a couple of long days of 90, 105, 107 and 172 km, which satisfied my own search for physical limits. Not that I have not done before many days of these kind of distances…but it would have been interesting to do these days also with a partner!
The scenery going north through Canada and Alaska’s maze of islands, many huge glaciers and untouched nature was perfect to my like, the wildlife stunning with daily whales, sea lions, seals, sea otters and once many orcas sighting. An a-class paddling environment!
Going south from Seattle was in a lot of fog along a bit more “civilized” coastline, a bit less wildlife and less stunning scenery, but with big swell and a lot of surf. The wide flat sandy beaches of the Pacific coast proved to be a challenge to avoid landing through the mostly 500 m wide surf belt with about 6-10 scary lines of breaking waves. But I mostly found safe landing spots in decent distance in open river mouths or behind jutting out headlands, and on the few surf landings I had to do I managed to stay upright! So far…more scary surf is to come going south!
I could time the crossing of the mighty Columbia River mouth perfectly, and had no big issues to cross in calm-ish water. It could be ROUGH there!
I like to thank all my paddling partners for their great company, all my lovely and engaged hosts along the way to look after me, all my sponsors for giving me gear, help and some finances, my weather man Karel Vissel to send me the reliable forecast every day and my partner Peter Unold to have solved once again all the electronic problems and website issues.
I will be continuing next March going south first for three about months, the north again for another three months. New inquiries for potential paddling partners are now very welcome!