Wed 06/06-2018 Day 224

Pos: 57.7739,-155.2583
Loc: Bear-free Island in Alinchak Bay
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 38,9 km
Start: 07:05 End: 14:40

We got the proof this night – a bear is not interested in us and our campsite (this night…) – but rather passed at some time at low tide at night nicely and friendly around our tent and kayaks…his huge deep prints were evident on top of one dragging marks of one kayak. We heard nothing, as he was not even getting close to us – but rather passed in maybe 2 m distance. We had camped in the middle of the beach, to give them space to pass over or under our site. There was no better or “safer” place on this beach, so we had to give each other space and no temptation, and it worked…

We tried to launch relatively early with a forecast being calm in the morning, headwinds in the afternoon up to 15 knots. We were delayed by fixing once more Catriona’s back band, and by filling up more water at the nearby stream. We were actually hoping for a possible day off in bad weather – after six days, us elderly ladies could have a free day…and this might be on a (as we were hoping…) bear-free island with no water where we were aiming for tonight.

Catriona practiced to launch through a small dumper, it is so important to be able to push in with perfect timing, to jump on with only the bum inside and legs still out while paddling quickly out of the danger zone!

We made great speed with 7-8 km/h on millpond water with the tide behind us, straight across the wide Katmai Bay, aiming directly for Cape Kubugakli. We had the vision of an early arrival at our bear-free island, and of a relaxing afternoon…according to the ETA on our GPS, it would be 1 pm. Catriona holds up so well on some great long-distance pace! Amazing lady!

But as the forecast goes, it started breeze up nasty sw around 11 am, first maybe 12 knots, but increasing to 15+, with some steep annoying choppy seas. We were 10 km short of the island in a straight line, and probably 3 km offshore. The better solution would have been to hug the coast and to stay in calmer and maybe somehow wind sheltered waters. We could still have easily turned in to find one of the many beaches, but no, we were both stubborn to reach our bear-free island straight across, and best very soon…! Actually, when we might have turned in, we might have decided to stay on the mainland somewhere…so it was really worth fighting for a bear-free night!

And Catriona was fighting…as her footrest came lose once more, and she barely had hold on her feet. As she enjoyed paddling all days so hard and fast, she might be the person in the history of my paddling partners in my kayak to wreck both back-and footrest twice in a short time… But to be honest, it was my fault not to have used the one and only Sikaflex on gluing the foot rail extension piece on which she needed for her shorter legs…and to have probably used a cheap thinner quality webbing belt for the back rest.

Catriona did so great under those advanced conditions!! I was paddling almost at the end of my pace and energy, and she didn’t even demand for a break in those last ten kilometers of strong headwind paddling…! We had some food anyway after 5 km, and kept on punching side by side with still 4-5 km/h into the steep chop and 15+ headwind…only to find our bear-free island occupied by probably fifty seals on our chosen landing beach. They launched pretty quickly even before we were aware of them, sorry, guys, we have to land here now…

It was on lowest tide a small rocky natural harbor inside a reef which was “our” beach for the night. We unloaded full, carried the kayaks up, and went for chilly swim in one of the crystal-clear, white bottom-sanded rock-pools. Stunning scenery for a bath, with snow capped mountains in the background! That’s once more typical Alaska’s beach life!

Back at the campsite in bright sunshine, we chose first repair our kayaks. Mine has taken on water a lot on this crossing which I had even to pump out, and I found three soft spots to fix with regular epoxy and fiberglass stripes. At Catriona’s kayak, we cleaned once more the extension rail piece, and glued it once more more solidly in. Plus, I exchanged the tightening screw of the footrest on the rail, which does not stay tight either and wrecked the basically solidly glued in footrest off the last epoxy batch. One attachment point of the under deck bag also came lose, glued that one back on, too… so business as usual, before we got to walk around our paradise island!

The wide rocky offshore reef had meanwhile submerged everywhere on high tide, and on the other sandy gravel beach, we carefully approached from the top of the cliffs about three-hundred nicely lined up seals! very cute! But also very sorry as with the utmost care of hiding, they still spotted us and all launched in a stampede…

The huge sea eagle nesting at the end of the cliffy headland unfortunately also felt disturbed while attending two eggs in his nest…he (or rather she?) circled three times around the spit, before she felt safe from us…what a beautiful bird!

Catriona… Ok so we woke at about and got ready for departure. When we left the tent, we found a fresh trail of bear prints, right past out tent. When I exclaimed it happened during the night because he/she walked across our kayak dragging path, Freya grinned with an ” I TOLD YOU SO” face on her. She was right…. on this occasion. The bear did walk straight past us, food in kayaks, us in tent and he literally walked his normal path then veered left around the tent to continue on his path. Now that just means I will have a bigger fight on my hands next night we are on bear territory!!!

Another terrific day. The trip has the right amount of sight seeing and distance. Some days we explore every corner and other days we do distance. Today was one of those days. Gotta say I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the hard work. The first 10-15km were fine. In fact we were in our element. The chat was funny and certainly not for sharing on a public forum lol But if any of us know Freya, you might have an idea lol

When we were about 20km in the winds started as did my footrest problems. I said nothing at first but then had to say as Freya thought I was pushing on the rudder from side to side constantly (Freya: She was wriggling her tail like a dolphin to make more speed!). In fact the foot plate, which had been attached to the hull of the boat, had come loose. In end I had to lock the rudder and skeg in place, so basically I had no steering. Then the footrest gave totally, so I have no where to rest with my feet. The remaining 12km into force 4 headwinds. All energy then had to come from my arms, bum and core. And It worked. I managed to keep up with Freya trough out the crossing. We both felt it but both kept fighting on. We had a goal in mind and we were not being deterred.

Freya was gathering the ocean as she went so her boat was getting heavier through out with her now obvious hull leakage. I have to say, a great crossing, great strength and determination! It really is a bonus to be able to paddle along side Freya. She never fails to be the hawk and she was keeping an eye throughout. I was using her wing blades initially, but when I lost foot plate and steering, I reverted back the the Lendal Candice blade. And it performed terrific. I would definitely recommend this blade for anyone. I think blade size and paddle length are important and fFreya really recommends for me, a smaller blade and shorter length, like the Lendal is best for me. Her wing paddle is a small midsize, and she has suggested a small wing for me.

No whales or bears today, but we did pass lots of sleeping beautiful otters hugging their babies. Sooo cute. Maybe tomorrow will see more wildlife. Weather again amazing, I am really having to be carefull with my skin. Protection 50 applied three or four times each day and I am still getting burnt. Hands also seem to be suffering from some infection beside and under my nails, maybe I have picked up a fungal infection in nails…. or as Freya says is Fungi… but we all know that’s out resident Dolphin in Dingle lol This Alaskan weather is great. Only one evening of rain so far, but it had stopped before morning and tent dried before packing away. Great.

As Freya says, our island tonight is pretty special, seals galore, now grunting and calling outside, eagles watching her nest and oyster catchers, trailing the beak before returning to their nest. We are part of this nature and its beautiful!

As always more hints and tips from Freya. It started with discussion about entering surf. It wasn’t big, but there was the odd dumper. I have never really done much in surf, and have a habit of making sure I am seated in boat before pushing out. Freya explained this just dosn’t work in dumping surf or high slope beaches. Something to practice!!!. Again, making sure nothing to get entangled in before setting off. Once I was afloat, Freya then joined me. As always Frey’s attention to detail, her fit out of the kayaks includes special kayak under deck bags she uses. They are really good for the emergency equipment, flares, spared GPS batteries etc. They are by North Water and fixed to each side of the boat and one right under the deck. Really worth seeking out. My brain is a bit fried tonight after all our fixing boats and walking our private island with personal bathing pools…. at silly cold temperatures but all very refreshing. Another great day, and more ahead tomorrow!