Pos: 60.0196, -144.2170
Loc: Okalee Spit
Dist: 172 km in two days
Start: 0:00 End: 11:30
I was still going fast and strong, and was not really fearing the few night hours which here in this latitude and time of the year are not completely dark. Official sunset was around 11 am, sunrise around 4 am, with more than an hour of dusk and dawn. There are three hours of “night” which have never been fully dark here at all. But this night will be different, with dark rain clouds and bad visibility…? I was hoping for the best that the sky would be clearing up a bit and I would be able to see enough horizon line to stay at least free of sea sickness…
It had been a heavy rain squall around 11 pm, with big unpleasant seas and stronger winds, but thank goodness it calmed down to drizzle around midnight and lower seas. It got dark, but good enough to see enough. I sent once more some texts to friends from my sat phone and made a call home in matching time zone shift to get mental support of me being out here so by myself in not too pleasant conditions. Glad about modern communication! It really helps me to get not only a mental boost out of friends and loved ones are mentally with me in such situation, but also helps to stay awake!
I was not in the best sleep conditions after the last days being with people, so staying awake all night this time seemed to be much more effort than usual. I was singing until my throat felt sore, talking to myself, shouting at myself, while realizing my words were not always the most reasonable choice. Tiredness and falling asleep for a second is not only a dreaded thing on driving, I also caught myself dozens of times to be “gone” for a second, thank goodness could recover always again early enough and brace before capsizing. Scary!
I also started to hallucinate, which I cannot remember I had done on any other of my night paddles before – as on those, I may have started better rested? I saw things on the water which were not there and obviously were disappearing once I recovered a second later. I had to bring up all my mental strength and more to stay awake enough to stay balanced and upright. I think my muscles were not really slowing down, I was still paddling strong and amazing fast, also because I had the wind pushing and I was not needed to paddle too hard. I could not really do my regular catnaps I usually do on night paddling, either crunched forward or leaning backward on the deck, as the sea was higher than on most of my night paddles, and I feared I could not mentally control any more the length of those catnaps due to being more tired than usually. It was a tough time!
The hour between 1 am and 2 am was the hardest, as dark clouds were once again covering the sky, the horizon disappeared, and out of sudden I knew I had to throw up with sea sickness. I was choking a bunch of times, but thank goodness only few foods came out, the rest I ate already too long times ago. It would have been a pity about those smoked moose sticks! I drank more water to recover, and squeezed the last bit out of my mental strength and concentrated eye vision to maintain the horizon line and to suppress more sea sickness.
Surely, on such a long paddle, I must pee. It usually works well with being by myself, opening my male pee zip in the front, pressing my “Freshette” funnel device firmly against my lower body and let it run about 95 % into a Ziploc bag without spilling too much. My pee zipper on this quite new dry suit has always been going tough, and I had to lubricate it with either wax or some special lubrication for dry suit zippers. But this time, maybe because I was not using it the last three days, the zipper went harder than usual. Every time, I had to apply new stuff on opening and closing, and I still had to pull the hardest to get it open. And I had to pee every hour! It always takes a while using this tough going zipper, while balancing in the high waves, keeping the bow straight.
At some point after midnight, I simply gave up on this, also thinking I may damage the zipper completely on pulling so hard? I also had no energy and time to waste any more for this procedure, and started to simply let it run…such e relief! Nice and warm it was heating my behind – for a few seconds. Sure after, I had to live with an even more cold feeling around the knees, my behind thank goodness stayed warm on the seat. If the warmth would at least have reached my feet for only a few seconds! The hourly following warm flushes did do the same, I kept still a warm behind, cold legs and frozen feet. But there was no way back any more, no need to bother again with the zipper now…and on the long run, my body was freezing close to shivering. One more thing to overcome mentally…
Once the horizon got light again, my tiredness usually is gone – not this time! The dawn takes so long here, unlike in South America when the sun rose I was bright awake. I had now to even more fight tiredness and seconds of unwanted uncontrolled sleep, as the sea was now reasonable and the wind quite low. I managed not to fall in, but felt more than once I was close. I was barely able to sing any more, barely talked and shouted at myself to stay awake. If I would have had a paddling partner to occasionally raft up and to talk to, it may have helped. But who knows how that person would have been dealing with those conditions??? At the end, one could have been rafting up all night long and just been drifting along, more or less…
As visibility was bad all night long and all morning, I stayed out also probably too much to be in the best calmest line of paddling, my GPS chart, mostly very precise in well-frequented areas, was not helpful as it showed I was still paddling on land…who is sailing along this “Lost Coast” in a small craft like me? I knew only of very few paddlers who have paddled here, including Paul Caffyn who has had truly no GPS in his times. Does someone know who else has done this?
When I was eventually able to see Cape Suckling in the raising mist, seas calmed already down for a while, I could get closer and had some hope I may already be able to land? But no way, close to the Cape it looked as trashing as always. The satellite image shows few surf between Seal River and the Cape, with the coast trending already west-south-west, but it was dark when I passed there, and I stayed far out. And with those seas above 1,50 and east winds, it would have been nasty than usual anyway.
And then, I saw my very first Orca on all my paddling trips! Amazingly late actually…and this guy was close, too close for me being comfortable, and different to other whales rising slowly up and down, he was QUICK! And unfortunately, in my direction…I increased my speed, hoping he did not mistake me for a seal…maybe my black and white hull once more kept me safe??? Seals are only one color, not having a black and white arrow pattern on their skin…who knows. some other smaller whale also hung around the Cape, as well as regular seals, sea lions and sea otters.
Rounding the Cape proved to be a tricky thing itself, every time I guessed I may now be able to hide behind a breaking jutting out reef and be able to go in, it showed another tricky line of breakers merging into it. I stayed out in a very wide berth, hoping to be able to go in behind two smaller hooks far into the bay.
But I eventually decided to not even try and to cut across straight into the gap between Kayak Island and the Okalee Spit, keeping a straight line than hugging the coast. I wanted to be in complete shelter! Two large rocks with reefs were far offshore just on the line, each of them a kilometer apart, and two kilometers away from the shore. You may guess this would be a safe distance gap to cut through? Thank goodness, it developed out of sudden some high rolling and nasty breaking swell just before I entered to wide gap, and I quickly turned in to surf along than into the shit…once settled, I paddled across anyway. There must have been an extensive line of shallow rocks underneath between those wide-apart reefs.
Finally, I was in low swell in the lee of Kayak Island, and could enter the reef gap in between. I was safe! It was around low tide, and the reefs were a wide area of boulders sticking out of the water. I think the halfway open channel in the middle is about suitable for larger boats only on high tide? I could barely float across, and was soon back in deeper water and enjoyed the relaxed calm water and reefs I saw. The water was warm, and I felt I made it from the freezing icy glacier coast back into some lovely idyllic summer-kissed island maze!
I decided to go in already on the clean sandy beach of the Okalee Spit, it was too inviting and looked not like a long portage on low tide. Although I proved wrong once being there, I had to drag my kayak up about 500 meters to the high tide line, I was happy to be on land and to stop this long paddle. I was barely able to get my stiff legs bent and out of the kayak, the many liters of pee sloshing inside my booties of my dry suit, yuck…I felt like an old woman, thank goodness, I did not have to make a surf landing with the need of getting out of the cockpit as quick as possible…
Walking up the wide dry beach three times in my wet and cold dry suit with quite some wind now, I hauled my gear and kayak up the sandy beach to camp close to the dunes on the pen sand. No bear traces nowhere, they were blown over by the wind. It would be good foraging on the piles of sea weed here, and on the wonderful blooming meadow of the dunes…but who cares? I am ready to settle down here, even for three nights as severe weather comes in on Thursday/ Friday.
After I set up my tent, I had to peel myself out of the dry suit. While stripping the boots and dry-suit legs, my bare behind sitting on the bare tent floor inside in wind shelter, I could not avoid a small stream of pure pee was running inside along, creating a small smelly puddle into one corner…yuck! One of the downsides of extreme paddling…I mobbed it up with my fleece shirt, and walked butt naked with my soaked suit, my double layer pee-soaked socks, boots, shirt and leggings back to the sea to wash and rinse everything, including myself.
On the first hours of the long paddle, I also had to deal with releasing no.2 which I was not able to do still at the Lodge. This *is* possible to do just by yourself, trapped in a dry suit alone in a kayak…just use your one hand, release decent portions, and wash it away without even looking…and if you are skillful and things are not too soft, this does not leave any traces neither on your body nor on your pants. Now you know everything!
It was a dry wind afternoon, and I could at least dry my dry suit outside and inside so far, I could take it in for the night and to be able to use it again, dry enough and clean enough. The socks I will get also dry the next two days, and for the fleece underwear, I would have a second set, in case I will not get it dry enough. Now it is time to crash and to straighten out my extremely sore body! It feels like a truck has been running over me…glad I have two days off on the beach. Even if it would be perfect weather tomorrow, I would stay at least one, two days away from the water to recover. I had just paddled a very tough triple-regular single day in one go, and think my body and mind deserves a break!