Loc: Cape Darby
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 85,0 km
Start: 08:00 End: 24:00
Well, yes, I admit it might be one day too early for the crossing. The day before, according to Karel’s weather forecast, I chose Tuesday, and would just have to endure one more day imprisoned on my little island and inside my tent. But I love freedom, was more than eager to go after three days enforced rest. When I looked outside my tent this morning, the sea was calm, though it was drizzling, gray and foggy. Karel’s forecast update this morning showed two knots less in the gusts, only up to 14 and 16 knots southwest, and basic wind around 10-12 knots. This felt good enough for me to leave TODAY. Who needs sunshine on an 85-km crossing…? The wind would be just about pushing on my 350-degree direction.
Sure I had two days strongest south-westerly which whipped up the sea, and yesterday, just one day after, it was strong north-easterly whipping up the sea in the other direction. Can the wide Norton Sound already be so calm after those days as it looked this morning? Well, I will find out…no realistic thoughts could hold me one day longer here.
I happily packed, had no doubt about my decision, but knew it might be a bit harder than necessary. But what’s not killing me will make me only stronger…the first one was out of the question, and the latter was 100% for sure. Whoever has paddled into a gray cloudy sky in some lumpy water, knows how valuable a distinct horizon with at least some clouds to tell the general direction is. Seasickness is easily generated out of such conditions.
My GPS to the tip of Cape Darby showed 79 km, I had paddled longer distances…also longer crossings. I was more than well-rested and motivated. The tide would change around 2 pm, and though it was only a tidal difference of mere 50 cm, I felt the current was with me. I only should have started way earlier than my 8 am, to make the most of it. But first, I did not really give it a thought in which direction the tidal flow would pull me, and second, I would be out so long that I would have to take what I get. Third, I made my decision to go today relatively late and spontaneously and was just calculating sixteen hours time to cross, and that I would likely arrive before midnight and just around sunset. Not that it would care when I’d be landing, or be really dark after sunset and during the whole night, but it surely feels nicer not to paddle in the twilight.
I happily switched on my favorite music just after the start which would brighten my mind against the gray day. I rarely paddle with music, but on long boring crossings like this one, it really gives me a boost of energy and prevents me from falling asleep.
But I soon realized the waves won’t let me fall asleep any time soon, it was quite a criss-cross mess the first hours after I left the calm belt of the island. The running up tide out of the westerly direction, plus the wind out of southwesterly, against the remainders of yesterday’s north-easterly waves, gave some confused about a meter high waves. But they still pushed me along with lovely 7 km/h. Great! I was just hoping when the tide would turn, the sea would calm down a bit in general. But then, it would be wind against tide…
Oh well, all under control, I had plenty of power, could handle my kayak well and felt confident to arrive on the other side with no problems. I had just to work a bit harder, which I took into account. I was drinking small sips of water regularly, but dared and needed only once to pee. I ate only three small snacks, one cereal bar, a Snickers and one orange, I had no more appetite and do not need more either in harder paddling situations. It felt like biking today, I rather kept on paddling with barely any break. When I’d be stopping, I felt rather unstable. With a strong paddling partner, we might have done more breaks with assisting each other. But my body felt like a machine, working well-oiled, well-rested and eager to paddle hard. No aches and no pain nowhere, thank goodness.
The gray sky did not really release pouring rain today, but the constant drizzle soaked and cooled me down so much I even put on my PFD for warmth which I usually rarely wear. But then I was fine all day with the temperature.
When the tide turned, the sea calmed slightly down as expected, but the waves I was riding now were nasty tide against the current. Means in the troughs, I got slowed down to 3 km/h, to surf down the faces in about 6-7 km/h, which overall resulted in a speed of barely 5 km/h. I can’t say my heavy kayak was the best surfing machine today, and I had to household with my energy. But I had collected before some distance at higher speed, so my overall average was at the end of the day normal 5,3 km/h.
I got very much confused and concerned about the reliability of my GPS once when I saw the time was jumping backward for three hours after about 18 km off the coast! I was thinking my GPS plays up like they sometimes do before they stop working completely…Fylkir’s GPS had lost his life just a few weeks ago in this way. But I checked all the other time-relevant dates and they were ok, just had shifted accordingly…I pulled out my spare brand-new second GPS, and it said the same…a time zone change here? Unlikely…and not of THREE hours backward!
I had no solution for this phenomena, took it as a given fault in the GPS system itself, and saw my GPS working normal otherwise. I must say, without GPS and without open sky, I would not have felt really happy to cross. I usually carry three GPS for this reason, Fylkir’s was gone and the fourth one we by chance left at home.
The solution came about 18 km before I landed when I saw on a certain zoom level on my GPS a line telling me that I was entering the “Territorial Sea” again – which I obviously have left before. Obviously, the US with Alaska has a time zone within its Territorial Seas here which is very different to the linear general time zones in the world which made my GPS time jumping three hours backward, and then back forward again. Amazing! Now, all is fine again. Whereas when I switched on my satellite phone to check the time thereafter I sent some messages, the time on the phone did not change.
I spotted land first time about 17 km before my Cape Darby, but it disappeared very soon again in low-hanging clouds. I continued powering slowly through the continuous tidal waves, hoping very much land would appear again to show me the way other than my GPS arrow. It feels so nice to see the land slowly but surely growing! But I had to be more patient…just the more and more floating logs and wood pieces showed me I’d be nearing the coast.
About 7 km before, the headland stayed visible under a very low hanging level of clouds. Cape Darby, here I come! A bright light on the right confused me briefly before I realized it was a larger fishing boat, no lighthouse, which can’t be there. It slowly neared me, crossed my path about two-hundred meters in front of my nose, but did not show any sign of waving, honking or anything which reassured me they have seen me. Maybe the captain had the autopilot on and watched TV…well, I did not need any assistance, it would have just been nice to be seen.
I also had my autopilot on, keeping my focus straight on the beach about five kilometers to the right of the Cape. My personal TV was the low-hanging foggy clouds over the Cape, which hung even lower but in wallowing pieces over my beach – and were finally topped by a blue-sky midnight-sun hole right over my destination! The eerie spherical old rock sounds of Scorpion’s “Animal Magnetism” pushed me right into it and topped this natural phenomenon. I was finally hitting the safe beach after precisely calculated sixteen hours and perfectly at midnight. This natural atmosphere and spectacle on my arrival, my physical and mental state were not from this world…
I played this song three times as the last song of my day’s concert which kept my powering on all day through not exactly calm conditions. I was just hoping the “Animal Magnetism” did not relate to the presence of bears on my beach. I knew I would be safely landing, though, in the twilight, the beach looked rather like an uninviting dark, high and steep gravel bar. But there was a small light sandy spot on the bottom, where I finally grounded my bow. I was climbing out of my kayak slightly dizzy and shaken after this little effort and was thanking my god’s parents for letting me paddle so strong, long and safe with no problems. I climbed the steep huge gravel bar’s top, impressed how high up the sea could be beaten up here in the right conditions, with all the huge logs on top of everything. I found a leveled spot for my tent but did not bother to look much for result’s of my “Animal Magnetism” tonight. I rather had a lush cold shower, jumped in my dry and cozy sleeping bag and cooked some polenta grains to refill my carbohydrate reserves. Tired to the bones, and too tired for updating my blog, I fell asleep at 2.30 am with some strange sounds in my head from the hard work and continuous music all day. Though I usually have a day off after such a paddling effort and distance, I knew I’d be paddling tomorrow again to at least cross over to the other headland. It would be a calm sunny day and way too good weather not to do this last small crossing of this end of Norton Sound…