Thu 29/08-2019 Day 461

Pos: 65.6012,-168.0865
Loc: Wales
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 33,5 km
Start: 8:30 End: 15:00

Ross and I were happy to see the seas finally going down again to a normal level. We were also happy to not have to wait one more day to get started again! Three days on the beach were more than enough to wait out.

We launched in the company of our private property fox, who seemed to be happy to see us off. Or not? At least he didn’t find and dig out any more trash as everything was now deeply buried and secured with rocks.

Paddling conditions were easy again, still, Ross felt not fully happy afloat starting over again after three days off, despite having loaded four water bags extra to maintain a better balance in my kayak, which is meanwhile otherwise relatively bare of food. We agreed both to continue paddling in a tandem which made him feel more secure – and I was not that much worried either.

We saw two caribou herds on the hills, one maybe six animals, the other over twenty. But both of them were so far away one could only see their silhouettes on the ridge. Still nice to see some wildlife! No bears still nowhere to see.

All went easy and fine along mostly beach until we stopped in Tin City, an old but still somehow active Navy station here close to the border to Russia. Private houses on the beach were all abandoned and rotten, but uphill, I saw huge satellite dishes, a round huge white ball, kind of an antenna piece, and I think we saw earlier on top of Cape Mountain also such round big white antenna ball. Spying out the Russians..? We can easily see the other side today, Little Diomede Island, Fairview Rock, and the mainland of Russia!

We stopped at a small creek which carried an amazing amount of orange iron (?) silt along, ending up in a fully orange beach lake with a bright orange layer of mud. It was matching perfectly the color of our nachos and cheese dip we had for lunch…we were thinking of a refill of the dip tin… LOL?

We launched again, and Ross saw with a bit of frightening a steep cliff corner to round leading to Wales. I knew it was a distance for eight kilometers to reach Wales, and conditions were as easy as it can be, so all should be good! One could even swim and climb safely the rocks on the bottom of the cliffs, just in case…

So we kept on paddling, as always together in tandem. I felt on my tow belt that after some minutes, Ross started to paddle less and less, and was obviously thinking he needed to brace more and more, as there was a tiny (really a “tiny!”) reflecting wave action along the cliffs which he obviously had never encountered, and which did make him not feeling comfortable. One could still always swim to the cliffs and climb em safely, just in case…We had a good current of 1,5-2 km behind us, and some light following breeze, so all that I could and should do now was to keep on paddling until we safely reached Wales. Thank goodness, I had the technique, strength, and endurance to easily tow Ross and his heavy kayak along and to safely reach Wales together. He later explained to me he was simply petrified by the cold water, the cliffs, and the exposure, and was not able to paddle anymore.

Finally, we were both happy to have safely reached some civilization spot where we – after some talks, weather research and talk to the villagers about storing options – mutually decided the next day to finish our section together, and I will also finish my Alaska section for this year. Ross got the bad news about a hurricane possibly hitting his house in Florida soon, and I have to solve some issues in my shops soon, plus I am also a bit worn from this year’s Alaska section and not keen to ship another time my spare kayak ahead. The weather does look too much changing to continue this year to Kotzebue or further as planned, we would have to stay on the beach too many days to possibly safely still be reaching Kotzebue as planned.

So we will check now on cleaning and storing our gear plus finding flight options, and will enjoy this local dance festival to have a highlight at the end of our mutual section and my this year’s section of Alaska.

Despite Ross’ issues to get comfortable in the cold water in a dry suit and in my kayak to feel safe on paddling in easy (really “easy”, not only for me…) conditions, we had a good time together and did no kill each other LOL!

We both have learned a lot – me being more patient with things I can’t change or teach, not to be too picky on things which could be more perfect in my opinion, and to interview and to prepare my potential new paddling partner better. Ross learned he was unfortunately not really able to handle cold water fear to become a decent paddling partner on an expedition in Alaska. He missed also out to bring easy fluffy drying clothing for under the dry suit and in camp to be more comfortable. My precise packing list also showed I provide NO paddle float (as I have never ever needed one), but according to Ross, his cold water fear might have been eased out by having one. We finally had a makeshift float out of my inflatable pillow, which obviously was not sufficient for his mental comfort, nor felt for Ross my continues presence and support sufficient. He confirms again in Florida’s warm waters, he paddles different, sits on a surf ski and has no issues with the low wave conditions he was encountering here! I am happy to paddle again with you on a surf ski in Florida, Ross!

But we were in Alaska and not in Florida, and he had to use my kayak he, unfortunately, did not really like it either. The skeg-rudder rudder my kayak has is the one and the only rudder I would take on an expedition, as it won’t break off on an uncontrolled landing. Although the spring-loaded fin does not pop out itself any more once you drag a loaded kayak over sand and gravel. But ALL skeg-style rudders or simple skegs get stuck in these conditions, and my solution is an easy to handle launching string. Well, maybe one day there is a magician constructing a self-launching skeg or rudder which is NOT getting stuck on a gravel beach launch…what I could improve is to use a red-colored string to make the launching string easier to find.

To be successful in what I am doing for years, many different factors come together, and even playing low on only one might be making someone uncomfortable or even a “no go” for a whole trip section. But if it would be different, EVERYONE could paddle around continents…

Now it is time to enjoy the native dance festival, which yesterday evening we already got a practice pre-taste! We have to camp on the beach, as all public accommodation spots are occupied with the dancers. But all local people were welcoming us warmly, were very helpful and interested in what we were doing, as much as we are interested in what they are doing here!