Mon 01/08-2022 Day 710

Pos: 70.2191,-150.9868
Loc: Nuiqsut
Acc: Rescue Station
Dist: 0,0 km
Repair Day

It could have been so nice!
Lilja collected a well-sized bag of surplus stuff yesterday and this morning, and walks up to the post office which is supposed to be open at nine o’clock. Unfortunately, the postmaster is not on duty yet, but she knows how to help herself and finds the friendly policeman who drives her first to the supermarket for purchasing some gas cans, then back to the post office where the post officer lady magically appeared around nine thirty, but she had no boxes to sell. The policeman waits meanwhile outside, drives Lilja back to the supermarket where she gets a box and finally post the surplus stuff to Anchorage. Among a lot of clothes and private items, we send both PFD’s back as we do not use them, not even when it is cold. The Kokatat storm cags do a great job, and the sea here is not lumpy at all even when it is windy.
When I see a police car arriving at the beach where I finally packed both kayaks and the tent, I am only a little bit surprised Lilja also shows up. We thank the friendly police man for his help, and continue packing. We are just about ready, when an older man named George comes to our beach and presents us with a pair of Eskimo sunglasses, hand made out of bone. They are looking like a small white carnival mask with narrow slits over the eyes and were useful items in the old days when they had no modern sunglasses. He appreciates our effort to maintain the art of his elders, kayaking, and tells some interesting stories. Thanks for the present, George!
We finally launch into some moderate to strong headwind, and use both our launching string to release the rudder fin not to have to reach into the cold water. We quickly paddle across the river to the other side where we have little wind shelter and less current pushing us back. But Lilja claims her rudder is not working properly which she put yesterday to wrong packing and accordingly listing. I finally realize she cannot make the pivoting stern piece turning at all, just a tiny bit to one side. Ok, we have to land, I need to check on this. I know my ‘Freya’ kayak and particularly the rudder inside out, and have fixed many issues on my maybe a dozen ‘Freya’ kayaks I owned or still do. But here, it looks I am at the end of my wits.
The bottom screws and pole screws are all in place and tightened to what they should be. The rudder piece pole is locked in place with a new pin-screw. The rudder lines, strong Kevlar material, look like they are both running smoothly back and forth through the rudder line tube. The whole pivoting rudder piece including fin moves easily to both sides. But still, on pulling inside the cockpit on each rudder cable or accordingly pressing the freshly tightened pedals on their block, the stern piece barely moves, if at all. Hmmm…maybe the rudder lines run only smoothly back and forth this tiny bit I can try without unknotting the lines? Maybe – as the lid on the rudder unit on the stern is already missing for a long while – there came too much muddy water into the rudder line tubes, and the lines do not run smoothly enough anymore and are rather frayed inside the channel?
I am already working to check on all the other known issues for maybe two hours, right on the beach in fifteen knots wind and not more than three degrees Celsius. Not the most pleasant work environment, but I manage to stay warm-ish on body and working bare hands due to the adrenalin rush to have to fix this issue to be able to continue. Lilja suffers more from the cold, but stays tough and does not complain.
My last bet I can do now is to pull in fresh Kevlar lines which I thankfully have packed. The issue is to get the new lines through the rudder line tube, which I only can do by sewing the two ends together as slim as it goes to be fitting the connection through the tube. Sewing under theses chilly conditions is not ideal, but I magically manage. Lilja finally pulls on one end of the rudder line while I carefully feed the connection through the canal. With a lot of care, the new line is through and the thick connection cleaned somehow the canal with some muddy stuff coming out. Good! Now I need to do the same on the other side. There, even more mud is wiped out by the thick sewn connection. Basically, both rudder tube canals were more or less clogged by mud. This was the issue! Was it really it? I want to believe it…
Feeding the new lines through the tiny holes of the steering unit is also not so easy. When I cut the new Kevlar line to length, I cannot burn the tip and it frays out easily. A drop of super glue helps, at least on one line end which is still dry. On the other side, by no way I can thread the glued end through the steering unit hole. I use a piece of the old line which is a bit slimmer, connect the old and new line with a solid knot, and adjust the length to the pedals. To try if the new lines are working fine by pulling on either end and finally moving the stern piece, it goes still a bit hard but acceptable. To press on the pedals to achieve the same effect, it moves only a tiny bit to the left. WTF…
On all tries, we have to push the loaded kayak just so much into the water that the fin sticks out enough not to lock the rudder – and then dragging it up again not to have to work while standing in the cold water. Why the heck do the rudder lines which are new and run freely do not move the easy to move manually pivoting stern piece? I am at the end of my wits.
BUT WHAT IF – I knew already since a while that the inner layup of the kayak delaminated on some spots in the front area around the rudder rail. This is why I reinforced the whole inner hull as far as I could reach with one solid layer of fiberglass and epoxy in those warm and dry waiting days in the Barrow rescue shed. It looked solid, but I see now the rail is sitting still kind of wobbly on the lamination when a little pressure is applied to the pedals, despite the rail is solidly glued to the hull. I cannot fix this at all, I would have to grind open the whole inner lamination, apply layer by layer of new fiberglass and finally reglue the rudder rail.
We decide we need to get into a warm workspace to exclude any other issue before the patient might be diagnosed unfixable. Back on our old camp spot, I walk once more up to our helpful friend Calvin who sees reason to call Archie, the responsible person for the local rescue shed. Archie was seal hunting over night and went to bed only at eleven o’clock in the morning, but agrees for us to use the shed for working on the kayaks and to stay at least one night. Thanks! We unload fully, but have to wait an hour until Calvin is free to ride his quad bike with the wide trailer to pick our kayaks and bags up. Frederic joins the ‘rescue’ team. Thanks so much to the guys and Archie to help the ‘damsels in distress’!
Once all gear and people reach the heated shed, the guys are curious about if they can help us with the rudder issue. As a first thing, Calvin manages with warm fingers to thread the second rudder line through the matching stern piece hole. It looks like the pull force can be applied a little better without the connecting piece and knot. Calvin suggests also to additionally apply high-pressure air to the rudder line canals to clean out any leftover sand. He plans to do the job tonight at eleven o’clock when he is free again, this is the last thing we can do to make it work at least good enough.
If we like to continue at least the next days to Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse), Kaktovik or Tuktoyaktuk, Lilja and possibly later David need to be very gentle with the rudder on applying pressure and need to be content with small side turns. If nothing of all works anymore, we would need to team up as a double to maintain directional control for the second kayak. It would work in these relatively calm sea conditions, but it is not really what is desired.
If not necessarily earlier already in Deadhorse or Kaktovik, I will take this kayak off the trip latest in Tuktoyaktuk and replace it by the kayak sitting in New York now – or I will continue only by myself. We will give it a try now as no other issue can be fixed than the unsolid lamination inside the hull. If I have to take it off in Deadhorse, I am sorry for Lilja to prematurely end her trip section which was supposed to go until Kaktovik – and even more sorry for David to wait for his slot from Kaktovik to Tuktoyaktuk. We will see what will work.
To brighten up our spirits, I quickly run to the shop for Duct tape and some coffee for Lilja, but end up with also purchasing a one-and-a-half liter bucket of ice cream for eighteen dollars which thankfully tastes good. But we cannot finish the bucket despite skipping the real dinner, and unfortunately the freezer in the rescue shed is out of function, as well as the running water. No problems, we have at least a warm sleeping space for tonight!