Tue 05/09-2023 Day 885

Pos: 68.6149,-108.3047
Loc: western point of the peninsula
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4
Dist: 75,1 km
Start: 6:05 End: 20:45

Today is the day. I had occasional snow slush showers until five in the afternoon, and I was very happy about my decision to not kep on pushing into those freezing cold headwinds. The evening, I already saw the weather change, the sea calmed out, the sky cleared, and the wind went down.
Now, I have light tailwinds from the west, and calm seas, at least etween the islands so far. I get slightly lost in the maze of uncharted islands, but after a few small detours, have only the last crossing to the peninsula of the mainland in sight. The sea becomes slightly more choppy, but all from the back, and my pace is back to normal-good. I focus on my destination, and reach the peninsuly by eleven thirty.
I find a lovely small bay for a pit stop, where I see tent rings from other campers, and find another caribou antler. My hands and feet are not warm, but still functional. With a few times climbing out the next hours and walking around, I should be able to at least keep them like that.
The rocky islands are gone, now the land is flat and sandy, with some boulder areas which are easy to avoid when I need to land. Some small breaker lines hit the coast in this westery wind, but they are rather fun than a threat. I still wear my stormcag over my drysuit, a perfect combination to keep at least my body warm. My head and neck cover some layers of fleece scarfs, plus my visor, Gore-tex hood from the drysuit and stormcag hood, so there is nothing to suffer either. I am only enduring some stupid tiny hair strands sneaking again and again from under those layers and tickle me in my face. I hate this. All hair has to be fully out of my face. But there could be worse things to worry about.
I now entertain myself while paddling happily along with my audio book, as the stress of open water is gone, and easy landings are nearly everywhere. The only snow slush shower I get today around four o’clock comes from behind and does not bother me at all. The evening is dry and the sun is finally fully out. I am facing a thick half-moon, something I have not seen often here in the Arctic. Those are way too nice conditions to finish already after forty or fifty kilometers. As hands and feet are acceptable cold, I decide to keep paddling as long as I can today. Tomorrow are relatively strong south-easterly offshore headwinds forecasted, so why not working easy but long today, and maybe having off tomorrow and wait for Thursday and Friday’s south-westerly wind and warmer temperatures to fly along the sandy shallow west-east coast in two days? Then I just need to be lucky with Saturday for the last twenty kilometers-crossing, and I am almost ‘home’.
At around four-thirty, I spot some movement on the mellow sloping yellow tundra grass. What is that? Caribou, musk-ox, bear? The creature was doing something like raising himself to the hindlegs while changing color? It is far away, but in my subconscious mind I know already it must be a bear. There are two other grey spots moving in its vicinity. I paddle closer to the shore where I find shallow water to quickly get out, reach my binoculars from my dayhatch and confirm a mother grizzly bear with two cubs, thankfully moving far away from the shore in my direction. I had a gut feeling this must be bear country again, but even on those rocky shores of the islands, I finally also found signs of bears. But they are ‘only’ grizzlies, and feed themselves from the land with roots, berries and tiny furry animals they might catch when digging into their living holes. Polar bears would have a hard time to survive here, as they live only on meat. And I do not plan to enhance their menue with my precious body.
I have the ambitious goal to reach the point where the coast finally turns due east, but when the coastal waters have already been shallow on most places, now the shallows become even more wide. The sund finally sunk behind a cloudband on the horizon, and although it is tsil light, I should find a place to land. Easier said than done now, as I run agaound a couple of time by trying to figure out the landing spot where I have the least distance to drag my boat to higher ground. A few kilometers before might have been more clever to stop, but the point to round was more lurking. Now I have to make-do with a landing were I have to drag my boat and gear eighty meters to a grassy spot to avoid the bare sand. I can live with that. At least the sandpegs disappear easy and solid, and despite my right hand is finally frozen and disfunctional, I have my camp up quickly and dragged the kayak close up.
But all and everything besides my dry clothing and sleeping bag with fluffy blanket feels wet, even inside the tent. I light the stove to boil hot water for quick mashed potatoes inside the tent, which adds even more to the condensation. But I have no intention to start early tomorrow, if at all. Things can dry tomorrow. It is a clear, freezing night, and I expect frost in the morning. I can see some strong lights on the shores of Victoria Island across the Strait, but they can only be a large ship. Peter confirms on a call later via the Ship Tracker app there is a cargo ship in the Strait. Or it was the radar Station of Cape Peel shining into the night. It felt nice to see civilization signs anyway, although it was not Cambridge Bay yet.
Slowly, but surely, my hands and feet warm up in my cozy bag, and I fall asleep, content with today’s progress and decision to push on as long as it goes. I have a few fingers which feel very painful when cold due to arthritis, but as long as they can wrap around my paddle shaft, all is good. A good handcreme is a great relief in the evening for the dry skin.