Wed 10/08-2022 Day 719

Pos: 70.1278,-145.7345
Loc: behind Brownlow Point
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 28,0 km
Start: 16:25 End: 23:10

The plan is to have another luxurious day off. We have seen the long-term forecast online, as we amazingly have reception here. It must come from the oil site in six kilometers distance. Today and tomorrow is strong wind up to thirty knots, but the evenings are not too bad. And temperatures up to ten degrees! The window is shorter tonight than tomorrow. Friday is friendly following wind with even warmer temperatures, and Saturday and Sunday are very calm. We can easily reach Kaktovik by latest Sunday and meet up with David who flies in on Monday. We do not have to paddle today, and we decide on another day off.
The great online connection via Lilja’s phone lets me do private and business calls and some office work for my Janny’s Eis cafés, which makes the day off somehow useful. In the afternoon, the rain stops, and we hang our soaking wet dry suits and storm cags outside to dry out. I also repair the broken left front rudder line properly and replace also the right one, just in case.
While working, I feel the wind is not too bad by now, and suggest to Lilja maybe we should paddle tonight until midnight? The window reaches just until then. But we like to wait another hour before we start packing. As soon as we are on the water, the wind is almost gone. It would be a sin not to paddle tonight, the temperatures are too high to leave this out! We start with fully warm feet and hands, no storm cag needed. The first goal is the last of all oil sites in six kilometers to maybe refill some fresh water for the last time until Kaktovik. This place looked very much accessible on the satellite images, but I forgot from which end. The western side and main landing jetty is blocked by a solid wall of those white sandbags they use everywhere here to reinforce the coast to stay solid. But the eastern side has a smaller, sheltered landing jetty which looks easy to reach and land. Two boats are in the water, and those noisy roaring air boats which were passing us yesterday and stored on land. No one around down here, although the doors of one boat are wide open. It must be dinner time by now!
We walk up to the site, out trash bags and four empty water bags hidden in a gear bag. Not a soul to see nowhere! We make a round through the whole area, no movements of humans anywhere. Everyone must be inside somewhere in those many solid blue buildings looking like oversized containers on stilts. They all have solid metal, prison-looking grids blocking most entrances, not necessarily against unallowed humans but likely against polar bear intruders.
Finally, a car comes up and a friendly guy asks, “Are you the kayakers?” Sure! Glad to finally find a human here without climbing staircases and shaking on possibly locked doors! He listens to our needs and takes us inside to Jimmy’s office who is the main security guard on the site. He has actually seen our arrival already via many cameras on large monitors, and has sent the friendly man (sorry I forgot your name!) out to collect us. I chat with Jimmy, a former state trooper, while Lilja walks with the man to the cantina for refilling the water bags and dumping our trash.
Both come back soon with an invitation to have a hot dinner in the cantina? Do we like to spare the time on this wonderful calm and warm paddling evening? Lilja is all game for a free hot meal, and as we have no time pressure to reach Kaktovik, I agree. We can only learn more about this site run by the Hillcorp company. Other oil sites are run by other companies, the first drilling here in this area was done forty years ago. When one oil source runs out after maybe twenty or thirty years, they shut it down and drill a new one. This area seems not to dry out yet. But this site here across Flaxman Island is the last one on the coast, so this dinner invitation is special. The cantina is large and modern, built for way more people than the now only twenty five workers here. Saving expenses is high priority, and I am hoping for our free dinner does not ruin the good numbers. Thanks for taking us in!
We load our plates with fresh salad, steak, sauteed veggies and fresh fruit, all looks delicious o us after living on trip food for the last weeks. Lilja’s plate is larger than mine, and she happily digs in as well as self-serving on the soft ice machine three times. I leave it by once but find a yummy iece of cake for desert. Five men including Jimmy are giving us company on dinner, and mutual questions fly across the table.
Finally, after an hour on the site, we thank our hosts and like to continue for some more hours until latest at midnight the wind becomes strong again. On dead calm water and wind, with warm hands and feet, we cut across straight to a corner of the barrier islands meeting the mainland at Brownlow Point to haul over the sandy spit into the open Arctic Ocean. As it is so late in the evening, the light is different and a little eerie, but the visibility perfect. We enjoy the view of a mountain range with snowcapped tops inland glowing in the low last sunlight under the cloud cover, so beautiful! We have not seen any mountains until now. Offshore behind the barrier sand spit, we see still some ice lurking at the horizon. Will it be too close to shore? It cannot be, but the excitement once nearing the sand line for hauling over is high. Also, as polar bear country comes closer.
At the il site, they say they have not spotted any polar bear coming back in YET, but they are due to arrive within the next weeks. A lonely seal not far away reminds us the polar bear food is already here. But it stays the only seal to spot. I constantly scan the sand bar for white furry movements, but besides the many bleached logs fooling me more than once, all stays calm. I finally land for the short haul over, carefully look up and down the sand bar, scan for traces, but there is nothing but two caribou tracks.
Relieved and with mutual forces, we drag the two kayaks those maybe thirty meters across, and launch again in again dead calm and now crystal clear water offshore. The wind has started a bit since an hour out of the south, and made the water inside rathe slightly choppy. Outside, on the wind protected side it is once more dead calm. The sweet scent of blooming flowers on the grassy cliffs to our side catches our noses, and the sandy coast is really inviting for beach life her, including a dip. But since today, we were not brave enough, yet. Maybe on Friday when it is spring temperatures again, for the final chance…
We stop soon again when we could haul over the sand back into a new lagoon area, but it does not look like it gives us any advantage to paddle inside again. We stay out and aim for an opening in the sand bar. There, we would finish for tonight, and set camp either on the sit or on the mainland coast, if this looks reasonable. It does not, the sand sit is fine, and we find only one old bear track. We finally feel safe again, set camp in the last gray light and fall asleep without any extra dinner needed. Lilja was suffering all evening from an ice cream belly anyway!