Loc: start of Peard Bay
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 36,4 km
Start: 10:15 End: 19:20
Back in Alaska! This section will be different. I could convince my partner, for now, twelve years, Peter Unold, to spend his holidays in July to join me on a section of my Nort American circumnavigation, from Wainwright to Deadhorse or Kaktovik in Alaska. It is a great pleasure to have Peter along again after those four months in South America. In 2012, he paddled with me on the challenging coastline from Valparaiso in Chile to the end of Peru. He attempted to free himself from his own IT company in 2013 for the Guyanas going east, but unfortunately, it did not work out to leave his business. Since then, he felt like he could not give it another try and instead went on shorter hiking holidays while I was paddling by myself or with other trip partners on my large trip sections.
When I put a note up on Facebook to find a trip partner for this year’s second half-section, I chose, among many applications Lilja Nikolausdottir, an Icelandic lady in her forties who has been living in Sweden for a long time. She has circumnavigated Sweden in a fast-paced racing kayak and is keen to learn more about the sea kayaking expedition business. Lilja is a (profession)
A late-comer on the application process gave me a new idea – why not take two paddling partners on this northern section? Traci Lynn Martin sounded like a solid and well-worth addition to the trip. The fifty-four-year-old, very active lady with three kids circumnavigated some of the Great Lakes in Northern America for a year. She also paddled the entire length of the Mississippi River. Traci is a strong surf ski-paddler but has moderate open sea experience and will benefit as much as Lilja from my guidance and coaching along the trip.
Traci is a contracting nurse who schedules her work around her paddling. She has an exceptional organizational talent, with many friends helping her on her previous trips and now us along. Being a US citizen adds to her beneficial organizational skills. Traci is the person to buy the necessary weapons we need for polar bear protection, as I, as a German, cannot just walk into a gun shop and get one. In 2018, my US-American sister Charlotte did this job for me, but when it turned out the gun got stolen together with my two kayaks and a lot of other valuable equipment in Wales/ Alaska, she was not keen to do it again.
Traci and I chose to buy among the three of us two marine-grade short-barrel pump guns we would load with slugs for this purpose, but none is available, and we have to suffice with the chrome-plated version of a Winchester SXP pump gun 12 gauge with an 18 inches barrel. Finding the right and reasonable amount of ammunition is also not easy, as the general outdoor gear market is wiped empty after two Corona years. But we got enough of everything to feel safe.
In Alaska, we are both allowed to handle guns without any additional license. Still, for crossing over to Canada, Traci found out we better make an effort to obtain a Canadian gun license for the next five years, likely the time we will spend paddling along Canada’s coastline. We could go with a yearly temporary permit, but this one-day class for the permanent version is worth the effort. Traci passed her class in May; I will take mine the day before we leave Anchorage to fly to Barrow.
In addition to the two pump guns, we will have a solid flare gun with explosive bangers for handling on the water and the third paddler on land. A small electrical bear fence, a trip wire around our camp, bear spray, and a load of bangers is also available to deter or chase the curious furry fellows away before we need to shoot at them. Polar bears will be much more aggressive than the black, brown, and grizzly version, where I felt safe just with spray and bangers. We have a lot of information on how to behave in Polar bear country, but the excitement level is still higher than in my previous sections. If the buggers become too nasty, we might have to sleep in shifts.
I had to leave my two kayaks in August 2021 in Wainwright, but I have good hope they are still safely locked in a container when we arrive back on Tuesday 28th. Billy Fred Tuuareq Driggs, a native resident of the village working for the city council, volunteered to keep a wary eye on my babies, plus the four paddles, bear fence poles, gas cans, bear spray, and bangers. After my bad experience with the lost gear in Wales/ Alaska, I will be thrilled to find everything back how I left it.
With the help of my Mexican friend Rebeca Blanco Carillo and a local shipping company, the spare kayak I stored in Manzanillo after I kept paddling south by myself made its way north. First, it reached Ensenada, where my former paddling partner Elizabeth Purdon with her friend Alison Moorwood put it on their roof rack on their drive back north from a paddling class in La Bufadora/ Mexico. Traci’s friend Dnitra Ayers found Sue Ellen White in Seattle, who wrapped it for the barge transport to Anchorage, where another friend of Traci, Jo Flesner, stored it and finally brought it to the Northern Air cargo terminal. Traci’s contacts were once again beneficial. Jo and her husband Chris are also so friendly to let us stay in their empty new house for four nights on our transit in Anchorage. All is falling into place.
Peter and my trip start Thursday 23rd early morning at four o’clock by entering a taxi to the Husum train station. With our four heavy soft duffel gear bags without wheels plus two pieces of hand luggage each, we have to change trains twice in Elmshorn and Hamburg, with no carts around. We huff and puff along with the stations, sweating and straining our neck muscles. Finally, in Frankfurt, we find some wheels to get us from the train station to the airport check-in. We have a convenient direct flight to Anchorage, which is only half full. It gives us the luxury to rule over a row of three seats for each of us to stretch out, plus a double window seat for an exciting view over the polar area. I had worse flights.
Jo finds us at the airport and drives us an hour to her new house close to Wasilla, where they have not moved in yet. We can spread out all our gear in ample space and wait for Traci to arrive. Peter falls asleep around six o’clock with our ten hours of jetlag, but I feel like waiting for Traci to arrive. I expect her around ten in the evening and sit pleasantly outside the house in the warm evening sun, reading a book due to the inability to get online to do some valuable work. I fall asleep a couple of times. But she drives in only when I finally decide to go to bed at midnight. It is a pleasure to meet her after a seemingly endless period of preparations online. Traci and I disappear quickly into our sleeping bags. Tomorrow is a new day to start preparations for the mutual trip section. We are both overtired from the jetlag.
I am writing my first update early morning while Peter and Traci are still asleep. I should also have rested more, but adrenalin and the ten hours of time shift do not let me. We start working our way through Traci’s gear, and I give her a lot of helpful hints about what to bring and what to leave. My organization talent regarding gear management is an ideal addition to Traci’s organization talent for finding people to help us along the way. The stuff we take along is growing beside the enormous pile of things we leave behind.
Traci was so friendly in ordering many freeze-dried meals for us, which I have never taken along on my trips. I never looked for a sponsor to provide me with those ready-to-eat dinners and breakfast, as I always felt it was impossible to ship the right amount to the right place at the right time. And if I were to buy freeze-dried food, I would be too tight to pay for the high expenses and instead go with what a supermarket offers. The meals are bulky compared to the simple load of spaghetti or rice with powdered sauce. But we will make things fit as the weight is easy. The advantage of less cooking time is high. The taste is primarily okay or easy to improve with spices to each individual’s preference.
What I think is a waste of money are freeze-dried breakfasts or even deserts, as, in the end, it is only cheap oatmeal, sugary flavor, fruit, and milk powder one can easily mix yourself for a fraction of the high price. If eaten hot or cold does not matter in this case. I have no idea why people think they need to cook their oatmeal. I have eaten it all my life with cold milk, and it is just fine and less slimy.
To my surprise, Traci brings the same amount of electronics as I do, minus a laptop plus matching batteries or a satellite phone but an InReach and a SPOT. To stay connected and charged with her tracking device, her daily social media, and frequent use of the phone camera, she carries a monster of a camping battery and an additional solar panel I could not talk her out of bringing along. But it also has advantages as another backup in communication and safety. Recharging options are scarce here on this end of the world. We will also make this fit into our kayaks! In the end, it is an excellent addition to our setup.
Peter, the IT specialist on the team, is the only one staying low-tech personally but helps the ladies keep things running smoothly. We all have VHF radios, GPS, and electronic books for entertainment on our weather days off.
When Traci likes to use her car to pick up a box she left in Anchorage, the car keys magically disappear. In her overtired state, arriving yesterday at midnight with four hours of jetlag, she put them somewhere safe. Finally, after hours of searching, turning all her gear upside down, and even getting a locksmith to work on her car door to fit a replacement key, I heard the keys ringing as a little bell clipped to the handle while moving her large suitcase around. Phwww!
When Traci comes with the oversized tote, we continue sorting her household into what stays home and what can go on the trip. I like this job, and I am fully in my logistical element. Not that I do not care about my paddling partner becoming a clone of myself, but I think I know what works and fits pretty all right. Peter is already deeply asleep since six o’clock. We finally notice it is midnight, and we still have to bring back the replacement car from Chris! It is the third night with insufficient sleep for me, despite a short lunchtime nap.
The following day, the packing job continues, plus a small shopping trip until we have figured out Traci’s luggage, what stays in Anchorage for her, and for Peter to take home after they return. Another large suitcase of mostly food for the second half waits for Lilja to bring to the trip when she files into Deadhorse.
It is shooting practice time! The three of us drive to Jo and Chris’s old house, and like Red Riding Hood, I present them in at least a red jacket with a cake and a bottle of wine. The sizeable fresh salad Traci was cutting up provided us for the last time with ample vitamins.
Chris set up the “shooting range” in a wetland area bordering his backyard to a fjord arm. A large cardboard box with a quick-drawn bear face resembles the target about fifteen meters away. Traci has shot most already with her gun, goes ahead, and does well! The “bear” might be seriously injured if not dead yet. I give him two more slugs, which should suffice to keep him at bay. Peter follows with his load, and Jo penetrates the ‘body’ with her revolver. Every Alaskan household owns a selection of weapons, and there is ample space for private shooting training.
When we like to save the previous slugs and move on to tickle the already dead ‘bear’ with bird shots, the cardboard box starts to jump on each hit. Traci tries a set of five shots in a row and hits three. The pumping speed in between shows a bit of room for improvement. When I load my gun, I am ambitious to let the ‘bear’ jump on all five shots. But the first one made the ‘bear ‘lay on his back, tumbling backward, and we all burst out in laughter instead of me keeping on pumping the next four shots out. The bear is entirely dead now anyway. Not that we aim for this on purpose in nature, but when it comes to the bear or me, the predator will have to stay hungry.
On Sunday, I visit Ed Bosco’s class to obtain PAL, a Canadian non-restricted firearm license valid for five years. We could use a temporary permit for two months, but this is easier. The class does not hurt but refreshes my knowledge from my German hunter’s license I acquired after a half-year’s classroom education two times a week forty-two years ago. I am so overtired after the fourth night with more than insufficient sleep Ed has to ask me five times if I am still awake? So sorry, but he understands. Ed is a gun expert in his eighties who specializes in muzzle-loaders, likely as old as himself.
Returning ‘home’ with Traci, we finish the paperwork for the application and pack the last things before I fall into bed, dealy tired, but having everything accomplished I liked!
Peter and I fly to Barrow today! All goes smoothly; we have three bags of luggage free for each of us, including the locked gun case. Once in Barrow, a friend of a friend of a friend, a lady named Carmen, is so nice to provide us with her three-bedroom apartment with a sea view during her absence. We take a cab to go there, not after I picked one parcel from the radio station with supplies I left there last year and one from the hardware store, which Traci shipped for herself. The apartment turns out to be nice, but in the same house upstairs, we find another apartment that seems to belong to no one and is empty. It provides much more space for us and the gear. Though we are unsure if we could occupy this place, we do it, and no one bothers us there. No problem that it has no water, we can use the bathroom downstairs.
We can watch the ice floes on the shore and people walking out to fish from small boats or kayaks, but we wonder if we like what we see. We must take what we get right now – or wait.
In any case, it is better to wait in Wainwright than in Barrow! We take the morning flight with the bush plane. We are lucky to be the only passengers, and pilot Max has no problems flying as low as possible so that we can scan the coast for a possibility to paddle despite the ice belt. It is melting and moving late this year; we might need patience at the start of this section. We see on most of the one hundred and sixty kilometers distance an open lead between the sandy coast and the ice belt, which looks promising to paddle at least in shallow water. If nothing works, we can drag the kayak for a while. A bit further offshore, we spot our first polar bear diving into a hole in the ice. Seals lay close to the coast on the ice, and herds of caribou populate the wet tundra land. We are flying so low that Max spots a snow owl on the grass. We have high hope that we can start paddling the day after tomorrow!
After landing in Wainwright, a truck picks up this plane’s only load – piles of soda cans. Our contact Billy is nowhere to see to pick us up. No problem, we help ourselves by approaching a friendly guy who volunteers to drive us to the rescue station close to the container with my two stored kayaks. I spent the last night in Wainwright in this safe, warm, and dry shed, which is an excellent place to hang out and wait for Billy to show up. The door is open as expected. We shift our bags inside as it starts to rain and pile them up in a small corner.
It does not take long, and a person comes into the station – is this Billy? I have my doubts and start a chat. The man introduces himself as sounding like ‘Billy,’ but after a while, I find out it is ‘Sammy,’ William A, not Billy Fred Driggs sr., and I explain why we are here. Sammy connects to the stored kayaks and us and welcomes us friendly. As the rescue officer in charge, he asks his supervisor if we can spend the night in the rescue shed. Thanks so much for the confirmation.
Finally, it turns out Sammy will be our primary contact in all those days in Wainwright, and he cares about our needs. Billy is now busy with his newly extended family, and we only met him this afternoon once. All good, thanks to everyone!
Our first walk is down to the beach to check on the ice situation. It looks similar to what we saw from the air in most places – between the sandy shore and the shore fast ice belt sitting on the sandbanks is a water lead where we would be safe either able to paddle or at least drag our kayaks along. Not too bad overall, though we would not at all aim to go beyond the ice belt to calm open water. The width of the ice belt varies in places, but landing would be another issue. Still, tomorrow is a strong forty knots south westerly onshore wind forecasted, which will mix everything up new. We will have to wait and see!
We already heard from our airport shuttle driver that there would be a whaling feast this afternoon, starting at one o’clock, where everyone is very much welcome to participate. Sammy gives us directions, and we soon make our way to the ball field close to the school to witness a celebration of the whaling crew ‘Iceberg 14’, who has recently landed even two bowhead whales. Wainwright, a native community of about eight hundred people, has five whaling teams. None of the other crews was landing any whales this spring season.
The crew captain, Jason Ahmaogak, a solid-build man and leader, is the host of the feast and gives a speech with a prayer to thank god and the whale for presenting themselves to the community to add to their daily food supply. Big piles of whale meat pile up on trailers. They will cut them into blocks of maybe ten centimeters. The maybe two hundred guests sit in long rows in a wide circle under a temporary wind- and rain hide. All families came with large coolers, plates, cups, and spoons for the many servings the hosting crew passes around. They start with a duck soup, some dough buns, cake, and tea. We take our share. But we politely skip when passing out round after round lumps of raw whale meat, whale skin, and fermented intestine. They do not eat the whale pieces on the spot but store them in the large coolers in plastic bags. Also, we do not feel eligible as non-community members to stock up on the wale share. To the kid’s pleasure, they suddenly toss candy bags over the hide, and piles of colorful jelly cups with a cupcake quickly find their way to new owners and into their mouths.
Some people wear beautiful traditional hand-made coats and jackets with big fur collars. When I approach some of them to ask for a picture politely, they tell me which family member is in charge of making the artwork and what fur they use. The feast is a visual mixture of ancient Eskimo traditions and modern world habits, including their strong belief in the Christian god these days. Combining a traditional fur coat collar dress with iPods and gel nails is no issue. The background chorals burst out of boxes via a playlist on the phones. The technical setup level is just as we have it in our latitudes. The persons passing out the meat lumps, especially the bloody-looking fermented interstitials, wear one-way gloves.
Everyone is greeting us friendly, and Sammy gives a lot of explanations to our many questions. The food part of the feast is over at four-thirty until the amusement part with blanket tossing and Eskimo dancing starts at seven. This traditional human-made trampoline-like event has its historical background by gaining altitude to understand better where a whale might appear between ice and open-water leads. The ‘blanket’ is sewn together out of five bearded seal skins and has a looped rope around for handles. All hands of the whaling crew are needed to toss the viewer high up in the air.
The setup today is a bit more modern, as long ropes from each end of the seal skin blanket connect to two solid poles, the other two to heavy work machines that move slightly to stretch the blanket out. Wooden cross-poles support the length of the ropes to gain a reasonable height level. But first, the new seal skin blanket needs some rigging. They need a sharp knife, and I have mine handy. In return, I receive the small cutouts of dried sealskin and ask the ‘Iceberg 14’ crew chief Jason to hand-sign one piece as a souvenir. About twelve to sixteen people gather around the stretched-out sealskin hide, which measures almost two by three meters. First, the person on top of the blanket swings gently up and down. On the countdown, the hands enforce the up-swing, and the jumper flies high up before he lands safely back for the next toss. After three or four tosses, the jumper releases a plastic bag of candy high up in the air, and all small and large kids dive to the site to collect.
While I take endless funny pictures, Peter, wearing gloves, takes his chance to support the many hands on the blanket. Soon, we swap roles. Half a dozen new candy bags are raining from the sky, and many busy kids collect them. After a while, when the adult crew members had fun, it was time for the teenager and kids; the jumper and the many hands on the blanket swapped to the new age group. The ‘junior crew’ organizes itself without the help of the adults. They also take their candy tossing chance, but with the just collected pieces which get re-thrown likely more than once. One short young man of maybe six years tries to be the hand on the blanket, gets a grip on the railing rope but is ripped off his feet while clinging to the handles instead of being of any help to move the blanket up and down.
Around nine o’clock, the ball field fills with trucks in a circle or a convenient viewing spot for the dance. The weather god is mellow during the celebrations today, there is barely any wind, and it is mostly sunny and warm. The six or seven drummers sit on one side and start the session with their typical rhythm and singing. I witnessed Eskimo dancing for three days in 2018 in August in Wales/ Alaska, but it fascinates me again and again. For Peter, the whole scenery is new, and his eyes are big. We leave the party at ten o’clock, dead-tired from the day’s events.
The following morning, the forecasted strong south-westerly kicks in with up to forty knots, and the sea goes high with the surf crashing against the ice belt. It is an impressive view! All floating bergs are pressed against the shore-fast ice, grinding each other to smaller lumps. Our calm, open water lead between sandy shore and ice belt disappears everywhere, and the piled-up ice is on the move and rough. No small craft like our kayak would find its way out or in here. The surf and ice would ground it to pieces. We spend the day organizing our gear, taking the kayaks out of the storage container, and finding everything as I left it. Peter fits all right into the replacement kayak I had to buy last year after my two stored kayaks in Wales/ AK got stolen during storage.
We fit the gun into the waterproof sleeves, get to know the bear fence system. and find a way to transport the sharp-ish bulky ice axes for possible tricky landings through ice belts. Peter took a soft pair of neoprene shoes as an addition to the solid-sole pair in case the solid ones did not fit into the kayak. They give a perfect ice-ax cover! However, I hope we will not need the two ice axes. We fill our water bags and are happy to have left most of the food for this trip section until Deadhorse in Barrow.
A walk to the beach finalizes this preparation day but gives us a frustrating look at the compressed, rough ice belt with a dangerously moving and grinding area on the offshore side. It is wild Alaskan nature – and she rules our trip! We find Peter’s first shore fast walrus, a massive flat-pressed half-dissolved guy.
Peter finally decided to sleep on the other narrow bench instead of on the ground without falling. We wake to still strong wind out of the same south-westerly direction. Our first job in the morning is a walk down to the beach. We would like to see if the ice belt has changed for the better launching. But it is still the same; half of it is shore-fast and bulky, and half of it is floating in various sized pieces in the now at least lower swell. It would still be dangerous for kayak and paddler to try launching or landing through this icy soup. There is no open lead yet between sandy shore and ice, which we saw on our arrival day. We would need offshore wind, due for the next three days with up to twenty knots, then mellow until Friday. It will be very likely we will make it to Barrow in this weather and ice window. The Barrow sea ice webcam shows excellent open water close to shore. With the next strong south-westerly due on Saturday, we should already be inside the north-eastern lagoon north of Barrow, and things will look different.
We take a long four-kilometers beach walk in the northern direction, armed with the solid 12-gauge flare gun and bear spray. We do not feel like running around with a loaded gun in the vicinity of the village. The ice belt sits shore fast everywhere, and polar bears might be strolling on this belt. Who knows? Many reminders from former butcherings of caribou, whales, and seals decorate the beach here and there. Eight caribou legs, whale ribs, baleen from bowhead whales, a wolf carcass, and a bucket of intestials with a tube very much looking like a whale penis add to the creepy collection. We climb the grassy cliffs for a better view but see no exit to the open water or a proper channel along the coast. The ice belt shines beautifully on the sunny warm day, melting away quickly. We have some hope to break through the next few days.
We make a loop walk back to Wainwright across the tundra through a long wooden snow fence hole, stumbling over half a dozen caribou carcasses. I am in the advantage of having hiking poles to prove the ground is safe before stepping. Peter goes without and has to balance more. The wide graveyard area south of the village is nowhere as attractive as the one from Point Hope. Only one grave has an arch of whale bones to honor the former crew captain, but funeral habits are different. A stop in the local grocery store tops our supplies up with fresh eggs, very affordable beef jerky, and some candy. We also get a piece of rope to add a bowline to Peter’s kayak. We will likely need it.
We twice met today with a group of young volunteers armed with large trash bags to keep the village clean. I think this is worth mentioning, as I have seen it different in other towns. Some private properties around the houses still look like junkyards, but many housing areas in Wainwright look neatly organized and bare of trash. The extensive kiddy playground is vast, well-used, perfect-shaped, and offers the best setup I have seen. Kids enjoy their BMX bicycles on the concrete basketball platform and around the village. Others hop on the many trampolines in backyards, like in our neighborhoods, making the kids strong and athletic.
Wainwright is also a ‘dry village’ regarding alcohol and drugs. Trading and public consumption are forbidden, though the booze and smoke still find their way into the village. Private consumption in your own four walls and brewing are allowed, particularly one house at a corner smells constantly like a brewery. I have seen much more run-down places than Wainwright, which I consider to be in good shape. Particularly Nelson Lagoon comes to my mind where I witnessed the sad unloading of a whole plane with endless amounts of boxes with Wodka, Whisky, beer, and wine.
It is another sunny spring evening, and we sit outside while writing and doing other office work. Thank goodness we can be online through Peter’s phone. My German sim card does not like the Alaskan network and stays silent.
We have our early morning walk down to the beach and think it has not changed much on the coast despite seeing many small ice floes out on the ocean. They come out of the lagoon, and the north-going general current rips them from the floating belt. The game-changer is finally today’s sunny, fifteen degrees warm weather with light to moderate offshore wind. When we stand on the beach this evening, we find at least one open channel through the ice belt and calm seas with barely any swell. The offshore floes have almost completely melted away. It looks promising!
We plan to move from our rescue shed down to the beach anytime tomorrow with the friendly help of Sammy and wait out the fifteen to eighteen knots offshore headwinds with even more sun and warm temperatures. We like to be on the safe side that we can likely land in many places and not have to work hard all day among ice floes already on day one. Sunday morning will be launching day!
We use the perfect summer weather for checking on our kayaks. I need to re-glue a bulkhead, seal the other two, re-glue my cockpit-bag patches, change a backrest strap, and fit my new back deck load with the waterproof-wrapped pump gun and two ice axes. When looking for protection from the sharp, pointy hammerhead of the axes, Peter’s soft neoprene shoes come in handy. Size 45 fits each ax perfectly! I add a set of new stickers as the final makeup for my baby. Thank goodness the hull has a solid keel stripe up to the nose, applied by P&H Kayaks before shipping this boat in 2017.
We change some straps on Peter’s blue kayak, add a bowline, and he trial-packs his load. He will carry a spare paddle bag with two pairs and the fence pole bag on the back deck. We try to become friends with the tiny bow hatch and make it somehow work but are still cursing about the silly idea of such a small loading opening. The hull and general layup look solid for kissing a few ice floes. Peter has the solid metal 10-gauge flare gun in his deck bag in case of too-curious swimming polar bears, and I additionally have the smaller Orion plastic version handy.
As we left the majority of our already bought and packed food in Barrow, it will be easy to fit our load in the kayaks for now. Good when we might have to land over some ice. My rubber-framed strap-on crampons might be handy for the person who lands first. We can use throw bags and tow belts to thread through possible ice on landing. We are well prepared with my little knowledge of paddling in icy conditions. All will be good!
Yesterday evening, we saw only one open channel leading to the outside of the shore fast ice belt, and the plan was to wait another day until we start to be on the safe side. We also do not like to start with a full fifteen-knots headwind day. Today’s morning walk to the beach shows a significant change in the ice situation – it is magically almost gone! We decide we like to leave today.
We had told our host Sammy we would be happy about a lift to the beach at any time of the day. We would camp, and leave early on Sunday morning, without needing to ask anyone for help. Now, we are willing to carry everything down to the beach without help. Bu tI knew this is not going to work – not that we cannot carry ur gear. But I knew some person on a quad bike or in a truck would stop by and ask us if we need help. So it comes. Jack on his quad bike is happy to load the kayak we have on our shoulders on his backside rack while Peter walks beside him driving and holds it in place. Soon, they return for the second kayak plus some bags, and another rund with more bags . Meanwhile, I sweep the rescue station’s floor, get the rest of the bags out, and Jack toake down to the beach on the forth and last run. Thanks so much to help us!
We have not expected to be ready to leave that quickly, andstart to happily pack. Jack come briefly back with his daughter on the back seat to say another good bye. Soon, a couple on their quadbike is also curious where we are up to go. The lady tries to tell us further north is a lot if ice, she just came from there, and we should take care not to get trapped outside the major belt. Hmmm, I do not really believe her…
We launch easy into calm water, and are very much happy to be going one or even day earlier that we were thinking. Yes, it is a fifteen to eighteen knots offshore headwind today, tough for the first day, but we have calm water and can likely land everywhere. The temperatures are still warm, over fifteen degrees, and the last lumps of ice melt while we are watching.
We take it easy and land already after the first hour beside a walrus carcass. I discovered suddenly a horribly BAD mistake! My essential ‘Freshette’ female urinating device is not where I was suspecting it should be – in my cockpit bags. I must have neatly put it already at home in my dry suit pocket – but in the pocket of the spare suit Lilja will bring to Deadhorse. The suit I am using now was already in Anchorage. BIG BUGGER! How am I going to pee now through my male pee zipper? I try using a cup, with moderate success, but not really comfortale and dangerous for spills. I fancy carving a similar formed device out of a plastic tube or bottle tonight. Stripping down the suit on a pee stop would be too much of a bother, not to talk about a possible use while afloat. I will need to be creative until Deadhorse, not very clever from me and so far my worst logistical mistake any time.
The beach has an unusual big amount of bugs, no wonder in this unusual summer heat. I keep my face into the wind, Peter already deploys his head net.
There comes a quad bike! Yes, it is Sammy, keen to meet us on our way a last time, He felt sorry he was still asleep this morning after a party last night and not available to help us moving the gear. His sweet daughter Billie says hi and would be missing me! Thanks for looking after us in Wainwright.
A sign on a metal pole lurks us after another hour for a second beach stop after another hour, and it helps us stretching our sore, untrained bodies once more. It is the private property of a company here! How would one guess this? The third stop it is only me keen to get closer while Peter hods the kayaks on a sandy bank. It is a freshly-made wooden tent frame with a new black plastic sledge, and a traditional wooden sledge a bit away.
On stop number four, we like to be clever and first have lunch at the water’s edge to escape the bugs, but it is not really successful. I am still happy to face the wind while eating, Peter sneaks his bites under the head net. A cabin, an old sodhouse and a whalebone arch invite us to explore. The cabin is open, and shows on wall scribblings the signatures of the many previous visitors. A table and benches, a wood stove and gas stove are free to use, but there would be no space to stretch out on any other sleeping space than on the floor. We need not to camp now, and would rather stay in our tent anyway. The sodhouse with a wooden frame is not in the greatest shape any more, but nice to see, also the whale bone arch.
At some point hile paddling, a sudden temperature chane occurs, when our paddling direction trends more north-east that north-north-east. The degrees drop down from well over fifteen to well under ten. Amazing! It changes again a couple of times, until it stays chilly. A pity, but it also keeps the bugs away. The ice floes are a bit more frequent by now, and on one large outer floe we even discover a seal. No polar bears though, thank goodness. Two other seal swim in the water. We paddle past hundreds of pretty stinging jellyfish, and thousand of seagulls. On the beach right on the first stop, we landed beside Peter’s first bear track. To my knowledge it was a Grizzly, no polar bear, but not sure. It keeps us alert.
Some ice floes shine in amazing sculptural artwork, some are ground fast, some are floating. Nowhere is a too narrow space for us and landing is easy everywhere, we have no worries. Just the constant headwind wears us out. Over fivehundred meters, a snow drift reaches right into the water and would make no easy landing, but that is all of the bother today. We are lucky, and the waiting patience pays off.
We like to haul over to the Peard Bay as soon as we reach the height of the first corner. The portage is short, but inside we see more snow or ice fields than outside. Not sure if this was a good idea, we will see tomorrow. It might be enough open water to continue.
We erect only the trip wire fence tonight, no bear track signs anywhere. Not sure if we need the electrical fence at all.