Archive for April, 2010

Roses to our Roll Me Challenge donors who have added $950 to the fundraiser unofficially bringing us to $13,781.  That means 3 rolls!

Raspberries to my clumsy wet gloved hands which dropped my Olympus camera in the water losing all the photos from the last week and a half since Port McNeill and my camera!  I still have the SLR which isnt waterproof, but is very good!

Roses to encouraging emails and friends who are following this journey.  It is definitely new for me and them to see how this unfolds. And to think, it has already been 40 days!  This is the longest vacation since I started grad school.

Raspberries to a third breakage of my tentpoles!  With 30-40 mph winds and a 60% chance of rain for the next week, my splint and duck tape repairs will be challenged.  Looking forward to replacements in Ketchikan.

Roses to the Rainbows and sunny clear-sky spots that appear miraculously and give a glimpse into God’s country of mile high snow-capped mountains coming out of the ocean.

Raspberries to Eyjafjallajokull causing trouble for Iceland after a recession.  It was very close to Thorsmurk where I hiked some years ago with friends: http://picasaweb.google.com/flannery.conor/Iceland

Roses to Shearwater and Bella Bella, providing an oasis for me to hang out on a rainy day and have a salmon burger and fresh pilsner.

And another Rose will go to the next donors that get me up to 4 ROLLS!  The Roll Me Challenge is at $950 which is really close to $1k for the 4th roll.  For those that have seen me roll, it is not a pretty site, and still something I’m working on.  But the sky is the limit, so when I meet with Louise in Ketchikan, we can tally all the donations and I’ll take all the cold water and ice cream headaches that you give me!


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Well, Leg 1 is officially done because I’m in Port McNeill with a fresh supply of food and even some nice Austrian treats like Gumusesuppe thanks to Chris! The best dehydrated soups are from Germany and Austria, as Chris and I have enjoyed on many a hike.

I’ve uploaded some pictures of the BC coastline thus far to Picasa here:

BC: Sidney to Port McNeill via Desolation and Discovery

I’ve covered over 450 miles so far, and the only casualties are a tent pole (now repaired) and the SPOT device.  Something is finicky and I’m not sure what’s wrong, but I have a similar device for back-up, which will do everything but post locals to googlemaps. I wont have the SPOT for Leg 2, so folks will have to monitor Twitter or equivalent on the News and Photos page of www.CauseToPaddle.org for daily updates, which I’ll send via satellite phone. 

The Roll Me Challenge kicked off very well and I’ve already got 1 roll.  For those of you who would like to see me do eskimo rolls in the Alaskan waters, I’ll do 1 roll for every $250 donated to MedShare between now and the time I connect with Louise for Leg 3.  Having a paddling partner will be fun and I am looking forward to that leg.

So glad that folks are following and having fun with the pictures and facebook and stuff.  Please continue to forward the message about this MedShare Kayaking fundraiser and help get the word out about their needed organization and no-brainer solution to recycling medical supplies.

Much Love,


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This blog is about the series of 5 ‘rapids’ that I went through since being in Powell River and the magnificient Desolation Sound and Toba Inlet.  The travel books that I am using are the John Kimantis Wild Coast books and Kayaking the Inside Passage by Robert Miller.  Both describe the challenging rapids around Stuart Island including Yuculta, Gillard, and Dent Rapids as expert class and not doable unless at slack, when the transition between tidal direction leaves the water calmest.  They said that doing all three in one day is not recommended because catching slack at all 3 as they stretch across 5 miles is too difficult and they offered alternatives to the route and words of advice if one did go forward.  These are not the kind of river rapids you might be thinking of, but instead, more like strong current rivers coming to a narrowing that change direction multiple times per day.  And at peak ebb or flood, they can reach 8-10 knots, which is truly undoable if I oppose them with my ‘full-steam-ahead’ speeds of 4 knots.  For sure, I was excited to try them although the thought of capsizing in cold water and having a yardsale of my gear being washed away quickly was definitely in the back of my mind.

Yuculta Rapids and Big Bay on Stuart Island

So with my tide and current tables, I saw that my window to go through the rapids would be to camp south on Stuart Island and then the next day to start Yuculta Rapids at the last of flood around 10 am, keep paddling up to Gillard Rapids for its slack at 10:45 and then do my best to get to Dent before currents began to get too strong.  I was fortunate to have a neap tide and an ebb most of the day which would take me forward, so I was guarenteed a gentle passing through the rapids if I could just be patient and wait till the next day.

But although patience is something I seek with this trip, my curiosity to see the power of the Yuculta Rapids pulled at me to go beyond Kelsey Point and have a look.  I’d already paddled a good 20 miles and wasnt eager to go into the rapids and by 6pm, it was already near the peak flood at 7.30pm which would make it impossible for me to pass.  But as I went…the whirlpools simply felt playful and the ‘biggest baddest’ rapids that Miller described didnt seem to be much at all.  And then, what luck, a small power boat came along, and I waved them down to get some local info on the rapids.  The group of 4 were drunk as loons and said the rapids were starting to build, but that I might make it to Big Bay beforehand if I stuck to the right and if I did run into any trouble, there were a bunch of drunks over on the shore who could take care of me.  Sweet! I thought, boy, am I lucky, a great day of paddling and I’m going to get through the big bad rapids and be welcomed by a Luau.  So encouraged by thoughts of girls and beer, I bore on, into Yuculta Rapids.

Now as I stuck to the right, I was indeed dodging the majority of the rapids which had full speed and turbulence in the center.  But as I came near to the last narrowing into Big Bay, I saw the perfect V-profile of a fast flowing rapid emerging and it stemmed from a point on the right shore.  It was Whirlpool Point and I was headed for it.  but you know, it didnt look too bad from my distance (no whirlpools visible) and I figured I’d be able to paddle strong in the separation line between the current and the counter-current to get beyond the V and that trecherous point.  Foolhardy, indeed!  I did make it beyond the separation line, and did pass three whirlpools that formed not 20 feet from my port side. But all I could do was hold position against the building flood as I tried to get around some rocks to the side.  I could see Big Bay, I could see the homes along the shore…but no party, no fireworks and dancing girls, just me huffing and puffing as I paddled my lights out against a rising flood.   If I slid backwards, I was going to end up right in the whirlpools.  And if I went any further to the right, I would actually hit the rocks…so hmmm….how to save face on this one….

Well, I paddled to the center of the flow, keeping as much forward position as possible and as my lungs, abs, and arms had ability to, and then I made my way left across the whole channel.  and safely to Sea Lion Rock.  It was not just a rock, but actually an island with a big grassy top and the leigh of the island provided protection for landing.  Aha!  So I crossed back out of the Rapids and went to the island and camped for the night.  Now with a perfect campsite and vantage point to time the rapids the next day.

Tent in front of the Big Bay Resorts


The next morning in Big Bay, I had a cup of tea with an English couple aboard their yacht and laughed about the whole experience.  Then, in perfect harmony with the tides and slacks, I passed through all three rapids.  I even made enough distance with the ebb, that I passed Green Rapids, too! 

Then the rains really picked up and I was stymied to make it very far…but eventually made it passed Whirlpool Rapids (my 5th and last rapids, for those counting 🙂 ) and out to the Johnstone Straight.  The snows, hails, high winds, and frigid rains over the next few days were far more challenging than the rapids.  but the rapids are unique to this waterway that makes the ocean into a two-way Colorado River.

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Hi fellow adventurers,

I’ve been keeping a rough track of daily weather and paddling metrics in my Float Log.  You can check it out here under the Float Log section. 


So far, I’ve covered about 275 miles and still have another approx 200 before Port McNeill.  This next section will have no visits with friends, just wild wild nature.  Desolation Sound, Discovery Sound, and then the Johnstone Straight.  very much eager to enjoy the splendor of this wilderness.  although a high pressure system would be helpful…so if anyone can help put in a good word for that, please do!  All the best, Conor

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While on the water this week, I’ve been thinking how I can still fundraise from afar.  In the last three days, I’ve raised $27 by talking with friendly Canadians and since I’m just not going to meet that many people on this wilderness trip, I’m going to have to try harder…And then it came to me…So here is my challenge to you! 

For every $250 raised for MedShare between now and May 15th when I meet up with Louise, I’ll do an Eskimo roll.  Yep, that’s right!  That means that if a total of $1000 is donated from various donors, I’ll do 4 rolls in the cold cold Alaskan water 🙂  Although that could mean a lot more rolls and a lot of ice cream headache (yeah, you know that feeling…). When Louise and I meet in Ketchikan in mid-May, I’ll have a paddling partner and a witness and videographer who can help me record all those rolls (hopefully 🙂 ).  Ketchikan will also be my first city in Alaska and the start of my third leg to Juneau, so help me get that third leg started right and more importantly, contribute to MedShare as they reduce medical waste and improve healthcare for patients in need!  You can donate here:


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