Archive for May, 2010

This note comes to you from Petersburg which Louise and I have reached in 9 eventful paddling days. Unfortunately, this marks the end of Louise’s vacation so she will return to work and Conor will continue Leg 3 on his own.

But – wow, what an incredibly wonder-packed leg it has been so far!

After leaving Ketchikan, we paddled north through Clarence Strait. It was here that we had our first encounters with graceful giants – the humpback whales. On the second day out we sat transfixed by two mother-calf pairs that fed all around our boats. The sound was quiet except for their breathing and the calls of gulls and terns, diving for their remainders. Farther north at the confluence of Clarence Strait and Ernest Sound we watched a young male launch himself from the water in a spectacular series of four breaches. The penultimate experience may have been a very quiet moment on the water when we heard whale song transmitted through the water below and ring into the air. There was no mistaking it, we had entered the realm of the giants.

Humpbacks weren’t the only animals we shared the water with. Daily we have been treated to glimpses of dolphins, Dal’s Porpoises and, on one occasion (we swear), a group of Orcas in the distance. Numerous birds including Guillemots, Murres, Cormorants, Terns, and various ducks have worked the water’s surface and bald eagles were frequently visible overhead.

Humpback Whale Watching

Humpback Whale Watching

On reaching Ernest Sound we turned east and paddled along the east side of Deer Island. On Day 4 we reached the Anan Creek Bear Observatory at Anan Creek. In July and August when the salmon are running, Anan Creek is a prime location for brown and black bears. We didn’t have any bear sightings but, after periods of rain and swell, we had a clear and sunny evening. Time for the Roll Me Challenge ! Clad in his drysuit, Conor clocked out 17 perfect rolls. And then, he gave finished an additional 4, just for good measure. We’ve uploaded the video here and it’s worth checking out. Yes, Conor gets an ice-cream headache from the cold water. And yes, watching the red keel strip of his boat surface each time is a thrill. Thank you to all our wonderful donors for making the Roll Me Challenge so successful by raising over $3500 for MedShare !

The weather wasn’t always with us. Our crossing to Wrangell Island was in heavy rain and winds screaming to 35-40 knots. Fishermen we met in Wrangell town later asked “where were you when it blew up yesterday ?”. On the whole though the weather was cooperative and the days are getting noticeably longer ! Sunrise cracks the skies at 4am and the skies darken at 10 pm. These 18 hour days are just made for paddling !

Maybe the most humorous afternoon of the leg was crossing the Dry Strait. They don’t call them “Dry” without reason ! The Stikine River moves sediment around a delta as it enters the ocean so there are many shallow sections. After passing Dry Strait, we entered Frederick Sound and we didn’t time the tides perfectly and ended up walking about a mile into Le Conte Bay.

Walking on Tidal Flats before Le Conte Bay

Le Conte is the southernmost tidewater glacier in Alaska and an awesome sight to behold. We spent a morning paddling into the caved ice pack for a close view. Conor filmed a movie that will give you an idea of the ethereal, cold world of the ice pack, also uploaded on YouTube here.

Louise in front of Le Conte Glacier

We have now arrived in Petersburg and lodged last night in the First Presbyterian Church. Thank you to Pastor Bob for offering us such warm and generous accommodation! Louise is packing for her ferry ride back to Ketchikan and Conor is preparing to head out again. We hope you have enjoyed this update 🙂

Much Love,
Conor and Louise


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The Roll Me Challenge has officially raised $3577.01 for MedShare to send medical supplies since April 2 back in Powell River which brings the total raised so far to $16,391.01. Superb! Thank you all so much for your generosity and I hope that you will enjoy the pictures and of course, the WHOPPING 14 ESKIMO ROLLS that I will have to do for the Roll Me Challenge.

Between now and Petersburg, Louise and I will video-record the rolls and get it uploaded sometime after my head finishes thawing. For those of you who know my kayaking history, the funny thing is that I only started to roll recently because before then, I was in warm southern california and could get away with Cowboy rescues to get back in the boat. So it wont be pretty, but it will be fun and I appreciate y’alls enthusiasm to dunk me in the water 🙂

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Hello Friends and Family!
After four quiet weeks and about 600 miles, I’m in Ketchikan, Alaska.  I’m pretty sure the total mileage is around 1000 miles since Seattle but will upload my updated Float Log later.  For those of you who are new to this email list, such as Louise’s friends who have made recent contributions, thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy the blogs, tweets, and pictures.  Also, we should have the SPOT location updates back up and running in the next few weeks, so keep an eye on the website.

I’ve uploaded photos of Leg 3 with some captions that I hope will at least give y’all some more info about what I’m doing and a visual for my daily life on the water.  Roughly I spend about 7 to 10 hours on the water, about 8 to 10 luxurious hours sleeping, a few hours loading/unloading the boat and making camp, some time for cooking, and nano-seconds for eating which I do voraciously 🙂  The story my 4 and a half month journey up the coast is still unraveling for you and me both J 

Leg 2: Port McNeill, BC to Ketchikan, AK

At this very moment, my kayaking partner for the next two weeks, Louise and I have packed up all our gear and are going to start our trip up to Petersburg.  We met in Ketchikan on Friday night and have spent a day and a half here to resupply and enjoy the area.  I’m softening up all too easily after two nights in a hotel, a haircut, eating at restaurants and all that good stuff. 

Thank you so much for your supportive emails and messages.  Of special note are emails from one of my first teachers, Sally Mitchell in Atlanta who read about this expedition in the AJC newspaper and has been inspiring me since then and most recently, a package from the St. Anne’s Soccer Team including a recent photograph of the team and a signed card with encouraging messages. I will have them in my chart case to guide me on the way up to Anchorage.  Thank you all for this! 

Also, I feel that I should give some background on kayaking trips in the Inside Passage between Seattle and SE Alaska.  From May through August, I would guess about 10-20 kayakers paddle the whole distance each year.  The weather during these months is generally the best and the seas calmest, although the weather here is very capricious and requires time and caution to complete any trip.  Since I wanted to challenge myself and make my time off from work most worthwhile, I decided to start early and kayak in March and April so that I could be in the Kenai Peninsula in July and August when optimal conditions are needed.  The Leg5 section will definitely be my most challenging.  As a result, I was the only kayak I knew of and I didn’t see another from the Gulf Islands near Victoria till Misty Fiords near Ketchikan.  It was actually very nice and I enjoyed the time alone amidst this nature very much.  There were some other recreational boats along the way as well as many tug boats, but thankfully, the cruise ships and ferries hadnt really begun going the route until May. 

I knew April was going to be pretty raining and rough, and looking back, I was lucky to only have 4 days off the water due to inclement weather.  Many of my tweets refer to the bothersome rain for camping, and that certainly was my sentiment, but I wouldn’t give it back for anything.  Hopefully the pictures you’ll see will show you the magnificent landscapes and nature that I have been seeing.  I will look fondly on these memories of clam shell beaches and small island archipelagos of British Columbia always.  Also, having completed the longest distance section of Leg 2, I am feeling very fit and strong and ready for the challenges ahead between here and Anchorage.  And to answer some of your questions, I feel safer out here than I ever did driving my daily commute on the I-405 in Los Angeles.  So many major collisions and a much higher probability of injury.

I hope that you are all well and am so glad to hear about recent engagements, baptisms, goings on, and look forward to connecting with you all more in the coming months.

Much Love, Conor

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