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


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 🙂

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

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!

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,


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.

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