On Friday night I hardly slept a wink, my mind racing and adrenaline charging about.
My team and I were mid-decision process, considering our options for the safest possible landing. By Saturday we had it settled. My team and I have come up with a plan and I am really excited about it.
Given that Happy Socks and I have faced so much contrary weather and our Easterly progress has been so limited lately, the chance of landing safely on the Canadian coast had been diminishing for some time. As the autumn kicks into winter, storms become more severe and more frequent, meaning increased risk of everything and less rowing. Keeping mind, body and boat healthy become critically difficult. Even now we are experiencing so much fog and cloud cover that my batteries are on a knife-edge. Maintaining communications, safety and water making equipment is a juggling act.
The main goal of this expedition has always been to loop the planet using human power and come home safely, and being open to the journey and all the opportunities and serendipity it offers.
Staying out on the Pacific into the winter months offers no safe chance at any of those goals and puts myself and others at risk, so carrying on to the Canadian coast would be foolhardy.
Since Saturday I have changed course and am now making for the Aleutian Islands to my North – an archipelago of the U.S.A stretching out from the Alaskan peninsula. Folks, we are rowing to the U.S of A!
I am currently less than 430 nautical miles south west of the ‘main’ island in the chain. Main being a relative term. Adak Island has the most western town in the USA with a population of some 350. Since Saturday we have been making good progress in that direction. It feels very positive and motivating to be looking at such a short and what seems to feasible goal of completing my North Pacific crossing. That said, these are still challenging waters and September brings with it higher winds and waves and 430 miles of North Pacific is still 430 miles of unpredictable ocean.
We are in contact with locals in a bid to put in place the on-the-ground and on-the-water support we need to escort me in safely or, if needs be, tow me ashore. Landing a boat – any boat – is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres anywhere in the world. Frame it as a tiny rowing boat (remember I have limited power and steerage, being only a wee human engine) landing on a remote set of islands with conditions that even seasoned locals find tricky to understand with all the quirks and changeability, and it becomes even more tense. We always say in ocean rowing that you can choose your departure window but your landing is so much less plannable.
I am really excited about this new plan – see a new part of the world and it also offers a really beautiful chance to continue my L2L journey next year, by kayak with my good pal and team mate Justine Curgenven along to the Alaskan mainland. From there I would continue on the bike down through the Rockies to Vancouver before hanging a left and heading across the East coast. North Atlantic 2015 and onwards home. More to follow in that once I am ashore and settled into land life again….
Most of all, however, this plan offers us the safest and most realistic chance of finishing this Pacific crossing under my own steam and getting both Happy Socks and I off the water safely before winter turns this ocean into a furious beast.
As with anything, there are no givens and no guarantees, but we are confident we have set a course for the best possible chance of success. Time wise, we aim to be off the water during October.
And Vancouver, all things being equal, I will be your way late summer next year.
For now, Happy Socks and I are Alaska bound. Game face on, focussing in on the miles ahead and the challenges to come and the thought of seeing my wonderful fiancée before too long.
Bring. It. On.