Day 124 – Alaska here we come!

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!

Alaska here we come!

Alaska here we come!

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.

The destination!

The destination!

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….

Justine and I paddling partners

With paddling partner, Justine

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.

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69 Responses to Day 124 – Alaska here we come!

  1. Sally Angel says:

    All your “armchair” followers are wishing you a speedy and easy trip to Alaska which just happens to be one of the most beautiful places on this Earth 🙂

  2. Scott Lockwood says:

    On behalf of all the other fans you have in the USA, WELCOME. We have been watching your adventure from the begining and are estatic that you will be landing on our soil. Bon Voyage!

  3. Heather and Cameron says:

    Hi there Sarah, all things being equal looks like you and your team have made a great decision. Cameron follows your progress most days and we had wondered whether you might consider going North especially with winter approaching. Hope you get some sun soon to recharge those batteries both human and electrical!
    Caught anymore fish lately??!!
    Alaska here you come! you will do it!
    Love Heather and Cameron

  4. Sounds like an excellent decision. I too was wondering what you would/could do to cope with the worsening weather and the onset of winter. A new challenge….a new focus…just what you need to motivate yourself after these especially difficult past few weeks. Great news! 🙂

  5. TA says:

    Sounds like a solid plan…Alaska is a fine spot to end and then begin the next leg of the journey. I hope the weather/winds/waves/your rowing et al keep you moving in the direction you need to go…cheering you on and can’t wait to welcome you to Newfoundland whenever you get here.

  6. Phil W says:

    Keep paddling!

  7. Janice Small says:

    Hi Sarah, my life has got in the way of following your life. Catching up I find you are altering course and heading for Alaska. Seems like a sound decision and you sound rejuvenated. Great stuff, good luck. I am off to San Fransisco to cycle to San Diego. A bit south of you and a bit shorter distance but still good fun.

  8. Joe Manning says:

    Adding Alaska, good idea! Watching your progress, praying for safe travels. You can do this! Joe (Chicago IL)

  9. Gigi Walentiny says:

    I am tickled beyond belief and SOOOOOOO relieved as I was starting to look at the calendar and frown as the days passed and the winds remained contrary and uncooperative.

    This is such a stellar plan and I know you and your team have put a LOT of thought into it!


    *hApPy DaNcE*

    ~Gigi in Virginia Beach

  10. Shelagh says:

    Great decision! Relieved to know you will be on terra firma sooner than later. Be sure to let your fishy friends in on your route change!

  11. Fiona Harris says:

    Gutsy and right decision Sarah – nature can be fickle and you have to work with the hand you’ve been dealt and make the right decisions accordingly – big hugs and good luck:). USA here you come….

  12. Stace says:

    As all overlanders know a route is always a rough guide and changes all the time.
    It’s a good decision Sarah and as an old friend of mine always says safety first, safety second. This way you get to see more of this planet we are sitting on, which is never a bad thing.
    Safe journey Sarah
    See you in a couple of years 🙂

  13. h says:

    Happy news! I was worried about your progress, considering the winter months coming.

  14. Alan Thomas says:

    Happy Call = Good Call

  15. Linda, Cambridge says:

    Great news – makes perfect sense. Will keep following your progress and wishing you a speedy and safe trip to Alaska.

  16. Christine Drewe says:

    Sounds like a great plan and so glad you will be safely on land before it gets too choppy out there for you! Plus we find it very hard in South Oxfordshire to keep the Champagne in the bottle, so we need you to come back to have a proper celebration – Keep safe and well – Christine ( Lucy’s Cousin) xx

  17. dave says:

    good call Sarah, and good luck – leave the winter ocean to the crabfishermen, their boats being a bit more apt for it.
    Looks like we have a race on our hands though – you racing for the land, us running to the sea!! In this stage through venezuela our main challenges are human, yours will be natural (of that i am jealous). We are due in 20th Oct, what is your sensible dreamdate?
    Fair winds, dave and katharine

  18. Greetings Sarah, I applaud your decision! The math for Vancouver was looking impossible and nobody needs to be in the North East Pacific in November. What about Dutch Harbor? More infrastructure, safer landing and you will capture the imagination of the fishing community there. What is another 450 nautical miles when you have already come so far?

    Blessings- Stephen, Seattle

  19. romano says:

    Excellent decision Sarah!!

    I knew something like this was in the making last week when you pulled in “Bob” and made nearly 10 miles north in 6 hours. This is the kind of stuff epic adventures are made of and there have been few adventures, and adventurers, as adventurous as yourself what you are attempting.

    Adak Island?? According to Wiki there is a McDonald’s and bowling alley there. Are you starting to have a Big Mac Attack yet?

  20. Tari says:

    Mouse is coming home soon. Good decision is not easy to make sometimes, but when it’s the right one it feels soooooo good. One Miss Lucyroo is bouncing up and down, I can already see with my telephatic eyes. Row safely, Mouse, and I see you soon.

  21. Scala says:

    I had been wondering about that possibility for a little while, especially while zooming in on your location, seeing the Aleutians and then reading about your weather. I know landings are rough from a sea kayak traversing the surf; you’ve got time and miles to figure out a few plans to ensure a safe landing. You’ll fall in love with the scenery via kayak, of that I can assure you. Alaska is a magical place. Wishing you sun and continued safe passage.

  22. Patrick Whelan says:

    Great decision!
    Very best wishes on the last 430 NM. May you land safely and enjoy a terrific kayak trip.

  23. Mac Guy says:

    Glad to hear you are heading for shore. The north Pacific is no place to be come Fall/Winter. In my youth I used to be an oceanographer and while on an expedition in the north Pacific our 350ft ship hit waves that were the size of large city blocks and at least 50 ft in height maybe more, gigantic. No place for you and Happy Socks.

  24. Sean Morley says:

    Row hard Sarah. And get as far east as you can. I have not been there but from all the research I have done, the Aleutian chain is a rather sketchy place to be in October in a row boat. But you know that. Don’t hesitate to accept a ride if you need to and do it sooner rather than later if things get hairy – you are a hero to everyone, especially me and have nothing to prove and everything to lose by hanging in there too long. Be safe and good luck!

  25. Douglas Pohl says:

    The currents in the Aleutian Islands are very strong – of course your staff has taken that into account in the decision that has been made? I’d offer an alternative – Alaska Peninsula – maybe King Cove or Sand Point Alaska?

    Be safe,

    Douglas Pohl

  26. Wow. What an adventure. I’m thrilled that you found a safe solution. I’ve been watching you all the way and was starting to get worried. Very clever plan. I live in Ontario, Canada. I hope to be able to cycle with you for a bit as you cross my province. You have a place to stay on the shores of lake Ontario when you come by.

  27. Guy & Casey says:

    That’s very exciting! I showed Casey where Alaska was on the map, and the long line of islands stretching out to “close” to where you are. Casey is a little disappointed he won’t see you land in Vancouver, but said you had a “big paddle” already!

  28. Karel says:

    Good decision i have been thinking for a while that you are heading for alaska,like i told Justine i’ll be there weather wise if needed

  29. Chris Nolan says:

    Hope I get a chance to say hello to you here in Anchorage! A great meal and beverage are on me!

  30. Ray Girard says:

    I was starting to see problems with you staying on the water until Vancouver Island. The timing was beginning to look iffy. This is a well thought out suggestion by your mates and helpers.
    Not being on Vancouver Island, and it being an expensive and day-long journey to the ocean side from here, I think my chances of seeing you go by, in person, have increased because you will be passing through the Fraser Valley, most likely.
    I’m also sure that your heart needs a certain someone right now, and the Alaska stop will allow this to happen.
    Remember, even with all those others involved, YOU are th one doing it, so make happen what you want to happen. We are still behind you 100%.

  31. Sasha says:

    The very best luck Sarah!! 🙂

  32. Good call! It makes sense to stay safe:) do they have a large G&T in Alaska?
    Fair wind Sarah

  33. judy burdett says:

    Phew! So glad there is a change of plan and a good one too. Was getting a little too difficult and safety considerations are always paramount. So, now’s the time that Sarah and Happy Socks really GO for it! Wishing you speedy days and fair weather with the company of lots of fishy friends! ENJOY!

  34. sara says:

    That’s fab news. Keep smiling

  35. Roz Savage says:

    Sounds like a great decision! We’d been wondering/worrying about winter storms catching up with you if you carried on to Vancouver. I can imagine what a great sense of relief you are feeling right now, to have a feasible plan that brings you back to dry land sooner than expected. Hurrah!!

    I’m madly envious – I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska!!

    Roz x

  36. jill lewis says:

    THe BEST NEWS. Good luck and happiness from Jill Lewis (RPYC)

  37. Averil Trott says:

    Good luck Sarah – always difficult to take a decision like this but it must be a relief to have decided for positive reasons to change course – hope the winds and waves keep you going in the right direction now. Love Averil.

  38. Christina Watts says:

    Fantastic Sarah you and your great team to decide on this change of plan – a positive move towards the same goal – L2L via the World – a huge relief but we all know that changing plans,thoughts etc will be as challenging – take care & big hugs

  39. ian says:

    hi sarah,this is great news,a pragmatic response that fully mantains the integrity of your adventure and a massive relief to all your supporters who like me where becoming increasingly concerned about the dangers you were facing out there,the challenges before you are still monuemental but I have no doubt you will surpass them,go well for the rest of your time afloat!

  40. Wise team you have there Sarah, good decision to change course. I was wondering how long you could afford to keep heading towards Vancouver making so little headway, considering the winter fast approaching, supplies and wear and tear on equipment not to mention yourself. What a wonderful adventure! Terrific to look forward to land travel from Alaska to Vancouver but in many ways might be more of a challenge than on the sea!!! Best of luck and may the winds blow you to your destination, the sea be calm and your days be just as you would wish them to be

  41. Lucy says:

    A very VERY happy fiancée tapping away right now!!!! Very happy days indeed!!!

  42. Susie Hewson says:

    A sensible plan and one that will open up a load more vistas and adventures on this journey – overwintering in Alaska being one of those challenges. Hope you have a nice warm coat with you:) Be safe and heave-ho for the coast where we will all be standing (metaphorically speaking of course) to clap and cheer you onto dry land – Island hopping, that’s nice:) Hang in there Sarah, you are doing an amazing challenge and you do women proud x Susie

  43. Bruce Ellen says:

    Hi Sarah
    It appears that a lot of lot of other people were also concerned with the weather and I am glad
    that the decision to head for ALASKA has been made..
    There are still challenges to overcome where the ocean meats land but YOU CAN DO IT.
    Stay safe and let me know the words to the rest of the song [ or someone out there can tell us ]
    Bruce from sunny Queensland

  44. Valerie Hazan says:

    Einstein apparently said that the measure of intelligence was the ability to change so this is a truly intelligent decision. The line on your tracker seems much straighter since you headed North so that must feel very satisfying…very much hope that the wind and currents cooperate to get you there safely as soon as possible.

  45. JUSTINE says:

    Go Go Go Sarah and Happy Socks. Me and Adventure Duck have had a word with the weather gods to go easy on you when you reach the Aleutians. We can’t wait to see you safely on dry land. Looking forward to kayak training this winter and returning to the Aleutians with you next spring for the best kayaking adventure. big hugs JC xx

  46. Graham says:

    Yes a very logical decision, Vancouver was far too long a journey at this time of year. So now it’s due north to lat. 51 I’m sure the residents of the old US military base will make you very welcome this winter and will do everything for a safe landing.
    Fair winds & following seas.
    Graham in Ontario,Canada

  47. Frank says:

    Hi Sarah,

    A good plan, indeed. I’m hoping for a good surf speeding you up to Alaska!

    I just imagened the pics you’ll make paddling through the inward passage, I’m already looking forward reading your blog 🙂

    Take Care
    Frank from Lake Constance

  48. Comoxpaddler says:

    Wow! A big change but absolutely not a “softer” route. In many ways kayaking along the Aleutian chain will be tougher than rowing the ocean in Happy Socks. Lots of current and wind and some pretty long crossings – I can see one of 40 nautical miles. And a total of more than 1100 nautical miles before you get to the first cyclable roads at Homer. Most expedition kayakers are content with much much less. I have paddled around Vancouver Island, and around Haida Gwaii solo, and I cannot imagine tackling what you and Justine will be facing. This will be an epic kayak expedition in its own right, up there with (beyond?) circumnavigations of Tasmania or Iceland. I guess you will have the chance of lots of winter paddling training before that stage, to prepare for the rigours of the journey. Will you use a mother ship? Some of those islands do not look very campable!

    • JUSTINE says:

      hi Comoxpaddler,
      Yes, it will be a challenging and remarkable kayaking leg. It’s one I have been wanting to do for a while so I’m particularly excited about doing it with my good friend Sarah. We know it will offer significant challenges and we plan to train hard over the UK winter. Once out there, we’ll employ the strategy that Sarah uses already and take every day as it comes, tackling one obstacle at a time and hoping we have sufficient time and food to complete the journey. I have only roughly looked at the specifics of the journey so far and I think the longest crossing is about 30 nautical miles. We don’t plan on having a mothership but we’ll work out the finer details once Sarah has safely made landfall in Happy Socks. One challenge at a time!
      Happy Paddling!

  49. Amy Bryant says:

    Good luck Sarah! A change of course and, hopefully, a great big boost to your morale and will power as you focus on this new goal. I hope your progress continues swiftly north, and that the weather and currents are in your favour nearer to landing time. We’re all willing, willing, willing you towards land every time we read your blogs.
    Keep going and keep smiling,
    Amz x

  50. Patrick McGownd says:

    Please contact me if you need someplace to stay in Anchorage or Talkeetna. We have plenty of room and lots of bicycle connections.

    Patrick McGownd

  51. michael noon says:

    Good Luck Sarah. Looks like I am going to enjoy the romance of following
    the intrepid voyager even further into my old age. Great Joy.
    Love Mike x

  52. Janice C says:

    Sarah, I’ve been saying for a week or more “why doesn’t she go to the Aleutians?” “why doesn’t she go to the Aleutians?” and you finally heard me!!! 😉 ………..good decision……….haste ye onward

    Janice Pacific Northwest Native

  53. DavidT says:

    Good plan! It was getting very late in the year…
    I can’t quite work out where your current destination is, from zooming in on the map. Is it due north?
    Would it be possible for the next leg to kayak each day and camp on land at night (apologies if that’s silly, from the map I’ve got no idea of the distance between the dribbles of land before the mainland)? That would really be ‘a route never before undertaken’ to get round the world!

    • JUSTINE says:

      hi David, Adak island is NNE of Sarah. If you search for it on google maps you’ll see it.
      We will be camping on land every night while in the kayaks. They aren’t really set up for sleeping in. It will be a challenging and exciting trip which will take several months.

  54. Phil Harnett says:

    Hi Sarah

    If you make it to Dutch Harbour you could maybe meet up with the stars of a TV program called “Deadliest Catch” by the Discovery Channel, they fish for crab in the Bearing sea. There are several boat captains and crews that the camera’s follow. If the seas that they experience are anything to go by, your decision to get off the sea before winter is a really good one !!

    Maybe your support team could contact Discovery Channel and they could give you some much deserved publicity and support.

    Take care P

    • Sarah says:

      We’ve heard about Deadliest Catch – hoping I don’t meet any of the catchees! Discovery not keen on the adventure. Seems that production companies like to create their own adventures. So we are filming and documenting and will make a film – or series – at the end of the whole exped. That way I can do the story justice, rather than have it minced up by some company who want it to fit inside a certain box.

  55. Phil Gray says:

    I’ve been keeping track of you since last year’s rescue. Sounds like a very logical plan although disappointed I won’t be in the crowd welcoming you ashore on Vancouver Island in the Fall which I was planning. The upside is that my sport is cycling – so riding into Vancouver with you next year will be a privilege.

  56. Awesome that you are going to land in Alaska, Sarah!
    The first documented contact between Alaska Natives and Europeans/Russians occurred on September 4th, 1741 at 4:00 PM in the Shumagin Islands near the community of Sand Point. Let us know where you where you are going to land, and we will see if we can have some Unangax iqyax (Aleut sea kayaks) paddle out to greet you!

    • Sarah says:

      Watch the blog for updates when we get much closer as to landing predicitons. At the moment it is an impossibility – so much could happen. But it would be great, in principle, to be accompanied if it works out. We will make announcements closer to the time.

  57. Hi Sarah,

    Roz Savage let me know about your trip. I’m happy to welcome a fellow adventurer to Alaska. And having traveled a good chunk of the Southcentral Alaska coast myself, I’d say you have some adventure ahead of you there too! (and wonderful wilderness). My family and I are in Seldovia, AK (on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula across from Homer) and would love to have you visit if your coastal travels bring you my way (I can also give some intel on parts of the kayak/land route if you need).

  58. Ben Jackson says:

    Sounds like you’ve made the right decision Sarah. Making the decision to make the decision is often the most difficult part, once you commit to a new plan though it can be very energising! We’re rooting for you. Good luck. X

  59. yokohama sea frinds Member says:

    I worried, Because a cold season came
    It is a good judgment,I pray for a safe voyage

  60. Esther Wheeler says:

    Excellent decision Sarah. So impressed watching you row and cabin sit for so long. Safety should always come first, along with continuing towards your goals and I think turning North ticks all of those boxes! Good luck for the weather and some excellent surfing opportunities to push you northwards.

  61. Erik Asbjorn says:

    I’d long wondered why you hadn’t chosen the Aleutians as a sort of stopping/resting/resupplying point but far be it from me to question your plans. I’d assumed some ridiculous government agency had something to say about it. Best of luck!

  62. Sarah Wilson says:

    This is fabulous news. VERY exciting. I did a spell of mountaineering in Alaska with Raleigh International and really enjoyed it. Along with your winter paddling you and Justine will need to practise your bear skills (on my first day in Alaska they taught us how to fire a double barrelled shot-gun!! I was hopeless and opted for the pepper spray 🙂 woohoooo!

  63. Joseph says:

    Just checking in and see you are heading to Adak. I hope you can eventually reach Unalaska and Dutch Harbor as there are more services and people there. Also happy that the 7.0 earthquake this morning 70 miles from Adak didn’t generate a Tsunami.

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