Smile and breathe

I don’t quite know what to write or how to write it. If you could see my face it would say it all at once. A massive ear to ear Outen grin and shining eyes, emotional with tears just sliding out from time to time.

The final 48 hours to land was huge and exhausting and very challenging. I didn’t sleep for 30 hours but just emptied the tank. Again and again. I didn’t see land until I was less than a mile off – through thick white fog. There was a point at around 6.30 in the morning where I wondered if we could make the final 4 miles in. My muscles had nothing left and the current was taking us away from the original landing waypoint. I sat in my cabin and cried and wondered what to do. With incoming rough weather I couldn’t carry on indefinitely. So close after so long… I drifted for an hour while I made hot food and warmed up and as the dark white turned to white white with day, we got back out there and pushed on to a different target down the coast. Into the now headwinds and into the fog, going only by GPS. Rowing into the bay in the fog and rain and wind now whipping across us, escort boat alongside was exhilarating. Relief. Emotion. Grins. People. Golly. We then fixed up a tow and ‘the boys’ towed us to the other side of the island, to Adak Port. Tony suggested I stay onboard – at first I thought that was a bit off telling me to stay alone – and then I saw why. Inside I could ring home, get dry and warm up and snuggle down for a snooze.

Then we were there.

Looking out I was rather overwhelmed. The mountains reminded me of Wales and Scotland. I felt at home. At peace. Happy Socks and Chimpy – stand down my friends, we’re here. And we rowed the final bit to a little jetty, waved in by some locals and hugged and hello’d. Such a warm and gentle re entry to land. Thank you Adak. Thank you team.

I am sitting in my pyjamas on perhaps the most delicious bed in the world (which is warm and dry and doesn’t move), wrapped in duvet, looking out to the mountains and across some buildings. There is a rooster saying hello to the world and a changing parade of moody clouds. Tony and James are pottering about with breakfast things downstairs amid banter and chat.

It is all rather surreal and has been for the last 48 hours. But wonderful too. Our welcome to Adak was so special. Surrounded by lush green mountains, to row those last strokes into a little port with some of the local community there to wave us in was very emotional. I sat in Happy Socks just out of the harbor for some minutes crying and laughing and not quite believing it all. That mix of tears and giggles and a flash show of memories has been happening for a few weeks as we get used to the idea of the end of this chapter.


All is going well with the re-entry process. I feel calm and happy and very well looked after by my team and very well supported and welcomed by the local community. Very relievd to report that the clinic gave me the all clear with the sugar test – Doc Caroline had been rather worried about this lately. Happy Socks comes out of the water today for a good clean and sort and Chimpy is now safely ashore too, resting up and chattering away about everything happily. The island is beautiful. Absolutely stunning. We went out to watch sea otters playing in the bay yesterday, and saw bald eagles messing about in the (very strong) winds. Seals watched us as we stood on the sand-blasted beach and all the while the mountains and sea and space just made me feel so deeply happy. There was a big storm yesterday so it just enforced how lucky we were to have that weather window stay open just long enough for me to get in – or I would still be waiting 100 miles offshore.


I am going to visit the school (of 27 pupils) on Thursday and give a community talk at the weekend before flying out on Sunday. Lucy booked her flights yesterday so T-1 week and we will be together again. Meanwhile, we will sort Happy Socks and some plans for next year’s return with the kayaks (which, by the way is going to be epic and beautiful).

Physically I am exahausted but calmed, although still wired at night so haven’t slept more than a few hours these last two nights. I am sore and walking is a bit wobbly at times and ears are aching from the balance thing , but know that things are settling. It is so reassuring to be well supported by my team and folks at home, and here on the island too. It has also been wonderful to read some of the messages of support – I will catch up with them once I have caught up with myself – and to see the charity donations rising.

Emotionally and psychologically I am relieved to be ashore safely and so happy to be in Alaska. A few people have asked if I am disappointed that I didn’t make it to Canada as originally intended. I just grin. Not a bit of it. Adventures are all about the journey and being open to what’s happening. To me it feels even better than the original plan. Alaska…. Next year’s onward journey will be fantastic and I am looking forwards to coming back to this wonderful place and learning more of its interesting past and present.

Thank you everyone for whatever part you have played in this chapter of L2L – supporting messages, charity donations, sponsor, local fixer etc…family, friends and team.

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53 Responses to Smile and breathe

  1. Alan D says:

    Absolutely, mind blowing achievement. Well done!

  2. Laura says:

    Amazing Sarah, huge congratulations. Those last few days replicate what I’ve read with Shackletons Endurance adventure!
    Your resilience, strength of mind and focus is so powerful, you’ve got a beautiful positive outlook which is to only be hugely admired. Kayaking through Alaska will be beautiful & I’m excited for you already for the ongoing adventures ahead.
    Enjoy the comforts of land, food, bed & the support of Tony (plus say hi from us ;)!).
    Big hug,

    Laura & the team xx

  3. Chris Nolan says:

    A wonderful conclusion to this part of your journey. So glad an eagle graced you with a viewing. Amazing birds, they are! Glad you are getting to share with the small school on Adak. Something I am sure they will remember, and look forward to your return . Following you across the northern Pacific has been a much better adventure than any TV show or book.
    I look forward to your continued posts as you recover, regroup and experience the warmth and loved of your family and friends.

    Chris in Anchorage

  4. Sarah Wilson says:

    An incredible adventure and an incredible woman… thanks so much for sharing it with us. I think it might be smiles, tears and breathing all round 🙂

  5. Tim Turnbull says:

    So proud of you, Sarah. Welcome ‘home’ to dry land. Love from all the gang in Herne Hill.

  6. Christine & Kathleen says:

    Hello Sarah

    We are so proud of you and your achievement along with so many other folks. You really ought to be Dame Sarah now. A lovely write up keeping us all up to date, we feel as though we were with you all the time by being able to follow you.

    Glad you are going into the local school they will certainly remember that visit all their days.

    Just enjoy all the lovely things that awaits and get some rest and of course the fresh fruit as well as the many other little gems that you love.

    Big Hug

    C & K

  7. Linda, Cambridge says:

    What a lovely blog. I’m so happy for you, and for all of your team – you have achieved something truly fantastic between you. As for the destination – as you say, it’s all about the journey, and Adak being this particular point of the journey’s end and the next journey’s beginning looks absolutely ideal. A place of great beauty (when I first saw the photographs it also reminded me of Scotland and Wales), with an abundance of wildlife. It seems somehow entirely appropriate that you should have landed there – a kind of half-way house between the ocean and the bustle and noise of the mainland, a chance for you to become accustomed to the massive contrast between the world of ocean you’ve been inhabiting for the last 150 days and the world of ‘civilisation’ (so-called) and people. It’s great that you can give something back to the community of Adak. I’ll bet everyone will remember your arrival and talks for the rest of their lives, and that the schoolchildren especially will take inspiration from it. And soon you will be meeting up with Lucy in New York, and then back home to family and friends, if not to say beginning on the planning of the next stage of your trip – so much to look forward to. Like so many others who have never met you, I feel as though I know you just through your blogs and phonecasts. I will definitely at some point come to one of your talks! Happy Socks, Happy Sarah and Happy Chimpy – what a dynamic combination. Well done everyone!

  8. ian says:

    hi sarah,thanks for this post,a real insight to your roller coaster,more than maybe we deserve but really hope you enjoy this time,rest and this specialinterlude in your epic adventure.

  9. Christine Foley says:

    Such fantastic news, Sarah. The words “well done” barely seem to be enough, but… WELL DONE and MANY CONGRATULATIONS all round, to you and your team, and to “Happy Socks” and Chimpy for keeping you safe.

    Kindest regards


  10. Bruce Ellen says:

    Hi Sarah.

    Glad that you are talking to the school kids.It will make their day.
    Remember when I said.
    Keep on rowing.
    Don’t stop rowing
    Your gonna get there one day
    And then your gonna make a lot of people happy
    Just to hear you say
    I DID IT. [ how many people are there ].

    Take it easy [ if they let you ] and keep letting us know how things are going.
    Cheers from sunny Queensland

  11. Valerie Hazan says:

    What an amazing place to land in…It must be very soothing and peaceful which is no doubt what is needed after such an incredible journey and before reentry into the mad world that we live in (New York will no doubt be a shock!). Thanks for taking the time to update us all. I already miss your daily updates. Hope you have a fantastic reunion at T0 in NY! Valerie

  12. Team Tony says:

    So pleased to hear of your safe arrival in Alaska -you sound very happy! Tear shed and glass raised to you here. Tony x

  13. Rachel Hay says:

    WONDERFUL NEWS!! What an incredible achievement! Great blog too, and a testimony to the importance of friends, family, and teamwork! WELL DONE SARAH & TEAM!! 🙂 Have a good rest now!! Rachel Hay (Digital Explorer)

  14. DJ Merritt says:

    Hip, hip, hurrah! Raising a pint in your honor!

  15. gianfranco says:

    Great adventure. Your journey is epic, and the pictures tell most of it. I am sure you will do the best kayaking next year. I can’t wait to see what is going to happen when you will be hopping from one island to another. Big smiles, big hug. Ciao.

  16. virgil l funderburk says:

    Glad you are safe,will be looking forward for the next chapter in your travel back to London,you deserve a good rest,you have push hard,
    God Bless


  17. mike sw says:

    tekogi bo-to de DEKIMASHITA

  18. Shelagh says:

    How wonderful to read your latest update from dry land. This latest leg of your journey has been such an amazing adventure and I’m blown away by your physical and mental strength and resolve. Your smile says it all….such a beautiful photo. After so many months alone at sea, I think landing on Adak Island was probably about the best thing for you….just enough people to be welcoming and helpful without overwhelming you. As a previous poster said, NYC will really stretch your senses with its mass of humanity. On second thought, perhaps you’ll actually only “see” one person! Congratulations to you, Sarah, and your whole team!

  19. Incredible journey. Thank you for sharing. Make sure your eskimo roll is 100% a sure thing for your kayak adventure next year. Say hello to Tony for me. I believe I am the next one on his list for my ocean adventure.

  20. Amy says:

    A. MAY. ZING Sarah O!!! I’m so relieved you’re on land, and loved reading this post – it has brought me calm on a very difficult day at work. To think of you exploring a new place and getting your feel back for steady land, dry clothes and smiling faces is a joy. I hope you enjoy your final days out there, and that it all soaks in nice and deep before you fly off. How exciting to be making plans for your return, a fresh challenge to overcome.
    Lots of love xx

  21. Gigi Walentiny says:

    Such a great relief to have you safely ashore, happy and healthy!! This has been an epic piece of your adventure…and what good is an adventure if it all goes according to plan?! Thank you so very much for allowing us to tag along!

    For now, rest, rejuvenate, recharge and most importantly — REUNITE!!

    ~Gigi in Virginia Beach

  22. Dave Read says:

    Bravo Zulu!!! Can’t wait to follow your journey when you resume again. Enjoy the respite

  23. Ray Davison says:

    Fantastic journey I have followed you all the way so far, your blogs etc make the journey so alive. Have a good rest and enjoy Adak.

  24. Scott Lockwood says:

    I am so glad you are safely ashore. I could not stop checking you position every 15 mins as you approached land. Very sweet blog entries. Can’t wait for more. Always a fan!

  25. Nikki says:

    Fabulous job Sarah! Great read too.

    Don’t hesitate to let me know if I might be of some assistance during your kayaking adventures in Canada. (I know Justine and am good friends with Leon Somme and Shawna Franklin).

  26. Barbara says:


    (throwing handfuls of confetti in the air!!)

    Looking forward to the rest of your adventures 🙂

    Sending congratulations from San Francisco,

  27. Helen says:

    Hi Sarah,
    What a fantastic achievement! Well done !
    I expect you need a well deserved rest now.Those GCSE Geography lessons were of some use then!
    Best wishes
    Helen- a fellow Rutlander!

  28. Comoxpaddler says:

    Absolutely brilliant! Congratulations. Looking forward to the next extraordinary installment of your remarkable expedition.

  29. Guy & Casey says:

    Casey says: She do’ed it!
    Guy says: Congratulations! Too bad we won’t see you paddle into Vancouver – but hopefully we’ll see you cycle through in the not too distant future!

  30. Congratulation again Sarah! Alaska is home to great wildlife in America as you have seen up close. You look great and simply beaming with joy! I am curious to know if you still had Mars products onboard at this time or did you consume them all in 150 days at sea? Happy trails to you.

  31. Francis Tamblyn says:

    congratulations on your mission! my morning routine cup of tea & listening to your phonecast….nerve racking

  32. Barry Gumbert says:

    Did you say you would be continuing by Kayak? Now I’m jealous. I’ve always wated to explore the inside passage. Take a side trip to Glacier Bay.

  33. Holly Tuppen says:

    Epic effort and adventure hugest congratulations! Soak up the glory, the beauty of land and having human contact!

  34. Louise and Ray says:

    Congratulations Sarah – that seems rather a lame word to use when you have achieved so much! It has been so exciting for us aged landlubbers to read your diary. Enjoy your rest and here’s to the next stage.
    Will also miss reading the comments of your fellow followers especially Gigi who writes from such an exotic sounding location!!

    Much love

    Lou and Ray xxx

  35. james Ogilvie says:

    Bravo and congratulations Sarah! The end of one chapter and the next to look forward to. A huge relief to know that you’re safe and well.

  36. Richard Adams says:

    Congratulations from The Rutland Trust and the Oakham Memorial Institute and welcome back to land. So pleased that we have been able to help in a small way with your voyage.

  37. June says:

    My dear Sarah, What an amazing lady you are! You look absolutely fabulous it is hard to believe you have journeyed all that way alone and used so much energy – talk about ‘keeping fit’! May your example give inspiration to the youngsters in our midst. Enjoy your sojourn. Every blessing.

  38. João Paulo Diniz, Lisbon, Portugal says:

    Dear Sarah, I just would like you to know how happy I feel! My God, what an extraordinary trip! Many congratulations from Lisbon, Portugal! Well done!!

  39. Pam Stocker says:

    I love the way you write. The written blogs have been my favourites (is that a surprise?!) Amazing. Rest well. Good landings this time! xxx

  40. Peter says:

    Congratulations Sarah, what a massive achievement. I have followed your journey every single day from my home in Scotland, all your ups and downs. You are incredibly brave and should be very proud of what you have accomplished.

  41. Susie Hewson says:

    ahhh – where’s my hanky you bring a tear to all our eyes Sarah – you’ve done all women proud – now enjoy that BEAUTIFUL landscape and Vancouver is Sooo much better by bike anyway:) Three cheers and congratulations 🙂

  42. agusjokos says:

    Outstanding Sarah!!! Congratulations…

  43. Lizzie Ford says:

    Well done Sarah – want a truly amazing adventure. So glad to see you smiling and on dry land. Fantastic!

  44. Julian Outen says:

    Well done Sarah – great to hear you are safe and on dry land. Fantastic achievement!
    Enjoy ! Best wishes !


  45. Sally R says:

    An amazing achievement, I can’t possibly imagine what it must be like to be alone in a tiny boat in a huge ocean, especially in rough weather and at night time – you’re obviously incredibly brave and determined. It must be a huge relief to have that stage of your journey behind you now and to start looking ahead to next year’s stage. The scenery in Adak looks spectacular so I’ll look forward to catching up with your blog posts again when you go back in the spring. But for now, put your feet up!

  46. Graeme Joy says:

    Well done Sarah, amazing, outstanding achievement!!!

  47. Ollie jay says:

    I hope you get a chance to come down gently – New York might be quite a change from your last few incredible months. I look forward to hearing about your adventures next Spring – I would love to join you for the Aleutian Islands.
    Take care in the smoke!

  48. Timbob says:

    Great !!!!!!!!!!!! Glad you made it in safe and sound……………enjoy…… can’t wait to hear about the start of your next Chapter… Hope to see you in Ontario….. somewhere ….

    Lake Erie, Ontario

  49. Maria says:

    Hi Sarah

    So sorry to hear that you are ill. But our bodies are very good at telling us when they have had enough and it’s time to stop. Here’s to a very speedy recovery and a time to relax perhaps before you get into superwoman training!


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  51. Stephen from Wisconsin says:

    Sarah, sorry to hear about your allergic reaction to the dogs. welcome to my world. I had a dog as a kid and gradually, but surely, I became ever more allergic. Today, after some 20 years of distance, I can come close again, in the open, for a short while. As long as I don’t touch my eyes and wash my clothes, I’m ok. Most important to focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have. Still look forward to catch up somewhere in Ontario or Wisconsin.

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