This is a journey of Sarah Outen and Justine Curgenven who kayaked 1400 nautical miles island hopping from Adak to Homer in early May. The longest distance without any people was 250 nautical miles between Aka and Nikolski. Their biggest challenge was changeable weather, strong winds, fast currents, many riptides, inhospitable coastline, remoteness and carrying enough food for the length of the the trip which was 3 to 4 months.
The long volcanic arm of the Aleutian Islands is somewhere they had dreamed of paddling for years. The wild, rugged archipelago draws one in for many reasons but it can also make one apprehensive. The strong currents, raging tidal races, relentless winds, thick fog, long crossings, rocky landings, uncharted waters and hundreds of miles with no people is quite the challenge. There are also some active volcanoes with occasional hot springs, birds, whales, remote communities and a chance to spend weeks learning to feel a part of the landscape. They love exploring little visited corners of the world where nature is the disputable boss.
It was exciting to meet the people who live in remote outposts. This journey was one that was long, tough and had character building days. The fog, wind and rain are part of the attraction, a part of the package.
The shores are typically precipitous and the breakers are heavy and in many cases the approaches are filled with jagged rocks and kelp beds. All passages in the Aleutian Islands have strong currents. In narrow Akun Strait, the current is reported to reach a velocity of 12 kn. The weather of the Aleutians is typically overcast skies, strong winds and violent storms. On Adak there is an average of 341 days with measurable precipitation.
The kayak was 1400 nautical miles from the Adak Island the westernmost island in the U.S. to the nearest road in Homer on mainland Alaska. They undertook over 20 open water crossings and remote inhospitable seas. 1000 miles from the nearest Coast Guard. They carried four weeks worth of food, as most of the chain of islands is uninhabited. The challenging journey took 101 days.
For Sarah it was a part of a wider journey to travel around the world by human power. She's had quite an adventure in kayaking, cycling and rowing from London to Adak. Justine joined her on her kayaking legs from London to France and Russia to Japan and they become great friends. Last summer she got a call from Sarah's tiny rowing boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean saying winds were preventing her from making it to Vancouver before winter so how did I fancy kayaking along the Aleutian Islands with her? In spite of the fact that Sarah hasn't had a massive amount of kayaking experience, she has a stamina and perseverance of 20 oxen and a positive can-do attitude that had her laughing in the worst of situations.
The last six months has been organizing, catching up with friends, family and her fiance. Sarah has been training hard in her trusted Rock pool Menai - 18. Her coach now allows her to roll in the waves, paddling skillfully, learning to interpret that dynamic tidal environment.
Preparing for a big trip takes a lot of time. They have been at a survival and foraging course from Backwoods Survival School. They receive fantastic instruction and advice on dealing with any medical issues that they might encounter from the best way to clean a wound to dealing with anaphylactic shock and stitching. They have been gathering information from 35 charts and anyone willing to share information with them, especially those who have kayaked the Aleutians before. They have been printing title information from the various passes they will cross and try not to gulp at the figures of five and six not currents all of which are not in a useful direction. When traveling east, the currents are mainly bounding along to the north and south, kicking up a lively sea as they go. They are taking three-piece kayaks and will start their journey to Anchorage with some lovely bags custom-made by AlpKit.