Turning Around on the First Day

The ferry arrived early this morning in Ketchikan. An hour and a half early. The ferry is noisy, especially if you are sleeping out in a hallway by the engine. Then there are the announcements that begin with a loud high-pitched horn. It should be no surprise that I woke up every hour on the hour starting at midnight. I went back to sleep pretty quickly each time, and slept hard, but just didn’t get enough coninuous sleep to feel fully rested. Plus the excitement of arriving and getting on the water got me up and moving when the six o’clock wake up happened. I set about striking camp and, as I did, I looked at the shore to starboard recognized it. Ketchikan. I had everything ready when the announcement came at seven that we could go down to the car deck. I had the kayak and three bags stowed in the office and the kayak on the grass across from it by quarter to eight and made my way to the store nearby to purchase fresh produce and tortillas. Then on to the Tongass Trading Company for a tide book, an Alaska fishing license, and a new tarp.I wheeled the kayak the quarter mile to the boat ramp, grabbed a cart from the port, went back and got my gear and wheeled that down. I had everything on the dock by just before ten. It took me over two hours to pack it all. The dock was very high and it was challenging to get things stowed way in corners. I must have been a sight with the upper half of my body hanging over and down trying to shove things way into the bow and stern.With such a late start, I only had about two hours left of the flood tide. Getting out of the main part of Ketchikan is dicey for a kayaker. One has to dodge sea planes landing and taking off all of the time, of course the regular fishing boats coming and going, yachts, the duck boats/cars, and paddle past five enormous cruise ships. Mercifully everyone seems to have seen me. Well, at least all but one yacht. They put out the biggest wakes, and this one was only about 200 yards away going at a good clip. I had to get closer to shore to let a fishing boat pass before the yacht passed and the yacht’s wake came big in that shallow area. My first real surf experience of the trip – on the first day no less. Trial by fire? Well, I made it through the fire just fine, it was even kind of fun and, most importantly, I wasn’t afraid. I knew what to do and did it, and even enjoyed it.After the first seven miles I needed a break so I stopped off at this little park with a launch ramp. It didn’t look like they offered any camping, but I wanted to keep going. After the break in the park, I turned up into George and Carroll Inlets (I know I know) to make the crossing over to the next finger of Revillagigedo a little shorter (i.e. dodging fewer fishing boats, trollers, etc.). Not five minutes after I paddled up the inlets a headwind kicked up. That in concert with the tide having turned made me consider turning around and going back to the park and illegally camping there. The beaches along that shore looked like they would have no beach left for camping during tonight’s 17′ rise in tide. I really wanted to cross but it was too rough. There was a beach on the other shore I knew would be high enough for the tide. It’s wet with many fresh water creeks running into it, but I could handle that. What to do? Just as I asked myself this question, with some panic, a light rain front came around the corner and entered the inlets (thanks George and Carol) and laid everything down. I didn’t hesitate, I pointed BABS southeast and started crossing at a soft sprint. The fishing boats were slowly trolling so no need to worry about anyone hitting me. By the time I got across the rain had stopped and there were gentle rollers pushing me in the direction I wanted to go.I landed on the wet but high enough beach and was greeted by a doe. She wasn’t shy but wasn’t happy to share the beach with me for more than 10 minutes, but I appreciated her company. After she sauntered off, I unloaded the boat, set up camp, ate some brie, salami, and crackers I picked up at the store this morning. As I was eating, I watched an otter, it looked the size of a river otter, swim across the water in front of my beach.I am appreciating having done the shakedown last year. It made this day’s experience far more pleasant and efficient. Time to create a plan for tomorrow. I already know it will involve being ready to paddle when it’s low tide and paddling till it’s high tide. As weary as I am that sounds a little ambitious, but I am happy. All I can hear is the sound of the rain hitting the blue shelter over my tent.

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Written by

kyleenaustin

I am passionate about outdoor exploration. In the recent years I have discovered how much more I can experience from a kayak. I am a professional musician and own a dairy where we produce raw milk, butter and cheeses. My son tells me I have "too much on my plate". He is correct, but I wouldn't live life any other way.

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