Monday, June 30, 2008

Shelikof Strait, Alaska - Video

As soon as I rounded the cape, things turned ugly. The wind built quickly, setting up an ugly, confused sea. Waves from every direction as I left the green cliffs behind, focusing on the distant white mountains.

For two hours I wrestled the boat westward, slamming up curtains of spray. All my carefully stowed containers went flying, dumping books, food and supplies. My zodiac filled with water and worked itself half-loose from the cabin roof, nearly sliding off. Water poured over the windows and gunwhales and l
eft nearly a foot of water in the cockpit before I remembered to flip on the bilge pump.

I tried to ignore the green islands behind me, except to make a mental note when I passed the halfway point. It was now shorter, if not necessarily safer, to keep going than turn and run back.

As the tide started to run, I found myself surfing down breaking waves, the boat pitching hard to the side before slowly climbing up the back of another. The world receded to nothing over the small windshield,
the spray, the waves, the mountains. I counted out loud as the GPS counted the miles down.

Finally, the waves grew smaller, the wind less determined, the sea less angry. I passed behind the shadow of Nuksak Island and hooted with joy at the sight of Hallo Bay. Verdant slopes and steep mountain cliffs circled around in an ampitheater of glacial peaks. I dropped anchor, looked out at the green meadows, spotted my first bear and stood there grinning like an idiot at the midnight sun drifted behind the peaks.