SE_Alaska_doom_Stephens_PassageIt’s Day 3. We’re only 17 miles south of Juneau. It is absolutely howling outside. We tried paddling out of Taku Harbor and got turned around before even hitting open water. We are weathered in.

I can’t fully comprehend that we have no choice but to stay put. I understand it rationally—the waves are too big and the wind too strong. But my muscles want to work and I’ve wound my system so tightly around the ideal of making miles and moving down the map that stillness feels wrong. I can’t sit with sitting. All there is for me to do is relax and enjoy, and I am failing.

I am anxious. I know we have limited food and far to go. Also, perhaps deeper, while I know we have many weeks until our flight out of Ketchikan, I’ve already started equating a faster pace with more sights seen, a longer route to trace behind us, a grander story to tell for the rest our lives. I’m scheming, maximizing, biggering, nexting.

Olivia does not share this pattern. Nor does she like it. And she is right.

First off, boating in Southeast Alaska, even in the more protected inner channels, can be truly dangerous. Especially in a small craft, and especially on a solo expedition. Winds pick up in minutes, currents are strong, tides rip and the coastline frequently stretches for miles in unbroken unwelcoming rockiness. No amount of safety equipment or skill can make landable shore appear or capsizing acceptable. And yet I still keep telling myself from our tent door that the waves are diminishing, the wind calming down. This is neither sane nor safe.

And on a totally different plane, it is just not the best mindset from which to live. It is not a present state, and in its imbalance, is not a place for joy to reside. I’ll spare you the tedious, incoherent philosophical ramblings, but want to acknowledge the state of discontent I was left with while stuck inside looking out. Part of life on a long expedition or short one, looking forward 300 miles or around the next point. I’m in a gorgeous place, on the trip of a lifetime with a gem of a life partner, and there’s an authentic Alaskan gale whipping up. The scene is as real an adventure as any I’ll ever experience, and I’m dissatisfied because I can’t go outside and play.

Thankfully Olivia is a voice of reason, a well of compassion and a source of wisdom. She calls me out and calms me down and generally puts up with my mood. We decide to go fishing in the rain, get lucky hooking three dinner size Dolly Varden, and grill up a feast. We listen to tunes punctuated by the rain on our tent and read each other into a sleep that meets the next morning with quite skies and flat seas.

We’re on our way again, and I’ll be working on my planning/maximizing tendencies with each paddle stroke and the rest of our lives. Glad to have such a partner.

-Kiel Renick