• British adventurer paddles 1,300 miles to land on Homer’s shores in early August
By Christina Whiting
On April 1, 2011, 26-year-old British adventurer Sarah Outen set out from London in a kayak, with a goal of traveling the globe by paddling, peddling and rowing. She has cycled through China and rowed the Pacific Ocean in what will be a four-year journey. Since April, she and fellow adventurer Justine Curgenven have been kayaking Alaska’s Aleutian chain. They started in Adak, and have their sights set on landing in Homer in early August. The total journey is 1,300 nautical miles.
As of July 24, the duo had kayaked 1,000 of those miles from Adak. By July 27, they were tracked kayaking north of the Aleutian chain and west of Kodiak Island.. They plan to cross to Kodiak from Hallo Bay Bear Camp and make their way to Homer via the Barren Islands and Seldovia.
Outen has dubbed her quest “London2London: Via the World.” (L2L for short.)
“I love the challenge, the battles, the intimacy with nature and the perspective gained from travelling by human power,” Outen said. “You are so close to the water, the landscape and wildlife. I love the purity of knowing that when you are alone, the immediate responsibility lies on your shoulders and yours alone. It’s a wonderful mix of excitement, fear and unknowns.”
The decision to come to the Aleutian Islands was made last year, when Outen’s attempt to row from Japan to Canada required a change of course due to bad weather. She was instead forced to row to Adak, where she made a new goal – after returning home to rest and train — that she would paddle from Adak to Homer.
A student at Oxford University and a member of the school’s rowing team, Outen calls Oxfordshire, England home. At 23 years old, grieving her father’s sudden death and determined to live her life to the fullest, Outen embarked on a solo voyage across the Indian Ocean in her boat. She became the first woman and youngest person to row solo across the ocean.
Sarah’s book, “A Dip in the Ocean,” is about that record-breaking solo row, and was published in 2011. This journey also inspired her current L2L adventure.
Outen is paddling a sparkly blue, 18-foot Rockpool Menai 18 she calls “Krissy.” Fellow adventurer Curgenven’s kayak is a red Valley Etain. The duo paddles 8-10 hours a day, depending on weather, the coastline and their goals. Their longest stretch without encountering other people has been 250 miles. The longest continuous period they had to be in their kayaks was 16 hours.
“If we have to make a big open water crossing of 40 miles, we just keep going until we get there — as long as the weather allows,” Outen said. “Mental tactics I’ve learned over the years, as well as wiggling toes and flexing muscles from time to time, is the only way to survive being in the boat for so long.”
Their most dangerous crossing so far was from Chuginadak to Umnak, where the currents pulled them away from land for several hours, followed by a strong headwind. After being in their boats for 15 hours, they finally made it to shore.
“The unreliable tidal and current information has surprised us,” Outen said.
Wildlife encounters have included sea otters, sea lions, grizzlies, fox and more.
“We had some very noisy, very large sea lions pull up on our beach at 4 a.m. one morning,” Outen said. “That was a bit nerve wracking, as we couldn’t see them properly and were not sure what they would do.”
They stop onshore for lunch every day — if they find a good place. Otherwise, they tie their boats together while they feast on high-energy, high-protein foods, including fish they’ve caught or been given, beach greens or kelp they forage, and a primary staple: chocolate.
Each night, they go ashore, ideally with a fresh water source nearby. They unpack, pitch the tent, prepare dinner, discuss the day’s journey, prepare maps and make plans for the next day. They also touch base with family and friends at home, before tucking themselves into their sleeping bags.
The duo also tweets, posts on their blog, phonecasts, updates their website and tracks their location — all thanks to a cornucopia of gear that helps to keep them safe and connected.
Tweet from July 23:
“This expedition is testing me in mind, body, boat and kit. Every night repairing something. Tonight was sewing up torn paddling mitts.”
Tweet from July 27:
“Eating bread with homemade jam from Unalaska. Sun is shining; sunshine makes headwinds feel much more bearable and makes it easier to keep chipping away; dozens of otters playing on a massive glacier, waterfalls, steep mountains, crazy clouds, huge fluffy golden sow bear and three cubs snoozing in the sunshine on the clifftop.”
While they have encountered boaters who have given them food, water, snacks, hot showers and conversation, the duo is completely self-sufficient. A support team at home prepared boxes of supplies that have been sent from Anchorage to various communities along the route.
Outen’s L2L journey is funded by sponsors. Along the way, she is raising funds for charities, sharing stories and visiting schools.
“Even though I journey solo for the most part, it’s not just my journey,” she said. “I love sharing my adventures — especially with children. I, and hope it inspires them to look outward to the world and learn; and look inward to themselves and their own dreams and goals.”
After a brief rest in Homer, Curgenven will fly home, while Outen cycles to Canada’s east coast. From there, she’ll fly back to England before starting the final leg of her L2L journey in 2015: rowing back home across the Atlantic Ocean.
“New friends and new experiences are what this journey around the world is all about,” Outen said. “With enough respect for the weather and the sea — and an open mind — anything’s possible.”
Follow the duo as they get closer to landing on Homer’s rocky shores.
• Track their progress at: sarahouten.com/the-mission/journey-tracker/
• Follow Outen’s blog and website: sarahouten.com/blog or sarahouten.com
• Listen to phonecasts: sarahouten.com/blog/phonecasts/
• Tweet the duo at @SarahOuten
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