In the summer of 2021, myself and my expedition partner, Nuka de Jocas, will be embarking on a +1,800km self-supported sea kayak expedition. We will be launching from Vancouver Island and navigating the bulk of the Inside Passage, before reaching our terminus of Skagway, Alaska. It will take 2-3 months.
If you had told me that even just 2 years ago, I would have never believed you. But here I am, plans in place, gear arranged and decisions made. Once we became Facebook official, there was no turning back…
The story starts in the summer of 2018. I arrived in Canada to begin working as a sea kayak guide, leading group tours around Vancouver Island’s north eastern waterways, along the Johnstone Strait and the Discovery Islands. I was out there in the hope of kayaking with whales. Well, that objective has been well and truly completed – I’ve lost count of the number of humpback and killer whale sightings I was fortunate to experience.
A few weeks after my arrival, my new friends were telling me about the ‘Race to Alaska’. To me, a Brit with a limited sense of North America’s scale, it sounded absolutely mad to kayak from there to Alaska. Yet according to them, this race began in Seattle and paddlers could reach the Alaskan border in just a few weeks. This is when I was given a brief education on the Inside Passage.
The Inside Passage is the waterway that connects Seattle, Washington; with Skagway, Alaska. It skirts the entirety of Canada’s west coast, weaving its way on the inside of Vancouver Island and as many other islands as possible. This route developed during the Klondike gold rush. By choosing to go inside, smaller craft were able to make the journey north in the hope of riches. The navigation is much more difficult than the outside route, but as navigational tools improved, it started to become the shipping route of choice and could be used even in the winter months.
The cogs began ticking in my brain.
Could I manage something like that? I had no idea where to even begin with such a mammoth task. I didn’t own a boat or even a paddle at the time. Logistics and attention to detail are not my strong point. Two skills that would be essential.
I continued to dwell on it over the course of the summer season. These daydreams started to become more and more frequent. I began voicing my thoughts to friends and family –
‘I’m thinking of maybe possibly kayaking to Alaska’. It sounded crazy just saying it.
The more I said it the more serious about it I became. I had been dreaming of doing a large expedition for many years. After working in the outdoor industry since 2012, leading groups on trips around the world, I had always dreamt of doing something huge for myself. Well, here was the opportunity.
I started to think about what my motive was. Would I do this for a charity? What purpose would keep me going? It seemed hollow to just choose a cause for the sake of it. I wanted to go on a big expedition because I wanted to go on a big expedition. The meaning lies within the act itself. We do things because we want to do things – there doesn’t always need to be a point to prove or a higher purpose.
I wanted to kayak the Inside Passage in the name of good times and adventure. It was that simple. And thus, For Fun’s Sake Expedition was born.
After deciding I was serious about doing it, the next step was figuring out how to even do it.
To begin with, I was planning to go solo. All my travels and adventures up until this point had been solo. I’ve had many friends say they’ll join various trips, but more often than not people bail or never pull through. If I had waited for anyone in the past then I would have never left England.
I tried to picture myself on the worst days of the trip. How would I feel after 5 days of solid wind and rain, sitting alone in a temperate rainforest cycling through the endless routine of wake up, cook, clean, kayak, stop, cook, clean, sleep, repeat. It didn’t sound very fun. I felt that bringing someone else in would be the way forward.
Who do I know that would be up for something like this? Who has the relevant skills to bring to the table, hold their own, help with the things I suck at and generally make the entire experience more fun and enjoyable? My friend Nuka de Jocas.
Nuka is a seasoned expedition paddler, having taken on the ridiculous mission of kayaking from Montreal, Canada, to Yucatan, Mexico; with his band of merry men dubbed Défi Go Fetch Challenge.
He said he didn’t have much else going on that summer, and was in.
We arranged our first ‘trip meeting’. We drank a lot, smoked a lot and promised a lot. We’d be going all in, making it happen no matter what happened. We divided up the task list playing to our strengths. Nuka would handle the logistics of route, food, supply drops and how to actually do the thing, as well as contacting people who supported his last trip. I’d take on building our social media presence and finding sponsors. I had experience creating promotional content for adventure travel companies with my brand Global Shenanigans. Between us we could prove that we are legit paddlers that can handle such a trip, as well as create entertaining videos and content to share it with an audience.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the people that have got behind us and are helping make this trip happen, it has 100% allowed us to turn the dream into a reality:
NRS, Watershed Drybags, Bending Branches, Craghoppers, special mention to Simon-Benjamin Larivière from Tech Comptabilité and everybody else that has helped support the trip!
Everything we take must fit into our boats. That means we need to be cutthroat on what comes along and what gets left behind. Each item must have a specific purpose and must be the minimum amount we can get away with. Nuka thinks we can do the entire trip with just 3 pairs of socks…
Here’s a brief rundown of some of the items we’d be taking along:
Kayak – expedition kayaks are long and narrow, with plenty of storage space in the bulk heads. Longer boats are faster in a straight line and cut through waves and rough waters easier than typical recreation boats.
Paddles – shout out Bending Branches for the stunningly beautiful Navigator paddles, hand-crafted wooden blades with carbon shaft. I’ve been testing mine out on the north coast of Cornwall, U.K. this summer – damn it feels good!
BA / PFD
Garmin inReach – satellite communication and SOS emergency response system
Clothing is split into wet and dry. This makes it easier for packing and stops you from ending up with a bag full of wet clothes. If it’s raining after you finish paddling, you stay in your wet gear until it stops or you can guarantee your dry stuff will stay dry (being under a tarp for example).
Wet stuff – shout out to NRS for hooking us up with our gear for on the water – clothing as well as kayak specific equipment. I refer to it as ‘wet gear’, but it is actually gear to stop you from getting wet. Drysuits, cags, quick dry clothing to paddle in etc. Having dependable, high quality gear for on the water is incredibly important. It is the difference from a capsize being a minor inconvenience that we can laugh about, to a serious potential risk that would call off the rest of the day – or worse.
Dry stuff / land stuff – no matter how wet, damp and tired we feel after a long day’s paddle, there is nothing that boosts morale quite like getting changed into a cosy set of warm and comfortable clothes. Our friends at Craghoppers will be hooking us up in the land department with some of their durable outdoor travel clothing. I’m already pretty much head-to-toe in Craghoppers gear and I look forward to continuing this way!
As you can see, there is a lot of stuff to take. This is in no way a comprehensive list, just a quick rundown to give you an idea of what goes into such a trip. We will be keeping all of the above gear safe and secure inside Watershed Drybags, who make drybags for the US Navy seals.
By now, you may have realised that a lot of effort goes into this. You may also remember that I mentioned the purpose of the trip was to just have fun.
That is still true. But there is much more to it than that. In order to fully do justice to this adventure of epic proportions, we felt it was only right to share it with you and anyone who will listen.
By sharing our passion, like I am now, we are hoping to encourage others to find their own epic adventures. You’ll see that two fairly normal guys who don’t take themselves all that seriously can achieve this, then what can you achieve?
We shall be continuing our webisode series during the trip, so you can come along with us. We’ll be offering a gritty, uncensored, behind-the-scenes look into the process of creating and carrying out such an expedition. We also plan on broadcasting some more serious topics within our series such as dedicated episodes on:
– Threatened Killer Whales and What Can be Done to Protect Them
– Marine Mammals of the PNW
– How Not to Get Eaten by a Grizzly Bear
– The Return of the Humpback Whales
– Climate and Environmental Concern Affecting Our Wild Spaces
By not linking ourselves to just one issue, it gives us the freedom to cover a range of important topics relevant to the area. We shall be interviewing experts and researchers in each specific field in order to help present the information in the best and most accurate way possible.
We hope that our example can be used by others to answer the question of what true adventure is and what it takes to make it happen: be it a day, a week or longer.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you come along on the journey with us!
Departure date: May 2021.
For Fun’s Sake Expedition
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