Spirited Waters: Soloing South Through the Inside Passageby Jennifer Peterson Hahn, Brenda Peterson (Foreword by)
In this insightful account of her solo voyage in a 16-foot kayak, Jennifer Hahn vividly relates the terrifying predicaments, ecstatic moments, and personal challenges of paddling against the winds through Alaska's Inside Passage. Much more than a memoir, Spirited Waters is a/i>
A gripping account of an unforgettable and challenging solo kayaking journey.
In this insightful account of her solo voyage in a 16-foot kayak, Jennifer Hahn vividly relates the terrifying predicaments, ecstatic moments, and personal challenges of paddling against the winds through Alaska's Inside Passage. Much more than a memoir, Spirited Waters is a remarkable blend of adventure travel, natural history, personal challenge, vivid animal encounters, Northwest mythology, and heartwarming coastal characters.
Read an Excerpt
"There are spirits who protect holy fools," an Alaska Native man once told me. Standing at the edge of the Tongass Narrows in Ketchikan, clapping sulfurous mud from my rubber boots and about to shove off into the unknown, I had the urge to pray. I needed to mark the moment with a small ceremony, the threshold over which another holy fool was about to pass.
In a few moments, I would step into a sixteen-foot hydrodynamic suitcase -- bulging with one month of food, a plethora of high-tech camp equipment, forty PowerBars, two pounds of chocolate, a Marine Atlas, a VHF radio, and poet Mary Oliver's American Primitive -- and launch southward into the Pacific. What could I possibly say to calm my heart and gain the favor of the universe before starting the first leg of a 750-mile Inside Passage journey? Beginning on this day and encompassing the next few years, I ultimately planned to paddle from Ketchikan, Alaska through Canadian waters to Bellingham, Washington.
I dipped the cedar bough in the sea and brushed Yemaya with saltwater, starting at the stern and working my way to the bow. As I brushed, I envisioned a safe journey home. As I dipped the branch a second time to brush my paddle, my mind caught the image of salmon. Salmon recognize their homeland by smell. Subtle changes in scent cue them to stay on course. Perhaps the aromatic cedar would tell the kayak and paddle where to go, as when a stream calls home a Chinook salmon pregnant with harvest-moon eggs.
In an additional hopeful gesture, I tossed a stick wrapped with yarn, a grass blade, and a feather into Tongass Narrows. It splashed down on the inverted reflection of a storm cloud. A native friend had suggested I do this. "Tell the sea your dream. It will carry it outwards before you." I liked that. It had the ring of optimism and old wisdom that I knew better than to question.
I cradled the boat's heavy stern and pushed with both hands. The kayak slid over the mud until she floated on the still lid of the sea. I stepped in, fastened the neoprene spray skirt, and pushed off. Ripples circled out in all directions. West. North. East. Home.
Ketchikan, with its rows of gas-heated houses, twenty-four-hour grocery stores, souvenir shops, and quaint courthouse, slipped away. Something began to change, slowly at first, then growing into a thick silence. A silence punctuated by wind and water. Only elemental sounds remained.
A bold sense of freedom seeped into my lungs and heart, but it was mixed with lingering apprehension. I wasn't worried that I'd forgotten something vital. I'd combed over the gear list -- at the last moment I'd even added three more weighty but essential pieces: rubber boots, a plastic ground cloth, and the Coast Pilot 8: Pacific Coast Alaska, Dixon Entrance to Cape Spencer. No, the dread, both thrilling and loathsome, came from the awareness that I now had very little control over circumstances. I had no idea where I'd sleep. No conception of when the wind might hurl whitecaps across the cabin channel where I nosed along at three miles per hour. I couldn't know what would happen even an hour from now. Or five minutes. All I had was the rhythm of the paddle singing plop-shush, plop-shush, plop-shush. And the simplicity was utterly intoxicating.
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Wonderful account of a young womans kayak journey through the inland passage of Canada!