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Orcas and Tidepools and Bears: Pondering the Perils of R2AK

By May 2, 2017 No Comments

I am preparing to leave Australian winter for Alaskan summer only to find the weather relatively similar.  Considering that we plan to live cold and wet for the duration of R2AK, I got to thinking:  What are the chances of suffering from hypothermia, or falling in the water.  How cold is the water?  While we’re at it, what is in that water?  So join us as we take a good healthy hike down the path of perils of R2AK.

The average water temperature in Ketchikan in June is 54 degrees.  Survival time for a human at that temperature is 1-6 hours, but exhaustion and unconsciousness set in after 1-2 hours.  Doggy paddling to shore, timeless.

This Reynolds is causing some serious turbulence

The tides in Seymour Narrows are said to be some of the most dangerous waters on earth.  The turbulence can reach a Reynolds number of 10 to the ninth power, otherwise known as one billion.  I have no idea who Reynold is, but one billion of anything seems like a lot.  The wind can blow one direction while the current flows in the other, creating waves of about 8 feet.  The water hitting the rocks forms tide pools which can be as deep as 30 feet.  Freddy meeting Reynold reaches 11 on the vomit scale.


Johnston Straight is full of killer whales.  Killer whales, it turns out, not so dangerous.  It’s more like, “that was a killer song you just echolacted, you killer whale, you.”  The only really attacks on humans happen at theme parks when the whales get fed up with their trainers making them dance, and the orca entertainment union is doing nothing to up their minimum wage.  As long as we don’t make them jump through hoops or try to stand on their nose, I think we’re good.

Bears could be trouble.  There are lots of bears; more bears than anywhere else in the world.  The reassurance is that bears supposedly do not want to attack humans, for the most part, unless you get in their way.  Sounds likely that we will be crossing paths with a bear or 7, so we’re brushing up on our bear etiquette.  When the bear spots you, you are supposed to let it know you are human by slowly waving your arms and talking to it.  Just keep on talking.  Please list suggested bear conversation topics in the comments.  Weather?  Tree climbing?  Or maybe a quick point and “Hey!  look over there.  Is that a bear on a tricycle?”

If a bear does attack, there are different rules for each kind of bear.  Playing dead works best with brown or grizzly bears, while seeking shelter is the plan for black bears.  But don’t run or climb trees, and what if the bear is dark brown or it’s night and I can’t really see, or I mix these rules up as I am picturing myself as a hamsteak on his grizzly black plate?  Regardless of the color of bear, if he stalks you, you’re dead meat.

At the bottom of the page on bears, there was a link for “crazy facts about getting struck by lightening.”  Way to stoke the fear fire, internet!

People fishing, camping and boating are at the top of the list for lightening strikes.  We are going to be in the middle of a great body of water (otherwise known as electricity conductor) with a mast (otherwise known as a lightening rod) being the tallest thing around. You don’t even have to be outside, though, because Steve Marshburn was struck through his stool while working at a bank when the lightening found it’s way through the drive-through speaker system.

Here’s one we weren’t expecting.  If we want to win the race, we should sail through the night in shifts, but nighttime sailing brings the danger of logs impaling our hull.  Loggers take the path of least resistance and send logs with the flow via water for easy transport.  Just about everyone we talked to who has sailed the Inside Passage warns against night sailing with these great impalers.

The trick may be to stick around a group of taller masts and tastier humans, kind of like locking your bike in the midst of much more expensive bikes to prevent it being stolen. From the looks of it, there are going to be plenty more desirable racers than our despicable selves.  We can chase danger away by taking off our rancid socks and waving them like the foulest white flags.  Purchase some night goggles.  And, of course, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.  Maybe looking death in the face is when we feel most alive.  We Adventourist feed on just this kind of thing, and lets hope it doesn’t feed on us.