She tried three times in three years, but after 3,700 miles, at 8 p.m. last Thursday, British adventurer Sarah Outen paddled her kayak, Krissy, up to the Homer Spit and finished a Pacific Ocean crossing from Japan to North America.
“It took a bit, a wee while,” Outen said. “I need some rest, sleep, beer, a haircut.”
With her travelling companion Justine Curgenven, 40, the 29-year-old Outen finished the last leg, 1,300 miles in 101 days from Adak in the Aleutian Islands. A small group met them on the beach by the Seafarers Memorial. Debbie Speakman, director of membership relations of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, welcomed the women to Homer with a bottle of champagne.
Outen now has traveled about 16,000miles, more than halfway on her London2London expedition, started April 1, 2011, under the Tower Bridge in London. Her goal is to circumnavigate the world with muscle power by bike and boat.
Now resting back home in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, Outen returns to Alaska later this month with her bike, Hercules. After landing, Outen tapped the statue at the Seafarers Memorial. She will resume her travels where she landed and bike across Canada and the United States to New York City. In 2015 she will finish her journey, rowing her boat, Happy Socks, across the Atlantic back to London.
In 2011, Outen kayaked across the English Channel to Calais, France, and biked 10,000 miles across Europe and Asia to the Russian Far East. From there she kayaked to Japan. In 2012, she attempted to row from Japan to Canada in Gulliver, a rowboat, but had to be rescued and abandoned her boat after she ran into a tropical storm. In 2013, she tried again in a new boat, Happy Socks. Winds and currents kept turning her in circles, and she rowed north to Alaska.
“I hadn’t planned to go to Adak,” she said. “I kept getting pushed back with the wind.”
Outen returned this year with Curgenven — “the Queen of sea kayaks,” Outen calls her — as her guide and companion. The longest kayak trip Outen had done before was 300 miles.
“I’ve never kayaked that far before. This was a big step up for me,” she said. “I felt really out of my comfort zone a lot.”
Their hands white knuckled from a 10.5-hour, 30-mile paddle from Koyuktulik Bay south of Nanwalek to Homer, although exhausted, Outen and Curgenven looked excited to have landed.
“It’s always good for a while, and then it’s over,” Curgenven said about finishing.
Thursday’s paddle through an almost flat-calm Kachemak Bay contrasted with a crossing earlier from Shuyak Island and across the Stevenson and Kennedy entrances past the Barren Islands in lower Cook Inlet. On her blog, Outen wrote that they turned back on an initial attempt crossing by the Barrens.
Along the way the women received the hospitality of Alaskans. Capt. Billy Pepper and crew of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife vessel Tiglax met them twice, feeding them breakfast at one point and fueling them up with brownies. Pepper offered them a shower, but they were looking at a 47-nautical mile day.
“We didn’t have time for a shower,” Outen said.
Pepper’s wife, Liz, met the women last Thursday at the Spit, picked up their kayaks and gear, and offered them housing and a warm sauna.
Outen and Curgenven paddled up the west side of Cook Inlet to Hallo Bay Camp, a wilderness lodge and bear viewing camp owned by Clinton Hlebechukof Homer.
“We were very well fed and got to see the bears, which was brilliant,” Outen said.
Like a NASCAR race car, Outen’s kayak is plastered with stickers from sponsors. She also supports four charities: the Jubillee Sailing Trust, the Motor Neuron Disease Foundation, Wateraid and CoppaFeel, a breast cancer awareness and education charity.
CoppaFeel was founded by Outen’s friend, Krissy Hallenga, who was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at the age of 23. Outen named her kayak, Krissy, after Hallenga.
“I wanted a name that was strong and powerful,” Outen said. “That’s my friend, Krissy.”
When she returns to Homer, Outen plans to do public talks about her expedition at a time and place to be announced.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Outen London2London expedition
April 1, 2011, Tower Bridge, London
May 1-Aug. 14,
101 days, 1,300 miles
Progress so far:
16,000 miles traveled
Nelson (English Channel, Russia-Japan leg)
Krissy (Adak-Homer leg)
Gulliver, expedition row boat (abandoned June 2012 in Tropical Storm Mawar)
Happy Socks, expedition row boat (second Pacific Ocean attempt, 2013, Tokyo-Adak leg)
More information: www.sarahouten.com