Below is an excerpt from our interview with the indomitable Roger Mann—the first place solo Race to Alaska finisher who completed the adverse 750 mile course pedaling and sailing his Hobie Adventure Island sailing kayak.
Roger on transiting Seymour Narrows: “Heard that Team Un-Cruise did it at night, so took one last quick nap and headed out after midnight. Took much longer than I expected to get into the Narrows, so I hit it late and when I did it there was at least 20 knots on the nose, which caused severe conditions—worst that I had seen yet. I didn’t carry much sail into it, but used the current, staying in the middle and just rafting along, but the waves were so close together I ended up missing getting lined up for one big one with the pedal drive and ended up getting washed off the boat. I had my surfboard leash on and quickly got back aboard, climbing over and bending my tiller steering rods. I looked for a place to hide out but nothing came up until early in the morning about the time the tide was changing. I found a nice island to get behind and tied up to bull kelp.”
On pithchpoling at Cape Caution: “As I reached the Cape it was around 10 pm, dark, and swells were around 20 feet—I was not making progress very well. I reefed, lined up for a beach landing and went for the middle which I knew was clear, but the surf was just too big for the 16 foot boat and I planted the nose and the boat flipped over forward with the right ama hitting the ground, sheering the breakaway bolt and then folding back as the mast hit the sand and the wave crashed everything onto the beach.
“Everything that I had Johnstone had taken away.”
“My feet were working the pedals trying to keep the speed, so when we hit, one leg of the drive system broke off as I got thrown from the boat. I stood up in chest deep water and grabbed the mast and pulled it up and the boat popped back upright with the right ama folded as another wave crashed down. I had a large bag on the back storage area and many things attached to the hiking benches. The bag and right bench had gotten washed off and waves continued to crash and push us in. I noticed I had trouble moving and thought that it was undertow. Instead it was that I had left my fly zipper open on my drysuit and my legs had filled with water. I was pinned to the beach and couldn’t pull myself up and out of the water, so I got my knife and slit open the feet which let the water out and I was able to get up and drag the boat out of the surf…
“I took care of getting out of the wet clothes and warmed myself and felt Like I was now out of danger, and then started seeing how bad it was going to end up being. I was thinking the worst, and that the akas may be bent and I may need to call for rescue. But as I assessed the boat I did not find any major damage. I had replacement breakaway bolts so that was going to be okay, but I was missing a lot of stuff—mainly the Hobie seat. It was just plain gone. Plus the anchor and many other items.”
On one of many trip highlights: “My last night on the water. I had pushed very hard, was hallucinating bad, was pretty much lost although I knew about where I was, and just plain beat down, so I tied up to some kelp around 2 am to get some sleep. I was awakened by the snort of a huge whale only about 50 feet away. As I awoke his back slid slowly through the water with his tail coming way up and out of the water. It was huge—had to be as wide as an airplane’s wing—maybe 30 feet or so. It was foggy, misty, very calm and very cool and pretty magical. Just amazing.”
On surviving the straits: “Everything that I had Johnstone had taken away…I had a major personal moment with myself. I was very proud that I had made it in those conditions and having had so many things taken from me. I felt like I was broken down and reborn as a new stronger person that had confidence to take on big challenges and overcome them. It was a life changing moment for me. I am not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears of joy. It was very tough and challenging and I am very glad that it was, because it allowed me to learn a lot about myself.”
The complete interview and an R2AK recap article will appear in the next issue of Small Craft Advisor.—Eds