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July 2022

A Little Paddle: The Plan & Preparation for a 4-Month+ Paddle in 2023

Follow along with us as Nathan and Sanesh prepare for the biggest paddling adventure of their lives (thus far anyways) from Victoria, BC to Cordova, AK! They are going to fill us in on all the prep work they will be doing from certifications to drying food, so grab a cup of coffee or tea and maybe a notebook while we dive deep into all the planning and preparation that's gone into this trip so far.

Written by: Nathan Slater from @alittlepaddle


I’m Nathan Slater, together with my good friend Sanesh Iyer, we are documenting the preparations for, and execution of, our upcoming sea kayak trip from Victoria BC to Cordova AK.

The dream of paddling to Alaska started while I was still in the middle of our 2019 trip around Vancouver Island. I was loving every minute of the freedom that came from being committed only to paddling somewhere new every day so as we paddled towards Cape Scott from Port Hardy I stared out to the North at Queen Charlotte Sound and wondered what it would be like to keep paddling ‘up’…

Over the following winter a plan began to crystallize in my head. At first I thought of paddling from Victoria to Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska and back again, then I thought about crossing Heckate Strait and circumnavigating Haida Gwaii along the way, then I spent an evening scouring Google Earth and wondered how far I could go if I didn’t make a round trip. Soon I was dreaming of paddling for the whole summer from Victoria, BC to Homer, Alaska and returning in the fall by state ferry.

By this point I was serious about making this trip happen, but wouldn’t want to do it alone, so in March of 2021, I invited a half-dozen close friends to the first ‘Paddle to Alaska’ meeting where I pitched the trip to an audience for the first time. From then on, our group met monthly to discuss trip goals, route, sponsorship, and much more. In December of 2021, two brave souls stepped forth from the group and declared that they intended to paddle the entire distance of the trip - Nathan and Sanesh.

Here is the way the plan stands at this point:

  • We will be paddling between April 15th and September 1st, 2023 - a total of 140 days.
  • We’ve decided on a healthy split of 4 days paddling - 1 day rest (80% of days)
    • this leaves us with a total of 112 paddling days

  • We’re planning to travel roughly 20 Nautical Miles(Nm) (37km) per day
    • Giving us a total distance ‘budget’ of 2240Nm

  • The primary objective is to reach Cordova, Alaska in that time (~1600Nm)
  • Our ‘stretch’ goal is to reach Seaward, Alaska (~2000Nm) or Homer, Alaska (~2000Nm)
  • We will likely need 5 food drops along the way as our boats can only comfortably hold 20-25 days worth of food.
    • Port McNeil, BC
    • Prince Rupert, BC
    • Juneau, Alaska
    • Yakutat, Alaska
    • Cordova, Alaska

As you can imagine, preparing for a 140 day sea kayak expedition is pretty complex! We learned a heck of a lot from our 2019 paddle around Vancouver Island, primarily the importance of spending the time to properly plan the trip to set ourselves up for success. Over the next 300+ days, Sanesh and I will be preparing ourselves for the physical and emotional challenge of the trip, planning and preparing the meals we’ll be eating along the way, developing the route we’ll take, acquiring the equipment we’ll need for the journey, and figuring out how to balance our desires for adventure with the reality of our day-to-day lives and careers. Along with planning for all of these things, we also want to be sharing them with you on the blog. Here’s what you can expect from us over the next year:

  • We’ll be sharing our training routine, and the steps we’re taking to ensure that we’re in the proper mental state for the expedition. Our plan to paddle 20 Nautical Miles per day means we’ll be on the water and working hard for up to 10 hours every day! If we’re gonna keep our arms attached to our shoulders, we’re gonna have to train! Being separated from our loved-ones (sorry @Sarah, Caro, and Enzo) for such an extended period is also certain to be a huge stress. Not to mention that Sanesh and I will only have each other for company, problem-solving, support, and debate for weeks-on-end! As we learned from our paddle around Vancouver Island in 2019, being prepared both physically and emotionally is critical for success.
  • We are very excited to plan and prepare our meals! In recognition of that, we’ll be writing a blog series entirely dedicated to the process of planning and creating our meals. This series will cover menu planning (portions, nutrition, variety, etc…), food drop preparation, a recipe book of our chosen meals, and the process of dehydrating and preserving food for expedition. Sanesh and I have a pretty diverse food background (his is South African and Indian, mine is Polish and Italian) and hope to incorporate as many of our comfort foods as possible into the menu. We’ve also reached-out to some of our favorite local restaurants hoping for some tasty collaborations!
  • Route planning for an expedition this long is going to be a monumental task! We’ll need to calculate travel distances, find suitable camping, acquire permits, create evacuation plans, locate hazards, and create contingencies. We will be doing research to determine which of the 70+ coastal First Nations territories we will be traveling through and working to ensure we have their permission and are respecting their traditional protocols. We’ll also need to look into the current and tide tables and check historic weather patterns. All this while ensuring we find as many cool gems and viewpoints as possible! A crucial piece of route planning will be ensuring that we have enough rest built-into our plan so we don't burn out early. We currently have a basic idea of where we intend to paddle - it’s posted here!
    • Planning our route also means planning the logistics of the trip - ferries, drop-offs and pick-ups, and some friends that might join us for some sections of the trip!

  • We’re gonna have a lot of gear to find for this trip so we’re gonna share our process for selecting the pieces that will serve us the best on our journey. Sanesh and I are pretty huge gear nerds, so we’re pretty stoked to have the opportunity to chat with industry experts, test out pieces of new gear, and learn as much as we can about the state-of-the-art in sea kayaking. We’ll be sure to document some of the debates which are bound to arise between the two of us as we decide between gear options.
  • Finally, we’ll be sharing the ways in which we’re managing to balance our expedition dreams with the realities of our 9-5 work lives. This is of particular note for Sanesh, who works full time as an engineer. We’ll need to figure out how to save ourselves enough time and energy to train, take courses, prep equipment, and write blogs!

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us! We’re very excited to have started this journey and to share as much of the expedition prep process as possible.

Check out Nathan's Summer Plans for 2022
Check out Sanesh's experience with an AOG Course