In the Wake of the Jomon

by Jon Turk
Spring 2006

The wave rumbled through my fitful dreams, curled into the white foam of semi-consciousness, and then jarred me into full alertness as it landed with a thud against the tent. The flimsy aluminum tent poles buckled, the cold clammy nylon pressed against my face, the floor floated, and salt water rushed into our tiny space from all directions, as if we were in the center of an imploding universe.

Misha flicked on his headlamp, looked at his watch, and spoke in his thick Russian accent, “The large water; it is to arrive in one hour again.”

No accusation about my culpability in getting us into this fix. Eight hours before, I had suggested that we land here to find shelter from the storm – but the ground was too low, the storm too intense, and steep bluffs barred escape to higher ground.

Wordlessly, we gathered our soggy gear, dressed in our boating clothes, and stepped into the stormy night. Phosphorescent algae highlighted the breaking waves with a sinister smile, fast-moving clouds scudded beneath a half-moon, and our ears rang with the dull throb of reverberating surf that periodically beat against the cliffs at our backs.

At the first hint of dawn, we stabilized the kayaks between crevices in the rocks and slipped into the cockpits. A wave broke against our chests, the boats floated free, and snakes of foam curled around my diminutive craft, pulling me urgently toward the embrace and chaos of the open sea.

I dug deep and fast with my paddle, pulling for power and momentum that would carry me through the multiple lines of surf ...

When we were finally clear of danger, I paddled up to Misha to apologize for my poor judgment the night before. But before I could speak, he flashed his gold tooth in a friendly grin and announced, “The adventure is good if the final is good.”

I thought for a second and replied, “In English, we say, ‘All’s well that ends well.’”

Misha nodded wordlessly and we turned north, following the Siberian coast toward Alaska.

About the Author

Jon Turk has kayaked across the North Pacific and around Cape Horn, mountain biked through the Gobi desert, made first climbing ascents of big walls on Baffin Island and first ski descents in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzia. His two-year voyage around the North Pacific Rim has been named by Paddler Magazine as one of the 10 greatest sea kayaking expeditions of all time.