Water Bike 1,200 mile journey!
The 1995 Jack Hodges story
June 1, 1995
Longest recorded Water Bike 44 day trip - Seattle to Juneau, AK
When Jack Hodges stepped off the launch ramp in Seattle, he stepped into a world of head winds - a cumbersome obstacle if you're sailing or flying a small pane. But when you are pedaling your way to Juneau, well Hodges said, the head winds can be horrendous.
Hodges, a 44 year old U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Biologist, pedaled into Juneau's Harris Harbor at 7 pm Wednesday after 44 days on his Water Bike. He was two days behind schedule, even though he had hit roughly 20 straight days of head winds.
The 20 year resident of Juneau is thought to be the first person to do the Seattle-to-Juneau trip on the craft that is basically a seat 18" off the water straddling two 17 foot long polyethylene pontoons. He uses foot pedals and arm levers to power the prop driven craft.
He carried his food with him and re-stocked at towns and villages along the way. He camped on beaches each night, but stayed in motels and bed and breakfasts for a break and a shower when he got to towns.
He arrived in one piece, minus a *rudder that he took off when he bent it on a rock that morning. He said that his foot became infected when it blistered and he jammed it between some rocks, but it's doing better now. He solved the problem of the top of his hands blistering from the sun by buying a pair of gloves in Port Hardy in northern British Columbia.
Hodges says he figure that he went about 1,200 miles, considering the extra miles he put in nudging along the coastline so he could duck behind rocks or into coves for protection. That way he could break large crossings into 5 mile increments. Given that, Hodges said that his largest crossing was 15 miles "somewhere in British Columbia". The largest waves he hit were in Queen Charlotte Sound on the British Columbia coast - 8 foot swells with maybe 4 to 5 foot seas. He said Dixon Entrance off the southern tip of Southeast Alaska, another infamous hairy spot, was relatively calm, even though U.S. Coast Guard workers said waves there can reach 20 feet in an April or May storm. The windiest spot was in the otherwise protected Rocky Pass, west of Petersburg, where the wind gusted to what he figured was 40 mph.
He said the Water Bike held together well in the waves, and just as he predicted he was never in any danger of capsizing, though at times the pontoons were nearly covered with water. He said at one point of Prince Rupert, B.C., a man and his son came out from a village in a power boat. They couldn't get over the fact that he wasn't riding a log!
The head winds were definitely the hardest part, Hodges said, half joking, half serious. "It got really discouraging. The tides are fair, they were with me, they were against me, then they are with me. But 20 days of headwinds, it's just not fair" he said. He said the headwinds would start up about each day and last until about so he tried to beat them by starting at and stop for an hour nap in the middle of the day and peddle on into the night, He'd pedal 11 to 12 hours a day that way, but he never seemed to get enough sleep.
He'd average about 2 mph in the headwinds in about 3 mph if there weren't any. He still managed to average 25 miles a day he had planned on. His longest day was 37 miles across Puget Sound which he did in the *smaller water bike that he used the first four days of his trip. At Lopez Island in Puget Sound he met his father who had arrange for United Parcel Service to deliver the specially designed prototype he used for the rest of the trip. He had a four day layover waiting for the bigger craft.
He said freshwater was also a problem since the weather was so dry and many of the usual streams hair dried up - he didn't run into heavy rains until the last four days of the trip. At about the halfway point in his trip he had about 1 1/2 inches of water left in his water bottle and hadn't had a drink for half a day. He finally spotted some greenish rocks and a trickle of freshwater.
Hodges said he saw about four black bears on the trip and one brown bear on a beach where he wanted to camp but he just waited until it left. He saw only one whale the entire trip. He caught mostly rock fish as he went.
When he had about two weeks left in the trip he realized his fat reserves were gone when what he ate was directly related to how far he be able to go. By tuesday his supplies had dwindled to some dried soup, banana chips and powdered milk. He said it was a stroke of luck when when he ran into his coworkers on the Fish and Wildlife Surfbird south of Taku Inlet. They gave him some candy bars.
He said he almost ran into disaster at Bella Bella, British Columbia where he had stopped for a night in a motel and dinner in a restaurant. He parked the water bike in front of his motel room window but returned from dinner to find three grade school age boys jumping up-and-down on the water bike getting ready to untie it. He scared them off in time!
A lot of the trip was just pacing. I'd give myself rewards. I'd tell myself "No you can't look at the map until you get to that tree that sticks up, No you can't have a candy bar until you're halfway through the channel, No you can't oil the joints until you get to two miles!"
Hodges said people always asked him where he was headed. "When I started out in Seattle I never had the nerve to tell people I was going to Juneau so I said I was going to San Juan Islands. They'd say "Oh, San Juan Islands!". When I got passed there I told them I was going to Port Hardy, they'd say, "Oh, Port Hardy!"." It was only when he got past there that the father of two teen-age girls would admit to going to Alaska!
Jack chronicled his adventure at a Juneau Aububon Society presentation in May 2002.
1) First 4 days of his trip was done on a prototype of current Water Bike Outdoor Sportsman model. Remainder of the trip was done a hybrid Water Bike that had 17' pontoons & steered with a rudder.
2) Article Credit: Susan Price of the Juneau Empire
3) Photo Credit: Jack Hodges Copyright: Jack Hodges & Sea-Cycle.com
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