Field Report: Lagoon Cove: A Forced Perspective of Beauty and Community

June 25, 2022
By Rebecca Ross, Field Reporter

As the Race to Alaska continues for many, so does the film crew’s chase to track down racers to photograph and interview. On board a 44’ steel Diesel Duck named Seaducktress, we make our way through Queen Charlotte Strait and catch up with Teams Don’t Tell Mom and Let’s Row Maybe?. The two teams are focused as they fight against the choppy currents.

From there, we progress through Broughton Archipelago towards a full-service marina in Lagoon Cove on East Cracroft Island. For hours, we’re graced by islands chock full of lush green conifers while larger snow-peaked mountains loom in the background. A sight I have never seen before and recall many racers looking forward to camping in the area.

Proceeding towards the marina, Peter Geerlofs, a member of the Northwest Maritime Center board of directors and our R2AK volunteer captain, puts Seaducktress into neutral, but instead, the engine dies. Unable to restart the engine, he thinks fast and scrambles to drop the anchor to save a 37-ton boat from helplessly drifting into the dock. After being safely moored to the dock with the help of Dan and Kelly, the new marina owners, we try to settle our nerves.

But the race stops for no one, not even for a film crew on a broken boat. Adhering to the plan, we hop in a dinghy and speed off towards solo paddlers and rowers, Zen Dog and Interstice, aiming to intercept them before they settle on a nearby private island just minutes away. After briefly chatting with the two teams and describing Lagoon Cove, they swiftly decide to relocate to our lovely neck of the woods so we can get our stories there.

Before departing, I ask Bob how he’s holding up. “I feel battered,” he replied, showcasing his hands riddled with thick calluses and burgundy-colored blisters. He confides that he had changed his paddling style to relieve the pain in his hands, and now his overworked wrists are hurting—a sheer lose-lose situation. Seeing the obvious pain he’s endured, I realize the choice to paddle another few miles must feel like paddling a hundred for Bob.

Everyone reconvenes at Lagoon Cove, the sun starting to settle and the harsh light softening to a soft, warm glow, yet the marina remains full of excitement. Even Lillian extends her 6 pm curfew to mingle with new faces and provide more stories for the familiar Race to Alaska field reporters.

Despite being an incredibly remote island, East Cracroft brims with community and support for mariners, race film crew, and exhausted teams. Kelly and Dan generously contribute to the welcome vibe of the island by hosting a daily “potluck happy hour” where boaters come together with a dish and feast on the patio in front of the workshop adorned by a 20-year collection of boat flags. It feels effortless getting caught up in the increasingly endless northern summer light.

As the night eventually comes to an end and I begin to get settled on the boat, I hear Bob’s voice nearby. When I ask what is going on, Bob simply shows me his hands. I might as well be looking at rigor mortis–his stiff fingers splay open, unable to close, let alone grip a paddle. A look of deep worry is on his face. As for me, my heart starts to sink—Oh no, Bob! Compelled to help, we rummage through the boat for a first aid kit but find nothing. I search around the marina, still nothing. Finally, I tap on a yacht nearby with its lights still on. In a panic, I had trouble even putting words to the situation, so instead, I point to Bob’s hands in desperation.

I pace up and down the dock outside the good samaritan’s yacht, waiting for the verdict and wishing for a miracle. Moments later, Bob comes out with newly disinfected hands, but nothing else has changed. It doesn’t feel like enough, but I hold my tongue and keep my thoughts to myself—This isn’t good!

“I don’t know what to do,” Bob says. My thoughts are shouting, No! No! No! No! He’s come too far to be stopped like this. “Can you stay a day and let your hand heal?” I suggest as warm tears start to cloud my vision.

Bob looks at me and hugs me, “We are all in this—you too!” Now I can feel the tears on my cheeks. I continue to walk back with Bob to his camp spot, his bivy next to Lillian’s tent on the dock. They’ve been recently sharing the journey ever since Seymour Narrows and have had plans to continue together. “The problem is, if I stay, I will lose Lillian,” Bob whispers. “And if I go, I put myself at risk of being unable to turn around.” I understand his dilemma, but still, I tell myself, Don’t cry! Don’t cry! Both of us emotional, Bob assures us both that it’s not over until it’s over.

Only slightly consoled, a part of me knows he can’t continue in his state. As Bob retires for the night, I stand looking out from the dock with enough gentle ambient light to see the islands dotted across the rustling waters of the cove. In that moment, I recall a story he told me back at Dungeness Spit while I strained my ears over the wind. He told me how people are usually focused on the finish line and by doing so, they pass the beauty that happens all around them. Instead, he wanted to make sure he treasured those moments.

The following day I awake to the sound of commotion. I see Bob packing his things—Lillian of Team Interstice already long gone. With Bob’s hands unimproved since I saw them last, he had decided to pull out of the race. Bitter, yet fortunate timing. If he hadn’t transitioned over to Lagoon Cove, a volunteer wouldn’t have been able to offer him a ride to Port Hardy, giving his destroyed hands a merciful break.

And overall, if it hadn’t been for Race to Alaska, I would never have known this place existed, let alone seen it in person. And if I hadn’t remembered Bob’s advice and gotten stuck at Lagoon Cove with moments of forced downtime with wonderful people, I wouldn’t have taken the time to fully enjoy these beautiful moments.


Rebecca Ross, field reporter
Rebecca is a freelance writer and outdoor photographer based in Longview, Washington, who spends time backpacking, traveling, and summiting peaks.

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