A spiritual journey
Kayaker overcomes many obstacles during trip

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

REPULSE BAY (Sep 17/97) - Since moving to Repulse Bay three years ago, Alex Stuit has had it in his mind to kayak to Wager Bay.

After planning for six months, he took the summer off and worked up the courage to go. But, as he explains, it wasn't an easy journey.

"When I left I thought I was Mr. Kayaker. After I came back, on a scale of 1 to 10 I figure I was about a three when I left. Coming back, I was a seven or eight," said Stuit.

"I left at 218 pounds. I came back and weighed in at 204."

He left Repulse Bay in his kayak July 26, riding the waves with ease. It wasn't until he got further out to sea that he realized how difficult it would be.

Reading from his journal, Stuit describes what he saw after pulling ashore three days out.

"I went to check kayak, pulled out tent pole. Have to make decision whether to travel today or wait till tomorrow. I looked over along the coast and froze. At first I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Gradually my eyes focused on a mass of off-white coats and I realized it was polar bears, one mother, two cubs. Seeming oblivious to me, heading my way."

Running into polar bears was not the only problem Stuit would have to tackle during his travels. On Aug. 2, after arriving at the mouth of Wager Bay, his food rations and fuel were running low.

"A caribou did come along my way and I tried to bag it but my rifle was all rusted up with the salt water. I didn't know what to do because I was low on food," he said.

"The rifle didn't work and here I am in polar bear country. I looked for my gun oil, but I had forgotten it at home and guess what I used? Pre-sun 29 sun screen. Sun screen on the bolt and I put it back in and it worked no problem. I was able to get a caribou three days before I was picked up."

Stuit, though equipped with a personal locator beacon, began to worry.

He attempted to radio for help with an old VHF radio, but he was too far away from town to get through.

His only comfort came when he read passages from Pierre Burton's The Arctic Grail.

A few days later he tried the radio again and this time managed to reach someone at Sila Lodge and arranged to have naphtha and food sent to him by boat.

Unfortunately, bad weather kept the boat from reaching Wager.

On Aug. 10, a boatload of tourists arrived, led by Rankin Inlet outfitter John Hickes.

"When they came to get me I had a bunch of meat drying and I was just pigging out on caribou," said Stuit.

Stuit decided to join the tour and go to Sila Lodge where he stayed for another five days before making it home.

"It was a incredible trip. It was a quest almost. There was a very, very low point when I couldn't reach anybody for three or four days. And then when my GPS quit I was really, really worried," he said.

"It was a spiritual journey," Stuit concluded.