Thursday, September 20, 2007

Three Tidal Races, One Day, Any Day

On the second day at Holyhead we reversed the previous days course and left much earlier to take advantage of bigger water at the North, South and Pendwyn Mawr and finally to shore at Port Dafarch.

Tom, Phil, David and myself reached the North Stack to find a confused sea state. Truthfully I was very nervous. Here I was at the crucible of kayaking and I desperately did not want to look the fool. At the time I had no idea how big the waves were. It was simply up and over. The Romany handles this stuff like a dream. It's not as fast as the Explorer but it turns much quicker. I caught a couple of waves for some good surf rides but spent most of the time trying not to get knocked over.

As we were leaving to head further south I climbed up one last wave face. The boat was completely out of the water back as far as the front of the cockpit. I've done this lots of times at home off East Sooke Park and in Baynes channel. But this time something different happened. As gravity caught the bow and brought it slamming down on the back side of the wave there was a distinctive crack mixed in with the slapping sound of the boat hitting the water. At the time I thought nothing of it.

In retrospect I think this is when the coaming broke and started to separate from the deck. After surfing at the South Stack I knew I had a problem. While Tom and David stayed inside Phil and I headed out to play in the current. The waves where much more uniform then those up at the North Stack. The race seemed to be about seven waves wide and the first two waves greened out into a long fine line which made catching them easy for Phil and less so for me. He caught any wave he wanted, I caught about a quarter of mine. By the time we headed into the "boulder" beach I was feeling ready for break. I was also feeling a lot of water around my feet, legs and knees. At first I just but it down to a poor fitting spray deck and the wet rides we'd been playing in. But when we pulled out there was a lot of water in the cockpit. Odd very odd.

Lunch was on a beach that no one from Victoria would even consider landing on. Stones the size of soccer balls, slimy green sea weed, rocks the size of small sedans. In other words a typical and fine place for a spot of tea.

Afterwards we slipped into the water, going first gave me a few moments head start and I used he opportunity to get right in amongst the rocks and play. Lots of fun that. We then paddled down to Pendwyn Mawr the third race of the day. I thought my face would split. I was laughing and smiling so much. Here I was playing in this legendary tidal race, catching waves, setting up ferry angles across the chop and current, just having a blast.

Finally we turned for shore. I found myself lagging behind. The boat seemed sluggish partly because the engine driving the kayak was slowing down but also because I had shipped a lot of water into the cockpit. That rational part of my brain was breaking through to the emotional thrill seeking part and saying things like, "excuse me for interrupting but there is something seriously wrong with this kayak."

Back on shore dumped out the cockpit. It seemed like 20 litres of water came flushing out. Then Phil leaned over and pulled up on the coaming. The coaming started to lift but the kayak stayed on the beach. Every lean, brace, and turn had allowed the the split to open up and let the water in.

No problem we just loaded up the lorry and headed back to the base where I'd get kitted out with another boat for the next day.

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