Monday, June 15, 2009

High Winds in Juan de Fuca Strait

June 13th East Sooke Entrance

It was late in the afternoon by the time I reached the launch site at my in laws. Coming down the long drive way I could clearly see the far western reaches of Juan de Fuca where covered in white horses or white caps if you prefer.

I rushed through unloading the kayak and kit and dashed inside to check my father in laws weather station, winds were WNW at 20 knots at the house. On the computer Environment Canada weather stations at Race Rocks and Sherringham Point where reporting 30 plus knots and a Gale Warning had been issued for the Strait.

Finally I had a good day for paddling. This would be a nice test for the Romany S, the first real day of weather since the kayak came home over a month ago.

I headed almost due west out towards Simpson Point into a strong 4 knot flood and stiff winds that were taking the tops off of the waves. At Grant Rocks, the narrowest part of the Sooke Inlet the winds where being funnelled by the high lands to the east and Whiffin Spit to the west resulting in waves about three feet high. If the wind had of been out of the north-east there would have been a great standing wave at the rocks. But today the it was the wind that provided the challenge.

Each stroke of the paddle had to be pushed forward to make the plant, clearly the wind wanted to play with the paddle. I snuggled up the paddle leash as a precaution.

It was slow going, taking almost 45 minutes to cover 1.5 nautical miles to Simpson Point. Once past the point and out into the open waters of the Strait the wind waves and swell steeped up to maybe one and a half meters or about 5 maybe six feet. Steep enough that the Romany's bow would explode over the top of the waves and be exposed back to the coaming before slamming back into the next trough.

Bamm! Bamm! the hull would slam down, the spray would explode up and be whipped roaring back across my face. Off the top of one roller I swung the bow south to head toward Company Point and the rock gardens just short of the point. The swell was now firmly on my starboard beam not quite strong enough to threaten the use of some timely low or high braces, but close.

I had it in the back of my mind to ride the surf into one of the pocket beaches between Simpson and Company Point but a quick survey dissuaded me. The rocks that guard the small beaches where throwing up huge boomer's and the rock gardens where a zone of white water madness. Alone it didn't seem like such a good idea to go play in there, especially as I was only wearing my light summer kit. (Short sleeve paddling jacket and shorty wet suit.

I spun the Romany about and with the swell and waves now on the port beam headed back the way I'd come. Back at Simpson Point I set up for a fast surf ride back into Sooke Inlet. Did I say fast. What took 45 minutes to crawl into flashed by.

With a few stern rudders it was easy to steer the Romany, it surfs like a board. At the end of Whiffin Spit I raised both paddle blades above my head and let the wind drive me forward.

Back in the bay in front of the launch site I surfed in and worked on steering the boat around the crab pot buoys and kelp fronds. Back and forth until I tired of the game. Then I swung over to work the kayak through the support post on the long pier that juts out into the bay. I use the pier to practice my steering strokes. With the wind and waves it turned into an advance class. More then once I thought the barnacles might take a bite but good fortune and timely paddle strokes saved the gelcoat.

Finally I finished with some rough water rolls and some sculling.

On a day when the water was absolutely flat east of Victoria and the wind was only a whisper in town I'd found near perfect conditions. At times it was just like the Irish Sea, strong winds, high seas, blue skies - just me and the Romany. Perfect!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it was a nice ride.

Tell me, have you ever crossed the Straits from Vic to Port Angeles in one go? Is it feasible/doable? I'm new to Vic - and it looks compelling. Pls tell me your thoughts on this. Thanks! Mark (