Friday, December 3, 2010

Big Seas!

Tuesday I was tested. In the middle of it I thought of crying out for Mummy. Glad you were not there to see it.

My good friends Paulo and Dan joined me for a circumnavigation of Discovery ahead of what was suppose to be some nasty weather but straight into the remains of Monday night's Gale. It was about 10:30 when we pushed out into the swells that were warping around Chatham Island and sweeping across the north end of Baynes Channel. The swells were only occasionally breaking but frequently exceeded two metres by a good bit.

I was feeling a little concerned about crossing Baynes. I was afraid we might get over and not be able to get back should the forecasted winds arrive early. Consequently I packed a stove, pot, water, tea, and an enlarged emergency kit etc.

The real kayaking test was off of Sea Bird reef at the south east corner of Discovery Island. We'd made our way down the west side of the island archipelago, riding the turning tide, and playing in rock gardens that were more normally dry.

At the south end of Plumber Channel we came together to make our second call of the day. We quickly decided to push on and reassess when we reached the east end of Discovery. When we got to Sea bird Reef swells having march across the entire width of Juan de Fuca Strait were steepening up into the oncoming tidal current and the shelving bottom.

Dan and Paulo stopped and expressed some concern and amazement at the size of the swell. I kept looking across the Strait at the clouds and smoke from the stacks on the American side of Juan de Fuca. Clearly the wind was picking up over in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Back over my shoulder along the ridge of the Sooke Hills beyond Victoria the skies were darking with the next rain front. It seemed to me it would be easier and faster to continue on around. Wrong!

Collectively we decided to push on but to swing wide around the reef. No sooner had we committed when one, two, three; endless lines of these monster swells rolled in. There was no margin for error. A mistake would have been catastrophic. It took us at least a half an hour to cover the distance from the Light House to the corner of the boat house bay - maybe half a nautical mile.

At one point we'd look over at the utility shack and we simply did not move forward. Hardest day I had paddled in a long long time; maybe ever. Dan who is very conservative about these sort of things estimated the waves to be 20 feet. I won't dispute that.

I had worked out a pattern of paddling hard up each wave face. At the top I would pause let the crest fall way then make a controlled surf down into the trough. This worked fine and I only buried the bow once right up to my chest. Once I missed a brace and thought I might loose it, but somehow instinctively recovered. I think that's when I wanted to go home to Mum.

When I could I finally took a good look back but I could see neither Dan or Paulo. First I looked over my left shoulder then my right. I was working through the rescue scenario and had decided the first step would be to call in a May Day, give our position to Victoria Rescue and head back. Just then I rode up a crest as they both reached the peak of another monster about 200 metres and two or three sets away. Nice to see them again. I was surprised to learn I had pulled so far ahead.

Paulo later suggested I either had the fear of god in me or had to take a leak. Right on both counts.

After a short beak we headed back against the building ebb through the islands and back across Baynes. Paulo and Dan choose to paddle out and drift back above the tide race that was forming in Baynes Channel. I followed until I estimated that I could slide in behind the wave train and come ashore by the Cadboro Point light. Tired but very glad to get back.


Mike J said...

sounds like a fun day - sorry to have missed it!

Adventuretess said...

Great report of an honest day on the water. Thanks for sharing.