Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Madness

The camera and mount was tucked away warm and dry in the day hatch because today was going to be a flat water paddle. Problem was someone forgot to tell the ocean. Dan and I launched from Rat Bay just at the tick of 10 AM.

Our plan was to paddle north east cross Mayor Channel, through the Chain Islets, cross Plumper Passage, then up between the Chatham Islands, then drop back to the south east round Discovery and head back to the put in.

We had a falling flood tide running at 1.2 knots (Race Rocks) against what was suppose to be a South East wind between 15 and 25 knots. The wind was more out of the east and maybe between 10 and 15 knots. Which was a good thing.

As soon as we poked out into Enterprise Channel from the shelter of Rat and MacNeill Bay it was clear the forecast and sea state was a little wobbly. We ploughed into some significant swell pushing against the constricted flood moving through Enterprise. The wind having pushed the swell all the way from Whidbey Island was greeting us with some significant waves.

Anyone who's paddled this area when the seas are running out of the south east knows the waves really start to stand on their heads as they wash over Mouat Reef. True to form we found some three and four metre waves between Mouat Reef and Gonzales Point.

After punching through we discussed our plan and decided maybe going around Discovery wasn't such a good idea. We held to our plan, but instead of swinging south east at the top of Chatham Island, we turned west and rounded Strongtide and raced south west with the now ebbing current and East wind pushing us along.

On the return I don't think our speed ever dropped below 4.5 knots and after breaking out past the Chain Islets on the return we never dipped below 6 knots.
Although the entire paddle was great fun this is where the madness really got it's hooks into us.

With the swell coming in straight out of the east on a bearing of about 290 the waves were breaking in toward the golf course between Gonzales Point and Turkey Head. Surfing straight down the fast moving waves would give us a short momentary ride but in the wrong direction.

Without communicating our intentions both of us instinctively started to side surf the waves. We lifted our right knee and let the starboard side of the kayaks just bite into the waves. We set up a long ferry glide by pointing our bows at the light house at the south end of Trial Island. Doing this allowed us to surf forward from one wave to the next. I think I only climbed the back of a wave a half dozen times between the Chain Islets and Gonzales. Speeds here were over a sustained 6 knots with a max speed of 7.6 knots off one wave by rocks just west of the point. Not bad for a slow NDK Explorer.

It's been my experience that a lot of boats are faster then the NDK Romany and Explorers on flat water. But when things get rough the confidence that NDK kayaks give the paddler enables them to power forward leaving a lot of those flat water flashers behind. One exception to this is the Tahe Marine. I've no doubt that Dan could sink me like a stone should he wish. Then again it might be the engine.

Stats: Trip 8.71Nm, Max Spd. 7.6kts, Moving time 2 hrs. 37 min. Moving Average 3.3kts. Stopped time 1 hr. 26 min. (Dan talks a lot)

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