Loc: Rivermouth Rio Chagres
Dist: 3,9 km
Start: 6:45 End: 08:40
Hello, Caribbean! Here I come! Beautiful crystal clear warm water lapping gently on colourful coral reefs in lovely sunshine…isn’t that what one thinks of the Caribbean Sea?
Fact is, that I am still in the dry season, which comes with higher winds around 15 knots or more, and the trade wind is north or north east, and I am going just against it. Fact is that there are no tides, and the forecast wave hight doesn’t really come from nice rolling swell, but rather from wind waves. It was forecast 1,70-2m waves today, and 13-18 knots n-nne wind. No problem? Surely, not for me, here in the sheltered river mouth, the sea out there looked manageable. No river bar breakers, just here and there a few white caps on shallow spots.It also was raining in the morning, so the rainy season must be close…it can’t be BIG out there???
I was actually tempted to stay put already this morning, as I felt my body wasn’t fully recovered yet from yesterday’s 50 km into heavy headwinds. The rain did the rest to tempt me…but what are 2 m seas? I had paddled in 4 m, and that was maybe my limit with 15-20 knots on top. But that was in the Pacific or where ever, but not here…
I had already a stupid launch, getting the cockpit full of water from the steep short chop off the unsheltered beach. Just 20 m to the right the beach had shelter inside the river mouth, but the campsite here was better here, this is why I had landed yesterday here and didn’t bother to pull over for the start. I emptied the cockpit with some effort, released the stuck rudder fin, and was eventually ready to go – was I? I am used to having breakfast on the water, this will work here surely also, wouldn’t it?
I paddled out, and noticed the short steep breakers became bigger and bigger, once being out of the river mouth shelter. The head wind was as forecast over 15 knots, which didn’t really add to my pleasure in these conditions! The sea became actually so steep and confused, even further out to sea, that I barely made headway, and started to feel uncomfortable. I knew that there would be only a reasonable landing spot far after the canal exit,not to talk about a reasonable camp site, but would I even make it until there?
I think I am really used to strong headwind paddling, like yesterday, and to paddle in big seas up to four meters, and can really dig in hard if necessary and handle some crazy seas. But the conditions this morning were simply too much in combination – those almost unexpected 2 m steep confused seas, coming from everywhere including the reflection of the cliffs, the strong headwind, my worn condition from the last day’s paddle and the two previous short nights, no breakfast yet, the outlook to pass the canal exit with probably big ship traffic and no good landing for long km – it was the first time after my mis-approach to Isla Hornos I decided to turn around again – after only 1,8 km out into the sea…I also remember I heard about a current going in my favour here in this area, which probably creates with the strong head wind also those ugly seas…just a little less wind and seas, and it should be working all right!
Back into the shelter of the river mouth, I decided to try the other side for camp, also back in my mind in case I’d need a pick up this end would have road access…I really gave it a serious thought to wait out the end of the dry season in about four to five weeks, flying home for a break…if that is the Caribbean Sea?
I called Peter, needing someone to share my unhappy feeling…later in my tent, I carefully studied my maps again, and what Hennie told me yesterday – after Puerto Bello the coast would have more shelter from the reefs. I just need to reach that part…
Tomorrow would be lower seas, and a tad less wind. I will give it another try, I should be better rested, and HAVE to get past this area to really enjoy the Caribbean Sea with it’s reefs and archipelagos! Despite the headwind…but those seas like this morning are not that likely everywhere – I hope…
Turning around, the ride was almost pleasant, still I was very careful to safely be back. If I only could paddle from East to West! But on a full circumnavigation there is only one way “allowed” – or would you consider to have conquered Mount Everest with doing the downhill twice? There were perfect following winds all along the western coast…I either have to do shorter distances every day, or to wait, wait, wait…
I was walking up the road, hoping to be able to walk up to Fort San Lorenzo, but an older land slide had trashed the path, and I didn’t feel like climbing through the bush I didn’t know. I didn’t see any path around or through! Who knows what ever kind of critters are in the bush here in this for me strange country – snakes, spiders, ants, all those small ugly biting beasts…but just half an hour later, I spotted four men walking up just from that road to the boat ramp, so there must have been a reasonable path? They didn’t approach me, and I went back to my book and rest.