It’s getting ugly…
Report from Chris Cunningham:
I got a satellite phone call from Freya at about 9:00 am Australia time. She had a bit of rough water last night, but as always, she said “it wasn’t that bad.” She mentioned some skin trouble with the backs of her hands and took care of that with Vaseline. She sounded energetic and in good spirits.
Looking ahead to landing at Gove this Friday, if it gets dark and the water is rough she would opt to stay another night out. That’s good maritime practice: waiting for light to negotiate an approach to land. It also speaks well of how her accommodations at night are serving—she’s not aching to get out of her kayak.
Freya’s sister Edda reports that their Mom is a bit anxious, understandably so, but has a growing feeling of admiration for what Freya is capable of and what she is doing. I’d be surprised if anyone was feeling any different.
If you have ever experienced a tropical rain on the water, you’ll never feel again anything like this…it is a pure force of nature! Millions of heavy waterdrops, pouring down with heaviest force out of a dark black sky for hours…if you are in your kayak, wet anyway, what does it matter? The wind coming with the rainy squall makes it just more of an experience – when it’s coming from the right direction! It blows you along on big rough water, but it seems to be flattened out by the rain…quite a ride!
I only had another odd rainy experience in my skydiving years – in free fall the rain is coming from the earth instead of from the sky…you are simply falling faster than the drops! Lucky you if you have a tandem passenger strapped on your chest where you can hide behind… (I made 500 passenger jumps as a tandem pilot…) -it simply hurts in 200km speed!
The only disadvantage of continuous rainfall on paddling is that your skin of your hands is soaking quite a bit in freshwater. I had some little, but quite painful sores on the back of my hands anyway, and this massive flood of freshwater soaked them even more. It was a pure pain to reach into any pocket or under deck bag or stuffing someting through the praydeck the last two days…but ow well…they were healing quite fast later.
The heavy rain at night was not so much welcome, this was luckily not as long that one extreme rough night out, no. 6…
I was checking the drift in the south-easterly strong night’s wind, and it was 90 degrees off course, not gaining any km, just loosing the good angle…time for the proof test of the sea anchor!
I attached the sea anchor, actually simply one of my large gear bags on a long rope with a float on the rope, to my bow line. It worked well, so well it was pulling quite hard when the swell was rolling! I was simply scared after a while about the connection of the rope of the anchor to my bow line – the bow line carabiner was a small tiny one, not made for such forces!
I sat up from my sleepless rest that night, and paddled with my hands forward, aiming to catch the float of the anchor rope to get the anchor in. It was quite tough to come near it with my whole paddle float sleeping setup, so I had to reach for the spare paddle out of the bag on the back deck to make some froward distance towards the rope float. I could eventually grab the float and pull in the anchor, caefully checking if I didn’t catch a fish or snake in the bag??
I took the non-solid hook off, and let go of the anchor again. Some more sleepless hours that night…it was still blowing some strongest wind, maybe 25 knots, and the pulls on the anchor and with them on the bow handle of the kayak where the bow line had to be attached to the boat.
This was the only night I was simply a bit scared that the material would be holding up – I didn’t want the whole bow handle being ripped off the kayak from the strong pulls of the sea anchor, leaving an ugly gaping hole in the bow! A nightmare…would the lightweight layup withstand those forces? It did…
The other material test was for the paddle – I kept my hands all night spread out on the floats, to feel the force of the waves bending and flexing the paddleshaft strapped on the aft deck, the aft deck flexing, or both…it was quite some exciting movement! My spare paddle stayed handy on the front deck that night…
Having the sea anchor on the bow in such rough seas makes the wind coming directly from the bow as well…and the big fat frequent breakers!!! No chance to turn the face to one side, as it was possible with the wind coming from the side drifting without anchor…you’re getting the fat splash directly onto your face, well aimed into your nose!!! And that every 10 min or so…what a great way to spend the night…
At 4 am eventually the wind and seas calmed down a bit, and I noticed a change of drift direction towards the west. This was the time to get the anchor in, and to enjoy the benefits of a bit of a drift into the right direction, though losing two degrees. I got about 2 1/2 hours of quality sleep in then…not enough. It made me napping at lunchtime next day, as I did on day 5, 6 and 7.