not too much of a flattering self portrait at 3am…
(continued from the previous entry…)
The uninviting beach made me checking the tide situation again. At 5pm it was less than three hours ebb tide left for Clarence Strait, but the Vernon Islands were only 20 km away.
I reckoned the strongest tidal action was in the Strait, and on the paddle along the islands and down to Darwin tidal action may not be as strong. It was still calm seas and very low wind. Wind forecast was supposed to stay like that more or less.
I knew the last bit of the moon won’t be out until 3am, but I assumed paddling into Darwin would be quit an experience in the probably pitch dark night with more clouds than starts out mostly. I expected some “light pollution” on the horizont where drawin was, kind of a halo guiding me the way.
I quickly cooked up some noodles on the beach, not even dragging the kayak up on the dry sand. I put my stove simply in the windprotected cockpit and organized snacks and water to be handy. I made my “ok” and position messages and called Mike, my Darwin contact. They were surprised about my unexpected earlier arrival, as an escort paddle into Darwin from the local surf club was planned for next afternoon. But they proved to be flexible, thanks to Mike and Jenny Ashton, and Bob Creek and Helen Thorpe!
I quickly swallowed the noodles, organized my map case, programmed my GPS, and off I was! No real idea about the estimated arrival time due to the unknown tidal action, but sometimes bewteen 2am and 9am, I reckoned :-))
I called Mike again about the night’s landing situation at the surf club where I had the GPS position from, and he reassured me it was just easy shallow beach. No rocks on high tide, but on low tide there may be some exposed. I rather expected after that call around 7.30pm to come in around 3am, highish tide, so no worries.
I got nicely pushed across Clarence Strait with about 8-9 km. The lighthouse on North Vernon Island was soon flashing in the upcoming pitch dark night, and I had an easy sign to steer for. As I assumed, the lights of Darwin were alreay gleaming on the horizont. 340 degrees around me black darkness, a section of about 20 degrees a pale light shimmer, getting stronger and more defined by the minute. I didn’t need any other light on the compass, as I didn’t need to use the compass! But I discovered ther “permanent light on” switch on my GPS, as I love to follow my speed, my bearing with potential drift and the estimated arrival time.
At some Point I guessed I am already seeing lights double, as the North Vernon Island was there suddenly twice – bt it was only the lighthouse of East Vernon Island coming up as well…
Another bright light with a flashing light besides was almost straight ahead of me, but I couldn’t make out another flashing lighthouse on my chart? It took me a while to realize both lights were moving, and coming straight up to me…
It was a (prawn?) trawler, towing a big net, on the end that flashing light attached. Time for me to light myself as well, I reckoned…I broke a chemical light stick and for best visibility for others and maintaining my own night’s vision I stuck it in my bun high behind my head. Kind of a floating lantern…
They were passing close by, and disappeard soon into the darkness behind me.
The night’s paddle was really an enchanting experience! Not that I only gained another day off in Darwin in that way, but it was such a calm and beautiful night, all those fascinating navigation lights around, plus some flashing lightnigns to the left in a fat cloud. *That* fat cloud was eventually moving over me, and coming up for about an hour with a strong headwing squall! No rain, but tough paddling, putting me back to 4-5 km only. But luckily it didn’t last forever, and the night was calm and quiet again.
I took some power naps on the front and back deck, but I didn’t deploy my floats and went for a “proper” sleep. It wouldn’t have been any problem, but I’d rather arrive as soon as possible, and crash in my tent in the saftey of civilisation!
I started to sing at around 2am, fighting tiredness. I was hoping the get 3-G reception soon, that I could make some phone calls back home! Eventually at 2.30 I was close enough for good reception, and reached my 84-year old mom back in Germany…I wonder if she was really realizing in which situation I was in??? happy to hear my voice anyway. I would have loved to reach my son as well, but he was probably still at school at that time. At least those calls woke me up that much I could continue paddling in a decent pace. It was luckily very low tidal action against me, as I was estimating beforehand.
Overall the best decision I could have made for that night, to keep on going!
I was heading towards Darwin’s lights, still not really sure wich light was the surf club…if lightened at all…My GPS said to head to a dark section on teh beach, before Darwin City? Eventually I spotted two lights, and a a third one, emerging out of the dark stretch. I was already wondering if the surf club guys would have put a night’s watch out on the beach, greating me on my arrival at 3.45am? But it were really only the light’s of the only house on that stretch, which must be the surf club! Still nice to know there must be “civilisation”!!!
(to be continued on Wednesday 20th entry…)
Email message from Freya:
12.21 130.52 Darwin Surf Club 7am to 4am, 110 km, safe and sound.
High end fascinating paddle during the night! Good decision, beach had plenty of watebuffalo footprints. Didn’t want my tent and me sliced from a heavy longhorn bull. In the shallow muddy reef water at about 4pm a bloody beast (big fish, small croc?), probably as frightened to death as I was, leaped out of the water and punched me quite painfully on the left side of my jaw and neck. Left a painful bruise and the impact capsized me, but luckily I could brace with the paddle on the ground!