Time to leave this magnificent campsite, though bug infested, and beautiful beach! The forecast was still strong winds, but only 20-25 kn south westerly’s. This would be a nice ride, I estimated, and was really looking forward to cover good distance.
It was the first time since the east coast wind and waves were right to catch even some surf rides, and with my empty boat I had a lot of fun! I felt I was flying along, and averaged a good speed. It was a pleasure to see the double figured numbers on my GPS showing up occasionally!
I was aiming for Hopetoun, but on our 12 o’clock call I was only 8 km away and I suggested to aim for the next possible landing. This may be Mason Bay, or the unnamed next one, or even Starvation Boat Harbor.
The wind increased in strength, it was blowing 25-30 kn by now. Not too bad still, but the seas lifted to a solid 5 m swell and started to break occasionally…time to concentrated a bit! I reckon the seas started to trap themselves and rebounding in big sets as well in the slowly rounding Twelve Mile Beach, ending in Mason Point. It got slightly better after the southern point!
I was wearing my PFD already as wind shelter anyway. At one time I was only able to secure myself with a high brace only into the face of a crashing breaker – this was close! I was paddling for the last three hours already with permanently locked knees, just in case…ok, the possible two landing bays came nearer…I expected rather the second one to be more sheltered than the first one, and Greg, having checked on both, reassured me the second one was the one to land in. It had a popular campsite, and was protected by a reef with calm landing waters.
My GPS chart, usually quite precise with each single rock obstacle in the water, showed on this bay simply “unsurveyed”, which wasn’t the first time, but usually the unsurveyed areas were quiet boring stretches…but this one was full of reefs! Even my paper map showed only a narrow reef on the shore.
But it turned out the reefs extended right across the bay like a barrier, and as I later saw I either had the option to give it a very wide berth and to maybe sneak in from behind, or to do what Greg tried to tell me on the VHF! But just when I came very close his VHF batteries died and all I could remember was “there are two reef gaps” and “if you are happy to go through those you’ll be in quiet water”.
I should have thought about why the road access was marked on my map on the north-eastern end instead of in the sheltered western side…this was now the reef protected side, and the usually protected western side was simply reefy!
I thought I could spot a gap from my up and down position, and was daring to near it and to give it a go. No rocks were sticking out, just heavy breakers allover. I came quickly closer into the gap, and could avoid a heavy breaker here and there to my right, to my left and behind me.
But how fast you are anywhere else than in the gap you though you have spotted from the distance! Soon I was surrounded by fat breakers everywhere, and paddled like hell to stay upfront of them. It worked…until the usual odd last one came…it caught me, and I had the longest, heaviest broaching high brace ride in my life!
I thought this is it, this one is sweeping you on the rocky bits I just spotted sticking out in the shallows closer to shore. Why the hell didn’t I put on my helmet yet? This one is going to break you into 1000 small pieces…but amazingly I could stay upright, well, laying sideways on the wave’s face in high brace broaching position and eventually found myself turned 180 degrees, but luckily horizontally facing backwards and not upside down.
The rest was quiet water, and I slowly paddled up to the boat launching spot and where Greg was waiting. He couldn’t see me until I was in the quiet water! My white boat probably looked like a foamy breaker…
I felt not really physically exhausted after that day, as flying along with wind and waves was just fun, but I was eventually mentally quite spent when it got a bit big and nasty. I was looking together with Greg over the bay and the reef breakers, and yes, the gaps were there, but occasionally closed by the odd one as well. I may have been really better to go very wide around and try to sneak in from the backside where another gap showed up. But you never know how this would be looking from outside…I couldn’t blame anyone than myself and maybe a bit of bad luck for this close shave! Well, I was paddling and bracing and broaching very skillful, for sure… J
But I should simply have stopped either already in Hopetoun, or have checked this bay out earlier on Google Earth, but they don’t show any heavy reef breaks on that one…the option to keep on going to the safe, but reef fringed Starvation Boat Harbor 10 km around the next corner would have meant paddling at least an hour into the darkness, not much fun in those big conditions either.
Greg has set up camp high up in the bush, and I had the luxury of a bit of hot water for a shower and enjoyed again a great home cooked meal of fresh veggies and lamb meat!
Thanks, Greg, for being such a great support crew and wonderful partner! You were thinking weeks ago you may get bored waiting for me all day, but in reality the one-man job of a support crew is more than a full-timer! It’s not only driving nicely along, but maintaining the car and gear, shopping food and hunting down special items, doing the laundry, picking parcels from the post office, filling up water and fuel, checking on tracks and road and landing conditions, checking the weather, important e-mails from your own business, looking ahead, talking to people with local knowledge, trying to catch nice pictures and videos of me, getting in contact with possible media, setting and breaking camp, cooking, dishwashing, preparing breakfast and eventually rubbing my sore muscles…but it should be time for me to rather eventually rub your sore muscles as well! We are making a great team! Thanks for being in my life!
And yes, he won’t have time to also do my website updates…this simply has to wait until I find time myself for that job in mobile phone/ e-mail range as well.
Text message via satellite phone:
33.57 120.28 Mason Bay 85km 6.5to18 great ride with wind and waves, just a bit big the last hours…landing behind reef ok, but getting there scary!