I slept well all night after the thunderstorm settled around 8pm. The morning had a clear sky, some friendly strong south-westerly’s and an again quite lifted surf. I felt more scared to paddle safely out through the surf rather than doing the long paddle along the cliffs!
I raised at 4am, with first daylight, and was ready to launch at 4.30am. I took enough food for two days, water and my wide Kokatat overcag for the probably chilly night. But Greg knew after some phone calls he would be able to meet me at Twilight Cove, with a relatively easy track via the Eyre Bird Observatory, rather than taking the direct track from the highway, which was supposed to be a tough one.
I got a push into the high up washing surge after the last one of a fat set of dumpers, and cleared the first dumper line with good timing. There was a bit of space between the shore dumper and the outer dumper with less breaking waves, where I could kind of wait out a decent lull to clear the second line. I eventually made it out with just a bit of a wet early morning wash in my face, and was happily taking my helmet and PFD off to settle into long distance paddling mode.
I was dressed in my long sealskin pants, a long sleeve fleece shirt and had a windproof Gore-Tex paclite anorak on with a nice fitting hood over two thin head scarves to keep the wind chill off. Plus I had sealskin socks and Teva sandals on my feet. This was my usual paddling outfit, since it got quite chilly south of Broome!
The cliffs to my left raised 100 m high, and felt quite different to the Zytdorp cliffs on the west coast. Mainly because these cliffs were going more or less in a straight line instead of curving wide. I was crossing curve of the Zytdorp cliffs directly from the start to the finish, which took me some 10 km offshore.
Here, I was able to paddle close to the impressive cliff base, as the swell was much lower with 1-2 m only rather than the 4 meters abeam the Zytdorp cliffs. The low swell was not creating much of a rebound at most parts of the cliffs. Mostly there was an undercut rocky ledge at the bottom with the waves crashing in and somehow dissolving their force, without creating much rebound. It was a bit different in the middle were the undercut rock ledge was missing. I was experiencing some rebound action there, but was happily paddling along with strong following wind creating more forward surf than ugly up and down.
I made good speed with 15-20 kn south westerly’s pushing me along. The day was nice and sunny and clear, without the stifling heat from yesterday. Simply perfect conditions! I was happy to be out there, and had the hope of a much better and more comfortable night than the survival mode along the Zytdorp cliffs.
Toolina Cove from some distance on the water
I was passing Toolina Cove from the distance, was tempted to paddle closer or even to land, but although being well ahead of schedule that paddling day with the nice following wind, I guessed it was not worth the extra time spent on being the first kayak landing at that cove…and I left it with a picture from the distance. I couldn’t make out any sandy beach from there…
I had 165 km to go overall along the cliffs, and was down to 79 km already at 5pm. If I would keep on going in this speed, I’d be arriving at 5.30am already! I felt well rested after five days of waiting for the wind to be right, and fully determined to keep on paddling strongly through the night. The 15-20 kn wind didn’t create too much of a chop with the low swell, so sea conditions were just nice for a strong paddle. The moon was more than half on a clear sky, and would be shining until 1.50 am. I figured for the two hours of no moon until dawn, the stars would be bright enough to give sufficient light for a visual horizon.
I carried two paddle floats to create a stable outrigger with my paddle plus the floats strapped behind my cockpit like I had used on my crossing of the Gulf of Carpentaria for sleeping. I thought maybe in those two moonless hours I feel like going for a small catnap or such. Or when I may feel not stable enough if there won’t be any stars shining and some rough water going, I may have to use them as well.
What I didn’t expect at all in those conditions was to become seasick! I was paddling in stronger rebound the last afternoon hours without even noticing it much, as I was so happy about my good progress, nice wind and weather and about the entertaining view of the cliffs. The view was kind of the same all the time but still different, as my eye caught every little nuance of the massive impressive rocks.
I knew from experience when I started to float around too long and fiddling here and there, looking down on my cockpit instead of straight ahead, I tend to become seasick. So I was planning on doing my “turning into night mode” routine in different steps, paddling for 10 min or so again in between.
The routine started with a position and text message to Karel at 5pm. Next job was to refill my two drink bottles with fresh water out of a bag stored behind the seat, and to put some Orange drink mix into them. Then I pulled out my overcag from behind my seat and put it on over my fleece shirt and anorak, plus the PFD for additional warmth. Next task was pulling out my headlight and a strong torch out of one cockpit bag to have them handy on the deck. Then it was 6pm, time for a short sat-phone call to Greg.
All that stuff I did as planned with some paddling in between, but it was obviously not enough! I noticed my upcoming seasickness, and though I knew I would have to take my natural Ginger pills *before* some serious nausea comes up, I tried to take three of them with already a bit of ugly feeling in my stomach.
Too late, as they were supposed to be taken well ahead of travelling…it didn’t work. At about 6.30 pm, when it became dark, I felt tired and guessed maybe try two no-doze caffeine tablets as well. Paul Caffyn took them against tiredness on overnight paddles, and my body was not used to caffeine at all in tea, coffee or coca cola, so it should work! I just unwrapped the pills and had them in my mouth, looking to grab my drink bottle for a zip to help to swallow them, when the bitter taste of the caffeine pills on my tongue made me throwing up the first time and I simply spit the pills out, plus some of my stomach contents. I knew when I would throw up I’d be feeling better with a then empty stomach. And I tried to keep on paddling strongly into the darkness, lit nicely by the moon.
But it was obviously not heavy enough vomiting to empty my stomach completely. I had to stop for a second time vomiting, and had only one thought on my mind by then:” I need my floats out! Even if I would be paddling not at all or slower, I was in such a good time schedule that I could afford a bit of safety comfort to get a bit relaxed!” Vomiting doesn’t make me dizzy or weak, but still it doesn’t feel too nice.
I reached behind my seat, inflated the floats, hoping not to get dizzy on blowing them up, attached them to the paddle blades and strapped the paddle to my boat behind the cockpit. This routine was still working all right from the Gulf crossing! Now I was at least capsize-safe. I laid on my back deck to open my paddle bag to reach my spare paddle to be able to keep moving.
There was only some difference to the Gulf crossing: The wind was blowing nicely strong, but not parallel along the cliffs, but south-westerly onshore-pushing! This meant I had to paddle all night south-east off the cliffs to stay away enough from the cliffs. I was not starting the strap-on floats very far away from the cliff base, and the strap itself around the hull plus the floats break down my speed from 7-8 km/hr to less than 4km/hr.
My continuous paddling all night was not very efficient, but life saving necessary not to get washed onto the cliffs! I put in all night about 15 5-10 sec powernaps, crunched forward on the cockpit with my arms tucked close to the body for warmth, as I was freezing quite a bit as well. In between I was paddling strongly to regain body heat, and for covering some necessary distance, at least as much as I could get with the floats out. I knew there would be some stronger headwinds coming up next day after lunchtime, so I hoped to be at least done by noon next day.
The floats out gave me a funny new feeling on paddling, as I was not resting and sleeping laying on my back deck like on the Gulf crossing, holding the floats towards the sea surface.
Now they were mostly turned sky up, and not always touching the surface. This gave me a new feeling of upcoming seasickness, and I vomited the third time of the night, followed by a fourth and fifth time. Amazingly there was obviously always some half digested food left in my stomach to bring something out…at least I won’t have to bother with number two next morning in this way, I thought…nothing left to digest…
I was thinking to try again to swallow caffeine tablets, but I simply couldn’t take anything. My ability to recover with powernaps will help me through the night.
First text message from Freya via satellite phone:
Started [cliffs] at 4:30 a.m. with 165km to go. It is now 10 a.m. and I’m down to 122 km to go in perfect conditions.
32.37 125.17. 5:00 p.m., 79 km left.