17.11.2007 Sat, Day 24/ 16
Toko Mouth, 55km. 910 km.
Decided to go in rather on a clean but surfy beach than on unknown rocky terrain further downwind. Enjoy early camp on my own
I did launch that morning on Smailles beach in the broken surf behind Bird Island, as carrying the boat to the left corner of the beach where I came in was a bit of distance…oh, I skipped about 300 m of paddling!!! Unforgivable…
Thanks Rob and Stella to get up with me that early I could be on the water at 7am, and Mark couldn’t help but joining the early morning launch, too…I think it’s an honor people enjoy getting uop that early just to see me off!
My goal for the day was an ambitious 85 km down to the Nuggets, as a following wind from lunchtime on was predicted, but the headwind fiirst and the quite rough stuff later made it impossible to reach the Nuggets before darkness. Just one hr was missing…that leg had to be spilt in two days then!
So I had to decide where to go in, the proved safe landing at the Taeiri river mouth was already astern. The Toko River mouth appaeled on the map, and the whole stretch of Crystalls Beach before it was clean, just a bit steep and surfy and dumpy.
The river mouth itself had some reefs, and as far as I could see further south the next beach looked decorated with reefs, too (actually it was not, but I didn’t know…) The water bacame more and more rough, and I decided to go in NOW, just before the wee village on the river mouth.
A bit of a dumping surf at the end to brace in, but I could pass the outer breaking line of surf upright. I was quite happy to be in safely. A sandy, but free of reefs, even steep beach with some surf doesn’t scare me that much as those ugly cobblestone stuff between Christchurch and Oamaru.
I had to climb a bit up the dunes to find a lovely spot for the night, just the sandflies enjoyed first time to bother me quite a bit. I learnt NOT to go out of the tent with bare legs or feet, and stripping the naked butt for a pee is not much of a pleasure ) – so I’d rather used my device I use sitting in my kayak for that pupose…and go where the most wind is blowing! )
I hauled the kayak up the dunes, as the high tide mark came pretty close to the high edge. For a good night’s sleep without worries I thought it’s well worth the effort!
18.11.2007 Sun, Day 25/ 17
Nugget Point, 32km. 942 km.
Against stream and wind next legs are dictated by possible landings I’ll go watch the seals now from above.
The launch from Crystalls Beach was ok, even with some dumpers…yes, Greg, I soon learnt how to deal with the dumpers ) – either stay out like at Fisherman’s Point/ Birdling’s Flat or get wet )
That day to Nugget Point was a half day’s paddle again, 35 km only, but for that stretch of coastline it proved to be more wise to get in the approved safe landing spots rather than seeking new, probably less sheltered ones, which might not even exist…
I paddled into the last sandy beach before Nuggets Point, and found the only place to put up a tent, right in front of the penguin sign…but still not too close to the road. And the penguins were not expected to come in at that time of the year on that beach.
After getting settled with the tent and gear I walked up to the Nuggets Point, where 7 years ago I was driving up in a van with my 4-year old boy…this time the masses of tourist vans were just annoying, and I preferred to walk rather that to hitch a ride up and down…how the points of views change! Being in my own van next time again, I’ll look out for lonely travellers without car… )
The view from the Nuggets was amazing as last time, and with my binoculars I could watch the marine mammal’s life down there pretty close.
I remembered Paul’s write up about his capsize going through the Nuggets 30 years ago, and tried to find the spot where it has happened.
The swell was pretty low that day. In the middle of the Nuggets, to the left of the rock with the arch, there seemed to be a gap big enough to pass safely next day, if conditions would stay the same. A motorboat took the same pass through.
It started to rain a bit, and all (German…) tourists were hurrying back to their vans…my only concern was I stupidly left my fleece underwear outside my tent to dry, so I hurried walking downhill back, too ) – and drying the underwear in a tent is only be done by *wearing* it for a while, not really a pleasure. But if you want dry underwear next day…
19.11.2007 Mon, Day 26/ 18
Tautuku Bay, 40km. 982 km.
I could get used to the relaxing half day paddles dictated by sheltered landing & tide ) actually enough swell for today..It was HUGE 4-5 m off Long Point!
The early morning start and paddle through the Nuggets was not watched by anyone, touristst were still asleep on their warm and dry accomodations…
The wind forecast was nice, but BIG swells should come up for that day…heading out of the sheltered bay before the Nuggets no swell appeared at all. And even going through the gap I spotted the day before was a bit of a thrill regarding Paul’s issue there, but it proved to be no problem. Just some streamy water. I was scared to death once as a sea lion was barking out loud somewhere unexpectedly… )
But behind the Nuggets, going off the sheltered bay, the swell became more and more visible and to be felt, the backchop off White Head was already entertaining, but approaching Long Point topped my HUGE swell experience so far…
It is not really dangerous or likely to capsize in BIG swells only, a good sense of balance and NOT to get seasick is just required – and I was luckily able to feel alright with both.
Taking pics of the swell breaking on the point was not easy, balancewise first, but timing it right to be UP when a huge breaker hits the rocks and not DOWN in the wave trough proved to be tricky…
I was just happy not to feel any seasickness coming up, as I had to deal with that already sometimes in Newfoundland and Iceland…maybe my body told me “no time for that, you are alone out here and cant’t feed the fishes right now and get weak…” or so…
Behing Long Point the backchop created some choppy surf for a long time, even some bracing was necessary! I was just happy I took my food and pee braek just *before* the point…
But the water became soon more quiet approaching Tautuku Bay. Although I covered only another half day paddle with 40 km and was thinking to skip that bay and pushing on to Purpoise Bay I must admit I had enough swell for that day.
Tautuku Bay at low tide was a long pull up of the boat again, my hull becomes thinner and thinner from the constant sand abrasion ) – and the extra excersise is not too much appreciated.
I put up my tent opposite to the wee houses, as I didn’t feel too much like camping between holiday huts and meeting people that day.
Anyway, the chap driving up to my dune camp to just bring me some fresh water was well appreciated! It proved to be a fisherman who knew already about my trip from other fishermen…
I opened my tent not to be unpolite whilst the brief conversation, but the sandflies saw that as an invitation to get inside, too…but they are slow enough to get caught! )
I just don’t like all those dead black bodies inside the tent then…
20.11.2007 Tue, Day 27/ 19
Purpoise Bay, 33 km. 1015 km.
Campsite with shower and laundry, not too bad! Lovely day with dolphins and light wind. Would have loved to kept on going!
Again dragging of the kayak down to the low water line. The trick with the covered cockpit and just walking through the shallow, low surf until you could squeeze your butt into the cockpit without catching a wave was just working fine. But don’t even *think* that the already checked to be loose skeg was coming out on it’s own as supposed then…shaking the whole boat violently whilst sitting wasn’t getting it out either, so I dared to land besides a sheltered reef rock, jumped out again, pulled the skeg loose and could keep on going west.
It was a lovely sunny day, few winds, and the 33 km to Purpoise Bay, the next sheltered approved landing spot, were just astern already at 2 pm.
I was heavily tempted to keep on going, at least another 20 km just before Waipapa Point…
I assumed landing in the shelter of the first reef there would be ok, but it was still a bit of a good swell going…and open beaches are always “interesting” in those conditions…
Going even further into Toetoes Bay, still open beaches, was not my idea of going straight from point to point, and crossing over to Bluff was too long for that day.
So the only reasonable option again was to pull into that sheltered bay, enjoying the rest of the day, and the campsite was actually not too unwelcome for a hot shower and some laundry.
I got a ride with a couple in a sports car to Waikawa, where there was internet at the museum. Just couldn’t ask them NOT to smoke whilest driving…beeeaaahhh!
I had too many e-mails to answer for the short hour of computer time, so updating my blog had to wait until I reached Bluff.
A longer call to Paul about Bluff’s approaching conditions finished the day.
21.11.2007 Wed, Day 28/ 20
Lake Brunton, 20 km. 1035 km.
4hrs headwind fight then watched plenty of huge fat sealions at Waipapa Point. Hope for windbreak tomorrow for Bluff.
My tent – my castle and sand and sand-fly free zone…almost )
Important piece of gear: earplugs to keep the roaring surf off my dreams… 4 weeks, 20 paddling days, 8 weather days, 1035 km, 51.75 km daily average, ca.1250 km left, 17 tent nights, 3 Pavlovas! )
The day’s forecast were some headwinds, but low seas, and I hoped to make still good enough progress for Bluff. In case I won’t make it, the low swell didn’t scare me too much to land at the open Brunton Beach then somewhere, right before the crossing of Toetoes’s Bay. Next day’s forecast showed a wind gap to finish off to Bluff then.
But it came as I didn’t hope: The headwinds were fun to paddle against for a while, but after two hours of battling I took already a short break at a lovely sheltered beach right before Black Point. I should have gone at least to that one yesterday! But who knew it at that time…
Another two hours of headwind play, and i was looking for a reasonable spot to stop at Brunton Beach.
Where the site of lake Brunton was, the dunes were low enough for a probably good campsite, and the surf wasn’t too much at that corner, too. Still enough for a wet brace into the last dumper…
It was 11 am only, and I couldn’t tell I was in the mood for stopping already, despite of the slow hard working progress into the headwinds…but for what’s it worth, tomorrow seemed to be a wind break, long enought to make it to Bluff.
After tomorrow, the weather was supposed to change for the worse anyway for longer, so I *had* to make the rest tomorrow, if I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the bushes for longer time rather than being safe and dry in civilization…and to update blog, food and kit for the next remote leg into Fjordland.
I relaxed laying against my boat for a while, still not willing to put up camp and to take off the drysuit, and fell into a quick nap…I awoke from being sandblasted by the increasing wind…a look on the water showed it was time to make camp.
Wandering along the lakesite showed a good shelter way down there, but I was too lazy to carry all the gear down…I put up tent right behind the first dune shelter on the lakesite, still a bit in the wind, good against sandflies…
A first afternoon walk took me east again, and climbing up a high, steep sanddune I was surprised to see it was occupied already – a fat sea lion already preferred the shelter way up there, too! He didn’t notice me, and I took lots of pictures. Little did I know that there were many more to picture down the beach…
After a quick lunch I walked up the beach the other way, towards Waiapap Point. And one fat blubber pile of sea lion after the other was resting in the afternoon sun on the beach, lazy enough to stay where they were, even when they started to open their eyes and noticed me. I took some pitures!
At Waipapa Point, the big long reef was easy visible at low tide, and the compulsary bunch of tourist vans, too. I thought just stay wide tomorrow, and you won’t end up like the ship wreck 100 years ago…
22.11.2007 Thu, Day 29/ 21
Bluff, 40 km. 1075 km.
Meri Leask waved me into shore how nice! And helped me to get a hut on the campsite for the next bad weather days! time to update my blog…
Interesting launch this morning took about half hr ). No new wreck at Waipapa Point but it looks like some days off before Fjordland
Launching this morning proved to be the toughest so far on my own…the wind and sea was still pretty high, but supposed to be going the afternoon.
I already slept in longer than usual that morning, as the afternoon wind and the tide for crossing Toetoes Bay were more favourable anyway.
I just felt happy the wind was keeping my tent dry over night, and just as I thought that it started to rain again…I really had to kick myself to get started in rainy, still windy conditions! At least the drysuit was dry, and putting it on inside the tent was convenient before heading out into the ugly, unfriendly morning.
Packing a wet tent in the morning into the tight bag is already no pleasure, but stuffing a wet and *sandy* tent tops it all…I was glad to do that job in my drysuit, able to strip the sand off somehow then after.
I almost needed a shovel to bury my kayak out of the sand, the wind yesterday did a good job to sandblast and cover the whole side.
As I unpacked it yesterday, sand was blowing into the hatches and cockpit, and packing this morning *with* sand and rain was actually very unpleasant…that’s a sea kayaker’s life sometimes!
Whilst packing I was looking at the surf alreday, watching a seal trying to get ashore, being washed up and down quite a bit before he decided to land obviously somehwere else…hmmmm, when a seal was not happy about landing here, how could I launch easily then??
The usual shore dumper was the first to overcome, and some more breakers were waiting lined up behind.
But the worst was the back surge for a lonely kayaker, the wash up the beach was quite high. So where was the best spot and time to jump in?
It took me a while, some cockpits full of water, some getting lost of the boat, some getting washed up and sitting sideways, some rolling of the kayay up the beach whilst trying to position it down enough – and eventually a long rest to recover my body.
I thought the tide is coming up, and might change the angle of the beach for the breakers somehow, so just wait a bit for higher tide, and try again…I *needed* to get off that beach at some point and to get to Bluff today!!!
But as it would only get better on the afternoon, tide and winds, I was not really in a hurry.
I tried again at some point, and at least managed to stay afloat whilst getting washed up and down for about three times, turned around somehow, bracing into some dumpers before eventually breaking through the first dumper! That was the key! The other breakers were no problem, and once I was free, I gave it a big reliefed shout I made it!!! Yes, these open beaches…they change their face easily.
Actually, being out there on your own just with a partner wouldn’t make it any easier for the last one…but it will be interesting to watch Justine’s video of that kind of launching while she is sitting safely launched out there waiting for Barry to punch through the dumpers on his own ) – or the other way round???
Having a support team on the beach to launch the last one makes it way less of a problem…but actually less exciting and less of a learning process, too!
And then the skeg again…launching rope attached as usual, but by no means I could pull it out…I fumbled around with the paddle on the rope to get a better angle to pull it out, but no chance…after a while I tried again, pulled as hard I ever could and guessed, if the loop breaks, I can’t help then…but it came off eventually and my already planned wet exit behind Waipapa Point to release it was luckily not necessary.
Seas were still rough approaching Waipapa Point, but with a good eye for the offshore reef breakers I made it safely through that notoriuos spot. I guess the tourists out there on the dry point hoped for another exciting crash…
I took a bearing from the GPS across Toetoes Bay, as the sky was grey, it was raining, and nothing of Bluff or the offshore islands was to be seen where I wanted to go.
At least the wind was dropping as forecasted, but the waves were pushing me into the bay that much I had to correct my course quite often. Good to have the GPS! And it told me my speed was increasing, too, as the tide turned in my favour, actually that much I would be reaching Bluff two hours before the tide was turning again to get me safely into the harbour!
I took my time, rested quite often, still making 3km/hr at the last hour without doing anything! Seas were fully quiet at the end, a relaxing final approach to Bluff.
The only rock-free little beach in Bluff was right before the huge big white tanks before the wharf, and at almost low tide there was still quite a bit of a stream going out the harbour! I ferryglided across the main stream, before I sneaked up close to the rocks approaching that little beach through the floating kelp and reefs.
I saw a lady waving and shouting at me at the harbour entrance, and guessed this must be Ainsli Lamb already, a contact adress Paul gave me to send a parcel down to Bluff.
But no! It was Meri Leask, “Good as Gold Meri” from Bluff Fishermen Radio! She knew already I was coming from the Heberley’s in Tory Channel, and from that chap bringing me water up to my tent at Tautuku Bay!
Out of her window she overlooked the whole harbour, saw me coming in, and although I was too shy to contact her already on the VHF channel 61, she welcomed me already on the beach! Thanks Meri, I felt already in good hands even before heading out to Fjordland, monitored by all fishermen around via your radio!
I told her I was actually expecting Ainsli with the parcel, and after a few phone calls she came down to Bluff with another lady to bring it to me. Thanks, Ainsli!
After checking the forecast for the next days it was clear I would have to stay some days in Bluff, and I was happy Meri helped me to find a little hut on the campsite for the next days.
But before driving out there, I was invited for a cuppa in her famous kitchen radio office, listening to her evening sched calls to all boats around in the area! She does a very important job for the safety of all boaters, especially in the remote Fjordland area. She knows exactly where everybody is for the night, and is the coordination center if a mayday call comes in.
She’ll monitor my progress in Fjordland, too, and even if my own little VHF won’t reach her in all corners of Fjordland, the VHF contact via a passing fishing boat would be possible to obtain.
My boat was stored at Bruce and Gloria’s house right across the road, and I “made camp” in my own little hut then for the next days, shower, heater and laundry included…