NZ 5 – 13.12. Milford – 22.12 Greymouth

13.12.2007 Thu, Day 50/ 34

 

Day off, bad weather.

 

 

14.12.2007 Fri, Day 51/ 34

 

Day off, bad weather.

Going back to Milford Sat. Maybe paddling out to Anita Bay to get going North again on Sun or latest Mon

 

 

15.12.2007 Sat, Day 52/ 35

 

Anita Bay, 18 km. 1581 km.

Probably head north tomorrow. Sorry about no updates on the blog – just too busy resocializing after the wilderness… :-)

 

 

16.12.2007 Sun, Day 53/ 36

 

No Name Dumping Beach, 20 km. 1600 km.

Who is the rider in storm and waves? It’s La Ninja in her Roaring Fourties.

20km couldn’t wait in tent all day for the weather change so I was working a bit but there is only so much an (even well trained) body can take.

launching will be interesting through THAT dumper from sticky sand…

 

 

17.12.2007 Mon, Day 54/ 37

 

Cascade River Mouth, 65km. 1665 km.

Staying in the entrance of a private hut. Nobody home. Fun on the river entrance good paddle in RAIN!

 

 

18.12.2007 Tue, Day 55/ 38

 

Whakapohai River, 90 km. 1755 km.

good surfing day, but mentally draining when high. At least found a sheltered landing. In a hut & cold shower!

It will be a lovely day! The rain seems to be gone, following winds for at least 3 days, no lack of food, good spirits and body condition!

 

 

19.12.2007 Wed, Day 56/ 39

 

behind Galway Point, 65 km. 1820 km.

Went in early today 65 km paddled with closed eyes all day to relax mind. Body still had to work, steady but slowly.

 

 

20.12.2007 Thu, Day 57/ 40

 

Wanganui River, 60 km. 1880 km.

Fuck!!! Lost my stern on launching, repaired. Lost my paddle on landing, gone. Fuck! But I’m ok. Just stupid misjudgement.

Just a normal day on the West Coast…

Suddenly I held my whole kayak in my hand. I took my shirt off, ready to jump into my sleeping bag, and it just fell off. It was tied to my neck with a black leather string ever since I began sea kayaking. It was my talisman – my good omen pendant. The cord had never broken before, but now I could just rip the whole leather string into small pieces. It was just plain worn out.

But I didn’t loose the kayak pendant. I still held it in my hand!

I was too tired to go outside to my real kayak, through the hundreds of sandflies occupying the exit ready to enter the tent and suck my blood. I didn’t search in the repair kit for a new string. I just stuffed the pendant into my pocket, and forgot about it the next morning…

I should have checked the leather string regularly for still being strong enough, and I should have checked the clips and screws of my three piece, Nigel Dennis Explorer kayak, regularly for still being strong enough. Both obviously not frequent enough.

I would have to punch out through some big lines of surf this morning. The dress code would be helmet and bug net, but I skipped the latter. I swallowed several sandflies, spat them out and tried to blow them off my face. One of the beasts felt happy flying right into my eye. It was irritating when I was trying to concentrate on the best launching time and place.


I got washed up the beach again several times, and eventually broached high up on dry sand. I jumped out to straighten the kayak, only to get several breakers full of sand water into the cockpit. I emptied it out with some effort, including falling over some times by the force of new breakers – good nobody was there to watch…

Eventually I made it straight through the first breaker, braced into the second, but the third one got me! It surfed me backwards to the beach, digged my stern into the sand. It rolled me up the beach, no chance to fight against the violent force of the sea. No idea how I ended up sitting upright on the dry land again, sideways for sure…

Yuppp, ok, sh^#* happens, jumping out again, straightening the kayak, jumping in again for another launch. Don’t give up! That was the plan – so far so good.

Jumping out was no problem. I grabbed the bow toggle to turn the kayak around, wondering why it felt so easy. Bugger! The stern section was bent at a very unusual angle from the cockpit section.

This is what I never wanted!
“Du bloede Kuh! Wie kann man nur so doof sein?” – I called out this and some more serious loud German cursing to myself for my stupid actions…

An ugly big chunk of fibreglass was missing from the deck. Both hooks of the hull clips were bent almost straight.

The two hull clips just slid off the hooks, straightening the heavy stainless steal on the bending force of the impact of the stern to the ground. But who knows what would have happened to a one piece kayak??
The two deck clips were still in position. I loosened the deck clips to check the whole damage.
Maybe if I had checked the stainless steel connections more often, it might not have happened. But maybe if I had tightened the clips more often, the hooks may have deformed even earlier. Maybe, if I had received my brand new kayak in time, instead of taking the old one it wouldn’t have happened? This one already did a great job around Iceland this summer, but – it was too late now for regrets. There were two pieces of kayak on the beach now, instead of one. And I was on a wild west coast beach with no road access or houses.

My mind searched for solutions; no way to call for help. I need to fix it myself, and keep on going!

Don’t even think about I was in the mood for taking a picture now of the incident! 1000ds of sandflies still flying around my head, making the forced break not really a more happy event…

I checked the hooks on the hull, but to see clearly, I had to wash the sand off first. One looked more bent open than the other. I could try to bend it back into shape again, with a big rock as a hammer. I could even swap it to another hook from maybe the front deck. I could duct tape or even glass the whole stern section to the cockpit section, to make it more solid with the bad hook. I should have taken a spare set of hooks for that case! But I hadn’t.

The chunk of fibreglass missing on the deck didn’t affect the watertightness of the boat, so good luck for that – so just the rock hammer solution was the first thing to try.

Hundreds of sandflies around my head again – they love black as much as I do. I took my helmet off, but left the hood on. The bug net would have been a better choice, but I wanted to get going, not to bother with those little details of comfort. My bare hands were also a target of those sucking beasts. Blowing them away, whilst working on the boat, was another part of the multi-tasking morning. In bright sunshine I got nicely hot in my black gear, sweating from stress and mental strain.

The hook was solid massive stainless steal, but was still bent open from the force of the impact. Not an easy job for a tool out of the stone-age. I was worried to hammer too much, either to break the hook or to hammer the screws loose, which were holding them.

Eventually it looked like it might hold enough to give it a try. I tightened the clips and screws with my multi tool as best as possible, but no overdoing it! For sure the multi tool got full of saltwater and sand, too.

The bent back hooks felt soft on tightening the clips, but it looked like they would hold enough for me to continue. That night I hoped to land sound and safe in the Wanganui River mouth anyway, where there might be people around to help. This is what I figured.

A more attentive look around that beach, through the sandfly clouds, would have shown me a nearby little river mouth before the first launching try, only about 100 m away. It would be a slog to get the fully loaded boat there, but no more risks!

Option one: Unloading again, carrying two or three heavy bags of gear to the river, dragging or carrying the light boat easier then to the mouth. It would take three return trips.
Option two: Dragging the fully loaded kayak 20-30m to the surf slop, and dragging it in more or less floating manner to the river mouth, cockpit covered to keep the dumpers out.

I decided on option two. There were still enough layers of fibreglass on the bottom to get worn off in this way. I dragged the heavy boat downhill, metre by metre, straddling the cockpit and pulling on the rim. In the slop I used my towline to haul the kayak, which was rolled up the beach several times by the surge. Eventually it floated sufficiently to drag it more or less easy to where I wanted to start again.

Jumping in the cockpit, ready to start, I noticed I had forgotten to attach the spare paddle bag on the back deck properly. Jumping out again, I clipped it back on.

Jumping in again, I noticed my skeg launching line was hanging loose instead of going straight back to the skeg. Since sand pebbles jammed the skeg blade in the skeg box quite often, I ran a long cord loop from the skeg blade to the cockpit, so I could ensure I could pull the skeg into position after launching. But the small loop on the skeg broke from the dragging force over the ground, just before the second launching try.

Again I jumped out, fished for the spare string sitting in my map case, attached a new loop on the skeg, and threaded the launching cord through the loop again.

Then the map case couldn’t be closed again with all the sand, I needed to undo the four carabiners holding it, take it off the deck and wash the clips out in the river.

I attached it to the deck again, and was ready to start again eventually! Two hours lost! I had a late morning anyway. 10am now – be patient, Freya! – only 60 km to go.

Turning around for a last look, revealed an obvious wooden cross with something long looking like a grave further up the beach. What happened here years ago? It was quite a spooky place. Not only did I nearly lose my kayak pendant, but I also came ever so close to losing the stern section of my kayak.

Launching from the little river mouth was easy then after all. Why didn’t I see that option earlier? The boat was more or less afloat already, then my timing for punching through the lowest possible breaker was good, and I was off. My stern came with me.

On the open sea, time to relax. Releasing the skeg with the cord loop, stuffing the cord away, taking my helmet off, sliding it under the back deck net, taking the fuzzy rubber hood and PFD off, but where was the carabiner clipped to the loop of my spray skirt? Gone, probably stuck open by sand and slipped off. At sea I used this carabiner to clip onto my PFD when I was not wearing it in calm conditions.

Finally opening the velcro neck of my paddle jacket for ventilation, put some sunscreen on, and ready to go!

The GPS stuffed under the deck net survived the whole launching drama, the kiwifruit and apples in the little deck bag were squeezed – fruit salad with salt water is good nutrition anyway.

The Waiho River mouth came up after 15 km, the outflow of the white glacier water was clearly to be seen from the distance. Green warmer sea water and white glacier river water don’t just mix gradually. The border is sharp – suddenly you are paddling a river instead on the sea!

After entering the sea, the West Coast rivers all swung to the north, with positive benefit of is a speed increases about 1-2 km/h – just like entering a glacier highway. But everything looks more 3-dimensional, the swell, breakers and normal waves appear higher and just somehow scary in bright sunlight. Floating pieces of wood scared the hell out of me, it might be a shark – but just plenty of playful dolphins were visible, the great white thankfully stayed camouflaged in the milky white glacier waters.

I followed my GPS, with my speed increasing all day, satisfying at least, not too bad after that eventful morning!

Whataroa River mouth flew out just before Abut Head, but less milky, less scary, less added speed. About 15 km left to the destination.

The Oneone River mouth had a wee hut site, civilisation was close again! The triangular shape of Mt. Oneone before was a clear landmark. Behind there should be Wanganui River mouth, my safe harbour for the night.

 

 

21.12.2007 Fri, Day 58/ 41

 

Hokitika, 60 km. 1940 km.

Took the chicken run this morning out of a side river no more risk for body boat blade see Paul Caffyn tonight for mental support

Easy day to Greymouth only 40km tomorrow Christmas seems like well deserved weath.rest days! Gordon Brown will be around at Paul’s, good timing! :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Paul Caffyn today!

 

 

22.12.2007 Sat, Day 59/ 42

 

Grey River, 40 km. 1980 km.

Safe & sound with Paul & friends over x-mas. Taking even tomorrow off due to x-mas parties starting tonight and bad weather.

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