Loc: Cape Kiwanda
Dist: 3 km
Start: 11:30 End: 12:15
Ok, this was not Plan A, B or C, but (un)Plan D…
José and I got ready to drive from Warrenton with two cars, as Buruce realized I’d get best additional rest with occupying the back seat for two hours of extra sleep or meditation. Thanks for that mindfulness, Bruce and Terry!
I did put my scarf over my face, and blndfolded listened to my body, lying nicely on the spycious back seat wrapped in a cozy blanket, my head and some pillows. Terry brough this bedding in…oh this couple did so well for me! Will love them forever!
I did some strectchig with all limps in all directions, switched my brain quite fully off, and decided after two hours driving, despite lack of sleep, I’m ready to go.
On the beach at 10 am, we both had ample time to load both boats for the first time, even for me as an experience packer, my gear was not 100% sortet to my content due to lack of time…José packed well, and quite realized this kayak takes LOADS!
Low tide was at 1 pm, and the swell and surf calmed down noticably by the minute, leaving the usual channel with quite low surf to exit which we both judged as absolutely doable…if…José wouldn’t be in my boat, for him the first time…
Anyway, we decided this is doable, José felt comfortable, I checked through all his gear and I helped him launching, getting afloat in the shallows, making sure his rudder is deployed. The plan was to meet in the shelter of Haystack rock, where the sea looked calm. I made the mistake to let him launch with the paddle leash on, which I even eventually did myself…it sounds like a minor mistake which I never do, I always launch without leash, but it happened, and it had influence of his easiness to re-entry later. Glad he made it anyway, but also not sure if his paddle would still be in his hands without leash…but in any case, always launch without leash.
He paddled out all right, but very soon out of direction, obviously not able to control the boat with the rudder as it should be. He later said, it was mainly due to the inner pedal position, different to the outer position in his own kayak. Mistake no. 2, we really should have paddled my for him new kayak in dead-calm sea first…He ended up aiming way too far to the right of Haystack rock, where the surf was occasionally breaking nasty, without being able to keep the quite safe line out which we both felt absolutely comfortable to handle – in a boat we are used to… One of those nasty breakers caught him capsizing, I saw this and thought “SHIT”, please let him be safe now!, as I really had no means now to get out to help him.
José told me later, he managed to re-entry with a cowboy entry. Well done in still some occasionally nasty breaking corner, with the reef rocks of the beach close. He paddled out to where he judged to feel safe to wait for me, with still a half-swamped cockpit. I hurried to launch myself, all fine for me, but I couldn’t see José for probably ten very worried minutes! Fuck! Was he already stuck on the headland rocks somewhere??? Finally I saw hi way far out to the right of Haystack rock, pointing his bow out to sea to stay stable in his half-swamped kayak, all correct. I tried to contact him on the radio, no answer. No whistle reaction, no shouting possible. I finally reached him, and first realized he had not pumped out his cockpit yet.
We quickly paddled into the more shelter of the huge rock rafted up, he pumped, and he said he felt all right. I decided to go back in anyway, this was not going to be our start of a longer paddle today. We would go tomorrow in even more calm conditions. We reached some red floating buoy which I judged to be a good calm spot to wait, told him not to go in before I was out of my boat and ready to catch him. I paddled in with a small surfing, but no big issue. José ha to judge out there his own timing, did fine first, but capsized anyway. Another SHIT!, as I saw him and his kayak still together, but surely drifting toward the rocks…I walked out as far as I could, hoping him to let go of the kayak and to swim-rescue himself, what’s a broken kayak worth against a saved life. I was also realizing the rip current here which I am not much used to, but knew in theory how to handle, swim parallel until it changes…
José finally drifted far out even more to the big rocks, but I knew there was a halfway safe calm channel. He thank goodness finally let go of the kayak, swam in all right in the inner channel, and I knew he was safe, while I kept an eye on the drifting kayak. It didn’t get smashed on the rocks, but was rather bobbing up and down with not much force. Ok, now time for a longer swim, I thought, stripped my spray deck to the rocks, finally reached the kayak, clipped my tow line to the bow, and swam for my life and the life of my dear baby…well, it sounds now more dramatic than i really felt, as soon as I was connected to the boat, I knew we could make it. Not fully sure yet about the method…I first turned the swamped kayak upright, stuffed the paddle float and water bag dangling to the side back into the cockpit, and started to swim.
Soon I had to realize I am not getting quick enough out of the dangerous rocky area, decided to grab his spare split Greenland paddle from the back deck, connected it, and on my back, with the tow line between my legs, I used the paddle with strong strokes to help me swimming and towing the kayak out of the danger zone. It worked all right, I felt making progress parallel to the shore, saw a flashlight car on the beach, and soon the rescue helicopter buzzing above me. In no time of my paddling career I had to call 911 myself, and to be rescued by a helicopter, leaving “my” boat behind!!! And it won’t be today either…I kept on swimming, relaxed on my back, occasionally turning my head to judge the distance to the rocks and to the beach. I also signalized with thumbs up to the guys above me in the air I am feeling fine and capable to rescue me and “my” kayak myself…hope I got the right signal, also need to work on that…
Away from the calmish channel and off the rip current, I was now facing the quite nasty breakers further away from the rocks, knowing I now need to watch I’m not getting hit by the kayak…I had to duck-dive down three times to avoid successfully exactly that, once the tow belt dragged hard on me behind the surfing kayak. Godd, we are getting in…I checked the belt release, just in case…but decided I do not need to let go yet. Hypothermia was noticeably getting closer after about twenty minutes of swim, but no time yet to pull the belt off and to body-surf in myself only…I kept on relatively relaxed paddling hard toward beach, feeling often if I could finally touch ground, the buzzing helicopter still above me…no way, guys, you won’t need to get me! I was hoping they did not decide themselves at some point to take serious action to lower a rescue person…and finally, eventually, I touched ground, saw José in the shallows, waved him to help, and together, we reached with the swamped kayak safe ground. All good. A fat big hug, not much words.
Terry, Bruce and Laytisha assisted as good as they could to get the kayak dry up and unloaded, while the coast guard guys and sheriff were just keen to get their paperwork done. later guys, I need to get dry and warm first…but I answered some necessary questions. My dry suit held up to 95%, need to get it checked at Kokatat’s once passing Arcata…Terry drove to the one and only hot outdoor shower behind a restaurant without any privacy, i didn’t give it a shit, stripped down, but was at least so “polite” to put on a string…but had to chase away a restaurant employee smoking in a break close to the shower…he eventually turned around, while Terry desperately tried to make some privacy with my large towel…hilarious situation…I was in the urgent need for a hot shower, but had to keep some dignity regarding stripping fully down without caring…ok, I was finally warm and dry, and we all had a relaxed de-brief in the warm sun-heated car.
José was basically fine, keen to keep on going in another try, but his one finger being a but bent on the attempt to hold on to his kayak prevented him to do so…a pity…but also somehow a relief for me, as I had to realize once more in this humbling experience my lack of skills handling serious incidents – which I was quite aware of, but last year it went all fine with my five paddling partners…but this serious warning was meant to come right at the beginning now, and it was all right. Just feeling sorry for my three lined-up southern paddling partners, maybe we’ll find another solution.
For now, I camped on the beach, got warm and organized and many hours of quality sleep with few cramped coughing left. My body tells me I am on the right way…
this morning at 4 am, after sleeping well from 5 pm to 1 am, then from 2 am to 4 am, I first organized the rest of my gear, making still a list what to improve. Then this longish typing was due, and I will launch now! Either Salmon river, or Depoe bay…easy conditions.