Loc: open beach
Dist: 13,1 km
Start: 06:25 End: 12:00 break 7:00 to 9:55
I don’t know why I guessed I could miss slack tide at 5 am to get out of this bay. Probably because I simply did not take the ebb current going out of Lituya Bay serious, as much as I didn’t take the flood current on going in yesterday serious. Maybe this time my current information on my GPS was a bit too low? At the end, it was calm with no waves, but has pushed us in with 12 km/h. Maybe I should have read the pilot which I had downloaded on my laptop ever since, and not only listened to Mike’s experience 20 years ago when he said he just paddled in and out with no problems?
So we both got ready to go at convenient 6.30 am, I had only 30 km to go north, and planned to land just behind Cape Fairweather. Mike would be going south, with the forecasted low North West wind, and would be easily reaching one of the deep bays before Cape Spencer. We both agreed Mike is not really set for open coast landings in surf, and he had only committed to escort me to Lituya Bay, as far north as he was paddling 20 years ago. All right! Better being safe each of us! I was not having the responsibility for a paddler who has not really been dealing with surf, and Mike not taking any unknown risk. We now split in friendship, it was good we had paddled those three days together again. We had both learned a lot, and Mike turned out to be eventually a good strong paddling partner in the conditions we had around the islands.
Now comes the open exposed coast…I obviously have done already many suspicious landings in such conditions, I was set with a helmet and a rudder on my kayak which would take much more if not all beatings than Mike’s fragile rudder piece and hull. And maybe learning to surf land land a heavy kayak and to judge the surf right one should rather do in warm and easier conditions than here in Alaska.
But first, we both guessed as we were entering yesterday on maximum flood current with no problems, we could do the same on the ebb current…what a stupid thought! I was already suspiciously listening to the increased shore break on our sheltered beach, much more than yesterday – and to what I could spot from the entrance break from my tent. I had also been pondering to wait one, if not two days going north, with seas today 1,60 down to 1,20 m, tomorrow 1,30 m, the 1 m and lower. Today were nw winds around 10 knots, tomorrow easterlies.
But as usual, I wanted to go! Mike going south wanted to go anyway. When we carefully approached the optimum line out, we spotted nothing than serious heavy breakers everywhere. Better stay far, far away from there before getting sucked out! We had to wait the next slack tide, and opted to wait on the other entrance side beach which was dead calm. I took my e-book, Mike went treasure hunting inland, always in search for those ancient Japanese glass floats. I had to stay warm, though the sun was shining and eventually reveling a beautiful Fairweather Mountain range with snow and ice capped peaks and glaciers! What a perfect view!
One hour before slack, we saw the entrance break had calmed down greatly and we decided to give it a go. Still, we were very carefully approaching, but I decided the optimum line would be free of breakers and slid out with another 11 km/h with no effort. We waved good bye, and I was kind of envious Mike would have an easy ride with the wind and would soon be in sheltered areas again…I was heading out to the unsheltered stuff!
I had to cross the now moderated tide rips on the entrance, which were flushing me still 500 m out to sea while I tried to more or less ferry glide across. But I was eventually free of the outgoing current and made headway along the coast. But I was underestimating the headwind and sea state in general…Karel’s update this morning was 4-9 knots nw, afternoon 4-12 knots nw with seas from 1,60 down to 1,20 m, which had sounded manageable to me. The truth were increasing whitecaps and nw 15+ winds, which were tiring me out quite soon. I also had my doubts about the shelter around Cape Fairweather on a nw wind, but sw swell, and decided I quit already on an area which looked I could land. It had no additional lines of breakers, but surely still a heavy dumper.
I donned my helmet, and slowly headed in. All went well, I just accelerated on the last higher dumper too slow, I guess, to ride in quick enough on the backside. So I had to side broach on the next one catching me and I got washed up the beach, my ear 90 degrees in the water on a high brace. All good, just a bit bumpy, and I could jump out quickly enough to get free of the boat and grabbed my toggle without the cockpit catching water. I dragged my heavy kayak quickly out of the danger zone, my paddle thrown high up the beach. I’m glad I did not have to wave Mike in! With him, we might have better turned around fully back into Lituya Bay.
I camped high up on the sandy steep beach with cobbles, the usual “Big Foot” trace as the evidence of a regular bear patrol up and down the beach. Hope he is staying away from this strange bit of “driftwood and float”!
I think tomorrow’s easterly wind will flatten the surf out so far that I can launch easy and maybe even make it to Dry Bay, we’ll see!