Loc: river mouth 6,5 km south of Caleta Visser
Dist: 37,3 km
Start: 12:15 End: 19:20
The night brought a strong sw wind as forecasted, and I had to get up at 3.30 am to secure my tent better with some more rocks on the pegs- the gusts were probably about 30 knots or such!
But it was a warm night, and though it tried to rain a few drops, this was just a thimble of water coming down. I was scared more may fill the dry river mouth besides me…but rain time is in July here.
I was sleeping in long in the morning, thinking this may be a rest day with 20-30 kn sw forecasted for the morning and noon. But the afternoon was supposed to be calm, and so it was – quite early!
But first I decided to take a walk up to the estancia to ask for an additional bag (4 liters) of fresh water, to be on the safe side…I felt my knowledge of Spanish was good enough now and to be “brave” and go 🙂
The only thing is I am always scared of are the dogs, and I took a rock with me for precaution :-). But the first dog I saw on the estancia was rather scared of me, and so were the few other ones around! The lady I saw first after calling a loud “hola, hola” was probably very surprised to see me, as she didn’t hear an engine, and she may have even looked around for a horse (there were two on a field nearby…) I would have been arriving with…
But I could “talk” to her where I was coming from and what I was doing (my promo card helps!), and she was very friendly, the same as the two men coming up and the other dogs…
After I got my water, they liked to drive me back the two km or so to my tent, for sure to have a look as well! The car had to make a detour around the dry river canyon. All people were very nice and friendly, thank you!
When they were gone again, I checked thee sea state and weather, and decided at 11 am it was good to go! The wind was a bit down, the water was calm, no white caps any more. I quickly packed, dragged my kayak the long way, now on low tide, down the gravel beach. At least there was no reef and still good access to the water, which I was hoping for yesterday on landing here! I was already thinking I may paddle only the second half of the day!
Before I moved my kayak, I was already in my dry suit with the top still down, as it was warm. I needed to pee and used my funnel device as usual doing it standing up…but how could I forget to close the pee zipper again???
I launched easily, but as most times on gravel beaches, the rudder blade was stuck despite using my launching string. I checked the water depth after being afloat, and quickly jumped in the waist deep calm water to release the rudder blade. Arggggghhhhhhh! I never jumped that quickly back onto my kayak! I very soon noticed my pee zipper was still open!!!!! How can that happen???? I only once had that already in New Zealand, launching with an open pee zipper and then I needed to roll in the surf…
It gave me a cold flood into my suit bottom and pants, but not too much to stop again and to dry it. The water was reaching my knees on sitting, but I was still warm all the tim in my wet fleece underwear. It felt just like I was happy to have enough fresh water tonight for a small shower!
I was aiming for Caleta Visser, about 31 km down the coast. “Caleta” sounded like a safe landing, though my GPS chart and paper map didn’t really show a dent in the coastline with may provide some shelter on my map…my paper map even showed an anchoring site!
I paddled quite offshore in a direct line, to avoid to hear and to look at the dumper on the all-gravel coast which was growing and growing, as I thought…my heart started beating more and more, hoping the landing would provide a bit of shelter.
It was quite a swell going out there, and this means the dumper may be BIG…especially at night at high tide.
The swell on the long reef area marked on my chart before Caleta Visser was feeling even bigger, as the “reef” here seemed to be unfortunately just shallow sandy ground, at least on high tide, instead of many rocks providing shelter after the reef area was over, as I was thinking… I felt very uncomfortable on the big swell, though it was breaking nowhere, but you never know…
I put already all things on I had, PFD, helmet, safety line, and dared to paddle closer in to have a better look.
I saw the “Caleta” was not a deep bay, and it was on a bit of a different spot than on my chart anyway, just a nice place with a shelter and I saw a two cars as well on a Friday night – fisher men, probably.
But the dumper looked as scary as it could be, no sign of a sheltered landing anywhere.It was high tide, and later I learnt it was one of the highest tides in the months as well. I decided to push on to find a better spot. I was hoping the receeding tide and the coming up night would calm the dumper down, which would be all right. So patience was required, keeping on paddling, and to hope to reach a certain small headland which may provide a bit of shelter as well.
I paddled, and paddled, but basically the landing didn’t change, I felt, still steep gravel beach everywhere, and the dumpers crashing on it and even over the top when the beach was a bit more shallow at a river mouth…I checked on two of those river mouth which had a bit of a flat gravel beach area, but the dumper was still as scary as it could be! It was 7 pm, and I’d have light until 9 pm.
Two fishing spots passed by with people, and on the third spot with four people fishing I decided to have a look again. I may have reached the spot with the new reef area around 9 pm and lower tide, but would the landing be really better there? Here were people to help me, just in case, and it really didn’t look THAT bad from outside…but you always underestimate the power of the surf…plus I was assuming they would stay the whole weekend and be willing and able to help me launch tomorrow morning…
My other option would be to go for a nights’ paddle, and to push on to Commodore Rivadivia some 50 km further down, as there would be a harbor with shelter…I didn’t really fancy that either. So I sat there and watched: The timing needed to be right, paddling in as quickly as possible on the back of the last big dumper of a set, an hoping it really was the last one before a small lull, plus hoping the guys would be ready and happy to catch me and my kayak…
You can paddle quite close to the “danger area” on such dumper, and sit there and wait until the swell behind you may create a smaller wave, which I did.
I tried to signal the guys I wanted to come in, they were shouting something I couldn’t understand. At least they pulled in the fishing lines, apart from one.
Ok, after about five minutes watching – NOW! I thought I was sitting close enough to the dumper’s edge, I thought now the next wave would be quite small. But basically, there were no “small” waves, just “smaller” ones compared to the crashing ones which I saw later from the beach were a really trashy 2-3 m high. I had the same conditions in New Zealand once on launching,and I had two helpers there, but here there may be were fewer…
I was speeding up as much as possible, the beach came closer, but basically you are paddling on a back surge in. When the dumper is so strong, the back surge is strong as well…so I was for sure too slow, and the next dumper, probably a smaller one which I was expecting, still trashed me over. The guys hearts may have skipped a beat, but I rolled up all right and though this was it…
But they were still not able to reach me, either I was still too far away, or they were scared of wet feet (which I can understand…), or didn’t see it was necessary to grab me as quickly as possible to prevent me from getting sucked back in the surge and back into the dumper area.
So I got trashed by another one, capsized again, and felt I would be able to be rolling up with my hands, as I felt the gravel below me. Always get out on the side of the water…. But as I would not let go of my paddle, and as I was already touching the gravel beach bottom, I must be already through it and I rather bailed out in the shallows..
This was basically right, as the next dumper, probably still a moderately sized one, washed my kayak without me fully up the beach, and the guys could get hold of it, cockpit for sure fully flooded.
I could now get up and easily walk up out of the back surge, but my knees were still shaking…
I remember a few “hand gravel rolls” like that in New Zealand… I must be as flexible as a cat, not being trashed by my heavy kayak which is a major danger as well.
And, always unleash your paddle on landing! Or it may wrap around the kayak or yourself, and creating more danger or breaking possibilities.
The guys put the flooded kayak on it’s side to empty out the water, and then quickly dragged it higher up, as more and bigger dumpers could still reach that spot.
But I was safe, in one piece, and so seemed my kayak!
I thanked the guys, and I think they were pretty scared first and then relieved as well as it was working out eventually ok…
I found a camp spot on the corner of the river, which now, was quite flooded on high tide. It was just 50 m away from the guys’s camp. But this meant I would have to put up my tent first before I could shower, somehow squatted behind the tent, and eventually get changed and warm again. Wet hair makes you freeze very quickly! And I still had my wet pants from the morning…
They invited me over for a drink soon, thanks!, but I made them understand I’d need to change first, and look after my own camp.
I was landing at 7.30 pm, and at about 9 pm I was ready for a “visit at my neighbor’s”! The surf and tide had gone down 2 hrs after high tide that much that I’d judged my chances a bit better…but it still looked very scary.
The guys were already cooking dinner on an open fire the male way – Paella in a large wide pan. I was hoping the seafood they put in would be some nice lean fish fillets they may have just caught, as I’m not really a mixed sea food fan – all kinds of shrimps are very fine with me, and fish fillet as well. But calamaris rings, mussels, and those small octopuses where you can still see the suction cups on the multiple legs, still attached to the whole bodies? They bought the mixture like that in a super market, and this is probably what belongs in a real “Paella”, plus rice and veggies and tomato sauce.
When it was eventually cooked, it really smelled and looked great, if it wasn’t for that suction cupped small leg sticking out high in the middle of the pan…
I confessed I had to be picky, and was allowed to fish for the shrimps only. It tasted eventually very, very nice! Thanks to the chef!
One of the guys, Martin, spoke fortunately a very good English, so the conversation was not only talking with legs and hands. I tried to dry my dry suit under the shelter close to the fire, but was afraid of sparks damaging it. So it would have to be a bit of a humid start tomorrow, as my underwear fleece pants were not really getting dry in the last hours either.
I didn’t feel like wine drinking after this paddling day, and eventually wanted to retire “early”, as it was already 11 pm, and I’m usually fast asleep at 9 pm. Thanks for dinner and your hospitality and help, guys!
We agreed that, as the guys wanted to move camp next morning due to the bad fishing in the fat dumper, we’d have a look at the dumper tomorrow morning until 9 am, two hours after high tide. If it would be still the same and simply too dangerous to launch, even with a strong push in time, they would drive me and my boat to a spot about 20
km further down the coast, known as “Rocas Colorades”, where I could launch easier in the shelter of a there rocky reef.
I didn’t really feel happy with the option to skip a few km of my circumnavigation, but was still hoping to be able to launch tomorrow morning.
Otherwise – I’d have no other option than to follow the nice guys offer! It may be my “one off chance” to get out of here…I would never be able to launch from here by myself, not to talk about in a safe way, maybe in a few days or so, when the swell may be a bit down…but who knows when that would be and if it would happen at all?
I fell asleep as soon as I put my ear plugs in – as the sound of the dumper all night was the sound of DANGER for me and would keep me off a good night’s rest.