Loc: near Punta Cnd Palos
Dist: 30,5 km
Start: 9:50 End: 16:25
The forecast was for all day around 15 kn wsw, but gusting up to 26 knots…well, as the water was calm as usual on those wide reefy tidal areas, and as I was experiencing yesterday already those strong winds which were still possible to paddle…well, other than that rainstorm yesterday…
But I wanted to paddle only around high tide, making an “escape” always likely for the very stormy moments. I was planning to paddle from one river mouth to the next, deciding each time to continue or not.
I was camping in a windy spot, my tent was quite shaking all morning, and when I took it down I had to watch out! But walking down the beach and loading my boat it was quite protected – so was the paddle around high tide with westerly offshore winds.
I was launching 3 hrs before high tide, conveniently just when the tide hit the steep gravel beach. Not that I was keen on dragging my boat out again even one meter on the sandy flat…actually, dragged it just on to the sand flat, sat in it and waited for the last minutes nicely as the water was floating me up! No dragging for me any more – I thought for today!
The shelter of the steep cliffs worked quite all right, the paddle was reasonably fast, though rising tide means against the tide. I was watching the sky for any upcoming bad weather all the time, even behind me, but there were only nice clouds – so far! The high cliffs seem to create their own weather pattern paddling so close, when there were some gusts, they came nicely from behind – so far…
Around midday, when the tide was high and started to receed, the weather seemed to create some rain squalls off shore, and it didn’t take that long the dark clouds to come up to me! It was not really as black as yesterday, but still – ok, I thought, perfect match here’s just a nice small river mouth, even with a small triangle tin shack, a welcome shelter to wait out the bad weather.
Which I did – at least for 10 min. Longer I couldn’t sit in that not too exclusive hut :-), though wind sheltered. I rather went for a walk up the hill, and had to cross a nicely green looking field – but I soon realized why those five old tires were lying there…it was soaking wet! This was the real river mouth, growing nice grass on the winter’s wetness.
I could not really see much weather improvement, but at least it was not as horribly black as yesterday, the gusts seemed not to whip up the water much, it was still calm.
I decided to paddle at least to the river mouth I was planning to go, 3,5 km along. This was going quite easy, the occasional gusts I took as a nice practice, as the landing besides me was sandy and not violent breaking at all. So no worries!
That next river mouth was a very inviting place, with two tin shacks, but I was calculating if I could reach that last river mouth about 3 hours after high tide which I marked – another 12 km down the coast – then I’d not have to drag my kayak across the sand flat. On the other two beaches the water went off the steep gravel around that time, so it must be there the same! I could see the new low entrance in the cliffs already! A short hop, and then I’d call it a day!
I kept on paddling, all easy “escape” beaches to my side, the only problem would be to find a camp spot between the last and the next river mouth. There were a few marginal places, but any weather getting worse than this couldn’t go on forever!
Well, it got worse…the gusts were heavier and more frequent, though changing amazingly direction all the time. Sometime it was even nicely following! But they seemed to decide eventually on one direction – head wind, for sure, and it kept on blowing and blowing…if the out going tide wouldn’t help dragging me along, I’d not still have made 6-7 km/h, and even more! So what about a few gusts…I could handle them!
But paddling eventually got a pain in the ass, though I was still making progress, but slower, maybe 4-5 km/h. The river mouth didn’t seem to come closer…though my estimated arrival time stayed shortly after 4 pm, barely a bit more than 3 hrs after high tide.
Eventually, I decided to rather “walk” the last 4 km than to paddle in those winds! Getting really on to dry land was proving already tough, now paddling directly into the wind, and I have never seen such small surf waves getting blown off by the wind so much – each one was a shower itself! But eventually I got out of my boat and dragged my baby for about two km in the shallow ever receding water along.
I noticed a new shape in the coast line…the steep 30 degrees gravel beach was gone, it was rather a very long sand and gravel sloping beach now, and no rocky reefs as I was guessing according to my charts on my GPS.
But this meant as well that at my arrival time, the water was already out on this wider even more shallow sandy flat, and much earlier than on the last beaches which still had a reasonably steep gravel part at the end, so no I would be dragging again – FUCK!
These would be really the beaches where I could use my trolley…it is stored in Buenos Aires, but I had not thought about asking for it in time or that I’d need it…
Walking was interrupted by a small rocky reef I had to paddle around, so back in the boat again for a km, which was really hell paddling in that wind! Again nearing the spot where I could get out was tough as hell, but eventually I was close to my planned landing, but unfortunately still about 500 m out and 300 m diagonal.
But I decided to work from there, as thas was also the spot where the water came as much close as still possible.
So unloading as usual, while the water was still going out.
I was walking with my first gear bag and fresh water load in heavy head winds to the beach, really fighting one step after the other!
I found an almost nicely sheltered camp spot in the corner of the end of the down sloping cliffs, where an about 1 km open flat area started. I decided to put up tent first, to have a “home” to come back to after the two more tough walks!
I found enough heavy rocks for the poles, and felt safe my tent won’t be flying away while I was walking out!
On the way back to my kayak I thought I better take a large sand peg to secure my boat when I unloaded it! I’ve seen empty kayaks rolling across open beaches in heavy wind! And this *was* heavy off shore wind! But I was already half way out, and it won’t be that bad…and yesterday it was holding up as well…and the sand is sticky…and I could take the boat first and leave a pile of the last two bags out there…and what ever excuses I found not to walk back.
I decided to unload even the day hatch today, to have it a bit easier dragging the boat over wet sand here only. Two more gear bags got filled, and for some reason I decided to take the bags first. My kayak was pointing the bow into the wind, and it felt quite sticky on the wet sand…and it was probably just now a bit less wind…and…and..I walked off with the two bags! Still turning around a few times if my baby was fine out there…
Didn’t I yesterday already have the vision my kayak would have been gone while I was walking to the beach? Yesterday I just couldn’t spot it so far out against the white breakers…
Today – I turned around for maybe the fifth time, and my vision came true – MY BABY WAS ROLLING OVER THE SANDY FLAT, RIGHT TOWARD THE WATER! OH MY GOD! Why did I leave it like that? The wind was strong I barely could walk against it, I was thinking about NOT doing it, taking the kayak first or staking it down with a peg I didn’t bring…and there it was – simply flying away!
Not one turn, or two, no, continuously it was rolling over the wet sand toward the sea!!! HORRIBLE! I dropped my gear bags as fast as possible, a flash thought came about dry bags rolling out of my gear bags, but I must have dropped them so well or they were simply not catching the wind so easily – they at least stayed.
But my baby didn’t – I could barely run as fast it was rolling! I probably never have run that fast! I had to catch up about 100 m I had already walked away, before it started rolling, not easy! I saw it already reaching the water’s edge, and if it got afloat, I was not sure about how fast it would be floating away…
Eventually, luckily, I was already shouting fully senseless in my panic loud for “HELP!” – it stopped rolling, just 20 m before the water, lying upside down…I kept on running, and just before I could reach it it rolled again with a horrible sound…but I eventually could catch it! THANK GOODNESS!
This was really the most surplus kayak accident I had created – why did not listen to my inner voice? Not that I now had to drag my kayak almost double the distance over the wet sandy flat…it did look amazingly all right out there after those probably 200 m of rolling! I didn’t dare to inspect it too closely by now, just wanted to get it in, and to pick my two bags!
My paddle was stored on the deck, secured as usual with two bungees, the spare paddle bag was strapped as usual on the back deck, plus my helmet was under it’s net – I thing the helmet was protecting it from the worst! The spray deck, PFD and sponge were loose in the cockpit and fell out early, as well as some fruit.
I collected them all on my way back, shocked that this was really all happening! Luckily my two gear bags hadn’t moved! Not sure what I’d have done then…if all dry bags had fallen out and rolled separately over the sand…even more horrible as I couldn’t have let go of the kayak any moment!
I still dragged my kayak close to the bags, even made a few knots in the handles and to tie them together that they’d 100% stay the time I needed to drag my boat up to my tent.
Yes, the tent…I was already now in my negative visions seeing it flying over the sand as well…but no, this one I really secured well with rocks. This I was already used to do!
I finally reached my tent with my kayak, still not taking my time for a closer inspection, as I needed to pick the bags.
The last walk was still a fight against the wind, I could barely walk straight, and could sometimes lean with the bags into the wind without falling over…
But eventually all was there, in my marginal sheltered cliff corner. I stripped my dry suit, but then, still in my fleece under wear, I had to give my baby a closer look…
The boat looked all right at first sight, but the damage list slowly got longer…the locking notch of the rudder fin broke off, as the rudder fin was pulled up, but the side impact on the pivoting stern piece when the rolling couldn’t be held by the locking notch. Ok, next and last spare fin to put in…
The tiny hatch of the rudder adjustment on the stern got a hole as well, but I could fix that or use a new hatch.
One rudder cable screw unscrewed, but this was an easy fix.
Both rear bulk heads got loose on most sides. Those two I hadn’t repaired and reinforced like the front bulk head, which held up nicely now. The other two would need the same treatment! I thought I could even paddle with those lose ones until Rio Gallegos to make a better fix there…
The old surface split, which was repaired as well as possible under the conditions, on the side got longer, but didn’t look too bad to fix.
But the next thing I spotted was a seam split on the left side for about 50 cm – and a real split! Not only on the surface, but fully apart. This will need some more attention! I rinsed the split with water, and I though through my repair options. I may have enough epoxy and fiber glass mat to fix it, but all here on the beach?
The weather outlook for the next two days was even more windy than today, Thursday a tad less, but still strong. So two or three days time to fix…
Next I was climbing the low beach behind my tent, and spotted luckily an estancia! This meant as well some kind of drivable access – well, at least up to the house! I saw a long fence, but no real tracks out here. But the ground looked good for a 4-wheel truck.
Just then my Buenos Aires contact Alejandro texted me on my sat phone if I’d need help with a Rio Gallegos contact? Oh yes, I could need help now… so much better driving me out to make a proper fix than trying it here on the windy beach the next two days!
Alejandro does his best to find people now who have a suitable car for that job! Thanks, Ale! You are a great friend! But it may take until tomorrow. I’m fine for the night! Just my baby is badly injured :-((( – and so unnecessarily!