Sun 04/12-2011 Day 97

Penguins allover...over 3 km, like this and more...

Pos: here
Loc: Punta Dungeness
Acc: tent
Dist: 47,5 km
Start: 8:15 End: 17:00

Sticking my head out of the tent when I woke at first light at 4 am showed me – absolutely nothing. It was as dense fog as you can imagine. I was barely able to see the breakers crashing on the beach on almost high tide, close to my tent site.

My tent was soaking wet, my sleeping bag covered with some dew as well. It was not a day you like to rise at 4 am and plan to do 80 km that day. It was not a day to rise at all – yet.

The sound of the rushing breakers told me the situation had not really improved compared to yesterday, the frequency was as close as it had been,and the height of the dumpers seemed not to be much less – for what I could see from my tent.

I turned around again and hoped for some sunshine or at least no fog in a few hours!

I looked out at 5.30 am – no difference. At 7 am I guessed now I had to go out and have a closer look at the dumper situation, the fog had lifted minimal that I could at least see the water line now properly.

I got dressed, and stood at the water’s edge for about 10 min, watching, and comparing it in my mind to yesterday. It was not really the calm sea I’d expected this morning, but it was better. The man-high dumpers were almost gone, only a rare single one sneaked in between. Each dumper seemed less violent. The lulls seemed to be lower. It may be possible now –  I needed to try!

But that fog…I first had breakfast inside my tent, then slowly got dressed and packed.     I thought yesterday there was a slightly better spot 100 m down the coast where the low cliffs fully retracted, and I took this tiny chance, though I probably imagined the improvements there…

The soaking wet tent was in the bag, all gear bags carried down to the spot to the side, and things were packed. In between I was always watching and watching again, and I still saw a chance!

I kind of prayed “You will make it on the first try this morning!” – donned sprayskirt, PFD and helmet, attached my rudder fin launching string, checked that the fin came out easy and dragged the kayak slowly but surely to the surge line.

The surge was so strong and going up so high on this beach here as the beach is actually a sandy beach, only covered with a thin layer of gravel. The water has not much chance to disappear down as on a real gravel beach, but washes high up. And the last 20 m were sand only, no gravel to slide my kayak on easier.

As soon as I reached the surge line, a big breaker came already and washed my kayak sideways, ripping it already out of my hands. Not a good start, I thought…turning it pointing downwards again, and watched the breakers…shoved it closer again, and eventually thought “now or never”!

But the only thing I got was a cockpit full of water from the next breaker…and seeing myself again hanging desperately on to the boat. The next one was again a FAT one, turning the kayak over. But I still hung on to it!

I thought I needed a different tactic now…as the kayak was flooded anyway, why dragging it on to the dry again, emptying it out and staring all over again…instead, I was aiming for the open sea, barely holding the kayak actually with the paddle which came out of it’s place on the front deck, with a bungee leash connected to it.

I started to swim for my life, kicking my legs strongly, the kayak on the paddle on the leash in tow…amazingly, though two FAT dumpers showering over me and ripping on my kayak, I was able to clear the dumper line! The outgoing tide must have dragged us out.

The boat was full of water, but I climbed on it as soon as I thought I was free of another breaking wave, and I straddled the cockpit, feeling relieved I was out! But adrenalin still pumped through my blood, I needed to empty the cockpit asap, and was happy for the help of my electrical pump! My helmet scooped out the most, and soon I could slip inr´to the cockpit with about 10 cm of water still left. I touched my rudder pedals – shit, all stuck behind there!

As I was still using fin with the shaved off locking notch, I could not only not pull the fin out, but it was stuck sideways as well! Means as I wanted to make more headway between us and the breaker zone, I couldn’t – I could paddle only left with the stuck rudder! This fucking small gravel…

I quickly checked the distance, and realized we were drifting offshore rather than on shore. So I had to make again a quick jump into the water to pull the fin out manually, and to move the pivoting stern a couple of times to get rid of most of the gravel. It seemed to work reasonably. Soon I was back in the boat, emptying my boots, wrenching my neoprene socks which I had over the Gore Tex dry suit socks for protection, and even felt I still had reasonably warm feet (for now…).

The rudder pedals seemed to be a bit tight still due to some remaining gravel, but good enough to keep me straight. I could paddle where I wanted to, got rid of my PFD and helmet, and started to relax…

I sponged out the rest of the water and shovelled out some hand full of gravel…and soon made good head way with the out going tide.

I texted to my blog I was doing well and made it out – didn’t want people to be worried.    Also I thought I had heard about a small Prefectura station at Punta Dungeness, and even saw a typical blue roofed house on Google Earth. They needed to know I was on my way!

But first I had to paddle about 38 km to Cabo Virgeness – through fully dense fog! I really hoped it would be lifting soon, it was the first time on this trip I had fog! And a THICK one…I paddled maybe 100 m off the breaker line to be on the safe side, and barely could make out the white foamy line…not to talk about knowing if there were high or low cliffs or just beach…nothing to see! Only very rarely I was allowed a quick half glimpse…and the fog sank again over the land…

I couldn’t say it was the most pleasant situation to paddle, actually it almost felt like a night paddle, no real vision…I already expected to get sea sick! Luckily not…

But I made good progress. The swell was still quite noticeably, but fortunately not breaking anywhere out there. But still – watch out!

Cabo Virgeness was approaching, and I thought I better give it a wide berth…as capes are, there is always some more movement in the swell, but on half tide now, all rocks on my chart seemed to be covered enough to not be a threat breaking unexpectedly. But still…watch out! PFD on, hooked to the boat…

The light house came in sight – literally! I could eventually see the high cliff! Gradually coming closer, I literally paddled out of a fog wall and into the light – and into the Magellan Strait with a nice beach with almost no swell any more and easy landing!

Just on the first low beach section behind the light house which was still on a high cliff, there were two fisher men with cars on their Sunday afternoon out – I expected them to notice me literally appearing out of a fog wall! But it seemed to be normal for them, a lonely kayaker, like a ghost rider passing by out of the nothing…I was so happy to be back in the light again, that I loudly sung the old rock song: “The ghost rider’s in the sky!” – and eventually, they waved back :-))

Penguins allover...over 3 km, like this and more...

The rest of the low beach was first spotted with a few more Sunday afternoon fisher men and their families, and then it was penguin beach! For about 3 km – thousands of penguins! It was 4 pm, already time for them to be back from out fishing, plus it looked like the chicks were just about to hop into the water for the first time the next days! This is really the largest penguin colony I can imagine, endless!

Unfortunately, the easy landing right after the cape was gradually disappearing toward a rolling low, late trashy and splashy dumper…different to the one this morning, but still becoming more and more ugly…

I was aiming for the house with the blue roof which I thought must be the Prefectura house, strange it was located inside a small oil factory site, with a high chimney burning some gas into the sky…

Penguins allover...over 3 km, like this and more...

The penguin beach just finished, and I decided to land just across from the blue roof house. It must be another km to the lighthouse at the end of Argentina and to the border to Chile!

A huge boat was anchoring where the penguin beach started, it looked like they watched over every possible boat movement going into the Magellan Strait – I wonder if they have noticed me?

I dragged every thing up high and dry, and expecting some Prefectura people showing up soon. No one came, and I decided to walk up to the house. But I could only talk to a young oil worker telling me this is no Prefectura house as I thought, just oil business! Well…then my information was wrong! No idea if there was a Prefectura at all here then, and honestly, I could live on the beach as usual without.

I didn’t really chose the most idyllic beach spot to probably be stuck for the next three or even more days here, as the long term forecast doesn’t allow for reasonable weather to cross the 32 km of the Magellan Strait. But no way to launch again…back wards there were 1000ds of penguins, forward after about a km or two would be Chile…I’ll check out my option tomorrow walking.

For now I’m warm and dry in my tent across the oil factory site making some machine noise, probably all night 🙁 Earplugs will be in demand. But I’m close to the penguins which I’d like to pay a land visit to tomorrow! And I’ll check out the light house, and maybe walk over to Chile??

I’m feeling a bit sorry I didn’t make it across, now I have to wait out the new ugly weather spell, but who knows what it is good for…I have enough food, and water I should be able to refill with the oil guys, I guess. I actually dumped 8 liters on that unsuccessful try to launch yesterday, thinking I urgently needed a more lightweight boat, and knowing I’d meet people here…a calculated risk!

There must be a heliport close by, as the oil platforms out there in the strait I could easily make out, must be served by the helicopters!  Different than Horatio’s helicopter visit…so it’s quite noisy here!

See what tomorrow will bring…at least 15-25 kn west and wsw wind…not what I’ll need to cross…but maybe it changes over night?

5 comments on “Sun 04/12-2011 Day 97

Great writing Freya. The launch sounds like a real challenge, no wonder you had the adrenaline rush happening. Paddling through the fog must have been quite a stress, hoping it would lift so you could find a place to land. Congratulations on making it to the Magellan Strait, big achievement. Hope the weather improves for the crossing soon.

Meike Michalik

Freya , du hast es mal wieder geschafft. Toll. 🙂
Wünsche dir auf der chilenischen Seite genauso viele , nette und hilfsbereite Leute. Grüsse mir meine Heimat des Herzens. Patagonien geht in Chile weiter, sieht nur ganz anders aus, ist aber wunderschön. Der Claudio gratuliert dir, du hast die patagonische Küste in Rekordzeit geschafft. Er wünscht dir ruhige Winde für die Kreuzung.

Freya ich hoffe, dass das Wetter schnell besser wird.
kærlige hilsener, liebe Grüsse, saludos carinosos


Glückwunsch zum Abschluss Patagoniens! Die Grenzlinie zu Chile ist direkt hinter dem Leuchtturm. Enjoy your walk to the next country!

¡Felicitaciones Freya!. Completaste la costa continental patagónica en tiempo récord. Saludos y deseos de vientos tranquilos para el cruce del estrecho.

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