Wed 05/02-2014 Day 587

P2040008.JPG
The massive swarm of catfish hunting together with the wide open mouth just on the surface of the muddy water

 

No campsite nowhere…

Loc: somewhere afloat on the water
Acc: paddling my kayak through the night
Start: 7:30 End: 00:00

This day is another boring paddling day in the shallows, after two not perfect nights I was tired and thankful for the possibility to throw my anchor here and there in the muddy not deep water for a small rest. It was windy, and around low tide I even had to stay for about 45 min behind a jutting out dry mud field until I gained enough water again to continue. The anchor is best piece of kit I have right now! Thanks to Pieter to sell it to me in Paramaribo! No great adventures today, just negotiating shallows and high naked mud fields with great boredom and the hope for a reasonable camp site at night. I was aiming once more at such a strange white spot around a river mouth, but after the “bird beach” experience last night I was thinking this will be similar and didn’t have much hope.

I spotted during the day as usual one or two fishing boats way out in the deeper water behind the edge of the mud field. Once it came closer to think about a camp site, I also came quite close to one of them. This was the first chance to ask for night asylum on such a boat… but did I want it? What if they were no good people, not to talk about the ever present pirates? And, more important, did *they* want to have me on the boat? And the language barrier… I was also still not sure if they’d be fishing at night or during the day. I passed the boat in good distance, not sure if they’d noticed me at all.

After paddling far out and around the last wide high sticking out mud field, my goal was a spot on the coast between two of those fields which looked from the distance like having trees and at this time of the tide even coastal access. I was paddling full of hope in a deep water channel about 2-3 km up to the coast, leaving the fishing boat far out. I later learned this was actually a small river channel. When I came closer around 5 pm, still maybe 500 m away from the forest edge, not able to spot if there would be access at all, I was stuck in shallow water. This indicated to me the forest won’t have a high and dry ledge (and river channel doesn’t always mean deep water here), so my destiny for this night would be to sit on the mud. I decided to call it a day here and there, threw my anchor and wanted to wait out the night. It was 5 30 pm.

My worst fear is to sit on the mud on full high tide, not knowing if the next morning high tide, usually about 20 cm lower, would be able to flood me again. So I promised myself only to run dry at least two hours well *after* high tide. Today it was an inconvenient high tide time around 9.30 pm, so if I’d be stopping now stuck dry, I’d still get flooded for a few hours before I could eventually sit fully dry on the mud for another few hours and maybe get some sleep then. Still a long time to wait, even with my e-book handy!! I should have taken along my paddle floats to be able to sleep stable still afloat like I did on my crossing lf of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia for 7 nights…I will try to get some kind of floats in Cayenne.

I had already changed into a dry fleece shirt which felt great as it became chilly being all wet even with my wind breaker on. Still there was no other option than to stay seated in the cockpit as long as it was possible to start to float. Sitting up dry for a few hours I could even change into a dry pant and to try to wrap myself into my rescue blanket and tarp on top of my sleeping pad on top of my kayak which is actually not too bad. Still all is a balance act not to fall into the mud or to dump anything in there. With two kayaks things would have been much easier and more stable!

I texted my position to Peter, and checked the weather which was moderate for the next day and not too good for Friday.Soon after that I decided to rather paddle through the night than to wait here long sleepless but safe hours… the crossing of the upcoming river mouth with many shallow spots would be much better on the upcoming high tide now anyway. The wind was relatively calm. This was as far as I could think. When I arrived then behind the river mouth, I’d be able to anchor again, and even to run dry to gain some sleep. Yes, if I’d be reaching shallow coast again…if I’d have known I may have stayed put for the dark night.

Also the sat image now shows in hindsight a wide river mouth entrance which I should be able to hit and to find some shelter? But I had not much hope for that in darkness, as my chart was very imprecise in this area.

Full of new energy after having eaten a bag of beef jerky I started into the downing night, not even thinking this could be a problem…

First I had to paddle straight back out again for a few km, almost hitting the two fishing boats again which were eventually lit. Still not sure if the noticed me.Twice I had to paddle right back with the wind or I’d have been stuck, despite the upcoming tide. I eventually realized the two boats were already moving east, and I thought I simply follow their path more or less, where they are must be high water. Correct, but at some point they were heading toward the shore, I still followed them for a while, thinking the river mouth with their shallows must have been crossed now and we were heading to the eastern headland according to my chart.
At some point they were so close, obviously looking for an anchorage now, that I decided to flash my light to make myself visible. One of the boats obviously had spotted me, came also closer, wondering what I would be. This was my second chance to get asylum on the boat, as they were in calling distance.

But again I thought I didn’t want to take them up, I rather be independent by myself, and paddling through nights I have done so often. Not the most pleasant job, but in this shallow water and calm wind it can’t be too bad, the worst thing which could happen I’d be running dry now after high tide and have to wait out until next high tide in bright day light. Later I assumed they have actually led me and themselves into the big river mouth to find some calm anchoring shelter themselves for the night. But my bad chart showed us up front the eastern headland. Just keep on going in your direction, Freya, and you’d be fine all night and make your distance.

I left the boats, and am wondering what they were thinking about me being out there now, guessing what was about to happen. Or they couldn’t have believed I also came from the west heading east thinking I must have come from the other direction. Or whatever, at least they didn’t shout or came close to warn me. My problem.

I kept on paddling in the deep water, and soon noticed the swell was playing up on the regular open water 2-3 m. All ok, as long as it is not breaking…but it did very soon also. I was about an hour away from the boats and it was quite dark. The only very bright light in my direction was the halo of something which I assumed must have been the rocket launching station. I kept this one as my good guiding star in my upcoming fight with the breaking swell. Where to go? My assumption after the river mouth there must be also shallow muddy water as usual was probably incorrect with this noticeable swell. I didn’t dare to go in having the breakers behind me and then only to find the coastal water still breaking upfront some doubtful forest line in the darkness.

I had to face the enemy and to head straight out to find calmer unbroken water. This was the only option I had in darkness! Whoever has encountered breaking water in darkness knows how scary this can be. What may already be not pleasant but somehow negotiable in light, in darkness it can throw you much easier. The moon was supposed to be out until midnight, but dark clouds showed not a single star and barely any moonlight lit the dark night. Still enough to see the dark water walls raising to my left and seeing them breaking white, plus hearing the dreaded crashing noise. At some point I couldn’t keep my direction any more but had to constantly head out to face the further out also rising waves rather than making distance. I simply had to survive those breakers and to maybe getting out of the broken area very soon!

The swell and breaking swell was rising and rising on my way further out, the frequency was fortunately low. Still, as I couldn’t react like in light early enough to speed up or to slow down to mostly avoid those single breakers, I simply had to face the upcoming dark walls vertically hoping I was early enough to paddle over the unbroken wave or having speed enough to paddle without being capsized in the braking foam. All only possible in darkness fully vertical to the danger zone. My goal was surely to stay upright by any means! I didn’t trust my usual great rolling skills at night, and bailing out here would be a catastrophe. I caught a bunch of really wet washes, all taken fully perpendicular, coming out of the foam with the paddle bracing to both sides at once to stay upright. Or I was jumping just about over the crest of a just about not broken high wave, crashing down with a scary bang of my poor kayak on the other side. All in almost full darkness.

I started to pray, and was talking to myself in desperation where to go. Out here! Further out! It must be the eastern headland of the river mouth creating these breaks and unbroken swell. Earlier, the only thing I could do was to pull my PLB out of my cockpit side bag and to attach it to my spray deck, something I really do only in an acute danger state. Sure I was hooked to my boat anyway. Still I was just here responsible for myself, and I doubt the fishing boats had any communication, not to talk about which boat would be able to pull me out in breaking surf in darkness in time before I drowned. I *had* to survive this area. I paddled full of concentration, knowing I could afford not a single second of being inattentive. My GPS only showed my general paddling direction and speed, the light halo my intended paddling direction.

18 comments on “Wed 05/02-2014 Day 587

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Randall Lackey

Geezz Gal. you have had one bad night. I can hardly even imagine all that was racing through your mind. I’ve had small taste of that on what I called bad swells on Mobile Bay going out to the Gulf of Mexico on my Alabama River trip and was nearly overwelmed there, and that was all in daylight. Paddling through those water mountains in total darkness must be the ultimate challenge.And you were up and ready for it all. Glad to read you didn’t trust that the boats you spotted were your safe-haven. They may have been, or not….Way to go.Carry on, Super Lady.Safe Paddling.

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