Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Magnificent Seven

Finally, a bright sunny day for a paddle! We decided to make another try for Discovery Island.

We launched avoiding this angry-looking jellyfish.

It was a big group today: Louise, Tracey, Paula, Bernie, Dennis, Alison and myself. Seven of us on a magnificent day. To the south there was a off-shore fog bank that we wearily watched for a while, but it dissipated quickly and we had nothing but sunny skies.
We paddled towards the Chain Islands where we would turn and head towards Discovery Island. It was a flattish calm to begin with, but soon we were into some light chop,
Off We Go

One thing we discovered is that with a lot of paddlers we easily broke up into two groups: the Slow-Pokes and the Speed-Demons. And when the Speed-Demons stopped for a rest, they took off as soon as the Slow-Pokes caught up! Hey, Slow-Pokes need a break, too!
Oops. Someone forgot to tell Bernie that it was not bump-to-pass.
Bump to Pass

When we got to the Chains, the Speed-Demons burned on through, leaving little chance for me to take many pictures. But I did get a few.

Off in the distance, big freighters were passing. As we neared Discovery, a wake from one of these ships came roaring onto us. I could tell that there was danger because Bernie had turned out and was heading straight for it. I could see a large breaker rolling in and knew this could be fun.

And fun it was. By the time it reached us it was a series of long deep swells. I had my hands full keeping my boat straight but I decided to try and snap off a shot of Alison who was on my left. It's not a great shot -- I really wasn't aiming, just pointing and praying -- but you will notice Alison's head and paddle just disappearing behind the wave's crest.

We put in at Discovery for some munchies.

This was Alison's first time to Discovery. Here's her hero shot.

We decided to go around Discovery and shoved off again. This guy wasn't sorry to see us go.

Tracy leads the way.

Dennis slips between some rocks.

We paddled down the passage between Discovery on the left and Chatham Island on the right.
Discovery Island

This guy was hanging out enjoying the day.

When we cleared the passage and began the return crossing towards the Chains Islands, we were into some unexpectedly bumpy water. When we got to the Chains, we saw that the current between the Chains and the small lighthouse was worse.
But we pressed on. We didn't have a choice really.
In the lee of the lighthouse, we saw that the final crossing was even worse: large breaking waves and fast currents. Lots of rough and confused water. Our comfort levels were being challenged. These currents were a real surprise and a puzzle -- the tide chart indicated a slow incoming tide, yet we were facing strong outflow currents! The good news was that the section we needed to cross was perhaps only a few hundred yards wide, but it was going to be an interesting few hundred yards! Then Bernie started cackling and headed off into the current. We knew from past experience that if Bernie was cackling, we were in trouble.
Rough Crossing
Paula and I were the last in line. As Bernie went by, laughing like the mad man he is, we entered the current. No pictures exist of the final crossing. My bow camera was swept off my deck (I did recover it), and my hands were too busy to take any pictures with my other cameras. Even though Paula and I were together when we entered the current, we were quickly separated, a sober fact to consider if someone had gone over -- how would anyone have gotten close enough to help?
It was rough, and my kayak was getting pushed around a little. I tried to keep it pointed into the waves but it didn't always work. At one point I rode up a wave broadside and it broke over my deck. That was A Moment.
We all got through. I was at the end of the line and did a quick head count - seven paddlers up.
But we weren't totally unscathed. Louise's stomach got the better of her after we got out of the really rough stuff and she blew her whistle. Our first whistle emergency. Paula, Alison and I hustled over. She was okay, just a little woozey, and she made it back to shore under her own power. Everyone beached safely.
So what happened? The biggest mistake we made today was that we were relying solely on the tide charts to forecast the currents. At the time of our return crossing, they indicated a slow incoming tide, almost slack. Had we consulted the current tables, we would have seen a forecast for exactly what we experienced -- a 2 and a half knot outflowing current. A strong outflow current on an incoming tide seems counter-intuitive, but the currents can play nasty tricks on paddlers on the West Coast. Because of the many islands in the straits, you can end up with a current exactly opposite from the tide tables would indicate. That's how the currents work around here. We forgot.
Thus endeth the lesson.

John's photos are here.

1 comment:

  1. Boy, when it came to running across that bit of exciting water on the way back, I just paid attention to the things I've learned over the last couple of years--don't head in at ninety degrees, instead try an enter at a much shallower angle and work your way across. Don't try and fight the current, just try to work your way across it--ignore most of the sideways motion. And have a plan before you go in. It worked beautifully. In fact I found myself with the waves quartering on my boat and realized that I hadn't really been paying attention to them doing so--I was compensating so naturally that I hadn't even had to think about it. I remember thinking "Gee, a year ago this would have been giving me the willies" or words to that effect. I think I paid more attention to surfing the big wake off Discovery than I did to the current/wind waves....