It was another rainy morning on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We set off into the drizzle with another 30km day ahead of us. It was much choppier than I expected, our weather had told us light winds and 1.5m swell. As we paddled on the conditions were becoming worse, this unnerved me, how much worse was it going to get?
Ngaio had a wave crash over her boat and pull everything out from the bungees, including our marine radio and our only phone! (She managed to retrieve them). It was about 15 knots by midday, I knew I needed to find a place for us to land. The tricky thing about that was, we were now on a very straight section of coast, there aren’t lots of safe coves for us to hide from the weather. The beaches here are steep and unforgiving.
Ngaio and I had gone over the map with a fine tooth comb, planning each day of paddling in regards to where we could safely land, depending on the weather.
But as usual the weather does what it wants, regardless of what was forecast, so we were left with three options;
1) turn back and paddle to where we had camped the previous night.
2) Paddle on and hope the weather didn’t get any worse and hope that we would be able to land once we arrived at the planned camp spot (17km away).
3) land at the beach in front of us, which had very large waves.
I truly did not know what to do. We couldn’t keep going, it wasn’t safe, we didn’t know what the weather was going to do and there was no guarantee we would be able to land if we did make it there. Neither of us wanted to turn back, we had put in three hours of tough paddling and it would be hard going back with those conditions on our backs.
The waves heading into the beach where we could land were big, and breaking very far out. I could see a calmer part of the beach, maybe where a rip was. I decided that was our safest option. Worst case scenario is one or both of us falls out and gets wet and cold. Ngaio was freaked, I found out later the worst part for her was thinking that I didn’t know what to do.
We started to edge our way forward, Ngaios eyes were set on the shore while I was checking the waves behind us. I called out when to paddle forward, when to stop paddling and when to back paddle. I felt terrible having Ngaio in this situation, I should have known to check the weather again, I felt responsible. The waves were unpredictable and hard to read. I had to get Ngaio to back paddle over some big waves, I could see her getting tired but I didn’t want to rush and get my timing wrong. A wave came in behind us that we couldn’t avoid, I told Ngaio to lean in and brace her paddle, which she did, phew! We paddled hard for the shore and pulled up into a steep stony beach. I was so relieved we had made it without a hiccup. We both were!
It had been such a challenging day, we were 17km away from where we were supposed to be but that didn’t matter. We were both soaking wet and cold so we quickly unpacked the boats and found a sheltered spot for the tent. We spent the afternoon checking up on the weather and replanning our next few camp spots. Hopefully today was the last of its kind!
Image via Satellite phone