Wednesday, June 23, 2004

fiberglass transplant and cosmetic surgery

June 20, 2004 coastal trip

Location: Manzanita to Cape Falcon & back.
Characters: AJ, Jim, Geoff, Andrew, Ginni, client Chris
Forecast: SW swell 3’, wind W 5K to NW 10 K Tide low in morning

It was a gap I’d studied on several trips, but had never braved it. Swells pushed up against a sloping wall, making a swirling, sloping floor. A passageway turned right, followed the wall, entered a network of caves and rooms open to the sky, and came out at several more accessible places. When the swell receded, it poured over a rock ledge that guarded the entrance. As it began to recede, it made a thick waterfall, which rapidly diminished in volume, exposing the rock, then folded the water back on itself in front of the rock.

Patient observation revealed that there were moments of sufficient calm to paddle through with good timing. The swell was small, tide low, and I was feeling lucky. It appeared that out would be easier than in, so I went around and entered another opening. Jim followed. A set came through, and I calmly surfed a swell along the narrow passageway. At the gap, the water mellowed, and I cruised through on a pool-flat surface.

Jim followed, a moment too late. A swell surged him up towards the wall, and he hesitated for a moment before starting to paddle out. He started to get the waterfall, held his paddle up for the drop, and stalled at the bottom. Over he went, riding the incoming swell upside down back towards the wall.

His paddle came up for a roll, but the kayak was against the wall, and didn’t come up. He came out of the boat, a helmeted head beside a blue hull, and rode the waterfall back over the rock. AJ was closest, so gave Jim his bow and paddled backwards. It took only about 4 strokes to pull Jim and his boat out of the zone. I studied Jim’s face, which didn’t appear to have gotten banged up. We were all wearing helmets, but faces are still vulnerable. He said he was unhurt. AJ dumped the water out of Jim’s’ boat and helped him back in.

It was an exciting time, and the rest of the crew gathered around. Jim, in his irrepressible way, exclaimed, That was fun!

I took his word for it, once Jim was ready to go again, and went back at the gap to settle the score. I mistimed an entry, didn’t like the feel of it, and backed out quickly. In this environment, judgment is the better part of survival. A little more patience, and I cruised in on flat water. Turned around, and got set to exit again.

Perhaps it was impatience, or maybe I just wanted more excitement. A swell pushed in against the wall, and I paddled out onto it, turned, and committed myself to a ride over the falls. The turn took a stroke longer than I’d wanted it to on account of my hips for some reason not being as relaxed as usual and the boat not gracefully edging for the pivot. But committed I was, and I punched out a couple strokes for momentum. Over the drop I rode, bow disappearing into the foam below the rock. I braced on the right just to keep contact with the water. Then, Bam! Solid wooden hull came down on even more solid rock. That was all; momentum and a few more strokes carried me through, and everything was peachy.

I flipped over so Jim could assess damages, and he said all was fine, so onward we went. It turns out the hull was fine for the rest of the day, but it does need some time in boat hospital before the next trip. It may be time to graduate to a plastic boat for coastal adventures.

Here’s to fun rides and no rocks!
Ginni (the gap mentioned above is behind Steve in the second photo on the Shellback homepage)