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September 13, 2007

Cape Caution


Day 67

Smith Sound (Redsand Beach) to Skull Cove

Cape Caution Crossing

20 Nautical Miles

Ugh! Our most difficult day yet. The alarm started beeping at 4:30am in the pitch dark. After spending several days weathered in by a SE gale, we wanted to get an early start if the weather proved good enough to tackle our most exposed section of paddling yet.

(Its worth noting that during our little weather induced rest day we were again visited by Donna and Barry on "Water Music". We were camped at Kelp Head at the time and wondering if we'd made the right decision by staying put for the day. They welcomed us aboard, fed us breakfast, and then took us for a short sail around the point to have a look at conditions. A large west swell and NE wind chop was turning the rocky coastline to a roiling wall of spray. We'd made the right decision. Later, back inside at anchor, Donna made up a delicious pasta salad and the first beer I'd had in over a week. Oh, its good to have patron saints like Donna and Barry. Thanks for looking out for us!!)

We listened intently to the radio weather forecast. The gale had blown itself out, but there was still a low pressure system lurking offshore and spinning crap off at the BC coast. Winds were forecast to be light in the morning, rising in the afternoon. But the outlook for tomorrow was for strong SE winds, not an improvement. Current conditions at 4:30am at Egg Island Lighthouse, just north of the Cape, were winds NE 7 kts, 1 foot chop, low west swell. Offshore the West Sea Otter Buoy was reading seas 1.4 meters, wind SE 12 kts. Good enough for us to go have a look.

By 7am we were paddling under leaden skies and oily calm seas. We passed out of Smith Sound and into the open Pacific coast to be greeted by rolling swells. The rocky shore and reefs off Hoop Bay were breaking, but by staying offshore Beck and I were able to just ride the rolling seas. Sea lions were playing in the kelp beds and bobbing vertically out of the water to catcha glimpse of the strange humans paddling past. A parade of cruisers and gilnet boats were cruising south about a mile further out from our path. So far, so good.

At Neck Ness we encounter opposing current and are slowed to a crawl. Still making progress we inch our way to Cape Caution. Turning the corner is quite an experience, almost immediately the swell becomed confused, sloppy, and bumpy. A blast of chill air greets us and the neoprene gloves go on. Nature is calling as well, after several hours non-stop in the boats both Becky and I have to GO!! I use a pee bottle while Becky goes through some amazing acrobatics with the boats rafted together. Since we don't want to run the surf breaking on the few beaches on this stretch its the only way.

Around the Cape we're getting the full effect of the swell and the seas increase to monsters, nothing scary or dangerous, just huge and rolling. For me, it was the beginning of the suffering. Big 6' then 8' and finally 10' rollers under the boats. I've never before been seasick in a kayak before, but today was the day. Hammering headache, wretched nausea and nothing to do but keep paddling the next 6 miles until we were around the corner. Down in the troughs of the waves everything disappeared, up on the crest we could see for miles. We both felt very small and insignificant and vulnerable out there.

Eventually, we turn the corner into protected waters and everything goes flat. 20 minutes later we're ashore and we're having a much needed stretch and pee.

7.5 hours of continuous, non-stop paddling got us around the cape with no landings and no drama besides the incredible scenery and a bout of seasickness. Not too bad, but we're both wasted at day's end. Time for a nice long sleep!

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