Let's Go!

My Photo
Palm Beach, NSW, Australia
"There are only three sports. Mountain climbing, bullfighting and motor racing - all the rest being games." So wrote Ernest Hemingway. With this clearly defined, The Gonz, dressed in his best, announced "Let's go!"

Reconnaissance

Day 130, Apr 6 2010
My planned departure had hit a snag. When I had made the decision to paddle up the Manukau Harbour and follow an ancient Maori portage route to the east coast, the swell forecast had promised me a respite that would provide an opportunity to paddle out from Piha Beach. From there I had hoped to paddle around the headland and cliffs to Karekere Beach, and its stretch of sand that led all the way back to the harbour mouth. Today that swell forecast had changed and any new opportunity might be days away.
The surfers were having enough trouble. A kayak had no chance and I had no desire to 'star' in an episode of 'Piha Rescue'.

I made my way down to the beach to assess the conditions with my own eyes. My fears were confirmed as I noted a solid swell. The day had drawn a number of people down to the beach and the Piha Rescue television series’ cameramen were on hand to capture any incidents. Worryingly they suggested that it might be weeks before I might find the conditions I was searching for and as I had no desire to become a subject for an upcoming episode I had no choice but to seek an alternative.
"Surf Control, Surf Control, this is Piha Lifegaurd tower. Some idiot on a kayak just got washed in, upside down onto the beach taking out every swimmer in its path. It's a catastrophe!"

Studying my maps I calculated that the trip Karekere from Piha by road was almost exactly ten kilometres. If I was going to tackle a stretch of sand of a similar distance, then surely a paved road of a similar distance to get there was not out of the question even if it would require a pre-dawn start if I was to get to Manukau at the turn of the tide.
The incredulous looks and comments I received from the locals when suggesting my new plan provided me with some cause for concern but I’d received the same looks when they’d first learned of my exploits in getting this far. A reconnaissance was needed.
I began the walk and it quickly became apparent that the road was both very narrow and very steep. For an hour-and-a-half I climbed the winding path that I’d hoped would offer me my way out. With very few opportunities to pull off to one side, the thought of sharing so many blind bends with cars in the dark worried me.
Lion Rock from altitude.

The ascent too was nothing short of extreme. The seven kilometres I covered to the Karekere Beach turn-off was a real test. I was not surprised when I noted that the path I was attempting to follow included a section of something called the Hillary Trail. Hauling a six metre, sixty kilo loaded kayak was completely out of the question.
I kid you, not!

I made my way back down the hill, stopping and crossing sides regularly to allow cars to pass. I needed a new plan and it came in the shape of a true blue Aussie V8 ute. I approached Corrie, an ocean surveyor, who had already been extremely helpful in sharing his knowledge of New Zealand’s oceans, and I soon had my ride.
I needed a new plan.

Kayaking With 'Legs'

Te Whau (Whau River)
Tomorrow, with the surf at Piha prohibting a beach departure, I will wheel my kayak, on a trolley purchased specifically for the task, along approximately 15km of beach to a point just inside Manukau Harbour. From here I launch the kayak at 10:20am being low tide, at which point the tide will begin to flow back in.
It is worthwhile noting that today I spoke with the Manukau Coastguard to discuss and confirm my plans. Whilst the claim that the waters here are the most dangerous in New Zealand might be up for debate, one undeniable fact is that the Manukau bar was responsible for the worst maritime disaster in New Zealand history when the British man-of-war HMS Orpheus* sank as she tried to enter Manukau Harbour on February 7, 1863. The tragedy cost the lives of 188 British sailors and marines out of a complement of 256.
* I have included a link with this entry for those interested in the history and reporting of the incident. Simply click on this entry's title to read the reporting of the incident in the press at the time.
I am looking forward to a quick but safe paddle to a spot called Green Bay where once again I will put the kayak on wheels. Here I will follow a route that in earlier times was utilised my the Maori for travel between the Manukau Harbour (on the Tasman west coast) and the Waitemata Harbour (on the Pacific east coast) . They paddled their canoes to Green Bay and then carried them over a short stretch of land before returning to the water and paddling down the Whau and the Avondale Streams. This is remembered in the name for Portage Road, which runs alongside the Avondale Stream and which I shall transport my own vessel to some arranged accommodation.
On Thursday I aim to re-enter water near Avondale Racecourse and then taking a course that will see me paddle beneath Auckland’s Harbour Bridge before skirting the CBD and from there it will be a short paddle back to Ferg’s Kayaks and the very spot I left over four months ago.

Like A Fairy Tern?

I am determined to return by my own actions, to the point where my journey began ...

A Maori chant for hauling a war canoe across land to another waterway.

Leader: Ka tangi te kiwi. (The kiwi cries.)
All : Kiwi! (Kiwi!)
Leader: Ka tangi te moho. (The takahe cries.)
All: Moho! (Moho!)
Leader : Ka tangi te tieke. (The saddleback cries.)
All: Tieke! (Tieke!)
Leader: He poho anake... (Nothing but guts...)
All : To tikoko, tikoko. (...to propel you forward.)
Leader: Haere i te ara. (Keep to the path.)
All: Tikoko. (Drive forward!)
Leader: Ko te taurua te rangi. (Pairing up is heavenly.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: Ko te hao-tane. (It's the man-catcher.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: Homai me kawe. (Give and take.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: Me kawe ki whea? (But where are we taking it to?)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: A - ki te take. (Ah! to the launching site.)
All: Take no Tu. (The launching site for war.)
Leader: E hau... (O wind...)
All: Toia. (Heave away.)
Leader: Hau riri. (Raging wind...)
All: Toia. (Haul away.)
Leader: Toia ake te take. (Pull towards the launching site.)
All: Take no Tu. (The launching site for war.)

A halt, and then a fresh start -

Leader: Koia Rimu, haere! (That's great, Rimu, come on!)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!
Leader: Totara haere. (Come on Totara.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: Pukatea haere. (Come on Pukatea.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: Homai te tu. (Give me strength.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: Homai te maro. (Give me determination.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: Kia whitikia. (To get there.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader: Taku takapu. (My belly.)
All: Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)

Leader: H - ihi, e !
All: Ha - ha, e !
Leader: Pi - pi, e !
All: Ta - ta, e !

Three long syllables denoting that a long and strong pull is to be made to overcome difficult ground.

Leader: Apitia. (Join up.)
All: Ha! (Ha!)
Leader: Apitia. (Join up.)
All: Ha! (Ha!)
Leader: Ko te here. (Bind together.)
All: Ha! (Ha!)
Leader: Ko te here. (Bind together.)
All: Ha! (Ha!)
Leader: Ko te timata. (It's beginning... (to really move now))
All: E-ko te tikoko pohue. (Ah! the shoveler of vines.)
Leader: E-ko te aitanga a mata. (Ah! the half-grown child.)
All: E-ko te aitanga a . (Ah! the child paddling with a te hoe-manuka! manuka stick!)

A halt, and then a fresh start -

Leader: Ko au, ko au. (It is I, It is I.)
All: Hi, aue. (Oh yeah!)
Leader: Mate ko te hanga. (The job is almost done.)
All: Hi, aue. (Oh yeah!)
Leader: Turuki, turuki. (Take the strain, take the strain.)
All: Paneke, paneke. (Heave forward, heave forward.)
Leader: Oioi te toki. (Brandish the hatchet.)
All : Kaua ea! (Don't let up!)
Leader : Takitakina. (It's been led here.)
All : Ia. (Yeah!)
Leader : He tikaokao. (Like a rooster.)
All : He tara'o. (Like a fairy tern.)
Leader : He parera. (Like a duck.)
All : Ke, ke, ke, ke. (Quack, quack, quack, quack.)
Leader : He parera. (Just like a duck.)
All : Ke, ke, ke, ke. (Quack, quack, quack, quack.)


Ps "Nothing but guts." I like but, "Like a Fairy tern." seems to lose something in the translation.

Stay tuned!

The GOnz

Mortality



Days 125-128, Apr 1-4 2010
The day following my crossing of the Manakau Harbour entrance saw me feeling extremely fragile and despondent. Shattered, broken even. Whilst this was in part contributed to by a particularly bad night’s sleep, when after the exertions of the previous day the body was crying out for nothing but complete rest, it had more to do with the fright I’d just experienced, as well as the culmination of events at Raglan, and before that Mokau, Marokopa and Patea all in quick succession.
I’d begun to feel like I was dodging bullets in a game of Russian roulette. Whilst this may be an analogy, the consequences of my own actions were potentially just as deadly and the avoidance of such consequences had more to do with luck and good fortune than any resources I possessed apart from possibly from some stamina* and an ability not to panic.
* Discovering reserves of stamina is not altogether extraordinary when you feel you may be in peril.
In many respects, whilst I was able to escape the clutches of Manakau’s flow, which I have now read is the largest of any harbour in the world, it was the most worrying moment of the whole trip. In some respects the fact that I could see the potential for danger ahead of me, but was still unable to escape its grip, contributed to the sense of dread that I experienced. Having time to think about it, worried that my energy levels would expire or that a wave would swamp me leaving me to the mercy of the rip I was fighting, was an ill feeling.
It was apparent to me, even at the time, that the situation had been largely brought on by a lack of understanding and respect. This could have been avoidable with better preparation and research. Unfortunately as the journey has progressed the experience has been getting tougher. Tougher for a number of reasons including the time I have been at it, now over four months, the cooler weather, and the more tempestuous sea conditions of the west coast. These in turn may have brought on a certain impatience on my part and this is a dangerous ingredient to add to the mix.
Whilst I spent most of my second day at Piha pouring over my maps and planning how I would approach the next 320km, the distance to Cape Reinga at the tip of New Zealand’s North Island, it became very apparent that it poses far more risk than anything I have yet encountered. Essentially just two extraordinarily long exposed beaches that are pounded relentlessly by large swells generated in the southern oceans. Swells that have helped build sand dunes of up to ninety metres high and an environment that has attracted little in the way of settlements, and therefore shelter and assistance for me should I require it.
I was still digesting this when the front page story of New Zealand Herald’s Sunday paper drew my attention. A 15yo boy had been swept away here at Piha just a week before my arrival, though his body has not yet been found. I noted the helicopters still searching for his body whilst I myself was still making my way in from the sea. The same story also reported on the drowning of an 18yo youth only on Friday. It occurred at Murawai Beach only 15km north of here, at a place that was to be my next scheduled stop.

The helicopter is hardly visible but may be seen as a small spot beneath the green shrubs towards the centre of the cliff face. It looks extremely small and insignificant against the mass of rock ... similar to how I am beginning to feel when out on the ocean.

As if these tragedies were not enough, a separate story told of an experienced New Zealand kayaker who had gone missing off the coast of Scotland after heading out for a paddle. The search has been called off after all attempts to locate him had failed, and he is presumed drowned.
Frightening.

I am keenly aware of my own mortality and have no desire to put myself in positions of serious risk despite what some may believe. As a result I have decided that after over four months and two thousand kilometres, to conclude my adventure. There will yet however be a twist to the story, which I will report on very shortly… so stay tuned!

Manic Manukau

Day 124, Mar 31 2010
Today, I would be left feeling badly shaken and very vulnerable, and yet the day had begun perfectly. I woke feeling strong. My lower back and hamstrings displayed none of the tightness or soreness often prevalent upon arising. The conditions were sublime, dreamlike even. The offshore breeze continued to diminish the swell but was lighter than the previous day when it had provided me with cause for concern. I farewelled Damon at 9:00am thinking that I might pull over someplace before Manukau Harbour and aim for Piha Beach, which was in excess of 50 kilometres away, the following day.
My brother, just visible on the viewing platform at Sunset Beach, as I departed.
Paddling exceptionally smooth seas I was once again able to stay relatively close to a coastline that wavered little in its straightness. For the initial part of the journey very tall and steep sandy slopes or cliffs converged with a long stretch of beach.

Jagged.

At one stage I came across half a dozen surfers, a group of friends, who had driven their 4WD vehicles to a location with a small but perfect wave breaking on its shores. I was envious of the fun the uncrowded wave promised but pushed on.

A small but perfect fun wave and they had it all to themselves.

The beach soon disappeared and I was thankful for the passive conditions. On a normal day this stretch of coastline would appear uninviting and certainly be unapproachable with a landing impossible. Today it was spectacular and beautiful.

Specatcular and beautiful.

I was making good and easy progress when I approached the Manakau Harbour entrance with its northern shore clearly visible. At 2:00pm, after five hours paddling, I had less than twenty kilometres to go. Apart from some minor flurries of wind that at times came from behind and sometimes, more frustratingly, from head on, conditions remained excellent.
A different view if the swell had been running.

With no obvious landing spots and such good conditions, the idea of pushing onwards to Piha, seemed the logical thing to do. The Harbour entrance offered no obvious signs of danger as I pointed towards the opposite side. Of course it was a perfect opportunity for the easterly breeze to direct its energies out towards the open sea but nothing so strong to be a concern.


As I angled away from the near coastline towards the far side...

As I angled away from the near coastline towards the far side I was already beginning to congratulate myself. I thought myself only hours away from a well earned rest but I soon noticed that I was being carried outwards and was having to change my bearing to compensate.
For the first time I noticed some surf way out to sea though even now I still thought it to be too far away to be of concern. This slowly but surely began to change however as I noted the waves drawing nearer and nearer. I realised that I was being swept outwards despite no obvious signs on the water surface.
I increased my efforts although my energy levels after over five hours were at a low. I hurriedly consumed an energy bar and ‘power’ gel (in essence caffeine), understanding that I was now being drawn out to sea towards another breaking bar. The difference between here and Raglan was that it was mid-afternoon and my energy levels were close to being depleted and yet at this point in time I was had no choice but to look for more.
I was worried, very worried. Scared is when you’re riding the Big Dipper at a fairground. It’s scary but there’s very little chance of anything actually going wrong. Frightened is when the waves are big and there is a risk that I’ll be dumped and thrown into the sea, but at worst, be washed up onto the beach, feeling sorry for oneself and having to pick up the pieces. Worry for me is not knowing what might happen, wondering if I might soon find myself in a situation that will require a call for help. It’s a feeling that sits in the depths of the stomach making you feel sick. It did however provide resources that I’d thought were depleted.
I was now right on the edge of the surging surf that had previously been so far away. The current itself was creating its own swell. As the quickly flowing water surged outwards over a shallow reef or bar, it undermined that swell, causing waves to literally fall over themselves. In a very short time the waves that had earlier appeared well off to my left were all around me.
I was aware that I was making some progress (northwards), but this was mixed with an even greater deal of ‘outwards’. A capsize here would ensure that it was all out to sea. The very surf that so worried me however also offered me an opportunity. As each swell approached I was able to use its energy to surf against the current. Alarmingly for me, when it disappeared I was quickly being drawn back out again. I was acutely aware that at some point I would have nothing left to give.
The process repeated itself numerous times until I began to notice that I was slowly making my way across the line of surf and swell that marked the bar. As I surfed each wave I was slowly but surely edging across towards the opposite edge of the danger zone and then the turbulent conditions were suddenly all lying to my right.
Fragile, broken, despondent...

In front of me the water was devoid of surf even if the mushrooming surface still indicated a strong flow. I was however now north of the harbour entrance although as I noted after a quick look at my GPS, 2 ½ kilometres out to sea. The breeze here was also more prevalent than it had been close to shore and I now had to tackle a 15 knot headwind as I attempted to make it back towards the safety of shore. I was not yet free of worry.

Slowly making my way back towards shore.

My motor was hurting and there was still a good current that threatened to carry me back again if I relaxed my efforts. It was not until 3:20pm that I felt like I’d escaped the clutches of that horrible encounter. I’d struggled for nearly an hour-and-a-half. I was tired and felt extremely fragile. It was slow going and at 4:25pm I still had over 4 ½ km to go. At 5:15pm my bow touched the sand of Piha Beach and a shaken Gonz climbed out of the kayak.

Relief.

The 57.4km covered in 8 ¼ hours felt more like 157. If it had not been for the relief I was feeling, I’m sure it would have felt more like 257!
I received some help from tree guys who were returning from a day of fishing. They kindly lifted my laden kayak up on top of their own boat after putting it on its trailer and delivered me to the campground where I would have to think very carefully about my future… or to be more accurate, whether I wanted one.

Help with the kayak would soon be at hand.

Offshore Winds


Everything was perfect, except for the unsettling offshore winds.

Day 123, Mar 30 2010
The very winds that had flattened the seas threatened to reach an unmanageable strength of 30 knots according to the forecast. Even staying close to shore in the lieu of the coast does not offer complete protection and can even be more difficult to manage in that they can be swirl in strong gusts and tend to be unpredictable. They tend to funnel down onto the water through the ravines that cut their way between the steep hills and cliffs and can be extremely unbalancing as they hit side-on.
It was not an easy decision because it was a sunny day and the seas were extremely flat with a very small swell for this part of the coast. I was possibly taking the easy way out but nor did I have any desire to be blown out to sea, back towards Australia.
Damon and I relocated to a small cabin closer to the beach known as Sunset Beach. It would be a simpler task to enable me to put to sea from this spot than the more distant campground.
Sam, a lifeguard from the Sunset Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, kindly collected the kayak from the campground with the use of a quad bike and trailer. We stored the kayak in the Club’s grounds overnight.

A Good News Story... Finally!


I was paddling past this extremely remote part of the coast and noted two tiny figures on the lower ledge that appears just left of centre on this image...


... one figure appears to the right of the picture, a fisherman, providing perspective.


How did they get down to this spot? A ladder! Try placing it against the first image for still more perspective. Above, and slightly to the right, of the guy in the picture above. Unbelievable!

Day 122, Mar 29 2010
It was getting more and more difficult to get up in the morning. The sun too seemed reluctant to rise. When I’d started my trip sunrise had been near 5:30am. Now it was after 7:30am and it was far cooler too. Some of the incidents I’d found myself in of late weren’t helping either.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm I began paddling at 8:45am. A brother, Damon, had arrived in New Zealand a couple of days earlier and we’d arranged to meet at Port Waikato which I hoped to reach… if I was successful in getting away from Raglan.
Here we go, again.

It was a clear morning with a rare easterly blowing. An easterly blows offshore, flattening the sea and swell and was therefore something I was thankful for. The tide was still coming in although it was not far from high. This meant a slower trip out to the entrance than it had been three days earlier when it had already turned and had swept me out so quickly.
The bar still ahead... ominous or inviting?

Conditions looked much improved and the channel that led away from the entrance was far more settled. I noted waves to the left and right of me but none directly ahead. It felt like slowing going, paddling against the current as I was, and it was not until 9:30am that I felt I’d passed the outer reaches of the bar and could begin tracking north up the coast.
Waves to the right and left, but certainly far more settled.
I’d initially had it in my head that Port Waikato would require a 60km paddle, so I was pleasantly surprised to note that it was nearer 50km when I checked my GPS. The coastline too was relatively straight, meaning that I could hug the shore - never more than a kilometre away - and avoid the worst of the winds that were blowing directly out to sea, neither helping nor hindering me.
I’d lost two caps in the vicinity of the bar at Raglan. One upon arriving, and a second, that had been purchased whilst at Raglan as a result of the first loss, on my previous and unsuccessful attempt to leave. So for the very first time I was paddling without cover on my head. I put on lots of zinc and sunscreen to compensate for this but could do nothing about the constant water thrown up by the paddles that landed on my head and ran down my face. Closer I suspect to the Chinese water torture than water-boarding (simulated drowning).
Raglan in fact had been unkind in more ways than one. I’d omitted to mention in my account at the time that I’d also ruined my phone. It had not appreciated the salt water I’d found inside its casing after our extended swim. Possibly worse however was that I’d also lost one of the cushions I’d put so much effort into having couriered to me from a rubber factory in Hamilton. I’d had high hopes that it would solve the problem of my aching backside.

The coast...
Fortunately, none of this proved a problem and from this point forward the paddle was mercifully uneventful. I watched the green hills and cliffs slip by, keeping a watchful eye on the lingering swell affected by the offshore breeze and marked by bright white plumes of spray as a result.
Certainly, I began to feel tired after the first four or five hours and this played a part in what direction I took when I rounded the final headland. I noted that the river mouth (the Waikato is New Zealand’s longest at 425km, and comes from the Maori and translates as ‘flowing water'), was a further few kilometres along the beach that had just presented itself. I also noted surf activity there so the decision as you can imagine was not a difficult one. I was on this occasion going to avoid the bar altogether!
I was already heading in, making for the more protected corner whilst having observed a number of surfers in the water, when one put both arms up in the air. I knew immediately that it was my brother. I knew now without any doubt that I’d picked the right spot to land. I had help at hand!
We greeted each other before I continued in towards the shore. For what it is worth I ‘surfed’ a wave in. It peeled left and my kayak went left and I never once felt like I was in trouble. Quite exciting and unexpected. Unfortunately such clean waves are few and far between.
With my brother’s assistance we loaded his car with my belongings whilst I began the “400 metre” walk to the campground wit the kayak on my shoulder. I stopped after covering at least that distance, standing on a street corner wondering which way next, and when my help might return when I noted a small navy blue tip-truck coming up the road with an empty tray.
I was still in the process of deciding whether I should flag it down when I noted the that the smiling face behind the wheel was none-other than my very resourceful brother! Transporting the kayak the still required kilometre was not now going to be a problem. Damon commented that I looked "lean".

It had taken 7 ¼ hours to paddle 50.8km. At approximately 1:30pm I passed 2,000 km on my journey. It had taken me fifty-three days to cover the first thousand whilst the second thousand had taken sixty-nine days.

Patience


Days 120 & 121, Mar 27 & 28 2010
The forecast was suggesting that the swell would drop off on Monday. I would spend the weekend in Raglan and wait for better conditions.
I took the opportunity to head out to the harbour entrance and climb a hill that provided an excellent vantage point.
I could clearly see the waves on the perimeter of the bar that had caused the problem. I could also see the channel that had carried me out.
It is worth noting that the weather report indicated a 2.5 metre swell on this day. It had been 4.0 metres for me with a fresh breeze.
I believe that when I capsized I was washed into the waves on the far side and these carried me in until they dissipated in the deeper water where I was ultimately able to climb in and surf back to shore.

Precarious

Day 119, Mar 26 2010

Before I began my preparations I sent a text message to Emma at the Raglan Chronicle regretting the fact that I’d missed her unexpected visit yesterday whilst stating that I was departing this morning. Speaking into my camera I was anything but enthused about the day ahead. It was another grey day that hinted at more rain. The fresh south-wester did nothing to perk me up even though it offered hope that Port Waikato, some 65km distant, might just be within reach.
Getting ready.

I had a chance meeting with Derek, a local resident who I’d come across climbing out of his kayak a couple of days earlier, just as I was climbing into my own kayak. He was on his bike and introduced me to his cycling partner on this dour morning, David. David it turned out was from the Chronicle. This association explained to me how the local newspaper had become aware of my presence. It was nearing 9:30am and with a potentially long day ahead of me I had just enough time to say goodbye, but not before brushing off their concerns regarding the conditions posed by the bar. I’d conducted a reconnaissance of the conditions from the beach the day before. My perception had been that despite the 4.0 metre swell showing up on the weather maps it was not overly apparent over the bar.
On the way.
The outgoing tide was in full flow and it was not long before I passed through the harbour entrance. I stuck to a deep channel that was about 40 metres wide carrying me out to sea being at a good rate. I was struck by how choppy it was here, but noting the surf either side of me, believed that this confirm my impressions from the day before.
Approaching the harbour entrance.
My confidence was soon eroded however when I noted previously unseen waves directly in my path with no obvious route to avoid them. It didn’t matter that I ceased paddling. The strong current had cut down the distance between me and the newly perceived threat in a devastatingly short amount of time and I was caught by surprise when a wave suddenly appeared in front of me where before there had been none.
I knew that I was in trouble as soon as I saw it. I was upside down again, and could only fumble for the handle that allowed me to extricate myself from the upturned kayak in the now turbulent waters. So unexpected had this turn of events been that the camera had still been on deck, and running at the time! It was my immediate thought when my head broke the surface.
I turned the kayak over and noted, not surprisingly, that it was no longer attached to the deck. I took hold of the safety line to which I hoped it was still attached and gathered it in. I was unsure as to what I would find on the end of it so it was with an enormous sense of relief that I discovered both the camera and mount still attached… and running!
I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw it.

I was very conscious of not letting the kayak be swept from my grip as had recently occurred to me on arriving at Marokopo. On this occasion I was a lot further out to sea and did not have the camera packed away. I also had the paddle to think of. It too was attached to the kayak by a line, but how well this would hold up to the forces applied to it, was a risk I preferred not to test.
About to hit.

I put one end of the paddle inside the flooded cockpit, took the camera’s strap between my teeth, and hugged and gripped the kayak’s cockpit rim with all my strength as wave after wave began battering us. With each wall of foam that hit, my grip on the kayak was threatened. I felt myself dragged through the water as each new wave attempted to tear the kayak from my grip.
I had no idea how long this would last. I was a long way from the shore and I wondered whether the current might still carry me out beyond the waves that continued to batter me. Worse still, might one cancel the other? Would the current carry me back out to the waves that had just pushed me in some way?
In trouble.

At one point in time, with a slight lull between waves, knowing that there was nought to do but ride it out, I actually turned the camera back on, although it was only for a short while as it took one hand away from the kayak and I could barely hold on with two. I took the very next opportunity to open one of the bulkheads and secure the camera in it before the next wave hit.

Worry, or is that fear?
I may not have been frightened, but I was worried. Very worried. I was in a situation that I was not sure I could escape from. Were there people watching me from the shore? The sight of me doing nothing but hanging onto the kayak half-a-kilometre from shore as wave after wave pounded me would no doubt raise concerns. From my perspective I simply held on in the hope that either the waves or the current would win out and thereby offer me an opportunity to take some steps of my own. It would not have surprised me in the slightest at this point if I’d heard the sound of a helicopter above me.
This wave passed me by... just.

I’m not sure how many waves I had to ride out. On at least half-a-dozen occasions I was forcibly dragged after the kayak, submerged in the wave, only stopping when that same wave gave up its hold on the half-submerged vessel. I finally sensed a change in the water. Was I back in the channel where the water was again deeper?
I had to get back to shore. I switched the water pump on, but each and every bit of chop simply washed over the hull topping up the flooded cockpit as quickly as it emptied. My only option was to climb into the craft that was extremely unstable in its flooded condition and secure the skirt to stop it refilling.
I’d managed to climb aboard and point the bow to the shore - it was still hundreds of metres away - when a swell rose behind me causing the kayak’s bow to dig deep and cause another capsize. I’d not had time to secure the skirt so it was no problem to quickly right the kayak and try again.
On this occasion I was able to secure the skirt whilst the pump continued to try to make an impression on the huge amount sharing the cockpit with me. I thought I was in for another repeat when another swell picked up the kayak and drove me down its face but on this occasion the kayak maintained its course with the bow pointing straight and true.
It was in fact the most exhilarating ride I’d ever had and not only because it was carrying me towards safety. For well over a hundred metres the kayak surfed towards the shore on a beautiful unbroken swell. I had never travelled so far, so quickly. I was no more than thirty metres from the shore when it finally dissipated.
I’d thought to myself that the trip might be over when I was out there, but now that I was back on the beach I was even more determined to finish. This was one of my very first thoughts. It was of course because of the relief that I was feeling, but I was in better spirits now than I had been whilst I was preparing to begin earlier in the morning.
I mopped up the final remnants of my drama from the cockpit and walked the kayak inside the mouth of the harbour. I could see from here just how strong the current was and there was no way I could have paddled against it.
Funny, but hugging the shore as I paddled back towards where I’d started from, I noted and enjoyed immensely the interesting and picturesque shoreline. I’ve no doubt that a river or lake would have been a far less taxing challenge. I’d say “next time”, however I’ve a feeling that my kayaking days won’t endure much past the completion of this journey.
Wow, much better!

Whose idea was it to tackle the ocean anyway?
When I finally stopped paddling I immediately ran up the street towards the offices of the Raglan Chronicle. I had a story to tell!

Note: I would note later using the camera that the time of the capsize was 9:58am. When I finally climbed back into the cockpit and turned on the camera it was 10:55am. By my estimation, allowing for the time between reaching the beach and then climbing back in, it took me nearly forty five minutes after the capsize to get back to the safety of the shore. An appraisal of the bar from a high vantage point a few days later suggested to me that the waves I'd encountered were nearly one kilometre from the shore.
Video of the incident (Raglan I, II, & III), can be accessed by the "CHECK THESE LINKS OUT!" component of the blogsite.

Raglan

Day 115-118, Mar 22-Mar 25 2010

Some blustery days with spots of rain but the kite surfers were loving it.


The harbour entrance.

Kayak History

Kayaks were originally developed by indigenous Arctic people, who used the boats to hunt on inland lakes, rivers and coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic, Bering Sea and North Pacific oceans. These first kayaks were constructed from stitched seal or other animal skins stretched over a wooden frame (made from driftwood, since many of their habitats were treeless). Kayaks are known to be at least 4,000 years old. Native builders designed and built their boats employing their experience in combination with orally–transmitted traditions.

Hang time! Twenty feet above the water?

The word "kayak" means "man's boat" or "hunter's boat", and native kayaks were a personal craft, each built by the man who used it (with assistance from his wife, who sewed the skins) closely fitting his size for maximum manoeuvrability. A special skin jacket, Tuilik, was then laced to the kayak, creating a waterproof seal. This enabled the eskimo roll to become the preferred method of regaining posture after turning upside down (kayakers consider "capsize" to refer to separation of paddler and vessel) especially as few Eskimos could swim; their waters are too cold for a swimmer to survive for long.
The shoreline near the entrance to the harbour.

The builder used found materials to create a kayak measured to his own body. For example: the length was typically three times the span of his outstretched arms. The width at the cockpit was the width of the builder's hips plus two fists (and sometimes less). The typical depth was his fist plus the outstretched thumb (hitch hiker). Thus typical dimensions were about 17 feet (5.2 m) long by 20–22 inches (51–56 cm) wide by 7 inches (18 cm) deep. This measurement system confounded early European explorers who tried to duplicate the kayak, because each kayak was a little different.
Getting ready.
Traditional kayaks encompass three types of boat: Baidarkas, from the Alaskan & Aleutian seas, the oldest design, whose rounded shape and numerous chines give them an almost Blimp-like appearance; West Greenland kayaks, with fewer chines and a more angular shape, with gunwales rising to a point at the bow and stern; and East Greenland kayaks that appear similar to the West Greenland style, but often fit more snugly to the paddler and possess a steeper angle between gunwale and stem which lend manoeuvrability.
Sail, kite, chute...?

Most of the Eskimo peoples from the Aleutian Islands eastward to Greenland relied on the kayak for hunting a variety of prey — primarily seals, though whales and caribou were important in some areas. Skin on frame kayaks are still being used for hunting by Inuit people in Greenland today. (source: Wikipedia)


My 'home' for the past few days.


I am hopeful that one of these will bring some relief to my butt!

Raglan’s Riches


366 paces, almost impossible to see the kayak I'd already carried out there.

...unless I use the zoom.

Day 114, Mar 21 2010
I’d have slept better but for the well-past middle-age Poms who were my tent neighbours. He, extremely unfit looking but wearing a Manchester United tracksuit, and she, a bottle-dyed red head who was thinning alarmingly on top, grunted and groaned their way through the night on what I must presume was one of those large blow up Coleman camping mattresses going by the sounds that it was contributing. Awful!
Having just commenced my journey.

My test continued because upon rising the tide was even further out than it had been yesterday. The difference today was that I was prepared for it. I did however wonder if this inland sea drained completely at low? Low in fact was at 8:00am so I had a couple of hours to prepare during which time I presumed there would be enough water to begin. As it was I had to carry the kayak 366 paces (yes, I counted), out to a spot I hoped would have water some time after the tide had reversed its run. This of course meant that once I started, I would once again be paddling against it.
I never strayed from the shore.

By the time I was ready to commence it was nearing 10:00am and the water was in fact lapping the hull. Fortunately too, by remaining within a few feet of the shore on my way out towards the harbour mouth, I avoided the worst of the incoming tidal flow. Approaching the sea the fishermen working the bar were good enough to wave me under their lines whilst I continued to hug the shore. So far, so good! I’d expected the worst but had encountered no real problems. It had taken fifty minutes to get to this point.
They kindly lifted their rods, allowing me to sneak under their lines and stay close to the shore away from the fierce current.
...in fact so close that I was almost on the beach!

From there it was an uneventful paddle for the next two hours as I targeted firstly Taranaki Point (1:00pm), and then Papanui Point (2:25pm). There had been very little wind and not much chop or swell, whilst the sun only made irregular appearances. The beach surrounding Kawhia’s harbour entrance had given way to steep cliffs and repeated headlands which became more and more impressive as I began to head east towards Raglan from Papanui Point.
Hard to see but a waterfall here.

The sun’s appearances were becoming more frequent and the coastline ever more striking. My only complaint was the ongoing discomfort being experienced by my seating arrangement… something that I have resolved to address or risk it destroying my mental state.
Spectacular cliffs.

I was soon paddling through waters made ‘famous’ by the iconic 1966 surf movie Endless Summer. On its day there is reputedly a long peeling left-hand wave that can stretch for as far as six hundred metres. I offer reputedly, because on this day there was nothing. Something that I and my kayak, with all due respect to the local surf crew, were extremely appreciative of.
With the surf being non-existent and the time having just passed 4:00pm I approached the harbour and where I observed the colourful spectacle of some twenty odd kite surfers dashing back and forth across the entrance.
Nothing tedious about this part of the coastline.

I snuck inside the entrance where I was provided with directions to the campground where I pulled up half an hour later. It was 4:40pm and I’d covered a distance of 43.21km.