Date: 25th April
Weather: Over cast with showers, cold
Swell: light SE
Wind:moderate NW to strong W to Light SE
Distance: 37 NM
Camp: Leona’s Place in Wellington
I awoke apprehensively and looked out the window on to the cook straight; small white caps where running from the north across the water and a cloud bank was building over the south island. It looks good to go at the moment, the North wind had dropped, the SE wind forecasted to come, I am just not sure what the frontal cloud bank will bring when it comes, though it feels right to give it a shot and race the coming storm to wellington.
I packed my gear, got into my paddling kit, ate breakfast with Ron and Kath: they ask me if I am sure I want to go today; I again state I am pretty confident the wind will shift in my favor and I should be able to get to wellington harbor easily if I am running with a strong wind. They ask me to call them on the VHF radio at 12pm to let them know how I am going, I promise I would.
The kayak is loaded back onto the trailer and we head of down to the beach. Final prep takes place, I hug Ron and Kath goodbye thanking them for their hospitality, and I push out into the flat calm bay and look out to see the white caps still running and the cloud front is now much closer: it is moving faster than I had hoped, though at the same time that is ok; as I can find out what it has in store for me sooner.
The North wind isn’t that bad I make reasonable head way with it across my bow, the cloud front bears down on me, the north wind drops and a westerly starts to pick up straight into my face. ‘oh shit, I hope this doesn’t last too long’ I hear myself say. Thankfully I haven’t started the big crossing of 18nm that is the mouth of Palliser bay. The wind increases to 25 knots, so if this is the wind for the day I can still pull out at the next point before I commit to the open water. I slog hard into the wind, the cloud front passes over me, it is pissing rain a couple of hundred meters behind me and also roughly 20 nm in front of me, though none where I am; An omen?
As I near the point, where I plan to pull out and wait for the west wind to go away, it goes away! I find myself paddling up to the edge of Palliser bay in dead calm winds, I take a deep breath; feeling that it is the time to commit, and I go. The water is slight, just a few choppy bits, the wind starts to come again, this time from the south and very light, it then swings SE; as I get right out into the bay, and starts to push me along gently. Three hours later it is blowing about 10knots right on my back and I have got half way across the bay; it is 12pm and so I hail Ron and Kath on the Vhf.
‘Go ahead Red Sea Bear’
‘Everything is A OK Kath, the wind is light and on my tail and I am making great headway, I feel I will make wellington easily by nightfall’
‘Good on yah, you made the right call on the weather, enjoy the rest of the paddle and let us no by phone when you make it to wellington’
‘Will do, this is Red Sea Bear Out on 06’
The rest of the day was a great paddle, moving really well, eating and peeing on the go, I calculated I should make downtown wellington about 5.30-6pm. Reaching the other side of Palliser bay it was nice to be near the shore again and see the lighthouses and beaches along yet another part of coast I had never seen. I was able to get cell phone coverage now, and sent a message to my friend Leona that I will be in down town wellington at about 5.30pm. She was excited and would be there.
I slogged on, my head a mix of emotions and unknowns. While on this trip I had nothing to worry about really, I had a place to stay, the food and water I needed and a very interesting journey to par take in; now it was coming to an end. Time was up, though the journey I wanted to cover; all the way to Stewart Island was not, I still wasn’t sure how I felt about ending now. I had 6 – 9 more days I could possibly squeeze out, though felt still I would be starting something more frustrating by reaching the south island and then just having to catch the ferry back again; plus the coming storm was due to rip up the seas for at least 4-5 days, so my time would not really be that much.
I kept paddling, my mind wandered to my family here in NZ and how it is important for me to spend time with them before I leave once again to North America and the life that still pulls me back there. ‘yes it is time to end’ I remember thinking; time to swallow my pride, except that even best laid plans don’t always work out the way you wanted and adventures are far more fickle than a lot of other things we plan. It has been awesome, I learnt a lot, experienced much and realized a dream; I am a better person for it.
Paddling into the entrance of wellington harbor it at 5pm I realize I won’t make it to the kayak dock at Fergs kayaks until 6pm, I let Leona know. No one will be there to see me in except Leona, it won’t be a media fan fare to feed my ego, it won’t be an epic first in kayak adventures, yet it will be the end of a great adventure for me and the people I have been able to share this experience with along the way and via my blog. I feel, and know, I have accomplished something remarkable for me, right now at this point in my life. New doorways in my reality are now open to me, this has been AWESOME.
I round the head lands into the port of wellington and see the Sky scrapers of the city; the water in the harbor is dead flat, sheltered from the wind. The interisland ferry (that services the north and south island transit route) comes past me with a honk (I was later to discover that Dave was probably on this ferry coming back from the south island; where he had been traveling since leaving the expedition; ironic), the lights where coming on in the city and the sun was gone, leaving a pleasant ethereal dusk. I see a lone surf ski paddler go past and then he rounds up on me and comes towards me with a smile.
‘It is you! I was worried about you since I saw you paddle off from Riversdale beach, wondering if you would ever make it!’ said the guy on the surf ski, as he pulled up next to me. It was the knee boarder I had met in the surf two days before the last big storm up the coast (about 10 days ago ), how ironic we just happen to be in the harbor the same day I come into finish, and thus close the chapter of wonder on my journey for this guy.
‘It was all good mate, had a blast!’
‘Good on yah and good effort, might see you round’
‘Yeah for sure bro, see yah’ and we paddled off from each other, I realized I never did ask his name but it was too late now; we were far from each other going opposite ways. The storm never came that day; I pulled into the floating dock at Fergs kayaks with just a little light left. Leona was there with camera and a beer for me. It was 6.30pm; I had been paddling 11 hours, I was smiling, I was sad, I was happy; I was successful at doing my best, and I needed to get changed.