Date: April 3rd
Swell: Small E
Wind:NE 15 knots
Camp: Caspers place
It was yesterday afternoon when Jaime returned to camp with the latest weather forecast….. he says, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is the predicted swell is 1 meter and the winds will be coming from the NE at 15 knots in the morning.... perfect for getting to Napier in a day. The bad news is the wind speed is going to increase through the day to 25 knots with gusts of 35 knots and over the next 2 days the conditions are only going to get more challenging as the winds start to come from the S and SW with increasing swell.” We agree this is our window of opportunity, but we’ll reassess in the morning. In the meantime we start to gather our gear and prepare for an early morning departure….. with just under 30 nm to Napier we’ll want to break camp and get on the water with minimal delay.
It’s now 5:30 a.m. and I’m lying awake listening to the pulse of the ocean as it rises and breaks upon the beach. The sound is a dull roar and there are plenty of gaps between breaks. The wind…. just a slight movement of our tarp indicates a mild offshore breeze. These preliminary observations from the comfort of my warm sleeping bag tell me it’s looking good for our planned departure to Napier….. but still time for another half hour of glorious rest!
We rise just after 6:00 a.m. with nothing much said and go about the task of breaking camp and loading our kayaks. Our movements are crisp and there’s a feeling of determination in the air. The sea is calm and it’s hard to believe this is the same beach that was pounding with crushing surf when we arrived a few days earlier. It’s amazing how the face of the sea is constantly changing. I wonder what face is going to be shown during the course of our day..... wondering what challenges lay ahead once we leave the sanctuary of this beach.
The large breaking swells and dumping surf of Hawkes Bay haven’t been my friends. They have pushed my paddling skills past their limits and have shaken my confidence. I definitely want to make it to Napier today to avoid any more beach landings and the possibility of doing further damage to my kayak. The paddling distance to Napier is within our capabilities…… provided the weather cooperates. Either way I’ve prepared myself for a tough day of paddling. So, it is with both a sense of trepidation and determination that I find myself today…… thoughts of success and failure sharing the same stage.
I stand at the water edge looking out to sea and watch the sets of waves coming into shore. There are lull periods when the dumping waves on the shore minimize…… this is what I’m trying to time correctly. I watch and wait until the sea flattens out and then drag my kayak to the edge of the white foaming wash, jump into my kayak and with a few quick strokes I’m already out of the breaking zone. Definitely one of our easier entries, but the physiological importance of a smooth start to this day could not be ignored.
The conditions are perfect….. minimal swell with a slight NE breeze. Not wanting to leave anything to chance I focus on setting a reasonable pace and get some distance under our belts while the weather is cooperating. I’m feeling good though the ribs on my lower left side are still stiff and sore from my tumble in the surf the other day.
Steep hillsides and 200 foot cliffs, beaten back by the constant attack of the ocean rise sharply for long stretches along the coastline of Hawkes Bay. I capture this moment in time in my mind….. how privileged I am to be paddling along this beautiful coastline.
As the day progresses the winds pick up, but they continue to blow us towards Napier as forecasted. Though Jaime and I share the same goal we have spent most of the day in our own little worlds. It’s around 1:00 p.m. when we come together and Jaime points out the cliffs of Napier in the distance. Though distances can be deceptive and further than they appear, barring a dramatic change in the weather I’m now confident we will make it to Napier today. But with few close reference points to judge our progress our paddle to Napier seems painfully slow. As we get within an hour or two of Napier I see Jaime digging into his small lap-size dry bag and pull out his cell phone, and with the tremendous ease and efficiency I come to expect from Jaime he begins to organize everything for our arrival…… Casper will be picking us up and giving us a place to stay for a few days; cousin Ben will possibly store our kayaks and also give us a place to stay; Glyn…. Jaime’s father has been notified and will provide transport of the kayaks the next day to the manufacturer for repairs; Paddling Perfection has been notified of this plan; I think he also ordered a pizza….
Today was a monumental day. Despite the challenges of a broken paddle, emergency evacuation, hospitalization and a damaged kayak we completed this leg of the journey in style in the true sense of an expedition….. with grit, determination, ingenuity, and pride. I will, however, be leaving the journey here unfortunately, the trip has been amazing and I have achieved and learnt a lot, I long to continue but at the same time, I am pushing the line of safety for myself and Jaime. It is hard for me to decide this, though breaking the boat has cemented that it is the right choice for me. Jaime thankfully understands and agrees and will be repacking over the next few days to continue on solo, until then we enjoy Napier.
It is disappointing for me to be leaving Dave behind, though at the same time I worry about his safety in the bigger surf, Dave isn’t enjoying this much any more and I am happy that he has made a call on his safety and ability. I now face the change of pace and the sheading off false safety perceptions that companionship can bring. Alone on the sea, all things become exaggerated, or is it that there is nothing to distract you from the reality? - Jaime