|Posted by Tara Mulvany on December 27, 2013 at 10:15 PM|
So things didn't go quite as smoothly as I had hoped since Wanganui.. But I have finally made it to Patea!
Yesterday morning I woke at 5am and checked the updated forecast - 20 knots of South easterly winds and a 2m easing SW swell. Perfect. I pulled down my yellow nylon home, packed my boat and paddled downstream with the outgoing tide towards the sea. All was going to plan until I reached the river mouth. It was breaking right across but didn't look to bad. So I zipped up my jacket and charged it, soon making it through the worst of the surf. This was when I discovered that the sea was much rougher than I had anticipated, but I was past the point of no return. There was no way I would have been able to paddle back into the river mouth.
I had only two options at this point - either to chance a run through a huge line up of surf onto the beach past the river, or to go for it. My dad use do say to me when I was a kid, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." I threw a chocolate bar into my mouth and got going. The swell was steep and surging, but I felt calm and comfortable. It reminded me of rough days on the Fiordland coast, apart from there were no birds. The best part about paddling in storms down South is that's when the albatross and mollymawks come out to play. But on this day I was alone. I'm quite glad there weren't any old men in boats out there, because if there had been I'm 99% sure they would have called me a bloody idiot. And I would have had to agree.
The wind was a consistent 30 knots of southerly - very different to the south easterly winds I had been expecting. The sea was alive. Waves broke, and I paddled into them, no real drama, apart from the tragic loss if a banana and a drink bottle filled with juice. But with the conditions quickly deteriorating I made the call to crash land after only 2hrs and 17km of paddling. It happened rather quickly, and although the sea was in a pretty wild state, I felt in control. In a brief moment I grabbed my helmet from behind me and put it on. Then I very quickly opened my deck and pulled my footpegs lines in closer. Next, I flicked up my rudder, locked it down, and charged towards shore. I kept glancing over my shoulder, letting the bigger waves roll under me and surfing the broken ones. By surfing I mean very ungraceful sideways bouncing with my face totally submerged in water.
It was all good, the surf was spitting me towards land fast, then bam, upside down! I rolled up and kept paddling fast, fully expecting another capsize. Then a minute later I hit land. Sweet sweet land. It was a world of contrast - deep black sand, bleached white driftwood and toi tois whipping in the wind. I spent the afternoon just watching the ocean. It was powerful, dramatic and foaming for as far as I could see.
With the wind howling I walked along the beach, letting the surf wash the black sand from my feet. Then I saw it, my drink bottle! Best beach find ever!! It had surfed its way in through 2km of breakers without me. Gutted there was no banana washed up from the sea gods. Maybe bananas don't float?
This morning the sea was back to its more subdued state. But it still took me about 15minutes to clear the surf, before I was able to relax. The wind was gentle, blowing me along and the swell was small and rolly, all very uninspiring under an overcast sky. After 5 hours of paddling I made my way into the Patea River mouth, sneaking in close to the concrete breakwaters under the lineup of staring fishermen. It was still early in the day and I contemplated paddling for another 35km to Ohawe, but the friendly greeting I was given at the motor camp, the hot cappuccino and chocolate biscuits easily convinced me to stay. So here I am, in a tiny beachside town, a place where time stands still. I just met an old man who has lived here for 87 years. Glowing with happiness, it's easy to see why people are drawn to this oasis. In the distance, peaking above a band of thick cloud is the summit of Mt Taranaki. It's my first glimpse, and its awesome. Tomorrow to Opunake!