|Posted by Tara Mulvany on January 5, 2014 at 7:15 PM|
On Saturday I went for a paddle. A 9 hour paddle. For 500m of gain.
The day began much the same as many other early morning departures. I checked the weather at 5.30am, and based on my predictions from the charts on metvuw.com, and the marine forecasts, I thought I had about a 7hour weather window. I was aiming for a boat ramp just past Cape Egmont, just under 30km away. With a south westerly swell and a slight north westerly wind, I was confident I'd make it to the cape before the strong winds picked up. It turns out I was wrong.
The sea was small and with only 5knots of northerly wind I was making good progress. I paddled hard and fast, and after about three hours I spotted the lighthouse in the distance marking the cape. The wind and the sea gradually began to build, but the swell was strong from the south west, pushing me north. I paddled on.
The cape inched closer. The minutes ticked by, and the swell continued to grow. About 1km from the cape with the conditions worsening - I now had about 20knots in my face, and a 4-5m swell under me, I made the difficult decision to turn around. At this point I'd paddled for about 6hours non stop. It was a powerful piece of water and gigantic breakers lined the coast for as far as I could see. Finding somewhere to run for land was out of the question. I was paddling about 3km offshore and the thought of moving any closer to the coast was not appealing at all.
Returning to Opunake was my only option.
Now that I was paddling into the giant swell it was slowing me down. But the wind continued to build and with about 30knots behind me I started to fly downwind. It was a wild ride and three hours later I slowly and cautiously made my way into Middletons Bay, just north of the beach where I had set off from. Giant breakers broke on reefs on either side so I paddled wide and aimed for the middle of the beach. I put my helmet on and paddled on the spot for about 15minutes before I made a break through two lines of surf.
After 9 hours on the water I was back to where I started. Land. Sweet sweet land. Ten minutes later my trusty Opunake support crew came and rescued me. So here I am, still in Opunake, still waiting for the right conditions for attempt two. But the good news is that south westerly winds ARE coming. And I have been very fortunate to have met the Weir family, who have taken me in like a lost child. They are hilarious, entertaining, and welcoming people, and I am so grateful for their generosity. I may never leave.
What have I taken from this past week and a bit? I have learnt that sometimes turning and running is the best option, no matter how close you are to your goal. That the sea is always the boss, and that waiting is not such a bad thing. It's about the journey, not the destination right?