The last weekend of June 2008 John Sindelar and I took a Dynamic Water Workshop with Ginni.
On Friday June 27 we focused on surf and swell practice on the Pacific side of Cape Disappointment State Park at Benson Beach. It was definitely the largest surf I had ever paddled in. My guess: 5 - 6 foot waves. Ginni... what was it actually? Turns out I'm not in good enough shape to paddle out through the surf many times so while John was surfing in and paddling back out I stayed out beyond the surf in the swell with Ginni and we worked on paddling skills in the swell. It was a nice 3 - 4 foot swell, which was perfect for me to practice edging, turning, paddling backwards, etc. When I did surf in, I felt pretty good. I managed to paddle backwards hard several times to allow waves to pass under my boat that I didn't want to surf. I surfed some smaller waves and had lots of fun. And I was thrilled that when I dumped my boat a couple times each time my roll worked! I didn't come out of my boat the entire day.
The wind really kicked up in the afternoon so after lunch we went over to Waikiki Beach in search of less wind to do a little rock gardening. But it was still pretty windy there -- appr 25 kt north wind. I went out a little, but not very far.
The wind for Saturday was also predicted to be strong: N 20 - 30 kt. So that evening we were all sitting in the Sea Hag bar in Ilwaco with charts spread across a table trying to figure out what kind of trip we could do on Saturday to give us good "learning" situations but still be survivable. That was the trip planning part of the class. We studied the charts, checked the tide and weather predictions, detailed the hazards, and compared what we wanted to work on with what was doable. We decided that we'd do a journey, paddling from Ilwaco across the mouth of the Columbia River to Astoria. During the time we'd be paddling there would be a fair bit of current, but the wind from the NW would way more than overcome that. So the plan was we'd be surfing wind waves to Oregon. Way fun and great learning. As a backup we would leave a car in Warrenton at the Skipanon Marina in case we didn't want to paddle across the mouth of Youngs Bay all the way to Astoria.
So Saturday morning rolls around, we do a car shuttle to leave a car in Astoria and Warrenton and drive back to Ilwaco. During the drive we notice that it's not windy at all yet. Fine so far. Then we launch our kayaks at the boat launch in Cape Disappointment State Park (near downtown Ilwaco) and set out toward Oregon. Still no wind. That's ok. We got to the south end of Sand Island and started to feel the beginning of the ebb. Still no wind.
We were seeing all kinds of birds by now. Lots of pelicans, gulls, terns. Ginni gave us much detailed information on the terns.
Our plan was to have lunch at the marina in Hammond. We headed toward Buoy 21 to get there. We encountered more ebb current and still no wind at our backs. And the sun is baking down on us as we paddle against the current. For a couple hours. During this segment of our fun filled journey I was consistently falling behind. I hate to hold up a group. I was not happy. It was very difficult for me to maintain the paddling pace to keep up with the group. So it became clear that the key thing I need to work on now to be a better paddler is just to get in better shape. Ginni was very helpful with tips on forward stroke and we paddled in line so I could draft off the others.
We got to Buoy 21 and the beach on Clatsop Spit in Fort Stevens State Park looked very close. We decided to have lunch there instead of Hammond. We took a few photos and were off.
We made it across the Columbia and stopped on the beach at the NE tip of Clatsop Spit (nearest spot to Buoy 21) for lunch. As we got to the beach there were plenty of people in swimsuits enjoying the hot Saturday afternoon. John and I peeled the top of drysuits off our bodies to cool off a bit. Lunch was great.
Finally the wind picked up from the NW. And we were off again, heading SE toward Astoria with the wind at our backs and moving along nicely with very little effort. Finally we were cruising along at 4.5 kt :)
But the wind died down after about an hour and the rest of the trip was just paddling upstream. We stayed near the shore to be in minimal current and found a few eddies as well. I was getting pretty tired so we ended the trip at the Skipanon Marina.
We did a bit of car shuttle to get the boats back to Ilwaco, discussed the day, and I headed home. As I was driving across the bridge to Astoria I noticed a brisk west wind had developed.
Though I was pretty tired, it was a good paddle trip for me -- I'd never crossed the mouth of the Columbia via kayak before! Definitely an achievement.
Launch time: 10:00
At south end of Sand Island: 10:54
Lunch on shore: 12:45
Launch after lunch: 14:00
Off the water: 16:00
Distance: 11.4 nm
Avg speed: 2.3 kt
Max speed: 5.6 kt
Moving time: 5 hrs