Paddling Day 36-45
Danie Buys and Richard before the St Francis race
Paddle Day 36
Knysna to Plettenberg Bay 44km (3hrs 45min)
After a wonderful day in Knysna we were on the go again. Leaving the lagoon and heading out through the heads I was accompanied by Alastair and Judy in a double, Paul Dugmore and Trevor Niksch in singles. Thanks for the company. It is always appreciated. The wind had already started to puff from the SW which meant a downwind ? After going out of the heads and saying my farewells I turned left and paddled parallel to the coast. I kept within 1km to 1.5km of the shore for the rest of the leg.
I am not sure if I was still too close but it was a very bumpy ride with a swell coming from the front, a swell from the SW and their respective reflection waves off the cliffs. I started to make good progress slipping down some swells with peak speeds around 30km/hr. I increased my average speed to almost 11.5km/hr until reaching Robberg. After going around it and into the bay the wind and sea flattened out and I could have been paddling on a pond. I paddled in at central beach next to the Beacon Isle hotel.
A good friend Wayne Craig had made arrangement with the local NSRI and paddlers to come out to greet me but I mixed up my departure time and arrived almost and hour sooner than anticipated. Never the less it was great to see and chat to everyone at the beach a little while later.
After a quick shower at the NSRI base we were whisked off to Off the Hook restaurant for fabulous breakfast and two cappuccino’s. Caffeine fix sorted we followed Wayne to the local radio station, MC 90.3 FM, for an interview with Sue van der Gaast. I am starting to enjoy these radio chats. It’s a lot of fun.
Tonight we have been treated by Owen Johnston from Tamodi Lodge and Stables. What a stunning place!!! Will post some pictures to make you all very jealous ? Would love to chill out for a whole day here but we must march on!!
Tomorrows plan is to head towards Storms River mouth 53km.
Paddle Day 37
PLETTENBERG BAY TO STORMSRIVER 50km (5 hrs)
We had delicious pizza’s for supper on Wednesday evening which Wayne and Louise Craig bought to Tamodi lodge. Thursday was one of the mornings I really battled to get out of bed. The view, feather soft duvet and the luxurious surroundings at Tamodi lodge was not conducive to the 03h45 wakeup. I had breakfast in bed and eventually dragged my body out of there.
While setting up the electronics for my paddle, I tweaked something in my lower back, but decided to paddle anyway and see if I could “paddle through it”. I launched at Central beach at the usual 05h00 and set of with no wind or swell to speak of. For the first hour, I was the only person on that stretch of ocean to appreciate the stunning sunrise until the peace as shattered by the fishing boats! An hour and 45 minutes into my paddle, I was approaching Nature’s Valley and decided that I was in too much pain and I was getting out . I paddled for 5 minutes towards the beach while having a serous debate with myself and then decided to HTFU and push on to the end of the planned day, Storms River.
I passed a number of fishing boats, one with the gunwales full of punters holding fishing rods, looking very unhappy with no “stywe lyne” in sight and a few with green gills! I started moving closer to the coast as I wanted to see the Otter trail huts. The view of Bloukrans gouge and bridge from this end, was also spectacular. My speed over the ground started to improve and by the time I reached Storms river I was averaging 10km/h again. The last 5 km to Storms river was challenging and I had to dig deep. Paddling into Storms river was very special and there cannot be many people who have done that. Then while having a coffe on the deck a group of 20 tourists came paddling across the river!!! Oh well can’t have every moment to myself.
We battled to find accommodation and eventually Owen, the head park ranger, helped us out and provided us with a beautiful camp site. Robert, the very friendly manager of the shop also helped out by supplying us with some wood and ice. Storms river is packed to the rafters with tourists from all over the world.
Tomorrow is going to be another challenge as I am not sure my back is going to hold up and the wind may be hard in my face. I am paddling to Skuitbaai and unfortunately we have not managed to secure a spot to rest our heads for the night and I am not sure if Warren will be able to reach me as it is a private gated resort. He will have to sweet-talk the security.
Paddle Day 38
Storms River to Eersterivier 31km (3hr 30min)
Yeterday was a pleasant day at Storms River. We stayed at the campsite and I relaxed, giving my back a well deserved rest. I eventually had to dig into my pharmaceuticals for the first time in order to try to alleviate the pain. A little massage from Judy also helped. The wind picked up steadily during the day from the East which was not encouraging for the next day’s paddle, but the forecast indicated a small area of calm early in the morning before picking up again. While we were preparing for supper, I received a phone call from Richard Arderne informing me that Frans Loots happened to read my blog on facebook and offered us accommodation at Oubos, which is right next to Eesterivier. I am still amazed at the amount of compassion and kindness that people have shown me on this trip – total strangers to good friends.
This morning I woke to a still and calm morning. Because the park gate only opens at seven, I did not have to strike camp (left to Judy who slept in) and I was able to be on the water by 4:40. The first two hours of the paddle was a normal day at the office except for a slight head current due to last nights winds. I remained quite close to the coast and my back was behaving itself in the lumpy conditions. The last hour and a half was into an increasing headwind making my progress painfully slow. The houses at my destination just did not seem to get any closer, but as all things do, I eventually made it to the end. I was shown two exit options by my shore team, which now included our host, Franz Loots. I turned both options down and opted for a more sheltered point further up the coast. As I was getting closer to this point, I saw another surfski paddler, paddling out to meet me, only to be disappointed when he turned left and headed away from me. I almost overshot my exit point until my shore crew pointed this out to me and guided me behind the reef and safely to the beach. After getting changed and about to head off to our host’s house, I realised that the paddler I had seen, was Heinrich Schloms. His wife was a little concerned as she had lost sight of him, but awhile later he came into view and all was well again. Maybe I will be able to convince him to paddle to Oysterbay with me tomorrow if he can paddle at my slow pace.
For lunch we sneaked inland with our hostess, Tanya Loots, who kept us entertained with her infectious laugh and sense of humour. Tonight we will braai with the “Loots of Trouble” clan before setting out for Day 39 to Oysterbay.
Eersterivier to Oyster Bay 43km (4hrs 20min)
It was tough to leave the Loots family after such a lekker stay but I have to keep moving. Launching from the beach straight forward and the swells was small. The first section of the paddle I stayed very close to shore trying to find some favourable. When I got to the main bay that I cut across I paddled up to a chokka fishing boat. They were all fishing on the other side and as I paddled around the boat the got quite a fright. Some of them expressed their surprise with some colourful words. At least I had some fun!
In the middle of the bay I counted 35 boats all anchored in a group. They use massive light bulbs above the deck to attract the chokka. The holiday houses along the shore have to draw their curtains at night cause the light is so bright! The rest of the paddle was characterised by more boats and then some more.
Coming into Oyster Bay was straight forward (normally a big tricky surf line) with a well chosen exit point by Warren. We had been invited to camp on the lawn at the Oyster Bay beach lodge by the owners Nic and Stephanie. Being in season time the lodge was full hence the need to camp but not actually having a lawn we set up our tents on their balcony.
The lodge has the most a relaxing atmosphere ever which is just my style. We spent the rest of the day chilling and chatting to the other guests. Nic looked after our every need from the breakfast fry to dinner and even breakfast the next morning.
Paddle Day 40
Oyster Bay to St Francis 34km (3hrs 20min)
The paddlers from St Francis came to Oyster Bay to keep me company today. It was a later start than normal allowing time for everyone to drive here. There was no wind or swell to worry about so we paddled right along the shore passing the spot where our wonderful national power company is planning to build another nuclear power station. So sad!
In this bay a school of dolphins joined us on their way to St Francis Bay for what seems like their daily run (Have seen them do this for 3 days in a row now). Going around Cape St Francis light house, (the oldest light house in the country so I was told but Google gives title to the Green Point lighthouse) the NSRI came out to greet us. Thanks for the support. We popped into the main beach and picked up another bunch of paddlers swelling our number to almost twenty. We proceeded around Shark Point and along the shore and past the harbour At Bruce’s Beauties we caught a little wave or two for fun. It was around here that Etienne Buys, our host for the next few days, arrived in his ski boat. I quickly hopped on the boats wash for the rest of the way to the Krom River mouth. Paddling into St Francis canals is quite something with the impressive homes along the banks and then you see the devastation caused by the recent fire. A very very sad sight indeed! We got out at the St Francis “marina/slipway”.
The St Francis paddlers have certainly upped the anti in terms of welcoming me in. Thanks everyone and especially Richard Arderne for making the arrangements.
Paddle Day 41
St Francis to Sardinia Bay 63km (5hrs 43min)
Yesterday afternoon we went for drinks with Ralph Teulings and family in Cape St Francis. Ralph has just completed racing in the Cape Point Challenge and was now officially on holiday! Well so he thought. The weather forecasts for the following few days indicated that the 25th, would be a good day to get my next paddle in which was meant to be to Jeffreys Bay however I managed to twisted Ralphs rubber arm and he agreed join me. Now that I had company I suggested that instead of doing a short paddle lets do a big one and cross the bay in one go. It would mean that at some point we would be as far as 15km from land!!
So on Christmas morning (MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE) while the children were still dreaming of their presents we got on the water and paddled out of the Krom River and into the bay. The wind had already started to blow from the West and as the day progressed so did the winds strength. What a great downwind paddle.
It did get a little tricky at some stages with the wind swell running against the current creating steep waves. Every now and then I would get swamped by the breaking crest of a wave but all in all it was a great paddle. Even in these conditions I would not have been comfortable being on my own so far offshore. The two of us have paddle together for the past 12 years and know how to keep a eye on each other. Sometimes we would end up on the same wave and “Tulips” would curse out loud saying something about having the whole @#$* ocean to paddle on ? Getting “T” boned by your mate out here would not be cool!
Coming into Sardinia Bay I was a little apprehensive. The last time I paddled in here the surf was huge and today it looked equally tricky. I knew we had to go around a reef before turning to the beach but I did not know how much shelter the reef offered. I had tried to chat to Warren on the radio but he could not see us and the wind noise over his radio was to loud for me to hear what he was saying so my eyes on the beach were of now help. After rounding the reef it was immediately apparent that all was well and the surf was not going to be an issue.
My 2013 Dusi partner and brother in law, Kevin Goodspeed, will be pleased to hear that I have been doing some extra Dusi training. We had to carry our boats up and over a large sand dune to get to the Land Rover. Even though I had to stop and rest twice but I am still claiming it as training!!!
We got back to our host around 2pm and to our surprise they had waited for us to get home before starting their Christmas lunch. We have been so spoilt. They have taken us in as if we were family. A place at the table for each meal.- been fishing on the boat at sea, with great success- trip up the river and there were even Christmas gifts for us. We are staying in a little cottage next to the main house. Not sure I want to leave.
We then had Christmas dinner with Ralphs family which meant more lekker food. I am sure I ate for 10 people today. We played some fun games around opening of gifts. By the time we got home I was asleep on my feet.
Tomorrow I will take part in the annual paddle race around the canals. Hopefully I can create some more awareness from it. After that we will head to PE with the hope of paddling into PE on the 28th.
Come on Port Elizabeth:- Can you beat St Francis’s welcome!
27 December 2012
Today was a rest day… well not quite!
We stayed another day in St Francis in order to take part in the Rezco Investec St Francis Surfski 14km Challenge – Sporty Anderson Memorial paddle.
It was my honour to paddle doubles with our hosts son, Danie Buys, a very talented young paddler. I sat in the back and Danie steered his first race on the sea. You could see us from a long way away from my poor timing. Never the less I enjoyed this day of competitive paddling.
Well what a special day it ended up being for me. We managed to take the lead at the first mark and then kept it for the rest of the race. Clearly all due to the power house in the front seat and not the old fart in the back. At prize giving I was called up and presented with a cash donation from the event. A few of the winners also came over and gave their cash prize to me as well. How awesome is that!!
To round it off, our medals were presented by Joan Anderson, my cousin, who I now have just met for the first time.
What a great few days we have had in St Francis and a big thank you to all the friendly and helpful people we met.
We now moved on up the coast and will paddle from Sardinia Bay to Summer Strand tomorrow starting at 8am. Anyone joining me?
Paddle Day 42
Sardinia Bay to Summer Strand (PE) 28km (2hrs and change)
Gavin McNish and Kay van Oosten in a double and Rob Welsh in a single joined me today. On the water at 08h00. Getting out was no problem and we sneaked along the inside of the reef. The Westerly had not faded as predicted so were had a really pleasant downwind all the way to Cape Receife. At Cape Receife we met up with Richard Mangold, Luck McNish, Craig Seale, Fanta Gous and Brendon Bosh for the last leg to Summer Strand.
Rob and I had some fun sneaking inside the reef at the point and then we all surfed the waves down the coast. I managed to get some great video footage of this and the image attached is a screen shot of it.
Tomorrows plan is to cut across the bay to Sundays River.
Paddle Day 43
Summerstrand to Sundays River 34km (3hrs 20min)
Today’s paddle was straight forward. Head across the bay following the GPS heading. There was not a lot happening out in the middle of Nelson Mandela Bay. I did see some dolphins playing around St Croy Is. I passed two ship out on anchor waiting for their turn at Gouga harbour. On the MSC one the crew were busy chipping and painting high up on the stern. From their shouting and laughter I must have provided some light relief.
Coming ashore at the river mouth could have been tricky, especially as it was spring low tide when I got there, but by staying out of the fast flowing river mouth itself it worked out fine. The only problem was I had to portage the boat 400m to the Land Rover. Will put that down as Dusi training.
Tomorrow is a big day to Boknes. Seven hrs on the water.
Paddle Day 44
Sundays River to Cannon Rocks (Boknes) 69km (6hrs 30min)
Yesterday evening Warrens son, Paul, arrived at Sundays River from Johannesburg. He will be joining us for a few days to spend some time with his Dad.
We camped on the banks of the river and again our budget took another hit for a 6m x 6m patch of grass. It did however come with a bunch of fishermen/campers for neighbours who got louder and louder as the dop flowed. At 3am they did quieten down when the one guy found out one of the other guys tried to muscle in on his girlfriend etc…. I am sure it would have been amusing if I was not paddling the next day.
Today was the first paddling day that did not start with a cup of coffee. Maybe that was why I was a little grumpy! Leaving the river mouth was tricky and I had to take a few foamies on the chest before finding my gap in the waves.
This section of the coast line is all sand dunes. They have to be the most spectacular sand dunes in the whole country but unfortunately they don’t give a sense of progress as they all look the same. There is one spot just before Woody Cape, 41km into the day, where they turn into a 5km stretch of cliffs. These cliffs are both loved and hated by the paddlers competing in the PE to EL Surfski Challenge as you can see them from miles away and they never seem to get closer but when you pass them you know you are almost there.
The visibility was good and I could see Bird Island clearly. Just as I was heading around the northern point of the bay I came across my first real fin, a small hammerhead and then something a bit bigger heading away from me, or was that me heading the other way :-).
Coming into Cannon Rocks was quite tricky. The tide was low and the swell running at 2.7m but my spotters gave me the best line and we avoided any drama. Once ashore I was told that one of the trackers had not been working which seemed to cause a few followers a little consternation. I have to admit that I am absolutely bushed and a little stiff.
We have set up camp on Fred Cresswell’s lawn for tonight. Tomorrow the plan is Cannon Rocks to Port Alfred 37km.
Paddle Day 45
Cannon Rocks to Port Alfred 38km (3hrs 20min)
Yesterday we pitched out tents at Fred Cresswell’s holiday house in Bushmans River. I spent a bit of the afternoon sleeping on the lawn under their ski boat trying to keep out of the sun. It’s been rather hot lately and I am not a fan of the heat. Fred made arrangements for other paddlers to paddle along for the leg into Port Alfred. Some would leave with us from Cannon Rocks and other would meet us off Kenton.
That evening it started to rain and we can say with confidence that our tents offer less protection that an upturned colander! The forecast indicated a good downwind and the swell similar to the day before. Well when we got to Cannon Rocks the swell was pretty big. That was while looking down from the sand dune. From the waters edge it was a lot bigger! We entered the water with confidence and waited just before the impact zone popping over the foamies waiting for the lull.
Right that’s the last wave of the set, lets go! Fred and myself got the jump on the other two, Nick Rocky and Marc Notje, and were looking good for a few moments until the early arrival of the next set. I had miss timed it badly. The first wave broke a foot in front of us. The foamie then reared up and swallowed us hole and then, after what seemed like forever, it spat us out. Fred lost contact with his boat which washed up onto the rocks! I managed to hold onto mine and then did the same for the next four waves. All my accessories had come adrift from my ski and were dangling from their safety lines. What a mess. I had to clip everything back in place before remounting.
Again I had to sit and ride over the foamies waiting for a gap in the surf . Eventually I managed to get out to the dead ocean. As I reached the back line I head Warren on the radio telling me Fred’s ski was damaged and he would not be going any further. The three of us turn for Port Alfred and started to ride the wind chop and swell. It was turning into the last great downwind of 2012.
Marc was going to get out at Kenton but was having too much fun. We called his wife and made new arrangements. As we reached Kenton a few other paddlers came into view and one of them was Fred! He went home and got his old ski and then had another go at getting through the surf at Kenton, which all agreed was bigger. A double and single ski made it out with Fred but unfortunately another single got smashed at Kenton. The double and single left us after short while and headed back to the beach. It was great to see you out there even if only for a short while.
The swells were now getting bigger and the wind stronger. Having come in and out of Port Alfred a number of times before I decided that I would go up the river mouth and not try the beach. I wanted to avoid any more surf time. I made contact with Warren and asked if there were any waves breaking across the entrance. Nope nothing breaking!
I headed off first and as I started to near the entrance a monster set started looming behind me. I was confident that they would not break. I had been told so. I backed off the first wave just in time as it crashed across the entrance! WHAT!!! CRAP! Now I am in trouble!
The river was still flowing out strongly and if you take a swim here you would most certainly be in big trouble. The next wave broke behind me . By this time I sprinting for the A team but it soon overtook me. Somehow I managed to stay upright and then managed to duck behind the breakwater before the next wave. I also got hit by this wave but only from the water coming over the breakwater and onto my head!
But what had happened to the other guys.
They had managed to hang back and let the set go past before paddling in. They had thought I had been eaten by that set. When we were back together there was a lot of post nervous laughter! I took the video camera out to get the footage of the river and our arrival but when I viewed it later it was quite shaky! Wonder why!
That’s enough excitement for 2012. See you all next year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!