Paddling for Smiles
My Surf Skis finally arrived on Thursday late afternoon after a 3 week wait which delayed our departure by 6 days. I headed off early on Friday morning to fetch my “seconder” – Paul Brouwer en route in Darling. Paul will be looking after me till the middle of November when I hope to in or around Cape Town.
The drive up to the Orange River was an 800km mixed bag of conditions. Rain storm in darling- hail storm near Springbok and then hot dry conditions at the end. Arriving in Alexander Bay is a little depressing. The town is slowly fading away but the people here are warm and welcoming.
Looking for the weather window
Our first order was to find our guest house, Af en Toe. It’s an old 9 bedroom communal house which we have all to ourselves. Our second task was to get down to the harbour and check out the sea conditions. Access to the harbour is restricted as it is in the mine area. After a few calls we hopped into a mine security vehicle and were driven down to the harbour. All the diamond dredging boats were safely hiding away in the harbour with the sea pounding 5m swells into the coast. Every now and then a wave would close out across the entrance! Certainly not what we wanted to see.
What to do!
I decided that we will have another look on Saturday morning and try and give it a go. Back to the guest house for a plate of spagbog ala Paul and a good night rest. We had arranged a security vehicle to escort us and the Land Rover to the harbour at 8am. No need for an early start with only a 12km paddle ahead. Thankfully the wind had not started blowing but the swell was still thumping. Keen to get the paddling on the go I decided to give it a bash.
Wow what an experience!!!
I am not shy to admit I was “crapping” myself as I paddled out of the harbour and don’t remember paddling in swells this big before. The waves I counted 10 seconds to go up and down the other side. I made a beeline for the deep sea to stay away from the rogue swells that had their tops cresting and breaking. Getting hit by one of these would have been disastrous. From my GPS track I worked my way 2km off shore before heading North. At the top of each swell the wind would suddenly gust strongly offshore. This is caused by the air the wave displaces as it moves forward. Freaky!!
Paddling to the Namibian border
I paddled 7km to the Namibian border before turning around and heading south. The way back I could follow my GPS track which was comforting. By this time the vis had improved and I was feeling excited. Approaching the harbour I followed the leading lights in. Paul was on the VHF radio giving his advice and with this I made a safe and much relieved return to Alexander Bay harbour.