Well – I can’t say that this trip is 100% wonderful, or that I’m doing it 100% right. I had more days off the water with my mom and her partner than I planned. I’m good with that – I think I’ll hit San Diego sometime in September.
After 3 nights in a bed and 2 days off in a motel room, Mom drove me back the 80 miles to the Salmon River south of Cascade Head. Every rest day makes me nervous again. This was a tricky landing and the beach where the river met the ocean wasn’t visible from the put in, so I was nervous.
I did just fine. Time the waves, go where they’re small. Natural river mouths with sand spits can be tricky, but I navigated this one just fine. Once I was out the surf though, the boat didn’t want to go. It also really wanted to go left. I was fighting it hard.
I didn’t understand why it was so hard. It was foggy, too, and the wind was coming from the south. The swell seemed bigger than the forecast, the surf seemed bigger than it should be, and I was nervous because it was from the southwest instead of the northwest. I was frustrated, to say the least.
About 6 miles in, I looked behind me for some reason and found the reason for the problem. The rear hatch cover was off! All the way off. It was dragging in the water (on the left – no wonder the boat wanted to go left!) The surf was landable, but I had myself psyched out. So I fixed it on the water. I can’t reach the back hatch. I hopped out of the cockpit, turned around, climbed onto the back deck, and put the cover on (I was going to pump it out, but the flooded hatch was underwater with me sitting on the back deck). I was glad I have the balance to be ON the boat. I was embarrassed I’d done this. More to the point – I was lucky this was the extent of the problems it caused.
The paddling was WAY easier now! Instead of fighting for 2.5 knots, I was going 3.5 – 4 knots. I felt like I was starting to settle into my regular paddling speed. I was 3 1/2 weeks in and was thinking I was going to be struggling the whole trip to get any speed or the type of control of the boat that I usually have.
It was an anxious day, though, and I got anxious again as I approached Depoe Bay. It’s a fascinating place with a very narrow channel into the bay between rock faces. It boasts its status as the smallest commercial harbor in the world. (I think the opening is too narrow or shallow for the Coast Guard boat at low tide.) Google Earth showed breakers outside the rocks and a swirly narrow channel that wouldn’t be visible until I was right out from the entrance. (The entrance wouldn’t be visible either).
Depoe Bay is known for its resident whales. The swell had felt bigger to me when I couldn’t get my boat to go and it was foggy. It was sunny now and my boat was moving, so I was more confident. I paddled in close to a viewpoint off the highway, wondering if I might be part of the view. A whale surfaced between me and the rocks, which was awesome! No one on land seemed to notice it – how lucky to be on the water!
The fog returned, and the swell stacked up against the rocks, and I got nervous again. My flooded back hatch meant my stern was riding really low, and the wind waves came right over the top. There were a lot of fishing boats – I was worried about visibility in the narrow channel. There were several kayak fishers – they seemed to have safety dialed in a lot better than most sit-on-top kayaks I see on the Great Lakes. I appreciated that. It also made me more nervous – they all had orange flags on the back of their boats – the flags increased visibility a lot. It made me nervous to not have one – the sport fishers would be used to seeing the flag to identify a kayak. Oy – I can really do a number on myself! The channel was perfectly visible once I was straight out from it, no fishing boats tried to run me down, the steepening waves weren’t trying to take me into the rocks. It was all good – and the channel into the harbor with the bridge over it was really quite beautiful!
When I landed, I had to deal with the swamped hatch and wet gear. I felt dumb again! I knew there was a city park at the back of the harbor. I asked around, and most of the fishermen thought no one would bug me if I set up a tent. They were right – but wow was it public! Why had I gotten myself set on stopping at Depoe Bay? I should have listened to my mom – she thought it was a bad idea because of the rocks. The rocks were fine, but if I had listened to her, I wouldn’t be camping in public next to the fish cleaning station!
I set up camp. A city employee came and asked if I planned to camp there – when I said yes, he said he didn’t see anything. He’s a paddler, so we looked at the chart together. He warned me off one of the stops I was planning, heading into a bay over a natural river opening. He used to be in the Coast Guard and said he’d pulled dead people out of that bar. I paddle the Great Lakes, where the number of people being pulled from the water is really high. The fact that people die in the water I paddle doesn’t mean I can’t paddle it safely.
I took his advice, though, and planned different landing spots.
The evening was lovely. I was more tired than expected – it was a short paddling day, about 16 miles, after several Airbnb days, but fighting the hatch cover, climbing out on the back deck, and being anxious all day left me really tired. So rather than cooking in a super public place, and maybe hanging around for the sheriff to tell me I had to move, I went into town for dinner. A nice guy at the boat launch asked about my trip and suggested a good place for dinner. Fish ‘n chips, a dram of bourbon, and an ocean view were lovely.
My next day would be a short day and slack wasn’t until 11:30, so I figured I could sleep in the next morning and go buy a couple more lighters (mine got wet) and a pair of flip flops (one of mine floated out in the hatch-cover-debacle. I loved those flip flops!)