Pacific Time

After the Northern California BCU Skills Symposium I hitched a ride with Ginni Callahan to Portland Oregon. We paddled every other day along the Northern California and Oregon coasts. I am still coming to terms with one event on this trip with Ginni. Within ten minutes of paddling the sea kayak that I borrowed from her, I am already swimming!

Ginni was just in front of me and paddled through an arch at Cape Mendocino; I follow... But then that big set comes in. I surf backwards twice and I am 'surged' forwards again into the archway both times. I do not wear a helmet and I bent over the front-deck by instinct. The third reverse surf ends with the stern of the kayak hitting a rock, I capsize, I swim... I think I am not panicking, because I can still think clearly (!?). I try to get to the kayak. But more big waves roll-in. The kayak gets pinned broadside and makes strange sounds... When the kayak is catapulted towards me by the next wave, I dive under water covering my head with both my arms. I think it is better to forget about the kayak for now and swim with my paddle out of the arch. That poor kayak gives off more painful sounds. Now I can hear Ginni shout for me and moments later she is back through the archway with a 'bent banana' on tow.

The kayak might be in worse shape than I am. Apart from 'wetting my pants', because I did not have my neck seal properly closed, I am unhurt. On a nearby beach we investigate the damage. On the sides of the front and the stern hatch-cover rims are now small indentations that give away that the kayak has been bent there. A lot of scratches at the bow and stern. The day-hatch area is worst. A big dent in the side of the kayak and a compromised hatch-rim. All compartments have water in them. The day-hatch is flooded with all my gear floating in it. All electronics are in my home-made waterproof pouches that now again prove their worth. Only my fleece jacket is soaked. The brown water that runs from it tells me that it needed to be washed anyway. I upturn my dry-bib to let the water drain out and re-dress with the rest of my spare dry clothes and some wet.

I have definitively now more respect for 'plastic' sea kayaks. A fibre-glass sea kayak would have been totally shredded in this incident. This time I get away with it. The hull of the kayak is still in shape. Maybe it has a tiny bit more rocker. Now that's a funny word right now; "rocker"! Ginni inflates an air-bag into the day-hatch and off we go again.

For the next two days I am in therapy with Ginni who takes me through rock gardens again and again to help me get my anxiety in check. Did I tell you already that Ginni loves both surf and gardening? Timing the ocean swell is something to be learned. And who better to learn 'rock gardening' from than from someone who is full-on Pacific time?

P.S. Just a few days earlier, during the symposium, it was BCU Level-5 coach Rowland Woollven that during a 5-star sea training explained: "Never put your body where your mind hasn't been first..."

Saturday 30 October 2004 (van Damme S.P. - Westport Beach)

Sunday 31 October (Westport Beach - Harris Beach)

Monday 1 October (Harris Beach - Arizona Beach)

Tuesday 2 October (Arizona Beach - Nehalem River)

Wednesday 3 October (Nehalem River - Skamokawa)

Thursday 4 October (Skamokawa)

Friday 5 October (Skamokawa - Portland)

Saturday 6 October (Columbia River Gorge)


- Columbia River Kayaking Ginni Callahan as a sea kayaker
- Stories and photos from the guiding life ...and as a writer

© A.M. Schoevers