Tuesday, March 19, 2013

EC2013 Day 5

Squeaking through the Nightmare at pretty well low tide.
A really fun day! Only a 46.6 km (29-mile) paddle today, to the next chickee on our permits, Harney River, but we still had to navigate the Nightmare and the eastern reaches of Broad River—all narrow, gnarly, overgrown channels, even more of a challenge when the tide's out...

Knowing that we only had a short paddle—but, hey, I'm on holiday now!—we all decided to sleep in until dawn, around 0600. But, as we have all come to know, as soon as that first zip goes off... Alex O was off first, and then SandyBottom. I soon followed, just as dawn peaked, knowing that HammerStroke, Seiche and KneadingWater would catch us up pretty quickly.

Dawn in the Wilderness Waterway is spectacular. As the mangroves are fairly low, you see everything—and that low sun in the morning can be pretty hard on your eyes as it reflects off the water so low. I hardly wore my sun glasses this year, and could see so much better, not fighting against salt-stained lenses. I found that with my Kokatat sun hat brim low, and my Buff up high under my eyes, I had no problems against the glare; and wearing a Buff, it meant my sunnies didn't fog up.

I shortly caught up with SandyBottom, with AlexO tagging her. The wind picked up, and we had some pretty close sails across the wider open bays. Until we hit Broad River. In true EC style, we doused sails as the blast hit us full on, and for what seemed like hours, hugged the southern side of the mangroves, trying to find shelter from the wind, and some respite against the very strong incoming tide. It's a long stretch of river.

HammerStroke, Seiche and KneadingWater stopped off at Broad River chickee—another favourite of ours—with KneadingWater immediately falling in. SandyBottom, AlexO and I declined and headed around the corner for the infamous Nightmare, afraid the tide would be falling even further. And it was.

There's only one real obstacle in the 13 km (8-mile) Nightmare when the tide's down—a pretty good sized log, right across your path. In a previous year, the tide had been high enough for me to just run it, up and over. Not this year! With SandyBottom and AlexO waiting patiently behind me, I tried to run it—raised about 10-12cm above the water—but got firmly stuck not even half way across. No pushing with my Greenland paddle was going to push me over—in fact, I had to stop trying to pole as the mud kept going on forever, swallowing up my paddle. Not wanting to break the back of my boat, SandyBottom paddled up and brought her sturdy Kruger bow aside my cockpit. I lifted myself out of the ocean cockpit—not as easy as a keyhole cockpit!—lowered my bum onto the bow of the Kruger, and stood up on the very muddy, slippery, narrow log. I then tugged my boat over the log, and managed a variation on a cowboy entry to regain entry into the cockpit. Et voila! AlexO very kindle captured the sequence.

And from my angle, with AlexO in the background.
Then it was Dawn's turn. She had it down pat, until she slipped off the log and fell in. It was amazing to watch her. She said later, knowing how deep and thick the mud was, no way was she going to touch bottom, instead springing right back up, wet to below her midriff, and not a speck of mud on her!

We both turned around and said, "Okay, Alex, let us help you over now." Alex just waved and said, no thanks, he would paddle back and find another route. He ended up heading out to the coast via one of the Nightmare's earlier tributaries, and then coming in Broad River.

Then it was on to the eastern reaches of Broad River. I've always believed that this stretch is far more difficult than the Nightmare. Most of the Nightmare you can paddle; not this section of Broad River. It's more hand-over-hand pulling yourself along. And it's even more fun trying it at night!

A couple more miles and we made Harney River chickee. The tide was a little low, which makes it a bit more difficult to unpack. We got all Dawn's gear out first—we weren't going to drag her Kruger up on to the chickee! By the time we were ready to unload me, HammerStroke arrived, and helped me drag my boat up, gear and all. By this time, Seiche and KneadingWater arrived. We put the boys on one side of the chickee, and Dawn and I on the other. I'm not too sure how long this chickee's going to last. It was starting to groan and sway a bit with us all decked out.

We ate dinner even before the sun went down. AlexO passed soon later, and waved on as he kept paddling to Flamingo—quite a paddler.

Pretty much asleep, we heard a couple of boats arrive, and the voice of FeralCat warning us to move on over! DeadCat strung her hammock to the side of Dawn and my tents, and FeralCat just hunkered down on a three-quarter length of 2mm foam, threw a space blanket over himself, with his paddling boots as a pillow, and slep soundly through the night. I could tell, as his head was only a foot or so from mine, and his snoring loud enough to scare away any pythons. Had to admire the bugger!

Near midnight or so, I could hear someone calling out "here, kitty, kitty," anticipating that the Cats were on the chickee. Seeing everyone else sound asleep and not an inch of chickee to spare, Scareman and OneEyedJake slowly paddled off, looking for a bit more room.


Scareman said...

Scareman here. We had paddled from Darwin's Place through the Nightmare and Upper Broad Creek in the dark, and ended up finding Oyster Bay Chickee open about 2 AM. We obtained permits for Darwin's Place and Joe River. And yes, our "here Kitty Kitty" calls were friendly hellos to either KneadingWater, DeadCat, and/or FeralCat.

bjalgera said...

It is so interesting to me to see your pictures at low tide... it looks totally different than when we were there!

Floatsome said...

Love the sequence of getting over the log. Having heard the story, it's great to see it.