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jewell island camping, more eventful than it could've been

rick stoehrer

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ciro, janis and i departed peaks too late and then made a route adjustment that ended up delaying us further.

as we came out of luckse sound, it was too late in the day and against the flood. we cracked light sticks and made sure that the vhf was handy as the sun set behind us a blaze of red and pink on the portland skyline.

the wind was F3/4 out of the S/SW and the swells by this point were pretty fully formed 3 and 4 footers. we crossed and went up the W side of the sound to avoid boat traffic. this was a mistake, should have gone up the E side of long to avoid the light boat traffic and use what little lee it may have offered.

against the flood, janis soon tired and it was at this point, pretty full dark. threw a tow onto her bow and steamed out of luckse as quickly as able to pull her into the wind/swells and current as ciro stayed right besides her the whole way.

gave the S end of cliff a WIDE berth to avoid any swells that may rear up a bit higher and maybe break and then turned us down wind/swells onto a heading for jewell. kept the tow on for the psychological value it added as the adrenalin and fear bled off after having gone up and then beam to the conditions. the problem with towing someone is that even as you get warmer and warmer from the tow, the distressed paddler is getting cooler and cooler...

hit the camp site on the inside of jewell pretty directly and got janis in dry warm clothes/hat asap. got the stove on and made camp in time to enjoy the fireworks over portland as the QM2 left port.

i blew the call - we left too late and while i explained everything she would see and encounter BEFORE we did, that she was on the water that late is a big failure. she was at the limit of her skills level and far outside her comfort zone. even with ciro and i being well within both of those boundaries ourselves, i didn't take the experience for her fully into consideration when we did this. i explained what we were doing, why and how we were going to deal with it, but never the less, shouldn't have put her in that spot. it was a lot to ask of anyone, much less the one you love. as i have said on numerous occassions, she is a trooper and remarkable.

so consider that next time you push the boat away. even if you can handle it and can handle anything that is likely possible to happen, what's the experience going to be like for ALL of those with you and what resources do you have at your disposal in case if goes far worse than the likely worse case scenario?

me? well, while too large to pack in a hatch, the ciro de la vega emergency kit comes with several of his own boats and while not available commercially, he extraordinarilly handy to have about in case things get sketchy.

anyways, don't make the same lack of planning/and taking all factors into consideration mistake.

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Some thoughts from the other "paddler who should have known better":

First, Rick's taking way too large a percentage of the blame and not enough credit. He performed remarkable well, keeping Janis informed and comfortable, in a calm reassuring voice. He led us ably around all of the possible hazards.

Both Rick and I suffered from a case of "destination-itis" on this one. We were both focussed on camping on Jewell, and thus didn't take into consideration a number of other options we had available to us that would have put us ashore earlier, without having to fight the flood and a strong headwind in the dark. Perhaps Rick wasn't aware of some of these other options, but I was, and didn't speak up. Communication is key, and I failed here.

In addition, I was looking forward to some night paddling, without taking into account how that would affect our ability to sort it out if things went south, or how that might put Janis outside of her comfort zone, or tire her quickly.

Fortunately, Janis stayed calm and relaxed, and so the evening didn't get nearly as eventful as it could have.


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yes, well, that's cause i was calm and am generally too stupid/arrogant/stubborn to be anything less than self assured.

you and i were fine, we knew what we were doing and where we were going, our bailouts and had it gone a bit worse, still within our respective boundaries...and we minimized our risks within the confines of what we did and as a result of that (or good clean living - ha!) mr murphy thankfully stayed ashore that evening.

just coulda been a better evening for her where the point was to just camp somehwere. no need to have stressed her out like that and i think it's important for us all to learn from our collective mistakes.

just glad you were there chumly. that whole less than 3 there shall never be thing is very, very true.

lots left to learn, huh?

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Yes, that Cirokit is a handy one to have. Not only can he do an on water repair to a boat with a two fist hole in it, he is like a bull dog on the other end of a tow. I have to say, I have never paddled as fast as when I was BEING TOWED by the Cirokit. In some ways that isn't saying much (me being slow and all) but still, going faster when being towed is a bit of an embarrassment.

Glad that Ciro was with you two and that the rest of the trip was uneventful.


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