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Coastal Journeys

Careless Cove forever after

You can sometimes count mistakes in dollars. In this case it can be marked on a chart.

Martin Ryer’s account of having his boat and paddle taken by the evening tide while camped on Spring Island serves as a cautionary tale for all paddlers. It easy to say “That won’t happen to me”, which is what I thought until it did.

Dave, Greg and I were camped on the western shore of Price Island at the site called “P1” in the “West Coast Aristazabal, Price & Athlone Islands - Field Guide for Paddlers”. It’s a sizeable and protected beach that is choked with large drift logs and there are no openings into the forest that lines the top. We were expecting a 15.7 foot tide so camping on the sand was not an option. About 75 meters to the south and over many sharp rocks is a very camp-able area where we set up our tents. Not wanting to carry our boats across the rocks we left them the main beach.

Examining the previous night’s high tide line we took into account the predicted rise of 3/10 foot and added a comfortable margin. The log that our sterns sat on was at least 3.5 feet in diameter and 1/3 buried in sand that was above the point that the tide could possibly reach. There were no forecasted winds plus seas and barometric pressure were flat. I tied the deck lines of all three boats to a log well up the beach using my tow belt. We spread our wet gear out to dry at camp, ate dinner and turned in for a quiet night of slumber.

We were up at 5:00 AM, had breakfast and started carrying our gear 75 meters over the rocks from our campsite to the adjacent cove where we had secured our boats. Dropping the first load I looked 100 meters up the beach and saw that our boats were no longer on top of the logs. They were still there but Dave’s Grand Illusion was against the logs pointing north, Greg’s Tempest was against the logs pointing south and my Tempest was between them, sideways with the stern up on a large rock! It looked like a yard sale. It was obvious that we had miscalculated the evening's high tide.

I went to investigate and saw that I had neglected to put my cockpit cover on. The cockpit was full of water and wet sand. I was relieved to find my paddle halves and chart case still in the cockpit and poking up through the wet concrete. My helmet was packed with wet sand and weighed as much as a bowling ball. I hoped that my hull wasn’t cracked. Greg’s boat was full of water and sand (no cockpit cover) and tipped on its side. His chart case was hanging from the deck lines like a water balloon full of tan confetti. He had most of Dave’s charts and they had spent some time in the washing machine……as did Greg’s GPS……... Dave’s boat was fine with the cockpit cover in place. Nothing missing. Cockpit clean.

I had tied the boats together and secured them to another log with my tow rope. My knot had done its job but how did we miss this? Together we had examined the previous night’s high tide line and thought we had taken the increase of 3/10 foot well into account. We had pulled the boats up onto the logs with the sterns on a log that was at least 1/3 buried in sand and above where we thought the water could possibly reach. Even if water did touch that log it couldn’t float it……….yet it had. The tide had somehow moved it out of the way, pulled our boats off of the other logs above the tide line and sent them on a yahoo-ride. This was with totally calm seas on a protected beach. Pretty sobering.

Dave had lost seven charts costing $140 USD. We gently emptied the water out of the case, pressed the confetti flat and strapped it back to the deck intent on salvaging some of the larger pieces. Greg’s GPS would no longer acquire satellites so it was toast. The good news was that I had brought my back-up GPS which I gave to Greg. My hull was fine and all my gear intact but cleaning the wet sand out of the cockpit, helmet, etc. took a while and continues to this day.

Eventually we were ready to launch and it was then that Greg realized that his graphite Werner was MIA. He had propped it between some logs near the bows of our boats and hung laundry on it to dry. It was gone. We spent about 45 minutes combing the cove for that paddle before giving up, tucking our tails between our legs and accepting that the $800+ lesson we had just experienced was a cheap slap in the face that we had well deserved.

The Spring Island site where Martin lost his paddle probably has a different significance to him than it did before. Likewise, “P1” was just a mark on my chart where I intended to camp. I thought that I had this figured out. “P1” will forever be “Careless Cove” to me and my experience there has altered my behaviors, hopefully, forever.

You can follow Jon Dawkin's adventures at http:/3meterswell.blogspot.com

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