There is never just one reason

June 2, 2007

I failed today. I was aiming to reach the confluence point 38N 141E that I blogged about in March (I even upped my plan to the confluence project site).


This was my put-in at shibatahama with the ubiquious cars parked on the beach: all surfers.

The confluence is about 9km out into the Pacific, I got about half way out and decided to turn back. Of course there is never just one reason for failure:

1. The gps I had borrowed for the occasion:


(This is it showing the required WGS 84 protocol that is a requirement of the confluence project). The menu is in Japanese and I couldn’t get it to display location in Lat/Long without setting a “way-finding” flag, a double button push that would show that point “fixed” i.e. would not change as I moved so led to me pushing and cancelling each time to find my location. I was concerned that after another hour of paddling I wouldn’t be able to get the close enough (within 100m) to the point with “all zeros”.

2. I couldn’t remember how far a minute was in km (1.852 km). In fact my whole lat/long navigation was poorly considered and researched.

3. The waterproofing for the gps consisted of a clear zip-loc bag inside a waterproof map case. This combination was leading to fogging that made the reading difficult to see and caused problems both in following a heading and in reading the lat/long location safely. I was worried that as the seas were picking up I wouldn’t be able to find the confluence safely.

4. I was late to the put-in and so missed the ideal tide configuration (though tide wasn’t huge so not that significant).

5. However the wind was. Because I was late I was having to paddle into more wind, forecast at 5knots in the morning rising to 15 knots in the afternoon from the SE: ideal for blowing me home but not great on the way out.

6. I promised my wife I’d only do it ideal conditions and this wasn’t ideal. It was a nice sunny day and the waves weren’t huge but the wind was creating some chop, white horses and the occasional breaking wave.

7. My paddle was broken (not fatally but not ideally either) and I didn’t have a back up. More about that later.

8. I got pretty wet breaking through some biggish surf on the way out and wasn’t super confident getting back in safely.

rip tide through surf

None of these reasons was enough to make me stop on their own, but added together I did stop, turn around and head back in. I paddled for an hour solid on the way out, which by my reckoning was 5km out, and only about 25 minutes with the wind at my back and surfing the waves on the way home.

It was an interesting experience for me: setting out alone with nothing in front but the ocean as far as the eye can see. I spent most of my time second guessing my decision making: is this the right thing to do, is this safe, what happens if…

There is something about the wide open sea that is disconcerting, I don’t know if it’s just me, perhaps so, and that has been my fascination and with people who go off into it alone. I have all the more respect for what Andrew McAuley set out to do.

I’m sure my failure was also partly to do with my kayak, had I been able to paddle faster in a more ocean worthy kayak I might have gotten there before I had time to get nervous…

When I got back all the surfers who had been on the beach had gone. From the sea the surf looked really big and, hitting at an angle, the waves were zipping dramtically along the tetrapod sea defences. I got a bit nervous that there was some reason why all the surfers had gone – the tide had changed at 11:30am did that mean dumping waves now?

Anyway I was quite please with my entry in that I stayed dry! I came in along the edge of a riptide that I had taken out. The rip was keeping the surf small and manageable. At one point have broached on a wave I found myself turned around and heading out into the surf in the rip – it was very strong. Fortunately another wave came through which I back paddled onto and surfed in bum first. Happily no one there to see.

rip tide 2

This rip (above – between the surf and the tetra pods) was pretty strong and so I decided not to empty the kayak and fool around in the surf.

a proper tube

The surf looked great though – even some proper looking tubes.

I took some pictures with my film camera which, if they are any good, I will post later (*here*). I’ve not decided whether to try for this confluence again: it wasn’t great fun, it was a four hour round trip drive and I’ve only got 10 weeks left in Japan… However I would also be sad to leave it un-done.

*EDIT* What I should have read in advance, a good account by Douglas Wilcox of GPS use and explanation of the “GOTO” function that I assumed would be part of my borrowed unit but wasn’t. L I N K


5 Responses to “There is never just one reason”

  1. leanne Says:

    good luck on your next try, if you have time for a second attempt!
    We are also going to try and bag one on the weekend. 31N 130E
    Should be a big trip. Wish us luck!
    L & R

  2. Good luck, paddle safe.
    19km from land and I’m guessing 19km from katadoman, so what’s that from Makurazuki, 40km?

  3. leanne Says:

    you got it. After that we are going on to Kuroshima. Everything is pending on the weather, since it’s a big trip.
    We also only have Sunday-Monday, so it’s a little girigiri. Let’s hope the weather gives us a break or even better a boost!

  4. DSD Says:

    I couldn’t count the times I’ve second guessed myself with wind and waves… Nice work out there!

  5. […] There is never just one reason […]

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