By Joy Grabiner
My mouth was dry. I couldn’t spit. The swells were white capped from the wind. The waves buffeted my kayak from one direction then another. My husband Nic paddled up over one swell and down into the trough and disappeared from sight. My mind raced with thoughts of what would happen if one of us tipped over. This was not the relaxing paddling trip I had planned. This was not where inexperienced paddlers should be on their first expedition. How did we get here?
For three months we researched, planned and prepared for a paddling/camping trip in Loreto National Park in Baja, Mexico. We bought two Bay kayaks from Oru hoping they would have enough space for our five day trip. They arrived a week before we left; just enough time to practice packing. Since there would be no fresh water in the park, the guide book recommended carrying a gallon a day. That meant we each had to carry one five-gallon jug of water. We soon learned that five gallons of water takes up a lot of space. Somehow we were able to fit in our food, camping equipment, clothes and even had enough space to bring the camp chairs and hammock. We were ready to go.
We arrived at the airport early to make sure we wouldn’t have a problem checking our bags. The boats were packed in the Oru backpack in which we also crammed our airbags, life jackets, and bilge pump.
“Is that really a kayak?” the lady at the Alaska Air counter asked.
“Yep!” we replied as she put the bag tag on. No oversized charge for us and off we flew to Mexico.
Our intent was to spend five days paddling approximately 30 miles along Isla del Carmen to Isla Danzante and back to the mainland. We didn’t want to plan too much as neither of us had done sea kayaking before nor had we even paddled our Orus. We watched some Youtube videos on how to self-rescue and how to navigate hoping that we’d be able to figure it out on the water.
As the panga boat bumped through the waves to our drop off point, my heart thumped. Were we really going to be able to do this? Despite my answer, it was too late to back out now. The boat driver wished us good luck, dropped us off, and headed back for Loreto. Now it was time to put all our Youtube knowledge to the test.
We assembled our boats and packed them with all of our gear. We wanted to make sure we could self-rescue full kayaks. That wasn’t the best idea. After a couple of attempts to roll and self-rescue, we discovered that the dry bag with our food leaked and several of our meals were wet. Then, while emptying the water out of the boat, I accidentally punched a hole in my five gallon water container.
This was not a good start to the trip.
I would’ve stayed in that cove for the rest of the week if Nic hadn’t confidently said, “We got this. Let’s go.”
So, off we went. The Bays smoothly cut through the water and the wind turned to be at our backs. Six miles sped by quickly, leaving us plenty of time at the end of the day to relax on the beach and read. The trip was turning out to be more relaxing than I thought.
That all changed on day four of the trip. It was time to cross over to Danzante Island. It was only two miles away. No problem, right? The wind picked up to 14 knots and was blowing broadside to the direction we needed to go. Once again I was ready to stay where I was and call for a boat to rescue us. But once again, Nic said, “We got this. Let’s go.” I wasn’t so sure, but off we went anyways.
For the next hour, I paddled as hard as I could with muscles that screamed with pain. We head out of the cove and into the current. The white-capped swells threatened to tip me over. My heart thumped with fear. The spit evaporated from my mouth. Then, I caught sight of Nic, grinning as he bobbed up and down in the waves. He was enjoying this. I relaxed a little. He was right. We got this. Two miles later, we were safely ashore. I was so relieved I almost kissed the ground.
There are several things we learned from this trip. We learned that salt water and sand make it difficult to assemble the Orus. We learned that the Orus’s were stable and we could trust them in choppy water. We learned to rely on each other.
Oh, and we learned that watching Youtube videos isn’t the best way to learn to kayak!