Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rethinking Decisions: Hinchinbrook Island by Sea Kayak Redux

Today I got an email from a friend in Canada who had followed some of my trip notes on an easy mountaineering outing to the New Denver Glacier in the Valhalla Range (British Columbia, Canada) to climb English and Iron Peaks and Mount Denver. She commented that she “was never doing that trail again.” One of those strangely frequent coincidental comments as, in the hour after we landed at Cardwell from our Hinchinbrook Island kayak trip, I had said to Doug that I would quite happily head off next day and do our entire Hinchinbrook Island kayak trip again as it was so good. We both laughed about how one never says that about mountaineering trips, which typically end with “Thank God that's over, and I don't have to do that again.” There are uncounted mountains that I have climbed where my greatest motivation was not to have to come back there again as the whole endeavour was remarkably painful.

Three days later, our Hinchinbrook Island trip is well and truly over, but not nearly forgotten. I thought some more about the questions I was left with after the trip, and, found that further reflection did not give rise to any answers, but it did leave me with some lessons learnt.

Although it would have been awesome to have light winds for the trip, I am glad I got the opportunity to paddle in strong winds, particularly as we had an easy escape route (Channel #6) available. I've been doing some more reading about typical Queensland weather in winter and southeast winds to 30 knots are more common than not. At some point, I'll just have to learn to paddle in winds that strong so that learning process may as well begin now.

In hindsight, I think I had an inkling that we would get strong winds sometime during the week, but I didn't want to deal with either strong winds or changing plans so I pretty much just ignored the available weather information that forecast increasing winds for about mid-week. Had I given this some thought before hand I could have made different decisions or at least more informed decisions. Ignoring things you don't want to know about doesn't really make them any less real.

A little forethought about where the most difficult sections of the trip would be and how we might handle them would also have given us more options. I am used to making contingency plans for ski trips and climbing trips and should really use the same strategies when planning kayak trips.

I have found it hard in Australia to identify slack tide and so had pretty much given up thinking about hitting difficult sections at slack tide (something we always did when paddling in Canada), but that is just plain silly. Rounding capes, points and promontories, and crossing channels where tidal flows are an issue should all be done at slack tide. With four tides a day there are plenty of opportunities.

With any luck, I'll be more prepared on my next kayak trip, which can't come too soon.

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