The official BOM forecast was for Southerly Winds of 25 to 35 Knots with a 2.5 - 3.5 metre Sea on top of a 1.5 to 2.5 metre SE Swell.
|Sea Breeze Key: Red 0-12, Yellow 12-18, Green 18+ Brown is 35+ (smelly shorts) Grey are gusts.|
Observations were showing 36 to 49 KNOTS at the Airport and although I usually go on Little Bay I think that station would actually have been a tad protected by the true Southerly, Little Bay was showing 30 to 40 KNOTS at 2 PM which is about the time we launched from Coogee Beach and muscled into it.
On the water it was amazingly rough. There was a ghostly mist of spray being blown over the surface of the sea and we were dealing with a lot of white water. Communication was difficult and we had to get close to hear each other yell. I found it tough heading into the wind as we battled outwards to get as much sea way as possible before turning to run with the wind. I estimate we paddled straight out for about 45 minutes before we ran with it. Every time I crested a wave my bow would get caught by the wind so I would have to bring it back 10-15 degrees. Wasn't too bad with the rudder.
Once we made the turn we both experienced some very long and wild rides. At one stage I was engulfed by a breaker and braced into it for about ten seconds before I caught a steep wave and got shot down the face in absolute blinding conditions as spray peeled off the bow making it impossible to see anything but white. As soon as that ride ended I looked for Mark and couldn't see him. I turned into the wind immediately and started paddling back into it to see Mark mount his kayak and renter using the cowboy. It failed and I was soon next to him. I suspect he was being blown towards me faster than I could paddle upwind. Mark did another cowboy and succeeded unassisted. I was a bit worried that his capsize and reentry might have rattled him but he was totally unperturbed and if anything was paddling more offensively than before and I had to work hard to keep up as he torpedoed forward.
Though it seemed like mayhem to us it was business as usual for the birds and we came close to at least two albatross, a few gannets and some shearwaters. There were also countless tiny flying fish launching out from in front of the bow, something I've never seen happen in such great numbers.
The reality with these conditions is that it would be hard to take a photo, even harder when the camera was stashed in my hatch! We'll have to wait till the next gale to get some footage.
I'm grateful for the excellent tuition we received from the best Sea Instructor in existence - The Sea!