I’m in my tent in the middle of the night and the west wind is howling. Noah warned us that it might get a little windy so be sure to stake the tents down and put everything inside. I tied mine to piles of rocks in the corners. Now the wind is blasting sand against the tent. I can’t sleep because the tent is flapping and I’m waiting for something to pop loose and the whole thing to start rolling down the beach into the water. I put on fleece long underwear and a fleece cap and finally start to warm up. I see the sky grow pink as the sun rises and wonder if I got any sleep at all. Maybe when it warms up the wind will die down.
The sky is totally clear when the sun is up. I see the others gathering in the shelter of the cliff by the water. I’m afraid if I get out the tent will pop loose, but I finally get out with my coffee mug and pile a few more rocks in the corners to keep everything down. I walk over to the cliff and on the way Jackie clambers out her tent which has collapsed and rolled over on its side. The others are running over with rocks to keep it from rolling away. I grab one of the lines and pull a corner back in place and stake it down.
At the cliff someone asks me, "Is it true that there are only 11 kayaks?"
"I don’t know," I say. "I didn’t check. You mean we lost one of them last night?"
"Noah says there were only 11 kayaks this morning."
One of the little Swifts is gone. I can’t believe it! The other kayaks look undisturbed so someone suggests that it was stolen. Is he just being a paranoid American? All anyone had to do was sneak in during the night and paddle it over to the next beach to a waiting truck... in complete darkness and 25 mph winds gusting up to 35.
Noah looks stressed. He’s on the VHF radio trying to contact the other Tofino groups. He and Pato abandoned making pancakes this morning because of the wind. A big pot of pancake batter sits in the sand. We all huddle in the shelter of the cliff and eat granola and yogurt. A friendly black dog from the nearby ranch that has been with us since last night lies between John’s legs. Some of us try to nap while we wait for a plan from Noah. Finally Noah tells us that Pato is going to hike to the ranch and borrow a boat and go search for the missing kayak. Apparently he has done it before with success. The wind is still howling with no sign of dying down so we aren’t getting on the water anyway. We are free to do whatever we want until lunch.
First thing everyone does is move their tents off of the beach into more sheltered locations among the bushes. I find a place near an old fire pit among piles of dried donkey dung. I kick over some rocks I want to use to anchor the tent and uncover a scorpion. Noah is helping me and sees it. “That’s a good sized one”, he says.
Later Jackie, Rebecca, John and I go for a hike along the ridge west of camp. The black dog comes along and we follow him thinking he knows a way along some trails but we just end up walking along an arroyo into a canyon. It’s sunny and pleasant in the canyon which is sheltered from the wind. There are a few caves in the cliffs. Jackie goes into a big one looking for petroglyphs and is startled when a couple bats fly out at her. Along the path back to camp there are small mounds of dirt with tunnels in the middle of them. Jackie thinks they must be some kind of nest. Later Pato tells us that they were made by tarantulas
By lunch the kayak still had not been found. In the afternoon Noah takes us on a paddle back to the cove in front of the hot spring to work on bracing. Rebecca chooses to stay behind. The cove isn’t completely sheltered and the water is a little rough so a few people capsize and we get to practice more rescues with the wind pushing us into the rocks. Afterwards we all peel off our wetsuits and get into the hot spring. A solo yellow kayak appears from the south -- it’s Pato! He never did find the missing white Swift, so he ended up renting another kayak from the ranch. Like a trusty Mexican sidekick out of some ethnocentric American western, he walked 18 miles that day to the ranch then paddled north to camp to complete his mission. Later the rancher came by the camp to collect the rent, dressed in leather and riding a burro, straight out of a western himself.
[TO BE CONTINUED: That's it for a few days. I got my drysuit and helmet packed and I'm off to the Body Boat Blade BCU 4 Star Training in Neah Bay, for some fun in real "conditions"! ]