Beatdown at Red Sand Beach

It’s official that my paddling trip to the BC north coast is off for this year. Since I won’t have a new trip to report on I thought I would revisit a day from the account of my 2017 trip.

August 9 / Day 12
Heavy fog to low overcast, Winds calm increasing to W @ 15 knots, Seas calm to swells at 1.5 meter with 2 foot windwaves, Combined seas to 6 1/2 feet, moderate at times

Some days on the water are perfect and some are less so. Sometimes those less-so days deteriorate into downright sucky and no fun at all. Foggy days often fall into the less-so category for me. On this day I would be crossing Rivers Inlet and Smith Sound with a combined total of ~10 NM of open water. I delayed my departure from Fury Cove until an hour into the flood knowing that it would take me another 45 minutes to reach Karslake Point where I would start across Rivers Inlet. If it was to be a blind crossing I wanted to avoid currents that would drift me out towards Queen Charlotte Sound but I hoped that the fog would lift so I could see what I was doing.

At Karslake Point I set a course at 170 degrees and paddled off into the grey weirdness. Right off the bat I could see that my speed was all over the place fluctuating from 3+ kt to .5 kt. There was lots of confused water as currents mixed and for an hour and a half I struggled to maintain the 170-degree heading while being pulled one way and then another. Several times the sound of chattering rips permeated the fog. Some rips I managed while others remained hidden and jeered at me from the cover of the dense, opaque air. Smooth swell met opposing currents and jacked up into menacing standing waves that appeared suddenly out of the gloom. If there had been visibility this would have been an interesting leg but, in these conditions, it was just tense and no fun at all. Finally, a bit of shoreline appeared in the distance and I cheated right knowing that it led to Cranstown Point. I stayed close to shore from Cranstown Point to Extended Point where I pulled in for lunch.

The three tiny beaches where I planned to land were absolutely choked with large floating logs that jostled and banged about in the surge creating a menacing cacophony of wood against wood and rock that called me by name and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was to stay away or suffer damage to boat, body and blade. Facing another 4.6 NM of blind open water I consulted my chart that showed that if I could maintain 123-degree course I would end up at Red Sand Beach. I was torn between confidence and dread having just endured the distasteful yet successful blind crossing of Rivers Inlet and here there was no concern about missing the far shore and being swept out to sea. I would find the far shore, figure out where I was and then handrail my way along the rocks to Red Sand Beach but I really wasn’t looking forward to squinting at my deck compass through another grey crossing filled with grey sounds and oddly-textured grey water.

It turned out that Smith Sound wasn’t so bad. It didn’t jerk at my boat and paddle. It didn’t make my compass spin or my hair stand on end. Somewhere along the way, though, I did encounter a westward flowing current that deflected my path to the right so that I missed the beach by .7 NM. I had never seen the shoreline from that angle before and it was very disorienting paddling back through the fog looking for that obvious red band of sand. Eventually I rounded a point and spotted it. So nice to know where I was.

Red Sand Beach sits a little over .5 NM behind that point and is normally well protected. This time, however, there were random sets of waves dumping on the beach. That wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Some of the 1.5-meter swell was sneaking past the point and finding its way onto the beach. I sat out from the break and tried to understand the timing but it wasn’t making sense to me. Some of the sets swept from right to left while others left to right and then there were periods where the water flattened out completely and the beach was silent. After watching for a pattern and not recognizing one my need to urinate overcame my patience and willingness to engage further in physical oceanography analytics. I told myself that I was feeling lucky but in retrospect I was just desperate to relieve myself.

Waiting out a larger set I took off on the back of a wave and rode it in. My timing was imperfect, though, and I didn’t get nearly as far up the beach as I should have. Popping the sprayskirt I started working my arthritic and uncooperative knees out of the cockpit when I heard a wave approaching. It crashed over my shoulders, loosened me from the cockpit and filled my boat with water and fine red sand. My paddle was gone, too. Catching a glimpse of it washing past I stretched out and almost captured it before it was swept beyond my reach. Just then the next wave crashed into me and completely extricated me from the boat, tossing me head over heels. In spite of being full of water my boat was window-shaded a couple of times in the surge. I tried to run after my paddle but my knees were having none of it and I didn’t get to my feet before another wave knocked me back down. I stayed down on my hands and knees chasing my paddle through the soup like a dog after a stick and caught it just as another wave pounded me and rolled me over. Crawling away from the surf I willed my knees to work and was finally able to stand and stagger back to my Tempest. I tried to pull it further away from the water but it was so heavy I lost my grip and fell over backwards. “Is this happening?”

Nothing was working right other than my bladder and it was demanding immediate attention. I started feverishly working on opening the relief zipper but it was coated with fine wet sand and didn’t want to budge. Multitasking now I continued to coax the zipper open little by little while walking towards the tree line and examining the beach for animal tracks. Still struggling to unzip I was pleased to see a ton of fresh wolf tracks including the largest pawprint I had ever seen. The wolf presence would keep Brown Bears away and then………….I tripped on a stick and went down hard and fast on my face.

I hit so hard that the wind was knocked out of me and I felt like I had been punched in the face in a bar fight. I tried to express myself by shouting a four letter expletive but I couldn’t get any sound out other than desperate failed breathing noises. I rolled over on my back and gasped for breath. Clearing out the cobwebs I was surprised to find myself laying flat on a beach that had always seemed so friendly yet had just totally kicked my ass. Red sand was packed in between my left eye and the lens of my sunglasses. My left nostril was clogged and there was sand packed in my left ear. My yellow drysuit was covered with sticky fine sand and I still had to pee. Struggling to my feet I took care of business and when I was done found that the drysuit’s pee zip was hopelessly jammed open by that infernal red sand.

At the conclusion of a “less-so, sucky, no-fun-day” I sat on a log and reflected on what the wolves must have been thinking as they watched from the forest. How did they interpret the spectacle that had unfolded before their eyes From the moment my hull touched the beach they watched as I acted the part of a condemned, blindfolded man running away from a firing squad. Running, tripping, falling, crawling, getting up, running, falling down and ultimately being shot dead. If that wasn’t personally humiliating enough they were now watching me clean the sand out of my pee zipper with my toothbrush.


Always makes for memories and stories.

1 Like

You could be overmatched in that country. It has plenty of challenges. I mean no disrespect. Sometimes hanging around with large predators, cold water, bad weather and the big friggin ocean (BFO), can wear on people. It can make small tasks like walking on the beach and taking a leak more challenging.

Seriously. I have worked in Alaska sometimes solo. It is a mental challenge as much as anything else.

1 Like

Always love reading about your adventures, Jon, although this one made me cringe since it was such an inglorious day! Reminded me of the adage: attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure. You certainly have the right stuff!

You might enjoy reading Jon’s trip reports. They go back to 1970.



Thanks for your comment. I was hoping you would say something.

You are right about objective risks and you would know.

In this case my risk management failed with my landing. I should have used my pee-bottle in the boat before ever attempting to land and then take my time sorting things out but the unusual conditions distracted me. I didn’t really say it but the surf knocked me around quite a bit before I ever stood up and I was kind of goofy. My bell had been rung because I didn’t put my helmet on. Walking around the beach I wasn’t quite myself and, again, distracted. That damn stick was totally avoidable.

Today, as I write this my rib cage still causes me some discomfort and my neck has never been the same. Still undergoing treatment for both. While it is kind of funny I could have been badly injured.

Solo paddling brings risks that we don’t always consider. Injuries from simple things that a partner could otherwise assist us with can result in different consequences. The meteorological conditions and sea state were all manageable but things went bad because I placed a priority on getting ashore to pee. Something that I could have completely managed while in the boat.

My bad.


I had a situation with that “motivation” that caused $1,000 worth of damage to a trailer I was parking. I understand the pressure for prompt action.

1 Like

Outstanding read of your adventure. We all have some bad beach landings if one paddles enough. It’s amazing how the bladder seems to be a common driving force.

1 Like

You are the kind of person I like to paddle with. You have experience, you are level headed and you have a wonderful sense of humility even after years of being out there.
It is battles with Nature that should be keeping us humble, not comparing ourselves to other paddlers.
When you go solo, there is no one else to blame.
Just you and the BFO the Big Friggin Ocean.

1 Like

heck of a beatdown, applaud you for sharing it. It keeps it real.

1 Like

Thank you and, yeah, it was.

One of the best pieces of writing about sea kayaking alone, that I have ever read. Out there with all the hazards and no one to talk to. Serious stuff that some people will only dream about.

1 Like

Thank you for the comments on “Beatdown”. I really appreciate that. Very generous.

Not sure if was obvious that Beatdown, Dazed & Confused and Running on Empty were about three consecutive days of one trip that I posted out of order. They are three excerpts from a 2017 trip report that is posted on my blog. The trip reports are really long and take more commitment than most readers are willing or interested in committing to so I started rewriting daily reports that I thought were interesting to read, had potential teaching moments and would make OK stand-alone articles. They aren’t for everyone.

My goal has been to write about sea kayaking experiences in a way where:

  1. Someone who is thinking about paddling the coast can dig out some route suggestions
  2. There is enough practical/technical info about a route or section of a route that a serious paddler might find it useful.
  3. It is light enough so that a non-paddler might be entertained sufficiently to get through it.

Number 3 is almost always at my own expense as I make enough mistakes that have resulted in humorous situations and I don’t mind terribly if I am the butt of the joke.

You have some great writing ability, and no attitude. That makes you very interesting to read. Please describe your experience with writing and story telling.

I did technical writing as an environmental consultant for years, but now just mess around with writing.

1 Like