Prior to launch, I spoke with the trip leaders about the number of kayakers who would be going. The roster included 9. Three ultimately couldn’t make the time and cancelled. The 4th, a very inexperienced kayaker, was asked not to join us. While knowing conditions would be within their ability to handle, things can change on the water. A mistake in the shipping channel could escalate quickly. Not being able to clear the shipping channel if we encountered traffic could end in tragedy.
About one-third of the way across, the trip leader on my right caught site of the container ship. She was on her way out and now between Murray Island and Poverty Bay. We located the buoy marking mid-channel. We knew the ship had to keep the buoy to her left and come around it before entering the channel. With a sense of urgency we picked up the stroke rate. We reached mid-channel, the marker now to our left with the ship still a distance from it. We continued to maintain our stroke rate. The container ship was suddenly on the marker. A few more paddle strokes and she was coming around it. We knew she’d pass behind us, yet our pace quickened. Being hit was no longer the concern.
We’d get one off the bow, then the stern in a series of equally spaced waves. One of the co-leaders asked if anyone wanted to surf them, as if that was even a choice. There would be no way to avoid them. There would be no way to know how many there would be. We knew the ship was moving fast. The wake off the stern would be moving at the same rate. Given the size of the ship, it wasn’t just the speed of the waves we’d deal with, it was their height.
In a matter of minutes they’d be on us. Two sets of them.
I was up front with one other paddler. The remaining three trailed a bit. I edged my kayak to the left as the ship crossed behind us to get a visual on the 3 and the wake. What I saw reminded me of the waves I used to play in as a kid off the Jersey shore.