5am alarm this morning, I must have been sound asleep as I awoke with a start and thumped my CD player quiet – it was playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole a tune I will forever associate with J and my Honeymoon in Molokai where it was playing on the radio every day.
The Car was already loaded and the Explorer was on the trailer ready to roll, I hooked it up and left promptly for Ron’s house. Ron’s gear was already waiting on the stoop to be loaded up. We were loaded and ready to go 15 minutes later, rain was pouring down, I was soaked to the skin by the time Ron’s Explorer was strapped down next to mine. The heated seats dried me quickly.
We followed the same route up 35 to Taylors Falls (breakfast at the same café, the hash browns were awesome again) and then diagonally North East across Wisconsin to Bayfield. We were not leaving from Bayfield, but we needed to pick up our camping permit from the national park service’s office which necessitated visiting the town. Whilst there we saw that the weather forecast had changed and the winds and hence waves were forecast to build sooner and larger than we had anticipated so we decided to get afloat as quickly as possible.
Ron ahead catching a wave
We were launching from Little Sand Bay, which is basically a camp site combined with a couple of kayak ramps and a small harbor and beach. Rather strangely kayaks are not allowed to be launched from the kayak ramp and instead have to use a small sandy beach to the west. Not really an issue, but it struck me as odd. I backed the trailer down to the sand and we quickly unloaded the kayaks. Apparently parking for kayakers is free so that was a nice surprise. The place was fairly deserted when we departed, no campers and only a few power kayak trailers, the harbor was occupied by park service kayaks and one small sailing yacht.
Sand Island Sea Caves - North West
The rain started coming down as soon as we got afloat, a steady down pour. The wind was from the east, so we decided to shoot west along the south shore of Sand Island and then paddle north up the lee shore. The final mile and half to the camp would be into the wind but hopefully sheltered somewhat by the northern tip of the island.
The sea state was building; the crossing took us close to the shallow sand bar between Sand and the mainland. This caused the see state to build quickly with solid two to three feet following seas. I had a blast, whooping it up, paddling like a madman and catching waves. The GPS showed a 7.7 max speed. I had the skeg down fully and needed an occasional low brace or stern rudder to keep on track and feeling stable. The loaded kayak behaved well, taking good care of me.
Sand Island Sea Caves - North West
Once we rounded the South West corner of the island the waves calmed down and we quickly arrived at the sea caves on the North West corner, we explored a little in the rain and then rounded the corner and nosed our kayaks into the wind, the sea state was a little confused but mainly on our bows, I kept the pace up, with us averaging a 4mph. It didn’t take us long to arrive at the Sand 3 camp site, which was well hidden from the water, marked only by a small brown sign with a tent on it.
We landed through the small surf, we didn’t know it but there was a small sand bar just off shore and a line of rocks inshore that caused the sea to kick up exactly where you instinctively wanted to land. This caused the landing to be more exciting than necessary; I pulled off the spray skirt as I came up the beach and managed to have a wave break over the stern deck nicely filling the cockpit. But who cares? We landed upright and my new Mukluk boots and dry suit kept me dry and warm.
Landed
We pulled the kayaks high up the beach and then walked up to explore the camp site. The rain was still pouring down so we elected to put a tarp over the picnic table to establish some shelter before we set up the rest of camp.
Cook at work
This was my first attempt at hammock camping and putting it up in the rain highlighted some improvements I could make in my gear. Adding snake skins to the hammock would help keep the inside dry while getting the support ropes setup, and a larger fly sheet would be nice although that said the standard one did keep me dry but there was not much room under it for storing gear. We put up a second tarp to create a hanging space for all our soaking wet paddle gear.
Room and board
We had an early supper, and I turned in early, falling asleep listening to the rain hitting the tarps.

Day 2: Sand Island wind day
Explorer maintenance

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