Day 3: Devils Island to Bayfield

I woke up at 4:30am, the sky was dark, very dark and very cold, I lay in my sleeping bag with just my nose sticking out contemplating getting up. Sleeping in thermals and with two heating pads had kept me warm, but it was still uncomfortable camping. The condensation had frozen on the inside of the tent’s fly sheet. I got into my warm clothes and got up as I heard Ron stirring in his tent, we made coffee and listened to the forecast It was still calling for strong winds and waves later the next day so we decided to stick to our plan. Today was going to be long; three plus miles around Devils Island and then sixteen more to Basswood which would then put us within striking distance of Buffalo bay the next morning. Breakfast was welcoming and warming. Our dry suits had frozen during the night, my neoprene kayaks were solid and my union suit was frigid, but after I forced my body into them they quickly melted and eventually with the food inside me warmed up.
We packed up camp, loaded the kayaks and were afloat before 7:30.
Devils harbor
We paddled counter clockwise around the island, the cliffs rose quickly up the eastern shore and as we turned the corner at the north east of the island the sea caves started to appear. Ron had forgotten to replenish the battery in his camera so he landed on a rocky ledge and swapped them.
Devils Island North Shore
The next hour was consumed with cave exploration, shooting a lot of video and taking many photographs. The water was very calm, at most a gentle 6-12 inch swell. This allowed us to go everywhere and see the insides of many magnificent caves, the years of sedimentary build up where spectacular, and whilst the main colors were reds we came across everything from green to blue to yellow. It’s hard to describe how beautiful these cave and arches are, my video barely does it justice, I recommend you go see for yourself one day.

Knowing what we had ahead of us we did not dawdle, we headed south down the west coast, watched over by an eagle nesting in the trees lining the shores. We stopped briefly at the harbor for a pit stop , then headed across the lake to Bear island.
Bear Island
We stopped at the north end of the beach and ate a much needed high energy snack, we had done about 7 miles by then and needed to recharge. The sun was bright and the lake was calm but the wind was building and it kept chilling us. Getting back into the kayak I quickly warmed up, and with the food inside me we crossed the next 5 miles quickly to Oak island.
Oak 4 for lunch
When you know what you are doing and are prepared for it, stopping to make a hot lunch is a pretty quick affair, rice noodles were the order of the day with a bunch of extra meat for good measure and a few high energy snack bars. All the time we were sitting on the beach the wind was increasing and the once calm lake was beginning to show signs of unrest.
Once afloat we turned East along the southern shore of Oak. Half way along the shore we started across the channel and met the south easterly breeze head on, we quickly crossed and got into the relative wind shadow of the Wisconsin coastline. As we approached Red Cliff Point from the west the waves started building the wind was funneling in between Hermit and Basswood Islands building ad reflecting to create very disturbed clapotis. Ron’s heavily loaded Q Kayak was very unhappy broaching constantly and requiring Ron to brace incessantly whenever he was beam on to the wave. The Deep bow kept acting as a skeg pivoting the kayak around it and the small stern skeg was unable to compensate sufficiently for it. Ron and I were about 80 yards apart but I could see how uncomfortable he was, by comparison the Explorer was loving the conditions, I was catching the occasional wave and barely needing any skeg to keep the kayak going where I wanted it. The weight of my gear seemed to only be having a positive effect on the handling.

I paddled fast over to Ron and we chatted briefly, it was clear that if we were going to keep going to Basswood Ron was in for an ugly hour plus paddle. We both agreed it was better to try and run before the wind and head directly to Buffalo bay which was directly downwind by now. So we spent our last hour of the paddle surfing down the west channel, with Ron battling the ever broaching Q Kayak. The moment we got behind the breakwater it was peaceful again.
No one was hurt, we had had a great paddle that day completing over 19 miles and getting to see some of the most spectacular caves. Would I have liked to keep going another two days? Sure. But with the wind, waves and thunderstorms that were forecast it was the right decision to be safe rather than sorry and stuck, or sorry and sunk. Now I have another excuse to return to the Apostles and complete the trip, many more islands are left to visit.
Glad we are ashore now

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