THE ORDEAL – Tsunami Retreat 2016

by Nancy Soares on November 7, 2016

And a good time was had by all!

And a good time was had by all!

Howling wind. Choppy waves. Funky swells. Boomers. Contrary currents. This year the Tsunami Ranger retreat had it all. But we’re a team and we made it! Once again, Rangers and friends overcame all obstacles and had a great time on the annual gathering. Capt. Jim Kakuk and guest Nancy Soares share the story.

Blowhole. Conditions made it good for play.

Blowhole. Conditions made it good for play. TRs (L to R) Dandy Don, Jeff Laxier, and Scott Becklund

Nancy: Jim and I were the first to get to the put in. Right after he got out of his truck we talked conditions. They were the worst they were going to be all week. “I just don’t want an ordeal,” I said. “I don’t want an ordeal either,” Jim replied. As everyone else showed up the talk continued.

Jim: On the drive, I felt anxious, too much coffee and the conditions were a mix of wind, waves and fog. Not looking good, not feeling gorgeous.

At the meeting place Nancy and I talked about hanging back for a day as conditions were projected to improve overnight. The others arrived and Michael wanted to go, of course, but the two guests with him were the real concern. When the rest of the gang arrived we decided to wait and spent the day up a river, with a paddle.

Upriver, TR Michael Powers and guest Jon Wittenberg check out a floating house

Upriver, TR Michael Powers and guest Jon Wittenberg check out a floating house

Nancy: We found a nifty little campsite on the river. The river had a lot of surprises for us, and it was nice to warm up the old paddling muscles before the big trip next day.

TR Scott Becklund surfing at the take-out

TRs Scott Becklund (on the wave) Jeff Laxier (in the red helmet) and Steve King (you can see his paddle) playing at the take-out

The next day conditions still sucked but we went anyway. Two parties launched at 10:00 from two different put-ins, one south and one north. Jim, Michael, Don, Jeff, Jon, Bob and I came in from the north. The overall swell from the northwest should have helped us but the waves were choppy and coming from all directions. Huge boomers were going off all over and there was a lot of refraction against the cliffs.

Two days later it looked like this...

Two days later the take-out looked like this…

There was no stopping to rest because right away you felt sick. And you went backwards. Jim said that in all the years the Rangers have been going to this spot conditions were the worst. But we put our heads down and paddled the six long tortuous miles to our beach campsite. Actually, after we looked at Don’s GPS we discovered we had paddled more like eight miles, probably because we had to go so far outside to avoid the boomers.

Deb and Cate mix it up in the cove

Deb and Cate mix it up in the cove

Jim: On the water we had wind and due to the big tide change, the current was against us. With laden boats the big waves coming from behind did not afford any push, just annoying wash over. Past the half way point one of the guests became sea sick and wanted to land. But we were a ways past the last safe landing beach and there were only cliffs and a rocky shore shrouded in fog with big waves. At that point there was no Plan B, it was either go or don’t go. We continued on with Jeff and Don towing two slow paddlers. I have never been a proponent of towing but it shows strength in a unit and kept us together. We trudged on for another hour or more, a long time when conditions suck. We were all tired but being familiar with the route I felt confident that we would make it. Time for some mind numbing metronome paddling as Nancy said.

Home at last!Home at last!

Home Sweet Home!

Nancy: We beached after nearly four hours of hard, solid paddling and landed without incident. Yep. Almost four hours to get eight miles. Deb, Scott, Steve, and Cate had arrived hours earlier, having only a short paddle from the south. Jim and I were supposed to observe Cate’s Tsunami Ranger test; however after waiting so long they decided to start without us. But they took a break long enough to render aid. Michael and Jim went down for naps. I walked on Jeff’s and Don’s arms and taught Jeff how to walk on mine. This technique is part of the massage I practice as part of my martial arts training. Arms, necks, and backs were addressed. We all needed some TLC.

Marinating abalone - oh yeahhhhhh...

Marinating abalone – oh yeahhhhhh…that works!

Jim: We finally made it to our haven on the coast, all feeling a bit wasted and sick when we got to the beach. It is hard to overstate the comfort of a familiar and safe spot to land. Entering the cove we were greeted by the first landing party, the A-Team, and they all looked real good. It was a relief that we all made it. The A-Team continued with the test while our F Troop rested and set up camp. After a few hours the test team returned and all was good. Later on the paddle ordeal seemed like a dream as we made dinner and partied.

Cate. Such a boss!

Cate. Such a boss!

Nancy: Cate passed her test with flying colors. By the time the testing group returned the rest of us had recovered from our ordeal. We took photos of the test group surfing the waves breaking into the cove. After the feast Cate was rewarded with the rank of lieutenant and received some really cool swag for her efforts. And she and Jeff presented the Rangers with scary cool face masks.

Awesome masks!

Awesome masks!

Jim: The next day we watched from the beach as Michael and guests left and then we lazied in the warm sun and talked until noon. When the next pod left we paddled along with them for a while and on the way back we played in the waves and shopped on the beaches for cool stuff. Don, entering a fringe beach, discovered a whale bone yard. Later, Steve identified it as a right whale.

We did get some cave action!

Cave action!

Nancy: The next day conditions had diminished. We chilled in camp for a while, playing target sports and playing with knives. Then it was time for Deb, Scott, Steve, Jeff, and Cate to depart too. We hit a blow hole and some little play spots around the caves, and then it was time to say good-bye.

A great beach to find shells


Jim: On the last night it was just the three of us, and it was quite nice. When we left the next day after gathering some of the whale bones we paddled in favorable conditions all the way back, ending our 31st Tsunami Ranger retreat with smiles and some take home booty.

More booty!

More booty!

Nancy: We had a quiet evening around the fire. The paddle home was uneventful except for one small incident. There was one point at which, lulled by the easy conditions, I chose a route between two large rocks. I had watched that spot for about twenty minutes as we approached and wanted to take the shorter route on the inside. Bad idea. I was just about to enter when the swell reared up and a cascade of whitewater roared over the rock to my left. “No!” said Jim, who was right behind me. I swung left and paddled hard to the outside as more rocks revealed themselves in the suck and boom of the waves. But that was the only incident in an otherwise smooth return. In fact, Don and I almost overshot the take out because we couldn’t believe we had arrived so soon. The paddle that took us nearly four hours two days ago had taken us less than two hours today.

Campfire classic

Campfire classic

It’s so great to be with a tight team like the Rangers. It’s been four years since I went along, and I’m really glad I did. I’m even glad it was an ordeal. A) I know I can push through in a tough situation and B) it makes a good story. And congratulations to Cate Hawthorne on becoming the newest, and youngest, Tsunami Ranger! I’d talk about her test except that I MISSED IT! All I can say is, Well done Cate!

TR Dob Volturno congratulates the newest Ranger Cate Hawthorne

TR Dob Volturno congratulates the newest Ranger Cate Hawthorne

Be sure to check out Cate’s blog Woman on Water at and the Liquid Fusion Kayak website at

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim November 7, 2016 at 11:08 am

Great story weaving Nancy, I like the dual perspective of events. Glad you made it to the retreat this year. – Captain Kubana.


Nancy Soares November 7, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Hey, Cap’n, glad you liked what I did with the text. I am so glad I went along this year. Thank you so much for inviting me. It was magic 🙂


Jeff Laxier November 9, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Reading this put me right back in the thick of it, a good time, short suffering, and many laughs were had by all.


Nancy Soares November 16, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Thanks for your comment, Jeff. And thanks for cheering me up on the Ordeal portion of the trip – you’ve always got that great big smile no matter what’s going on. I like that. But yeah, the suffering was nothing in comparison with the good times that followed. We have to make it longer trip next time! Always a pleasure hanging out with you and Cate 🙂


Lyrinda Snyderman November 16, 2016 at 9:44 am

Great account! Conditions seem a lot like what we had this October for the BASK Mendo Madness. Wish the photos could be enlarged on a cellphone.


Nancy Soares November 16, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Hi Lyrinda, thanks for reading and thanks for your comment! No, conditions weren’t ideal that first day but as you can see from the before and after photos of our little cove, things improved dramatically the next couple of days. And the “not ideal conditions” were actually really good for Cate’s test and for other activities that didn’t require kayaking in expedition mode 😛

Glad you enjoyed the post!


Tony M. December 7, 2016 at 7:56 am

It’s always nice seeing Tsunami kayaks other than the ones I own! At three, I think I have the most east of the Mississippi…have heard reports of others, but never have I seen one.


Carl Vopal March 5, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Eric Soares
I have a ballast system that’s been on the market for about 7 years. It’s called the Paddling Partner. Go to
Would you be interested in trying the ballast in your boat?
Carl Vopal
Balance Solutions, LLC


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