St Kilda Weekend History
Another great weekender out to St. Kilda was conducted on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September. Weather, wind and tidal conditions were perfect for the ten club members who participated.
The St. Kilda weekender has been a feature of the ACC calendar for over ten years now. It is an easy trip requiring paddlers to carry minimal equipment. We stay in the St. Kilda Community Hall overnight and go to the pub for dinner and drinks.
It’s All About the Tides
The devil is in the detail of planning however and the critical elements lie in getting the tides just right. The trip takes in most of the Port River estuary which is highly tidal. On the wrong day the currents can be severe and in places the water just disappears at low tide.
I have used the tide in a couple of ways for this trip over the years. This time around I used the dodge tide to minimise the impact of tidal currents and extremely low water levels. A dodge tide is a phenomenon almost unique to Gulf St. Vincent and Spencer Gulf. It also occurs in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf Of Mexico. A dodge tide is where the water levels change minimally over a 24 to 48 hour period; it is if the tides miss a day! Last weekend we had a 15 hr tide on Sunday resulting in negligible current and change in water levels. The water level did not go below 1.2m during daylight hours which is most important when planning to explore the mangrove creeks of the Barker Inlet and the Section Bank at Outer Harbor.
I have also used spring tides (nothing to do with the seasons!) to create a fun “ride the tide” experience. On this type of tide we begin at Largs Bay and travel into the Outer Harbor Channel where the rapid inflow of water to the Port River due to the rising tide is quite amazing! With just an easy paddling effort you can achieve 10 or more kilometres per hour.
Departure from UniSA Kayak Shed
Thus trip’s group including Mark L, Abelardo, Terry, Greg, Anthony, Bella, Charlie, Marina, Giresh and myself. We assembled at the UniSA kayak shed near Adelaide Marina on the main arm of the Port River to launch for the 16Km paddle out to St. Kilda. This is the first time we launched from here and it was most convenient as we could leave our vehicles locked up securely in the compound. We planned to finish the trip here as well. Big thanks to club member Dr. Scott Polley, who is a senior lecturer at UniSA for granting access.
North Arm and Ships Graveyard
The journey out to St. Kilda was via The North Arm and Barker Inlet which is such a stunning and little known part of Adelaide. Travelling up the North Arm we observed the maritime relics left abandoned in the “Ships Graveyard” early last century. The remains of vessels such as the Glaucus, Garthneil and Seminole give an insight into early shipping in South Australia. You may find more information about this unique section of the River.
Barker Inlet and Swan Alley
Even more captivating was the exploration of the mangrove creeks of the Barker Inlet. When paddling through the maze of creeks flowing off the “mainland” you get the feeling that you’re far from civilization. It’s a stunning, waterlogged forest. Exploring comes with a warning! You have to know the impact of the tides. Get it wrong and you can encounter fast flowing water that can wash you under low tree branches resulting in capsize and a heap of real issues. At the other end of the spectrum you can run out of water…the creeks go dry at low tide heights. The creeks are best paddled on a dodge tide with a water level of at least 1m which is what we had!
Our journey entered the system via Swan Alley. We then took the Embankment Channel which is artificial and links Burrows Creek, Post Creek and Garnets Creek. Due to the tide height there wasn’t much dry land for lunch. We exited Burrows Creek to find a small sand island to haul out on before returning to the mangroves and continuing down the channel.
Arrival at St Kilda and Community Hall
On exiting the mangroves the next target was the St Kilda Channel and down to the St. Kilda Boat Club to store kayaks overnight and walk to the Community Hall. The pub meal was a little disappointing for some…. squid snitty not up to the usual standard!
Return via Bird Island and Outer Harbor
Sunday began with even better weather for our journey out to Bird Island and the Outer Harbor breakwater. Bird Island is a sand spit that has been increasing in size since I have been visiting the area. I first remember it some 20 years ago as a couple of hundred metre strip of sand running northward from the breakwater without much vegetation but plenty of bird life. It is now a couple of kilometres long and well covered with vegetation and trees. It is an important bird breeding area and one of the few location in Adelaide that Pelicans raise their young. The sand flats to the NW of the breakwater are stunning. It is easy to imagine you’re in the Bahamas!
There were also plenty of long nosed fur seals on the breakwater. Several young ones swam some distance with us and may have never seen a kayaker before.
The group had a slight incoming tidal current to push us the final few kilometres back to the shed. On the way we got to see one of the Naval ships under construction and were warned by Mark to stay out of the “Restricted Zone”; no saboteurs allowed!
When back to the shed it was a quick clean up of gear on the nice lawned area of the UniSA compound. A great weekend had by all!
Overall statistics (Links point to GPX track files)