Ningaloo Reef, six day kayak trip out of Exmouth, WA — 31 July 2022

By:  Kaye & Stephen Parnell

Ningaloo Trip WA

NINGALOO REEF – 6 DAY KAYAK TRIP OUT OF EXMOUTH WA

The Ningaloo Marine Park is located on the north west coastline of Western Australia and is designated a World Heritage listed site due to its incredible biodiversity. On this trip we spent five days paddling and snorkeling between the reef and the beach and it was planned that we would land at pre-determined beach sites. The weather had other ideas.

 

DAY 1 – EXMOUTH ADVENTURE KAYAKS THEN CAMPING AT YARDIE CREEK

We were picked up at 3.15pm from our hotel for transfer to the Cape Range National Park with a detour to the Exmouth Adventure Kayaks depot to collect the camping gear along with wet suits, hats, rashies and other snorkeling gear plus dry bags for our personal gear. EVERYTHING – food, water (in bladders) had to be carried on kayaks. We filled the hatches at the front and rear with our gear, put the communal food and sundries in the centre hatch and then strapped down more gear on the top of the centre hatch.  The group numbered 11 keen paddlers plus our two guides to travel in the five double Sea Bear Packhorse kayaks and three singles.  The double kayaks were big and heavy and took a minimum of 6 people to carry unloaded.

The first night at Yardie Creek 86 kms from Exmouth was a permanent camp site of tin shed shelter with rustic sleepers made into a large table with bench seating with a luxurious “drop dunny” facility! Tents were pitched and after a delicious dinner of baked fish and salad we disappeared into our snug sleeping bags lulled to sleep by the booming of waves breaking on the Ningaloo Reef.

DAY 2 – CHALLENGE OF THE INDIAN OCEAN

Resting in a beach at Ningaloo

The day started with us carrying the kayaks through the sand dunes before loading them and heading into the waiting challenge of the Indian Ocean. The plan included an “average” day with 3-4 hours of paddling and with time for snorkeling. But our first paddling day had very strong head wind of 25 knot. White-capped waves greeted us as we launched off the beach. After 2.5 hours paddling and rain clouds rolling up from the south we had covered a grand total of just over 2 kms before the guides called a stop on a narrow beach fronted by sand dunes for a rest and rethink.  It was a very tough paddle and we were very grateful for the experience of our Sunday morning peer paddles with Matt at Semaphore.  Our guides managed to get a weather report that predicted wind and rain increasing until midnight so tents were hurriedly pitched in the little shelter provided by the small dunes and after a quick lunch of wraps and salad with heavy rain arriving we spent the rest of the day “holed up” in our little tents. We emerged briefly at dusk for a delicious meal cooked and eaten huddled under a canvas shelter held up by paddles before we all quickly retired to sleep out a night of driving wind and rain.

DAY 3 – A STUNNING DAY PADDLING WITH TURTLES AND WHALES

Miraculously the next day we awoke at 6 am to find all peace and tranquility with a southerly blowing up the coast.  We had everything packed up and ready to load before breakfast at 7am and an early start on the water to make up for yesterdays’ lack of distance.  What a difference a following wind makes! Our guides were very pleased with our progress, with the same distance covered as yesterday but in just ¾ hour. After stops for morning tea and lunch we were able to make up all of the lost time and distance arriving at the planned campsite after 16 kms of paddling. Being back on schedule made for happy kayakers and even happier guides and the chance to drift snorkel was an added bonus.  There were plenty of turtles popping their heads up along with fish jumping out of the waves ahead of us as we paddled along. There was even the sight of a whale breaching to make everyone gasp with wonder.  Thoroughly exhausted we sat on the sand hills and watched the sunset before staggering off to our tents.

DAY 4 – ON TO TORQUOISE BAY

Team work at Ningaloo

The destination for Day 4 was Torquoise Bay which proved quite a paddling challenge. We were given strict instructions on precision paddling in close double column formation with our guide drawing a detailed sand map for going through the gaps between the breakers of the reef where strong currents could see us whisked off in the wrong direction if we weren’t careful. Torquoise Bay is a beautiful and popular tourist spot with safe swimming and also provided an opportunity to restock supplies driven up from Exmouth.  Another chance for a drift snorkel with a nice slow day with a leisurely lunch before setting off further up the reef to another well chosen camp site.

This site entailed quite a tricky landing in a little cove with a strong cross current and tidal pull. The tide drop is quite marked here, with the water disappearing on us as we were landing. To safe guard the kayaks they had to be emptied and hauled right on the top of sand hills for safety. The actual reef was further away than for our other stops but the pounding and booming of the surf still provided a notable backdrop to the otherwise complete isolation of the campsite.

DAY 5 – MANGROVE BAY THEN BACK TO EXMOUTH

We were granted a lovely sleep in until 6.30am then yoga on the beach with El (our young guide from Seattle) and a cooked breakfast from Dave (our guide from NSW) before setting off to lunch at Mangrove Bay which was full of stingrays skimming through the shallows along with pelicans and little schools of fish plus the odd frolicking dolphin or two to entertain us as we casually paddled up the coast with Ningaloo Reef on our left and the beach and Cape Ranges on our right. While checking out the mangroves we took advantage of the opportunity to run aground – just to prove it’s not just a Phil Doddridge thing! Well away from the mangroves a previously unknown and yet to be named campsite was carefully chosen amongst dense scrub.  More unloading and lugging of kayaks to higher ground before settling into our last night of pitching tents.

Another restful start to the last day of our expedition as the tide was out at least 100 metres and the big packhorse doubles are not something you want to drag fully loaded. We all enjoyed walking and fossicking along the beach.  Finally underway around 11am with a short paddle to Tantabitti for a final snorkel, this time directly off the kayaks moored to a buoy proved a challenging method of getting in and out in flippers and full gear!  A late lunch after unloading kayaks and hauling everything to the trailer ready to load.  Arrived back at the depot in Exmouth (at this point only 36 kms away) where a chain gang formed to unload the van and sort our gear before finally and thankfully being dropped off at our respective accommodations for hot showers.  Such a luxury! We found the Ningaloo paddle a very physical but enjoyable trip and we are very grateful for the “training” paddles with the Club particularly those at Semaphore and on the Port Augusta Spencer Gulf trip. This was our first “expedition’ and the first time we have needed to carry everything with us. It is astounding what can be squeezed into these big NZ kayaks although there were occasions on that first rough day when we wondered at our wisdom in paddling a heavily laden kayak sitting so low in the water.

 

Day paddle at Port Elliot — 23 May 2022

A much reduced group of three paddlers set off from Victor Harbor on Monday morning. Originally scheduled for Saturday, but thanks to the government declaring an election on that day, we decided to move it to Monday. Apologies to all the working people, blame the government!

Starting to paddle in Port Elliot

We launched from Kent Reserve again, but this time we turned left and headed for Port Elliot and lunch.

We had a quick stop to admire the new causeway to Granite Island. After looking at the state of the old causeway from underneath its clear why a new one was needed, very corroded and damaged.

The entrance to Port Elliot looked its normal intimidating self. Waves breaking on the headland and Pullen Island, but with the small swell the passage between them was easy and were soon stretching our legs and soaking up the sun on the beach.

Around Port Elliot

On the way back we went around the outside of Pullen Island to have a look at the rocks there. Some interesting spots to explore, but they will have to wait for another day, in a smaller boat, with calmer seas.

The trip back was quicker thanks to the wind behind us, but felt longer, possibly due to the paddle the previous day. Whatever the reason everyone was grateful when we reached to beach and the cars.

Day paddle at Victor Harbor — 22 May 2022

Five paddlers took advantage of the glorious weather to go for a paddle out of Victor Harbor, around the Bluff and out to West Island

Paddling around Victor Harbor

The swell was a manageable 1-1.5m as predicted, but the weather forecast did not mention the chop, which made conditions a bit challenging, especially around the Bluff where there was a lot of rebound.

After launching from the shelter of Kent Reserve we made slow, steady progress to West Island, where some of the group chose to go around the exposed seaward side for some excitement while the rest chose to go on the sheltered side to check on the seal population, which is looking very healthy.

Kings beach looked inviting, so we stopped there for lunch and a leg stretch and a chat with the passing hikers. Launching should have been easy except for a sneaky rebound wave coming in from the side which resulted in one swim and a few near misses.

Choppy water around Victor Harbor

Pushing back into the 10 knot wind made things a bit chillier, but we were soon around the Bluff into some more sheltered water. We stopped in at Wright Island to check out the bird population which is also looking very healthy.

Some dolphins made an appearance, but were not feeling social and moved off following a school of fish.

Landing back at Kent reserve we left the kayaks on the beach while we went to retrieve the wheels from the cars. Unfortunately someone in the group neglected to pull up his kayak far enough, and by the time we got back to the water it was upside down in the surf a fair way down the beach. It is going to take me a while to get rid of all that sand in the kayak.

Upper Spencer Gulf, Port Lowly to Port Germein Crossing of Upper Gulf — 2 May 2022

THE TRIP

Steve and Gregg at Spencer Gulf

The crossing had been on the radar for several years as quite often when at Cockle Spit we would peer at the distant view of the tanks at the Port Bonython facility and wonder what if!  We consulted Google Earth and measured and checked possible routes. Gaining information and understanding of the wind and tides in the area was critical. We consulted with several sailors and told us stories of wind and waves in the area and the many challenges with currents. We knew that in windy and high tidal flows this a dangerous area that you should never underestimate the risk.  The decision to paddle the crossing would have to be dependent on ideal conditions.

Leading up to the crossing wind and tidal flows were considered.  The 7 day forecast on Willy Weather indicated that Monday 2nd May would be ideal for a West to East crossing. Daily checking reaffirmed that Monday would be the day.  Light northerly winds and a low tide of 0.8 at 1:30 pm.

DEPARTURE FROM POINT LOWLY

Final arrangements were in place, John Case would do the car portage. Paddlers were myself (Steve Carter) and Greg Watts.  Our other sea kayaking mate Paul Caden from Cowell was invited but he was committed to seeding crops with his son, much to his annoyance.

We departed the beach at Point Lowly at 10 am and once around the Point we set a bearing of 090 degrees.  This course allowed for southerly tidal slip and to arrive at the tip of Wards Spit.  We user our sails to take advantage of the slight (approx. 5 km/h) northerly.  Sea conditions were smooth but the out flowing tide was evident.  Eventually the water became shallower as we could see the sea grass.  Using the 2 navigation beacons we reconciled that we were south of our check point and we then headed north to land on Wards Spit at 2 pm.

A BREAK ON WARDS SPIT

A quick rest and stretch on the Spit.  By now the northerly had dropped out and the water glassed off.  The dark blue line of wind was in the south and eventually a slight southerly wind kicked in.  With this favourable wind we set off to Port Germein.  We used both compass and the land marks on the Southern Flinders Ranges for this section.

ARRIVAL AT PORT GERMEIN JETTY

Spencer Gulf sailing

Eventually we rounded the end of the Jetty.  Phew! Only 1.8 km or so to land.  We landed at 4:18pm and proceeded to portage the kayaks.  We were met by John and the car as he had driven over the flats to greet us.  Greg and I raced to pack up and load the car as in the inflowing edge of the water moved ever closer. Once at the carpark we stopped and had a celebratory beer for not only the crossing but also Greg’s 63rd birthday.

NOTES FOR FURTHER CROSSINGS

The tidal influence was what we expected, we had estimated a flow of 3 to 4 km/h and know it could be higher in other tidal conditions.  On Monday high tide was 2.8 and low of 0.8 however tidal variations of high 3.6 to a low of 0.2 would necessitate making greater allowance for tidal slippage.  The influence of wind and tide also needs to be considered carefully.

SUMMARY

Not sure if this is the first crossing of Spencer’s Gulf at this position. (perhaps the first crossing claim could be verified by some of the long term club kayakers) If it is the first Point Lowly to Port Germein crossing then Greg Watts has a wonderful way to always remember his 63rd birthday.  If it’s not the first, we celebrate our achievement.  Distance 23.59 km.  Time 4:18.

Spencer Gulf Crossing

Adelaide Canoe Club General Meeting, The Bartley Hotel — 8 April 2022

Adelaide Canoe Club (ACC) General Meetings are back on the agenda. We had  a very successful evening at The Bartley Hotel on Friday (8th Apr). This meeting was particularly special with James and Dayna Fishers joining us as Guest Speakers. It was great to see General Meetings happening again following the interruptions due to COVID.

We had 30 members and family attending. The vibe during the evening was catching and everyone was enthralled to hear about James and Dayna’s successful circumnavigation of Kangaroo Island earlier this year in January.

Paddlers that have done KI circumnavigation

The evening was particularly significant: as well as our most recent kayakers to circumnavigate KI, also present was the first kayaker to circumnavigate the Island, with Peter Carter representing his team of John Hicks, David Nicolson and Mike Higginson. Peter’s team accomplished the circumnavigation in December 1980/Jan 1981, while James and Dayna completed their 12-day trip on Jan 19th 2022. Phil Doddridge also received recognition, having paddled most of the KI coast during his kayaking career. We heard the different ways the trip was researched and conducted, with Peter bringing along one of his original maps and a section of his Nordkapp stern and James talking about his extensive research on google earth and the electronics they used for weather and tidal flow. Peter’s group plan was to “keep the Island on the left”.

It was also great to have three (3) of our new members coming along to soak up the experience and meet other club members. One of the new members, Hugh Macmillan, has hit the ground running having already notched up a Backstairs Passage Crossing in March after recently relocating to Adelaide from San Francisco and joining ACC. We have been very interested hearing from Hugh about his paddling off the Californian Coast while a member of Bay Area Sea Kayaking Club (BASK).

Committee Reports and more

Sunset in KI

We started the evening with brief reports from Committee members before meals were served just after 7pm. The room was a buzz with enthusiastic conversations, and it was great to see everyone enjoying the occasion. About 8pm we introduced James and Dayna and soon became enthralled in the stories of their epic adventure.  We much appreciate James and Dayna giving up their Friday evening to share their adventure. They used PowerPoint slides backed up with stunning photographs to describe their experiences, including the highs and lows.

We heard how James and Dayna were motivated to tackle the trip to help raise funds for an incredible organisation – Operation Flinders, which uses the outdoors to encourage and support young people. Operation Flinders takes participants out of their familiar environment so that they can learn new life skills, hence the determination for James and Dayna to take themselves out of their comfort zone!

They achieved the circumnavigation over 12 days, starting and finishing at Penneshaw (although with a mid-course change from south to north coast due to unfavourable westerly winds) paddling in a clockwise direction covering 380km with 65 hours on water. As well as the paddling achievement, they raised over $3,000 for Operation Flinders – well done, a great success, showing that sea kayaking in South Australia is continuing strongly.

Backstairs Passage

KI circumnavigation

We heard first-hand about the tidal races and standing waves around Cape St Albans, Cape Willoughby and Cape Hart. Their adrenalin was flowing strongly around Cape Hart, matching the tidal flow racing out from Backstairs Passage with them getting along at 8 to 11km/hr in 3m swell. And then came Cape Gantheaume where they felt very vulnerable paddling around the southernmost tip of KI (in James’s words – “feeling very exposed in monster swells and very gnarly”).  Also very aware of how truly terrible a place it was to be if the weather deteriorated with 20km of cliffs in both directions and no escape.

Day three (3) leg from D’Estrees Bay to Vivonne Bay was a tough day heading into a head wind, and paddling against “wind set currents”, finding the water difficult to move through – however the day ended well topped off by a stunning sunset and a chance to relax in the lovely Bay.

Weather then dictated they stay in Vivonne Bay for day four (4), before changing again altogether, forcing a big adjustment to the trip and switch to the north coast.

Snellings Beach

Vivonne Bay

Day five (5) started from Snellings Beach on the north coast to make the most of the 15-20kt westerly winds, they enjoyed much easier paddling conditions, getting nice and close to the coast and exploring the coves and bays before finishing on a nice sandy beach at Dashwood Bay.

Day six (6) saw more 15 – 25kt west to north westerly winds making for a quick run from Dashwood Bay for an overnight stop at Ballast Head before continuing on to Penneshaw on day seven (7) for a reset, then back to the unfinished west end.

By day eight (8) they were back on the South Coast to finish off the final 145km of the island. They found the water difficult to move through, but visits of Yellow Fin Tuna and Dolphins helped make the day better!

They easily navigated the reef into Hanson Bay (thankfully) before spending a nice evening in the stunning Bay.

Cape Du Couedic

Day nine (9) saw the weather conditions line up perfectly to round Cape Du Couedic nice and close to the cliffs. This was certainly a highlight of the trip, but in the afternoon they faced challenging conditions to make it past the top of Maupertuis Bay and into West Bay.

James and Dayna described the amazing experience of paddling past Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch and Cape Du Couedic – the photos tell all!

They had an early start on Day ten (10) for the run to Snug Cove, planned to avoid the big swell forecast at 4.5m, already building up and taking them over 30 minutes to clear the beach swell. They met an ebbing tide race against, rebound waves, seas and swell, dramatic cliffs and the now familiar feeling – “this place is a long way from anywhere safe, or anyone to help us – real sea kayaking”.

James explained that when they were rounding Cape Borda they reached the emotional end of the expedition for them, as there were no more exposed coastlines remaining. The threat of 20 – 30kt head winds the next two days on the north coast did not compare to the anxiousness of the south and west coasts.

Snug Cove lived up to its name, resulting in a disturbed night’s sleep with a visit from a Tsunami wave that funneled up into the cove about 4am – gear everywhere!

Western River

James and Dayna opted for shorter legs on days eleven (11) and twelve (12) with an overnight at Western River. That gave them a break from the constant 20 – 25kt head winds. The wind continued to blow right up until their arrival there, to meet their support team of Malcolm and Alison Hamilton.

A big THANK YOU to James and Dayna for sharing their experience with the club. We had a fantastic evening.

If anyone would like to arrange a donation to Operation Flinders on behalf of James and Dayna in recognition of their KI Circumnavigation and Fundraising effort, please contact Heather Holmes (Accounts Officer – 8245 2666 or 0419 845 233) or visit the website: https://operationflinders.org.au/ and make a donation.

Videos

If you would like to experience James and Dayna’s trip from the safety of home check out their YouTube videos below:

Port Victoria coast exploration — 2-3 April 2022

Peter Drewry, Peter Vincent, Maria Kubik and Marina Walker joined Anne and Simon Langsford for an exploratory paddle from Port Victoria south 40 km to Port Minlacowie.

Saturday

Wauraltee Beach

On Saturday morning Anne and Peter V did the car shuttle to leave a vehicle at Port Minlacowie, the finish spot.  We then all set off from Port Victoria in beautiful conditions. There was a 13 knot south easterly wind which we avoided most of the day by sticking close to the coast. The water along this part of the coast was so clear we could see the range of sea weeds and sea grasses beneath us. Much of the coast is very rocky, even adjacent to the sandy beaches. When the tide was out this limited our choice of landing spots. However, there were enough clear sandy areas where landing was easy so we could enjoy lunch or snacks on the beach.

We were surprised at the numbers of campers, caravans and 4WDs on Wauraltee Beach. It looked like a nice spot to camp but not exactly ‘getting away from it all’. We arrived at Port Rickaby just before 5pm and managed to sign into the caravan park before the office closed. It was too late though for Peter V to order a hamburger from the shop. We used our wheels to get all the kayaks up to the camping area. It was a bit of work, but we had a nice grassy area and no sand blowing into everything as we would have had camping on the beach.

Sunday

Along the Yorke Peninsula’s coast

Sunday’s paddle continued south with milder (10 knot) winds, rewarding us with lots of wildlife. We had a close encounter with a pod of about seven dolphins, including a young one, swimming around us. We also saw a seal floating with one flipper in the air (from a distance it looked like a shark fin moving slowly around). Having identified the ‘fin’ as a seal flipper we were not so scared when we encountered a second seal doing the same graceful flipper wave. Peter V identified a couple of Wedge Tailed eagles attacking a Nankeen Kestrel, which managed to get away from them. We also saw Crested Turns, Sooty Oyster Catchers, Cormorants and of course Silver and Pacific Gulls. We arrived at Port Minlacowie boat ramp about midday and quickly got the boats ashore and did the return car shuttle to Port Victoria.

This was an enjoyable paddle. Highly recommended for another trip perhaps with an extra day to allow time for some snorkelling.

Backstairs Passage Crossing, Kangaroo Island — 26 March 2022

A very successful return paddle to Kangaroo Island. Paddlers were: Phil Doddridge, Mark Loram, Charlie Walker, Peter Vincent, Matt Eldred, Stephen Moore and new member Hugh Macmillan. This was the first crossing for Peter, Matt, Stephen and Hugh, so there were a few smiling faces when we arrived back at Cape Jervis. Well done paddlers! Trip was led by Phil and was aimed at demonstrating splitting of the tide to achieve the most efficient crossing.

The start

The early birds in the group arrived at Cape Jervis at 8.30am. There were a bunch of keen kayakers outside our group already there prepping for a training run to Blowhole Beach. We saw Tresh preparing his new/old 1980 Greenlander kayak, a familiar face in addition to Mark Benjamin. Mark (L). Phil and Hugh arrived just afterwards, with Mark L being a late starter, having just been released from lockdown. After loading up and a safety briefing from Phil we set off about 10.15am, following the coast east to avoid the ferry’s path.

Lumpy start

Landing in Kangaroo Island

We then set our bearing for Cape Coutts and headed out on our adventure, with only whitecaps between us and the safety of Antechamber Bay, just east of Cape Coutts. And yes, (as observed form the drive down the hill to Cape Jervis) the conditions were lumpy with swells reaching 2 to 2.5m. The wind was from the south east at around 15 Knots and slightly above forecast. The tide was still on the ebb until 12.30pm, so we had a slight advantage to balance the wind.

We had a nice sunny day but with the wind and the breaking waves, all very glad we had opted to wear CAGs. Crossing time was 3.5 hrs of solid paddling then overall a total of 4 hours including the short portage into Chapman River, over 22km.

The landing

Conditions eased as we entered Antechamber Bay. There was still enough swell to practice our surf landings. Phil showed the way and Charlie provided the entertainment with a stern first landing in his P&H Valkyrie. Didn’t take long for the portage and we were all looking forward to enjoying the campsite and surrounds with the early arrival at 2pm. Once in the river Matt noticed the plentiful mullet and wished he had packed his fishing rod. The paddle down the dead flat and picturesque Chapman River felt like another world compared to the crossing.

The camp site

We paddled further up the Chapman River to campsite No 12 that Phil had previously booked. We were welcomed by a new bridge – apparently styled on the Onkaparinga River Suspension Bridge at Old Noarlunga. Quite a few dollars have been spent since out last visit. We later discovered a brand new drop loo very close to our campsite – sheer luxury!

After we settled in, Matt, Peter and Mark completed a 3.5km exploration of the river with picturesque paperbarks on the bank. Peter was rather happy with the bird life.

The campground was pretty busy. We made an early appearance at the camp kitchen, admiring the stunning views of the Chapman River. We had a very pleasant evening and turned in early and slept well, being serenaded by several Boobook Owls during the night. Also brought back memories of Coffin Bay with a few in the group being visited by friendly mice during the night.

Back on the water

Happy paddlers in the beach at KI

The next day back on the water by 10am. The water conditions from the beach looked perfect, not a breath of wind or a sign of a whitecap as far as the eye could see. The plan for the day was to head for Blowhole Beach and play with the tides during the crossing. We stuck to this plan, however the winds and tide were not favourable, pushing us further east than we would have liked. Once again the tide was on the ebb until 12.30pm, particularly noticeable on the GPS track, but with the flood assisting our path to Blowhole Beach.

Conditions on the water started off perfectly until the seas got very mixed and choppy which made for an interesting paddle. 21km and we landed at Blowhole Beach for a welcome leg stretch and bite to eat after the 4.5 hour crossing in messy seas. Wind was from the north and again above forecast, mostly around 12-15 knots.

After lunch it was only a quick 9km paddle.  Back to Cape Jervis where 7 tired paddlers loaded their kayaks and headed home after a very successful and enjoyable weekend. For the Club it was the first paddle across Backstairs Passage for the year and for 4 of the members it was their first crossing…. but by no means their last. Stay tuned for the next planned crossing, perhaps in a spring tide to really show the tidal influence in Backstairs Passage.

Crossing to KI

Return trip to Cape Jervis

Paddle to Cockle Spit from Port Germein — 19 March 2022

Paddling from Port Germain

The plan was a Club paddle to Cockle Spit off Port Germein Jetty. We had been attempting to combine our efforts with the Royal Port Pirie Yacht Club who have for the last few years organised a cricket match on the Spit.  Originally it was with the Whyalla Yacht Club but this had folded as some events do!  The vision is for the Adelaide Canoe Club (ACC) to join the event in the future and perhaps field a team. Tina from the Royal Port Pirie Yacht Club has been very helpful and we are hoping to catch up with them next year.

The preparation

We considered all the potential routes for the day including Pirie to Spit. The longest option was Weeroona Island to the Spit or just Port Germein to the Spit. Unfortunately, all included the dreaded 1.3 km portage at low tide at Port Germein. The option of Weeroona to Germein was decided. The paddlers from Adelaide were supposed to meet the Upper Gulf paddlers on Saturday. Then on Friday night COVID struck and Mark was in isolation as a close contact. Our Adelaide members had to cancel and left Greg Watts and myself (Steve Carter) to hold the fort and paddle out to find the Spit.

The paddle

We met at 1:00pm near the jetty at Port Germein and commenced the 1.3 km portage out to the 3rd steps off the jetty. Kayak trolleys essential – but there has to be a better way!

Paddling from Port Germain

The paddle was straightforward on a bearing of 240⁰ from the end of the jetty ruins. Conditions were ideal with a SE wind of 0 to 5 knots. The white of the Spit became visible after 3 km. After another 2 km we hit the southern end and paddled along the Spit for 1 more km just to be sure.

We had a break on the Spit. True to its name, it is made up of cockle and other shells, rather than sand. After a brief wander around – no cricket being played today – we commenced our return journey. We expected a tail wind home after the change of tide and usual afternoon sea breeze. But the slight wind dropped off and the sea glassed over, which made for a very pleasant return paddle.

On return, the tide was out even further. We landed near the jetty with 2 cars parked under it, just like a carport. Then a long portage alongside the jetty back to our vehicles.

The pub

Off to the pub where we learnt more about driving out on the flats. This has always terrified me as I wish for my car to last longer than rusting out.  We found out that some of the specialist vehicles can be arranged to do a pick up.  The solution to cleaning salt and sand under the car is to place the sprinkler under the car for 10 minutes or so. Guess what: next time it’s a car drive out to pick up kayaks!

This is the 5th or 6th journey for me, however on my favourite trip we didn’t even see the Spit but had a downwind journey in 20 knots winds from Third Creek (south of Pirie) to Port Germein. There is much more to do in this area, and I look forward to other trips