On Saturday 15th January 2022 we had 13 club members head down south to Rapid Bay for Phil Doddridge’s Rapid Bay Sea trip. Paddlers were Julie Rohde, Mark Loram, Charlie and Marina Walker, Bruce Gregor, Shauna Ashewood, Pete Drewry, Julie Palmer, Bella and Anthony, Matt Eldred and Simon Delaine. We weren’t the only ones enjoying this stunning area – the campground was packed, probably the busiest we have seen. Most of us drove down but newer member Julie Palmer joined us on the beach, showing great commitment having driven from Meningieand camped in amongst the multitude at the campground.
Getting on the water
After Phil’s paddle briefing we were on water about 9.30am and headed south aiming for Rapid Head, hoping to spot a few seals. Thought we might have lost a couple of paddlers after Phil’s explanation of “Essence of Shark” as part of the safety equipment! (Always a handy item when paddling this area).
We grouped up just before the new jetty for final instructions about avoiding the collapsing sections of the old jetty. Wise advice considering that collapse looks imminent and many thanks to Peter Carter for the “Notice to Mariners” alert he sent. Good to see Peter is still looking after us at Sea Rescue!
We then proceeded under the new jetty, taking care to avoid the many fishing and crab net lines dangling into the water, before finding a clear section between the old jetty pylons that also offered a good photo opportunity.
As we paddled in between the two jetties, Phil explained how the mine and original jetty was developed and worked by BHP from 1942 until 1981, with the quarried limestone being shipped to BHP’s steelworks at Whyalla, Newcastle and Port Kembla where it was used for steel production.
In late 1981, the South Australian Government accepted BHP’s offer to transfer ownership of the mine and jetty at a cost of $1. Shortly afterwards, the mine was sold to Adelaide Brighton Cement (ABC) with the limestone shipped to its Birkenhead cement plant until 1988, when the Rapid Bay operation was scaled down. Shipping from the original jetty ceased in 1991 which was the start of its decay. The new jetty was completed in 2009 with the old jetty now off limits due to progressive collapse.
There was plenty of discussion about the state of the old jetty and mine, but Phil made the comment that without the mine tailings, there wouldn’t be a beach at Rapid Bay.
Rapid Bay is also one of SA’s best scuba diving locations with a Leafy Sea Dragon population inhabiting the bay and probably building up around the collapsing jetty.
Perfect paddle day
Perfect day to be paddling, with no wind, so it wasn’t long before we were nearing Rapid Head in search of the usually resident Australian Sea Lion population, and as always the seals didn’t disappoint! We played round for a while trying to get the perfect photo but also with eyes looking up at the stunning cliffs in search of a Sea Eagle – unfortunately no luck this trip.
After spotting the Starfish Hill Wind Farm looking towards Cape Jervis, the memories of all our Bass Strait training trips along this section of the coast came flooding back, nothing like the pleasant conditions we were experiencing with hardly any wind this time out but the memories were great.
Phil took the opportunity to check out potential rock gardening locations for future trips and it wasn’t long before Charlie was poking his nose into some of the smaller caves to take advantage of the low tide. The rest of us kept the seals company, not as many of them compared to springtime but still a good number, just wish they would be a bit more cooperative for the camera!
The turquoise colouring of the water on a calm day with the inquisitive fur seals coming close to investigate really makes this area very special! On the return paddle we even had a couple of friendly seals follow the kayaks towards Rapid Bay jetty.
Again we avoided the old jetty on our arrival, but Bruce took the opportunity to have a close look at the old rusted pylons on the way through.
Arrived back at the beach for a leg stretch and loo stop, seemed like even more people camping and enjoying the water as we navigated our way between the sit-ons and onto the beach.
After a brief stop we were soon back on water and heading north towards the sea cave then lunch stop at a small beach that Phil had selected. Wasn’t long before Mike and Shauna had their sails up taking advantage of the increasing SW wind.
Getting into the big cave
The trip date was well picked out by Phil with tides perfect for accessing the big cave. On the way north we passed plenty of come-and-try kayakers heading down to the same location, so very busy on water. Any little exposed beach seemed to have kayakers and swimmers taking advantage of the low tide.
After reaching the small rocky headland before Second Valley we turned kayaks to face into the increasing swell and wind, while those wanting to explore the cave ventured in one at a time. Others kept a good lookout for the cliff jumpers which were landing just in front of the cave entrance.
After most of us had explored the cave, we then headed back south hoping for a nice lunch stop at the larger beach – conveniently vacated by the come-and-try group just as we arrived. With the low tide, landing was easily achieved and it wasn’t long before all kayaks were nicely lined up ready for a quick exit if conditions changed.
This is a great spot for lunch, looking out over the sea without anyone else in sight. An enjoyable break for all the group, but Mike had a surprise when he discovered a skink (587) had made its home in his hat while he was busy eating lunch.
The exit channel from the beach is quite narrow, so we worked as a team to get kayaks launched and back on water again – no mishaps!
Casually paddled our way back, weaving through all the other craft heading back from Second Valley. Charlie didn’t want to leave and took a last opportunity to check out the smaller cave on the way.
Bit of excitement when we arrived back at the beach, with one of the swimmers asking us to paddle out and rescue a swimmer drifting out towards Edithburgh on his car tyre tube insert – “didn’t realise how far out I was and the wind has picked up” he said as we towed him back to the beach.
Safely back on the beach about 2.30pm and soon packed up after another very enjoyable day padding from Rapid Bay. Many thanks to Phil for organising and leading the trip. Trusty GPS shows we covered 14km, with lots of twists and turns.