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Sunset in Lindsay River

Circumnavigation of Lindsay River, Murray-Sunset National Park, 29-31 March 2024

Preparations and launch

After last year’s Lindsay Island trip was aborted due to flooding, we decided to have another attempt. We wanted to see what damage the floods had done. An early start on Easter Friday went better than expected. The traffic was quiet, and we made good time to the meeting point at the entrance to the park on the Old Mail Road. We all then drove up to the regulator at the mouth of the Mullaroo Creek. The plan was to start and finish the trip from there. After inspecting the site, and finding the launching spot was more difficult than we remembered, we came up with an alternative plan. We decided to leave one car there for the finish, and do a short car shuttle to just past the Lock 7. This allowed us to avoid a tricky launch, cutting out a boring bit of the Murray, and not having to worry about lock operators lunch hours.

We cruised down the Murray with the current, and got to the first campsite after 15 kms, just inside Toupnein Creek where it was calm and peaceful away from all the holidaymakers on the Murray thanks to all the snags and fallen trees in the creek.

Second Day

Kayaking LimboNext day we carried on down Toupnein Creek, enjoying the peace and serenity, until it joined the Murray again. Helped by the current again, we sped down the Murray to the exit of the Lindsay River. The day turned out longer than planned. As we bypassed the previous trips campsite to look for a better one, which didn’t turn up for another 6 kms, by which time everyone was more than ready to stop. Total distance for the day was 31 kms.

Checking the weather report the next day, we were glad to be ahead of schedule, as the forecast for the final day had turned from ‘10% chance of 1mm rain’ to ‘70% chance of 15mm rain and storms’. We had been caught in the rain in this area before, and the roads turn from well-formed dirt roads into slippery, sticky clay-filled mud traps in no time at all.

Third (and last) Day

Negotiating Mullaroo CreekAfter some discussion over breakfast it was decided to push on and try and finish a day early. The creeks had other ideas. As the closer we got to the end, the narrower and more snag-filled the creeks became. Progress slowed as we pushed under, over and sometimes through the fallen trees. The floods had obviously pushed a lot more wood into the creeks.

Finally reached the end in the late afternoon after a difficult 30km paddle. Quickly retrieved all the cars left by the launching spot, loaded up, and left while the roads were still nice and dry. After a long day of paddling, and being late, most people opted to stay the night rather than drive back to Adelaide. We retired to the Paringa Hotel for refreshments and food, making it there about 30seconds before the kitchen closed!

After that we retired to a nearby free-camping area, set up the tents and chairs. We spent another hour debriefing and re-hydrating before retiring to bed where I slept very well. Next day was a relaxing drive back to Adelaide, checking on the weather reports. Turned out the rain was much less than forecast, and came in later. Oh well, better to be safe than sorry!

Overall statistics (Links point to GPX track files)

Coffin Bay — 5 – 9 February 2024

Monday

Monday 5th February we set off from the beach near the Coffin Bay Caravan Park. A 9 knot south easterly wind made the sea choppy with occasional waves washing sideways over our kayaks. The Brothers Islands gave us a short respite before we crossed to Eely Point. Then along the sheltered cliffs to our camp at Black Springs. The early start to avoid the strong winds in the afternoon meant we completed the 17km before lunch.

Greg and Chris were pleased that they had stayed upright in the choppy water and Steve enjoyed a sail from the Brothers Islands when the wind was more from behind. Simon, Greg and Steve had a lazy afternoon at camp. Chris and Anne set off on the Black Rocks hike. Looking out over Avoid Bay, Chris and Anne spotted a large Osprey nest with a couple of osprey that took flight and screeched overhead.

Tuesday

Another early start paddling on Tuesday, to take advantage of the calm conditions. We made it through the oyster beds (always a highlight) and around Point Longnose and then were mainly sheltered close in along Seven Mile Beach. We stopped to look at a whale skull which had washed up on the beach years ago. It is amazing how big the skull and top jaw was. No sign of other bones though, so hard to estimate how long the whale was.

Seven Mile beach is mainly large sand dunes and Chris was wishing for a slide down their steep slides. Instead we enjoyed looking at the seaweeds and the couple of rocky reefs as we paddled to Morgans Landing. Again the early start meant we were setting up camp before lunch then enjoyed a restful afternoon having paddled about 20km. Morgans Landing camp sites were inundated with bees. However, Greg solved our problems. He put a bowl of water away from our tents and the bees congregated there to get a drink instead of on us.

Wednesday

Wednesday was the best. We left camp set up and headed north to The Pools campsite then around Point Sir Isaac and into Seasick Bay, which was remarkably calm. We could look down into the clear water and see fish and a multitude of different seaweeds, sea grasses and sea lettuce. Simon and Anne have been trying to get to Point Sir Isaac on two other ACC Coffin Bay trips. A lightning storm first and then strong winds made it impossible. This trip we made it! The water was so calm we could see a pod of dolphins feeding. There was so much splashing and blow spouts that Steve thought it might be a group of orcas.

A nearby fishing boat went to get a closer look and reported back that it was just dolphins. We turned around fairly soon after morning tea because the forecast was for stronger headwinds for our return journey. The forecast was correct, we were glad to be back at camp for lunch, avoiding winds over 15 knots.

Thursday

Another early start on Thursday to avoid the strong afternoon winds. We had a beautiful paddle back along Seven Mile Beach with the early morning light highlighting the sculptured sand hills. Point Longnose has changed; there is now a channel through, with a sand island further out. The water was shallow and so calm as we paddled back through the oyster beds that we could see starfish and Fiddler Rays below the kayaks.

Then the deeper water past the oyster beds was whipped up by a strong head wind and odd currents into tricky confused waves. Our aim was to head straight into the waves as best we could. Then when in the shelter of the beach make our way back to Black Springs campsite. In the difficult conditions Greg and Steve became separated from Simon, Anne and Chris. Then Chris got swamped and needed a rescue. After a successfully completing his first rescue in his new kayak we continued our battle towards the sheltered water and then camp. Everyone made it safely, pleased at managing the difficult conditions. Once again our early start has us having lunch after our day’s paddle, then setting up camp and relaxing.

Back to Coffin Bay

Knowing that we would have a head wind on the way back to Coffin Bay township we are again up early and setting off just before the sun rose. The paddle back to Eely Point was OK, with just a slight breeze then we turned into a strong headwind. This time we managed a tight group as we paddled into waves and wind towards The Brothers Islands. We enjoyed a short rest there looking at some seals that came into the water but not too close to us. Leaving The brothers had us initially in very confused water as tide and wind were mixing in odd ways. Once away from the islands the water settled into consistent waves and about a 13 knot head wind. Another stop on a small beach for some food and rest had us refreshed for the final push to Coffin Bay township.

With the wind from the south east we planned to get close to the town then cross over to the town side and hope for some shelter. However, by the time we got there the wind had swung around slightly to an easterly, so no rest from that. We had checked the tides and knew we had a following tide so were confused when we got near the town and found a wind-set current going against us! It just all worked against us in the last stretch to our end point but we made it. We had managed the 17 km against head wind, waves and without the tide assistance.

Time for Oysters

After setting up camp and having a luxuriously long shower we went over to Oysters HQ to sample the best Coffin Bay oysters and beer. Then enjoyed dinner at the Yacht Club to celebrate our achievement of completing the paddle around Point Sir Isaac. We survived the tricky waves and wind and the general wonderment that Coffin Bay offers in the pristine waters, magnificent sand hills and cliffs and wilderness of the National Park.

Eildon white water, 9-12 January 2024

Eleven ACC members, Greg Watts, Steve Carter, Kathleen Shorter, Charlie and Marina Walker, Anthony Aardenburg and Bella Kosterman, Simon and Anne Langsford, Scott Polley and Steve Wild together with friends Charlie and Heather Yeatman from NSW and Clay Hunter and his boys Asher and Tom from Victoria met at the white water course alongside Breeze Holiday Caravan Park (formally Blue Gums Caravan Park)

There were flooding rains on the Monday as people made their way to Eildon, which resulted in detours and longer drives for most people. We arrived and had to negotiate alternative camping sites to avoid those waterlogged. We were ready to paddle on Tuesday morning. Because of the floods the river level was initially very low but rose continually during the week as Eildon dam was full and releasing water was essential. This gave us very easy conditions for introducing whitewater skills to the new paddlers and then later in the week challenging water which was great fun.

Again this year Scott Polley was the main instructor, with other experienced whitewater paddlers proving coaching, tips and safety for everyone. We all extended our skills, which occasionally resulted in a swim or opportunity to practice rolling and assisted rescues. As the water levels rose there were lots of waves strong enough for surfing and the challenge of getting steady enough to perform a paddle twirl.

First day on the water

Tuesday, our first day on the water was memorable. Scott started the day with most people swimming down the river and some throw bag practice. The swimmers all made it to shore and were sometimes caught by one of the three throw bags aimed at them. Charlie Yeatman had the highest score for saving throws. The rest of us need more practice! The rains made the water very muddy but it was not as cold as usual as dam water was held back. The easy conditions were good for teaching the new whitewater paddlers, Greg and Bella. The afternoon saw us down in the Sump tackling the wave there. Bella made it through twice, looking very confident in the big waves. Simon and Charlie attempted to surf the wave but it only held them for a few seconds each time. However, they did provide lots of entertainment for those of us watching.

The Dam Wall and the Eddies

On Wednesday we planned a paddle from the dam wall. Steve Wild, Scott and Anthony paddled up from the caravan park but the rest of us took the easier option of starting from the top and just paddling down river. There were waves to surf on the way and we stopped to play at the S Bend rapid. Everyone’s skills had improved as Steve Wild commented that he only did two rescues today. Greg was also very impressed with the rescue team as he had three boats next to him helping as he surfaced from his capsize. Scott noted the skill development today of Asher, Greg, Bella and Kath. Dam water was being released and as the river water cleared a couple of platypus were spotted. The extra water also made The Sump wave bigger so Charlie Walker could scare himself again trying to get onto it for a surf.

With everyone confident at breaking into and out of eddies, we headed up to Big River on Thursday. The water level was at 0.85m; higher than anyone remembered from previous years. The rapids had much more water over them so there were faster runs and few rocks to hit. The slalom rapid in particular was great fun.  Everyone successfully negotiated the rocks and turns needed to make it down to the eddy at the bottom. Marina said it was the best Big River ever, and I think we all agreed with Steve Carter when he said it was the best day’s paddling for a long time. There was a rock that gave a bit of grief to Bella and Greg but they got the correct edge upstream and didn’t fall in. Charlie Yeatman discovered that trees are best avoided, even when it looks like a narrow gap to paddle through. For his first time whitewater paddling, Greg was particularly pleased at getting through the Slalom Rapid successfully, looking confident approaching the bottom.

Wrapping up

The last day saw us all back at the top ‘pumpkins’ playing in the stronger water. The second ‘pumpkin’ was completely covered which created a great wave for surfing. Charlie, Anthony and Scott did practice their roll, but only once or twice. By now the release of dam water made the river very cold.

Most of us left on Saturday morning. Charlie and Marina Walker, Anthony Aardenburg and Bella Kosterman headed back up to Big River for another paddle while the water level was so good. They redid the section we had done on Thursday. Then continued down to Burnt Bridge and camped there for the night. The river was, again, lots of fun.

This was a great week paddling white water. Thanks to Scott for instructing and giving feedback and tips on our paddling strokes. We improved our skills and had lots of fun.

Think about joining us next year to experience the exhilaration of white water paddling.

Sailing the Coorong from Salt Creek to Murray Mouth — 2-5th January 2024

Embarking on a memorable expedition, our team, comprised of Phil Doddridge, Greg Adams, and Matthew Eldred, set sail from Salt Creek around 11 am on Tuesday, January 2nd. The wind, as predicted, gained strength, facilitating a smooth 37 km paddle under sail to our initial campsite near Parnka Point, surrounded by mud. Notably, the Coorong’s water level was unexpectedly low. It was hovering around a meter below its optimal height. A recurring theme throughout the journey.

Through the mist

Day 2 dawned with a mysterious sea mist, casting an eerie atmosphere over our paddle. We also had a slower-than-anticipated southwest wind. Navigating westward through islands, coral reefs, and challenging sand flats, exacerbated by the low water level, proved a test of our resolve. The silver lining was the influx of birdlife drawn to the flats, offering a unique opportunity to appreciate nature.

Overcoming the hazards, including negotiating the needles and coral blockage we suffered minor skin abrasions but we considered it the small price of admission. Beyond this obstacle, the remainder of the journey to the Coorong cabins, where Phil’s car awaited, became a smooth paddle into the mist.

Day 3 greeted us with lifted fog and a return of southeast winds at 10-15 knots. Despite persistent low water levels and expansive sand flats, the familiar sights of the Coorong’s freshwater soaks, rolling sand dunes, and aqua-colored waters made it a classic experience. A change of plans at Tauwitchere barrage lock. The low water and high winds made crossing into lake Alexandrina not appealing.

Murray Mouth

Opting for the Murray Mouth as our finishing point allowed us to capitalize on favorable winds. We completed the 110 km paddle from Salt Creek.

Throughout the trip, our backyard revealed hidden gems from enchanting campsites and islands to diverse wildlife and concealed shacks. The journey was a tapestry of discovery, weaving together the beauty of our surroundings and the thrill of exploration.

St. Kilda weekender with overnight stay in Community Hall — Sat 9-10 September 2023

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

Departure from Uni SA Kayak Sheds

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

Paddling Amoungst Ship’s Graveyard (2)

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!

Exiting Swan Alley

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.

St Kilda Dusk

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)

 

Morning in Chowilla

Four days exploring the creeks in the Chowilla reserve, in the Riverland — 19-22 Aug 2023

From Plan A to Plan B

Enjoying the calmness of ChowillaThe original trip was planned to traverse the Lindsay River. But the high river levels put paid to that, as the whole Lindsay Island was closed to the public. Making the best of a bad situation, we changed the trip to the Chowilla area, where high water levels open up a lot of normally dry creeks.

We launched at midday on Saturday and crossed the Murray to find the entrance to Suders creek, which is the entrance to backwater area. This is normally a challenge, with the entrance to the creek being narrow and fast flowing, but this time the levels were high and the current very manageable, and we were soon through to Hypurna creek, which we followed up for a few kilometers before setting up a base camp where we would stay for the next three nights.

Setting camp for the trip

After setting up camp and relaxing for a bit, we went off for an afternoon paddle to check out if the short-cut through to Salt Creek was open, as we planned to take that route the next day. Luckily the normally dry creek was easily navigable so we didn’t have to change our plans. We then retired back to camp to start dinner and sit around the campfire solving important world issues.

Day 2

Next day was an early start as we didn’t have pack up the camp. We were soon paddling through wide creeks and flooded trees through to Salt Creek.  We followed it upstream for about 8km to a horseshoe lagoon which we normally bypass. Encouraged by the high water levels we decided to explore it. We were rewarded with yet another new creek which took us back to Salt Creek, cutting 4kms off our trip.

After a few hundred meters on Salt Creek we found an unmarked creek which was flowing in the right direction. We decided to throw caution to the wind and set off down it into the unknown. Flowing water is always a good sign as it has to go somewhere. We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves ending up in Hypurna Creek, which is where we were planning on going. After a gentle 5km paddle downstream we ended up back at camp. We were soon relaxing around the campfire discussing the next day’s paddle.

Day 3

Lunch break before paddling the MurrayNext morning, after a quick breakfast, we set off back up Hypurna Creek to do another circular loop in a different area. We passed the entrance to a shortcut to Wilperna Creek which had been planning on using, only to find that the water level was not quite high enough to make it passable. Disappointed, we carried on up to Salt Creek to have a mid-morning break and talk about our options. After a bit of discussion we decided to continue to the Murray, and follow that around to the entrance to Wilperna Creek.

Normally we try to avoid the main channel of the Murray, too big and too busy. But this time we found the river pretty much deserted. A relaxed paddle had us going down the river at 10 km/h. There was a lot of water in the river! At that pace we were soon through Higgins Cutting and did the 8kms to Wilpurna Creek with no trouble at all.

Wilpurna Creek is one of my favourite creeks, narrow and winding, with not too many obstacles. But it can be hard to find, as the entrance is small and is just downstream from the NSW border. Unfortunately the sign for the border is about ½ a kilometre away from the actual border, on the wrong side of the creek. Luckily my trusty GPS had the entrance marked with a waypoint. We practically floated down Wilperna Creek, around fallen trees, escorted by curious emus and seeing the occasionally kangaroo, and were soon back at camp again.

Chris had bought his yabbie nets along (I don’t know how he fits it all in his kayak), and had got lucky while we had been away. That night he treated all of us to some fresh yabbie meat snacks.

Day 4

Salt creek navigationOvernight our luck changed, and we had a bit of rain. Nothing heavy, but just enough to turn the ground into sticky mud, 10 steps were enough to add a few kilograms of the stuff to your shoes. After breakfast the camp was packed up quickly and carefully, trying to avoid most of the mud, and stopping occasionally to scrape the worst of off your shoes. Most of the gear went into the kayak reasonably cleanly, but the kayak cockpits ended up decidedly brown.

We paddled back down Hypurna Creek, aided by the current, paddling through trees which normally line the side of the creek. Some paddlers decided to do the portage back the Murray, while the rest decided to try paddling back up Suders. The portage point is well signposted, but we couldn’t find any of the signs, can only think that they must have been underwater. Kayaks were soon carried across to the Murray. The rest of the paddlers set of to try our luck going up Suders Creek. This proved to be an anti-climax, as it was an easy paddle back to the Murray and the cars.

We quickly threw  all the gear back in the cars, loaded the kayaks on the roof and put on some presentable clothes.  We then headed back to Renmark and the nearest bakery to indulge in a cup of hot coffee and some unhealthy treats before heading back to Adelaide, and a lot of washing of kayaks and gear.

Overall statistics (Links point to GPX track files)

Saturday 19 August – Customs House to Campground, recce in the arvo – 11.95Km

Sunday 20 August – Salt Creek, Horseshoe Lagoon, Hypurna Creek – 24.1Km

Monday 21 August – Salt Creek, Wilpurna Creek, Murray River – 26.0Km

Tuesday 22 August – Campground, up Suders creek back to Customs House – 7.45Km

A weekend paddling Finniss River and Currency Creek — 10-11 June 2023

Day One

On Day 1, the paddlers packed their kayaks at Wally’s and were on the water by 9 am. They paddled 14 km to Clayton Bay where they stopped for lunch at 11:45 am. The winds were light from the north around 5 knots in the morning. After lunch, they skirted Hindmarsh Island before diving back northwest up Currency Creek. It wasn’t long before the old flour mill became their marker and point of interest. Once they made it to the flour mill, it was a quick paddle across to their campsite.

Tents were erected quickly to make time for the optional sunset paddle up Currency Creek to the main road bridge. The paddle up the creek is narrow only a few meters across, surrounded on both sides by tall reeds. They came across a portable cool room which had been washed down last winter.

Arriving back at camp, they were greeted by a fire prepared by Peter. With ample wood, the fire kept them warm while they told stories of camping sites past.

 

Day Two

On Day 2, there was not a breath of wind on the water. A slow start on the water by 9:30 am as it was hard to leave the fire and get into wet paddling gear. The paddle was easy as the predicted 8-knot crosswinds came late. There were no detours on the way back to the Finniss Channel. Once in the channel, they took the opportunity to explore some backwaters before finishing the trip.

Overall Statistics:

Day 1 35.2km

Day 2 21km

Total 56km

Cave near Stansbury

Plan B Paddle – Port Vincent to Edithburgh and then Troubridge Island — 27 – 29 May 2023

Early Arrival at Port Vincent

The original Plan A was to paddle out to Wardang Island and spend a couple of nights camped on Goose Island but the weather failed to cooperate, so Phil as Trip Leader suggested a Plan B, paddling on the eastern side of Yorke Peninsula from Port Vincent to Stansbury and then Edithburgh while car camping at caravan parks and visiting the local pubs for dinner. Then on Monday a return trip to Troubridge Island if conditions were suitable.

Winds were forecast W to WNW over weekend, generally below 15Kn so the east coast of Yorkes offered more protection by paddling close inshore. We ended up with 5 members booked from the original 11: Phil, Simon, Abelardo, Giresh and Mark opted to explore the coastline we hadn’t paddled previously.

It was good to form our own opinions of this section of the coast after hearing varied opinions.

Phil and I drove down on Friday and checked into Port Vincent Caravan Park, a well setup park with unpowered sites protected from westerly winds.

Squid Snitzel at Pt Vincent

Squid Schnitzel at Pt Vincent

Once settled in we took the opportunity to catch up with local Adelaide Canoe Club members Carol and Robert.  We discussed possible Club involvement in the Salt Water Classic event planned for April next year, when a flotilla of wooden boats and kayaks will be sailing, rowing, motoring, and paddling from Stansbury to Port Vincent, taking advantage of the flood tide on the day. Robert took the opportunity to show us his wooden boat collection which was very impressive (as you can see in the pictures).

Carol and Robert offered to help with the car shuttle when we arrived at Stansbury and also recommended the Dalrymple Hotel there, but emphasised that we had to make a reservation –  nothing like local knowledge!

An easy walk to the Ventnor Hotel on Friday night – excellent squid schnitzel, comparable to our visits to the St Kilda Hotel when paddling Barker Inlet.

Day 1: Port Vincent to Stansbury 

Paddlers before launching in Pt Vincent

Paddlers before launching in Pt Vincent

The rest of our group arrived at the Port Vincent Yacht Club about 10:30am on Saturday, a nice easy location to launch just adjacent to the Port Vincent Kiosk – very handy for coffee and a range of seafood – and noted for future trips.

Robert and Carol soon joined us and after introductions and a couple of pictures we were all on water about 11.40am. They had arrived in their 16´ ‘Double Ender’ wooden boat, lovingly built by Robert from plans by Doug Hyland of Maine, USA which were styled after the lobster boats used in the area about 100 years ago. The day was a bit overcast and wind around 10kn W so best option was to hug the coast as we paddled south.

Robert and Carol easily kept up with the kayaks and looked great on water, reinforcing the attraction of the concept for the Salt Water Classic paddle with a range of boats and kayaks. With sunshine breaking through the cloud cover, we spotted a stingray then a pod of dolphins, so the omens promised a good paddle!

Rob and Carol joining the start of paddle at Pt Vincent

Rob and Carol joining the start of paddle at Pt Vincent

Around 1pm we said farewell then worked our way into the cliffs, admiring the stunning formations which only improved as we paddled south. Erosion over the millennia has formed a beautiful landscape along this section of the coast.

We encountered several overhanging rocks and selected one that looked stable and took the opportunity for a group photo.

Paddling close inshore we had to remain alert for limestone outcrops that just popped up unexpectedly – reminded me of our recent trip to Parnka Point on the Coorong.

The first stage of the paddle was turning out to be above expectations and we made several stops along the way to admire the cliff formations, we even spotted a beach that might be suitable for an overnight stop with the right tide.

We knew we were close to Stansbury when we spotted the jetty and shortly after there was Robert on the boat ramp breakwater taking photos as we approached. After being entertained by the numerous seals resting on the breakwater we continued along the township coastline of Stansbury, arriving about 3.30pm to a very kayak-friendly caravan park with a nice sandy beach, perfect for landing and launching kayaks just in front of the unpowered campsites.

Arriving to Stansbury

Arriving to Stansbury

Wasn’t long before we had checked in and met by Robert with his kind offer to ferry drivers back to Port Vincent to collect our vehicles. Phil booked us into the caravan park while waiting for our return with the cars and camping gear.

We quickly set up camp overlooking the beach, before heading off in search of the Dalrymple Hotel, we couldn’t muck around as we had a table booked for 5.45pm – yes, the restaurant is popular!

Once again, squid schnitzel was on the menu. Strolled back along the beach to the camp kitchen for a chat with supper and discuss the day’s adventure and plans for the next day and then into our waiting tents for a well-deserved rest.

Day 2: Stansbury to Edithburgh

A bit of wind and rain overnight but tents still standing in the morning, although Phil decided to take his tarp down overnight before it blew away. After a quick breakfast our first task was to ferry all the cars to Edithburgh with Abelardo driving us back to the launch site.

Headed inshore after clearing the sandbar, more wind at start of paddle but good protection inshore, the stunning scenery continued.

The Accolade II, from Adelaide Brighton Cement

The Accolade II, from Adelaide Brighton Cement

Wasn’t long before we spotted a ship in the distance at Klein Point, moored close inshore. It turned out to be the Accolade II, the Adelaide Brighton Cement (ABC) ship that transports limestone to Birkenhead at Port Adelaide about 4 times per week. We later heard that Simon’s Dad used to be an Officer on the Accolade I and II as well as the Troubridge. Simon has fond memories of attending Christmas parties at ABC as a “little tacker”, so this trip ended up being a very significant paddle down memory lane for Simon.

As we progressed south the coastal formations changed noticeably, with much more of a limestone appearance and not the coloured sedimentary layers.

The next coastal feature was the Lime Kiln Ruin at Wool Bay, looking almost like a small temple when we approached. It is the only one remaining of the six (6) built to produce quicklime by heating limestone, an important ingredient in mortar and brick making in the late 19th Century. The Kiln operated until the 1950’s.

Limestone near Stansbury

Limestone near Stansbury

The next significant structure we encountered was the Port Giles Jetty – 340m in length and Phil said sharks loitered around the end (might be an old surfer’s myth!) so we took the shortcut close inshore. The Jetty and adjacent storage silos are used to store and ship grain from the Lower Yorke Peninsula.

Our next challenge was a crossing of 4 to 5km across Coobowie Bay, in what looked like a 15kn westerly wind, possibly gusting higher occasionally. No more protection from the stunning cliffs so time to put some effort into our paddling. Coobowie Bay is home to the local oyster industry and according to Carol also serves great meals at the local pub – perhaps next trip! We opted for a short stop at a boat launch site prior to tackling the crossing.

Back on water we set course for a prominent group of pine trees in the vicinity of Edithburgh. As expected, the crossing was just a head down slog but we soon made out the brightly coloured Edithburgh Tidal Pool as we approached the shore and the wind eased.

Lime Kiln Ruin at Wool Bay

Lime Kiln Ruin at Wool Bay

We paddled past the Jetty then Boat Harbour and on to Sultana Point Jetty and a small beach we had previously selected as a landing point. After checking in we had a short portage up to a nice grassy unpowered campsite well sheltered from any southerly wind.

Too far to walk to the pub so Abelardo with the tidiest car provided a taxi service. We dined at the Edithburgh Hotel on Edith Street, again a very popular hotel and three (3) of us can recommend the slow cooked lamb shanks.

A stunning evening, couldn’t hear any wind or rain overnight until a light shower just before 7am.

Day 3: Troubridge Island Return

Sail up on our way to Troubridge Island

Sail up on our way to Troubridge Island

Hardly any wind overnight and only light rain before we poked our heads from the tents, very excited about paddling to Troubridge Island for morning tea and coffee, and the conditions looked great with only a light westerly breeze, probably below 6Kn for the 8Km crossing.

The island was named by Captain Flinders in 1802 after the Commander of the Fleet at the Battle of the Nile, Sir Thomas Troubridge.

We rushed through breakfast, loaded the kayaks and moved to the Boat Ramp for our departure. No mucking around, we were keen to be on water to take advantage of the conditions. Things only got better as we approached the Island and wasn’t long before we were paddling in tropical-looking turquoise waters in full sun. The real extent of the shoal was visible about 1.5Km out, tide was approaching high water mark with at least 1m of water as we approached the Lighthouse – perfect!

Troubridge Island

Sail up on our way to Troubridge Island

We were amazed at how extensive the shoal spreads around the Island, very apparent how vessels came to grief in the past.  According to Google there were 33 wrecks and groundings until the Lighthouse was constructed in 1856.

Even managed to try out Phil’s 1m² Pacific Action sail with the light breeze, a lot more relaxing than my 1.5m² but the larger sail would have been perfect with the 6Kn westerly.

The noise of numerous birds greeted us as we approached, we could see a mass of them nesting on the sandbar on the SW end of the Island.

The bright red freshly painted lighthouse stood out, contrasting the turquoise waters and white sands of the shoal.

We set up on the table in front of the Keepers Cottage with an amazing view and the constant sound of the birdlife. I will let the pictures tell the story! How lucky we were with the weather and our visit has inspired us to investigate the possibily of arranging a couple of days’ overnight stay for a future visit.

Coffee and cake at Troubridge Island

Coffee and cake at Troubridge Island

After coffee, cake and a few pictures to capture the moment we were back on water for the return paddle, but not without a circumnavigation to appreciate the size of the bird population.

Wind had picked up on the return as forecast so we settled in for a heads down paddle with the Water Tower as reference point until we got in closer and spotted the boat ramp.

We made good time and were soon back in the safety of the harbour, Abelardo leading the way (having decided to use the last stage for a bit of pace training).

Back in harbour about 2.30pm, Giresh and Phil decided to show off with a couple of celebratory rolls – judging by their reactions the water was cold!  We landed at the boat ramp and soon had the kayaks loaded before heading back to Adelaide.

Giresh left for the west coast of Yorkes for another 2 days of paddling while Abelardo, Phil and Mark set off for the return drive to Adelaide.

Our last day’s paddle completed a perfect trip exploring a section of the coast that we hadn’t paddled before, but a trip we will definitely repeat. Lots of stunning scenery and great to visit the towns of Port Vincent, Stansbury and Edithburgh and compare the squid schnitzels along the Peninsula.

It was great to catch up with club members Carol and Robert and we appreciated the assistance in shuttling cars as well as local advice. Both are involved in preparing for the Salt Water Classic in 2024 for Wooden Boats and Kayaks intending to catch the tide from Stansbury to Port Vincent. Rest assured we would love to be involved and the weekend of 13/14th April 2024 is now in the Club calendar, so consider the date for your long term planning.

Overall Statistics

Conclusion

A fantastic trip so very close to Adelaide CBD with lots of options available, including staying on Troubridge Island. A great future alternative back-up for Wardang Island’s trips or just to add to our paddling calendar.

A great Plan B Phil, well done!

Click on the maps below to download the GPX files

GPS Port Vincent to Stansbury

GPS Port Vincent to Stansbury

Stansbury to Edithburgh

Stansbury – Edithburgh


Parnka Point Car Camping – 6-7 May 2023

Arrival at Parnka Point – Pelican Campground

It’s been a while since Adelaide Canoe Club (ACC) has car-camped at Parnka Point, so I was keen to visit the area to experience the high water levels (after last visiting here with Matt Eldred in Oct 2021 when we sailed from Parnka Point to Goolwa). This location was a favourite of Eddie Andriessen so I was keen resurrect the Car Camping tradition.

With fingers crossed for some good Autumn weather, I had earlier booked Campsite No 1 at Pelican Campground, providing room for 14 campsites and semi-sheltered protection should the forecast wind and rain arrive. We had a good take-up with Peter McLeod, Mark Loram, Charlie and Marina Walker, Abelardo Pardo, Berny Lohmann and Terry Holder booking for the weekend. I was pretty excited about this trip, as National Parks had advised that there was plenty of water and prolific birdlife in the area, particularly pelicans and ducks.

We all arrived at various times during Friday afternoon and set up camp, keen to get settled before rain arrived. Hopefully not much following the downpour on the drive from Adelaide. Berny saved the day by bringing along his recently purchased gazebo – this made our stay nice and cosy. During our stay we checked out other campsites and agreed 5 and 7 also have potential, particularly when no wind is forecast and with easy access to the water.

Rain overnight which along with the sound of surf made for authentic autumn camping on the Coorong.  The forecast 17Kn SW had not appeared on Friday and we were presented with very calm conditions in the morning although an overcast day.

Paddling South Lagoon to Long Island

Bit of a slow start after casual breakfast, on water about 9.30am to meet Peter at the Boat Ramp in his plywood Sabre dinghy, Boat No 1461. Slight breeze from the SW had built up, enough for Peter to make headway and practice his tacking. It wasn’t long before the sea kayaks were leading the way down the south lagoon towards Long Island with Peter following.

The aim was to paddle south and explore the cutting at Hack Point and hopefully circumnavigate Cow and Long Island. Sunshine was occasionally breaking through so all looked promising.

We had a short stop at the derelict Coorong Wilderness Lodge. It is still in pretty good condition but could use a refurbishment. Stunning views of the South Lagoon.

We continued paddling south, trying our best to avoid the limestone “bommies” that seemed to pop up when least expected.

Peter under tow

It was not possible for Peter to stay with the kayaks so we agreed to meet up around Hack Point. The cutting just south was easily navigable so we continued further south along the eastern side of Cow Island. Too cold for a beach stop so we had the occasional on-water snack and refresh. Nice sandy beaches on the eastern side of both Cow and Long Islands:  perhaps next trip?

The small channel between Cow and Long Islands also looked navigable, but we continued further south around Long Island, leaving Round and Swan Islands for the future.

Back from Long Island

After rounding Long Island we made our way back towards Hack Point and hopefully Peter and his dinghy. It wasn’t long before Abelardo spotted Peter in one of the small bays opposite Bull Island – apparently becalmed. Abelardo and Charlie went in to investigate and soon had Peter under tow. Once they had re-joined the group Berny also helped out with the tow.

Safely returned to the boat ramp we left Peter to get his dingy loaded up and head back to the campsite.

Still plenty of daylight remaining, so Charlie and Peter decided to explore Bluff Island in the north lagoon while others relaxed at the campsite.  I explored the Sandy Beach walk from campsite No 5, further north towards Avocet Campground – birds everywhere!

Lovely evening cooking our meals under the Luci lights from the protection of Berny’s Gazebo. The plan for Sunday was to explore the north lagoon, weather permitting, but probably not The Needles as a 14Kn SW was forecast about 3.30pm.

We must have had a good day’s paddling as most of the group turned in by 8pm.

Paddling North Lagoon to Rabbit Island

Sunday Departure – still Perfect

More rain overnight but not as heavy – less water in my tent! On water around 9.30am, having agreed on a more realistic departure time, Peter opting to paddle his kayak this time. We had agreed to explore Bluff and Rabbit Islands following Charlie and Peter’s successful circumnavigation on Saturday. As you can see from the departure picture, the Coorong was like glass with no sign of wind. Winds were forecast to pick up mid-afternoon, so the planned return paddle to The Needles was assigned for another trip.

With the constant sound of breaking waves each night, we were keen to check out the beach, using the Cockle Fishers track just south of Hells Gate. An easy paddle back past the boat ramp to a small beach used to unload vehicles and equipment, and perfect for landing our kayaks.

The first interesting encounter we had was the Cockler’s car graveyard adjacent to the track, with only a few that appeared to be in working order. We were soon at the beach with the track only about 500m across the well used dunes. Plenty of cockle signs, either from an old coastline or aboriginal middens. We could see breaking waves almost at horizon level, showing how dangerous the Coorong coastline can be to kayakers attempting circumnavigation.

Back on the water

Pelican Squadron

Too chilly standing on the beach, so we were soon back on water and making our way to the eastern side of Bluff Island. We still had the sun breaking through the clouds, only interrupted by several flocks of pelicans flying in formation – stunning, they seemed to go on forever. I have never seen so many pelicans on previous trips and this hopefully sets the trend for future trips.

The pelicans must have attracted the rain, as the clouds released on our kayaks, leaving a nice pattern on the still waters. Not very heavy and it wasn’t long before the sun broke through again.

We could see clear water on the eastern side of Rabbit Island. The sound of cars from the Princess Highway were now audible as we hugged the east side of the Coorong waters. We found our way out of the little bay (thanks to Charlie and Google Maps) on the south of Rabbit Island. We eventually found the shallow channel leading us around the northern end of the island. Plenty of shallow areas with jagged limestone outcrops.

Snake and Needle Islands were now so close and very tempting but not for this trip. The wind had started to pick up. We lifted the pace and sought protection from the south westerly from the lee side of Bluff Island for a short rest before heading back to camp. Timing was perfect as we were about 100m away from shore when the full front arrived.

Return Trip

We had already packed up tents and loaded non-paddling gear so didn’t take long to wash and load kayaks. Then, on our way by 2pm and heading for Meningie Bakery for a hot coffee and debrief.

May not have been perfect weather, but much better than forecast and some very pleasant time on water. We ended up paddling 17Km exploring the south lagoon on Saturday and then 16Km for Sunday’s paddle. Not a bad effort and will definitely repeat this trip.

The Coorong is looking great with a very obvious increase in the bird population. We returned with the promise of some great trips in the next 12 months.

Mark Loram

Click in the maps at the bottom of the page to download the corresponding GPX files.



Long Island Paddle Sat 6 May 2023

 

The Pages Expedition – KI South Coast – 21 – 26 April 2023

Day 1 and 2  – Victor Harbor to Pink Bay via The Pages

Karl Meyer, Ben Weigl, and Tresh Pearce met up at Pink Bay. Ben had earlier paddled solo from Cape Jervis, arranging to camp overnight along with the Adelaide Canoe Club (ACC) crew including Karl and Tresh. He had set up camp there before the weary ‘Pages’ paddlers landed late on Saturday 22nd April.  They had completed an epic ACC paddle from Victor Harbor to Ballaparudda Beach, camping overnight then on to Pink Bay at Kangaroo Island via the ‘Pages’ group of islets in Backstairs Passage. The trip was recently well-documented by Greg Adams from the Club.

Day 3 – Bay of Pinks to Pennington Bay

Breaking wind-against-tide clapotis around Cape Willoughby

The next day saw the trio set off for a further westward adventure around Cape Willoughby and along the South coast of the Island, aiming for Vivonne Bay. The remains of the ‘Pages’ expedition enjoyed a relaxing day before they headed to Antechamber Bay in the afternoon.

After launching and farewelling our comrades and the homely Bay of Pinks, we set our sails in the strengthening but still moderate easterly toward the nearby Cape with the awesome sight of its presiding lighthouse coming shortly into view. We knew we had missed the slack tide conditions and expected the wind-against-tide factor to come into play in rounding the Cape, causing rough sea conditions. This would be on top of the ever-present clapotis from the ocean swells in deep water meeting the sheer boulder cliffs under the lighthouse.

As we approached under full sail, the comments of James Fishers came to mind when he said during his and Dayna’s rounding of the Cape in 2022: that “it was the most hectic sea conditions he had ever paddled in”.  . . . . .  Well, that is pretty much what we experienced too. It was so concentrated and boiling with big breaking slop making for hectic and scary discomfort. I had been around the Cape a couple of times previously, but the conditions were nowhere near as severe then. The sails were good for providing the steady power to make headway through the clapotis paddock, as it seemed as though our paddles weren’t having much effect!  As well as going through the motions of forward stroking, they were being employed in bracing and keeping us upright.

Pennington Bay

Apparently, some or all of the ACC crew were walking to the lighthouse and saw us go through that. Greg Adams later said that seeing us set our sails for Cape Hart once we were through, was an inspiring sight. I’d say that for those of us on the water, once it had all sorted itself out after a km or two, it was more of a relief and then a deep pleasure to find ourselves with a steady breeze behind us, and we were away!

After an extremely pleasant sail around Cape Hart with its magnificent surf rolling onto the reefs, we rounded Black Point then eventually False Cape and were into the big indent of coast of Pennington Bay. The sea was often lumpy, the coastline magnificent.  After False Cape (and Black Point earlier), there are many beaches. So the clapotis disappears for a while and one can mosey along quite close behind the break. They were all breaking very close to the steep sandy shores. – evidence of extremely high-energy beaches. There may have been places to land but we didn’t see them.

Approaching Pennington it was getting on in the afternoon and we briefly looked for a small cove immediately west of the main beach, but couldn’t find it. Sometimes beaches disappear after wild weather, taking time to re-appear as the sand slowly redeposits. We chose the western end and landed through the moderate surf there onto an idyllic setting, sheltered and with the last of the sun disappearing behind the cliffs. It wasn’t cold at all and we were in high spirits at our good fortune in making it safely and very happily during our first leg.

Day 4 – Pennington Bay to Unknown Cove (A real Gem)

Camp in the D’Estrees Unnamed Cove

Shortly after leaving Pennington Bay my rudder became ineffective, a cable issue somewhere. Karl fixed it into a neutral position and I managed to sail and paddle using the stern rudder to keep on course in the steady easterly / northeasterly breeze. I could also keep my hands way off-centre of my paddle to lengthen the stroke on one side if necessary, but we mostly sailed. Upon landing it proved to be easily fixed with a minimum of tools.

Outside of this great little bay there were some awe-inspiring-looking breaks on the protecting reefs which we could get up close to and have a good look at. We waited around for Karl to do some surfing on the shoulders of them – so perfect were they. Alas, although we waited a good while, the sets didn’t return and perhaps we’d drifted from the best spot, so Karl has to wait for another opportunity!

Although none of us had direct experience of this cove, or knew anyone who had landed there (it just looked terrific from satellite maps), our bay turned out to be a real gem. We settled on the southern end of it, and made a delightful camp amid warm balmy conditions. At last we were in pristine country only occasionally visited by walking humans.

Day 5 – Unknown Cove near to bay near ‘Pogaroo’ Bay

That day was to be the pivotal day where we left all land-based accessibility along the Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park wilderness area. It really is heading out into the wild. We still had the most amazing conditions anyone could ever pray for: moderate swell and helpful breezes, not too strong, not too weak!

The little Bay just East of Cape Gantheaume

Not far from the Cape we landed in a little cove for an explore and a break. Now, theoretically there are no reliable unprohibited landing spots for sea kayakers before Seal Bay, meaning that Vivonne Bay should be the next landing. However Phil and Gordon had mentioned this little cove as a possibility (not sure if either of them had visited previously, but both said it was worth a look). It was very good to receive counsel from both of these very experienced expedition sea kayakers at different times before we set off along this Coast, I’m grateful that the accumulated pool of knowledge is so readily shared. We had also referred to the satellite images and seen the possibility, so gave it a go and it was perfect.  Good for camping too….. .. really, I’m talking perfect here. I think it has a large measure of protection from swell, however it would be scarcely visible from the usual half to a one kilometre offshore that most sea kayaking expeditions have to travel due to having to ‘get’ to Vivonne without dilly-dallying (our specialty) and the clapotis.  We had to share the bay with the resident sea lion population though!  We snacked there, and wandered around the breathtaking, but gentle cove, with a tiny hinterland of open shrubland.

Out to sea once more and we soon came to Cape Gantheaume. It is surrounded by many reefs but we paddled around them as the sea was calm. Although not a huge swell, there were many well-formed breaks all around the place.  The swell itself had a long interval and some were definitely 4 metres.  There were areas of reef that we were only 50 m from, a semicircle of Niagara Falls shape.  That is literally what it was like being near them from behind, it was not so much like waves breaking, but more like a waterfall going from high and falling into much lower ‘suck out’.  The continual roar even on this quiet day was ever-present and astounding, a constant reminder that nature is not to be underestimated, ever.

Eventually we come to our chosen landing and camp destination, a bay immediately before ‘Pogaroo’ Bay, which in turn is one bay before the better known Bales Beach. Our bay is the smallest by far of the three, and is protected to some degree. When we approached there were some significant swells rolling through. We spent some time happily watching it all to get the gist of how it works there. I say happily, because to watch is the safe part.  Yes, it had some big surf going on, frightening at times when the sets came. Karl opted to go in first, he threaded his way through, finding the beach exhaust flow in the middle left of the bay where even the big waves didn’t break. (Though we couldn’t see that from where we sat behind the breaks). He promptly set himself up on a high hill with paddle to sign for us go or not go. Very soon after, Ben and I waited for a lull, but the decent sized waves kept coming. Karl, high on the sand hill gestured most assertively with the paddle not to come as he could see what was happening behind us. We didn’t need to be told, we weren’t going anywhere for the time being.  One wave in particular was huge, Karl said later (he’s a longtime surfer) he was guessing at about 10 foot or 3m. Then there was a lull, and I could see the broken water outward with beach exhaust and rip centre left in the tight bay and thought “It had better be a decent lull or I’m cooked!”. It turned out to be what we needed and eventually on the same lull Ben set off inward. No waves broke at all along that line, which does a little dogleg halfway. The swell size seemed to diminish noticeably from that point on. We were all very stoked to have landed so successfully, with no mishap. After recceing the beach and surrounds we re-entered our kayaks to relocate into the very sheltered western corner of the bay a hundred metres away and set up another idyllic camp. The unnamed bay itself is extraordinary in its perfect half-moon shape with a narrow opening to the sea – very beautiful to behold. Being a gloriously warm afternoon helps no end too!!

We were now in the Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park some kilometres from the nearest road, but more recently a walking trail has been established nearby connecting with the D’Estrees end of the Park. From this site it was only approx 20 kms to paddle to Vivonne Bay on the following day, but there was still a lot of exploring to do in the morning even before Seal Bay.

Day 6 – Unknown Cove (near ‘Pogaroo’ Bay) to Vivonne Bay.

In the morning we set off to a much-diminished swell, cruising out of the centre of the bay without so much as a splash, the one to two foot reformed little shore-break near our camp was more splashy than the rip through. Passing the neighbouring larger bay directly adjacent to ours was also beautiful from our route a hundred metres off from its entrance. I was full of emotion as we passed Bales Beach:  so many swims there, and it continues to be a sacred part of my and others’ lives. In 10 days or so I will likely be there once again, and it seemed a bit weird with two completely differing contexts happening to overlap at that place.  The fresh north easterly breeze filled our sails and moved us along nicely toward Vivonne Bay.

With the wind coming in blustery from the NNE (before swinging more NE a bit later) we cleared Bales and the steep rocky cliffy shore once again resumed, though this time relatively protected by reefs a bit offshore.  A couple of micro coves presented themselves for inspection and possible landing. The first immediately after Bales proved a bit too unprotected, where there were dumpy breaks closing out its opening. I have visited there before on foot through the shallows on an exceptionally calm day and it is truly beautiful, and also accessible (just) by land. Has a very interesting honeycombed small stack that can be climbed around in to peep out of various windows!!  Not for today though. Karl and Ben went over to a potentially easier-to-explore area a bit further west, which was a cracker!  I won’t say much more about it, but this was definitely one of the trip’s highlights. Situated just outside the Seal Bay Exclusion Zone, It had a great many resident sea lions of all ages, including a bull. We had lunch and I can’t thank B & K enough for their decision to land there. (Even though in the forefront of my mind was the possible NW strong wind coming in before our scheduled close of play in Vivonne Bay around lunchtime).  This turned out to be a dire headwind, the NE intensified and came in early and made for a raging tailwind for the last hour.

After an interval with the seals and cubs and mammas and all sorts in the water and on the beach, we launched. At the point of launch intention, a mamma seal from the beach decided that she either wanted to inspect our boats a lot closer, or wanted to prevent them from entering the water, and blocked our path!  She was very intent on something, we waited until she drew away a bit. There is a pic of Karl entering the water and she is still a distance away by then but watching very intently. We did everything slowly, quietly and calmly.

Then off around the headland where we went inside the reef breaks threading our way, avoiding the locations where the bigger waves were breaking. There is always some tension at these times, the questioning…  “Have we got this right, or are we paddling into a disastrous trap?”  As we travel we check things out ahead for some distance, making mental notes, sometimes consulting maps for the locations of the reefs etc. And in the end, you either back your intuition using the evidence and visual based info, or be in undecided-land, waiting for a lull or trying to seek more evidence confirmation (sometimes this is the most appropriate) or even make the long back-track for a possible couple of kilometres.

Passing by Seal Bay beach we saw the paying tourists viewing the few seals on display there, whereas just around the corner there were lots (for no cost!) where we had just lunched among them.

Ben Blue Water Sailing, near Seal Bay

The Nobby, (an enormous detached piece of Headland alongside a wide protected channel) loomed up, and I went ahead to position myself where I could get a good pic of Ben and Karl coming through the gap to show the whole massive stack, while having them clearly visible in the gap. It was my one intentional set-up photo. Trouble was, I only casually briefed them as I paddled off. . . .well I waited and waited as they stuck together moseying along doing their exploring and seal watching and filming, while I’m blown further and further away from the desired shot. I back paddle against the wind, they hug the shore at snail’s pace, completely indiscernible, camouflaged against the texture of the Nobby, and the whole of the towering stack no longer in frame with water on each side.  I find myself way behind them and with only rubbish pics to show for it.  I put the phone away, and declare ‘ *@%@$* photography !’ and paddle strongly to catch up.  From there it was only a few kilometres of easy sailing out from the cliffs to a point where we start to work out where we think Vivonne might actually be in the 10 km distance, amid the land on the horizon. Amongst us there were some differences of opinion concerning that, so time to consult the map!

During the last hour we found that heading for the jetty was hectic and exhilarating, but also scary for me as I felt I was going too fast at times. The conditions didn’t allow me to comfortably sheath one of my sails (requiring two hands off the paddle for twenty seconds or so) or just let it flap. I was ahead of Karl and Ben who found the pace perfect, paddling away as well as the effortless sailing. It was the first time I had truly deserted them, I let as much wind out of the sails as I dared, and looked back often and figured there were two of them together to help each in case of mishap, and I’m ahead of them, so that if something happens to me I can sort myself out, or they will see me and assist. When I arrived at the jetty it proved to be inappropriate for our landing needs, so I desailed and waited in the now raging wind for the others.  We beat our way a couple of hundred metres to the boat ramp, which proved ideal in every way.

Return to the Mainland

Three very Happy Paddlers at Vivonne Bay

Our trusted beach greeter Tristan – resident of Vivonne Bay, and later to be ferryman in his car to Penneshaw – was there to welcome us. None of us had ever met Tristan, but through a mutual contact he had kindly agreed to take on the ferryman task. I had been updating him throughout the previous week to firm up a time of arrival.

On the mainland we transferred the boats went to Ben’s ute, and were off into the falling night. Driving through the treed paddocks of Karls’ neighbour as a short cut to his spectacular place on top of the range was a highlight.  Threading through the trees was just like threading through the breaking reefs of earlier in the day ……. a million miles ago it seemed.

Tresh Pearce