Ningaloo Dreaming – August 2021

Report by Jo Foley

After a stressful start due to vehicle issues (Jill get a Hyundai or Toyota12), we (Jo, Jill and Colin) finally made it to Coral Bay and celebrated with bubbly and hearing some fascinating stories about Colin’s past! Coral Bay was the starting point for our expedition to Tantabiddi Boat Ramp paddling inside the Ningaloo Reef, which is the largest fringing reef in the world stretching over 250kms and of which we were to paddle 165km’s of it. ‘Ningaloo’ comes from the Wajarri language meaning high land jutting into the sea and is home to over 450 species of marine life – large and small.

The following day involved a car shuffle where we dropped Colin’s car at Learmonth airport so when Gail flew up several days later, she could then drive up and meet us at Yardie Creek. This was a late change of plans as Gail was originally paddling with us (4 being the ideal number for the trip), however she hurt her shoulder so sensibly decided to fly up and camp out in Cape Range to have a bit of a holiday. My car was to be left at Coral Bay for 6 days.

Having done several day paddles over the years between Yardie Creek and Mangrove Bay, I had for many years dreamed of doing an expedition along Ningaloo Reef. Most club members who have done the trip have paddled between Ningaloo Station and Tantabiddi, but Colin suggested we paddle from Coral Bay as he and Gail had previously paddled from there. We thought that was a great idea, as with Parks taking over the management of Ningaloo Station camps, we weren’t sure of the logistics from there. 

Day 1 (22/8/21) 18.5km

After packing up our kayaks, managing to squeeze in 30L of water, food for 6 days, camping equipment etc we headed off about 10:30am and the dream had now become reality!

We couldn’t have had a better start to the trip, with a high tide and a lovely following wind of at least 15knots SSE. We flew along not yet with sails as we were wanting to get a feel for our loaded kayaks. We had thought we might camp the night at Bateman Bay just south of where an extended rocky coastline begins which makes landing the kayaks difficult. However, with the wind assistance and due to a break in the reef allowing in 2m swell that was breaking on the beach we decided to push on. We popped up our sails and had an enjoyable ride passing dolphins, turtle and small rays before finding a perfect spot to camp about 3km south of Bruboodjoo Point. We had a bug free camp under a full moon.

Coral Bay Perfect start to trip
Good day for sailing

Day 2 (23/8/21) 26 km

We woke up to dry tents and started our day the same way we would for the rest of the trip – with Colin being first up eating his porridge and Jill and I lazing in our tents, packing our gear and then squeezing it all into our kayaks. Without fail it seemed that we were ready to set off about 9:30am each morning. The thing that was different about today was we had a 15+knot NE then NW wind so a trying day paddling into what was mostly a headwind. We had a few turtles pop up to break the monotony of the slog. After nearly 6hrs we found an OK camp spot about 5km south of Jane Bay. My right wrist and shoulder were killing me, and this had made the day particularly challenging. Colin looked like an energiser bunny, always off in the distance, so I was secretly pleased when he admitted how tired he was. Needless to say, we were all tucked up in our beds by 7:30pm! During the night around high tide we could hear the waves crashing up on the beach so slept fitfully envisioning our kayaks drifting out to sea.

Colin’s great shelter!.

Day 3 (24/8/21) 26km

Fortunately, our kayaks were still there when we woke up and the winds, although from the north, were nice and light. This meant for soggy tents which we waited a while before packing them up. We paddled in 2+m rolling swell over shallow water, so if the wind had picked up, we would have been dodging breaking waves. As we rounded Point Cloates the reef comes in very close, so we found a confused sea with small breaking waves and had to paddle against the current. Passing the old lighthouse and Ningaloo Homestead we found ourselves paddling in a stunning glassy blue bay. Further north we hit shallow water and unpredictable small breaking waves due to a gap in the reef which occasionally slapped us in the face! Turtles and an osprey kept us company along the way. Finding a suitable place to camp for the night was proving difficult due to the sizeable swell breaking on the beach. At around 26km, still dodging the breaking waves, we found a gentler landing on a beach where we believed there were sand dunes for us to camp in. Unfortunately, they were full of thick scrub, but we were too lazy to paddle on further so squeezed our tents into small niches. We were unaware we were so close to a track until a vehicle drove past, but by that stage Jill and I had set up our tents so we decided we would take the risk and stay put.  Now that the moon was waning we experienced incredible night skies for star gazing and viewing the milky way and the emu (aboriginal astronomical constellation outlined by the dark areas of the night sky).

Sneaky waves

Day 4 (25/8/21) 16km

I got up about 7am to clear skies, but within minutes a mist cloaked the sea and land. Colin was sitting out having his breakfast and disappeared into the mist as we heard him say “this could be Scotland!” and I said it reminded me of the movie “an American Werewolf in London”. Jill who was still cuddled up in her sleeping bag had no idea what we were talking about until she popped her head out of the tent. While we waited for the mist to clear Jill decided to walk down the beach to see what a sign in the distance said. She was horrified to find that the sign warned of asbestos lagging in the area, hence we dubbed our camp spot ‘Asbestos Bay’. The lagging would have come from the Norwegian Bay whaling station about 2.5km to our north. We paddled there and had a look around. It was surprising to see how extensive the ruins were, with the rusted remains of oil holding tanks, boilers and machinery that was used to process whale oil between 1915 and 1957. Paddling on we rounded a cape and found more confused waves before continuing to the pretty bay at Point Billie. We pulled into the quicksand like shoreline for lunch. Jill was itching to snorkel until we saw lots of bluebottles washed up on the beach. With a 10 knot south westerly now in we had a fantastic sail through the stunning North Lefroy Bay which was framed by the backdrop of the Cape Range. Finding a fabulous spot to camp at the southern end of Winderbandie Point and having landed earlier than previous days, we had a swim / snorkel and hung our paddling clothes out to dry in the warm windy conditions. Colin, who hates to lose anything, was searching frantically for his Sea Kayak Fest Buff which he thought must have blown away. However, it was later found in Jill’s tent where she had squirreled it away! Jill and I had been cooking our meals together each night, never knowing what we might serve up for dinner, but always bulked up by Jill’s fabulous, dehydrated veggies. Colin on the other hand was a man of routine and had the same dinner of homemade dehydrated savoury mince each night, which he obviously enjoyed. What he likely didn’t enjoy was Jill and my ribbing when we would ask him every night “what he was having for dinner?” After dinner I entertained (or tortured) the others with my unusual yoga poses and then we laid back blissfully viewing the stunning night skies.

Stunning Nth Lefroy Bay
Whaling stn ruins
This could be Scotland

Day 5 (26/8/21) 16km

There was no dew this morning due to the 16 – 17 knot SSE winds. We were packing up our kayaks when I heard Jill say “Is that my Ikea bag or yours Jo?’ as I looked up to see my bag flying off toward Winderbandie Point. Jill and Colin thought it was quite hilarious watching me sprint down the beach chasing it and every time I neared it, it flew off further down the beach. I was well and truly stuffed when I got back to the boat. We left the beach with quartering winds until we rounded the point which Jill and I took sharply then paddling into a fresh headwind toward the shore trying to find some shelter from the wind. Colin however just continued further out at sea paddling from point to point. Later we met up and then as we turned a bend put our sails up for a fun cruisy sail. In the distance we could see breaking waves due to a large gap in the reef and coincidentally when we reached this area the wind had changed to SW, or at least a strong southerly, and the sail became very exciting from then on! Jill commented on my nervous giggle she would hear from time to time. It certainly was the most challenging sailing I have done in the kayak, and it was exhilarating and at times a little scary for me. Having the kayak loaded made a world of difference with the kayak feeling extremely stable even in the rough conditions. Rounding Sandy Cape, we were back in the protection of the reef with only small, confused waves. We started looking for a suitable camp for the night and after 3 stops we found a perfect bay sheltered from the 20 knot SW. Unfortunately some 4WDs were parked on shore, so we had to set up camp a little further down the beach, still lovely but quite windy. As usual we saw many turtles today along with a ray, dolphins, Osprey and Colin came across a snake in the dunes. 

Exhilerating sailing

Day 6 (27/8/21) 13.5km

Waking to another day of 15 – 20 knot SE winds we had a nice run down to boat harbour camp. We were needing to get to One K camp (1km south of Yardie Creek) as we had 2 nights booked and Gail was planning to drive up and meet us there. The conditions deteriorated after that due to the very shallow water. With breaking waves and opposing wind chop ahead we decided to paddle at least a km from shore and picked our way through them. All along the shore was a rocky shelf so on seeing a sandy coastline ahead we made for that. As usual Colin was paddling at a cracking pace ahead of us, further spurred on by the fact he was meeting up with Gail this morning. We radioed him when he was near the beach asking if that was One K camp but got the negative that it was in fact Yardie Creek! As Jill and I started heading in closer to the coast we spied the long drop loo of One K camp. There was absolutely no way we could land our kayaks there due to the raised rocky shelf all along that area. When we got to Yardie Creek we went to see the campground host in the hope that maybe there would be a campsite available there for 2 nights or that national parks could perhaps suggest an alternative camp site we could access with our kayaks. The campground host went above and beyond her volunteer position, we only wish national parks had done the same. The person on the other end of the radio pretty much said it was our fault for booking the spot and we should have known it was 4WD access. We tried to explain that we were in kayaks and that the website makes no mention of the rocky shelf along the beach, and she was like “there must be a lagoon somewhere near there where you can land!”. We decided our predicament was falling on deaf ears and although commercial kayak operators are catered for, the same is not true for other kayakers. Fortunately, Gail turned up with the Troopy not long after (thankfully there had been no lockdown in Perth) and saved the day! Although Yardie Creek was open to the ocean it was crossable so we paddled up into Yardie Creek to unload everything into the troopy and then paddled back out to the ocean landing the kayaks and dragging them up into the sand dunes where we hoped they would be safe for the next 2 days. We all piled into the troopy and headed to the camp site, my least favourite camp of the trip, full of bulldust which was so fine that during the night the strong winds caused it to blow into my eyes and to cover my sleeping bag. The only positive was that the rocks were a good place to watch the sunset and to drink Jill’s warm white wine which had been in the car for the last 6 days!

One K Camp – no chance of landing here
Loaded up to head to OneK camp

Day 7 (28/8/21) No paddling

We awoke to a bloke asking if we were the kayaking mob. At first I thought it was the Ranger until he mentioned Jill by name. From within her tent Jill says “that sounds like Ranger Bruce!”. Her hubby had tracked us down to say hi and he spent the day with Jill and Gail hiking up Yardie Creek (Jill also paddled up it) and treating us with fresh food and even a beer and G&T! Colin and I spent about 6 hours driving to Coral Bay retrieving my car and then dropping it off at Neds Camp further north in Cape Range National Park. 

Jill & Bruce Yardie Creek
Rock Wallabies yardie Creek

Day 8 (29/8/21) 11km

After shuttling all our gear back to Yardie Creek in the troopy and the long haul down to the kayaks we set off for Osprey Camp. It was a cruisy day, sailing for part of the journey with 10 – 15 knot S then SW winds. We startled many turtles along the way. Osprey camp has a beautiful bay and has many campsites (spaced out nicely). We found our booked campsite with Gail all set up reading a book under the awning of the Troopy. The sites are great for caravans or camper trailers but not ideal for tents as the solid ground makes it difficult to get your tent pegs in. Fortunately, Colin had special pegs and a hammer in the troopy he could share with us. After lunch we had a pleasant snorkel right out front of the camp. The highlight for me was being able to follow a large green turtle for ages while he was munching on the sea grass, surfacing each time he did. He was totally unphased by my presence which in my experience is unusual. We had a lovely walk over to Sandy Bay early evening and after dinner Sandy Robson surprised us by turning up to see us. I think she heard us before she saw us 😉

Colin & Gail – Osprey Camp sunset
Jo & Jill Osprey Sunset

Day 9 (30/8/21) 14km

We started our day with a 1.1km paddle to a kayak mooring on the inside of the reef where we tied up our kayaks and jumped overboard for a snorkel. It was low tide, so we had to snorkel around some of the stunning plate and staghorn coral so as not to disturb it. We were spoilt with plenty of reef fish, a flounder hiding in the sand, cuttlefish, sea snake, blue spotted ray and lots more.  By the time we got back into our kayaks the south westerly wind had picked up to 15 – 20 knots which it remained for the rest of the day. We sailed over to Sandy Bay and were there in a flash. We paddled then sailed passing Pilgramunna (which looked good for snorkelling but as there was a tour group there) and continued to South Kurrajong Camp which had a good sandy beach to land the kayak and have lunch. After passing Bloodwood Creek we paddled over reef which I imagine would be nice for snorkelling. We were booked to camp at North Mandu camp but it was a beach of large pebbles, so we took our chances and paddled on looking for somewhere without a rocky landing to camp for the night. There was just a high enough tide to paddle past Oyster Stacks without having to go out through the gap in the reef. Our camp was not ideal and no matter where we were we could not get out of the wind blasting sand, even later that night when the wind turned south easterly and Jill’s tent fly blew off. Colin felt the wrath of the wind also when he found his tarp was missing, luckily to be found later some distance away.

Kayak mooring
Stunning coral
Sandy Bay

Day 10 (31/8/21) 14kms

After a night of excessive tent flapping (except for Colin who decided to forgo his tent outer for a more peaceful night’s sleep) we got up early to pack up our tents and kayaks surreptitiously. It was still a strong south easterly and way too cold to consider snorkelling, so we whiled away some time until we heard a “Cooee!” from Sandy who had managed to track us down. After much deliberation we decided to have a snorkel at Turquoise Bay. We headed out to the staghorn gardens and were again spoilt with a kaleidoscope of corals and fish, the highlights being unicorn fish and a blue spotted ray munching down and then trying to hide its feed from the fish surrounding it.  We all left the water at a similar time as we were freezing so jumped in the kayaks and paddled on to Lakeside Bombies trying to warm up. After warming up in a sheltered spot where we ate lunch, we followed Sandy out to the bombies for a snorkel, and then through the channel between them, swimming against the current. We were rewarded with a huge potato cod, white tipped reef shark under a ledge, turtles and clown fish.   It was a quick paddle with following seas to Ned’s camp where we surprised Gail by turning up a day early. We were worried we might be shattering her serenity but she seemed happy to see us. Good job we had that campsite booked as well as Tulki, so we had a choice. We were stoked to be setting up the tents for 2 nights and not having to pack it all up again next morning. 

Sandy joins us for the day
Neds camp

Day 11 (1/9/21) 12km

It was an overcast day with a nice 10 – 15knot SE so we paddle sailed northwards startling turtles and rays until we reached the Mangrove area. We dropped our sails with the idea of getting closer to shore, hoping to see a nursery of sharks or rays as I had seen on another trip. The tide however had other ideas, being way too shallow. We picked our way through the shallow rocks until we were able to get out to deeper water and sailed off again until we were approaching Tantabiddi.  We went in search of the kayak moorings to snorkel, but the SW wind was picking up now, with wind chop and grey skies so we decided it wasn’t that appealing. As we were heading in toward the boat ramp, we caught up with Sandy who was just paddling out. She continued southwards for a fitness paddle. There were high fives all around as we landed at the south side of the boat ramp with mixed feelings about the end of our paddle expedition. Gail timed it perfectly turning up with the troopy to run me back to Ned’s to pick up my car. Gail really was an amazing support to us on the latter half of the trip although she would have preferred to have been paddling with us. When Sandy got back to Tantabiddi we all headed off to Yardie Homestead to buy lunch but found the café closed. Lucky for us Sandy had brought us carrot cake which filled us up instead – yum!  We called in at Mangrove Bay bird hide which was very peaceful then returned to Ned’s camp. Colin tried his hand at fishing to no avail. It was the one and only time the fishing rods came out. I was very disappointed as Jill and Colin had promised me fish for dinner every night!  It was a windy evening but we braved the bench in the sand dune where we had port and wine sunset drinks to celebrate the paddle end.  

Last day of paddle
Colin celebrating end of paddle expedition

Day 12 (2/9/21) 0km

We were pleased we had finished our trip a day earlier than planned as the wind was even stronger today (SE 20+ knots). After packing up camp and our cars Gail and Colin went to Lakeside so Gail could get amongst the great coral and fish life there. Jill and I enjoyed the Mandu Mandu gorge loop walk through a dry white stone riverbed surrounded by ancient red cliffs, where we spotted a lone black flanked wallaby hiding in a crevice. The return walk took us over the top of the gorge where wedgetail eagles were soaring on thermals and great coastal views giving us a perspective of parts of our paddle expedition. I then decided to play tour guide, taking Jill down every road possible heading toward Exmouth. We checked out Woribi, the Lighthouse, The Dunes (surf spot), Mildura Wreck then shared a delightful Nasi Goring at Bundegi Beach (still a chilly SE wind which was onshore there). We reunited with Gail and Colin at the campground where we had a real bed for the night in a chalet and then had a farewell dinner and lots of laughs at the pub meeting up with Sandy.  

Special thanks need to go to Colin for his diligent planning and all the work he put into the extensive Management Plan and to Jill and Gail for all you did too!

Mulla Mulla
Mandu Mandu gorge

A suggestion for a cruisy shorter expedition for ISSA paddlers would be to start at Yardie Creek after leaving a car at either Ned’s camp (we paid for 1 person camping for the number of nights we left the car) or Yardie Homestead (they wanted payment too). You could have a really cruisy trip, allowing plenty of time for snorkelling and exploring if you camped at Osprey Bay, Kurrajong and Ned’s camp (all accessible by kayak), continuing up to Tantabiddi boat ramp. You could spend additional nights at one of the camps so that you have time to walk some of the gorges etc. Colin, Jill and I are happy to pass on any additional information you may require for either the whole trip or part of. 

Paddle around Francois Peron Shark Bay

Paddle around Francois Peron – Shark Bay, September 2021

Trip Report by Sean Sinclair
September 2021

When I saw the Shark Bay expedition being advertised, I could not wait to get on board.  The opportunity to do an expedition around Cape Peron does not come by that often. So when Pel and Bruce confirmed I would be able to join in, I was quite excited.  So I cut short an already planned camping trip by a day or two and got myself organised.  Dry bags, light weight hiking equipment, meal plan and gear.  I had a quick dry run of packing it all in the kayak to make sure it would fit, and deciding what went where.

I left home Saturday and met Pel in Northampton.  We had only met briefly once before, and it was a good opportunity to get to know each other over a beer and a meal.  The next day we went on to Denham, where we scouted out the Monkey Mia landing and car park situation.  We then checked into the chalet at Denham Seaside and got our kit in order as the rest of team started to arrive.  Dylan, Austen and then Kim and Bruce.  Being a south of river paddler, I had not met nor paddled with any of these guys before. So after a few how-do-you-dos and what do-you-dos, we got down to business.  It was decided we would start the next morning, with prevailing winds being a big factor in that decision.

The first day was a bit of a late start as we had to organise the cars to the take out point, which was a 50 km round trip.  It was around 10 before we got under way.  The wind was in our favour, but the tide was going out literally before our eyes.  The witty banter between comrades soon went quiet as the crew focussed on packing their gear.  We needed to carry everything.  Food, water and equipment for 6 days. 5 planned and 1 spare if needed. This meant about 4 litres of water per day and about a kilo of food (when reconstituted). All up around 30kgs of consumables plus another 15kgs of camping and safety equipment.  Therefore fitting it all in required careful thought for placement and accessibility.

I had no idea regarding the extent of the shallows around this cape.  I had not even given it any consideration.  Low tides would prove to be almost as big an issue as wind.   With the tide dropping, it flows across the shallows, and they extend to the horizon.  The more we committed to paddling inshore, the more we ran the risk of running out of water if we took too long.

Packing the kayaks.

Setting Off

For the most part of the first day, we paddled through water that varied in depth from 1 meter to as little as 20cm. We spent a lot of time manoeuvring to find deeper parts. We had a strengthening breeze at our backs, and were making excellent progress.  We beached for a quick lunch break, displacing many small sharks in the shallows, before heading on to Big Lagoon for our first camp.

Big Lagoon and its turquoise blue entrance is quite spectacular. After drifting over the last few hundred metres of shallow rocky reef, the crystal clear waters and initially grassless sandy bottom were a sight to behold.  A few Rays and Turtles were spotted quite close by as the water way drew us into the lagoon where we sought a suitable camp site for our first night. Ample bird life was also to be seen resting on the tidal sand bars.  During the latter part of our day, and inside Big Lagoon, we witnessed on many occasions fish leaping out of the water.  This activity continued right in front of our camp site. With the sun setting behind us as we looked out over the waters, brilliant flashes of silver kept on popping up out of nowhere.  Some of these fish where a good 30-40cm long, so goodness knows what was chasing them.

Pel & Kim kickin’ back

Big Lagoon camp beach with natural hanging space for drying.

Day Two

and up early for a big day to get right up the coast.  If wind and tides were in our favour, we would try to make it to Bottle Bay camp site. This was the furthest of 4 options being approximately 32kms from Big Lagoon. Kim was our leader for the day.  Rounding the red sandy headland we pushed north by northwest. Very soon it was apparent that our luck was in, and the wind was pushing us along quite nicely, and we were still in front of the falling tide.  We paddled across the shallows spotting many of the usual sharks and rays.  We tried to pick a beach for lunch but locations were not easy to find.  So we ended up just pulling up on very slightly submerged sand bar where small sharks were scouring the sandy bottom in around 10 cm of water.  Whilst we ate we were treated to a swim by of a magnificent shovelnose ray.  It was about 1.5m long with its easily identifiable triple fin tail, diamond shaped body and eyes on top of its flat head.  In other parts, similar species are often called guitar fish.  Kim has a photo I think.

After about 20km of paddling over the shallows, we rounded Cape Lesueur and moved over some deeper open water.  We revelled in the conditions, finally being able to open up the shoulders and run with some of the wind waves rolling through with the breeze.  After a brief discussion on suitability of using the public camp ground we broke camp around 2pm.  There was a little bit of kayak hauling required to get them nearer to camp, and out of the way of beach fisherman.  The long drops were suitably utilised for their intended purpose, no worries there.  Bruce and Pel arrived shortly after, after an adventurous day performing 4WD rescues, amongst other things

Bottle Bay camp.

Day Three

would see us rounding Cape Peron early and then start our paddle south towards Herald Bight.  The wind was now blowing from the west as the weather was starting to change.  This was somewhat on our shoulder and not too much of a hindrance as we progressed south.  This section was highlighted by vibrant red bluffs plunging down to white sandy beaches or turquoise seas.  Many of these parts are not easily accessible. The scenery speaks of time, with oxidising and eroding on its surfaces happening every season.  A sea kayak is the ultimate way to really get to see this.

Rounding Cape Peron.

Day 3 would also bear witness to ‘The Mishap’. Dylan had packed his ‘mocha pot’ so he could enjoy fresh brewed coffee along the way.  We stopped for morning tea break and he quickly unpacked it and his gas stove to get a brew going.  We could could hear it getting all steamed up and Dylan declaring it done, moving in to grab and pour, only to bump it off the stove and tip its wonderfully aromatic contents onto the sand.  He said absolutely nothing, just cleaned up, packed up and paddled off.  He did confess later to there being an absolute rage happening on the inside.

Dylan looking confident before the incident

We made it to Herald Bight by lunch time.  After a short discussion between mouthfuls, we decided that we would take advantage of the westerly wind and continue on east to camp on a small promontory that projected north from headland.  This part featured white sands and mangroves seemingly unspoilt by people.  The 5km paddle straight across the bay provided some large turtle sightings and our first Dugong sighting. I think Dylan spotted it first being almost directly over it. The Dugong swam straight towards Kims boat, before realising he was there. It then did a terrific turn about, flicking its tail in the air, and splashing Kim.  What a great  encounter for them.  We were really quite happy with our decision to camp at this spot, and we were treated to a spectacular sunset as some clouds rolled in.  There was some rain during the night as the tip of a cold front passed through.

Camping amongst the Mangroves

Camping amongst the mangroves

Day Four

Patchy skies greeted us as the sun broke first light, illuminating the tent walls, highlighting the beads of water on the fly cover.  It was going to be a wet pack up for sure.  As we paddled across the now flooded sand bar that was the absolute extension of promontory, there was a massive congregation of mostly Pied Cormorants on a sand island just in front of us.  Kim asked us to pause so he could make a video of them.  They were guaranteed to take flight as we drew near and he wished to capture it.  There were literally thousands of birds all gathered, and as if on cue they all started to take flight.  It was a mass exodus, with a cacophony of sound like you just can’t imagine.  The beating of wings and pattering of webbed feet wildly kicking to assist with flight, in an orderly fashion of who’s first, hundreds at a time.  You need to see Kim’s video to believe it.  There were so many taking to the sky it was turning black as though there were swarms of these birds.  Most birds relax their sphincter just before flight. It’s an old photographers tell.  So you can just imagine the smell as we paddled past. The whole experience was sensory overload.  Shortly after Dylan sighted another Dugong.  So exciting.

After coming around the tip we heading face first into a stiff south-easterly breeze.  So we proceeded to work around the first few bays, rather than paddle point to point between the headlands punching straight into the wind.  This only worked for a while as the water was starting to get too shallow in close.  We were due to make Cape Rose that day, rounding the subtle bend to make camp with Monkey Mia in sight.  However the low tide prevented our traverse with the exposed sandbar not passable.  We set up our last camp in the near by dunes with our kayaks lined up just above the high tide mark about 30 metres away.  There was some concern about vehicles during the night due to the tyre tracks in the sand.  There was some mobile reception available and many of us using the opportunity to check in with loved ones, burning up the few remaining percentages of battery we had left in our phones.  My beach camp was characterised by a persistent pair of Pied Oyster Catchers that were a bit put out by our presence.  They spent the afternoon and early morning curiously trying to sneak in and around the camp site.

In the wee small hours (it’s called that for a reason) I had just been for a quick excursion outside my tent and was just getting warm and comfy back inside, when I heard a vehicle.  The sound was a loud groan of an older 4WD being tortured as it laboured through the soft sand.  I stuck my head out and sure enough I could see the headlights coming around the corner.  I stepped out to stop them.  They pulled up in their black-rimmed dual cab Ute with a traditional greeting of ‘How ya going?’, followed by ‘we’ve been bogged for 4 hours ay!’ I asked them to watch out for our kayaks.  Then it was as though I had Jedi Mind Trick powers.  They simply repeated my words back to me. I said ‘it’s a dead end up there’ and they replied ‘it’s a dead end up there’. ‘You had better turn around’. ‘We had better turn around!’.  And so they did, performing a wild clutch-drop and U-turn, rear tyre flapping on the rim where it had broken its bead. Off they went, never to be seen again.

Pied Oyster Catcher greeting me in the light of the new day.

So the Final Day presented itself.  We had paddled beyond expectation, achieving 5 day trip without somewhat arduous days, usually finishing by early afternoon.  This gave plenty of time for rest and recuperation.  However, we were not done yet and nor was the wind.  Saving its best for last.  Rounding Cape Rose we paddled straight into 20km/h headwind, gusting to 30, over relatively shallow water.  The chop, spray and relentless gusts were very taxing to say the least.  It wasn’t unexpected though.  The reputation of these parts as being very windy is well known.  Given that, we were already quite aware of how fortunate we had been with the weather so far. Three and a half great days over one and a half ordinary ones I’ll take anytime.  After about 2 hours we had made around 5km, having to slug it out non-stop to avoid being pushed back to where we started.  After a break on a beach we saddled up for the last push towards the finish at Monkey Mia.  We were able come together as a group as we paddled past the jetty.  Just as we did, the resort sent out three of its dolphins to escort us past the finish line, in some kind of aquatic guard of honour.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Being able to experience the Francois Peron NP from a sea kayak was such a unique and privileged opportunity.  I really enjoy sea kayak paddling and I was able to relish in some of the conditions.  Turning around to catch some waves and zig zagging my way, tacking into the wind, is always a lot of fun. My only injury was from the extremely saline water drying on my hands and paddle, and sanding my finger tips smooth. I can no longer unlock my phone using fingerprints.

I am very grateful to Bruce, Pel, Kim, Austen and Dylan for accepting me into their paddling group, particularly as an unknown.  We should all be proud of our efforts and what we achieved.

Waves crashed into the Island in spectacular fashion

Lancelin Weekend, May 2021

Lancelin Weekend May 29-30 2021

Report by Andrew Munyard

A few hardy souls turned up to the Lancelin weekend. Paul Cooper, Mark Stallbaum, Tony Beswick, Sean Sinclair and Andrew Munyard made the trip north despite some dire forecasts.

The problem with any proposed paddle two months in the future for the paddle program is the big factor of weather.

When I proposed the trip, I thought I might strike it lucky with a last hurrah of Autumn but instead got a welcome to Winter. As I watched the weather change over the week prior to the trip I tried to wish in a big high pressure but instead got a couple of big fronts and upper level disturbances. The forecast was for thunderstorms and heavy rain up to 25mm for Friday night and Saturday looking pretty much the same. Sunday was looking pretty rough with 20 – 25knot winds and 4 to 5 m swells forecast.

I sought Paul Cooper’s advice on whether to  throw in the towel with what was looking like a pretty terrible weekend, but Paul stood his ground against the imminent weather and said ‘Lets go, if it all turns too bad we can always go home’.  There is nothing worse as a sea leader cancelling a trip and then agonising over the weather, wondering if you were right to cancel. I liked Paul’s attitude so, a little mischievisly I put the tent back in the shed and towed the caravan to Lancelin.  I call the caravan a hard tent, it’s dry and very comfortable, I was going to be ready for whatever the weather gods were going to throw at us.

Friday afternoon was pretty warm and pleasant, little did we know what was install for us that night. After a great pub meal, we all retired and then the thunder and lightnting started. They say that if the time between lightning and thunder is 15 seconds or less, get off the water. I only counted to five before an almighty thunderclap boomed overhead and the light and sound show kept going for some time. In the morning when I enquired how others got on, Paul commented he could only sleep through the din once he put in ear plugs. Sean was happily reading a book in his camper pod when he thought , sh… that was close! True to the forecast. Down came the rain.

Camping is fun when the weather is fine, but rain can really stress test your tent and your ability to sleep whilst water drips  like  water torture from above. Mark showed true grit by pulling a raincoat over his sleeping bag to prevent the drops from soaking him and telling himself to just get over it and get to sleep! His dreams were most likely of him visiting camping stores and testing tents like a person tests mattresses.

The morning was dry, which made having breakfast easy and everyone was getting ready for going on the water. Again, the forecast was not good with possible thunderstorms and rain. Fortunately, the wind was 15 knots and less so we would not have to battle strong winds. The storms were a worry, but we agreed to get of the water if thunder and lightning started.

A white line of breakers ringed Lancelin Bay

We put in at the park to the south of Sea Rescue. Our launch site was packed with weed and a weed soup was sloshing in and out with each of the small waves that crashed onto the beach. Paul found a spot a little less weedy and we all launched without ending up looking like King Neptune covered in weed. The sky was really grey and rain was obscuring the view to the north. We paddled south to Edwards Island to see if we could find some surf. The swell was running at 3 to 4 metres so we were always cautious of one getting through the reef and finding bottom near us. Unfortunately, the waves were not well formed as they broke early on the reef due to their size and lost a lot of their energy. Going out to meet them at the break line would have been for the very brave and we decided we were not that brave.

Spray went high into the air as waves crashed into the island

We then paddled north and found some waves at the point near sea rescue. You had to be on your toes as they were not spilling waves but rather  of the type which  let go of all their energy at once. There was an interesting mix of waves with a break from the SW and one from the west and they met in a cauldron of confusion. There was some energy to them so you had to be on you’re toes. I had just had a great a ride to shore and on paddling out I did not lean hard enough  into the cross wave bearing down on me and was capsized. I was tossed about for what felt longer than 10 seconds (I checked  it on my GoPro to ), eventually putting up the white flag and wet exiting in about 6 inches of water, Sean later commented that he thought I must have dug a furrow in the sand with the GoPro on my helmet and that it was lucky it stayed fixed to my helmet. I have included the 10 seconds of video for you all to have your own underwater experience.

We paddled up to Lancelin Island into a 13 knot NW and the rain decided to really come down. It was a  white out with the destination disappearing and even other paddlers in the group hard to see. Again, no waves presented themselves for a decent ride so we explored the island and watched in awe as waves of white knuckle size crashed onto the reef in a mass of spume and noise.

We stuck our noses around the northern end of the island where some ferocius currents were returning the water that was crossing the reef had  managed to find a way to return to the deep. You had to maintain spatial awareness to ensure you were not being taken by the currents to an unpleasant outcome.

We tried to ride a wave close to the southern end of the island where waves crashed in great towering spray against the cliffs but again were thwarted in any decent ride. Always optimistic we returned to the southern end of  Edwards Island but again, the waves were poor and  whilst they had decent size, they were just  not rideable with much of the energy having been thrashed on the reef.

Sean tried to catch a wave as it wrapped around the island

Returning to our launch site we were surprised to find all the weed that had made weed soup on launching, had been swept out to the bay and the beach was now clean and made for an easy landing. For the time that we had been paddling numerous showers of heavy rain had swept through, it  was pretty handy in keeping the salt off you.

On returning  to our campsite everyone with a tent found they were now camped in the middle of a lake. Mark’s tent was particularly affected with what you would call waterside accommodation. I looked in at the puddles  in the tent and was glad I bought the caravan. Mark was busy packing up, he had endured enough, he was going to start researching tents, this one  had had served him well, but had reached its use by date. Paul’s tent was under threat from rising waters and Tony was confident his Hilliberg, now pitched  in a sea of rising water would be OK but  the enthusiasm for going through another night of forecast rain was too much and everyone decided to return to Perth. Sean and I had faired much better in campers and were pretty comfortable. We mulled over the paddle and discussed all thing sea kayaking over a pie and coffee at the bakery opposite the caravan park prior to leaving for Perth.

Mark returned to his tent to find he now had water views

Everyone had a good time and I’m glad we decided to go ,however  we were lucky that storms did not eventuate, the weather was fairly good  with a  pretty big swell running and some interesting energy getting inside the bay. Fortunately the energy is taken out by the reef that lies off Lancelin, but a trip along the coast would not have been possible with the swell that was running on the Saturday and Sunday.

Andrew Burkhill teaching leaning into a wave - Photo Les Allen

Sea Instructors Course, January 2021

SKCWA instructors Course

South Coast

20 – 24 January 2021

As a part of the SKCWA reinvigorating its leadership group, Les Allan offered to run an Instructors course on the south coast over the period Wednesday 20 to Sunday 24 January.

The course was designed to evaluate the instructor’s personal sea kayaking skills, to develop teaching techniques and  to develop an ISSA course  to be delivered on  Saturday and Sunday.

Les and Jenni had been busy the week before hosting a WOWOW paddle for female paddlers. No sooner had the dust settled on the driveway from the departing WOWOWers when we all rocked up. Les and Jenni kindly allowed us to camp in their back yard which was a great way to keep people together and chatting about all things kayaking.

Steve Haddon, Jill Sievenpier, Tony Beswick, Chris Mawson, Damon Haddon, Bruce Pilgrim and Andrew Burkhill all put their hands up to attend. It was an intensive course, with Les taking us through our paces in the three days leading up to the ISSA course. The trainees had to prepare the lesson plans for the course after a full day on the water. Les had an idea for a far more adventurous course which put some out of the instructors outside their comfort zone, however with time on the water and gaining understanding and confidence of the location, everyone become more comfortable with Les’s suggestions.

The training for both instructors and ISSA students was held at Parrys Beach about 20 kms west of Denmark. The bay has a shallow sandy beach creating a spilling wave to break toward the shoreline, a great training ground for  ISSA to learn the art of low bracing in surf.  Deeper water behind the beach allowed rescues and strokes to be taught in the relative calm. A little further up the beach the waves got a bit bigger and some reasonable surf presented itself for the instructors to practice capsize and rolling in surf.

The instructors got to play around Stanley island which sits offshore and provides great rebound and a bit of lump and bmp. Les had us paddling backwards in lumpy conditions which was interesting and doing rescues in some swell and rebound. Something hard to find in Perth at this time of year!  Re-enter and rolls were practiced with instructors having to paddle about 600 metres back to safe waters with flooded boats in the swell and rebound. This was a challenging exercise as the boat’s stability decreased and having a paddle in the water was the way to provide support. This caused group spread as instructors concentrated on paddling forwards to maintain stability.

As everyone pumped out their boats, Andrew Burkhill found that he could not keep the water out and that no matter what he did, he was continually awash. We started to understand what was going on when the front of his boat had a distinct downward presentation. Andrews front hatch had flooded and the boat was no longer buoyant. A tow was applied and Les and Damon, came alongside to clip Andrew’s decklines to theirs and now at least Andrew would not sink. Luckily the rear compartment still had some air in it so it stayed buoyant. The tow was for about 1.5km where we found a beach without a bad break. Andrew was released from the tow and paddled himself in with his bow pointing very much down. He did a great job of getting ashore where Les and Damon assisted in getting the water out. It appears the sealant on the bulkheads (it’s a polyethylene boat ) had failed and water had flowed from the cockpit to the front tank and the day hatch behind the cockpit. There was some water in the rear hatch but not enough to cause trouble. After seeing this event, I might get some air bags for my boat as a fibreglass boat will definitely sink should the same thing occur.

Friday was spent at Cosy Corner where Les shared his teaching techniques honed over many years of instruction and demonstrated how different strokes could be presented the next day. Perhaps I was distracted but the colours of the water and granite where so beautiful as the sun came out , making the little bay we sat in look enchanting.

Saturday was day one of the ISSA course with 14 students in total. Colin Millar, Mark Stallbaum, Jimmy Henley-Martin and Taneesha Stallbaum  and Sharryn Murry had driven down from Perth for the weekend joining 10 paddlers from Albany/ Denmark.

Chris Mawson explains the day’s activities             Photo Mark Stallbaum

The morning saw 3 groups practice surf launches and landings, bracing in the spilling surf, and if the waves were not there, the instructors tossed the boats about to crank up the bracing skills.  Paddle skills were practiced beyond the break. The groups rotated through each station getting about 40 minutes practice at each station.

Les Les explains paddling concepts to the students     Photo Mark Stallbaum

The afternoon was all about getting wet as the students now paddled parallel to the breaking waves applying the bracing skills of the morning. Then in bigger waves they had to capsize and swim their boat to shore. Meanwhile a second group was out the back practicing T rescues, heel hook recoveries and towing.

Damon Haddon introduces students to the role of beach master     Photo Mark Stallbaum

It was a full day and all of the instructors worked really hard to give a fantastic learning experience to the students. I’m sure all would have slept soundly that night.

Sunday was a short paddle of 10km heading into the bay on the way to Stanley Island. Les was keen for a big swell to give some excitement but the gods did not prevail but they did send in some wind. Capsizes, assisted rescues, and towing were practiced. The ISSA  students were given an opportunity to meander through some rock gardens, applying the turning skills they had been learnt on Saturday. Some of the Albany people made tow bags on Saturday evening as we mulled over the day’s events hoping that Sunday would present a chance to use them for the first time.

No, not Greece or the Med, here in our own backyard     Paddling the south coast  western Australia      Photo Mark Stallbaum

I think the instructor course with the delivery of an ISSA program was a huge success. It was a lot of hard work for the instructors, who were kept busy all through the day and evening.  Our bed times got earlier and earlier as the days wore on and was a measure of how hard everyone was working.

I was very impressed by the course presented by the instructors  for the Saturday. Its execution was excellent. I was amazed at the way the ISSA students quickly gained the skills and applied them to the surf and waves. Sunday was an opportunity to apply all that was learnt on Saturday and use it in a real paddling scenario. From what I saw, everyone was having fun which is what sea kayaking should be about.

Thanks must go to our trainee instructors, who made a huge commitment to give up 5 days of their lives to benefit our club. Thanks to Les Allen for running the course, Les has been a real driving force to get this off the ground.  I think all the instructors became more confident from this course and Les loves to challenge people. I saw our trainee instructors stand up and extended themselves. Thanks must also go to Jenni who took on the catering role of preparing evening meals for all the instructors, this followed on the heels of having organised and lead the WOWOW week. She did the catering after having participated in the days activities so it was a huge commitment by Les and Jenni to the SKCWA. Thanks to those members who want to improve themselves and their sea kayaking skills. There would have been no ISSA course and a chance for our trainees to practice without interested students who want to improve their seakayaking.

Thankyou everyone, the club is better for your participation.

Mandurah Canals Christmas Cruise

Mandurah Canals Christmas Cruise

Sunday 27th December 2020

Report by Bruce Pilgrim

The moon was full, the sky was clear, the tide was high and the lights were on. I invited the Swan Canoe club to join us for a leisurely paddle to view the Mandurah Canal Christmas Lights, following the navigation route recommended by the City of Mandurah and used by the fare paying tour boats. But we did it for free.

Seventeen paddlers fronted up to Henry Sutton Grove in Halls Head. Twelve of them from the Swan CC and five of us (Andrew Nerissa, Heidi, Peter and myself) from The Sea Kayak Club. After checking that we all had the required white light and advising everyone that the biggest hazard would be other boats, we split into three groups each headed by Andrew Munyard, Colin Priest and myself. It was just on dark as we headed off following the flotilla of boats on their journey in and out of the canals.

The suggested route in and out of the canals was about 8km long. Most of the houses on the canal had some form of xmas lighting, many with themes, some extraordinary displays and one unlit house with a simple “ditto ” in lights pointing to a well-lit up house next door meaning, I think, the owner couldn’t be bothered.

The weather was perfect with a moderate SW wind which you didn’t notice once you were in the canals. It was easy paddling keeping to the right well away from the constant stream of motor boats. A few locals were on their jetties as intrigued by the number of boats as we were by the lights. The displays must take many weeks to set up and I would imagine a few entrepreneurial types would make a dollar or two as I couldn’t imagine every house would have the knowledge of how to set up the lighting displays.

The hardest part at the end of the evening was finding

our way out of the labyrinth of canals back to our cars. However, we all agreed it was a lot of fun and should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Cervantes 2020

Cervantes 2020

Paul Cooper arranged the Cervantes weekend this year (as usual). Sixteen kayakers made their way up to Cervantes on Friday evening and another arrived just in time for the paddle on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning we were awoken at about 5:00 am by screeching parrots and warbling magpies. Time for breakfast.  People slowly emerged to start organising themselves for the day. It was already windy with about a 10 knot Southwester.  The forecast was for the wind to swing to the South and pick up to around 20 knots after midday.

The rest of us set off from Cervantes for the 25 km downwinder to Jurien Bay. We roughly split into two groups; the sailors and the ones with too much energy, and the paddlers.  I lead the paddlers off while the sailors sorted their sails out.  The wind and the waves soon picked up and the sailors cruised on by.  There were nice waves to catch and we made good time.  We soon arrived at Hill River for a break.  The wind had picked up and was now consistently over 20 knots.

The following section was written by Andrew Munyard

We all launched from Hill River successfully with Richard and Damon being last off the beach. The quartering sea breeze making getting off a little difficult.  As Richard got organised behind the break, he decided to do some capsize training which Damon responded to and got him back in his boat.

Steve had headed off with the paddlers.  We were past Booker Valley (half way between Hill River and Jurien Bay) and the sailors were still behind us (just).

A little while later we got a gurgled radio message with Peter telling us he had capsized up ahead, his orange boat a real bonus in spotting it in the waves.  Richard this time performed the rescue but as Peter pumped out his boat with his head no longer looking at the horizon but down into his boat, sea sickness overcame him. A common occurrence in performing rescues. Peter decided he needed to get off the water and made a beeline to the beach, Damon raced ahead to assist with the landing.

As we stood on the beach with  Peter not feeling too good. Andrew walked to the back of the beach and found a bike track. We now had a way to get Peter out if needed. Peter had texted Pel that we were waiting for him to recover. As I walked back to the group on the beach, Pel’s voice came over the radio. I thought that was strange as he would be in Jurien but the comms were very clear. As I turned around for one last glance at the map on the bike path I noticed Pel and Des Cook walking down the path with Pel calling me on the radio. They were parked 100 metres from our position and had walked in!

The funny things you find on a bike path!
Photo by Andrew Munyard

Peter took the opportunity for a land based exit and the remainder of us paddled on to Jurien.

Setting Tony off after delivering Peter to Pel and Des.
Photo by Andrew Munyard

Andrew decided to disobey all the rules he had made for sailing and threw the sail up without making sure all lines were free. The mainsheet tangled and the sail filled with wind and over he went. Luckily for him the water was only waist deep and he managed to perform his own rescue, much to the disappointment of Damon who had paddled back hard into the wind to assist.

Wind speed on the Jurien Bay jetty was measured at 26 knots with 30 knot gusts.

Back to Cervantes to get cleaned up, have a break and head off to the pub for dinner.

The weather forecast for Sunday sunny with 18 knot southerly winds increasing during the day.  We decided to just have a short paddle to the Cervantes Islands and agreed to meet at the Cervantes jetty for 8:00 am.  By 7:30 am most of the group had left the camp for the 5 minute drive to the jetty leaving a few of us wondering whether we missed something. Heavy traffic maybe?

We had a great paddle out to the islands and enjoyed the scenery when we landed for a break. Fortunately the wind was less than forecast.

Photo by Pel Turner

Photo by Pel Turner

Photo by Pel Turner

Thanks for another great weekend. Paddlers were

Paul Cooper

Tony Beswick

Peter Seebeck

Kim Palmer

Andrew Munyard

Chris Mawson

Steve Haddon

Damon Haddon

Austin Mullen

Kevin Johnson

Alan Aitken

Richard Lailey

Wolfgang Weizig

Brenda Stubbings

Pel Turner

Des Cook

Tony Hubbard

Bunkers Bay 2020

Bunkers Bay 2020

Bunkers Bay 9-12 October 2020

Peter Seebeck

The trip was organised by Bruce, who’s neighbours Kerry and Paul kindly rented out their holiday home to us for the 3 nights. Attendees were Andrew B, Bruce, Jill, Judy, Sharryn, Jane, Jo, Steve, Daveena, Damon, Jenni and myself (Peter).

We arrived at the house Friday afternoon, admiring its location (right next to the beach), size (5 bedrooms and a dungeon), and character (colourful interior, random artefacts, and family memorabilia).

After settling in most of us set off to explore Bunkers Bay. June, Sharryn, Jill and Daveena by foot, and Steve and Damon by kayak. They paddled SE to Rocky Point where they saw seals bobbing around in the water with the surfers. Andrew and I paddled off to play in the waves off the west end of the bay. However on closer inspection found the whitewater from the 1 to 2 metre surf flowed straight onto the rocky shoreline, with no safe channel between. We gave it a miss.

Friday evening was spent having dinner together, solving the world’s problems and discussing the merits of grey hair. We also planned the important components of the Saturday morning kayak trip – sleeping in beforehand, and being on the water by 10am. 

Come Saturday the sunny weather and sound of crashing waves got us motivated earlier than expected. So much so that Jenni, Andrew, Jill and I hatched a plan to get everyone on the water a bit earlier – walking around in lycra while holding a dry bag. It worked perfectly and soon everyone was packing their yak.

The trip destination was Castle Rock, 8.5km away towards Dunsborough. The main challenge was launching through the waves in Bunkers Bay. These were thick and sudden dumpers with 1m sets. It provided a useful lesson for identifying set waves and waiting for the lull between them. To drive the learning home even further, Jo bravely and selflessly demonstrated what would happen if you paddled out during a set. She punched halfway through the wave only to be mercilessly sucked backwards over the falls and rolled over for good measure. We learnt our lesson.

Once past the waves we all enjoyed a leisurely paddle in calm conditions along the beautiful bays, rock formations and crystalline waters of Cape Naturaliste.

Back at Bunkers we found the wave size had increased and so most paddlers chose to land further up the bay. Surfing the waves in was not advisable – no kayak friendly sliding down the face here – more likely a quick hypotenuse, then twisted sideways and rolled a lot more angles than 180deg (sorry Pythagoras). 

Once back at the house several of us enjoyed the behemoth 8 seater spa. Succumbing to it’s relaxing warmth, we planned how to sleep in it without drowning. Next we headed inside for an afternoon of wine, cheese and intellectual discussion (actually I can’t remember what we discussed, probably wine and cheese). 

Saturday night was food sharing night, and everyone contributed great food they’d cooked at home or on the night. The nights conversation included the fact that this trip has perhaps set some kind of club record for the ratio of women to men, with 7 women and 5 guys present. Indeed, it was almost 9:5 but Sandy and Brenda pulled out at the last moment. The ladies enlightened the blokes about some of the challenges which women face in a club populated mostly by men. For example the value which men place on assertiveness can of course be a virtue, but it can also hinder a culture of cooperation and support. Overall the strengths of both sexes were recognised, as well as their room for improvement, such as men learning to step back and give others a chance, or women developing confidence to step forward and provide wise guidance. 

Cape Naturaliste and Sugarloaf Rock

Cape Naturaliste and Sugarloaf Rock was the destination for Sunday morning. Daveena, Andrew, Jenni, Steve, Damon and I planned to make our way there by kayak, while June, Sharryn, Bruce, Jill, Jo and Judy were keen for some bush walking in the same area. (photo by Jill)

For the paddlers, the swell had picked up overnight and it was a long wait for the smaller waves so we could get off the beach. (photo by Jill)

A bommie was breaking off the NW headland at Bunkers with 2-3m waves so we had to paddle far offshore before we could head west to the Cape. Fortunately the wind was gentle and the waters free of chop. The swells were even larger as we neared Cape Naturaliste – around 3-4m – and curious Albatross flew over us to take a closer look as we rose up and down over long, impressive walls of water. 

Amidst all this beauty my own mind still found it necessary to worry about sharks. They’d been in the news again and Bunkers had it’s own history of attacks. However Jenni coolly advised that seeing a shark “is just like seeing a unicorn.” I was concerned by this response (what kind of magical mystery kayaking tours had come to take Jenni away?) and chose to believe our most experienced paddler was actually offering a Zen-like riddle for me to solve. 

As we headed south down to Sugarloaf Rock the big swells reared even higher as they broke along the coastline and we admired their huge plumes of spray, feeling thankful to be much further out to sea. This didn’t stop Andrew from encouraging Steve to “paddle over and touch the rock” when we arrived a few hundred metres from Sugarloaf. It seemed an appropriate ritual but Steve would not oblige. Perhaps he’d left his lucky banana shirt at home. 

A quick raft-up snack and we headed back to the Cape and then to Bunkers. By this time our bush walking colleagues had been watching us from their trail, and in contact with a communications device. At one point Bruce alerted us to a whale nearby and we heard and saw the spray from its blowhole. (photos by Jill and Judy)

Our bush walking colleagues had been watching us from their trail, and in contact with a communications device.

Photo by Damon Haddon

Photo by Damon Haddon

After arriving safely back to Bunkers Bay we enjoyed a relaxing break and swapped stories with the hiking group.  A lot of the group went home Sunday afternoon, we bid farewell and looked forward to future Bunkers paddling. Staying on until Monday morning was Jo, Andrew, Jenni, Bruce, and myself. We had a quiet afternoon, though Andrew and I went for a hike on the Cape to Cape trail south of Sugarloaf Rock, trying a bit of photography along the way.

Special thanks for the trip goes to everyone really, for making the trip fun and engaging, though it wouldn’t have been possible without Bruce and his neighbours Paul and Kerry.

Sea Kayaking Turkey

Sea Kayaking Turkey, July 2020

Gulf of Gokova (Mediterranean Sea)

By Heidi and Peter Hutton

We caught a ferry from Rodos, Greece to Marmaris, Turkey, then rode our bikes to Atokoy village to meet our sea kayak hosts, Vedat and Julie

Six glorious days paddling the Bay of Gokova provided many a tall seafaring tale

Tues 2nd July: Atakoy Village is where our hosts, Vedat and Julie live and where they operate their business from. Alternatif Outdoor specialises in sea kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and canyoning. They offer fully guided tours but they are also more than happy to try and accommodate the individual. We wanted to “freedom hire” and go on our own. Vedat spent time with us in the evening helping us to plan our trip while plying us with Chai tea and treats. He patiently answered my many, and often stupid questions. We wanted a paddle that would give us an insight into the local lives, but that would also offer some of life’s little pleasures, like nice cafes and this is what we got! The only thing we didn’t get was our own lightweight paddles and Mirage 730 kayak. In our experience hire boats tend to be heavy, mainly watertight and designed for the recreational paddler. The benefits are they are hardy, can be dragged over beach pebbles and have quite a bit of storage. They are usually craft designed for a slower pace so that you can look around and enjoy the surrounds – just what we were after.

Wed 3rd July: Our paddle today started sublimely. We put in on the Azmak stream and the first 3km were meandering down to the river mouth. The stream is fed from underground mineral springs that bubble up from below, creating the clearest water we have ever seen, and the coldest we have felt for a long time. Vegetation underwater was prolific and we enjoyed paddling over this underwater oasis.

Our starting point at Azmak stream. It is fed from underground mineral springs that grow prolific underwater vegetation. You can dine with your feet in the water

Once out into the Mediterranean at Akyaka Beach we kept the bank on our left and made our way towards Gelibolu Adasi, a small island. Tour boats congregated here for their guests to swim and snorkel in the clear waters. This same island was where we set up camp later in the day under some shady olive trees. In the meantime we paddled into a small village called Camli. A lovely restaurant lined the creek we paddled up and after doing the “Superman” change into more suitable restaurant attire, we were soon drinking Turkish coffee overlooking the water. I think that I will have to give up on drinking Turkish coffee and stick to Chai tea. The coffee is thick and syrupy and way too strong for me. Pete ends up drinking mine and then gets head spins for the next couple of hours from all the caffeine! As we sat we were mesmerised by the many turtles and fish swimming by. We were also visited upon by the regular mangy cats hopeful for a feed. After coffee, another “Superman” change back into paddling clothes and then we returned to the island we passed earlier, albeit into quite a strong headwind. The island shoreline was rocky so it was not the easiest place to get to but definitely worth it once there. There were drums of water under one of the trees. We were not sure if they had been left by past visitors and it was very tempting to use the water for a shower. But we refrained and were very glad we did. They had not been dumped but were there for a small goat herd that lived on the island. These goats made themselves known just as we were cooking our dinner. At first we did not know if they were wild or tame.

Very rude dinner guests on our “desserted” Island

The big ‘ol patriarch of the family was neither wild, nor tame, just hungry and was determined to have some of our dinner. We kept them, and the numerous rabbits at bay with some determined yelling and waving of our arms. Luckily, the owners of the herd soon arrived from the mainland in their little dinghy with grain and more water. We were soon settled in our little tent loving the serenity…until the early hours of the morning. At that time we heard the voices of 2 men out in the water, then flashlights probing the shoreline. Were they headed for us? Were we known to be alone, camping on the island? Were we in danger? The mind plays all sorts of tricks when in a strange country for the first time. The men kept approaching and were soon coming out of the water straight for us. I think they got just as much of a fright when they saw us as we did when we first heard them. They were merely spear fishing and after a “Salem” they went on their way, leaving behind two very relieved Aussies.

Thurs 4th July: Time seems irrelevant when paddling and we tend to be guided throughout the day by the sun and by our “tummies”.

Oh no we didn’t bring any salt for the potatoes. What to do?

After our standard breakfast of muesli and powdered milk we paddled around a little island boasting its own “Golden Beach”. By Australian standards a little disappointing, more so when we learned you have to pay if you want to land on it as it is privately owned. So, we admired the clear waters from afar and continued on to the next village. After a brief stop we paddled on, finding a lovely beach for lunch. There were quite a few people on the shore and we soon learned, by way of hand gestures and “charades” that it was a privately owned beach and we had inadvertently crashed a family gathering. The families didn’t mind us finishing our lunch before setting off once again. By this time the breeze had picked up and kicked up a chop that splashed up on us, keeping us cool and salty. We soon found a deserted pebbly beach to camp on. Being as compact as we are enables us to camp where others may not be able to. On our narrow stretch of beach, we enjoyed million-dollar views overlooking the Mediterranean. We kept our views looking forward though as behind us was the detritus of humanity. Rubbish of all description lined the edges of the beach. We explored through this and the most common things were plastic water bottles, single thongs (Pete managed to find 4 x right foot thongs. Where are all the lefts?), plastic bags and ropes. Being in a sea kayak offers so many advantages and one of the best is finding these amazing private places to camp, accessible only by water. With no people around we could “act like natives”. Very quickly clothes became an optional extra! BEWARE though that surf shoes are probably a good idea in the water as sea urchins abound. They do hurt when you tread on one!

Fri 5th July:  A heat wave had hit Turkey so we could not be in a better place right now. Leaving early, we found a lagoon to explore. At the end of this, surprisingly, we came across a little café of sorts. Ali, the owner and fisherman was quite the entrepreneurial fellow. Being so remote though the coffee was the “3-in-1” instant sachet you buy from the supermarket (coffee, sugar and powdered milk all in one) with hot water. We didn’t mind as we got to chat to Ali as he and his mates removed their morning catch from the nets. This took some skill as the fish had spikes along their back and were commonly called “Shotgun”. They only run for a short time so everyone was spending a lot of time on the water. Ali’s English was terrific and we enjoyed chatting. He also filled up our water bladders for us (something that everyone we met was happy to do). As we chatted another fishing boat returned to the jetty and hauled in their nets by hand before beginning the laborious process of disentangling their catch. All hands were on deck, from the very young to the very old. It was a lovely scene to watch families and friends all working together, regardless of age. Time did not seem to matter and conversations were enjoyed, cups of tea were poured and the steady stream of fish filled buckets. More exploring of some of the arms of the inlet followed before settling on a small beach as our campsite. It was so small we had to dig out a spot flat enough to fit our tent. Once set up though it was perfect. We are grateful that the Mediterranean summer is a season of stableness and no high and low tides. We may have been under water otherwise!

Sat 6th July: What tourists we were today. An early start so that we could cross the 15km channel before the wind came up. We arrived in the beach resort town of Oren in time for a second breakfast. And what a breakfast it was…coffee/tea, cold meats, cheeses, tomato, olives, cheese filled pastries, bread and homemade jam and fried eggs of which we consumed the majority.

Being tourists at Oren after our gulf crossing

It was a hot day so we took advantage of all that the town had to offer. Where we had breakfast also had beach umbrellas and sun beds, the perfect place to hole up with a good book. There was a little pontoon and the water was crystal clear. Oren is a resort village so we explored the town, bought ice cream and generally enjoyed the time off the water. The wind was picking up throughout the day but was to abate later in the afternoon. So, we waited before heading off. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was wrong. The wind did not abate and it was “hairy” enough paddling that the “Go Pro” did not come out to capture the tumultuous, confused and lumpy seas as we passed the cliff-lined shores and rocky outcrops. It also made us realise that we had not thought enough about the afternoons paddle before heading off. Spoilt with calm conditions to that point we did not have the paddles secured to the deck by their paddle cords. Not an easy thing to secure once in the thick of it all! With nowhere to land we had to keep going. The sun began to lower in the sky and still we could find no place to land. We finally came across one spot but due to road accessibility there were lots of others already there. We opted to keep going and that is when the weather really did turn it on. A system came through, the wind changed 180 degrees in a matter of seconds and we were soon battling into a head wind with peaky waves. My glasses were soon encrusted with salt, Pete’s hat blew off (we retrieved it) and just as we began to despair, another small beach appeared. There was already a group there but we had no choice but to “crash their party”. We were welcomed enthusiastically by these Ukrainian sailors, travelling by their inflatable catamarans. They shoved cups of tea in our hands, helped us with our boat and soon after, they had replaced the tea with homemade ginger beer, very alcoholic ginger beer. We were invited to join them for dinner, a delicious stew and more ginger beer before the musical instruments came out and the singing started. They were awesome.

Hey ho and up she rises earli in th’ mornin’. Georgeous Ukranian sailors who saved us from certain death. They wined and dined us and let us camp next to them on their tiny strip of sand

The singing was short lived though as their other boat with 3 of their group arrived back from the town, being towed by a marine rescue boat. The seas and winds were still fierce and the disabled boat, once released from the rescue boat was quickly getting washed onto the rocks. All hands were required to save it from further damage. The saga of the boat then came out. They were returning from town when the wind changed. The sudden squalls flipped their boat. The 3 crew were unprepared so phones and wallets also got flipped out. 2 of the 3 crew did not have on PFD’s so testing times for all. The motor on the catamaran was flooded so the evening was cut short as the crew attended to the boat and themselves. It was a restless night, with the waves lapping close to our tents. Finally, in the early hours of the morning the wind abated and we could all rest easily.

Sun 7th July: It is hard to believe that we were looking at the same waters. Last night the waters weighed and crashed, today the water slumbers. The dramas of the night before had not dampened the mood of our young sailors who frolicked in the water and chatted and laughed. We left your new friends begrudgingly and continued along the rocky coast towards Akyaka. We eventually crossed the inlet (at its narrowest point) and made our way to our original café for breakfast. The shipping channel was pleasantly smooth to cross, but with a bit of rubbish and debris clustered in floating Islands. A nice paddle to our last campsite and an afternoon reading, swimming and relaxing followed.

Calm seas the day after the big blow

Mon 8th July: A beaut sleep in as the sun slumbered behind the mountains. Then a short paddle back to Akyaka beach. We then paddled against the current up the mineral spring fed river. We were feeling salty and sticky after a night of moist salt spray filled air. The paddle up the stream was again lovely but as it was a bit later in the morning, tour boats were plying their trade up and down the stream. They did not particularly like sharing the channel with us as the stream was fast flowing and narrow in parts. Luckliy we knew to stay right and were fortunate not to come across any boats coming in both directions at the same time. We were soon sitting and cuddling cold beers in Orfoz Restaurant where Vedat was to meet us. We felt very satisfied and had already begun to fall in love with Turkey.

SUMMARY: A fabulous experience and one we would recommend without hesitation. Vedat and Julie provided us with just the experience we were looking for. Have a look at their website: http://www.alternatifoutdoor.comThey offer everything from fully guided tours to freedom tours as well as transport and route options.