Kayak and paddle
Rock gardening
Sea kayaking off Rottnest Island
Sunset on the beach
Ningaloo, August 2020
Kayak and paddle
Rock gardening
Les in Surf Zone
Sunset on the beach
Ningaloo, August 2020
Sandy Robson

Sandy Robson – November 2016

November 2016 – Sandy Robson completed her extraordinary 23,000km kayak expedition from Germany to Australia. Read the ABC News article about Sandy’s voyage here. Congratulations Sandy for your amazing strength and tenacity! See her website and blog here. There’s also an excellent article in Wild Magazine, and a fine report of her Sundarbans section in Canoe and Kayak Magazine.

Ian Watkins

Albany member Ian Watkins – July 2016

July 2016 – Albany member Ian Watkins has had a brush with a very large shark. The ABC News article and video can be seen here.

The Club has a policy in the on what to do in the event of a shark sighting in our
Safety Guidelines and Operating Procedures (see page 23). To reduce the risk, it is wise to paddle with others, close enough to be able to communicate and raft up if a large shark is spotted. Carrying a radio could be very useful too, as Ian’s experience clearly shows.

Shark Bay, April 2016

Shark Bay, April 2016

By Heidi and Pete Hutton

Shark Bay… a unique and beautiful World Heritage area. It was indeed a bay and very sharky! The trip was highlighted by marine diversity, perfect weather and perfect company.

The team:

Judy Blight – Fearless leader, navigation expert

Jill Piper – First expedition. Delightful ability to see the world with pure joy and wonder

Jo – Her tour guide background brilliant for us

Austen – gadget man, got us out of tricky situations

Margaret – Tenacious, surprising stamina and the contents of her kayak resembled a supermarket, full of goodies for everyone

Pete/PH (aspiring but not-so-good fisherman) and

Heidi (loves holidays) – trip report writers

Friday 15th April 2016 (Day 1): The drive
What can you say about a 10 hour drive? It was long, punctuated by straight, flat sections of road that seemed to go on forever and endless scrubby bush (PH – the endless wonder of the ancient Australian landscape was awe inspiring). But somehow the time flew. A coffee break at Jurien Bay where we all met up produced a vibe of excitement that carried us through the next few hours. Company in the car (thanks Austen) kept us entertained and before we knew it, a welcoming committee of young emus lined the road as we pulled into Denham and “The Bay Lodge”, right on the waterfront enticing us all to look out across the bay to the prongs and the adventure that awaited us. The advantage of the early start was that we arrived in time for dinner and a couple of cold ones at the local pub. We may have been the only ones at the pub about to make a 20km crossing of the bay, but we weren’t the only ones at the pub. The Eagles game was in full swing when we arrived, and the kitchen was barely keeping up. A long wait for food was off-set by great yarns and stories. We will never be able to look at Margaret the same again as she retold stories of her younger sailing days (PH – she should do a Richard Fidler interview). We cannot imagine ourselves doing anything like this, let alone stopping along the way to pop out a baby and then to continue when the baby was 5 days old! So, we were off to a good start with company that was positive and excited about what lay ahead.

Ready to launch - Jo, Pete, Heidi, Austen, Judy, Jill and Margaret - Photo by Pete and Heidi Hutton
Ready to launch – Jo, Pete, Heidi, Austen, Judy, Jill and Margaret – Photo by Pete and Heidi Hutton

Saturday 16th April 2016 (Day 2): The crossing – 21km to Heirisson Prong for lunch then 7km to Bellefin Prong base camp
We were all up early to make an 8.30am departure. In perfect conditions we made our way to Heirisson Prong for a much needed lunch stop, stretch of the legs and pee break (PH – the bay was as flat as the top of my head and the water was as clear as the inside of my head used to be).

Along the way we spotted an elusive mermaid, a “Siren of the Sea”, or, if you like to be boring, a dugong who made a brief appearance before diving for the depths. We continued on a further 7km to reach our campsite, nestled around the corner of the second prong. Our efforts rewarded with a site that can’t be reached by car and which is too shallow for the average fishing boat. Judy’s boasts from the p

Little shark
Little shark close to Jill – Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

revious night stating “we would see so much marine life on this trip” have already proved accurate. As we sat on the beach drinking our coffees with powdered milk…how is it powdered milk can taste so good when camping but taste so crap at home?… we were fanned by a light breeze (just strong enough to keep the mozzies and sand flies at bay) looking out at a multitude of small sharks playing in the shallows. So shy though! They certainly did not cooperate whenever our camera came out (thank goodness Jill was either more patient than us or just a better photographer).


Crossing to the Prongs- Photo by Pete and Heidi Hutton

As we sat on the shore we also learned that Judy and Jill cannot be within 1m of each other without breaking into a fit of giggles. They made us laugh and relax even more. We tested the satellite phone out and successfully reached Royd, our link to the real world and source of incoming and outgoing information. His wi

First night camping on Bellfin Prong - Photo by Jill Sievenpiper
First night camping on Bellfin Prong – Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

llingness to be at the phone at 6.30pm every day was greatly appreciated and set our minds at ease each night. I think the crossing may have made us a little weary though as there were some amongst us who slept (and slept well) on a sloping sand surface because it was just too much to move the tent to a better spot.

Sunday 17th April, 2016 (Day 3): Exploring of Bellefin Prong
How nice to spend a day just exploring rather than having to move on, which was what a base camp afforded us. Sea kayaks are just the perfect vessel for spotting wildlife because they are so quiet. Within a short space of time we had seen a fox on the shoreline digging and eating something, we had Green Turtles pop up beside us to take in a gulp of air, sharks and rays gliding underneath us, only to scoot away once they saw us. That is, all except one…we had a 5-6 foot Tiger Shark, with a young one at its heel come and check out our boat. Being used to the other sharks darting off as soon as they saw us Heidi was not expecting one to come directly for the boat. So, unfortunately for Pete, who was getting the camera in position, Heidi stabbed at the water with her paddle in a slightly panicked response to the shark’s attentions to send it on its way. Sometime later Pete put out the fishing line to trawl behind us as we paddled and within minutes we had a flathead on the end of the line. As we weren’t expecting this we dragged the poor little thing for some time until Jo was finally able

Margaret, Jo and Austen – Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

to alert us to the fact that something was jumping and hopping along the water on our line. At this point, our lack of general success in fishing became apparent as we had no gloves and no knife in which to bring it in. Austen saved the day with

Trawling from the kayak; success with a little flathead – Photo by Heidi Hutton

both things.

It was a bit early in the day, and the fish was a bit small to keep so it was given the kiss of life and returned to the sea. Another flathead with a similar outcome followed which made us feel very confident for fresh fish for dinner that night on our return journey

later in the day. Jill joined us and somehow managed to successfully fish and sail on the way back…most of the time.

Turtle – Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

One of the many rays – Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

We found out that some weird looking tacking moves actually were just her out of control as she pulled on not one flathead, but two! We placed them in a milk crate, discovered on the shore at lunch which now sat tied to our kayak, tarp inside with water to keep the fish fresh. Pete continued to fish but apart from one entertaining battle with a fish that jumped and fought, revealing a very white belly, which eventually broke free, we came up empty handed. Jill and Judy somehow managed to sail the whole way home which was lovely to watch. That night though we had the most amazing entree of 3 bite size portions of the freshest flathead ever. The saltiness of the sea tasted in the flesh and the lemon juice added from Judy’s supplies made for an amazing taste sensation.

Cormorant take off – Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

Fresh fish
Fresh fish entree – Photo by Heidi and Pete Hutton

Monday 18th April, 2016 (Day 4): Exploring “Useless Inlet” and the inside of Bellefin Prong
Today we were only 6 paddlers as Judy decided to be like “Robinson Crusoe” and take the opportunity to have a day alone, running free and oblivious to the rest of the world. This “naked” delight in her surroundings did have a downside and she was forced to sit neck deep in the water when the March Flies took control of the beach. In the meantime the rest of us decided to explore the inner side of Bellefin Prong (PH – after making careful observations of Judy from the top of a sand dune, haha only joking Judy… or are we?). Even within such a localised area there was plenty of diversity. We came across mangrove trees and within these Jo, Jill and Margaret found big schools of juvenile shovel nosed rays and sharks. They were literally surrounded by a nursery of hundreds of baby animals. Austen resembled Steve Irwin more than a carpenter as he leaped from his kayak to pick up a turtle.

Injured turtle
Austen with injured turtle- Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

The turtle, as it turned out, wasn’t really functioning well as it had been injured with much of its left front flipper nearly ripped off. It was sad to see in something that was so gorgeous but reminded us that this is the way that the ecosystem here works so beautifully. Our lunch stop was perfect thanks again to Austen’s foresight in bringing a tarp with two poles. Austen’s breakdown paddle doubling as the final poles needed. The shade it afforded made for a pleasant break and just as we were contemplating whether to get going again, the wind changed, nearly blowing our shelter away.

Austen saves the day with a great lunch shelter.- Photo by Pete and Heidi Hutton

Our return journey, as predicted in the wind forecast meant a lovely following breeze. Jill set sail and her, Margaret and Jo could have been mistaken for sitting at a cafe drinking coffee (PH – except that there was no coffee or cafe) as they “rafted up” and chatted all the way back. We headed back under our own steam with Austin and were witness to a small group of large, black finned sharks out in the deeper waters, working together to hunt prey. They seemed to be herding them into their kill zone. It was so clear the power and speed they had, and they made us glad to be in the shallows. Once back at camp Pete and I realised that we had packed way too much water for the trip, especially as the following day we would return to the mainland. This was in response to Royd’s weather update that said unfavourable winds may be present later in the week. So, what else to do but have an English shower and wash our hair? How blissful! Pete’s talents as a hairdresser were not lost on Jo who also enjoyed a shampoo treatment (PH – may be better for me to become a hairdresser than a fisherman).

Tuesday 19th April, 2016 (Day 5): Crossing back to Denham and mudflat camp 5km north of Denham
Today was a bigger day of paddling, covering over 30km from base camp, via the first prong and on to the mainland. The call of a dugong sent a haunting farewell and some unsuccessful fishing kept us busy. Pete had found a huge lure in flotsam a couple of days earlier and the crossing was the place to try it out. The lure though proved problematic after a “hit” proved to be only a collection of weed. In the excitement Pete dropped his paddle…Lure 1, Pete 0 (PH – I am ever hopeful that there will be a kayaker out there who has been lost at sea for a month in a boat but no paddle and just as they are about to throw themselves to the sharks, my paddle will float by… if you happen to be this person my name and phone number are on the paddle ☺). Heidi spat it so a quiet return journey ensued, without further fishing (PH – my fishing days are OVER!). Jill also tried fishing but only caught a rudder fish. Paddle intact but a tangled line to try and sort through at a later date (PH – didn’t you ever wonder Jill who the fishing-line-untangle fairy was… not that I am a fairy… not that there is anything wrong with it if I was.. although I am not… umm… continue Heidi). Such a long journey meant we tested out our rafting skills so a couple of us could “relieve ourselves”. Jo needed us, not for rafting up, but to be on shark patrol should the need arise. Once we reached the mainland the last few km’s were a combination of paddling and walking as the tide revealed shallow flats.

Camp 2 search- Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

Austen felt a calling to the township of Denham, which may have had something to do with fresh fish and chips, but to his credit he walked the mudflats for one last evening meal of dehydrated stuff! Fish and chips surely on the menu for tomorrow. We found a lovely campsite within Francois Peron NP in the nick of time. Another half and hour and our kayaks would have been stranded on the flats, hundreds of metres from the mainland.

Camp 2
Camp 2 – Photo by Jill Sievenpiper

Wednesday 20th April, 2016 (Day 6): Paddle to Denham and hot showers
We were slaves to the tide today and thank goodness it was a late start rather than a pre-dawn start. A relaxing start to the day in sunny conditions yet again. Mozzies present meant some luxury tent time reading before some exploring of the mudflats and enjoying not rushing as we waited for the tide to come in. Once the tide was in at around 11am we took off. Initially we were all going to stay together but a combination of head wind, some wanting to explore the coast line, some just wanting a shower evolved into a couple of distinct groups. Each group got a unique experience… Judy and Jo witnessed emus taking a swim whilst the deeper water out further meant the rest of us were packed up and showered and out of the headwind quicker. Margaret led in her typical tenacious way. That night the pub beckoned before Jo, Jill and Heidi attempted a game of cards and then we all slept the peaceful sleep of babies, even if the mattresses did sag.

Emu crossing – Photo by Judy Blight

Thursday 21st April, 2016 (Day 7): Day of being tourists
The day passed in a blur as we relaxed over coffee, chatted, and explored the area at our leisure. Jill and Margaret saw the dolphins at Monkey Mia and at some point during the day we all explored the “Discovery Centre”. Pete and I went for a swim in the bay late in the afternoon and a combination of the hypersalinity of the water and going with the current made us feel like Ian Thorpe. Unfortunately when we turned to come back we realised we weren’t Ian Thorpe and got out and walked!

Friday 22nd April (Day 8): Return journey
We all headed off at different times this morning but we had a chance meeting of Jo and Margaret at the stromatalites, something Pete the scientist was keen to see (as were we…weren’t we Austen?). (PH – ahh stromatalites the providers of O2 to the earth). A more eventful drive home some time later for us as our car broke down. Not lucky that it broke down but oh so lucky it broke down on the way home, not on the way up, it broke down 3km from the Toyota dealership in Geraldton where we had phone range and didn’t need to be towed (we discovered our standard RAC membership only gives 10km of towing and then it is $5.50/km after that….eeek!) and we were able to get a hire car that needed to go back to Perth 2 hours before close of business at the start of the long weekend. So, in the end we all got home, and nothing could dampen our spirits after such a great week away! Not even the speeding fine waiting for Jo when she arrived home. So thanks everyone for your company, humour and love of the good life.

Hot tips from the week
Judy’s solar charger
Little fold up table
Shade cloth as a tent “door mat” (Jo’s tip)
Not so hot tip
Tennis balls on the end of the camp chair legs (they fell off and chair sank throwing
the sitter ungraciously into the sand)
Shark Bay 2015

Rottnest 2015

By Judy Blight

Once again our annual trip to Rotto had arrived. With a little anxiety all week we checked the weather expected and for once it looked like it might be just perfect both ways. There were ten of us: Les Allen, Jill Sievenpiper, Kevin Johnson, Dave Tupling, Russ Hobbs, Royd Bussell, Linda Glover, Pete and Heidi Hutton and myself.

For the first timers it was great to have the easy conditions for the trip over with a breeze coming from the south at 10 knots which dropped to not much at all midway. As per usual we arrived not long after 3 hours and had our usual coffee and eats at the Dome café as we are not able to get into our very nice house until after 12. We did some shopping for our barbecue in the evening.

It’s always nice to get away with an interesting group of people with whom you feel very comfortable. The evening was full of stories and jokes. Dave Tupling was entertaining and is never short of a word!! Now what was it – yes we were intrigued by the electric fence which cured people of the Ross River Virus.

Pete and Heidi also told us entertaining stories including their big adventure paddling the Murray River in South Australia. Everyone else had stories of their own about their experiences – some unmentionable here.

Evening on the deck – Photo by Royd Bussell

We always book house no.152 which is the old officers house with jarrah floorboards and character features. It is on the hill overlooking the Thomson’s Bay settlement and we are able to pull the kayaks up into the sand hills below us.

In the morning we decided we would all circumnavigate the island clockwise. This is the usual way as you come home on the quieter side of the island. Conditions were good and Les was in the lead. We always internalize the mantra “DON’T FOLLOW LES” but conditions looked fine so we did. I always look ahead and look for bombies and breaking water away in the distance and I did see a bombie up ahead but after the distraction of talking with Jill I took my eyes off it. We were at the back of the field and the swell was of a reasonable size and I said to Jill “don’t worry its only swell and it wont be brea—-k——king.”      “B….B…go flat out at it” as it was the bombie which was curling over us which we only just scraped over. After we recovered our normal breathing rate we decided to watch more closely.

Rounding the west end – Photo by Russ Hobbs

We rounded West End with not much fuss and for once the swell was not too big and it was relatively easy with Pete saying “where is West End?“, and we said “you have just been around it”. “O” this trip was going to be easier than we thought. Of course we spoke too soon. We noticed up ahead that Les had cut through what looked like a nice opening through to a bay. Linda and a few others went around the outside but I thought it looked ok and so Jill and I decided to cut through as did Royd and Kevin. We thought it was all fine until Kevin shouted” back up” and looking behind we saw a big wave about to break so we back-paddled furiously and made it over but Royd came out at the top. Kevin went to his aid with tow rope in hand and proceeded to lose it in the water as it sunk so he learnt the lesson that tow ropes need to be able to float. Royd was really quick to get back in his kayak and didn’t need much help to get in. This was lucky as another beauty of a wave was heading their way. Kevin suddenly appeared at the top of it with Royd close behind and they just made it over. We were weaving in and out of the beautiful bays and trying to paddle quickly over reef to avoid the surf but again we forgot the mantra ”don’t follow Les” and next moment Jill was upside down near the reef. I was debating how to help her and then I was upside down – too shallow to roll. Dave Tupling was on hand to help us through.

Eagle Bay lunch stop – Photo by Pete Hutton

We pulled into Eagle Bay for lunch stop and a large swarm of bees took a liking to Russ’s yellow kayak and filled his cockpit. My kayak was next to his and my yellow sail was attracting another heap of amorous bees. What were they doing there?? – there was no pollen around and couldn’t see any plants or trees. We had to be very careful on departure to push the kayaks out and make sure all the bees were out. Meanwhile, one was very angry with me and proceeded to sting me under my arm. I hadn’t been stung since I had anti-bee injections about 40 or so years ago when I was very allergic so we waited a bit and then proceeded on our way after I seemed to be breathing normally.

Bees in Russ’s cockpit – Photo by Judy Blight

We wondered what else was going to happen. Well – not long after when we were approaching Stark Bay I suddenly yelled out because another rotten bee must have been hiding in my cockpit and this time stung me on my leg. We decided to land and hang around on the sand near the boats in case I needed an emergency trip to the first aid tent but – no – the sting didn’t cause any major dramas and we were on our way.

Pete and Judy in calm shallow water on the north side – Photo by Heidi Hutton

Osprey nest – Photo by Heidi Hutton

Osprey nest – Photo by Heidi Hutton

Toward the end of the northern side we were able to put up the sails and scream along. We watched those on the inside blindly following Les and as they rounded the corner Linda’s heart was in her mouth but they all survived the breaking wave. Under sail we nearly came aground but sped over reef so fast the waves couldn’t catch us.

It was a great day with time for coffee and a relax around the settlement. We dined in the settlement that evening and then went home and sat around and discussed the day’s adventures. There was a big storm with lightning flashing so we weren’t sure what was going to happen for the paddle back next day. Luckily, the weather was okay.

The trip home on Sunday turned out to be the first time that a whole SKCWA group had paddled to the island, paddled around the island the next day, and paddled home on Sunday. Well done to a great group of people. We began the trip home into a slight head wind that turned south as we moved along. We all travelled at a good pace and managed the trip in under 3 hours. Everyone stayed together as a group and it was not until the last few kilometres that we were able to benefit from our sails. Apparently the people on the shore at Port Beach couldn’t work out what it was that was coming in, as with the sails up we looked like a great Armada approaching.

Yay, we did it! Heidi ready to land at Port Beach – Photo by Pete Hutton

For anyone who hasn’t done this trip I recommend it as a great learning experience and a great challenge with the added benefit of great camaraderie.

Kevin, Les, Judy, Jill, Russ, Royd, Linda, Dave, Pete and Heidi at Port Beach – Photo by unknown admirer

Shark Bay 2015

Shark Bay 2015

A very early start for Tony Blake, Andrew Munyard and Tony Hubbard and a very clear freeway run, saw us knocking on Pel Turners door a bit early, We loaded boats and what seemed  like a tonne of gear in and onto cars. We southerners thought it best to follow Pel out of Perth (it was his end of town) but when he missed the Wanneroo Road turn we wondered about his navigation skills. Later , there were mumblings of defence  about tit being too early in the morning.

A coffee at Jurien Bay made sure we were all awake and we travelled in 2 hour blocks to get to Denham around 4pm. We were fortunate that a boat ramp very near to the Denham Seaside Caravan Park provided a launching site the next morning. That evening we had a meal at the ‘Old Pub’ where $20 steaks and Jimmy Barnes bellting out ‘working Class Man’ made us thinks we had gone back in time, however no years were shed from the paddlers gathered.

When planning this trip, the wind roses had told me that getting out of Denham could be a problem. The Saturday forecast had predicted SE winds for the morning which to the more optimistic seemed like we might be able to sneak sailing across to the Prongs. Unfortunately the reality was winds more southerly at 15 to 17knots meaning we had a head wind from the front quarter meaning a 5 hr paddle to cross the  20km open water crossing to Herrison Prong.  Denham Sound is shallow and the wind created a steep chop which made the going pretty hard, especially as the kayaks were heavy with provisions for 7 days. 

Slowly the Denham shoreline disappeared and the low features of Herrison Prong started to rise from the ocean, giving us something to set as a target. We over set the course to the south to allow for drift and then were able to sail the last couple of kilometres to our lunch destination. On landing, we staggered from our kayaks and really appreciated the lunch break. Refuelled and rested we sailed for about an hour towards Bellefin Prong but had to paddle the last kilometre or so to our campsite for the night. When we finally made the Prong we were pretty exhausted and  with another strong wind day ahead we decided to have a rest day on Sunday.

As we unpacked our camp gear Pel unfortunately found the a large amount of water that had got under his hatch covers and  changed the hydrodynamics of his boat. The water had found its way into his ‘dry bags’ wetting a lot of his gear. As he produced a saturated toilet roll our hearts sank…, then rose again as he found another that was dry, Hallaluhla! Gingerly Pel opened the dry bag containing his sleeping bag. There were threats of paddling back to  Denham if he faced a cold wet night, luckily he found that it had remained dry and we did not have to restrain him from climbing back into his kayak!  A lonely tree behind our camp suddenly burst into colour as clothing was draped over it to dry.

I used the rest day to sleep in and was greeted with comments like ‘just in time for morning tea’ and ‘breakfast is over’ from the others. We used the morning to investigate a sandbar  at the tip of the prong which  was showing at low tide and could prove a barrier the next day , however when we walked to the point a narrow shallow channel was evident immediate to the shore and could allow us to sneak around the point the next day. On our way out to the point, Tony H showed us tracks in the sand that looked a bit like a camel footprint and we wondered if there might be wild camels out here on the prong. The mystery was solved at the point where kangaroo tracks suddenly turned into possible camel tracks. It seems that as the kangaroo climbs an incline in the loose sand, it sits back harder on its legs leaving a circular/ elliptical  imprint and hence our thinking it might be  camel tracks.The afternoon was shaping up to be pretty warm so a shade was erected, held up with 2 greenland paddles and we spent a comfortable day reading and sleeping. Small sharks swam  in the shallows, ducking and darting as they chased fish.

Lighter winds on Monday from the SSW allowed us to set sail  for a couple of kilometres after sneaking around the point via the narrow channel. From Bellefin Prong we looked across to the low profile and drifting dunes of Dirk Hartog Island, Its massive extent (it is 80km long) stretching away to the horizon. I was struck by the scale of this area, it is truly expansive and amazing in this modern era that such a remote place exists.

We had lunch in a lovely cove where the explorers of the group climbed the low rocks surrounding the bay and found some bones. Whilst our imaginations ran wild of finding the remains of an ancient Dutch sailor, we had to contend ourselves with the  likelihood of sheep remains from the days DHI was a sheep station. 

We paddled south down the eastern side of the island using the lee of the bays and coves to make Cape Ransonet before crossing the  1- 2 km of south passage  to our camp site at Steep Point. Our campsite, nestled into the low scrub, looked out to surf point  and as the sun set, the pastel blues and greys of the evening light made the distant cliffs a beautiful sight.

We made a lazy start to Tuesday and just as we were about to head off to Steep Point, the ranger told us we had camped in the wrong spot and had to move up the beach 100 metres. We carried tents up in their pitched form, and during this period we found out why Tony Blake was having such good nights sleep as he carried his full size air bed , (thats 150mm high of pure comfort ) under his arm. We all marvelled at how on earth he was getting it into his kayak but Tony later showed us its compact folded form.

The move had not taken long and soon we sat beside Monkey Rock just short of the point. A forest of rods looking like defoliated saplings stuck out of the rocks at the point, helium balloons were being used by the fisherman to take their baits out away from the cliffs and it was now that Pel wanted to talk about the possibility of sharks due to the amount of baits and burley that the fishermen were putting in the water.  On the mention of sharks our disparate group of paddlers were suddenly paddling shoulder to shoulder as we made our way out to Steep Point. The sea was essentially flat, and we photographed each other with the small swell crashing into the cliff beneath the point. Steep Point is the most western point of mainland Australia (Cape Byron the most easterly) and is proud to boast the most western dunnie in Australia. The dunnie, a simple structure of corrugated iron is easily identified it as this genre of architectural splendour. I did not notice which way the door opened but assumed it must be a ‘loo with a view’ and no doubt users would  ‘pass ’ the time enjoying the distant cliffs of DHI. 

As we paddled back through South Passage the water suddenly transitions from a deep blue  to a tropical turquoise as the sea floor suddenly rises from 40metres deep to a few metres in a vey short distance.  In a big swell, this area would be very, very dangerous as waves could suddenly appear from the deep to crash on the shallows of south passage.  Pel, who has fished here over the last couple of years, had stories of waves breaking right the way across South Passage however there was no such excitement for us as we leisurely sailed back to our campsite. In the late afternoon we were transported back to an earlier time in our lives as the music of John Denver and Simon and Garfunkel wafted over our camp from the  greying nomads nearby. 

Tony Blake and I paddled to a very placid Surf Point on Wednesday while Pel and Tony Hubbard had a day relaxing back at camp. In the shallows of Surf Point I drifted over purple corals and green lipped clams. On our return a small turtle swum under my boat and I could see its front flippers madly propelling it along. In the evening light, cloud cover gave us a blood moon, silhouetting the moored yachts which swung from anchors off the beach.

As we sat having breakfast on Thursday morning, dreaming of scooting to the north under sail, the catamaran moored off the beach swung more and more easterly meaning sailing was not going to be an option to get to our destination of Bellefin Prong. (Where was the southerly wind when you wanted it?).  As we paddled north, the wind died to a calm and the sea became flat. As we passed over the shallow waters we could see clearly to the bottom  where sting rays and  starfish  could easily be seen.and turtles and dolphins were spotted at a little distance. With no wind, the quiet was astounding, here we were in such an expansive place, there were no speed boat noises just the gentle lapping of the water on our hulls.  We camped on the prong and in the evening looked across Denham Sound to our destination for the next day.

Although Friday saw a light SE breeze hold sway, we managed to occasionally raise sails to make life a bit easier but we essentially paddled the 20 km back to Denham. in 2 hours less than at the start of the trip!  After getting the boats off the water and the gear tidied up we wolfed down a hamburger   and sat back very satisfied that we had pulled off a Shark Bay trip when all the data said we were in for a windy experience, we had been lucky.

Shark Bay is a wonderful place, it is harsh rugged country but the water and the range of wildlife is amazing. Cruising over the clear shallow water seeing to the bottom as if wearing goggles is a wonder to behold.

Dampier 2015

Dampier 2015

By Andrew Munyard

The alarm woke me from a fitful sleep at 3:30am. Normally a time to rollover and pull up the doona, I excitedly got out of bed to have breakfast before heading north from Safety Bay, pick up KP and rendezvous in Jurien Bay at 8:30am and start the journey to Dampier. KP and I joined Margaret and Austen for an early morning wake up coffee near the town jetty and just as it was served, in walked Jo and Wolfgang. The gang of six had gathered, no longer names at the top of emails, Dampier 2015, 7 years since the last club trip had become a reality.

Making 900km on the first day, we arrived in Carnarvon just on dusk where we were shown our little cabin at the Capricorn Caravan park. Wolfgang, KP, Austen and myself were in one small room with double bunks, realising that having four blokes in one small room could be a snoring disaster, I fitted my ear plugs before falling asleep. However it seems it was my fellow sleeping companions that needed ear plugs, with KP dragging his mattress and blanket to the lounge room to get some peace and quiet.

In the 1600km of driving done over 2 days, drivers swapped, passengers slept, driver and passenger talked, road trains zoomed and wide loads made for interesting and exciting overtaking. We made Dampier mid afternoon, camped at the Transit Caravan Park and KP checked out a suitable launching site a short distance away. The clunk and rumble of train carriages bringing an endless flow of iron ore, a claxton horn sounded with regular monotony throughout the night and in the distance, bright orange flames leapt into the air from the Burrup Peninsula gas plant. Despite all the distractions everyone slept well, excited to be in Dampier ready for the start of the expedition.

A low tide greeted us at the launch site on Saturday and there was a lot of carrying boats and gear to the waters edge. With everyone marvelling at their packing ability but a little apprehensive about whether they may exceed Archimedes principle, boats were soon bobbing merrily on the water. Wolfgang was using his skin on frame and had somehow managed to fill it with 6 days of
provisions, however he hesitantly climbed in, not knowing if his kayak would behave more as a submarine than a boat. Wolfgang had done well and the boat floated high with plenty of freeboard for bad weather.

Paddling against an incoming tide and a gentle head wind made the first days paddling a tiring affair. Skirting around the wharves  and giant ships tied to them, we made our way up past the industrial structures that make up the first half of the Burrup Peninsula. As lunch time approached, the rock walls protecting this massive industrial investment from the ravages of the ocean provided little chance of a landing and on seeing a small white sandy beach we landed for lunch. Just as I savoured the first mouthful of my much to be repeated lunch for the next six days, we were hailed by a worker and his mates in their Hi-vis gear, telling us we had to leave the beach. We hurriedly returned to our boats, woofing down what we could of our lunch and continued on our way.

The shelter brought for sun protection now provided shelter from rain – Photo by Andrew Munyard

On leaving the industrial environment, Jo spotted 2 sea eagles whose brown body feathers were as red and brown as the rocks which make up the landscape, it’s white head standing out starkly against the rocks on which it perched. A couple of turtles at some distance were spotted but too far away to really get our interest . By mid afternoon we had made the entrance to Sea Ripple Passage but the tide was against us even though it was an outgoing tide, local knowledge would be required to know flow patterns around the many islands at the end of the Peninsula.

We made camp on a large expanse of gritty sand at (20°31’31.83”S, 116°49’23.57″E) just inside the entrance to Sea Ripple Passage. The sky which had been turning a darker and darker shade of grey all day threatened rain, motivating all of us to establish camp and get on with the evening meal. We constructed a wobbly structure of paddles and tent flys, brought to keep the sun off us during the expedition but now used to keep the threatening rain off us. Under the tarp a variety of meals were being prepared with KP stirring sizzling onions and a mixture of fresh veggies for his evening meal, proudly proclaiming that this meal did not contain one item of tinned food.

We had been farewelled with good wishes by Royd and Linda, original starters for the trip but unable to make it due to the broken leg Linda sustained at the Jurien Bay weekend. Their lament made worse as early weather forecasts had looked very good for the trip. Unfortunately a trough had developed over the exact area we intended to paddle and predictions were now indicating a wet week ahead. Knowing the vagaries of a trough we thought it equally likely that it could dissipate and fine weather return.  Jo tried to challenge Huey by being a sun angel and using positive thoughts of endless sunshine but the Sunday morning dawned with the pitter patter of rain on our tents.  The weather forecast had worsened with a low pressure now developing to our north, rain of up to 100mm predicted over the next 3 days and 30 knots winds due to hit in a days time and then 20 knots the day after. Things were looking pretty miserable and the thought of being unable to cook hot meals and having 100mm of rain thrown at us at 30 knots  with our gear becoming progressively wetter, did not look appealing and it was decided to return to Dampier. We managed to snatch breakfast during a break in the rain but were soon sent scurrying back into our tents to wait for another easing of the rain. When the break occurred we quickly packed gear into our boats and awaited the turn of the tide to make returning to Dampier easier.

As we returned to our launch site, the rain had become heavy, we packed our wet gear into the backs of cars, no time to be precious about keeping anything clean, just glad to be off the water, we returned to the Transit Caravan Park and ran for the hot showers. Wet and bedraggled, we sheltered under the BBQ shelter to discuss our options for accommodation. With the big wet still to come in the following days, camping at the caravan park was a very uncomfortable option and this being  mining country, we knew that cheap accommodation was an oxymoron. The caravan proprietor kindly rang around for us trying to find something appropriate for our budget. Additionally she had brought out a full kettle of boiling water to supplement the kind couple who had come across and offered hot drinks all round. Slowly our spirits rose on the wonderful kindness being shown to us and the hot drinks soon had spirits high. Success! The Karratha backpackers had space for us. We offered money for the hot showers we had presumptuously taken, but the  proprietor kindly allowed us them for free. We cannot speak highly enough of the kindness we were afforded at the caravan park.

Hot cups of drink had spirits lifted – Photo by Margaet Banks

After a warm meal prepared at the backpackers Karratha, we gathered to consider our situation and the future of the expedition. We reviewed the weather forecasts but the trough just kept hanging around and Jo’s sun angel and positive thoughts had been rejected by Huey. The outlook was for wet conditions with probabilities of rain at 90% and greater. It would not fine up until the Wednesday and fresh winds were due to blow for the next few days. Whilst the backpackers was a comfortable spot to stay, we were 6 diverse people who had come together for a common goal of a 6 day expedition to explore the archipelago and it seemed the momentum and focus of the trip had been lost.  It was decided to return to Perth.

There is always a nagging thought that can eat away at you when deciding to pull the pin on an event. However as we headed south, the weather observations showed the rain and wind had come as predicted. We all contemplated the thought of being huddled in a wet tent, a leak somewhere making a rivulet of cold water pool under the sleeping bag and the cold, wet bag making time slow so that dawn and the welcoming light it brings take an eternity to arrive. Arriving at the Billabong road house , south of the Shark Bay turn off, gear was strewn over the handrail of the units to dry, the wet gear had started to build an aroma in the closed confines of the car!

Six people we met at the Billabong Roadhouse

I jokingly said to Wolfgang that we must have driven the equivalent of halfway across Europe, he replied “if you told anyone in Germany that you drove 3000km to paddle for 2 days they would think you were crazy!”

The Billabong roadhouse was a great surprise, with excellent accommodation and great meals. We toasted , or lamented , the end of the trip, three days after having clanged glasses, cheerily toasting to  a successful 6 days of expedition.

Thanks must go to Kevin Piper (KP) for putting this trip together and taking on the responsibility of  trip leader. Thanks to all the other paddlers, Margaret Banks, Jo Foley, Austen Mullen and Wolfgang Wetzig for being great company and paddling companions on the trip.

"Wayag lagoons" - Photo by A. Gawned

Raja Ampat II (The Four Kings) – Pulau Wayag to Pulau Wageo

Adrian Gawned

Across the hemispheres: a paddle from the Northern hemisphere to the South over the Equator. Could that be the next adventure in the Raja Ampat region of West Papua, Indonesia? My visit in 2013 was just an introduction, a taste to whet the appetite, during that trip it was evident the region offered so much more. The desire to paddle further and farther from civilisation was born and planning to paddle the area from Pulau Wayag to Pulau Waigeo began.

Planning was logistically more difficult, a round trip up and back or a one way transfer to Wayag and paddle back. At USD $1300 the cost of the transfer for one person was prohibitive. On advice from Tertius at kayak4conservation, I contacted Matt Edwards of Expedition Engineering. Matt and two others, Rob Falloon from Melbourne and Richard Jolly from Perth decided the trip was worth doing, planning commenced and flights were booked.

We gathered in Sorong on Saturday the 22nd November 2014 where, after some last minute preparations, it was the fast ferry to Waisai, an hour and a half away where we were met by Tertius Kammeyer and transferred to Mando’s homestay in the village of Saporkren for an overnight stay.

“Mando’s Guesthouse” Saporkren Village, Pulau Gam – Photo by A. Gawned

A trek into the mountains at the rear to watch the sunset enabled us to see a young spotted cuscus close up, normally a shy animal and particularly hard to sight when they are young, and to watch Blyth’s hornbills plucking fruit from the trees using their long bill to reach fruit on branches that could not support them, huge wings powering them through the forest canopy. What a sight to start the journey.

“Cuscus” – Photo by R. Falloon

A slow boat had been arranged to transfer us, gear and kayaks to Pulau Wayag the following morning. Morning dawned, there was no boat; the excuses started from the owner, a funeral, a break down, bad weather even.

Cynically I assumed he was trying to extort more money for the transfer.

By midday another boat was located, crossing from Sorong and arriving mid evening we loaded and left Saporkren about 10:00pm for an overnight voyage to Wayag. I opted to sleep on the foredeck with the crew while my companions chose to sleep on the roof.  I drifted off to sleep to the sound of the boats diesel engine.

“Boats stowed” – Photo by R. Falloon

The morning of the 24th dawned; we were off the coast of Pulau Kawe with Wayag in the distance, the seas mirror like, the dawn spectacular. After entry formalities at Pulau Wayag where more money was demanded of us, we arrived at our destination inside the maze like lagoons.

Unloading the boats we set camp and had lunch.  An afternoon paddle through the lagoons ironed out minor issues with boats. With so many beaches an anticipated climb to the peak of one of the mounts for an aerial view was aborted, we couldn’t find the right beach.

“Sunrise on route to Wayag” – Photo by A. Gawned

“Unloading the boats” – Photo by A. Gawned

The following morning, dawn and a 4:30am wake up, we breakfasted, struck camp and set off through the lagoons of Wayag, taking in the truly amazing scenery this area offers, in search of a route out into the Pacific Ocean on the northern side.

We opted for an exit with a one metre surf break. Our Papuan interpreter/guide, Sony, had never encountered surf before, tethered to Matts craft for safety they hit the surf, paddling hard, Sony’s eyes like saucers, he rapidly overtook Matt and they were out. The rest of us followed.

Breaking out we turned east along the northern coast, walls of limestone rising out of the ocean as a backdrop, the long slow Pacific Ocean swells crashing against the base, we happened upon one of the largest sea arches any of us had encountered.

“Sea arch”, north coast of Wayag – Photo by R. Falloon

Turning back into the lagoons we found a small beach for a break before hitting the water again, only to encounter the infamous currents and tides the area is known for, running at about 6 knots with extremely confused seas, we opted to land in dumping waves to wait out the worst of it.

Crossing to Pulau Quoy, which is known for its huge vertical walls of limestone, frigate birds soared overhead.  A broken rudder cable saw me pushed rapidly south, a tow was necessary, we beached on Pulau Quoy for the night. The sunset over Wayag was magnificent.

“Sunset looking to Wayag” – Photo by A. Gawned

Wednesday the 26th November 2014 we crossed to Pulau Kawe some 20kms distant, with favourable tides we made good time despite soaring temperatures and humidity. I for one sucked in the water to stem dehydration, just under 3 hours later we landed on the north coast of Kawe, Rob tried his hand at trolling enroute “for whales” judging by the size of the lure, without success.

After a break on a small beach exposed to surf which rolled coral boulders and logs at us, we paddled the last kilometres to our overnight camp, a sheltered beach facing west, great sunset and a last view of Wayag.

The evening routine of dinner, prepared by Matt and a small tot of whisky or rum was much anticipated. It was here we learnt there was a water issue; we were running low, no more tea or coffee.

One of our 20 litre bladders had been punctured during the transfer from Saporkren so we were not able to carry as much as we had hoped or needed.

Sunset came and went, darkness descended, with it came the mozzies, the surf crashed endlessly on the beach at night. I fell asleep in my hammock while the others slept in their tents.

“Hammock camping with a view”, Pulau Kawe – Photo by A. Gawned

Equator sunset
“Equator sunset from hammock with a view” – Photo by A. Gawned

Next morning saw us tracking the west coast of Kawe, shortly after launch Rob announced we were about to cross the equator, with a last paddle stroke we slid back into the Southern Hemisphere.

Continuing south we landed at the rear of the now abandoned nickel mine and went in search of “kelapa muda” or green coconuts, their water a good rehydrating fluid. A search by Matt and Rob located the mine’s water source, a trek with the bladders was fruitful, we had water again.

Pressing on along the coast, passing between Kawe and Pulau Balabalek we encountered a school of Manta, sitting motionless in our kayaks as they leapt out of the water and slid noiselessly under us. What a sight!

Rounding the bottom of Kawe we headed to the overnight camp, a freshwater lagoon that smelt of sulphur at the rear of the beach made for a welcome freshwater dip, no crocodiles. The water gathered earlier was treated, hammock and tents put up and dinner prepared before the sunset. Again all the magnificent colours of the spectrum, yellow, blue, pink and purple before darkness came, along with the mozzies. Irritating little creatures buzzing around us so off to bed before they attacked; the rains came at night and in the early morning making it cool enough to cover with a sleeping sheet.

Friday the 28th November dawned to smooth seas and clear skies, the days paddle would take us into an area known as the “crazies” between the SE corner of Kawe and Pulau Seferang a shallow shelf running out from Kawe caused the water to build into confused seas and strong tidal rips. It looked benign as we approached, the tide was turning, between Seferang and Roibe we found it to be running out strongly and we were easily drawn into the channels if caution wasn’t exercised.

We landed on Seferang for a break and a leg stretch, the liveaboard dive boat “Manta Mae” anchored nearby. A completely different type of travel to what we were experiencing and not how I would choose to see this part of the world.

Sea kayaks
“Sea kayaks”, Pulau Sefarang – Photo by A. Gawned

Manta Mae
“Manta Mae”, Pulau Sefarang – Photo by A. Gawned

Resuming our paddle we followed the coast of Seferang, crossed to Pulau Roibe a short distance away, paddling amongst the limestone karst islets and mounds before heading SE for the 6km to Pulau Aliyai, from there we would decide a route through the Aliyai or D’Enrecasteaux channels, we chose the D’Entrecasteaux channel where we would have a break before continuing to the village of Selepele.

Stepping out of the kayaks on a small strip of beach inside the D’Entrecasteaux channel we stretched our legs and napped in the shade while the hottest part of the day passed, back in the kayaks we pressed on to Selepele on Pulau Waigeo where, apart from one or two passing longboats, we would see our first locals in 5 days.

The village children rushed down to the pier to greet Matt and Rich while Rob and I explored a group of rocky islets to the north, the waters crystal clear, myriad fish species visible beneath our boats, an attempt to get into a sea cave proved fruitless with the low tide.

Rob and I joined the others at Selepele, children clamoured for sweets and photos to be taken while the bemused adults looked on.  We topped up with water and bought sweet lady finger bananas to supplement our food supplies. Attempts at trolling for fresh fish weren’t successful.

“Children”, Selepele village – Photo by A. Gawned

Dugout Selepele
“Dugout canoe”, Selepele village – Photo by A. Gawned

Pressing on we paddled the 4kms to our overnight camp, possibly one of the least attractive beaches we camped on, littered with the detritus of human kind, plastic bottles, floats, rope and flip flops, not a matching pair in sight. Facing west the camp bore the afternoon sun.

The change of diet, water of poor quality, a degree of dehydration and possibly some form of viral infection had affected us to some extent, Imodium and Gastrolyte was now a  part of the daily ritual.

After the completion of the morning routine it was back to the boats for the crossing from Waigeo to Pulau Batangpele in search of water once more, the crossing to Batangpele was hot and uneventful, a change of plan due to continuing health issues saw us run down the east side of Batangpele then following the coast to cross to Pulau Tamagui and on to Pulau Yefmo rather than take the longer route via Pulau Minyaifun for water.

We pulled ashore at Tamagui to be welcomed with suspicion by a group of local fishermen, while wandering around their camp we discovered turtle, still alive, turned on their backs dying in the sun and evidence of shark finning, both of which are illegal in the protected area. Little wonder they were unhappy to see us arrive.

Kayak4conservation is running the homestay program in an effort to create another source of income for the locals and reduce the reliance on these means for survival.

Leaving Tamagui we paddled to Pulau Yetseif and into its lagoon, from Google Earth it looks inviting, it isn’t. The paddle became a drag in the shallows, lunch was had here, before returning to Yefmo where we would camp the night. The days distance 28kms in 35° and 85% humidity.

“Matt Edwards dragging his boat through Yetseif Lagoon” – Photo by A. Gawned

Once ashore we sighted what we believed to be a Chinese or Annulated sea snake, different from the Sea Krait it is a brown and cream colour and feeds in the shallows, it is not terribly common to the area.

A bonfire was lit to produce smoke which it was hoped would drive the mozzies away, it didn’t work and we all retreated to our beds by 7:30pm. Most evenings we had been subject to intense lightning displays and this evening was no exception. What a spectacle Mother Nature provided.

Sunday the 30th of November 2014 dawned with an early morning rain shower, gear was packed wet. The first chore of the day, paddle to Mios Mengkara to source water, we were greeted by the local children who were fascinated to see us, having topped up with water and engaged the locals we headed to our destination of Pulau Yepen 15kms distant via Pulau Yefnabi. The local population headed off to church.

We rested at Yefnabi then pressed on to Yepen, a mid ocean swim was enjoyed by some to cool down. I was some distance away when a manta rose out of the water and flew through the air. Words cannot describe the sight, and then it was gone!

Camped on the east side of Pulau Yepen we avoided the afternoon sun, after lunch snorkelling in the crystal clear waters looking at the corals and marine life was the chosen activity. As the last rays of sunset faded and night fell we were again treated to nature’s magnificence with the lightning displays in the distance.

Pulau Yepen
“Sunset” Pulau Yepen – Photo by A. Gawned

During the night from the comfort of my hammock, I watched as these various storms joined into one. An early morning rain shower woke me, time to rise again. As dawn broke it became evident that the night’s storms had formed into an ominous black cloud formation on the horizon, it was becoming blacker by the minute.

Setting off toward our destination, Pulau Yangeffo, island hopping with a storm building behind us we pulled up for a short break at the tip of the main island, in doing so we witnessed several black tip reef shark corralling a school of smaller fish into the shallows then attacking them, the sharks often beaching themselves as the water receded.

The water boiled as they lunged at the smaller fish making a meal out of them, I stood on the periphery taking photos and my feet and toes nearly becoming the shark’s next meal. We were told this pack hunting behaviour is unusual for this species of shark.

Feeding frenzy
“Feeding Frenzy” Black Tip Reef Sharks Pulau Yepen – Photo by A. Gawned

Crossing to Pulau Apibok we pulled ashore briefly before embarking on the last open water crossing, a short 7kms, with the storm upon us the rain came down, the wind turned into the west behind us, we paddled east, our landfall destination lost in the rain we resorted to using compasses for direction. As the rain eased we reached the tip of Pulau Yangeffo seeking out a campsite for the night, paddling through the channel we continued for a few kilometres before finding a suitable beach on Pulau Gam and put ashore just as the rain started again.

With shelters erected it was down to preparing hot drinks and lunch as the rain bucketed down and the wind picked up developing into a good storm. We were using MSR Dragonfly stoves, one failed sending pressurised petrol vapour into the air which ignited on contact with the flames, a moment of panic ensued before it was brought under control and extinguished.

With the rain easing a second fly was hung over my hammock for the night, a well, located in the jungle at the rear provided a refreshing shower, however just back from the beach a short distance away we discovered more evidence of littering on a commercial scale, a large pile of partially burnt refuse including beer and soft drink cans and English language tourism magazines, it could only have come from the live-aboard dive boats.

Paradise lost
“Paradise Lost” Refuse at Pulau Yepen which could only have come from a live-aboard diveboat. – Photo by A. Gawned

It is a pity that people do not see the way their refuse is disposed of when they take the civilised option of travel in these remote environments. A bit like Everest with mountains of refuse left behind by tourists wanting to see the pristine natural environment, forgetting that their waste destroys it for others.

It is disappointing to see it left in such a state; we on the other hand had bagged all non-compostable refuse and carried it with us. We left no trace.

More refuse
“More refuse” near our campsite on Pulau Gam (Inset English language tourist magazine amongst the garbage) – Photo by A. Gawned

Tuesday the 2nd December 2014 dawned with grey skies and a light wind from the west, it wasn’t looking promising for the day’s paddle along the coast of Pulau Gam, by the time we breakfasted and struck camp the wind had eased and the cloud was breaking up. Mid-morning saw us approaching the islands at the entrance to Besir Bay, the sun was fierce and with almost 100% humidity it made paddling all the more difficult. We beached on one of the islands, the site of a partially completed or abandoned resort, to be greeted by a lone dog and some chickens, not a soul in sight.

After a swim and refreshments it was back to the kayaks for the run into Besir Bay to paddle amongst the limestone karst islets. Matt and Rob opted to climb the ladder to the top of one of the islets to view it from another dimension, something I had done in 2013. What a sight to behold.

Besir Bay
“Besir Bay” Pulau Gam – Photo by A. Gawned

Resuming our paddle up the coast we sought out a beach, our last night in the wild. The heat by now was oppressive and water consumption was up, dehydration taking its toll.

We pulled up onto a beach near the entrance to the “mangroves” and set up camp, there was no rain as we landed and few mozzies, tents and hammocks were put up, a meal prepared which was most welcome. In the evening over dinner it was time to reflect on the past 11 days, the highs and lows and savour a tot of spiced rum. During the night it rained, the temperature dropped and it was pleasant to sleep wrapped in a sheet.

Dawn broke with a light shower we packed for the last time in the dark before breakfast and got on the water for the final leg to Saporkren village, calling in at Kordiris homestay, we were offered coffee, tea and Indonesian donuts by the owners. Continuing to “Five Rocks”, Rich and Rob had a last snorkel there before the final crossing to Pulau Waigeo and Saporkren village.

About 2.00pm we paddled past the kids fishing on Saporkren jetty, our destination Mando’s homestay just a short distance away. We pulled onto the beach nearby, carrying the boats up the beach for the last time. Congratulations were offered, the obligatory photos taken, we had achieved something few had done before and paddled the north side of Pulau Wayag.

Wayag to Waigeo was done, we had crossed the equator, seen Manta, Turtle, black tip reef sharks in a feeding frenzy, enjoyed snorkelling on pristine reefs and seen the worst of man’s littering on the ocean and beaches.

Mr Fixit
“Mr Fixit” Sony, our interpreter and Jack of all trades – Photo by A. Gawned

That evening we enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts with a magnificent meal before turning in for the night. The following morning Thursday the 4th of December 2014, Matt, Rob and Richard left for Sorong and home. Matt was off home to Canada and minus temperatures, before heading to the Antarctic on another expedition. Rob and Richard back to Australia and summer.

I remained a further three days with the intention of a 3 day solo paddle into the depths of Kaboi bay, the weather was against me, the winds picked up and it rained for two days. I used the opportunity to visit the village of Saporkren, take some photographs, engage the locals in daily life and snorkel the nearby reef.

Little fishers
“Little Fisher Folk“ The catch sold to support the family – Photos by A. Gawned

“Christmas at the Host Family” Mando’s homestay – Photo by A. Gawned

Saturday the 6th December 2014 I was able to air and dry gear and pack for the trip home. I left Waisai for Sorong on the ferry on Sunday morning with an overnight stop in Sorong and another in Denpasar it would take me three days to get back to Australia.

Rob Falloon and I are discussing a return/specialized trip, using a basic liveaboard boat. Planning has begun, there is no timeline, with Rob and another group paddling Palawan in April 2015, Matt Edwards committed to his business in Canada during the ski season and my own travel to Vietnam.

Route map

Thanks again go to Alexander Vogel (Walkabout Alex) he completed  a round trip to Wayag in 2013, his knowledge and advice was invaluable, Tertius Kammeyer for all his help and assistance especially with sourcing another boat for the transfer to Wayag and lastly our hosts at Mando’s Homestay for their warmth and generous hospitality.

Distance: 200 – 250kms
Paddle Days: 11
Expedition Cost: $3000.00
(Inclusive of kayak hire, transfers, homestay accommodation x 2 nights, all meals)
Airfares: $1500 (Return, Garuda and Virgin Australia to Albany)
Accommodation and Sundries: $400.00 (Not included in expedition costs)

About the author:

Adrian lives in Albany, he has been paddling on and off over the years and joined the Sea Kayak Club in 2011. Previous expeditions have included the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Chang Islands Group and Raja Ampat in 2013. He prefers to paddle solo for solitude or with 2 to 3 other paddlers.

© Adrian Gawned 2014

Tarquin and KB in total unison

Desolation Sound, British Columbia, Canada 2014

Ken Burton

In early September 2014 a group of three intrepid paddlers met up on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada to plan a sea kayak voyage in the Desolation Sound area.

The participants were:

Tarquin – Perth born adventurer, outdoorsman, scholar, conversationalist, sociologist and dog lover living on Salt Spring Island, BC. And the ‘local’ intelligence for this trip!

David – Aussie living 6 months on Salt Spring Island and 6 months in Emerald Queensland. Leading Canadian and Australian crop-dusting pilot with a serious sense of adventure.

Ken (KB) – retiree, adventurer and all round good guy who decided to plan and complete a Canadian sea kayak trip after many epic trips in the North and South of WA.

David, Tarquin and KB start their adventure from Okeover Inlet

The trip to our start point at Okeover Inlet required a couple of vehicle and ferry trips from Salt Spring Island (our base), across to Vancouver Island and then a 2 hour drive north and ferry to the town of Lund.  We checked out the kayak and camping equipment hire location and were a little unimpressed with the hire fleet. After finalising our requirements for tomorrow’s start we retired to the Lund Heritage Hotel for a very good meal and a few quiet drinks. We were very excited and looking forward to the next 8 days in the sea kayaks. Our chosen kayaks were Nigel Foster designed “Seaward’s”; one double @ 37 kilograms and one single @ 28 kilograms.  We decided to swap between the double and single with Tarquin taking the single on day one.

After rising for a sensational Gluten Free {GF} breakfast at Nancy’s Bakery we loaded the Landrover with our gear for the short drive to our starting point at Okeover Inlet. After getting the boats down to the muddy and rocky low tide mark we loaded up the two boats with all our gear including 60 litres of water between the three of us. The gear fitted in the hatches with little to spare and at 0945 we took the mandatory picture and started our paddle.

Day one was about 24 kilometres via Zephine Head (the entrance to Desolation Sound) to Portage Cove and then onto Tenedos Bay campsite close to a large freshwater lake (Lake Unwin). It took some time to get used to the fully laden boats and at about 1100 we were rounding Zephine Head when confronted by a full ‘incoming tide’. We made little headway for the next 1.5 hours as we battled the strong tide. We then decided to land on a sand quay for a quick lunch stop. After about 30 minutes we had to move on as the tide was almost covering the quay. The tide had now almost completed its inward journey and we were able to start making significant progress towards our overnight camp site.

Leaving Okeover Inlet with view towards Zephine Head

We passed between Mink Island and the Gifford Peninsula and headed on the ebb tide towards the Tenedos campsite. We arrived at the campsite at 1500 hours after a very vigorous paddle for day one! We were pleased to be able to stretch our legs and pick out a nice camp site to erect our MSR 3-man tent which by the way was superb and very easy to put up and take down.

Leaving Okeover Inlet with view towards Zephine Head

There were four sites for camping and only one was being used by a lone paddler in a “TRAK” fold up kayak. We then commenced cooking our first meal and it was very good. David and Tarquin had brought along fresh vegetables, a huge container of olives, cheese, salami, noodles, GF breads and crackers and so the scene was set for ‘dinner’ with every night being preceded with snacks before the main meal. We had tirelessly packed each meal and placed in plastic bags prior to leaving Salt Spring Island so everything was well planned. We had pasta and rice and KB promised fresh salmon so everything was set for a great paddle with good food.

Tarquin and David (being the experienced locals) then advised that we have to be careful of bears and cougars and that all food must be hauled up into the trees away from our tent so these dangerous animals would not cause us any problems. We had purchased a can of “Bear Spray” that according to the manufacturer would deter bears if you followed the instructions! The instructions were…”If a bear approaches take safety catch off, aim directly at the bears nose, wait until the bear is within 15 feet and then press button” …Yeah right!  We kept the bear spray in the tent with us but in reality I doubt if it would have helped us in the event we were attacked by a bear. That night and subsequent nights we set a rope between large trees and pulled all the food bags to a height of 4 metres immediately after dinner. It was a ‘pain’ but necessary!

We all snored somewhat during that first night and ‘ribbed’ and criticised each other and for some reason, from then on, the snoring stopped for the rest of the trip!

Perfect sunny weather greeted us on day two. It was decided that as day one was a little tiring that we would do some hiking to Lake Unwin for a swim and enjoy a small day paddle of about 8 kilometres to Mink Island in the afternoon and utilise the same campsite as day one. After the swim KB decided to return to the campsite by himself and duly got geographically embarrassed for some 2 hours – the Northern Hemisphere proved difficult for him to get his bearings correct! After a bit of Aussie ribbing we  set off on our short afternoon paddle accompanied by what seemed like dozens of dolphins and seals also delighting in the Indianesque summers day.

David about to dive into Lake Unwin

Another healthy GF dinner was prepared by Tarquin and David with fresh vegetables, including kale, tomatoes and carrots. We were using about 4 litres of water per day each and although water was not readily available we had spoken to some boaties who had agreed to donate water if we needed it. As it was summer the waterways and anchorages seemed to have a few boats at each location so we were confident that the water situation would be OK.

That night we shared conversation with the solo paddler and found out that he had been on the water for 2 weeks around Desolation Sound and was heading back over the next three days. We retired at about 2000 hours and all slept pretty well except for the mandatory toilet visit during the night – when one person woke we all woke!

We again awoke to beautiful sunny weather on day three. After a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, flat bread and green tea we packed up the site, loaded the boats and headed for Prideaux Haven, a distance of 10 kilometres. There were over 20 boats anchored in Prideaux Haven so we decided to venture onto Melanie and Laura’s Coves, another 7 kilometres, to see if we could locate a nice pristine campsite. Melanie Cove was awash with massive oysters the size of your hand and when the meat was taken out of the shell one had a palm full of delicious oyster meat. Tarquin and David were not real keen on the oysters and had to ‘drag’ KB away after he just could not stop eating them. The campsite at Melanie Cove was too rocky and subject to tidal flooding so we ventured to Laura’s Cove. We located a very nice campsite at Laura’s Cove, complete with a drop-pit toilet, freshwater stream and a great picnic table and seats – heaven at last!

Tarquin and David decided to hike over very hilly terrain from Laura’s Cove to Melanie Cove, a distance of about 12 kilometres while KB stayed in the camp and enjoyed the solitude, fruitless fishing attempts and entertained a few Canadians with his stories! Late in the afternoon we enjoyed a brisk swim in the sea  jumping from high rocks and entertaining the local boaties – yes, it was very cold water but certainly well worthwhile.

Tonight was a full moon and at about 0400 a pack of wolves moved very close to our camp and started a cacophonic chorus that chilled us to the bone. I heard Tarquin whisper to David – ‘are you awake’ with an instantaneous response of ‘nuh’! We had our bear spray which apparently works on wolves and cougars so we decided to stay in the tent and hope that they would retreat. No sleep for the rest of the night and when we removed ourselves from our sleeping bags we found wolf droppings 10 metres from the tent – Shit O’Reilly!!!

Day four was another perfect day in paradise! We decided to paddle from Laura’s Cove across the Homfray Channel to Roscoe Bay Marine Park located in a cove on West Redondo Island, a distance of around 14 kilometres. The seas were very calm and we could see awe-inspiring snow capped mountains in the distance. As we left Laura’s Cove we paddled next to a massive rock face that rose vertically out of the sea to a great height – we felt very small when parked up against this in our small kayaks.

We entered very sheltered waters with the depth only about one metre at the entrance to the cove and witnessed a boatie hit the bottom at speed and do severe damage to his propellers. We paddled a further one kilometre to the end of the cove and located a premier campsite on high flat ground with a view back towards Melville Island.

Lugging the boats up to the high ground was a bit of a chore but we had learned that the tides were very high and sometimes unpredictable. Directly behind our campsite was a walk trail to Black Lake – a freshwater lake that provided us with another perfect location for a swim and to enjoy the sun while lying on the rocks. As we arrived at this campsite early we prepared a gourmet Mediterranean lunch with olives, the last of our cheese, tomatoes, crackers, GF flat bread and nuts washed down with copious quantities of green tea.

This campsite was so pristine and comfortable that we decided to call a rest day and spend day five at the lake swimming and relaxing.

Laura's Cove
Tarquin in front of massive rock rising directly out of the sea out from Laura’s Cove

After a very invigorating rest day at Roscoe Bay we rose early on day six for the paddle to Portage Cove and then to our final overnight camp located at Galahad Point in the beautiful Theodosia Inlet, a distance of 22 kilometres if we were able to utilise the Portage Cove crossing, or 31 kilometres if we were unable or not permitted to use the crossing. The paddle across Homfray Inlet was breathtaking with magnificent mountain views, playing seals and frolicking dolphins following our every move. We heard Orca’s ‘blowing’ but could not get within a suitable distance for photographs.

When we arrived at Portage Cove our hearts began to flutter and we all hoped and prayed that the owners of the land would not be on site as they were known not to appreciate paddlers crossing their land and we had heard rumours that they would set their dogs onto any trespassers! Following a discussion Tarquin and David decided to send KB up to the house while they waited in the boats at a safe distance. KB gingerly stepped ashore and headed for the house – absolute elation followed when it was obvious that no one was ‘in-residence’. The owners were not there and so we were able to carry the double and the single and all our gear over a grassed 300 metre hillock to the other side of the cove and the start of Lancelot Inlet! We were so delighted that no one was home we decided to have a gentleman’s picnic lunch under the over laden apple trees and assorted fresh bear droppings from their previous evenings feast.

We set off in the kayaks to Theodosia Inlet and then spotted our campsite at Galahad Point. The tides were supposed to peak in the next hour so we decided to set up the camp, the tent and a cooking fire on what we thought was high ground and well above high tide! To our horror the tide kept coming in and eventually we moved the tent up to higher ground as the ‘hiss’ of the fire being put out by the rising water was heard! We then moved the fire up onto a very small camp site and re-packed all the bags ready for a quick departure in the kayaks and a night paddle back to Okeover Inlet. Luckily for us the tide started to recede just on dark and we were able to stay our last night on what was now an ‘island’ in the middle of the inlet. It was an exciting time deciphering the tides and bought home the fact that you cannot totally rely on tide charts that are not precisely ‘local’.

Day seven dawned with yet another magnificent sunny day with virtually no wind and no tide movement. Today we would paddle through Lancelot Inlet and then into Okeover Inlet, past Hillington Point and Coode Peninsula – a distance of 16 kilometres. At the end of Coode Peninsula we turned North around Boundary Rock and raced the final 500 metres to our launching point and kayak hire shop.

The next two hours were spent unpacking the kayaks, cleaning the kayaks and driving the short distance to the ‘Laughing Oyster Resort and Restaurant’ where we had booked sensational accommodation and enjoyed one of the best seafood meals we had enjoyed in any part of the world washed down with excellent Canadian wines!

Over the seven days we had paddled approximately 100 kilometres of absolute pristine waters, viewed wildlife and above all, developed camaraderie and friendship that would last a lifetime!

David stretching out in the single kayak

Point Peak
View towards destination with Point Peak in background

Papanicolis Cave on Meganisi - Photo by Pavlos Georgilas

Ionian Odyssey Greece 12-20 June, 2014

By Sue Harrington and Pel Turner

Judy, Barb Manson, Jo Foley, Wolfgang Wetzig, Pel Turner, Russ Hobbs and Sue Harrington from SKCWA were joined by Jo’s friend, Nicki Thomas. Anastasia, John and Glen from Newcastle, NSW made up the group, along with Pavlos and Yvonne as trip leaders.President Judy Blight’s descriptions and photos of her kayaking trips in Greece have captured our imaginations over the years, so we jumped on her suggestion of a group trip. Arrangements were soon made with Yvonne and Pavlos at Sea Kayaking Kefalonia, with whom she had enjoyed wonderful trips twice before. We signed up for the nine-day Ionian Odyssey trip, starting at Kefalonia and paddling between various islands in the Ionian Island chain in the western part of Greece. It was to be a cushy trip, staying in nice accommodation with breakfasts and dinners in village tavernas and picnic lunches on the beaches.

The whole crew – Photo Russ Hobbs

After having travelled from Athens or other European adventures, we all arrived at our comfortable apartments in Vlachata, Kefalonia, the base for Sea Kayaking Kefalonia. On a hot afternoon we gathered to introduce ourselves over the first of many cold beers, received a trip briefing from Pavlos, met the other staff and the family dog, Goofy, chose kayaks and gear. Pavlos had tried his hand at woodworking and made two Greenland paddles for our use (though Wolfgang recommended some fine tuning) and a large outdoor table for meetings. Feeling the heat after standing around in the sun, we headed off for another beer and the first of our convivial dinners.

Our excess belongings stored, we were picked up the next morning for the drive to Fiskardo on the northern tip of Kefalonia. On the way we passed pens of Sea Bass and Sea Perch and evidence of the 1953 earthquake, which destroyed many villages, now re-built. Interestingly, the buildings in the Ionian Islands tend to have cream walls and brown terracotta roof tiles, more like Croatian architecture than the typical blue and white of the Aegean islands.


First paddle day. Having arrived at the pretty village of Fiskardo we had a short (5nm) introductory paddle to the south, circling a limestone island rookery of yellow-legged gulls and having the first of our healthy and delicious beach picnic lunches. Of course there was some pleasant snorkelling and kayak rolling in the crystal clear water before we headed back to Fiskardo. We noticed this day and throughout the trip that the incredibly clear, blue-green waters supported little marine life, perhaps because of over-fishing. Our Newcastle companions taped large inflatable Tele -Tubbies to their kayaks as mascots that, not surprisingly, got some looks from the locals. The mascots didn’t last the distance though as they couldn’t cope with the wind.

Jo Foley rolling in the crystal clear water – Photo by Pavlos Georgilas
Teletubby mascot – Photo by Pavlos Georgilas

Barb Manson at the entrance to the first of many caves visited – Photo by Judy Blight

The evening activities became a welcome pattern. We would settle into comfortable apartments with water views or nice gardens, rinse out paddling clothes, shower – Greek bathrooms often don’t have shower screens or curtains so water goes everywhere – have a short break and then head out with the group for beers, dinner and lots of chatter at a taverna. Sue and Russ added to the cacophony with their coughing, due to a lurgy they had all trip!

Fiskardo to Sivota.

After a leisurely and decadent cooked breakfast we checked out the ruins on the point – a Venetian lighthouse and 6th century Benedict ruins – and then loaded our kayaks, gear and ourselves onto a ferry going north to Vasiliki on Lefkada Island. After finding the usual access to the water was blocked by a construction site we had to carry our gear and boats to a rocky bay. Here we launched for a calm and pretty 9nm paddle eastwards to the village of Sivota, set in a long narrow harbour full of tourist yachts. Today we surprised Wolfgang by singing happy birthday at lunchtime on a beautiful little beach while he was surrounded by beach babes! Then there was a cake and candles at dinner. Tonight started a regular pattern where Yvonne would save our fish scraps and feed them to needy cat families of which there was always an abundance!

End of the day at Spartakhori – Photo Russ Hobbs

Wolfgang’s birthday – Photo by Pel Turner

Sivota to Spartakhori.

Heading down to the glistening harbour from our apartments we passed by the village church and the music of Sunday hymns and on to yet another lazy and delicious breakfast. We launched watched by a family of ducks and some yachties onto shiny, calm seas and headed north-east past spectacular, banded and folded limestone cliffs. After a short crossing to Meganisi Island we paddled south past more stunning cliff-lines and into many caves. Pavlos entertained us by rolling underwater and paddling in his upturned kayak, arms and paddle above the hull, ostensibly as a method for passing beneath a low cave entrance. We ate our lunch picnic in the huge Papanicolis cave where a Greek submarine hid during WWII, emerging at night to attack German vessels.

Cliffs of Meganisi – Photo by Judy Blight

Wolfgang’s big breakfast at Sivota – Photo by Sue Harrington

In the afternoon we backtracked northwards up the western side of Meganisi Island and into the protected harbour of Spartakhori, making a total of 9nm for the day. After cold beers at a cafe on the beach, we climbed up a steep hill to our accommodation in the old village, while our gear was driven up in a classic old Datsun ute by the lady owner of the apartments. Dinner was at a nearby taverna owned by an old lady who had only recently stopped doing her usual party trick (remembered by Judy from a previous trip) where she would walk around the taverna with a large table balanced upside down on her head!


Today we did a return day trip of 8nm from Spartakhori to the island of Skorpios, previously owned by Aristotle Onassis and more recently by a Russian owner. Security was high, with guards appearing from nowhere as we paddled by. After paddling around half of the island we were turned away by a security guard from a wide beach previously accessible to tourists, and paddled back to land on the only remaining, small, public beach. There we had a restful lunch, snorkelling, rolling and skills practice, with the additional feature of standup paddling, achieved more successfully by Yvonne and Pavlos than by most of us! We returned to Spartakhori for a second night in the same comfortable apartments.

Yvonne at Skorpios – Photo by Pel Turner

The only public beach on Skorpios Island – Photo Russ Hobbs

Spartakhori to Kalamos. After a breakfast of banana, beautiful Greek yoghurt and pastries we had an early start. It was lazy paddling in glassy conditions with misty views of mountains and islands as we headed east across the northern coast of Meganisi. We took our time as we moved past the creamy cliffs, attractive coastal vegetation and charming islands. The 5nm crossing to Kalamos Island was easy paddling in flat conditions.

Barb and Pel north of Meganisi – Photo by Sue Harrington

The coastline along the northern and eastern sides of Kalamos Island delighted us with caves and cliffs of limestone, sandstone and conglomerate containing shells and corals, topped with clumps of slender, green Mediterranean pine trees and high peaks rising above, with the occasional brave goat on the steep slopes. Across the strait we could see the multi-rise apartments of Mitika on the Greek mainland.

Judy, Jo and Pel off the cliffs of eastern Kalamos – Photo by Pavlos Georgilas

After a couple of swim breaks, punctuated by a new kayak game trying to shoot a flat basketball into the hatches of the boats, we paddled past some disused, picturesque flourmills into the village of Kalamos, having covered 14nm for the day. We settled into our apartments, enjoying great views over the harbour, before walking past olive groves into the village for drinks and dinner overlooking the water. Cats are everywhere in these villages and a cat fight and aerial acrobatics provided some entertainment.
Dinner at Kalamos – Photo by Pavlos Georgilas

Kalamos to Vathi. An early start again so Yvonne delivered warm cheese and spinach pastries for breakfast before we headed to the harbour. Conditions were similar to yesterday, with mist over mirror-smooth water. We crossed to Kastos Island and paddled down the protected east side with endless folded and tilted limestone cliffs, caves, small pebbly beaches and wind-bent Cypress pines. Kastos village at the southern end of the island was an opportunity for coffee and fresh orange juice before making the 5nm crossing to Atoko Island (the end of the day’s 11nm paddle).

Cats at the dinner table – Photo Sue Harrington

Launching from Kalamos – Photo by Russ Hobbs

Judy on the crest of a wave, crossing to Atoko Island – Photo by Russ Hobbs

There was some swell and wind chop initially (~8 knot wind). The group separated into several smaller groups and later Pavlos gently reprimanded us for not staying together. There was time to swim and empty the gear from boats before our water taxi arrived. Pavlos and others removed the rudders from the kayaks to prevent damage. Most of our group travelled in the first water taxi to Vathi, the capital of Ithaca. The taxi returned to bring the boats, plus Pavlos, John and Glen, to a cove on the other side of Ithaca, where they unloaded the kayaks and swam them in a short distance to shore.

Tourist boat hazard on the crossing to Atoko Island – Photo by Russ Hobbs

We settled into the wonderful Odyssey apartments, with views of the fjord-like bay and Vathi township, and did the usual clean up of our gear and ourselves. While luxuriating in the shower, Judy failed to notice that the shower curtain had blocked the drain and she flooded her and Barb’s room. Fortunately they had lots of towels! Everyone walked into the town for drinks (and to watch Australia and the Netherlands playing World Cup Soccer) and to do some tourist shopping before having yet another delicious Greek dinner.

Sue, Wolfgang and Pel enjoying the view from the apartments at Vathi – Photo by Russ Hobbs

Ithaca day. Today was a non-paddling day and the chance to see some of Ithaca Island. Breakfast on the terrace was a selection of beautiful breads, cakes and pastries made by the owner of the apartments. Then we piled into three hire cars and drove north from Vathi, past stunning coastal scenery, stopping for a tour of the 800 year old Katharon Monastery. From here we drove to the Stavros Museum where we marvelled at archaeological treasures dating back to 2,000 and 3,000BC, including items associated with Odysseus and his return to Ithaca. We continued on to the charming coastal villages of Frikes and Kioni, where we had time for lunch and shopping. Back in Vathi for dinner and an overnight thunderstorm and heavy rain.

The village of Kioni in Ithaca – Photos by Sue Harrington and Judy Blight

Vathi to Sami and Vlahata. We loaded our gear into the cars and drove to the cove where kayaks had been left. Pel, Russ and others re-assembled the rudders while we packed the boats. Heavy rain and lightning caused us to wait in the cove until the worst of the storm had passed, but then we were able to paddle south and then west around the end of Ithaca.

Waiting out the rain – Photo by Pavlos Georgilas

After a short break we crossed the 3nm strait towards Kefalonia in 15 knot winds with side-ways wind gusts and then into strong, gusty headwinds as we approached Sami, our final goal. The three other guides from Sea Kayaking Kefalonia arrived with the vehicles and we had a picnic lunch, presented Yvonne and Pavlos with Greenland paddles as thank you gifts and drove back to Vlahata. There we had a final dinner and farewells.

Final crossing back to Kefalonia – Photo by Russ Hobbs

Yvonne and Pavlos – Photo Russ Hobbs

So ended a marvellous overseas paddling holiday. We all had a fantastic time, with everything well organised, spectacular scenery, mostly excellent weather, great food and company. Thanks, Judy, for sharing your Greek paradise with the rest of us! And thank you, Yvonne and Pavlos, for your friendliness, professionalism and eye for detail; we’d highly recommend Sea Kayaking Kefalonia.

Postscript – A recent celebration of our Greek experience was a dinner held at Sue and Russ’s in late July where we dined on Greek delicacies contributed by everyone, washed down with the famed Mythos beer, and relived the fun times spent on our Ionian Odyssey.

Greek dinner in Fremantle – Photo by Sue Harrington

Marciana Marina

Elba Paddle with Sea Kayak Italy 2014

Alan Hale

We started 23 June 2014, at about 1330. From Marciana Marina with Gaudenzio Colltelli (Gau), Christiano from Switzerland, Teresa & Ivana from the eastern side of Italy, and Paul from Palma.

The paddle was to take seven days, (6 nights). Due to expected weather conditions we did the trip in a clockwise direction, Elba has a 147km long coastline with many small and large bays. The total area of Elba is 224 sq km and is about 80% National Parks.

My kayak fully loaded

Paul works at Palma Uni as interpreter. Before we started the paddle he told us all about his mountain climbing & cycling exploits & how he intended to circum nav (CN) UK in 2015, by kayak, (Born in Scotland). We assumed Paolo would be good @ kayaking. He pulled out of paddle at first break on the morning of second day, in what had been very soft conditions up till then. Leaving the kayak, he had been paddling for Gau to tow for the remainder of the CN. A good example of not blowing your trumpet too early. Gau spent about half hour trying to talk him into continuing, but Paul doggedly stuck to his decision to quit. I for one, secretly am very glad, with Paul, the trip could have taken weeks to complete. I tried a couple of times, during day one & on the second morning to show him a more efficient stroke, but he, apparently was more expert.

Gau towing Paolo’s boat

Gau, the owner and operator of Sea Kayak Italy, always paddles with a carbon Greenland paddle. He has the GPs manufactured by a cycle factory in Italy, to his specs, 2.4 m long. He would be as good a paddler as I have seen and a good instructor. In his younger days, Gau circumnavigated Elba in 9 hours, & paddled from Elba to Corsica in 10 hours, then returned some days later in a little over 9hrs.  He features in “This Is The Sea 5”, as the leader of a trip around the volcanic islands off Sicily, taken a few years ago.

Looking back towards Marciana Marina

All of our camps, during our CN were on remote beaches, except for the fourth night, where we were expecting rain and a friend of Gau’s has a beachside bar at a little spot called Norsi, on the south coast, so they invited us to sleep on the verandah of his bar, after closing. I chose to continue on the beach, setting my tent up there, in front of the bar, so my snoring didn’t generate too many complaints. My tent fly was a bit wet in the morning, but no probs.

Day 1 paddling

Our first day was a 5nm paddle around the Gulf of Procchio, with our camp at a remote beach, Porticciolo. Most of the beaches were volcanic/granitic soil and very polished stones. Gau had distributed 1.5 litre water bottles between us and a good share of Toscana Vino Rosso, in bottles. How would an Italian without hands or vino survive???

Between the remaining five of us two bottles per night were being emptied. 66 year old Ivana had the lion share. She was not a strong paddler but very determined. Teresa is a 55 year old and very fit. Both her and Ivana do a lot of mountain trekking. Ivana & Teresa shared a tent and were always last out of the sack each morning. We started paddling by 0800 each morning because Gau gave the two ladies a bit of ribbing about how slow they were to start. He told me that most Italians don’t get going until after 0900 & espresso.

First night camp

Day Two.  We followed the coastline northward then turned eastward toward the largest city of Portoferraio, within a bay on the north coast. This is a busy ferry terminal and the main place where most people enter & leave Isola d’Elba.

Paolo and Chris

Before getting to Portoferraio, and after about 6 or 7 nm of paddling, at quite a slow rate (waiting for expert Paolo to get some skills), Gau decided on a break at a beach, just over a hill from Portoferraio. This is where Paolo sprung his surprise. Life went on without Paolo and we paddled on, beneath one of the Napoleon homes, toward Portoferraio, stopping for lunch at another very stoney little beach outside the port area.

Ivana, Chris and Teresa, with Mt Capanne behind
One of many caves

Following Gau through a hole in the wall

After lunch Gau did not want to risk tangling with the many fast and large ferries, entering and leaving the port so he had us paddle to a position where we had a good view in both directions of the shipping lanes. When the shipping lane was clear enough we headed toward Schiopparello, at the bottom of gulf of Portoferraio. This path was into a 10kn plus wind, a decision I found a little strange considering the skill level or paddle strength of one of the group. We did it and no bad result occurred.

Outside Portoferraio. Napoleon house up top
Paddling into campsite, night 2

That night was spent at a deep, narrow little bay called Mangani. About 17nm of paddling today. There was one yacht moored in the bay, we never saw the occupants. On the beach a German couple with their two small children, sunbaking when we arrived. They hiked up the very high, steep hill just before sunset, toward the road up the top, where their hire car was parked. Those Germans don’t mind a challenging walk, and getting their clothes off, even with small kids in tow.

Day Three. After typical Italian breaky, pani and strong black coffee, we headed north toward Capo Vita.

Beautiful cliffs behind Chris and Teresa

Chris and Gau

The run, SE down the east side had much larger swells than we had previously encountered. The other four stayed well out but I followed the coast, just avoiding the breakers, enjoying the big rebound. Practice for Albany paddles. Most of the east coast had many signs of a long past iron ore mining industry. Rusted jetties and facilities. Beautiful coastline all the same but not really touristy.

Old iron ore mine on east coast

We stopped at Rio Marina, about a third down the coast, for lunch and to replenish water and tucker supplies at a local super market.

Lunch stop and re-supply at Rio Marina

We paddled on toward our next night camp at Istia. This was our best camp with a pine forest about ten metres off the waters edge. Here I slept on pine needles instead of pebbles, good.

I go back in timeline here to mention the most challenging episode of the trip. When we got to Punta Cannelle, to commence the 2.5nm paddle across Gulf Di Portoazzurro, we grouped and recognised the point we aiming for on the opposite side of the Gulf, then started. About halfway across, black clouds appeared over the Mountains west of us and seemed to be travelling in the same direction as us. Lightning started way to our west and northwest and we could see heavy rain behind us. At this time we still had full view of Istia. The wind changed to a westerly direction and suddenly increased to 20kn plus, with heavy rain. Ivana was not able to control her boat and was being blown downwind, sideways. The visibility became 10 to 20 metres, so impossible to pick our destination, which was probably only 1.5nm ahead.

I could no longer see Gau, Christiano or Teresa who, only moments before were only 20 to 30 metres to my right rear. I could now only just see Ivana, to my left and travelling away sideways, quickly, toward the open ocean. I managed to turn toward her and over took her to stay on her left side, got Ivana to put her paddle under her foredeck safety lines and hold onto my deck lines while I continued to do lots of extended, left sweep strokes to keep us going forward instead of sideways.

Next hail stones started, small at first and getting bigger. I was wearing a thermal top and and a Reed top over it with a bucket hat so except for the biggest stones my neck was a bit exposed. Poor Ivana had a ball cap, (thin one), and only a thin short sleeved rashy, also she was on the windward side of me and was copping the worst of the hail stones. Good planning by me, eh???? I guess at that time it would not have been appropriate to make any “hale damage” jokes. Ivana was yelling and screaming each time one of the bigger hail/Hale stones hit her. The worst of the storm passed over us in less than 10 mins but during, it seemed an eternity. Within another 10 mins after the storm passed, we had blue sky and light wind from left rear.

Just before the big storm hit

The other three paddlers were about 200 m to our left rear. We headed quickly to Istia, dragged our boats ashore and headed up and over the hill to a bar for drinkies. Tents could be taken care of later. Then came the stories, some bigger than Ben Hur. Teresa had large bruises on her right shoulder and upper arm, Gau, who was also only wearing a light, short sleeve rashy and no hat. He had bruises on his melon.

Gau told us later that he saw Hail Stones, some as large as golf balls on his spray deck. Believe it not?????
I never thought of pulling my camera out during the storm, I wish I had.

Day Four. Istia to Norsi. Lunch at Morcone. About 10nm of paddling in nice conditions. Once we got to the area of Cape Calvo we again started to see more evidence of the former iron ore mining. It looks pretty small scale compared to the Pilbara.

Christiano doing yoga at sunrise

Morning after the big storm
Going down the SE coast

Old stone and concrete structures, rusting steel work, all part of the mines were very prominent. At one place I could see something moving on one of the structures, when I moved closer, it was dozens of goats.

Heading for Morcone

Ivana and Gau with old iron ore infrastructure behind
Lunch at Morcone Beach

When we eventually arrived at Norsi, Gau was told by his bar owner mate that more bad weather was expected on the coming Sunday, our last day of paddling. Gau checked all this on his phone and made a decision that we compress three days paddling into two, finishing on Saturday.

Bar owner and our crew at Norsi

Day Five. Friday. Norsi to Giardino with lunch at Marina di Campo, MdC.

I told Rose by txt on Thursday night that we would arrive at MdC about 1100. Rose had been using the public transport system to see most of the island from the landside. We met for lunch at one of the many seafood restaurants on the MdC sea front. Germans everywhere here, all of restaurant menus are in Italian & German.

Passing Capo Stella on the south coast

This day’s paddle was a display of large colourful geological structures, lots of caves, with nice weather and water.

Another cavo – lucky we don’t get bored

Teresa and Rosemary at Marina di Campo, for lunch
Three resting in Cavo

Our night camp was on the SW coast, straight below the very scenic road that hugs the cliff tops for 10 or 11nm from La Conca to Colle Palombaia. EAT YOUR HEART OUT GREAT OCEAN ROAD.

Ladies about to get roll practice with Gau at Giardino camp

Two of Gau’s lady friends parked at top section of road closest to Giardino that evening, climbing down to have dinner with us during a beautiful sunset.

Last camp at Giardino

Day Six, Grande Finale. Giardino to Marciana Marina with lunch stop at beautiful little Patresi, with 1litre glasses of birra.  Still about 5nm from MM. We would have done more than that because we spent that last leg hugging every twist and turn of the spectacular coast, rock gardens and caves, swimming from our kayaks and lots of rolls. Avoiding scuba and snorklers, lots of nudes on the granite boulders. Again, more good, easy paddling conditions, caves and other geological scenery.
We finally arrived at MM around 1700.

I can highly recommend this trip as a kayak paddle. I already have it on my list of trips to do again, in a year or two.  This trip could easily be done in four days, with experienced paddlers. I saw every little nook and cranny while waiting for a couple of the other paddlers.