Celebrate the Solstice

It’s the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. That day of the year when we know that things will only get better; the days will slowly get longer giving us more time to go paddling. Of course if you’re in the Northern hemisphere the only thing that you have to look forward to is the coming of the rain, sleet and snow.

Two of our “gentlemen” paddlers, Steve and myself decided to “paddle in the solstice” with a quick surf session at our local spot. Fortunately for us the surf was very gentle today which was in keeping with our character, however we certainly had a heap of fun.

You will notice that Steve and I actually put on a “shortie” wetsuit to protect ourselves from the cold, something that you northern hemisphere paddlers probably only break out in mid summer ūüôā

The video is short and the surf was small, but I’m sure you will get idea.

Happy Solstice


May was History Month

The Month of May is History Month in South Australia, so with that in mind we packed up our toys and headed North and South looking at South Australian early history.

First it was to the far north of state, towards the centre of Australia, following the old “Ghan” railway line and then branching out to the edge of the Simpson Desert. The Old Ghan railway line was closed in 1980 after the line was moved due to frequent flooding. Robyn’s family have many ties to the north with her grandparents being involved with the Telegraph line that was built between Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north a distance of 3000km

I never tire of the outback landscape with its’ ever changing colours and geography.

Yep that’s me. The area is the “Breakaways” and juts out from an otherwise flat gibber desert

Stunning colours at any time of the day

That’s Robyn doing a little exploring

We visited many ruins as well as a few surviving outposts  and watched many sunsets across the northern plains.

One of the ruins of Farina Township on the way to Marree along the Ooodnadatta Track

Golden sunset from our camp

The sunset was fantastic but the storm clouds meant the track might be closed by rains.

It’s interesting to meet unusual people along the way and to chuckle at the humour of these outback places.

Golf anyone. Only $5 per round and remember that the plane has right of way down the fairway

This is a great golf course and affiliated with St Andrews in Scotland. Obviously they never checked out the course !!!

Sometimes ¬†there is a meeting of the “ships of the desert” and this time it happened 25 km north of Lyndhurst. A camaleer and his wife had been walking cross country with 6 camels from Gympie in Queensland and were headed west to Roxby Downs. That’s about 2000km as the crow flies and then they have the return journey.

That’s my “ship of the desert” against the tree. Diamant Fatbike with 5 inch tyres and lots of suspension.

Inquisitive buggers these camels.

The scenery is stunning in its harshness, even when we have had great rains and the vegetation is green and thriving.

Not much greenery here. Spot the bikes parked in the “carpark” at Blanche Cup mound Springs Oodnadatta Track.

Anyway there were too many places to describe and far too many photos to show here.

Then it was back south to revisit a couple of our favourite haunts by kayak. We often paddle past 2 wrecks, one well known, at the edge of suburbia in Gulf St Vincent, and one at the far south end of Gulf St Vincent that few people remember.

The Star of Greece wreck is just out of Adelaide near what was once the small village of Pt Willunga but is now almost a suburb of Adelaide. I have paddled past it countless times over the years taking time to snorkel the area during the summer months, when it is often uncovered. This is an easily achievable paddle for any sea kayaker in good conditions. Generally we launch from Moana Beach and paddle south for an hour or so (6.5km) to reach the wreck which is only 200m off the Pt Willunga beach.

May being History Month I revisited the story of the wreck.

Built in Belfast in 1868, the Star of Greece, laden with wheat, was wrecked in a violent storm off Port Willunga on the 13th July 1888. Some discrepancy exists in the actual number of lives lost, due to doubts about the number of people aboard the vessel when it left Port Adelaide, but most historians conclude that at least 18 perished.

The most striking part of the tragedy was that the ship was only 200 metres from shore when it broke in two amidships at 2.00am. The alarm was raised at 7.20am by a young boy taking his morning walk but because the Willunga telegraph station didn’t open until 9.00am, former harbourmaster Thomas Martin was unable to contact authorities in Adelaide until then.

The response to the call for help was disastrous. A combination of poor communications, bad roads, and an inability to find a good vehicle and horses to bring the necessary rocket gear for a rescue attempt meant that it was 4.00pm when useful help finally arrived. By then all the survivors were ashore and the others aboard had already drowned in the roaring surf.

Local residents had gone to the nearby beach to assist those who did manage to make it to shore. They bore witness to the deaths of those who fell into the sea, exhausted after desperately clinging to the rigging, and those who drowned in the mountainous seas as they tried to swim ashore. Helpless, they waited until some mariners made it to the shallows and then took them to nearby lodgings to recuperate.

Luckily the Gulf St Vincent where the wreck lies is generally calm and  easily accessible by kayak however I have seen mountainous seas on that beach when the winter SW storms arrive direct from the Antarctic.

This was not a great day to visit the wreck with a NW wind blowing and rain but that’s unpredictable sea kayaking

Some of the wreck is always exposed and in summer you can normally see remnants of the hull

One of the other interesting wrecks that I often pass is the Ellen, which lies in shallow water on Morgans Beach, which is the first beach as you pass into Gulf St Vincent rounding Cape Jervis.

Not much remains of the wreck except the boiler and breather tube which are visible at low tide. Occasionally in very calm conditions I have been able to paddle to the boiler and you can still hear the boiler breathing as the swell pushes air through the breather tube.

The Ellen Boiler

On Saturday, 12 December 1908, Ellen returned from Hog Bay on Kangaroo Island en route to a destination on the mainland with a load of fish valued at £50. Ellen encountered very rough conditions when passing Cape Jervis. The rough conditions included a sudden swing in wind direction from the South West to the North West. As a result, the ship drifted astern towards the shore until its stern run aground on the rocky seabed. The bow was then swung around onto the rocks by the waves thereby completing the wrecking. The heavy sea then continued to pound the wrecked vessel, washing fittings and timber overboard and onto the shore. The crew escaped to shore via the use of a dinghy while Mr Newlands swam to the shore. 

The Ellen aground at Morgans Beach

Recently I visited Morgans Beach  and stood on the same rock (I think?) as the person in the photograph.

Both wrecks are well worth visiting especially on a calm day when you get a close inspection.
Well that was May, History Month for us.
Ian and Robyn


Let’s take the BIG BOAT today

It was a calm Autumn night, although a little warmer than expected as I laid in my sleeping bag on the beach. The three of us were scattered around trying to get a few hours sleep before our pre-dawn departure. I shut off the phone alarm and checked the latest weather forecast which confirmed calm conditions for today and a light tailwind for tomorrow. Perfect conditions for Steve’s first 20 km open water crossing of Investigator Strait to Kangaroo Island.

Michael, Steve and I stuffed our kayaks with gear and posed for a photo on the beach.

All ready at the Ferry Terminal – Cape Jervis

Steve was determined to get a photo with the three of us in,  which was not an easy task given the darkness but he succeeded.

That’s us… L to R ¬† ¬†Steve, Ian and Michael

Then it was on the water to clear Cape Jervis before the sun rose. The first couple of kilometers were perfect conditions with almost glassy calm water and the sun peeking through the clouds. We had checked and double checked the forecasts as there was a strange cloud formation over the island, but all seemed perfect including our speed which was over 8km/hr.

Calm conditions as the sun came up

It wasn’t long before we felt a gentle headwind spring up and not much longer before it increased, but our speed was good given the tidal assistance and the laden kayaks easily handled the conditions.

The headwind was increasing creating a confused sea due to the wind against tide

We kept an eye out for traffic as we crossed the shipping channel and this one passed well behind us.

Missed us by a mile

After 3 hours of paddling into the headwind we rested in the wind shadow of the high cliffs of Kangaroo Island, just east of Cuttlefish Bay, with Steve very happy with his first crossing.

Great coastal scenery for the next few kilometers

It was then onto our campsite in Antechamber Bay close to the Chapman River.

Out of the wind but not the rain

The good weather didn’t last long with heavy rain setting in for most of the day and night. Still we were prepared with shelter and a good bottle of McLaren Vale red wine kindly supplied by Steve.

A good end to the day

Next morning the rain subsided to occasional light showers as we headed west, hugging the coast to keep out of the wind. The sun occasionally broke through the clouds lighting up patches of the calm waters in Antechamber Bay.

The sun was still shining….well sometimes it was

The forecast wasn’t good with a strong wind warning being issued for Investigator Strait and surrounding areas. The prospect of 20-30 knot winds was not pleasant so we hugged the coast and dropped in on the local wildlife.

Calm water as we paddled out from the shelter of Antechamber Bay

The end of shelter in the bay was near

This is a stunning coastline with large tracts of natural vegetation

Sea Lions came out to play around the kayaks. Maybe they were the smart ones being ashore for the day

After a 3 hour stretch” on the paddle” we rounded into Hog Bay ……

We arrived just before the storm hit Hog Bay

….and waited to board the “BIG BOAT” that would take us home.

The Sea Link ferry

We quickly organised fares and climbed aboard, sandwiched between cars.

Safe and sound on the car ferry

I have been paddling this stretch of water since the early 1980’s and it’s different every time. Not only was it Steve’s first crossing of the Strait but the first time Michael and ¬†I had come back with our kayaks on the ferry. Another great adventure paddling the coast of South Australia.