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.

Michael

Ian

Steve

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Venus and other Gods

Venus is the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty, among other things, and we have been wandering along a coastline that we certainly Love. Its’ Beauty is in the rugged cliffs and sandy bays that dot the landscape along the western coast of South Australia.

Unfortunately Venus was travelling with Euros the God of the South East Wind and he was displaying his might. For several days now it has blown too strong for us mere mortal kayak paddlers to venture out into Venus Bay and then out into the open Southern Ocean.

Even the locals stayed ashore today. This was inside the calm bay and you can see the whitecaps on the water

Even the locals stayed ashore today. This was inside the calm bay and you can see the whitecaps on the water

Our plan had been to spend a couple of weeks exploring along the rugged coastline, visiting places that we had been before and exploring some new spots. The coastline between Venus Bay and Smoky Bay is especially beautiful from the water with a series of cliffs towering above and lots of small bays and inlets to explore. In the past we had spent many days paddling and swimming with dolphins and sea lions in Baird Bay as well as relaxing on other deserted beaches.

With the wind howling we couldn’t even get the kayaks off the roof of the car, let alone get to any offshore locations or even into the generally sheltered waters of Venus Bay.

Looking out towards the headlands of the protected Venus Bay

Looking out towards the headlands of the protected Venus Bay

So it was onto the FatBikes for some coastal fun around Venus Bay and across to Entrance Beach.

We jumped on the bikes and set off to explore along the coastal dunes

We jumped on the bikes and set off to explore along the coastal dunes

The sign says 4 wheel drive and we had 4 wheels so on we went

The sign says 4 wheel drive only and we had 4 wheels so on we went

After exploring around dunes we visited the Venus Bay Conservation Park which allowed us access to some wind swept but deserted beaches. The drive gets interesting when you reach the track over the and dunes.

You can just spot the kayaks on the roof of the car as we made our way along the track

You can just spot the kayaks on the roof of the car as we made our way along the track. The track is marked by posts as the track is lost in the sand

Robyn “the snake charmer” managed to have a chat with a good size brown snake who took off up the sand dune leaving only his “snake trail” in the sand. We didn’t follow.

Snake trails across the dune which were blown away within minutes

Snake trails across the dune which were blown away within minutes

This area is quite beautiful with views across Venus Bay.

Looking out towards the islands in the bay

Looking out towards the islands in the bay

We spent time sheltering out of the wind along with the local inhabitants.

Some of the locals sheltered with us on the beach

Some of the locals sheltered with us on the beach

The one paddle that I had really hoped to do was a visit to the “Dreadnoughts”, a group of bommies off the coast of Sceale Bay. On a paddle here 17 years ago, with a group of sea kayak instructors, we tried to weave our way through the breaks. Unsuccessfully I might add. The sea was calm and green as we admired a breaking bommie which soon turned to a wall of white foam when a set of rogue waves came through, cleaning up a couple of the group.

Today you wouldn’t want to be out there.

The photo doesnt do justice to the size of the waves as they extend right across the bay

The photo doesn’t do justice to the size of the waves as they extend right across the bay

We dropped into the once thriving town of Port Kenny. It had been a port serviced by the Mosquito Fleet of flat bottom boats that carted wheat and other goods from the towns along the coast, in the early 1900’s but sadly there are only a few houses and a pub left. There are remnants of previous travelers.

This was probably a very up-market model in its' day

This was probably a very up-market model in its’ day

We moved west in hope of better weather and camped at Smoky Bay. The wind still blew as we retired for the night.

We awoke to a hot and still morning. With no wind and clear blue skies we quickly unloaded the kayaks and paddled off to explore Smoky Bay.

A quick dip to cool off before heading out.

A quick dip to cool off before heading out.

Calm and very clear water ahead

Calm and very clear water ahead

Not a breath of wind and we were 2 km from shore

Not a breath of wind and we were 2 km from shore

We paddled for an hour or so to the other side of the bay where there are large numbers of oyster beds.

Oyster beds in the shallow waters of the bay

Oyster beds in the shallow waters of the bay

We saw Cirrus clouds streaking the sky as we turned for home. The wind again started to increase but  at least we had snuck in a good 2 hour paddle for about 900 km of travel and a week of waiting; still that’s sea kayaking for you.

The Reef

Horseshoe Reef. It’s been around for a long time; certainly longer than me and I feel a strange attraction. I remember being on the beach as a child watching the small boats fishing along the inside of the reef. I visited on school holidays, snorkeled out to the reef as a teenager and still explore it regularly by kayak.

The reef is part of the Mullawirraburka dreaming story of the local Kaurna aboriginal people telling how Mullawirraburka threw his spear into the water to bring the fish closer to the shore forming the reefs of Pt. Noarlunga and Christies Beach.

As the name suggests the reef is formed in an arc with the open end pointing to shore. On the seaward side the reef drops from a steep platform to a  flat expanses of stone and toward shore the reef becomes steeper then drops into 5m of water.

The reef is seldom flat calm. More often there is a confused sea caused by the meeting of waves but always it’s a fun place to hang out.

The outer steep reef edge generates a powerful wave which wraps around both ends of the reef  and in the right conditions these left and right waves peel around the horseshoe shape in opposite directions to collide with huge force.

That’s where the fun begins. You can catch a small wave heading south only to be met with one coming north and you are often spat out upwards; or sometimes you are just buried by a few ton of water. You might come back up the right way but not always.

Steve playing around on a calmer day……dsc_0461

The reef is a place for experienced paddlers and on the right day is an excellent place to put a few sea kayak skills to the test.

Steve8

The Reef on a stormy day

The Reef on a stormy day

But beware the dangers below as there is not only the reef to worry about but also its inhabitants. I guess we may not be the only ones enjoying the reef today.

dsc_0470-2

Get out and enjoy our local area but remember to “keep it safe” and stay within your ability.

Cheers
Ian Pope