Thursday, August 27, 2015

A weekend in the wilderness - without leaving town!

Boat packed, trolley ready, time to get away to the wilderness for the weekend.  
Traffic was heavy getting out of town
Met Mark Schroeder on the way and we found a nice place to land, with an ideal campsite right next to the sea!
We set up camp in our remote cove and cooked dinner to the sound of waves and a chorus of frogs!  
Mark has a free standing tent
I don't
but my view from the bedroom was pretty good
We saw a whale, dolphins, a seal, albatross and a green sea turtle. The other bonus is there was no phone reception!
On Sunday we checked out another possible wilderness camp spot to the south of the heads before heading back to Sydney - even though we'd never really left!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Landing at North Head

On a calm day mark decided to land just around the outside of North Head. So we did...

lining up the exit
not to be put off by bad timing Marks powers on
in the hole
a quick self rescue by Mark and we were on our way

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A trip to Yakushima Island (Southern Japan)

Yakushima Island is located South of Kagashima in the South of the mainland of Japan. It is about 504 square KM with a population of around 13000 residing almost entirely around the coast. The island is mountainous and rises to 1936 metres at its highest point. A large part of the island is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its outstanding natural beauty, enormous trees and varied flora and fauna. As my wife loves the bush and I love the sea Yakushima was the perfect destination for our family adventure holiday.

It's about 140 KM all the way round and would be a fantastic paddle
We timed our arrival with that of a low pressure system and rainy weather but that was not going to dampen our spirits. As soon as we disembarked from our ship we were on a bus and heading to the start of the track that would take us over the highest bit of the island and over to the other side over three days.
About to dock at Yakushima - a notoriously rainy island
The lower areas were covered in moss and was some of the most lush forest I'd ever seen

Once we got above the tree line temperatures were around 0 and it was very wet
We made it across the top and after staying in the second of three bushwalking huts descended down the other side to where an old logging rail line has been converted to a walking track.
With three days of walking behind us it was time for Dad to go kayaking whilst the rest of the family went sight seeing
My wife, being Japanese, had found a keen kayaker on Yakushima that ran a small kayak guiding business. He used a local boat that he helped design himself called the Nanok. There was a 4.8 metre version a 5.3 metre and a double. As we were planning to paddle about 20 KM and there was a bit of wind forecast I decided on the 5.3. The boat I hired was in good condition, handled well and was a fast and maneuverable boat. I really enjoyed paddling it.

Besides hiring kayaks and guiding, Taeji also offers accommodation at his sea side location in this beautiful kit home he built himself.

Accommodation offered as well
As the weather was still less than ideal we simply decided to get in the van and go over to the lee side of the island - always an option when you live on a small island!

About to launch
calm seas and a spectacular backdrop
We headed north and soon spotted the first of five rather large sea turtles. We also saw a shark, which was following Taeji, lots of barracuda, cormorants and some flying fish. The water was warm, and the wind was almost non existent.

enjoying lunch
I was shown an excellent sea cave that could be paddled all the way through.
some coves led to small harbours and rivers
When we got home a local fisherman dropped a few flying fish over to Taeji. Here is his wife showing one off. I've often seen flying fish off our Australian coast but never got up close or seen them in a shop. In Yakushima they're a delicacy.
Yakushima is a kayaking and bushwalking paradise. It would be a bit hard organising things and getting around without being able to speak Japanese but there were a few foreigners about who seemed to be managing all right. The main tracks are well marked and the bushwalking huts are basic but well maintained and weatherproof. There's lots of deer and monkeys, one of which attacked us, as well as some rich birdlife. Yakushima also has quite a few frogs and salamander species but I couldn't find any of those on this trip although I did find a salamander a few years back in Hokkaido. Like all good holidays, I wish it could have lasted longer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Glebe to Currarong

The NSWSKC held it's annual Rock N Roll kayak fest at Currarong, just north of Jervis Bay. The weather looked good so my paddling friend Megan and I decided we'd paddle there. I trollied my kayak and a weeks worth of food and camping gear down to Rozelle Bay where I packed the boat and launched. An hour and a half later I was rounding South Head and heading out to sea in a surprisingly strong Noreasterly - this was a great start! I hoisted the sail and headed out to sea to make the most of the wind. Three hours later I was at Jibbon Beach where Megan and I had arranged to meet.

Not too long after I'd landed Megan arrived having paddled the eight kilometres from her place up in Port Hacking. We headed out into a strengthening wind and made short work of the 11 kilometres to our next stop at Wottomolla.

Megan Pryke let it rip the first time she used the sail
The next day was going to be a cracker with North Easterly winds to about 15 knots forecast to blow all day. We headed out and soon had the sails up. The GPS was recording us moving at an average of almost 10km p/hr. Once we got past The Royal the wind began to weaken. It became harder to catch the diminishing runners. I don't mind paddling in calm conditions or even opposing winds but when the forecast was so good I have to admit to being less then happy about the lack of wind and then downright grumpy when it turned southerly!

We were a couple of kilometres off shore when the Southerly really picked up so we headed in to Wollongong for shelter. We had some lunch, checked the forecast which still maintained we were supposed to be getting Noreasters and then headed out again, albeit in a calmer sea but with no help from behind. It seemed a long time getting past Port Kembla and that bleak industrial skyline and by the time we'd rounded Red Point we were ready to land. We went in to the northern tip of Port Kembla Beach which was a less than ideal camp site but after a 53 km day that was going to have to do.

Port Kembla Beach
53 KM
The third day of our trip was again calm but we were in good spirits and enjoying the paddling. We made a quick stop in Bushrangers Cove at Bass Point and then had lunch at Kiama Harbour. After around  38 kilometres we discussed our options. With a strong Southerly forecast for the next day we'd either have to finish the trip and do another 25 km on top of what we'd already done or risk having to abandon our plan and get someone to pick us up at Geroa. We decided to pass the Geroa rest stop and go for it, hopefully with some help from an as yet non existant Noreaster. The wind did come up and we sailed while paddling hard all the way to Currarong.

63 KM
We pulled in about 5:40 feeling good and glad to have made it. We commented on the fact that whenever we do the big days its usually with all the extra weight that camping gear, food and water adds and that it can take a while to adjust and makes the k's a lot harder than the numbers would suggest.

Friday we went for a bushwalk around Beecroft Head and on Saturday I took a strong group out into a solid southerly for a partial circumnavigation of Beecroft Peninsular.

Honeymoon Bay to Currarong is about 27 km
The Beecroft team was Mark Hempel, Mark Schroeder, Mark Dabbs, David Linco, Wade Carberry, Paul Edwards and Joel Murray. We were all well pumped as we rounded Gumgetters so I probably came accross as a bit hyper as Wade and I barged into a rescue situation and took over - apologies to anyone who felt we should have stayed out of it - blame it on my training!

The wind had returned to Noreasterly by Sunday so I took another group back to Honeymoon Bay where we explored all the fantastic caves and slots between Target Beach and Point Perpendicular.

Awsome natural features - some of us went in here and then came out of the other tunnel on the left
Inside a sea cave
Sylvio gets through!

Although I felt pretty good about paddling from Sydney to Currarong one thing put all those kilometres into perspective. Jason Beachcroft who last year paddled the entire way around Australia, including Tasmania did more than our entire trip in one stint three times on his trip when he had to paddle past the unlandable Baxter and Zuytdorp Cliffs in Western Australia and The Bunda Cliffs in South Australia. Jason gave a talk on his trip on Saturday night which I'm sure all sea kayakers would find truly inspirational. Congratulations Jason.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A great video about one of our ocean brethren

A day out with The South Coast Legends

Three of us Sydney paddlers were honored to be invited to The Pancake Paddle down at Mystery Bay on the South Coast. We had the pleasure of paddling with some legends of kayaking. I hope I can still paddle as strongly as some of these folks when I'm their age.

Looking North from The Mystery Bay camp ground

John Wilde & Mike Snoad brief the group
Laurie Geoghegan - Builder of the famous NADGEE range of kayaks


Peter & Dirk


John Wilde

Paul Loker - Still can't help getting into caves

Friday, August 22, 2014

North Queensland (Capricorn Coast) Trip

A plan was hatched by Rob Mercer & Garry Forrest to paddle from Yepoon to Mackay via a number of islands. Unfortunatley we timed our trip to coincide with some strong winds, which normally would have been fine, but they were always going to be either in our face or on our beam at best.
Rob, Matt, Garry
A windy day didn't put us off and we launched from Yeppoon into a rough sea. Any ideas I had about worry free paddling in warm waters without much swell were quickly put to rest as we battled waves up to four metres, strong winds and fast currents. I'd be lieing if I said I wasn't rattled in some places.

First landing at Five Rocks

Camped up against cliffs that had us worried about high tide at 11 that night. The water came within half a metre of our tents

The next day dawned with a 30 knot easterley and thunderstorms so we stayed at Five Rocks for another night

The next day was still rough on the water as we headed North

We got the sails up for the last couple of k's into Freshwater once we rounded the extremely bouncy waters off Manifold Island. Strong winds, big tidal flows and shallow waters created conditions I'd never encountered before.
A welcome shelter from the rain. Once we chooed off a small snake and swept away a few spiders we settled in quite nicley only to be woken up by a feral pig!
Although the weather situation was improving it still wouldn't be ideal and we'd run out of time if we kept pushing for Mackay. We decided to head south again and spend a few days at the Keppel Islands. It was going to be a big day but because of the tides it wouldn't have helped us leaving early so we had a big breakfast and hit the water at about 11.30. With tides still hindering us we found it hard to get our speed above 6 km/h and later realised it would be around 9PM by the time we made it to Keppel. As we approached Five Rocks it was decided we'd go in and spend a third night there. With the wind now well developed and swung around to the North East this beach had quite a bit of surf and we had to be careful getting in. I came in on a broach feeling well pumped after another solid day of anxious paddling.

Finally, clearing skies
A clear morning, it was finally starting to feel like Queensland!
Heading to The Keppel Islands
Rob & Garry had just spent a week at the Keppels for The Keppel Islands Sea Kayak Symposium and as Garry had been there many times before he decided to finish off back at Yeppoon so Rob and I headed out. We landed at Conical Island where I set up camp as Rob continued over to North Keppel to see if he could find Sharon, Alan and Anne who had been island hopping around The Keppels, mostly staying on Humpy enjoying a campsite that I gathered was marginally more comfortable than Five Rocks!

Paradise at last - Conical Island
The next day I paddled over to North Keppel and the five of us did a circumnavigation of the beautiful North Keppel Island
After another night in solitary on Conical I went back to meet the others and had a quick look around the island

We later paddled back to Yeppoon - into a headwind of course!

 A fantastic trip that I'm grateful to have been invited on.

At the time Rob encouraged us to push North into a wild sea to head for Freshwater I (and I suspect Garry) weren't entirley enthusiastic because not only would it be big conditions but we knew by this time that we wouldn't be continuing North and would need to retrace our steps the next day and add 20km to what would already be a long day to the Keppels. Rob pushed us a bit and so it was that we found ourselves punching out through the surf into it (a surf capable of surfing Rob backwards so that he had to roll). This push by Rob was what made the whole trip so much more wholesome, both from the engaging paddling, another excellent location and the fact that when Rob and I did finally get to The Keppels it was all so much more gratifying. I felt I'd earned it and was really able to relax on that great little piece of paradise on Conical Island and thoroughly enjoy the last couple of days of the trip as a result.