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.