Welcome Winter

Winter is with us again. Those sunny days of Autumn are gone. No more lazing around in shorts and T shirts, it’s back to fleece jackets and beanies.

We have been travelling for a couple of months, paddling sea kayaks, bush walking and riding mountain bikes as well as some photography sessions. If you missed the sea kayak article it’s here and bike riding in the northern Flinders Ranges is here.

Our latest attempts in photography try to capture the landscape in a more abstract way . What do you think ?

Back home for a while I drag out the playboat and head out for a short session.

The beach is deserted except for a couple of dogs chasing a ball. No one else in the water today, probably because it’s chilly and only us retirees get “Fridays free time”. The swell has also deserted the beach but I still manage a few rides and get my head wet.

I find Steve (King of England) had the same idea and was already on the waves.

Robyn managed to get some video of the small wave session. We enjoyed our first winter session and hope to fit in many more between sea kayaking, mountain biking and coffee and croissants.

A Calm Sea

I woke before dawn to a special silence. No distant crashing of waves, no wind swaying the trees, no flapping of canvas; the silence of a calm sea.

The dawn came with a burning red horizon viewed through the trees and then as a red streak as I made it to the beach.

The early signs of a Calm Sea
A sign of Calm Seas
On the beach

Today we would be paddling on a calm sea. The last few days had been choppy, wind swept and wet but still a lot of fun as we launched in sloppy conditions and paddled into sheltered bays to investigate the rocky, boulder strewn coastline.

Yes, it’s windy on this coastline as you can see from the trees. The sandy spot around the tree is used as a resting place for the local kangaroos. You can see the tail drag marks in the sand.

Launching in a fairly protected cove

Not only did we have to content with the less than ideal conditions, but this is also a major shipping channel for Port Lincoln where grain carriers carefully navigate the passage of islands that lead them to the Southern Ocean. A Bulk Carrier puts out a hell of a wake which adds to the wave chop and rebound from the islands.

Keep your distance

Not only where the launches interesting, but even the landings in a protected cove, at the end of the paddle, were a mad dash to surf to shore, jump out and drag the kayak up without getting too wet.

Charlie coming into protected waters
Greg showing his style to land without wet feet

We knew today would be different as we prepared the kayaks on the beach at Taylors Landing. Taylors is protected and generally the last mainland point before heading across Thorny Passage to Thistle Island. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good enough weather window to be taking that route, but we would be exploring some stunning coastline.

Thistle Island is far in the distance and the closer island is Taylor Island.

Perfect conditions

Charlie had decided to make attach a Shark shield to his kayak this morning as we had just received the very sad news that a surfer had been taken by a Great White shark not far along the coast.

Loading up and checking the Shark Shield

We slid into the water and were away.

Clear calm water
How’s that for style

With Charlie keen to explore every small rock pool and Greg diligently following it was an excellent day of fun paddling.

We passed rugged granite cliffs and explored around lichen coloured boulders.

Greg was often around rocks
Charlie likes to poke his nose in
The Gulls

The next two photos show the clarity of the water and the reflection of the kayak. Charlie has “borrowed” my Greenland style paddle and is now an affectionado of the “carbon toothpick”.

Along the way we chatted to the local Sea Lions, caught a whiff of the local cormorant flock, watched small fish dart under the kayak as well as enjoying the stunning coastline.

Cormorant Rock
Drifting in close

When we got a little too close the Cormorants would waddle close to the rock edge, jump off and madly flap and run to get height. If you were in the wrong spot they would come straight at you, emptying their bowels, to lighten the load, as they struggled for altitude. Just don’t be in that wrong spot.

…and they’re off

The calm conditions gave us the chance to explore around the rock pools.

Charlie rocks
Ochre cliffs
Clear water

A White Bellied Sea Eagle kept a close eye on us for several kilometres, however, I think we were a little too big to be considered likely prey.

I’m watching you guys

It’s hard to do the scenery justice when taking photos from the kayak with a small Canon camera but here’s a few of the seascape. I have managed to drown another Nikon camera so it’s back to the “point and shoot” Canon until I decide on a new camera.

Our paddle ended on a sloping rock shelf in beautiful warming sunshine.

All that was left to do was take the 4wd track back to camp, take a walk on the beach, indulge in a cold beer, followed by a few glasses of red wine by the fire, which was diligently tended by Greg.

…and then the rain came.

A few days of great paddling.
Ian and Robyn, Greg and Charlie.

Time and Tide

The phrase “Time and Tide wait for no man”, or more correctly man or women, is a common phrase  but what does it really mean. The common conception is that it’s a call to action, to do it now, with urgency.

That phrase came to mind prompting action stations as my kayak plunged into the short sharp wave in front at exactly the same time as another hit me beam on and the one behind broke on my rear deck. Oh what fun, buried up to my armpits in a low volume skeg kayak, in a following sea, in 3 metres of water driven by wind gusting over 20 knots.

But back to the beginning. I had been invited to join 2 distinguished gentleman paddlers on a 20+km sea kayak paddle in the northern reaches of Spencer Gulf where we would visit Cockle Spit. Aptly named because it’s a bar that is formed of cockle shells and is dry at lower tides. Steve and Greg are locals to this area.

We arrived earlier so that we could ride the nearby mountain bike tracks at Willowie forest, with Steve as our guide. Riding in 36 degree heat (C not F) is certainly taxing but fun. Settled in the beachside park we watched the sunset and Robyn chased a few photo opportunities.

The Jetty is an old wooden affair that was around 1.5km in length
Sunset on the high tide
The fading sunset
There are old storage sheds and railway lines from earlier days that have been restored

Back to the present. The day had started calm, with the knowledge of increasing wind, as we left the Port Pirie harbour making our way past large ships docked in the channel.

We followed the channel markers as they weaved their way into open water, leaving the Mangrove trees behind.

The last mangrove tree in the channel
The wind gently rising with more to come

The wind increased, as predicted, making for a slightly bumpy, but not unpleasant, 16km paddle until we had Cockle Spit in sight. Actually, you can’t see the Spit until your almost on it but you can use line of sight from various markers to navigate. Steve led Greg and myself to the calm inside of the Spit for a well earned break.

The wind increased again, adding another layer of complexity to the paddle. Steve and Greg decided to push the boundaries of their Mirage kayaks by hoisting their kayak sails. That put my ego under serious pressure, so I engaged warp drive to keep up. Luckily, they soon decided that sailing was a little precarious in these conditions and reverted to paddle power alone.

We made reasonable headway considering the conditions and soon had the Port Germein jetty in sight. I noticed a change in water color at the end of the jetty which is 1.2 km long. Then I realised why Steve had insisted we all had a kayak trolley with us. The tide goes out over 1.5 km in the bay and that sand colored water was indeed sand. So when we ran out of water we simply hooked up the trolley and walked making it more of a biathlon than simple paddle. Steve insisted that we should have made it a triathlon by all going for a swim but Greg and I declined.

Back on dry land with a long drag ahead. You can see the choppy conditions in the distance.
The happy bunch

Cockle Spit had previously had a tide clock erected in the channel telling ship captains what the tide was at the time. Ships would enter the harbor and anchor whilst being loaded with wheat and other produce by smaller vessels called Lighters.

The Tide Clock has been salvaged and is now housed at the beginning of the jetty as a reminder of an era when navigation was a tricky affair.

The Jetty previously had a lighthouse at the end of the jetty and that has also been restored and placed on land.

Complete with sculptures the Jetty precinct is a nice place to wander, especially the nearby coffee shop.

An interesting paddle in an unusual location with a fair bit of wind and wave thrown in for good measure. We learned later that winds had been strong near our home in Adelaide resulting in downed trees and power lines.

Robyn and I are heading into the Southern Flinders Ranges for gravel road and mtb track riding and some serious Bakery visiting. Time and Tide wait for no man or women. Do it now !

Not Always Paddling

I’m not always paddling a kayak, or surfing a kayak, or travelling somewhere to launch a kayak, or finding a new place to launch a kayak . Sometimes I do other things, like eating and sleeping; especially the sleeping.

Other than Paddling you will often find us riding a mountain bike track or exploring gravel backroads. Mountain biking has been with us since the 1990’s when we started on non suspension steel frame bikes and have now progressed, or regressed, to full suspension E-bikes.

But that’s not the only things I do. I carry the tripod for Robyn because she has one of those damn heavy (non carbon fibre) tripods for her camera. I was in camel mode recently with tripod, camera and heavy lens when a guy walks up to me and starts asking about focal lengths and full frame or cropped sensors. I told him I had no idea and was only carrying the thing around to look important and impress the ladies. He looked at me, said nothing and left.

We like finding beaches to explore. This beach is around 5 kilometres of sand between two rocky headlands and we enjoyed the sunset view from the top of the sand dune.

We thought we were the only people for miles around, until a couple and dog sauntered along the beach. Oh well, that made 4 of us on the 5 km of beach.

Sometimes our interest is finding a different view of the everyday things we see.

The boat that is anchored in the bay …

The abstracts of nature. A night walk in the forest.

As well as a different view of a prominent marker.

When we are home there are experiments with “still life”. Is this the beginning of Armageddon where the Daleks conquer Earth or Robyn playing silly buggers with my salt and pepper shakers encased in ice ?

Time to move on to the next adventure. Leaving the Limestone Coast of Southern Australia and heading north to paddle on Spencer Gulf followed by a visit to the Willowie Forest Mountain Bike Park.

Ian and Robyn

Local Appreciation

There was a lot to Appreciate today. I was that lucky guy who was given a large dose of Covid for Xmas meaning I didn’t see Xmas or New Years eve festivities. I had been instructed to return to activity carefully and not stress my system. Yes of course I will do exactly that, although I neglected to mention that I had a short session in my playboat least week which resulted in a bit of regression.

It was a great day. I found a space in the beachside carpark, even though there was a school holidays (or school Horror Days) sailing class underway with a gaggle of parents milling about.

The weather was as forecast with the temperature around 30 degrees (C not F) and the sea calm. I launched quickly with the promise of a little over an hour on the local coastline. The first kilometre was great with breathing easy and heart rate under control. The second kilometre not so good as I could feel a distinct lack of fitness. I slowed somewhat and decided on a very gentle pace for the next 5 kilomteres so that I could enjoy the surroundings.

Cirrus clouds were sweeping across the sky, filtering the sun, the sea and horizon blending together.

The water was crystal clear as I nudged the kayak bow close to the rocks along the shore.

You can see the coastal walk which is steep in places. I have never counted the steps but there are a lot of them. Luckily the walk links coffee shops at Merino Rocks and Hallett Cove where one can recuperate for the return journey.

I had time to say hello to the Cormorants and Seagulls who had been resting on the shoreline after fishing for breakfast.

The professional fisherman were working hard casting for squid. This guy is almost a permanent fixture on the coast. If the wind is under 25 knots you will see him plying his trade.

I plodded along Appreciating the coastline and how lucky I was to have it as my local paddling spot. In future I will make a point of slowing down and taking in the view instead of focusing on my smart watch vibrating my time per kilometre. I was not the only one enjoying the morning, although some seemed a little hesitant to jump in.

My day of Local Appreciation left me feeling happy to be alive, however, my body was telling me it needed a nice coffee and a long nap. Luckily Robyn was able to steer me to a beachside coffee spot for a 3 shot latte and thick raisin toast. I would take care of the nap later.

Hope you have a great week.

Back to Work in 2023

Go on, get back to work you mob. Stop clogging up the cafes and bars during the day and creating traffic chaos at the local beaches. Get back to your office, or more likely your home work station, if you are trying to avoid Covid 19. Stop scaring the dolphins and us older generation with your stinky, noisy jet skis and fishing boats. Free the beaches from your gaggle of kids, dogs and sand castles.

Leave it for us retired folk to enjoy, and enjoy it we did today with a little bit of surf play.