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.

A small window

I never saw Spring. Maybe it had more pressing engagements elsewhere. None of those lovely Spring days with the sun shining and the temperature starting to show signs of what’s to come. No watching warm red sunsets with a favourite beverage. No sunburnt nose from forgotten sunscreen. No need to check your kayak for spiders lurking under the seat. No need to have a hat for every occasion.

None of that.
We had water. Not the type you paddle on, but the type that comes in bucket loads, drenching everything and everyone. The type that causes massive flooding river systems, inundates whole towns and livelihoods. With the rain comes the wind; howling, screaming, terrorising wind that wipes out all in it’s path.

Gum trees snapped at the trunk
The road was passable as the level dropped

Luck was on our side as we sheltered from flooding rains in the Australian “outback”. We reached a bitumen road that headed south towards home, our path flooded in many places. I had the kayak on the car roof but fortunately the creek systems fell just as quickly as they rose.

Summer was closing fast and finally a small Spring weather window opened. Not enough time to get in any substantial sea kayaking journeys but long enough to fit in a little surf play.

Summer will come, the waves will be clean and uncrowded, the sea kayaking perfect with pods of dolphins, the water crystal clear for snorkeling and the mountain bike tracks dry, running smooth and fast.

Dreams are free. In reality I take every FUN I wave I can and here’s a few I took today before the wind reappeared

Steve gets last minute instructions from Philip’s labrador.
You have to earn your wave FUN
Steve gets a small FUN wave
This could get a bit crowded
Fast and Clean

A Desert paddle

It was a cold night; a freezing cold night. I peered out but it was so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The clouds cleared and the Milky Way made an appearance in the night sky. With no lights and the moon not rising until 2am it was a stunning display in the desert night sky. I thought of getting up and trying a night sky photo but quickly dismissed that idea.

The morning light woke us and illuminated the houses of Beltana, a small town in northern South Australia. The town is Heritage listed and the buildings have been restored by the residents and we had been camping near the Community Hall.

Another beautiful morning in Beltana. There are many houses now restored and occupied.

This is a land of contrasts with red earth plains and rugged ranges. When it does rain here it has a huge impact not only greening the landscape but also scouring the water courses with flash floods. Old railway bridges still survive as they were built high above the river bed.

Red dirt roads leading to the Ranges
Disused railway bridges high above the creek

We had come to paddle the Aroona Dam, a body of water that was originally built to supply the mining town of Leigh Creek. A rocky vehicle track leads to the dam wall and spillway which has seen overflows in recent weeks.

You need to portage to get to the launch spot down an interesting track, rocky, narrow and washed away in parts from recent flood inflows but we managed, picking our way down to the water.

Once on the water we enjoyed the company of various water birds including a variety of ducks and a lone pelican.

This one was far from home. Probably following the creeks towards Lake Eyre which is also filling with water.

We had been trying to photograph the native Tortoises that are abundant in the dam. They would pop up their head next to us then disappear at lightning speed. These slippery little suckers were going to be a challenge to add to our photographic collection. (Later we walked along a nearby ridge and saw tortoises sunning on the surface but the camera was in the car)

A number of Wallabies watched us from vantage points along the shoreline seemingly unperturbed by the kayak and camera. This is an area inhabited by Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies and we saw some on our drive in, but none around the dam.

The rock formations are stunning, even more so at water level. Here’s a few photos that hopefully give you an idea of the rugged beauty of this desert waterway.

Robyn always manages to get in the photo
Looking towards the dam wall
Steep rock faces are a feature of the area

We spent a morning paddling, drifting, watching the wildlife and enjoying the sun. We hope you get out and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather and maybe the freezing desert nights.

Ian and Robyn