The wind seemed to have increased again or was it my imagination, or just fatigue. I could see another green wave building on my right side and sure enough it broke over my head and washed me 20 metres sideways, whilst I held a desperate support stroke. Was that the 10th or 12th time that had happened, I decided to stop counting. I was out here alone and this was supposed to be fun or at least character building.
The day had started with an ominous covering of grey cloud and the wind hovering above 15knots. I reasoned that I would have a 7km paddle across the open bay paddling parallel to the created swell. It sort of worked that way, except I way pushed in an arc by the wind and current. It took 1.5 hours to reach the next headland where I was to change direction and pick up a quartering tail wind and flooding tide. Unfortunately, the wind switched more to the East, making it from my side again and even worse a slight headwind. A couple of dolphins dropped in for a chat and stayed a while but tired of my slow pace they zapped off ahead.
Only another 15km or so of this I thought and it probably won’t get worse; but of course it did. The 14km run along the coast was bordered by 7km of remote sandy beach and 7km of rocky cliffs. The beach section was bad enough, with steep cresting waves but the cliffs sent rebounding clapatis waves back towards me, so the kayak was constantly in motion, up, down and sometimes forward as I executed about 2 gazillion support strokes. Absolutely no chance of photos today.
Rounding a small headland I spotted Lipson Island from the crest of a wave and gauged it to be 3 km away. Knowing sanctuary awaited I increased my stroke rate, concentrated on technique and forward power. With the tide in full flood I could slip through the channel between the beach and island where Robyn was meeting me and with a little lucky maneuvering I missed all of the reef and landed on white sand.
Paddling solo was something I hadn’t done for many years as there had always been lots of fellow paddlers. However, this time they had other commitments or maybe better judgement. It certainly sharpens the senses and gives you time to think about what the hell you’re doing out here while everyone else is enjoying coffee and conversation in a café.
The paddle had started well, leaving Port Lincoln on Spencer Gulf, with a modest tail wind and a 12km crossing past Boston Island. A bit of a sloppy ride but a nice day “on the paddle” passing the shipping channel used by large grain carriers and skirting the fish farms anchored in the bay. The 24km was only interrupted by a pod of dolphins showing me their surfing and acrobatic skills.
Louth Island passed and soon I was cruising into the shelter of Louth Bay which was protected by the resident Osprey whom I named “Scuffy”. Again, Robyn was there on the cliff to direct me to the best landing spot.
I had various species of gulls soar past me when off shore and when coming ashore I was always greeted by a gaggle of cormorants who took off in all directions, including straight at me.
At night the wind abated and I sat on the beach having a Skype call with friends Matt and Katrin in Germany, whilst enjoying a well-earned beer. I watched the moon rise reflected on the now calm water and hoped for calm winds in the morning. I promised them a photo of the moonrise so here they are.
The next morning my prayers were answered with a slight tail wind and smooth-ish seas so the kayak sail was deployed for a lovely 3 hour paddle into Tumby Bay township.
Whilst I was on the water Robyn was investigating the coastal walking trails and photo opportunities. She captured some of the rock formations along the coast.
She had also become a regular at the Tumby Bay bakery. Robyn and her friend Ann were delighted to enjoy a coffee with holidaying celebrity Mr Billy Connelly and even had their photo taken to prove it.
I had a great experience, although the increasing wind meant that I didn’t reach my 100km solo paddling goal, but I came across some new paddlers. I met Peter in Tumby Bay who is starting his experimentation with a Greenland style paddle and Dave who is about to join the sea kayaking fraternity, so hopefully next time they can come along with Dennis the veteran paddler of the region.
Paddling Solo. A great experience that sharpens the senses. The feeling of being alone is daunting when you are in a challenging environment but the joy of knowing that you were the only person to chat with that dolphin, watch that bird soaring above or yell at the bloody wind is sort of special.
Solo also means careful preparation. Check, recheck and check again all your gear and navigation. Have confidence in your own ability and above all remember it’s fun, even when it isn’t .
Ian and Robyn.