Silver Schoolies

I lay in bed keeping warm as the first rays of light appeared over the bay. I could hear that the wind had not abated from the 25+ knots it had been all night, however it was forecast to drop in the next few hours.

The normally protected bay was full of whitecaps

It’s been a strange week of weather with the prevailing wind from the NW which meant the normally sheltered bay and coastline of Pt Turton and Harwicke Bay on Yorke Peninsula, have been a mass of whitecaps and confused seas. We hoped to get out for at least a short kayak down the rocky coastline towards Pt Souttar, so it was unload the kayak and wait for the wind to abate.

Even the dolphins had taken refuge in the marina.

The local dolphin pod is normally seen well offshore but today they were lazing in the marina

We launched in the lee of the marina and made our way southward along the coast. The wind had dropped a lot but was still enough to create a confused sea close to the rocks.

An easy launch on the sandy beach

Cormorants finding a protected place

Sneaking along the rock wall

Gavin our newly appointed Paddlingsouth Sommelier powering along

Hugging the coastline

Soon we had the force of the wind to contend with

We came across the local swimming pool, although at present it was well under water as the tide was driven high up on the beach by the wind. I don’t think we will see many swimmers here today.

The swimming pool has disappeared under the waves

We paddled on until it became a bit of a slog as the wind increased and we then turned for home. The short wind chop combined with clapatis made for quick support strokes when trying to take photos, otherwise I could have been the first swimmer of the day.

Next day the wind again reached 25 knots making for a day of land based activities. We decided to ride our Fatbikes along the beach to the tiny township of Hardwicke Bay, hoping the local store to be open. The sand was hard packed and the tail wind made for excellent progress as we bounced the 15 km around the bay. The local store provided us with coffee and muffins, which gave our butts a rest and gave the wind a chance to increase to another level.

Watching the whitecaps streak across the bay we decided that our easiest route home would be to follow the road behind the sand dunes where we should find some wind protection. Things started off fine for the first few kilometers, until the wind changed direction and increased again. Quite a novel experience being blown sideways off the road by the gusts, with Robyn suffering the most occurrences and Gavin the least, maybe due to weight differences, or was it just skill. After over 30 km of hard riding we hit the last downhill into camp and a well deserved icecream.

November in Pt Turton normally brings great weather as well as lots of Silver Schoolies ! We had first seen some of this group when we rode into Pt Turton on our “Walk the Yorke” bike tour and again a year later.

Wikipedia gives an insight to Schoolies. 
Schoolies or schoolies week refers to the Australian tradition of high-school graduates having week-long holiday following the end of their final exams in November. Schoolies week is seen as a final party with schoolmates before they head their separate ways.

Silver Schoolies are much much older revelers having a week long holiday, just because they can.

They sure know how to celebrate and get together daily for strange activities and from what I could see consuming a variety of beverages. Apparently it is obligatory not to act your age and partake in as many crazy sports as possible. Of course we joined in some of the fun.

Apparently dressing up is just part of the fun

Now that’s what I call a glass of wine. No mucking around with this gal.

The first event on the card was a horse race with horse supplied. You all start on the line and throw a huge dice and pace out the number on the dice.

Our Sommelier took time out from wine tasting to join the first Horse Racing event

Talk about come prepared. She bought her own horse !!

I think this is what they term “riding hands and heels”.

Apparently this is normal attire for the Caravan Park manager

After the winners and losers were sorted out it was on with a huge BBQ lunch and of course a variety of beverages.

The festivities continued all week with unusual events. We witnessed a paper aeroplane competition judged first for accuracy and then distance.

Janet gets in a big throw in the distance event. She credited her success “with having her tongue at the right angle”

Alan was certainly “Best Dressed”. Reminded me of a circus ring master, but in shorts !!

So if your in the vicinity during that week in November and see some odd sights, don’t panic it’s only “Silver Schoolies” at play.  In fact why not join in the activities and stay at the Caravan Park.

One fact that may interest you is that the pharmacy in a near town reported a ten fold increase in prescriptions for blood pressure and cholesterol medication and yes you guessed it, Viagra.

 

The DnA of Paddling Energy

Paddling requires two types of energy. Firstly the energy to propel the kayak which in classical mechanics, is called Kinetic energy (KE) . Then there is Mental energy, that undefined force that gets you up on cold mornings to keep training for an event or powers you to a destination.

But what is the DnA of Paddling Energy ? On our travels we called into Tumby Bay on South Australia’s  Eyre Peninsula and caught a glimpse of this undefined mental energy. In our working life we had a mature age customer who regularly called in after his kayak training, entertaining us with his infectious energy and in the small town of Tumby Bay we found him again.

It’s not DNA but D’n’A. Dennis ‘n’ Ann Peck. They both exude a sort of energy that combined can achieve anything. I paddled with Dennis around Tumby Bay, a place he loves, and enjoyed the running commentary.

Dinosaur Rock. Well you need quite a bit of imagination for this one.

Sea Lions abound along this coast maybe due to the Tuna Fishing Industry not far away

Black faced Cormorants are used to Dennis chatting to them as he passes.

An Osprey nest. Unfortunately the resident flew off before I could raise my camera.

The wind and ocean has sculpted the limestone cliffs into interesting shapes.

There are sharp rocks protruding everywhere just waiting for the unwary paddler.

Dennis competes in kayaking sprints and marathons as well as athletics in the Australian and State Masters Games.

He laughs when he tells you that his ambition is not only to win, but to set national and state records. Then he explains that there are not a lot of competitors left in his age group. This year he turns 85.

We were lucky to spend time with Ann as well at their cottage home overlooking the coast. An amazing place which they both built from local stone. Ann is the steering force and organiser behind Dennis as well as being a powerful artistic person in her own right.

Let’s just say that any couple that built a Boules and Finskas court in their front yard tend to be competitive, but in a good way. After being thrashed at Boules we were introduced to the game of Finskas, an addictive log throwing game, where the aim is to score exactly 50 points. Set up the pins, place the box five metres away and start throwing. A competitive game of skill in which we were soundly beaten.

Dennis shows his prowess with the opening toss at Finskas

After “the games” came a great meal, a few wines and a comforting fire.

Dennis Peck. Powered by Guinness stout I believe.

If you’re in Tumby Bay anytime look out for Dennis out paddling and Ann power walking the beach.

Cheers
Ian and Robyn (the travellers)

 

 

 

Michael versus the Mighty Murray River

Michael Steele, one of our long time paddling partners has always talked about paddling the Murray River. At 2508km it’s Australia’s longest river and flows through 3 Australian states.

It’s been done hundreds, if not thousands of times, in all sorts of craft, from paddle steamers and row boats to canoes and kayaks. Some people have even swum the distance, but Michael is looking for a record performance.

He’s not worried about the fastest time, oldest paddler or any such nonsense. He’s trying to set a meaningful record for someone his age, by recording the most number of Lawn Bowls games played, whilst paddling the River Murray in a kayak. Michael is an avid lawn bowler and intends to “have a roll” on every bowling green he sees.

I have seen photos of Michael climbing a glacier, paddling oceans, walking the Kokoda Track and climbing mountains so Lawn Bowls shouldn’t be a problem.

A kayak, a Lawn Bowler, the mighty Murray River; what could possibly go wrong ?

Fast and Clean

I started my paddling career watching films of heroic paddling exploits on unknown white water rivers. In those days  the term “16mm film” was something everyone understood and many paddlers had at least an 8mm camera. They gave way to VHS tapes and DVD’s over the years and now there is an avalanche of kayaking footage on social media.

“Fast and Clean” was one of the early films available documenting the 1979 Whitewater World Titles and a great showcase for the paddlers, styles and equipment of the day. Worth a look even today if only for the fashions both on and off the water. See the link at bottom of page and find a nice comfortable chair to watch this 36 minute masterpiece. Maybe cast it to your smart TV for best viewing. There’s also a Trivia Quiz for viewers. You might also look up Director Russ Nichols to see his other works from that era.

It was an inspiration watching slalom paddlers in action and it spurred me on to paddle a couple of novice slalom competitions in Victoria, which was a mere 1600km round trip on a weekend. I think the long drive and the fact that I wasn’t any good, led me to look further afield in the kayaking realm to get my kicks. It’s probably why I started kayak surfing along our local coast and have spent much of my life sea kayaking and dabbling in other disciplines.

“Fast and Clean” it might have been then but nearly 40 years later it sort of “Slow and Grotty”. We still love the surf and take any opportunity to get out there in just about anything that floats.

So on the first day of Winter we found a rather Grotty looking wave and managed lots of slow rides. Any excuse to get out there and have some fun.

It wasn’t that big at times but Steve made the most of any wave

Steve used the small waves to find his limits

Steve found his limits a number of times. This time trying to perfect his back loop…Failed

Ian is enjoying himself or is he madly waving because he just saw a shark ?

Things happen when old paddlers get together in the surf. They play “Roller Surf”, gaining points if you can make the other paddler roll. The game begins when all are on the water and ends with the first serious injury or new drowning experience. It keeps everyone on their toes and looking over their shoulder !!

Ian scores a point on Steve

Michael reckons he’s on a winner with possible double points

Michael takes a small wave

Finds the bow disappearing

Then does a disappearing act of his own

Rodney “its my Birthday” Biggs slides another one right

Gets in a bit of a pickle

Inspects the bottom for a while

And then rolls back up with just enough breath left to blow out the candles on his Birthday cake

Well that was our first day of Winter. Hope you enjoyed yours as much.

And here’s  Fast and Clean. Thanks to Roy Farrance of Canoes Plus in Victoria who found the film for me. Roy was also the coach and organiser of those Novice Slalom events I attended, which just proves there are people older than me. Roy never slows up and is currently at the 2018 ICF Canoe Wildwater World Championships Muotathal Switzerland along with competitor Dita Pahl. Dita coaches and competes for the Canoe Plus Racing Team and is representing Australia. GO DITA 🙂

And our Trivia Quiz questions.

  1. Describe Australian Team special marching style
  2. What happened to the Australian C1 paddler
  3. Who was the now famous Kayak Educator paddling C1
  4. What river was the USA trials held on
  5. Name a K1 model being paddled
  6. Name a C1 model being paddled
  7. Name 3 paddle manufacturers you saw

Cheers and have a great Winter (or Summer if your in the other half of the world)…..Ian Pope

Anzac Day. A day to remember.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping …
Having paddled with a number of veterans and those currently serving in recent years, I  have a great respect for the sacrifices that have been made in the past.
However, as this next piece shows, it was not always a day that I remembered.

“I know that voice”
It was 4 am on a Sunday morning and I could hardly hear the alarm for the beating of the rain on our little cottages’ roof. The wind howled through the trees outside as I clobbered the alarm and fell back into a half sleep.

The last couple of weeks had been poor weather with weak cold fronts constantly passing through South Australia bringing drizzly cool days, and today was no exception with showers expected for most of the day.

I realised that Gavin and Michael would be here soon and contemplated just a few more minutes in bed. I thought they know that I am always late, but then Gavin is always early so I slowly dragged myself from the warm bed.

The mountain of gear stacked neatly in the hallway needed only the last minute additions of fully charged camera batteries and such like, which I dutifully attended to, crossing off each item off my list. All ready to go, just as I heard Gavin’s car pull up out the front. Gavin bowled in, looking just like someone who is always awake before five, which of course he is, followed by Michael who hasn’t seen this time of darkness since our last trip.

The gear was loaded and I found that Michael has claimed the backseat for the trip and I had the duty of riding in the front with Gavin, ensuring that he was awake during the drive. How anyone can stay awake listening to ABC Radio at that time of the morning is beyond me, but duty called.

Sombre music, then marching bands: hell what was this stuff he was listening to? We passed along the foggy highway out of Adelaide to the tunes of the 127 th District marching band or some such mob, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to take eight hours of this.

Passing through Tailem Bend I realised what was happening. It was Anzac Day.

There was a group of 200 or so people gathered at the park, with many spilling onto the roadway, forcing us to crawl past. I remembered back to my only time of being at an Anzac Day dawn service, when I must have been about 10 years old. I vividly remember the service being held in a local park in Parkside where I grew up, but can’t remember who I went with, or what happened afterwards. Just the short service and the music.

Sunday morning on ABC radio is Macca in the morning. I listened to the introductions and then vagued out while staring at the unchanging landscape of the mallee country. Macca had people ringing in to recount their views and memories of Anzac day.

As I rolled along in the front seat, listening to Michael’s snoring in the back I heard a woman’s voice saying that she had just come from a dawn service held with her husband and only one other person. It was a Tasmanian accent, quite distinctive but pleasant to listen to. Sounded in her late 40s or thereabouts, well spoken and confident. I didn’t hear where she was from, assumed Tasmania, but she was talking about their dawn service held on the top of a hill at the site where four RAAF flyers had died in a crash near the end of the war. They had been on a training run or similar and had engine problems resulting in the crash. The bodies had been buried elsewhere but there was still the scattered remains of plane where a small memorial was erected. She spoke of the isolated area that they from, describing the wallabies on the hill and sea views from her kitchen window. Sounded like a great place to me…

Then off we headed. Victoria to Tasmania by sea kayak.

Gavin, Michael and I stood at the base of the cliff, on the tiny windswept beach, looking up at the zig zag track that leads to the lighthouse keeper’s cottage. We had had a long hard day, crossing from Hogan Island to Deal Island, with lightning greeting us just before our dawn departure. The wind was OK before dawn but talking by phone to the duty forecaster in Tasmania I knew that we had only a few hours to get off the island or be there for some time.

The winds had risen later in the morning as we sailed and paddled our way to Deal Island in the Kent Group. Rising wind and rising seas had made for a rough ride, with worse on the way. We paddled strongly knowing that the sanctuary was only a couple of hours away, however the front grew closer with steadily increasing force. Rising seas and wind from the rear quarter made for interesting times. We eventually made shelter in the lee of Erith Island with a 40kn headwind screaming towards us as the main front hit.
The paddle along the Murray Passage was demanding with the wind coming head on between the Islands, as Michael powered past us determined to land first. Maybe he was just glad to be near a safe haven after having suffered two capsizes whilst sailing that morning, or maybe the lure of a cup of tea and Mars bars had scrambled his brain. He is a legend in the world of chocolate bars, carrying large packets of Mars Bars and the like when we go paddling. Still, you can’t complain when he insists on sharing them out after paddling, but I still think that anyone who calls them carrots is still a little unusual.

We set off fully equipped for the climb up the Deal Island path with extra supplies of Mars Bars and Snickers stuffed in our pockets. Half way up the path we paused briefly to admire the view and call in to our families. The surprise of the caretaker was evident when we strolled up to the cottage, certainly not expecting paddlers in this weather, but as always we were invited in for tea and scones.

It was unsafe to proceed to the campsite and hut on Erith Island so we were able to bed down in the spare cottage on Deal. We had the opportunity of a hot shower and a real bed and that was not to be knocked back. A quick shower and change of clothes and up to the caretaker’s for high tea.

We entered the cosy warm cottage and met our hosts Dallas and Shirley. They are caretakers on the island for three months at a time, with this being their second time here.

Bloody hell, I know that voice!, the soft but distinct  accent coming from the kitchen sounded familiar, but I didn’t recognise the face. Shirley plied us with scones with jam and cream and tea, while I thought about where I knew her from.

When talking to Dallas about the awful weather heading our way it came to me. Have you been on the radio lately? “Yes, twice on the ABC talking about Deal Island”. Did you have an Anzac dawn service here? “Yes just three of us, up near where the plane crash site”. It was her, the voice on the radio that cold rainy Anzac morning. Strange things seem to happen when you go paddling.

We were marooned on Deal Island for eight days waiting for the weather to moderate. The winds stayed at around 60 kn for most of that time with huge seas battering the island group. We did wallaby musters, helped other blow-ins and had many other adventures in those eight days and many more on that 19 day crossing of Bass Strait.

Deal Island looking towards Erith and Dover Islands

Deal Island looking towards Erith and Dover Islands

Now every Anzac Day not only do I remember those who fought in our wars but I think of that lonely crash site on that lonely little island.
Ian Pope