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

Let’s take the BIG BOAT today

It was a calm Autumn night, although a little warmer than expected as I laid in my sleeping bag on the beach. The three of us were scattered around trying to get a few hours sleep before our pre-dawn departure. I shut off the phone alarm and checked the latest weather forecast which confirmed calm conditions for today and a light tailwind for tomorrow. Perfect conditions for Steve’s first 20 km open water crossing of Investigator Strait to Kangaroo Island.

Michael, Steve and I stuffed our kayaks with gear and posed for a photo on the beach.

All ready at the Ferry Terminal – Cape Jervis

Steve was determined to get a photo with the three of us in,  which was not an easy task given the darkness but he succeeded.

That’s us… L to R    Steve, Ian and Michael

Then it was on the water to clear Cape Jervis before the sun rose. The first couple of kilometers were perfect conditions with almost glassy calm water and the sun peeking through the clouds. We had checked and double checked the forecasts as there was a strange cloud formation over the island, but all seemed perfect including our speed which was over 8km/hr.

Calm conditions as the sun came up

It wasn’t long before we felt a gentle headwind spring up and not much longer before it increased, but our speed was good given the tidal assistance and the laden kayaks easily handled the conditions.

The headwind was increasing creating a confused sea due to the wind against tide

We kept an eye out for traffic as we crossed the shipping channel and this one passed well behind us.

Missed us by a mile

After 3 hours of paddling into the headwind we rested in the wind shadow of the high cliffs of Kangaroo Island, just east of Cuttlefish Bay, with Steve very happy with his first crossing.

Great coastal scenery for the next few kilometers

It was then onto our campsite in Antechamber Bay close to the Chapman River.

Out of the wind but not the rain

The good weather didn’t last long with heavy rain setting in for most of the day and night. Still we were prepared with shelter and a good bottle of McLaren Vale red wine kindly supplied by Steve.

A good end to the day

Next morning the rain subsided to occasional light showers as we headed west, hugging the coast to keep out of the wind. The sun occasionally broke through the clouds lighting up patches of the calm waters in Antechamber Bay.

The sun was still shining….well sometimes it was

The forecast wasn’t good with a strong wind warning being issued for Investigator Strait and surrounding areas. The prospect of 20-30 knot winds was not pleasant so we hugged the coast and dropped in on the local wildlife.

Calm water as we paddled out from the shelter of Antechamber Bay

The end of shelter in the bay was near

This is a stunning coastline with large tracts of natural vegetation

Sea Lions came out to play around the kayaks. Maybe they were the smart ones being ashore for the day

After a 3 hour stretch” on the paddle” we rounded into Hog Bay ……

We arrived just before the storm hit Hog Bay

….and waited to board the “BIG BOAT” that would take us home.

The Sea Link ferry

We quickly organised fares and climbed aboard, sandwiched between cars.

Safe and sound on the car ferry

I have been paddling this stretch of water since the early 1980’s and it’s different every time. Not only was it Steve’s first crossing of the Strait but the first time Michael and  I had come back with our kayaks on the ferry. Another great adventure paddling the coast of South Australia.

Michael

Ian

Steve

Gone with the wind

Our cunning plan was to paddle to Kangaroo Island for the weekend and explore the camping and photo options on the Chapman River. This would mean a crossing of the notorious Backstairs Passage which I had done countless times, but for Steve it would be his first trip. However, it seems that Euros the god of the South East wind was looking over our shoulder again and our plan would be “gone with the wind”.

After our windy experiences on a recent trip we activated Plan B. Instead of an 18km crossing each way we decided on a 77km down wind paddle from Cape Jervis to Steves’ home beach of Christies Beach, Adelaide.

Steve all packed and ready to go

Steve all packed and ready to go

With the wind around 20-25kn in Backstairs Passage we could hardly make out features on the island.

It was calm in the marina but we knew that the winds were around 20kn and increasing on Backstairs Passage

It was calm in the marina but we knew that the winds were around 20kn and increasing on Backstairs Passage

We were able to sneak out around the marina into Gulf St Vincent hugging the coast where the effects of the wind were greatly reduced, but still enough to give us a wet ride. We planned to keep in close to the cliffs as the SE wind would sheer over the top of the cliffs giving us calm water at the cliff base.

It's this way along the coast

It’s this way along the coast

All set for a wet ride home

All set for a wet ride home

We negotiated the first couple of kilometers past Morgans beach and Starfish Hill until we reached the base of the cliff line. We were then able to hug in close out of the wind and enjoy the scenery towering over us as well as the seabed in crystal clear water.

Nice easy paddling

Nice easy paddling

I was able to get in a little kayak sailing practice with a fully laden boat, something I haven’t done for a while. I’m not sure Steve really appreciated me zig zagging around him, giving him a quick history and geography lesson as I passed, but it did allow for a couple of photos.

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A very relaxed sail as we kept inshore out of the wind

I never tire of this stunning coastline with its cliff plunging straight into the clear water or the small caves and fissures that abound as well as the wildlife that plays here.

Investigating a small cove

Investigating a small cove

Steve the photographer

Steve the photographer

Steve was always among the rocks

Steve was always among the rocks

Do not disturb

Do not disturb

Sea lions played around us

Sea lions played around us

It was hard to get them to stay still for a photo

It was hard to get them to stay still for a photo

Not interested in our passing

Not interested in our passing

Our destination was Normanville where we camped at the local Caravan Park. A nice place to spend the night and there is even a small cafe operating by the jetty.

Next morning the forecast was again winds 20kn SE strengthening to 25-30kn during the day. We launched in the calmer Normanville bay with Steve telling me that having a kayak sail was definitely not “playing fair”.

Not playing fair

Not playing fair

Perfect sailing weather

Perfect sailing weather

We took advantage of the slightly calmer conditions inshore until we reached the cliffs at Carrickalinga where we again hugged the cliff base.

Lolling around in a protected inlet

Lolling around in a protected inlet

Again we were treated to clear water and high cliffs as we slowed to investigate many rocky inlets.

Second Valley ahead

 

Lots of small caves and fissures along the way

Lots of small caves and fissures along the way

Strange rock formations

Jumbled rock formations

Calm water in the cove

Calm water in the cove

As we reached the bluff before Myponga Beach we swung to seaward plotting a course across several kilometers of open water that would see us land at Christies Beach, where we had arranged a pick up. I’m afraid I didn’t have the opportunity to take photos as I was too busy controlling the kayak under sail. I was able to catch waves and often saw the GPS clock 16km/ hr, before being buried into the wave in front.

As the wind increased I had to drop the sail partly because it was getting a little hairy, but mostly because I was  unable to stay in contact with Steve. From there on it was a large wind driven following sea that gave us lots of fun as it sped us towards home.

We had paddled and sailed some amazing coastline covering 77km in 2 days with an average speed of 7km/hr which included lots of time playing along the way. Steves’ first crossing to Kangaroo Island will have to wait until another day.

Happy paddling (and sailing)

Ian                                                     Steve

ian smurf crop (2)

king

 

 

 

Starfish Point

Travelling the west coast of South Australia we sometimes heard local legends about the landscape or the sea. One local legend tells of a point where starfish seem to come together in the last months of summer, much like the aggregation of Cuttlefish at Point Lowly in winter. The idea of having starfish in large numbers seemed odd at first but we decided to check out the area for a likely point of land.

With a rough idea of the area we started our search on foot plodding along the deserted beaches that are covered in shells in all stages of disintegration.

It was a nice day for a walk along the long stretches of deserted beaches and allowed us time to do a little beachcombing

It was a nice day for a walk along the long stretches of deserted beaches and allowed us time to do a little beach combing

The beaches were seperated by limestone headlands that afforded a great view of the coastline

The beaches were separated by limestone headlands that afforded a great view of the coastline

As we had no luck in the general vicinity of our campsite we took to the water to check a number of points and bays along the coast. You can see our campsite on the cliffs in the centre of the photo, which made a perfect spot to admire the view at the end of a long day, whilst enjoying a cold beer.

Our campsite on the cliffs with our own beach

Our campsite on the cliffs with our own beach

Another cove to check out

Another cove to check out

We even tried asking a couple of locals along the way but they seemed more interested in playing in the waves than helping in our quest.

NZ fur seals playing around the kayaks

NZ fur seals playing around the kayaks

Looks like a lot of fun

Looks like the dolphins were having a lot of fun

Everyone on the wave

Everyone on the wave

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We spent hours paddling along the coastline and although it was an incredibly enjoyable pastime, we had no luck in our search. We were buzzed by the local dolphin pods out fishing and had young dolphins play around under our kayaks, but they were too quick for my camera.

Back at camp, Robyn had stern words with 3 “banditos” who she caught stealing carrots, but they too remained silent on the location. They stayed around our camp for days and we would often find them sitting on our doorstep in the morning.

The 3 Banditos often dropped into the camp

The 3 Banditos often dropped into the camp

Our next task was to extend the search a little wider by using our Fatbikes to cover more distance along the beaches. This meant a trek up some sandy tracks and dunes before going cross country to the beach. With the tyre pressure at 6psi it was possible to ride most of the track but sometimes we sank in the fine sand and had to push the bike.

Sometimes the sand was too soft and we had to push

Sometimes the sand was too soft and we had to push

It was cross country from the tracks until we came to the beach

It was cross country from the tracks until we came to the beach

The rewards were some stunning views across the ocean

The rewards were some stunning views across the ocean

Ready to ride another sweeping bay

Ready to ride another sweeping bay

Time for a rest

Time for a rest

Unfortunately our search was unsuccessful, so we decided on one last effort to locate Starfish Point. We visited a few spots  that we had thought less likely to harbor a carpet of starfish.

The points were very rugged and the swell was making them very dangerous even from the shore.

The rocks gave us a great vantage point

The rocks gave us a great vantage point

We realised it was not a safe place to be when a wave crashed over rocks

We realised it was not a safe place to be when a wave crashed over rocks

The bays and surrounding country are stunningly beautiful and certainly worth the effort of visiting.

Sweeping bays bordered by sand dunes

Sweeping bays bordered by sand dunes

Stunning sand dunes with varying shades of colour

Stunning sand dunes with varying shades of colour

San dunes with the contrasting afternoon sky

Sand dunes with the contrasting afternoon sky

We were exploring along a protected rocky point when Robyn spotted flashes of red in the water. We climbed down as far as was safe and found starfish dotted every meter around the point. Unfortunately the conditions were not the best for photography but I will bring my snorkeling gear next time.

Starfish dotted the sea floor

Starfish dotted the sea floor

Maybe it wasn’t just a local legend talked about in the country pub but a real Starfish Point whose location will continue to remain a secret.

 

Venus and other Gods

Venus is the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty, among other things, and we have been wandering along a coastline that we certainly Love. Its’ Beauty is in the rugged cliffs and sandy bays that dot the landscape along the western coast of South Australia.

Unfortunately Venus was travelling with Euros the God of the South East Wind and he was displaying his might. For several days now it has blown too strong for us mere mortal kayak paddlers to venture out into Venus Bay and then out into the open Southern Ocean.

Even the locals stayed ashore today. This was inside the calm bay and you can see the whitecaps on the water

Even the locals stayed ashore today. This was inside the calm bay and you can see the whitecaps on the water

Our plan had been to spend a couple of weeks exploring along the rugged coastline, visiting places that we had been before and exploring some new spots. The coastline between Venus Bay and Smoky Bay is especially beautiful from the water with a series of cliffs towering above and lots of small bays and inlets to explore. In the past we had spent many days paddling and swimming with dolphins and sea lions in Baird Bay as well as relaxing on other deserted beaches.

With the wind howling we couldn’t even get the kayaks off the roof of the car, let alone get to any offshore locations or even into the generally sheltered waters of Venus Bay.

Looking out towards the headlands of the protected Venus Bay

Looking out towards the headlands of the protected Venus Bay

So it was onto the FatBikes for some coastal fun around Venus Bay and across to Entrance Beach.

We jumped on the bikes and set off to explore along the coastal dunes

We jumped on the bikes and set off to explore along the coastal dunes

The sign says 4 wheel drive and we had 4 wheels so on we went

The sign says 4 wheel drive only and we had 4 wheels so on we went

After exploring around dunes we visited the Venus Bay Conservation Park which allowed us access to some wind swept but deserted beaches. The drive gets interesting when you reach the track over the and dunes.

You can just spot the kayaks on the roof of the car as we made our way along the track

You can just spot the kayaks on the roof of the car as we made our way along the track. The track is marked by posts as the track is lost in the sand

Robyn “the snake charmer” managed to have a chat with a good size brown snake who took off up the sand dune leaving only his “snake trail” in the sand. We didn’t follow.

Snake trails across the dune which were blown away within minutes

Snake trails across the dune which were blown away within minutes

This area is quite beautiful with views across Venus Bay.

Looking out towards the islands in the bay

Looking out towards the islands in the bay

We spent time sheltering out of the wind along with the local inhabitants.

Some of the locals sheltered with us on the beach

Some of the locals sheltered with us on the beach

The one paddle that I had really hoped to do was a visit to the “Dreadnoughts”, a group of bommies off the coast of Sceale Bay. On a paddle here 17 years ago, with a group of sea kayak instructors, we tried to weave our way through the breaks. Unsuccessfully I might add. The sea was calm and green as we admired a breaking bommie which soon turned to a wall of white foam when a set of rogue waves came through, cleaning up a couple of the group.

Today you wouldn’t want to be out there.

The photo doesnt do justice to the size of the waves as they extend right across the bay

The photo doesn’t do justice to the size of the waves as they extend right across the bay

We dropped into the once thriving town of Port Kenny. It had been a port serviced by the Mosquito Fleet of flat bottom boats that carted wheat and other goods from the towns along the coast, in the early 1900’s but sadly there are only a few houses and a pub left. There are remnants of previous travelers.

This was probably a very up-market model in its' day

This was probably a very up-market model in its’ day

We moved west in hope of better weather and camped at Smoky Bay. The wind still blew as we retired for the night.

We awoke to a hot and still morning. With no wind and clear blue skies we quickly unloaded the kayaks and paddled off to explore Smoky Bay.

A quick dip to cool off before heading out.

A quick dip to cool off before heading out.

Calm and very clear water ahead

Calm and very clear water ahead

Not a breath of wind and we were 2 km from shore

Not a breath of wind and we were 2 km from shore

We paddled for an hour or so to the other side of the bay where there are large numbers of oyster beds.

Oyster beds in the shallow waters of the bay

Oyster beds in the shallow waters of the bay

We saw Cirrus clouds streaking the sky as we turned for home. The wind again started to increase but  at least we had snuck in a good 2 hour paddle for about 900 km of travel and a week of waiting; still that’s sea kayaking for you.