The “Seal of Approval”

Another 38°C (100° F) day was forecast, just rounding out another week of heat. So what to do today ?. The last week had seen strong, hot winds blowing across the Adelaide Plains but today was different. NO wind or just a gentle breeze perhaps, so it was load up the kayak and hit the water.

And indeed there was NO wind or maybe just a wisp of a breeze, hardly enough to evaporate the sweat from the brow but perfect conditions combined with an extremely low tide to do a little exploring. The sky was overcast, covered with tropical layers swirling from the north. The horizon blended into the sky making an eerie landscape and the cliffs stood dark and quiet.

The water was crystal clear and you could easily pick out the bottom at 6 metres.

Crystal clear water

Crystal clear water

Clear water and steep cliffs

Clear water and steep cliffs

We explored a little along the rugged coastline.

Michael drifting along

Michael drifting along

Shaun exploring a small crevice

Shaun exploring a small crevice

This way is a bit squeezy in a Seaward Passat Double kayak

This entrance is a bit squeezy in a Seaward Passat Double kayak… but we manage

Steve in close inspection

Steve in close inspection

Shauna tries not to scratch the new kayak

Shauna tries not to scratch the new kayak

Whats around the corner ?

Whats around the corner ?

Clear waters

Clear waters

We drifted along a little, with no plans to be anywhere at any particular time.

Just floating

Just floating

The photographer

The photographer

….and we were not the only ones enjoying the day.

New Zealand Fur seals enjoying the calm waters

New Zealand Fur seals enjoying the calm waters


We are not alone. Three other kayaks also enjoying the day.

We are not alone. Three other kayaks also enjoying the day.

We got ourselves in a few tight places with the slightest of swells gently moving the kayaks in and out of rock crevices.

Shaun again and the crevices are getting smaller

Shaun again and the crevices are getting smaller

It was a great day on the water.

Calm waters

Calm waters

We just needed one more thing..and there he was ..the kayakers “Seal of Approval”.

The "Seal of Approval"

The “Seal of Approval”


Photos by Ian and Shauna

ian smurf crop (2)stick shauna





Kayak drifting by
Shaun                                 Steve                 Michael                     Robyn

jim2kingYogi bearRobyn


It was  one of those strange sort of days where you stand on the beach ready to launch, still unsure that the weather will behave. That strange bank of low cloud on the horizon, the headwind whipping up a small chop offshore and the thundery looking cumulus clouds to the east.

The winter has been cold and windy this year and we have had to cancel many planned kayak trips, instead spending the time on mountain bikes, (some of our photos are here and here) so we were looking forward to getting a couple of days on the water.

A check of the latest forecasts and current weather observations, for the next 2 days, was certainly within our limits, so it was “Westward Ho”. For Rodney and Steve it would be their first visit to the south western coast, with Ian having explored there many times over the years.


The first thing that we encountered was the possibility of paddling blind in a sea fog, because sure enough that low cloud was a sea fog rolling straight at us.


Luckily it just seemed to skirt around us, leaving us an easy passage, in a slight headwind, towards the exposed western side of Wardang Island. After a couple of hours paddling the wind did as predicted and moderated giving us a beautiful day of paddling along the coast.

We visited the local Pied Cormorant colony.



The thundery clouds passed us well to the east, making Rodney a happy boy.


The beauty of this area is definitely the seascapes and the exhilaration of paddling among the  jumble of jagged rocks, passing the graves of several ship wrecks. It’s hard to do the area justice with  just a “point and shoot camera”, bobbing around in a kayak but we hope you like our efforts.


There are always places you have to explore more closely.




Our lunch spot couldn’t have been more idyllic. A protected beach on a deserted island.


The afternoon light on sea stacks made for interesting effects.




Sometimes it looked like collapse was imminent…….


and other areas had long since collapsed.


Legend has it that munitions were stored here during WW2, although I have never climbed into the chamber to confirm.


We finished the day camped on a smaller island.


Watching the sunset whilst enjoying some classic Shiraz wines, from the McLaren Vale and Clare Valley wine regions, along with local cheese and olives and lots of other goodies. What could be better than that ?.




Next day the wind failed to cooperate, being head on all day. We explored more areas along the coast…..


….before heading across open water to check out Green Island. Locals say that 60 years ago a hermit lived on the island in a small house he had built from shell grit and cement blocks. The house is  still standing (just) and you can also see where he had built rock fish traps.


So we said farewell to the Pied Cormorants and started the headwind slog back to civilisation.

Paddlers and photographers.

Sir Rodneypope2









Rodney                               Ian                                        Steve


The beach perspective

The wind was picking up a little and the temperature had dropped a degree or two as I stood on the headland watching the wave sets roll in. I could see the low pressure front on the horizon and knew I probably had an hour or more before it hit. I really wanted to get out for a kayak surf but there was just that hint of doubt about the conditions.

There were regular sets of thick waves coming through, so I sat and watched for a while. I could see the shore break booming onto the beach and knew that it would take good timing to break out off the beach but it looked manageable.View from the cliff top

I wandered over to Rhino rock and checked out the swell. Certainly looked manageable from here, high up on the headland.

Rhino rock

Rhino rock

Maybe it would be better in the small bay the other side of Camel rock.

Camel Rock

Camel Rock

Sure; it seemed a little on the  “big fat wave” side of things but manageable. These waves are big, fat and hugely powerful but that means that the ride is fast, furious and sometimes a bit scary. I grabbed the kayak off the car and got my gear ready.

Maybe I should just check out that shore break from down on the beach. Get that “beach perspective”. Yep; check out the “BP” and maybe be a little on the cautious side seeing we are surfing the Southern Ocean swells direct from Antarctica.

They crash onto the craggy headlands and bays around this area of Southern Australia, which I suppose is why the area is known as the Shipwreck Coast.

I walked down to the lower track towards the bay to check out the shore break ”BP” just as a nice set came in.

Nice sets...but that's only the shore break

Nice sets…but that’s only the shore break

Down on the beach for the "BP"

Down on the beach for the “BP”



Errr..... maybe not today

Errr….. maybe not today

Hmmmm………….maybe it’s one of those days when you just need to give it a miss and hang out with the locals.

Chatting with a local

Chatting with a local


The Western Shore

The Aagot, an iron Barque of 1242 tons, built at Glasgow, 1882, as the Firth Of Clyde, but now laying on rocks on Wardang Island. A gale on 11 October 1907. wrecked the ship in rough seas and  imprisoned the crew on board until the ebb tide moderated conditions and allowed a member of the crew to swim ashore with line. wreck_aagot I’ve paddled past the wreck site a number of times in fair weather and seen the outline of the anchor poking from the rocks at low tide but this time we looked at the wreck from a different angle. We had paddled offshore 13km from Pt Victoria to the north western side of Wardang group of islands with a fresh headwind and short chop. This route is quite shallow and reefy in places and always makes for interesting wave action when the wind is up. We camped the night waiting for a better weather window, but it seemed to disappear, being replaced with a stiff headwind and SW swell. IMG_9904 Our journey down the western side of the island started well enough with a 10-12kn headwind and  sloppy sea but within 2 kilometres of the wreck site it had shifted up a gear to 12-17kn with larger swells and a breaking sea on top. Wardang Goose Is 122Not ideal conditions for kayak photography so we decided to land at one of the small protected beaches and check out the wreck site from the land. Of course there was a savage shore break which proved to be a little fun, especially for Robyn and Ian in the Seaward Passat double kayak. Rodney fared better with a text book landing on the sand. Wardang Goose Is 177

Wardang Goose Is 187 Few people visit this uninhabited island group and generally you will only encounter the occasional fishing boat. Wardang Goose Is 171 We however found numerous tracks of the local inhabitants. Wardang Goose Is 134 A walk over the rocky headland bought us to the wreck site and we could see that in a gale this coast would have been treacherous. Not surprisingly there are many ship wrecks on this coast as it is a low island group that can easily meld in with the mainland when viewed from sea. The island also didn’t have any navigation light until 1909 and even then various maps showed it in different places just to cause a little more confusion. This few kilometers of coastline has the remains of the ships, Aagot, Australian, Investigator, Notre Dame D ‘Arvor, Monarch and McIntyre.

The Aagot anchors lay below these waves.

Wardang Goose Is 159 One strange thing about  beach combing the area was an abundance of right foot thongs washed up. Only right foot…never the left….what a strange phenomenon.

Our time exploring was cut short as the wind threatened to further increase off shore. We made a perfect departure from the protected beach timing our breakout perfectly to avoid the shore break. The run back to camp was fast and furious sliding down a following sea and occasional breaking waves to arrive at the protection of the north tip of the islands. The north tip is home to a colony of Sea Lions and a large number of Pied Cormorants who inhabit the rocky outcrops so it was relaxing to hide in the lee and enjoy the antics of the locals.


Wardang Goose Is 226 Wardang Goose Is 209 Wardang Goose Is 197 We had left our campsite guarded by a Peregrine Falcon who had taken up residence in an old radio tower. IMG_9922 We landed back at camp having had an interesting paddle and looking forward to the evening meal with celebratory red wine. Rodney had chosen an excellent Grant Burge Balthasar 2012 Shiraz and Grant Burge 2010 Corryton Cabernet Sauvignon and Robyn and I provided a lovely Eccolo Wines Sangiovese. The wines  and pre-dinner snacks were enjoyed with great gusto watching the sun set and the full moon rise. Wardang Goose Is 292 Next day we headed along the eastern coast of Wardang Island with thoughts of the Narungga people who had been travelling to Wardang Island long before the arrival of Europeans. The island could be accessed at low tide by wading out to Green Island and then swimming for  kilometres across a deep channel. People would sit on the shore and sing songs and wave branches to distract the sharks from swimmers. I started singing quite loudly when a fin appeared of the stern of the kayak but luckily it was only a dolphin.

Mining of Lime Sand had begun on the island in 1910 and lasted for several years until easier  to access deposits were located. There are still remnants of the small community that was involved in mining and agriculture. The island was once stocked with sheep and large water tanks were constructed, living quarters, shearing sheds and other facilities were built. Several families stayed on the island to manage the stock and the children attended a small school. A barge was used to ferry materials and stock to and from the island and later a ketch, ‘the Narungga’, would move between the island and Dolly’s wharf. IMG_9908 The ketch “Narrunga”, shown here tied up at Dollys Wharf. narnarungga Little remains of Dollys Wharf these days. Wardang Goose Is 037 The last part of the paddle brought a few light rain showers indispersed with periods of bright sunshine and light winds. A fitting end to another great paddle. IMG_0711   …and a few extra photos from our trip.


Thanks to Rodney for the photos, delicious snacks interesting wine and of course to Robyn for all other catering.

Ian, Robyn and Rodney. Paddling South …..where not everything goes to plan

Metric madness

We have been visiting Memory Cove in the Pt Lincoln National Park again. This is certainly one of my favourite places to spend a few days, either kayaking along the coast or if it’s too rough, spending time exploring the area by Mountain Bike. The park consists mainly of Sheoak and Eucalyptus woodland with a number of species being represented. The sandy beaches are unspoilt and the sheer cliffs and granite outcrops along the coast make for stunning paddling and the opportunity to see Southern Right Whales in winter.

P1060768 (1024x767)


This is a place that has remained much the same since the days of Whaling in the early 1800’s, when whalers who were based at nearby Spalding Cove and Thistle Island pulled into this cove. They established a “mailbox” among the rocks on the southern end of the cove, where letters and messages were left for other passing vessels to collect and deliver to the township of Port Lincoln.

The letterbox is marked by an inscription in the rock, 4 ft and a direction arrow, meaning look 4 foot above this mark.


Now Australian currency was metricated in 1966 from pounds and pence to dollars and cents and distances gradually changed from feet and inches to metres and centimetres but I’m sure Whalers were still in the old ways.

However if you read the Department of Environment brochure  on Memory Cove the letterbox has moved somewhat to 1.2m Λ, changing to metric measures. Maybe the job of “proof reader” has been abolished with the job of “Whaler” but I certainly think it’s just a case of Metric Madness. 🙂

Ian Pope
Still Paddling South….




Cape Catastrophe

Standing on the white sands of Memory Cove looking out over a beautiful azure blue sea makes you forget the dangers of this area. This sandy beach is much the same as Matthew Flinders saw  when he discovered the area in 1802 and we were standing on the beach 212 years later to the day.


On 21 February 1802, Flinders’ expedition suffered a tragic  loss of crew  when ship master John Thistle, midshipman William Taylor and six seamen were drowned when their cutter capsized while searching for fresh water. The seamen were J. Little, George Lewis, John Hopkins, William Smith, Thomas Grindall and Robert Williams. Flinders was deeply affected by this disaster and recorded place names including Thorny Passage, Memory Cove, Cape Catastrophe, and Thistle Island to commemorate the lives lost and named islands in the area after the crew members. 

Flinders placed a plaque at Memory Cove and a replica is now installed.


We left Memory Cove in sight of the nearby islands bound for Cape Catastrophe and the nearby Sea Lion colony.

Launching at Memory Cove

Launching at Memory Cove

Sheltering behind a small headland to admire the view

Sheltering behind a small headland to admire the view



The weather had been kind to us so far with the temperature  a nice 25 degrees Celsius and the winds just a gentle breeze. We followed the coast line south from the Cove checking out many of the rocky crevices and spectacular cliff faces. The water is deep here, has a deep green colour and is known for crayfish and tuna fishing. We were only a few km’s  from Dangerous Reef. a breeding ground for white pointer sharks so it is likely they too are around here somewhere as well.




This coastline is a mixture of rugged outcrops, dangerous waves, sandy protected coves and long white beaches.



Wave rocks

Wave rocks


Not many people venture this way but sadly some come to grief.


Later we moved on around the peninsula to paddle the calm waters of Coffin bay. An interesting drive over deep sand and rough tracks, but well worth the effort.


Finding the remains of a wrecked fishing boat buried in the sand.


Setting off from 7 Mile Beach it was west in the sheltered bay for lunch and  more sand dunes to climb.



The next couple of days were spent exploring the area around Black Springs.



Later we drove the 20 km sand and limestone 4WD track into Coffin Bay National Park and spent time exploring some of the more inaccessible launching spots.



We spotted a number of the local inhabitants in our travels.
One afternoon 2 large goannas wandered through our camp and climbed a tree near us.


On occasions we had emus wander through our camp.


Kangaroos spent time watching us.


Dolphins whizzed by in a large pod about 30 strong.


Wedge tailed eagles circled overhead looking for an easy meal.


Sea Lions lazed about on the rocks.

Sea Lions doing what they do best---relax on a warm rock

Sea Lions doing what they do best—relax on a warm rock

Sea birds of all varieties squawked overhead.


Of course there were other less cuddly locals.


A great place to spend a couple of weeks exploring the coast. Lots of interesting paddling locations ranging from calm to challenging all with great scenery and wildlife.

We headed east coming across the familiar landscape of the inland areas and decided to divert to the north Flinders Ranges for a week of exploring.