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

Bumper Boats

Bumper Boats, Dodgem Cars and the Ghost Train were my favourite rides as a kid. Whenever there was a show or fair in town I was there looking for excitement and spending my money on rides, hot dogs and fairy floss. As I got a little older I still rode the Bumper Boats but often got kicked off for “rough play” and my fascination with the Ghost Train drifted towards the scantily clad girls on the high trapeze.

Times change but somethings stay the same. Hot Dogs were out and Falafel Rolls are in, and the Ghost Train is no longer scary, but I still get that Bumper Boat feeling every time I hit the surf.

The wind had dropped and the offshore wave recorder showed some activity, although the glassy waves were not as large as we hoped, but still provided some Monday Bumper Boat action.

Steve (R) gives Ian a little BUMP
Waiting for the next wave set
Charles looks like he’s lining up for a BUMP
Steve (R) chases for another BUMP
Turtle takes a clean wave to stay out of trouble
Steve showing his style on a small wave
Charles looking for a victim perhaps
You can see Steve but can you spot someone else
Here comes Steve again
Ok. Who is giving way first ?
Steve capsizes and it looks like everyone heads in for a BUMP
Turtle staying out of trouble again
…and enjoying another clean wave
So we all headed shoreward to finish off a great morning paddle.

It was a beautiful morning with a nice mob of paddlers and bound to be repeated soon.

100km Solo kayak paddle (almost)

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.

Scruffy the guardian of Louth Bay who had been watching me from the cliff top

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.

Moonrise over the channel entrance

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.

A great kayak sailing day

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.

Pied Cormorants resting on the rocky outcrops
There are few places to land on this section of coastline

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.

Everyone visits the Tumby Bay Bakery

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.

Lightning Conductors

Q: Can a carbon fibre kayak paddle conduct lightning ?

A:  Yes, very, very well. Not as well as Aluminum, but the lightning has already bothered to jump across over a mile of air, the difference in connectivity of the last few feet will make little difference.

The weather forecast read : …..The chance of a thunderstorm from late this morning. 

Blue skies and sunshine greeted us on the beach. We negotiated the small shore break into crystal clear water and set off along the coast. We could see a ribbon of dark clouds on the horizon and some higher altitude cumulus was showing some height progression, but all was well.

Steve breaks out through a small wave
Interesting cloud formations
Checking out what’s coming

We picked our way along the reefy shoreline finding the calmer swell allowed us to get into places that were not normally accessible. Crystal clear water meant we could observe the reefy bottom with its’ jagged rocks and abundant sea life. This was an area we often visited for a session of Ocean Freestyle Playboating paddling, riding large waves and often making an inspection of the seabed. It was just a little concerning to get a really good look at the jagged barnacle covered rocks and reef that make those waves break.

The water is still chilly at this time in Spring, however, we were not the only ocean dwellers. We came across two snorkelers exploring the underwater coastline.

Snorkeling some distance offshore

There was a distant rumble of thunder and I saw a flash of lightning on the horizon. There were some darker clouds moving in quickly. We guessed it would be some time before it got to us so we headed to a reef that had small breaking waves. Sea Kayaks are not the most agile craft on a wave but the fun of riding a peeling wave shoreward with the reef whizzing by underneath is certainly exhilarating.

The dark clouds were closing and we discussed the possibility of a lightning strike seeing as we were the highest objects on the water and carrying a carbon paddle lightning conductor.

Q: Can a carbon fibre kayak paddle conduct lightning ?

A:  Yes, very, very well. Not as well as Aluminum, but the lightning has already bothered to jump across over a mile of air, the difference in connectivity of the last few feet will make little difference.

Dark clouds approaching

Probably much more chance of catching COVID or being hit by a run away bus, but still we decided on a return to shore.

We headed towards our launch point still catching a few small waves as we passed breaking reefs. I must have been a little complacent when I jumped on a wave with Steve and quickly found myself being dragged along upside down. A quick roll back up when the white water let me go resulted in clean sinus passages.

A great paddle in ideal conditions.

Winds and Windmills

Many borders are closed and COVID is loose in several states across Australia so our only safe holiday choice was to stay in South Australia. Our first adventure was to clock up some mountain bike kilometres in the north Flinders Ranges with a couple of friends.

The weather was warm, the wind less than friendly but we still managed to travel loops on the Mawson Trail as well as other less travelled routes. Add in a hot day walking in the Aroona Valley, visiting the Blinman Hotel “the pub in the scrub” and we had a week of fun sorted.

The winds were still unfriendly when we left the North Flinders area and headed to the edge of the Nullabor plain to visit the iconic surf break of Cactus Beach. The surf was blown out by the southerly wind with no surfers out there today or for the next few days.

Blown out at Cactus

Where there’s Wind there’s Windmills. The town of Penong is several kilometres inland from the ocean but still has its’ share of wind and windmills. There is even a windmill museum with a number of restored windmills in action. These days they are for show as solar powered pumps have taken over the pumping duties.

My duty was that of photographers assistant, carrying gear and generally keeping out the way. We were in luck as in the late afternoon the wind abated and the giant Comet 35 windmill slowly came to a halt. The local Penong football team was in the grand final next weekend and was having their last training session under full lights at the nearby oval. The field of windmills slowly rotated to face the oval and the lights reflected off their blades.

Long exposure at night
Sunset on the massive Comet 35

Our time was running short so we headed back home to Adelaide with the surf forecast there showing signs of good swells. Sadly the swell had eased the day of our arrival and we were greeted by a less than impressive surf break. With the need to get wet I paddled out with Steve to grab what fun we could.

Here’s a 1 minute clip of fun. Thanks for visiting.

Adventures in Paradise

Cambridge English Dictionaryparadise noun usually singular, a place or condition of great happiness where everything is exactly as you would like it to be:

The water was clear giving a fish eye view as we powered along over the sea bed of sand, sea grass and shells. Paddling on the edge of the mangrove forest the water was clear but changeable in depth. One minute you felt like the bottom was rising up to meet you and next it was dropping away into the green depths.

We normally spend our kayaking time in deeper waters and often offshore, however the weather has not been kind these last few days, which is what you expect in the first month of Winter. So closer inshore was our best option and a great place to see the local birdlife.

There was a splash behind us and a fin speared past into deeper water. It seems that the local Bottle Nosed Dolphin pod was also patrolling along the mangrove forest. I readied my camera which meant they immediately bolted out of range.

We had a view of the mangrove forest

Did I hear singing coming from somewhere deep in the mangroves ? Was I imagining things ? It sounded like an aboriginal song and hopefully it wasn’t the local Barngala Aboriginal group singing to the dolphins and sharks to herd the fish in closer to shore where they could spear them. I’m all in favour of dolphin encounters, and welcome their appearance but I sure don’t want to see a sharks’ fin surface next to me. I think my paddling partner, Robyn, would blame me for an shark appearance.

We nudged into a small opening and found a creek that led deeper into the mangroves. There was evidence of past human use of the creek with a boat launching ramp now laying in disrepair.

The creek winds through the forest
A now abandoned launching area
Crystal clear water and lots of small fish darting about
Oyster catchers feeding in an open section of mangroves

A great day exploring the coast even if the weather was at times overcast and the temperature calling for gloves and beanie. Sometimes you need to get up close and personal to appreciate the aquatic environment.

This was an “Adventures in Paradise”. Paradise for the local Bottle Nosed dolphins; Paradise for the fish and other species that breed in the shallows; Paradise for the birds overhead and those foraging in the shallows; Paradise for us paddlers exploring along the coastline. Paradise because Spencer Gulf is uncrowded on the land as well as the water. Paradise because not only were we able to explore by kayak but the area hosts the worlds’ largest aggregation of the Australian Giant Cuttlefish.

Paradise also because COVID has been spreading in the other Australian states and South Australia had no local transmissions, so we have little in the way of restrictions. Something that won’t last forever given the state of the world.

After our kayak sessions we greeted the Giant Cuttlefish in their own environment, which is freezing cold in June. Donning every piece of wetsuit we owned gave us an hour of intrigue watching the mating ritual of the Cuttlefish. Seems a pity that the male mates and then dies 🙂

Remnants of a southern ocean swell meant slightly less than perfect visibility and a surge rolled us around somewhat.

I had only a small point and shoot waterproof camera so please excuse the average quality photos. Unfortunately I managed to drown another SLR camera recently (my second Nikon AW1) whilst filming fur seals playing under my kayak. I think it will be a return to a Canon unit for me.

There must be millions of these guys along the coast
Hey this guy was red a minute ago…now he’s blue

Sometimes the Cuttlefish were just as curious about us as we were of them. This one got up close and personal.

Who’s more curious ?

Here’s a link to a video I took previously in the area.

For you older folk out there, does anyone remember the TV show “Adventures in Paradise” which screened from 1959 to 1962. I certainly remember the adventures of the yacht Tiki 3 as it plied the South Pacific trade route. Starring James Holden, Gardner McKay and Lani Kai I must of had an interest in the sea at a very very early age.

It’s time for us to leave the ocean and head inland. Mountain Bike rides are always an Adventure in Paradise, especially when we can enjoy some trails in the northern Flinders Ranges.

Ian and Robyn