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

Paddling the Scraper

“We were 73 days out from San Francisco. and entering Backstairs Passage, with less than a days’ sailing to our destination.”

“When we passed CapeWilloughby there was a strong south-east gale with a heavy sea. All hands were on deck and the vessel was running before the gale. I kept the vessel as close on to the western shore as I judged it was safe, as by so doing I would be able to shape a course for Cape Jervis….. Just at this time, as we were entering the passage, to my surprise the vessel struck the outer edge of the Scraper (reef). The wheel was at once put hard down, so as to get farther out, but the next sea hurled her farther in, and the vessel would not answer the helm.”

That was the fate of the 4 masted Schooner “Kona” in 1917, bound for South Australia with a load of lumber from San Francisco and their introduction to the Scraper Reef off the coast of Kangaroo Island. Luckily the 11 crew were able to launch a lifeboat and were washed into the calm waters of Antechamber Bay.

Fortunately our meeting with the Scraper was in very different weather conditions. We had decided to paddle across Backstairs Passage, which is a particularly turbulent stretch of water dividing Kangaroo Island from the mainland. Conditions are made interesting by a 3kn tidal current being squeezed through the Passage as well as the Yatala Shoals, although the Autumn neap tide suggested calmer seas.

Our plan was to paddle across Backstairs Passage to Antechamber Bay and set up camp, paddle the Scraper in calm conditions the following day, then catch a tide back to Cape Jervis on the mainland the next day. With luck we could also venture a few kilometres further along the east coast to land on the tiny beach at Pink Bay near Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, which is the most eastern point of Kangaroo Island.

No mistakes; no miscalculations; extreme caution was in order as getting caught in the wrong place or the wrong tidal stream can mean being swept southwards. Michael and I had done this crossing many times in various conditions but it was Rodney’s first crossing. He had been putting in many hours training in the kayak, not only doing endurance work but lots of sessions paddling the coast in windy, sloppy conditions combined with many sessions handling large surf waves.

We had picked a Neap tide to cross the Strait as the tidal movement would be minimal. The forecast in the morning was for 11kn SE which is a cross wind that would be blowing against the Ebb tide flow. Wind against tide always makes for a very choppy passage and with that in mind we set off from Cape Jervis.

Day 1.
The predicted 11kn SE wind rose to about 15kn soon after departure and went more to a ESE direction giving us a side on sea of around 1m. Lots of white caps and sloppy conditions but easily handled.

Riding the beam on swells into Backstairs Passage

 

Short choppy waves hitting beam on

We were able to use the side sea  to our advantage, often catching small runs that picked up the laden kayaks. The crossing took 2hr 15m and was generally uneventful except for a few waves that pitched up suddenly and landed a ton of water on your shoulder. It’s also a little difficult taking photos in these conditions, so please excuse our defects.

Kangaroo Island approaching

We just missed running over a wooden pallet that had been floating for some time, given the number of barnacles on it.

Floating Flotsam

We had made a couple of course changes during the paddle as we found the wind was holding us further west than we had originally calculated. We hit the shore of Kangaroo Island at Cuttlefish Bay, a tiny sandy bay only accessible by water, exactly as planned.

Arriving Cuttlefish Bay

 

Cuttlefish Bay. Emergency landing spot if needed.

The next job was to push east on the last of the Ebb tide and into a wind that had now gone even more easterly. This meant no protection provided by the high cliffs and lots of boiling clapotis on every small headland. The next 8km took us another 2hr  of hard paddling before we rounded the headland into Antechamber Bay.

Working our way along the cliff face. Resting out of the wind.

 

All smiles as we head into the wind

 

The Navigator

The camp was located inland a few hundred metres on the banks of the Chapman River, however on such a low tide the mouth was closed and a portage was required.

Landed on Antechamber Beach

 

Paddling up the Chapman River

 

View along the river

This riverside campsite went perfectly with a Grant Burge Shiraz, kindly supplied by Rodney, our personal sommelier.

Early evening drinks and snacks

I did tell Rodney the Possums were very friendly but he was still a little amazed to find one sitting at the table with him. This guy grabbed some food and ran.

This guy believes in self serve

The next day was perfect weather with only a light 4kn breeze predicted and very little tidal movement. We set off to portage back into the ocean and head for the Scraper Reef and then to Cape Willoughby and Pink Bay .

Members of the South Australian Boat Draggers Association in action.

The boat draggers

 

Heading out of Antechamber Bay

The Scraper lays approx. 1km off Cape St Albans and is well known for its’ large breaking waves in any easterly weather. Water over the reef is only 1 fathom deep (about 3.3ft/ 1.82m) taken on an average tide.

Unfortunately “Google Earth” doesn’t show “The Scaper” but you can get an idea of the wave action nearby if you view Cape St Albans photographs.

As we rounded Cape St Albans we caught a glimpse of large breaking waves but they were mainly slow moving swells across the reef.

Cape St Albans Lighthouse

 

Arriving at the Scraper on slack water with the calmest conditions I have ever seen here

I paddled into the edge of the reef while Rodney took photos and Michael stood by as our safety paddler.

Riding a “Scraper” swell

We then pushed on towards Cape Willoughby.

Cape Willougby Lighthouse in the distance

….. and landed at nearby Pink Bay.

A calm cove for lunch

You can see the remains of previous inhabitants.

Evidence of habitation

After a lunch stop it was back on the water to catch a small flood tide back to camp.

Heading north from Cape Willoughby Lighthouse

On the way we spent time playing in the rocks around Cape St Albans.

Floating along the cliff face

 

Floating around the rocks at Cape St Albans

Day 3
Light rain had fallen during the night and the wind was evident even in our protected campsite.

Light rain all night

 

Checking the weather from a warm place

We checked weather forecasts through a couple of sources which both predicted an acceptable wind from the SE. We had a phone conversation and ascertained that the wind at nearby Penneshaw was currently 11kn from the SE and it was expected to remain that way for a few hours.

We decided to cross earlier than planned as the last hour of the very small ebb tide would be overridden by the SE wind. We would then be running a flood tide with the wind in the same direction.

We packed and portaged back into Antechamber bay where conditions were as expected, being at the bottom of Beaufort Wind Scale around 4, meaning “smaller waves, becoming larger; numerous whitecaps”.  Our heading would take us within 1 nautical mile of the Yatala Shoals so I knew from experience that the waves would be quite steep and confused where the tidal rips collide.

We started off across the passage with the conditions as predicted.

Goodbye to Antechamer Bay

After 1 hr we found the SE wind had picked up slightly making for sloppy conditions with larger swells and occasional breaking seas. It was actually lots of fun making fast runs down steep waves and then being surrounded in deep troughs.

Michael and I were enjoying the conditions and Rodney was really getting the hang of running parallel to the waves, rising and falling as they swept under him.

Rodney having a fun day out

 

Michael was there one second and buried in water the next

 

Keeping on track

Everything continued to plan as we approached Blowhole Creek on the mainland and then started our run west to Cape Jervis staying a couple of kilometres offshore to get the best of the following sea.

Heading for Blowhole Creek (the gap in the hills)

 

Resting before the run into Cape Jervis

We arrived at Cape Jervis 4 hours after launching, with the crossing of Backstairs Passage from Antechamber Bay to Blowhole Creek taking around 2hr 30m.

Our last duty to load up and head for the Yankalilla Bakery, for a decent cappuccino and pasty.

DSCF5355

 

Paddlers and photographs by Ian, Michael and Rodney. Editing by Ian.

pope2Yogi bearSir Rodney

 

 

 

 

 

 

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”

 

IMG_0050

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