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 ?

A Fickle Wind

I awoke before dawn and felt the wind on my face. The forecast last night had been reasonable for a solo kayak excursion with a 10 knot breeze predicted in the morning. Standing on the cliff it felt strange indeed with wind seeming to shift and swirl and certainly well above 10 knots. Maybe it would ease at dawn as it often does along this coast. Indeed a fickle wind.

The lighthouse on Troubridge Hill was still beaming seaward and stars were still visible in the sky as I made my way to the launch site.

Troubridge Hill Lighthouse beaming seaward from the hill

As the sun rose I had a better idea of the conditions from my protected bay, with the wind gusting to 15 knots close inshore. The binoculars showed confused conditions further offshore with standing waves tossing about on the Troubridge Shoal which I needed to traverse if I was to visit Troubridge Island and its’ heritage lighthouse.

I consulted with a local and it seemed not likely to ease any time soon and suggested I find a sheltered spot to enjoy the day .

Getting local knowledge can be hard at times

Paddling solo is always full of challenges especially when my route was 8km offshore traversing the Troubridge Shoal which had been the site of so many shipwrecks and groundings. I sat and waited for a while hoping to see some improvement in the conditions but there was none.

Safety first. Decision made. NO offshore paddling today. I thought about my alternatives; I could do some snorkelling and photography under the Edithburgh Jetty……

I might even meet a mermaid

..or I could hit the beaches on the Fatbike or paddle along the more protected section of the coast, staying well inshore. The Paddle idea won out so I put on the coffee and relaxed a while.

I launched at the Edithburgh marina finding that I was the only vessel heading out today. The plan was to head north towards Wool Bay visiting Coobowie along the way and depending on the wind paddle back or be collected by Robyn.

I was soon out into a 12-15 knot tailwind which sent me rocketing along the coast past the Sea Swimmimg Pool which had a population at this time of day of one.

Robyn and I had visited the pool the previous night when conditions had been calm and the temperature warmer.

The Pool at night was a nice place to relax.

The marina was also calm last night with the moon reflecting on the water.

The marina bathed in moonlight the previous night

I was soon gliding along enjoying the exercise in company with a local dolphin pod. Unfortunately they were camera shy because as soon as I stopped paddling and grabbed the camera they shot off underwater.

The waters close inshore can be shallow with jagged limestone outcrops to keep you on your toes but overall I had quite an easy down wind paddle towards the oyster beds at Coobowie. I weaved in and around them enjoying the clear water.

Oyster bed structures

Gliding along in clear water made for easy fish spotting

I spotted a variety of fish as well as stingrays in the shallows and an interesting “foul ground” marker.

The float is an aluminium beer keg. Hope they emptied it first.

I ventured further along the coast before turning for home and into a headwind. The return trip was quite uneventful as I stayed in close inshore and out of the worst of the headwind. Returning to Edithburgh I paddled under the jetty noting the damage done by recent storms.

The stairs are closed and held together with chains and strong ropes.

I landed quietly in the marina being the only person to be seen.

My solo paddle to Troubridge Island and it’s historical Lighthouse will have to wait until another day.

Happy Paddling
Ian Pope

Seascapes

The sky is light blue and the water is crystal clear. You can feel the heat of the sun warming the sand as the northerly wind brings the heat from the inland. It has just gone 7am and there are a few people walking their dogs on the beach before the heat begins to really sear the landscape. There is already a heat haze visible far out on the horizon telling us that it will probably hit 40 Celsius later.

We escape the land for a few hours exercise as we head the kayaks out into Gulf St Vincent, heading south along the coastline. It’s great to be away from the heat of the land and the hustle and bustle of the city which will soon be into full swing with the after Christmas shopping.

You don’t get much calmer than this

It’s good to be gliding along this familiar coastline, especially on a clear morning. The last months have been occupied with many other things. Bike riding to the northern tip of Australia, mountain biking and Fat-biking in the northern Flinders Ranges and travelling the coastline with friends, with a little kayaking squeezed in.

Seascapes are the things that bring me back to the ocean. That place where the land meets the sea in a quiet slurping of a gentle swell around the rocks or in a deafening roar as large waves pound the coast. I’m paddling a favourite piece of coastline not far from the city of Adelaide. It’s a place I have been many times and always find it interesting and calming.

Quiet waters and rock sculptures

Today is definitely a “quiet slurping” day and we are able to get in close along the cliffs to enjoy the movements of the currents.

Just the three of us

We glide along visiting the rocky outcrops where Steve is always found. It’s not really best practice to follow him as the Seaward Passat double is like driving a shopping trolley with wonky wheels when you get in amongst the rock gardens. Both of us were admiring the view and taking photos as we hit a submerged rock and slew sideways, nearly capsizing. How embarrassing would that have been? Note to self; at least one of us should have a paddle in their hands for support if needed. “Take nothing but photos and leave nothing but gelcoat” is the old saying; well this time we left a nice chunk of gelcoat on that rock meaning a minor repair job this week.

The water was so calm Steve even managed a classic “selfie”.

We often lose Steve amongst the rocks and Cormorants

We quietly glided along the line of cliffs admiring the underwater seascape as well as that above.

Clear water and weathered rocks

 

Towering cliffs along the way

Then we turn and head for home and make a bee line for the launch spot. Steve heading off to another Xmas get together and us checking in at a favourite coffee shop.

Have a great 2018 hopefully with lots of paddling. We certainly will. 🙂

 

 

 

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.