Meet up with Sepia Apama

The morning had dawned cold and still which is a little unusual for these parts. There is normally a breeze from one direction or other that has to be taken into account. No wind, however, a sea fog was rolling in but didn’t discourage a paddle along the rocky coast line of the upper Spencer Gulf. We spent time wandering along the coastline passing Douglas Point and Fitzgerald Bay, headed towards Stony Point on the edge of False Bay.

A strange colour in the sky and a sea fog made for an eerie feeling.

The sea fog slowly rolling towards us.

Not much changes in this part of the coast. This is a photo of Pt Lowly in 1905 and again below on our visit. All of the buildings are still there.

Many overseas visitors seem to think that all the animals of Australia are out to sting, bite or eat them. Of course this is not true, but the snakes, sharks and crocodiles do seem to sit heavy on their mind.

But what about Sepia Apama ? They can camouflage themselves and spring out at their prey from behind a rock. Luckily they don’t have much of an appetite for German Backpackers or in fact any nationality, although, if you start poking your finger in his/her direction you night get a very nasty bite. So who is Sepia Apama ? Sepia Apama is more commonly called the Giant Australian Cuttlefish. Giant because they grow up to 60cm long and weigh up to 5kg.

It’s winter and that is mating season for tens of thousands of these interesting creatures who change color to camouflage themselves. The water was very clear and calm so they could be seen all along the rocky coastline of False Bay.

The best way to meet up with Sepia Apama is a dip into the rather chilly 11 degree C water with your camera wearing every bit of wetsuit you own, so here’s 2 minutes of what we saw on our quick dip. You will see the” mating procedure” at around 55 sec. on the video. After mating the female attaches her eggs under a rock

Great paddling area and some unusual creatures.
Ian and Robyn





The Sea Fog

It was an eerie morning as we wandered on to the beach, along with a few other early risers and dog walkers. The temperature was 28°C at 8am and the sea fog lingered around the headlands as we organised ourselves for a paddle.

An eerie feel to the morning as the sea fog lifts

They have been for a swim and are now ready to chase that ball

Only a few people on the beach

The physiotherapist had told me to take it easy on my injured shoulder (courtesy of a recent mountain bike crash) for the next couple of days. “That’s ok” I replied,” I’m just going for a quiet morning paddle with an old guy I know, so not too much exertion”.

It started out alright but then we both decided that a quiet paddle was a little boring and that a bit of play would be beneficial. Here’s a few photos from our “quiet play” session.

Steve gets belted on the way out and is carried backwards towards the shore.

…and makes a close inspection of the seabed.

Ian plays on a small wave….careful of that shoulder injury

…and bounces around in the choppy waves

Steve starts his famous kayak disappearing act

We don’t have to worry about special training sessions for rough water kayak skills; it’s almost an everyday occurrence for us.

Paddlers Ian and Steve
Photos Robyn


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

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.


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)





The Reef

Horseshoe Reef. It’s been around for a long time; certainly longer than me and I feel a strange attraction. I remember being on the beach as a child watching the small boats fishing along the inside of the reef. I visited on school holidays, snorkeled out to the reef as a teenager and still explore it regularly by kayak.

The reef is part of the Mullawirraburka dreaming story of the local Kaurna aboriginal people telling how Mullawirraburka threw his spear into the water to bring the fish closer to the shore forming the reefs of Pt. Noarlunga and Christies Beach.

As the name suggests the reef is formed in an arc with the open end pointing to shore. On the seaward side the reef drops from a steep platform to a  flat expanses of stone and toward shore the reef becomes steeper then drops into 5m of water.

The reef is seldom flat calm. More often there is a confused sea caused by the meeting of waves but always it’s a fun place to hang out.

The outer steep reef edge generates a powerful wave which wraps around both ends of the reef  and in the right conditions these left and right waves peel around the horseshoe shape in opposite directions to collide with huge force.

That’s where the fun begins. You can catch a small wave heading south only to be met with one coming north and you are often spat out upwards; or sometimes you are just buried by a few ton of water. You might come back up the right way but not always.

Steve playing around on a calmer day……dsc_0461

The reef is a place for experienced paddlers and on the right day is an excellent place to put a few sea kayak skills to the test.


The Reef on a stormy day

The Reef on a stormy day

But beware the dangers below as there is not only the reef to worry about but also its inhabitants. I guess we may not be the only ones enjoying the reef today.


Get out and enjoy our local area but remember to “keep it safe” and stay within your ability.

Ian Pope