Spring Equinox paddle

Sea kayak Day Paddle –  Seal Island Victor Harbor. Well not so much a day paddle, more like a morning sojourn which can be everything from calm to crazy. Today it was moving towards the crazy side.

It’s the Spring Equinox today and you would think we could rustle up a little spring weather for our Spring Equinox paddle but it was nowhere to be seen. It was another of those strange days you get at Victor Harbor in Spring, where it promises sunshine but delivers cold overcast skies. The forecast was for gentle 10kn SE’ly winds with clear skies but the reality was a 15-18kn SE’ly wind opposing a 2 metre SW swell, overcast skies and a temperature around 13C.

Not ideal conditions for this area today and even under ideal conditions you should have good “sea kayak skills” to paddle this area. However, two of us were standing on the beach with not much else to do except get cold and wet so off we went.

The plan was to paddle from Kent Reserve towards Granite Island, skirting an area of reefy breaks and bommies, then head out to Seal Island, returning via the eastern side of Granite Island.

We headed out getting some protection from Granite Island.

IMG_1445 - Copy

Although the seas soon became confused with wind against swell.

Seal Island in the distance

Seal Island in the distance

It then became impossible for me to take photos as I was tossed in the steep waves from the wind driven SE hitting the SW swell and also being thumped by occasional large clapatis waves from Granite Island. “BHOP time” (both hands on paddle)

We worked our way out around the various reef breaks .Seal Island is protected by a number of reefy breaks and today all of them were savage.

Nearing Seal Island

Nearing Seal Island

We reached a small protected area near Seal Island.

Reaching a calmer area

Reaching a calmer area

Even the seals decided it was too rough to come out and greet us.

Too cold and wet even for the seals

Too cold and wet even for the seals

Steve was a very happy boy to find a little sheltered spot.

A short respite from the wind

A short respite from the wind

After our short visit with the seals we headed back towards the eastern side of Granite Island with a large lumpy following sea. Again photos were a little difficult to get.

Riding the crests

Riding the crests

Once around the breakwater we were in calm water.

Rounding the breakwater

Rounding the breakwater

Calm waters

Calm waters

Then onward past the jetty.

The boat wharf.

The boat wharf.

Under the causeway

Under the causeway

We watched the tourists on their way onto Granite Island aboard the horse drawn tram…..


…and then spent some time playing amongst the rocks.

Protected waters

Protected waters. Encounter Bay township in the distance.

Getting up close and personal with granite boulders

Getting up close and personal with granite boulders

Sliding on the swells

Sliding on the swells

A great morning of paddling to celebrate the Spring Equinox. Now where’s my mountain bike ? I’m heading north to where it’s warmer.  Ian…Paddling South.

Starting point. Kent Reserve Victor Harbor

Distance. 8.5km

Seal Island Victor Harbor paddle

Seal Island Victor Harbor paddle

Hazards. A number of dangerous rocks are charted as well as reefy areas. Clapatis from Granite Island can make for a very confused sea in some places. Swell may break near Granite Island. Consult marine chart before attempting. Avoid paddling close to south side of Granite Island due to large swells breaking and dangerous currents.

Chart AUS 127









Paddlers and photographers

Ian                                              Steve

Sea kayak day paddle. West Island Victor Harbor.

 Some of my favourite paddling areas are along the coastline, south of Adelaide.  Accessible for paddlers with appropriate “kayak sea skills” and a properly fitted out sea kayak the West Island of Victor harbor is a perfect day paddle…. Ian “Paddling South”.

I had been invited to join 3 paddlers who were spending a beautiful spring day exploring the area of West Island, just offshore from Victor Harbor, which is 83km south of Adelaide.

This is a great place to paddle in calmer conditions and can test your ability in fresher conditions due to the prevailing swells from the Southern Ocean and clapatis from the granite headlands.

Shauna, Steve, Shaun and myself set off in what was predicted to be a 10-15kn Northerly wind , but was actually a 10-12kn South Easterly. That’s fairly typical on this southern coast where things rarely go to plan, and there is always the possibility of sudden and sometimes severe weather changes.


Shauna leaving the Davenport anchorage

Leaving Kent Reserve in the Davenport Anchorage our plan was to pass on the inside of Wright Island, head out through Shark Alley which is the passage between Wright Island and the mainland Bluff, then head along the coast to West Island.

Steve on his way to The Bluff

Steve on his way to The Bluff

The SE wind made for good time to Wright Island where we passed close to its’ small beach.


Wright Island beach.

I was able to pass very close to its’ western side.


The western side of Wright Island. Calm today but normally hit by SW swells.

As we cleared the wind break of the island the winds and opposing  swell, combined with clapatis from the Bluff to give us a bumpy ride. (If you are not totally comfortable here, turn back now !!).

We were able to get in quite close to the south side of the bluff and could see a group of rock climbers on top of a large granite slab.

Spot the rock climbers?

Spot the rock climbers?

We could see West Island ahead of us.


West Island ahead


King Beach on the right as the cliffline starts


Steve spotting wildlife

West Island is a 10 ha granite island that rises to a maximum height of about 40m in the south-west. Its main conservation value lies with its seabird colonies and small marine research station.


West Island research station

During the 1880’s it was quarried for granite to construct the foundations of Parliament House, Adelaide. From 1913 until the mid-1960s it was zoned as a Reserve for Government Purposes and, for a short period, was used by the Adelaide University Regiment as a target for gunnery practice during field exercises. In 1966 it became a fauna reserve. It was declared a Conservation Park in 1972 and in 1973 and 1975 Pearson Island rock-wallabies were introduced to the island. I am still to spot one of the wallabies on the island so maybe they have not fared well.

The island has a number of NZ fur seals who were lazing on the granite boulders or swimming around our kayaks.

seals west islan 4d

Seals coming out to greet us

seals west island 1

…and coming in for a closer look

seals west island2

Shauna tries to capture this guy on film

Breeding seabirds include Little Penguins, Silver Gulls, Caspian and Fairy Terns. The Little penguin population has suffered a dramatic decline since the 1990’s. In 1992, the population was estimated to be around 4000 penguins. In June 2011, the population was estimated to be less than 20 penguins.The decline echoes the decline of the colony on nearby Granite Island and many other island in the southern ocean and the cause is still largely unknown.


Shaun investigating where granite has been mined in the past

With the wind abating for a short period we circumnavigated the island……


Western side of the island where the water is 30m deep


Granite boulders in strange stacks


Shaun having a closer look at the coastline

It's getting a little bumpy now

It’s getting a little bumpy now


Granite seascapes

………….with Steve playing for a while in “rock gardens”.


Now be careful Steve


Having FUN

We then steered a course back to Wright Island and its’ small beach as the wind started to swing to the predicted NE direction. A great spot for lunch.


The predicted wind finally arrives.

Lunch on the beach ……….


….followed by a head wind paddle back to our starting spot made for a very enjoyable day.




This is an excellent place for exciting paddling especially as the swell and associated clapatis increases. It should only be paddled by those with the appropriate sea skills and of course a properly fitted out sea kayak.


Starting point. Kent Reserve Victor Harbor

Distance. 13km

Hazards. A number of dangerous rocks are charted as well as reefy areas. Clapatis from the headlands can make for a very confused sea in some places. Swell may break in some parts of Shark Alley. Consult marine chart before attempting. Avoid Petrel Cove, west of Rosetta Head due to rips and dangerous rocks.

Chart AUS 127

Paddlers and photographers

stick shauna







Shauna                      Steve                      Ian                        Shaun

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.



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

pope2Yogi bearSir Rodney







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. 


Rocky Islands paddle

We continued our journey along the South Australian coastline staying overnight at Mambray Creek campsite. A short walk in the morning meant a meeting with some of the local wildlife.

A number of kangaroos bounded across the track…..IMG_5601

and then we spotted a rarely seen Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby watching us from a safe distance.


A goanna about 2m long strolled past


and had a good look at Matt and Kathrin.


Kookaburras watched us from the gumtrees and had a bit of a laugh.


Later we packed up camp, finished our drive to the launching point and prepared the kayaks for a paddle 9km offshore to visit some small rocky islands and the White Rocks Sea Lion colony. As we left the protection of the bay the headwind increased to above 15 knots making for a rather wet paddle.


We punched into the head winds for a few kilometres before sheltering from the wind at a low rocky Island. Our efforts were rewarded as we watched the Pelican chicks being fed by their parents, although being downwind from the colony made for an interesting aroma to accompany my energy bar snack.

The colony was quite busy with the Spectacled Pelicans rearing young as well as large numbers of Pied Cormorants nesting nearby.G1

The young chicks were estimated to be around 30-45 days old with their feathers not yet fully developed.G3

Paddling another few kilometres we reached the protected side of the outer islands and hugged the coastline until reaching a remote sheltered bay where we camped for a couple of days.G4

At about his time the Lumix waterproof camera decided to stop working and we discovered that I had left the battery for the spare Canon waterproof in the car. So Matt and Kathrin’s encounter with 30 or so sea lions at White Rocks went unrecorded.

They had paddled out to the Sea Lion colony late in the afternoon and were rewarded by a group of 30 Sea Lions coming into the water to investigate them. They swam and jumped around the kayak, dived under it and generally made friends. The video would have been awesome !!

But we did get some nice photos of Matt’s attempt at hopscotch and the hazy sunset.



Our return journey to the mainland a couple of days later, started soon after dawn to race an approaching weather front. We paddled the last hour of the trip with the wind gusting well over 25 knots beam on, making it quite an interesting paddle. Again I was happy to be paddling the Seaward Passat G3 double which gave us a very controlled and mostly dry ride.