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.

The DnA of Paddling Energy

Paddling requires two types of energy. Firstly the energy to propel the kayak which in classical mechanics, is called Kinetic energy (KE) . Then there is Mental energy, that undefined force that gets you up on cold mornings to keep training for an event or powers you to a destination.

But what is the DnA of Paddling Energy ? On our travels we called into Tumby Bay on South Australia’s  Eyre Peninsula and caught a glimpse of this undefined mental energy. In our working life we had a mature age customer who regularly called in after his kayak training, entertaining us with his infectious energy and in the small town of Tumby Bay we found him again.

It’s not DNA but D’n’A. Dennis ‘n’ Ann Peck. They both exude a sort of energy that combined can achieve anything. I paddled with Dennis around Tumby Bay, a place he loves, and enjoyed the running commentary.

Dinosaur Rock. Well you need quite a bit of imagination for this one.

Sea Lions abound along this coast maybe due to the Tuna Fishing Industry not far away

Black faced Cormorants are used to Dennis chatting to them as he passes.

An Osprey nest. Unfortunately the resident flew off before I could raise my camera.

The wind and ocean has sculpted the limestone cliffs into interesting shapes.

There are sharp rocks protruding everywhere just waiting for the unwary paddler.

Dennis competes in kayaking sprints and marathons as well as athletics in the Australian and State Masters Games.

He laughs when he tells you that his ambition is not only to win, but to set national and state records. Then he explains that there are not a lot of competitors left in his age group. This year he turns 85.

We were lucky to spend time with Ann as well at their cottage home overlooking the coast. An amazing place which they both built from local stone. Ann is the steering force and organiser behind Dennis as well as being a powerful artistic person in her own right.

Let’s just say that any couple that built a Boules and Finskas court in their front yard tend to be competitive, but in a good way. After being thrashed at Boules we were introduced to the game of Finskas, an addictive log throwing game, where the aim is to score exactly 50 points. Set up the pins, place the box five metres away and start throwing. A competitive game of skill in which we were soundly beaten.

Dennis shows his prowess with the opening toss at Finskas

After “the games” came a great meal, a few wines and a comforting fire.

Dennis Peck. Powered by Guinness stout I believe.

If you’re in Tumby Bay anytime look out for Dennis out paddling and Ann power walking the beach.

Ian and Robyn (the travellers)