Waving at the Buoys

From early last week I was watching the weather forecasts and by Wednesday I was confident enough of the likely conditions to send out an email asking some kayaking mates if they’d care to join me in a journey off the coast of Sydney.  We would go in search of the Sydney Harbour FAD (Fish Aggregating Device) and the Manly Hydraulics Waverider Buoy – respectively 8.6km and 12.5km from North Head.

Image from Google Earth

This paddle would fulfill a longheld wish to paddle out to these buoys, offer a chance to use my neglected GPS and develop some dead reckoning skills.  The latter skill became a toss-up between “dead reckoning” and “ded reckoning”….a great debate with Ian and I favouring the “dead” term as used since Elizabethan England. 

Saturday dawned clear and bright and the BOM forecast promised:
Winds: West to northwesterly 5 to 10 knots tending north to northeasterly at about 15 knots during the afternoon.  Winds tending northerly 15 to 20 knots in the evening. Seas: to 1 metre increasing to 1 to 1.5 metres in the evening. Swell: Southerly about 1 metre.
Ten kayakers arrived early to claim the hotly-contested parking spots at Watsons Bay.  On the beach Andrew used the sand to demonstrate some simple reckoning and, with a plan, we set off.
Photo by Andrew
The pack paddled in tight formation, mingling and catching up on each others’ stories – new fatherhood, encounters with orca in New Zealand, upcoming trips.
Photo by Andrew
Photo by Andrew
Photo by Andrew
Aiming for the FAD we had allowed for a southerly current but overshot due to a current flowing north.  Mike’s GPS soon set us straight and once we turned south, it quickly became visible in the low swell.  Once at the FAD the northerly drift was obvious.
With such calm conditions it was easy to feel closer to the coast than we were.
Photo by Harry
Photo by Andrew
Harry rolled under for another perspective on the FAD
Photo by Andrew
Photo by Harry
Seeing a kayak from underneath does make me wonder how the creatures of the deep view our craft.
Photo by Harry
With such ideal conditions, we decided to continue another 4.3km further out to find the waverider buoy.  I noticed Michael and Ian both check their GPS, turn a little north and then stop (my GPS was pointing 500m to the south).  We’d found the spot, but not the buoy.  Oh well, one out of two aint bad.  My GPS data input obviously contained a couple of errors – more effort needed on that front.
Turning for North Head we started the 12.5km back in.  It felt like forever, stroke after stroke after stroke, and still we were paddling.  Our group had splintered; Andrew went off under sail, Harry threw out his fishing line, Paul worried about his unlocked car, Michael chose a different course, so bit by bit we all headed back to the city.  Apart from Andrew, we at the back were able to see everyone else.  Amazing how the flash of a paddle blade catches the sunlight and with little swell, those further away were still visible.
Photo by Harry

Using this photo, it is easy to see which city buildings provide suitable transits for future use.

Now that northerly current really made its presence felt.  12.5km took us almost 2 1/2 hours even though the NE winds had started to kick in.  It got boring, being so far out, no variety of cliffline or smashing wave to offer diversion.  At last, we reached the cliffs and were mesmerised by the helicopter flying real low and close to the cliffs.  As we rounded North Head it flew right towards and by us, the noise very awesome.
Image supplied by Mike
Quick trip across to South Head with the afternoon light catching the spinnakers of the Saturday sailing boats. Then back to our start, Watsons Bay.  About 37km in over 6 hours of kayaking – no landings, no leg stretches, just a few new blisters.

One thought on “Waving at the Buoys

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