My Lost Thing

I’m not sure when I lost it, it had been there on Saturday while I was at home doing all the final things before Peter came and collected me; it was there, in a slightly different form, on Sunday as we unpacked the car, and got ready to pack the kayaks. 

It must have been there as we finally put to water because I was chatting non-stop for the first twenty minutes.  But somehow the knot of tension in my stomach, that apprehension before setting out, it had gone, I’d lost it. 

The swell masks the cliffline

I don’t know why I get it, I’d prepared carefully as this was my first kayak trip in quite a few years.  I’d gone over all my gear, checking it carefully.  I’d bought new flares, I’d even let AMSA know that I would be kayaking in this area should I need to use my PLB.  All was ready, all was good, yet still I become stressed just before going.

A local

Interesting how others view us kayakers. One fisherman returning to the Currarong boat ramp told us we’d be okay if we stayed “over there” and he pointed generally to the small bay just east of the ramp.  The next one actually understood where we were headed, and noted that with the strong southerly current flowing, once we started down the coast we wouldn’t be coming back!

Mike and Peter as we depart from Currarong

I’d forgotten about the nerves and what they do to me, or rather, what I do to myself.  The first twenty to thirty minutes were spent gibbering to my companions.  Once we rounded Beecroft Head and settled into the open ocean conditions that stopped and all focus went on kayaking, just paddling along in the washing machine created by the previous day’s big southerly blow.  The wind was still against us, up to 15 knots, but it was the constantly moving waters that needed attention.  There were no patterns to it, no rhythm.  I used my peripheral vision to make sure each paddle stroke, right and left, was entering water, not air.  We were well off the cliffs but that didn’t take us out of the rebound and, looking further out to sea, the slop was bad there too. 

Food break off the cliffs of Beecroft
With regular stops for refuelling, we moved along, taking about three hours to reach the Point.  Once there we were able to paddle across open water, a relief to finally paddle-stroke evenly.  By now the wind had dropped, the clouds cleared and the late afternoon sun shone.  We were blessed.  Feeding dolphins entertained us and with smiles all round, we landed after four intense hours, not much daylight left to set up camp.
The dolphin and Point Perpendicular

The rhythms of paddling, camping, paddling came back to me.  It’s a physical holiday, once the kayaking stops the tasks of setting up camp take over.  It’s a simple existence, all focus on moving, eating, sleeping.  With time to reflect and be in the moment.

Mike with his morning cuppa

Our days started early, and it’s amazing how my body clock adjusted.  Sunrise soon after 6.00am and I was in my tent rolling and stuffing everything back into bags, breakfast followed by moving everything back to the water’s edge and repacking the kayaks.  Once on the water we followed the rhythm of hourly stops for food.  The sun setting at 5.30pm with a short dusk until darkness by 6.00pm meant we had a few evenings moving through dark to finish our campsite setup and cook dinner.  Early to bed, early to rise.

27km to Ulladulla

The trip provided different challenges: the rebound off Beecroft peninsula, the headwinds on a day we’d hoped for tailwinds, and I guess we chose our own challenges too, with an open crossing of 27km keeping us about 7km offshore for most of the day.  When this trip had been first dreamt up, back at Christmas, I’d had great intentions of serious training for two to three months.  It never happened.  Yet the paddling I did do proved worthwhile. Especially the trip out to the buoys. That gave me confidence, knowing I could stay in the kayak for a long time, knowing I could be so far from land and not feel spooked, knowing I could cover that distance.

A young seal launches in backwards

Moving along the coast, we saw distant headlands; what appeared to be islands on coming closer were actually inland mountains.  It’s a slow way of discovering the coastline, covering anything from 15km to 35km in a day.  Our afternoons and evenings depended on what time we landed.  One glorious paddle, along a section of coast always talked of as having constant tough rebound, was a delight of playing right under the cliffs in the surge that gently swelled up and down, watching seals and enjoying a sail with light tailwinds, followed by an easy afternoon of swims in warm water and rock hopping to the next little beach.

Mike plays with the surge

Ulladulla harbour provided a late fish ‘n’ chips lunch followed by an evening campsite setup. 

Self-portrait in the public toilets of Ulladulla harbour

One day started with a plan to paddle to a destination 35km away – now that could be a minimum of 7 hours paddling if we moved along at 5kmph, or 5 hours if we travelled at 7kmph.  That’s a big difference mentally for me.  To my delight, we found that we moved south at 1km per hour even when we stopped for a food break. 

Why paddle when you can drift at 1kmph?

The conditions were superb, seas calm.  It was just Pigeonhouse Mountain that messed with my mind.  Its symmetrical shape means that it seems to take forever to go past it.  Every time I noticed that Mike had gone past it, ten minutes later he appeared to be north of it yet again!

Mike passes Pigeonhouse Mountain – or does he?

We reached Batemans Bay, delighted with our trip. 

Mariners Three

One last night together then next morning Mike paddled off to take the tidal ride up the Clyde River, landing just 100m from his home. 

Peter follows Paul into the ‘new’ cave

Peter and I ventured out to the Tollgates Islands where we met with local kayaker Paul.  The conditions were amazing, Paul even found a new cave to explore.  A gentle wander past Black Rock, along the coast and into Guerilla Bay.  Our six days were over.

We made it!

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