Sunday, February 16, 2014

Calm Days, Turtles And Rays

More calm weather paddling over the weekend. There are stronger winds to the south of the state, but they never seem to reach this far north. The monsoon rains have retreated, with rumors of reappearing early in the coming week, but weather forecasting has always been an imprecise science. 

Yesterday, the water was glassy calm up at Palm Cove when I met Ros and Alan. Ros had her back breaking surf ski and Alan the SUP. I would prefer, for skill practice, to be paddling in rough water, but there is certain appeal in gliding silently over water smooth as a mirror when the sun hangs low in a tropical blue sky. Despite all the recent rain, the water was about as clear as I have seen it off Palm Cove, and paddling out to Haycock Island we scared up turtles and rays and watched them swimming off under our craft. I was paddling with my rudder up and, with the complete absence of wind, was easily able to turn the kayak by edging it and wove my way in and around all the off-shore rocks. 

 Alan about to paddle to Haycock Island

We paddled around Haycock Island startling schools of small fry hiding in the deeper pools in the rock clefts and landed on the west end of the island. The nesting birds have long since gone and the small rocky islet seems quiet these days without the coo of the breeding pairs. A couple of young blokes had also paddled out on SUP's and were shouting loudly at each other on the tiny beach. It seemed to me a clear display of ego, and I wondered why they bothered. The three of us are variously in our 50's and 60's and unlikely to be impressed by their wheat bellies and bellicosity. 

I took the SUP across to Double Island and around to a small pandanus fringed coral beach on the northwestern end. Alan took my kayak, and Ros, the only one who can tolerate the surf ski stuck with her original craft. Standing up above the water I had a great view of the reef as I crossed to Double Island. I always enjoy watching turtles flippering away under water. 

 Looking towards Double Island

We switched again for a short segment to the resort beach, where we stopped one more time to hunt for coconuts, and then, all variously back in our own boats paddled back. A light northerly wind was blowing straight across my beam and my boat immediately began to weather cock all the way back. 
This morning, after a rare breakfast, we took the boats up to Yorkeys Knob. I had heard about some bouldering on beach boulders on the north and south ends of Trinity Beach and thought we could paddle up to Taylor Point checking out the bouldering on the way and hiking up to the headland above Taylor Point.  First up we did some eskimo roll practice. I hadn't practiced my roll since the 2nd of February (almost two weeks ago!) and was not feeling all that confident. I did a few drills with Doug first, tried a few, failed a few, realized my seat was too far forward, my thigh pads too far forward, and I was falling out of the boat, got one, and called it good so I could finish on a high note. 

Over the last couple of weeks all sorts of people have paddled my boat and I no longer have the seating correctly arranged for my short stocky body. My boat is weather cocking even more than usual, a consequence of having my seat so far to the front. One of my issues in rolling my boat is that I have a short torso – I'm short overall – and it is a huge stretch for me to get my upper body out of the boat far enough to roll. If you see a picture of me in my boat, you'll see that I look as if I have been swallowed up. Doug, with his longer body, is much more easily able to get his torso out to the side of the boat. On the contrary side, I find my boat more stable than Doug (even though we have identical boats) as my centre of gravity is so much lower in the boat. 

View south to Yorkeys Knob

Before heading north we paddled up Moon River as far as the bridge on Reed Road. There is a whole marina and upscale housing development up here that we had not seen before. We are trying a new tow-rope system and so we tested that out in Moon River as well. We paddled back out on a falling tide to Half Moon Bay and continued north. 

We stayed in close to shore, but I didn't really see much in the way of bouldering on the south end of Trinity Beach. We pulled the kayaks in and while Doug stretched and swam, I walked up a mixture of path and slabs to an overlook and a couple of memorial plaques. The rock would be good for climbing if the slabs were angled up about 90 degrees. Continuing north we passed a fortress at the north end of Trinity Beach with big fences, at least a dozen “private property/keep out” signs, motion cameras, and various other security devices surrounding a pricey home in a fortress-like compound right on the beach. Clearly, the more you have the more you have to protect yourself from all the “have-nots.” I'm not sure I'd find the waterfront home worth the paranoia. 

 Looking north past Taylor Point to Double Island

Taylor Point has some granite slabs above water line, but, they were overhanging, smooth, greasy black, and again didn't look great for climbing. We paddled around Taylor Point where a squatter is living on the beach and was waving at us frenetically. Pulling in to Cook Bay we took an old vehicle track up to an overlook above the granite slabs of Taylor Point. I half expected to find a couple of manky old carrot bolts on top of the slab but there was nothing but broken glass.  We had a light northerly wind on the way home, but my boat was so poorly trimmed that it was weather cocking even with the wind virtually behind me.

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