Friday, March 25, 2016

Coastal Kayak Tripping: Kioloa to Ulladulla

It was another easy launch from Kioloa as the four of us set off for Ulladulla, about 32 kilometres to the north. We paddled inside Belowla Island, past Shelly Point, and north to the passage between Brush Island and Wilfords Point. It would have been nice to take a turn around Brush Island. I have paddled past twice now and never paddled on the outer east side, but, we had a long way to go, so we simply carried on. Passing Bawley Point, the tiny boat ramp at the south end of Bawley Beach looked like an easier launch than last time we had been there. Both the lower tide and the southerly swell offering protection from the surge. 

A series of small headlands and beaches followed backed by short cliffs or sandy beaches and the ever present gum forest. A pod of dolphins followed us north for a long way, surfacing close to the boats at times. A hammerhead shark cruised casually by. With the sun, the clear water, the glassy sea and the rolling swell, it was one of those days that etch a special kind of magic in your mind.
We passed Stokes Island and rounded Crampton Island at around the three hour mark and my butt going numb coincided with my stomach waking up. It was easy to duck behind a breaking swell and land on Crampton Island for some lunch and leg stretch, but a bit confronting to think we were only half way to our final destination. There is one afternoon bus from Ulladulla to Kioloa and we needed to be on it to retrieve the cars which left little time for exploring Crampton Island. 

 Somewhere between Kioloa and Ulladulla

Wairo Beach is long and it took an hour for the next headland to draw near, and another half hour to pass it and reach Burrill Beach. We could see the final headland that marks the south side of Ulladulla harbour but not the lighthouse which is short and squat (much like myself). 

"Just one more headland" Neil called back to us as the diminutive Ulladulla lighthouse on Warden Head finally came into view. We could see the south end of Sullivan Reef breaking below Warden Head. Had we not been so tired, it might have been fun to see if we could run the gauntlet between the reef and the shore, but we were tired, butt-sore, and ready to get out of the kayaks. We were now just three kilometres from sheltered waters in Ulladulla harbour, but, the most challenging paddling was yet to come. 

As we drew near with the lighthouse on Warden Head the ocean suddenly changed character. The long easy to manage rolling swell was gone and we were in the midst of haystacks and clapotis with water going everywhere and peaked waves popping up out of nowhere with devilish frequency. As usual, I was at the back and it literally felt as if my kayak were being punched by a large fist, first from the right, then the left, then bow quarter, the stern quarter, back to the left and right again, a continuous pummeling akin to riding the spin cycle of a washing machine. 

Neil paddles towards Stokes Island

The only option was paddling forwards, throwing in a low brace here and there when the kayak threatened to capsize. Doug told me later that he rehearsed eskimo rolls a dozen times over as we paddled through this confused water. Gradually, the pummelling eased, we paddled past the breakers on Sullivan Reef and, when we got near the breakwater in Ulladulla harbour, the maelstrom was over. Landing on the beach at Ulladulla, I fell out of my boat rather than stood up. 

Doug and Phil got changed and wandered up to take the school bus run south to Kioloa to retrieve the vehicles, Neil went in search of a coffee shop, while I sorted gear and watched over the kayaks. Another stretch of coastline, Kioloa to Ulladulla was done.

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