Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sea Kayaking Weekend Adventures I: Wimbie Beach to the Tollgate Islands

It turns out that the south coast of NSW is full of keen sea kayakers, mountain bikers, bushwalkers and other adventurous people. Through the Eurobodalla paddling group we have been lucky enough to meet up with many local sea kayakers, some relatively new to the sport, but others, like Wildey with impressive whitewater and sea kayaking resumes. One of the best ways to get better at any sport is to go out with people better than you, but, as we all know, the theory is much easier than the practice. 

Wildey paddling out through Tuross Bar

So, when Wildey organized a weekend of sea kayaking for those of us who are less brave and less experienced on the open ocean, Doug and I were keen to go. The forecast was a bit daunting with a strong wind warning for Saturday, 15 to 20 knot winds for Sunday, and "large and dangerous surf" predicted for both days. This was just perfect as we could get some instruction in more challenging conditions and increase our margin of safety paddling in a larger and more experienced group. 

Arriving at the Tollgate Islands
On Saturday, 14 kayakers lined up their boats at Wimbie Beach just south of Batemans Bay. Doug and I had landed and launched from Wimbie Beach last time we paddled out to the Tollgate Islands. On that day, we had a small dumping surf due to an easterly swell, now, with a more southerly swell, Wimbie Beach was remarkably calm with only a small ripple reaching the shore. 

Our group on the sheltered west side of the Tollgate Islands

It took us about an hour to reach the Tollgate Islands, I was definitely the slowest and had to paddle pretty steadily to stay within sight of the group. Strangely, despite the dire forecast, the swell was actually smaller than last time we had been out to the islands and we paddled easily through the gap between the two islands out to the eastern side. There are a number of known kayaker play spots around the islands and Paul led us into a tiny wave swept bay on the east side of the north island. Inside the bay, you could tuck into a sheltered spot behind a big rock and then paddle back out through some swirling white water. I would never have gone into this little bay without watching other paddlers go in first. It was a blast.

Paddling through the passage between the islands

On the north side of the north island is the spectacular "blue cave" which Paul and John paddled a short way into. There was too much surge and wave action for the rest of us, but, the "blue cave" is definitely on the list to go back to. Back around the sheltered side of the islands, we had a short break in the kayaks and Jon managed to lose the brand new cover for his day hatch which must have sunk quite quickly. Steve and John rigged up a temporary cover with a float bag and then we turned back and paddled through a freshening breeze back to Wimbie Beach. The bay was so calm, the water so warm and clear that it was perfect for practicing eskimo rolls and I managed to get six - not in a row, but, nevertheless, I did get six - a "PR" as the tribe would say.  

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