On last Sunday's flat water paddle, a few of us were chatting about guided versus unguided kayak trips and I, of course, came out in favour of unguided trips. Doug and I have always been proponents of self guided activities whether it is kayaking, rock climbing, skiing or mountaineering. For us, the process of planning the trip is every bit as important as executing the trip, and a lot of satisfaction comes from being entirely self-reliant. In the past, I'd done a couple of guided ski trips and, they were, quite frankly, kind of lame. We skied a lot less and covered much less terrain than I would have done by myself.
But, that raises the question, as someone asked last Sunday "how do you know where to go, where to launch, where to land, where to camp?" It is the exact same question I used to get back in Canada when people would wonder how we could always be ski touring somewhere new, when they went to the same places again and again and again and again.... The answer, of course, is, you work it out. Which does not necessarily mean you get it right first time - the perfect segue into this trip report about our paddle from Bawley Point to Kioloa.
Yesterday, the winds were forecast to be light until late morning so we decided to paddle from Bawley Point down to Kioloa. The distance, by road, is only about 8 km so one of us could easily cycle back to retrieve the car. As it turns out, another local sea kayaker joined us so we were able to do a car shuttle and the bicycle plan was unnecessary.
Our plan was to launch at the south end of Bawley Beach where a little boat ramp is located. These little beach boat ramps can be quite exposed to wind and weather and its hard to tell from looking at the chart, the topographic map, and Google Earth, exactly how the launch will be on the day. On the map this ramp looked as though it would offer a protected launch spot in the forecast easterly swell. Of course, there is the map and then there is reality, and this particular boat ramp was actually rather unfriendly looking. Large waves were surging onto the beach between some nasty looking rocks and the swell was kicking off in all directions.
We arrived a little before Neil and were all ready to go, figuring we would just have to punch out through the waves hoping for the best and paddling like hell, when I saw Neil drive past the ramp and continue south. Figuring that Neil had some local knowledge and knew a better place to launch, I jumped in the car and attempted to follow him. This took me past Cormorant Beach, which, although it faced due east, seemed considerably less hazardous for launching - at least that is what I thought as I drove past looking for Neil.
Turns out Neil was actually a wee bit lost and he soon came back to the boat ramp and was equally confronted looking at the launching conditions. I mentioned that Cormorant Beach looked better so we decided to head over there to launch. Doug was not convinced, but I am pretty sure the waves were a bit smaller on Cormorant Beach, and, it was a significantly safer location to launch from as there were no rocks nearby. Also, there was a small rip allowing easier passage through the waves around the north end of the beach.
Neil and I put the car shuttle in while Doug moved the boats down to where the little rip was idling up and down the beach 100 metres or so. When we got back, the lads were humming and hawing about the best place to launch, but, I figured the rip was right in front of my kayak and the only way to get out was to go for it, so I moved my boat down to the water, got kitted up and starting the kayak shuffle down the beach waiting for a lull to paddle out through.
Neil gave me a helping hand by pulling me into the water just as a slight decrease in the waves arrived and I shouted "watch out, I'm going for it," put my head down and paddled hard. I cleared the first couple of waves and then stopped paddling in amazement as a sting ray with a span fully two metres swam under the kayak in the clear water between swells. I was so struck with awe that I completely stopped paddling while Doug and Neil yelled "Paddle!" Looking up, another wave coming, so paddle hard, pulling through the foam to the green water on the other side, and, after a few waves across the chest and head, I was out in the rolling swells.
Doug came out next, again helped by Neil, but, of course, that meant Neil was on his own. He came a cropper on one wave, but, after emptying out, he was soon back in the swash zone and then, paddling steadily, Neil too crashed over the backs of the swell and we were all at sea.
There was so little wind, the ocean was almost glassy except for a low rolling swell and we quickly arrived at Brush Island. I had thought that we would have to paddle around Brush Island, possibly a fair distance off-shore, but, the swell was low enough that we could paddle through the gap between Brush Island and Wilfords Point.
On the south side of Brush Island, the fog that had been hanging slightly out to sea, moved westwards and engulfed the shoreline. As the fog washed over, it almost felt as if the sea got calmer as we paddled southwards in a woolly bubble. We stayed well out from shore as we could not see the breakers very well in the fog and chatting casually, we paddled steadily south. After about an hour, a small island swam out of the fog which was gradually contracting westward.
As we have not yet got around to printing a chart, I have been trying to memorise the relevant topography before we go paddling and, as far as I could remember, the next southward island from Brush Island was Belowla Island near Kioloa. We all thought that we could not possibly have arrived at our destination so quickly and easily so Doug checked our location on our mobile phone nautical chart and, yes, we were at Kioloa.
We lapped around Belowla Island before paddling easily into the beach and landing amidst a gaggle of foraging wildlife - another large stingray cruising the shallows, some cormorants, gulls and pelicans all looking for hand-outs from the local fishermen.
All of which leads me back to the beginning of this blog post. You may not know exactly where to launch, land, or camp, but, if you engage your brain, you can work it out.
Doing the kayak shuffle