Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Won't Go There: Shelly Beach, Pedro Point and Broulee Point by Sea Kayak

It was the usual forecast for this time of year, moderate winds, two different swells with a local sea on top, maybe not the best forecast for sea kayaking but close inshore, where kayakers tend to paddle, the weather just never seems as bad as forecast and, in kayaking, like mountaineering, it often pays to go take a look. 

Our plan was to launch from Shelly Beach and paddle out around Toragy Point south to Pedro Point, on to Congo Point where we should have been able to land relatively easily, and then, if all was going well we would continue south to Mullimburra Point where a small north facing sand bay would also offer an easy landing place. It sounded like a good day out paddling down a stretch of coastline we had only visited on foot with a couple of landing places and, although it was a chilly 5 degrees Celsius in Moruya, the hope of some sun to warm us up. 

Launching from Shelly Beach was easy and we both managed to stay dry. The big east coast low at the beginning of June has changed the river mouth and there are standing waves where there were none before and, at times, the entire entrance to the river closes out with breaking waves. 

 Launching from Shelly Beach

There is a big deep gutter at Toragy Point but the swell was peaking at 2 to 3 metres so entering the gutter was out of the question. Surprisingly, a bunch of seals were resting with fins in the air right off Toragy Point where the waves batter in. We paddled wide of Toragy Point and then headed down the coast to Pedro Point in an off-shore wind. Just off Toragy Point, a couple of large dolphins paddled right under Doug's kayak and surfaced perhaps a metre off the bow. There always seems to be dolphins hanging about the mouth of the Moruya River. It must be good fishing. 

It was not long before we began to see a long line of breakers running parallel to the beach and almost a kilometre off-shore. We had a little discussion but we were both hoping to pass inside the breakers closer to Pedro Point so continued on. When we got near to Pedro Point it was obvious that the way around today was right out to sea around the breaking reef. There is nothing at all marked on the nautical chart or the topographic map and it is possible that sand dumping from the June east coast low has built this reef up so that it breaks more frequently. 

I felt confident there was a narrow gap between the line of breakers through which, with careful timing, we could pass but Doug was having none of it. Usually, in this situation we have long discussions where one person attempts to sway the other but Doug felt unaccountably strongly on this occasion and simply said "I won't go there." He was so emphatic that arguing seemed pointless. We did have the option of paddling back to Toragy Point, heading out to sea around the reef and then continuing down the coast but generally I don't like paddling a kilometre off-shore because there is not much to look at and progress can seem terribly slow. 

Paddling north to Broulee Head seemed like a better option and we (thought) knew that we could land in the little cove - I think the locals call it Honeymoon Bay - on the south side of the Boat Harbour sand spit that joins Broulee Island to the mainland. 

Paddling uphill on the way to Pedro Point

There are a few larger sand bars off Bengello Beach too since the east coast low, but it is easy to paddle north along the shore to the surf club near Broulee Head. As we approached Broulee Head we could see more extensive breakers running all the way from Broulee Head to the east side of Broulee Island. We paddled east along the entrance to the little cove but it was completely closed out by breaking swells. Paddling through breakers over a shallow rock reef seems infinitely worse than paddling through breakers over a sand beach and the swells were so close together that getting in without being overtaken by breakers seemed dubious. This was a bit of a shame as we now had numb butts, full bladders and a hankering for a hot thermos of tea. We could have continued on around Broulee Island and landed on the north side but the east side of Broulee Island harbours a shallow sloping reef that extends a long way off-shore and we would have had to paddle very wide to get around. The total distance would have been pretty close to just paddling back to Shelly Beach so we turned around and headed south again. 

This time we stayed well off-shore paddling in a straight line for Toragy Point which is easily visible from sea. The breakwater at the mouth of the Moruya River is too low to see when a reasonable swell is running. I don't usually like paddling way off shore but this was a really nice paddle south. The sun was low over my shoulder casting shadows on the water and thin clouds were stretching out from the forested hills to the west. The coastline had an interesting tiered look with the white sand beach backed by the green gum forest which was in turn backed by the forested ridges beyond. I would rise up on a swell and Doug paddling a hundred metres to my right would disappear into a trough, then he would rise and I would fall. 

There was a bit of squirrelly water coming in to Shelly Beach and the entire river channel was closing out with some of the larger waves. Two more dolphins passed us by in the choppy water. Landing was easy, and, remarkably, I got out of the kayak completely dry, something I can't remember happening for months and months.

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