Monday, July 4, 2016

Take A Turn To The Right: Durras to Surfside Past Tollgate And Snapper Islands

This is a popular stretch of coast with local sea kayakers as it passes Murramarang National Park and only requires a short car shuffle. Doug and I met Mike at Surfside Beach and strapped his beautiful hand made kayak on top of our two clunkers for the drive to Cookies Beach, where we drove right past Mark who was inexplicably calling our mobile from the parking lot behind the boat ramp. Obviously watching too much Federal election coverage is, just like other reality TV show, bad for your cognition. 

Doug along the Murramarang coast

We paddled out between Wasp Head and Wasp Island where the usual grommets were working a small wave. Heading south with a slight tail wind, Doug and I put up our sails which is the only way I can keep pace with the others, and, for that fleeting time that the wind was blowing, I caught up to the others. Mike continued paddling south far off-shore but the rest of us headed closer in and started weaving through some rock gardens as we paddled past small beaches and headlands. 

Milling about near the entrance to the Blue Cave

There is a tiny rock strewn bay, inaccessible unless you are in a kayak, just north of the trig station on North Head which I have always wanted to paddle into. Once you get inside the rock reefs, the little black stone beach at the back is quite sheltered. It is a pretty spot but the sun does not reach far in during the winter. We ran through some easy rock gardens here and then somehow ended up split into three groups well off Three Islet Point. I wanted to paddle through a narrow cleft of rock right on the spit of Three Islet Point as I had wimped out last time and easily convinced the others that we should do that while we were close by. This time around the gap looked capacious and we all paddled easily through. 

Looking out from the opening to the Blue Cave

Mark wanted to visit the Tollgate Islands before lunch so we paddled over to the north island next. The conditions were really looking very good for a visit into the Blue Cave with only a low southerly swell running. Still pictures do not do the Blue Cave justice, better to watch one of these videos instead. Since seeing this ominous looking cleft on our second visit to the Tollgate Islands Doug and I had become somewhat obsessed with getting inside. No visit to the Tollgates was complete any more without taking a look at the access slot. But, despite much looking, we had not yet ventured inside.

Doug looking over his shoulder at the entrance to the Blue Cave

We were soon at the opening of the Blue Cave and milling about outside. Personally, I often find waiting and watching much harder than actually getting stuck in and doing as your mind can imagine all kinds of nasty scenarios while hanging around at the start of something so I volunteered to go in first. I happened to strike a nice long lull in the waves and easily got through the first narrow bit to a wider pool where it was easy to turn around. This is where I went wrong. I knew that there was a cave running off at 90 degrees to the first slot but thought the cave ran out to the right (west). No amount of straining my eyes revealed any such cave and some how I didn't think to turn around and see if the cave actually went off to the left (east). I took a couple of photos and paddled back out. The others were, of course, a bit surprised that I had not found it, but no-one else wanted to go in and I was not sure I had enough adrenaline left for a second visit so soon after the first. We continued on paddling into the little bay behind the Blue Cave before paddling through the gap between the islands and then heading north to a little sandy beach at Chain Bay for lunch. 

Mike sailing by Snapper Island

Mark wanted to visit Snapper Island before we landed at Surfside Beach so we paddled the four kilometres across the bay to the island and had a tour around there. Apparently, the big cave on the island was used for smuggling back when Batemans Bay was a timber port not a tourist destination. Now the island is a sanctuary for breeding sea birds including Fairy Penguins. Finally, the last three kilometre paddle across the bay to Surfside Beach and Mike's car.

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