Tuesday, February 7, 2017

More Kayak Adventures: Tuross Heads to Mosquito Bay via Narooma and Durras

I've been pretty slack with the blog lately just posting up links to videos of our trips instead of writing about them, but, I'll have to write this latest trip up as there is no video (yet). There were five of us with a very loose plan of paddling out through Tuross bar on Monday and pulling into land (and hopefully a pick-up) on Friday. While I prefer trips that have a destination, heading out to sea and turning north or south, depending on which way the wind blows is easier to organize and does not involve long and tedious car shuttles.

Pelican at Lavender Bay

Monday morning we all met at Lavender Bay at Tuross Head and packed our boats with five days of food and water. The tide was already running rapidly in so it was a bit of work to paddle out to the bar which was pretty friendly on this day and we all got out without even getting wet. A light northerly was blowing so the sails went up and off we went. Potato Point and then Jemisons Point came up quickly and we tucked in behind Jemisons Point for a bit of shelter. Apparently, at lower tides you can land easily - in northerly conditions - on a small bit of sand in the shelter of the point. The tide was a bit high for easy landing today and we had been going only an hour so no-one felt the need to land.

In the lee of Jemisons Point

By the time we got to Brou Beach the wind had died completely and suddenly the boats felt heavy and sluggish - or maybe it was me that felt heavy and sluggish; in any event, it was a long paddle down Brou Beach to Dalmeny. The little boat ramp at Dalmeny was not an easy place to land with a fairly easterly swell so we continued on to Narooma and paddled in through the bar instead. The usual seals were entertaining the tourists at Bar Rock. We had lunch in Narooma and then drifted up Wagonga Inlet with a rising tailwind.

Peter near Mullimburra Point

A southerly change was predicted to blow in with a rising swell and Peter was concerned about launching from Mystery Bay the next morning so consensus seemed to be camping in Wagonga Inlet. I would not recommend this unless you have to as it is a bit tough to find a good site and, let's admit it, beach camping is a big part of sea kayaking. We did manage to find a spot and I even got a nice long walk along a bush track before dark. It was a hot night, until around 2 am when a few drops of rain signaled the southerly change and we all jumped out of our tents to put our tent flies on.

Sailing south from Tuross Heads

On Tuesday, we got away early so we did not have to fight the tide paddling out of Narooma Bar. Although the tide was flowing in by the time we got to the bar, paddling out was pretty easy, but the ocean was big and bumpy once we got out. The southerly wind was only about 12 to 15 knots, but the seas were lumpy with a two metre swell running. Doug and I went down to our 2/3 sails as the full metre square sail would have been too exciting - or terrifying.

North of Batemans Bay

For the first hour or so, I felt as if I had embarked upon the longest and worst protected rock climbing lead of my life. The kind of pitch where the gear is non-existent, the fall long, and the belay so, so far away. But, after pitching, rolling and bracing into breaking waves for a while my nerves started to settle down, and by the time we got to Potato Point (we were heading back north) I was almost comfortable. Peter's rudder had broken as soon as we exited Wagonga Inlet so he had been using corrective strokes all the way to Potato Point.

Gauntlets at Mullimburra Point

There were surfers in the water north of Potato Point which is always a bit worrying when you are trying to land a sea kayak without killing anyone, but a rip was running out along the rocks made for a surprisingly easy landing. Peter immediately burrowed nose first into his boat to fix his rudder.

Peter effecting a rudder repair

Once the rudder was repaired, we set off again, pitching and rolling up past One Tree Point at Tuross Heads and north along Bingie Beach to Bingie Bingie Point. There must have been a strong current running off Bingie Bingie Point as it was hard work paddling out around the breaking reef and for a while I was not sure I was going to make it. North of Bingie Bingie Point, the paddling got easier and Mullimburra Point was a doddle in comparison. We stopped at Mullimburra where we met three young lads who were two weeks into a month long sea kayak trip from Sydney to Mallacoota. It was great to see some other kayakers, particularly under 50, out doing an epic trip and having their own adventures.

Rock passages near Burrewarra Point

On Wednesday, the fickle wind was forecast to switch again to the north but not particularly strongly so we continued our northward journey getting away early again so that we would lessen the amount of time we had to beat into a headwind. The morning was almost glassy calm as we paddled up long beaches all the way to Broulee where we took a break. On the north side of Burrewarra Point, Peter led us through a narrow gauntlet and a pod of dolphins swam around my boat.


We had lunch at Guerilla Bay and then with a light headwind blowing settled into a slow steady pull to the Tollgate Islands and then onto North Head. Our camp had a fantastic view of the Tollgate Islands and, breaking the pattern of a long dry summer, we got a few hours of rain in the evening.

Steve surfing the Nadgee

Thursday morning the wind was blowing from the south again but forecast to ease over the day so we had a lazy morning and I went for a long walk before we set off around 9.30 am. North Head was bumpy with exploding haystacks everywhere and a two to three metre swell rolling in. We paddled north giving all the reefs and bombies a wide berth. The wind had dropped almost to nothing but it was surprisingly rough all the way to Beagle Bay. Lunch was a long affair lounging about on some green grass above the beach and then we paddled a few more kilometres north to a sheltered camp. Steve took the Nadgee out for a surf and I had a wonderful walk along the rock platform and through a gorgeous spotted gum forest. Kangaroos grazed around the tents in the evening.

Spotted gum forest

Friday, of course the wind was northerly, so we headed back towards Batemans Bay. The non-paddling spouses had agreed to pick us up from Mosquito Bay after lunch. Calm winds and glassy seas gave way to a moderate northeasterly wind by the time we reached North Head again and we kayak-sailed past the Tollgates and into sheltered Mosquito Bay.

Beach landing

The tally for the trip was around 150 km and included one fish caught - and eaten raw! - a half dozen shark sightings (species unknown), many dolphins and seals, one broken rudder (twice), glassy calm mornings, heaving swells, exploding haystacks, and winds which never blew in the same direction for more than 24 hours straight. Don't you love sea kayaking.

Stop press, the video is here.  

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