Saturday, March 26, 2016

Don't Just Sit There, Paddle

Sea kayaks are not the ideal vessel for surfing waves. While the length of a sea kayak makes it easy to catch even small waves, they are not necessarily very maneuverable, and have a robust tendency to broach. Still, paddling a sea kayak in surf is a good way to improve your paddling skills, providing you don't cream yourself in the process. 

The south coast of NSW, as well as having lots of keen sea kayakers in the area, also has lots of beaches where you can surf a kayak. Once you get to know the local area a bit, it is relatively easy to find a good beach that will have just the right size and shape wave to get some practice on. Our favorites so far are Broulee Beach and Tomakin Beach near Mossy Point. Barlings Beach can also be good with bigger waves on a southerly swell. Local kayakers have told us that Cookies Beach at South Durass has friendly surf conditions. Close to us, a good swell often breaks at the river bar at Moruya Heads but the last time we were out there it was a little big for us, although the river bar itself provided some good rougher water practice and is safe on an incoming tide.

On Easter Saturday we launched at Mossy Point and paddled out of the bar and up to Tomakin Cove. A couple of weeks before we had been scared off paddling out this bar due to rough conditions, and had instead, gone south to Broulee Beach where it always seems pretty easy to launch and do a little surfing. But, with a southerly swell and light winds, paddling out Mossy Point bar was, apart from all the powerboats entering and exiting, quite easy. 

 Mossy Point bar in easy conditions

We played around paddling through some rock passages, which I enjoyed but Doug found quite unnerving. Kayaking is the one sport where having a squat body is an advantage as my centre of gravity is lower and my kayak more stable. After catching a couple of small waves at the north end of the beach, we ventured down to the south end, right near the river bar which is popular with novice surfers as a very regular wave forms which spills in to the sandy beach. 

Doug played around in the smaller waves inshore, but I hung out with the SUP'ers further out and had some quite thrilling rides on bigger waves. Some I managed with remarkable style given my skill level, others not so much as my bow would bury and I would come to a rather rapid halt. Occasionally, I even managed to do that neat maneuver where you cut out of the wave before it breaks but I think that was more good luck than good management. 

In fact, it was all going quite well until I made that fatal flaw when kayaking which was to have no speed relative to the water. I mistimed catching a wave and got caught in the breaking wave, which, would have been no real drama had I been paddling, forward or backward, but, I sat there like the proverbial deer in the headlights, dithering over whether to forward stroke or backward stroke, and, of course, capsized immediately, and, just as immediately fell right out of the boat and popped my spray deck. 

Wet exiting was then quite easy as I had pretty much wet exited the moment I capsized, and I began the process of swimming the boat in to shore. I was right in the break zone of the surf so setting up a paddle float and re-entering did not seem like a viable option. It took me a while to swim in as I would get sucked out with each wave that came by, and, with one hand on the boat, I had only one hand to swim with. After a while, Doug came along and gave me a tow for a bit, but that was somewhat uncomfortable as I would get stretched apart when he surged forward with a wave while my kayak was sucked back. Eventually, I made it into the beach, emptied my boat and re-entered. 

Nice morning at Mossy Point

It was a good learning experience and a bit like falling while rock climbing, good to do as it removes a lot of the lingering fear you may have that falling or capsizing is a terrible thing. I was glad to have a paddle leash on, to have nothing unsecured on or in my boat, and also I was not wearing sunglasses or a hat - a bit uncomfortable on a hot sunny day but two things I always take off and stow away if I think I might capsize. Swimming with just one arm is a bit slow, and, you need to take care not to get down-wave of the kayak. There are still places I would not want to capsize - off Warden Head near Ulladulla is a recent example - just as there are times when rock climbing when the "leader does not fall" should remain absolutely true, but, apart from being a bit sandy, I suffered no harm from capsizing. Of course, having a bomb-proof eskimo roll would be a lot easier way to recover from a capsize, but, I'm still working on that.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Coastal Kayak Tripping: Kioloa to Ulladulla

It was another easy launch from Kioloa as the four of us set off for Ulladulla, about 32 kilometres to the north. We paddled inside Belowla Island, past Shelly Point, and north to the passage between Brush Island and Wilfords Point. It would have been nice to take a turn around Brush Island. I have paddled past twice now and never paddled on the outer east side, but, we had a long way to go, so we simply carried on. Passing Bawley Point, the tiny boat ramp at the south end of Bawley Beach looked like an easier launch than last time we had been there. Both the lower tide and the southerly swell offering protection from the surge. 

A series of small headlands and beaches followed backed by short cliffs or sandy beaches and the ever present gum forest. A pod of dolphins followed us north for a long way, surfacing close to the boats at times. A hammerhead shark cruised casually by. With the sun, the clear water, the glassy sea and the rolling swell, it was one of those days that etch a special kind of magic in your mind.
We passed Stokes Island and rounded Crampton Island at around the three hour mark and my butt going numb coincided with my stomach waking up. It was easy to duck behind a breaking swell and land on Crampton Island for some lunch and leg stretch, but a bit confronting to think we were only half way to our final destination. There is one afternoon bus from Ulladulla to Kioloa and we needed to be on it to retrieve the cars which left little time for exploring Crampton Island. 

 Somewhere between Kioloa and Ulladulla

Wairo Beach is long and it took an hour for the next headland to draw near, and another half hour to pass it and reach Burrill Beach. We could see the final headland that marks the south side of Ulladulla harbour but not the lighthouse which is short and squat (much like myself). 

"Just one more headland" Neil called back to us as the diminutive Ulladulla lighthouse on Warden Head finally came into view. We could see the south end of Sullivan Reef breaking below Warden Head. Had we not been so tired, it might have been fun to see if we could run the gauntlet between the reef and the shore, but we were tired, butt-sore, and ready to get out of the kayaks. We were now just three kilometres from sheltered waters in Ulladulla harbour, but, the most challenging paddling was yet to come. 

As we drew near with the lighthouse on Warden Head the ocean suddenly changed character. The long easy to manage rolling swell was gone and we were in the midst of haystacks and clapotis with water going everywhere and peaked waves popping up out of nowhere with devilish frequency. As usual, I was at the back and it literally felt as if my kayak were being punched by a large fist, first from the right, then the left, then bow quarter, the stern quarter, back to the left and right again, a continuous pummeling akin to riding the spin cycle of a washing machine. 

Neil paddles towards Stokes Island

The only option was paddling forwards, throwing in a low brace here and there when the kayak threatened to capsize. Doug told me later that he rehearsed eskimo rolls a dozen times over as we paddled through this confused water. Gradually, the pummelling eased, we paddled past the breakers on Sullivan Reef and, when we got near the breakwater in Ulladulla harbour, the maelstrom was over. Landing on the beach at Ulladulla, I fell out of my boat rather than stood up. 

Doug and Phil got changed and wandered up to take the school bus run south to Kioloa to retrieve the vehicles, Neil went in search of a coffee shop, while I sorted gear and watched over the kayaks. Another stretch of coastline, Kioloa to Ulladulla was done.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sea Kayaking Weekend Adventures II: Guerilla Bay to Corrigans Beach

On Sunday the wind was forecast to be lighter, but was actually stronger, and the swell was considerably bigger hitting 2 to 2.5 metres on the bigger sets. Only eight kayakers lined up on the beach at Guerilla Bay for a one way paddle to Corrigans Beach. Originally, the plan had been to paddle north from Tomakin but that means rounding Burrewarra Point which gets pretty rough in windy conditions. Launching from Guerilla Bay put us on the north side of Burrewarra Point.

Guerilla Bay

After a quick briefing by Wildey, we headed out towards Burrewarra Point. Doug and I had paddled around Burrewarra Point the weekend before and, even in very calm conditions, we found quite a strong current and many haystacks. The swell was really picking up at Burrewarra Point and it was a bit challenging paddling up and down over the swells. After a short time, Wildey pointed us north and we turned downwind and started heading north up the coast. 

Heading out to Burrewarra Point

I found the paddling relatively challenging all the way to Circuit Beach. The wind was only about 10 to 12 knots, but the swell was around two metres with a confused sea on top. Paddling was a matter of continuously adjusting balance and throwing in correction strokes to maintain tracking with a following sea. Doug and I both had our sails, but the sea conditions were far too challenging for us to try sailing.

There are various bomboras off the coast and these were all breaking solidly. As we paddled past Jimmies Island, I saw Wildey paddling about 2 metres off shore while the rest of us kept a cautious distance from the waves. I guess forty years of paddling experience conveys a lot of skill.

Jayne paddling into shore with grey clouds behind

At Circuit Beach we landed for a short break in a small swell. There was some minor carnage with two or three people dumping, but most of us managed the landing with some degree of style. Launching was also easy with Wildey acting as beach master and launching last. I found the launch much easier than when we paddled out from Cormorant Beach a couple of weeks ago.

Doug and I managed to get our sails up and kayak sailed almost all the way to Corrigans Beach. With my sail up, and paddling lightly, I was actually at the front of the group for a change and Doug was getting quite a way ahead of the rest of the group. Near Sunshine Beach, the wind really picked up and I pulled my sail down for a little while as I was afraid of tipping. I always feel a bit unstable with the sail up.

Easy paddling as we get closer to Corrigans Beach

Once we got to Caseys Beach, the swell was much diminished and I was brave enough to put my sail back up to cruise around Observation Head. Once into Batemans Bay there was insufficient wind for sailing so the sail came down for good and we paddled the final few hundred metres into shore.

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.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mystery Bay to Montague Island by Sea Kayak

Getting into your sea kayak and pointing your bow straight out to sea towards a very distant island is always a bit confronting, but, the more frequently I do it, the more normal it begins to seem. Our destination this time was Montague Island which lies about seven kilometres off the south NSW coast, and the weather forecast was as good as it gets - light winds, sea and swell below one metre and falling. 

Montague Island from Mystery Bay

We launched from Mystery Bay, the traditional location for sea kayakers bound for Montague Island. Apparently, this can be a rough launch site at times, but it was very calm when we started out around 7.15 am. Mystery Bay is somewhat south of Montague Island making the actual distance to the island around 9 to 10 kilometres. Paddling steadily, it took us about 1.45 hours to reach the south end of Montague Island and our first view of the islands Fur Seal population. 

Fur seals at the northern end of Montague Island

Inexplicably, landing on the island is banned unless you pay tour companies lots of money and arrive using fossil fuels. We pulled into a sheltered cove for a snack and some water, and then paddled north up the west side of the island past pretty little coves, large granite boulders and, of course, Fur Seals. 

Under the lighthouse on the west side of Montague Island

The largest concentration of Fur Seals is at the north end of Montague Island where they congregate on sloping granite boulders and rest in the ocean. As we passed by, there was a lot of loud barking which is pretty cool to hear. With such favourable conditions, we decided to circumnavigate the island and paddled around to the east side. This is definitely rougher than the west side and I was glad I had put 12 litres of water into the kayak as ballast before leaving. 

Conditions as good as they get

Back down at the south end of the island, we decided to head straight for the closest piece of coast and then make our way back to Mystery Bay. The seas were even calmer on the way back and it took us only about an hour to arrive at Bogota Head north of Mystery Bay.

At Bogota Head

Paddling south was pleasant in the clear water along Loader and Fullers Beaches. At Corunna Point, the sandy beaches give way to low jagged cliffs and tiny coves. There are lookouts along this section of coast. Finally, five hours after setting off, we landed at Mystery Cove and staggered out of the boats on somewhat wobbly legs. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Coastal Tripping in a Sea Kayak: Tomakin to Malua Bay

The paddling weather over the past weekend was as good as it gets - sunshine and warm weather, light winds, low sea and low swell. On Saturday, we headed out to paddle from Tomakin up to Jimmies Island near Rosedale and ended up continuing on to Malua Bay. The tide was fairly low when we launched from the far west end of Barlings Beach in Tomakin. A few old surfers were idly standing about talking about surfing but not actually getting out on the water. Admittedly, the swell was pretty small. We toyed with doing a little surfing in the kayaks before starting our paddle, but the conditions were so good, that we just started heading west to Long Nose Point.

Barlings Beach at Tomakin

Barlings Island was dry on the inside so we went around the outside. At higher tides, it looks as if there a couple of small passages you could squeeze through. From Long Nose Point to Burrewarra Point there are many little steep cliff backed coves, tiny islets, and rocky reefs that all make for interesting paddling. 

Barlings Island

Burrewarra Point sticks out a kilometre in the north/south tidal current and deep water comes right up to the point so even on calm days, the water is confused and bouncy. I certainly noticed not having my 12 litres of water ballast in the kayak as I was bouncing around a bit more than usual. From Burrewarra Point we headed straight to Jimmies Island but I found out later that you can scramble up a fishermans track to Burrewarra Point from below - next time. 

Near Long Nose Point

Paddling around the east side of Jimmies Island schools of small fish jump ahead of the kayaks. It is time to stretch our legs, so we aim for the north end of Rosedale Beach and land in a small dumping surf. At this point, we realise that, if we continue on around Pretty Point to Malua Bay we will be just in time for the regular Saturday bus that runs from Batemans Bay to Moruya.

Landing at Malua Bay

Jumping in the kayaks we paddle quickly north around Pretty Point and into the beach at Malua Bay. I grab my dry bag, sprint for the bus stop all the while thinking, "I should run more" and, arriving at the bus stop (right behind the beach) realize I have ten minutes to spare. Twenty minutes later, I am back with the car.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Work It Out: Bawley Point to Kioloa by Sea Kayak

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Actually, I Can

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Make your own victories. Make your own mistakes. Joan Jett.
I dislike motivational messages. Inspiration, motivation, aspiration, these should come from within. But, if there is one thing that irks me more than motivational messages it is the "you can't" message. Kayaking with a group last weekend, I heard so many "you can't" statements it first made me dizzy and then made me determined.
 Easy surf landing in FNQ

"You can't surf a sea kayak, ride a wave into the beach without going broadside, paddle out to sea, launch through surf" and on it went. The fact that we had just done all these things a few days before made no difference to the nay sayers. They simply could not see that these things were possible. 
Sometimes it seems as if I have heard "you can't" statements my entire life. Years ago, back when we lived in the mountains of BC, people in our local mountaineering club said "you can't run a climbing camp, maintain those backcountry huts, do that ski traverse, run a weekly climbing night." 

 The climbing camp that was "you can't"

You may, like me, have noticed that the "you can't" people are the same people who also said "I could not learn to eskimo roll, so I can't paddle on the open ocean," or, "I hurt my back, so I can't lift weights," or "I have weak ankles, so I can't bushwalk." They are, in other words, the people who don't simply "argue for their limitations", they embrace them. 

Actually, I can

The reality is, just because THEY can't, does not mean YOU can't. Our capacity to do is limited only by our imagination, grit, determination and persistence. So, the next time you hear "you can't" say "Actually, I can."

Friday, March 4, 2016

Some South Coast Kayaking: Tomaga River, Wagonga Inlet, Tollgate Islands, Three Islet Point

Right now, and for the foreseeable future, we are based in Moruya, looking after a lovely older Collie and a house on a few acres. And, it has been hot, almost every day in the 30's with nary a sea breeze making it the eight kilometres inland to cool the air down. Consequently, we have been out in the sea kayak a lot enjoying the local waterways. There is a ton of kayaking down here, open ocean or protected inlets, lakes and rivers. 

Sunset from the house

Our first couple of trips were with the Eurobodalla Kayakers. Regularly on Tuesdays, a group paddles up the Tomaga River from Mossy Point. Apparently, you can paddle right up to the Zoo at Mogo, but when I went we paddled up to and around a little island in the river making a distance of about 10 kilometres. This is a pleasant little paddle and there does not seem to be any motor traffic to speak of. A really big sting ray hangs around the boat ramp. 

Our kayaks at Three Islet Point

Our next paddle was also with the Eurobodalla Kayakers and we went down to paddle the calm clear waters of Wagonga Inlet at Narooma. We launched under the highway bridge and paddled out to the bar where three or four seals were lazing close by the rocks. There were also many rays swimming in the shallow waters. Wagonga Inlet has really clear turquoise water so it is very pretty to paddle around the many inlets and bays. 

Heading out to the Tollgate Islands

With the hot weather continuing, Doug and I launched from Corrigans Beach in Batemans Bay and paddled out to the Tollgate Islands which are about 3.5 km offshore. It is always a bit disconcerting to start a paddle trip by heading straight out to sea, but conditions were very good with a 1 to 1.5 metre swell and barely any wind. Although the islands appeared very distant when we started paddling, we arrived in just about an hour. We circumnavigated the two islands but had to stand a fair way off shore as large waves were breaking on the rocky reefs that surround the islands. In calmer weather, you can paddle between the islands. 

At the Tollgate Islands

On our return trip, we paddled southwest and landed in a dumping surf - not our best idea - on Wimbie Beach, then followed the coastline north, did a lap around Snapper Island and paddled the length of Corrigans Beach. Snapper Island has a big sea cave on the northwestern end, but, the swell was too big to get in close. 

Snapper Island

Closer to Moruya, we had a fantastic morning surfing the kayaks at the southern end of Broulee Beach. The most sheltered launch site is a bit of a carry, and the surf is probably better at low tide, but we found very friendly waves along the southern end of the beach near Boat Harbour. Sea kayaks are so long that they can ride even small waves. 

The Tollgate Islands look far away

The northerly flow continued with hot weather and northerly winds, apart from our next paddle day when the winds switched to southerly early in the morning. We had planned to launch from Long Beach and paddle out to North Head which is on the north side of Batemans Bay and got up to find the wind forecast to blow from the south instead of the north. The winds however, were not forecast to get above 15 knots and the swell was low (around one metre) so we stuck with our original plan. 

At Three Islet Point

It is really easy to launch from Long Beach as there is a carpark right by the beach and even a water tap for washing your gear afterwards. We paddled southeasterly in very calm conditions past Chain Bay and Maloneys Beach before the wind came up. By the time we got to Three Isle Point, the wind was up around 10 knots and it was bumpy off the point which really sticks out into the tidal current. I was glad we had thrown a few water jugs in the boats for ballast so they did not bob around so much. We managed to land in a little grotto just inside Three Isle Point and scrambled on friable rock along the headland to view the Tollgate Islands. 

Seals in Wagonga Inlet

On the way back, we passed by Long Beach and paddled past Square Head and landed at the mouth of Cullendulla Creek. We had a brisk wind off our beams on the way back to Longs Beach. A group of three other kayakers happened to be pulling out at the same time as us and we met up with one of the local sea kayakers who I had been in contact with via email. Neil is a very friendly guy who not only fed us lunch at his house but gave us lots of great local information on other kayak trips in the area.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Booroomba to Namadgi Visitor Centre via Mount Tennent

This is another justifiably popular ACT hike which follows the Australian Alpine Walking Track (AAWT) from Booroomba Rocks out to Namadgi Visitor Centre with an optional, and recommended, detour up Mount Tennent. I started from the Booroomba end, while Doug started from the Visitor Centre, and, we met up on the summit of Mount Tennet halfway through the walk. 

Booroomba Ridge from Mt Tennet track

Starting from the Booroomba end, the track descends beside a tributary of Booroomba Creek, then heads east to reach Bushfold Flats. This is a pretty open area alongside Georges Creek with forested ridges to either side. Shortly after crossing through a gate, angle right to find the well defined track which climbs easily up the ridge to the east to reach a track junction. 

Bushfold Flats

Turn right for Mount Tennent and follow a bush track until you reach the fire road that leads up to the top. This part of the walk is a bit steep, hot and dusty, but, you soon arrive at Mount Tennent and a wonderful view over Namadgi National Park and out towards Tharwa. 

View from Mount Tennet

We spent almost an hour on Mount Tennent before walking back down to the junction where Doug walked out to Booroomba and I continued north following the ridge of Mount Tennent until the track dropped off to the east and descended reasonably steeply to the Nass Road. Lots of views along this section as the track is frequently on open granite slabs, but it would be a hot pull up on a sunny summer's day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

ACT Rock Climbing

After watching your elected MP's behaving badly during Question Period at Parliament House, you'll undoubtedly feel like going out and doing something eminently sensible like rock climbing. Luckily, there is plenty of that around the ACT. There is a printed guide, although it is most likely severely out of date, but, you can also get by with some pdf guides available off the web from the Canberra Climbers Association.

Booroomba climbing

The first place we went was Snake Rock. This is a little crag accessible along the Corin Road that is well developed and seems very popular. We walked in one morning after a couple of days of very heavy rain and found about a dozen other people scattered about the various areas. Most of the climbs were wet, some very wet, so we were a little limited in what we could climb, but, we did a few good routes. Mostly well protected sport routes on new ring bolts and easy to set top-ropes on many climbs, but, the routes are pretty short. We also checked out Bandito Wall, which is also accessible from the Corin Road, but all the climbs there were very wet and even a wee bit slimy looking. There is good camping nearby in Woods Reserve and also some nice bushwalks.

Heading down to the abseil anchors at Booroomba Slabs

Our next stop was Booroomba Rocks in Namadgi National Park. Again, really nice camping nearby at Honeysuckle Creek but beware of bogans on weekends. It's a bit of a walk in to reach the climbing area. You take the tourist track up to Booroomba Ridge then, depending on where you are climbing, abseil or scramble down to the bottom of the big granite slabs on the north side of the ridge. We opted to abseil in using fixed stations on the route Melmoth. We had a seventy metre rope which enabled us to reach the ground from the second set of rappel rings. With a shorter rope, you'll come up short and have to downclimb grade 11ish slabs. Mostly the slabs are clean and the climbing is good, but, read the guide carefully as there are some long run-outs on routes. After heavy rain, some of the climbs stay quite wet for many days. Good climbing, great ambiance as you are right in the lovely Namadgi National Park.

Booroomba views

Our next stop was Mount Coree where there is some awesome climbing but we faffed away half the morning trying to find the descent route which is not as shown on the pdf guide. The scramble route marked down Pretty Gully is really ugly - very bushy and difficult downclimbing, particularly with a pack. It's obvious that other climbers feel the same as there is a cut track - narrow but cut - leading across from the base of Wind Wall, but it is hard to find as you have to scramble right down past Wind Wall and plunge into the bush. Lots of great climbs here on solid rock and in a nice location up on Mount Coree. There is a camping area on the NSW side so you could easily spend a few days here. Like Booroomba Rocks, this climbing area has great ambience as you are right up on the Brindabella Range. 

Mount Coree views

We also went to Sewer Wall which has some reasonable short climbs, but, it took us two tries to find this climbing area as the instructions are so detailed yet non-specific as to be almost completely useless. The crag is right down at river level on the Molonglo River but not where the topographic map shows a crag at river level. The climbing area is about one kilometre downstream at a sharpish bend in the river and is hard to find from above. Don't try coming up the river from the water treatment plant as you'll end up swimming. The climbs are short and some are a bit broken but some locals have gone to a lot of trouble bolting routes so it is worth a day. There is a great pool below the climbs to swim in, and, if you were of a mind, the cliff shown on the topographic map has great route development potential. 

Swimming hole at Sewer Wall

There is also other granite climbing on Gibraltar Peak and Orroral Ridge but we did not visit either of those areas.