May 1st 2004, Kurnell to Coogee beach and return (35km)
We spent a pleasant 5 ½ hours on the water with an average speed of 6.5 kph . Winds; W/NW 10/15 knots freshening to 20/25 knots in the afternoon, seas 1 to 1.5 metres rising to 2 metres later, Swell: S/SE 1-1.5 metres
Our trip leader was Howard Cook and our pod comprised Howard and Ian in Pittaraks, Bob in a Mirage 580. We put in at Kurnell and paddled across to La Perouse to meet up with Paul, and Tim both in Pittaraks. I am a SeaSkills groupie. As we left Kurnell Howard asked me for my risk assessment of the trip. I am still struggling with this concept for SS2. All I could think of was:
- High: Shipping entering or leaving port might run over us. Likelihood: high. Control: Go behind approaching vessels
- Medium: a freak wave cleans us up rounding Cape banks. Likelihood: Moderate. Control: keep well out to sea
- Low: the wind increases and blew us out to sea. Likelihood: Rare
- Very low: eaten by sharks. Likelihood: rare
I mention sharks as this is still a worry being only my second offshore trip of more than 4 hours. On the previous trip also with Howard we had a close encounter with a large Mako which I reported to the SeaSkills group. From the emails received I have accepted the fact that I am more likely to have a car accident on the way to the boat ramp than be attacked by a shark.
Two ships left port and one arrived during our crossing of the bay, I was truly amazed how I underestimated the speed these ships travel. A ship sighted on the Horizon as we left La Perouse passed us before we cleared Cape Banks reinforcing our risk analysis never attempt to pass in front of one.
Our pod of five left La Perouse and headed out to sea, which was like champagne, sparkling and crystal clear. At the northern headland of Botany Bay, Cape Banks we met large swell some over 3 metres. On the southern headland at Cape Solander there are signs warning this is a large wave area. The chart shows a depth of 10 metres at Cape Banks and drops quickly to 40 metres within in ½ mile and 60 metres 1 mile off the coast. It is also the most easterly point on this section of coast exposing it to the prevailing SE swell. So it is wise to keep a sharp lookout for large waves if you paddle close to the cliffs. I could see kelp way below us as we changed course for deeper water. The swell decreased as we headed north to around 1-1.5 metres, an hour later we entered Little Bay which was like glass and nosed into the beach. It is a pretty place, the barren sandstone cliffs on the seaward side give way to rolling green grass of a golf course with Prince Henry Hospital in the centre.
After a short break we continued north intending to stop at Long Bay. Howard the pied piper of Port Hacking whistled up a large school of dolphin. Coming up from behind they surfaced between our kayaks often two at a time, others cut across our bows, so close that I was sure I would run into a tail before it sunk beneath the surface. Everyone one ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ as the show went on. The highlight was like a scene out of Top Gun, where Tom Cruze hauls his fighter on to its back and flies inverted cockpit to cockpit 1 metre above a Russian MIG. I looked down and watched a grey back directly under my hull roll over exposing its white underside and run parallel with me matching my speed and course. I am sure it was smiling. The same was happening to everyone. Just as suddenly they disappeared and we discovered in the excitement we had passed Long Bay.
I am amazed at the visibility of the safety orange paddle caps some members wear. At first I thought it was a sail, about 2 klm up the coast as we gained ground a group of paddlers materialized. The orange hat turned into a paddler, I could make out the strong vertical blade and quick side exit. As an SS2 groupie I new this stroke having studied it for hours from every angle. So I bet the group ahead was Andrew Eddy’s. ‘You’re dreaming’, they said ‘we are mowing them down’. Tim backed my call and shortly after two paddlers detached themselves and paddled back to us, Rod Mercer and the black torpedo of Ian Phillips.
After a chat they set off at race pace to catch Andrew Eddy’s orange hat disappearing into the distance. We continued on to Wedding Cake Island, where Howard rolled after tripping while surfing a small wave wrapping itself round the island. We landed at Coogee Beach, which was flat calm with the westerly wind, and decided to head back to Long Bay for lunch as the wind was increasing.
Tim rigged his sail. I found this section of our trip the most difficult, the wind swung more to west, with wind gusts to 20 knots on our beam. I had to brace a few times and was convinced I would take a swim. The difficulty I found was edging the kayak to maintain my course, and exposing the raised edge to the gusting westerly. I gradually became convinced my Pittarak would not spit me out into the ocean after following in Tim’s wake for a while; he had no trouble trimming his sail and braced the boat comfortably in the gusts.
We pushed on to Little Bay for lunch and were all glad of the rest, Howard and Bob got stoves going Howard is road testing his modified Trangia and cooked waffles with it.
After lunch the short trip back to Cape Banks was easy until we turned into Botany Bay to meet the westerly head on. The bay was a mass of whitecaps and a short wind chop. We made good progress to La Perouse and even had enough energy left to all do some rolls before heading across the Bay to Kurnell. OK everyone else managed to roll; luckily I managed to push off from the bottom. The Bounty was moored off the oil wharf for the Kurnell Festival we paid her a visit.
A young woman leant over the Bounty’s rail and said ‘I saw you go off this morning, where on earth have you been’ we told her and she said ‘did any of you think to phone home’. We paddled off for a quick 500 metres down wind to the beach and phoned home. Can’t wait to do this trip again in June when the whale migration is on.