NSW Sea Kayak Club – Northern Beaches Explorer [73]

By David Fisher

Do you know what? With the Sydney climate, it makes me wonder why more of Sydney isn’t out and about enjoying the best harbour (and beach) city in the world. I reckon I could shout it from the rooftops and would all the people come and invade the water? Probably not!

But my advice to everyone is to take advantage of our wonderful waterways. Many of you do, and Lee Killingworth and John Friedman put their hands into the air and joined me on this occasion for the beautiful, picturesque run from Palm Beach to Manly and into Sydney Harbour.

We had originally planned the trip to go in the other direction, heading north. However, the weather forecast foretold nor-easterlies so we swapped the paddle’s direction to head south. No big deal. This trip was set up from the start as KISS paddle (Keep It Simple Stupid). No big drive to get somewhere out of Sydney, no packing the kayaks full of gear, no worrying about food and spending hours planning menus and shopping.

The simplicity was magic. A couple of short car shuffles, dinner out on the town, brekky 1 at Shelly Beach and brekky 2 at Balmoral’s Boatshed Kiosk. Too easy.

Now that Lee Killingworth is an interesting character. He grew up on the northern beaches so he was a natural fit for our tour guide as we plied our way south. He pointed out each headland into the distance; he could name them all and the bays too. Lee is a walking, correction, paddling GPS with maps loaded. And an aid to our morale as we paddled along, Lee recalled the first drowned bodies he ever saw as a grommet around Newport.

But for all Lee’s local knowledge, the Vietnamese restaurant we went too on Lee’s recommendation was actually Indonesian. Stick local Lee, international geography obviously isn’t your bag.

My tips for a successful repeat voyage:

Firstly, check out the Shelley Beach food — I recommend the ham and cheese wrap. Whilst there, it would be a travesty not to check out the local Shelley Beach attractive wildlife and swimsuit fashion or lack of it. It seems a lot of club members head to Shelley Beach for this reason.

On a serious note, a low tide crossing into the Narrabeen channel is not on. There aren’t one or two rocks to avoid – the rocks are everywhere and many are covered in oysters and barnacles. High tide is the way to go (subject to conditions naturally) which is how we left the beach. On our entry, we landed 20-50 m from the channel and did a simple portage of 50 m past the rocks. As it happened, the surf was as flat as you’d probably get it even though we were there more or less close to low tide. A high tide entry at Narrabeen has the other advantage of filling up the lake, which has some pretty big sand flats to negotiate at low tide. In fact, the tidal delay in the lake is something like three or four hours. These aren’t deal breakers as we discovered. The Narrabeen surf is the more critical issue. However, there is no doubt that paddling the lake would have been simpler at high tide.

The wildlife joined us on Sunday morning, all in a short space of time. First was the penguin that surfaced between our kayaks around Curl Curl, followed by swarms of feeding Kingfish under us, next the aforementioned Shelley Beach eye poppers, next were Andrew Eddy and Peter Osman off Blue Fish Point, shortly thereafter the breaching whale a distance offshore, and finally in the heads off Chinaman’s Hat were Peter Levy and Claus Busseler.

All in all, a great trip. Thanks guys.

Trip details:

  • Participants: Lee Killingworth, John Friedman, David Fisher in 3 x Mirage 580
  • Dates: Saturday 11 to Sunday 12 October 2008
  • Location: Pittwater to Clontarf, camping Narrabeen Lakes (caravan park)
  • Weather: light – slight swell up to 1-2 m, low period, waves to 2 ft with calm periods, light to moderate winds.
  • Distance: around 20 km each day
  • Dep 1130 Pittwater
  • Arr 1530 Narrabeen and completely missed high tide 1830 DST
  • Dep 0730 Narrabeen to catch high tide 0708 DST
  • Arr 1300 Clontarf