NSW Sea Kayak Club – Winter Magic [76]

by Cathy Miller

Currarong/Honeymoon Bay weekend, 13-14 June 2009

The paddle around Beecroft Peninsula is legendary — if you haven’t done it yet, put it on your list! Apart from the spectacular cliff lines and sea-caves, throw in whales, seals, penguins and dolphins and you can see why this has a reputation as one of the best paddles in NSW. To cap it off there is a delightful bush campsite at Honeymoon Bay where there is a stunning semi-circular bay (you need to bring your own water; porta-loos supplied).

Saturday 13 June: Currarong to Honeymoon Bay (25 km approx)

You need a good forecast before you do this paddle, and we had it. Mother Nature really turned it on for us this day. The forecast was perfect: NW winds slight 10-15 knots, sea and swell 1-2 metres. The prevailing NW winds at this time of year make winter a good time to attempt Beecroft Peninsula.

The group comprised Owen Kimberley, Adrian Clayton, Wendy Stevenson, Kathie Webb, George Jessup and Cathy Miller with Mark Pearson joining us later. We were led by Dirk Stuber, who was being assessed for his Australian Canoeing Sea Guide qualification by Herr Assessor Stuart Trueman (or was that Hair Assessor?). Of course, all Dirk wanted for his assessment was an incident-free paddle — but this is a spectacular paddle full of sea-caves and gauntlets! Would we behave ourselves?

We met at the end of Piscator Ave, Currarong, to launch at the sheltered beach near the Currarong Creek inlet.

As we readied ourselves, Stuart was giving us all the once-over. Were we being assessed too? No. It turns out he was really just checking out who was best dressed for immersion, as he was going to be putting Dirk through his paces later in the day.

After Dirk’s briefing, we followed the cliffs around Little Beecroft and Beecroft Head. We stopped briefly at Gum Getters Inlet, which is the only sheltered pull-in point on the northern side of Point Perpendicular until you get to Boat Harbour. I’ve been told access here is tricky because of the rocks if the tide is very low or if the wind is blowing straight in.

We were soon at the spectacular Drum and Drumsticks, a rock formation off Lamond Head. This site with Aboriginal significance was used as a bombing target by the Navy until 1986 when community protests stopped the practice. Here we were treated to the sights (and downwind smells) of around two dozen seals, basking on the rocks and diving into the water. I was later told that this colony was the harem with one dominant male in charge of the females. Further around the younger males were banished onto their own separate rocks. Can’t see what’s in it for the girls — one big old bossy male to share, and no toy boys?

From Crocodile Head around to Point Perpendicular it is nothing short of spectacular. The sea cliffs here are the highest in NSW, up to 90 metres high at Pont Perpendicular. Dirk’s hair turned greyer as we just couldn’t resist backing into the sea caves, running small (safe!) gauntlets and going through an arch near Crocodile Head.

As part of his assessment, Dirk had to do a wet exit, re-enter roll and an assisted rescue on his ‘volunteer’ George — who had foolishly dressed for full immersion. Stuart had the clock running — the pressure was on. This of course provided great amusement to the rest of us sitting high and dry in our kayaks, while we offered useful words of advice, such as ‘Get him out of the water’ or ‘Hurry up’.

We headed for a surf landing at Target Beach as required by Herr Assessor. I saw a break after a set and headed in fast on the back of the waves, disappointing the onlookers with an anti-climactic beach landing — zero entertainment score, apparently. To the delight of the paddlers on the beach, Stuart copped the biggest set of them all, which he handled in true style. It is just possible that he waited until he saw it coming…

After a surf launch from Target Beach it was an easy run back to Honeymoon Bay where we did the reverse car shuffle (thanks Vicki!). Dirk’s duties included making sure we were all set up with tents, food, warm clothing etc for the night. Several of us tried to convince him this duty extended to putting up our tents and cooking dinner, but Dirk was too wise for that.

Camping that night at Honeymoon Bay we were joined by another group of NSWSKC paddlers (John Piotrowski, David Fisher, Andrew Eddy, Katrina Nicholls, Rae Duffy, Shaan Gresser and Stuart Morgan) who had done the full 37 km circumnavigation. This involved putting in at Honeymoon Bay then paddling beyond Currarong half way along the beach towards Kinghorne and then portaging the boats a short distance to a tidal inlet that leads to Green Point. Due to the tides and mangroves, this leg needs a reasonably high tide.

The evening was spent with the two combined groups enjoying banter and swapping tales. David Fisher took the cake, wowing us all with freshly baked chocolate muffins on his camp oven.

Sunday 14 July: Honeymoon Bay to Stoney Creek return

The next day started with perfect pancakes by David Fisher (he’s in danger of getting a reputation). George tried to recruit David for his next trip as cook, saying he’d unload his boat, carry his gear, set up his tent and pack it all up for him so long as he cooked, but even George started to admit that started to sound like a lot of effort for a few pancakes.

After Dirk’s briefing a combined group of 13 paddlers set off from Honeymoon Bay for Bowen Island, giving plenty of scope to upset Dirk’s assessment. With a NW tailwind (10 knots) we took off, surfing the windwaves, but to his credit Dirk gathered the flock to control group spread. To this day, George is still wondering how he got in trouble for causing group spread when he was the designated leader. It wasn’t his fault no-one else followed him, was it?

The passage between Bowen Island and Governor Head (after Murrays Beach) can be tricky depending on the tide and waves because of a low reef. On a low tide, you may need to paddle around the island, but we had an easy run through on a high tide.

While not as high as the sea-cliffs around Crocodile Head, this area towards Green Rocks is still very beautiful with sea caves all along the cliff lines. The low half to one metre swell allowed us to get right up close to the cliffs, a real treat. We split into two groups, one led by John Piotrowski which headed to Stoney Creek and the other led by Dirk back to Honeymoon Bay where a glorious weekend was topped off by the sight of a pod of dolphins.

As for Dirk, despite our best efforts to throw ourselves onto the rocks or into the surf, he passed his Sea Guide assessment. Congratulations Dirk (thanks Stuart), and thanks again to Dirk for a great trip.