By CATHY MILLER
With Rock ‘n’ Roll coming up in March at Batemans Bay, you may be tempted to paddle there. After all, it’s on the waterfront! That’s what we figured in 2010. And it offers a unique opportunity to do a one-way trip with a horde of kayakers descending on Batemans Bay for Rock ‘n’ Roll who can either pick up a car you leave on the way, or take you home.
This trip is book-ended with the spectacular cliffs of Beecroft Peninsula at the start, and the beautiful Murramarang National Park at the other end. Throw in beautiful weather, fantastic company, copious amounts of alcohol, excessively good food and we had an absolute corker of a trip.
Our group was Guy (Gourmand) Reeve, Rae (our Ray of sunshine) Duffy, James (Cheesecake) Johnson, Paul (Roller) Tobin and myself (yippee!).
We briefly contemplated paddling all the way there from Sydney, but as some of us had commitments on the prior weekend we decided we needed to start further south. We chose Currarong as our starting point, which gave us the option of starting from Honeymoon Bay in Jervis Bay if the weather didn’t permit paddling around the Beecroft Peninsula cliffs. In fact, we fluked the best weather window in ages, and set off on the afternoon of Sunday 14th March from Currarong in 5-10kn NE winds with 1.5-2m sea swell. This was probably our ‘lumpiest’ day on the water due to the swell, but we still managed to get into quite a few of the sea-caves around Crocodile Head. As soon as we rounded Point Perpendicular it was more protected and we had beautiful clear waters as we headed to Boat Harbour.
We had done a car shuffle leaving two cars at Batemans Bay and I left my car at Currarong. The trip was planned around arriving at Batemans Bay for Rock ‘n’ Roll registration on Friday 19th March. We had assumed we’d get weathered in at some point, so we had allowed a generous five and a half days to do this 150km trip. Amazingly this mild weather pattern continued for the rest of the week, so we continued to enjoy a relaxed pace, with some late (read ‘slack’) starts and early camps.
The next day took us around Bowen Island and past a massive seal colony near Cape St George. Boy, could you smell that! Hundreds of curious seals plopped into the water to join us with varying degrees of grace. Some slid, some plopped, some wiggled their way tentatively down the rocks, some just plummeted. Paul Tobin, who is as comfortable under his boat as in it, rolled under to watch them and took some amazing underwater video of the seals. We had a late lunch and snorkelled at Kittys Beach, which is an easy sheltered landing spot. James and Paul put up their sails after with 5-10kn NE straight behind us. This was our longest paddle at close to 40kms to our campsite at Monument Beach, where we landed with a small surf break. Rae struggled through an illness that nearly sent her home, but with typical guts and determination she toughed it out and recovered in the next few days.
Day 3 saw us heading out from Monument Beach to Lake Termeil through an easy surf breakout. We paddled 36km this day, with sunny conditions and a light 5-10 knot NE wind and swell less than 0.5m. We didn’t really have an excuse for such a slack start except that we’d settled in to enjoying ourselves too much. We stopped for more food and water at Ulladulla which has a safe harbour. After a quick count of the remaining supplies, there was a quick run to the liquor store just in case there was any danger at all that we’d run out of booze (we didn’t). We paddled on to Lake Termeil for a late camp. It was a beautiful campsite, once we’d marched our kayaks to the wrong spot to begin with! Up until now I’d regularly fallen off my 3-legged camp stool each night, usually with a glass of red wine in my hand (as James said, “regular as clock-work Cathy’s fallen off her stool again”). I was determined to improve my form this evening, and instead stepped right into the ‘camp kitchen sink’ with a loud ‘Plop’.
And speaking of food – on this trip, we took carbo-loading to a new dizzy level. This must be the only sea kayak trip where the calorie intake far outweighed any calories we burned up, given how slowly we meandered down the coast with a light tail-wind all the way. I’m not just talking gourmet curries and yummy pastas, I’m talking desserts such as trifle, cheesecake (both whipped up by James), dehydrated strawberries and blueberries soaked in rum, chocolate cake, hot cross buns – the list goes on. As we lolled on our camp stools at night under the stars, we seriously discussed the need for Sea Skills to be upgraded to include a Grade 3 food component. And if so, how this would be assessed? Would the Assessors also need to upgrade their qualifications? And was there a career path in this perhaps? What about a TV show, ‘Master Camp Chef’? Could we all get paid to do what we obviously did best, paddle occasionally and eat a lot? Would anyone like another glass of wine?
Day 4 saw us heading from Lake Termeil with a small surf entry into 5-10 knot NE winds again, with swell no more than 1m. Talk about spoiled! We lunched at Stokes Island and had a snorkel, before an early camp at 3pm. We were now in the beautiful Murramarang National Park. This really was the life – fishing, snorkelling, drying gear, swimming and in the morning, a yoga session led by Guy that had us all rolling in the sand then needing a swim. Ahh, tough indeed.
On Day 5 we paddled a whole 18km with, you guessed it, 10-15kn NE winds, SE swell 1m and 0.5m seas. Too good. We circumnavigated Grasshopper Island to pad out the distance, and lunched and snorkelled at North Durras beach. After lunch we made a raft of our five kayaks while James and Paul at each end put up their sails. In 10 knot winds we were hardly flying, so Paul got out his massive camp tarpaulin and we rigged that up as well. Just as well there was no land or other boats in sight, we couldn’t see a thing through the tarp. After a circumnavigation of Wasp Island we had a small surf landing at 4pm at another beautiful campsite with more swimming, snorkelling, fishing and eating, dolphins even.
On Friday we were within easy striking range of Batemans Bay, but none of us were in the mood to finish up. We lunched at North Head then paddled around the Tollgate Islands, where we explored rock gardens and got blasted by two blow-holes. After some rolling at Snapper Island, we pulled in to Batemans Bay where we found our waiting cars and a whole mob of kayakers keen to ply us with beers and pizza. Thanks to Ian who picked up my car that evening on the way down from Sydney with Kaye Swanson, despite him being left behind and staying at home to look after the family. After the trip Paul Tobin made a fantastic video which he’s posted on YouTube called ‘Sea Kayaking Jervis Bay to Batemans Bay’
So what can we conclude from our trip? When Matt Bezzina reflected on his trip across Bass Strait he commented that next time he would put more time into preparing the food. It sounds like they had some pretty ordinary meals over 21 days. Look at our trip from this perspective and is there a danger that a slack-arsed, food-laden trip with great campsites and near perfect weather could create fair-weather paddlers out of us? In Mattie’s words, will it “make us soft?” Only time will tell – but we certainly aren’t complaining.