Final morning

It was the final morning of our pre-symposium sea kayaking trip.  We didn’t need to be away at the crack of dawn but we did need to be ready to catch the start of the flood tide to carry us towards Port Welshpool.  From there we would be heading towards Wilson’s Promontory and the start of the International Sea Kayaking Educator’s Conference.

Beach
Preparing for a low tide departure from Snake Island.

It wasn’t too early a start, which was in contrast to the previous morning. The sun had already taken the chill off the air as we headed north. I think that this was the first time that it registered, as we paddled away from Snake Island, that the sun was in the north. Clearly my geography of the Southern Hemisphere left something to be desired.

Drinks Bottle
In common with so many other trips I have used my Water-to-Go bottle for daily drinks and have managed to avoid any stomach problems.

What was surprising, was for how much of the paddle we were in shallow water, which was quite fortunate as there were quite a few fishing boats heading towards the open water from Port Welshpool.  Whalers first used this area in the 1830’s, whilst the town was officially named Port Welshpool in 1952.

Final morning
Time to unload the kayaks before heading to Wilson’s Prom and the Sea Kayaking Educator’s Symposium.

We landed in Port Welshpool, and started the unloading of the kayaks.  We had been out 4 days and covered just under 30 nautical miles. Not a great distance, but it was through an interesting environment, which also gave us the opportunity to observe some animals, which we would never encounter in the northern hemisphere.
More importantly the four day paddle gave us the opportunity to get to know some of the other people who would be attending the 2nd International Sea Kayaking Educators Symposium at Tidal River in the Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Early morning paddle

We finally got the opportunity to paddle in flat calm conditions on the third day, the only problem was that we had to get up at 04.00 to do so. The way the tidal streams were working meant that we either started early or waited until the late afternoon. An early morning paddle gave us so many more options.

Wilson's Prom
Leaving the Swashway Channel at first light. We had our first views of Wilson’s Prom National Park.

So at 05.50 we pushed away from the bank into a glorious Australian sunrise. It started off pretty good and just got better and better and for the first time in the trip we had mirror calm conditions and the tidal flow with us. Only just over a knot but that is better than nothing.
As we exited the Swashway Channel we gained our first reasonably good views of the north side of Wilson’s Promontory National Park, where we would be spending time at the International Sea Kayaking Educators Symposium.
There was a reasonable amount of quite fast boat traffic moving up and down the channel towards the open sea. Fortunately the channel was relatively narrow with quite a few buoys indicating their route. It’s always good to know your buoyage when kayaking on the sea. Crossing the channel at right angles we reduced our exposure to the boats before turning south towards Wilson’s Prom. We were soon paddling alongside rocks and a shoreline that was more than a couple of metres high.
We stopped on a couple of stunning beaches with the opportunity to explore the shoreline or slightly further inland. We were in no real hurry as we waited for slack water in the channel to allow us to cross back to Snake Island, our destination for the day. Also it was only just after 09.00, always the advantage of an early morning paddle.

Rocky shore
Paddling along the northern shore of Wilson’s Promontory. Although this was our third day paddling it was the first time we had seen a rocky coast.

There was a discussion as to what time we should aim to cross back to Snake Island because of the tidal streams.  As a sea kayaker I have never understood why people use different units of measurement in the same conversation. It could go along the lines of;
“We have a wind of between 13 and 15 mph from the south, the tidal stream is running at 3 knots and the distance we have to go is 10 kilometres.”
The potential for errors to creep into people’s calculations is huge. I just don’t understand why people don’t stick with one unit of measurement and if we are operating on the sea it should be the nautical variety. Knots and nautical miles. Information we need about tidal flows is always given in knots so why not stick with that unit. I admit that some people might find it difficult at first but I really think that it is worth the effort.

Kayaks on beach
Arrival on Snake Beach. We were told that the campsite might be a bit “snakey”. That’s not the sort of comment that a paddler from Jersey wants to hear.

I know many people will find this strange but a couple of us were really getting quite excited by the prospect of seeing kangaroos. Living on an island where the largest land animal is the rabbit I get easily excited. We had been told that we were likely to see them in the evening but it was still quite a surprise when when 16 of them hopped out the bush. Linked with a few small deer wandering around and it felt like a wildlife bonanza.

Tidal range
Due to the tidal range we had to move the kayaks up off the beach. It would have been a pretty inconvenient to loose some kayaks at this stage in the trip.
Animal
I know these can be really common but when its the first one you have ever seen in the wild its a pretty exciting experience!

Australian Sea Kayaking

I have to admit that I had never been that attracted by the idea of a visit to Australia.  This was largely a feeling based on ignorance as opposed to a decision based on facts.  Therefore, when I saw the International Sea Kayaking Educators Symposium advertised, I though this might just be the catalyst I needed to head towards the southern hemisphere.
What appealed about the Symposium and helped justify the hours spent on the aircraft reaching Melbourne, was the 4 day pre-symposium paddle.  So with a degree of enthusiasm and some slight trepidation I signed up and booked my flights.
This was the story as to how I found myself standing outside the railway station at 06.00 on a cold Thursday morning in Frankston, to the south east of Melbourne.   It is an interesting experience trying to identify other sea kayakers amongst the early morning commuters.  The North Face bags and beards were a bit of a give away with the males!
So 6 prospective kayakers from 4 different countries found ourselves heading towards Port Albert.  It was here that we met the other people who had taken advantage of the opportunity to participate in the 4 day paddle.  In total there were about 20 of us, with a third from the UK, which I have to admit I found a bit surprising.
As with all trips some people were quicker than others at getting ready for departure, but straight after lunch we were ready to go.  The big question was “Who had turned on the fan?”  The early morning calm had been replaced by an entertaining breeze, which was significantly higher than forecast.  Sitting still was not an option.
We fought our way west and south with a speed over the ground that most of the time was well below 2 knots.  The wind was certainly taking its toll and producing a very low fun factor.  Eventually after just over 5 nautical miles we decided to call it a day, the next possible camp site was quite some way off and so it was with some relief that we lifted the kayaks above the high water mark.
Not a glorious start to my Australian sea kayaking career but it was certainly an interseting experience and the relatively early finish allowed plenty of time to get to know the other people in the group.
What was even better was that the wind was due to drop off over night so as I dropped asleep on my first night in the Australian bush all my thoughts were positive.

Australian Sea Kayaking
Preparing and loading the kayaks in front of Port Albert Yacht Club. Conditions were lovely at this time little did we realize how quickly the wind would pick up.
Australian Sea Kayking
Sheltering under the sand spit at the eastern end of Sunday Island. The sand was blasting over the top and some of the group decided that walking and dragging was easier than paddling into such a significant head wind.
Australian Sea Kayaking
Although we had hoped to get further this campsite was realistically as far as we could go on the first day. Pitching the tents in the bush gave some much needed shelter from the wind. We did tie the kayaks down due to the strength of the wind.