Friday, December 28, 2012

North Rock, Solitary Islands

A few years ago I went out to North Solitary (mid-north coast of NSW) by motor boat to snorkel around its beautiful sea gardens. Since then I've often thought that it would be a good place to reach by kayak.

The two obvious launching points along this section of surf beach coastline are from the channels at Wooli and Red Rock.
However both of these locations present challenges with migrating sandbars and breaking waves. Can be quite treacherous in an out-going tide, I'm reliably told. Particularly with the moderate swell now running. (Thanks to the local paddler who gave me some sound advice about these locations)

Having severely broken my left leg only seven weeks ago (and still being in a leg brace with a steel plate and screws in my leg) I decided that trying to launch through steep breaking waves at these sites was not such a wise option.

The first low-risk launching point is further south at Arrawarra - but that makes for a 50km return trip to North Solitary and back. That's more than I want to paddle on my own just now - having been out of the kayak for nearly two months. 

Realising that North Solitary would remain out of my reach by kayak for now, I pushed out from Arrawarra this morning and paddled to North Rock - located within the red circle at left. A 24km return trip.
The wind was a light nor-wester with occasional gusts to 10 or 12 knots.
Hundreds of juvenile flying fish leapt along beside me. This area seems to be their kindergarten.
North Rock was, however, soon reached and I paddled through the channel which splits it in to two distinct pieces. The water was a stunning turquoise colour in the channel. Must be very good snorkelling here.
While paddling around the eastern side of North Rock a Kingfish jumped on to my trolling lure and has made the journey back with me to be sashimi'd this evening.
All the while, North Solitary loomed temptingly within reach on the eastern horizon.
You can see it low on the horizon to the right of North Rock in the photo below ...
 I didn't get to North Solitary Island today but it was good to be out in the kayak and on the sea again - travelling along this very interesting section of coast.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

The lead up

Everyone who has prepared for a kayak expedition will know that in many ways the long phase of preparation is as good as the relatively short period of the expedition itself.
It gives direction to your paddling, sets challenges to be overcome, prepares the body and the mind - all with a determined focus that constantly draws you out to sea when you may have otherwise stayed in bed.

For much of this last year we've been preparing to explore the Hogan, Kent and Furneaux Group of islands, over a deliciously generous month, during this southern summer. It is not easy to arrange a long trip such as this when 11 children and 5 wives are being left at home.

And then, with just a few weeks to go until departure day, a "lucky break" (aka broken tibia and fibula) has seen us defer the trip by one whole year. I am indebted to my paddling companions for postponing the adventure so that we may still all go together in 2014.

Looking at the situation positively, the islands will still be there and with another 12 months to prepare there is much for us to still look forward to and enjoy.

To Richard and our friends paddling the same route this year, but in the opposite direction to our planned route:
we hope that your adventure will be safe and highly enjoyable. We'll be thinking of you.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


The tribe has undertaken lots of varied paddling in recent weeks - out to sea, along the coast, up to the farthest ends of middle harbour.

This was a lovely local scene yesterday evening as the setting sun illuminated all of the rich colour in the cliffs on the harbour-side of North Head ...

At Bluefish Point last night a southward moving humpback whale crested the surface within 20 metres of our kayaks.
And yet another startled silver flying fish skipped away from us - they seem to be back in full force this season.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kayaking and snorkelling

It is great to have our full tribe back on the sea together again ...

The air was heavy with the powerfully evocative smell of bushfire smoke as we paddled up the north shore.

Some hours of paddling later we had a very memorable snorkel in a shallow bay that revealed a small submerged cave with at least fifteen large crayfish tucked away beneath its ledge. The image below shows just some of the crays that made the journey home with us in our kayaks ...

And this is just one of the many meals that followed ...


Crayfish stir fried with ginger and shallots, fresh chilli, crushed garlic and coriander. Squeezed lime juice and slices of fresh mango as accompaniments.

How's that for kayak food sourced from our backyard?

And, jumping back in chronology a little, this was how the day began with a glossy seal pup leaping beside our kayaks on the way out through the Heads ...

If we thought that it was difficult to capture such a fast moving seal by photo then we had no chance with recording the silvery flying fish that later skipped into startled flight out at sea.

Another great day in our kayaks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


16 or so kms after work ...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

South to RNP

This morning we paddled south from Cronulla to the beautiful cliffs and beaches of the Royal National Park. And back.

The photo above was taken on the way back.


> The sea standing up and pitching itself across bomboras - dangerous traps for the unwary or distracted paddler
> Snorkelling over a rock platform full of cray and abalone hidey-holes
> Reddy-brown wallabies wondering what we are doing on their beach
> The east-coast heathland flora in bloom ...

 Setting up the sail for an easy return journey with the sou-easter.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mid-week paddling

For the last couple of months we've been slipping in an additional mid-week paddle, either in the morning or evening. It's important to do this to build up and maintain paddle fitness - and it's very enjoyable too.

We've been paddling up to 20 kms into the night - down the Harbour,out the Heads, along the coastline and back. The photo above is just off Shelly Beach / Manly.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

North West Solitary Island

How to convey this beautiful day at sea?

After just a handful of paddle strokes from the shore at Arawarra, a big green turtle broke the surface with its pleasantly speckled face. It then dived directly towards me and with a few gentle arcs of its large Rayban-like fins it was momentarily beneath my hull and then gone. Beautiful thing! If that had been the end of my day I would have been very pleased.

Soon afterwards an incredible experience ... twelve Humpback whales emerged within just a few kilometres of one another - adults and calves playing at the sea's surface. Their deep groans and higher frequency singing clearly audible to me in my kayak. A couple of spectacular full-body leaps into the sky escaped my camera's shutter but I managed to record a gluttony of images at close range.

And as if that was not enough for one day, I threw a lure over the stern while under sail back to the coast from North West Solitary Island and picked up dinner - a Bonito tuna (ok not so amazing) and a sweet Kingfish - the prize of the sea, in my little fishing book. 

In the photo below you can just see South Solitary Island (at left) and South West Solitary Island (at right).
A few years ago I paddled out to South Solitary and I was in two minds earlier this morning about going there again today. I was fortunate that I chose to paddle to North West Solitary and in doing so intersected with this stream of whales.

Below is North West Solitary Island ... no where near as spectacular as South Solitary Island with its elegant lighthouse but still, NWSI is a nice sea peak to aim for when paddling off the east coast.

Dinner was caught on a lure while sailing back to the coast ...

Kingfish and Bonito ... eaten as sashimi with Wasabi and soy (left) and slivers of Jalapeno (right).

Little video from this morning ...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wandering north

Wandering along the coast, 500 Kms north of Sydney. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Short paddle to Long Reef

This morning we paddled up to Long Reef and back before most of Sydney had woken up.

Highlights ...

> paddling down the harbour under starlight

> seeing a brilliant orange ball of firey sun climb over the horizon while out at sea

> knocking off 35kms and feeling like we could turn around do it all again.

 Long Reef

The brilliant cliffs of North Head ...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

South to Wedding Cake and back

This was a very enjoyable paddle in crystal clear conditions, starting from various points well inside Sydney Harbour and then south along the cliff line to Wedding Cake Island and back.

Highlights ...

> a massive swarm of very large Australian Salmon streaming under our hulls in full hunt mode, demolishing bait fish with flocks of gulls plunging into the surface maelstrom. We caught two very large bull-headed Salmon - which were returned to the sea.

> a delightful tailwind which propelled us home.

> being on a sunny sea ...

Travelling south

Stunning cliffs.

Wedding Cake

The swell rises between Wedding Cake and South Coogee.