With the chance to go home looming we both knew it would be a big day. Moruya Heads is 80km south of Ulladulla and our planned stop at Malua Bay after 67km was to be where we would make a decision on whether to finish the ocean today.
At 5.30am it is pretty dark but there was a team of women surf boat rowers already there and raring to go. They went out for ten minutes and came back so I asked the sweep ( a bloke) what it was like out there. “Pretty bumpy still,” he reckoned. When I told him I had been out the day before and that I might go to Moruya he thought I was a nut case.
He was right, it was a bit bumpy but smoothed out on the open sea after the headland. The wind threatened to blow but until 9.00am it was not enough to fill the sail. I left it up for a while but found I was faster without it.
Thankfully Warren had taken Allan up on the loan of the two way radio. We were in communication until Depot Beach where we agreed to talk again at Malua Bay on the other side of Batemans Bay. By then the wind was over 20 knots and I was covering ground fast even if it was taking its toll. Old Yella is not good on waves because he is too deep in the bow and constantly slews around necessitating a full strength battle with the paddle.
We screamed past the Tollgates, a set of islands at the entrance to Batemans Bay and I reckoned it would be better to keep going straight to the headland at Guerilla Bay. Warren agreed and headed to Moruya Heads for a 3.00pm sked. From the Guerilla Bay headland I could see where Moruya Heads would be but not any detail at all.
It was a very quick trip across the bay with top speed 20.7km/hr, a record for the trip. I also saw a shark that I nearly hit with my paddle as I planed past on a wave. That was number twelve for the trip. Eventually I could see the wall at Moruya Heads and confirmed that it went back to the beach on the north side meaning that the entrance was on the south side.
Dropping the sail about a kilometre out I edged in trying to pick the channel. Try as I might I could not see it. There were breaking waves all across the entrance. Surely a channel would open up. I was inside an area where waves had been breaking but I still couldn’t find it. I decided to treat it as a beach break, pick a wave and paddle like blazes behind it. A six footer loomed behind me. “Back paddle then go!” was the plan. Hold water, back one stroke, then BUGGER. Lifted six feet, spun 270 degrees and dumped in a fraction of a second. The paddler and everything else was violently plucked out of the kayak but like a true wave ski rider I clung grimly to my paddle and let Old Yella tow me towards the river. After few waves passed we were out of the wave zone so I climbed in the easy way, ie face backwards, feet into the cockpit and then roll over to face up and then sit. The first bit worked fine but then I was out again. Righto try the old way. I got to a sitting position behind the cockpit, one leg in, then out again. After another go at that I thought I might just tow Old Yella to some calm water so I set off towards a beach on the south side. After about twenty minutes I tried to get in again and almost made it but a wave came through and out I went again. This was becoming tiresome so I gave up. The issue was compounded by the fact that the front bulkhead had been knocked out to put the paddle in to bring him home from England and that the seal under the seat was buggered and that the buoyancy that I had put into the bow had moved to one side.
It was good that the tide was coming in, but I had known that. If it had been going out Old Yella would have been doomed because I probably could not have pulled him around the wall to the northern beach. Unfortunately there was an eddy coming off the beach which was made up of two sandy sections and a section with rocks in front of it. Warren was pacing up and down but I couldn’t signal where I would come in because I had no idea (NFI actually). Forwards a bit on the waves, wash back a bit, pull Old Yella upstream a bit, inexorably making it closer until my feet touched the sand. Then there were the rocks Old Yella went one side and I went the other. The paddle rope got tangled, but I wasn’t cold like I was in the Southern Ocean and my brain still worked, so I freed it and finally made the beach where a relieved Warren helped me tip him over and get the water out.
I had been swimming for 45 minutes but still felt fine until Warren told me how far it was to the car. No way was I going to carry a kayak that far so we agreed to proceed to the first boat ramp we could find upstream.
After 2km I could see a pontoon and aimed for that. Warren arrived just as I climbed onto it and told me the boat ramp was 20m away, behind the wall. Back in, around to the ramp and that was me done for the day.
After calling Lyn and logging off with Marine Rescue we headed to IGA in Moruya where we met Lyn Smith before going to her place at Congo. I couldn’t walk properly and was very concerned about my leg until ascertaining it was bruised. The last thing I needed was ligament damage before a 180km walk. That night I was asleep just after 8.00pm. Everything hurt, even my fingernails, but we had finished the ocean leg even if the ending was a bit undignified.
There are many people who do not understand the sea. The point that I try to reinforce with all paddling groups is that shit happens when you least expect it. I don’t care if you find a life jacket restrictive or hot. If you are placing yourself in a position where it is possible, just possible, that you may need a life jacket then wear one. To people who think that a bum pack with an inflatable life vest is adequate I say, “Good luck, you will need a lot of it.” How you are going to make that work when you are in deep shit I have no idea. The only thing that I would recommend for paddlers is a well fitted life jacket that doesn’t float up around your face and that has plenty of room for arm rotation without chafing. For me a couple of big pockets for radio, spare sunnies etc are also essential. Communication is to be with the person, not on the kayak or canoe. My radio is always in the life jacket and the life jacket has been of great assistance every time things have gone wrong. That is probably only three or four times in 12,000km but even if it saves your life once it is worth it.
I woke at 3.00am, waited ten minutes then woke Warren for the drive home. When I turned the light on he asked “Is it morning?” and “What time is it?” I said, “Time to go, don’t look”. As usual, he didn’t listen to helpful advice and said “I have,” as he registered that it was 3.10am. We arrived at Arcadia at 8.30am where we said goodbye and I was at Lyn’s at Broadwater about 4.30pm. After an early night and ten hours sleep I am nearly as good as new and ready for someone’s 60th party this arvo.
Warren was a mate in 1972. It is now 2017. That’s 45 years. We had a great time together on this journey and we both feel the energy from people we meet. It is called living, and we experienced a lot of that together.
Steve’s out there somewhere
Warren Up at 5am, saw Steve off in Ulladulla Harbour at 6:05am, planning to head South, and stay at Lyn Smith’s place at Congo, which on the coast near Moruya.
Steve was excited about the North-Easterly, which I now comprehend to be good for sailing south along the Australian East Coast. We did our normal radio skeds, which again took me to some beautiful spots. While Steve was having a great time paddling, I had to content myself with things like a drive through Murramarang National Park, watch a couple of dozen dolphins playing at Pebbly Beach, admire a two metre monitor and watch lyrebirds scurry out of sight. A tough day at the office. The stop point at Batemans Bay was changed to “I’m gonna keep going to Moruya” by the man in charge.
For no reason that I can understand, Steve got out of his kayak and tipped it upside down for his entry into the River at Moruya. Maybe he was sick of paddling and wanted to practice dragging the kayak despite the deep water, maybe he was showing off, maybe he was celebrating the finish of the ocean paddle, or maybe he is just barking mad, I still don’t know for sure, but he seemed to be happy dragging it to shore. I do know that there were two sail boarders nearby, and I waved one in, and asked him if he could check if Steve was okay. I was stunned beyond belief, and livid that he chose to hide, rather than do this
Today included a chat with two people who embraced the petition, and one who said he isn’t interested because Australia is only a small contributor, and anyway, he is a bachelor, between him and his siblings there is one child, and because his nephew will inherit four or five houses, he will be okay. Marvellous attitude, really.
Our stay at Lyne’s beautiful house in a stunning location was a wonderful way to end my part of the journey, Lynne’ hospitality is second to none, and we had a perfect evening together.
Engineers like numbers, and apropos of nothing, while driving I pondered how many paddle strokes Steve did to get there from Ballina. A bit of rough calculating, and the answer is about 750,000. That’s a lot, folks!
Well, faithful readers, it is with a heavy heart I say adieu, my stint with Steve is over, until we all converge on Canberra. My nearly three weeks with my mate has been great fun, inspiring, and at times challenging. It is a busy role, and quite intense at times but I would not have missed it for anything. We met lots of people, many passionate about the cause, many who were inspired by Steve’ trip and his talks, and a few who don’t get it. To everybody who contributed to Steve’s trip, hosted of helped with welcome events, the petition and all other matters, thank you. This is the most important issue we face, and there are a lot of great people working to address it, so congratulations to you all, especially to Steve for his Hurculean effort.