By Geoff Emery
Coronavirus isolation shows that some paddlers thrive and others, well others struggle. Some turn inward and withdraw from paddling society, but others are like caged lions. They have to get outside. Get in the boat. Get in the water. Push the boundaries, push themselves, push their friends, until exhaustion brings everyone some relief. My friend Colin is perhaps a good example of the caged lion. People see the calm exterior, oozing paddling wisdom through his beard, but they fail to see the beast within!
Recently the inner beast reared its’ head again. Colin seemed to think a paddle to the Kent St Weir coffee shop, on the Canning River was a good idea. He forgot to mention that it was a lazy forty-kilometre round trip from the club in Mosman Park. As a friend I went along in an attempt to keep the beast under control. After a lumpy crossing to the Canning Bridge, conditions settled down. The Mt Henry Bridge, Rossmoyne and Shelley slid by fairly painlessly, although there seemed to be more river bends than I remembered. At each bend I kept looking for the pipeline across the river, knowing that Shelley Bridge was just around the next bend. With Shelley Bridge behind us, we paddled under Riverton Bridge into the Canning River where we meandered through the various tree lined channels to Kent St Weir. Once out of the kayak I tottered about on numb legs for a few embarrassing moments before going to the café to get coffee. On my return, having queued at a social distance, I considered giving Colin a coffee-shampoo when he asked; “Did you put sugar in?”
Instead I deleted the expletive and watched two Swans fight over territory or females or both, while Colin took a walk back to the café. The twenty-kilometre return trip was pleasant until we hit the open water around Point Heathcote and discovered the sea breeze had arrived. The fetch created, made for a wet, bumpy return for tired paddlers.
For a time, I thought my sacrifice and pain had cured Colin of his long-distance death wish. You can imagine my surprise and dismay when he suggested a longer, fifty-kilometre paddle from the club to Ascot Kayak Club! However, friendship is a like marriage, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, in kayak or in the water, so I couldn’t in good conscience abandon him. So one Wednesday at dawn, we set off again from the club. The water was like a mirror as we went by Pt Resolution, Pelican Pt, Matilda Bay and arrived at the Narrows where we could see the city gleaming in the rising sun. The easterly was also rising by the time we reached the Causeway and Matagarup Bridge. After Windan Bridge we paddled a loop around Belmont Park Racecourse, took a short-cut behind an island and got back into the main river just downstream of Garratt Rd Bridge. The easterly was pumping by now and it was a bit of a slog up to Redcliffe Bridge past the beach where I’d completed a few Avon Descents. Finally, Ron Courtney Island hove into few and we landed at the Ascot Kayak Club.
The coffee shop was closed of course so we sipped flask coffee, ate a sandwich and chatted to John and Louise, a couple of Ascot paddlers. Once back on the river, the twenty-five-kilometre return journey wasn’t too bad until the Narrows, where the Easterly was blowing hard from our left making us rock and roll until we turned for home at Point Resolution. After seven hours of paddling I can only hope that the pandemic is over before Colin comes up with another long-distance coffee paddle.