PALM BEACH – PENGUIN ISLAND CRUISING Sunday 5th March 2023
Despite the strong wind warning we went at last! The trip was on and off with various options hanging for a few days, but we arrived at Palm Beach, and it looked gorgeous with the wind about 13 knots from the ESE. We had seventeen keen Swannies, looking forward to an expedition for the day, or at least until the sea breeze kicked in after midday.
With the long weekend public holiday, everywhere was busy and we kept a careful lookout for the various motor craft that could appear from nowhere and snorkellers that were everywhere. We paddled under the causeway to Garden Island in 3 groups, led by Geoff, Colin P and Jocelyn, maintaining contact with each other by radio.
We had a great mix of paddlers from Andrew and Christine, who had paddled the Colorado River to Lorena who was hitting the ocean for the very first time. The interesting thing I find about paddles with Swan, is that I always meet someone I’ve never paddled with before. Maybe I don’t get out enough! Our group played follow the leader, Colin P, through the channels in the shallow reef, inshore of Mushroom Rock avoiding rocks and reef outcrops and pushed about by the waves.
When we turned the corner at Point Peron, the wind had moved to the south and was quite strong, even though it was only 9.30am! That made for a good “into the wind paddle” to Bird Island where we spotted a sea eagle. From there we went on to Seal Island, where it seemed like everyone who had any sort of craft, from runabouts to short and fat paddle craft was there. The visitors easily outnumbered the large sea lions soaking up the sunshine and ignoring the tourists.
The next stop was the beach on the east side of Penguin Island, where some of us elected to relax while the majority did a circumnavigation and returned for lunch on the grass. The banana bread for hungry paddlers was delicious and supplied by foodie extraordinaire, Kelly – thanks Kelly. With the wind expected to move up towards twenty knots we didn’t stay long and got back into our boats and headed off. Colin P in his single kayak and Andrew and Christine in their double kayak, hoisted sails and smiled as they sailed past the paddlers. Heading north, the wind was behind us, and the fetch caused wind waves that some were surfing. Jocelyn who likes a wave or two, was chasing rides, along with Patrick and Steve. We saw many Pelicans practising their gliding and somewhere before Bird Island we spotted an Osprey, Shoalwater being one of the areas for birds of prey.
Once around Point Peron, we threaded our way through the reef and were pleased when the wind dropped as we rounded John Point. It was a short-lived relief and before long the south-westerly was blowing hard on our beam, which made things hard for Fran who was heroically managing a skeg that didn’t work properly. Well done Fran for a big effort, I could see how hard you were working. Well done also to Lorena, having survived her maiden voyage on the ocean. Somewhere between John Point and the causeway to Garden Island, Andrew and Christine checked how Geoff felt about them doing a downwind run the twenty kilometres to home! Geoff figured that someone who could do rescues in the Grand Canyon in a white-water boat could probably manage the sail home and gave the go ahead. With the wind increasing they had a wild eighty-minute sail and surf back to Coogee but lived to tell the tale.
With the wind gusting up to twenty knots we were all glad to reach Palm Beach, carry the boats up onto the grass, take a deep breath and pack up. Overall, a great trip. A huge thanks to the organiser Geoff, the leaders Colin and Jocelyn and all the participants. Looking forward to the next time.