Despite the usual concern about strong wind warnings in windy Western Australia, six ‘Swannie’ paddlers headed out from Palm Beach on Sunday 10th December, bound for Penguin Island. There was a lot of beach exposed by the low tide and with an Easterly wind blowing about fifteen knots, there were a few whitecaps as we headed west for John Point, under the Garden Island causeway. Along with the veterans, Marty, Mike, Paul, and Geoff we had two new strong sea kayak paddlers, Helen, and Janelle.
Pushed along by the wind, we covered the three kilometres to John Point fairly quickly and turned south out of the wind and into the reef. Despite the rising tide, there was a lot of reef exposed and it was rudders up for all of us as we followed a meandering path behind Mushroom Rock, over some magic deep pools, finally to Point Peron. After another kilometre, exposed to the wind and waves, we entered the still water behind Bird Island and checked out the small cave. It was pleasant to be out of the wind, but the aroma of bird droppings encouraged us to move on toward Seal Island.
Seal Island had some tourists on skis and in kayaks, and four or five large sea lions resting on the beach after a hard morning’s fishing, so we didn’t stay long. From Seal Island we worked our way around the exposed reef and landed without any difficulty on the seaward side of Penguin Island, for an early brunch in the shade of some rocky cliffs. On the way into the beach, I picked up a floating tube of what I thought was sunblock, labelled S-Factor. Once on the beach, Helen was looking for block-out and I offered it to her. She was smart enough to read the label that indicated it as “a genuine fish feeding stimulant and attack response trigger,” that fishermen apply to their fishing lures! Who knew? Helen wisely declined to use it in case she went for a swim! After all that excitement, and my attempt to make Helen fish food, things quieted down and we were entertained by a couple of fearless and friendly skinks that looked interested in our beach brunch.
With a clear blue sky, and not much wind, it was tempting to spend longer on the beach, but every so often an extra gust reminded us that the wind was expected to come around to the south-west and kick up to around twenty knots. Discretion being the better part of valour, we headed back to sea, rounded the south end of Penguin Island, and headed back north. Janelle and I were watching the pelicans riding the thermals and when I wondered what they were up to, she suggested that was just what pelicans did on their days off! Unfortunately, despite her sense of humour, Janelle wasn’t feeling great. However, she resisted my repeated attempts to put her on the beach for later collection and was determined to carry on. They obviously make anthropologists tough these days.
The trip back was uneventful as we retraced our route and only started to get some wind action after we had rounded John Point and were headed for Palm Beach. The three kilometres from John Point into the rising south-east wind wasn’t a lot of fun and once we made landfall, I suspect Janelle might have kissed the beach when my back was turned. All in all, we had a lot of fun with our mates and were reminded how lucky we are to have such an interesting environment to explore. Thanks once again to Helen, Janelle, Paul, and Mike for coming along and especially to Marty for his support and what he laughingly calls his sense of humour.
While it was pleasant to have a small group, hopefully we might have a few more paddlers next trip.