We were enjoying the spring sunshine at Croplines over Monday lunch and a coffee. The discussion turned to the upcoming Maria Island trip, there were plenty of people coming and Phil’s concern was fitting the group in at Haunted Cove. I’d been there before for one of my first ever overnight sea kayak expeditions, but that was 5 years ago and my memory of the actual amount of camping space was very hazy. “The only way to know is to paddle down and have a look” said Phil jokingly. We fleshed out plans of how you’d do it, if you were silly enough. Drive down tonight after work, probably about a 40km day paddle on Tuesday, drive home Tuesday night ready for work on Wednesday. Take the double kayak for speed and the ability to push into headwinds if necessary. As we finished up lunch Phil asked “would you do it?” “Yep, if you’re keen I’ll come”. A quick (and successful!) plead with the boss back at work and a message left for Lu on the answering machine and the trip is on.
Dash home at knock off, pack gear, scrounge the cupboards for food, pick up Phil and then the double. A quick check of the marine forecast has 30 knot north westerlies and 4 metre seas for Tuesday morning dropping back to 15 knot westerlies in the afternoon. We’ll be in close to shore so it’s not likely to be quite so bad, and the direction will no doubt be different due to local land effects and maybe a sea breeze in the afternoon.
A quick stop in Campbell Town for a bag of hot chips each and more supplies – a bag of bread rolls, can of tuna and a chocolate bar. We go thru Orford and down Weilangta Rd, missing the Earlham turnoff in the dark. Luckily 5km further on a fallen tree has blocked the road and when we turn back to find an alternative launch point, we find Earlham Rd. The Earlham shackies are very protective of their waterfront area and hassle anyone who ignores the no camping sign, so we pitch the tent at the end of the road and try to look inconspicuous.
It’s a noisy, windy night and next morning the northerly breeze is whipping up whitecaps in Mercury Passage. We launch at 9am but only get 100 metres before Phil realises he’s missing his watch and we head back to find it lying on the beach. Our second launch is more successful and we’re soon trucking along with both sails up in following seas. The small rudder on the double isn’t quite up to the job and we have to run diagonally across the waves to reduce the surfing – broaching – surfing – broaching pattern. The spray deck Phil’s lent me leaks like a sieve and every time a wave goes over the boat (which is often) I steel myself for the stream of cold water onto my crotch. As we near Maria Island we catch a good wave and a few seconds later I’m up to my armpits in the wave in front, so we drop back to one sail.
There are some nice gullies running across the granite outcrop that makes up Cape Peron, the final one being a channel which we paddle thru. It’s taken an hour to do the 11km to here, a very good start! Once around the cape it’s sheltered and the sun is shining as we cruise the coast towards Haunted Cove. As we get closer a gusty headwind attempts to slow us down, but we reach the beach by 11am.
Haunted Cove is a lovely little spot (with plenty of camping by the way) and we laze around in the sun with a cuppa and lunch then have a little explore. Around 12:30 we head out again and follow the coast around. Past No Good Bay, Cape Maurouard and Cape Bald. The wind has died right off and conditions are balmy. This is a lovely bit of rocky east coast coastline and a pleasure to paddle along. We pull into Riedle Bay and surf a small break in at the isthmus, then hop out for a photo opportunity. It could be a travel brochure for the Whitsundays, clean white sand and crystal clear water under blue sunny skies.
We carry our gear across, we’ve brought tent, clothes, sleeping bags, water, food and some emergency odd and ends – just in case we have to stay a day. On the second trip we carry the boat. As we complete the 200m portage I notice a southerly breeze has sprung up. A few minutes later our legs are being sandblasted and small sand drifts are forming around our bags. Shoal Bay has filled with whitecaps, but the seas look choppy and small.
We’re soon repacked and underway, tracking perpendicular to the wind and waves. The wind is lifting spray off the water and the whitecaps hitting the boat produced an effect not unlike someone throwing a bucket of cold water over you. At least it distracts me from the stream of cold water onto my crotch. I put up the front sail and we scoot along at a good pace. The waves stay small and as we near the mainland the wind subsides slightly. Phil points the boat up the coast a bit, then turns to run downwind the last few hundred metres, surfing the waves with both sails up.
We reach Earlham at 3:30 and quickly load up and turn for home, with a stop for ice cream in Swansea. We both agree it was a great little trip out, a spur of the moment midweek adventure – which when you look at it, actually involved more time driving that paddling!