Brisbane to Moreton Island Paddle 09 -10 April 2016: 10 lessons learned.
Well another adventure done and dusted and what a fantastic trip it turned out to be. We are going to make a concerted effort to write about our adventures in the hope that we encourage more of you to join us.
For this trip we were very fortunate to have Mike Ryan along with his boat as our safety craft which not only put our minds at rest for the crossing but was brilliant for feeding and watering us along the way. It certainly is so much easier when you have this level of support. Mike, a huge thank you for giving up your weekend to support us.
All up we had six paddlers. The two girls paddled the double kayak and the four boys each in a single. Thanks to Roscoes Canoes and Kayaks for the kayaks. Dan and the crew are always really helpful and I enjoy chatting about their kayaking trips with them.
Our launch point was Scarborough, so Saturday morning at 5:00 we drove up. Along the way, we realised we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet (how do you forget breakfast??) so while Mike was fuelling up the boat, we took the only option and had a maccas. Big mistake. I was tasting that shitty burger all day.
We arrived at 06:15 at the boat ramp and were in the water shortly thereafter. With a little too much haste we were off. At this point, lesson number one was learned. Take the time to set your kayak up properly. Make adjustments on land, have little paddle and readjust if necessary. Especially in hire craft, as it almost certainly is not going to be set up correctly for you. As a result of our haste to get going, Christian spent the first six kilometres sitting on his back support, John was filling up with water from an incorrectly fastened skirt and Stevie’s pedals were too far forward. None of these are major issues but in a long paddle, small faults can become large problems quickly.
Exiting the harbour spirits were high and we were all loving being on the water. This is where I learned lesson number two. In our planning, we were always going to follow the boat and the decision was made not to plot our route on a handheld GPS. The lesson came as we turned out of the harbour. Had we not had a boat to follow, it would have been really easy to become geographically challenged. It is very difficult to determine points of reference from a kayak to an island 25 km away. In future we will always carry a hand held GPS with routes plotted as a back up to the support boat. Even if it seems like a little jaunt to the island, take the GPS.
Another point here is drift. For inexperienced paddlers it is sometimes difficult to see that the currents are pushing you off course and a GPS will assist in keeping you on track.
As we paddled out conditions got a little tougher. We were against the tide, had around 10 knots of breeze on the nose and seas were a little lumpy. Now it was just a case of head down paddles up. Lesson number three. Over time and with five kayaks, it becomes difficult to keep everyone together. We overcame this by having the boat stop every kilometre or so, allowing us to rest and regroup. The problem here is that the slower paddlers would just arrive and the quicker ones would have had a rest and off they would go. Thus the slower paddlers would not get much rest. This has to be discussed before departure and support boat or not, there needs to be plan to keep everyone in a relatively close group. Not only is it better for assistance if you capsize but it makes it easier for other boats to see you. Additionally it gives you someone to chat to.
The last seven kilometres were the toughest. After 5 hours battling the tide the thought of another hour or so was not pleasant. At this point everyone just put their heads down and paddled for the shore. We ended up really spread out and finished in dribs and drabs at the Tangalooma wrecks. I’m sure at this point more than a few of us thinking that we would be towing the kayaks behind the boat on the way home.
Lesson Four. Never underestimate the power of a cold beer on a beautiful beach with a great group of people to help you forget the pain and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
All up the trip over took us just on six hours. That is an average speed of around 4km/hr. Pretty much which we were expecting in the conditions.
We had a really pleasant afternoon on the beach, chilling, kicking the footy around and swimming before settling into our campsite and feeding some hungry paddlers. In this regard I must admit I was thankful that I had been over ruled when we were planning. My idea was to go with a couple of dehydrated meals and something to make a brew, however, cheese and crackers, a cold beer followed by a hot meal was much more civilised. By 20:00 we were all fast asleep.
Day two dawned and proved to be much better than the day before. We had a really relaxed start to the day and after a big breakfast we set off at about 7:00. This time we had the tide running with us, the breeze at our back and a calm sea. At times it was like paddling through silk the water was so smooth.
Lesson five. Currents through the channel are really strong when the tide is running and must be compensated for when paddling by aiming off. Also remember when stopping for a rest that the current will move you even faster off course. We knew all this but still paddled a semi circle return as opposed to a straight line. Don’t underestimate the power of currents.
The trip back was uneventful and much more fun. The tide and wind assisting and the odd boat wave to surf, had us cruising along at just over 5km/hr which made the trip back just under five hours.
A few general lessons learned. Lesson six. If you do not have a support boat, make sure you have the food you need for the entire leg of the paddle easily accessible. Nothing worse than needing to eat and having to stop the group so someone can rummage through your hatch looking for food.
Lesson seven. Make sure you have enough water. same rule applies as the food. Make sure it is accessible. I like to secure my hydration pack to the deck in front of me.
Lesson Eight. Take lots of photos and video. Trips like this are real accomplishments and something to be proud of. Record them. Lesson nine. Try and plan your trips when the tides and weather are in your favour and do not be afraid to call off a trip at the last minute. Better to be around to paddle another day. Lesson ten. When paddling across or near a busy shipping lane remember large ships wont see you, they move a lot faster than you think and can push out a lot of turbulence. Be prepared to change course or wait, but don’t try to race a ship. It wont be pretty if you lose.
All up a really enjoyable little adventure. Great fun, a decent enough challenge and time enjoying our fantastic coastline. What more could you want?
Thanks to all who came along, looking forward to the next paddle challenge. A circumnavigation of Bribe Island in August.