Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Around the head: a southern circumnav

Whales. Lots of them.

I recently  joined Matt Bezzina, Mark Schroeder, Wendy Stevenson, Andrew “the car’s got another gear, you know” Eddy, Laurie Geoghegan and Paul Loker on another circumnavigation, this time St Georges Head at Jervis Bay.

This is my third circumnav, after the first circumnav of Sydney and the second figure 8 Bondi to Manly.  Unlike the others, no trollies required: the  land leg was too dangerous to trolley. Those other two trips are on Matt's blog here and here
Hyams Beach departure
We set out from Hyams beach, deciding to go north-south because a strong N-NW was forecast on the second day. Delightful paddle out past Bowen island and turning south. A metre or so of swell and small wave height, nothing to test the Stugeron.
Bowen Island on the left

Wendy rounds the point

The cost along here is all cliff, similar to the immense walls on the Beecroft Peninsula but with its own character, horizontal striations pocked with huge sea caves. I started the day with my no.5 wooden GP but after an hour or so swapped to the Werner euro; I needed the extra sudden acceleration if I was going to frolic in the caves. 

Matt in foreground

Delightful trip. Lunch was at Stoney Creek, interesting entry with big waves coming in and a definite line to follow, but no dramas.

Stoney Creek. Oddly named.

Several very large defiles penetrate the cliff wall, and on one defile I had the bizarre optical illusion that the defile sea surface sloped downwards. The cliffs on each side are 50-80m tall, terrific places to play.


An abundance of huge out-of-focus caves

Along the way we encountered whales broaching and a few seals goofing around. The whales were in no great hurry and seemed interested in investigating us.

Wendy rounds the southern point

Seals looking at us looking at them.

Eventually we rounded the point and as we did we sighted more whales in the bay, in particular a mother and calf who were not going anywhere.  I recall Shaan saying how when she  was approached by a bull orca in Queen Charlotte Sound she felt like every sense in her body lit up. At one stage the mother surfaced very close to me, heading towards me, and  the proximity of this immense and implacable animal certainly evoked a very strong and unmediated reaction.

We investigated a few of the beaches before camping, looking out into the bay at sunset over the whales still spouting a few hundred metres off. Delightful evening, much fine starlit conversation.

Next day we decided on a late start, so that we would hit Sussex Inlet at the inbound tide ( about 3pm Matt calculated). Laurie donned his wetsuit, took up the speargun he had lugged all the way, and potted a beautiful flathead, big enough for a fine morning tea for all.

Flathead for brunch

Eventually ( after noon!) we hit the water again, meandering around the headlands until we  reached the surf beach and then cutting the 8k across to Sussex inlet. A few of us played in the surf ( not me, I was back on my GP and had a morning shower  in my surfing  attempt) while Laurie and  Andrew hoist sail . They were the only two who carried sails this time around, but the winds offered little advantage. Or maybe they were - see Laurie's comment. 

The Inlet turned out to still be flowing strongly out, but arriving bang on 3pm we had no alternative but to flog across the bar and then against the current to St Georges basin.

Not everyone chose to travel without a sail. Fat lot of good it did them. 

Mark on the Sussex Inlet bar,
Visible in the distance was the point that obscured Erawong Bay, where the cars were parked.  Against a setting sun we set out, against only some small wind-fetched waves, really plugging away strongly to try to beat the dark. Several not entirely amused jokes about training for the Hawkesbury.

The home stretch. It was a stretch. 
Just after dark when we arrived at the  boat ramp, with the delight of unpacking the boats without any natural light.
Dry feet again.
A great trip, another fine circumnav.  


  1. nice write up Ian and congrats on keeping your lunch down :)
    plus you beat Matt to the blog - winner!


  2. I managed to travel half of that long beach before Sussex Inlet without one paddle stroke!!

    Good trip .....and lots of whales