The klan organized a day trip to Broken Bay on Sunday 31st May. I’ve paddled here before but more to seaward and out along the coast. Since the weather was poor we settled on Patonga as our put-in point as it would give us some options if the wind turned ugly. The six of us decided to put Henry in charge of the trip again as he is the best choice and Broken Bay is his back yard. He quickly planned out a nice day trip with a few stop overs so we could have a good look around and paddle some mixed conditions and so we set out.
In the middle of Broken Bay the swell was anywhere from 1 to 2 meters with a calm sea and it was a very relaxing leg. As we approached the Pittwater side the fetch shortened to about 10 meters but paddling was still quite nice. First stop was Refuge Bay. This is a sheltered bay surrounded by steep cliffs and is famous in Australian military history as the training base for Z Force and the Krait. If you don’t know about this commando unit you should do some homework as the Z Force raid by kayak on Singapore Harbour in WWII is considered the greatest seaborne raid in military history and their story is quite amazing. So Refuge Bay holds a certain, almost mystical, aura as you paddle in. At the apex of the bay is a tiny sandy beach below a cliff where a beautiful waterfall flows only rarely, perhaps a handful of times a century. We were lucky that it was in full flow. At the base we had some coffee and admired the incredible beauty of the place. It is very ancient and inaccessible except by boat. Eagles soar overhead in what seems like a scene from Jurassic Park.
After leaving Refuge Bay, a Nor’Easter blew up the sea and made for some rougher conditions and a bit of a slog into a headwind. After checking out some Aboriginal paintings of indeterminate age at Eagle Rock, complete with more Eagles, we headed to the beaches of Gunya, then across to the north side and some lunch on a little beach. When rested, we headed out into the main bay for a choppy workout into Patonga where the increasing swell and beam sea made for an interesting and concentrated ride home.
I have to say the Assateague was not in the least perturbed by the tougher conditions and at no time did I feel tippy or unsafe. It is a superb craft for these type of conditions. I am sure the Eco Bezhig would have been less certain and I would have been more nervous in it. All in all a great day out in awe inspiring settings with great company and the ideal trip leader in Henry who, incidentally, has the habit of showing up your level of preparedness with a range of nifty gadgets that make you green with envy. I thought my camping kit was fine until he pulls out an espresso maker and starts making a real cup of coffee! I demonstrated my disinterest by drinking a cup of tea instead. Bloody hell, more cost.
The Hunter Kayak Klan is getting vastly more experienced. We now have the numbers that allow for at least a trip a week and sometimes there’s simultaneous events being run. Our local knowledge of coastal conditions is increasing and we can now put together trips with several paddlers with little notice and go to some more challenging places. If I am the klan organizer and official mouthpiece then Henry is the clan skipper. It’s a natural and unspoken choice. He has loads more experienced than the rest of us combined and we all feel more comfortable on big days when he is there. It’s good to have someone to pull us up to higher standards without pressure or fuss and to ensure we are well equipped and well recorded so thanks a lot Henry.