It’s blowing a hooley today. The forecast predicts 17 knot off shore winds at Balnarring Beach but the sea looks remarkably calm from the beach: an offshore wind and outgoing tide. It took roughly an hour to get here from North Fitzroy, almost a miracle, thanks to Peninsula Link.
Grant arrives, carries his kayak down to the beach and we head off. Since the tide has almost reached its lowest point, there are a few rocks to navigate. Once clear of the reef we are instantly blown deeper into the bay. I don’t notice this for a while but Grant probably does. Once we’re a couple of hundred metres off shore, it’s a beam sea so that the choppy waves belt at us sideways.
In spite of the wind, the water is clear. Closer to shore, sand or beds of seagrass are just visible beneath the surface. At first it’s difficult to distinguish the pattern of olive green leaves and whitish stems flattened with the current and I mistakenly think we are over a reef. Further out, there is just deep, aqua water. Western Port truly is a unique colour. Looking back, the beach is eaten away by rising tides. It’s the same at Somers, gnarled tree roots lie exposed and naked on the beach, protruding from miniature sand cliffs once part of the old dune system which rises up steeply above the beach. Enormous, architect designed houses are gradually replacing the old, fibro-cement holiday shacks.
The plan is to head toward Merricks Yacht Club, a short distance of a couple of kilometers, so that we don’t have to paddle too far against the wind on the way back.
At one stage I nearly tip over and have trouble getting a grip with my knees, then realise that the foot pegs need adjusting So we paddle to the beach, which seems to take ages in the headwind and it’s hard going. Once on the beach we decide to head back. I’m relieved, it’s pretty tiring paddling in this wind and as yet my technique is not developed enough to work the paddle blades efficiently. The wind seems to be getting stronger. I need to use my core more effectively, twist and watch the paddle blade as it plunges into the water. Harder than it sounds. Grant and I have given up talking, or rather yelling at each other, in the wind. It’s a good experience and worth knowing that a wind stronger than 15 knots is pretty unsustainable for me, at this stage anyhow.
Looking across the water, we can just make out Seal Rocks and the Nobbies, tiny in the distance.
All in all it’s been a short but challenging, if uneventful, paddle – a test of what it’s like to paddle in a strong cross-wind or headwind, so that’s been valuable. Grant gives me a lot of good tips and even though I think I’ve been twisting my core, it’s still not enough. Core-building exercise are prescribed, not that I’m all that enthusiastic about this but I guess I’d better do it.
At last, back on the beach. It’s deceptively sheltered once back on land but the cool change is building.
Balnarring beach is littered with remains of the old pier, much reduced in size since I was here last, probably as a teenager, and other structures intended to constrain the inevitable erosion.
There are a couple of families picnicking, although no-one is swimming. It’s been hard work but great to get a feel for paddling in strong wind. Once the kayak is washed down and loaded back on the car and goodbyes are said, I head to the store for a coffee. A large, Russian family are barbecuing sausages in the rotunda, the men are barking down mobile phones, kids run back and forward and women speak intensely in small groups. The coffee is good.