Madame Butterfly

The Point Leo Swim Classic is held on Boxing Day. There are two main races, the five kilometre and the 1.2 kilometre race; a beach run of four kilometres and a nippers’ swim over four hundred metres. The race is beginning just as I arrive and take a vantage point on top of a sand dune. The starting gun goes off and swimmers race to the water, crashing through the waist-high waves close to the shore, then seaborne and away, a peloton of thrashing arms and legs.

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Almost immediately, one swimmer is far ahead and soon after that, two others are neck and neck in second and third place. Three enormous red plastic inflatable cubes mark the apices of the broadly triangular course, with smaller red markers in between to keep the competitors on track. Each lap is just over a kilometre, four laps complete the course. The remaining forty-seven swimmers soon spread out, ploughing their way between the first and second markers but as they head out toward the third, occasionally disappear in the swell. The leader is going to take about fifteen minutes to swim a lap, a crew of life savers in a blue kayak keeping pace alongside.

But then, bizarrely, it seems there is one swimmer doing butterfly. Life guards cluster around on boards and kayaks. The announcer sees this at the same time and with disbelief, alerts the crowd over the loudspeaker. Everyone on the beach is enthralled: five kilometres of butterfly is an heroic feat and for a while, attention is deflected away from the leader who is now on the second lap and about to overtake the slower swimmers yet to finish the first. Smooth, powerful strokes, breath on each and unflagging rhythm. The butterflier curves and crests above the water.

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Spectators accumulate on the beach, untidy clusters of teenagers lie face down on towels, and competitors ready for the next race mill around talking to each other, or look intently out to sea. The surf lifesaving club has set up blue, white and orange marquees around the finishing line. A couple sitting near me on the sand dune, just downslope, are arguing. The woman is barely controlling her voice.

“I wasn’t being difficult. I was trying to be both things to both families”.

He turns from her, feigning disinterest but eventually, he argues back. The wind carries his voice away. Then she is on her feet, kicking sand out her Birkenstocks and leaning over him, thrusts her arms forward as if about to place her hands on his shoulders. They fall short in mid-air, outstretched and rigid, but unanchored. Speech leaves her and abruptly, she walks off. He stares out to sea, trying to pretend nothing has happened, then gets up and leaves as well, his stroll determinedly casual.

The butterflier is about half way around the second lap. But the announcer has run out of things to say and the crowd is bored with the pace now. The breeze has picked up, lifting the red plastic cubes out of the water but the lead swimmer is powering through the fourth lap, focussed, internal. The blue kayak sticks faithfully close. Suddenly, he is upright and at the shore, running across the wet sand to the finish line. The crowd cheers. Sam Sheppard is barely out of breath. He competes at national level and training for a ten kilometre swim in a couple of weeks. It’s serious business.

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The next two swimmers are out of the water a few minutes later. They are the crowd favourites and have swum inseparably throughout the entire course. The second place getter wins on the sprint up the beach. He is 32, the other is a 14 year old boy. Both are exhausted. The older swimmer is congratulatory and cheerful, the younger stunned and seasick. It was a remarkable effort. The boy joins his parents on a sand dune and curious, I walk up to him a little while later to congratulate him on the swim but by now, his father, in a broad Glaswegian accent, is talking him up for the 1.2 kilometre race in an hour’s time.

The announcer reminds the nippers to find their goggles and caps before they make their way, with anxious parents, to their race which is about to start further up the beach. The gun goes off and they scramble to the water, frantically swimming flat-out around the four hundred metre course. But the crowd’s attention is mainly on the adult swimmers, still finishing the five kilometre race. One by one, or in small groups, they emerge from the sea and cross the finish line. At one hour 50 minutes, two are still in the water with about two hundred metres to go and seven minutes later, a young woman, perhaps about thirty, and an older man in his sixties stagger out of the water together. He wraps himself in a towel printed with the Australian flag. She slumps against a sand dune, reaches into a day pack and starts sending text messages.

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The butterflier will be the last to finish. Arms, wing like, arc over the water, perfectly imitating the insect for which the stroke is named. Torso rising above the water, legs fishtailing, disappearing every now and again in the rising swell. Finally, eventually, a woman emerges from the water and jogs to the finish line. Ignoring the crowd, she looks around to find her way through the marquees and back to the sand but is approached by the announcer for an interview. After the long wait for the finish, everyone on the beach is waiting to hear what she has to say.

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“It’s just what I do. Five kilometres is my minimum training distance”.

The crowd is disappointed, hoping for an insight into why someone chooses to go against the grain and swim such a gruelling race, knowing they will come not only last but last by a long, long way.  Understandably tired and probably bored with the same old questions, she turns from the announcer to find her towel.  Later, I bump into Sue from the swimming group, getting ready to compete in the shorter race which is about to start. She mentions “that bird” who did the butterfly. I am appalled.

I decide to buy a coffee while I wait for the 1.2 kilometre swim to start. The warring couple are running the kiosk. They are very busy. She darts around coordinating the kitchen orders and counter staff while he is stationed at the cash register. I have to tell him three times which sort of coffee I want and am irritated by his vacuity. I decide to take it down to the beach with a bacon and egg sandwich from the surf living saving club stall. Mistakenly, I jump the queue and get told off.

It’s not the Peninsula of my youth and I wonder how many locals are on the beach.  Later, I am relieved to be home in the city. But the feeling remains for a while and is hard to shake.

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Twist and Shout

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pitch Perfect

Today’s paddle is Ventnor to the Nobbies off the western end of  Phillip Island.  Possibly out to Seal Rocks at the edge of Bass Strait.  The route follows the northwest coastline along empty, sandy beaches and lumpy dunes, through emerald green water and around the occasional bommie and rocky reef.

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After an hour or so, we stop for morning tea near the remains an old jetty, at least that’s what it looked like although it seemed impossibly high put of the water.  Seabirds perched on the spars squawked and flapped their wings in outrage at the kayakers below.

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The Nobbies seemed a long way in the distance but we seem to get closer and closer in no time at all.  Layers of lava flows are etched into relief by the sea and capped with calcarenite, suggesting a badly iced cake.

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Up close, the Nobbies are no longer a lump of basalt in the sea, but a busy place.  Seabirds nest among the the pink Carpobrotus flowers and succulent coastal plants which cover all but the most exposed slopes, seals and penguins mill around at the base of the cliffs and still more birds circle the tiny island, riding the air currents and swooping suddenly into the sea for prey.  Cape Barren Geese, albatross, penguins, gannets but most commonly silver gulls and pacific gulls are commonly recorded (http://www.eremaea.com/SiteSpeciesList.aspx?Site=424).

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Consensus is reached to extend the paddle out to Seal Rocks, with a little rock hopping around the chain of sea platforms along the way.  The water is pretty shallow close to shore and the visibility good.

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Soon though, it’s suddenly deep once once we reach blue water.  It starts to feel like a real sea kayaking trip and it’s exciting as the kayak splices the waves, crests and falls with the surge of the swell.

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Delight is the only word for the first sighting of the seal colony, even among paddlers who had been out to the rocks before.  It is the second largest colony of Australian Fur Seals.  They almost the same colour as the rock and for a moment, I don’t realise how many there are, flopped in the sun, slithering into the water, or staring at the new arrivals.

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With seals go sharks, not that anyone was nervous…

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Up close, seal pong started to get pretty strong but these amazing animals continued to delight as they circled and dived beneath the kayaks, clambered up onto the rocks, showing just how clever they are in the water.  Their wails and moans sound like cheers from a football crowd.

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They seemed to get more and more bold and cheeky as they got used to the boats, teasing and at the same time warning us off from the young.

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Reluctantly, we need to leave and paddle the 13 km back to Ventnor Beach on the incoming tide.  Everyone seems to have extra energy after the experience and even though I’m used to seeing spectacular scenery and wildlife, this has to rank with one of the best days on record.

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Seal rocks Google Earth

Postscript….some weeks later, one of the kayakers re-visited Seal Rocks.  If there was any doubt about loss of biodiversity in the area, sighting a seal with its head bitten off would seem to provide ample evidence that sharks at least are alive and well.

Crepuscular and Iambic

There have been a lot of fun paddles over the last couple of months but the best, and toughest for a novice, have been in Western Port.  Beautiful Western Port.

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On Thursday evenings, at 6 pm during summer, a small group of men, and on occasion me, meet at Woolleys Beach, Crib Point.  We put in next to the BP jetty.  As a teenager, I sometimes accompanied my father to this same jetty to deliver pharmaceutical supplies to ships which had docked at Crib Point but whose sailors were not allowed on shore.  The ship would radio in from sea with an order for the chemist, my father, who would drive down to Crib Point with the delivery.

In those days, the chemist often delivered prescriptions to the elderly or housebound, so it was nothing out of the ordinary in that respect.  Occasionally, the captain would offer my father a whisky after showing us around the bridge, high up above the decks and the day to day world of maritime life.  The ships arrived from all over the world, as ships do, and being invited on board was a treat allocated to the oldest child.  Hard to imagine that the Stony Point and BP jetties, now longitudinally bisected with cyclone and barbed wire fencing, could provide such hospitality.

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I love Woolleys Beach.  It was here and at Jacks beach a little to the north, that we were taken garfishing at night.  Using a car battery strapped to a skiffle board and connected up to some sort of waterproof light on an extension pole, we kids trailed along in the dark, knee deep in murky water and scared shitless that we would step on one of the many stingrays which, startled, skated away into the gloom.  Worse, we had to eat our prey.  Used to King George whiting locally caught less than 24 hours earlier, even eating flathead was unthinkable, much less the mouthful of bones which was garfish.  I don’t remember how we caught the garfish and occasional flounder but I’m guessing with a net.  It’s hard to imagine that the family’s hunting armoury extended to anything more sophisticated, although it is possible that we had some kind of home-made spear.  Home-made, because no-one bought anything in those days.  That’s what sheds full of junk were for.

Later in life, as a young adult, these secluded beaches and car parks in the bush were far more fun at night.  Especially with an HR station wagon, flagons of wine and a packet of Marlborough Red.

Woolleys has changed so little over the years, other than having become a little sandier, although sand is still in pretty short supply and anyway, most of the beach is covered in rock.  High tide reaches almost to the fringe of bush that lines the coast.   Pillows of seagrass leaves, scooped up from the shallow sea floor by the incoming tide, line the upper strand; the mangroves have spread out a bit and there is a lot of recruitment now, where once there were larger, older trees.  It’s much the same at Jacks Beach and Hastings.   Not that it makes much difference.   The sand is a flimsy veneer and with the slightest pressure becomes an anaerobic wallow.   At low tide, the ooze closes in around your legs in a suctioning embrace.  It reminds me of Saturdays afternoons spent at Hastings Yacht Club while my father sailed the catamaran he had built in our garage.  My mother didn’t sail, at least not that I recall, so presumably she was playing tennis or socialising in the fibro-cement clubhouse, while we kids were sent outside to play on the mudflats.  Hastings was never referred to as a beach.  No matter how tedious or boring the environment, it was punishment to be kept indoors and at the very least, always better than hanging around inside.

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On Thursday nights there’s a bit of banter, then the boats are carried down to the shore.  Depending on whether the tide is in or out, kayaks are dragged through the seagrass-thatched mud or pushed off toward the channel.  At first, there was some surprise when I turned up, being the first new paddler to join the group for some time.  But they are inclusive and welcoming, albeit with a thinly disguised warning that I would need to tolerate a bit of blokey stuff.  I can’t help but wonder if a woman might unbalance things a little but if so, they’re too polite to say, much, and after a couple of weeks I feel more or less at ease.

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In the evening light, the northern end of Westernport is green and tranquil.  It is lined with mangroves and sweeps of inter-tidal mud banks exposed at low water; pelicans and seagulls cruise the shallows.  On the turn of the tide, people are fishing from boats anchored just off the main channel; there is one large tourist boat returning to Hastings but the wind seems to carry the engine sound away.

I want to make the most of these paddles, before the Port of Hastings development starts.  Construction is a few years away yet but the project is likely to go ahead and will transform northern Westernport into a container terminal capable of servicing hundreds of ships a year.

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To my mind, it’s a tragedy of epic proportion that makes the arrival of the refineries and steel mills in the sixties seem relatively benign but which prompted massive increases in land prices during what is remembered as a halcyon period of employment.  Locals were bewitched by the “BP flame”, now decommissioned.  A slender, cylindrical furnace easily clearing the canopy of the surrounding bushland so tall it could be seen for miles, its purpose was to burn off excess gases in an enormous fireball which always seemed barely contained.  Almost instantly, it became a feature that had always belonged to the landscape, with its eery glow in a sky unpolluted by the lights of the city.

It was part of the phenomenon that embraces exploitative industries as saviour, something to grasp at; blindly accepted even in the face of broken promises, pollution, noise and traffic and most sadly of all, the loss of an entire place.  There are, no doubt, the same predictions for the Port of Hastings development.  Some grass-roots opposition has emerged but it is poorly organised and ineffectual. The broader community is indifferent.  Western Port has always been seen as a resource but rarely a magical bay crammed with sea birds, whales, fish, dolphins, seagrass, mangroves and all manner of deep water marine life.  Concealed beauty and abundance.  Prosperity and impoverishment.  A weird sister foretelling gain and loss.

The first week, we paddle south toward Stony Point in a stiff headwind on a rising tide and mild swell.  The green sea rushes north to the main channel leading to Hastings and the industrial jetties at Long Island.  The current pushes against the bow of my kayak and the hull smacks into the chop.  I can’t hear much over the sound of spray flung about in the wind.

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Stony Point is not much more than a fibro-cement shop selling fish and chips, bait and ferry tickets, a car park, a boat launching ramp, caravan park, a Port Authority office, and the end of the railway line from Frankston.  The ferry to French Island and Phillip Island leaves from the jetty.  It carries cricket teams between French Island and the mainland for home and away games.  Bobbing up and down in the swell, a conga line of locals unloads the weekly shopping onto Tankerton jetty.  Tourists were, and still are, relatively scarce.

The paddle is tough in the wind.  There are a couple of tugs are tied up at Stony Point jetty and there is a clear view across to French island.  We round the point to Hann’s Inlet, which leads to Cerberus Naval Depot.  It starts to rain, lightly, and it feels like we’re out at sea even though the shore is only a couple of hundred metres away.

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Turning the boats back north and into a following sea, it’s suddenly and eerily quiet without the noisy protest of current and wind.  No longer a head-on battle, the sea artfully and unpredictably claws at the kayak, sometimes shoving bow into trough, or playfully pushing its stern obliquely over the wave crests.  The sails on the other boats go up and with the south-westerly at our backs, we coast back to Woolleys Beach along the flank of the channel to avoid a large tourist boat that seems to have come out of nowhere as it makes its way toward Hastings.  The experienced paddlers surf its wake but for me, finding some compromise with the wily current is enough.  When Woolleys comes into sight, I’m starting to feel tired after ploughing into the headwind and hope like hell that the end is in sight but soon we’re back at shore and it all seems over too quickly.

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It’s twilight carrying the boats back up to the car park, dusk by the time we’ve washed them down, dark by the time we sit at the picnic table to hop in to a few drinks and some snacks.  The others are surprised that I’m from Hastings, in fact I don’t think they believe anyone actually comes from Hastings.  Then again, one of them lives in Crib Point, which is even more unlikely in my book.

The following week, the group heads in the other direction, toward Sandstone Island, stopping on the way at what must be one of the most bizarre sights in Westernport, the HMAS Otama submarine.

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Here’s the thing.  In 2002, a local group describing themselves as a community organisation, the Western Port Oberon Association (WPOA) bought the submarine with a view to converting it to a maritime museum.  So far, courtesy of the then local Liberal member Peter Reith, $500,000 was granted by the Federal Government in 2001 to the WPOA, so that they could tow it back from Western Australia, with a bit of extra spending money.  No doubt  a sum Parks Victoria could happily use to manage its two parks at French Island, as well as those at Churchill Island and Yaringa.  All of these will be in the firing line for destruction come the Port of Hastings.  Add it to the $500,000 spent on the HMAS Cerberus in Port Phillip Bay and it becomes obvious that Parks Victoria is in the wrong business.

However, not until the return of a Liberal State government has there been an approved location for the Otama as a maritime museum.  Consequently, the submarine has become a rusting eyesore dumped off Crib Point.  The current plan is to drag it off to a site adjacent to the Hastings marina.  After a fair amount of dredging, land reclamation and infrastructure costing millions of dollars, a maritime museum will be built.  Supposedly.  Just exactly what the connection is with Hastings is pretty hard to fathom.  Excuse the pun.  Sure there’s Cerberus (with its own Federally funded and curated museum), and there was a strong fishing industry at Hastings, but submarines?  The WPOA website is spin taken to new heights and clearly has the support of the Liberal party all under the smokescreen of job creation.  Even so, the amount of money involved is flabbergasting.  I’m not sure where this all fits with the Port of Hastings development, but I’m guessing there’s somehow more to it all than meets the eye.

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But hey, it’s fun for kayakers and from the water the Otama looks every bit of its 2,000 tons.  By sheer force of bulk, it generates its own currents as the sea parts at one end and races toward the other, 90 metres away.  But its external structure is also featureless: nothing but sheer vertical planes rising from a curved hull and ornamented with rusting fittings.  There’s not much to look at after a while and we paddle off to Sandstone Island.

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By now, there is very little water left in this corner of Westernport and it’s a bit of a race to get around to the other side to avoid being marooned.  Birds pick at the exposed mudflats.  My paddle almost gets stuck on the bottom and I nearly have to get out.  Julian does, and squelches over the shallows to deeper water.  I resort to pushing off the bottom with my hands and after what seems like about three years, we’re all water-borne again.  Then it’s back to Woolleys in the evening light.

The third paddle I do with the group is to French Island.  It is almost impossible to wade through the mud and get into the boats.  Mick has arrived with a ludicrous aluminium home-made kayak that he bought on eBay.  It is artfully bent and misshapen but happily moves through the water at a cracking pace.

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The tide is falling and the route follows the BP jetty before heading west toward Middle Spit, an inter-tidal mud flat a kilometre or so off French island.  The shallow water at its edge is warm and the air is humid, although there is a light wind which is just enough to make me a little chilly.  Everyone climbs out of their boats for stretch.

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It’s a strange feeling, walking around an ephemeral island in the middle of Western Port, in kayaking gear, like a bunch of Robinson Crusoe impersonators.  At low tide, the surface is sandy and rippled, there are sheets of water rendered pewter by the low angle of the setting sun.  Our feet sink readily sink through the thin sandy surface and into the mud beneath.  For a moment my childhood fears of being stuck, for ever, return.  Like in those old Jungle Jim television shows when someone would always go down in the quicksand, the rescuer’s fingers gradually losing grasp of the victim’s until all that remained was a subtle indentation on the surface, before everyone simply moves on.

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A hundred metres or so away there is a group of rocks which someone speculates may have been dumped as ballast, since any other explanation is hard to think of.  There are also the shells of mud oysters and other bivalves.  I had only been wondering the other day if mud oysters were still common in Western Port.  Not for the faint hearted, being much larger than a Pacific or Sydney rock oyster – mud oysters are a bit of a mouthful.  I had thought that they were never popular, although they were fished in Port Phillip Bay in the nineteenth century until suffering a population crash, attributed to disease.

The weather is still looking good and the tide is about to turn so we head off to French Island.  Our route follows the edge of Middle Spit then picks up the channel leading toward Tankerton jetty, where the ferry docks.  The jetty seems impossibly high out of the water at low tide but there is a series of platforms to allow for the tidal range, around two metres.

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It always strikes me just how isolated French Island is.  From memory, all that is visible from the reasonably long jetty at Tankerton is a collection of salt bitten, rusting cars and an information shelter.  There may also be a lodge or some sort of low key accommodation.  From the beach, arriving by kayak, it’s like landing on an uninhabited island.  There are still fewer than 100 permanent residents and no mains electricity or water, only a single general store and the island is not part of any shire.  It used to be possible to borrow a car from the collection at Tankerton to get around as a visitor and the island was well known for not needing a driver’s license since it was outside any jurisdiction.  There’s time for another quick stretch and then it’s back in the boats.

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From this point on it all gets a little more exciting.  It’s my first time paddling in a following sea as well as ferry gliding across the current at the same time.  This is great but initially a little unnerving when the bow of my boat dives in under a wave.  And then I actually let out a little scream.  I still can’t believe I did that.  Mick was very right in pointing out that it wasn’t going to help and that paddling through the swell was the way to go.  Yep.

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Soon everyone is spread out along the channel, singly or in pairs.  There is a bit of light traffic crossing the main channel so we need to pick up pace to avoid the tourist boat which is returning from Hastings.  I think it must be the somewhat clumsily spelled Georgianna McHaffie, which runs cruises between Hastings, Phillip Island and Flinders.

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The swell’s not particularly high but enough to make me want to concentrate on not falling out of my boat.  There is a well-intentioned gesture among seasoned paddlers to chat away to novices to get them to relax.  It drives me nuts.  Quite often I like to paddle along and watch the sea, concentrate on trying to improve my technique or just not have to yell over the wind and waves.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a conversation and then I do.  At other times, no-one else wants to talk either and so I don’t.  I might be screamer but at least I know when to shut the fuck up.

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Anyway, the sea looks gorgeous:  green and mysterious but with a light pink cast from the summer evening light.  Soon I’m enjoying its rhythm, and the surge and retreat of the swell.  The boat is pushed and pulled sideways and I learn to go with it.  Then the shoreline inches closer and the BP jetty takes shape and I realise that we’re nearly back at Woolleys after covering about 12 kilometres.  The tide has only just started to come in and the last swatches of exposed seagrass will soon be flooded again.  Hauling the kayaks through the mud and back up to the beach is truly appalling.  The mozzies are in full force.  Weeks later black mud is still stuck under my toenails.  Lying in bed that night I am rocked by a ghostly swell.

It’s good to be home.

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Wooleys to French Is

The Paris End of Cranbourne, or the murky north

Also known as Warneet.  Not unlike the northern coast of France really and especially nice for those who appreciate mangroves, mud and seabirds.  And a small slice of old Westernport, now condemned to its fate as the Port of Hastings.

Sunday morning at Warneet North Boat Club , calm and clear conditions with an incoming tide.  About twenty kayakers pull their boats over the mudflats, a thin sandy top layer disguises the sucking, squelching mud beneath.

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One by one, the kayaks slide into the water, paddle downstream to the jetty for a warm up, then turn around and head upstream along a mangrove-lined creek.

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A few directional problems, there are a lot of people in the water but who cares, it’s a nice morning.  The paddle is friendly and chatty.  Would have been good to do a bit more distance, to at least justify the drive to get here.  Still, it’s pleasant cruising upstream along the mangroves, until the water depth runs out and we have to turn around and come back again.

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Warneet is still pretty unscathed form sea changers and tree changers, the mozzies and mud probably scare a lot of people off.  There are plenty of fishers and holiday shacks.  And birdlife on the beach.

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The jetty is in pretty good shape, occupied, as so many jetties are around the bays, by people fishing, either alone or in small family groups.  There are lots of yachts and boats and general busy-ness.  It’s nice and daggy.

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