• St Helena

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    Date: Sunday 13 November, 2011

    They must have caught one. The children fishing from the beachon the canal at Aquatic Paradise were squealing with nervous excitement. By the time we took the boats down a worthy pan sized grunter was being proudly displayed to the camera. The parents considerately reeled all the rods and took their time to show thechildren how to re-bait their hooks as we quietly pushed off into the warm muddy water. With the forecast for wind against tide we were angling for a bumpy sailing leg on the return journey.

    The NE was already pushing a cooling 5Kn headwind as we made for the southern end of Green. The competitive sails were out enmasseand given our beeline we wondered if we were destined to become yacht fodder. Fortunately they had not done their inner circuit, either that or everyone took to the water early to escape the heat. We did not come within cooee of a ruthless competitor with another divisional championship in their sights. The closest we got to was a loose group of five unrecognised paddlers who cut across the bow on their way to either Wellington Point or King Island.

    A small see sawing craft heading NW flying a sail close to the wind turned out to be a couple peddling a Hobie double kayak. While they were making a good pace, they were having to peddle like the clappers to do so. Maybe they were cyclists out for adifferent view of the world. We slipped by a number of small tinnies each with two or three people fishing before nudging into a quiet shady beach on the southern end of Green Island for morning tea. It was a welcome hiding place away from the noise of the jet skis and all manner of boats and landing craft crowdingthe northern spit. Heading north, we took our cue from the two pied oyster catchers standing silently on a mangrove branch, and like them stayed within the protection of this leafy sanctuary. A sanctuary that has mangroves so deep you loose sight of the shoreline. Mangroves that hide a wealth of fish and an occasionalturtle. Mangroves that provide shady relief from the relentless heat. Reappearing just south of the spit into the glare of the white sand, colourful beach umbrellas and doof doof only served to heighten the ephemeral nature of the quiet watery solitude afforded by these gracious old trees.

    The only class of boat not represented on the spit was a kayakand much to the surprise of the eyes following us it was to remain that way. We couldn’t leave the place fast enough and were only to happy to head out into what was becoming a lumpy bay. We pulled into the southern shore of St Helena just east of the main picnic shelter. Mark called a caution for a rock, but the rock had other ideas and ran away as a decent sized sand crab. Two pied oyster catchers flew in and landed on the rocky shelf to the west of our chosen lunch spot in the shade of a thin casuarina. They left as soon as a crow landed in the tree on the western end of the bay. One parent hassled the crow relentlessly until the annoyed raven departed. A small ball of grey fluff then emerged from the tree roots. Standing about half the height of its parents was a beautiful solitary chick. Neither of us had ever seen a pied oyster chick before and having witnessed oystercatcher’s determination to attack birds of prey on the wing, we did not want to stress either parent bird. They were aloof but watchful parents. The chick never made any demand for food, the parents never attempted to feed it. The little fellow spent itstime wandering along a small area of shoreline and was ready to disappear into the protective cover of the undermined roots of a dead casuarina.

    By now the casuarinas were singing and the speed boats were becoming air borne as they hit the chop off the SW corner of St Helena. This promised to be fun. I voted to return via theeastern side of Green as that would give the greatest fetch for the swell. The knots in the sheets were untied to make dropping the sail easier should I get a little more than bargained for. The yachties sheltering off St Helena waved us by as we started to sail with the wind against tide.

    While it was lumpy I was expecting the swell to have picked up more. The wind was a reliable 10-15Kn, but not enough to make me squeal in nervous excitement. It was all a bit domestic and only started to become interesting when crossing the channel and having to play dodgems with yachts of various sizes. The tide haddropped enough to aim for the beacon off King Island. Turning in for the end leg gave more of a ride as the wind was directly from behind and the chop short and steep. So short that I managed to stop the kayak. Leaning back to catch a ride, the snout of theboat buried into the shoulder of the advance chop beyond the front hatch cover. It was a funny as a fit as the boat just seemed to stop. It was never going to do anything like pitch pole as there wasn’t enough power in the chop. Quite clearly the conditions just weren’t blowing enough to make me squeal. What did make me squeal was the gouging of the hull by rocks concealed by the muddy water off Aquatic Paradise. If you ever come ashore here, do what Mark did and go in between the channel markers. The water is so turbid that you have Buckley’s of being able to pick these nasty blighters. No holes, no worries, just a bit more patina on the underside of a boat that as Phil rightly put it “owes me nothing” yet continues to deliver such joy.

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