• A Whale of a Tale

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    Date: Sunday 15 October, 2023
    Distance: 33km
    Conditions: Wind 10-15KN N

    Mark and I have been moseying around Moreton Bay for well over 20 years. Jack, Jurg and Beatrice have also been paddling the Bay for many years. Yet today we came across something that not one of us had ever seen before.

    It was another warm dry blue sky day. The kind that leaves grass brown and balding. The kayak trolley wheels ran over hard dusty ground to the beach where fair skinned families congregated under gazebos that cast their shade elsewhere.

    There was no wind. The kayaking garb was quickly becoming uncomfortably hot while the rising tide was a tich too cool to entice a swimming start.

    Leaving Raby Bay we slipped by the pointy end of what looked to be a substantial vessel. Opaque water cloaked the remainder giving it the appearance of an abstract metal sculpture like an opera house sail. Seaward of the bow were two yellow warning buoys. Too bad if you were coming out from shore at night as chances are the illuminated buoy would be obscured by the immovable hulk.

    We pulled up on the western jetty on Peel Island for morning tea to the squawking indignation of a pair of pied oyster catchers. Our initial choice at the end of the jetty was invaded by midges so we shifted to where the mangroves let through remnants of a fluky 5Knot northerly. The midges still drove a speed event and Jack did not get to finish his coffee. I on the other hand, had no difficulty swigging a coffee and munching on a great slab of Jack’s delicious banana loaf. Yum tum tum.

    While the 2.2m high was starting to recede, it still allowed us to get in close to the island. An impromptu plan adjustment has us heading clockwise towards the mangroves on the NW corner of Peel. Here the mangroves that stand off the island are in a part of the green zone that, during a full tide, can light up with schools of flashing silver or electric blue. Today was no exception.

    After keeping our distance from the occupied messy pile of branches a top the Lazeret beacon, we decided to re-visit what we know as Jurg’s passage. An unmarked nebulous traverse of the mangroves that cuts off Cucumber Point. Maybe foolhardy on a falling tide, but it was only the first quarter. As per usual we all went in different directions. Today we lost Beatrice.

    Beatrice’s voice calling out somewhere from the depth of the mangrove muddle reminded me of trying to find my cat when it is shut in an obscure cupboard. A fine high pitched call that you hear from everywhere but cannot locate anywhere. Jurg paddled his stead into the tidal entrapment to rescue his damsel while we three nonchalantly patrolled the perimeter.

    The change of plan and unexpected interlude made for perfect timing. Heading towards Stradbroke for lunch, Jurg called out that he had just seen a whale. Mark saw it. Then Jack. Finally I caught a glimpse. When you have been up close and very personal with such a creature you do not forget what it looks like. A whale for certain. That was no Minke. It was a humpback.

    Not one but two. A mother and calf were heading south along the western side of the main channel just off the NE corner of Peel Island. The whale changed direction and headed directly towards Mark. Mark started to back paddle and vacated the place where she next surfaced. Only a fool would harass a mother with a calf, especially one which seemed to be in an unusual place. She turned eastward with her calf at her side trailing a jet ski in close pursuit. We had kept radio silence throughout. It was probably fortuitous as Horseshoe Bay is just around the corner, and as it turned out, the place was brimming with boats.

    We settled in the shade on the beach to the north of Dunwich. So far this trip was déjà vu for Jurg and Beatrice’s last paddle. We enjoyed our lunch as a nearby jet ski was being stranded by the tide. We were readying to leave when the driver came running back down the beach. He frantically started to dig a channel around the bow. The woman who was traveling with him did not appear to appreciate the pickle they were in. She just continued to saunter along the beach. He called her over and told her to start digging, which she did with limited enthusiasm and even less gusto.

    It was clear to us that what he doing was futile. He appeared desperate and was not getting much help from his companion. In a nodded consensus, we wandered over to offer some grunt. With a chain attached to the bow and all hands on deck, a series of coordinated heaves eventually re-floated the environmentalists’ stead.

    During lunch the northerly had kicked in as forecast. By the performance of the yachts rounding Peel Island, the wind was promising and a keeper. Seeing white caps in the channel I loaded a couple of two litre bottles of sea water into my day hatch to settle any twitchiness. I suggested we return via the north of Peel to stay with the wind. Jack was not keen to have to bash into it when rounding SW rocks either. This was when deja vu for Jurg and Beatrice’s previous paddle route finished.

    We hooted across the top of Peel making an easy 8- 9Kph on a fairly tight beam reach. Not far from the channel mark we turned and with the wind now directly behind us, scooted all the way back to Raby Bay. Being wind against tide the chop stood up and there were some fun runners. Maximum speeds of over 16Kph were clocked. Jurg maxed out at 16.6Kph. Closer to Raby Bay the swell transitioned towards a messy three way chop. I came in towards the western side of the Bay which meant I kept my rides for longer as the swell diminishes more quickly in the shallow waters towards the east.

    The hootin’ scootin’ ride home was a great finish too a day when a lost damsel was rescued by her trusty knight. Some kayakers were reported to have been seen helping a stranded jet ski. But since when did paddlers aid and abet these environmentalists ? More than likely it was just another whale of a tale.