Ian is an efficient and strong paddler. I regard Ian as a ‘long range’ day paddler as the paddles he posts tend towards the 30Km+ in distance. If Ian’s paddles are not preceded by a ‘3’, then they are often against the tide for a significant part of the way. This is not always my cup of tea, especially the later.
When Mark briefed me on what Ian proposed, I was probably half listening. Mistake Number One. I do remember Mark mentioning the southern area of Russell Island, and, as this is not an area of particular interest to me, I probably really zoned out. Mistake Number Two.
However I think it would be fair to say that today’s 42Km paddle was a big day out, even for Ian. It was concluded by a cacophony of stuff ups that had the potential to land us on the 7:30 Nightly News. Fortunately it was too late for camera crews. Even better, we managed to extricate ourselves from a very messy situation.
Saturday had been depressingly grey and drizzly. Ian thought he was back in Melbourne. Jack said it was so miserable that he had not taken the dog for a walk. Sunday’s forecast was fine after the fog had cleared. By the time we were on the water without further digressions, the skies were indeed blue and we were about 40 minutes after the proposed starting time. Possibly Mistake Number Three.
We made reasonable speed picking up the last of the incoming tide and a light westerly in our sails. We stopped on Discussion Beach on the western side of Russell Island. This tiny beach is located towards the southern tip of the island and is currently demarcated by an ever increasing pile of junk. Today a wooden bench was swept clean with the (provided) banister brush before we settled down to AM tea.
Being about an hour off a 2.1metre high, we then explored some of the northern channels braiding the islands to the NE of Cabbage Tree Point. Mark took us through some mangroves obscuring a particularly narrow cut through. Eventually we popped out about 1.5Km to the north of the entrance to Duck Creek. So far it has been a relatively easy paddle with plenty of bird life. We were aware that we would have to pay the piper at some point.
A suggestion was made to head for Duck Creek. Mistake Number Four. It can be easy to underestimate what impact a last minute digression can have on a paddle plan. It is also difficult to have a meaningful discussion when one person has already set off under sail. I should have known better given the status of the tide and my furious dislike of paddling against it in this area. However, it had been at least 15 years since I last paddled Duck Creek and I was feeling good.
We entered the mouth of Duck Creek and continued on. Here Mark should have spoken up – he carries the GPS and he would have been aware that paddling the creek would make the total trip more than 40Km in distance. However, this prospect didn’t bother him, so he said nothing. Mistake Number Five.
Jack had never been to Duck Creek before and was enjoying the experience. He was about to have another before the day was out.
Duck Creek was fairly full but not brimming. I had forgotten how far north the creek deviates away from the main channel flowing out to Jumpinpin. You would not want to get caught out in this creek on a falling tide as there really is no prospect of a portage out. We had lunch at the mouth in the shelter of some mangroves where the sand was very soft and deep. It was a perfect testing ground for our new Helinox rip-off chairs. We had fitted each chair with a parallel pair of aluminum bars linked across the base by a strip of shade cloth matting. It was like a sand shoe and worked a treat.
After lunch the piper started off with a solo performance. The tide was now running out. I paddled very close to the bank in an attempt to keep out of the flow while avoiding entanglement with fallen trees. By the time we headed northwards the piper had called up his mate Huey who was driving a firm and pesky 10-15Knot WNW. Dam it Janet. This was turning into hard work. As the falling tide accelerated through the second and third quarters sand bars rapidly became exposed and drained the area which I regard as a bit of a swamp. I declared I was not in the mood for it when I became embedded on a sand bar with the rudder stuck, unable to pull it up, unable to turn. My ill temper was soothed by one of Jack’s liquorices (Mistake Number Six).
After that it was essentially hard work against an unrelenting wind and ripping tide. By the time we made it to where the tide was ebbing to the north and finally in our favour there was very little water left. Just huge expanses of depths of less than a foot at times necessitating sweep strokes. At one point Ian was honked by a large motor yacht. Not sure why. Ian seems to be unlucky on the water, or maybe he is just too alluring when it comes to racing yachts, yobs in tinnies and now, a large powered yacht. Today the yacht deliberately deviated its course and appeared to be making a beeline for him under the iron sail. Maybe the honking was signalling Ian’s attractiveness – afterall he does keep himself and his boat immaculate.
By the time we were at the Ws it was sunset. The sky and islands had taken on beautiful warm hues. Important others had already been spoken too on the phone to allay their concerns and politely decline offers of sending out the water police. By the time we had rounded the top of Pannikin Island the sun had gone. It was interesting that three of us independently considered diverting to Weinam Creek at this time. None of us voiced this option. Mistake Number Seven.
It was getting dark quickly and none of us had lights. Mistake Number Eight. Well to be frank, chances are that no other bloody idiots would be coming our way. We were soon in a couple of inches of water of a dead low tide around 500 metres off our destination, Point Talburpin.
What this portended was not good. The last time we landed at Point Talburpin at dead low it was nasty. Now we had to deal with nasty in failing light. The inky black silhouettes of rocks were everywhere. Jack went into shore where he insisted the ramp was and could not be coaxed out. Ian, Mark and I hovered before tentatively heading ‘ashore’ in a fibreglass gouging sludge slightly further south. We could see the outline of cars under the street light but not the boat ramp itself.
And then it began. What a mess. First Mark got out and sank well above his knees, part of his spray skirt submerging in the mud. He put on his wheels, passed me mine and then made a concerted effort to haul his boat through the soft mud. The wheels did nothing but act like a dragging anchor. In the meantime I tried to do a frogger sitting on my boat using my legs to kick/lurch forward. The mud was so soft and deep that I was going nowhere as the fibreglass deck flexed under my but. In the end Mark told me to lie on my boat. He then dragged us over the mud to where I could get out into (ankle deep) mud underpinned by firm ground. Two down.
Then the alarm went off and Jack only had one liquorice left. I should not have asked for one earlier in the day. Slight problem was that Jack was firmly stuck even further out in the mud. How to get Jack ashore quickly ? By now Ian had landed and had lost a shoe in the boot sucking mud. This significantly limited his ability to help as the shoreline was studded with very sharp rocks. Mark went out with a rope to attach it to Jack’s boat. The rope was not long enough. In the end Mark told Jack to do what I had done and lie on his boat and get his legs out of the mud. Mark acted like a plough horse and through sheer grunt hauled Jack to within reach of Ian and they both dragged Jack in his boat across the mud. With Jack onshore and back at his car it was time to laugh.
Mark, Ian, Jack and the boats were plastered with mud. Just how much mud only became apparent when we got up under the streetlight. It was disgusting. I thanked Mark for his chivalry that spared me the worst of the mud bath. We were all grateful that, unlike Weinam Creek, the tap in the park had reasonable water pressure. Maybe forgetting to put in the pressure cleaner battery was not Mistake Number Nine as it would have sluiced/sprayed mud everywhere. We were lucky that it was not too cold and that the wind had finally completely abated. It was an hour before we were ready to leave.
By the end of the day I don’t think the motor yacht would have been honking for Ian. 42Km was the longest day trip Jack had ever done. It is not the sort of distance I like to do either, especially when large passages are against the wind and tide and you finish off by landing at one the nastiest boat ramps in Moreton Bay at dead low tide in the dark.