The ten o’clock ferry takes me across the water to Coochiemudlo Island. Just fifteen minutes after boarding I am talking with Dave of Coochie Boat Hire. He’s a friendly man who grabs me a single-person sit-on-top sea kayak, a paddle and PFD. After Dave briefs me with the weather conditions (10-15 knot southerly increasing to 20-25 knot south-easterly late in the afternoon), showing me a map and making sure I know how to contact him if I need to get picked up at any time, I set off with the kayak for my two hour hire. It’s only cost me $25 plus the $6.80 return ferry fare.
As I round the south-eastern tip of the island, the wind assists me and I can’t resist a surf in the gentle chop. I beach the boat and enjoy the sand between my toes. The occasional white horse gallops across the water but it’s certainly nothing I can’t handle.
As I reach the north-eastern tip of the island I surf the waves into the shelter of a little bay. The northern side of the island is the most geographically exposed but with south-easterlies being the prevailing winds here, it’s usually the most sheltered from the weather.
I used to be a kayaker. I paddled with the Sandgate Canoe Club in 2005-6. I even owned my own little boat: a red plastic sit-in flat water boat that I would take out in the bay on windy days to surf. The boat was too big for me so I never learned to Eskimo roll in it but I loved getting out in it. I used to paddle socially at least once a week, if not more. But then we moved house and my partner started working weekend shifts. Without a car, I couldn’t get my kayak to the water so I just stopped paddling. That’s going to change.
The northern and western sides of the island are lined with mangroves. They are impenetrable to all but those in shallow-draft paddle-craft. Sheltered from the wind, I let the boat drift between the submerged trees watching the fish jump. The sun beating down, warming my skin. I am so protected that I could be forgiven for believing it is a windless day. And for the next half hour or so I do.
I find a small bay on the western side of the island. A bay I’ve never seen from the walking trail around the island. It seems someone made a little mistake here; sinking their boat. Shipwrecks are always eerie, even if they are only small wrecks. Perhaps it’s the visible reminder of the sea’s power. Or the foreboding sense of being unable to see what’s below the surface. And, maybe, it’s the mystery associated with those who choose to live a drifting life, rather than one bound to the earth because a sunken ship can also be a sign of sabotage or piracy.
I round the south-western corner of the island and am hit by the strong twenty knot south-easterly. There are more white horses out here galloping around than there were earlier in my paddle. I paddle into the wind, the small waves breaking against the bow splashing water all over me. The chop isn’t big but it’s enough to make paddling difficult. I stop briefly on Red Rock Beach to take some photos before turning around and having a surf.
I round Red Rock Corner again, this time heading back the way I came. I have 45 minutes before the kayak is due back so I surf a little and take one final walk on the sand before I set off into the wind again. The half hour paddle back to the boat hire beach is a solid workout. I paddle thirty strokes hard and then ten easy. I repeat this all the way back. It feels good to fight the wind and waves. My body is stronger now than when I used to paddle; the effort is less taxing than it was a few years ago.
Total: 2 hour paddle.