Category Archives: Kayak

Paddling Moreton Bay

I love to paddle

I love to paddle

Today was the final day of our Easter long weekend so my parents, best friend and I borrowed some kayaks and hit the water. Despite living so close to the bay, we’ve only explored it by kayak a few times by paddling around Coochiemudlo Island. So it was a real treat to get out today with my parents’ friends’ kayaks for a full day of exploration.

Getting ready to set off

Getting ready to set off

We set off from the Cabbage Tree Point boat ramp in the mid-morning. Like most of the coastline around Brisbane, the beach at Cabbage Tree Point is muddy and shallow. My parents loaded their cargo into the hull of their kayak while I strapped ours into dry bags in the back of the deck. It’s cooling down and the skies were overcast so I packed a waterproof jacket and pants, lightweight fleece jumper and windproof vest. Fortunately, I didn’t need them. I also packed food, billy and hiking gas stove. The extra water bottle in the photo was water so that I could boil Dad a cup of coffee (just instant) while out because I knew he’d like that.

Our route

Our route – Blue = before morning tea. Black = before lunch. Red = final leg

We didn’t have a set route in mind when we set off. We just decided to aim across the main channel and duck into the shallow water between the islands to see where we ended up. As it turned out, we spent most of our day in no more than 2 foot of water exploring waterways inaccessible by conventional boats.

My parents paddling

My parents paddling

For the first leg of our route we paddled across the main channel from Cabbage Tree Point. The water was relatively calm so the paddling was easy on brown mud-coloured water with the mountains on Stradbroke Island visible in the distance.

Kayaks on unnamed island

Kayaks on unnamed island

The tiny patch of sand on the unnamed island

The tiny patch of sand on the unnamed island

Our first stop was a tiny unnamed island where we stopped for morning tea. The island was all mangroves and mud except for a tiny 4m x 2m (12′ x 6′) patch of sand just large enough for us to squat on. The water surrounding the island was relatively deep so, after the people in front got out, Mum and my friend (who were in the front of each boat) had to drag the boats onto the mangroves for Dad and I (who were in the back of each boat) to get out.

On Short Island

On Short Island

Cooking up lunch on Short Island

Cooking up lunch on Short Island

After enjoying a break at the unnamed island we paddled around Tabby Tabby Island and over to Short Island. We stayed close to the islands to protect ourselves from the breeze. I love the feeling of being on the water. There’s something relaxing about the way the water slaps gently against the boat and the gentle rocking of the boat as it bobs across the small waves.

We pulled the boats up onto Short Island for lunch. Like the other islands in the area, Short Island is largely comprised on mangroves growing in the muddy ground. The area we pulled up onto was covered in tufty grass. While it looks idealistic and soft, the ground between the tufts is actually muddy and damp. Fortunately, the mud is well-packed so it wasn’t squishy. Despite the mud, it actually made a lovely spot to stop. The water here is clearer than that around the inner islands because the channel is wide and feeds out to the main channel near Stradbroke Island and the Jumpinpin Bar. I heated up pre-cooked nasi goreng for lunch and then boiled water for my parents’ coffees. I was glad to find the stump on the island because it made cooking safe (otherwise I would have had to sit the stove in some mud away from the grass).

My best friend in the boat with me

My best friend in the boat with me

After lunch we turned west and paddled back to Cabbage Tree Point through a channel between Tabby Tabby and Eden Islands. The sun sparkled off the water, contrasting sharply with the dark grey clouds that had been building all day. At one point, we saw a kite rising out of a tree right next to the water, no more than 2m from our kayak.

I had a fantastic day out on the water. I’m doing it all again next weekend with my son because I have the loan of another kayak. I’m looking forward to exploring some more islands.

Total: 5 hours kayaking (including morning tea and lunch breaks)


Scout camp

Scout camp by Andrew Gills
Scout camp, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Canoes, kayaks, a pontoon and a large dam. What more could a Scout troop need on a warm autumn weekend.

After an hour setting camp, the seven Scouts and three Leaders who came on camp hit the water in canoes and kayaks. Within an hour everyone was in the water and the first canoe had been purposefully flipped for the day.

With all but one of our Scout troop being 11 years old, shennanigans like tipping people out of boats are still the order of the day. And we Leaders weren’t exempt from being sent swimming.

The pontoon was also popular for climbing on, rocking, jumping off and removing each other from it. Again, the Leaders were not exempt from being helped off the pontoon.

By the time we lit the campfire, most of us had been in the water for about six hours. After a meal of tacos and burritos, we enjoyed a few hours sitting around the campfire. It was an informal campfire, so mostly I just listened to the Scouts talking and scaring each other with stories.

It was a day of laughter, swimming and fun. Just what I needed.

I had to leave at the end of the day because Whoops Witch Way have an adventure race tomorrow.

Kayaking Coochie

Kayaking Coochie by Andrew Gills
Kayaking Coochie, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

A half metre swell, four children under eight, two kayaks and team Whoops Witch Way. It was a morning to be grateful for.

There’s a joy in the way children see the world. Mangrove trees poking their tops out of the water at high tide amazes them. The waves bring excitement. And a stop on the beach is a chance to frolic in the sea.

In a world that’s so serious and focused on results, the joy of taking children into the outdoors is such a reward.

Total: 2 hours kayaking

Coochie daydreams

Coochie dreams by Andrew Gills
Coochie dreams, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Powder puff clouds drift across the sky as our kayak bobs on the small waves. The usually clear blue water below our boat is a murky brown, as a result of the silty water entering the bay from the recently flooded rivers.

I take the rear seat of the kayak while Mum sits up front. I’m more experienced on the water and Mum’s asked me to give her some pointers. I explain the principles of using large leg and core muscle groups to propel the boat forward, rather than our smaller arm muscles. We power across the water.

Last time I was here, the tide was at its lowest so I couldn’t complete a circumnavigation. Today, the tide is at it’s peak. The deep water is exaserbated by the flood waters flowing into the bay. In addition, last weekend’s storms caused a shift in the sands around the island, sweeping most of the beaches away. So we can stay close to the shore, instead of having to paddle far out in the bay.

It only took us an hour to circumnavigate the island; a distance of about 8km. We spent another half hour playing around the boats in the bay off the beach on the southern side of the island.

Total: 1.5 hours kayaking with Mum

Kids, Kayaking and Coochie

“Shall we take the kids kayaking at Coochie?” I didn’t have to think twice when my sister suggested a change to our Sunday MTB training routine. And so it was that this morning my sister, my nephew numbers 1, 2 and 3, and my niece all boarded the ferry to Coochiemudlo Island where we had organised to hire two double kayaks for a two hour paddle.

The tide was low and the island is bordered by long tidal sand and rock shoals. That’s just part of water sports; you can’t always have ideal conditions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time on the water.

Kayaking with kids

Kayaking with kids

My sister and I each took two kids each in our kayaks and paddled around the eastern side of the island up to the northern beach. The outgoing tide helped push us around the island so the paddling was relatively easy.

My eight year old nephew paddled in the front seat, doing a good job on his first paddle. My niece sat in front of me in the back seat, dipping her hands into the water excitedly. The pure joy the kids expressed was wonderful.

We stopped on the northern beach for about half an hour to let the kids swim in the clear shallow water. They had a great time finding ‘twisty shellfish’ in the water (all went back), and throwing water and sand at each other.

After failing to navigate the north western point of the island successfully due to the low tide, we turned back and paddled back down the eastern side. The benefit of this was that the tide had turned and the returning waters pushed us ever south and east. It was absolutely fantastic.

I have to give a plug to Coochie Boat Hire. I can highly recommend anyone visiting or living in Brisbane taking a day out to visit the island and hire a kayak to explore the island.

Total: 2 hour team kayak training with kids


So I got up at 3:55am, got on my motorbike at 4:20am, rode 45km (28 miles) to the canoe club, waited from 5:05am-5:45am for the Tuesday morning paddlers to arrive (they were due at 5:15am for a 5:30am start) and then got back on my motorbike to ride all the way home without a paddle. No one showed up. I know I got the day and time right because I double checked. I decided it’s a sign I’m not meant to join the canoe club just yet; I’ll wait until I move closer to the canoe club.

Instead, I had a delightful 4km walk with my partner. I got home from my wasted time just in time to catch her walking out the door. I enjoyed the walk much more than I would have enjoyed the paddle because I had fantastic company šŸ˜‰ .

I have a 200km Audax Australia ride on Saturday afternoon from 4pm. I will have to climb 2,500m over the course of the ride. I think I will put this morning’s relaxing walk down as tapering for the ride. Haha.

Total: 4km walk

Paddling strong

Canoe club by Andrew Gills
Canoe club, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

I got out to the West End Canoe Club today for my first paddle on the Brisbane River. To say it was wonderful is an understatement.

It was quiet at the club due to the holidays so I had my choice of boats. I took out a yellow TK1 called ‘Buck’. It’s the first fibreglass boat I’ve ever paddled and the experience was delightful. In the past, I had a sit-in plastic bathtub kayak and I’ve also paddled plenty of sit-on-top sea kayaks too. The fibreglass TK1 was much quicker in the water and had a rudder (I’ve never paddled with a rudder before).

I paddled up the Brisbane River from West End to the green beacon with K. We caught up with D as we paddled (she had left earlier than us) and I sat on their wash for about 500m enjoying the new sensation of bow riding. I can see why this is a useful skill to learn for energy conservation. Especially when paddling into the tide.

At the beacon (4.4km) we turned to paddle back to the boat shed. I was paddling out the front of the group with D. We talked as we paddled, the tide pulling us swiftly back to the ramp.

Paddling on the river is a new way to see my city. It’s pretty out there. We had to dodge rowers and negotiate the waves coming from the City Cats (motorised catermeran passenger ferries). The TK1 handled quite well over the waves, even when the waves bounced back from the sections of the river with concreted walls. D said that I should try a faster boat next time I go out; that I’d be able to handle it despite it being my first time with the club (I used to paddle with Sandgate Canoe Club for about two years in 2005-6 so I’m not a total novice but I used to paddle a plastic bathtub there).

I am excited about joining the canoe club. I’ll fill in the forms this week and start training twice a week.

Total: 8.8km kayak

Coochie kayak

Sun, sand and kayak

Sun, sand and kayak

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.

Paddling away

Paddling away

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.

Remembering the joy of paddling

Remembering the joy of paddling

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.

Drifting through the mangroves

Drifting through the mangroves

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.

Whoops. Glad it's not my boat

Whoops. Glad it’s not my boat

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.

Red Rock Beach

Red Rock Beach

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.

Enjoying the beach

Enjoying the beach

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.


Teams ‘We’re Lost’, ‘We Must Be Nuts’ and ‘Whoops Witch Way’ are ready to race

After four months away from racing, I am excited to say that I have just entered a swag of events for the first few months of 2013. Here’s how it’s going to look:

  • 1 January 2013 -I have signed up for the Eleven out of 11 Audax Australia cycle. This 100km cycling event will take me across the eleven bridges that cyclists may use to cross the Brisbane River. It’s a non-competitive event, with the goal being to complete the 100km within the 6:30 allowable time limit. I am looking forward to this event to test out my fitness after a lengthy period off the bike. Given This event sets my intention for the year.
  • 12 January 2013 -I am riding the 200km Moonlight Wander, a night-time Audax Australia cycle. It will be my first overnight cycling event and my first 200km event also. The time limit is 11:30, so I should have no trouble finishing if all goes well.
  • 3 February 2013 – I am riding the 100km Brisk Beaudesert Audax Australia cycle. This scenic course will include some hills. While there are longer options for this ride, I don’t want to overdo things by going too hard too early.
  • 8 February 2013 – My partner and I have formed team We’re Lost to participate in the City Raid night-time urban scavenger hunt. I am thrilled to bits that my partner is joining me on this adventure because it will be her first adventure racing experience. She’s been working hard the past four months to improve her fitness and change her lifestyle from being someone who didn’t do any exercise to someone who walks 4km every day and does weights at the gym 3-4 days a week. I’m so incredibly inspired by her efforts.
  • 16 February 2013 – My sister and I have reformed as adventure racing duo Whoops Witch Way to participate in the Kayak Kapers four hour paddlegaine. We will be hoping to gain bonus points for wearing the optional pirate costumes despite our team mascot actually being a witch (don’t ask because we don’t know the answer to the witch thing either). This will be our first paddlegaine so we are sure there will be plenty of laughter and maybe a little swimming.
  • 24 February 2013 – I will be teaming up with a friend from running as We Must Be Nuts inĀ Race 6 of theĀ Qld Tri Series. I have the easy leg, being the swimmer while my friend tackles the bike and run in her first every triathlon.
  • 9 March 2013 – Whoops Witch Way will be lining up at the Kathmandu Adventure Race where we will be paddling, mountain biking, trekking and navigating our way around a six-hour course. This will be our first adventure race since Adventure Race Australia in May 2012 and what will hopefully be the first of many for the 2013 adventure racing season.
  • 24 March 2013 – Whoops Witch Way don’t bask in our glory. No, we go straight back out there and race. So we’re backing up a few weeks after Kathmandu with the iAdventure Spring Adventure Race. This is another six-hour adventure race format including biking, trekking, kayaking and navigating.

Nope, I don’t do things by halves and yes, I am a bit crazy. But after a year of solo competitionĀ  in triathlon and running, and then a four month recovery from injury, I am looking forward to focusing on team and Audax events in 2013. It’s going to add a whole new level of fun.

See my Upcoming Events and Travel page for a full list of the events I currently have planned for 2013.

A cold wet weekend: Perfect for gardening


A little joy on a cold rainy day

I had been looking forward to the long weekend all day Friday and had been planning my attack on the great outdoors. However, Mother Nature had other ideas; she turned Sunday and Monday into a wet, cold and windy mess. Weather that made my first and second choice of outdoor activity off-limits.

My first choice was to take a two-day hike of the Conondale Range Great Walk. But I decided that it was silly to tackle the walk if I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy the views or experience when there will be perfect winter’s days ahead.

My second choice was kayaking from Coochiemudlo Island. I was going to hire a boat for a few hours and paddle around the island. However, driving rain and winds gusting at 25 knots put paid to that. So that put me at a loose end.



The first of two cubic metres of mulch

At first I got frustrated about the weather’s affecting my weekend. I got cranky and sullen because my plans had been destroyed. I sulked alone at home for an hour before I realised that the only person suffering was me. While I might not have wanted to get out and ‘do’ anything anymore, I could still get outside and enjoy the rain. I raised our orchard a few months ago, had some extra cash in my wallet and could borrow Mum’s ute so I decided to head out into the garden to finally mulch the orchard to properly finish it. Besides, shifting two cubic metres of mulch in a wheel barrow is still exercise.


Our orchard, looking from the top of the block

And so it was that I spent a few hours each on Sunday and Monday shifting two cubic metres of mulch onto the orchard. It doesn’t look like much right now but there are 14 fruit trees, two passionfruit vines, and lots of herbs and flowers in our orchard. The trees vary in age from 3 months to 3 years so they are at various stages of fruit-bearing capability. Winter was a good time to do the mulching because the stone fruit and pear trees are deciduous, making it easier to move around the garden.


Another view of the orchard

It was fantastic to get out in my garden. My garden always reminds me of the need to work with the weather and seasons, rather than fighting them. It’s also a reminder of the need to accept the good that each weather pattern brings. Rain is great for the garden because everything grows. Heavy rain is a great excuse to take it easy for a few days and recharge the batteries.

It’s a good time to think about the adventures ahead and how to achieve them.On that note, the wet weather gave me time to surf the internet to research inflatable kayaks. I will have paid my university fee loans (HECS / Fee-HELP for Australians) off at the end of this financial year. At 32 years old, July will represent my first ever pay cheque that will not include a mandatory HECS repayment. I spent over 13 years at university from age 17 to 31 and racked up a massive debt. Out system here in Australia allows us to borrow money from the government to pay for university. The loan is indexed annually based on CPI, so it’s a cheap debt. We have to make compulsory repayments through our taxation every year when we reach the income threshold.

I have been working full-time since I was 17 years old and have always earned more than the threshold of the day so have always had HECS taken out of my pay. So it’s exciting to be paying the debt off. I’m going to blow the entire amount on a Sevylor Rio inflatable kayak, two- or three-piece kayak paddle and touring PFD. I like the relative simplicity of the Rio and believe it will work well on Moreton Bay and the rivers where I will be doing most of my paddling.