Day 232, Sunday, 06.09.2009

stranded whale on Magic Reef

The day after the storm…it was forecasted moderate to stronger north westerlies, so I was keen to leave Wedge Island beach, to get away from all that sandblasting and to make some progress again!


I was packing under the supervision of some early morning beach walkers, and got some fresh fruit, white chocolate and a refill of fresh water given! Thanks a lot for that!


It was forecasted as well 5 m swells…I paddled out without problems through the lines of moderate breakers on Wedge Island beach, and was heading south, trying to stay away from anything big breaking out there!


It was easier said and tried than to be done…in the big swell I couldn’t see any continuous line of reef break! I was lifted meters up and down, and all I could see were uncontrolling breakers everywhere! It was a place and situation I was not comfortable with, being by myself on the open ocean in 5 m swells with fat reef breakers everywhere. And i had to go in again at some point today somewhere! Not an exciting outlook in this swell…


I attached my lifeline to my body, just in case, but after 2 km I decided to turn back to Wedge Island beach.


It was the first time on this trip I was turning back! But I rather felt I’d give it a try like two days ago, arriving at Wedge Island: I was thinking it may be possible to paddle close to the shore in the surfzone, right where the last breaker was subsiding his power when it was rolling up to shore. Some bracing practise again, some good timing…at least I should be able to reach Lancelin in this way today, 25 km down south!


There were some reefs close to the shore as well as offshore, and I was hoping to get soon a bit of shelter from the long lines of breakers hitting the beach today out of the 5 m swell at Wedge Island.


It was a different day than two days ago…the 6-8 surflines had wayyyyyyy more power with 5 m swell than with under 3 m swell…and I soon got wet allover in catching one powerful breaker from the side after the other.


I couldn’t paddle with my PFD and my cag on working that hard, too warm, so to prevent it from sliding off the backdeck I had to eventually stuff it into the stern hatch. I secured my map case, GPS and sat phone in the day hatch as well, zipped my hood of my cag tight to my head to stay warm on getting wet, and was prepared to get trashed  :-))


And I got trashed…the beach was unprotected from any reef for about 5 km, and the gap of subsiding rolling breakers up to the beach was narrow and still mostly powerful.


I was betting for myself on each breaker: Would I be able to brace enough to stay more or less on the spot and to do some powerful paddle strokes on the following seconds of flatish water, until the next breaker would be rolling in? Or would it catch me and push me very close to the beach, where I may run out of water and speed? Would I get stranded high and dry on broaching in on a powerful big one, and would I have to climb out to get the boat straight into a new starting position again? Or could I stay inside, high and dry, but simply waiting for another big one to come which would first help me turning the boat and then sliding me in again?


It was a game, but a dangerous, trashy game. I could have broken my neck on the 6 or 7 full trashy “handrolls” up the beach, or hurt my wrists, bracing sometimes simply with the arms on the sand to prevent the heavy loaded boat from getting washed up higher and higher, or to try to turn the heavy boat without climbing out. Not to talk about breaking my paddle or crashing the boat on an occasional rock.


It was probably not the best boat design for such a “kayak rodeo surf zone play”, my boat is a long, heavy loaded straight runner and hard to edge. A short empty boat with lots of rocker or a whitewater plastic tub may have been fun to use in those conditions! But I took it with what I had…


The extended fin of the integrated rudder disappeared mostly safely into the rudder itself on touching the ground, but the rudder effect was limited in this way as well. But at least the whole rudder system held up on this kind of game! A long overstern rudder would be bent and/ or broken off in no time.


And the whole boat held up as well, being bounced and trashed and abused in the worst trashy water you can paddle in…good strong expedition layup! I felt it flexing slightly when the waves lifted it up the beach again, and moaning in the seat attachment when I had my knees locked securely on bracing, broaching and rolling, following the power of the breakers. Just all the stickers on right side faded a bit over the day, sliding in broaching position frequently high up a sandy beach! :-))


Some times I was sitting about three meters high on a fountain of clapotis water, created by a mass of back to the ocean running water creating a new wave by themselves, meeting the incoming breakers. And then the crash down on the surface again…talking about fun? You must be a masochist to get in there again and again and again, detreminded to make some distance progress…


I noticed each slight change of the shoreline in the way the water came in. There were stretches of beach were the last incoming breaker was not subsiding, but simply dumping with power on the beach. No chance to make any progress in paddling there! I had to stay out of the boat, and tried to drag it along the beach, hoping for an occasional breaker coming high enough to lift it up a bit and make sliding of the about 60-70 kg boat easier. But be aware the heavy boat is not getting uncontrolled washed that much up that my shins and legs are getting hit by the boat! My back didn’t like the dragging too much, and I was wearing out two toggle lines. Luckily I was able to replace them quickly.

Tell you about the value of a decent style, solid toggle on controlling a boat in surf!


Once I got kicked off my legs from a dumper, had to let go of the boat and found myself floating uphill for 15 m, and the boat sticking almost to the steep sandcliff! Dragging the baot in this way was a dangerous game, too. as soon as I guessed I could give it a try again “paddling” I climbed rather in, and started the trashy game again.


On some patches, I had a bit of relief behind some reef. At one landspit with a reef , I decided to climb out and to have a look first from the high sand cliffs. Some fishing guys were camped there, and when they saw me later “paddling” around that landspit inside the reef, I could literally hear them holding their breath, as I almost got caught in a breaker crashing me on the cliffs, had to backpaddle a bit then and to wait for a better second where I eventually could paddle safely afloat over the reef around the cliffy headland. But there the next obstacle was waiting…another fishing guy had his lines out there! But I reckon I was able to stay out enough not to get entangled…


Magic Reef was easy to pass inside, as it provided shelter offshore. Some locals with a car waved me ashore before the reef (I got broached up the beach anyway…), and told me about a yesterday stranded whale lying on the reef! Be aware of sharks out there! And – do you like a lift to Lancelin? It doesn’t seem like much fun paddling today? No, thank you, this would be cheating on my trip…


I found the “whale on the rocks” right behind the crashing breakers on the reef. Poor guy…but no one would be able to help him getting back afloat. I dared to paddle very close in quiet water for some pictures, not a sight of a shark fin anywhere.



Later, paddling relieved in the shelter of another bit of reef, I saw a car on the beach, obviously stuck in the sand. Five strong guys and a dog were trying to push it out of the sand, there must have been a number six inside sitting behind the wheel? I didn’t see any reason to jump out and help, five strong topless guys should be able to get a car pushed out of the sand?


Again later, I was in an area of bracing, broaching and rolling up the beach again, *I* was eventually stranded after a roll high up the beach like 20 times before. I was just sitting there high and dry in my boat, about 5 meters close to the steep sandcliff, thinking “Ich bin ein Wal, holt mich hier runter!” (joke for the Germans, frei nach “Dschungelcamp”…), when just that same car drove up to me along the beach in the highest speed you can drive, obviously not wanting to get stuck again overloaded like they seem to be…there was not much room left to pass, and I reckon they saw me very late as well! I quick slight turn, but they almost run me over! I saw already the headlines:”Accident between land- and watercraft: Kayaker around OZ died sitting in her kayak, run over by a car on the beach…”  


Ok, seal launch down to the less dangerous breaker zone again…this beach is the local highway!


I made mile by mile in this entertaining way, and eventually around 5 pm I could see Lancelin in the distance! Just one last landspit to negotiate, i had to jump out and to drag the boat again, as the dumper crashed on an exposed bit of rock. I could *see* already quiet water! It looked dark, so there must be some reef again…


But the darkness this time was a massive area of seaweed floating close to shore inside the last breakers, and piling up on the beach like rocks. I had to paddle through that ugly piee of water! It was at least kind of quiet, but my kayak and I got covered with stinky soaking weed allover. But that was less worse than the trashy water before, and after that part I was in quiet water!!!! The last 2-3 km to Lancelin I could “paddle”!


I decided to land through a moderate dumper before the first houses of Lancelin, as it was 6pm and it got already dark. i didn’t notice I got just about flooded over some rocky bits…I looked around, didn’t feel too happy there to camp, and guessed rather paddle fully into town into the darkness and see if maybe you can find a shower on a campsite or such…


It’s getting more and more sheltered on landing, so keep an paddling for another 40 min or so…and I launched again safely over the reefy bits and found an easy place to land right before the well lit jetty.


I walked up to the pub besides the jetty, but all I found was a fresh water tab on the jetty, right besides a late night fisherman’s car. I chatted to him about where the campsite was, but I was not happy to paddle another km down south in full darkness now! And he didn’t seem to be up to interrupt his late night fishing to help me out a bit…


So I asked him to turn around, stripped a bit, and rinsed myself and my sandy clothes in the cold dark night and in fresh winds limbo dancing under the knee high cold water tap, which was even pointing out to the water. I didn’t fell in, and all my gear stayed amazingly up the jetty…


I put up camp right on the town beach, across a bunch of moored cray boats, and crashed soon, feeling my strained body allover. Each single muscle hurt! But luckily nothing serious…just simple hard workout dragging, bracing, broaching, rolling in some trashy waters…but I made it to Lancelin! 25 km in 15,5 hrs…good speed…I think anyone else less stubborn (and stupid) than I was would have called it a day after turning back to Wedge Island…




Text message from Freya:

31.00 115.19, Lancelin.  8:00 am to 6:30 pm,  25km. This was the most stubborn stupid 25km of this trip! I paddled out of a moderate breaker zone at Wedge Island for two km, got scared of the uncontrolled breaking 5m swell, and was not sure how and where to go in again. So I first time of the whole trip turned around then and paddled those ridiculous 25km playing kayak rodeo in the surf zone. This was 70% unprotected with 8to10 breaker lines, 20% protected with a bit of a reef, and 10% not possible to paddle as the last breaker was a dumper. I had to drag the boat along the shore then…

I got fully rolled up the beach 6 or 7times, broached uncountable times up the beach and got fully stranded about 20 times. All this with an 80kg boat…
But I made progress today…
Found a freshly stranded whale on Magic Reef!

12 comments on “Day 232, Sunday, 06.09.2009

Chuck H.

Days and days later, after reading the full post: This experience could be the basis of a training session for REALLY ADVANCED sea kayakers. The rest of us ought to be satisfied with a warning: “Don’t try this at home (or anywhere else)!”

Chuck H.

Good points by dutch clouds. I chipped in a bit (a small amount in relation to the trip’s costs, but large in terms of my “giving budget, after receiving Terry Bolland’s latest “Canoeing Down Under” e-newsletter, which featured several quite compelling reasons to help out financially. Terry deserves credit for that! For my part, Freya’s trip has provided me with abundant personal inspiration at a time when I badly needed it. Her “never say die” approach to things is somthing that I have constantly in mind when dealing with challenging things (and with just ondinary bureaucratic frustrations). Medicine for the mind! and well worth the prescription price! Go Freya!

dutch clouds

Episodes like these have made me look at that “DONATE” button in the top right corner more than once in the last months …..

After all, it is the only way to support you if one is living far away. And well, reading your daily entries is like buying a book.

Allthough new to PayPall, donating was easy.

Freya, I hope many of your followers were willing to support your big adventure.

You deserve it!


Smart as well as strong. No shame in staying alive.

Glad you are going to keep us entertained a bit longer.
Would be a shame to see you go keel up with the job only half done.

Chuck H.

It’s dramatic enough on Google Earth! Must be way too dramatic when you’re in it.
Unless the Google Earth photos were taken on extraordinary days, looks like more of the same until you get maybe 8-10 km south of Lancelin, then smooths out. Good Luck! You can do it!


Heading in and out of multiple lines of breaking surf is tough enough on a surf ski; in a fully loaded kayak it’s heady stuff indeed. Hang out on those beaches and you understand why Aussie lifesavers are the best in the world…


Lancelin is a small fishing town 110 km north of Perth with a permanent population of over 600, and swells to 2,500 during the peak holiday period around Christmas. The area is close to the shipwreck site of the Vergulde Draeck or Gilt Dragon that was wrecked on rocks close to shore in 1656.

The town’s name originates from Lancelin Island that is located nearby which was named after P.J. Lancelin the scientific writer by Captain Nicolas Baudin in 1801 as part of the Frenchman’s expedition.

Lancelin was originally named “Wangaree”, the Aboriginal word for fish. The area was renamed in 1953 after a request from the Gingin Road Board.

I’ve had the taste of what you have just been through on this bit of coast. The endless, confusing reefs & breakers ease up South of Lancelin. The winds should ease up a bit soon too. We’ve been getting W/NW winds in Perth.
Your trip has been so inspiring and your blog a terrific read.


Gee Freya, i thought you passed the toughest section of that coast, now its 1 step forwards 2 steps back,”Bugger” as we say here, keep plugging away you will get there,,cheers,,

hi.freya i understand its frustrating to have to return the 25 k because of conditions but i would rather read about your frustration than your loss at sea i wish you calm seas and tail winds phil

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