06 April 2009

Peel Island Overnight

Ultralight Style

Team Ultralight - Darren, Graham, Vanilla (paddling with a stick), Gnarlydog & Adventuretess

We headed over to Peel Island late in the afternoon with the goal of camping overnight ultra-light style - no tents, minimal gear (but taking all required safety equipment). We first undertook this trip last Winter and I was keen to see how inventive the Summer crew would be by comparison. After flooding rain and high winds earlier in the week, the weather had settled for enjoyable paddling conditions.

Adjusting our course to allow for the incoming tidal flow, we swiftly paddled toward the western side of Peel Island as the sun set behind us. The last time I paddled over in the evening, we had following sea and breaking waves. The conditions this evening were extremely mild which was a bonus for those on the team experiencing their first night paddle. Reaching Peel, we continued up the western side, the tide just high enough to traverse the extended shallows surrounding the Island. Panicked bait fish jumped around us in the shallow water alerting us to the fact that bigger fish were just out of sight. In the early evening darkness we could still see the sandy bottom with the occasional patch of rock or coral.

Darren quitely advised us that we had company. It was thrilling to see the dorsal fins of sharks slicing through the water, keeping pace with us as we headed north. I wonder about the size of the dorsal fin in relation to the size of the shark. Staying close for a short time, they disappeared as we began heading around the top of the Island.

Silver clouds lined the night sky filtering the light of the small moon. Without the use of torches our eyes adjusted and we were able to safely paddle around neptunes obstacles and at times in the shallows, could see through the water to the bottom of the bay. Arriving at Platypus in the darkness, the group were keen to set up their makeshift accomodations, all but 1 choosing to camp close to the beach hoping to evade biting insects. Later in the evening, retiring to our tentless shelters after enjoying a gourmet happy hour surrounded by citronella candles & candle lanterns, the stillness of the night was broken by the sound of strong wind sweeping toward us across the bay. This was followed soon after by heavy rain, giving tentless & shirtless campers a reprieve from the relentless biting insects.


Rising in the morning, the bay was busy with yachts scampering for home as the wind changed from ENE to a stiff southerly. Packing up the ultralight camp did not take long. On the water soon after the turn of the tide, our group headed south west to allow the light wind and the flow of the outgoing tide to assist our passage crossing to Cleveland Point. Passing Horseshoe, a protected bay usually filled with yachts and boaties, only 1 boat remained at anchor. As we paddled, the wind dropped until it was barely 5 - 10knots. Stopping just past the south western reef protecting Peel, a few kayaks turned upside down and right way up successfully, one volunteering to be rescued.

The paddle back to Cleveland was a kayak sailors dream, it was a shame that none of us had our sails on! The flow was strong as we reached Cleveland Point, the water distinctly changing from sea green to mission brown. Once across the bommies into Raby Bay, the flow and wind diminished but the murky water discouraged further rolling. All 5 returned with more good memories and a few mozzie bites. I highly recommend ultralight Summer camping on Peel, but would also recommend taking a mosquito net to sleep in.

Images Damiano Visocnik & Tess Dodd

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