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Epic 200km Yak Adventure

Black CC

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I just returned from a crazy mid-life crisis kayak adventure. It started with me packing up my Hobie Outback and driving it to Western Sydney, where it then took the long train ride across to Perth. It was then picked up by 2 of my mates and driven to Learmonth Airport (about 1,100km North of Perth) where myself and 2 other mates were picked up from our flight ready for our crazy adventure.

The 5 of us then drove to Coral Bay and launched the 5 kayaks at 3.30pm on Saturday the 8th of October, with high hopes of kayaking 220km North to Exmouth. We packed plenty of water, plenty of red wine but a very limited supply of food, as we were hoping to catch enough fish to sustain ourselves for a week. Keeps us focussed.

The wind was blowing 50km an hour from the South, so the following sea meant half the time was spent peddling the kayak and half was spent surfing down the waves and trying hard not to capsize at the bottom of each swell. 3 of us were trolling bibbed lures and it wasn't long before the first Mackeral was in the catch bag. We caught 4 in quick succession and kept the 2 smaller ones for dinner. The 2 who were not fishing were way out in front and the first sign of disaster was when we called them on the radio and there was only one who answered. The other had capsized and his radio had come off its tether. The 2 front runners had also overshot the agreed first camp site and it was way too rough to head back South, so we ended up in 2 separate groups for the first night. We still had radio contact so we knew it was not a serious set-back but the 2 at the front had the cooking equipment and the 3 at the back had the fish so one group had boiled rice for dinner and the other had Spanish Mackerel Sashimi.

The second day was even rougher with the wind now SSW at 60km an hour. We were now a group of 5 again and agreed to pack everything away and just concentrate on distance. It was extremely difficult to keep the kayaks from capsizing and just before lunch one of the guys went over. He recovered pretty quickly and after doing 35km we decided to camp for night 2 around mid-afternoon.

After drinking a bit too much wine, we had a pretty slow start to day 3 and with the wind still howling, and not having very much food, we knew we needed to catch a fish. After about 20km of no strikes, we were now feeling a bit stupid that we released a couple of decent mackerel on the first day, so when we camped for a 3rd time we were forced to use the last of our food with 4 days left. We had some rice and noodles left but that was it for the final 4 days.

Massive relief for the start of day 4, the wind had gone completely. We went straight out to the reef and caught 4 decent cod, 2 honeycomb and 2 spotted cod all on soft plastics. Biggest was around 4kg so we were back in business. We were now well past Ningaloo Station and with a couple of school mackerel in the esky during the afternoon, we had a lovely fish curry and battered cod for dinner. There was no wind for day 5 or day 6 so we caught more fish than we could have eaten in 5 trips so we reached Tantabiddi Creek just before lunch on Friday the 14th of October. The forecast was for more howling gales from the South West and we were pretty concerned about the open ocean going around the North West Cape, so we wimped out and decided to exit at Tantabiddi Creek after doing about 200km in 6 days.

A pretty crazy thing for 5 blokes in their 50s to be doing (you want to hear what our wives and kids have to say) but we had a lot of laughs and will be heading up to the Kimberley next year for another epic kayak adventure.

Hope this wasn't too long.

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Sounds amazing mate, but I don't think I'll be able to cope or do something like that in a kayak. Well done! Did you see any sharks? If I did I'd probably cr@p myself haha.

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We saw a lot of sharks but nothing larger than 2 metres. The sharks are very timid inside the reef so when they see the kayak they usually shoot off pretty quickly. It is important at the end of each day to have a wash in the ocean and then clean the fish rather than the other way around as the sharks arrive within minutes of a fish carcass being thrown in the water.

where did you guys camp at? and how did you manage to store your gear lol. sounds like a trip of a life time

We camped in the sand dunes.

The gear was stored inside the hulls of the kayaks. Outside the hulls we had 2 small eskys, 1 to store the fish and 1 to store the small amount of food we took and we had 2 rods per person. We took a very minimalist approach to gear, so it only included a tent, blow up mattress, blow up pillow and 2 skins and 2 shirts each. Then each person had their allocated jobs. My jobs were fish filleting (so I had to take 2 knives and a filleting board), supply of all fishing rigs (lures / soft plastics / trace / jig heads / squid jigs) and I was also the rubbish man, so I was responsible for each camp site being left exactly how it was found by collecting all rubbish. Jobs for the other guys included navigation, cooking, cleaning, communications, safety, disaster recovery, first aid and compliance (there are extensive rules that exist around sanctuary zones) and there was no duplication of gear or roles. I think you probably get the picture that a lot of planning was necessary and there were a lot of planning sessions. 3 of the 5 have been fishing together for 35 years so that helps, as does the diversity of vocations with a Vet surgeon, a mechanical engineer, an insurance expert, a tradesman and a farmer.

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Everything you've written about your voyage sounds epic! I don't think I would have limited my food though but I guess that puts the pressure on!

Awesome effort! I would love to have seen some pics!

Cheers scratchie!!!

The food issue is not as extreme as it sounds. You could catch a feed off the beach with your eyes closed in that part of the world. There are some pics but pretty boring photos of cod and smallish Mackerel. There is some pretty amazing go-pro footage of a couple of the rough days but some of the guys involved are not keen on sharing this on social media as they are worried about the reaction from their employers. It comes across as a bit crazy that anyone would be in those conditions but this doesn't take account of the planning and risk management of a trip like this.

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That's an Epic adventure indeed and great read mate. Just wondering how you got home after exiting at Tantabiddi Ck? How did you transport your kayaks back etc?

We paid a guy $100 to drive the car and trailer from Coral Bay to the Learmonth airport. The guy who runs the bus service between Learmonth and Exmouth (who is a good mate of one of the guys) then arranged for someone to drive the car and trailer to his facility in Exmouth. When we arrived at Tantabiddi Creek we called the guy who runs the bus service and he drove the car and trailer to us and called a cab to pick him up. He generously brought 10 cold beers in an esky so we had 2 each, which helped with the pack up process. The kayaks, the car and the trailer are all still in Exmouth at the moment as we are all going on a live about charter to the Montebello Islands from the 5th of November to the 11th of November and the charter company has agreed to take the kayaks out on the charter. So we will have the 5 kayaks 120km out to sea with the plan to try and catch a sailfish or Marlin off the kayak in a couple of weeks. The 2 guys who drove the car up from Perth are then driving it back on Friday the 12th of November. I get to fly back with the rest of the guys. There are 12 on the live aboard charter which is an annual trip we have been doing since 1994.

Edited by mrsswordfisherman
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A great read.Cant wait for my mid life crisis (lol). Did you see any sharks on your travels?

Yes, lots of sharks but only small ones. On the 3 calm days it was like an aquarium so it was very easy to see all the sharks. It was also the lead up to the full moon, which is when all the turtles lay their eggs on the beach so there were absolutely millions of turtles everywhere and we had to be very careful not to disturb any nests when we were camping.

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