Sir Joseph Banks Group April 7-9 (peer paddle, grade 4)
After much planning and a vigilant eye on the weather forecasts, the trip to the Sir Joseph Banks Group was finally on, following a three-day delay due to bad weather. Bernard, Rob, Dave and Mike travelled to Tumby Bay in Dave’s van with a trailer full of kayaks. It promised to be an adventure and, after a tasty meal at the Tumby Bay pub, we retired to our tents in the caravan park.
The original plan was a four-day trip down to Spilsby Island however the forecast was only suitable for a three-day trip, so the trip was reduced to going only as far as Reevesby Island. The weather looked to be excellent with winds forecasted at <10 knots.
Day 1 saw us departing the Tumby Bay caravan park with Rob leading and heading in a southeasterly direction towards our destination of the northern end of Reevesby Island. The trip was challenging both physically (as it took five hours to do the 25km trip with a mild headwind/ waves), and mentally because for the first two hours (10km) we could not see our destination. The islands are low-lying which made paddling by compass bearing essential.
With about 15km to go, we caught our first glimpse of islands in the distance that then gradually appeared larger and more widespread as the hours ticked by. The GPS track of the paddle indicated we were veering to the south so we altered course after seeing our goal.
After paddling south of Winceby Island, and also passing a few curious sea lions, we landed in Moreton Bay on the northwestern side of Reevesby Island. Bernard scouted around and crossed the thin peninsula to find a magnificent campsite on the northeastern side in McCoy Bay, which provided stunning views down the beach and towards other islands in the Group.
After setting up tents, and having a quick swim, a couple of flathead were caught, with the smaller one kept for the hungry hunters and the larger one released (as we didn’t have suitable sized pans to cook it!). Sleep came quickly after such a sizeable paddle and good dinner.
Day 2 saw us circumnavigating Reevesby Island on a day where the wind dropped for most of the paddle and made paddling conditions perfect. With the water crystal clear we could easily see the bottom along with the abundant fish life. Around the edges of the island we encountered various species of bird-life including many Cape Barren geese. We had morning tea on the beach near the deserted house on the southern part of the island that had been inhabited from 1907 to about 1950. We explored the house, shearing shed, and implements shed (always keeping a very close eye out for the tiger snakes and death adders that have a notorious reputation throughout the island). It was interesting to note the low tin fence that surrounded the house in order to keep the snakes out. After paddling back to camp, and another swim we did more exploring and fishing in the late afternoon.
Day 3 had us paddling the 25km back to Tumby Bay in conditions that started with a slight head wind but glassed off during the middle of the journey. The ideal conditions made it quite relaxing paddling interrupted occasionally by pods of dolphins that breached the surface. It was also less daunting than the outbound trip on day 1 as we could see our destination of the big white grain silos of Tumby all the way back.
Dave was feeling the pain of 3 days paddling and sitting in one position, and opted to be towed for a portion of the return journey to help keep the group together. We returned earlier than expected and with rain forecast for that evening we decided not to camp at the caravan park, but head home that afternoon.
Sincere thanks go to Rob for his extensive planning of the expedition and for keeping in contact with the Volunteer Marine Rescue at Tumby Bay to log on and off our daily paddles. Also to Dave for the use of his van and trailer to safely transport us.
Mike More photos of the trip are at: