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homelands where the Pied Oyster-
catcher’s haunting calls meant I was near
Further west brought me to the tall
cliffs of Coal Shaft bay where rutile shale
had been mined. A good anchorage in a
northerly with a sandy bottom, the bay
churned with swell while along the cliff
prickly pair bushes barred my way. Peeling
one I ate it and got a mouthful of burrs for
my trouble, so headed back to the beach
for a more palatable supper.
Thick gorse and taller bushes
surrounded the walking tracks that led
all over the island and stepping off the
track brings you onto spongy dry bog.
According to the NPWS there are no toxic
snakes, despite stories of brown’s being
washed over from the mainland, so only
the small golden crowned snakes are here.
Mutton bird sunset
Sitting on the sand as dusk came in, the
whirr of wings began, as the mutton birds
flew back to their burrows hidden from the
sea eagles by darkness but there was no
sign of the Fairy Penguins I’d read about.
A mutton bird crashed into the kayak
before careering over the gorse. In the
olden days when times were hard or
the island cut-off, the fishermen would
eat their salty tasting eggs and even the
birds themselves – a common island food
around the world. I was happy with my can
of Stag chilli and serving of couscous in
A glimmer north signalled the flash
of Sugar Loaf lighthouse, about 14 miles
away, so I toasted my old holiday home
of Seal Rocks with a dram of Chivas
Regal from my hip flask. I knew some of
the last remaining fishermen over there.
Their fathers had fished the waters around
Broughton Island for lobsters and long-
lined for white fish.
I remembered a big day during the
mullet season and hauling the laden nets
up the gently sloping boat beach, as just
beyond the breakers tiger sharks jostled.
My son had been surfing at the time and
luckily a fisherman had spotted the danger
and called him in, just in the nick of time.
Battling Port Stephens
The new day brought calm weather, the
sea a mirror only disturbed by a pod of
dolphins splashing past and the rattle from
an anchor chain of a sports fishing boat.
Checking the BOM weather app
the news was not good because the
strong southerly was moving faster than
expected. I cursed my luck because I’d have
to move today or be stuck for two or three
days. Reluctantly I packed up and paddled
off, with an envious wave to my temporary
friends on the Wharram catamaran who
were staying a few more days.
The wind and swell had died so I
paddled across flat water with the rugged
outline of Port Stephens Heads in the
distance. The bright blue water suggested
the East Australian Current was running
well, so I stood offshore to gain its benefit.
Passing close to Cabbage Tree island
I prepared myself for the approach to the
swells around the rocky base of Yacaaba
Head, so tightened the kayak knee-straps.
Here the swells crashed hard against the
rocks and rebounded to create masses
of clapotis so I struggled to stay upright,
using bracing strokes left and right as I
fell off the confused seas.
Too busy staying upright I nearly ran
into a big reef where the swells surged fast.
A challenging entrance dependant on the
weather and tide, even on a calm day Port
Stephens Heads has to be treated with
respect so I was glad the tide was with
me as I pushed hard to reach the edge of
Glancing south the brick like shape
of Boondelbah Island jutted out on the
horizon and ahead of me the sheltered
Nelson Bay was a welcome sight to end
an exhilarating few days in these beautiful
Paddling away from Broughton Island
for the 4 hour/11 mile return trip to Port
The author with Port Stephens in the
* Kevin Green is a freelance journalist, editor
and media consultant. He is past Editor of
Australian Yachting magazine.
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