Monday, March 29, 2010

Bay Crossing - Kim's impressions

We had been talking about paddling across False Bay for a couple of years.  The more we talked and strategized, the more opportunities we missed.  The weather forecast and sea conditions for Sunday 29 March were perfect for a crossing.  “Let’s Just Do It’” someone said.  So we did.

Seven experienced sea-kayakers from the Paddler’s Kayak Shop network of regulars set out early on Sunday morning from Millers to tackle the 33kms to Rooiels.   To be honest, I joined the group for `the t-shirt’.  So that I could say, if anyone asked, that I had paddled across False Bay.  The experience was awesome with perfect conditions and for those of you interested in numbers, we completed the crossing averaging a comfortable 7kms per hour.   It was not at all the long, eventless, open ocean slog that I had expected.  Hardly had we left the slip at Millers when we were surrounded by wheeling Malgas (Cape Gannet ) who eyeballed us almost as if they thought we were a fishing party worth watching.  Our route took us just south of Whittle Rock which seems to have lost its marker buoy, but which we located surrounded by Kalkbay Chuckies.  The crew was busy with their hand lines and not especially interested in us – no doubt in their long years at sea they have seen so many unusual sightings that a handful of sea-kayakers in mid ocean is all in a day’s work.

At about the half way mark with Cape Point looking rather small behind us and Cape Hangklip and the Koggelberg Mountains still a distant smudge half buried in cloud we rafted-up for very welcome coffee and crunchies.   After over two hours at sea there was the inevitable discussion about how to relieve a full bladder while sitting in an unstable craft over 17kms from nearest land.  There were various solutions, most of which were not tested so that for some of us the situation did add to the endurance aspect of long distance paddling.

In our experience, the middle of the bay is not the quiet preserve of deep ocean swells but is full of life.  The variety of seabirds that we could not recognize added to the excitement of being in new territory.  Judging by the birds and the vast assembly of seals, there must be huge shoals of bait fish in the bay at present.  The seals looked satiated and hung together in companionable rafts of raised flippers.  As we paddled past, small groups of seals detached themselves and porpoised playfully after our boats.  The spray kicked up by diving Malgas had us thinking about whales, and sure enough a Bryde’s Whale blew and then surfaced close by.

As we approached the-other-side of False Bay our destination became more real.  We were also, sadly, seeing floating plastic as we approached land. Hangklip lighthouse, which at first looked as if it was standing in the sea, was now visible on its low-lying fringe of land and Rooiels was taking shape – as were the white plumes of breaking waves crashing onto the rocks along the coast.  We know that Rooiels has a safe landing beach and that Derek had recently paddled from Rooiels while escorting swimmers in an across the bay attempt. Ja!  We thought that we had done amazingly well to paddle across False Bay, but that swimmers have swum the same crossing is really impressive.  We followed Derek around the point into Rooiels Bay and saw not only an easy beach exit, but also Liz and Honey our support crew waiting for us.   We had just done it - the plan came together.  There is no t-shirt big enough to say it all, but I shall never be able to look across False Bay again without reliving a part of the wonderful experience. There is nothing False about this Bay – but that’s another story!!

False Bay Crossing

We've talked about doing it for years but getting a willing bunch together on the same day with the weather perfect and on a Sunday is rare but it all came together at short notice this weekend.
Silke Carstensen, Kim Kryshaar, Derek Goldman, Chris Kryshaar, Mark Webb and Margot and William King set off around 7.45am...
...from Millers Point heading to Rooi Els 32.5km away as the Google Earth crow flies.
The forecast light westerly wind, which would have been a tail wind, and the main reason for going this day, never really materialised and for the first half of the crossing we headed into a moderate northerly. While it never blew strong enough to slow you down much it did create a cross chop against the 3m swell opposing it from the south.

By around half way the wind dropped to almost nothing and the swell increased as the barrier effect of the Cape Point peninsula lessened.
It's tough on the back and bum so it helps if you're a bit supple and can lean back this far!
Hangklip slowly - too slowly - gets closer and looms larger. An hour or so from landing another friendly Brydes whale paid a visit to the lucky paddlers, but this time did not stay to play. It passed across our bows, turned around us and from just 15m or so showed its fin, dived and disappeared. (Margaret said there was another whale very close to us as we left but none of us actually saw it!)
One expects the trip to be boring for long stretches but deeper into the bay the wildlife increases and we were often chased by playful seals and the birdlife is magnificent. The beautiful Cape Gannet is plentiful and (we think) Petrel as well. Nothing wrong with the view of the mountains ahead either.
Around 5 hours after leaving we arrive at the small holiday hamlet of Rooi Els to be met by our transport crew (thanks Liz and Honey), Hansa "bombs" in hand.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Whale encounter report

Kim Kryshaar writes:
We like to tell newcomers that each time we paddle along the Simon's Town coast, the experience is different. Well, Sunday 21 March, was a once in a lifetime experience. The sea was cold, calm and so clear, that you could see what the anemones were eating for breakfast. We struck out for the Roman Rock Lighthouse, rejoicing in freedom from the wind that had been howling all week. The distinct sound of a whale blowing stopped us in mid stroke and cheers from the lead paddlers alerted the rest of us to three Whales swimming less than 100m away. The excitement of seeing whales at this time of the year and speculation about what they were  (Brydes Whales or Humpbacks) subsided as we split up to paddle past the lighthouse, with some kayakers negotiating the washing machine at the base of Roman Rock. 20 minutes later, while heading toward Windmill Beach the same three whales appeared directly in front of us - almost as if they had been waiting for us to catch up. One ‘chased’ after the lead paddler who immediately turned back to join the rest of us while we laughed in astonishment at his unease.
The other two whales made their presence known by surfacing close by and gently encouraging us to bunch up. Whenever anyone paddled, they immediately received attention in the form of a huge smooth body with crescent shaped fin following their kayak with distinct interest. “Is this what it is like to be in a bait ball?” someone asked. “I have heard that whales swim under boats and lift them up for fun,” someone else in the baitball squeaked just as a whale swam under our kayaks. We followed its progress with abated breath, watching the ripples on the surface that marked its passing. Margot and William frantically tried to photograph the whales, which were playing with us, surfacing unexpectedly and then sounding with no time to focus a lens. One took a particular liking to Chris’s kayak and repeatedly surfaced within a paddle length of him, but then gave up when Chris did not take up the invite to play tag. Another blew next to us, giving us a dose of halitosis on a whale scale. Without exception everyone was WOWed by the experience. At no stage were the whales aggressive - their curiosity was exciting and flattering. The encounter lasted a few all too short minutes and then the whales peeled off and headed out to sea.

For those of you who shared this special encounter or anyone who has had a similar experience: Please comment and share your understanding or feelings about encounters with whales.

I spoke to Nan Rice, well known and respected whale and dolphin expert, about the experience.  She confirmed that the whales were Bryde’s Whales and laughed when I said that the whales appeared to have herded us. Nan suggested that they were most likely curious and apparently often approach and swim around boats and yachts. However, Brydes Whales are not aggressive and do not lift boats out of the water. The Bryde’s Whales that we saw probably belong to a resident coastal population which "patrol" our near shore waters looking for anchovies, pilchard and herring. For more info about Bryde's Whales go to this link at

Monday, March 22, 2010

Humans Rights Day paddle

Some of the lucky whales paddlers from Sunday went out again Monday and paddled from Buffels Bay back to Simon's Town. It's a 20km or so paddle and with a moderate following wind took a mere 3 hours including a coffee break at Millers Point.

...and now whales!

I suppose it was too much to ask to be paddling so soon after my dolphin adventure to have whales around me as well but this lucky group of paddlers on the usual 9.30 Sunday trip had 2 Brydes whales "herding" them around near the lighthouse. One of the group will hopefully soon write about the experience here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

More dolphin pictures

Luckily a friend was on shore at the time with a camera so here are some more pictures. Thanks Adele. Click on an image for larger version.

Monday, March 08, 2010


I have been paddling here in Simon's Town area for 7 years and in that time have only had one close encounter with dolphins - a group in Simon's Bay stayed around the kayaks for 10 minutes or so. Today I was paddling with 4 customers just off Seaforth when I spotted some dolphins moving from Ark Rock in a northerly direction. We turned seawards and paddled towards them and then behind them for a minute. They then turned and headed south past us and we turned and followed them for 20 minutes or so until Windmill Beach where we stopped. They were behind us, in front of us, beside us and of course underneath us all this time. I did not have my camera with me - damn - but a customer did and he took these pictures, unfortunately they don't do the experience justice. Wow, what a trip. Click on the pictures for a larger look.

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