Kayak and Fishing Forum banner
1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,283 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sunday afternoon and a chance to see if the elusive Hairtail had arrived in the Cowan creek. For those that don't know the area, it's a very quiet stretch of water, surrounded by very high hills. No houses just unspoilt natural beauty for many kms. It also gets very cold, very very dark at night and sometimes a fog rolls in at night.
I launched in the late afternoon and started adding a few navigation marks to my new GPS. Got to Warratah bay approx 3.8 km away and had the quiet bay all to myself. Started burleying and almost immediately had bait fish surrounding the yak - unfortunately the burley bucket managed to free itself and it disappeared in 15 meters of water. The whole pilchards were attacked by yakkas and I hooked a couple on the ganged hooks intended for Hairtail. I tried one of the yakkas for live bait, but no takers and it eventually wrapped itself around the mooring, resulting in me parting ways with it and my line.

By 6.45pm no sign of Hairtail and only a throwback Jewfish, so I decided it was quitting time. It was now extremely dark, no moon, black starlit sky, it was impossible to make any definition of the surroundings, just a black sky, blacker sides of the valley, where the cliffs, hills and bays were, plus a dark grey swatch which was the open water in the middle of the creek. Apart from the lack of any definition of the surroundings, navigation back to the ramp was easy, get to the mouth of the bay, turn right, stay in the middle of the creek and head towards the red channel markers approx 1.5 away.

All was going well and I had been pedalling for some 20 minutes and was tracking almost exactly the way I came. I'd passed my third way point and saw the next mark was nearly 1.5km away, so decided to add another mark approx half way, so that if I ever had to navigate in the fog, it wouldn't be so far in between marks. Approx 30 seconds later I was on my way again, though I couldn't see the green channel marker light in the distance anymore, I could see a red one further away and assumed the green one was temporarily obscured by the hills. Pedalled along making good speed, but it seemed take a very long time to get to the red marker light.

As I got closer I was concerned that the green navigation marker had not reappeared, and by now I should have been within 500m of the ramp. Checked my GPS, but it looked like I was near marks 5 & 6, not 3 & 2 near where the ramp was!

Having bad eyesight I was a little concerned I was misreading the GPS, as the text was very small. There was nothing recognisable around me, just different shades of black - although I could see a few white lights a long long way off in the distance, the GPS was telling me I was back where I had left from some 40 minutes earlier. I was tempted to head towards the lights in the distance, but according to the GPS this was in the opposite direction to where I had launched.

I tried to get a reading on my phone, in case the handheld GPS was doing something weird, but the maps wouldn't load (though I only waited a minute before tiring of waiting).

Now I was really disorientated and getting a little anxious - I wouldn't have been the first person to get lost and spend the night in the Cowan, but whichever direction I chose next, I wanted it to be the one to take me home, not deeper into the system.

If I really had some done a 180 turn without noticing, and if the GPS was right, then approx 300 meters away were the mooring buoys where I had just been fishing from. So I decided to head into what I hoped was Warratah Bay to find the markers. Due to the high cliffs on three sides of the bay, there is no light reflecting off the water when you head into the bay, it's just pitch black and you cannot see the sides or depth of the bay. It took a few more anxious minutes, then I spied a single mooring, I knew there were four in Warratah Bay, about 100m apart in a square, so I carried on searching, spotted the second, shortly after a third, then a fourth ! Thank Christ...... I was now certain where I was and could start the journey home again. This time I didn't take my eyes off the channel navigation lights and direction I was heading and eventually spied the green channel light which marked the final turn before the ramp eventually came into view.

Thinking back to when the kayak had turned 180, it would have been in the few seconds when I had my head down, looking at the GPS to add a way point. The total inability to recognise any land contours, lack of moon or wind meant I didn't pick up the change in direction. If it had been foggy, I would have relied on the GPS 100%, but with the channel marker lights visible for over a 1km, I thought I'd be fine (as I have been on at least a half dozen previous night trips to this place). Not quite trusting or being able to clearly read the waypoint names on the GPS didn't help, but next time I'll remember the compass bearing (southwest). I'll also make sure I have sufficient battery life, or spare batteries for the GPS (even though
I had brand new batteries for this trip, I still had the fear that they could run out prior to me regaining my orientation.)

Another lesson learnt............
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,659 Posts
Good story and some solid learning. That creek can get mighty black on those moonless nights. Having fresh batteries and trust in your navigation equipment is a must.
I was up there a couple of weeks ago on one of those dark nights and it was pitch black and cloudy. Spooky with a small mist rolling across the water :shock:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,261 Posts
Yep it's an eerie place alright. I reckon if the fog is really thick and your GPS can't get a signal..... :shock:

It is really that quiet & pitch black you have no idea where you are going!

Good going venturing out on your own there at night time Paul :)

Marty
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
364 Posts
Scary stuff Paul although if it was me I would of just droped the anchor and burlied up some more livies and settled in. Any phone reception up there I can't remember?
Glad your safe.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,610 Posts
It felt like I was there with you Paul, I know that feeling too well.
I came back in thick fog and only had my gps track to follow, I could hear the water on the rocks right next to me but never saw it at all.
So easy to get disorientated there, I think I'll puts some marks in on the next trip like you did and maybe a spare battery is also a good idea.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,839 Posts
A 160cm hair tail certainly would have been the go Paul. Sounds like you deserved a fish, but there is always next time. I don't think that i would want to spend the night on the water in the cold.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,253 Posts
I know the feeling Paul. Getting home in the thick fog at Longy I had to land on instruments. Doersn't feel right to trust the GPS over the fallible sense of direction.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
8,383 Posts
paulb said:
Apart from the lack of any definition of the surroundings, navigation back to the ramp was easy, get to the mouth of the bay, turn right, stay in the middle of the creek and head towards the red channel markers approx 1.5 away.

All was going well and..
Famous last words.

paulb said:
Pedalled along making good speed, but it seemed take a very long time to get to the red marker light.

As I got closer I was concerned that the green navigation marker had not reappeared, and by now I should have been within 500m of the ramp. Checked my GPS, but it looked like I was near marks 5 & 6, not 3 & 2 near where the ramp was!

Having bad eyesight I was a little concerned I was misreading the GPS, as the text was very small.
There is the small seed of doubt in the instrument. I haven't ever done black night navigation, except by compass, but as soon as you distrust the instrument.... :( I once made this glaring error navigating in thick rainforest in daylight. I thought the compass was 180 degrees out, so I disregarded the compass and fumbled around in daylight for forty minutes, and got into all sorts of trouble. In the end, as I realized I was lost, the compass wasn't out at all - it was my sense of direction that was out.

AJD said:
Good story and some solid learning. That creek can get mighty black on those moonless nights. Having fresh batteries and trust in your navigation equipment is a must.
I was up there a couple of weeks ago on one of those dark nights and it was pitch black and cloudy. Spooky with a small mist rolling across the water :shock:
MrX said:
I know the feeling Paul. Getting home in the thick fog at Longy I had to land on instruments. Doesn't feel right to trust the GPS over the fallible sense of direction.
When the visual clues diminish or disappear, it is instruments only. Night and IFR pilots initially train in daylight with a blind across in front of them - they are literally flying blind, just as you were Tom. It forces them to use the instruments. It doesn't initially feel right trusting instruments over directional sense, until you practice it.

You did well Paul to sort it out. Go back and get a big hairtail!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,307 Posts
paulb said:
It also gets very cold, very very dark at night and sometimes a fog rolls in at night.
Paul can easily relate to your yarn, as over 50+ years ago I night fished Coal & Candle, and Jerusalem Bay and very creepy atmosphere even in an old 18' hire half cab boat at that time, but worth while if you can pin a hairtail occasionally.

Have only seen that degree of blackness on the water once since those days.

Enjoyed reading mate.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,307 Posts
johnny said:
Maybe I should get myself a little compass as your experience is classic hammer horror Cowan
Johnny I always carry an old Silva I had from bushwalking days in a shirt pocket, can dial up a course and just glance it occasionally [laying between my legs when in use] with a headlamp.

Just note the degrees outbound, and dial the reciprocal for your return.

Any cheapy from this baseplate style is OK on a yak http://store.silvacompass.com/category/345151/Baseplate
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,247 Posts
Glad to have you back Paul. The Cowan is a deceptive place for sure. I can't think of anywhere else in Sydney that is quite so isolated. No houses or roads for many kilometers. Hills that fold in to one another and little bays that look the same as each other. Well done for keeping your head. Question: Did you tell the missus?

karnage said:
Scary stuff Paul although if it was me I would of just droped the anchor and burlied up some more livies and settled in.
Totally believe you Steve but you are nocturnal.
Dodge said:
paulb said:
It also gets very cold, very very dark at night and sometimes a fog rolls in at night.
Paul can easily relate to your yarn, as over 50+ years ago I night fished Coal & Candle, and Jerusalem Bay and very creepy atmosphere even in an old 18' hire half cab boat at that time, but worth while if you can pin a hairtail occasionally.

Have only seen that degree of blackness on the water once since those days.
Dodge, SBD and I were up C&C one night when the fog rolled in. It was like a float tank, no distinction between water land or sky. The yak was your whole world. Great experience.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
287 Posts
I had a similar experience where me & my mate couldn't work out which was the right way back home. So we ended up venturing into some bay that lead to an dead end. It was a scary experience... much like the same as the movie "Wrong Turn" LOL.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,253 Posts
"Maybe I should get myself a little compass as your experience is classic hammer horror Cowan"
A scary experience alone Paul, but could have been worse. If Johnny was somewhere in the dark Canyons of the Cowan with his donger out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
171 Posts
Hi Paul - i was down in Cowan Creek last night - (first time ever at night) and i was literally the only person on the water i saw all night - a few cars came down to appletree bay(could see the headlights), but not a single vessel passed me between 7 and 10pm..

it was very pleasant though, but pity the fish were not keen to take my lures...

but i was very conscious having read your story yesterday about my surroundings - when i pulled anchor at one spot - my rope got tangled and in the time i took to get it sorted i had drifted >100m from where i was...

i kept looking up, checking where i was though, and keeping my markers in check - i lost one at one stage, and had to find another one.

i can imagine the feeling you had - but cant quite imagine the terror it might evoke!

and i was leaving due to seeing the fog rolling in - man it moves fast!

and how's those possums - grrgahhhahahaa from a tree right next to you on the bank, i nearly flipped the yak!

(at least i hope it was a possum!)
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
8,383 Posts
It may have been a drop bear.

Or worse.

 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top