Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Tag Archives: Ettalong Beach

Water babies!

Summer in Australia produces a blend of beauty and terror in and around our beaches. Killer sharks, lethal jellyfish and the dangers of an environment that is now inhospitable to humans – perhaps we should never have left the sea in the first place.

Australian summer is a cocktail of a hot climate, beautiful beaches and warm, clear ocean waters. When the mercury climbs on a balmy antipodean summers day, there can only be one thought, “to the beach!” Well, and a cooling beverage, the occasional frothy, sparkling brown wine.

My lovely partner, Kitty, and I love the water. We both grew up with it. For Kitty, she would be in the water as often as possible. In the chilly waters of Canada, this was not always possible so she had to be content with holiday swims. However, she grew up in a place only accessible by water; being on and around the water was part of her daily life. I grew up south of Sydney, I was on and in the water constantly.

When Kitty moved to Australia, her one thought was to spend as much time in the water as possible. Despite her love of water, the risks of things that will kill you in Australia made her a little concerned. She read Bill Bryson‘s “A Sunburned Country” on the way over. Bryson’s famous quote “Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else” seemed to have an impact on her, as you would expect. I’m sure the first time I took her swimming in the ocean she was seeing the shadows of lethal mammals all around us.

More than two years since Kitty first visited downunder, she is now a devotee of the surf, swimming and now, since Santa gave her snorkeling gear, taking a look under the water. This too brings a renewal of concern of scary Aussies, other than those hanging outside the pub. Last week we went snorkelling at The Haven in Terrigal. We went right our along a rock reef and saw lots of things. One special moment was when a black stingray about one meter across gracefully flapped along the sandy bottom right below me.

Kitty is such a water person and I love our water adventures. I am so impressed with the way she has taken to our deadly seas. She shoots waves like a veteran, occasionally ending up staggering out of the water with her bikini top wrapped around her face. She goes snorkeling confidently, despite wallowing like a beached seal with flippers in the air (not quite like the woman in “Along came Polly“). Taking life by the horns and giving it a solid shake!

From hardy Canuck growing up in a remote and beautiful coastal settlement to Aussie beach babe and big city shopper! Thats my girl!

I Feel Dirty!

It is windy here in Ettalong Beach this morning. Not just windy, but sustained winds gusting to 60 km per hr.The winds are supposed to increase to about 100 km per hr.  The weird thing is this wind started in inland NSW and South Australia. It whipped up the dust and has carried it all the way to the coast. When I say dust, it is like I have never seen before.

We went to sleep with our bedroom windows open. We woke this morning to a bedroom full of dust. My eyes hurt, my throat is dry, my nose hurts from breathing in the dust. The dust is red, so when the sun hit it the sky turned red. Blood red! The sight is amazing.

Sydney has been in chaos as the dust is setting off fire alarms. Those suffering from allegeries are choking emergency rooms. Flights are delayed or outright canceled. Visibility on highways is low to nil. We look outside and can see virtually nothing, the dust is so thick!

Al and I will be going out in this dust as we have to go into the city. I am sure that a lot of other people stayed home, if they are smart.

The worst part? My entire house is covered in dust. You can feel the grit on the floor when you walk. It will take a lot of cleaning, but not today. Today I get to go out and breathe in the dust and be blown away by the high winds. I feel dirty!

Check out this utube video.

Up the bay with Al to paddle!

It’s 6:15 Saturday morning and Al is up.  Not just up, but excited.  Not that kind of excited! He wants out on the water in our new kayak.  He starts out with bouncing around the bed.

“Good morning Kitty, are you ready to go?”

“It’s 6:30 in the morning.  I will go with you at 9”.

“9 is too late. How about at 7?”

“If you don’t let me sleep, then it will be 10 when we go”

“Oh, okay.  I will go for a ride on my push bike while I wait”.

That is how the conversation went.  Al is deflated, but not about to give up. He puts on his bike riding clothes all the while making sure that he is making enough noise that I can’t get back to sleep.  He sits on the end of the bed… hard… several times.  I know he is trying to irritate me. It would be working if he wasn’t so dam cute when he is excited about something. It is now 7:15.

“Okay, I give up. I will get up and go out kayaking with you”.

Now he is excited. Really excited! Within 5 minutes he has his biking clothes off, his kayak clothes on, all of the kayaking gear ready and is standing by the door, waiting for me. This will be our maiden voyage!

Judy and Kayak at Ettalong

Judy and Kayak at Ettalong

We have bought 2 little wheels to go under the kayak as we have about one block to the beach. We put the wheels under the stern.  I take the stern handle, while Al takes the bow.  The problem is we have to cross the street.  We promptly lose the wheels at the curb. Oh well, we carry the kayak across, but the wheels back on and continue on. We reach the beach, but there is a stair and sand. We will have to carry the kayak again. By the time we get it to the water, my back is hurting. Dam, I haven’t even paddled yet!  Of course because this is the maiden voyage we have to take pictures to commemorate such a momentous event. Then the camera has to be run back home because we don’t have a dry bag yet.

Al and Kayak at Ettalong

Al and Kayak at Ettalong

We are finally on the water by 8:30. Getting into the kayak wasn’t a problem, but in all our excitement to get out on the water we forgot to adjust the pedals for the rudder. It turns out the pedals are too close and Al can’t get his knees up high enough to get his feet on the pedals.  The rudder is now useless.  It doesn’t matter because it is flat calm and a beautiful sunny day.

We head out across Broken Bay with no immediate destination in the plans.  We reach the sand bar and have to take a sharp left.  The sand bar is too shallow for us to pass over.  As we turned left, this pointed us towards Wagstaff.  Okay, that sounds like a destination.  Wagstaff it is. We reached it in no time at all, but it is getting mighty hot. We could use some water. Did we bring any? Of course not. Who would think of bringing water when working up a sweat kayaking on the water? Not us!  That’s okay. We had always talked about  when we had a kayak (which we finally do), we would take it to these little hamlets along the water, beach it and go for lunch or in this case, brunch. But wait a minute, did either of us bring money? Of course not. Who would bring money on a little kayaking trip in Broken Bay? Not us!

It was time to head home.  We made it back in no time slicing through the water like expert kayakers with a rudder except ours was useless. Imagine the speed and grace we will have when we get everything in working order.

We adjust the pedals as so as we get back to shore. We will now have a working rudder on the next voyage. Then we decide to try something new with the wheels. We place them midship and strap them on. It works great. Much easier! Now my back won’t be killing me by the time we get to the waters edge. It is a learning curve!

The trip got me more excited about future kayak trips. We live in one of the best places in the world for a kayak.  We are surrounded by an immense area of protected waters, Brisbane Water. Or, we are minutes away from open ocean if we choose to be more adventurous. I can imagine in the summer we might just play around Broken Bay at times, learning to get back in the kayak if we dump it.

I have kayaked in British Columbia several times. It is a beautiful area to kayak in and I have always really enjoyed my trips. Australia is different. What is the unique thing about kayaking in Australia?

Firstly, we kayaked without a skirt in the winter. In fact it was a warm 23 degrees yesterday and it is supposed to reach 28 degrees today.  It is the middle of winter which means the tempurature is not constant. It is expected to get cold again next week, probably about 15 or 16 degrees. That’s what winter means here in New South Wales.

Secondly, the ocean is considered to be cold right now, but not nearly as cold as BC. The average water temperature in the area we are kayaking in is probably about 16-18 degrees in the winter. Not very cold by British Columbian standards!

Finally, after it’s maiden voyage the kayak is full of sand. In fact it is unavoidable, the kayak will always have sand in it. There is no escaping it.  Oh well, I guess I will just have to live with it.  It will be like my house in the summer. Sand everywhere!

Hopefully Al will be able to sleep now that the maiden voyage is over.

I wonder if his excitement has waned at all, I will ask him just as soon as he gets back from kayaking. He was on the water again today, by 7:30 this morning, with a water bottle and money in hand!

Judy on Kayak

Judy on Kayak

Outrigger Racing is not for the Faint of Heart!



Outriggers on Ettalong Beach.

Outriggers on Ettalong Beach.


I attended the Outrigger Canoeing National Competition here in Ettalong Beach this recently (May 9,10). It was spectacular! If you don’t know what an outrigger canoe is, it is a canoe with an outrigger attached to the side of it to give it stability. It’s roots are Polynesian.

Preparing for the outrigger race.

Preparing for the outrigger race.



These races are long. I have to say it gives you an appreciation of the stamina these paddlers must have. Their sprints can take about an hour to complete. To me that is mind boggling!

One thing I did notice was the camaraderie amongst the paddlers, not just on their own teams, but the sport in general. On the last race of the day on Sunday, one of the outriggers flipped as there were very large waves and a ground swell. The rest of the competitors made it back, but you could feel the tenseness in the air until it was radioed in that all of the paddlers were okay. This is not a sport for the faint of heart. These people paddle in the ocean and often experience bad weather.

I worked in a food tent (concession stand) all weekend selling chicken, steak and saugsage rolls. In Canada these would all be called burgers and hot dogs! On Saturday and Sunday morning we offered bacon and egg rolls. This would have been called an “bacon & egger” or “McMuffin” in Canada. It is funny how you notice these small differences when living in another country.

Pop is another difference. First of all, it would not be called “pop”. It would be a “soft drink”. Of course “Coke” is universal, but not much else is. The have “lemonade” which is “Sprite”. They have a drink called “Lift” which I think is like a “lemon pop”. It’s enough to make your head pop – or is that soft?!


Outrigger crossing - tricky maneuver!

Outrigger crossing - tricky maneuver!

Working in the concession stand allows one to meet lots of interesting people. All of the competitors and their families were very friendly people. I can’t imagine how many times I was asked the question “where are you from”? Must be the accent!!!


The weather was wonderful on Saturday. The sun was shining, but it was not too hot. On Sunday, it was a mixed bag, it would rain and then clear up. The rain certainly didn’t dampen any spirits.

Ettalong Beach seems to be able to offer the perfect spot for Outrigger competitions. The beach is large enough to hold all of the canoes and competitors without being crowded, as well the water is calm, great for launching and starting the race.

There are lots of different options for racing courses. If the winds starts to blow too hard, the course could be moved to inside waters without moving the starting point.

Outriggers at the start of the race.

Outriggers at the start of the race.





Ettalong also has the perfect spot for spectators to view the races. There are many places along the beach that offer sweeping views of the waterfront. This allows spectators to watch the canoes for quite some time before they disappear around the corner and race off into the wild blue yonder.

There are many people in Ettalong Beach who are working very hard to bring new washroom facilities and upgrades to the waterfront. Once this is achieved, I believe Ettalong Beach will be able to host “world class” Outrigger competitions with confidence.


Outriggers heading out - Lion Island behind

Outriggers heading out - Lion Island behind

The beach, local Outriggers club, businesses and volunteers are ready. Check us out next year. You won’t be dissapointed!

Outriggers National Championship 2009

Outriggers National Championship 2009

In the Shade

I love trees! I love the trees in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, I am from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada where we have some of the most majestic species of Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir (to name a few) that make up our diverse and beautiful coastal rainforest. If you haven’t visited Vancouver Island, it is a must see.

Australia forests are different and distinct. One of my favourites is Australia’s Eucalyptus. In fact, Australia is home to more than 700 species of Eucalypt. What a majestic, beautiful tree. Not just because you can crush the leathery leaves and fill your nostrils with the aroma of eucalyptus, but because of how they grow. The branches remind me of giant tendrils reaching out every which way with it’s strong boughs.

Australian Eucalypts are amongst the tallest trees in the world. The bark is sometimes stringy and is often peeled revealing a naked beautiful smooth tree trunk. The trunk can be tinged with greens, oranges, reds or sometimes a silvery white. At night you see the white tree trunk shimmering in the moonlight. It is magic!

Another tree I love is the Palm. In Australia, they have huge Palms trees, small Palm trees, Palm bushes, so many Palms. At times, driving along the road or hiking you can look down upon these giant tree Palms and it feels like you could jump and the canopy would envelop you with their mammoth palm fronds.

Being in Ettalong Beach with all of it’s Eucalyptus and Palms, I feel like I am living in a lush, tropical seaside haven. Oh, I forgot, I am! All I need is a pina colada in each hand, the shade of a good tree and a pool boy to keep me cool and offer refills as required!

Late at Night, When the Stars Come Out to Play.

During the day, Ettalong Beach is another Australian beach, full of families, swimmers and sunseekers.  Cricket on the beach, building castles in the sand and good old fun splashing in the water are part of the daytime activities.

But, when the sun goes down and the stars come out to play, Ettalong Beach comes alive with a new set of beach dwellers.

This is the time to watch teenagers wade through the water with nets and flashlights looking to scoop up octopus, squid or prawns.  Being Canadian, I have never experienced this form of fishing before. The squeals from the girls whenever they see a sting ray is funny.  Not sure this is the legacy Steve Irwin wanted to leave.

Further along the beach is where you find the local sports fishermen with there poles lined up like fence posts.  The fishermen are prepared.  They have eskies (coolers) full of bait, snacks and beer.  The fishing poles have lights on their tip so the fisherman can see the tip snap in the dark when the fish bite. These night dwellers are fishing for whiting and flatheads.  Anything otherwise will cause an intense conversation amongst them.

Another beach dweller is a black and white border collie that plies the waters edge day and night.  He actually lives across the road from the beach, but spends most of his time on the beach.  During the day he is happy to pick up the pace and join you on a walk, or if you choose to throw sticks for him, it is “game on” until your arm is ready to fall off.

At night, same dog, different story.  It is all work.  He is there to fish.  He will choose a fisherman to work with and sit.  He watches the pole with the intensity that only a working dog could muster.  If there is the slightest movement, he gets excited.  He will start to chase his tale and jump around.  He watches intently as the line is reeled in.  Once the fish is extracted from the hook and the line has been cast once again, he once again sits and waits.

This is serious business for this dog.  When he is fishing, there is no playing, no fetching sticks, no walking.  While there is a job to be done, he is doing it.

Ask the fishermen if the dog favours one over the other?  “No, he just chooses someone for the night and that is who he fishes with”.

What a wonderful addition to Ettalong Beach.  I haven’t seen a fisherman that doesn’t like the dog or chases him away.  They just accept him as part of fishing on the beach.

I have always wondered who the owners are and what they think of their dog.  He must be so low maintenance.  I am sure he never requires a walk or exercise, he gets plenty day and night.

He can’t be lacking for attention.  Everyone on the beach stops to give him a pat.  We ourselves have stopped to play with him for a minute and suddenly realized that an hour has flown by.

Nobody on the beach seems to know the owners or the dogs name, but that has not stopped the relationship from building.  I am sure that if he didn’t show up one evening, his absence would take up  the “lions share” of the evening conversation between the fishermen.

Yes, Ettalong Beach could never be just another Australian Beach.  It  has a pulse of it’s own.  The teenagers, the fishermen and the dog bring the beach alive every evening when the stars come out to play…

The Sentinel’s Mate!

The Sentinel of Ettalong Beach

My partner and I strolled on the white sands of Ettalong Beach. Droplets plinked on our rain jacket hoods negating conversation. Lights from across Broken Bay shimmered in the subtle gloom of the rainy night. My partner and I were consumed in silent reverie.
Peering across the water a ghostly apparition floated mysteriously. It may have been a buoy marking a mooring, or simply a floating grocery bag. A few minutes observation revealed the apparition was heading on a steady course, moving with some purpose. It came close to shore, revealing the outline of a large bird.

This rather stately pelican roams the sandy inlet, investigating breaches of “bait and catch” security by fisher folk. This large pre-historic looking bird also samples the picnic trappings of naive or distracted swimmers. The pelican is the Sentinel of Ettalong Beach.

Pelicans look like inanimate floating objects as they swim along. You cannot see its web feet churning under the water. As they glide along, they seem wooden, like a floating toy bird. This creates an artificial appearance, like a decoy duck.

The Sentinel lunges forward, proving it is in fact a living organism. The ungainly beak spears into the dark waters. Just as suddenly, its head jerks back, flipping a small fish into its beak to the back of his throat, already looking for its next prey. The Sentinel gazes at us for a moment, a large eye that appears painted on a wooden head, and then continues fishing for dinner.

Pelicans are rarely solitary. Typically they live in small to very large flocks. Pelicans are known to work together, cooperating to “pen” the fish before plunging their beaks into the water to catch their prey.

The Sentinel has not read that book, or so it seems. Recently  Ettalong Beach is being  patrolled by a very odd couple.

The Sentinel’s mate is a diminutive diver duck, dwarfed by the pelican. They spend considerable time together on patrol, sharing “the catch”. The duck seems to dive for fish and share with the Sentinel. It is a charming symbiosis that I would have though rare between different bird species.

Pelicans have been known to eat ducks and seagulls when food supplies are scarce. Perhaps the diver duck is unaware of the risk it takes on days of poor fishing.

The Sentinel patrols its patch in all conditions, as though it is the ghostly incarnation of an old salt, destined to watch over the sea for eternity. This silent sentinel now has a sentient being to while away the hours of the watch.

Let us hope The Sentinel does not decide to have a friend for dinner!!!