The Thursday night daylight savings paddle started out from a small group of local Peninsula VSKC paddlers. Julian Smith had moved to Crib Point in 2002 and he and few other local club members would meet up for Westernport Club or private paddles. Julian started talking about a secret beach in Hastings and it was hard to find even when looking for it! It was a beach next to the BHP steel mill and used the mill access road (as we later found out). This was a great location for paddles out into Westernport as it was sand at all but the lowest of tides and parking was close by. Julian suggested a regular weekly paddle after work for locals during the summer of 2004/2005 and so it started.
The first night we had around 5 local paddlers. Others joined in as available as it was not easy to get home from work and load kayaks ready for a 6 pm start; I don’t envy anyone driving in peak traffic! Currently numbers can vary from just a couple of paddlers up to over 12 on a busy night. Regular Thursday night paddling was a great initiative for us as it helped to improve our skills in all weathers. It continues to allow new and old paddlers to maintain and gain new skills in a friendly and supportive environment. I attained level 3 in 2006 and as Julian said once, it was good to have someone else who could lead the trips. I have been posting the trips on the VSKC website ever since.
A major challenge was when BHP fenced off and locked access to the secret beach some years ago and we had to find a new home. So our love affair with Woolleys Beach began. I had found out the hard way that it was a very muddy beach, however, up close against the Crib Point Jetty was a tiny channel (well just enough for a kayak) that allowed you to get in at low tides with mud only thigh deep. Every other Thursday night is a low tide night in Westernport which teaches you to read the tides and work with them. Due to a tidal range of up to 3 metres, these paddles also offer a great opportunity to learn about tidal streams, the effects of wind on tide and ferry gliding etc.
Depending on what the wind and tide are doing we have numerous options for paddle routes, with possibilities including Sandy Point, Fairhaven on French Island, a lap of Sandstone Island, a paddle in to Hastings harbour or up Warringine Creek.
Woolleys Beach has a gravel carpark and good amenities such as a toilet block, picnic tables and a covered BBQ which allows for a comfortable spot to sit and share a drink post paddle and talk all things kayak. Along with the good you also have to learn to live with the mud and the mozzies, march flies and sandflies. But it’s worth it. Honest! Sharing a drink and snacks is a significant and valuable part of Thursday night paddling for many. It has supported members through life issues, allowed trips to be planned and it's a great entry point into the Club.
We will always welcome members with little or no experience as we have plenty of experienced paddlers to look after them.