Easterly Seas at Apollo Bay

The main beach at Apollo Bay faces east and is completely exposed to the wind waves and rough seas brought by easterly and south-easterly winds. The waves erode the beach and dunes up to and sometimes above the high water mark and the wind moves huge amounts of sand. Once the wind gets above around 25 knots the bay becomes a potentially dangerous place for swimmers, entirely unattractive to surfers and a magnet for kite surfers who revel in the 25-30 knot winds.

In strong easterly conditions there is a lot of water moving around creating rips and side sweeps and general movement of water in often unpredictable directions. An ocean swimmer could stay afloat and swim in these conditions but would most likely encounter currents quite different to those normally experienced in the bay which could make it very difficult or impossible to return to shore before becoming exhausted or hypothermic.

So far this week at Apollo Bay the wind has been blowing non-stop day and night from the east at 25-30 knots, gusting higher at times. Monday had some sunny breaks, but on Tuesday we only saw cloud and cold winds. The forecast is for the winds to moderate and stay from the east or south-east until at least the end of the week.

Any water person in the area shown the photos below without being told anything about when they were taken could immediately identify the conditions as easterly. They are very distinctive compared to the conditions when the wind is from anywhere between the NW around through W to S.

Persistent easterly winds in the area can vary in strength from gale force (see my previous post on this blog at: https://southernoceanblog.com/2020/08/10/gale-force-easterlies-at-apollo-bay/) to lighter winds with sea fog and mist (see an earlier post on this blog at https://southernoceanblog.com/2017/11/20/rain-from-the-east-three-days-at-least/). The winds of recent days were less than gale force but consistently in the 25-30 knot range – strong winds.

I live in Apollo Bay and start most days with an ocean swim. I don’t swim in the open bay in strong easterly conditions, but fortunately the local harbour provides protected waters which are an ideal plan B. These photos capture something of the easterly sea conditions, as well as the contrasting harbour waters in which I have continued my daily swims during the otherwise unswimmable easterly conditions so far this week.

First day of easterlies

If I stand in the middle of the road in front of my house, this is how the sea looks during an easterly. No quick walk or drive needed to check out the conditions. In fact even the walk out on to the road is not necessary, because I would have woken up to the eucalypts along the creek beside my house being whipped around by the easterly wind. Also, the sound of the surf would have been carried by the wind to my house identifying that there was an easterly. By the third day of these easterlies sand had blown up this street from the beach and the dunes and was lining the sides of the road. In some places sufficient sand had blown across the Great Ocean Road to warrant placement of warning signs for drivers.
This was taken from the beach in front of the Apollo Bay SLSC early on Monday morning while the sun was still reasonably low, creating the golden glow of the eastern sky. Sometimes in a lighter SE wind, the corner of the bay can have some protection and be swimmable. But this view sealed my decision to swim in the harbour.
As I drove to the harbour, the sun was higher in the sky, the clouds were darker and there was some rain on the way. But for a very short period there was a break in the clouds and the sun shone brilliantly on the water for a few fleeting moments. I parked, grabbed the iPhone and ran to the steps to the dunes to get this photo. The breaking water glowed aqua and sparkled snow white, in contrast to the khaki and duller white water in the cloud shadows. Before I had returned the few steps to my car, the sun had disappeared from view. That’s the AB harbour wall in the distance.
This wall of the harbour is roughly N-S. The white water crashing over it came from waves smashing into the neatly placed huge rocks forming a reasonably uniform sloping surface on the ocean side of the wall. The water in the harbour in the lee of the wall is glassy and clear. There are a few mild currents in the harbour but nothing compared to the action immediately outside it. When I swam on Monday morning some of this white water landed on my back like gentle rain.
The harbour mouth and Wild Dog Creek valley in the coastal hills 2-3kms to the north. My swims usually include going to the right of small boat nearest the wall and then parallel to the wall to the mouth and back the same way. Note that all the moored boats are pointing due east into wind. No need for windsocks here. With rough seas beyond, I generally turn around a bit before the mouth as there are some interesting currents there in big swell and rough conditions. An often busy boat ramp is to the left of frame. Swimming nearer the wall gives safe clearance from boats. There are some beautiful sea grass plains on the sea bed in this corner of the harbour supporting a good variety of small fish. Stingrays are a reasonably common sight, and from time to time seals pay a visit. Neither pose a hazard to swimmers here.
This is Marengo as seen across Mounts Bay from the Great Ocean Road in Apollo Bay. Mounts Bay is the next bay south of Apollo Bay. It only gets rough here in this manner in a strong easterly. More typically, large south west swells swing around Hayley Point to march with precision and beauty across this bay into an offshore westerly wind, with perfect manes of white spray blowing over the back of them as they break approaching the shore.
These sand dunes are between the Barham River and Mounts Bay. The reef is Little Henty Reef, foreshortened by the telephoto lens to look closer than its 1600m or so from where I was standing.
Looking south over the Barham River and the dunes between it and Mounts Bay.

Day two of the easterlies

The corner shown here, where the sand dunes meet the harbour wall, is referred to by local swimmers as ‘the wall’. It is their most common starting point for the regular morning swims in the bay. This beach is also known locally as ‘mothers’ beach’ because it s usually sheltered and safe.
This shot was taken from the wall looking north, showing the steps to the beach (under the low red-roofed dwelling) at Tuxion, the beach at the bottom of my street. From where this photo was taken to the steps is 800 metres. Swimming from the wall to Tuxion or to one of the landmarks a bit short of Tuxion, are popular courses for local swimmers – but not on this day.
The harbour mouth in easterly conditions.
This photo of the harbour wall was taken from Tuxion. The orange buoy is not the cap of a local ocean swimmer bobbing about, but is one of two markers for anchoring points used by the local dredge which keeps the harbour mouth clear of sand.
This is the N-S harbour wall viewed from some distance north. On the day this was taken I had my swim in the lee of this wall inside the harbour.
The harbour mouth in easterly conditions.

Harbour swim on day three of the easterlies

The easterly by day three had eased a little and was closer to 20 than 30 knots. The open seas were still white and rough. The inviting glassy clear water inside the harbour was the spot to swim today. Eight of us swam in the harbour this morning instead of the usual locations of Apollo Bay (and sometimes Marengo). Of course, warming up over coffee and a chat followed.

Sue and Boo after their swim. The water was cold, and they both wore wetsuits (as do all the local swimmers during the colder months). Michelle and Susie are stroking towards shore mid-frame.
Susie and Michelle in the shallows after their 1000m or so swim in the calm waters of the harbour. The mist sitting on the coastal hills was there all day. Such mist is one of the features of easterly winds here – formed by all that moist air from over the sea lifting over the hills where it cools and condenses to form mist and low layers of stratus cloud.
Possum on the left and Duke (one of her offspring) on the right. These curly haired retrievers belong to Heather, one of the long-time local ocean swimmers. They love the beach and the water. These two are local identities known to many. They know their way around town and the harbour. They had a splash in the shallows then waited, watching patiently from the beach, for Heather to finish her swim in the harbour.

Two ocean swims west of Cape Otway

The uninterrupted flow of the weather across the vast oceans between Argentina and Cape Otway sees wild storms, strong winds and huge swells hit this part of the south-east coast of Australia with full force. The coast is littered with shipwrecks, and demands respect and caution from all mariners venturing near it.

The so-called ‘shipwreck coast’ stretches over 100kms west from Cape Otway. Over 50 sailing ships have been wrecked along this part of the Victorian coast. It is aligned NW/SE, and faces the prevailing westerly seas and winds that have pounded this coast for millions of years. While not the most southerly point in Victoria, it extends to just shy of the 39th parallel. Cape Otway is technically not in the latitudes of the roaring forties, but it frequently feels otherwise. The parallel of latitude on which Cape Otway sits passes some 240 nautical miles south of Cape Agulhas on the southern tip of the African continent, and the next land to the west is the east coast of Argentina.

The wildest weather and most powerful groundswells to strike the coast east and west of Port Campbell come from the west and south west. The bay at Port Campbell faces directly south west. It is spared nothing in bad weather and big south-westerly swells.

The following two photos of the Port Campbell jetty indicate the range of conditions which can be experienced in the bay at Port Campbell, and this part of the west coast of Victoria.

The weather and sea conditions on the west coast are the subject of previous posts on this blog, including: ‘Wild weather and a big swell on the coast west of Cape Otway’ (published 28 June 2017), and ‘Some winter cameos from the west coast of Victoria’ (published 12 August 2017).

Ocean swimming in this area requires great caution, but also offers great rewards. This post is one average ocean swimmer’s account of two ocean swims in spectacular locations on this coast. I hope to share something of the sense of joy and adventure of ocean swimming in this part of the world.

The 2020 Port Campbell Ocean Swim

The Port Campbell surf life saving club has a long, active and proud tradition in ocean rescue and water safety. In addition to conducting regular beach patrols from November to Easter, the volunteer members provide an important coastal rescue service along 60kms of the coast. They are equipped for inshore rescue operations in areas inaccessible to other vessels and often inaccessible from the land. Port Campbell is the only place between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool that a rescue craft can be launched. Volunteers remain operationally ready every day of the year. They have attended many call outs in life-threatening conditions at isolated and dangerous beaches and locations. They are currently equipped with a 6m rigid-hull inflatable boat to assist in this role, in addition to the standard surf life saving IRBs (inflatable rescue boat), the ‘rubber ducks’. Training over and above life saver training is required to serve on this boat on coastal rescues. In earlier days, there was a team equipped with a rocket with a rope connected to it, for firing from the land where possible to those in need of rescue from the sea.

At Sherbrooke Creek beach (between the 12 Apostles and Port Campbell beach) on 21 April 2019 two volunteer members of the SLSC died when their 6m rigid-hulled rescue boat overturned while they were attempting to rescue a tourist who was in the sea in wild conditions and in trouble. The tourist was subsequently winched to safety by a rescue helicopter. There was a very high swell at the time, and conditions were described by locals as treacherous. They were local dairy farmers. They were highly experienced and respected members of the club. They were a father and son, aged 71 and 32. The club and the whole Port Campbell community were shocked and shattered by the tragedy. The heroism of the two men has rightly been widely recognised throughout Australia and abroad. I salute their bravery. Ross Powell and Andrew Powell and the sacrifice they made will not be forgotten.

Since 2004 the Port Campbell SLSC has participated in conducting a three-swim ocean race series with the surf life saving clubs at Warrnambool and Port Fairy. There is a prize for the overall winner of the series, as well as prizes for individual performance in each of the annual races. Swimmers are welcome to do one, two or all three of the races. The event is called the Shipwreck Coast Swim Series.

The Port Campbell swim is my favourite of all the regular ocean swims conducted by surf life saving clubs along the west coast of Victoria. It’s a true ocean swim. The race has been cancelled on occasions due to rough seas, and this close-knit crew of water men and women does not rush to cancel for rough seas. Indeed, I have arrived to race on days when I was confident it would be cancelled, only to find that the race was going ahead.

The swim takes swimmers out beyond the eastern headland of the bay to where there is a spectacular view down the coastal cliffs to the east. The sea is never still at the far turn buoys, even if from shore it appears to be so. Sometimes the swell is sufficiently large that even with a field of a couple of hundred swimmers, not one of them can be seen by an individual swimmer when in the troughs. I have experienced breaking waves out the back, and strong currents taking me seaward past the eastern headland. I would not contemplate such a swim without the Port Campbell SLSC members on paddle boards, skis and in rubber ducks patrolling the swimming field to ensure safety. It is a wonderful privilege to be 600m or so offshore, swimming in such a place. I was so enthralled and rapt with the wild beauty of this place, that last year, my 11th Port Campbell ocean race, I abandoned the notion of racing, and just cruised around the course with my GoPro camera taking photos and chatting to lifesavers along the way, all of whom laughingly endorsed my decision to tour rather than race. The photos and story of that swim are on this blog in the post, ‘Port Campbell Ocean Swim February 2019’, published February 3 2019.

There is a wonderful small community vibe to this swim. The swim is very well organised and safety is clearly paramount, but the administration and organisation aspects are refreshingly relaxed. The field is generally around 200 strong, so there is no rush, or press or pressure associated with the race. The start and finish lines are friendly places.

So of course, I lined up on Sunday 2 February 2020 for my 12th ocean swim at Port Campbell. I’ve always liked supporting this club and its community, given its history and tradition of selfless support to those in trouble in the sea. I knew it would be business as usual and that on race day, while nothing would be said, the absence of two volunteer members and stalwarts of the club would be deeply felt. In a strange way, it felt like a privilege to swim in their bay on their watch.

The scene upon arrival in Port Campbell. I had 6 mates doing the swim with me. It looks glassy. It’s an illusion. Certainly great conditions for the swim, but not glassy and calm like it appears to be. The wind backed around not long after this photo was taken and the conditions progressively got a little rougher out the back as the morning progressed. When I rounded the outer buoys around 11:15 there were currents, swell, a bit of chop and deep clear green water offering glimpses of the luxuriant underwater plant life that flourishes on the underwater reef and rock formations.
The white buoys are course lines. Keep all buoys on your left. The two outer buoys are taller and orange. Most buoys were not visible most of the time. I had to choose a navigation point a bit higher to aim for, such as a cliff, a building on the shore, trees, a cloud etc.
A rubber duck on the left being checked before the race. The briefing was conducted using the white board on the right. There was excitement in the air as swimmers progressively appeared in wetsuits and stood around talking tactics and conditions. But as you can see, there was an absence of crowds. By way of contrast, the annual Pier to Pub 1200m ocean swim at Lorne attracts 5000 swimmers and over 20,000 spectators.
L to R: Mike, Liz, Andrew and Hamish. These three boys arrived from Melbourne on motorbikes.
The start of the 1200m race. I’m on the far right in the front row, in a black wetsuit.
That’s me in the shallows having just stood up when it was no longer deep enough to do any sort of stroke. I always swim right into the shallows, because swimming through knee-deep or waist deep water is much faster than wading or trying to run through it. Not that it really matters. On this day I placed 178 in a field of 207 overall, and 33 in a field of 42 in the 60+ ‘super veteran’ category. There were 29 swimmers behind me. I chose to focus on them in assessing my performance, rather than the speedy youngsters who didn’t pause en route to enjoy the scenery. My average pace for the swim was 2:03/100m ( 20:30 per kilometre, or 2.993 kph).
Feigning running ability up to the finish line, where with a clock and a pen and paper, my time was recorded by a race official – old school, but it works.
My nephew Andrew. In 2014 he couldn’t swim at all, and he entered the Pier to Pub 1200m swim at Lorne. He came to me for clues on developing some sort of swimming stroke in the 8 weeks before the race. He did it, and has been steadily improving his stroke ever since. He is tall and fit, two good qualities for an ocean swimmer.
Son in law Hamish and nephew Andrew. Hamish grew up in the country, and his early efforts at ocean swimming after he met my daughter were ‘interesting’. He too has improved since and is well on the way to developing a good stroke. Hamish keeps himself running-fit, which is useful for his ocean swimming.
The 2020 Port Campbell crew. L to R: Mike, Al, me, Andrew, Hamish, Hunto and Kerr. The range of swimming times was between 22 and 32 minutes. Everyone did well and enjoyed the swim.
Liz’s Anzac biscuits are the stuff of legends. I rationed them carefully, as ravenous ocean swimmers can quickly account for all Anzacs within reach. Andrew is shown savouring his Anzac after the swim. The T shirt design this year was approved by all.

But I have the collectors’ item when it comes to Port Campbell ocean swim T shirts!

Post-swim awards. Before the earned prizes are handed out, there is always a raffle of spot prizes for competitors whose names are pulled out of a hat. Two years ago I won a pair of goggles. I was ambling across to the raffle area before it commenced, mainly because our lunch booking time was still 10 minutes off. Then the first name I heard over the PA was ‘John Longmead, number 517’. Knowing that you have to be present to collect, I shouted a triumphant response, and started jogging to collect my prize. I was not being heard. My name and number were repeated, and my louder perhaps slightly more desperate response was also repeated. Then I heard the words that the first raffle prize winner, not being present, would forfeit and another name would be drawn. I changed down a gear and flicked the sport mode switch (spent as my legs were from running the 20m up the beach to the finish line in the swim) and sprinted through the crowd, right arm extended, just in time to avoid the completion of the re-draw.
My unearned spot prize in the post-swim raffle. Given the $35 entry fee (online only), I probably broke about even.
A delightful lunch at ‘Forage on the Foreshore’ for our party of eight. This cafe is directly opposite the beach we just swam from. Sam and Laura have been here for a few years now. The standard was high from the start. I have visited here more than a few times over the years on my motorbike, and have always been very grateful for the strong coffee and half-brick size piece of fresh hedgehog. I also always enjoy the friendly service. Sam and Laura do a great job. I heartily recommend their French toast.
L to R: the motorbikes ridden from Melbourne to the swim by Mike, Hamish and Andrew. Hamish’s bike was a hired BMW 750 GS. Its engine blew up on the return trip, near Mait’s Rest about 17kms west of Apollo Bay. It was a standard engine blow up, not involving the rear wheel locking up (which potentially could’ve been disastrous). Hamish returned to Melbourne a little later than planned that evening, riding pillion on Mike’s Triumph Tiger. Retrieval and transport logistics were handled well. All in a day’s outing.
By the time we had finished lunch, the bay at Port Campbell had returned to its natural state. There was barely a person in sight. The headlands, the colours, the sky, the SLSC flag, the clean sand – an iconic Australian beach scene.
The club house of the Port Campbell surf life saving club overlooking the beach and bay.
Port Campbell bay. A beautiful place. The race left no trace it had occurred.

The memorable and never repeated Boat Bay swim at the Bay of Islands on 14 March 2015

The organisers of the Shipwreck Coast Swim Series (the SLSCs of Port Campbell, Warrnambool and Port Fairy) in early 2015 announced the ‘inaugural Bay of Islands swim’, to be held in Boat Bay. This bay is part of the beautiful but lesser know Bay of Islands, west of Port Campbell and the Twelve Apostles. I signed up in a flash, recognising this as a wonderful opportunity to do a decent swim offshore in the waters of this wild coast. The swim was never advertised as a race, and indeed was explained as an organised swim in a beautiful place with some safety backup. What a great idea.

The use of the word ‘inaugural’ in the advertising, caused me to believe the event would be repeated. Unfortunately, it never was. It remains a wonderful memory, all the more so for it having been a one-off. I persuaded good friends Susan, Mike and Richard to join me for this swim. It was always known it would be weather dependent.

This pretty much sums up the swimming issues at Boat Bay. It fails to mention sharks, but their presence is well known and taken for granted. I am aware that others have dived and snorkelled here. But I don’t know of any who have done a swim such as we did.

The link to this video clip (7:50) of the Boat Bay swim is included with the kind permission of Wendy Couch. It captures something of the beauty of the location and the magic of the swim.


What about a swim out from Loch Ard Gorge, around Mutton Bird Island and back?

I have only heard this unofficially, but it is said that the Boat Bay swim was not repeated because regular fishermen at Boat Bay complained about being denied use of the boat ramp for those couple of hours in 2015 when the swimmers were there.

Prior to learning that the swim was not to be repeated, there was talk was of the 2016 swim being at Loch Ard Gorge, out the entrance, around Mutton Bird Island, and back to the beach. That would be about a 2km swim. The Boat Bay swim was around 1500m. I was most excited about the prospect of the Loch Ard swim – again very condition dependent – but on the right day, what a thrill it would be to do that swim. There is said to be a lot of marine life around Mutton Bird Island, and of course, the remains of the wreck of the Loch Ard.

Loch Ard Gorge

View to the south through the narrow entrance to Loch Ard Gorge

Wind, Sand and Water

Only a handful of people will ever see these coastal landforms, even though they are right beside the famous and busy Great Ocean Road. They were created out of sand dunes by a very high tide and a wind from the west. The next high tide, strong onshore wind or solid rainfall will see them disappear.

These sand cliffs and other forms were produced by the usual agents of wind, sand and water, but on a remarkably compressed timescale, geologically speaking. At sunset yesterday, the Mounts Bay (or Marengo Beach) sand dunes had a uniformly flat surface, indistinguishable from the dry sand on the beach save for the angle. A high tide overnight combined with a solid swell and the wind blowing over the dunes from the west saw these coastal geomorphic forms appearing not in millennia, but in hours. The same processes will remove them in days. The net result will be sand removed from the dunes and washed out to sea. These intricately sculpted sand forms are sadly evidence of the serious problem of coastal erosion which is affecting many parts of the Great Ocean Road.

These dunes are under significant threat from ocean waves and tides. In an attempt to halt the advance of the erosion, they are replenished regularly with sand from further up the beach by local authorities which surprisingly are yet to come up with an effective and permanent solution to the continuing erosion at this location.

Your mind and eyes might hunt for scale when looking at these pictures, like a zoom lens on autofocus trying to lock on to something. There are sufficient clues in each photo to assist in this regard. Suffice to say, most of these features are on a much smaller scale than you might think at first glance.

The above photos were all taken with my back to this beach (known as Marengo Beach or Mounts Bay Beach), and they are all detailed closeups of the formations on the dune shown below in both directions. Some of these images were taken with a macro lens. This beach is a km or so south of Apollo Bay, on the south-east coast of Australia.

Shorebreak at Dawn

Occasionally the ocean simply offers peace.

These photos were taken before breakfast this morning at Tuxion beach at the end of my street in Apollo Bay, Australia. A consistent surfable swell rolled into the bay from dawn to dusk.

“A wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.”

I stood on the shore of the Southern Ocean this morning under a blue sky with a cool wind on my back, squinting into the sun.  Cold sea water was washing over my feet and a small swell was rolling in orderly lines across the bay.  I was savouring these moments and didn’t want to rush them.

I waded through the shallows then swam over the sand bar at Tuxion and under a few green waves which briefly stood tall in the offshore wind before breaking. A friend I bumped into on my walk to the beach joined me for the first 500 metres. We found our green-water distance from the shore and headed south. The water was cool and clear. The swell lines gently lifted and lowered us, something I always enjoy.   Then after a short chat while treading water out from the SLSC we went our separate ways.

Hamish took some drone footage from a point midway between the SLSC and the lookout from the beach as I swam out to sea a bit and then back.  I then swam north back to Tuxion, the beach at the end of my street. This return leg was a little further seaward of the sandbar because the waves were now breaking further offshore as the tide went out.

The video below (which has no soundtrack) was edited by trimming it to 1’52”. There was no editing of any other aspect of it.  The colours are as the drone camera recorded them. I have also posted 10 screenshots from the drone footage which capture a few features of the swim which I found enjoyable. In sharing this video and the screenshots I hope the reader gets some insight into the joy of an ocean swim.


  • At around 0:50 in the video, I have paused at my turn point to enjoy the scenery. A wave passed under me as I did so. I also spent a short time (not captured on the video) before heading back to shore just floating on my back in the swell while looking at the clouds and enjoying being effortlessly suspended by the ocean, weightless, between heaven and earth. Most of my ocean swims are out and back, and in company.  A bit of a chat at the turn point is an established ritual. A longer chat over coffee after the swim is an even more established ritual. Conversations over coffee among those still warming up after an ocean swim are somehow livelier and more convivial than normal coffee chat. There is truth in the ocean swimmers’ aphorism that ‘you’re only one swim away from a good mood.’


  •  What appears to be a large dark mass of fish swimming at great speed towards me and then under me as they are chased by a large shark not visible in the shot (at about 1:20 in the video) is simply the shadow of a small cumulus cloud sailing overhead in the brisk sou’westerly.


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Always a joy to stroll into the sea without another soul in sight.


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Cape Patton (17kms east of Apollo Bay)  on the horizon on the left, and the Apollo Bay harbour wall on the right. Who could stand gazing at this scene and not want to walk into the sea and swim?


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Perfectly formed little waves were breaking on the sandbar. They had a brightness and colour which only the backlighting of the morning sun can give.


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I walked out through the water pretty much to the edge of the sandbar as can be done on a lowish tide, then started swimming. The stirred up sand visible in the image is from the last set of waves to break over the sandbar.


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The middle part of an ocean swim is always about putting the head down, stretching out long, finding your rhythm and pace and settling into it for a while.  It’s a phase of a swim I particularly enjoy. An occasional glance forward looks after navigation.


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That’s me in the foreground of this image, just left of centre. I was heading back to shore at this stage. The small swell lines can be seen here. I also like this image as it conveys something of the sense of the vastness of the ocean which is felt by every swimmer when a bit offshore. I like this shot. The apparent remoteness from shore is a bit of an illusion, but the feeling evoked by this picture of a swimmer being so small in such a big ocean is not.


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The swim back to shore is assisted by regular brief acceleration as waves pass under me. Just before a wave passes under me, it sucks water immediately in front of it back towards the approaching wave. This is more noticeable with bigger waves. When I can see the seabed while this is occurring, it is clear that despite continuing to swim at the same stroke rate, my forward progress slows or sometimes stops completely for a moment before the wave makes it up to me with a short-lived acceleration towards shore.


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As I approach the area where the waves are breaking, I sometimes swim parallel to the shore trying to stay exactly on the line where they are about to break, but without actually getting caught up in the white water. (Swimming along this wave is not in the edited video). This maximises the pleasant sensation of being lifted then lowered by unbroken green water. On some of my longer swims on small swell days I do this for the entire length of the beach which I swim. In the photo the wave is about to break and I am still on its face, but I did manage to stay in the green water. If a bigger wave arrives, or I misjudge the point at which a wave will break, a casual duck dive under the white water is all that is required. Swimming in the waves like this makes me feel really alive.


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Strolling ashore after the swim. Behind me is an almost spent broken wave about to reach me, and behind that a green wave just starting to break (see around 1:37 in the video). Self-preservation requires a swimmer to always keep a lookout over the shoulder in the surf zone so as not to be caught unawares by a breaking wave. As the video shows, neither of these waves required a second look over the shoulder in the small conditions. But a breaking wave you are prepared for is so much more easily handled than one that surprises you.


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When leaving the surf after a swim, I generally find myself looking back out to sea and down the shoreline at where I’ve just been. These looks, especially if from the vantage point of a sand dune, sometimes reveal where and why the variety of currents I experienced while swimming were happening. They are also a chance to look for the often subtle signs of the general direction of the drift out the back of the waves which I know by that stage having just swum in it.  The direction of this current can be one of the more difficult things to pick from the shore before a swim. At my home beach though I can usually make an educated guess based on tide, wind direction and swell size and direction. But away from my home beach I simply ask an informed local. For the record, the general drift out the back this morning between Tuxion and the wall was south to north.

Drone footage courtesy of Hamish Christie.

Some readers will recognise the title of this post as coming from the poem ‘Sea Fever’, published by John Masefield, the English Poet Laureate, in 1902. The first two lines of the second stanza are:

“I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;”

Southern Ocean Coastal Reef

Continue reading “Southern Ocean Coastal Reef”

Solid Swell at Local Reefs

When solid ocean swell hits the coast around Apollo Bay, the spectacle of waves of substance hitting the exposed reefs and beaches is not to be missed. This is so even with swell such as in these photos which is not in the large wave category.  Little Henty Reef and Point Bunbury are two of my favourite vantage points for such swell events (as anybody who has had even a cursory glance at the posts on this blog will know). The early December 2019 swell shown in these photos was solid and in the moderate range by local standards. I have seen much larger swells breaking on this reef. (For example, see the post on this blog titled ‘Large Southern Ocean Swell Pounds Local Reefs’, published 1 November 2017).

I am a regular ocean swimmer. On days with swell like this, the southern end of the east facing main beach in Apollo Bay is quite swimmable. In fact it’s exhilarating to swim in the smaller swell (which should not be taken to necessarily mean small swell) which results after larger swell has lost some of its size and energy in the process of turning left through nearly 180° around a point to break on that beach. Big swells are usually accompanied by winds coming from between north west and south west. Winds from those directions blow offshore (from the land out to sea) at the main beach at Apollo Bay, which makes for clean and glassy waves which stand up as they near the shore for longer than they would without the offshore wind.

Having swum in the ocean for most of my life to date, I have experienced all sorts of sea conditions in many different locations. These experiences make it impossible for me to look at the ocean, whatever the conditions might be, without wondering what exactly is causing what I am seeing, and without imagining what it would be like for me to be out there in the middle of it all. Such ruminations usually end up with me conjuring up some delusional scenario in which I survive the troubled seas against all the odds, and make it ashore unaided and triumphant.

None of this is intended to give the impression that I actually want to be out there in wild seas where drowning would probably be a certainty, it’s just that I can’t resist imagining what it would be like and what I would do if out there. So please don’t read any of the observations in the captions below as actual plans, or as expressions of any desire to actually be in the water with these waves. But I certainly find them mesmerising to watch.

The ocean does not issue invitations or free passes and it grants immunity to nobody.  For an ocean swimmer, knowing how to swim is probably less important than knowing when not to swim.

Little Henty Reef, Marengo

This reef is only a couple of hundred metres offshore at Marengo, just south of Apollo Bay. It forms part of the Marengo Reefs marine sanctuary. The reef has many elements to it, and it has quite irregular formations under the water which dictate how and when a wave passing over it will break. Waves seldom break in a uniform way here as they might at a beach with a flat sand or rock seabed near the shore.

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This little barrel is not a random event. Directly in front of it is shallow reef which on a low tides is exposed as the water sucks out in front of an approaching wave. I have photos of this barrel where the bare reef can be seen. It is the wave hitting this shallow promontory of the reef which causes it to pitch forward and create the barrel. If I was tipped out of a boat in front of this wave, I would make every effort to swim (walk?!) to the right to the deeper water beneath the green unbroken part of the wave.  My plans following that move have at this stage not progressed beyond keeping my head above water and returning to shore sooner rather than later. The size and shape of this wave is fine from a surfer’s point of view, but its immediate environment means it will never be ridden. When surf is breaking on this reef in this manner, it is also breaking at nearby locations in deeper water and away from reefs. That is where the surfers will be found.

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This barrel of sorts is a little more chaotic and unattractive. It’s on a different part of the reef to the wave shown in the preceding photo. I would definitely be heading for green water and staying clear of this somewhat startling little formation.

The two photos following were taken a second or two apart.

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For an ocean swimmer it is a pleasure to swim out through the shore break, alternating between duck diving under breaking waves and short little swims in green water between waves, until deeper water without breaking waves is reached. But that has nothing to do with the ‘situation’ shown in this photo. While there would be green water somewhere out the back of this turmoil, if faced with this sight from water level I would turn around and head for shore. I would keep looking back over my shoulder, and as white water caught up with me, I’d turn and face it, and duck dive or pin-drop as it passed over me, then resume swimming towards shore. Eventually I could probably body surf in on smaller broken waves. For me, this lineup of white water would be impassable, both by reason of its size and the shallowness of the water over the reefs on which it is breaking.

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This second photo in the series of two shows that the breaking waves in the previous photo were not abating, but just getting up a head of steam. That exploding white water rising vertically from the wave out the back suggests that a swimmer directly underneath it would have a strong desire to be somewhere else. You would’t have to actually see the beach flags to know that this area of ocean activity would be either left or right of them.

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Another tempting little barrel, with a seductive glassy green wall on which to complete the ride. But again, this is breaking over shallow reef.

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This is exactly the same location on the reef as the first photo in this post. Bigger waves out the back suggest this was a small wave in the set.

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Unlike a wave which breaks uniformly along its length at a beach because of the even sand or rock seabed near the shore, this wave has encountered a reef of irregular shape and depth. The wave is doing entirely different things at left, centre and right of the image. Respectively, it is barrelling, exploding and not breaking at all. The dark strip in front of the exploding wave is exposed reef. That white water has hit the reef as a breaking wave and bounced back into the air to at least twice the height of the wave. My (fanciful) plan of action here is easy. I would stay in the green channel in the foreground, with the reef on the far side and breaking water on the near side. I would expect this channel to have quite a current moving seaward as the water from the breaking waves returned out to sea. Once clear of the breaking waves either side of the channel, I could swim shorewards (hopefully).

This photo was taken (on a much sunnier day) a couple of years ago  in a significantly larger swell at exactly the same position on the reef as the immediately preceding photo. The point of interest is that both waves share some common features caused by particular features of the reef at this location. The exposed reef is visible in front of the wave in both photos. The wave is smashing on the reef on the left side of both images. The size of the wave in the second photo is such that the wave did more than just crash on to the reef. Its height meant that when the lower part of the wave collided with the reef and its forward momentum decelerated, the considerable volume of water at the top of the wave pitched forward and created this beautiful barrel. Secondly, in both photos, on the top of the unbroken wave to the right of the white water is a narrow section of white water breaking before the parts of the wave immediately beside it. I have observed this feature on waves breaking at this exact spot on many occasions. I can only speculate that there must be a narrow elevated part of the reef beneath this point which causes this narrow part of the wave to break ahead of the rest of that part of the wave. The swell on this day produced waves of genuine consequence.

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“Coming through!” This wave is not offering options. It has a very commanding presence about it that would see all in its path desperately duck diving in the hope of experiencing something less than its full force. This wave is not breaking in deep water, which means that any flogging it administered would probably involve rough reef and projecting rocks. It has the same unstoppable air about it as a big clean up set coming through the take off point at a surf break (a larger than usual wave which breaks further out to sea and wider across the bay than the rest of the waves providing a bit of a working over for all in its path), closing out across the bay, and reminding all it steamrolls that the ocean rules.

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This is the same setup as in an earlier photo. Exposed reef, exploding wave, safe channel. This wave is ending its life, but it is certainly not ‘going gentle into that good night’.  It seems to epitomise Dylan Thomas’s poetic advice to ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ This wave could not be said to be going quietly.

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Just by way of contrast, some waves do end their journey across the seas to a distant final shore with beauty and grace. Early morning wave backlit by the sun, on Apollo Bay beach up towards Wild Dog Creek.

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That three different things are happening over a short distance on this wave suggests that duck diving under this may end in tears.  Again, the hint of deeper water in the narrow green channel offers the best prospect here.

Point Bunbury, Apollo Bay

The beach immediately south of Point Bunbury has a reef lining the shore. This reef is more uniform in its structure than the Little Henty reef. So waves tend to break in a more uniform manner at this location, except where there are irregularities in the reef and channels or a change in contour of  the sandy seabed.

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But there is nothing uniform about the way this wave is breaking.  The water is a little deeper where the late-breaking part of the wave is. Not sure what’s happening with the mini breaking wave on the green face under the overhanging lip of the main part of the breaking wave. I haven’t seen such a thing before at this break. But I strongly suspect it would not be ideal for body surfing.

Two shot sequence of one wave – taken only a second or two apart.

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A channel is also the likely explanation for this late breaking central part of the wave. This wave is a whole lot more orderly than wave in the previous photo.

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The left and right sections of this wave have broken some time earlier, and are becoming simply  dissipating white water. But the centre section of the wave over the channel has just broken, with a lot of power. The offshore wind is blowing the spray well over the back.

Another two shot sequence of one wave, taken seconds apart.

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This was a big wave. Estimating the height of the face of the wave is always difficult without a surfer on it. But I’m calling this triple overhead. It looks as though it’s about to close out (break) along its length all at once. But the second photo shows that it turned into a possibly rideable right – but given how close it was to shore, it would have been a glorious but brief ride before the wave shut down and slammed anyone still on it into the sandy seabed, who would eventually surface connected to the half of their broken surfboard with the legroom attached.

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This is more water than I would like landing on my head. Yeah yeah, I know about Nazare, Mavericks, the Cortes Bank and all the rest, and about those who ride there and take much bigger waves than this on the head. But back to me. I repeat, I would not like this much water landing on my head. Water weighs 1 tonne per cubic metre. A wave like this is probably moving horizontally at twenty-something kph. Then there is that fat white lip of solid water which is moving forward and falling due to gravity. Upon being rag-dolled in his shallows water by such a wave, after being surprised that I surfaced at all, I would not be at all surprised to observe that   my wetsuit was now being worn inside out.

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This wave is totally closing out. There is no rideable section of it. When the water throws forward and falls as is happening here, it’s creates a lot more turbulence on and under the water than when white water simply spills down a gentler angled green face of the wave.

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This wave is also closing out. The fact that it is doing so evenly along a substantial section, indicates that there is a relatively level seabed under it. The sections left and right of the white water which are still green but about to break, indicate that the water is slightly deeper there. That is, it looks as though there is a bit of a mound in the seabed where the wave is breaking, making it slightly shallower there. This seabed shape is the converse of the situation shown in the first three photos above under the Pt Bunbury sub-heading in which a channel in the middle of the wave deferred the moment at which the middle of the wave broke.

These next two photos show two different waves breaking in about the same location just south of Pt Bunbury.  There is a reef near the shore  in the area near where they are breaking.

These are big, solid, majestic waves.

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A wave of substance.

The Bay of Fires

As we drove off the ferry at Devonport gales from the west were lashing the west coast of Tasmania with wild waves, snow and ice.  We had experienced 5m swells and 45 knot winds on the trip across Bass Strait.  All part of Tasmania in winter.

The low terrain on the lee side of the island meant that at least the roads in that area would be open. So it was that we drove off the ferry having abandoned our plan to start our tour of Tassie with a night at Cradle Mountain and headed east instead.

With visions of east coast beaches in our minds it came as a complete surprise while meandering across the north-east of the state to suddenly find ourselves surrounded by magnificent temperate rainforest, replete with myrtles, sassafras, giant tree ferns and moss and moisture on everything.  To simply stand in such rainforest for more than a moment or two and to breathe in the silence and the moist plant-scented air is a feast for the senses and the spirit.

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Prime dairy country en route to the much drier east coast.

Bay of Fires Conservation Area

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Binalong Bay was the first north-east coast beach we saw.  The sand on my home beaches around Apollo Bay in Victoria is usually some pale shade of orange.  The beaches on the north-east coast of Tasmania are dazzling shades of white. The Bay of Fires is not a single bay but an area of coast consisting of many bays and beaches. Travelling north from Binalong beach on a dirt road, any track to the right leads to a white beach, with aquamarine water lapping its shores, and large granite boulders at the headlands defining the particular bay. Each individual beach has a given name, which sometimes coincides with the name used by locals.

We drove up the dirt road which parallels the coastal dunes going north from Binalong,  and turned down a rough track to our right which took us to the beach in the next photo. Our first glimpse of this beach as we walked clear of the scrub and low dunes was a breathtakingly beautiful sight; and it was mid-afternoon, not even sunrise or sunset. The sand was white and clean, the water was crystal clear, and the offshore wind made the inshore waters and small swell lines glassy.  The orange patches visible on the granite boulders are lichen, a common feature on all beaches in the area. We were the only people there.

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This is the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.

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The air temperature was 9°C (wind chill considerably lower as the wind was stronger than it looks in the photos).  The water temperature I measured at 12°C.  It was an invigorating and exhilarating swim.  There were a few predictable currents working at this beach when I swam. The underwater visibility was excellent. I was warm in the Patagonia wetsuit (and cap, and booties).  That’s my GoPro hanging off my shoulder.



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It’s difficult to find a beach with no footprints at all. (Liz took this photo).

Dawn patrol at the Bay of Fires

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I woke before sunrise the day following my afternoon swim at the Bay of Fires. We were staying in St Helens which is about 20kms south of the beach in the photos above. Our plan for the day was to head south to the Freycinet Peninsula. But I was drawn to visit the beach again, before heading south. Rugged up, I arrived well before sunrise. The half moon was still high in the western sky. This photo was taken from the water’s edge. The wind was very cold.

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Taken from the northern end of the beach. Just over the dunes shown here was yet another beach which was similar but longer.

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A bank of cloud on the eastern horizon delayed the actual first appearance of the sun. So I had plenty of time to attempt to capture the mood of the pre-dawn twilight and solitude on this cold and beautiful beach.

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Just above the low lying rocks on the right are the lights of Binalong Bay.

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The bank of cloud on the eastern horizon which delayed the appearance of the first direct light from the sun.

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You never know what you’ll find in a rockpool.

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While the morning colours were appearing in the east, the sun was not, and I was on the verge of heading back to St Helens to examine my pre-dawn photos over breakfast. I was also getting colder by the minute.

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Any thoughts of returning to St Helens were quickly forgotten when I turned back from looking at the colourless vista of the next beach north to see this smaller beach suddenly suffused with hints of colour as the sun rose into the blue sky above the clouds. The sudden commencement of the transformation was arresting.

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In a matter of seconds, the hints of colour were turned right up to full colour and brightness. I think the extended period I spent surveying this beach from every angle in the gloom between first light and sunrise had conditioned me to subconsciously accept the dull lighting as all this day had to offer. I knew sunrise would brighten everything, but the rapidity and vividness with which it occurred was a wonderful thing to see.

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The brilliant result of a transformation which occurred in less than a minute.  Full colour.

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The beach immediately to the north of the beach at which I swam.

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Footprints of a hooded plover in the salt-white sand and the early morning light.

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The hooded plover. Said to be in danger of extinction in some areas. But they appeared to be plentiful in the Bay of Fires, as they are on the beaches around Apollo Bay.

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Silver gull.

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Pied oyster catcher.

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Pied oyster catcher. The brightness of the beak and leg colours vary with the age of the bird.

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The silver gulls were behaving as if they had some proprietorial right over the beach which was being transgressed by the mere presence of the pied oyster catchers.

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The pied oyster catchers seemed bemused, but otherwise unaffected by the rowdy song and dance of the sea gulls.

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The silver gulls ramped up their protest with this quartet performance. There was no tune, no harmony, and a lot of noise. But the pied oyster catchers simply watched on, and continued their feeding rituals.

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So the silver gulls brought out the big guns. But even direct aerial attack didn’t seem to be anywhere near the threshold of concern for the placid pied oyster catchers, who simply called the bluff and went on undisturbed.

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A truce of sorts was eventually tacitly declared, and as it turned out, there was enough beach and food for all.

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These birds were resting in a wind that was very strong and cold, even at sand level. The ruffled feathers on the back of their heads shows the wind direction. They both turned their heads facing nearly backwards, and  tucked their beaks under the feathers. Whether this kept them any warmer or not I don’t know.  At the very least it would’ve kept the sand from blowing into their eyes.

Freycinet National Park (between Bicheno & Coles Bay)

Not far south from St Helens is the spectacular Freycinet National Park.  Having spent some time in this area on a previous trip we planned to bypass it on our way south to Cockle Creek. But we couldn’t resist a diversion to call in at one of the long beaches in the northern part of the National Park.

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The silver gull is a beautiful bird, especially when in flight and backlit by the afternoon sun. (Photographed over the shore break at the Friendly Beaches, Freycinet National Park).

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The mountains of the Freycinet Peninsula near Coles Bay are on the horizon. Typical beach vista in this area.

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There was more swell about than appeared at first glance.

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Not all of the coast boasts brilliant white beaches. These granite cliffs plunging straight into the ocean are common along the east coast of the Freycinet Peninsula,

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The swell responds to the sand bars, channels and varying depths of the seabed as it rolls, white manes flying, towards the shore. I decided against a solo swim here as there was quite a bit of water moving around.

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A sandbar a little way off-shore produced this reliable right hand break.

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Sooty oyster catcher (photographed on a beach reef in the Freycinet National Park).

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The Australasian gannet (photographed above the wave zone on a beach in the Freycinet National Park). A bird perfectly adapted for flying and gliding with great efficiency, as well as for diving at high speed into the sea to catch fish. They fold their wings back to dive from heights of 15m or so, and typically dive to depths of around 20m. They can also dive effectively from much lower heights. Their eyesight is specially adapted for the underwater phase of their hunting. They only stay underwater for around 10 seconds but will generally swallow the fish before surfacing. An Australasian gannet can fly in excess of 500km in a day seeking food, at speeds in the range 35-40 knots. I admire the capabilities of this bird.

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The Australasian Gannet in its element, gliding effortlessly above the coastal waters of the Freycinet Peninsula.





A Storm and a Swim



August is usually the coldest month of the year in Apollo Bay.  The forecast for last Friday was for an intense low pressure system and a couple of associated cold fronts to bring very strong and cold winds to the west coast, and indeed to the whole state. Winds in the 50-60 knot range were forecast. Snow was forecast down to low levels. A sizeable swell would be expected with such a weather pattern, and was forecast. 

So it was that I forsook my Friday early-morning ocean swim and headed west for Pt Campbell with my camera, an hour before first light, to see what the southern ocean looked liked in such conditions. The recorded wind at Cape Otway (see right) at 0519 was 85kph (46 knots). 

The red dot on the BoM rain radar screen shot is Apollo Bay. It’s on the protected side of Cape Otway and accordingly doesn’t feel the full force of weather and swell from the west and south west. In fact a westerly wind is directly offshore at Apollo Bay’s east-facing beach. Pt Campbell and the adjacent coast line on the other hand are ‘around the corner’ on the weather side of the cape, and take the full force of weather and swell from the west and south west.

It all looked very promising for being at the right spot at the right time, as far as big storms and big seas go.


The pre-dawn attempt at driving to Port Campbell to witness the storm and big seas

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I was the first road user this day on the Great Ocean Road between Apollo Bay and Pt Campbell – not a sought-after distinction, especially after a night of gale force winds. I expected tree litter and the odd large branch or small tree.  The air temperature was around 6°C in the hills, and 7°C or so on the coast. Wind chill was probably near zero. There was a fair bit of rain, and it was literally blowing a gale.

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The first half dozen or so of the trees of around this size which I encountered weren’t too difficult to get past. I saw a few roos/wallabies, and wasn’t sure whether they were getting along under their own steam or simply being blown downwind.

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33kms east of Pt Campbell (69kms from AB), I came across this show stopper.

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No option but to do a U-turn and head back to Apollo Bay. The only practical alternative route was through dense bush and I was certain it would be impassable with fallen trees.  Between 0450 and 0600 the recorded wind at Cape Otway averaged more than 40 knots (gale force) with gusts up to 60 knots during that period.

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Castle Cove in gale force winds – a compulsory stop on the return drive to AB. Swell not as big as forecast, but wild seas nonetheless.

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Castle Cove. This coast gets more than its share of rain. That grass is as soft and lush as it looks.

Plan B – an ocean swim at Apollo Bay

There was a strong offshore wind at Apollo Bay.  There was certainly some swell, but it was much smaller than forecast.  So, the pre-dawn photographic mission to Pt Campbell having been aborted and perhaps not a lot lost in terms of photographic opportunities, I settled for a solo swim in squally weather conditions at AB with my GoPro camera. What a contrast the offshore conditions at AB were to the wild white ocean at Castle Cove and points west.

The sea temp was 12°C, and the air temp (with wind chill) was in low single digits.  The continuous succession of squall lines brought heavy showers, and some hail. Great day for the Patagonia R3 wetsuit (and cap, and boots – call me soft if you must). I stayed warm. The offshore wind held this wave up and smoothed it out to this perfect form.

I swim a lot in this bay, mostly over distance. But the glassy green waves over the sandbar near shore drew me in on this occasion, and I spent my entire session in the water just swimming around aimlessly in and beyond the shore break, diving under waves, floating on my back, and enjoying the weather and the water.  Playing like a seal. I love looking along the line  of an unbroken wave just before it breaks.  I was the only person in the water and there was nobody on the beach. Very peaceful.

Toasty toes.

New squall and rain arriving, peppering me and the water surface with big raindrops. Previous squall line in the distance, partially obscuring Cape Patton.

The wind was strong, and the rain and hail pinged noisily of my cap. It’s a sound I enjoy.

These might looks like raindrops, but they are not. This is spray blown over the back of a breaking wave by the offshore wind. The wave was breaking immediately behind me when I took this photo. You can see the marked line where the spray stops, and beyond it is the calm water surface with not a drop of rain to be seen.  The nearest rain at this moment was in that disappearing squall line on the centre horizon. In strong offshore winds, spray blowing over the back of wave stings your face if you are immediately behind it, but in a good way.

All disturbances on the green water here are from spray blowing over the back of the breaking wave. Cruising up and down in this zone, being lifted and lowered by the lines of green swell about to break, is a favourite pastime of mine.

One of my favourite vantage points at Apollo Bay. Marriner’s lookout is on the horizon.

An insider’s view of a breaking wave.



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Power and beauty. Moderate swell breaking over a reef near Boneyards, west of Cape Patton.  This photo and the one below were taken a week or so ago, before the cold fronts arrived.

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A majestic solitary wave breaking over Little Henty Reef in the twilight.

Cold air from the roaring forties hits the West Coast

John Langmead_untitled_8326_20190711_OnlineJohn Langmead_untitled_8324_20190711_OnlineMid-July winter weather on the west coast of Victoria, Australia. Temperature range this day was 7°-12°C. Winds gusting to gale force. Wild seas west of Cape Otway. Air temp adjusted for wind chill in the early morning was +2°C. These strong onshore conditions continued unabated for a few days and brought heavy falls of snow to the Victorian Alps. The higher points of the Otways also received a light dusting of snow.


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A squall line approaching the dunes near Marengo. The sun is about to go out.

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The ocean at Castle Cove (at the western end of the Glen Aire Valley).  This is a regular surf break for local surfers. But not this day.  Intimidating conditions.

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It would be a very long paddle out to the right hander towards the horizon on the far right of the photo.  As for the paddle in, you would surely have to weigh up King Island as a more attractive option.  My solitary reverie on this eyrie was cut short by an unexpected single and very loud clap of thunder close enough to make me duck and quickly retreat to the car. I saw no lightning.  It was associated with the next squall line visible on the top right of the photo, which brought very heavy big-drop rain and strong wind gusts for a short period. Nature has its ways of keeping me humble and focussed.

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Sheep paradise in the hills behind Apollo Bay. A short burst of sun between the squall lines. Alpha sheep possibly contemplating an attack. When on safari I don’t push my luck. I was grateful for the shot, and for the fleeting but powerful moment in the wild of looking this magnificent creature in the eye. I then left quietly, and respectfully.

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Back in Apollo Bay, the gale force winds were offshore at Mounts Bay (the first bay directly south of Apollo Bay).  The groundswell generated in the roaring forties was rolling in perfect sets across the bay,  trailing a majestic mane of spray. The photo immediately below shows the same wave a few moments later.

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The Outer Henty bombie (3 kms or so ESE of Marengo Point) was working in these conditions. Fleeting moments of sunlight highlighted the spray blowing off this solitary wave. I’ve seen it much bigger, but it’s always a spectacle for its solitariness.

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Shore break made perfect by the strong offshore wind.

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Local border collie revelling in the shallows near Marengo.

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The cold water seemed to invigorate these two good mates who frolicked with great energy in the cold shallows. This was good natured play, and contrary to appearances, the smaller dog was not eaten by the larger dog. The smaller (and I suspect younger) dog kept coming back for more.

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Little Henty Reef lies a short distance off Marengo Point. It is home to a permanent (non-breeding) colony of 100 or more Australian fur seals (50 or so of whom managed to get in this photo). Crested terns, grounded by the weather, took the front row. Virtually all the seals chose to huddle together to stay dry and presumably warm, but one well fed specimen made an effort to strike a pose with his head held defiantly high in the strong winds. Lord of all he surveyed.  I liked his attitude. Far from being daunted, he seemed to revel in the conditions.


Bookends of a calmer day, a few days before the passage of the cold front.

Sunrise over Cape Patton, from Tuxion beach.

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L to R: the glow of the lights of Kennet River township; the lights of Skenes Creek township; the Milky Way; a ship at sea. Photo taken from Marriner’s Lookout. (Nikon D810, 15.0 second exposure, f/2.8, ISO 3200).