Let the sound of these roll off your tongue: Coffin Bay, Phantom Cove, Point Avoid, Seasick Bay, Morgans Landing… Picture of a XVII-XVIII century immediately comes into your mind, doesn’t it?.. Valiant British sailors and fearless pirates sailing in the Great Australian Bight and trying to ground at exactly this point of the South Australian coast. It seems, the landing was not given to them so easy!
All of these names are beaches, bays and coves of one and a very small tortuous spur on the South-West side of the Eyre Peninsula, where the Coffin Bay national park is located. Can you believe, almost each of these sites is a flying place! Yo-ho-ho! Hoist the Jolly Roger!
In January 2013, during our trip to Eucla we managed to miss Eyre Peninsula altogether and therefore Coffin Bay, too. The only place we’d visited there were the huge impressive white sand dunes of Ceduna at the North of the peninsula. Thanks to local OZ pilots we have been meeting here and there during our travels: they told us about dunes of Coffin Bay.
The specific feature of these dunes, according to the pilots’ stories and Google maps, is the presence of slopes in almost every wind direction. Even for the North wind, which blows from the continent! It was very, very tempting for us. Have a look at the map of the South Australian coast: often there are more than a hundred kilometers between the south-western and south-eastern beaches and, with the continent itself to the north, we never expected to find north facing slopes for northwinds.
Now imagine, Coffin Bay is one tiny peninsula with the slopes for all wind directions! You can literally fly every day when it is not calm. When it is calm you can swim in a bay: it is shallow and the water is warm. The place seemed to be so perfect from the description, we could even organize a public Malibu Tour here in future! We desperately needed to scout out this place.
First, there was only three of us: Gerolf, Anton and I. A couple days later a fourth member of our adventure, Lukas Bader, joined our company. Meanwhile we got used to the little town of Coffin Bay, and found a new awesome location: a beautiful apartment on the bay designed in a maritime style.
How great was our flying! At first, we just could not have enough of discovering and exploring new places, swooping over all these various beaches. We were visiting a new beach each day, changing the routes, following the winds.
Most often we flew at Almonta beach.The wind favored those slopes the most. Almonta has low sandy dunes which are so easy to climb back up on when you happen to bomb out along the way while showing off. Behind the dunes there is a little kind of ridge and, if you are good, you can gain more altitude there. In the West-side of the beach the dunes turn into a rather high (fifty meters or so) rocky cliff with the tourists’ parking spot and lookout on top. There you can either show off in front of the tourists (oh, what happens to the pilots when they feel the viewfinders of tourists’ cameras looking at them!) or climb higher and hover in place to enjoy the beautiful view. Believe me, there is always something to look at!
From Almonta we could jump over to Gunyah beach – thanks to our VGs. We also got to fly on the Sensation beach, where we didn’t find anything really sensational, except being able to drive our car to the beach and having good flying the whole day long. On Long Beach we found the shortest dune of all, though the highest and a very sandy one. We also found some nameless huge and flyable mountains of sand behind Gunyah Beach.
Seven Miles Beach oriented for north winds, looks fantastic: huge sand dunes, high and located right next to the water, without any steps of smaller dunes in between as usually happens. You can drive your car to the foot of the sand hill. Or you can sail here on a boat! Unfortunately, there wasn’t a strong enough north wind when we were there. So we just explored the place during the calm, and swam in the warm and shallow lagoon.
The roads we were driving is a story on its own… the Pajero saved us and helped us many times. Often we were traveling without any roads: over the mountains of sand or by the beach. We had to learn to distinguish «dangerous» and «non-dangerous» sands in terms of off-road driving. Many roads which lead to good dune beaches were barely passable. We would not have gotten there without 4WD.
Sometimes Lukas was taking a risk and was driving on his mini-bus on dirty roads. Sometimes we had to pull him out after that. By the way, we tested the method of pushing the bamper of the car by another’s car bamper. It does not work!
But all the difficulties worth it. We explored new flying sites, flew more than in all of our previous Malibu tours together, learned a lot from the point of the tourist-traveler view, and worked out new team flying tricks.
A public Malibu tour to Coffin Bay can be and should be organized, though I still don’t know if we will do this because the trip is expensive and who knows where to find those who need this adventure as much as we did?
What is also important is by what degree pilots in a company are team players. It’s quite a long expedition, sometimes quite hard and stressful: you have to carry gliders, help each other and act on a common plan, face dangerous conditions sometimes. And if someone starts to pull a blanket over himself then the conflicts will begin. The main thing here is a properly selected team, able to always be friendly and constructive, even when the situation is difficult.
We were lucky: our little team was wonderful, the weather conditions were flyable, and the expedition was successfully conducted.
Full story in Zhenya’s blog.