Sea kayaking microadventure – Changi Village to the East Coast SAF Yacht Club
When the alarm went at 6am on Saturday morning, neither myself or Stephanie were feeling particularly energetic. After a few minutes lying in bed procrastinating we got up, loaded our inflatable kayak (a.k.a ‘The Divorce Machine’) into the car and set off on our morning microadventure.
The plan was to paddle from Changi beach all the way down past Changi Airport and Changi Naval base to the East Coast parkway. During pre-planning I knew low tide was at 0653 and high tide was around 1320hrs but I was uncertain exactly what the currents would be doing around this complex area of coast. Our route following the coastline would take us in easterly, southerly and westerly directions. After last weeks struggle in the strong currents, wind and a thunder-storm to get back from St Johns Island to Sentosa (click here to read about that), I wanted to try to work the currents more to our advantage for future kayaking trips.
The morning was calm and perfect for paddling as we parked beside the Changi Ferry Terminal and set-up the Divorce Machine. We are getting faster at setting her up and in 15 minutes set off paddling at 0720hrs. We followed closely to the shoreline as we headed out in the direction of a very narrow spit of reclaimed land called ‘Changi Finger’. I had been told the current speed picks up to a very high-speed coming around ‘Changi Finger’ (in the order of 3+ m/s depending on tide) and to be careful in this area. So I was a little nervous at how we would manage getting around the tip of the finger.
It’s over 5km of fairly boring paddling to get out to the end of Changi finger. We took a rest beside a large clam-shell dredger which was working digging up huge mouthfuls of sand. Up until this point staying close to the shoreline, the current speed had been negligible. But rounding the tip of Changi finger the sea was a bubbling mess as the currents collided. We had to paddle as hard as we could to get through this section as the Divorce Machine twisted and bucked in the waves. Gradually the currents eased off as we got further away from the tip of the finger. Next we had a large bay to cross to get to Changi Naval base. Crossing this turned out to be a real slog. We took the shortest route, a 6km straight line which took us far from the shore.
Now I don’t want to be one to point fingers however being in the front seat, I was not sensing a great deal of paddling input coming from the skipper of the Divorce Machine seated behind me. Stephanie later admitted she was feeling really tired and had been having a few ‘rest breaks’. To make things harder, the currents in the bay go in two opposing directions. The first 4km we were paddling into the current. This was exhausting and I began to get really tired. I paddled for 100 strokes at a time then rested.
We finally got close to the Changi Naval base where the currents reverse direction and the going got easier. As we rounded the south-eastern tip of Singapore Island and the long break water of Changi Naval base, the sea became choppy and the Divorce Machine started taking on water. When she is dry she glides through the water like the S$2000 dream machine she is. However when she takes on water she behaves more like a pregnant bathtub and becomes hard work to paddle. We had also forgotten to bring a container or sponge to bail her out with so Stephanie used our water bottle to attempt to empty some of the water. We finally got around the choppy waters of Changi Naval base and started to head west with the currents towards the east coast of Singapore. By this stage we were both really tired. The day was starting to get very hot with the sun blazing and glaring off the water. I had not drunk enough water and had a splitting dehydration headache. The SAF yacht club was a welcome sight as the first point in a few km where we could get into shore safely.
We gratefully and slowly paddled in and ended the voyage here. Even though we only paddled 13.6km, it took 2 hours and 50 minutes and was tiring working against the currents. I was feeling completely knackered and well in need of some food and drink. We deflated the Divorce Machine here, loaded her into a taxi and headed back up to Changi beach car park to pick up the car. I started to feel a little normal again after powering down a beautiful plate of Ayam Penyet (Malay style fried chicken) and drinking a fresh coconut in Changi Village hawker centre.
We both agreed that the Southern Islands and Pulau Ubin paddle are more scenic than this area of coastline. It is a good trip to build paddling fitness. In the future I plan a longer paddle and to finish another 12 km down the East Coast at Mana Mana. This would make a trip of 25km in total.
This blog is listed under a section on my website called ‘Microadventure’. Microadventures are cheap simple adventures close to home. A chap named Alistair Humphreys coined the phrase ‘microadventure’, you can read about him here. I will continue to add more microadventures to my website to give people idea’s and inspiration to go on your own adventures. If you do go on your own, I would love to hear about them and do drop me a line!