Training and Assessment Weekends [10]

by Mark Shrimpton ACF. Snr Instructor

Australian Canoe Federation Sea Proficiency (Kayak) Award Scheme

What is it about?

The award scheme is centred around a progressive logical sequence of techniques. This enables more skills to be built upon skills already learnt and so build up a very high level of competence.

It is also an opportunity for the many experienced paddlers already in the club to continue to teach and pass on their very valuable knowledge to the less experienced.

The Sea Proficiency Award is a nationally recognised standard of allround kayaking ability involving a knowledge and understanding of seamanship, technical skills, and self sufficiency as a sate member of a touring party on the sea under the guidance of a competent leader. (See syllabus)

Training Weekends

These weekends whilst remaining informal and fun, will generally have a more focused approach to learning and experience and skills. Weekends may include camping or cheap waterside bunkhouse accommodation, day trips, night paddle, an overnight expedition camp, evening slide show, BBQ and loads of laughs…

We all I am sure would like to know more about our sport whether it is discussing the latest bit of gear, the innovative adaptions of equipment in others boats, rescues, tows, eskimo rolling, or planning overnight expeditions etc.

It matters not whether you want to gain an award! This is not an attempt to pursue certification and stifle your enjoyment of paddling! It is your choice what and how much you wish to do.

What matters is that as sea kayakists we develop a sound understanding of using and adapting our technical skills, having a good knowledge of equipment, and develop the attitudes necessary to be safe with others afloat.

Looking forward to chatting with you and enjoying your company on the water sometime.


Sea Proficiency Award – Kayak Only [10]

The purpose of this test is to ensure that the candidates have sufficient knowledge and skill to enable them to take their kayaks to sea under a competent leader.

The test must be taken at sea, under moderate conditions. Allowance will be made by the examiners if conditions are rough, but the kayak skills must be performed in a competent manner. For reasons of safety, four kayaks will participate. The test will not be taken in a flat calm.

The candidates will:

  • Present themselves suitably equipped for the test.
  • Present for inspection the following items, which must be both suitable and serviceable:

    • Kayak, paddle and spray cover.
    • Practical deckline system. (It is recommended that decklines be continuous along both sides of the craft, fastened at regular intervals).
    • Positive buoyancy in kayak.
    • Life jacket or buoyancy vest to I.C.F standards.
    • Repair kit and simple first aid kit.
    • Rudder and steering gear if fitted. It is recommended that the kayak be fitted with rudder and steering gear, but it is not essential.
    • Waterproof container/s.
    • Sponge.
  • Pack waterproof container/s with the necessary items for a 1 day tour and stow it/them in the kayak for the duration of the test.
  • In addition to those items listed above, the following will be included:

    • Spare clothing
    • Packed lunch
    • Emergency food
    • Matches
    • Torch
    • Compass
    • Fresh water
    • Emergency space blanket

    It is important to note that items may be added or altered to suit local conditions.

  • Demonstrate

    • Launching and embarking. Then paddle at least 50 metres offshore into deep water, i.e, well out of their depth
    • Efficient paddling technique forwards and backwards.
    • Turning the kayak 360 degrees in both directions by using sweep strokes. If the kayak is fitted with a rudder, whilst paddling evenly on both sides turn the kayak again in both directions, this time steering with the rudder only.
    • Emergency stops, forwards and backwards.
    • Drawing the kayak sideways in both directions.
    • Support strokes
    • Paddle brace high and low, on left and right sides
    • Stern rudder
  • Demonstrate:

    • Bringing the kayak alongside a jetty or another kayak
    • Bringing the kayak into a beach forwards, sideways and backwards in small surf
  • Perform capsize drill, followed by a deep water rescue with partners. Take charge of a rescue and then act as a capsized patient.
  • Prove that they can swim then swim 100 metres in canoeing clothing and buoyancy aid. Swim under a kayak and surface on the other side.
  • Answer questions on:

    • Practical experience, giving firm evidence of having taken part in at least 3 one-day expeditions at sea.
    • Safety precautions applying particularly to the kayak at sea.
    • The general effects of tide, current and wind.
    • Local rescue services.
    • Local waters and conditions.
    • Elementary chart reading.

Notes for Examiners:

  • You are looking for a competent, safe performance rather than a superlative one. Be clear in your mind what standard is expected.
  • Your object is to find out what the candidate does know and can do, rather then the reverse. Be sure to give the candidate further opportunity to prove him/herself.
  • Plan the test carefully beforehand, with particular reference to the questions you will ask. You may take the items in the test in any order.
  • Use your discretion in determining where weakness in part of the test can be offset by an otherwise good performance but do not be afraid to fail a candidate who is not up to standard.
  • To rate as a qualifying expedition the journey must have been on open water. The coastline may be simple, not involving overfalls, tidal races, difficult landings, or open crossings. Not more then one trip shall be carried out on an estuary. There must have been a minimum wind strength of force 2. The trip must have involved three hours paddling with a lunch break in which the candidate was self-sufficient for food and drink. At least one journey must be on an entirely different area of sea to the other two.

President’s Note [10]

By Ray Abrahall

Welcome to all new members, who will soon receive a current club contact list together with notice of the next meeting.

Use of the list, along with participation in programmed trips increases the chance of meeting other paddlers of similar interests, needs and abilities.

Hope to see you on the water – safe and enjoyable paddling to all.


Opportunities for members to develop their skills has always been prominent in club trip programmes. This emphasis continues in the coming months.

Remember: He who is not prepared today will be less so tomorrow (Qui non est hodie, cras minus aptus erit)
Ovip, Remediorum Amoris 1. 94.

A Little Story [10]

By Mark Shrimpton ACF. Senior Instructor

Tension mounted on the water. Five sea kayakists on a day trip to a small group of islands off the coast had started in fine sunny weather, but now the situation had rapidly changed….

The group had begun two hours earlier from the boat ramp with a vague briefing from the trip leader as to what he had planned. The group were unknown to each other and eager eyes searched other peoples boats for some clue as to what they should pack for the day. Without any help forthcoming they look to the water ….

In the bay the tension relaxed a little as the warm day and the relief at being finally on the water prompted casual conversation. Rounding the headland and sighting the small group of islands the sea state changed as the current was steepened against the wind. By now two paddlers were a mile ahead of the rest heading for the horizon, the other less experienced paddlers were finding it hard to stay upright in the big swell.

Each person was quickly reflecting on what they had learnt since the day recently when they had bought their shiny new sea kayaks. Clinging to this little knowledge they put their heads down whilst their kayaks were surged one way and the next with each successive wave. John, distressed and getting very tired and cold, was now 400m behind.

Up ahead the other two were surging forward on the face of each wave with a couple of well-timed paddle strokes followed by light paddle control with a stern rudder which kept them on course.

The inevitable happened…! In the middle group first one paddler capsized and as if it was a contagious disease the other soon followed…

I leave you to make your own conclusions …

Gunnamatta Bay to Wattamola and Return [10]

By Trevor Farrell

Ken Harvey and I arrived at Cronulla boat ramp at 8:45am to find Norm Bull and David Saxton busy loading their boats. Shortly afterwards Ken McDonald arrived.

We took off at 9:20am for a full days paddle. Heading up Gunnamatta Bay against a southerly we made our way out past Cronulla and Bundeena. Norm set the pace for the day and by staying behind him we all stayed together for the duration of the paddle.

Turning south at the entrance to Port Hacking we headed out between the bombora and the cliffs of Jibbon Headland. The two metre swell, as well as the southerly blowing added some thrills. My stomach was telling me to concentrate wholly on the paddling to overcome the feelings of sea sickness. Ken was constantly keeping a check on all paddlers ensuring our safety and enjoyment.

It took us over two hours to reach Little Marley where we looked forward to having lunch. Ken called us together just outside the surf zone so as to explain the correct way to beach the canoes. At first it looked impossible as we had two swells to contend with, one was coming into Big Marley and the other into Little Marley. Timing was the critical factor with judging the right time between swells to paddle into the beach. We all made it to the beach to enjoy our lunch break and met some people from the Illawarra Canoe Club. They were part of a protest walk through the Royal National Park to highlight the need to repair the coastal walking track.

After lunch we made our way down to the entrance of Wattamolla and began our journey home. By this time the southerly had died right down. So all we had to contend with was a large swell behind us. Over the whole day we did not see another boat, maybe they had more sense or we were just more adventurous.

We arrived back at Cronulla at 3:30pm and farewelled Ken as he headed off to Audley which was another 1.5 hours paddle upstream. A great day was had by all. We gained lots of experience and many thanks to Ken for organising the trip. He proved to be a very competent and experienced leader.

When it’s Time to Say Enough is Enough [10]

By Norman Bull

I decided to write this article after a close encounter in October with a power boat on the Lane Cove River. This was more than a case of someone just casually going past a little too close – which is nerve-wracking enough anyway – and was, in fact deliberate harrassment and verbal abuse. A good enough reason to say “enough is enough”! I thought club members may also be interested in the excellent response I got from the MSB.

The day after the incident occurred I called the MSB and gave a Waterways Officer all the details. The next step was to put the details in writing, addressed to the particular Waterways Officer who has responsibility for the Lane Cove River.

A copy of my letter follows but without the maps which were attached to the original. I hope that the letter will help fellow members understand why I got so steamed up and it may also be a useful example of how to put a complaint in writing.

Mr …….
207 Kent Street
Sydney 2000

Dear Mr ……

The following is an account of some events which I described in a telephone call to Ms ……. on 14 October. The events described took place on the Lane Cove River on Sunday 13 October.

At 12.30 p.m. I was paddling a kayak upstream at location A on the attached map. I was on the right-hand side of the river, approximately 20 metres from the bank. A power boat passed me on my left side from astern at high speed, The power boat was very close – I would estimate the distance at about two metres, but it was hard to judge the distance accurately because by the time I realised what was happening it had gone past. My kayak and I were splashed with water i.e not just fine spray. Some of the occupants of the power boat were looking back and laughing, so I believe the action was a deliberate “prank”.

At this stage I had only a general impression of an open fibreglass power boat with a number of young men and/or boys on board.

At about 1.00 p.m. I saw this power boat pulled up on the right hand bank at location B on the attached map. It was stern-on to the river, so I paddled close to it so that I could get its registration number and some other identification details. Another power boat was anchored roughly mid-stream at this location. Some trees obscured the side of the boat I was watching, however as the occupants were pushing it back into the water I waited until I could read the registration. I was about 10 metres away.

The skipper called out the following to me:

“What’s your problem? F*** off your silly old c*** or I’ll f***ing ram you.”

I did not reply, making a mental note of the registration number and then continuing upstream. The power boat driver did not carry out his threat and turned his boat downstream i.e. away from me.

I would describe the boat as follows:

  • Registration : …..
  • Approximately 15-18 feet long, fibreglass, clinker hull.
  • Blue hull with white trim. The registration number is white, and the name ….. (or something like that) in white cursive script astern of the registration number.

There were about six or seven occupants who I think were all male in their late teens or early twenties. The skipper was slim with short dark hair.

I would be pleased to assist you in any way with your follow-up to this incident. I may be contacted at home on 876 2494 and also during office hours care of 2515622.

Yours sincerely

Norman Bull

The Follow-Up

A couple of days after hand delivering the letter, I called the Waterways Officer as I had been told he would be in the office then. I was impressed with his interest in the case. When I telephoned he already had on hand the details of the owner of the boat and was able to tell me the owner has a son in the right age group, with a speedboat licence.

Calling him into the MSB office for a personal interview would probably not be productive as I had no witnesses and it would be a case of “my word against several of theirs”. Instead, the Waterways Officer explained, the practical course of action was for him to watch the activities of that particular power boat, knowing that another infringement of safety rules was inevitable. He promised to contact me with some feedback as soon as something happened.

Three weeks later he called me with the news that he had found the person who had harassed me, exceeding the speed limit in Darling Harbour with an expired licence. So, although that person will never know why he was getting special attention, the fine he received may at least encourage him to slow down and be more careful in future.

The support I received from the MSB encourages my belief that kayak paddlers do not need to put up with dangerous behaviour from power boat drivers. It seems that the MSB will do whatever it can to help when told about a safety incident. I would encourage all club members to report any such incidents in the interests of safer boating for everyone. Kayaks are small and sometimes difficult to see, but that does not excuse ignorance and irresponsibility on the part of other people.

Some Suggestions

  1. Do your best to avoid collisions. Follow the rules – this includes keeping to the right of the channel and using the correct lights at night Safety depends on all of us doing the right thing.
  2. Don’t think you have to put up with dangerous and anti-social behaviour. Consider carrying a Chinagraph pencil where you can reach it, so that you can write down a registration number and boat description on the deck of your kayak. Hopefully you won’t need to use it!
  3. If you are still mad when you get home after someone has nearly run you down, call the MSB as soon as possible and follow up in writing. Get the names of the people you speak to at the MSB.
  4. When you get the kind of results I did, write a thank you note to the person concerned (or better still – a letter of praise to his or her boss!)

Advanced Sea Award – Kayak Only [10]

The purpose of this test is to ensure that the successful candidates have sufficient knowledge and skill to take parties on advanced sea journeys with safety. The candidates must give evidence (i.e. log book) to satisfy the examiner that they have taken part in at least six advanced trips, totalling at least 30 hours, and have assisted the leader on at least two trips. The candidate must hold the Sea Proficiency Award which will be produced at the time at the testing. The test will be conducted on the sea, in an advanced situation.

The candidate will:

  • Present suitable equipment for the test. (Refer to Sea Proficiency).
  • Demonstrate control in advanced surfing techniques: i.e. in forwards, sideways and backwards approaches: rolling on broken waves, launching through surf and coping with dumping situations. The candidate must reveal the ability to handle 1-2 metre surf competently.
  • Demonstrate and take charge of, with partners:

    • A deep water rescue.
    • An eskimo roll.
  • Demonstrate an efficient means of towing.
  • Present evidence of an accredited resuscitation award.
  • Answer questions on the following, with the aid of a chart where necessary:

    • Repairs and maintenance.
    • The causes of tides and tidal streams, and how to allow for them.
    • The use of a compass.
    • Sea conditions and effects of winds, particularly on:

      • shelving bottom,
      • rips,
      • tide races,
      • lee shore,
      • overfalls
    • The means of obtaining, and understanding, weather forecasts.
    • Group leadership and control.
    • Estuary canoeing, coastal touring and provisions for along various coast types, e.g., beach, cliffs.
    • Types of canoes and equipment.
    • General sea canoeing knowledge.
    • Particular health risks associated with sea canoeing.
  • Plan a sea canoeing expedition of two to three days duration, in detail, from an unfamiliar chart and tide tables. The candidate will demonstrate how to lay off a course to allow for winds and/or current.
  • Be able to demonstrate the ability to paddle a compass course with external reference for a suitable period of time.

An advanced journey is one that is undertaken on open water as defined for sea proficiency, and involving a minimum of five hours paddling for which the candidate is totally self-sufficient. At least 3 trips must include an open crossing where the canoeist is committed to a minimum distance of three nautical miles from shore for a minimum distance of one mile’s paddling. At least 3 trips must include a passage along a no-landing zone (e.g., sheer cliffs) of at least seven nautical miles. Recorded wind speeds of force 3-5 with an average wave height of 1 metre. Shorter trips may be counted providing the wind speed was greater than force 6.

The logged journeys must have been carried out in three different sea areas.