Offshore Winds [26]

Those Deceptive But ‘orrible Offshore Winds

By Paul Caffyn

Wind is the curse of sea kayakers. It generates the bulk of problems that arise, choppy seas, capsizes, wind chill, weather tide effects, surf and so on.

There is however an exception; a following breeze, or one quartering from astern, can be a real boon in aiding progress through surfing rides. A breeze on the beam requires continuous corrections for drift and more concentration on balancing the boat. A breeze on the nose, or quartering from the bow, generates soul destroying, tiring, very wet, slogs.

The most deceptive and horrible wind blows offshore. Deceptive in that conditions may appear flat calm against shore with a light breeze wafting offshore, but with increasing distance offshore wind strength increases dramatically. Cliffed coastlines or those with marked topographic relief such as dune ridges, or swathes of forest, are particularly deceptive. Lurking sea kayaker traps are wherever those continuous cliffs or dune ridges are broken by gorges, fiords, steep sided valleys and narrow entrance bays.

Recently I received a swag of E mail messages from Sandy Ferguson relating to a party of New South Wales sea kayakers who were subjected to the deceptive but ‘orrible offshore winds at Jervis Bay, south of Sydney. I can sympathise with the N.S.W. paddlers’ predicament, for yours truly was caught during the Australian trip a long way offshore immediately south of Jervis Bay by a sudden, dramatic wind shift, that left me with such a struggle against an offshore wind that I felt like throwing in the towel and abandoning the trip. Limping into the lee of St. Georges Head I coined the phrase, ‘Wind was definitely the curse of the canoeing class.’

An article on offshore winds is pertinent, particularly after the article by John RamweII in the last magazine on the Lyme Bay tragedy.

Wind Strength

Above an altitude of 500 to 600m, wind has an unobstructed flow over the sea while below that height, there is increasing frictional or drag effect between the air and the surface over which the wind is blowing, resulting in a diminishing of wind speed as the ground or sea is approached.

The amount of wind strength reduction depends on the nature of the surface; over forested hilly terrain the air flow will be less than that over open sea because of greater frictional drag.

Approximate values have been determined for frictional drag: over open sea a wind 500m above the sea reduces by about 33% at sea level, while over land the reduction is 66%. Thus a 30 knot wind at 500m will produce a 20 knot wind over the sea and 10 knots over land.

There is where the ‘deceptive’ description for offshore wind applies, for a factor of 50% can be applied to wind when it blows from land out to sea. A gentle breeze of 6 knots inland becomes a moderate wind of 12 knots offshore and a 15 knot wind inland becomes a near gale of 30 knots at sea.

The height and nature of a coastline govern the zone width of calm, sheltered water in offshore wind conditions:

a. a long beach with a low sand dune ridge providing minimum relief, dictates a minimum width with the offshore wind felt at the water’s edge.

b. a continuous line of vertical cliffs will provide a maximum width of calm, sheltered water, naturally depending on the height of the cliffs which govern where the offshore wind hits the sea

The obvious problem with offshore winds is being blown offshore. Where there is no off-lying shelter, such as a reef or island, and the next continent is thousands of miles away, the chances of survival without a radio or batphone are zilch. I maintain that once a wind rises over 30 knots, paddling progress into the wind grinds to a halt.

Any misadventure such as a dropped paddle or capsize, both occurred with two paddlers off lervis Bay, resulting in instant seawards drift and a greater distance to reach shore after recovering from the misadventure.

By way of example to those who have yet to experience such conditions, I struck diabolical offshore conditions during my first day in the Bering Sea, on the northern side of the Alaska Peninsula with a gale force wind blowing offshore over a low dune ridge and flat tundra inland. The sea was flat calm, a low surge against a gravel beach, wind ripples close inshore and an increasing density of whitecaps with distance out from the beach. Deceptively good paddling conditions, but bear in mind the 50% increase in wind strength from land to sea, and conditions more than 10m offshore were well beyond my limit to reach the beach. I spent many hours crabbing my way along the beach, the kayak at a 45 degree angle to the line of the beach to check offshore wind drift, the bow rising and falling against the beach with each surge. I was fully aware of the risk, realising the next stop offshore was the ice pack and unbearable polar bear country.

At the base of a long continuous line of cliffs, excellent shelter is afforded in strong offshore winds. Steep hillsides close to the coast, continuous dune Adges and tall forest also offer shelter dose to a beach.

But wherever that continuous line of shelter is broken abruptly, for instance by a narrow fiord, narrow bay or harbour entrance, gorge, river or stream valley, the offshore wind is funnelled through that break with unbridled force, causing williwaws and violent gusts or bullets of wind. And it is the violence of the turbulence that can cause the loss of a paddle or a capsize.

Manye sheltered bays and harbours have narrow entrances which open back into broad areas of calm water. Jervis Bay in New South Wales is a classic sheltered bay, which has a narrow entrance with tall cliffed headlands on both sides and we have many such examples in New Zealand. Offshore winds funnel through such narrow entrances with double or triple the wind strength of that inland.

Also where a continuous line of cliffs of steep coastline is broken by a headland or cape projecting seawards, increasing wind strength must be expected often accompanied by williwaws and strong gusts or bullets of wind.

What to Look For

An increasing density of whitecaps with progressive distance offshore are the best indicator of strong offshore winds, along with spray fanning seawards off breaking wave crests.

White spray dancing over the water, indicates a wind funnel with bullet like gusts of wind lifting spray off the sea.

Suggestions for Remedial Action

  1. If an offshore wind is blowing at the launch site, be prepared to abort or shorten the length of the trip.
  2. if caught in a sudden or gradual change to an offshore wind, turn tail immediately and run for the beach or nearest shelter. Sea conditions will deteriorate as the wind continues to blow offshore.
  3. When faced by a wind violently funnelling out of a harbour or fiord etc., either return to the launch site or attempt to land and wait until the wind strength abates.

    Patience is the order of the day. If there is any doubt, it is better to wait.

  4. When caught on an exposed coast by a change to offshore wind conditions, hug the coast intimately, even if this adds considerably to the distance paddled for example by paddling around the curve of a bay.
  5. Do not make straight line crossings of the narrow entrances to bays, fiords or harbours. Paddle upwind into the feature far enough before kicking out on the crossing. This is to combat ensuing wind and chop drift during the crossing and ensure reaching the far side safely.

Weather Forecasts

Marine forecasts relate to powered vessels and not paddler powered kayaks. Offshore winds commonly knock down the sea state, diminishing swell size and generating reasonable fishing conditions for powered vessels. Listen to the marine forecast and if the stated wind direction is offshore in your area, be extra wary before commencing a paddle. We know forecasts are not always accurate, hence a final decision to paddle or not must be made at the launch site.

Points to Remember

  1. Offshore wind conditions are deceptive, with calm water and light breezes against the beach. Always look for whitecaps offshore.
  2. Wind strength increases by 50% when passing from land to open sea.
  3. Narrow topographic features funnel offshore winds, with dramatic turbulence.

(With reference to the now infamous Jervis Bay incident – wind speeds measured at the airbase on the south west side of JB at 4pm on that day averaged 27 knots gusting to 35. This wind then travelled over a fetch of 12 km before meeting up with our paddlers (and I was one of them) as they rounded Point Perpendicular. Paul Caffyns factor of 50% would mean we faced gusts of up to 70 knots – veritable supermen! Comment from our experienced sea paddlers who wish to argue with the sea-kayaking legends theory are welcome and should be directed to the Dear Editor page – Ed.)

Workshop Reviews [26]

Setting up Your Kayak

By David Winkworth

One of a series of workshops which were presented at the Club ‘s Annual Rock ‘n Roll weekend

You stand astride your shiny new kayak – spinning power drill in one hand, sealant cartridge gun in the other! “Where to start” you wonder.

Cease, … Desist, … Halt!

There may be a better way.

Setting up a kayak is something very paddler has to do. That is every paddler who is serious about ocean paddling. Let’s think about it because what we’re doing here is equipping a living room cum kitchen cum bathroom on the ocean. It’s pretty cramped I know but it is where you ARE when out on the sea. It’s also a survival capsule when things get tough.

How much time and effort you put into it depends on how you see yourself, your boat and what sort of paddling you intend doing.

I don’t intend in this article to give you all the answers (because I don’t have them ) but maybe you can pick up a few hints. Let’s get started:

If you already have a boat that’s what you’ll be working on. If you are still looking around for a suitable craft my advice is to try as many as you can – either at the shops or at club paddles but preferably at both. Sit in all of them, twist around, stretch forward, lean far back, try a few rolls. Ask lots of questions be a real pest but don’t worry because you’re the one spending the money. YOU have to be happy.

It’s rare that any of us make modifications to the hulls of kayaks we buy (unless they meet rocks at speed) but the cockpits and decks are a different matter. That is where we make the changes and additions. Obviously some mods are easier to make in the manufacturing stage – things like seat heights, flush deck fittings etc. If you know what you want when purchasing a boat, ASK for it! Manufacturers want your business. If they can’t or won’t accommodate your wishes, go somewhere else.

Now, put your boat out on the lawn and hop in. Lean as far forward and as far back as you can with an outstretched hand. This then is your limit of influence out at sea. Everything that happens outside of this is beyond your control. Now, of course you say “Well, I can hop out of the cockpit, slip over the side and get a chocolate bar from the front hatch” ….Of course you can but better you than me in the middle of winter in 30 knot wind!

As I sit here at the typewriter arguing with myself in print, I should also mention that it’s probably not wise to depend on a fellow paddler to fetch items from out of your reach on your boat. You MAY be in conditions where this is quite difficult.

So, you should look at having everything you MAY need within reach. Let’s look at some examples – there will be others but these are basic;

Water: On a long hot day with no landing, you’ll need a few litres. Where are you going to put it? Can you get the bottle lid off easily. Can you get at the bottle easily AND confidently in a choppy sea? If your storage area is a day hatch, does it matter if vour storare area is a day hatch, does it matter if the hatch fills with water when the lid is off? Is your storage area wave proof. DO NOT underestimate the power of surf!

Food: Where do you put it? Can you eat it in rough conditions? Can you store enough for a full day.

Extra Clothing: Obviously this will be thermals or fibre-pile right? Where will you carry it…Equally importantly, can you put it on if you have to at sea? (Better practise this one.)

Paddling Jacket or Cag: Comments as above.

The little bits: such as compass, knife, rope, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen. There are probably a few others – all the items that seem insignificant until a big wave sweeps them away. They can then assume monumental importance when needed Perhaps we could also add torch, parafoil kite, fishing gear, tow rope. Building up quite a list now but it is all needed at various times. At other times, it’s nice to know it’s there IF needed….a couple more items: flares, radio, EPIRB perhaps.

As I see it, there are 5 storage options for this stuff – let’s go through them:

  1. Day hatch – behind paddler. See comments above re water container
  2. Rear deck – you’ll need some sort of netting or a bag. Some gear stored here is difficult to access and can also roll around possibly de-stabilizing your boat. Bulky items such as PFD’s stored here can increase weathercocking. Rear decks are the location-of-choice for spare paddles. Are they surf-proof? It would be nice if you didn’t have to remove them to get into the rear hatch. Norm Sanders and Mark Pearson have solved this problem by locating their rear hatches ON the rear bulkhead. Clever.
  3. On your Person – obviously there is a limit to what you can stuff into the pockets of a PFD and still paddle comfortably.
  4. Cockpit – the location-of-choice for 1ots of stuff. You can reduce cockpit volume by storing items in there but make sure that everything stays where you put it – ie well secured, and that the gear does not hinder you in a rescue re-entry. Also, can you replace the sprayskirt quickly before the next wave hits!
  5. Foredeck – a useful storage area for small items. The limit here is that items are exposed to waves and care must be taken that bulky items do not force a change to your paddling stroke clearance of the deck.

Let’s have a quick look at safety items in your boat set-up, How are you going to get all the water out of the cockpit after a rescue? Hand pump, footpump, bailer perhaps. Look at all the options. Some pumps are pure junk because they move such low volumes with each stroke. Something for you to investigate and maybe the subject of a future article Mr Editor? You may also think about pumping out a front hatch that is leaking. That’s a bit more difficult!

Decklines are a necessity as are some form of bow and stern grab loops or toggles. An interesting point here and one worthy of debate around a campfire: If decklines on a boat are continuous: ie passing up either side of the cockpit, and the paddler had the misfortune to snap their boat in two at the cockpit, would it be better that the two pieces of boat are still connected even if they will hinder the paddler during an unglorified wet exit OR would it be preferable to terminate decklines forward and aft of the cockpit and so have two separate pieces of boat bobbing on the ocean?

An important point from the above article is that whatever system or set-up you choose, it MUST work in rough conditions. Almost anything will work on calm seas but when the wind is blowing hard from the west and the seas are rising and you are still a few hours from home, small problems become BIG problems very quickly. I’ll let you get back to the drill now.

Secretary/Treasurer’s Report [26]

By Arunas Pilka

I’ve still not heard from C. Brett, who is a paid up member with no address details. So, if anyone sees an unknown male paddler on the water please ask if he is C. Brett. I also have the wrong address for P. Chidgey, so if anyone paddles with Phil, please ask him to call me.

South Coast News [26]

By David Winkworth

Well, it looks like I’m doing the South Coast News again – come back Nick, all is forgiven! If anyone would like to write this column or send me some interesting news items, please give me a call. Actually that is what this column started as – just a news column from some of “us south coast paddlers’.’ Alright, lets see what’s in the folder for this issue…..

Firstly I suppose it’s the recent “Crash and Burn Spectacular” ….the Pancake Paddle at Mystery Bay. Three boats were badly damaged on the Saturday…all on the rocks. Two of these rock connections were easily avoidable. We hope you guys (neuter gender) will be at the upcoming skills weekend at Honeymoon Bay in April! It was funny last weekend….there were a lot of guys looking at the plastic boats there muttering things like..”Yep, that’ll be my next boat” or “plastic might be OK after all “

Seriously though, the paddlers with damaged boats and maybe a few others too should look very carefully at the sea conditions next time me and ask themselves 2 questions..

  1. Do I have the skills yet to handle these conditions? (forget the “maybe I can sneak past in a lull” approach. Consider your skill level when a big set is upon you.)
  2. Do I need to test my skill level in this hostile environment (ie proximity of rocks and reef).

Sick of being ripped off for sleeping mat foam to pad your cockpit out? Yes? I’ve found a place where you can get seconds of various thicknesses of foam in 8’x 4′ sheets for about $15.00 each. There is a slight catch though. If you want them to post it to you, you’ll have to order a few sheets and cop postage charges too. If you go there in person, you’ll have pick of the pile.

The place is

Thermoplastic Foam Industries
18 Dignity Cres.
West Gosford NSW 2250
Phone: 02 4323 2993
Fax 02 4323 1925

Ask for Anne Germon.

Where has summer gone this year? It’s not that it’s been cold so much… We seem to have missed out on heatwave conditions. Also, the nor ‘easters don’t seem to have been as strong for as long as in previous years. What do you reckon Norm! Can we pin this 1ot an the French in the Pacific?

President’s Report [26]

By Dirk Stuber

Our congratulations to Mark Pearson and team for a superb magazine. The results from the survey show a high level of satisfaction from members. So keep up the good work. Our appreciation should also go to Patrick Dibben, previous president and editor, who set the standard in the early years for the magazine. The standard of the contributions continues to be excellent. I don’t think anyone could claim that they are not getting value for the $20 membership fee.


I’m enjoying Mark’s sense of humour even if it is borderline slander. I must rush to my defence regarding his crack about steroid abuse and racing. He obviously hasn’t seen me in a race: struggling along in a violently tippy K1 at the back of the pack with the old and the infirm. I also enjoyed the joke about the Tuross guest house. We all had a chuckle thinking about Norm being invaded by tired paddlers.

Mystery Bay Weekend

What an eventful weekend, three boats damaged (including mine) because of huge seas and another encounter with a cranky ranger on Montague Island. One lesson for me is to think more seriously about plastic sea kayaks ( I’m sick of the Triumph motorbike syndrome: ride it for one day and then spend the rest of the week fixing it). It could be argued that the problem is not the kayak but where I choose to paddle and my skill level. Fair point however I love the action zone and I’m seeking a kayak that can be bounce around and come out laughing. In the last couple of years I’ve done some white water touring. I enjoyed being in a plastic kayak and not having to worry about the odd intimate encounter with a rock. This brings me to the point, I’m seeking as much info as I can get about plastic sea kayaks. I know about the Spectrum, Skerray, Puffin and the Apostle but I’m seeking more info on the Seayak from Prijon and any others I’ve not mentioned. I’m particularly interested in boats that could be classed as expedition sea kayaks.

Camping Etiquette

The old hairy chest nut reared it’s ugly head again at Mystery Bay. | have been to a number of weekend trips and its obvious that some people like to stay up late, make a bit of noise and partake in the 4 deadly sins: have a smoke, a joke, a beer and a steak and others like to retire early and enjoy some peace and quiet. Luckily most places where we camp are big enough to cater for all preferences so my suggestion is that we designate an area for the noisy ones and an area for those who like it quiet. So ideally as people arrive we can sort ourselves out into the two areas and thereby all needs will be met.

Access to Wilderness Places

The other issue that came out of the Montague Island paddle is access to wilderness places. We know that Montague is a wild life refuge and a historical site and that access is strictly regulated. However we thought that landing on a very small beach and basically staying below the high tide mark (thereby not going near any habitat) would be OK The ranger In formed us that this was not on and if we did not leave straight away he’d fine us S150. John argued that he just wanted a short break and something to eat but the ranger was adamant, no landing is permitted.

I wrote to the NPWS in an attempt to get permission to land but again no luck (letter has been reproduced below). So as a club what do we think about this? You know that the Tollgate Islands are also a no go area. There are not many islands of the NSW coast and to be excluded from some severely limits our options as sea kayakers. Should the Club adopt a policy and lobby for change or should we accept the status quo? Your responses are sought for future discussion.

“Dear Sir,

In regard to your letter concerning your group of sea kayakers landing on Montague Island Nature Reserve, the following is provided for your information. At present, two commercial charter vessel operators are licensed by the Service to land passengers on the Island for the purpose of guided tours. The Montague Island Nature Reserve Plan of Management guideline only allow persons who are participating In an official tour to land on the Island. The tour Is conducted from the port of Narooma and is supervised by a uniformed, National Parks and Wildlife Service guide.

Montague lsland is a gazetted Nature Reserve which is a statutory title that reflects it’s high conservation value. This title also establishes management guideline that are designed to eliminate any impact on the Islands very delicate fauna and flora. To this end, the existing official tours are subject to very strict guidelines that allow maximum participant numbers, when and where the tours can be conducted and the quality of the tours.

Given the above, your request to land on the Island from your kayaks is not approved. However, you and your party would be most welcome to participate in any of the day or evening Island tours conducted from Narooma. For tour bookings please contact the Narooma Visitor Centre on (044) 762881. If you require and further Information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Yours Faithfully Ross Constable Ranger, Narooma District NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service”

Poets’ Corner [26]

Courtesy of the brilliant Leunig – this poem speaks for us all I think

Ode to a Jet-Ski person

Jet-ski person, selfish fink.
May your silly jet-ski sink.
May you hit a pile of rocks,
Oh hoonish summer coastal pox

Noisy smoking dickhead fool,
On your loathsome leisure tool.
Give us all a jolly lark
And sink beside a hungry shark

Scream as in it’s fangs you go
Your last attention-seeking show
While on the beach we all join in
With “three cheers for the dorsal fin”

AGM Follow-up [26]


For those of you who missed the recent AGM and the very important and controversial proposal that was put forward – Jim Croft has been monitoring developments and reports the following:

In the beginning was the plan …

And then came the assumptions. And the assumptions were without form And the plan was completely without substance And the darkness fell upon the face of the sea kayakers.

And the Sea Kayakers spake among themselves, saying:

It is a crock of shit and it stinketh.

And the Sea Kayakers went unto their committee members and sayeth:

It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odour therof.

And the Secretary of the Committee went unto the Vice President and sayeth unto him:

It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide it.

And the Vice President went unto the President and sayeth unto him:

It is a vessel of fertiliser, and none can abide its strength.

And the President went unto the NSW Canoe Federation and sayeth unto them:

It contains that which aideth plant growth, and it is very strong.

And the NSW Canoe Federation went unto the Australian Canoe Federation, and sayeth unto them:

It promoteth growth, and it is very powerful.

And the Australian Canoe Federation went to the Minister, and sayeth unto him:

This powerful new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of the sport of sea kayaking, and your office in particular.

And the Minister looked upon the plan and saw that it was good. And, in time, the plan became policy.

So… Watch out…

Old Sea Dog’s Gear Locker [26]

By Norm Sanders

G’Day. Well, a lot has happened since the last edition of the Magazine. For one thing, I got involved in a rafting trip down the Snowy River. We caromed, ricocheted, bounced, jounced, recoiled, rebounded and otherwise bumped in an uncontrolled manner from McKillops Bridge to Buchan. This was a severe test for my normally watertight kayaking dry bags which all leaked after being hammered by rocks in the bottom of the raft. (Why did mine have to be on the bottom? I’m a nice guy, really) Anyway, I learned that when rafting, you have to put garbags INSIDE the Dry bags.

One problem we didn’t have was, umm, well you know, urinating. This facet of sea kayaking life seems to fascinate non-kayakers, addicted as theg are to Mr. Thomas Crappers invention, the Flush toilet. (Hence the word, crap. Tme.)

There are two or maybe three generally accepted ways to urinate (aw, what the Hell, piss) in a kayak, although some very anal retentive types have difficulty in relaxing the sphincters while underway and simply wait until at last ashore. This could result in serious kidney damage. (I know they are different sphincters, but the prinicple is the same.)

Way 1. Just let fly into the bilges, wait until thoroughly mixed with bilge water, then pump with great force at accompanying paddlers as they pass. This method is reputedly favored by our President.

Way 2. Piss into a sponge. I’ve never tried this, but it sounds like it could be messy.

Way 3. Piss into a bailing bucket or other container. My preferred method. I have made a bailing scoop out of an old 4 L oil container (black of course) cut on a diagonal so that the handle is at the back of the scoop. This works well for males. The indefatigable and much missed Jacqui Windh cleverly shaped a narrower version out of a plastic container and lined the edge with soft foam.

Crapping is another matter entirely. Long distance paddlers make a practice of binding themselves up with Lomotil. Most of us aren’t that dedicated and hope for the best, squeezing hard in the morning before we hit the water. Arunas Pilka is said to have jumped overboard off Flinders Island to relieve himself of his burden.

So much for output. Input, in the form of water, has its own problems. Just about all of our (and the rest of the Planet’s) waterways are now the home of various bugs lie E. Coli, giardia and cryptosporidia. They can cause symptoms ranging from simple trots to dysentery. Trots in a kayak could be very uncomfortable indeed (See above)

Sea Kayaker magazine recently evaluated a number of water filters. The Katadyn was rated tops, but cost $US 295. The Sweetwater Guardian earned accolades for best value for money, at least in the short term. It removed as many bugs as the Katadyn, but had a much reduced filter life. I opted for the Sweetwater at $US 59.95 from REI. Replacement filters cost $US5 19.95, treat “up to 200 gallons” and are recyclable. I used it before Christmas on a 10 day kayaking trip on the far South Coast and later on the Snowy River raft episode. I was purifying drinking water for 12 people on the Snowy, which took about 20 minutes per day. We boiled our cooking and tea water. The Sweetwater worked fine, but required more frequent cleaning than advertised. I’m still using the first filer. The OSD will have more on this Riveting subject in later issues.

Mail Bag

G. E. of Woonona, NSW writes: “Dear OSD: Every time I attempt a 720 degree pirouette in 4 meter dumping surf at the entrance to a gnarly gauntlet, my hands slip on the paddle and I get trashed. What am I doing wrong?”

Dear G.E: You either need your head read by a shrink or a non-greasy, sticktype sun screen like Palmolive UV TRIPLEGARD Broad Spectrum Stick, available at chemists or, cheaper, at supermarkets. Applying liquid sun screen is a sure way of losing your grip. (If you haven’t already)

Those of us of Non-Pom ancestry don’t have to worry so much about solar bombardment, but it is still wise to take precautions. Another letter on the same subject came from N.G. of Alice Springs, NT;

“Dear OSD: Since 1 shaved my head and transported my Skerray from the coast to the Todd River, I have suffered from a sunburned scalp and eyestrain. What should I do?”

Dear N.G. Either stay in the pub during hours of daylight instead of sitting in the sand waiting for that flash flood or get yourself a good hat and sunglasses. The best hat I’ve seen is a wonderful creation called an “ARAPHAT” (fair dinkum). lt looks like Yassir’s headgear and covers the ears, cheeks and neck as well as the pate. Good value at the Cancer Council for $24. The CC also has really nifty wraparound “SUNTRAK” sunglasses, with sturdy hinges, for $20. (F.K. take note: cheaper to lose than Glarefoils). Most major cities have Cancer Council shops. Ring (02) 334 1966 for merchandise info, (02) 334 1953 for mail orders. Hang in there, N.G. It’s bound to rain sooner or later. They all laughed at Noah, too!

It is cold water , not hot sun which concerns the next correspondent:

“Dear OSD: Whenever I raise my arm to indicate some noteworthy feature to my paddling colleagues, a dollop of icy water races down the sleeve of my CAG and chills my back. I recently pointed with some enthusiasm at three nubile young women skinny dipping near Nadgee River and almost passed out from hypothermia. What should I do?” J.C., Campbell, ACT.

Dear J.C. First of all, let me congratulate you on your fine show of public spirit in alerting your companions to the wonders of nature which can be encountered by sea kayakers. This should in no way be construed as a sexist remark. I am sure that you would have pointed with equal verve at three nubile young men. Now, to solve your problem. Take a deep breath, grasp a nail with a pair of pliers, hold it over your Trangia burner until it is VERY HOT and then burn holes in the elbow area of your CAG to let the water drain out before it assaults your sensitive body. An earlier J.C. was subjected to a somewhat similar procedure, but the holes were further out on the extremities.

The next letter was from D.W. of Tura Beach, NSW.

“Dear OSD: My paddling breakfast consists of a bowl of muesli combined with powdered milk. I just add water, swallow and am on the water in the time it takes the rest of those slugs to unzip their tent doors. While I am out practicing my morning series of Eskimo rolls in the frigid dawn, I notice that the others are eating some other type of breakfast. What is it?”

Dear D.W.: Good on ya for your diligence in perfecting your technique. As the wise elders say, “There is no substitute for time on the water’ (or something similar) Now, to your question. Many of us have trouble digesting muesli in the morning. It keeps repeating as we paddle. Something to do with lack of moisture in the grains or something. We are now turning to a mixture of semolina, bran and sultanas. It cooks in two or three minutes and is very tasty with powdered milk and Demerara sugar. And one litre plastic container holds enough of the stuff for 20 breakfasts (12 breakfasts for a normal male appetite – Ed), so it is easy to carry on long trips. Some get so addicted to semolina that they refuse to leave their sleeping bags until they detect the delicate smell of the cookinq orains. There is not the same degree of consensus about lunches and evening meals.

The OSD is eager to hear of your favourites. The best suggestion will win a free packet of Tom Yum Goong.

Mail your entry to

The Old Sea Dog, Paddlers Haven,
31 Monash Ave.
Tuross Head, 2537.

Happy Paddling.

Letters to the Editor [26]

Dear Editor

Many thanks for a most informative article about your experiences on the bar at Tuross. No doubt there are many members who are glad of the hance to learn from your experiences rather than going out and enjoying for themselves all the benefits of extended immersion in cold water. It took considerable courage to publicly admit the errors you made that day, and by telling us all about it we can all become better paddlers.

The two things that I see in this are firstly, as you observe yourself, there is no substitute for time in your boat. Secondly, if you can’t get in your boat then the next best thing is reading about someone else in a boat.

Once again the club owes you a debt of gratitude for publishing such a fine magazine and I should encourage all members to actively contribute their thoughts and experiences so that we can all have the opportunity to learn from each other. The wheel has already been inverted. We don’t need to reinvent it to go forward.

PS On the subject of other people’s knowledge, is there anybody out there who knows how to securely attach prescription sunglasses whilst paddling? The thought of rolling or being dumped in the surf usually means I leave mine at home. However it would be nice to see past the end of my boat sometimes.

Philip Winkworth

Dear Editor,

I am very keen to find out more about our Club President, Dirk Stuber. Dirk does not know me (in fact doesn’t even know I exist!), but I have long been his No. 1 admirer. Many’s the time I have secretly admired his courage and skill in the surf at Coledale beach. Unfortunately my shyness stops me approaching Dirk, although I long to talk to him. Could you give me an address so I could write to him personally, or perhaps there is a Fan Club I could join? I know I am being silly, but I dream of paddling with Dirk all the time. Please help!

Adolescent Female Paddler, South Coast, NSW

Dear AFP – I get many letters from impressionable young kayakers who have developed such feelings for our President. However, I must warn you that Dirk is rumoured to have a wife and children, so your dream of paddling alone with him is unlikely to be fulfilled. Your parents would also quite rightly disapprove of such a liaison. The gulf in experience is vast – he is a mature ocean paddler, with all the support strokes and several rolls, whereas even a simple brace maybe beyond you. Your fixation can be cured by simply observing the object of desire emerge from his tent after a night round the Trangia, typically unshaven, hungover and excessively flatulent. If even this fails, my advice to you would be to develop friendships with club members of your own age, rather than risk further heartbreak over this one charismatic man.

Dear Editor,

Although I enjoy the camping at Club weekends, I have suffered several sleepless nights due to a high-spirited element in the club, to the detrimentof my paddling performance the next day. What should I do?

Tired and Grumpy, Tuross Heads, NSW

I sympathise with you here – the NSWSKC has long favoured the more primitive camp-sites in an effort to escape urban hoons and their partying. Unfortunately, the club has developed (since the infamous Tallawa Dam paddle) it’s own group of, shall we say, ‘revellers’, who, now that they are grown men, are simply not content to be tucked up in their sleeping bags by 9pm like the rest of us. The only solution is to anticipate where the revellers Trangier site’ is likely to be, and pitch your tent some distance away. Unfortunately, in the light of day, it is sometimes difficult to predict which club members are likely to become the night-time revellers. They are often socially inadequate Jeckyl and Hyde types, who transform alarmingly from mild-mannered nobodies into shrieking extroverts on the sniff of a Lite beer. However, as a general rule, a good night’s sleep is normally had if your tent can be pitched some distance away from any paddler from the greater Wollongong area, or from inner north Canberra .The following diagram has been scientifically prepared, and indicates the minimum distances required from the noise source for a good sleep. I believe our esteemed President has also felt the need to address this issue in his report. Sweet dreams!

Dear Editor,

On long expeditions my teeth start to feel rough and furry after a few days. Worse still, my breath becomes quite unpleasant (even to me) after about a week. I now find that I am seldom invited to significant paddles, and I suspect that this is the reason. Please help!

Solo Paddler, Manly, NSW

I’ve been on several trips where my co-paddlers had precisely this problem. I would advise you purchase the following articles immediately;

1 X toothbrush, 1 X toothpaste (available at Chemists and large retailers)

These discreet units are small and light, last for weeks, are not affected by salt water, and fit into the smallest deck hatch. A must for any expedition, I was happy to notice several other kayakers brushing away at the recent Rock’n’Roll weekend as if they’d been doing it all their lives!

Dear Editor,

At the last Rock’n’Roll weekend a number of paddlers wore T-shirts bearing the name of the kayak they paddled. Why do they do this?

Puzzled Bowral

Even though I can’t think of a practical reason, this is a great idea! In fact, I think all club members should be encouraged to wear gear that proclaims not just the name of their kayak, but also its length, beam and weight, handling characteristics, where and when purchased, and price paid. The resultant removal of the basis of much mundane kayaking chatter will mean an improvement in conversation standards at club weekends!

Gordon/Franklin Rivers [26]

By Ross Winters

(Not a genuine sea-kayaking adventure, but what the hell, a sea-kayak could do this! – Ed)

Like any Australian with a sense of adventure, I have always wanted to paddle the Franklin and Gordon Rivers due to the history associated with the area and the fantastic wilderness. After reading the report about five River Canoe Club paddlers trip in Jan 1994, I contemplated about how much I would love to go into this region sometime, but I didn’t want to do those 1 to 6 hour portage’s up and down hills in the Franklin

I then brought myself a brand new double folding Pouch Sea Kayak (the East German copy of Folderboat, which is 19 foot long and is capable of paddling sea swells of over 2m with two peoples gear for seven days), making many trips I had ruled out became possible. So after talking to a few people, and finding out that the Gordon is flat from above the junction of Franklin to Macquarie Harbour, and that it is possible to get about 8 km into the Franklin from the Gordon, this trip was envisaged as a way to see some of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, but without the huge portage effort

By going at Easter and taking a few holidays it was possible to get ten days to explore Tasmania. So the trip was planned, David Lucas and myself flew to Hobart and this is were a folding boat comes into its element as it packs into two bags that can be transported as normal luggage (the kids ask ‘what’s in the bag mister?’). We were lucky that when we turned up at the airport with two packs and the two large kayak bags between two, we were not charged for excess luggage.

We hired a car and did the normal tourist thing for the first 4 day and toured up the East coast, across the top and then down to Strahan. We had a test paddle on Lake Dove, in Cradle Mountain National Park to ensure nothing was broken or missing with the boat . The lake takes two hours to paddle around and this time of the year the autumn leaves of the Birch tree were a beautiful yellow The weather was kind to us and allowed us to see the Cradle in brilliant sunshine, before it rained on us! A great way to see this fantastic area.

The plan to get into the Gordon was flexible (there wasn’t any), but after arriving in Strahan on the Tuesday and finding that all the tourist boats had left for Heritage landing for the day, the only other way to get into the area that day (apart from paddling the 30km across Macquarie Harbour) was by using the Float plane that flies in and lands on the Gordon River at St. Johns Falls.

We visited the booking office and were informed that yes, they could help us as they were flying rafters out of St Johns Falls (therefore they have an empty plane flying in) but the plane would leave in half an hour. This sounded great but in this time we had to go shopping for our food for three days (there is only one grocery store in Strahan), pack personal gear, camping & cooking gear and the kayak. You can imagine the disarray, but we managed to pack every thing in half an hour into plastic bags as we left the dry bags at home to save weight

The flight in using Wilderness Air cost $80 each and I would recommend it as Macquarie harbour has a reputation for 3m waves caused by the consistent NW wind that blow along the harbour, and by landing at St Johns Falls, the majority of the paddle is down the Gordon (The river flow can be quite considerable and have been known to be up to 10 knots). The pilot was extremely nice, as in our mad rush we had forgot only one thing, MATCHES, but as he had another tourist flight that day, he brought us in a pack (it sure beat having cold dehydrated food).

After spending two hours assembling the kayak and organising ourselves on the wharf, we departed, leaving our gear on the wharf, and paddled up the Gordon and into the Franklin. The Gordon river at this point is about 100m wide and contained in a deep Vee shaped valley, covered in variety of trees, ferns and moss giving it a lovely green appearance. About 2km up from the wharf was the site for the proposed Franklin below Gordon Dam. The junction of the two rivers is marked by a flattening of the country and a small island were it was possible to get out and camp.

The Franklin has half a dozen races/rapids which the water flows down quite fast and we were thankful that the boat was not loaded, as I don’t think we would of got up one of the them. We had to have two at the fastest race/rapid, requiring five minutes of hard paddling and ferry gliding techniques for each attempt. About 3km in you paddle past the Verandah Cliffs which are spectacular limestone cliffs that have been undercut causing overhangs and ripple effects.

We continued about 2km passed the cliffs before we were forced to turn as the light was fading (it was 5:15pm and it is dark at 6:00pm). We had planed to get to the Big Falls Rapid and we must have been very close to it but paddling races in a folding boat with a chance the skin may be pierced by a fallen tree in one of the race was not a nice prospect, especially at night with our gear still sitting on the wharf. As it happened we just managed to get out of the Franklin just as the last of the light faded and the remaining 1 hour of paddling to the St Johns fall wharf (and our gear) was in darkness.

We arrived at the wharf at 7pm to see kayakers we had passed earlier in the day, camped on the wharf. As it was drizzling rain, dark and we didn’t know were the old HEC huts were, we decided to put the tent up on the wharf. It rained that night and only stopped when we finished packing up in the morning, before the sunshine came out, crazy weather ! In the morning we paddled up the creek to see the 20m St Johns Falls at close range, being careful not to blown over by the draft. Returning to the river we paddled 500m down the river before we found the HEC huts (to think, we could have spent a pleasant night in the hut instead of camping in the rain, such is life!).

The 23 km paddle to Heritage Landing is picturesque with the first land mark passed being Butler Island. This marks the site of the Franklin River Blockades of the early eighties. From the top of the pinnacle, commanding views of either up and downstream are possible. The weather was perfect and the reflection of the valleys and mountains on the water was breathtaking. It was hard not to stop paddling entirely and just observe the beauty of the area. At one place huge limestone cliffs tower over the river and they are catacombed with holes that were inviting to explore.

The area was first visited in 1822 when the convict settlement of Sarah Island was set up for the worst convicts elements, so the government could harvest the Huon Pines that were abundant in the Gordon River. In the ten years the penal settlement of Sarah Island existed it produced 140 boats of up to 200 ton displacement, an extraordinary achievement considering the harshness of the area, but as the boss had a cat of nine tails, there was no time for “Smoko”. After this period Huon logging and milling still occurred along with mineral prospecting. If lucky and know the right spots to explore it is possible to see ruins of settlement from the convicts lime kilns to pine logging camps.

As we arrived at Heritage landing at 2:30 pm, this meant that all the tourist boats had gone for the day so we were able to enjoy the rainforest walk in peace and tranquillity. The walk takes you past towering Huon pines, Pandani and Tree Ferns and is a good way to see and understand the rainforest as signs explain the rainforest eco system. After the previous night accommodation stuff up we thought we would leave plenty of time to find the Fisherman’s hut we had been told about, just 2-4 km downstream.

After paddling for two hours and exploring two huge waterfalls that cascade down the hill we were getting a bit concerned as it was now approaching 5:00pm, so we paddled along one more straight right out into Macquarie Harbour. Being both good canoeists we realised we had missed the hut, (in the morning we eventually found it and realised we had paddled 10km past the hut). So we found a spot that wasn’t too rocky and set up camp right at the mouth of the river. It was very pleasant camping spot except that in the morning we found out that where the tent was (on the edge of the bush) was where hundreds of leaches lived, so breakfast was eaten in the tent while two leaches provided the entertainment climbing the flyscreen of the tent and then managing to go through it !! We packed up the gear on the sand to stop leach attack.

The option of either paddling across Macquarie Harbour or paddling back to Heritage Landing and catching one of the ferries was an easy one, as in the morning the wind had picked up, creating overcast conditions with a 1m swell chop, so it was a nice 2 hour paddle back to Heritage Landing to catch the ferry back to Strahan. We had just pulled the boat apart on the wharf when the Ferry come around the corner, so a mad push and shove of the kayak parts back into the bags ensured so that we didn’t miss the boat. The ferry ride was a great way to end the trip as it took us out past Sarah Island, and out Hells Gate (the harbour mouth) Both are in stark contrast to the serene nature of the Gordon. If youre ever in Tasmania with a Folding Boat and enjoy wild remote areas, this trip is for you.

Fact File

Location: Gordon and Franklin Rivers, S W Tasmania

Group: David Lucas and Ross Winters

Boat: Pouch double Faltboat

Days: 3 (but would of preferred more)

Accommodation: Due to the steep rugged nature of the area there are very few camping areas. Where there is flat areas it is either boggy or a tangle of fallen trees, so it is important to ensure you make the camping spots noted in the article.

Maps: We only had a road Map (not very useful) but as you can’t get lost on a river and it would be almost impossible to walkout, a topographical map use is only to help you locate interesting features.

Side Trips: There are plenty of areas to explore, from ruins to waterfalls but you need to do some research before to ensure you don’t miss them

Special Tips: The weather in this area is unpredictable so be prepared for all conditions. The trip across Macquarie Harbour is normally easiest from Straun to the Gordon, while it is easier to paddle with the flow on the Gordon River, so you will have to work out which one you wish to slog against if you decide to paddle Macquarie Harbour be prepared for big swells and winds and try and avoid the mouth of the King River as this is where the silt and rubbish from Queenstown mines end up.

(Reproduced with the kind permission of the River Canoe Club of NSW)