Training Notes [29]

By David Winkworth

The Rock’n’Roll Weekend

At the Club’s recent Rock ‘n Roll AGM weekend at Honeymoon Bay I was elected Training Officer Person so it’s probably appropriate that I write something for each issue of the magazine on one or more aspects of sea kayaking skills and training. So if there is anything members would like to see in this column please let me know — let your fingers do the walking. Call me on (064) 941366. Also, if anyone would like to contribute to this column, please do. You are most welcome.

OK, as quite a few members know, our Jervis Bay weekend clashed with the Twenty Beaches Classic in Sydney. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again so you can attend both gatherings. Also, we’re sorry for the members who tried to get into Honeymoon Bay on the Friday evening and couldn’t because of Navy exercises. As it was, the area was unavailable until the Saturday morning for us all and we had to spend Friday night in the Currarong area. Was it a conspiracy between the Navy and Currarong Caravan Park? The Park Rangers told me that the Navy exercises were a last minute plan and even they didn’t know about it till it happened. Earlier that week I had been speaking to the Parks and they said nothing about the exercises.

While on the subject of National Parks, I asked the rangers about campsite degradation and damage at Honeymoon Bay. They said it really is a problem but no solution has been proposed yet. However, don’t be surprised if camper numbers are restricted there in the future! Those members who attended will, I think, agree that the open air slide show on the Saturday evening of Patagonia and Torres Strait was terrific. Our thanks to Eric Croker, John Wilde, Dirk Stuber and Arunas Pilka for the slides and commentary .We hope to do something similar this year so get out there and start snapping with the Nikon! In the “too numerous to mention” category, thank you to a11 the weekend helpers and talk presenters. It was fun.

For those members who wish to improve their kayaking skills, we have a “Skills Weekend” coming up in the next few months at Honeymoon Bay. Check the calendar for details. If you have any friends who may be considering taking up sea kayaking, this weekend is a good opportunity to test out various boats.

The Roll

Well, in the space I’ve got left for this issue I thought we’d talk a little about what began as the primary focus of the Rock ‘n Roll Weekend five years ago: viz Eskimo Rolling! Now, I can’t tell you how to roll your kayak in a magazine column but we can talk about “resolve” and what I call “rolling progression.”

Firstly…resolve. I know some members are a bit reluctant to continue with Eskimo rolling practice for one reason or another.

It is just something that sea kayakers must be able to do. So, go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and tell yourself this …then hit yourself in the mouth and tell yourself there’ll be another one if you haven’t got it in the next six months! That might do it!

Rolling is timing and technique — not strength! So everyone can do it.

Practice is needed to coordinate movement that is the key … practice. The water is lovely and warm now and there are plenty of club members who can help so what are you waiting for? The Canberra Pod are getting together in a heated pool in the evenings -maybe you can arrange something where you live?

Just a couple of points about rolling that we can pursue at the next Skills Weekend:

  • Pad out your cockpit -you need a good fit for bum, hips, thighs (not kneecaps) and feet. Your boat must respond to your movements.
  • Wear a face-mask or nose clip while practicing. Ear plugs also might reduce the dizzy feeling you can sometimes get.
  • When you can roll on one side keep practicing at that in a classic “set up” position start. That way, if you ever bomb a roll in a real situation, you can revert to this start position and know that you’ll make it right side up!
  • It doesn’t matter if your fall-back roll is a Pawlata screw or whatever or what it looks like. The important thing is that it works for you every time. When you have this one working reliably you can -practice any other fancy roll and know that you can still surface with your Mr Reliable if need be. The key is to please remain seated for the entire performance.
  • As you practise your rolling, exaggerate your movements – lean extra far forward, lean well back – this will aid your roll no end. Also, in the set-up with your body leaning forward, keep that paddle hard against the side of the kayak. Reason? This is probably the position you will assume one day when rolling over in front of a biiiggg wave. If you stay tucked in you’ll be OK and the wave will pass over you BUT if you “hang the paddle out to dry” (let it move away from the boat) you’ll either have to let it go when the wave hits or get sucked out of the cockpit.

So, let’s finish this by saying that rolling re-enter and smoothest, warmest and most efficient is. All other self rescue methods and gizmos should be regarded as rolling backstops. Make the roll your primary self rescue method… just do it!

Rolling Progression? Well, what do you do when you can roll on one side? Keep Practicing!

I have a little personal rule that some members delight in keeping me up to in the middle of winter…do some rolls EVERY time you launch your boat. In winter, I usually to this just before going ashore so I can get warm quickly. Give it a try. When you can roll reliably on one side, practise stabilising upside down for a few seconds and then roll up.

When you can do that, it’s time to practise re-enter and roll. Don’t worry about trying to refit the spray skirt upside down at first -your boat will still roll OK with the skirt off. Use a paddle leash so you can concentrate on somersaulting back into the cockpit first. Just pull on the leash to find your paddle! When you can do this, try it without the leash.

Your next step may then be a roll on the other side. It feels strange at first but only for awhile. When you can do it, do 80% of your practice rolls on this side for a while. Then you could try some rolls with your eyes shut. This is effectively what it’s like in soupy surf -you wont be able to see much. By this stage you should be able to feel the angle of your paddle for the paddle sweep without having to see it.

Moving along what about a few rolls during a night paddle possibly in a lake or river’? If that’s OK, the big test is to paddle our to sea -due east at night for a few kilometres and try some there. Take someone along with you. Also, if you’re a gauntleteer, try a few quick rolls in a rock garden. Wear a helmet if there is any danger of head conking.

That’s about it for now. Would anyone like to contribute to this column on any training subject? Frank? , John? , Dirk?

Next issue we might have a look at Sea Kayak Proficiency Awards and what you need to be able to do. That could form the basis of sessions at the upcoming skills weekend. Good luck with your Rolling practice.

The Road Will Take It’s Toll [29]

A Tale of Torres Strait

By Arunas Pilka

“The road will take it’s toll”, This glib statement from the weedy character at the Moreton Telegraph Station was treated at the time with the contempt we thought it deserved, later we were to refer to the guy who said it as “the prophet”, “the great sage”, “the wise one” etc. Five days earlier John Wild, Gary Parker, Dirk Stuber & myself had set off from Wollongong in John’s Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier towing Gary’s big 4 wheel drive trailer loaded with the gear & the boats and with the intention of driving up to the tip of Cape York and then doing a double crossing of Torres Strait. We made good time to Mission Beach where we met up with Evan & Michelle and went for a nice day paddle out to Dunk Island & did a bit of snorkelling etc.

In the afternoon a north westerly blew up which was good for us seeing as we needed a bit of a workout but poor Michelle couldn’t make headway into it and so she & Evan landed on the southern end of Mission Beach. This necessitated John driving around in the dark for a while looking for them but after they were found we all had a farewell diner for them (Evan & Michelle are off overseas for a couple of years).

The next morning we set of with high hopes, slight hangovers and two extra boats (John had bought Evan’s Vynek & Michelle’s North Sea Tourer from them for the bargain basement/fire sale total price of $900 including paddles, spray decks & PFDs). Again we made good time travelling north until we got slowed down by the Laura Pub. While having the first of what we were to find as the standard Cape priced $3.20 cans of XXXX we were informed that because of the Papaya Fruit Fly infestation fruit could not be carried past Laura. Our dinner therefore consisted of all the fruit which we had bought for the trip north washed down with a few more XXXXs.

After consuming all our fruit we travelled a little further to camp at the Kennedy River where we observed a distinctly fishy smell emanating from the trailer. The source of this was discovere’d to be my supply of tinned herrings, which, under the influence of the vibration from the corrugated road, had opened themselves. A clean up and repack were in order.

The next morning we stashed John’s two spare boats in the scrub to be collected on our return journey. That day we crossed the Archer River (which had so little water in it that we had to search for a waterhole deep enough to get wet in), the Wenlock River, which was about knee deep and were finally coaxed into camping at Bramwell Station by the promise of cold beer.

The next day was to see us reach c J. destination so we broke camp arid headed off with enthusiasm. About an hour or so down the road our high spirits turned to despair when we were passed by the right hand wheel of the trailer. Although the trailer had been built with heavy duty suspension and big Land Cruiser wheels, the builder had used standard Ford stub axles, the added stress of the large wheels and the incredible pounding of the corrugations took their toll and the axle had sheared

After much use of expletives and a little head scratching we decided to unbolt the axle assembly, Pack, the axle, half the gear and two of the boats in & on the Land Cruiser, stash the rest in the scrub and go on to Bamaga to try & get the axle repaired. While unloading the trailer the aroma of curry spices permeated the air, we discovered that a can of Dirk’s sweet curry had followed the example of my herrings and spontaneously unsealed itself.

About 60 km from Bamaga we arrived at the Jardine River ferry. We paid the $80 ferry charge & entry permit, drove the Land Cruiser onto the ferry and then jumped in and swam across the river. On the other side, we were greeted by a quarantine agent who commented that he was glad to see that we weren’t afraid of the crocs, apparently in 1993 someone was taken by a crocodile while swimming the river.

In Bamaga we were told that our best bet for repairs was the marine engineer in Seisia, he wasn’t there but Eric the mechanic next door agreed to speak to him so we left the axle with him and headed out to Punsand Bay where we were to depart for our paddle from. More $3.20 XXXXs to soothe our jangled nerves that night then back into Seisia the next morning. Shell (that’s not how it’s spelt but how it sounds ), the marine engineer wasn’t there again and it was obvious that repairs could not be made that day so Gary & I drove the 200 km back to where the trailer was and collected the remaining boats & gear while John and Dirk stayed behind to make repairs to John’s Greenlander which had sustained some damage from the trip up.

Back at Punsand Bay that night we soothed away the day’s frustrations, with a few more $3.20 XXXXs and went to bed anticipating finally being able to get on the water.

The next day the 25 knot South Easterly that was blowing when we first arrived was still blowing. This was not part of the plan, we had delayed our trip from July/August to Late September/October to avoid the SE Trades and had been assured that the winds at this time of the year averaged 5 to 10 knots and from varying directions.

Our first leg was to be a relatively t short hop from Punsand Bay to Little , Adolphus Island about 28 km to the east. We delayed our departure till midday in order to get some assistance from the tide. The wind.against tide had kicked up a fairly uncomfortable chop and so it was fairly slow going to Little Adolphus.

Once we got there we became aware of our next problem, the tide was low and because of the fringing reef there was nowhere to land on the island without a long carry across broken coral. We opted instead for a small, unnamed rock with a tiny beach that we could land on, at the top of the beach was a small flat section of sand that we hoped would be above the high tide mark. This is where we made camp and planned the next days crossing. Our destination was to be Sue Islet 49 km to the northeast.

The next day dawned calm and clear and although a continuing southeasterly would have been of assistance for the days paddle it did seem to indicate that the winds of the past 3 or 4 days were a temporary aberration. We set of shortly after sunrise. After an hours paddling we checked our progress on the GPS, we were making good progress (about 8km) but contrary to our expectations we seemed to be under the influence of an ebbing tide and were drifting slightly to the east. We made allowance for the tide and paddled on checking the GPS every hour. At about the half way mark we discovered that the tide had changed and was carrying rapidly to the West, we made continuing corrections but after about 7 hours of paddling we were well to the west of our mark, fighting a strong tidal current and still had not sighted land. At this stage I began doubting modem technology but within the next half hour of paddling we sighted land. It was Poll Island about 5 km short of our destination. We decided not to push on and camped the night on Poll Island.

The next morning the tide was out, and the edge of the reef was about one and a half kilometres away, we could carry the boats across all that broken coral or have a bit of asleep in, we chose the latter. After breakfast we explored the island and at about 11am the tide had risen to fill the lagoon inside the reef sufficiently for us to paddle around to the northern side of the island where we had discovered there was a channel through the reef. We had already decided not to make much distance that day and so spent a couple of hours snorkelling on the reef prior to paddling across to Sue Islet. This was to be the calmest day we experienced the whole trip, the ocean was as flat as billiard table and with the heat haze there was no horizon giving the whole scene an eerie surreal feeling.

Sue Islet, or Warraba as it is known by the locals, has a community of about 100 living on it. We were met on our arrival by Walter, an enthusiastic quarantine officer who introduced us to the island’s chairman. While Dirk & John stood in the sun chatting to the chairman Walter took Gary and myself to fill our water containers from the rainwater tanks, at least we could stay in the shade. After cold drinks at the IBIS shop we made the 6km crossing to Bett Islet where we made camp at the north eastern tip where the reef only extended about 50 meters from the island. That night we lit a fire to cook the fish that Gary and Dirk had speared that morning at Poll Island. We had no idea what these fish were and so were a little worried that they might be poisonous but no one got ill and they turned out to be delicious, one fish of about 3 kg was particularly good, we discovered later on that it was a juvenile red emperor, mature fish growing up to 1.2 meters long.

The next days target was Gabba Island, a distance of about 45 km. We decided to go via Yam Island. An inhabited island about half way. It was another calm day but as usual the currents and tides didn’t cooperate and we seemed to make slow time. We landed on Yam Island for lunch and assuming that the settlement was on the other side of the island (it was just around the headland) did not bother to visit the natives.

Gabba Island is completely fringed by reefs and most of it’s shore is covered by mangroves. The only campsite we could find had a fair stretch of reef in front of it and we knew that true to our luck when we wanted to leave it would be low tide, we were right, the next morning carrying our boats across the reef took over an hour of backbreaking work. The southeaster had sprung up again (it was to continue virtually unabated for the rest of the trip) giving us a rear quartering sea for the Northerly crossing to Dauan Island. John with his sail was revelling in the 25 knot wind but Dirk began to succumb to sea sickness. With Dirk in tow John under sail was still going faster than Gary or myself! As usual the tide changed and we once again had to battle an opposing current to reach Dauan.

Dauan is a mountainous island of granite, in contrast to the closest other islands of Saibai and Boigu and the Papuan mainland which are flat and alluvial in nature. The island has a small community of about 100 so we set off in search of their chairman. He was away and we were directed to the council office where we were told that we could not camp on the island but that we could stay in the guest house. The offer to stay somewhere with a shower and overhead fans seemed to good to be true until we were made aware, after about 3 days, of the tariffs, $35/person/night, $20/family/night, $150/familylweek or $175/group/week. As well as making no sense these tariffs were on the expensive side for a two-roomed shack with a hole in the roof.

Each night we went to bed with high hopes that the 25 knot South Easterlies would abate during the night but each morning was the same. We started considering our alternatives for getting out, we needed only 3 days of favourable weather to paddle back but it was looking increasingly unlikely that we would get them. The locals when asked what the weather would do would simply shrug their shoulders and smile and the weather reports on ABC Far North gave no more cause for hope. The only other reasonable escape was to put the kayaks on to the goods barge to Horne Island which was not due until the following Thursday and to fly to Horne From Saibai.

On the third day on Dauan we paddled over to Saibai and then across the narrow channel to New Guinea where we landed among the mangroves. While we were on Saibai we checked out the “mud” airstrip which reputedly closes as soon as the humidity rises above 100% and the famous Saibai Canteen, the only place in Northern Tores Strait where alcoholic beverages are sold. The canteen turned out to be a shipping container with some fridges inside from which for one hour a day Victoria Bitter cans were sold at $72/case.

On Sunday, our fourth day on Dauan I was looking out the window of the guest house and saw a barge coming towards the island, it was the fuel barge and after some negotiation with the operators of the barge and discussions amongst ourselves we decided that we should not wait till the Thursday and put our boats on the fuel barge. After waving our kayaks goodbye we booked our plane fares at the council office and as we walked back to the guest house to await next morning’s flight the wind turned to the north and it began to rain heavily. The realization that now that we no longer had our kayaks the winds had become favourable for a return crossing and that the airstrip we were to fly out from would by morning be a skating rink was enough to plunge Dirk into the deepest depression any of us had ever seen. The fact that we found Dirk’s melancholy hilarious did not seem to improve his humour.

The rain stopped at about 4.00 am and with it’s stopping the southeasterly returned. In the morning the locals were pessimistic of us being able to fly out but a few phone calls confirmed that the airstrip was still open. We were ferried across to Saibai by dinghy and flew to Horne Island, which acts as the transport depot for Thursday Island. It was Monday morning and our kayaks would not to arrive till Tuesday night and not be available for collection till Wednesday morning.

Camping is not allowed on Thursday or Horn Islands an so we caught the ferry across to TI to look for accommodation. We discovered that TI was also an expensive place to stay and ended up opting for the Mura Mudh, a native hostel on the outskirts of town. A misguided tour of TI takes about half a day so the remainder of our time was taken up in one of the few pubs in town or gathering mangoes that had fallen from the street trees. Despite the fact that mangoes fall from the trees they are for sale in the shops at $14.00/Kg.

Wednesday morning after haggling about the price of cartage we collected our boats from the docks on Horn Island for the 30 Km paddle back to Punsand Bay. Because we were paddling to the South East the wind was still blowing from that direction at it’s usual 25 knots and so we had a long slow grunt of a paddle back to Punsand and the end of our Torres Strait kayaking adventure.

Just because we were back on mainland Australia did not mean however that our ordeal was over. We still had to get ourselves and the boats and the trailer back home. A phone call to Shell revealed that the trailer axle had not yet been repaired but he assured us that it would be by 3.30pm the next day. After some XXXXs that night to try and restore our shattered faith in humanity we spent the following morning somehow getting all our gear, 4 kayaks and ourselves into and on the Landcruiser.

In Seisia, Shell’s workshop was all locked up so we got some fresh bread, tomatoes etc and went down to the beach to have lunch. While there we noticed a woman on the jetty catching small fish and then throwing them back in. On further investigation we saw that the water under the jetty was black with countless thousands of sardines and the woman was using them as live bait to try and catch one of the large fish that were occasionally feeding on them. We watched as she pulled the line up to avoid it being taken by a large fish, she explained that it was a large black trevally and that because she only had 60 Ib breaking strain line that it would simply break her off and that she was trying for some of the smaller queenfish or mackerel. On seeing this I borrowed Gary’s 300 Ib fishing line, tied on his largest hook, borrowed the woman’s sardine catching rig and with a fresh sardine on a hook almost the same size tried my luck. Within a few minutes a dark shape came up from the depths, took my sardine and disappeared. I braced myself for the tug of war that was about to ensue but with one huge tug the fish was gone and had taken the hook with it. Although I tried again I could not tempt another fish to take the bait.

At 2.30 pm we were back at Shell’s workshop, it was still locked and Eric next door informed us that Shell’s Step Father’s funeral was to be held at 3.30pm. Despairing at the thought of not getting the axle that day we adjourned to the beach again for another hour. When we got back to the workshop a little after 3.30 it was still locked but sitting outside on some saw horses was our newly repaired axle.

Faith in humanity restored we squeezed the axle in amongst all the other gear and headed South, crossed the Jardine and made our way to Elliot Falls to camp the night and have a refreshing swim in the river there.

While at Elliot falls we heard rumours that it had rained on the Cape and the rivers were rising. So it was with some urgency that we made our way to where we had left the trailer, reinstalled the axle and made our way to the Wenlock River. The Wenlock was only a foot deeper than when we had first crossed two weeks earlier and we were told that it was already falling. Having crossed the Wenlock we were sure that nothing would stop us now and we were in high spirits again until we got to the Archer River.

The Archer which when we first crossed it was no more than a trickle was now 8 meters over the causeway with the pub on the other side. John raised himself to hero status amongst the others gathered on our side of the river by paddling across and bringing back supplies for those not prepared for camping out. The next day the river had fallen to about 2m but by now was falling much slower and it soon became apparent that we would have to spend another night waiting. The following day at about 11.00 am the river was down to 0.8m and traffic started to move. Surely now nothing could stop us.

Only 10km past the Archer we were once more plunged into despair as a wheel again fell of the trailer, the other side this time. By now we were well rehearsed in the routine of unloading the trailer, turning it over, unbolting the axle, etc. We took the axle to Cohen and being Sunday were lucky to find the mechanic at his workshop. He kindly made a temporary repair to the axle, which allowed us to get the trailer to Cohen. The next morning a more permanent repair was effected by utilizing a second hand beam axle and we were once more on the road, now paranoid about the strength of the trailer axle to the point that we were quite often travelling no more than 5 kmh over the corrugations. We retrieved the Vynek and the North Sea Tourer from the Kennedy River and late that night finally reached the sealed road.

The following two days we drove almost continuously and were back in Wollongong in the early hours of Thursday morning, tired, covered in red dust but happy that the odyssey was over. In almost 4 weeks we had done only 8 days paddling, the rest of the time being taken up with driving, waiting for the weather to change, waiting for the kayaks to arrive on TI, waiting for repairs to the axle and waiting for the river to go down We had achieved our goal of crossing Torres Strait but had not been able to do a return crossing as intended. With repairs, flights and cartage the trip had involved us in far more expense than anticipated. On the positive side the frustrations of the trip had put the friendship between us under a good deal of stress but it had survived and I think was strengthened by the experience.

Some advice to anyone intending a similar trip: Don’t take an insulated cup.

South Coast News [29]

By David Winkworth

Well, this will be my last “South Coast News.” I’ll be devoting my time to the new section “Training Notes” from now on. If anyone would like to pick this one up then please just pick up a pen and start writing!

Any pieces of interest to members that I come across I’ll gladly pass on to the new writer. Can anyone remember Frank Bakker’s excellent sea kayak survey, which was published in “Wild” magazine about 5 years ago? There were about 10 models available on the market then throughout Australia. I remember seeing the Arctic Raider mentioned and wondering what it looked like! .

How quickly times have changed! A similar survey today would probably be out of date by the time it was published – there are now SO many boats available from all over the world. Just a glance at the recent Editor’s survey will show you what I mean. How many members know what the Southern Dungbeetle (affectionately known as the Southern Dung) looks like? It is actually a very nice boat but was unfortunately conceived in a cow paddock at Candelo – hence the nickname. This would be an advertising executive’s dream (are there any out there?). They would pluck it from bovine obscurity and launch it on the world stage with a racy pacy name like Needle or Lightning. Ahh dear, thank goodness for good old down-on-the-farm charm!

You know how it is in the doctor’s waiting room; the waiting room is full of sickies, so you grab a good 1956 National Geographic or Woman’s Weekly and settle in for a long wait? Just when you come to a really interesting article about kayaking around Tassie or building a skin boat, you get called in by the doctor and you never ever find out how the story ended because the mag is never there the next time you front up! It happened to me recently so with the doctor’s t permission I took the mag and copied the article which interested me.

A Tasmanian inventor is creating an aeroplane which is designed to fly very close to the waves on windy days! His creation actually looks more like an albatross or a shearwater than a plane and this apparently is the key to it’s design. Have you ever watched albatrosses skimming over waves on windy days? They make use of a flying phenomenon known as “ground effect”, which gives them increased stability and reduced drag within a certain distance from the water. Apparently, racing pigeons released in Victoria often arrive in Tasmania with their toes crusted solid with salt. They fly so close to the water to catch the ground effect that salt spray builds up and solidifies! Let me tell you – if this plane ever flies it will be something to behold. Mr Editor, can you scan in A picture for the magazine please [sorry David, you’ve waffled on so much about this already there’s no room for the picture! – Ed]

The craft is being designed to fly at up to 160 knots within 3 metres of the surface with a max. range of 2,600 nautical miles. If this thing gets off the water, make sure you have a low paddling stroke when crossing Bass Strait. ..mutter mutter. Sea kayaking will never be the same again!

Weatherwise we’ve been getting the typically strong northeasters for this time of the year with the occasional squally southerly just in case you thought you could get away with only one headwind on an out and back trip – isn’t that right Norm?

Did you know that sea kayakers in W.A. are required to carry full life jackets on board at all times at sea? Full life jackets have a flotation collar to keep your head out of the water. Paddlers over there wear a PFD 3 similar to ours and carry the life jacket on the rear deck. They are not comfortable to paddle in.

A tale of loose ropes! A sea kayaker from down Eden way carried his plastic sea kayak tied to the tray of his ute – recently. The boat blew off the back and was run over by a following vehicle – extensive gravel rash, broken fishing rods and a big hole being the result. Oh dear, I can’t resist. This really is crying out for a corny limerick. Bye.

There once was a paddler from Eden
Who said “At kayaking I’m succeedin’
But he really was a goose
He left his straps loose
And now his freeboard is receeedin’

President’s Report [29]

By Norm Sanders

Outgoing President Dirk Stuber has left the club in great shape — lots of new members and an enlarged coffer.

Congratulations, Dirk. I hope that my tenure will be as successful.

I will try to draw on all my years of experience gained messing about in boats. To give you some background, I started my seagoing career in 1935 on Lake Eire, Ohio at the age of three, paddling a raft constructed by my father out of a packing crate and four innertubes. (Contrary to popular belief, I was not found drifting down the Mississippi on a mat of bullrushes as a new-born baby.)

I have since built two racing multihull yachts, a single hull ocean cruiser, three Grand Banks dories and three sea kayaks -the most recent being the Inuit Classic. In 1974, I crossed the Pacific from California in a 29- foot fibreglass sloop. When my scurrilous crew jumped ship in Fiji, I sailed single-handed to Hobart where I bought and campaigned a Huon Pine ocean racer. I have now arrived at that pinnacle of sea-going sport, sea kayaking. I wonder why it took so long.

My view of the club is simple: The NSWSKC is a meeting place for people who want to have fun sea kayaking. Fun means different things to different people. To some, it is paddling all night into a howling gale or crossing Bass Strait in a welter of spray and adrenalin. For others (including myself) it is gliding along on a warm morning through a twinkling fairyland of sunlight reflecting off the chuckling ripples while dolphins play about the bow in the crystal-clear water.

Of course, to have fun, it is necessary to develop skills –an important function of the NSWSKC which offers a number of training events. Other events involve graded trips. The club’s grading system, devised under the guidance of Gary Edmond, generally works quite well, but only in one direction. Grade 2 or 3 paddlers are not allowed on Grade 4 trips. However, some experienced paddlers on Grade 2 events go paddling off in Grade 6 style, leaving the slower paddlers wallowing in their wakes. This is discouraging and can be dangerous. If it is a Grade 2 paddle, then EVERYONE should paddle at a Grade 2 speed.

We often bemoan the fact that there are so few women sea kayakers. However, when they do show up, all they see of the rest of the group is the occasional flash of paddle blades on the horizon. I once asked the famed Canadian professional sea kayaker Jaqui Windh why women were so scarce on our seas. “It’s because of those macho Australian men,” she replied. I am therefore taking this opportunity to make a plea for togetherness on club paddles. I also plan to organise events for beginners ( of any sex) and their families in the near future. Others will no doubt schedule more adventurous outings. There will be something for everybody. Think about what YOU would like to see on the schedule -and then contact Andrew Eddy, the new Trips Convenor and make it happen. With your help, we’ll have a great year.

Peace and Semolina.

Norm Sanders

Parramatta to Paradise [29]

By Mark Pearson

After a brief but eye-opening river paddle in a touring kayak, Johnno has finally persuaded his mate Wozza to join him on an expedition in rented sea kayaks.

“Ute locked?” asked Johnno.

“Yeah” said Wozza.

“Got everything?”


“OK- jets get mine down to the water -grab that loop thing at the back!”

Wozza grunted as he lifted the rear of the Puffin.

“Geez mate, how many stubbies are in this thing?”

“Nearly two slabs in the back,” said Johnno. “Stored the rest in the front bit with the tent and stuff.”

“My Piratak …”

“It’s Pitt-ar-ak. It’s Norwegian for somethin’.”

“Weird friggin’ name. Anyhow, my Pittarak would only take a slab and a half, and even then I had to leave me coat an radio out. Is that why yo got the Puffin?”

“Thought you’d like the Pittarak, that’s all.”

“I s’pose I do -it looks mean, like a ’57 Chev -you know, the one with the fins.”

“You’re right Wozza, front bit’s like a big tailfin. Sleek lookin’,” admitted Johnno. “Would’ve liked an Arctic Raider meself, but there wasn’t one – they’re pure filth -better than Pittaraks, even.”

“Well this friggin’ Puffin weighs a bloody ton -you should’ve sculled a few tinnies first.”

“Mate, where we’re goin’ we’re gonna be miles from a grog shop -you gotta think ahead -12 stubbies is me daily ration” Johnno said smugly.

Wozza mused for a few seconds, surprised at his companions foresight.

“But I’ve got 24 Fosters, a dozen Reschs and even some Coopers, buggered if I’m gonna fart-arse around working out what piss to drink each minute of the day -besides, maths ain’t me strong point!”

“Ok, but don’t come sniffing after my grog when you run dry” warned Johnno.

They reached the water and lowered the Puffin beside the waiting Pittarak. Johnno eyed his companion critically.

“Are you goin’ to wear that?”

“Yeah -why not!”

“Parramatta guernsey’s aren’t made to get wet…”.

“Never feel the coid mate -I’ve worn this at Friday night footy in Canberra -no worries!”

“Bring any water?” asked Johnno.

“Ain’t got room, anyhow, there’s plenty in the beer.”

“OK- so what’ve you got to eat?”

“Cornflakes, Mars Bars, Muesli Bars…errr, and a few spuds and carrots that me mum put in. What about you?”, grunted Wozza as he tugged his spray skirt up over his ample stomach.

“Better than that crap for sure – hope you like what you’ve got – it’s all yours.”

“But I thought we’d sort of share the tucker.”

“No way! Don’t expect to get your mits on my stuff.”

“Geez Johnno, yer attitude’s really pissing me off I’m startin’ to wish I’d stayed home or gone down the TAB or somethin’. Remember, this is your friggin’ caper, mate, and far as I’m concerned I’m doin’ you a big favour in coming along at all! And it’s a big friggin’ hassle, that’s what it is. Picking up the boats, tying them on, taking them off, loading ’em up with stuff that won’t fit in, stuffing me friggin’ back carrying the heavy bastards.. what a pain in the arse.”

“Give it a chance Woz”

“…and all this so we can scare the crap out of ourselves and get friggin’ sea-sick! I’ll tell you something Johnno -give me a Canadian up the Hawkesbury any day -carry heaps of piss no worries and there’s no friggin’ waves! And this dumb skirt thing makes me look like a poofta in a corset!”

“Mate, settle down… I’m just getting some things understood from the start OK. Every expedition needs a leader that sets out the rules and stuff -you’ll read that in any Soldier of Fortune..!”

“Well you’re starting to really piss me off big time, Captain Bligh, and we’re not even on the water yet. Come on, lets get goin’, were wasting friggin’ drinking time!”

“Woz, once we’re out there, it’ll be good'”

Wozza squeezed himself into the Pittarak and pushed off unsteadily.

“Thought the sheilas’ re coming to wave off.”

“Knew they wouldn’t get up this early.”

“Yeah, they’re not like us – no sense of adventure!”

Wozza suddenly looked worried.

“Hey, we wo’nt be doin’ any o’ that Eskimo Rolling, will we?”

“No mate – you’ll be right.”

“Mate, I’ll tell ye somethin’ -I’d rather roll me Ute pissed than be stuck upside down in one of these bastards!”

“Did ya bring bog paper,” interrupted Johnno as he climbed into the Puffin.


“Christ you’re friggin’ hopeless…”

“I’ll give ye two o’ me Coopers if you let me share yours,” shouted Wozza as he tried out a few hesitant paddle strokes.

“Four, but use more than six sheets a day and you’ll be looking for seaweed.”

“You’re a deadset bastard Johnno. Just you remember what happened in that Bounty movie, that’s all! C’mon, lets get rowing, I’m getting a thirst already “

The boys paddled off in their sea kayaks headed for adventure…

Oz Versus North America [29]

Uncle Sam Strikes Back

By Bob Pearson

Norm Sanders’ comparison of Australian and North American kayaking hit on some good points, but judging North American sea kayaking on the West Coast scene around Seattle and Vancouver is like judging Australian food on lamingtons, pavlovas and vegemite sandwiches.

My wife Merry and I were introduced to sea kayaking 5 years ago by a trip along the east coast of Lake Superior. Some Australians may be under the delusion that we were on sheltered waters, but Lake Superior is big enough to create its own weather, which it does with a vengeance, particularly in the colder half of the year. Only an idiot would venture onto Superior without checking the weather on the Canadian Coast Guard VHF channel, and monitoring it regularly (at least twice a day).

I can recall standing on a beach near Eagle River on the Keweenaw Peninsula (south shore of Superior) in late September 1993. Tubey 6 ft swells were breaking about 100 yards out, and if it wasn’t for the wind the surf could have been described as ideal. I turned to Merry and said: “A surf like this in Australia would have me thinking about challenging fun. Here, the only thing it makes me think of is death.” Water temperatures around 4 degrees Celsius are not uncommon in Superior, especially if there’s been an inversion.

After 5 glorious days in all kinds of weather, camping on pristine beaches, seeing the Aurora Borealis the first night out, passing no other vessels except a sailboat on the first day and a canoe on the last, we were well and truly hooked. As soon as we got back to Detroit we hotfooted it around to Great River Outfitters, sponsor of the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Club, and signed up for the Great Lakes Sea Kayaking Symposium held each year at the beginning of August at Grand Marais on Lake Superior.

Stan and Ema Chladek, owners of GRO, rented us plastic Skerrays for the symposium. At least half the people there had VCP boats, and rudders were conspicuously absent. We had a paddling lesson from VCP founder Frank Goodman (who paddled around Cape Horn with 3 mates in Nordkapps in 1977 ); rescue, eskimo roll, and boat handling workshops with BCU qualified instructors; and tried out all the VCP boats plus some local product, including skin boats. By the campfires at night we heard war stories about the Gales of November. Each year around Halloween the hardcore members of the GLSKC celebrate the end of the paddling season by setting up camp at Agawa Bay on the east coast of Superior, opening their bottles of Captain Morgan rum, and performing mystic rites to induce Nanook of the North to send down the gales. Sometimes they get what they ask for. Storm surf on Lake Superior is not for the faint of heart, even when it’s small. The water is bloody cold (dry-suits are the preferred mode of dress), the waves steep and close together, and there are a lot of rocks.

On our return to Detroit we bought a fibreglass Skerray and ordered a customised Pintail from the factory. Later that year we went to our first “Gales,” but it was a quiet year. Some of the old hands blamed me for offending Nanook by using Ouzo in the rites. Maybe they were right -my kayak mysteriously flipped over on a ripple, and in the freezing water I was barely able to wet exit, let alone try to roll up. I wasn’t wearing a dry suit. I wasn’t even wearing my wet suit. I was wearing my warmest clothes, and rubber boots! I didn’t die, but it took me 3 hours to get warm in the sauna. It was about minus 5 degrees Celsius on the beach. The water was warmer.

At the end of July 1993 we quit our jobs, fired up the VW camper, hitched up the kayak trailer, and headed off on a 21-month trip around North America, following the coast as much as possible. That trip confirmed what we had been told about North American kayaking: in the east the tendency is to VCPstyle boats, and in the west, particularly the northwest, to wide, flatbottomed, ruddered boats.

But a tendency is all that it is, nothing more. There is a much greater variety in kayak styles and building materials in North America than there is in Australia, and the kayakers range from those who can (and have) paddled from California to Hawaii to those who shouldn’t be left alone in a bathtub.

Some of Norm’s observations are certainly valid, but only up to a point. We would probably agree with him about a lot of things, particularly the skills of some kayakers. For example, at the West Coast Sea Kayaking Symposium at Port Townsend we observed what was to us a very strange and puzzling phenomenon, until we hit on the reason for it. We were helping a west coast outfitter demonstrate VCP boats (this was a small sideline for them -their primary product was their own boats), and at least half the people trying them out would step into the small VCP cockpits, then try to sit down, and get very confused when they couldn’t. Apparently this was the method they used to enter the huge cockpits in some of the locally made boats.

But — and this is a very big but — at the same symposium there were people handrolling my Pintail.

The so-cal’ed west coast style of kayak developed because a lot of the waters around Seattle and Vancouver are sheltered, and deceptively calm. This can be a real trap for the unwary. This area is home to some of the world’s strongest currents, and anyone who ventures out on them without carefully consulting tide tables and current charts and checking on the weather can easily get into serious trouble. It’s also a good idea to consult the Canadian Government publication on the local weather patterns, a real eye opener for anyone contemplating paddling anywhere around Vancouver island or anywhere else in the “sheltered” coastal waters between Washington and Alaska. I’m rather surprised that Norm calls these waters benign. It’s a great place for paddling, but it bites when you aren’t looking.

Despite the apparent predominanca of big beamy kayaks (people actually take webers and bags of charcoal on trips), there are a lot of serious sea kayakers in the northwest. Our first kayaking experience in Washington was at the invitation of some people we ran into in a campground parking lot. We joined them for “Babette’s Feast,” an annual surfing/feasting event on the Pacific Coast of the Olympic Peninsula. The surf wasn’t huge, but it was big enough to be challenging and good enough to have some fun. About half of the paddlers used whitewater kayaks, and the rest used sea kayaks. It was thefirst time I’d been able to compare the Pintail’s surfing performance with a variety of boats. It won easily.

Just like the Great Lakes kayakers, the west coasters have their crazy time. It’s called the Surf Pummel, and its held in the middle of winter on the Washington Coast at a place called La Push. This is serious stuff -Hawaii size waves, usually accompanied by a storm. And they use real kayaks, not wimpy sit-on- tops like the Tsunami Rangers paddle.

The waters of the Pacific Northwest are magnificent for sea kayaking, but it starts raining in mid-October and doesn’t stop until March. By mid- November there was mould inside the VW, and we suspected it would soon st~rt growing on us. So we headed south for some cleansing sunshine, stopping only to resample the amazing variety of hand-made cheeses and ice cream at the Bandon Cheese Factory in Oregon and some of the magnificent ales at the many microbreweries along the way. (Believe it or not, some of the best beer in the world is now being brewed in the home of Schlitz and Budweiser!)

The coast of Oregon was being pounded by huge storm waves, and by the time we got to California the surf was awesome. (This was early December 1993, when Mark Foo, one of Hawaii’s top big-wave riders, was killed at Mavericks near San Francisco). There were hordes of board riders wherever the waves were accessible, and we suspected they wouldn’t take too kindly to having a sometimes out-of-controI17 ft kayak in their midst. We kept heading south, hoping the surf would still be up when we got to Mexico.

But then one afternoon we were sitting around writing letters at the San Clemente marina, one of the few sheltered spots between LA and San — Diego, and a couple of greybeards

rolled up in an old Chevy with two serious sea kayaks on the roof and said: “Why are you guys sitting around here? The best surf in 20 years is rolling in!” “Didn’t think there was any room for kayaks in the surf around here,” we replied, “so we’re heading for Mexico. We figure it won’t be so crowded down there.” “Well, we’ve been surfing all day, and a bunch of us will be hitting the waves again tomorrow. If you’re not doing anything more important, like writing a letter to your mother, go to the state park at San Onofre, just south of here. It’s only six bucks to get in. The board riders let the kayakers have the section at the south end near the nuclear reactor. We’ll be there about 9.”

And they were. About 50 of them. And the surf was great -beautiful12ft swells -and those septic sea kayakers really knew how to handle it. And the water was actually a little warm near the reactor, so we didn’t have to worry about the Great Whites.

I’ve been kind to Norm so far because I can understand how he got the wrong impression he was distracted by all those women sea kayakers. But there’s one thing I’m not going to let him get away with -“In North America the waves are smaller.” Bullshit Norm. Pure unadulterated bullshit.

Mystery Weekend [29]

By Jeanette Mill

Whale watching at Mystery Bay — that sounded tempting. Mind you, of the dozen or so times I have seen whales in my life, they have all been chance sightings. The only times I have ever consciously looked for them — well you know how it goes.

So, as the peripatetic Dr Sanders, Old Sea Dog, oracle, writer, boat builder and organiser of the weekend would prophesy, I decided to go with the flow.

To our collective delight our campsite above the tortured cliffs was hoon free. The ticks, however, were another matter.

The group of 20 or so comprised folk from as far north as Alaska, with a large Canberra contingent. What is this Canberra phenomenon I hear you cry. Bored public servants with too much money to spend? My humble theory is when you live inland the attraction of the coast is all the stronger, and it is a delightful drive.

Late on Saturday morning a group set off to inspect the nonpareil in cliff design that nature had provided to the north of Mystery Bay. Others explored the area by foot. Caves, arches and a huge pile of smooth stones about two or three metres high on the beach south of Corunna Point bore testimony to the forces the elements bring to bear. The bizarre forms of the wind pruned She Oaks capping the cliffs and the cruising Sea Eagles added to the visual feast.

A casual lunch was spent renewing old acquaintances and forging new ones.

In the afternoon Corunna Lake was the paddling venue for one group, while another inspected boats, gear, kicked sand and imaginary tyres on the beach at Mystery Bay before cruising the coastline.

Corunna Lake provided a peaceful setting north from the put in point at the bridge on the Princes Highway. We followed the forested shoreline to the sea kayak turnable limit of Olsons Creek. Some were treated to the spectacle of a startled rabbit taking to the water and “dog” paddling to the far bank. Iridescent Kingfishers played their usual game of keeping one tree ahead of us.

The gods held the rain off until the evening, but also provided us with the camper of the moment and new club member — Tony Peterson. We huddled under his expertly erected tarp (even without real guy ropes this man is a bush comfort thaumaturge). The chocolate, Tim Tams and conversation flowed as the Laksa simmered on the Trangias and the rain pattered. the odd gust of wind emptied the accumulated contents of the tarp down the patient Belinda’s neck.

A Satin Bower Bird delighted in reminding me I was on its turf by running through its entire repertoire of mimicry at dawn. I felt a rush of pleasure at greeting the day earlier than the venerable Old Sea Dog managed.

A fresh wind resulted in more extended rituals on the beach, followed by coastal exploration by land and sea.

The most interesting find of the morning was a dead whale thingy on the beach to the south.

After lunch the wind continued to pick up and no live whales were to be seen to sea.

The south-western end of Wallaga Lake proved a popular destination. We launched from the ramps at Fairhaven Point and explored the convoluted shoreline of the drowned river valley, whilst enjoying the serenity offered by the adjacent national park.

Feeling invigorated after a sprint back into a headwind, I obligingly and patiently demonstrated how not to roll a Puffin for Mark Cecil B de Fish Killer Pearson’s video camera, combined with successful assisted rescue techniques with the coadjuvancy of Gentleman Jim Gear Trailblazer Techno Nerd Marathon Paddler Croft.

A fine evening provided the opportunity of cooking in the open. Those upon whom fortune smiled were initiated into the pleasures of port soaked Tim Tams.

Monday dawned warm and sunny. Many pairs of eyes scanned the sea out towards Montague Island. The water was enticingly blue, tempting many into coastal cruising. They were rewarded with seals and dolphins but no whales.

The dead “whale” on the beach provided a certain sighting. My photos of the aromatic, bloated 3m mammal allowed it to be later identified by a colleague, Graham Ross, as a Risso’s Dolphin. Risso’s Dolphins occur in tropical and warm temperate oceanic waters worldwide, generally in water deeper than 1000m. They occasionally venture closer to shore. Up to 4m in length, they mainly eat cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, octopus), but also fish. Sometimes they are seen as solitary individuals or pairs, but usually live in herds typically of 20 — 40, but up to several hundred. Colouration is dark grey or greyish black on the upper surface behind the dorsal fin, white and light grey in front of the dorsal fin and a white patch underneath. However colouration tends to lighten with age. The dorsal fin is tall and sharp. The head bulges distinctively and there is no beak. The lower jaw has 3 — 7 pairs of teeth, with no teeth in the upper jaw. Adults usually bear scars from fighting and from damage from prey (it’s a tough life eating live calamari and un-chargrilled octopus).

This was one of two Risso’s Dolphins which had died and washed ashore some months previously. The other had been retrieved by ORRCA *, and examined by Australian Museum scientists. This one was proving difficult to remove due to the rocky coast.

The Innuit Classic prototype created great interest, and was heavily booked for test paddles (Norm — my invoice is in the mail). Cecil B further tested his new splashproof toy by filming Andrew Eddy demonstrating his consummate rolling and bracing style to the awe-struck crowds.

So — no whales, but no shortage of interest, and a very pleasant long weekend.

Thankyou to Graham Ross, series manager for the Fauna of Australia and whale biologist, for identification and information on Risso’s Dolphin.

* ORRCA: Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia.