Bits ‘n’ Pieces [31]

By David Winkworth

Rock n Roll AGM Weekend stays at Honeymoon Bay!

In April we held a training weekend at Honeymoon Bay and the place was packed with 4WDs and caravans. Ghetto blasters in the caravans boomed out late into the night and the 4wd’s were towing large half cabin boats right into the camping areas. I also saw that they were being used to get to the best fishing spots on Bindijine Beach they must have been at least 200 metres from the boat ramp. I’ve been mumbling for years now that Hbneymoon Bay is in danger of being seriously degraded as a quiet bush camping area and this weekend proved it.

Anyway, I spoke with Norm Sanders about making the weekend somewhere, else and we thought we’d have a look at Barlings Beach Caravan Park near Batemans Bay. A bit further south for most people but with, the added benefits of an under cover cooking area and hot showers. In June we used this caravan park as a base for an Instructor Training weekend (see Training Notes) and as far as I’m concerned it didn’t measure up. The hot water ran out, they tried to charge me $15/night for a single person tent site and it just had a caravan park atmosphere. Little boxes packed right up to the edge of the frontal dune. I hate caravan parks on the coast so I may as well keep going: the dune fronting the beach is being totally neglected here. There are rabbits everywhere, bitou bush is smothering the coastwattle on the dune and someone has planted palm trees all along the dune ridge. Enough!

So we’ll leave the Rock’n’Roll Weekend at Honeymoon Bay where it belongs and instead of running away from problems there, I’ll start lobbying ANPWS and the local politicians to improve the place. Norm Sanders has taken the lead in this with a few letters sent to the right people. We should follow his lead.

South Coast gets it’s own weather forecast

As of May 7th, the far south coast got it’s own weather forecast. Until then we were grouped with the Illawarra Region. Everyone knows we get different and better weather than the Illawarra so justice is done! If you are paddling down this way, listen for it on your radio. On the June long weekend, Frank Bakker and I conducted a Sea Instructor Training Weekend at Tomakin near Batemans Bay. A number of club members commenced their training for the Sea Instructors Award and Gary Edmond and Arunas Pilka completed their work for the Award. Congratulations to you both. Hopefully we can organize another weekend later in the year for assessment of the intake instructors at this last weekend.

Bad Day on Tuross Bar 2

Elsewhere in this edition is a story by Norm Sanders about an incident on the Tuross River Bar. Have a read and then conne back to this section.

Read it? OK – well, firstly I commend Norm for writing the incident down for us all to read. We can certainly learn a lot from the misfortunes of others. Happily, this incident had a nice ending but not all of them do. I do think it’s important that we look at the factors involved in incidents such as this and apply the lessons to ourselves. In doing so, something good can conne from it.

The first thing that strikes me about the day is the succession of oocurrences that compound quickly to produce a serious situation. This is something I emphasize in training courses: Problems compound very quickly in serious situations.

Another way to put this is: “when shit happens, it happens fast.”

Lets have a look at this succession:

  • novice swept into the surf
  • novice capsizes, loses contact with boat
  • rescuer paddles to novice, capsizes, loses boat

That’s it! That’s all there is! It has happened. In the space of perhaps 1 minute, 2 warm paddlers have become 2 cold swimmers!

The water temperature at about 13°C was average for this time of the year but if it was say 5° lower or if Norm and his connpanion had been wearing less gear, the outcome may have been different.

Some lessons from this incident? The surf zone is a rotten place to try to rescue someone. Boats get banged against one another, fingers get caught between boats, shoulders get dislocated …what a mess! The surf zone is a zone of transition. It almost always has lots of energy involved with currents, rips, breaking waves etc. Consequently, a paddler or swimmer in the surf will rarely stay in the one place! They will either be carried onto the beach or out to sea past the breaks. If they come ashore that’s great, if they get carried out to sea they can be rescued away from breaking waves. Two people out of their boats in the surf is double the problem of one person in the same situation.

So, if you are going to rescue someone in the surf zone, be very clear in your mind as to what you are going to do and WHY you are going to do it! Watching and waiting for a few minutes may be a better course of action. Also of course, you should ask yourself “Do I have the necessary skills to effect this rescue?”

Once again, two people out of their boats in the surf is double the problem of one. So, don’t make the situation worse. The surf zone IS a legitimate play area for sea kayakers and we need to practice in it to develop skills. Please do practice in the surf whenever you get the chance. Try some re-enter and roll manoevres. You can hang onto your boat in the surf by wrapping yourself around it in a scissors grip but you will need a big lungfull of air.

It is better to be in the boat though; work on your bracing skills starting with the smaller broken waves near shore and moving out as your confidence increases. Have an experienced paddler observe your paddling and bracing style in the surf from time to time to avoid collecting bad habits.

For as long as the sun rises in the east there will be discussion among sea kayakers about the merits or otherwise of using paddle leashes in the surf. I use one only when guiding inexperienced paddlers in or out through the surf in our doubles. I also insist that they use them too. By using a leash, I can assist them at any stage and know that my paddle is close by. It also enables the novices to keep everything together in the event of a capsize. Hang onto the paddle and youw got the boat, or hang onto the boat and ..etc. We use heavy duty waveski paddle leashes that have never broken on the doubles and I can honestly say I have never seen anyone get wrapped up in a paddle leash during a surf capsize.

I do welcome your comments on this and any other training/skills topic. That’s just about it for this Newsletter. Still haven’t written that article on waves. Blame it on about of the flu this time.

As the westerly winds pick up strength along our east coast and flatten the swells it’s time to get into the benign surf for bracing skills practice. Don’t wait for the onshore spring winds; it will be too late then.

The Hawkesbury Canoe Classic is on Sat 18th October this year. If you are planning to enter (it’s only 111 kms) you should be paddling now and planning to cover the course at least once before then. Entry forms and details are available from your local kayak store. Good luck!