Since most of the NSWSKC members live in and around Sydney, I thought I’d see how the paddling is in that neck of the woods. Kenji Ogawa had organised a gathering at Shark Island on Sunday, 18 May. I got to Sydney on Friday night after the shattering experience of trying to negotiate the rush hour gridlock and arranged to go paddling with Kenji and Andrew Eddy on Saturday morning. We launched at McMahons Point and paddled to Shark Island to check out the area.
It was great fun to see the Opera House and city from the water – but the traffic! Ferries, Jetcats, the “Rocket”, Rivercats, and miscellaneous ferries, power boats and even the P and O liner Fairsky, with tug. I was a nervous wreck by the time we got back to McMahons Point, and was further shaken by the lack of taps for washing off my kayak. (It is well known that I never go paddling anywhere there isn’t a tap.)
Next morning I had to decide on a launching place. My fear of navigating Sydney by car was even greater than my aversion to the homicidally inclined sea traffic, so I tried to find a launching place as close as possible to Rozelle, where I was staying. My map showed a lot of potential sites, but they were either sheer rock walls or tiny pockets of sand next to large NO PARKING signs. I finally compromised with a launching ramp near Woolwich Marina. The drive was not too taxing and the concrete ramp was slippery but useable. The tide was running out and there wasn’t much traffic on the harbour. This was more like it.
I arrived at Shark Island in about 1.5 hours and found a place to land among the 60 or so kayaks. It was a good group and a tribute to Kenji’s organisational efforts.I left about 1430 and was immediately engulfed in a yacht race. Hundreds of boats surrounded me. Fortunately, there wasn’t much wind and I could outrun them. Then it was just the usual snarling harbour traffic. Just when I thought I was safe, near Woolwich, a herd of super competitive Lasers assaulted me, hurling epithets as they streaked past. I wanted desperately to get back on solid land, but had to wait at the launching ramp while a car got into difficulties trying to haul a jet ski and trailer up the slippery slope.
I finally made it, and didn’t even bother to look for a tap. The verdict on Sydney Harbour Paddling? Scary, but interesting. All in all, I think I prefer the Tuross Bar on an outgoing tide. I finally managed to get in verbal contact with Waterways over impending regulations for Sea Kayaks. I talked to Mr. John Howard (No, not THE John Howard, Pauline’s mate.)
Mr. Howard was friendly and told how impressed he had been with the presentation a week or so before by Dave Winkworth and Andrew Lewis of Sea Kayaks Australia. I got the feeling that Waterways was more interested in establishing guidelines for commercial operators than dealing with pleasure kayaking. Mr. Howard said that they were very concerned about a Byron Bay Sit On Top operator who ran diving trips from the SOTs, anchoring them offshore with nobody to see that they didn’t drift away. Anyway, Mr. Howard seemed a reasonable sort of person. I don’t think we have anything to fear, but I’ll keep up with developments.
I wrote another series of letters to various agencies after our Anzac Day camp at Honeymoon Bay. It was a zoo, with the noisiest inmates being the Hawkesbury Scuba Club. I wrote suggesting that the camp area be divided into car camping and tents only, like in the US. The heavy party goers tend to stay near their vehicles so they don’t have to carry the Eskies so far. Tent dwellers can hike well back into the campground and get a good night’s sleep. This eminently reasonable suggestion got belted back and forth between the Navy, The NSW Minister for the Environment, NSW National Parks and Wildlife, and Robert Hill, the Federal Minister for the Environment (and Greenhouse Gases.) At least I got one straight answer from Sean Thompson, Environmental Program Manager for the Beecroft Peninsula, Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. He said that there is a management plan being developed for Honeymoon Bay which “will seek to address some of the issues you have identified.” (Including tent only sites.) Stay tuned….On a more mundane level, I have noticed that some of the contact telephone numbers on the Magazine membership list are wrong. Check yours to make sure it’s OK.
See you later. Look out for those Jetcats!