Pain and Gain at Mimosa Rocks [32]

By Doug Fraser

There we stood, on the beach at Mimosa Rocks, watching as the twin Pittarak was slowly moving towards the rocks still stuck in the surf zone. Suddenly it was picked up by a breaking wave and the two occupants, Kate and Darren, were thrown out. The five of us on the shore ran into the surf to try and recover the kayak and its passengers. Another two metre breaking wave picked up the craft and drove it onto the sea floor. By the time it had surfaced a couple of the rescuers had reached it and were dragging it away from the rocks. On reaching the beach however, it was clear that it had been damaged and was in fact, holed on both sides. The two occupants – made it to shore, Kate bruised from the wild ride she had been given in the surf.

I looked at the damaged craft and thought “Gee this is great, I hate trips where nothing happens!”.

Yes this was the ACF Advanced Sea Proficiency weekend held on the October long weekend, organised by Frank Bakker and Dave Winkworth. The candidates were myself, Stumpy Payne, Andrew Eddy and Andrew Lewis of Victoria. Kate and Darren were also from Victoria and were attending to be assessed for their Sea Proficiency. We had set out from the Wallaga Lakes Caravan Park that morning and had paddled south past Bermagui to Mimosa Rocks National Park. In keeping with my reputation we had a headwind of about 15 kn all the way. This was accompanied by seas of about 1 m which made the 29km quite hard going. For part of the way, Andrew Eddy had volunteered to be V towed by Stumpy and myself . In the choppy conditions this proved to be quite difficult as the tensions taken by the two towers were invariably different, causing rapid deceleration when the slack was suddenly taken up. This episode gave Stumpy and myself blisters, which just added to the general aches and pains we were feeling by that night.

As usual the beach at the night location showed the signs of paranoid paddlers, all making sure their boats weren’t the closest to the ocean that night. Some almost made it into the camp site. Unfortunately due to the size of the surf, Dave decided not to run his night rescue activity, which apparently was going to involve a degree of healthy bastardisation. We were so disappointed we went to bed early.

The next day saw Andrew Lewis, Kate and Darrren remain behind to repair the broken Pittarak while the rest of us set off for the 39km open water navigational leg to Montague Island. The forecast predicted that we would now have a northerly headwind, however, thankfully this never really eventuated. After a failed attempt to find a rather ill-determined submerged reef few kilometres south of the island, we decided to head for a small inlet just to the north of Mystery Bay to the SW. On cue, a stiff southerly change came through, but at least this time we were not battling straight into it. The inlet itself was lovely, however after eight hours and 44km the first action of the candidates on exiting their boats was to have their legs collapse and fall promptly back into the surf [this dismounting ‘style’ was first developed by Arunas Pilka – Ed].

The next morning was calm and saw the sitting of the exam. This went a bit longer than anticipated as we didn’t realise that we only had to do one quarter of the questions. Anyway with that finally completed the next southerly change accompanied by dark skies and rain came in to make sure that the last day wasn’t going to be easy. The seas rose to about 2m and we headed south for Wallaga Lake. We were to meet up with the Victorians at the mouth of the inlet, however a couple of kilometres short Dave made us all re-enter and roll at sea, just to make sure we would be dribbling sea water from our nose for the rest of the day.

Finally we made it into the Caravan Park Nhere we enjoyed a hot shower. Once we Nere cleaned up we then had a debriefing session where a number of valuable lessons were brought out. All the candidates achieved their respective qualifica- tions which was just as well because we were exhausted. All in all it was a valuable activity to have undertaken and I would recommend all paddlers to strive to achieve the qualification.

Lessons learned

  • If you are unsure about landing don’t hang around in the surf zone as you are guaranteed to eventually pick up the big one! Either go back out to sea and gather your thoughts (or courage) or come in – broaching is usually a safe option [Good advice, especially if you are in Pittarak, but why not just simply purchase an Inuit Classic and take on ‘the big one’ with total confidence – I’m really going to miss writing these smart arse comments! – Ed]
  • A hand pump is too difficult to use by yourself in any sort of sea (which is when I you are likely to come out). A foot or , electric pump is needed.
  • Dave has succumbed to KDS (Kayak Designer Syndrome) and is beginning to sound like Norm.
  • Pittaraks rule, OK.