Topless Sea Kayakers Talk About Xena [34]

By Doug Fraser

The decision was final, the group had voted, Xena was to be declared the goddess of sea kayakers. Whether she could paddle was irrelevant, for a group of guys stuck on Deal Island in the middle of Bass Strait she had other attributes which appealed. The question now was whether we should offer Stan as a human sacrifice to appease her and ensure good weather for the crossing to Flinders Island. As the leader of the group I decided that this would probably be a bit untidy and besides, we would be left with a Greenlander IV of dubious seaworthiness which we wouldn’t be able to give away.

This story is about a crossing of Bass Strait by a team of six, which was undertaken during the period of 23 February to 4 March this year. Rather than give a commentary of where we went, which has been done before, I will concentrate on the issues and decisions which confronted me as the trip leader.

Launching the boats at Tidal River near Wilsons Promontory

The group consisted of myself, Russ Davis from Wagga, Stan Podobnik from Melbourne, Wayne Langmaid from the central coast and Gerry Thomas and Andrew Lynton who had driven over from Perth. Of note, was that apart from Gerry and Andrew, no one had really paddled together before. The expedition was also being run an Army activity under the Army’s fairly strict sea kayaking safety guidelines.

Unfortunately two Army personnel had to pull out at the last minute due to postings and sickness leaving me with only three military paddlers. This was a problem as the Safety regulations required a minimum of four. Thankfully Wayne was agreeable to officially becoming a member of the activity and as such we could continue. Gerry and Andrew were never officially part of the team however, despite this, they turned out to be excellent paddlers and team players. The inclusion of a civilian as part of the team did however, require a change to the leadership styles available to me, as the use of my normal authority was no longer always going to be appropriate.

This lack of familiarity with each other’s skills meant that as the leader, one of the first things I had to was ascertain what standard we were all at. To do this I initially got a description of previous experience well before the activity and where I could, I got a second opinion of paddling skills. While I had tried to get all the Army personnel together the previous December for an assessment, this proved to be logistically impossible. I knew that Wayne and Russ should have had good personal skills but I knew nothing about Gerry and Andrew and very little about Stan. To overcome this lack of knowledge I decided that the first days paddle would only be 25km around the bottom of Wilsons Promontory with the relative safety of the nearby coastline.

When we arrived at Tidal River the wind was blowing at 40kn from the West and continued to do so for the next day. Thankfully on the Monday it had dropped to about 15kn and we headed off for Waterloo Bay on the Eastern side of the Promontory. We left through about 2m surf and regrouped outside the surf zone before heading south. It was not long before we had started to break into natural groupings separated by about 200-300m. Stan had a tendency to paddle off by himself out to sea which surprised me and, not knowing the standard of his paddling skills, required me to bring him back within a safe distance.

After about an hour we started to encounter clapotis and the speed slowed down considerably. Stan was dropping behind and as I found out later, was taking in a considerable amount of water. We were not making sufficient speed so I commenced towing Stan so that we could get around the bottom of the Promontory where we bailed his boat out. When we held a debrief on the day’s activities that night, it appeared that all the participants were nervous during these initial stages as they embarked on this adventure with virtually an unknown group. As the leader I had focussed on keeping the group together and on making a respectable speed and did not have time to think about the same sort of things that the other paddlers were concentrating on. Next time I will try to remember what must be going through their minds.

By the time we had reached Waterloo Bay we had averaged only 4km/hr, an unacceptable speed for a group which was undertaking such a big task. It was clear that Stan’s previous paddling, which had primarily been in Queensland waters, had not prepared him for this expedition. I stated to the group that on the open water crossing the next day, if we were not making a minimum of 6km/hr after the first two hours, we would turn back and I would be forced to call off the expedition.

The next day was calm and we paddled off into the morning sun. Thankfully we were making about 7.5km/hr as we headed for Hogan Island, a distance of about 50km. The group spread of 300-400m was manageable, given the conditions. Every 55 minutes the lead paddler stopped and we would rest for 5 minutes once the last boat arrived. While this allowed everyone a decent rest it did mean that the lead paddlers tended to stiffen up. As the leader I found the use of GPS to calculate speed made good to be invaluable during this and all subsequent open water crossings, as it allowed me to ascertain the likely time on the water and hence risks and options.

Setting up camp at the Paps near Cape Portland

We arrived at Hogan Island that afternoon after about 8.5 hours paddling and were glad to get a rest. Unfortunately this did not necessarily mean sleep as the island is infested with fairy penguins which, despite their cute appearance, are real party animals at night.

The most important information the trip leader needs is accurate weather information as this determines whether you should put to sea, given the group, the tides and the distances. Hogan Island was the only place where we could pick up the VHF forecast for the entire trip, however we also carried a HF radio which allowed us to contact our Safety Officer Ashore to provide forecasts for the remainder of the expedition. The forecast for the next days paddle to Deal Island was good but a weak front was due to hit sometime in the afternoon.

We headed off early in the morning and soon developed the same yet manageable spread. Both Russ and myself were experiencing wrist swelling while Wayne had contracted a bout of gastro. We could see Deal from Hogan Island which was comforting and we did the 42km in about six hours. The front hit just as we rounded the Island but we all safely made it into the idyllic Winter Cove.

As the leader I decided that after three long paddling days, and given the minor injuries, the next day should be a rest day. This was despite the fact that it was likely to be suitable for the major crossing to Flinders Island and that the weather was going to turn worse. We spent that day exploring the island and visiting the lighthouse museum. That night strong winds arose and we spent the following day holding down our tents to prevent them from being blown away. I again decided not to attempt the crossing to Flinders and remained on Deal for a third day as the predictions were for 2-3m seas and 20kn winds. Given the range of paddling standards within the group I considered that the possibility of encountering difficulties to be too high.

Cliffs of Deal Island

To break up the monotony of waiting a number of us paddled around the spectacular cliffs of the island, in between watching Wayne gorge himself on his wife’s prepared recipes, only to have to lay in the sun like a python while his body digested enough food for the whole group.

The forecast for Sunday 1 Mar was good, with winds at 15kn and decreasing, so we headed off on the 62km crossing to Cape Frankland on Flinders Island. We made good speed but at about the half way mark Gerry got a migraine headache and started vomiting. He began to slow down and needed to rest his head on other boats at regular intervals. I contemplated various towing mechanisms should he become unstable. These would have slowed us down considerably but could still have been accomplished as I was happy to arrive at the sheltered bays of Flinders Island in the dark if need be. I had also anticipated this possibility and everyone had cyalumes and torches handy. Gerry had other ideas however, and put in an impressive effort to persevere through his sickness and regained his speed.

After nine hours we arrived at Cape Frankland, however we encountered a strong tidal current and overfalls. I decided to pull into the nearest beach to avoid risking further damage to Russ’ wrist by having to fight the tide. The campsite was idyllic and we all enjoyed a well earned rest, relieved to have broken the back of the trip.

The forecast for the next day was for a northerly tail wind which sounded promising. The longer range forecast meant that it was necessary to change the original plan, and instead of spending two days exploring the Island, we needed to traverse it in one day. This was to allow us to be able to cross Banks Strait on Wednesday before the weather was due to turn bad.

In the speed to get going the next morning I conducted a short brief on the planned activities however, in hindsight I should have been far more specific as to how the group would be managed. Unfortunately the tail wind did not eventuate and instead we had a 15kn headwind all day for the 50km trip to Trousers Point. As could be expected this led to a greater group spread, which caused some frustration, but due to the proximity of the coast I considered it to be quite manageable. Given that we were hugging the coast some of us were prepared to take a more relaxed attitude to navigation while others preferred a more rigid point to point track. This led to a breakdown of the hourly regrouping practice. As a result there was a deal of friction within the group that evening and it was necessary for me to run a defusing session to get all the issues out in the open and derive solutions before the next two critical days. Solving the issues this way was quite novel for me, as in the military a far more authoritarian approach would normally be used. The key outcomes were that for the final open water crossings coming we would keep a tighter formation, and that everyone agreed that if they had an issue or concern they were to raise it at the hourly break and not stew on it.

Crossing the Franklin Strait near Trouser Point

The next day was clear and sunny and what a relief, it was only 40km to Clarke Island with a stop over half way on Cape Barron Island. The team worked well with no evidence of the problems of the day before. The weather report that night however, was not good and it looked as though we may be stuck on Clarke for three days with Tasmania in sight, only 25km away. The next morning we crowded around Stan’s tent in the dark to hear a rather dubious weather report which was more favourable, predicting tail winds but with a front hitting late afternoon.

We weren’t going to wait and got in our boats for the crossing of Banks Strait, renowned for its rough seas. The current flows at about 3kn and there are significant tidal races around the islands. We hit one as soon as we left the shelter of the cove, and while it was clearly of concern to some of the group, I was relieved to see that they were all stable and handling the conditions well. Based on this I decided to keep the group going. We were navigating by the GPS and keeping on a straight course, however at times this meant heading at up to 50 degrees of the true bearing to counteract the 3kn current. Again the tailwinds did not eventuate and we were taking 10-15kn on the nose.

Our actual speed along the track was slow due to the 2-3m seas and high ferry angle, and it was four hours before we reached the western side of Swan Island. By this time we were being hit with 20kn westerlies and showers. Despite this, morale was high as we were so close to our finish point. The wind continued to pick up to over 30kn and the seas became rough and breaking at 3-4m. We were getting nowhere against the current. We continued this for about half an hour and it was interesting to see that the smiles were now gone as we fought to make progress. Rather than head for our proposed pull out point of Musselroe Bay we cut across the current in an effort to make some progress. Wayne spotted some calmer water and we headed for it. I was aware that we were about 2km from our correct finishing point but, given the obvious tidal races around the points in between, and the obvious fatigue of the group, I decided to pull out in a sheltered bay.

There was a great relief amongst the group that we had landed safely and had achieved our objective. We could now pin on our legend badges. It had been a long trip and the final day of rough weather had topped off a great adventure. We quickly changed into dry clothes and got shelter from the howling wind then undertook the long task of getting picked up by our driver.

We had crossed nearly 300km of water without incident. No one had come out of their boat and had anything occurred I am confident that we would easily been able to handle it as a group. In particular the team, which consisted of quite a mixed bag of paddlers who really knew little if anything about each other prior to the trip, had been successful. As the leader I had been presented with some challenging group dynamic issues and had been forced to increase my range of leadership styles. As a result, I believe I got far more out of it than just being able to say ‘I crossed Bass Strait.’ As for Xena, well we will have to try and get her to preside over the next Rock’n’Roll weekend.

Training Notes [34]

By David Winkworth

Hello Everyone,

This month, I thought we’d have a look at towing sea kayaks. It’s something that everyone has to do sooner or later on the ocean so we might as well be ready for it!

Towing can be a real chore or possibly a chance for some hard exercise with a slower group. Whichever way you look at it, when you need to tow someone…you need to tow them and that’s all there is to it. So, let’s have a look at all aspects of towing on the ocean and make it as simple as possible.

Why do we need to tow? Well, the most obvious reason is a paddler’s incapacity to paddle due to exhaustion in headwind conditions or complete incapacity due to sea sickness. Our old friend tenosynovitis is another reason for a tow. Group cohesion always pops up on the ocean and towing can be a simple way to keep a group together and arrive at the destination before nightfall or before weather conditions deteriorate.

We’ll have a closer look at towing for these reasons in a moment but I just want to mention the importance of observation first. Although you may be on a trip with a designated leader, it’s everyone’s responsibility to observe fellow paddlers and the weather.

You may notice that a fellow paddler is having difficulties, falling behind perhaps or favouring one arm due to cramp. Incoherence may be a sign of hypothermia onset. Communicate your thoughts to the leader as soon as possible and possibly avoid a minor problem becoming a full-blown disaster. Does the group need to pick up speed to avoid a predicted wind change? Look for the signs – look around you!

OK, back to the tow! Towing an exhausted paddler….exhaustion on the ocean is dangerous. Apart from the obvious speed reduction it can mean a loss of balancing skills and more importantly it can affect a paddler’s reasoning and decision making skills.

So, exhaustion is a good reason to tow someone. Usually the paddler can paddle on slowly while under tow to contribute to the effort and use their rudder or paddle to maintain course.

Complete incapacity to me means an associated loss of balance and a paddler in this condition will most likely need a support paddler to raft up with them as part of the tow. Sea sick paddlers fall into this category. They need support. If it’s serious they just want to curl up and die where they are. This means aborting a planned destination and heading straight for shore with a supported tow. Now, if there are only two of you out there, the situation is not hopeless. We’ll cover this in the section on tow lines.

There is undoubtedly a real stigma attached to towing which is unfortunate because there shouldn’t be. Towing is a means of keeping moving while having a rest!

It’s ok to be towed

Think of bushwalking. If someone is tired, the group sits down and has a rest together. You can’t hook a rope around their legs and drag them along the track! But you can on the ocean! Think of it as a bonus for sea kayaking! If a paddler group leader suggests for a reason that that they should tow you, accept it gracefully because there is obviously a very good reason. It’s just that you may not be able to see it!

A few years ago on a two week coastal expedition, one of our paddlers in a double sea kayak had a severe case of tenosynovitis. Despite protests of fitness, we hooked on to the double in a V tow for the remaining 4 days of the trip. By the end of the trip, the paddler had recovered OK but more importantly had accepted that this was the only way we could keep the group together….. and still enjoy the trip. We could have reduced the daily distances but that would have meant compromising the sense of achievement for the other paddlers.

Alright, we’ve decided that someone needs a tow. What now?

You’re the leader, the weather is deteriorating and a paddler is falling behind quite exhausted. Paddle up to that boat and raft up with your boat at 180 degrees to the other.

Reason? This is your assessment time for this paddler. Tell them in firm reassuring tones what you plan to do and have a good look at the paddler. (I’ll use the male gender here)

Is he sweating? Red eyes perhaps? Is it salt spray or exertion? Is he cold? Is he shivering? Are his lips blue? Does he respond readily to questions?

The reason for the boats being opposite here is so you can observe the paddler closely. Obviously something is wrong or you wouldn’t be planning a tow would you? The question is…how wrong are things? So, be in front of the paddler to find out. Also, in this position, you can hold his boat by the foredeck deck lines while he gets ready for the tow.

Get ready, What’s he got to do

Well, this paddler has been burning up the kilojoules at a great rate and now he’s going to sit there in the wind getting cold during the tow.

Tell him to put on his cag if he hasn’t already done so. If he is wearing it, he may need another layer under it. Poly, not cotton obviously. If he’s not sick, give him some muesli bars or chokky and a good drink of water. Does he have a whistle to signal you if the wind and waves pick up?

Tow time folks!

If there are a number in your group, you could use a V tow for this paddler with another to paddle beside him for company and to check his condition regularly. If he is OK but just tired, the accompanying paddler can alternate with the towers to give them a break.

Getting the tow started is where paddlers can easily make a dog’s breakfast of the whole operation. Remember, this sick/exhausted/scared paddler is looking to you for confidence and reassurance. Getting your tow lines hooked around every piece of boat in sight is not going to inspire him !

So, after getting him ready for the tow, get your own line ready but DO NOT deploy it yet. Decide which side of your boat you are going to attach the line to, and then back away from the paddler and re-approach with your favoured towing side against their boat. Move to the bow of his boat, hook on, a last call to the paddler and move off. Don’t stuff around here get the line taut gently and paddle off. If the wind has spun your boats around opposite to the desired direction, paddle in a wide arc to get on course. Gently does it!

If you decide that a V tow (2 towing paddlers in a V configuration) is the way to go, and the sea and swell is messy, have one paddler get the tow underway. The second paddler can then come in beside the “towee”, hook on, and paddle off to form the V with the other paddler. Nice and smooth, no tangles, no capsizes.

Don’t underestimate the ability of the wind and waves to make a mess of your endeavours. Towing systems (and your plans) should be simple and easily understood by any helpers. More on this soon.

Let’s have a look at towing configurations.

Figures 1 and 2: Inline tow and V-tow

Obviously, one towee, one tow-er is the simplest and most often used. If the wind isn’t too strong and the distance not too great, this setup is fine. You can zip along at a pretty good rate you’ll find.

If the wind and seas pick up, you’ve got to tow a sea sick paddler plus support boat or it’s a loaded double, you may want to try a V tow. (See Figs 1 & 2). You’ll have double the power but also double the potential for stuff ups. It helps if the two tow lines are equal length so that the towing paddlers will know if their partner is not pulling their weight! It’s also good for company. Towing can be lonely work!

Another tow configuration (which I haven’t tried) is called the Husky. Basically a V tow with another paddler on a longer line right up the middle. More power but again increased chances of foul ups. I would be interested to hear from any paddler who has used this method in a real wind and wave rescue (see Fig 3).

Figures 3: Husky

Another method I have read about is a straight in line tow with 2 or three towing boats. Not a method I would try but if anyone has used it speak up. This method seems to me to take away independence from the towing they cannot unclip when they need to do so.

The last method is a good one for an incapacitated paddler when there are only two of you out there in total. The line is short about 0.5 metre, boats get scratched but it works. Pretty self explanatory really. Oh yes, this method requires strong deck fittings.

Now, setting up your boat for towing.

In case you may one day need a tow and in any case, you should have a toggle/rope loop setup right on the bow of your boat. Deck lines are an obvious requirement.

When a boat (incl. kayaks) turns, it typically pivots on an area about 20% of the boat length from the bow. It follows, does it not, that if your tow rope attaches well back from your cockpit, the boat being towed will pull your kayak all over the ocean? You’ll also have lots of trouble hooking your line on in a lumpy sea. Think about it!

The best place for a towing attachment is right behind the cockpit on either side of the deck. The attachment there is accessible and yet out of the way of normal paddling movements.

Some books and magazines, indeed some club members prefer to tow from their PFD with a whitewater quick release system. It’s definitely not my cup of tea for a long ocean tow with boats going up and down swells at different times but you may wish to check it out before deciding on a system. Just look for paddlers with more stuff hanging off their bodies than California Cops.

Quick release systems. Are they really necessary on the ocean? I don’t think so. You wouldn’t be silly enough to tow through the surf zone would you? Apart from that (and gauntlets) I really cant see the need for these items. I find simple 50mm stainless snap hooks are fine for both ends of the tow line.

Make your towing attachment on your rear deck strong. Stainless saddles, decklines, loops of cord whatever make it strong and waterproof under the deck.

Check out your rear deck for places where a tow line could lodge and not be freed during a tow. Rudders are an obvious problem. If it gets stuck well back on your deck where you cant reach it, you may have lost the ability to control your kayak in wind while towing.

Let’s have a look at actual tow lines for your boat.

These are my requirements for a tow line:

  1. Simple to use – not just for me either. And quick!
  2. Reliable – deploys all the way every time. No tangles. It floats.
  3. Compact enough that it is no problem to take on every paddle.

When you get a tow line, see if it fits the above criteria. Point No. 3 is important. It’s no use in the shed when you need it. Years ago we used to make tow lines from ski rope with lengths of 8mm shock cord built in for shock absorption. They were huge and suitable for towing the Titanic. They did not fit Point No.3

Many of us are now using simple 3mm nylon cord. It’s strong enough for towing doubles, has great stretch – just enough, and it’s compact. It’s drawbacks are that it needs to be kept out of the sun and washed regularly to remove salt build and it will tangle if not put carefully into it’s bag. I’ve detailed my system in Figure 4 and I suppose it’s also a Mk 4 version too. There are a few club members with them for you to copy if you like it.

Figure 4

Length of tow line?

It makes sense for us all to have equal length lines does it not! A few years ago, the club standard was 7 metres which I don’t think is long enough for towing in ocean swells. Many of us are now using 15 metre lines. I’m not sure if it’s an official club standard but it does make sense. You can always reduce the length if you need to do so during use.

Towing needs to be practised. When you’ve made up a line, go out and practise with your paddling companions. Good luck.

Coast Busters Sea Kayak Symposium [34]

Shakespeare Bay, New Zealand

By John Wilde

I was invited to attend this symposium by Vincent Maire, founder of the Auckland Sea Kayak Network. I was asked to present the Key-note address for Saturday evening on Adventure Kayaking, workshops on safety, based around the Lyme Bay incident in U.K., talk briefly about paddling venues in Australia, and to chair discussion on a series of practical rescue scenarios that took place with all participants on the Sunday morning. A fair work load!

This was my first visit to New Zealand, and I was impressed. What a friendly crowd they are. From meeting Peter Sornmerhalder of Auckland Canoe Centre, my chauffer for the weekend to catching up with all the committee who put the event together and meeting some of the greats of Sea Kayaking, such as Paul Caffyn, I had a ball. Despite some problems with the weather (it rained and blew like I haven’t seen in Australia for a long time) the whole event ran very well, though there were a few head-aches for the committee as they had to reschedule practical sessions around the weather pattern.

From ‘Ancient Mauri methods of navigation and weather prediction’ to sea kayak slides of trips ranging from Turkey to New Caledonia to ‘Modern electric helpers’ and all things between few issues or areas were left untouched.

lllere were-practical sessions for all skills levels, and the three hour scenario practical saw close to a hundred paddlers on the water. A note here, New Zealanders don’t like carrying kayaks, instead they use a nifty device on a set of wheels and watching them approach the beach reminded me more of a golf tournament than a sea seminar, as they pull their little carts behind them. Another gadget for the ‘Old Sea Dog’ to investigate.

One of the funniest sessions I saw was Rebecca Heaps ‘Essential Sea Kayaking’ what to take on a trip, how to pack it, what gear is essential, where is the margin between comfort and survival. That lady could survive a nuclear holocast from her sea kayak, no wonder she needs a trolley to move her boat around, but beware Dave Winkworth, she carries things you haven’t dreamt of taking in your kayak.

There were serious sessions from Paul Caffyn on handling extreme sea conditions, topics such as planning overseas trips and even issues of campsite access and fees for use of facilities were hot topics, as sea kayaking has become so popular in some parts of New Zealand that pressure is mounting on land use.

A large marquee was set up for trade displays and many boats and products were available for sale and testing. The Albatross is a popular Auckland designed boat, with a very user friendly hull design, but unfortunately the cockpit is so hight at the front that it is difficult to stay in to roll. The designer does hope to have the boat manufactured in Sydney soon, but the fore-deck needs some re-modelling to be sea worthy. Another boat of note is the plastic Perception ‘Sea Lion’, a new boat on the market with excellent comfort and handling characteristics, probably best for the Novice to Intermediate paddler. This will also be available shortly in Australia.

A gadget that a number of paddlers may be interested in is a waterproof, mini size V.H.F. radio Uniden HH 940, ideal for inter-party communication or emergency coast-guard contact in popular areas. Having only the week before, attempted to rescue my friend Nick Kalma, and failed, I bought two on principle. Many New Zealand paddlers now keep these clipped to the front of their buoyancy aid for general communication. I have yet to investigate how effective they are in Australia but is many countries you can receive up tO date, accurate weather conditions and predictions on given weather channels.

They are not currently available in Australia but in New Zealand they can be obtained from Michael Swift, 33 Chorley Avenue, Massey Auckland for $348 N.Z. plus sales tax and postage to Australia. Weighing 235 grams they are not an encumbrance.

I would like to thank Vince and his committee for inviting me over, and providing such a friendly and informative environment. Well done New Zealand.

Rescuing Albatrosses and Other Large Petrels [34]

A few tips on caring fore rescued albatrosses. Albatrosses generally resent being handled and should not be physically restrained, though for the safety of rescuers, it is recommend that an elastic band be placed firmly not too tight around the bill for transport. The birds will generally settle if placed in a large cardboard box for initial transport. It is our experience that the box should be as large as possible, deep enough that the bird can’t jump out and have the lid removed so the the bird can see it’s surroundings.

Beware – Albatrosses are very susceptible to heat stroke, they appear to regulate body temperature by pumping blood through their feet and/or panting. If birds begin panting. Spray with a fine spray from a garden hose until the bird is quite wet, not sodden. Then move to a shady well ventilated location to dry.

Air conditioned vehicles are recommended for transport in hot weather.

President’s Report [34]

By Norm Sanders

In the old days, before the economic rationalists removed “Service” from our vocabulary, we American commercial pilots used to visit a Flight Service Center for a personal briefing. (Now, of course, all that has been replaced by fax machines and the Internet.) Every FS in the country had a US Govt. issue, framed quotation on the wall. It went something like this:

“Aviation, like the sea, is terribly unforgiving of any incapacity or neglect.”

The inference was that everybody knew that the sea was terribly unforgiving of any incapacity or neglect. Maybe we have forgotten that once universal knowledge, cocooned as we are by our cradle-to-the-grave life support system and our growing fascination with safe, virtual reality in place of the real, potentially dangerous thing.

Two recent events involving sea kayaking have pointed up the fact that venturing out on the oceans can still be a serious undertaking. In the first instance, an experienced kayaker died from a heart attack while paddling near Batemans Bay. The lesson here is that we shouldn’t put to sea unless we are certain that we have no incapacities which will threaten our safety. Many medical conditions can be handled with the proper treatment, and don’t in themselves preclude sea kayaking. However, if there are any known health problems, including a tendency for sea sickness, they must be taken into account before leaving the beach.

Sea-sickness is generally treated with coarse humour by those not afflicted, but can become deadly in a sea kayak. A sea-sick person may not only be unable to paddle, but could even capsize due to loss of balance. Then the only alternative is for another paddler to support the sick person, while a third kayaker tows them both to safety. This scenario actually happened on a Montague Island paddle several years ago.

Neglect can involve number of items, including equipment, personal fitness, and bad judgement. I personally participated in an episode of bad judgement on a recent trip from Mallacoota to Womboyn Lake. We were camped on Howe Beach when a massive 5 to 6 meter swell moved in. We waited for a day and then decided to leave when some lulls started to occur. Prudence (and respect for the power of the ocean) would have dictated waiting until the big waves subsided totally. We had plenty of food and water and were in radio contact with Gabo Island.

However, our machismo, combined with the requirements of man-made back to work schedules and other artificial considerations, caused us to take a chance. The results could have been far worse than they were. I only ended up with a bent neck from my head being driven into the sand (I was glad for my helmet) and a knee which will heal in a month or so. I was forcibly reminded of the fact that the human body can only generate one third of a horsepower while paddling. Not much against the sea.

There was once a time when seafarers would wait for wave, wind and tide to be favourable before venturing forth. The potential dangers remain the same. Only we, with our dangerous post-industrial hubris, have changed. On the top of our preparation list we should reinstate:

“Respect for the Sea.”

The Old Sea Dog’s Gear Locker [34]

By Norm Sanders

The OSD’s mind has been occupied with medical topics recently, having just paid a rare visit to a GP regarding his sea-kayak damaged knee. He was going to devote this column, as usual, to gear, in this case a kayaking first aid kit. Then it hit him. Knowledge is far more important than gear! This should be obvious. Gear in itself can’t be used without knowledge. In fact, with knowledge, the gear may not even be needed.

In this case, the knowledge comes from taking a First Aid Course. TheOSD took his first course in the 1950’s when he was working as a professional ski patrolman at Squaw Valley, Mammoth and Alta. At that time, some of the first aid texts still showed the favoured technique for resuscitation of an earlier time: Put the water-logged victim face down over a barrel (where would you find a barrel THESE days?) and rock him/her back and forth. Now, of course, we have CPR. CPR isn’t hard, but it takes knowledge.

So where does the knowledge come from? A First Aid Course, that’s where. The Yellow Pages are full of course providers. The OSD recently had to renew his qualifications for his Sea Kayak Instructor’s Certificate. He contacted the NSW Ambulance Service in Moruya and they put him in touch with a course being run locally by ambulance officers under the auspices of Parasol EMT, a Canberra outfit. The course cost $80, took a weekend, provided a textbook and was very good. Other good courses are run by St. Johns, the Red Cross, and some surf life saving clubs.

The first thing they stressed was to “Have a go!” The text said, “Many unnecessary deaths and chronic injuries have been caused by bystanders or relatives not knowing what to do, or being too timid to try.” Knowledge, again.

The OSD does have a first aid kit, which he carries in a dry bag while kayaking, anywhere, and in his car when on land. It is very simple, and subject to change upon receipt of suggestions. It contains: A space blanket, for treatment of shock, an old-fashioned triangular bandage, two elastic roller bandages, one heavy crepe bandage (for sprains, etc.), a 10 cm by 10 cm dressing, a 20 cm by 30 cm combine pad, 20 waterproof band aids, 50 Panadol tablets (in a film container), a roll of waterproof adhesive tape, one pair of “Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper” tweezers, one needle, one pair of small stainless steel scissors, 15 ml Betadine antiseptic liquid, a small bottle of tea tree oil for insect bites, etc., AND a small container of Tiger Balm.

So far, all he has had occasion to use was the Tiger Balm and the tea tree oil, but you never know.

The first aid kit is obviously limited. However, it is often possible to improvise with bits of clothing and other equipment when the need arises. The most important thing, as they say, is to have the knowledge and have a go.

Healthy Paddling.

Highlights from Montague Island [34]

By David Whyte

The 6th annual Pancake Day weekend at Mystery Bay saw a small but keen bunch of paddlers head off for the pilgramage to Montague Island. There was not the usual sound of cracking fibreglass as the weather conditions were ideal for the trip, though Arunas decided to shorten his paddle by demonstrating a high brace off rocks. Fortunately the “Old Sea Dog” was carrying a spare.

Believe it or not! That’s a seal beside the kayak

The weather was so good we managed to paddle into the bay on the eastern side. We were then greeted by a bunch of seals on the northern point and enjoyed watching them frolick around. As we are not allowed to land we lunched in the kayaks but the calm conditions made this quite pleasant.

On the return journey we had the Pices revenge with Mark Pearson (Fish killer) being stung by the floating tenticles of a blue bottle. We also adopted the Paul Keating method of kayaking and did a huge J curve heading for Mystery bay due to a strong north flowing current.

Inuit Classics under sail (do these guys ever paddle?)

The Pacific Ocean, feeling pacific

Mystery Bay

After tea we saw some of the hidden talents of our members come out. Dave’s wife Sue gave a fine example of piano accordion playing and singing with the accompanyment of Marty Rivers. And John Wilde gave a strong vocal performance with a solo rendition of “Oh lord won’t you buy me ….”. It must be all that yelling at school kids that gave him such a strong voice.

In Memory [34]

By John Wilde

It is with sadness that I report the death of Nick Kalma, ex president of Canberra Canoe Club, white water instructor and proficient sea paddler. Nick was well known to many members of the N.S.W. Sea Kayak Club, having taken part in a number of club trips in the past.

Nick suffered a major heart attack near the Tolgate islands, off Batemans Bay whilst assisting with instruction of a group of young novice paddlers from Canberra Grammar School. Unfortunately there was no satisfactory solution to this rescue scenario.

Nick died participating in a sport be loved, in an area he knew well, paddling a boat he enjoyed.

He will be sorely missed by the Canberra community.

Mackay to Airlie Beach [34]

By Don Andrews

Left Sydney at 0600 on 12/9/97 to drive to Mackay. Route taken was the New England Highway then highway 37 to Narrabri, Moree, then highway 55 to Roma. The first night was spent there after a 12 hour drive. Left Roma at 0830 and drove via Emerald, Clermont, then on the Peaks Down highway through to Mackay. An easy 9 hours drive with only 20km of dirt.

I met Frank Brandon at sea Winds Caravan Park, Blacks Beach. Just north of Mackay on Saturday evening. The bad news was that a south easter was blowing. The weather report that night said 22 knots with 1.7 metre swell.

On Sunday it was blowing even harder. E decided not to the car swap to Shute Harbour. Instead we drove up to Redcliff Island and to Cape Hillsborough National Park. The forecast for Monday was good with a 5 to 15 knot south-east to northeast wind. We did a trial pack on Sunday night.

The purpose of this trip was to test my new Pacific Tourer sea kayak. It is 19’4″ and 22″ wide with double kevlar lay up weighting 22 kilos, with electric bilge pump and a rapid flow foot pump.

Day 1

At 0800 it was 5 knot south easter, by 0900 the boats were packed and on the beach. The wind by now was 15 knots and the waves were pounding on the beach. With a 32 kilometre open water crossing to Brampton Island ahead of us we began to get negative vibes. The people in the caravan park thought we were mad, but after a quiet talk with Frank we decided if we could get off the beach we would pull away to the Newry Islands if it got too heavy. We left the beach at 9.30. I had no trouble getting off the beach, Frank had a bit of trouble with water getting past his spray skirt. We had to raft up four times and pump Franks cockpit out with his yabby pump. The waves were 1.5 metres and the wind 18 knots. We were on a broad reach. When we were level with Keswick Island some of the waves were coming through at 1.8 metres and tending to break. There was a storm on the horizon coming from the north east. At about 5 km. from Southern Point on Brampton Island, Cockermouth Island disappeared in the clouds, which was a worry as we did know not what to expect. At this stage we had been paddling for 3 hours and feeling a bit tired.

In Western Bay we ran in to a bit of rain and by Western point the sun was out. By the time we reached Brampton Roads the tide too low to get through. We finally landed at 1330 on Carlisle Island at Maryport Bay.

The crossing was quite hard. Waves were breaking over the cockpit area. I had some water in the cockpit but the pump emptied it with no trouble. Frank’s spray skirt was not working. The strap over the shoulder came undone. At one stage we were rafted up with Frank taking off his buoyancy vest while we tried to fix his spray skirt. The wind and waves were hitting us and it would have been a lot easier if he had had a pump installed. My meal that night was ham, cheese and macaroni.

Day 2

We left Carlisle Island and paddled to Brampton Resort where Frank got 4 litres of water. We then headed for Tinsmith at 0830 on a sunny 10 knot south easter increasing to 15 knots, with the swell coming from the east. This was not an easy crossing as we were against the tide and the waves were again on our side. The tide started to run out as we were off Tinsmith and I was worried about going between Linne Island and Goldsmith. We decided to go between Tinsmith and Linne which was a bad choice as half way through we saw 1.5 metre standing waves. We managed to turn before we got into them and fought the tide back. Then there was a tidal run around the point of Linne Island with 1 metre standing waves going in every direction. We stopped for lunch on Linne Island half way through the passage. Then on to Farrier Island and back to camp on the north end of Goldsmith. A 16 km. crossing and 12 km. spent looking around. Dinner that night was ham, potato and beans.

Day 3

We left Goldsmith at 0910, sunny 10-15 knot south easter. We got 3 litres of water from a yacht as we left. A hard 16km crossing against the tide with the sea again on our side. We stopped on a beach on the south east side of Thomas Island – a really nice beach. The tide changed while we were there and we paddled around to the central camping area on the northern side of Thomas Island. A hired yacht got the tide charts mixed up and spent the night high and dry. Dinner was macaroni with bolognaise sauce.

Day 4

Left Thomas Island at 0830, sunny south easter at 15 knots and a swell of 1-1.7 metres. A nice easy paddle to start with riding 1 metre waves Out in the Cumberland channel the waves were high and steep and a lot of care had to be taken. We rounded Burning Point on Shaw Island and went in to the beach for a early lunch. Then on to Neck Bay and set up camp arriving there at 1pm. We had 3 trailer sailors beached on the sand for company. Dinner was tuna and rice.

Pentecost Island – Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays in the background

Day 5

We left Shaw Island at 9am against the tide in the passage passing between Pentecost and Little Lindemand. A 10 knot south easter was blowing on a sunny day. We were surfing down 1 metre waves but not getting anywhere. BY the time we got to Hamilton Island the waves were 1.8 metres and the tide race in Dent Passage was challenging. We arrived in Hamilton Harbour for Lunch of salad rolls and custard tarts. The distance from Shaw to Hamilton was 22 Km. We then paddled across to the northern end of Henning island and camped the night Dinner was ham, potatoes and beans.

Day 6

We left Henning at 0730 through Fitzalan Passage on an incoming tide. We stopped at Hamilton for Frank to do some more shopping. We left an hour later at 0930 for Whitehaven Beach against the tide and a 7 knot easterly. We paddled through Solway Passage which I thought was the best part of the trip. We stopped at a crowded Whitehaven Beach for lunch at 12 noon. We left there at 1300 for Esk Island where we had a stretch for 10 mins. Then on to Border Island and camped at Cateran Bay. Border Island was extremely nice arriving at 1530. We did 40km that day. Dinner was ham and fettuccini in cheese sauce.

Elk Island with Border Island in the background

Day 7

We left Border Island at 0710 arriving at Hook Passage at 0810. A 5 knot north ester and .5 metre swell. We went through the passage on an incoming tide, then on to Cid Island and across to Planton Island in a 15 knot north easter. An early lunch at 1100 there and then along South Molle to Deedes Point where we encountered a really bad tide run. Frank had a lot of trouble with it and he through it was the worst water on the trip. We checked out Bauer Bay and then went on to Unsafe Passage and North Molle, where we camped for the night. It had a water tank. We paddled 36km. Dinner was rice and tuna.

Day 8

We left north Molle at 0730 A hard paddle across the tide in a 15 knot north easter. A tide race off Pioneer Point then a tricky ride to Airlie Beach on 1 to 1.5 metre waves on a loose broad reach. We arrived at the Yacht Club at 1000, unpacked and hosed the boats off. We had a shower for the first time since setting out. The caravan park at Blacks Beach had arranged for a driver to deliver my vehicle so we had couple of drinks while we waited for it to arrive which much better than spending a day doing a car swap.

Letters to the Editor [34]

Dear Editor

After reading criticism of the cohesiveness of some NSWSKC paddles on the Internet, I’d would like to contribute the story of my one and only experience with the Club.

It was a Grade 2 event south of Sydney early last year April. Although I don’t remember who led the trip, I can recall the senior paddlers were a large man from Canberra, and two strong fellows from Wollongong. After setting off it soon became obvious that the pace of the paddle would be relentless, with few rest breaks. When the leading guys did stop for a drink, as soon as I caught up they would immediately start up again. I was soon exhausted and, after falling well behind, watched helplessly as the paddles of the others disappeared around a headland.

A strong westerly wind then sprung up from nowhere, overpowering me in my weakened state and blowing me many kilometres out to sea. I then had the misfortune to find myself amongst a school of mating sperm whales, one of whom, in an orgiastic frenzy, struck my boat a tremendous blow with its fluke.

After my kayak sank, I drifted for twelve hours until I was able to swim to a large solitary rock. Luckily it was high enough to remain dry except at high tide and during storms, during which I clung on by wrapping myself in kelp. Sustained only by rain water, seaweed and cormorant excrement, this bleak outcrop was to be my miserable home for the next ten days.

Just as I was starting to lose all hope, I was rescued by a passing Chilean freighter, whose captain kindly allowed me to ‘work my passage’ cleaning the ship’s bilges until it reached Santiago. On disembarkation, because of my lack of identifying papers and latin appearance, I was arrested on suspicion of being a political insurgent. I then spent four days in the most disgusting prison imaginable, during which time I was periodically tortured and contracted Hepatitis A & B.

Luckily, on hearing of my plight, the Australian embassy organised my release and a flight back to Sydney. Unfortunately, the flight home experienced severe turbulence, and a hefty air-stewardess fell on me from a great height, fracturing my skull and putting me into a coma. There followed a lengthy stay in North Shore hospital. But that wasn’t the end of this incredible run of bad luck. I returned home to find that I had lost my job for not giving advance warning of my ‘holiday’. Soon after this my fiancé eloped with a good friend of mine because of my newly acquired personality disorder, memory loss and poor financial prospects.

I guess my story is a warning of what can happen to a novice in the company of ‘gun’ sea kayakers – just because I was unfortunate enough to be the ‘Tail end Charlie’, I lost my kayak, my gear, my health, my fiancé and my career. However, despite all this, once I have repaid my medical bills I very much look forward to paddling with the club again.

Yours sincerely
Rodrigo Juavez
Newtown, NSW

(Maybe there are other member’s with similar experiences to Rodrigo’s who might like to put pen to paper – Ed)

So Rodrigo Juavez thinks he had it bad! (Letters, Issue 34), what about me? I too fell behind in a club paddle close to dark on a winter paddle in 1985. Suddenly there was a strange light in the sky, in the centre of which was a glowing orb. To my amazement I found my kayak lifting out of the water and, before knew it, I was inside an alien spacecraft. I was then transported to a distant star in a far off galaxy. Here my alien kidnappers made me pack and unpack my kayak several times, whilst they took notes (apparently this was one area where my skills were clearly superior to their’s – lack of storage space being a perennial problem on inter-galactic craft). For their entertainment I was then forced to demonstrate my surfing technique in their 15 metre waves! Apart from this I was well treated and after about two earth days the aliens returned me to the exact place of my abduction. The trouble is that was only last week, and because of the bloody space/time continuum and all that, I now find that it’s March 1998 and I’ve lost 13 years of my life – and all because I was Tail-end Charlie! I’ll be at the front of the pack next time – that’s for sure!

R. Van Winkle

P.S. I hear there’s a new kayak called the Pittarak on the market

I read with interest the controversial Arunas Pilka article “A very long story about a very short paddle”. In my opinion paddling should be a fun, relaxed activity, where every paddler should just take the time to fully explore all the natural wonders of our coastlines. None of this point-to-point speed stuff so beloved of Mr Pilka and his ilk! 10-15 gentle kilometres a day is about right in my book. I’m with Laurie Ford on this one!

P. Caffyn

I am writing to your magazine to complain about the behaviour of some of your members who camp at Mystery Bay. We have a respectable community here and we do not wish to see your bare backsides parading around while you change into you canoeing clothes. So if you drongos don’t stop dropping ya daks I will be calling the police.

Mystery Bay