Letters to the Editor [35]

Dear Sir,

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

Dear Sir,

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

PS: I hear there’s a new kayak called the Pittarak on the market