Rovers go Sea Kayaking [36]

By Matthew Luttrell

Turramurra Rover Crew has a long history of both taking on challenging expeditions and doing things a bit crazily. Put these together, and you get a more than memorable trip. Matthew elaborates…

How to Destroy a Sea Kayak – A Step By Step Guide

The following description is just one of many fine methods that will cause irreparable damage to a $2,400 two-man Tasman sea kayak. I personally demonstrated its effectiveness on a Crew expedition back in July.

Step I – Get some really crazy people. I find that Turramurra Rovers are an ideal source. However, if hard to obtain, Sydney Uni Cavers are a suitable substitute. Our expedition involved five Turramurra Rovers (Brendan Elphick, Grahame Price, Patrick Mickan, Andrew Rennie and myself), one former 1st Turramurra Venturer (Sandy Smith) and one caver (Sushila Thomas). Make sure that no more than one participant has ever had open water kayaking experience. In our case this was Sandy.

Step 2 – Find somewhere nice to destroy the craft. We chose the Whitsunday Islands. We were to spend ten days paddling around this tropical paradise. We snorkelled, fished, bushwalked and camped at some of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen.

Step 3 – Pack some food. Noodies, peas, muesli, Deb, dried tofu and honey is about all you need. Try to catch as much fish as you can. We had great fun speaffishing for sharks with our paddles. I’m thinking of Operating a floating bakery for tourists up there in a few years time.

Step 4 – Get some kayaks. We hired one two-man mirage from Sydney Uni Canoe Club, borrowed a second from a friend, and drove these to the Whltsundays on the roof of a ten year old red Volvo. We found it especially exciting if the roof racks are half rusted through and make loud creaking noises during the whole drive. We hired a two-man Tasman kayak at Airlie Beach.

Step 5 – Practice your Eskimo rolls, low and high braces. We find resort swimming pools are ideal. They’re large and a nice depth. However, make sure all nuts and bolts in the cockpit are done up before you invert the kayak. We found this makes good snorkelling practice for the inexperienced.

Step 6 – Pack all your gear into the kayaks. We started packing on Airlie Beach just after high tide down by the waterline. After 2-3 hours we finally had all the gear in. Following a feast at the local bakery, we returned to see that the tide had dropped 3-4 metres from when we started packing. The result was a painful haul of three fully laden sea kayaks over 100 metres of coral beach. After half an hour we finally set off for North Molle Island.

Step 7 – Fish for breakfast. If you keep losing your hook and don’t expect to catch anything anyway, I find it’s just as fun to tie the line around the bait without re-hooking and just cast out again. Note, it’s not a good idea to accidentally roll up your sleeping bag with two day Old bait inside.

Step 8 – Watch the sun set behind Hayman Island. This was the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. It was shortly followed by the most amazing shooting star I’ve ever seen. The star burned for up to five seconds and had a bdght red flaming tail behind it. Don’t forget to make a wish! This is an amazing, fantastic place.

Step 9 – In the event of bad weather, accept a lift on a passing yacht. On Day 5 we had a 50kin paddle into 35 knot headwinds in three metre swell in order to meet Andrew, our seventh paddler, arriving on Hamilton Island with our food for the second half of the expedition. This was ,clearly impossible, so we tied the kayaks to the back of a nearby yacht which was also heading south. However, off the coast of Hook Island a rope snapped in three places and the Tasman floated off on the crest of a four metre wave into the distance. There was no way the yacht was turning around in the conditions.

I think it was at this moment that we collectively realised that of the three kayaks, only one was uninsured. Sure enough, it was the Tasman. Even more ironic, it was the Tasman that had the rescue beacon. It appeared that Grahame and Sandy had lost all their gear, not to mention the leftover food. We decreed that we weren’t to mention the “T” word any more, rather the lost craft was to be referred to with a hmmmm …. Someone would ask, “Where’s the can opener?” to be answered with a painful hmmmm ….. We spend the afternoon on the yacht with our new friends eating oysters, drinking wine and singing “Always look on the bright side of life”.

Step 10 – Make an emergency overnight camp. The yacht dropped us at the first safe inlet after the incident. This was aptly named “Refuge Bay”. Fortunately, we still had our tents and a small quantity of chocolate. However with six people and only two two-man kayaks we had to be rescued by the nearest resort. Irs just as well for by this stage we were cold and very demoralised. The expedition appeared over.

Step 11 – Eat a bloody huge breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, tomato, toast and coffee. At the resort we bumped into two fellow kayakers who had heard of our rescue. The story they heard was that one of our kayaks had tipped, and that in coming to the rescue the other two kayaks consecutively tipped over. It’s amazing the way news spreads.

Step 12 – Get stranded at the resort. Only one of our kayaks was still seaworthy so paddling back to the mainland was no longer an option. We spend the next two days trying to convince ferry companies to take our kayaks back. This was a highly frustrating two days. We did however manage to climb Whitsunday Cairn and play a bit of beach volleyball. It’s amazing though how boring resorts can be.

Step 13 – Return to Aidie Beach to negotiate a Settlement with the owner of the Tasman. It was salvaged after breaking up into pieces on Hayman Island. We got most of our gear back, except for Grahame’s pack which had mysteriously disappeared. The owner wanted a new kayak transported up from Brisbane plus lost earnings until it arrived. We convinced him to accept one of our Mirages, buying its owner a new one when we returned to Sydney.

Every problem we encountered brought a new challenge not to mention added stress, Overall it was an amazing experience (but costly). We got a hell of a lot out of it, mostly in terms of our personal development and the way that we bonded as a group in the times of crisis. We all decided at the end of the trip that we were in need of a holiday.

(For those unfamiliar with the scouting moment Rovers are the the oldest youth section of the scout movement ranging in ages from 18 to 26 – Ed)