Y2K Certification For Your Kayak [37]

All Kayakers should note:

As you must be aware from all the media hype we are approaching the new millennium and computer programmers are flat-out making sure everything is Y2K compliant. You have probably heard come midnight at the end of this year everything may stop. Water and electricity will be cut off, planes will drop out of the air and your car will stop dead in its tracks, you won’t be able to use the ATM and chaos will rain supreme.

Well our sea kayaks are also vulnerable – even the most basic models have several microchips controlling their primary functions. So it’s essential that you make sure your kayak is Y2K compatible before the end of this year.

David Winkworth, an experienced kayaker of Merimbula, NSW, says

“there’s no way I’m going to be paddling my kayak at Midnight on the 31st December. You could be heading into a headwind then all of a sudden your kayak swings out to sea, or heads for the rocks or turns over. You might even be driving home and your kayak will suddenly spring off the roof rack. Nobody knows just what might happen…”

So for a small fee, members of the NSW SKC Executive will upgrade your kayak and give you a Y2K compliance certificate. Well worth the peace of mind! Don’t delay as there maybe a rush at the end of the year.


Important Notice [37]

NSWSKC Introduces Paddling Waiver

The Executive Committee at its recent meeting decided, following legal advice, to introduce a waiver to eliminate legal liability. Legal opinion is that the Executive and other members could be personally liable for damages without such a waiver. Therefore, members will be asked to sign the Waiver before attending any club paddle. The waiver is included with this issue. It is a standard type of document similar to those used by a great number of associations and clubs.

Training Notes [37]

By Dave Winkworth

Training Venues

Hi Everyone,
I thought I’d start this piece by mentioning a few of the issues raised at the Rock ‘n Roll/AGM weekend at Honeymoon Bay in December.

Firstly, venue. Honeymoon Bay is a great spot but we don’t seem to be having much luck with the weather over the years and the canvas marquee is quite a bit of work to erect and dismantle…..not to mention the generator….which this year cooked our guest speaker’s $3,000 computer/slide projector. (Hey Steve, all that smoke is an expensive way for the computer to tell you it’s switched itself off!) So, this year our Rock n’Roll/AGM venue will be Currarong Caravan Park. It has great facilities and a superb undercover area. We will still be close to Honeymoon Bay should the ocean at Currarong be windswept and we will still be using Honeymoon Bay for other weekends throughout the year. Any objections…call Norm Sanders!

At the AGM, a motion was passed that the club pick up the tab for any club member who wants to be assessed for the Board of Canoe Education Sea Proficiency Award. This is a great idea – once you have this award you are on your way to higher sea kayaking skills and formal recognition of them. I advise all members to go for it.

Our first Training and Assessment weekend is on 27/28 Feb at Shoalhaven Heads.

All you will pay for here is your caravan park accommodation and if we get enough starters for the weekend, we can pay at a bulk rate and get a good discount. Shoalhaven Heads Caravan Park has a great undercover area with full cooking facilities and a fridge. If coming along, please give me a call as soon as you can to confirm attendance. Even if you don’t think you’re of the required standard, I’d still advise you to come along for the experience. See you there?

On 21st/22nd March, Frank Bakker and I are conducting a Sea Instructor Training and Assessment Weekend at Batemans Bay. Gaining the Sea Instructor Award is a longer term objective. If you would like to discuss this award , please give me a call. Those paddlers who have notified an intention to attend will be sent some information shortly.

At the Rock’n Roll Weekend, some of the advertised sessions were cancelled due to my unforseen trailer wheel bearings – unforseen alright…they bloody well disappeared completely! I plan to cover these topics in “Training Notes” and Skills Weekends throughout the year. Sorry for the change.

Also at the Rock n’ Roll Weekend, some paddlers expressed a desire for some more advanced skills sessions at this year’s event. We can cover that at “The Next Step” Weekend which will be held at Currarong Caravan Park on Sat/Sun 17th and 18th April. Stay tuned.

Obtaining Current Weather Forecasts

Sea kayakers live by coastal waters forecasts. No doubt about it. If you have to cover distance or you have a lengthy crossing to make which will leave you exposed for a few hours you NEED a current coastal waters forecast. So where do you obtain one?

Quite obviously, newspapers are out…they were printed yesterday. They can give you tidal information and expected developments in the synoptic chart but they don’t give you the CURRENT situation. They’re more useful for the fish and chips!

I suppose at this point I should stress that a forecast is just that…a forecast. It is not a promise that a predicted weather pattern will develop. Sea kayakers therefore need to obtain all the information they can get and be prepared for a WORSE THAN FORECAST SITUATION TO DEVELOP.

Telephones, and especially mobiles are undoubtedly the modern communication tool. If you have a mobile, get a waterproof case for it and use it at sea. Why? Because mobile phone reception is pretty much line of sight and the ocean is FLAT! Enter the numbers you’ll need in the keypad for a quick dial. Some suggestions: Police stations in the area of your paddle, Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol stations (RVCP) – these are monitored 24 hours – or the recorded messages from the Bureau of Meteorology. The latter will cost you but they are the easiest to obtain. You just have to wait as the message runs through the forecasts for other coastal waters areas.

Before you embark on a paddle you can use a public phone with your phonecard or telecard to check the latest forecast too. Coastal waters forecasts are issued several times a day and the Bureau attempts to give 12 to 24 hour lead times for wind and sea state warnings.

Really, there is no excuse for not having an up-to-date forecast in populated areas.

The popular 27 MHz (marine CB) radios will keep you in touch with amateur fishing boats and also the local RVCP station for forecasts. Just remember to keep the batteries in good condition and don’t let a headland get between you and the base. I’ve transmitted 30 kms without problem and Norm Sanders has even got up to 50 kms I believe. If you can climb a headland you’ll do better obviously.

Moving into remote coastal areas like Nadgee means no reception for mobile phones. A 27MHz or a VHF (expensive) hand held set will keep you in touch with Gabo Is. or Green Cape lighthouses. There is reasonable reception there for public broadcast radio. You should however call the radio station and find out when the coastal waters forecasts are given. Be careful when listening – time is money on commercial stations and they race through the forecasts, sometimes leaving out bits here and there. No local forecasts are available on ABC radio stations on weekends – budgetary cutbacks have meant that the whole show comes from Sydney on weekends! I must say though that ABC radio is pretty good for forecasts early in the day on weekday mornings!

We shouldn’t forget the Internet too. Enter the Bureau’s website address in your Favourites and you can go straight to it. Don’t forget to check “Warnings” for details of any wind warnings. Address is http://www.bom.gov.au

Start checking in your local area on where you can get a coastal waters forecast . All of the above are more reliable than sticking a wet finger up in the air! Good luck.

Preventing Fatigue

This topic comes up every so often. There four or five basic things you can do to lessen the impact of fatigue on a long paddle. Let’s run through them – they’re all important.

  • Paddle as often as you can and over the distance you want to cover mostly. A 5km training paddle wont give you much condition for that 50km weekend trip.
  • Be comfortable. Change the seat if it’s no good..or pad it out. If your PFD chafes under the arms do something about it! Get the right clothes and gear. Heavens,this is all commonsense!
  • Carry accessible food and water. Muesli bars are great on deck but no good in the hatch with everything else! Carry enough accessible water for the trip….and drink it. Dehydration is a truly rotten feeling.
  • Wear a hat…either for shade or warmth and also for deflection of spray.(A saltwater hosing in the face every 10 seconds does get tiring) Make sure it has a stiff brim that won’t distort in a strong headwind and a chinstrap to keep it where it belongs – on your head.
  • Wear sunglasses. They cut down the glare reaching your eyes and also keep out the salt spray. They’re useful even on dull days.

See you at the Mystery Bay weekend.

Are There Lessons From the 1998 Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race for Sea Kayakers [37]

By Dave Winkworth

Well, I suppose we all know in some detail what happened in this race. Six sailors lost their lives, many more lives will be changed forever, many participants were injured – some seriously and most of the sailors will now view life on the sea in a different light.

Sitting through the numerous TV reports which included interviews with rescued sailors descibing terrifying conditions at sea, I seemed to come to the view that some of these sailors were under an illusion that this couldn’t possibly have happened to them between Sydney and Hobart. But it did. Some of them even declared an end to their seagoing days.

So, was what I was hearing right? Did they really believe that Bass Strait and the South Pacific Ocean couldn’t serve up huge breaking waves and 70 knot winds in December?

Well, the ocean blasted the fleet right between the eyes – there’s no doubt about that, and I’ll wager that conditions worse than those experienced by the race yachts have occurred in that very area in Decembers past.

Let’s have a look at a few aspects of the race and see if there are any lessons in there for sea kayakers.

The race started in idyllic sailing conditions – blue skies, lots of colour, spectator boats everywhere, a celebrity to fire the starting gun and a fresh nor’easter to get the maxi’s going for the record with a spinnaker run down the coast.

Expert commentators spoke of the yachts enjoying the nor’easter until late on Boxing Day night when a southerly change was predicted to hit the fleet.

Southerly change my arse! This was much more serious than that! It appeared to me the escape the attention of the commentators. I wonder did it escape the close scrutiny of all the skippers?

At precisely 2.14pm on Boxing Day, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a priority STORM WARNING for coastal waters off the far south coast. This was one hour and fourteen minutes after the race started. I’m certain I didn’t hear of any withdrawals at that time, or reports of yachts changing course to hug the coastline as far as Gabo Island.

Well, what exactly is a storm warning? Those paddlers who came on the Eucumbene Paddle last year felt a storm-force wind. Let’s have a look at the gradings…

  • Strong Wind Warning: 25 to 33 knots
  • Gale Warning: 34 to 47 knots (Gale Warning usually calls the Weather Bureau on April Fool’s Day each year.)
  • Storm Warning : 48 to 63 knots
  • Hurricane Warning: Over 63 knots

Now, in forecasts, wind speed is the average over a 10 minute period and gusts can be up to 40% stronger than the given speed. My calculator tells me that the predicted wind therefore, including gusts was of the order of 69 knots to 88 knots! That’s one hell of a southerly change! Do you know there were sailors who accused the Weather Bureau of not issuing the right information.! To my mind, you can’t get much clearer than that.

Just as the Sea Kayak Club puts the onus of “whether or not to paddle” onto the individual kayaker, so the Cruising Yacht Club lets skippers make the decision to race or withdraw. I should mention here that the Sea Kayak Club gives the Paddle Leader the right to refuse participation by a paddler for various reasons.

I’m told that another factor in the maelstrom was wind against current. I guess sea kayakers would call it wind against tide, as we deal mainly with inshore conditions. Out on the ocean, sailors go for the longshore ocean currents to get that extra speed. During our summer it races down the coast at up to 5 knots or so along the edge of the continental shelf and skippers quite naturally try to sit their yachts right on it for a free ride. Fair enough, but 70 knots of wind from the other direction must surely create some huge seas. Sea kayakers see this effect in the surf, on barred and un-barred river entrances (2 men died last year on Narooma Bar in just these circumstances) and often off prominent headlands.

Some of the yachts escaped the worst of the storm but many were caught smack in the middle of it. Lots were damaged and turned to seek shelter in Eden. At this time, most of the yachts were south and well wide of Gabo Is, so in turning they were in effect copping the seas and wind on the beam. I’m told that it was after turning north west to seek shelter that many were rolled over and dismasted. They were damaged AFTER withdrawing from the race!

Of the boats that made it to Hobart, one sailed before the storm (downwind) with bare poles towards New Zealand until conditions improved (this boat was a small 35 footer) and another kept it’s bow into the seas (heading south west into Bass Strait) until it could safely turn for Hobart. I must say, I find these different strategies for dealing with the conditions intriguing.

Well, can sea kayakers learn from these experiences?

To the weather first of all. If it’s a rotten forecast, heed it. Steve Symonds from the Bureau of Meteorology who was our guest speaker at the AGM says

“If it’s a bad forecast, expect the worst!”

On the decision to paddle or not to paddle, be conservative. If you think you may get into difficulties you probably will. There is not always another paddler nearby willing or able to help you.

Be very suspicious of wind against tide conditions. They can be very treacherous for all boats. Standing waves can result and you wont go anywhere – you’ll stay right in the middle of it all! Observe conditions, seek local knowledge and current forecasts. Read and understand your tide tables.

Learn the handling attributes of your kayak in difficult conditions Round bilge kayaks go sideways at a great rate of knots in beam seas and strong winds. Does your rudder bite deep enough? Can you turn your boat without it?

Check all your gear. Is your drink bottle accessible in storm conditions. Will your hat stay on? Sunglasses too (see Training Notes)? Can you pump your cockpit dry hands-free?

Can you roll up in storm conditions? Practise this at sea, not in the pond.

Finally, the big question.

What would you do if you were caught alone in storm conditions and unable to make headway into the sea? Ignoring the fact that land is probably closeby on one side, how would you ride it out and how would you set up your boat to cope with the conditions?

1998 Rock’n’Roll Weekend Highlights [37]

By David Whyte

Rolling and bracing practice in Honeymoon Bay

… and one to the left … and one to the right …

Some people just weren’t taking it seriously

Surfing practice at Target Beach

Sundra John is hiding in there somewhere

The magnificent backdrop of Point Perpendicular

The shelter of Boat Cove

Honeymoon Bay is great for families

… of kayaks …

Training wheels for one paddler …

An early Sunday morning paddle around Bowen Island …

… landing at Murrays Beach for breakfast

The utterly conscientious Training Officer made everyone roll just off Bowen Island — just before we spotted the shark

“Kermit” returns to …

Honeymoon Bay at low tide

The Rescue [37]

By Stuart Trueman

It was supposed to be a quiet paddle around Bundeena, then back to the Café for cake & coffee.

Sharon had not been in her kayak for a while so we were going to have a quick look at the ocean so she could get the feel again.

We reached the point of Jibbon Head. It had a small reef causing a few breakers and to show how clever I was I cut close to the reef in between the breaks. I turned round to see Shaz following, she thought I knew what I was doing so it would be OK. With my mouth dry I cheerfully waved her on out of danger and headed out to sea, away from any other temptations to show my apparent disregard for the sea, incase Sharon picked up any bad habits. As it turned out I need not have worried, as I was to display where this attitude can get you in spectacular fashion.

As we turned the corner we were treated to a profile view of a jet skier shooting over 3metre waves just before they smashed into the cliffs, ‘Must be sure of him-self’ I thought. We headed off for our little potter along the coast when I realized the annoying buzzing of the jet ski had stopped, I had a look about as I couldn’t imagine he could have gone back with out us noticing. In between swells I could see the ski smashed up against the cliffs and after getting closer I saw the crew bobbing in the surf zone. He was not moving, his arms down by his side, I could not be sure he was conscious. If unable to fight he would have been smashed into the rocks with the next set, so I set off.

As I got to where I thought there was no turning back I shouted which seamed to wake him up, then he asked what he should do? At that point realizing he was OK and knowing there was nothing I could for him I should have headed out of there faster than a Polaris missile. I suggested he head in, looked round in time to see a 3-metre wave forming. I back paddled and just made it over the top, as I was wondering how a human would handle being between a wave like that and rocks I paused under a 4-metre wall raising itself off a rock shelf. Again I tried the back paddling trick but I was not to get away with it twice, as I reached the ridiculous angle before It pitch polled me I allowed myself a smile at the futility of the fight.

I tucked myself in the set up position, which saved me from hitting any of the underwater rocks, and which I hoped would give some drag slowing me down before the crunch. There was so much soup due to the waves and back wash, it was like having my head in the clouds. This meant I had almost nothing to purchase on to slow me down or to roll with. When I ran out of sea I felt nothing but it must have been hard as my buttocks were bruised for days after, I tried a couple of rolls but in the soup against the rocks, it was a slim hope and if successful then what?

Out we get, the back wash pulled my kayak away from the cliffs then thoughtfully threw it back at me, I threw myself under the water letting the kayak pass over. I have already lost my front teeth in much lesser waves after being hit by a kayak in a separate incident, so having my head between a swamped kayak and very hard rocks I knew was something to avoid. After an ungraceful scramble up the rocks dragging the fully swamped kayak the adrenaline drained way as I saw the damage to the kayak, the bow was smashed in for five feet. Shit! To top it off the ungrateful git of a jet skier never said thanks for my attempts at finishing him off with 18ft of missile and could only run about like a headless chook crapping on about his insurance while the sea finished his ski off. I allowed myself a second smile as it sank.

Shaz had done the right thing and buggered off no doubt grateful for the valuable lessons learnt by watching me find out yet again that the sea is a powerful force and will catch you out should you push your luck.

I would like to thank Dave Winkworth for quickly fixing my kayak up, allowing me to complete a solo crossing of Bass Strait over the New Year.

(Stuart, I think you should stand up at the next AGM and recite this poem off by heart – Ed)

Ode to a Jet-Ski person

Jet-ski person, selfish fink.
May your silly jet-ski sink.
May you hit a pile of rocks,
Oh hoonish summer coastal pox

Noisy smoking dickhead fool,
On your loathsome leisure tool,
Give us all a jolly lark
And sink beside a hungry shark

Scream as in it’s fangs you go
Your last attention-seeking show
While on the beach we all join in
With “three cheers for the dorsal fin”

Michael Leunig

Sea Proficiency Award Requirements [37]

From the Board of Canoe Education

please take some time to read the Sea Proficiency Award requirements.

Note: Many paddlers hold a St John Ambulance First Aid Certificate for the resuscitation qualification.

Note also the requirement for a “hands free” cockpit bailing system. This usually means a manual footpump or an electric system. Many members are using either system, and they are happy to discuss their choice. Bailing out your cockpit with a hand pumping system in rough seas is next to impossible. Please don’t wait till you need to do it to find this out!

The Sea Proficiency Award is good commonsense sea paddling skills, and the Club is paying for you to obtain the award. What further incentive do you need?

David Winkworth

Sea Proficiency

The purpose of this test is to ensure that candidates have sufficient knowledge and skill to enable them to take their kavaks to sea with a competent leader.

The test must be taken at sea, under moderate conditions. Allowance will be made by examiners if conditions are rough, but the kayak skills must be performed in a competent manner. The test will not be taken in calm conditions. If double kayaks are used, candidates will be tested in both ends. Candidates must hold a current resuscitation qualification, and present it at the examination.


  1. Present suitably equipped for the test:

    1. kayak, paddle, spraycover and PFD – the kayak must be a recognised sea kayak, with

      • minimum volume cockpit (bulkheads or integrated cockpit)
      • positive buoyancy
      • all-round deckline svstem
      • toggles or other safe handholds at bow and stem
      • pump or self-bailer capable of ‘no hands’ operation, with sponge as backup
      • (optional) rudder or fin (candidates will be asked to explain the reasons for the rudder or fin.)
      • spare paddle system
      • towline
      • paddle park or leash
    2. basic repair and first aid kits
    3. waterproof container/s
    4. clothing appropriate to the conditions
  2. Pack the following items, as would be carried for a day paddle, in the waterproof container/s and stow it/them in the kayak for the duration of the test

    1. spare clothing
    2. prepared lunch and extra food
    3. fresh water
    4. matches or lighter
    5. torch
    6. compass
    7. emergency blanket

    (items may be added or altered to suit local conditions – be prepared to explain why)

  3. Demonstrate

    1. launching, using techniques appropriate to the site and conditions
    2. efficient paddling technique, forwards and reverse, and emergency stops – forward paddling will be demonstrated into, across, and down wind
    3. turning the kayak 360″ in both directions with sweep strokes, making use of boat lean and wave crests
    4. stern rudder – if the kayak is fitted with a rudder or fin, demonstrate its use
    5. support strokes
    6. paddle brace, high and low, on both sides, in breaking waves (up to 1 metre)
    7. draw strokes, in both directions
    8. forming into and dispersing from a raft
    9. landing forwards, sideways and reverse in small surf
  4. Show competence in emergency procedures

    1. towing, both as tower and patient, with and without support
    2. roll (double kayak paddlers may demonstrate self rescue)
    3. capsizes and rescues, acting as both rescuer and patient, with the rescues used appropriate to the craft and conditions
    4. swim 100 metres in canoeing clothing and PFD, and swim under a kayak to surface on the other side
    5. competent self-rescue by any method
  5. A log book describing at least three one-day expeditions at sea
  6. Answer questions on

    1. safety precautions
    2. the effects of wind, tide and current, including description of local forecast services and explanation of the use of tide tables
    3. local rescue services
    4. local waters and conditions
    5. elementary chart reading and compass use, understanding of chart symbols, scale, compass rose, compass errors

Notes for Examiners

  1. You are looking for competent, safe, performance rather than a superlative one. Have the expected standard clear in your mind
  2. The objective is to find what the candidates do know and can do, rather than the reverse. Give candidates further opportunities to prove themselves
  3. Plan the test carefully beforehand, with particular reference to the questions you will ask. You may take the items in the test in any order
  4. Use discretion in determining where weakness in part of the test can be offset by an otherwise good performance, but do not hesitate to fail candidates who are not up to standard
  5. To rate as a qualifying expedition the journey must have been on open water. The coastline may be simple, not involving overfalls, tidal races, difficult landings, or open crossings. Not more than one trip may be carried out on an estuary. There must have been a minimum wind strength of Force 3 (7 – 10kn/ 12 – 19 kn/h). The trip must have involved at least three hours paddling, with a lunch break in which the candidate was self-sufficient for food and drink. At least one journey must have been on an entirely different area of sea from the other two