Womens’ Issue Number 1 [40]

I Have To Go

By Shirin Richards

Lucky me, as I was going through some papers the other day I came across an old copy of the NSW Sea Kayaker, issue 28, October 1996. I was reminded of that little black mark against my name, thanks to Mark Pearson, going down in history as the fIrst woman to enter the’ Hall of Shame’. “Women’s Issues”. me and my big mouth! Unfortunately, my involvement with the club has lapsed, what is sadder the fact that my kayak has been dry for a year or so as I pursue other interests. I prefer to think of it as merely a hiatus, with the ever-hopeful view that one day soon. …Regardless, I feel compelled to extricate myself from the shackles that has bound me for the past 3 years to the Hall of Shame.

‘Women’s Issues’. Yes, I admit there are few issues that apply to women and not men while on the water, kayaking seems to be the great equaliser . However one issue that comes to mind is the delicate matter of ‘pissing’, weeing, relieving oneself, urinating … okay, okay you get the idea. It’s definitely not dinner conversation, but it’s an issue that affects every paddler at one time or another, so lets talk openly. This is an art form for women consisting ofbalance, coordination, and timing, the latter is very important in order to avoid carrying extra water in the cockpit, during those long crossings. Men, born with the ability to pee easily into bottles, may not understand the difficulty for women in performing this crucial act, however, as I have personally experienced, if the urge is upon you, and land still a few hours away, then one does what one can.

I am reminded of the 3-month expedition, I did with friends a couple of years ago, from the Township of 1770 to Cooktown. I became quite skilled in peeing from my kayak in almost all weather conditions, though in the early days I required assistance to steady my craft. As I crouched precariously in my cockpit to relieve myself, aiming for my bailer, someone would drape themselves over the back of my yak, in an attempt to stop it rocking, a result of me trying not to fall out. As you can imagine, after 3 months I was quite able to wee independently, regardless of sea or swell. There were times when my overconfidence lead me to be careless, when losing concentration might mean falling into the drink, but thankfully my dignity remains intact.

One of my other companions on that trip, also female, achieved greater fame, one I’d personally prefer to avoid. In her case she successfully did number 2’s! Now that’s an achievement, it’s funny what one founds impressive after 3 months on the water.

Admittedly the issue of peeing from a kayak is not only women’s issue, but our uniqueness provides an interesting challenge. I can offer an alternative for women if they are sick of ‘holding-on’, a simple American device called Freshette or colloquially termed “piss-a-fone” or “4U2P”. Let me just say, it allows women the freedom to stand (or sit) to pee, and makes aiming a whole lot easier!

Good paddling.


The Magical Whitsundays [40]

Windy One Day, Perfect The Next

By Sundra John

In our frequent quest to find exotic holiday paddling destinations, my trusting paddling partner (and wife) Salo and I have ventured abroad to New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Thailand with plans for other distant locations. The Whitsundays was frequently discussed but put aside for being too price’y and too tourist’y. After recent discussion with club members and desperation to get some sun, (and to regain my tan after all this Sydney rain) we hastily organized a trip north.

We flew into Proserpine on Sunday (04/07/99) and caught a taxi to Airley Beach. Things were looking grim. The Sydney weather had followed us up here. It was overcast and cold with a 30 knot S.E. wind. We awoke on Monday morning to the same conditions. With not much else to do, we caught a ferry to Hamilton Island to watch the final day of the outrigger world cup. This gave us a precise report of the sea conditions. (30 knot S.E. wind with a 2.5 metre swell – ie breaking waves)

Our planned start for our trip was for Tuesday (06/07/99), but due to the poor sea conditions we postponed for a day and hoped (I prayed) for an improving forecast. At 9 am Tuesday morning we were met by Niel and Haily from “Salty Dog Sea Kayaking” (our outfitters for the trip), who recommended a day paddle in the shelter of Airley Beach. We launched our kayaks from the ramp at Shingly Beach and headed north. This gave us the opportunity to get familiar with the boats (Perception – Sea Lion) and for me to test my new “kite” (P10 Parafoil from Rainbow Kites N.Z.). After 2 drownings and a tangle I got the kite flying and sailed for about 3 km to a northern point. We then paddled back along the sheltered shoreline. That evening we bought our provisions (food, drinks, and fuel) for our 7 day trip from the very convenient local Bi – Lo supermarket.

At 9 am Wednesday (07/07/99) morning we decided to start our trip. Although the forecast for a 20 knot S.E. and 1.5 – 2 meter swell was an improvement it was far from ideal.

The Day The Plan The Trip
Day 1 Shute Hbr. to North Mole Isl.(Cockatoo Bch) as planned
Day 2 North Mole to Whitsunday Isl.(Dugong Bch) North Mole to Hook Isl.(camp resort)
Day 3 Dugong Bch to Hook Isl. (camp resort) Hook Isl resort to Maureens Cove
Day 4 Hook Isl resort to Maureens Cove 2nd day at Maureens Cove
Day 5 2nd day at Maureens Cove Maureens Cove to Stonehaven
Day 6 Maureens Cove to Stonehaven Stonehaven to Nth Mole (Cockatoo Bch)
Day 7 Stonehaven to Hook Resort (catch ferry back) North Mole To Airliey Beach

Paddling Conditions

Varied from overcast with 20 Kn. S.E. winds and 1.5 to 2 meter seas for days 1 and 2, and consistently improving to sunny, glassy and windless conditions by day 7.Tidal influence is significant (ie. up to 3 Kn flow at mid tide), thus affecting speed, direction, sea conditions, and landing at most campsites. Tidal height was up to 4.1 meters at spring tides.

Scenery and Wildlife

The Whitsunday Island group is protected by National Parks and Wildlife. The islands are dense with natural vegetation and wildlife (snakes, possums, goannas, birds ). The surrounding crystal clear water is fringed by pristine coral reef teaming with aquatic life (fish, turtles, dugong, manta rays etc). Snorkelling is highly recommended and I organised a scuba dive from Maureens Cove.


Campsites are designated by Queensland Parks and Wildlife and permits are required. There are water tanks and toilets on North Mole and Hook Camp Resort with other campsites being back to basics. Overuse and crowding is therefore minimised and we had very solitary camp sites during our stay.


This area is a must do for anyone considering a local (Australian) trip. We will be back again to see more of the Magic.

Costs and Contacts
Camping Permits $18 pp (for 6 nights ie $3 a night)
Accommodation $45 a night for a double cabin (Reef Oceania Resort – Backpacker Resort)
Camping Food $120 for 2 for 7 days
Kayaks $30 pp per day (inc. paddles, skirts, flares, first aid kit, dry bags)
Tent & mats $40 for trip
Airfare $480 pp
Kayak Outfitters Salty Dog Sea Kayaking phone (07) 4946 4848 Email: Saltydog@mackay.net.au

Adding a Deck-mounted Switch to the Attwood Waterbuster Pump [40]

By Nick Gill

There have been a number of pump discussions in the NSWSKC newsletter. The Attwood Waterbuster (WB) has been among those listed as used by sea kayakers. It costs around $100 from marine shops. The WB is a submersible 200gph (US gallons per hour — about 700 litres per hour) pump powered by three ‘D’ cell batteries. Attwood claims 5-hour operation with alkaline batteries. I have been told of a Victorian paddler who has found a rechargeable 6V battery that works with the pump and fits in the battery compartment. The main advantage of this pump is that it is self-contained. The batteries are housed within the waterproof pump housing itself. This makes it a relatively simple affair in comparison to the l2V marine pumps.

The main disadvantages of the WB are its low output relative to a 12V pump and its switch. The most popular l2V pump is a 500GPH pump. I have also heard of an 1100gph pump being used in sea kayaks. This larger pump draws more power when it operates but pumps proportionately more water for a given power draw. I’m not sure why it’s not in wider use. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. The WB pumps 200GPH. This is much lower the 12V pumps but the amount pumped from a sea kayak is relatively small. This morning I filled my cockpit with water equivalent to the amount I get from a wet exit. The WB took just under five minutes to pump the water out. This seems reasonable to me given the complete lack of effort required.

The WB has a waterproof pushbutton switch on the pump body. This is not adequate for sea kayak use, which requires a deck-mounted switch for operation with the sprayskirt on. There are some alternatives to a deck-mounted switch. These include float switches that automate pump operation when the water reaches a level that activates the switch. I haven’t seen these used in sea kayaks (but maybe someone out there uses them). The other option is the switchless, automatic pumps. Rule makes two types. One is their computerised ‘Platinum’ series. These pumps check for water at regular intervals, pumping if water is detected. They draw power to conduct the checks. Rule claims a draw of 0.25 ampere-hours per day for the 500gph pump. They also make a ‘Rule-mate’ series with a built-in float switch. These require 2 1/8 inches (55mm) of water to operate. Too much for a sea kayak, I suspect. If anyone has tried these automatic pumps I’d be interested to hear from them.

The remainder of this article is about modifying the WB for use with a deck- mounted switch.

Attaching an External Switch to the Waterbuster

Anyway, I had a WB and didn’t feel like spending more money. I modified it as follows. One of my principles was to mount everything in the cockpit, avoiding drilling holes in my rear compartment. First I needed a switch. Initially I thought a pushbutton switch would be most desirable; low profile and relatively robust compared to a toggle switch. However, I had trouble locating a waterproof pushbutton switch. I did think of various ways of sealing existing pushbutton switches such as painting them with marine varnish or Sikaflex. I could have used the switch from the WB but Attwood will not supply the switch alone and I expect to have to replace the switch. I have since written to Judco, the WB switch manufacturer in California. I haven’t heard back but it all seemed a bit complicated. Eventually I went for a readily available and off-the-shelf waterproof toggle switch from Dick Smith Electronics ($11.95, catalogue no. P-7664), as used by the redoubtable Tasmanians and others.

I unscrewed the switch from the WB and removed it. This left a hole in the pump body. I also removed the battery housing. At an auto shop I purchased a packet of 3/8 inch blanking grommets. With coarse sandpaper I roughened the pump body inside and out around the hole. This was to provide a better surface for Sikaflex adherence. I fitted one to the hole in the pump body and pierced it with a hot nail. This provided a snug hole through which to later insert the wires running off the switch.

I then soldered insulated electrical wire to the wires on the waterproof switch. Over the joins I smeared Araldite. Once dry I put heat shrink over the join and then smeared Sikaflex over the whole lot. I then put some larger heat shrink over both wires to bring them neatly together. I then cut the wire to length and inserted it through the hole in the blanking grommet.

If you don’t have soldering equipment don’t buy it. Buy crimping connectors and join the wires using these. You can even buy “waterproof” ones from marine shops. I’d still heat shrink/Sikaflex them though. In fact the waterproofing seems to come from heat shrink which is integral to the connectors.

Now I had to connect female spade connectors to the end of the wires. These then connect to the male connectors on the pump. The WB has different sized spade connections to rule out incorrect wiring when replacing batteries. You will need some 4.8 mm and 3mm female spade connectors. I am going on memory here for sizes; I threw out the packets. The sizes needed are, however, standard so you will have no trouble getting what you need. Take the original WB switch to show to sales staff if in doubt. If possible get insulated connectors. They are easier to attach to the wires, especially if you have a crimping/ wire-stripping tool. Such a tool makes this sort of small-scale electrical work much easier. You can get cheap ones for about $12-$20 from electronics stores.

Crimp the connectors onto the wires, put the batteries back in, and attach the switch wires to the appropriate points in the pump — this is obvious — just have a look at the connection setup prior to undertaking this job. Check that the pump works by turning the switch to “on”.

Assuming the pump works, take out the battery housing again and get the connectors and wire adjusted to a good fit. Then take some Sikaflex on the tip of a nail and smear it around the inside of the lip of the grommet. You can use a nail to raise its edges. Then generously smear Sikaflex around where the wire passes through the grommet. Do this on the inside and the outside of the pump. On the inside be careful not smear so much that the battery housing won’t go back into the pump. Allow this to dry .It might be worth smearing Araldite over the wire/grommet join first to provide some strength. I’m not sure if this is better than the flexibility of sikaflex alone or not.

The battery compartment can then be placed in the pump and the pump lid replaced. You now have a WB with an external switch. It now needs to be installed. You will need to devise some sort of mounting system suitable for your boat. I use shaped foam to place the pump and use shock cord (and olive cleats) run through ‘P’ clips (an electrical cable fitting available from marine and electrical suppliers) to hold it in place. The ‘P’ clips are bolted to my hull and rear bulkhead. Having removed the metal base plate, I have also shaped the base of the WB to fit my hull shape using a Stanley Surform tool.

Drill a hole in the deck where you want the switch. Drill a hole slightly smaller than the switch thread to get a nice snug fit as you insert it. Smear Sikaflex over the top of the switch, at the base of the thread and, from below, insert it into the drilled hole. Then smear a little Sikaflex on the base of the toggle ‘boot’ and screw it onto the switch. The supplied boot has a round base. Dick Smith Electronics also sell a boot with a hexagonal base that can be tightened (carefully) with a spanner or socket. I bought one of these for a couple of dollars, keeping the original as a spare. Even flasher are the military spec boots from Farnell electronics (www.farnell. com, choose ‘Australia’; Sydney 02 9645 8888) which are high quality rubber/silicone of some sort and have a metal hex nut in the base ($10.20, $7 p&h). I haven’t bought one but as far as I can make out you want the boot with 15/32 inch diameter thread -catalogue no. 146-843. They also sell milspec pushbutton boots. I have seen one of these milspec pushbutton boots and they certainly seem to be of more robust. material than the standard boots. Farnell claims salt, weather and UV resistance for these boots. Such boots may be worth it as I have been told the standard boots need replacing regularly.

I wanted to protect the switch. I didn’t have a stainless steel stirrup big enough to go over he toggle but I had some black foam. I shaped a ‘doughnut’ to go around the switch but thought it too bulky and ugly on my red boat with fashionable black fitout. Dave Winkworth suggested a black plastic stirrup used for securing garden irrigation hose. At my local garden centre I found one for 25c. They seemed to come in two sizes. The smaller one won’t fit over the toggle. This is about to be put on my boat using some 3/16 stainless steel screws and nyloc nuts that I had. I’ll use an 11/64 drill bit to drill the holes.

The installation works well so far. Only time will tell if the pump remains sealed.

What You Need

  • waterproof switch (Dick Smith Electronics, catalogue no. P- 7664).
  • insulated electrical cable -3/8″ blanking grommet -spade connectors -sikaflex
  • Araldite or equivalent and Sikaflex marine sealant or equivalent
  • heat shrink -you can buy packets with multiple sizes
  • plastic/stainless steel stirrup and screws/nuts
  • a wire stripper/crimping tool is handy

The Sea Kayaking Instructor Qualification in the USA [40]

By Damon Howes

The wind was blowing whitecaps across the bay as Mandy Buckner shouted, “Got anything else you’d like to show me?”

She was the American Canoe Association (ACA) Sea Kayaking Instructor Trainer. She was the judge, the final authority on whether one received the Instructor qualification or not.

This was the last chance for the 14 Sea Kayaking instructor candidates to demonstrate their skills in paddle strokes, rescues and instruction. Kym, a former US Olympic Kayaking representative, spoke up, and instructed us again on the method for completing a “T” rescue.

Of the 14 candidates, myself and five other “students” were successful in gaining the Instructor qualification (43% success rate). Four of these five students had come from the kayaking shop that sponsored the training event and were probably always destined to get their qualification (or get sacked!).

I have been in the US for over two years now, and having completed the requirements for my Instructor qualification, I thought I’d write of the experience and provide some general comments on sea kayaking in the USA. These are my personal observations only and are blatant generalisations. Knowing the Old Sea Dog has a pedigree in this continent, he may find these ring true or not or somewhere in between!

Let me first mention that sea kayaking is a BIG growth business over here. There is good money to be made for smart businesses / individuals. Take the Instructor’s course itself -that set me back US$550 or about AUD $850 at a $0.65 cents conversion rate. Certainly not mucking around. To do a standard one day “introductory” course costs US$95, the content and conduct of which is another story again. An instructor gets paid US$125 for conducting an 8 hr introductory course.

To gain the instructor certification requires you to register for two distinct courses. The first is the Instructor Development Workshop (IDW). This is a three-day course run by the Instructor Trainer and designed to expose you to different teaching styles and techniques while showing the ACA methodology for teaching some of the basic strokes and rescues. It covers on- land subjects such as boat fit, carrying methods, wind, waves, tides, weather, common illnesses and injuries, kayak design, methods for loading a kayak, etc. The on-water portion covered “proper” stroke technique of the forward touring, reverse, stopping, forward and reverse sweep, draw strokes (in water, out of water and sculling) and braces (low, high and sculling). It also covered rescues including the scoop, eskimo bow and side rescue, T rescue, the “all -in” and the ubiquitous paddle float rescue with, and without, a stirrup! They were all pretty amazed to hear that a paddle float is not widely used in Australia: over here it is almost considered mandatory.

I completed my certification through a company called Wild River Outfitters based in Virginia Beach, V A (about four hours drive SE of Washington, DC) (http://www.wildriveroutfitters.com). The venue was just over the border in North Carolina at a place called Tulls Bay. They had the use of a cabin right on the shoreline. It was on a huge block of land. Everyone bought tents and camped out for the duration with use of the shower and toilet facilities inside.

The wind came through on or the first night and flattened a few tents causing the occupants to race for the shelter of the cabin. The other “candidates” were a mixed bunch with a common thread of enjoying the outdoors. There were wilderness leadership instructors (another big business over here), people setting up their own kayaking business, employees from Wild River and those that just wanted to push their skills some more (my category!). The three days were intense and the pressure was on to learn, and learn the ” ACA ” way. Mandy was an effusive personality with a great sense of humour. She is known for being a “tough” trainer -the course run in 1998 had 12 candidates and only four people got their qualification.

It was a full on time, with lively discussions going on in the evening around the fireplace and I introduced some of the braver ones to the “pleasure” of Bundaberg Rum. Funnily enough, they all declined the opportunity to sample some more on the second evening. We all had to give presentations on sea kayaking topics including submitting a written lesson plan. We were critiqued by our peers on the content, delivery and style. I probably enjoyed these three days more than the two days of “assessment”.

This last phase is titled the Instructor Trainer Certification or ITC. It was conducted over the following weekend and for some, the gloves were off. Mandy was much less the “Ms Nice Guy” and all business. The assessment was in the areas of Teaching Skills and Group Management; Attention to Safety; Paddling Skills; and Technical Knowledge. It included a written examination and a ten-minute verbal presentation. This is somewhat similar to the Australian Board of Canoe Education Instructor requirements which encompass: Test of (Kayaking) Ability; Practical Teaching; Demonstrate Knots; Written and Oral Exam; Show Log to include several overnight trips; and a ten minute talk on a (kayaking) topic.

Mandy didn’t provide as much guidance during this phase and you were expected to basically convince her as to your instructor qualities.

The American’s are generally extremely safety conscious. Risk management and erring on the side of safety is consistently highlighted. This is due, in part, to the extreme level of legal liability and the American willingness to “sue, sue, sue”. One only has to look in the telephone yellow pages to see that the legal section is by far the biggest. The classic case of this cultural preoccupation was when a bus had an accident and the driver was featured on TV complaining that before the accident he only had about 10 passengers and yet afterwards there was about 20 people claiming to have been passengers and now suffering “injuries”!

Okay, so now for some personal generalisations and observations. The growth of sea kayaking in the USA is generally appealing to people who want some excitement but not too much danger. They generally expect to complete day paddles in protected waters with short fetch. Bodies of water such as lakes, bays, estuaries and rivers are the more commonly paddled. People tend to use the sea kayaks for more sedentary pursuits such as bird watching, drift fishing or perhaps for a few hours exercise. It was interesting that of the 14 students, there was only one other person that had actually been on an extended paddle of more than two days duration.

Having seen about four or five sea kayaking classes conducted by Wild River, it’s interesting that the average age of the participants is around 45 years and there are about 40-50 % females. Of these, most are “looking for something different”. The oldest couple I saw was a guy aged 70, and his wife 65, who bought their kayaks a year ago and needed advice on how to get in and out. So they attended the class. It was actually quite inspiring that a couple of that age and ilk wanted to get out there and do it — within reason — and they were very much aware of their limitations. I’d be interested if these demographics are at all similar to that encountered in Australia, where participants are larger majority male and probably most of the instruction is probably conducted through the Club setting (Rock and Roll weekends etc.) by senior members, as opposed to the outdoor outfitter, pay for service, method used here in the States. Wayne Langmaid may care to offer some observations on this.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between the US and Australian kayaking scene is the reliance and use of safety devices. Along with the paddle float the next “most important” piece of kit is the hand pump. Just thinking about using this causes me angst! The idea is that once you have used the paddle float to re-enter your kayak, you empty the cockpit of excess water by using the pump. Suffice to say, this is hard work, inefficient and you have yet to paddle clear of the conditions that flipped you in the first place! But, to be fair, this system is designed more for those who are paddling in protected waters — which is the majority of the US sea kayaking fraternity — and who “happen” to capsize.

In Australia, the emphasis is very much different. The Sea Proficiency certification requires a sea kayak with a “pump or self bailer capable of no- hands operation”. When I showed the kayaking group my Attwood battery operated pump, they were initially skeptical until I showed it in operation. I think I may have converted a couple of them.

The eskimo roll is considered an advanced technique in the US. Part of the certification requirement was to complete three rolls in a row, turning through 360 degrees. Not all of the instructor candidates could do this and the day prior to the examination I spent a few hours working with two of the students to enable them to perform a basic Pawlata roll. According to how I was taught, and Derek Hutchinson’s book on Eskimo Rolling, this is the easiest way to learn to roll and enables the progression to a screw roll. The ACA method is to teach the C-to-C roll, which in my view is harder to learn from scratch. Consequently, there were some students who did not gain their qualification because they could not roll. This was actually a big discriminator. Interestingly, the stipulated Australian requirement for Instructor certification is for “a roll” to be demonstrated as part of one’s kayaking ability.

As one would expect, there are some differences and similarities between the countries. I know the club has recently experienced the legal liability issue and has introduced measures for waivers and to ensure people acknowledge they are participating in a risky sport. I fervently hope our society doesn’t follow in the US footsteps in regards to litigation. This has caused some Clubs to disband as people are unwilling to accept the trip convener/leader responsibility, so paddlers end up going solo or with “like minded people”.

For all that, completing the ACA course was a great opportunity to get out with a bunch of interesting individuals and to make some friendships that will last long after we return to Australia. Time spent paddling is never wasted.

See you at the Rock and Roll weekend!

When It’s Time to Turn Back [40]

By David Winkworth

On the weekend of the 22 October , a group of very experienced club members came to the South Coast for an overnight paddle from Tathra to Hidden Valley and return in Mimosa Rocks National Park.

Hidden Valley, a terrific sea kayaking camping area (no vehicle access) at the northern end of the park is only marginally protected by Bunga Head from southerly and south-easterly winds and seas. It is a relatively short beach, bounded by a cliff on it’s southern side and a reef to the north. In big seas, strong rips set up at both ends of the beach and the landing/launch window becomes narrow and dangerous. A few years ago I watched a double Pittarak stand on it’s nose here — an awesome sight — as the paddlers tried to enter the beach in good conditions but in the wrong place. Walking out from Hidden Valley is possible but long.

Anyway, back to the story: the guys arrived Friday night, as the rain and winds moved in from the south. They hoped to paddle off Saturday morning. A cold southerly front preceded a strong slow moving high pressure system which would keep the winds from the south-east for the next few days bringing rain with it. The forecast for Sunday was S/SE winds 25 -35 knots and building seas — If this forecast came true, the beach would not be a nice sight to greet you for a surf breakout at Hidden Valley on Sunday morning!

Now, as we know, the folks at the Weather Bureau quite often get the forecast wrong… but it is quite reasonable for them to err on the side of caution because lives may, and often do, depend on their forecast.

On Saturday, the showers were light, and the winds, while from the south to ESE were fluctuating in strength. The weather and sea conditions on Saturday were more benign than forecast which could easily lead a group of paddlers to say:

“It’s not going to blow, we might as well continue as planned.”

Well, to their credit, the paddlers who came along this weekend went for a day paddle on Saturday, pulled out and went home.

Late last night, the predicted gale force winds DID hit the coast from the SE. This morning (Sun.) the Weather Bureau issued a “‘Large Wave Warning’ for the South Coast with waves up to 7 metres” forecast. On Sunday, Norm Sanders and I had a look at the coastal conditions at Tuross and Tathra respectively.

While there ddn’t appear to be waves of 7 metres, conditions were very rough. The wind strength was strong and holding and the sea state appears “fully developed.” Rain is heavy and constant, and for the south coast paddlers who elected NOT to go to Hidden Valley, let me tell you that the surf break at Tathra Beach today starts out next to the wharf! That would give you quite a few lines of surf to negotiate! The boat ramp at Tathra (Kianinny Bay) is a mess with huge breakers right across the entrance surging right into the bay and up the cliffs. Hidden Valley Beach would be closed out completely…you’d be walking out today if you needed to get home tonight!

In these surf conditions, all paddlers should ask themselves 2 questions:

  1. Do I have the skills to handle this stuff?…and
  2. Do I need to go through it?…..

If the answer is no in either case, then crawl back into your tent.

The point of all this?

Simply that the guys here this weekend made a correct responsible decision not to paddle. They could have landed at Hidden Valley on Saturday but there would be no paddling on sunday and probably not the next either — they would have been stranded up there for a few days for sure.

At our Rock’n’Roll Weekend last year, our guest speaker, Steve Symonds from the Bureau of Met, made a simple statement which has merit:

“When the weather forecast is bad, expect the worst.”

He’s right too.

Ahhh, Spring, a delightful time to paddle!

Trip Leading on Club Paddles [40]

by Doug Fraser

This article is written as a counter view to some of the concepts put forward in the article titled ‘Sea Kayaking as an Individual in a Group‘ by Sarah Adler published in the Winter edition of the NSW Sea Kayaker. It is not a criticism of Sarah herself as I certainly enjoy paddling with her and I appreciate her concern for her fellow paddlers.

The main reason for writing this article is to raise discussion in the Club with regards to issues such as trip leader and participant responsibilities and that vexing question of group spread. By discussing these issues I hope that I may create an attitude change within the Club which may lead to the development of some realistic operating procedures to manage group spread.

In this article I will provide an alternate view to the highly simplistic and I consider, selfish notion, that any group spread is unacceptable. This attitude is proving to be an effective means of destroying the satisfaction of a large number of members. If readers doubt this they should note that in the last Club Calender there were no paddles of grade three or above open for general participation. These paddles tend now to be organised privately and are by invitation or are not run at all. The problem with this is that experience is not being gained or passed on and slower paddlers are not being given the opportunity to undertake more challenging and satisfying paddles.

I must stress that my article concentrates on paddles of grade three or above. The paddle from Kiola mentioned by Sarah in her article was such a trip. It should be noted that as from next year all participants must have a Sea Proficiency certificate to undertake such paddles.

Trip Leader’s Responsibilities

One of the best models for the responsibilities or roles of any leader is functional approach developed by John Adair. He purports that there are three functions a leader performs, being the satisfaction of group, individual and task needs. These three needs are not mutually exclusive and all three can be met concurrently in many cases.

In some situations however, there will be a requirement for one need to take priority over the others. In the crossing of a particularly long and dangerous stretch of water where failure could lead to death, the task, being to reach the destination, will dominate. Individual needs ranging from satisfying hunger to self-fulfillment and group needs such as identity, can only afford to be met if they contribute to achieving the task. If on the other hand, a group of workmates is undertaking a sea kayaking activity to specifically bond them closer as a team then the group needs are pre-eminent. If a beginner is taking to the water and is nervous and needs to be encouraged then the individual needs come first. It is the trip leader who must ensure that the correct emphasis is placed on the various needs depending on the aims of the activity and the situation.

To slightly modify Adair’s model for Club trips I believe that all three needs could be enclosed again with one entitled safety, as this is without a doubt, the trip leader’s prime responsibility.

Safety is the trip leader’s prime responsibility.

The task of the trip leader in a volunteer activity such as Club paddles is compounded by the fact that the participants are all paddling for their own and often different reasons. While some may have a strong focus on the goal to achieve their individual needs, others paddling for the social aspect will maximise their individual satisfaction by seeing the group social needs satisfied.

To make the trip leader’s task even more difficult there are varying levels of paddling speeds within a group. Over long distances slow paddlers will find it hard going and become demoralised by only ever seeing the backs of the people in front. On the other hand, strong paddlers can become extremely frustrated by the slow pace of those in the rear. Slowing these paddlers down to maintain a similar pace destroys their natural rhythm making paddling very unsatisfying. If they cannot see a valid reason for maintaining this slow pace it guarantees disharmony within the group.

It can be seen therefore that the job of the trip leader in meeting everyone’s expectations is very difficult. If anything the trip leader on an open invitation Club paddle needs to maximise overall individual satisfaction within a group, ensuring that no member’s needs are totally ignored, whether they be a fast or slow paddler.

The club tripleader must strive to maximise the overall satisafaction of participants.

Group Spread

In an ideal world there is no group spread, everyone is of the same paddle fitness, paddle the same boats and want the same thing from a paddle. As all experienced paddlers know this is nothing like the case in reality. For the Club to run safe, satisfying paddles of grade three and above and open to all appropriately qualified paddlers, fast or slow, procedures for managing group spread must be developed, taught and adopted.

Sarah is correct when she says that the pace of the group is set by the slowest paddler, but this must be put in context. This pace is the overall group speed over a leg or task. It is acceptable for paddlers to travel at different speeds and with breaks or deviations, still maintain a group speed equivalent to that of the slowest paddler. This however, necessitates the management of group spread.

The issue of the slower paddler is the first I shall address. As previously mentioned being at the back of the pack can be, but is not necessarily, quite demoralising, particularly when no matter how hard you try you cannot keep up. I know this because like most I have been there. But someone will always be the slowest, this is a fact of life. The slowest person is also likely to be the most tired and the one most likely to come to grief in adverse conditions. As a result there is a need for at least one good paddler to remain with this last person to provide company, boost their morale, monitor their physical state and provide assistance if need be. It is the tripleader’s responsibility to ensure that this occurs and that if necessary, the role of the designated tail end paddler is rotated amongst the stronger paddlers.

The trip leader must ensure that a strong and experienced paddler, is nominated as the tail end paddler and accompanies the slowest member of the group

I have heard it said that the leader could do this task. While this is possible the trip leader is responsible for the management of the whole group and incidents can occur to any member of the party. One of the worst things that can happen is for participants at the front committing themselves to dangerous conditions without the leader knowing. For this reason I personally like leading from either the middle to one side for smaller groups so I can see the whole group by looking to a flank, or for larger groups, from the front so I can prevent paddlers entering situations I do not want the group committed to.

The trip leader must also ensure that the rear paddlers get an opportunity to catch up during the breaks and have a reasonable rest. It must be stressed here that this is not always easy as the faster paddlers will have a longer rest and may become bored or start to cool down and seize up. This last phenomenom can be a real problem. For coastal touring it is useful to allow these paddlers to explore and hence slow down their overall speed. On open water crossings the trip leader will just have to try and hold them stationary and I can assure you that this can create friction. For this reason long open water crossings are best suited to groups of similar paddling speeds.

Suggestions for Managing Group Spread

The basic principle for managing group spread is to vary it for the conditions. The trip leader must ensure the following:

  • the paddlers at the front and back must be able to achieve visual contact at intervals of no more than 30 seconds. Rougher seas and poor light will necessitate closing in, sea fog means no spread.
  • emergency communications such as whistle blasts must be able to be passed up and down the group. Stronger winds will necessitate closing in.
  • rendezvous points should be used to allow the participants to regroup, the trip leader to change or reconfirm instructions, designated tail end paddler to be changed and physical conditions of all participants to be monitored. On open water these could be on the hour for five minutes with the lead paddler stopping for others to catch up. On the coast these could be at appropriate easily recognised points using the lee side for protection.
  • on encountering dangerous conditions such as a strong wind or tidal rip the group must close up tight. The lead paddler must be capable of determining this, if it is a known possibility the trip leader could paddle up front.
  • as previously mentioned a designated stronger, experienced paddler must always accompany the slowest paddler.
  • all paddlers should have towlines and be experienced in their use in the event of sickness or encountering conditions beyond the capability of some participants.
  • all paddlers must know how the trip leader plans to manage group spread and how or under what conditions it will be changed. It is the responsibility of paddlers at the front to ensure that they do not exceed the designated spread. This necessitates that they frequently look back to see where the rest of the group is!

The trip leader must manage group spread, changing it as the circumstances require. it requires planning and an unambiguous briefing. all paddlers must know and provide what is expected of them

Control Measures and Tools

To assist in the management of group spread it is advisable that all participants have some form of audible signalling device such as a whistle; a map to assist in locating rendezvous points (although these should be visible from the previous point) and wear a bright BV or have a light coloured boat. At night a light source visible from 360 degrees is essential. Radios with the lead paddler, trip leader and designated tail end paddler could assist, but care must be taken that it does not encourage paddlers to spread out that much that they cannot provide assistance to other members if the need arose.

Faster paddlers could also be encouraged to explore the coastline to slow their overall progress. This should never be done out of sight of at least one other member of the group. When group spread is permitted operating in pairs or small groups should be encouraged.

Possibly the most important control measure is a clear and comprehensive briefing that covers all the realistic situations you may encounter. For instance what is allowed should paddlers see whales and wish to investigate; what happens on a whistle blast, does everyone repeat it; what happens if sea fog rolls in. It is too late to come up with rules after the event. What is also important is that once a briefing is given it is complied with until changed. This is last point is actually the responsibility of the participants and this must be made very clear to them.

It is everyones responsibility to ensure that group spread is managed so that all can safely enjoy a club trip


The sea kayaking trip leader’s job is not an easy one and it is compounded by the varying speeds of the participants. This range of speeds is likely to be significant in open invitation Club paddles. For grade three paddles and above there will be times when safety is critical when no group spread is acceptable. In most cases however, group spread will exist and must be managed. To demand that there is no spread is simplistic and guaranteed to destroy the satisfaction of many of the participants and, instead of bonding the group, will guarantee disharmony. It is important that all paddlers of the appropriate skill levels be able to participate in the maximum number of Club activities.

To allow this the Club must develop, teach and implement procedures to manage spread. Trip leaders must know their responsibilities but at the same time so must all the participants. No one, fast or slow must expect the group to revolve around their requirements, instead, everyone must appreciate that is some compromise involved in participating, but if the trip leader does their job well, the overall level of individual satisfaction will be maximised.

Thursday Island Paddling [40]

By Mike Snoad

See also the trip story, the croc incident story, the fishing story, the camp oven, the sailing story.

It’s late afternoon and warm. As we glide along the only sound is the gurgle of water against our hulls. The Torres Strait water is a bright, almost painful to the eyes. It’s an unbelievable iridescent green. Our destination TI (Thursday Island) is still a couple of hours away. The gentle breeze working on the square rigged sail on Paul’s kayak ( a Rosco built in Queensland) is our only motive power. Rees and I in the Rosco double are rafted up with Paul to get a tow. Apparently this laid back approach to kayak travel is the norm in Torres Straight. Rees, in the front cockpit of our double is leaning back against the esky in its deck well between the cockpits. This is a true mother ship. Heavy duty folding picnic chairs are in the rear compartment along with all manner of creature comforts. Paul and Rees live on Thursday Island and form the nucleus of an informal sea kayak club there. They have both been generous hosts during our ten days sojourn on TI.

This is too good to last. We don’t want to admit it but despite the pleasant gurgle of our wake, a periodic bearing on the bulky Prince of Wales Island on our left (sorry, port side) reveals that we are not going anywhere. The tidal stream in this relatively narrow channel that drains the Gulf of Carpenteria is running at about three knots against us and increasing. What a bummer. On any other day in the last week and a half of our stay, we would have been flying along with a 30-knot south-easterly trade wind behind us. However this day of relatively light winds has been kind to us. Paul and Rees have had to abandon this trip several times in the past because of the relentless head winds. Our lunch time destination of Zuna Island, 20 Km south east of Thursday Islands where we visited some local identities was special. We had lunch on our deck chairs in the shade of coconut palms looking out over the coral reef fringed sparkling waters of the narrow channel between Zuna and Prince of Wales islands. There wasn’t much wind but the tidal rip in the channel was creating small standing waves and the water was boiling up and rolling in an interesting way. We had to cross that channel on our way home! Our earlier crossing of the channel on the way to Zuna was a worry. Paul had positioned himself to ferry glide across to our selected beach landing. Not having been here before Rees and I made a bee line to the beach only to realise that we were not going to make the beach or even the island without a big effort. We could miss the island altogether and end up in the Gulf of Carpenteria for a very long, possibly permanent lunch!

Reading the tide charts up here is a bit of a nightmare. It was high tide at Zuna Island when we landed, but at the same time at Thursday Island only 20 km away it was low tide. Tidal rips in excess of 10 knots are common in the channels between the islands. This combined with the 30 knot trade wind and the resultant wind over tide effects, can make the timing of a sea kayaking trip somewhat problematic.

Several hours later as we approached our landing spot on Thursday Island we were again working hard trying make progress in a lumpy sea created by the wind over tide effect in the channel. As we rounded Hospital Point with the huge red orb of the setting sun silhouetting the islands to the west, there was a loud call from the hospital verandah. It was Arunas Dundee Pilka clad only in his hospital issue shorts and bandaged leg. Today is his last day in TI hospital recovering from the crocodile attack. He still has a lot of mending to do. Tomorrow Dave, Arunas and I start the long trip home after what was a memorable sea kayaking adventure trip and an experience that none of us will forget.