Training Notes [41]

By David Winkworth

Well, I enjoyed the Rock’n’Roll Weekend last November. We had nice weather and nice company. Unfortunately we couldn’t get into Honeymoon Bay by road on the Monday — gee we have bad luck with that gate — but it was OK. We drove around to Murrays Beach, launched there and paddled across to Point Perpendicular for lunch in perfect conditions.

Last year was the first time we’ve put on any 3 day event. We were expecting about a half dozen die-hards on the water on the Monday but we had 24 paddlers out there, including Julian and Tina from the Victorian Sea Kayak Club and Mike and Veronica from the Tasmanian Sea Canoeing Club. Thanks for coming — it’s nice to be able to chat with interstate paddlers.

About 10 club members passed their Sea Proficiency Award at the Rock’n’Roll Weekend and a couple of others are very close to achieving the award. Congratulations to you all.

So, the 1999 Rock’n’Roll weekend was a three day event, and this year we have a week-long Murray River paddle coming up in March (latest details in this issue) with about 20 people so far intending to paddle. What does this tell us about sea kayakers? Do we have lots of leisure time? Do we hate gardening and golf? Or do we just enjoy paddling with company? Maybe we could see more multiple day paddles in the future and free ourselves from the regulation weekend paddle? Anyone got any ideas?

Speaking of ideas… what about the Rock’n’Roll Weekend for this year? Is there anyone special we want as a guest speaker or do we go with the slide show format again… or both? Please let us have your thoughts and ideas.

This column also is for your thoughts and ideas. If anyone wants to write the Training Notes for the next issue, just let me know.

OK, let’s talk about rudders for a bit. There seems to be a few misconceptions in the NSWSKC about rudders. I’ve heard it ‘inferred’ a few times that the NSWSKC has a ‘no-rudder policy’. This is rubbish. We do not. The club does not expect members to paddle non-ruddered boats.

Perhaps this rumour, or whatever it is, has come about because a few members have designed and/or built sea kayaks for which a rudder is not intended or is an optional extra. Now you’ve got to expect that these boats versus the permanently ruddered boats are going to be topics of conversation in any sea kayaker gathering. There’s always plenty of good-natured jibes and there always will be.

So, is a rudder good or bad? Well, it can be both really.

Paul Caffyn once said, “Wind is the curse of the kayaking class,” and he’s right. Wind can be your enemy on the ocean, and it is in strong winds that a rudder can significantly reduce your energy output, allowing you to concentrate on forward motion, stability or whatever. Rudders are also recommended for most kayaks if you plan to fly a kite or hoist a sail. Rudders can be an asset in following seas, allowing you to hold a course and pick up waves without resorting to stern rudder strokes.

On the down side, rudders are a mechanical device — they can and do fail. Unless they can be raised above deck level, they can be damaged in surf entries/exits. When they are ‘parked’ on the rear deck, they can add to windage imbalance, actually forcing a paddler to use the rudder simply because it’s up on the deck. They also add up to 10% drag to your boat (US ‘Sea Kayaker’ magazine tank tests 1986) and can reduce your manoeuverability at lower speeds.

Look, we could go on and on with the pros and cons of all this but we won’t.

My recommendation to paddlers: If your boat has a rudder, leave it on… but learn to turn and control the kayak in all conditions without it. Don’t become rudder-dependant. If your boat doesn’t have a rudder, you have no choice but to develop top-notch boat control skills. Summer is here, the water is warm… DO IT!

At the ‘Next Step Training Weekend’ in May at Honeymoon Bay, we’ll go through all these boat control strokes, including foot pressure and weight transfer techniques. Check the calendar.

A few weeks ago, Mark Pearson (AKA Fishkiller) broke his boat in half in a rocky cove near Batemans Bay. He wasn’t in it at the time — he had bailed out when a big wave picked the boat up and started surfing it into some rocks. It hit the rocks once and then another wave picked it up from the rock shelf while he was assisting Norm Sanders to land, and really finished the job.

So was the attempt to land in this cove an error of judgement? Probably not — just bad luck, as Chris Soutter landed without incident a few minutes later. However it does remind us of the unpredictability of the environment in which we choose to play. Mark did the only thing he could in the circumstances. Skills are important.

Mark and Norm took the battered boat to Bateman’s Bay and removed the fittings, the boat officially being declared a write-off. When they removed the front VCP hatch rim, which was sealed with Sikaflex, the sealant actually ripped off some of the glass fibre laminate. Sikaflex is good stuff — why would you use anything else?

I now have the ‘Inuit 2 piece jigsaw’ with me. Rebuilding this thing will make an interesting project. This boat may finally get what it needs… a hatch in the rear deck!