A Half-good Weekend [42]

By Rob Gardner

Had a great paddle last weekend from Newcastle down to Sydney with a few other keen types. Those people who saw Sunday’s forecast and opted out will be happy to know that they made the right decision. Saturday was excellent and we covered 55 km from Newcastle to Toowoon Bay in 8 hours including a lunch stop at Catherine Hill Bay. Sunday was not so good.

We only had one mishap with Nick Gordon breaking his paddle going out through the Merewether Beach surf. He did turn on a remarkable representation of a Canadian single blade paddler to make it out through the remainder of the breakers. Never did find the other half of the paddle – mind you, we didn’t look too hard either.

We then had ideal conditions with a 15 knot north easterly pushing us along nicely. This of course was a good head wind for Sundra and Salo who were working their way up the coast from Avoca in a vain attempt to meet and accompany us back down.

A point to note though – when Denis Klienberg sets out from a beach or comes into shore, he is invariably onto or into the biggest wave of the day. It does, however, provide great club magazine photo opportunities.

Rob Mercer’s advice was sound – “Denis, when you feel you are about to commit to the surf, don’t. When the same little voice says don’t go, do!”

More interestingly and certainly cause of a lot more amusement for us was the large economy size tube of personal lube, alias ‘KY Jelly’, Denis unashamedly carries on board. When this supposedly essential piece of kayaking equipment was first discovered at our lunch stop the stuttering reply was something about chronic underarm chafing.

Not knowing much about the stuff myself except its water soluble characteristics, one wonders if it is really conducive to long days of sea kayak chafing protection. What was he doing with it then? We did observe that Denis was able to slide into his paddling gear and indeed his kayak a lot more elegantly than the rest of us.

We were also disappointed and somewhat perplexed as to why the larger mammalian marine life in the area (so abundant that day according to the passing fishermen) all seemed to be staying a respectable distance away!

Please explain.

The wise ones went home on Saturday night leaving me alone to face 50 odd kilometres of the forecasted southerly change down the coast to Sydney. If I wasn’t so bloody-minded about doing the distance, I probably would have gone home then as well.

The locals at Toowoon Bay on Saturday night however were suitably friendly. A pleasant evening followed with appropriate amounts of complementary beer and dubious stories of our respective interests in fishing and kayaking. No need to put the tent up as it was a lovely warm night on the beach under a clear starry sky. Also – free beer, 55 km paddles and late night tent construction do not normally go hand in hand.

On Sunday the southerly came up rather early leaving me the option of paddling amongst the rebounding waves near the cliffs or face the full strength of the wind a couple of hundred metres away from them. I tended to prefer the rebound and proceeded to negotiate the rock fishermen’s lines and general verbal abuse. To add to the overall discomfort, cloud and drizzle descended to sea level reducing the visibility to about 500 metres.

Got there in the end after a solid 8 hours and have still got the sore shoulders to prove it.

It’s a nice piece of coastline for anyone who wants to do it next time. Try and pick two consistent days of wind direction though!