Bustin’ Boats … [45]

The South Australian West Coast Expedition, 2000

By David Winkworth

Early last year I had been trying to get SA Senior Instructor Phil Doddridge to come over to NSW to help me run an Advanced Sea Award Assessment without much luck.

“Phil, I’ve set a date. How does the 15th and 16th of April sound?”

“No good Dave,” he replied, “I’m helping Mal Hamilton with our West Coast Expedition. Why don’t you come over here and paddle with us instead?”

I didn’t need much convincing to take Phil up on his invitation. Mal and Phil operate Blue Water Sea Kayaking in South Australia. They run day trips, instruction sessions, etc, and every so often a big commercial (if I can use that word) expedition like this one in the Great Australian Bight. They have some impressive trips to their credit, including a circumnavigation of Kangaroo Island and a Coffin Bay/Cape Catastrophe expedition. Where do they get these names? Makes you wonder what happened at these places, doesn’t it?

The West Coast Expedition was to be an 8 day fully-catered trip. All our gear would be carried in the convoy of 4WDs – we needed only day gear each day with the exception of a paddle out to Flinders Island for the night when camping gear would be needed. No de-hy on this expedition – no sir. This was sea kayaking’s equivalent of 5 star service. Even a complimentary sloppy joe, screen printed with an exclusive West Coast 2000 expedition logo was included… the ultimate in been-there-done-that items!

I’d never done a catered trip before so this would be interesting I thought. Mal gave me a discount in return for some assistance with guiding, etc, so I sent off a cheque to him.

I drove over to Adelaide, camping for a night at Parnka Point in the Coorong near the mouth of the Murray River. You know, even right at the end, the poor Murray River just doesn’t get a fair go. Paddlers on the recent Murray River Club paddle would remember the beautiful bush and redgum stands along the way. In SA, it’s orchard, orchard, orchard and the final indignity are the barrages at the Coorong which separate fresh from salt. Although the scenery is spectacular here, it is a very harsh landscape with saltbush, sand dunes and dust as far as you can see. I guessed the landscape in the Bight would be similar in a few day’s time… and it was.

I spent a few nice days with Phil and Marg Doddridge in Adelaide and then Phil and I were picked up by Dennis and Gloria in one of the 4WDs towing a very well organized trailer. Dennis and Gloria were ably assisted by Ken (affectionately known as ‘Salty’) and Leonie in another 4WD/trailer rig. Besides our kayaks, these trailers carried a very precious cargo: our food!

Dennis and Co were the land support team for this expedition. They did all the cooking too and were just generally terrific people. They have done quite a few expeditions on the SA coast with Mal and Phil and it showed too! Nothing was too much trouble for them and they handled all problems efficiently and with a ready smile. I was impressed!

Our destination on this warm Saturday was Streaky Bay, about a 700 km drive from Adelaide on the Great Australian Bight. We met up with most of the crew near Port Augusta at the top of the gulf, had lunch and more or less stayed together till we reached Streaky Bay, our planned start for the expedition. There were 11 paddlers and the 4 land crew on this expedition. Phil, Mal, Dave Williamson and Gordon Begg were the leaders – these guys did a Bass Strait crossing together earlier in the year. The only female paddler on the trip was Barbara from Adelaide.

Also along was Ian, who runs Adelaide Canoe Works. He sells plenty of sea kayaks, mainly plastic, and has some innovative gear in his shop. Along to keep him honest was Larry (not Gray) who, by sheer co-incidence (honestly) is the Pittarak rep in South Oz! Gavin was our resident funny man. Every phrase and utterance by us all seemed to be the cue to a few bars of a classic song from him. He certainly kept me amused except that a song of his I would hear in the morning would stay in my head for the whole bloody day!

Plastic Storms and Perception Sea Lions were very well represented on this expedition. Larry had his Pittarak naturally, I paddled my Nadgee, Phil used his lightweight Southern Gauntlet (a NSW South Coast boat from Ron Mudie) and Dave paddled his Raider X. Gordon won the Age Stakes with a classic, battle-scarred Nordkapp. From memory, the rest of the kayaks were bright plastic.

Streaky Bay was so named by Matthew Flinders in the early 1800s because of the streaked appearance of the sea grasses on the bed of the bay. It is a very shallow wide open bay with a reputation on this coast as a home to Great White Sharks. I went for a nice swim here when we arrived. I wasn’t too concerned about the sharks but I did keep a watchful eye out for crocodiles.

Our plan was to launch near Cape Bauer at Streaky Bay and paddle east to Venus Bay with easy daily distances of around 35 km. From Venus Bay we would shuttle on by vehicle to Elliston. From there we would finish the expedition with an out-and-back overnight paddle to Flinders Is about 35 km off the coast. We would meet up with the ground crew each day with the exception of the offshore overnighter.

The next morning we drove up to the cliff top and watched the big swells of the Southern Ocean thump into the limestone cliffs of the Bight. Weathered into impossibly contorted shapes, the cliffs were riddled with fissures which hissed and spat occasional geysers of spray skywards. Warning signs which told of crumbly cliff edges kept us all well back from the edge.

Then it was down to a small beach for our launch. Great masses of bull kelp piled up on the beach told me that swells thumped in here on big days. It felt great to get on the water and wash off accumulated dust of the previous day. Today was an easy 22 km paddle across the bay to a bush camp. Swells stood up steeply on a deep ocean reef near our launch but once through this area it was a grand view to our destination near a spectacular group of weathered limestone tors known as the Dreadnoughts.

“Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder if there’s going to be any action to photograph on this trip?”

Tomorrow I would find out.

The next morning we rose to breakfast where everything was on offer, loaded our lunch bags from a vast array of goodies and got on the water.

It was Monday April 17 and our plan was to paddle south around Point Westall and then south east across Sceale Bay to a small town of the same name fronting a protected beach landing, a distance of about 30 km.

To Point Westall we paddled through massive undulating blankets of foam. I love paddling through this stuff – it’s absolutely silent as the paddle blades cut through it to find purchase on the water beneath. I snapped some great pics here. Of course, the question a sea paddler may (and should) ask in this foam is: “Where is the turbulence that created this stuff?”

We rounded Point Westall to head south east across the bay and encountered some big steep swells off the point. Once through here we could look across Sceale Bay. However, today our view was interrupted by BIG booming sets of swells breaking over a deep finger- shaped reef which extended about 2 km out to sea. Mal had planned for us to sneak through a deep water gap in the reef but it was plain to see this was not on today. The big swells were breaking right across the gap and running all the way to the cliffs. We would have to go around the reef. At no time were any rocks visible on any part of the reef.

Since rounding Point Westall I had been watching the western outer edge of this reef and saw it break twice in perhaps the hour it took us to get close to it. These were very big waves by anyone’s standards. I made a mental note to avoid this area.

As we headed out to sea I think we were swept towards the western reef edge by a current because that’s where we ended up – still well clear of the breakers to our left but close enough to appreciate their size. We were now paddling out parallel to the reef. I was bringing up the rear of our group as Phil called to me:

“Want to paddle in a bit closer to these?”

For some reason I declined his offer. “No thanks mate, I’m quite content to watch these boomers from here,” I called back.

We paddled out to sea towards the outer edge of the reef. The reef surf was really pumping beside us. Gordon was guiding the lead group. Mal, Ian, Gavin and I were pretty much abeam of each other a good distance behind them and Phil and Dave were some 30 metres astern of us.

“Shit,” I thought, “Where was that outer edge break that had only broken twice? Were we heading towards it?” I wished I’d taken a bearing from Point Westall.

A big wave appeared in front of us. Up and up and up we went to crest over the top and down the other side. I braced on my paddle and turned to watch behind. After what seemed minutes, Phil and Dave speared through the feathering crest of the wave to touch down behind it. There was real urgency in their paddling. I then realized that we were exactly where we shouldn’t have been!

I looked back to seaward.

“Christ. Here’s another one.”

This one was even bigger. We all paddled hard and Mal, Gavin, Ian and I cleared the top but only just! Following a freefall down the back we heard the crash of the wave behind us and knew that Phil and Dave were in there somewhere.

“That one’s got them,” I called.

We turned around but could see nothing at first – just masses and masses of foam and white water.

Then I saw Phil, well back, roll up but there was no sign of Dave.

Mal and Ian paddled straight in there towards Phil. I remember thinking DRABC for a change, with the emphasis on DANGER. So I sat there for a few secs looking for the next of those occasional boomers instead. Fortunately that one was the last one we saw.

I paddled back towards Phil. By this time Dave had surfaced. He was unable to roll up because the wave had snapped his boat in half behind the cockpit. The two halves were only held together by a small section on the keel line. Phil had his towline clipped onto Dave’s boat. Dave was lying prone in a deck carry on Mal’s rear deck.

Phil and Dave adopted different strategies when they had seen the wave coming at them: Dave made a decision that he could make it over the wave and lit the wick. The top of the wave broke on him and he was pitch-poled backwards three times in the wave. Phil said later that there was white water above and below Dave’s 5.8 metre boat. Phil, who was just behind Dave, elected to roll over. He turned his boat parallel to the wave and flopped over to wait out the turbulence before rolling up.

I paddled up to Mal. Dave’s arms and legs were in the cool water and he was starting to shiver, probably partly caused by nearly visiting the Pearly Gates! Apart from some muscle stiffness in his neck and a severely dented wallet he was OK. I rafted up with Mal, and Dave got right out of the water onto our rear decks. The winds were light and the sun was warm. We were towed along by a couple of the lead group who had by now rejoined us. We decided to head back to a small protected beach at the base of the cliffs near Point Westall. Barb wasn’t feeling too well drifting around in this swell so she took my spot with Mal, and I shared the towing of Dave’s wrecked kayak with Larry back to the beach. Towing the broken kayak was like pulling a parachute through the water so we tried to cut it right through with our knives but we had no chance. Kevlar is difficult stuff to cut even with the right gear! The passing swells also opened and closed the ‘hinge’ and it would’ve been easy to slice off a finger on the sharp laminate edges.

We all made it to the beach and landed. Gordon made radio contact with the land crew from the top of the cliff. There was vehicle access to the cliff top so we carried all the boats up the cliff to the waiting vehicles and finished the trip to Sceale Bay by road!

Sceale Bay is a small dusty holiday village. Dennis and Ken set up our travelling city in the local caravan park and we enjoyed a terrific meal. I think everyone was thinking over the events of the day, not the least Mal as he could’ve seen all his hard work in organizing these great expeditions blown away if things had turned out differently. Anyway, we all had the chance to offer some input into the debrief which was great. I think I said that I thought it was probably an error of judgement to get as close as we did to the reef break but that these things can and do happen in sea kayaking. I certainly wasn’t blaming anyone and I think the others felt pretty much the same way.

We had the numbers to effect a good rescue after the incident. Where we were near the reef was definitely not a place to play alone or with only one companion. Swimming out of there in the cold water would’ve been impossible I’m sure. The landings are few and far between. Anyone paddling this coast alone would be well advised to stay well offshore.

Dave lost quite a bit of gear in that wave. The netting shelf under his foredeck was cleaned out completely as was his day hatch. He had a brand new VHF radio in a waterproof bag tethered on deck – that was gone. So too his favourite hat and his paddle. In SA it’s popular to tether the paddle to your wrist on a short tether. The wave snapped Dave’s paddle tether. In NSW the popular method is a leash attaching the paddle to the boat.

Both kayaks were damaged in the wave. Phil’s kayak sustained cracks to the hull in both compartments and an opening of the join line near the cockpit. I think some small amount of water entered the hatches. Dave’s kayak came off worst of course. It broke almost right around just behind the cockpit and opened up for the wave to empty out his day hatch. His rudder blade was bent 45 degrees and the whole rudder assembly was ripped out the side of the stern.

The next morning we cancelled the ocean paddle. It was to have been a 40 km paddle to Baird Bay, a long shallow bay, the entrance to which is guarded by a sizeable reef break. We didn’t know if the prevailing swells would let us in through the reef so we elected to drive to the top of the bay and paddle down to the mouth where we were booked into some cabins. Dave went off to have a precautionary X-ray on his sore neck in a nearby town. Late in the afternoon we drove up to Point Labatt Conservation Park to check out a colony of sea lions. The viewing platform is at the top of the cliff and this gives you a good look down onto the sea lions swimming around in white shark territory.

Gordon, Larry and I were the only ones who paddled out of Baird Bay the next morning bound for Venus Bay. The others drove on to Elliston for a day paddle out to the Waldengrave Islands.

We played around with some sea lions at Jones Island near the mouth of Baird Bay before setting off for a pleasant ocean paddle to Venus Bay, 35 km away. No getting ashore anywhere on this leg, it was big limestone cliffs all the way. The tide was moving as we crossed the bar into Venus Bay. This bar would be a nasty place in a big sea with spring ebb tides running – there is a lot of water in Venus Bay.

We were picked up and met up with the others in Elliston. Seems they had had a pretty exciting time negotiating the bar – or break in the reef to be more accurate, on the entrance to Waterloo Bay which is Elliston Harbour.

That night in Elliston was ‘high tea’ for the sea kayakers and what a feast – a long table covered in a white tablecloth, about 4 courses, wines… the works. It must’ve looked pretty impressive to all the other campers there that night. I tell you, I always lose some weight on a expedition… but not this one!

We paddled out of Elliston the next morning on a low ground swell. Our destination was Flinders Island in the Great Australian Bight about 35 km WSW of Elliston. Flinders Island is a low scrubby island of about 37 square km which is home to over 4,000 sheep. Our steering mark for most of the paddle was Topgallant Isles, an impressive group of limestone sea stacks not far from Flinders. No landing is possible on the Topgallant stacks – the limestone at sea level is eroded and undercut. We watched a group of sea lions there, trying to crowd onto the only rock available. As one climbed up, another would vacate their spot and return to the water. Very sociable I thought.

As we landed on a sheltered beach of Flinders Island, I heard the old windmill in the dunes squeaking as it spun in the wind. After a barbecue tea with the caretaker we returned to our tents near the beach. The windmill was squeaking much louder now.

A spectacular sunrise over Topgallant Isles greeted us in the morning and so did the wind. Coming in from ESE, it promised to really slow our group down today.

We launched early on a course slightly upwind of a direct route to Elliston. The building wind was not quite on the nose but it was close enough to make us work hard. We slogged into the wind as we watched the sun rise in the east and fall in the west. This was a long paddle! All day the swell was building from the SE too.

From about halfway home (or halfway out) we could see the steering mark of the silo towers at Elliston but there was still a bloody long way to go in the conditions. I did a few mental calculations and figured that we would be crossing the Elliston Harbour reef around dark… not an exciting prospect given the swell and the description of the bar by the others from a few days ago.

Barb wasn’t feeling too well by this stage – probably a combination of fatigue and sea sickness. We took turns in towing her. Some time later her balance worsened and she needed support, so Barb rafted up with Ian. A swage had broken on his rudder line anyway and his steering was difficult in the conditions. We towed them in a V tow.

The wind and sea was pushing us towards the rocks of the Waldengrave Islands pretty quickly. Phil and I were towing Ian and Barb and Gordon also clipped on to get us clear of the rocks. We decided that pushing on to Elliston against the wind was not an option and the plan was now to turn and run with the swells and wind and seek shelter and a landing for Barb in behind the Waldengrave Islands.

When we turned, Phil and I were still connected in the V-tow to Ian and Barb – Gordon had unclipped. Our boats raced down the swells only to be pulled up quickly by the drag of the two towed kayaks. After only a few of these swells, Phil’s towline snapped. I continued towing and twice I heard Ian call out to me. Each time I turned around I was greeted by the sight of two out-of-control kayaks surfing the swells right up to my boat. In these conditions my 15 metre towline was only just long enough.

We grabbed the first sheltered beach landing on the island. Barb was fine once out of the boat and warmed up quickly. Gordon made radio contact with the land crew and we paddled across the channel between Waldengrave Islands and the mainland to meet them in a sheltered cove.

Apart from the drive back to Adelaide and then my drive back to NSW that was the end of the expedition.

This was my first ‘5 Star Service’ paddling expedition and it was very enjoyable… great company, fine foods and service, top scenery, REAL paddling and a nice blend of excitement and relaxation. I don’t think there is an equivalent set-up to Mal’s team anywhere in Australia. Everyone should do a paddle like this… at least once.

South Australia has some stunning paddling destinations. You can take your pick of the gulfs, the islands or the wide-open coast. There are lots of islands and many areas just remote enough to really get lost. Pick up a few detailed SA maps and you’ll see what I mean. Anyone interested in some SA paddling can give me a call and I’ll put you in touch with the guys in Adelaide. They’ve done a lot of paddling along their coast and are able to advise on paddling destinations to suit your skill level and time available.

Postscript: Despite the forlorn look of Dave Williamson’s wrecked kayak on the racks of his vehicle, it did re-appear to be paddled again! Dave had the boat repaired (I’m glad now we couldn’t cut it in half) and earlier this year succeeded in crossing Bass Strait via King Island. Well done Dave!

Web Site Reviews [45]

By the Editor

Antarctic Peninsula Sea Kayak Expedition – If you’ve done Bass Strait and are looking for your next challenge – here it is. This is the story of three New Zealanders who kayaked unsupported for 1,200 km along the Antarctic peninsula as they contended with bitter cold, huge winds, icebergs, glaciated coastlines and aggressive leopard seals. Great progress reports and fascinating facts makes this site well worth a visit. Make sure you check out the menu and gear list sections for some good hints on nutrition and useful equipment for your next big trip.

Building the Dyson Aluminium Frame Baidarka – If you are like the Editor and believe that wood should only be used for starting fires, then perhaps the aluminium framed Baidarka is the new kayak idea for you. Give it a gander and give those woodies a roasting…

Aleut/Eskimo Style Paddle Making – Just finished your new hand built kayak and looking for a nifty project? Need the perfect accessory for your Eskimo-inspired craft? Then look no further than Chris Brown’s paddle-making page. All the tips and tricks you’ll need to whiz up the perfect Aleut paddle are included on this page, including diagrams, photos and detailed instructions. One of Chris’s final comments sums it up well; “…one of the most important things is to go and use your paddle. Don’t get hung up on perfecting the perfect paddle.

Surf Weekend [45]

By David Whyte

The weather forecast was not good and I had already had four pull out of the weekend so I had a quick ring around and found I still had some keen participants. We meet at Barlings Beach on Saturday morning and the wind and rain hadn’t eventuated. The sea was calm and it was a glorious day. The waves were large enough to provide training for John Hill and Tony Beasley. Tony ended up with a sore head after testing the soundness of his helmet on the sandy bottom. Tony was only down for the day but got his money’s worth. John Wilde and Michael Culhane arrived around 10:30 giving me a great ratio of experienced/inexperienced surfers.

 After lunch we headed for Tomakin Bar which had some great waves forming on the outgoing tide. Unfortunately it was full of surfers making it impossible to catch a decent wave as they nearly always ended up with right of way. One managed to run right over the top of John Hill flipping him over in the surf. Poor John had to swim his boat in to get back in. A lot of the surfers were using longboards giving them very long rides which made it difficult to sit on the outer swells without them saying this is my @%^#&* wave.

Sunny morning saw another beautiful day so four of us headed off for a paddle out to the headland then John Wilde, Michael and myself headed over to Broolee Island. We caught some nice breakers off the island but you had to be very careful which way you broached – left was straight over the rocks. To get the best ride we edged closer and closer to the rocks and in the end we decided we were tempting fate just a bit too much and headed back over to Tomakin Bar. To ensure great surf John Wilde kindly donated his sunglasses to the sea gods – and it worked. The surf on the bar was superb and for some reason there were no surfers. We were having ride after ride and often getting a run up to 100 metres. John shot back to Barlings to get his white water boat while Michael and I enjoyed the surf. Not long after Mike Snoad arrived and I thought for a minute someone had spilled several cans of paint over the deck of his boat but on closer inspection found it to be a map of the Whitsunday Islands. It even had a small X with a sign ‘Here be treasure’. So dazzling was Mike’s paintwork that Michael lost all concentration on a wave and decide to run straight over the top of him, missing him by inches. A quick roll by both of them averted another Club incident and paperwork for me.

For a weekend that didn’t have a good forecast it was one of the best conditions I had seen and I got so much surfing in I am still a bit sore several days later.

Skills and Drills [45]

By David Winkworth

Nadgee Wilderness

Talking with Larry Gray recently, we got onto the subject of the Nadgee Wilderness and Gabo Island down on the NSW/VIC border. This really is a nice area for a paddle – it can be challenging but when you’ve gained good sea kayaking skills, you really should do a paddle down there. Anyway, Larry says that this piece of coastline was the very best of the whole east coast of Australia on his Mallacoota to Thursday Island paddle! It is also one of only three areas of the NSW coastline which is undeveloped for a length of 10 km. Do you know where the other areas are? Check your maps.

Recently, Parks Victoria, the Victorian equivalent of our NPWS, issued a discussion paper on Gabo Island. It’s really about future management options for the island, balancing eco-tourism against heritage values I suppose.

Anyway, as some of us paddle down that way occasionally, I thought I’d get a copy. It’s a fairly brief document – about 12 pages but there are some interesting snippets in there. For example, the island has quite a number of cattle on it and kikuyu grass grows pretty thickly there which the cattle eat. There are a number of ‘cattle exclusion plots’ and as you’d expect the kikuyu just goes berserk in these plots with no animals to eat it down. Now Gabo Island is also the largest Fairy Penguin rookery in the southern hemisphere and while not scientifically verified, it appears that the penguins prefer the cattle grazing areas for their burrows because the trampled kikuyu doesn’t impede access to their burrows. Apparently the penguin numbers are holding well in this seabird, introduced cattle and introduced grass environment. I think there must be a few penguins though with dirty big hoof marks in their foreheads!

Tourism on Gabo Island seems to be getting the big push with all sorts of local tourism based groups getting a mention. There is brief mention of some options to increase visitor accommodation, the largest numbers discussed being 30 accommodation, 10 commercial tour visitors and 10 private. Even though the island is about 150 hectares, that is a fair number of people on an island being promoted as a ‘wilderness escape destination’.

Last time I was there I found a really nice little flat rock shelf cove on the eastern side. There were flat tent areas, a freshwater soak (might be full of cattle wee though!) and reasonable landing/launching over kelp in any westerly wind conditions. If you want a copy of the paper, call Parks Victoria.

The Very Last Words On Turning A Sea Kayak

After the last piece I wrote on turning a sea kayak, we received the following letter from Matt Broze in Seattle (the new Shaky Isles?), USA. Matt and his brother Cam are Mariner Sea Kayaks. They produce an innovative range of boats and have a website well worth visiting. Matt has been writing for the American Sea Kayaker magazine since its launch in the mid ’80s. Matt makes good points in his letter and I’d take his advice over mine any day. Read on:

Matt Broze wrote:

I really enjoyed David Winkworth’s tips on turning a sea kayak in high winds in Issue 43 of NSW Sea Kayaker. It is the best description of what really works in high winds that I have read in the last twenty years. It is obvious David has really been there and worked out what works for him and has also analyzed why it works and shared it with his mates. Inspired by David’s article I’d like to add a couple more tips and offer some possible improvements to these techniques for your consideration.

Regarding turning up into the wind, David wrote: ‘What we need is speed! We need water moving past the kayak’s hull so that any steering stroke we initiate will have a greater effect in countering the wind. Let’s paddle HARD straight across the wind. Get that boat moving. Let’s use the boat’s tendency to weathercock to our advantage. Now, using the outside-of-the-turn foot pressure with inside-knee-lift we’ll initiate a turn. We can help the boat to turn more forcefully by leaning well forward to lighten up the stern (remember the stern needs to swing out) and making our paddle strokes on the outside of the turn wider for more turning moment. We can also slide our hands along the paddle shaft to make that outside stroke into a genuine sweep stroke. Keep those paddle strokes going on the inside of the turn too. We need the speed. The boat WILL come around.

Great advice that’s not often stated. I’d like to suggest trying one change, drop the upwind strokes altogether once speed across the wind has been achieved. I find that once up to speed across the wind, turning using only sweep strokes on the downwind side works best for me. Those sweep strokes, combined with the wind holding the bow from turning, maintain plenty of forward speed across the wind (needed to get the benefit of weathercocking) but with all the (sweep) strokes on one side every stroke is also helping me to turn the way I want to go without any strokes on the other side working against me (even if only slightly). Not stroking on the upwind side frees up the paddle for some other beneficial techniques here as well. David already mentioned shifting the hands over towards one side on the shaft, if you’re not stroking on the upwind side you can shift the paddle over even further for better turning leverage. This also shortens the lever arm you offer the wind (to use to jerk you around) on the upwind blade of the paddle. But I think the major benefit, of not taking strokes on the upwind side, is that while swinging it forward for the next stroke the downwind blade can be kept in a position where it is ready for a quick brace (low brace during most of the blade return, or a high brace, when the downwind blade is well forward, ready for the next sweep stroke). By having a brace immediately available I can confidently lean the kayak even further up on edge and more comfortably keep it strongly leaned throughout the turn (even between strokes). Both leaning and sweep strokes make the turn tighter and quicker. Leaning more raises the keel higher and further angles the stern keel to one side to better shed the water, allowing the stern to swing around quicker. Keeping it leaned throughout the turn allows for a continuous turn that is not slowed as the keel snags (when the kayak is straightened back up  somewhat during the upwind side stroke). Practice these extreme lean turns using a bracing blade return in calm water. I often let the returning blade just barely skim across the water’s surface during the return phase. Build your confidence with this technique in calm water and then give it a try during the next real onshore blow. Compare it to your other techniques for turning into the wind. Time yourself to see which is quicker. Quick is very important when you are arm wrestling the wind.

David wrote about using waves to help turning: ‘Our strong wind has of course generated waves which are slapping against the boat as we paddle across the wind. We can use the waves to our advantage in turning the kayak. You’ll need to time an outside-of-the-turn sweep stroke with the bow section of the boat being out of the water over a wave. Get this right and the boat will move onto your new course very quickly.’ “When the wind gets so strong that the bow is blown back significantly as it rises off the crest of the wave, the wave’s ability to free the ends of the kayak from the waters grip give the advantage to the strongest. Of course at some wind speed the strongest force will shift from your stroke to the now much ‘stronger’ winds force. I think the timing technique David recommends above is still the best technique in this stronger wind situation it is just that now the stroke timing technique’s job is to resist the wind mightily so it can’t use its strength advantage to make too large a gain against you as your bow becomes fully exposed to the wind at the wave crest. During times like this it is even more paramount that you turn the kayak quicker in the trough of the wave when the wave crests serve to protect your bow somewhat from the wind so hopefully you can regain a little more angle than the wind won when your bow was hanging out over the crest. You turn quicker by leaning more, leaning longer and using only big sweep strokes (with a bow push and strong stern draw component) on the downwind side. “David wrote: ‘Right, the boat has come around towards the wind but your course is not quite bang-on upwind… perhaps 10-20 degrees off. What can you do to help hold the boat on this course without using the rudder? The answer is: use your bodyweight to change the weight distribution in your kayak. How well this works will depend on various factors but it is another thing that you need to work out for yourself in YOUR boat. So… heading upwind, perhaps 45 degrees off the wind: if the wind is blowing you back to that beam-on position, lean well forward, WELL FORWARD, whilst paddling. This will lighten the stern and force the bow in. Use the wind here to change your course.

Again, great advice. I might add that you can use this weight shifting technique anytime you want to turn quicker (or track straighter by moving back), including, as Dave mentioned earlier, when you are struggling to get the bow turned up into the wind. Some of the kayaks my brother and I design incorporate an instantly adjustable sliding seat/footbrace unit to magnify this weight shifting effect greatly. Note: my experience is that the only way a rudder helps you turn into a strong wind is by lifting it into the air at the stern and using it as a sail back on the stern to increase the  weathercocking tendency. Oops! Can I get the lid back on that can of worms… slam… twist… there, can is all closed up.

“Regarding turning downwind, David wrote: ‘Similarly, if you want to turn off the wind, lean WELL BACK to force the stern in and lighten the bow. These two manoeuvres should be accompanied by degrees of boat lean – use everything you’ve got – don’t make your paddling too hard.

Turning downwind from that position of equilibrium is not too difficult but remember that your kayak may suddenly pick up a wave as it comes onto a downwind course, so be ready. Again, paddle hard across the wind. Now, initiate some upwind boat lean by lifting the downwind knee and also pushing hard on the upwind footrest only. The other thing you have to do is lean well back. Get that keel well into the water and lighten the bow as much as you can. Keep the lean-back position until the bow turns downwind. The boat may turn very quickly when the waves pick it up so be ready. On ANY downwind heading, all your turns should be made while still in the lean-back position. Try it.

If you find yourself in a position (or kayak) where turning downwind is difficult I agree with David on all his points above except for this.

Direction! Both the direction of the lean and (even more important) the direction you paddle. Just like you used weatherhelm to your advantage to turn upwind, by getting up speed across the wind first, you can use weathercocking again to help you make the turn to point downwind. You do this by shifting your direction into reverse. Get up a little speed going backwards across the wind and your bow will blow more downwind than your stern (what we call weathercocking) leaving you pointed in the direction you wanted to go downwind. But you will not risk being surfed off wildly (a possibility Dave warns of using the forward paddling turn). Not that I have anything against surfing off wildly on the steep following waves, I love that, but by backing up to turn downwind I can choose my own wave and launch window.

Matt Broze

Rolling, Rolling Rolling

In Issue 43 of NSW Sea Kayaker I wrote about rolling and a couple of articles which appeared in the American magazine Sea Kayaker on the subject. I received the following letter from Peter (no relation to OSD) Sanders, one of our American members. It makes interesting reading;

In the most recent NSW Sea Kayaker there is a comment concerning Americans attempting to make a science out of rolling and treating rolling as an advanced manoeuvre.

You have to think like an American in order to understand one. Hmmm… that didn’t come out right. Please let me continue.

Sea kayaking in the USA has been made popular by the working professional (that’s lawyers, money managers, business owners). Another way of saying popular is PROFITABLE. Someone who will drop $2,500.00 US for a fiberglass kayak, $300.00 US for a paddle and about $500.00 US for the balance, especially if lessons are attached to the sale. These same people will expect to know everything about kayaking in a 2 day seminar with 3 hour private lessons. These are expensive as well.

Rolling cannot be purchased. Usually it takes some time to develop. Check out the American Sea Kayaker magazine for all the different devices Americans have invented for these professionals to purchase. Why develop a skill when security can be purchased. If they’re very unhappy, everything is resold at the end of the year – and they take up golf or another sport. The object is to keep the professionals happy so they continue purchasing.

The occasional poor American (myself) purchases used kayaks and equipment. I have a couple of reliable rolls, with and without paddle. And yes, I happen to agree with you.

Just realise we (in the US) do not bite the hand that’s feeding the sport.

Peter Sanders

Paddles, Paddles, Paddles

Recently I’ve been hearing some stories about paddles – leakages and breaks, etc.

When you buy a paddle there are a couple of things you can check;

Firstly, have a close look at the edges of the blades. Glass fibre blades are made in two halves and joined before the resin cures. You should not be able to see any evidence of the join around the edges. I’d be suspicious of any visible join mark, especially where the shaft enters the blade. Any squeaking or creaking as you flex the blade may mean that the bonding of the shaft to the blade is insufficient or incomplete.

Secondly, find out if each end of the shaft has been plugged. It should be. Your supplier should be able to find out and tell you. The purpose of the waterproof plugging is to make sure your paddle will always float… even if you break your shaft in two. Another advantage is that a leak in one blade is quarantined to that blade so you won’t get water rushing up and down your shaft with each stroke.

If you prefer to use ‘split’ paddles, or routinely carry them as a spare, there are a couple of things you can check with these too:

The ferrule in the centre of the shaft – the male/female join – should have an overlap of at least 100 mm. I prefer a 150 mm ferrule but certainly anything less than 100 mm is asking for trouble if there is any real bending force applied to it. A small but handy tip: If you’re getting a set of splits made up, ask that the join be offset so that both sections are of equal length when stored on your deck.

With splits there should be 4 shaft plugs fitted – one at each shaft/blade join and one on each side of the ferrule. That will ensure that all your bits will float, whether broken or not. Plugs are easy to make. I cut a circle of closed cell foam, push it into position and put a small amount of five minute Araldite around it.

Of course you can always make up your own paddle. All the items are available – blades, shafts, heatshrink, etc.

The Pawlata Roll

At the Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend last year there were quite a few of us in the water teaching rolling but we still had a queue. One thing I found which slowed us all down was that paddlers were NOT fitted into their kayaks firmly. A ‘walked through’ roll would see the paddler rotate and the boat remain stationary. Result: paddler comes out of the boat… right the boat… drain the water… and try again.

This was very time consuming and meant that we could not get to help everyone enough. So please, if you need help with rolling, have a good look at your cockpit. Most boats, especially plastic kayaks, are not supplied with firm hip pads and you do need to customise your cockpit yourself. Your boat will not come ready-to-roll off the showroom floor. Ideas on how to do this are always available from members.

Your kayak should move with you at all times – you and your boat should be one unit on the water. There should be no ‘hinge’!

Now, let’s have a look at the Pawlata Roll.

We are teaching the Pawlata Roll to first time rollers in the Club for a few  reasons:

  • The leverage is unsurpassed – even if you muck something up in the roll, you are still likely to succeed,
  • Your grip on the non-working blade will control your blade angle – this is a help at night or in the surf when you can’t see your blade.
  • No hip flick is necessary with this roll. You should develop a hip flick most certainly but let’s get you home first.

I recommend (and so do others) that you do not move on to other rolls until you have mastered this one.

The Pawlata Roll will not save your life… it will keep you upright in problem conditions but remember: each time you roll up you are back in the conditions that knocked you over in the first place! So, it is important that you finish the roll in a ‘braced’ position. That will give you time to think about your predicament and hopefully stop you going around again.

When you practice this roll, do so with exaggeration! That is, lean well forward, sweep wide and lean well back. You may not need to do it to this extent to succeed in your roll but it will give you a ‘fall-back’ routine which you KNOW will succeed when your quick slash at a roll fails in big surf. Back to basics always works!

I consider this roll to be the ballet-roll. It is slow and graceful. As with all rolls, it is technique, not strength that gets you up. If you have to muscle up… you’ve mucked it up!

I have a few photos for some of the common faults. You may need someone to watch you as you practice – preferably a skilled paddler. If you continue to fail, DO NOT keep at it – you will ingrain the faults and success will be harder to achieve.

The Set-Up Position

Well braced in the cockpit, thighs on the thigh braces, feet firmly against the footrests… lean well forward. Note the position of my hands on the blade and shaft. If you’re using a feathered blade, the rear blade will be gripped edgewise. Paddle is against the boat and STAYS here until ready to sweep. If you let the paddle stray from the side of the kayak, you risk having it whipped out of your hands in surf. This is the safest position you can be in if you ever ‘go over the falls’. Remember… back to basics!

The Start

Here I’ve rolled right around… and yes, my paddle is still there right against the boat. I’m maintaining my forward crunch so that I can get my paddle up to the surface. In surf, this is a good position to be in while waiting for turbulence to subside. My hands are still in the same position, the paddle angle looks OK (flat) and most importantly, my working blade is at the surface ready to sweep. That is where you blade has to start from. From here it will get maximum effectiveness. Wear a dive mask when you practice, and watch your blade.

The Sweep

This is where a few paddlers have trouble. The sweep needs to be OUT from the boat and not DOWN to the bottom. See that my blade is moving out from the boat pretty much along the surface. Remember when you rolled over in a lean forward position? You need to maintain that position underwater by holding your abdominal muscles tight. Hang down vertically like a rag doll and you will surely fail! As you start to sweep, keep your abdominal muscles tight and curl towards the surface beside the kayak. Come around with your paddle. Remember: Sweep out, not down.

The Lift

Look at this! My blade has probably only travelled half a metre out from the boat and already my head is about to break the surface! There is a lot of leverage in this roll.

The Brace Position

This is how you need to finish your roll – in a safer position than when the wave knocked you over. Back to basics, remember? Not only is my body well back but my head is too and my hands are locked hard to the paddle. The blade is not very deep either. My paddle is now acting as an outrigger stabilizer. Not getting your head well back is a common fault in this roll. Heads weigh a lot of kilograms! Help yourself to succeed by exaggerating this movement!

Draw Strokes

Draw strokes are strokes which paddlers seem not to practice too often… I guess because they are not strokes we use on the move at sea. Just the same, they are important strokes used for manoeuvering your kayak and their importance in correct execution increases with the strength of the wind!

Draw strokes are used to move your boat sideways, up to a jetty, up to a raft of fellow paddlers, dispersing from a raft of paddlers, etc.

There are two draw strokes that I use: a basic in/out draw stroke and a sculling draw stroke. Let’s look at them both.

Basic Draw Stroke

Draw the blade back towards the kayak …

Practice this in calm flat water before heading for the waves! Turn your body to face the water on the side you intend to stroke on. Use your normal paddling grip. Keep your paddle near to vertical with your upper arm forward of and framing your face. Reach out with your lower arm at full reach to place your working blade in the water out from your kayak. Keep your boat level throughout this stroke by using your thighs against their braces. Pull the blade back towards the kayak but before it reaches the boat, rotate it 90 degrees and slice it back out for another stroke. Be smooth! You may need to move the stroke fore and aft of your body if one end or the other of the kayak comes in first. Of course you can also use this stroke to bring in the bow or stern as you desire.

…then slice the blade back out and away from the kayak

This stroke works well in moving the kayak sideways but I’ve found it can be slightly unnerving if you catch the blade against the boat. The sideways moving boat can lock it in momentarily and you feel as though you’re going for a swim!

Anyway, practice it often and see what you think.

Sculling Draw Stroke

Note the arc of the paddle – at least a metre

This stroke is probably also called an ordinary sculling support stroke but it works well as a draw stroke so I thought I’d stick it in here! I find this stroke more stable than the Basic Draw Stroke, probably because there is constant pressure on the paddle and… well… it really is a support stroke. The hand position is the same as for the Basic Draw Stroke. Keep the kayak level and proscribe an arc with your paddle. Use your lower hand to change the angle of the working blade so that it is continually pulling on your arm. Practice is the key here. Vary the angle to find what works best. Your arc of movement with the paddle should be at least a metre in length. This is important. Any less and your paddle will continually be changing direction. Remember, the blade is NOT working on the turns… only on the run between turns. There is no need to scull too quickly either if you have the blade angle correct.

Secretary’s Report [45]

By Nick Gill, Secretary-Treasurer, NSW SKC

Well, the Editor has been on our backs for magazine material again. Although Matt Turner and I had a brief and somewhat exciting encounter with the North Wollongong bombora and a big swell a few weeks ago, and I’ve paddling regularly with various elements of the Wollongong mob, I had nothing in particular to write about, hence… a Secretary’s report. This is a beast I do not recall seeing since Gary Edmond’s obtuse and obscure ramblings in the mid-1990s, a high point of Club literature since occupied by Mark Pearson and his semi-fictional jottings and character assassinations.

Just a bit about how the Club is travelling post-Currarong from a membership and money point of view. We currently have 195 members, which is down from recent years and down from last year’s 250-odd. It seems the new membership fee has had some effect (more on fees below). Memberships are, however, still coming in. Membership and other smaller sources of funds bring our club income this year to around $9,750.00 so far. We have yet to renew our insurance. Expenses so far include the last magazine and fees to Australian Canoeing for a number of proficiency awards earned by members last year. If you don’t know, the Club will pay the fee for the award – assuming we will continue to be able to offer it under the new arrangements. That’s another issue we face as a Club this year.

By the way, if you are sending membership or any other money in, don’t include money for stickers. We don’t have any. Rather than trust me to remember that you want some if and when we get some printed, hang onto your dough for the time being.

We’ve received a few magazines from other Clubs, and Peter Carter of the Investigator Canoe Club in SA has sent us notes on two early SA expeditions – circumnavigation of Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln to Adelaide in 1980/81.

When I became Secretary/Treasurer I received several boxes of Club stuff. Within were eight-year-old receipts and a raft of other piles of paper. Out went eighty percent of it but I kept documentation of the formation of the Club. We have minutes of early meetings and AGM minutes for 1990-1994, 1998, 1999 and 2000. If anyone has copies for 1995-1997, I’d appreciate a copy for the records.

We also have an incomplete copy of the Club magazine, which has been published from 1990 I believe. Our collection starts from number 24 in 1995, and we are also missing 25, 26, 28 and 33. If members have any of the missing ones lying around surplus to requirements, please send them, or copies, to me at the Club address.

The old meeting minutes reveal bits and pieces of the formation of the Club. In 1989 at least, the Sea Canoeing Committee of the NSW Canoe Association, chaired by Ray Abrahall, began to work towards the formation of the NSWSKC. Perc Carter gave the President’s address at the inaugural AGM in September 1990. Early minutes reveal names of people still involved in kayaking in various ways, including manufacturers Paul Hewitson and John Slattery. Shirley Abrahall, still the Public Officer until last year, was also involved in the formation of the Club. The Club itself formed in 1990. The initial membership fee was $20.00, although there was an additional $20.00 joining fee for a while. Membership was still only $25.00 until last year. Some of the costs are interesting, In April 1991 it cost $96.00 dollars to print the newsletter. The last one cost $1,040.00. Public liability insurance in 1990 cost $334.00 dollars; today it costs us around $2,000.00 to pay for broader insurance commensurate with our current training and trip organisation activities.

I noted with wry amusement (or was it a sense of gloom?) that the first President’s report we have from 1990 highlights a hoary chestnut;

On the subject of trip organisations, it has been a common occurrence on Club outings that the group has become too spread out and in some cases a few paddlers have left the group to pursue their own ‘trip’… all very well in calm conditions, but if weather deteriorates to the extent that some weaker/less experienced paddlers get into difficulties the safety of the group may be at risk.

Seems some things never go away. Maybe next time I’ll write about paddling.

Repairs and Maintenance [45]

by David winkworth

This Repairs & Maintenance article is specifically for glass fibre boats (and possible glass-sheathed wooden kayaks too).

I need to start with a word of warning:  If you have never mucked around with glass fibre/resin repairs, I strongly suggest that you get some experience with the system before tackling a repair on your kayak or setting off on a major expedition with a repair kit in your hatch. There is nothing difficult about it but doing the wrong thing could affect the integrity of your repair job.

So, getting experience? You could find a friend who has done glass fibre repairs and ask them to show you what to do… maybe get into their shed and do a few test patches on a piece of cardboard. You could buy one of the inexpensive Selleys glass fibre repair kits and have fun with that. Also, there are plenty of club members with experience with the stuff… so, use the ‘phone-a-friend’ option. Whatever you do, if you have a glass fibre boat, you should make it your business to know how to do minor repairs.

Nearly forgot… another word of warning… polyester, vinyl ester and epoxy resins are toxic and inflammable as is acetone, the solvent we use. Read the safety directions on the cans and avoid breathing the vapours by doing repairs in the open air or wearing the correct breathing mask. Wear glasses when pouring and handling catalyst. Wear old clothes and latex disposable gloves too (Andrew Eddy has a good supply of these… and probably shares in Ansell).

Glass Fibre Kayak Construction

Your kayak hull and deck is made up of the following: An exterior surface coat called gelcoat and a laminate behind that.

The gelcoat is a protective and waterproof layer for the laminate, and it is important that we maintain this layer in good condition by the occasional polish and repair of deep gouges through to the laminate. Gelcoat has no strength – all its strength comes from the quality and integrity of the laminate bonded to it. Gelcoat is also relatively brittle – extreme, repeated flexing and impacts of the gelcoat will cause ‘spider-web’ cracking and possible water intrusion into the laminate.

The laminate is usually made up of multiple bonded layers of resin-impregnated reinforcement material such as glass mat, cloth or rovings. ‘Higher-end’ boats may also have reinforcements of Kevlar, carbon or hybrids of both. The laminate may also contain ‘sandwich’ materials used to space reinforcement layers for greater flexural strength. The most common resin used is polyester. More expensive and higher performing vinyl ester and epoxy resins are also used. You should find out which resin your kayak is made from and use a similar resin in repairs for best results.

Know Your Enemy

Sun, sand, water and salt are the enemies of your kayak.

Just as your car has duco to protect the steel, your kayak has gelcoat to protect the laminate and naturally it is the gelcoat that will show the wear and tear first.

UV damage to the gelcoat will show up as a faded or dull surface. In more extreme cases it may be chalky – some of the gelcoat colour will come off with a finger wipe. You can easily restore gelcoat lustre with polish. I use an ordinary silicone car polish such as Kitten Cream Polish. It’s cheap at Coles or Woolies and works well. All the guff you read about special fibreglass polishes is just an attempt by the manufacturers to get you to buy 5 cans of their product instead of one or two! Silicone polishes (most available polishes are silicone) will give a deeper lustre than carnauba waxes.

A word on silicone polishes: they don’t mix with glass fibre molds and gelcoat spraying. Keep them away from your moulds at all times.

If you have light scratches to remove, the cream polish is unlikely to do much. You need an Extra Cut polish. It’s available in the same cheap brands and it will move more material than the cream polish. Use this for badly faded decks first and follow up with the cream polish. Apply both these polishes with a small cloth in the shade and polish off promptly. Rotate cloth often – you’ll see the colour the polish is removing on the cloth. Don’t worry, your gelcoat should be thick enough to spare a few microns!

Deeper scratches in the gelcoat may need the use of ‘wet and dry’ paper prior to using the above polishes. Usually dark grey in colour, they are designed to be used with plenty of water to ‘float off’ the spoil.  Mask up the area to be sanded first and then start with perhaps a 320 grit paper, working in small circles with EVEN pressure. Stop often, wash off the spoil and look at your work. Then go to 600 grit and repeat. You can then go to the polishes to complete the job. With wet and dry, the higher the number, the finer the grit. You can get 1200 and even 2000 if you want to but you’ll be there for quite a while – they are very fine papers.

If you don’t have an ‘even’ finish and you can still see scratches after you’ve finished, go back a step or two and sand or polish some more. Piece of cake.

The Keel Line

The keel line cops the most abuse. Over time you may have to put some material back instead of sanding it off. No problem.

Mask up the area to be covered. Sand well with a coarser grit DRY sandpaper. Keying the surface is vitally important. This will give grip for your covering and also remove any polish residue – nothing will stick to the polish!

You should now wipe the sanded area with acetone solvent. It will dry in a few seconds.

Here we need to explain the difference between gelcoat and flowcoat which is what we’re going to use here. Gelcoat is designed to cure in the absence of air such as in a mold beneath layers of a laminate. Exposed to the air, it will remain tacky and un-sandable for days. To exclude the air, we can cover the repair with non-stick kitchen cling wrap or, more simply, add a solution of wax-in-styrene. The gelcoat (now called flowcoat) can be applied as you would a thick paint and it will cure fully for sanding in an hour or two.

If you apply it too thickly, you’ll have quite a sanding job to do to sand it smooth.

Deep gouges in the deck or hull can be repaired easily with flowcoat. Get the repair area level – sand the repair area, wipe with solvent to remove all traces of wax, etc, maybe feather the edges of the hole slightly. Overfill with flowcoat, working it in well with a toothpick or similar. Sand and polish when cured – that is, when your fingernail doesn’t mark the flowcoat!

For repairs in coloured gelcoats other than white, you should try to use gelcoat from the same batch as the boat was made from for a perfect colour match.

Why Polish And Repair Every Little Nick?

I do this for two reasons:
Firstly, smooth boats are faster than scratched boats. You probably won’t notice a drop-off in speed as your boat gets scratched over time but the difference is there. Over a full day’s paddle or a long expedition, there will be a real difference in effort.

There is a formula for the relationship between hull ‘roughness’ and speed. Basically, it says that the faster you want to go, the smaller the surface defect is that will affect your speed.

Secondly, when doing this sort of maintenance, you look closely at your boat and find things like star cracks from that last gauntlet, etc that you might otherwise miss.

Gelcoats, wax-in styrene, pre-mixed flowcoats and all resins are all available from the major suppliers. You may have to buy a few kilos though. Check the Yellow Pages.

Holes Right Through!

You may be able to patch these temporarily with duct tape – the sea kayaker’s ‘repair-kit-on-a-roll’, but you will have to repair the hole before the next paddle.

How you do this will depend on access to the inside of the hole.

Firstly, you need to clean up the hole using really coarse grit paper and maybe a knife. Roughen the inside of the laminate and the gelcoat edges of the hole too, and wipe with solvent. You should plan on the patch being half as big again as the hole.

If you can get at the inside of the hole: tape up the outside and apply the patch of layers of reinforcement wetted out with resin from the inside. You could also apply gelcoat before the patch – this might save some work later. Using brush and preferably a small roller, work the air bubbles out of the patch. Remove the tape when cured, sand and apply flowcoat. Sand and polish.

If you can’t get to the inside of the hole to apply a patch, you will have to work from the outside. Prepare the edges in the usual way. Cut a piece of cardboard  bigger than the hole. Fix a piece of string or fine wire to the middle of the cardboard, thread on the required pieces of glass mat the same size as the cardboard. Wet them all out with resin on the cardboard, then bend the cardboard piece through the hole and pull back into position with the string. Fix somehow until cured. You may need to use 3 or 4 pieces of string if the patch is in an area of concave shape. Gosh this is fun and games isn’t it! Plan your work before you start or you can end up in a real mess with this! Fill the outside with flowcoat, sand and polish and you’re done.

That’s about it. Some great little aids to all of these steps are:

  • masking tape
  • stiff cardboard (sometimes called pasteboard)
  • hot glue
  • Glad Wrap (use the good stuff only)
  • plasticine

Good luck and happy repairing!

A Ramble from the Editor [45]

By Ian Phillips

Oh dear… what has happened to me? I’m now at the stage where I’m buying cars based on the kayak acceptability rating.

No longer am I interested in the maximum acreage of nappa leather or the latest satellite tracking gizmo… no more do I yearn for the maximum output of mega-zillion kilowatts that creates petrol shortages at every bowser, no lust for wheels so ridiculously wide that they cause Bob Jane to salivate at the very thought …

All that matters now is whether I can fit a folder in the back, a couple of paddles in the front, a few bananas for my trusty banana sandwiches stuffed in a handy door pocket and just enough room to slide myself in as well.

Sadly there aren’t too many car manufacturers out there who cater to the kayaker in us all, and even less provide useful specifications that will assist in a suitable comparison of dry bag and neoprene bootie storage.

And so it is left to the common man with his trusted tape measure to solve this devastating problem. As a common man was not available, it was left to me, the uncommon man, with my Pythagorean tables and my slide rule to take up the challenge.

To date I have seen about 400 different cars, with a collective 5,670 cup holders, and alas not one split paddle holder amongst them.

Still, I can’t complain… I’m being offered velour mats to trap all the sand I expect to trudge back from the beach, metallic paint to absorb all the seagull droppings imaginable as I park for hours in the beach sun, and I have the added option of all-wheel-drive so I can drive right to the waters edge and collect my precious cargo whilst simultaneously becoming mind-numbingly bogged and requiring the assistance of those lovely folks in the orange overalls. At least I can have a nice paddle whilst I await their arrival.

I have petitioned the highest echelons of the motoring media for a kayak rating to be included in all future vehicle evaluations, but alas I have heard no positive feedback… unless I count those strange phone calls where I hear nothing but unbridled laughter, a click, then those funny beeps… perhaps not – they’ve been happening ever since I became Editor… I knew I shouldn’t have given Fishkiller my phone number.

And so the task of the vehicle kayak suitability testing procedure was passed to our own Flotsam & Jetsam reporters who assured me they would jump to the task at the first opportunity. Alas I fear I have wasted all those jam donut and red cordial ‘incentives’ that were sent by express courier to the Flotsam offices. The testing never happened. The in-depth analysis never eventuated. The reports never crossed my desk. And I still get those sinister phone calls.

I now realise that I could have averted the staff riots at the editorial offices during the now infamous Great Donut Shortage of ’01, riots that destroyed an empire and delayed the production of this fine issue of NSW Sea Kayaker.

Oh well… perhaps a sunroof will solve my entry and exit problems. Or maybe I need a convertible so that I can be lowered in from above after packing. How about one of those large, black FBI vans where I could keep the kayak in the back, fully assembled, next to the BBQ and Jacuzzi? Who knows? All I know is that it’s back to the dealership for me with my broken set squares, and time for you to head to your favourite lounge, deck chair or car seat to read up on the latest gossip from within the bowels of the NSWSKC. Just don’t drive and read at the same time – you’ll miss a lovely view. Enjoy!

Product Reviews [45]

Paddle bag

Do you keep chucking your split paddles in the boot and wondering where all those chips and scratches are coming from? The solution is here with a nifty foam padded paddle bag (try saying that five times really fast). Made of durable Cordura nylon with a stainless steel zipper, internal partitions to separate your paddle halves and handy pockets inside, this little beauty is sure to keep your paddle spick and span for years to come. $98.50 from Ocean Planet.

Hood ornaments

Forgotten how hard sand is? So had the Editor. It’s too late for his sorry excuse for a mind, but you can still protect your brain with a helmet when you’re in the surf or playing near the rocks. Various models start from $49.50 at Ocean Planet.

Waterproof cases

Perhaps you don’t carry quite as much paraphernalia as the Editor when you go out on the sea, but if you have anything even remotely valuable or something that doesn’t like the sea salt (come to think of it – what does?), then a hard, waterproof case is the thing for you. Coming in a l-a-r-g-e range of sizes and colours, the Pelican case is the toughest in the world. They start from $69.65 at Ocean Planet.

From the President’s Deck [45]

by Robert Mercer

Rob paddles off Eagle Rock, Royal National Park

I watched in amazement from the top of the cliffline just south of Sydney heads. A lone kayaker skidded down the steepening face of a two metre swell, wallowed in the trough and then accelerated off the crest of the next roller. I had just purchased my first sea kayak but had always considered the ‘sea’ in ‘sea kayak’ referred to the water contained in sheltered estuaries. This paddler was revelling in the open sea conditions and doing it in exactly the same make and model of craft I had just purchased to splash around Sydney Harbour! I instantly knew  I wanted to be out there, but I also suspected I had a lot to learn. Now, six years later I regularly paddle that stretch of coast. It’s even more fun than it looks and I still have a lot to learn.

For most of us freedom from bureaucracy and regulation are part of the personal experience of paddling the trackless sea and it remains the principal challenge of our Club to reconcile the demands of exciting and challenging trips on the one hand and responsible trip leadership on the other. This is further complicated by the relative nature of ‘safe paddling’. What is considered ‘safe paddling’ for some of the Club’s ‘bruisers’ may be too demanding for some of the Club’s less fit or less accomplished members.

A couple of years ago, when the Committee held an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the future organisation of trips, it was decided by popular vote that Sea Proficiency be used as a mandatory requirement for paddlers on trips graded three and above. The influx of new faces had made it very difficult for trip leaders to assess prospective starters on their trips, self assessment wasn’t working and Sea Proficiency was chosen as the yardstick. When put to the vote an overwhelming majority of members present voted in favour of this. From my memory the meeting room at Currarong was filled to capacity. This was not a decision pushed through without the support of the membership. So why did such a large number of people vote for the use of a qualification that almost none of them had? Firstly, the members wished to show their support for an initiative which would make the trip leader’s lives a little easier. Secondly, the use of a qualification designed and endorsed by a third party, the Board of Canoe Education, seemed fair and saved designing our own. To encourage active acceptance of this new policy the Club began an ongoing programme of training and assessment for Sea Proficiency. If you review these requirements one by one you will see that there is nothing in the assessment criteria for Sea Proficiency which is not important or indeed essential to safe paddling on our exposed coast.

I suspect that any enlightened  kayaking club committed to open sea paddling will end up with a formal set of requirements. The Sea Kayak Association of British Columbia use a two part scheme:  A-D for skill level and 1-4 for the length/endurance of the trip. This system has much in common with our own. We use Sea Proficiency as a reference for the skill component, and add distance and speed requirements in much the same way. The major difference is that we have moved away from a trip grading system to a paddler grading system. The paddler is the focus for assessment, not the trip, after all you can’t grade the sea.

In preparing for assessment for Sea Proficiency you will also be expected to participate in trip planning, navigation and interpreting the weather. You will develop better self assessment skills in the process. Learning to make sound decisions about when to paddle and when not to paddle is the skill most likely to save your life.

Consider being assessed for Sea Proficiency as a means to an end, not an end in itself. When you get there you will realise it is a very small amount to have learnt, but you will have truly begun to learn about paddling on the sea. Learn the skills, be assessed and get involved.

Since the Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend the Club has had fifteen successful Sea Proficiency candidates. Congratulations to Rick Angel, Kevin Brennan, Adrian Clayton, Michael Culhane, Tim Dillenbeck, Greg James, André Janecki, Huw Kingston, Paul Loker, Vicki McAuley, Andrew McPhail, Richard McNeill, Debbie Miller, Mark Windsor and Alan Whiteman. I suspect Alan holds a new record. He has progressed from complete beginner to proficiency level in less than three months.

More Than Meets The Eye [45]

by Peter Sanders

There is more than just the obvious visual differences between sea and whitewater kayakers.

Each has a different emotional stability, critical in experience. And although I personally question the sanity of those who feel compelled to forge down waterfalls and launch into boulders, perhaps we are no better… floating around in the ocean, far offshore, challenging the winds, tides and currents.

Whitewater kayakers wear helmets keeping brains in and rocks out (good conventional wisdom!). Sea kayakers wear hats, each sea kayaker searching to create his or her own identity – reflecting individual abilities (to outsiders we’re all crazy).

This hat takes on the personality of its wearer, extending an image (a posturing, a projected attitude, carriage and stance, position and rank amongst peers) for all fellow sea kayakers to see. Hats can show involvement in past kayaking symposiums, favourite baseball teams, or even just to boast a symbol of a sport by manufacturer/catalogue supplier. Some, perhaps, can even be stylish, like the wide-brimmed hats made of Gore-Tex. And then there are always the super wide-brimmed hats with different SPF ratings – and these hats float too! Hopefully, when the ‘ole wind blows most people are anchored into their kayaks, lest they be carried off as seen in the old sitcom The Flying Nun. There are still other hats – from the Bimini style (reminiscent of the French Foreign Legion) to the specially designed airflow caps with Neoprene peak, Velcro adjustment and retainer cord.

For years I have been searching for the perfect hat. Of course the word ‘free’ had to be a prerequisite. Well, things got out of hand last year when I started to wear a ‘MAD’ hat. For all of you invested parents who believe in building up your child’s moral character – not to mention cultivating their sense of humour – purchasing a subscription to MAD magazine is the answer! And they’ll send you a ‘free’ hat to boot! Although I tend to lose hats rolling or training in very bad weather, this MAD hat stayed with me all the way. Unfortunately, at 6′ 3” and thinner than most – sometimes towering over others – the hat makes me look rather silly. This painful fact was confirmed in a photograph taken of me on one of the trips last year. Imagine actually volunteering to look silly!

I’ve noticed in my travels that many people avoid this issue altogether and wear no hat at all. They carry hoods for the rain, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen for the sun, and plenty of water – occasionally pouring it over themselves to offset the sun’s rays beating down on them.

In the ever-growing sport of sea kayaking, I am planning to propose that American Paddlesport sponsor a fashion show, where different manufacturers could display their line of dry suits – both single and two piece, as well as personal flotation devices, thermal heaters, neoprene, fuzzy rubber, Polartec, and boots – full neoprene, semi sneaker with mesh siding, sandals and hats.

Maestro… music please. Hey isn’t that Cindy Crawford walking down the runway? (damn, she’s wearing a MAD hat – how come I don’t look that good).

Yes, it’s been a long winter and I’m looking forward to warm weather – and the sooner the better!