Skills and Drills [46]

By David Winkworth

Sea Instructor Weekend

On the weekend of 25, 26 and 27 May 2001, John Wilde and I conducted a Sea Instructor Training and Assessment course at Tathra. The weather was fine, the surf OK and the seas almost big enough. The Bega River, where we conducted the strokes sessions, had closed off at the bar and the water was pretty cool.

Nevertheless it was a great weekend … well, pretty busy … but then assessment weekends usually are that! Our evening venue was the Tathra Amateur Fishing Club and a better venue would be hard to find! Situated right on the local boat launching bay, we had direct access to the ocean south of Tathra Head. It’s a great spot … but then I may be biased!

There were eight Sea Instructor candidates including Rob Mercer, Nick Gill and Sundra John from our own Club and Peter Provis from the Victorian Sea Kayak Club. Both John and I thought the standard of the candidates on the weekend was excellent. At the time of writing, exam marking is not completed but we do look forward to increasing the number of Sea Instructors in the NSW Sea Kayak Club by three! This can only be good for instruction and training in the Club! Seek out these guys and ask them your questions. They have a wealth of knowledge on sea kayaking.

Andrew Eddy, Wayne Langmaid and Dirk Stuber were candidates for Senior Sea Instructor on the same weekend and we are recommending to Australian Canoeing that they all be appointed as Senior Sea Instructors. Congratulations! These members have attained this level through practice and dedication to sea kayaking. I know we will all benefit through their continuing involvement in Club training.

Lastly but not least, a big thank you to Ian Ribbons who travelled up from Melbourne to assist on the weekend. Ian, who operates Meridian Kayak Adventures in Victoria, is a Sea Instructor and a Victorian and NSW Sea Kayak Club member. Thanks Ian.

2001 is the year of transition into the Australian Canoeing new award scheme. The complete sea kayaking award sections are not up and running yet but I hope it won’t be too much longer. In the meantime we are continuing with the ‘old’ scheme which has served us well for quite a few years now.

I will be running a Sea Instructor Training only (i.e. not assessment) weekend here at Tathra on 28, 29 and 30 September 2001. There are a few spots left if anyone is interested. If any Sea Instructor (or training-completed candidate) would like to assist, please give me a call. These weekends are good opportunities to keep up your skills and knowledge. I think there will then be one more Sea Instructor Assessment weekend later this year under the ‘old’ award structure and after that the new award scheme will take effect.

Quick Quiz

This question is from the Sea Instructor weekend written exam paper. Have a go at it. Answers are at the end of this column. No peeking!

Q. When dealing with seasick group members, describe your approaches to:

  • Prevention
  • Alleviation
  • Recovery

Spirit of Tasmania

Last month, Sue and I went across to Tasmania on the Bass Strait ferry Spirit of Tasmania with a couple of sea kayaks on the roof racks. As we were queuing up to drive onto the ship we met up with Chris Morgan from Canberra who was taking his family across for a holiday. Later that evening up on deck, as we cleared Port Phillip Heads, Chris had his GPS operating just to check that the Captain knew where he was going! There is no truth to the rumour that Chris whispered in my ear, “If this ship goes down forget these rusty lifeboats… I’ll take one of your kayaks and you take the other!”

Navigation Skills Weekend

On the subject of GPS units, we’re running a Navigation Skills Weekend at Boydtown on Twofold Bay on the weekend of 18-19 August 2001. We will be mucking around with GPS units a bit to confirm locations but mostly the weekend will be about fixing position without them. Seems to me coastal piloting could one day be a lost skill with the increasing use of GPS.

There are plenty of whales around the south coast at the moment heading up north – hopefully they will still be travelling when we’re there. Boydtown is on the south western shore of Twofold Bay right on the beach. It’s a great base for sea kayaking weekends – acres of open space in the caravan park and the historic Seahorse Inn, built by Benjamin Boyd in the 1850s, is right next door if you want some upmarket accommodation. If you feel like doing the tourist bit down this way, I can recommend the Killer Whale Museum in Eden – well worth a visit.

Give me a call if you’d like any further information.

Murray River 2002 – Echuca to Swan Hill

This is an advance notice for a paddle I’ll be running over a week in late March 2002 on the Murray River from Echuca to Swan Hill. I know it’s not the ocean, etc, etc, but it was a nice paddle last year and a nice change from salty water so I reckon it’s worth continuing next year. The Murray is a really special river – if you haven’t been on it, then it really is time you did!

If you have the River Murray Charts, get them out and have a look at the river. The distance is slightly longer than last year at about 312 km for the week which we’ll do over 5 or 6 days. Nobody wanted a rest day last year so we might skip it next year too! The current assistance on this section falls away as we head downstream to Torrumbarry Weir and the first lock on the river. Hopefully we can pass through the lock to avoid a portage. Below Torrumbarry the river runs well below the high banks. Sandy beaches are fewer but flat camping sites are as plentiful as ever. As we approach Barham/Koondrook (the only towns we’ll pass) the river shallows but I expect a fairly high river in March and the depth is not a problem for kayaks.

If you’d like to come and you didn’t come last year, you’ll need a copy of the River Murray Charts by Maureen Wright. It comes in book form for about $15 and is available from Boat Books as well as all good map shops.

Buying Your First Sea Kayak

I sometimes get calls from people new to sea kayaking asking about this boat, that boat, etc, etc. It would be oh so easy to steer these paddlers to boat A or boat B but not really responsible. I mean, do I really and truly know what sort of paddling they want to do? Of course I don’t. Problem is, they often don’t know either, but it’s better that they make a mistake in choosing a boat than me making it for them!

Anyway, I think it could be good if we roughly agreed on what advice to give new paddlers. Below are some points I use in helping newer paddlers. We’d all be interested if anyone has any to add:

  • Do not rush out and buy the first sea kayak you see… even if it’s a bargain. There will always be another bargain.
  • Join a sea kayaking club. Go to meetings, make friends, ask questions. Beg, borrow or hire a boat to attend club paddles. Learn some skills.
  • Read everything you can on sea kayaking – books, websites, magazines, videos. Gather knowledge on the subject.
  • Paddle every boat you can lay your hands on… preferably longer rather than shorter paddles. Paddle boats at club outings, visit shops, showrooms.
  • Collect brochures on all the boats you paddle. Make notes about the handling, specifications and characteristics of all the boats you paddle.
  • Talk to the people selling the boats but above all, talk to the owners.

Quiz Answers

Seasickness in group members is serious! Seasickness victims lose all interest in paddling – it seems sometimes that they want to curl up and die! It’s therefore up to you to look after them. Seasickness victims quickly lose fluids… and can’t keep them down. They run the risk of severe dehydration and hypothermia.

  • Prevention – This is best: Carry seasickness medications in your first aid kit. Advise new paddlers to use them. They must be taken an hour or so before paddling so start looking around at breakfast time – tell your paddlers to avoid fatty meals before paddling – foods such as processed meats are not a good idea. Full cream milk is not a good idea. Good substitutes are skim milk or water. Advise your paddlers to keep their heads up when paddling – to keep their eyes on the horizon.
  • Alleviation – One of your paddlers is seasick? A support boat may be needed… and a tow. Head the group for calmer waters. Avoid rebound sea areas. Tell the victim to try to keep their head up. Putting heads down makes motion sickness worse. If they need to vomit, tell them to do so on their spray skirts. Leaning to the side to vomit invites capsizes. If they are vomiting, don’t place them in the middle of the paddling group. Seasickness can be ‘contagious’. There may be other paddlers ‘just holding on’. If they are being towed, are they warm enough?
  • Recovery – Flat calm water is OK but going ashore is best. Keep victim warm. Most will recover quickly but they may be very tired. That may be the end of the group’s paddling for the day. Replace their lost fluids – use electrolyte drinks, tea, maybe soup.