Skills & Drills [49]

By David Winkworth

AUSSAR Telephone Number

AUSSAR, as you probably know is the search and rescue arm of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). If you ever have the misfortune to have to activate your EPIRB, the signal will be acted upon by AUSSAR. Your EPIRB will give them a signal only — it won’t tell them anything about the nature of your emergency. If, by any chance, you can get mobile phone reception, why not call them? By calling (02) 6230 6811 you will connect with the 24 hour Operations Room. Incidentally, when I called them one night to check the number I discussed with the duty officer as to who to call for maritime or coastal emergencies: AUSSAR or local Police? The answer was a most emphatic, “Call AUSSAR and we will delegate the response.” Might be worth sticking this number in your mobile phone directory.

Reserve Energy

Over the years we’ve had some tough paddles and some tough tows too, sometimes really working hard over a long period against headwinds to make our landing. I’ve made it a practice to look around at the paddlers to see who is looking really, really tired. Quite often I would ask these paddlers, “Could you paddle another 10 km today?” Or, “Could you paddle back to our start point now if you had to?”

The answers would often be, “No way, I’m buggered,” or a less polite, “Piss off, Dave.”

Fair enough maybe but I contend that exhaustion on the ocean is a very dangerous condition indeed. If you arrive at a planned landfall exhausted, to find surf too dangerous to negotiate, what are you going to do? You may struggle on or back in your exhausted state at greatly increased risk of making a wrong decision, perhaps hypothermia, who knows. Suppose you can negotiate the big surf — that requires lots of energy too. What if you make a mistake on the entry? Exhaustion in big surf is also very dangerous.

If you can paddle 50 km in good conditions, how far do you think you could go in marginal conditions? 30 km, 20 km, less? So, do yourself a favour and your paddling mates too. Develop paddling fitness and skills BEFORE a paddle, paddle often so that you know your limits and don’t rely on your mates to get YOU out of trouble… they could be having trouble themselves!

Lick, Lick, Lick

Ever wondered how surf photographers get such clear images of surfers — not a drop of water on the camera lens? The trick, I’ve recently found out, is to lick, lick your camera lens. Saliva, it seems, is the key. Apparently, when you’ve done it a lot the lens holds a coating and an occasional top up is all that’s needed. So what are you waiting for? Get licking and swim out there in the surf for those special out of control kayak pics!

Ripped Off Again!

I recently bought 3 sets of paddle blades, one set for me and 2 sets for some friends. I paid full price — no deals — that was OK. So imagine my disappointment when I unwrapped them to find four of the six blades had big in-your-face gelcoat blisters, one of which had broken, revealing a big air bubble in the laminate beneath. One of the blades had an obvious mismatched repair job done on it too. Most of the blisters were in the same place on each blade — on the spine of the blade face, indicating to me poor consolidation of the glass when laying up. Anyway, wondering how these blades got out of the factory, I called the manufacturer and got a response along the lines of, “Yeah, sorry, we’ve been really flat out.”

I could’ve sent them back but elected to repair the blades myself. If they were so busy, who knows what sort of repair job they may have done.

Needless to say, I won’t be buying or recommending their product again. Caveat Emptor I suppose.

Kent Group National Park

Had a call from Craig Saunders of the Tassie Sea Canoeing Club recently. He told me that the Kent Group of Islands in Bass Strait (Deal , Erith, Dover and North East Island) are now a new Tasmanian National Park. If you were planning to buy one,.. well… you’re too late. Anyway, Gary Wilmot from Tassie Parks has been given the job of writing a management plan for the islands. He knows that sea kayakers are visiting the islands and is keen to know more of the usage patterns.

In particular, he would like to know what are the preferred campsites for arriving on and departing from the islands (from both directions), where paddlers have camped in the past and any problems they may have experienced (hope they don’t dismantle our bush furniture in Winter Cove).

Tassie sea kayakers have a good relationship with their National Parks people (as the next item shows) so if you’d like to add your input for a great island group, give him a call. I gave my thoughts to Craig but if you want to track down Gary Wilmot, I’d start with the Hobart offices.

Minimal Impact Sea Kayaking in Tasmania

No doubt about the Taswegians! Craig Saunders has just sent me one of a new brochure on minimal impact sea kayaking in Tassie… and it is just stunning!

Almost double A3 in size it is full colour on both sides and liberally splashed with superb sea kayaking photos taken by Jeff Jennings of the Maatsuyker Club. One side has a large colour map of Tassie accompanied by a key detailing seabird and seal breeding sites, seal haulout sites, marine reserves, historic sites and more, all of interest to sea kayakers. Twenty one species of seabirds are listed with a full 12 month calendar of their breeding cycles.

The brochure was prepared by a group representing recreational and commercial sea kayakers in Tassie as well as independent environmental groups and land managers. Check out the website at for a more detailed version of the brochure.

Geez, maybe we could do something like this… now if only they’d let us paddle out to Montague!

Well done Tasmania!

Compass Battery Box Switch

In the last issue I wrote a piece about fitting a LED to a marine compass. If you intend a similar exercise, here’s a slight modification. Instead of fitting the switch so that it is ‘proud’ of the battery box, make it flush with edge or slightly below. I’ve found that rolling with a few items in the day hatch can activate the switch accidentally.