Sting Ray Stung Stu [49]

By Stuart Trueman

In response to the article in Issue 47 of the NSW Sea Kayaker regarding stingrays I thought I’d write about my encounter so that others will be aware.

We chose to spend Christmas and New Year at Jervis Bay. Not a bad choice as we live in the Blue Mountains, which caught fire, coming within 300 metres of our house at one point. However we were not completely let off as the area around Jervis Bay also caught fire and the sun was hidden for days behind the clouds of smoke. To work off some of the Christmas Pud I paddled around Beecroft Peninsula. This is a great paddle with plenty to see along the way. As I was paddling downwind from some of the fires most of what I saw was floating on the water, dead and charred, including insects, birds and clouds of ash. I did see a live seal, but during the fires not one dolphin showed itself which was unusual as they are normally common in the area.

Back to the story…

My circumnavigation of the peninsula started at Currarong a coastal village on the north of the Peninsula. From there you head out to sea and down the coast before paddling into Jervis Bay. After which you follow the Eastern side of the bay before getting to Carama Inlet which is followed until it turns west where you carry your kayak across the road onto the beach for a surf exit then back to Currarong. A total of about 30 km.

I had done the trip a couple of times already during the week and knew the route, I also knew the tide would be low and running out of the inlet but thought I could walk up with out too much bother.

I hadn’t walked more than 50 metres before I trod on something, which moved powerfully underneath my foot, then it stuck me.

POW! Intense pain which quickly increased. I dropped to my knees and waited, unsure what had stung me. I waited for a snake to pop up. My fear was that the pain would spread and I would pass out, then with the inlet running out and the wind blowing 20 knots I would be taken into the open waters of Jervis Bay. That would definitely not be a good start to the New Year.

I saw a fisherman gathering bait 150 metres away. I was still on my knees in 2 foot of water waving my paddle in the air blowing my whistle but all I got in reply was an annoyed, “What do you want?” I could not manage to shout an answer so he went back to looking for bait.

I tried not to get exert myself or get excited so as not to help the poison get around my system. Despite this my plan was to crawl up to him and with the last of my strength place a flare up his arse, set it off and explain the ins and outs of emergency signals. I laid on the kayak and made for the shore by grabbing weeds and pulling myself along. As I passed by him I saw from the look in his eyes that the bait that he was failing to outwit had the higher IQ. Any discussion on the subject would have been a waste of time so I carried on to the mud flats where I continued crawling, dragging the kayak behind me. At this point another fisherman got interested and was a bit more helpful.

I took off my Neoprene boot and washed the wound with fresh water then laid on the beach with my foot resting up on the kayak.

I’m sure that I read somewhere something about reassuring the patient. Well after realising I’d been hit, the fishermen of the area gathered round and told horror stories of mates who were hospitalised for weeks or worse! Anyway they got serious when I started going into shock and shaking, it was not long before an ambulance was on its way.

I’ll try and describe the feeling should you be unlucky to experience the same.

  • The pain is instant after the hit. I was hit on the ankle; it did not spread past my shin.
  • It was so intense that I could not walk on it nor paddle far.
  • It was the pain of a broken bone being moved.
  • It lasted for 5 hours and did not lessen in its intensity.
  • I woke up with no pain or side affects (apart form a hangover).

The ambulance crew cleaned the wound and would have taken me to hospital for methadone pain relief if I hadn’t had other ideas. They advised me to immerse my foot in water as hot as I could stand and watch for infection.

However, I got a lift back to our accommodation which we were sharing with my in laws who had heard of my odd adventure but here I was, in agony, covered in sand and mud, trying to organise to go and get the kayak.

After collecting the kayak Sharon then took me back to the flat and left me to spent the evening rolling around the floor in pain with a small child and a bottle of scotch while she took her parents out for lunch. Another New Year I’ll remember.