Kayaking Waiheke [52]

John & Pat Colquhoun Find Another Paddling Paradise

By John & Pat Colquhoun

Auckland Harbour is quite different to Sydney Harbour; it sits within the Hauraki Gulf.

The Gulf is a huge stretch of water which is protected from the Pacific in the east by the Coromandel Peninsula, in the east by the mainland and in the west and north by Great Barrier Island.

This means hardly any swell, and on any windless morning it is like a giant lake. Around the Auckland area there are numerous islands, including Rangitoto (an extinct volcano) and many others which have been cleared for sheep, cattle and farming.

Waiheke Island is under transformation from a farm island to a satellite suburb of Auckland, with a fast ferry 30 minutes from downtown, and now has a population of around 8,000. The island is approximately 30 km long and up to 10 km wide, and sits north west to south east over its length. The southern end is substantially farming, with houses and wineries in the north west. There are some 20 wineries, some with very exclusive restaurants attached.

To the kayaking experience: Ross Barnett of Ross Adventures, has kayaks for hire next to the ferry terminal in Matiatia Harbour (email ross@kayakwaiheke.co.nz). He has doubles, singles and sit-on-tops for hire. Pat and I paddle a fibreglass Dusky Bay in Sydney, and did not think much of the plastic option offered by Ross, until we saw the coastline! It varies from white sand to oyster-encrusted volcanic rocks, not a place for fibreglass.

Our intention was to circumnavigate the island, about 100 km (more if you go in and out of the bays). Ross had told us that the record was 6 hours in a hot-shot multi-sport boat, but we felt it was too big a paddle for us in one day, especially if we wanted to see the sights as we went.

Day One (3 hours)

We paddled from Matiatia Harbour around the north-western end, and onto the softer side of the island. The water life was fantastic, with white-fronted terns diving into schools of fish, and blue penguins (similar to our fairy penguins) all around us. To see deserted bays and deep water anchorages was beautiful. On we went to the main settlement at Oneroa—the beach is gently sloping and white sand. It is sheltered from the west, and during the Americas Cup we saw up to 100 boats anchored there for the night.

Past Oneroa we saw mansions nestled into valleys and on headlands, all with fantastic views (how the other half live!). Between beaches there are rocky headlands, and with calm weather we were able to run a few ‘gauntlets’, but were not brave enough to investigate sea caves.

On to Palm Beach for lunch, landing in a gentle half metre wave onto another sand beach, this time with lots of old pipi shells. As we grounded, we thought, “Thank goodness for plastic boats.” While we had packed our lunch, we found a small shop which would have been fine for a sandwich and coffee. It seems all the beaches have some facilities. Off the beach, and on to Onetangi, past two headlands which enabled us to do some more rockhopping. The beach again was white sand with shells, and about 2 km long. We landed in the middle of the beach, opposite which was the local pub, The Strand Bar, which turned out to be the perfect spot to wait for Ross to come and get us. For a fee, Ross will pick up and deliver, which opened up our prospects for day 2.

Day Two (7 hours)

This was our long paddle. We were delivered by Ross to a mangrove creek in the middle of nowhere, and told to paddle down the creek until we reached the coast. We were supplied with flares, maps and we always carry a compass and spare equipment. We wound our way through the mangroves, against the tide, as we wanted to hit the main channel at high water. Tides are around 3 metres, so a working knowledge of where they run and at what speed (up to 3 knots) is important. Just before we entered open water, we had been told to look for a shell bank lagoon, as it is a well-known bird site. It was very special for us, as keen bird watchers, to see five new species, however we could not afford to dally, as the tide waits for no man!

Once into the southern channel, it was wide enough not to feel the current, but the shore slipped past quickly. The change of tide brought a flurry of fish and bird activity—we hooked two kawai of about one kilo each, but did not land either, as we were using barbless hooks (easier to remove if you hook yourself!). We rounded a few islands in the passage, and felt a wonderful feeling of isolation. We could see the Coromandel Peninsula mountain range to the east, and as we came to Thumb Point, we could see the mountain range of Great Barrier Island in the distance. Cliffs along the shoreline were high and rugged, lots of sea caves, FANTASTIC.

We stopped at Thumb Point, the south eastern extremity of the island, on what had looked like a beach, but on arrival found boulders like footballs—thanks again for the plastic boat. We had lunch, enjoying the presence of neighbouring sheep.

The morning had been almost windless, in fact the America’s Cup boats did not race due to lack of wind, however as we rounded Thumb Point, we were into the eye of a 10 knot nor’wester. With 10 or more kilometres to go, the idea of taking detours into various bays was not as attractive as it had seemed, so we pushed on towards Onetangi. We were concerned that the 10 knot breeze may have become 20 or more, because it can blow up with extraordinary speed. We arrived at the beach at 4 pm, and you guessed it, straight to the Strand Bar, where after a phone call to Ross, the day was complete.

We did not manage our circumnavigation, but felt that 80% was all right.

In summary, a great place to paddle, a great island to visit.

Solo Sydney to Batemans Bay [52]

The Best Way to Spend New Year’s

With Tim Shillington

I needed time to myself and I had a week free from all commitments.

I decided that the ideal trip for me was to paddle my ageing, second hand Arctic Raider from Sydney to Batemans Bay on the south coast of NSW.

However when I mapped out the course I discovered it is a lot further than I first thought. I would have to average 57 km a day and then finish with a short 20 km hop if I was to complete the trip within my timeframe. It was a total of around 300 km! However, the best laid plans and all that…

Unfortunately things started rather badly when I arrived in Sydney with my gear only to discover that my dry bags were still in Canberra. But things could only improve and it amazing what you can do with Glad bags. Time was limited but I figured my goal was achievable. This proved to be ambitious considering my complete lack of preparation.

The first three days went well with favourable NE winds which were almost too strong at times. The paddling was generally very pleasant although the swell started to increase. The second day provided a couple of surprises with the sighting of two sharks. One was a hammerhead that headed straight for me and passed under my seat just below the surface as I was approaching Five Islands off Port Kembla.

I spent the first night at Garie Beach in the Royal National Park and the second night at The Farm just north of Kiama. Both these campsites were delightful and probably also illegal! On the third day the NE wind whipped up early and by lunch it was howling. Although this allowed me to make good time it meant that when I arrived at the end of Seven Mile Beach the surf was bigger than I had bargained for. After lunch at Culburra I had a memorable paddle around the point followed by a nerve-racking 12 km in rough seas to Currarong. It was with great relief and very sore shoulders that I landed on the beach where I made camp. Another illegal campsite!

The wind continued to howl throughout the night and by the morning of the fourth day it was clear that I was not going to cross Jervis Bay. Beecroft Head is a scary place when the surf is up and as it turned out the conditions would not be reasonable again until the Friday, so it meant three days off. This was a blessing in disguise as my arms needed a good rest. It seemed I would be spending New Year’s in Currarong.

The final two days of the trip were long and hard. I needed to get home but I was determined to finish the trip. On Friday I left Currarong at 6 am and I was hoping to make Narrawallee Inlet which is a couple of kilometres north of Mollymook. I experienced the Beecroft Head to Point Perpendicular in calm conditions. What a thrill! Incredible scenery and the memories of previous terrifying rock climbing trips came flooding back.

Friday’s paddling took me past Wreck Bay which has some of the most beautiful little beaches I have ever seen and great lunch sites. After a number of stops I eventually made it to Narrawalle Inlet around 5 pm. My upper body was very sore and I was not looking forward to the final day of paddling.

Saturday started slowly as I worked my way painfully towards Mollymook. It would have been good to get a latte there but at 6:30 am there did not appear to be much happening and I had a long way to go to finish.

I pulled up for an early lunch at Bawley Point. Despite the pain I was experiencing I was looking forward to the next 40 km stretch of coastline as it is some of the most beautiful on the South Coast. There are loads of little beaches and small cliffs, and development is limited. All was going well until just before I landed at Emily Miller Beach (a little south of Durras) when I rounded a point where there was an obvious reef break. I decided to cut the corner as it looked relatively safe and just when I thought I was clear of the break, up reared a large rogue wave. It broke right on top of me and it quickly dragged me towards the rocks. Thankfully the wave faded to the point where I could slide off the back. Once off, I paddled hard to escape any further waves. I was soon on the beach with my heart rate going twice as fast as normal.

I had 15 km to go until I reached Lilli Pilli Beach where my family would be waiting for me—not to mention beer, good food and a soft bed. I was soon at North Head where The Tollgates and the southern side of Batemans Bay were in sight. An hour after leaving North Head I finally landed at Lilli Pilli. It was a magnificent feeling landing on that beach.

Over a period of eight days I paddled for five days and covered 304 km and enjoyed a three-day break in the middle. In hindsight the daily paddling distances were too long to really enjoy this magnificent coastline. As a result of the distances and a complete lack of preparation I have been on anti-inflammatories and I have undergone several physiotherapy sessions to help combat carpal tunnel and shoulder pain. Despite the discomfort the trip gave me plenty of time to think and it certainly gave me loads of experience for future adventures.

Under the conditions that I experienced, the trip was reasonably straightforward provided you take a conservative approach. The areas that were of greatest concern to me were the long cliff lines of Sydney Heads and Jervis Bay as well as the shipping channels of Sydney, Botany Bay and Port Kembla. With a combination of luck and patience these were relatively straightforward in the end. There are plenty of good campsites along the coast but because of the distances I needed to cover each day, my options were more limited. The campsites I ended up at were good but I needed to wait until dark before setting up my tent. I was always on the water by 6 am and so I was never disturbed by the general public in the morning.

Tim Shillington is married with two children and is the Head of Outdoor Education at Marist College in Canberra. He spends his spare time running, paddling and climbing. He was introduced to sea kayaking while working at Canberra Grammar with John Wilde.

Strahan to Hobart… [52]

Nearly Anyway…

With Lawrence Geoghegan

In January this year Andrew McAuley, Paul Loker and myself paddled our kayaks from Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania and were trying to reach our destination of Hobart in the south.

Myself in my Pittarak, Andrew in his Nadgee and Paul in his Mirage 530. The trip started as an idea of mine.

I lived as a child in Zeehan on the west coast of Tassie and Geeveston in the south. I thought the idea of paddling around the outside to link the two was a great idea for a trip. I put feelers out on the NSWSKC’s chatline and in the magazine; I had asked for people who had the skill and fortitude to take a trip like this on.

Personally I started training seriously for the trip about 5 months before leaving with regular paddles, a night time from Jervis Bay to Ulladulla with Andrew and swimming, running and bike riding to make sure that I was fit enough. Fitness is the key for doing a long trip and was a big part of the trip for us all — anyway on with the story.

The trip started with Paul and me meeting in Sydney and driving through the night to Melbourne to catch the ferry first thing next morning. Good old Andrew had somehow managed to get out of this by meeting us in Launceston. Lucky really as Paul’s little Corolla with three boats, 20 days of food each, clothing, paddles, etc made for a very cramped car and SLOW. We had to drive at about 90 km/h the whole way down. WHAT A TRIP! The ferry trip over was fantastic taking no time (the ferry flies over at 28-30 knots).

After getting in to Devonport late afternoon Paul and I drove to Launceston to spend the night at a pub before picking up Andrew at the airport the next day. We spent the day walking around Launceston with me reminiscing about all the places I used to hang out as a kid growing up and going to school in Launceston. At one shop, the Backpack ‘n’ Kayak, we ran into Tasmanian kayaking legend Jeff Jennings who gave us a run down of the area we were about to paddle. Sounded great!

We picked up Andrew about 2:00 pm and squeezed him into the car, and I mean squeezed him into the car, and did the 4 hour drive to Strahan arriving about 8:00 pm. We went straight to the pub to load up on carbos. We later drove to Macquarie Heads and organised to leave the car with the caretaker before sleeping the night away. What a way to spend New Year’s Eve; went to bed about 11:30 and slept soundly for the night — can’t wait for the trip to really start!

Day One

Up at 5:00 am and getting all our gear in our boats with Paul telling us that he couldn’t get all his gear in but somehow managing to cram it all in, my Pittarak was so loaded the back end was almost in the water (must have been the 6 pack of beer I had stashed in the rear compartment)! We launched early to head out through Hells Gates, this little entrance had me in awe of the sailors of old and how they sailed their tall ships in through this small passage is amazing. I believe there are lots of wrecks about, what a sight for the convicts it must have been. We stopped at Pilots Bay for Andrew and Paul to try last minute phone calls. Andrew almost lost his hat after leaving it on his back deck through the small surf, luckily he had a float attached and he went back and found it floating in the shallows. We departed the sea wall that protects Hells Gates and finally made our way around Cape Sorell with our first real taste of the West Coast as we were probably a bit close to the Cape as I copped one wave in the face as did Andrew.

After rounding Cape Sorell I noticed that my new skeg wouldn’t go down, I think I kinked the cable trying too hard to deploy it and asked the guys for some help (something they were going to get used to in the next few weeks) but we had no luck getting it down — bugger I really wanted it in these conditions. We had about a 3 metre swell running with us as was the wind from the NW; we actually made such good time on our first leg that we passed our lunch break at Gorge Point by about 5 km before realising. This Island where Andrew’s navigation skills came out, finding where we were and where to go for a lunch break. Andrew noticed a small gap in some reefs and we paddled through these to land at Birthday Bay to have some lunch and hopefully fix my skeg. We were all excited about finally being in the wilderness of the West Coast sitting back about to enjoy our lunch when lo and behold three motorbikes come over the dunes and roared up the beach, shattering our dream of an isolated lunch break. The skeg cable was definitely kinked and would have to wait till evening camp before I could pull it apart and hopefully fix it. After lunch it was back onto the water to Hibbs Lagoon for the night, we still had the wind and swell at our backs which was going to be the norm for our trip. Hibbs Lagoon was an easy landing even though I had read of the nasty surf that can pump into this small bay. We set up camp on the beach only to find a better camp in the lagoon on nice soft grass and fresh water as well and to even make it worse we found a table and chairs to sit on — pity we were too lazy to move camp — next time maybe! We spent the night sitting around the fire finally spending our first night of our trip in the wilderness until the rain sent us off to bed. Weather for the day was a strong wind warning and 3-3.5 metre swell. WHAT A FIRST DAY!

Day Two

After a good night’s sleep we packed in the morning, Paul doing his best to be on the water at the same time as Andrew and I (actually beating me to the task). Before leaving we listened to the weather report on Andrew’s shortwave radio which was the most useful piece of safety equipment we took — to be able to receive weather reports twice daily at 7:00 am and again in the evening was fantastic, down this way paddling can be marginal at the best of times, so having this safety device made our decisions that much easier, impressed by it so much I plan to buy one myself. We played tourist for a while and poked into Sanctuary Cove which was another known landing but it wasn’t as good as Hibbs Lagoon, beautiful just the same. Just off Hibbs Lagoon you can see Hibbs Pyramid which looking at from our direction north to south was quite a contrast, on the northern side it was green and lush but on the prevailing weather side was all rock and weather beaten, typical of the coast down this way. We had an excellent day with following seas and wind pushing us along. Around Sloop Point Paul (Captain Gauntlet) tried his luck through a small gauntlet, leaving Andrew and me to go around the outside rather than risk it. Andrew and I learnt that whatever way Paul went it was safer to go the opposite and also if Paul waved you over it really meant that it was dangerous and you should go the other way!

Around the corner from Sloop Point the seas totally calmed revealing the most beautiful big bay with two Cray boats at anchor, their crews asleep. We were tempted to wake them and ask for a Crayfish but opted to let them sleep. We paddled over to the Spero River with its easy access through a small tidal opening and paddled up river. These rivers were a highlight for me as seeing this part of the coast with it treeless mountains and windswept coast was breathtaking in its beauty, steep and rugged just what I imagined. FANTASTIC! We had a lunchbreak up the river at a pebbly rapid trying to get as much food into us as possible. Watching Andrew trying to get as much food as possible in is almost as amazing as watching a lion eat after not eating for a month, but Andrew does the same after only a few short hours with no food — what an eater! After lunch we decided to make Wanderer River our destination for the day which was only a short 12 km further. At first we were speeding along, then for the last 20 minutes the sea and wind built up slightly to about 3.5-4 meters and 25-30 knots. The weather was definitely getting more and more exciting each day. As we rounded the corner into Wanderer River it opened up into a small bay with the odd breaking wave breaking across the reefs that are scattered around the entrance, once passed these it was flat and calm, quite different to the story from Doug Fraser who tells of the huge 6 metre waves breaking across the entrance — thank God it wasn’t like that! The only trouble we had was getting our boats up through the rapid at the entrance of the river. We looked around for a campsite and found one but looked around for a better site not satisfied with the one we had found — we had paddled 5 km before giving up on another site as this place is really wild with its bush near impossible to walk through. Another night of drizzle before the rain really set in sending us to an early night in bed; at least sleep came easy after the day in the kayak!

Day Three

The forecast for the day was for NW winds (following winds again!) with the swell from the SW.

We left the Wanderer River early, planning to make Nye Bay that afternoon. We all shot the rapid at the entrance of the Wanderer before entering the sea with its tannin stained colour from the fresh water, not even a small wave to wet us — great way to start the day. NO SURF EXIT!

Had an easy morning, paddling up to Montgomery Rocks for a look, these rocks are just off High Rocky Point which was the start of the ‘the trouble spot’ on the West Coast but we paddled on heading for the Mainwaring River. Andrew with his navigational skills found the entrance, with its coloured stained fresh water leading us in to a nice sheltered lunch break; we were all feeling the cold and warmed up with cooked meals. After lunch it was onto the renowned area called The Shank with its reefed area covering about 8 km of coast with white water and reefs everywhere, you could actually hear the reefs breaking about 2 km out to sea, quite intimidating to see the water literally boiling in areas. One minute you were paddling through a calm 4 metre swell then the next it had built up to 6 metres threatening to break over you, I was definitely a little bit wary of the whole area and it seemed to get worse the closer we came to Low Rocky Point. I saw Andrew brace hard into a 6 metre breaking wave just off Low Rocky Point; to say I was glad to leave this area behind was an understatement indeed. After Low Rocky Point and having passed the infamous Shank we had the wind and swell directly at our backs with some good 6 metre swells pushing us onwards, this for me was just awesome as my Pittarak just had a skeg fitted before leaving and without it this part of the trip would have been near impossible, without it the kayak would surf off into a brace, with it it was possible for me to have long surfing rides of more than 100 metres — just so satisfying to have 6 metre swells surfing you along — UNREAL — I was tricked into believing that we only had 7 km to go but then ten minutes later I had Andrew tell me we had 17 km to go; Paul had forgotten that there is a small bit of map we had not bought and he hadn’t figured this into his kilometre count for the day. Strange how you can build yourself up to one thing but then crushed when you find out the real distance!

At least we had the wind and swell at our backs!

From about 7 km out from Nye Bay the swell definitely building into a 5-6 metre wave threatening to break in a few areas, trying to scare us (and succeeding).

We all were glad to see Nye Bay but it looked like a huge wall of green water was breaking all around until we were close enough to see that the white water was to one side of the bay and found a nice easy entrance to the Giblin River. Cold and tired and couldn’t find the campsite talked about in the old trip reports of the area but we paddled around trying to find one out of the wind eventually giving up and settling on one on the sand, it turned out to be a good campsite sheltered from the wind and with lots of drift wood around for a fire.

55 km for the day not bad.

Day Four

We woke to listen to the weather report, finding out that there was a gale force wind warning with big seas forecast as well, they weren’t wrong, so we sat the day out at Nye Bay. We started our beach day by climbing a big dune to have a look at the ocean and WOW what a sight, breaking waves that where so big they would have smashed any kayak brave enough to have given it a go, it really was an awesome sight sitting on that dune watching the biggest waves that most had seen before rolling and rolling along, 2-3 km out to sea — glad to sit this day out that’s for sure.

Back at camp it was the beginning to an event that was to be a highlight of our evening’s ‘damper making’. I at first tried the old scout trick of trying to bake it on a stick (that didn’t work). Paul had brought along bread mix instead of self raising flour and all the trying in the world just didn’t help, every time he attempted to bake bread it turned to a flat kind of mess that looks something your dog might do!

Andrew won this day’s (and inspiring the damper world championships) — just — with me coming second and, well, Paul just gave up. We paddled up the river for a look in the afternoon and generally rested, we listened to the weather report that night and the max wave height at Cape Sorrell was a whopping 8.90 metres. Hoping for calmer weather tomorrow!

Day Five

The sea had definitely calmed but the wind was still up. We decided to try for Wreck Bay for lunch. We had an easy break out through small surf with no mishaps except for me rolling over in small surf (really only practising my rolls!). For the first time we had a headwind until we passed all the reefs off Elliot Point then it was back to tail winds and the swell behind us again! This is unbelievable no head wind. We were all feeling pretty good after the day on the beach resting.

Finally the sun was out and for the first time warming us up. We had a look at Wreck Bay but decided not to enter after watching huge swells breaking a good kilometre off the beach, so kept on paddling to Alfhild Bight eventually finding a nice sunny, sheltered beach to land on. It was so good having the sun out that Andrew did a roll and Paul tried his luck on a wave for a surf.

After lunch we pushed on to Point Davey but not before tackling another stretch of reefs. You either paddled out to sea and around these or judged your way through. These reefs extend out for a good 2-3 km and 5 km long. We tried our luck through the numerous reefs that were in our way. In fact just after leaving Alfhild Bight we were paddling along with the occasional big one rolling in when I noticed Paul and Andrew turn their boats into an incoming swell but because of the skeg which was all the way down I couldn’t turn fast enough so I set up to brace the biggest wave I had seen but fortunately it rolled under me instead of breaking over me, thank God! On with the show — to say I didn’t shit myself was an understatement, something that I was getting used to on this trip. Still a few miles off North Head of Point Davey we were nearly through all the reefs but had to tackle the last little bit when all of a sudden we saw a huge swell break over where we were just about to paddle. We regrouped and said let’s do it with Andrew timing the first wave well, Paul was next but I said bugger waiting and also went with him paddling like I had never paddled before, flat out — as fast as Alan Whiteman (this is bloody fast if you know Alan). It was such a sense of relief to finish this West Coast bit that Andrew and I said that we really felt like we had completed the hard section of the trip — it really was a sense of relief to leave the reefs behind, that’s for sure. Just off North Head we spoke to a Cray fisherman and asked him the weather hoping he would throw us a Cray at the same time. No Cray but we got the weather which was looking good for the next few days so trucked onto Spain Bay looking forward to camp and a day to explore Point Davey.

We arrived at Spain Bay and were expecting an existing camp (this was starting to be a kind of problem trying to find camps that no longer existed) but couldn’t find it even after paddling from one end to the other and then looking in every nook and cranny so again opted to camp on the beach but out of the wind. We had a fire on the beach that evening and even stayed up late knowing we weren’t paddling big distances the next day. We even kept the big challenge going to see who could make the best damper and the contest was getting harder and harder, even went as far to put our names on top of the damper trying to impress the judge! Mine was definitely better than Andrew’s with Paul still trying to make something that resembled bread!

The stars that night were amazing to look at. I had never seen the night sky so bright; it doesn’t get dark down here until way past 10 o’clock. Really made me feel very special being down this way, a very beautiful and amazing place indeed.

Day Six

A rest day at Point Davey was a good call as the weather was calm and the sun was out. A perfect day for exploring, first off we went over to Breaksea Island which is the island that protects the entrance to Bathurst Harbour and because it gets hit from the ongoing elements, the ocean and wind, there are numerous caves. Out came Captain Caveman (Paul) and what a cave dweller he is, keeping Andrew and I amused with his antics of going through every nook and cranny we could find. Then it was a short paddle over to Mount Stokes which we were planning to climb after lunch. On the way over we ran into a few fishermen lazing around in their boats soaking up the sun. It was here that I ran into an Abalone diver who just happened to go to school with my elder brother and made us feel right at home on his well kept boat (name forgotten). I drank lots of beer and generally relaxed while Andrew and Paul climbed Mount Stokes making sure they got some good photo shots for me. I kept Peter Gain and his partner Eleanor company getting pissed and showered in the process, when the other two came back Bozo (Peter) was so kind enough to feed us, to top it off they let us call home on their satellite phone. Tassie hospitality at its best that’s for sure, I never have driven drunk before but that evening I think I paddled drunk back to camp to sleep it all off. Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour is a place I would like to spend about 2 weeks exploring.

Day Seven

Up early and on the water at 7 o’clock. Leaving Spain Bay with a headwind that stayed with us until we had rounded Hilliard Head. Big Caroline Rock just off this headland makes a very imposing sight and then those bloody tailwinds were at us again, unbelievable they just won’t leave us alone! At Mutton Bird Island we hid from the wind and swell for a quick break before heading off towards South West Cape which we could see for miles. Its imposing cliffs leading all the way down the coast as far as we could see. It was here that we were heading for our next break, McKay’s Gulch, which is just a few km from the southern end of South West Cape and were told by Jeff Jennings that it’s really beautiful and Crays everywhere and we were all keen to have a break and a look-see of this area. On the way down the weather changed from sunny and warm to cold and grey and the further south we went the lumpier the ocean became. We went past McKay’s Gulch by a smidgen and decided we were all keen for a break so decided to paddle back and have a look at this so called spot. WELL…

Weren’t we let down, for up in the gulch we found literally 1,000’s of Bluebottles, no camp spot and no grass to sit on, we did find the waterfall that we were told about. So it was a quick bite and then don cags and then back on the water. With the last little bit of ocean off the Cape really starting to come up with wind and rebound, paddling in it was quite hard compared to St Georges Head (where I had experienced bad rebound before). South West Cape was really bad with a good 4-4.5 metre swell bouncing off it, leaving you paddling in mid air where there used to be water to stick your paddle in. Finally the Cape came to an end with a big Gauntlet just off the headland where we rounded to get out of the wind and swell. As this is one of the big capes of the world we thought it appropriate to start a new club, SWCRC (South West Cape Rolling Club), which we all become members of. It was quite surreal after paddling down one side of the cape in wind waves and rebound only to go around the other side to find no wind or swell.

Just down from the end of the Cape we found a herd of New Zealand Fur Seals resting on rocks so we put our goggles on and let loose rolling with the seals, if you ever get the chance to Eskimo roll with seals I highly recommend this as they are awesome to watch under water coming right up to your mask for a look at you.

On to Ketchem Bay for the night but not before the wind really kicked up to 30 knots making our last 5 km especially the last two into a headwind (really), but unperturbed we plugged on wanting to see this next Bay that we had read so much about.

Landing at Ketchem Bay we quickly found the correct campsite something we had become used to not finding! After making camp we all went for a walk up a mountain and it was really up and up and up, just what I really wanted to do after 45 km in the boat but I found great relief for my back and bum after this walk and highly recommend this sort of exercise after a long day in the kayak as it is much like a massage for your back — it really gets a workout. After getting back we had a surprise with two tired campers sitting in their tents absolutely knackered from walking in with their packs on their backs. They ate and then they slept not being very sociable at all really.

We were planning to head out to Maatsuyker Island the next day weather permitting so went to bed early in case we could have a go of it.

Day Eight

No luck today, weather not quite right so spent the day exploring, resting and basically farting around Ketchem Bay, went for a short paddle where I found that my left wrist was playing up a bit, probably from plugging into the headwind a little bit too hard, so a rest day was a good idea before heading out to the Island. Well didn’t I get my bushwalkers to talk to that night — we had about 11 bushwalkers that night at (our) camp. People everywhere and to prove that sea kayakers are damn nice people I saw Paul give his runners to a girl who couldn’t walk in her boots from the blisters on her feet and then to make it even a more surprise I saw Andrew (yes, Andrew) give some food away to some bushwalkers who were running low on food. At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought I was in some drug-induced state when I saw this but my eyes did not deceive me. This man can eat cheese 10 days (un-refrigerated) old because he is hungry but could manage to give away fresh cooked damper (probably because mine was better than his). I have now seen everything in life. My children being born and Andrew McAuley giving food away — I could die right now, I’ve seen everything! Wow.

Prospects look good for a crossing to Maatsuyker Island tomorrow.

Day Nine

Well today has started early, on the water about seven-thirty to make the 22 km trip to the Island with a forecast of 5.5 metre and 25-30 knots not sounding too bad — IF we had known the whole forecast (Andrew was so keen to go that he thought it wasn’t important to give us the whole forecast). The trip over wasn’t too bad. On the way over we saw what this southern ocean was really like, 6 metre rolling swells are just amazing to paddle on they were like mountains, up and down all the way, 3/4 of the way across the wind was slowly increasing and the closer we got to the Island the bigger the sea’s became, I was starting to get a little concerned, about 2-3 km off the Island the wind really came up and so did the seas breaking all around us. We were heading to the eastern end of the Island where there is lee shelter but to do this we had to shoot the gap between Maatsuyker Island and Walker Island, all we could see was white water. It really looked grim but we were out here and we had to get to our destination as there was no use turning back now and by this stage the adrenalin was really pumping we looked at going around Walker Island but couldn’t as the wind and seas were getting too big and this Island was where Paul’s ability to read the ocean came into force — he read this small gap perfectly and saw a chance of going through it so we put our faith in him and went for it and can I say is my kayak seat and shorts are still covered in this brown goo (work it out for yourself). I had to brace off about 5 waves before being thrown through this wall of white water, it was a great relief to get through.

With us all yelling and screaming about getting through I felt more like a white water paddler than a sea kayaker. It really made for a memorable crossing to this Island that we had heard and read so much about down this way. We were so stoked about paddling through this that there were three Cray boats at anchor and we really wanted to wake them and tell them what we had just paddled through totally awesome! The adrenaline was fair pumping and it was a huge release for me to see the sheltered landing just around the corner from all this wind and water that had been scaring the crap out of me! The wind was really shooting around like bullets near this lee shelter in fact I put my paddle up to use as a sail and by putting my paddle in the air I had the nose of the Pittarak burying itself in the water — really incredible.

After all the excitement of this we still had to land amongst New Zealand Fur Seals that have a haul-out right were we wanted to land, there must have been close to five hundred in the water and on the landing area looking at us like we were idiots (I almost had to agree after paddling through the wind and waves to get there).

We had to work out where to land, as it’s all rock and thank God the Pittarak is built strong making landing for me a drier affair compared to my paddling mates who had to step out on to rocks in waist high freezing water. Still pumped from the crossing we captured the moment on film. WE HAD MADE IT!

After unloading some gear and making sure we had stowed our kayaks out of the way of the big fat seals, it was off to seek out other humans who inhabit the Island. The walk up the hill which was steep and surreal as we kept stopping to look at the sea we had just paddled on, looking out to sea and realising that it was messy out there. Once we had ditched our gear and decided to try our luck with staying on the Island for the night we headed off in search of the keepers of the Island and we found them snug and warm inside the main lighthouse keeper’s house. It was here that we were delighted to find the friendliest people we could have imagined to meet, Jason Whitehead and Fiona Taylor, who where amazed that we had paddled out on a day like this and invited us in out of the cold and offered us a warm drink and then Fiona made us fresh muffins to nibble on — FANTASTIC HOSPITALITY!

After chatting for a while we decided on making our way back to the campsite and set up camp and also went for another look at the seals which were a pleasure to watch at play on the rocks and in the water. After finishing playing tourist it was back to Jason and Fiona’s house for an evening of veggie lasagne (just for me the veggie) and wine and talk of the Island and Tasmania. Jason had to be the most knowledgeable person we could have hoped to meet. Actually they both were, with Jason a geologist who had worked for the NPWS as a Ranger, also down in Antarctica and Fiona who had worked down there as well but she was a Botanist. I learnt more about Tasmanian Aboriginals from Jason than from an encyclopaedia, fascinating people indeed. After dinner we ventured outside for a look at the Mutton Birds that were returning from finding food for the day, these little birds are masters of flight but they sure can’t land well and as Jason said it’s more a controlled crash than a landing which kept us amused for a while. We had thoroughly enjoyed our evening and day on this island and it was a pleasure to walk back to our tents listening to the night noises that reverberated around this island lulling us to sleep. I think this had been a highlight of the trip both in the sense of reaching the Island and then meeting friendly people who respected our sense of adventure.

Day Ten

We rose fairly early to a completely different day. Sun and fairly calm seas. Jason came down to see us off and to make sure we didn’t scare the seals too much on our way down to the landing stage where our boats were stored, packing quickly and putting our kayaks in the water and with Andrew showing Jason how to roll and then doing a few more to look at the seals in the water. This place showed us some of its magic, that’s for sure, with memorable moments in the boat getting there and meeting both Jason and Fiona with their information on the Island and generally Tasmania — this had to be the highlight of the whole trip so far.

As we paddled off, the sun was out and warming us up. We paddled off across the gap between De Witt Island and Maatsuyker Island. Leaving us wondering how hardy these Tasmanian Aboriginals were with their efforts to paddle their bark canoes out to these Islands almost 20 km off the coast. I wonder if they paddled in 6-7 metre seas and 40 knot winds!

We were definitely on our way again, past De Witt Island we had the wind on our bow quarter wanting to push us further down the coast than what we wanted but instead made our way to Deadman’s Cove which was a really sheltered little cove out of the wind and this inspired Andrew to enter the water and retrieve an Abalone that they cooked and ate leaving a bit for bait that we would use later on in the hope of catching a fish! After lunch we had a short paddle to Rocky Boat Inlet, this was a fast trip with the wind behind gusting up to 30 knots. Once we arrived, Paul, who must have seen a few gnarly waves before Andrew and I had seen any, signalled us to go to the left hand side of the entrance thankfully as waves were breaking 90% of the way across leaving a little bit of the entrance un-broken for us to enter, actually it was a little bit of a shock (again) to see these big waves form up and look like breaking but then just rolling underneath you, a typical South Coast landing down this way but leaving us safe and dry again.

We had heard that this wasn’t the best campsite but to us getting there early and with the sun out warming us up it was magic. We all rested and caught a few ZZZs. At dusk I had the bright idea of trying to catch a fish with our trawling rigs. It worked with me landing one in a few seconds of throwing the line in. Andrew and Paul both tried but failed miserably in the Fishkiller stakes. I won the Fishkiller awards for this trip!

It was a late night with us talking and cooking our dampers for the last time as the next day we had decided to try for Cockle Creek which was basically our last day in this beautiful South Coast Zone.

Day Eleven

We left Rocky Boat inlet with 45 km of coast to paddle. What a day it was, not much swell not much wind and the most breathtaking scenery before us. First off South Cape then South East Cape which was not as thrilling as SW Cape to round on a day like this. All three of us separated on this part of the trip, reflecting on our trip down this way it had given us all a trip to remember with great paddling and scenery and good friendship to boot. It was a long stretch in the boat but before long we rounded Whale Head and we finally entered waters of the Derwent River area (Storm Bay). One funny moment that happened was we hadn’t caught any Crayfish and were keen to do so and thought that we could nick a Cray out of a pot (we had to feed Andrew!) — so we found one and pulled it up revealing a fishing net. “What are these people doing?” Andrew exclaimed, “Lets tell fisheries… these people catching fish in nets it must be illegal.”

But lo and behold after rounding Cockle Creek we saw nets everywhere; it seems that in Tassie it’s still legal (why!) to catch fish in nets.

After seeing this we kept on paddling around to Cockle Creek campsite where lots of Tasmanians seem to like to camp as there were people there who had wood stacks enough to last them a month and camps to match. It was a shock to see and hear campers and cars and phone boxes after living by ourselves for 10 days in the wilderness. It was with much grumbling from Paul and Andrew that we stayed here for the night and the only reason I refused to move was I had put my tent up and un-packed as well.

We still had half of the day to waste so we sat around watching the day pass us, I was enjoying this seeing how the real world operates especially after not including myself in it for 10 days. We planned to paddle the outside of Bruny Island but I was sure that they don’t call Storm Bay Storm Bay for no reason and we all decided to wait for the weather report before making any decisions and in the end the weather made it for us — NOT GOOD — we had a forecast that gave us our first headwinds of the trip so opted to take the inside channel instead. So we retired to bed with plans to go as far as we could the next day.

Day Twelve

The sun was out and so was the wind, within 3 km of Cockle Creek we had the wind in our faces YUCK! And didn’t it blow, we pushed on hugging the rocks trying to gain some shelter and make it a bit easier on ourselves. I did some damage to my wrist as it was hurting from the strain of not only paddling the last eleven days but now having to paddle even harder into the wind, about 18 km of this we decided to have an early lunch out of the wind and as the sun was shining it was a good idea.

Lunch turned out to be an afternoon siesta that we all enjoyed with full stomachs. We pressed on making for Dover for the night with the wind getting stronger that afternoon but we all put our heads down and paddled on and finally we rounded a corner and the sight of Dover in the distance greeted us. As we paddled over to Dover Paul turned around for some reason and saw this great campsite which we immediately went over to, not the best landing but a great campsite as it had a fireplace and old car seats and lots of wood around for us to burn and it was out of that bloody wind. Later that night we learnt that the wind had been up to 30 knots that day with a severe wind warning for the next day — our Strahan to Hobart trip ended here!

We were all a bit relieved to finish this day. We all but realised that this was the end of our trip so to speak and we ate all the leftover food we had and a celebration kind of thing that I won’t go into right now (for the risk of being arrested!).

We had a late night that night talking and sleeping around the fire before finally retiring to our tents knowing that we had paddled around the SW Coast of Tasmania

It really was quite satisfying to know we had done it without mishap!

Day Thirteen

A late start for our last 5 km to Dover checking out the Salmon farms on the way over. A slow paddle soaking up the last strokes to what could only be described as an exciting well planned enjoyable trip!

Strahan to Hobart — well almost anyway!

I would lastly like to thank Andrew and Paul for coming with me but most importantly making this the most fun, exciting holiday I have ever had. I now have two extra mates that will forever be in my thoughts as I dream about that day we paddled out to Maatsuyker Island — Cheers!

Day Fourteen — Day Sixteen

These were the days spent getting the car back, dropping Andrew off at Stanley to paddle back across Bass Strait and finally catching the ferry back to the mainland.

Paddlers Involved

Lawrence (My Pittarak is better than your boat) Geoghegan — Pittarak

Andrew (paddle faster) McAuley — Nadgee

Paul (Captain Caveman) (and I can’t cook bread) Loker — Mirage 530

PS. This area really is a dangerous place to paddle if you don’t do the training and planning first. We sought out all kinds of information, Tasmanian local knowledge and old trip reports of the area. We had maps 1:25,000 and 1:100,000 to help in decision making, we all carried EPIRBs and we shared a satellite phone rental, a VHF radio (that Paul speaks really nice into, just ask him) and Andrew had his short wave radio that was the best piece of equipment that could be carried.

We all trained hard for this doing lots of paddling and generally lots of fitness work and it paid off with lots of memorable moments and great laughs.

The Ultimate Sea Kayak [52]

By Tim Dillenbeck


This story is describing the process of developing a new sea kayak design. But let me first introduce myself.

I am a Naval Architect as profession and have for the last 3 years developed a great interest in sea kayaking. I built a wood kayak in 2001 and have paddled many different kayaks during these years. I am currently a grade 4 sea kayaker (NSWSKC Club proficiency grading). With this background I felt confident that I would have the ability to design an optimised kayak design, meeting certain design criterias and subsequently build a prototype to prove the design. This project started early 2002 and the prototype kayak was launched late February 2003. The kayak met or exceeded all expectations and was received very positively by many experienced paddlers. In the Conclusion below, I am also discussing the possibility of commercialisation of this project.

Design Input

In all cases of Naval Architect design, it’s important to have a clear idea what we want to achieve. Speed, Weight, Stability, Comfort & Safety, Manoeuvrability & Steering, Sea keeping capabilities and ability to Surf are items to consider. A fast hard tracking kayak may not be very manoeuvrable, a lightweight kayak may not have the structural strength suitable for expedition kayaking, a highly manoeuvrable kayak may be difficult to stay on course in rough seas without a rudder. Therefore one kayak can not do everything, the designer has to make some choices and compromises. Below I have outlined some of the key thoughts as design input for this project:


A sea kayak should have a relatively good overall hull speed in various conditions. It is really difficult to paddle with a team of strong paddlers using fast kayaks and not be able to keep up. Many designers argue about waterline length, wetted surface areas, etc but those numbers are important but do not cover all aspects of speed. Once you get out to sea, the kayak’s ability to handle waves, wind and increased loading conditions will have a dramatic impact on the ability to sustain a high cruising speed. It’s also important to decide what your typical paddle speed would be in order to optimise the hull resistance to that design point. A racing kayak may be optimised for 12 km/h hull speed and will subsequently not be performing at its best at lower speeds whilst in this case I selected as design input slightly over 8 km/h as being a typical fast sea kayak cruising speed. That means that firstly the still water parameters are to be considered but also Prismatic Coefficient (PC*) and other characteristics regarding the hull shape need to be taken into account such as:

  • The hull shape should be such that it keeps the pitching movement in head sea to a minimum. A lot of pitching movements is loss of energy = loss of speed. Normally very fine ends at bow and stern will increase pitching.
  • If the bow is partly submerged in head sea or in surf, the wetted surface area momentarily increases dramatically which leads to increased hull resistance. Means to keep the bow as dry as possible in all conditions is of importance.
  • In open following sea, the kayak needs to have three key performance characteristics: a) track well to stay on course, b) ability to pick up waves for a quick surf and c) not to nose dive, in particular in heavy loaded condition. A design successfully dealing with a), b) and c) will have superior speed characteristics.


In general, additional weight is additional drag. However, normally the total weight of kayak, paddler and ‘cargo’ will exceed 100 kg so a 3 kg heavier kayak is only affecting the overall weight scenario by 3%. Considerations must be given to the kayak’s structural strength and practical issues such as lifting the kayak onto the roof-rack of your car. Also weight distribution is an issue, weight high up or in kayak ends is undesirable. Weight low down increases stability and weight near centre as opposed to ends will reduce pitching, i.e. increase ability of speed.


Stability of kayaks is another area of constant discussions. My view is simple. The initial stability should be sufficiently low to enable the kayaker to easily lean as desired for turning and control the kayak’s roll angle in beam sea (too high initial stability may cause uncomfortable rolling in beam sea). On the other hand, the kayak shall not feel ‘tippy’ to the point where the kayaker constantly must brace with the paddle to stay upright. High secondary stability is desirable at relatively high heel angle (20 to 25 deg).

This will assist in overall sea-worthiness, keeping the heel angle at a leaned turn and improved ability for easy Eskimo roll.

Comfort & safety

Comfort is of outmost importance as a kayaker could spend many hours and in some cases up to a day in the kayak. Comfort is related to some key areas:

  • Seating arrangement should be provided with soft seat, back rest, thigh/hip support, knee bracing under deck and foot rests. All items should be adjustable in order to accommodate various sizes of paddlers. It would be desirable to have key items such as back rest and foot rest adjustable whilst the kayaker is sitting in the kayak. During an extensive paddle, it could be nice to be able to adjust your seating position.
  • Day hatch to have easy access to clothes, food, safety gear etc and a place to hold small items on deck such as a towing line in addition to the traditional straps on foredeck for sea chart.
  • Cockpit size is also an area of many different opinions but my view is: large enough to step in and out of without beaching or paddle bracing but tight enough (including knee braces) to ensure secure sitting position in case of rough conditions (roll in surf etc).

Safety equipment should be incorporated in the design and be in line with the highest sea kayak standards (safety lines, pump, provisions for towing, etc).

Manoeuvrability & Steering

RUDDER or NO RUDDER, what a great topic and again there are many different views. My belief is very basic. Firstly, a kayak design should not be such that a rudder is needed to compensate for lack of tracking or weather cocking (turning into or away from the wind in strong beam wind conditions). Therefore, a kayak should be able to be comfortably handled in most conditions without a rudder. However, I firmly believe that even the best kayak needs correction strokes in strong following sea and very often I have noticed speed loss from even the best paddlers. For long paddles in heavy sea condition, a rudder will assist in saving energy by keeping the kayak on course and eliminate correction strokes. Also for those keen in using sails, a rudder is desirable.

The rudder design is a challenge by itself. Fixed rudder (non retractable) are prone to damage and most standard retractable rudders are hydro dynamically not well designed and they are quite exposed in ‘up’ position causing windage drag, possible injury to people and exposed to possible damage if rolled onto the beach.

The challenge for the new project was to come up with a better solution.

Manoeuvrability of the kayak without use of rudder is important. Although the kayak should track well paddling straight forward, a superior turning ability when leaning the kayak is desirable. Avoiding difficult situations by having good control of the kayak (rock hopping, trapped in narrow waters, etc) is a safety issue and it’s also more fun to paddle a lively kayak with a ‘sporty’ feel.

Sea keeping capabilities

This topic had been addressed to a large extent under Speed & Stability. In addition, it’s important for a true sea kayak to have enough reserve buoyancy to cope with expedition packing load (can be an additional 40 kg or more) without demonstrating poor behaviour in rough sea conditions.

Ability to handle surf

This topic is seen by many as a play issue and yes, it’s fun to surf with sea kayaks. However, the key issue here is speed and safety.

Surfing in open sea is discussed under Speed, but the real test is the approach to a beach through the surf. The ability to surf in way of a breaking wave with minimum tendencies of nosediving or undesirable broaching is a safety issue.


As input to the design, I studied many existing kayak designs and conducted extensive research work regarding designs, hull shapes, resistance calculations and general articles from kayak enthusiasts.

The kayak was designed starting with a lines plan in order to define the hull shape and providing the basis for hydrodynamic calculations. The waterline length was early determined from resistance calculations and choice of the Prismatic Coefficient (PC*). The importance of Waterline Length should not be over exaggerated as the benefits are quite small. For example, the theoretical top speed for 4.75 m WL is 9.8 km/h and 5.0 m WL is 10 km/h. Optimum PC is 0.5 to 0.6.

The selected optimum design speed was 8 km/h (see above) and the PC is taken from the following table. Max speed is when ‘speed/square root of length’ is about 1.34 and this equates to about 10 km/h for a 5 m WL length kayak.

From the table, a PC of 0.53 is selected as optimum for the chosen cruising speed.

The centre of buoyancy (LCB) is another important decision to make. This will result in Fish-form if LCB is well forward of mid ship and Swedeform if LCB is well aft of midships. There is lots of literature discussing this issue but although Fish-form theoretically gives lower hull resistance you will find problems with tracking. Practically when considering sea worthiness and manoeuvrability, a neutral or slight Swedeform seems to be the best choice.

To compare some kayaks on the market (% of WL length aft of midship, the higher positive number the more Swedeform):

Model WL length aft of mid ship
Mariner XL 5.0
Coho 0.8
Chesapeake 17 0.6
Guillemot Night Heron 2.1

My choice was 2.5% of WL length aft of mid ship.

The final issue is the amount of ‘rocker’. The are no clear rules for that and the designer must select the curve of the keel line based on experience and comparing with existing designs of known performance. It has a lot to do with tracking and manoeuvrability as well as stability. A straight keel kayak is more ‘tippy’ than a high rocker kayak with the same beam.

Once these basic parameters are selected and the displacement of the kayak is established (113 kg displacement used as design point) the shape is quite well determined and the challenge is to ensure that the lines plan is modified until it meets all the design criteria.

The final check is stability. Very little seems to have been published about actual kayak stability. However, I found published stability curves of Guillemot Kayaks assuming a 200 lb paddler with a pre-determined position of the centre of mass. By comparing calculations I found that this prototype kayak would have initial stability (from 0 to 12 deg Heel) very similar to the average Guillemot but the max stability was peaking around 19 deg heel for the Guillemot and 24 deg for the prototype kayak.

Without more kayaks to compare with it was hard to know how good that is but the indications of a solid secondary stability seemed to be there.

A 1:5 scale model was built and tested in a swimming pool to confirm the waterline at various loads, behaviour in head sea and turning ability when leaning. The model test was not scientifically measured, it was rather a visual check that the kayak did what it was designed to do. As far as could be seen, the model performed very well. In particular, the turning ability in a heeled condition was impressive.

Building The Prototype

The kayak was built using 5 mm thick high density closed cell foam panels. The foam panels were carefully lofted, cut and stitched together in a similar fashion as the well proven plywood stitch & glue technique. The hull was finally covered with 1 to (in some places) up to 4 layers of 6 oz fibreglass cloth using epoxy resin on both sides creating very light weight and stiff sandwich panels.

The deck and bulkheads were made in a similar way. Valley hatches were fitted, oval for rear hatch and 12” round for day hatch and front hatch. This is very much in line with well proven practice in many commercial kayaks today.

When the hull and deck was fully fibreglassed and completed during construction the hull weighed 8 kg and deck 4 kg. I was actually paddling the bare hull (without deck) as a last check before completing construction. But still, with hull fairing, painting, deck fittings, seating, rudder, foot pedals, electric pump & battery, and those heavy Valley hatches, etc it still ended up around 23 kg. About 4 kg more than expected. It was good that I selected the designed waterline at 113 kg because that meant that I had plenty up my sleeve.

The aft end of the kayak was provided with a fully balanced high performance custom made rudder being positioned under the hull in operation and ‘garaged’ in a well arrangement when in up position. This rudder provides very effective steering in all conditions and is well protected in up position.

Tim Dillenbeck's Ultimate Sea kayak


Testing a kayak is somewhat difficult. All paddlers have different personal views what is good and what is bad. I have tried to do some basic testing to verify that the kayak meets the pre-determined design criteria.

It’s proven to be a fast kayak. I have now paddled together with some very strong paddlers using well know commercial kayaks and it seems to be performing very well against other fast kayaks, even those with considerably longer waterline length. The kayak does excel in rough conditions which was one of the key design points.

It’s also very stable and it turned out exactly as expected and behaved as indicated in the design input. Although the kayak is lively and easy to turn and roll, it feels very stable in all conditions.

I have paddled in strong wind conditions without rudder at various angles to the wind. The kayak is extremely neutral and does not weathercock into or away from the wind. However, it’s still easy with a moderate lean and a sweep stroke to alter the course in any direction. I have seen kayaks having great difficulty heading into the wind in strong conditions and that can be quite dangerous but this one has certainly none of those dangerous characteristics.

Due to the fact that the kayak is ‘semi’ hard chine and has quite a bit of rocker, it does turn very well when leaning and carving a turn. The reality was just as demonstrated by the model in the pool!

The most fun is to paddle this kayak in rough conditions. It really feels safe and it does stay on top of the waves and very seldom would you experience the front of the kayak under water. Particularly in the surf, it takes off easily, the front of the kayak is not submerged and it tracks wonderfully even without the rudder due to its moderate fixed skeg arrangement.

The rudder is a bit unique and requires very small pedal movements for turning. Due to its light weightiness (the whole rudder assembly floats) the rudder has to be locked in down position and care must be taken not to ground that kayak whilst the rudder is down. This may seem as a draw back (and I guess it is) but because that kayak handles so well without a rudder, it’s advisable to pull it up in areas where grounding could be expected.


Personally I am very thrilled and excited about the success of this project. It does prove a point, and that is that it is worthwhile to really spend the time to determine the design input and expectations and then carefully use the best principles to design and model test before progressing with construction of the prototype. At this stage there is not one point or issue I feel I should have done different or better (this may come later!).

As I had some difficulties to find a sea kayak that did all the things I wanted in early 2002, I started this project as a hobby just to play around with some designs and build something for myself. The whole project ended up far much more involved than originally planned and a boat/kayak fabricator could probably now see the possibilities for commercialisation of this kayak. I personally would not be in a position to consider fabrication on a larger scale but I have in the meantime protected the design and certain design features are patent pending.

* Note: Prismatic Coefficient (PC) is a non dimensional number indicating the relative fullness of the vessels ends. For a kayak, a low PC below 0.50 indicates that the volume is concentrated amidships and the ends have a fine entry whilst a high PC above 0.60 indicate a more distributed volume and fuller ends.

A Ramble From the Editor [52]

By Ian Phillips

Well it only took five-and-a-half years, but after being the classic miserable bastard solo kayaker for bloody yonks, I finally managed to join my first official Club trip in February this year.

Being the first to arrive in the inky darkness, I did a spot of kayak building then I completed a quick tour around Long Bay, checking out the wind outside the bay that was steadily increasing, running down several swimmers as they dived in and headed for Maroubra, and paddling for my life as Senor Presidente mounted the rocks in his 4WD and chased me down with Senora Presidente waving a paddle at me from the passenger window in what I later learned was a genuine effort to show me where the real launching point was.

Back at the beach everyone oohed and aahed and bowed to the gracious and curvaceous Hybrid III sitting atop down-filled roof racks on Grasshopper’s car, which was flicked from the roof to the beach in one gracious move, most probably due to the vessels 500 gram weight rather than the amazing dexterity of its humble creator.

This ultimately proved to be Andre’s downfall for the 18 km paddle, as the ultra light kayak levitated 4 inches above the waterline and Andre was forced to brace on a continual basis as the chop and winds spun him around. But at least it allowed me to actually keep up with him on the paddle as we discussed in length the significance of Polish sausages and Feathercraft kayaks in the current world economy.

One of the last paddlers to arrive was the highly decorated Baidarkonaut, who still confounds with that uncanny ability to snaffle the perfect car space despite being the last on the scene – a disturbing skill first witnessed by your humble Editor on Mr Eddy’s inaugural Plywood Paddling Party.

Once we were all packed and Sharon had forced us to sign our lives away in case we didn’t return, we were off and paddling onward in a semi-organised fashion.

A quick reconnaissance to the south once we struck the outside provided a tantalising taste of the wind lashing we would receive on our return paddle, and although it cannot be confirmed, Andre almost looked concerned as Hybrid III did another pirouette over the bow of my low-slung folder.

Nevertheless, the group paddled with gaiety and mirth as we spun to the north and we rode some pleasant swell and mess on our way to a beach that may have been Coogee, but my memory is vague and it could well have been Maroubra, Bondi or Palm Beach.

Nevertheless, Trip Leader Extraordinaire Mercer performed admirably as he kept us all within a close distance (despite my initial suggestion for group spread to be “anything we feel like”), and in the process easily paddled double the distance that anyone else managed as he rounded us up like startled sheep as we prepared for a smooth surf into Coogee (or wherever).

Well… a smooth surf for all but me, who performed a gracious foul-up at the end, allowing the others to work on my waterlogged beast as I managed an awkward escape from the waves. Nevertheless, my peanut butter sandwiches were dry and that was all that mattered.

And despite Andre’s and my best efforts to Kamikaze onto the rocks in Little Bay (a brilliant plan that was confounded by the sensibilities of Mr Mercer), we all managed to make it back to Long Bay where we politicked for several hours until it was time to go home. Perhaps one day I’ll make it on another Club trip, however brief, if only I can find another day away from that blasted office.

From The President’s Deck [52]

By Rob Mercer

On returning from a recent paddle in far north Queensland it was put to me by a self proclaimed ‘purist’ that expeditions using sails should always note their reliance on the breeze. Any article or discussion of their efforts should carry a precursor warning the reader that it was wind assisted. Furthermore, any reference by a third party should list the trip with a large S in parentheses to warn of its un-athletic nature.

Personally, island hopping from Lucinda to Cooktown (S) was one of the highlights in my year of paddling. Richard and I enjoyed sailing rudderless but the others used rudders to varying degrees. So I suppose for them, the trip was RS. As I have now destroyed our expeditionary credibility in the eyes of the ‘purists’, I may as well reveal the whole truth. Yes, we also occasionally had a hot shower and a night in a cabin. So, I suppose, we must add an A for accommodation – which makes it Lucinda to Cooktown (ARS).

Yet, despite this disparaging acronym, we enjoyed every warm, challenging nautical mile of it. So, if enjoyment further diminishes the value of our little adventure then I’ll let the ‘purists’ decide where to put the E.

My point is really that we can’t afford to be too ‘precious’ about sea kayaking. It is a touring activity usually involving self sufficiency, resourcefulness, commitment and decision making. It is about travelling by sea for a morning, a month or a year. The only real timekeepers are the tides, changes in the sea state, and obligations back home. There is no-one standing on the beach with a stopwatch nor is there a rubber ducky or power boat support team to ensure your safety. There is no standard boat nor standard course for covering a stretch of coast or making a crossing. There will always be ‘cutting edge’ paddlers who want to be first, fastest or furthest, or simply want to bag the ‘trophy trips’ such as Bass Strait.

What is interesting is how eclectic many high level paddlers are. Far from purists they are often searching beyond the orthodoxy of sea kayaking for equipment and technique. In January 2003 Andrew McAuley capped his tour of south west Tasmania (with fellow Club members Paul Loker and Lawrence Geoghegan) by crossing western Bass Strait solo. This triumph was not sail assisted but his eastern Bass Strait and Port Douglas to Sabai trips both used sails and on all trips Andrew uses a ‘wing’ type racing paddle. He also draws on skills developed from flat water racing, whitewater play boating and surfing. His all-round outdoor savvy and navigational skills that he has developed through mountaineering, rock climbing and mountain biking no doubt also contribute to Andrew being one of the best all round sea kayakers I’ve met (even if he does use a rudder).

When faced with the most dynamic environment on earth you can’t be too strong, too skilled or too humble and that is why you will find many other expeditioners who have built on their strengths and overcome personal limitations through the challenge of other disciplines. In many ways sea kayaking is the ultimate form of kayaking as it requires a blend of techniques used in whitewater and flatwater along with a unique set of skills including mastery of a sea going vessel and all that entails.

I admit there are many fine sea kayakers who have never paddled a play boat, used a propeller paddle or tainted their kayak with a sail or rudder. Their’s is also a valid approach but I believe our Club is broad enough to support and celebrate the efforts of all who paddle a kayak on the sea. Sea kayaking is a pursuit that transcends the narrow boundaries of the so called ‘paddle sports’, yet still allows us to learn from them.

Trev & Mark’s Big Adventure [52]

The Inaugural Paddle Polaris Kayak Challenge

By Mark Berry

The inaugural Paddle Polaris kayak challenge was held on Lake Eucumbene over the weekend of 7-8 December 2002.

Huw Kingston and his cohorts devised a fiendishly clever event format, based on his popular Polaris mountain bike orienteering series.

Two person teams were required to navigate and paddle around the lake, over two day-long legs, accumulating as many points as possible and returning to a designated finishing line within the specified time limit. The team with the most points and least time penalties gained over the two days was declared the winner. The NSW Sea Kayak Club produced a small but enthusiastic turnout with Trevor Gardner and myself competing in the Vets class, and Sundra John and Stephen Lewis competing in the Single Men’s class (I’m not sure how Salo would take that). David Whyte, Dave Winkworth, Ian Phillips and Rob Mercer provided support as safety paddlers as well as being entertaining company at the campsite.

Neither Trevor nor myself had competed in this type of event before so agreed not to take it too seriously and just enjoy paddling the lake. Friday afternoon I picked Trevor up from work at five. Our preparation and training had been meticulous; Trev had just come off a 36-hour shift and I had been locked inside studying for the past 8 months and had put on 10 kg of fat reserves. Neither of us was anywhere near organised. We were lucky to get this far, however, as I had picked up my new Mirage 530 the day before and only just beat the F3 freeway closure on my return journey due to bushfires. Trevor had a carload of gear sitting on the ground when I arrived. After observing the huge mound being loaded I asked him what he was bringing, “everything” was the reply. This proved to be an ominously accurate appraisal. Don’t let anyone tell you that Nadgees aren’t good packhorses because what went into that boat was mind-boggling.

Apart from trying to second-guess giant suicidal marsupials along the Snowy Mountains Highway our journey to Old Adaminaby proved uneventful. On arriving at the Rainbow Caravan Park Huw Kingston informed us that the gale force winds, which had blown consistently for days, had abated only four hours previously. Following registration and scrutineering we organised our tent site and sat down to plot grid references onto a 1:50 topographic map of the lake. For those unfamiliar with the format of Polaris events, on arrival competitors are provided with a series or grid references (controls) that must be plotted onto a map. After paddling through the start gate on the first morning they are given a list showing which controls are active and each of their point values. Because of their critical importance we took our time plotting the controls and didn’t hit the sack til 01:30 am.

When the alarm went off at 05:45 am the following morning the thermometer was just nudging 3 degrees. Freshly brewed coffee cleared the fog of sleep deprivation from our brains allowing us to organise and pack the kayaks. Competitors were required to carry all their food and camping equipment for the two days, although Trev managed to load more gear into his Nadgee than he had packed for 11 days in the Whitsundays two months previously. We quickly found that Lake Eucumbene’s shoreline is not particularly kayak friendly. The water’s edge consists of lines of rocks protruding like broken upturned teeth waiting to graunch the gel coat of loaded kayaks. A judicious application of helicopter tape saved the 530 from the worst of it.

Following the briefing competitors hit the water and paddled to the start gate where we each received the control values and grid references for the night’s campsite. It was the first time I had paddled my new Mirage 530 and it was full to the brim with gear. Fortunately the 530 proved to be a very sweet kayak, loaded or unloaded. Trevor and I chose our route for interest rather than the value of control points and headed down Addicumbene Reach, which provided a series of inlets along its north-western edge offering excellent paddling and ending at the dam wall. This route also provided some protection from the nor-west winds and, theoretically, would have us paddling back towards the campsite by lunchtime.

At our first control, Grace Lea Island, we realised that both of us had forgotten how to use a compass. Trevor’s years in the military doing kick-arse field survival exercises and my aircraft and bushwalking navigation skills had faded from years of neglect, dementia and the insidious influence of Global Positioning Systems. Our clumsy attempts at taking a compass heading off the map brought an initial look of disbelief from the control marshal, followed by scarcely concealed hilarity. Initial indications of navigational ineptitude were quickly confirmed when we mistook a low uncharted island for Teal Island and spent 30 minutes searching for the control and cursing the organisers for forgetting to put it out. What we soon realised we should be doing was navigating by dead reckoning and tracking our paddling time between controls. At least we solved that problem early in the event or it could have been really ugly.

Lake Eucumbene is a fascinating place to paddle. Many of the inlets have scores of dead trees protruding, or almost protruding, through the lake surface. Manoeuvring through these semi-submerged forests provides an eerie reminder that the lake, which is four times the size of Sydney Harbour, is only a very recent manmade creation and towns like Old Adaminaby lie buried not far beneath. On arrival at control 4 in Sanctuary Inlet we found that the organisers were playing on the spooky theme using an inflatable crocodile as the control checkpoint.

In our rush to get organised for the event we had purchased a cheap set of textas for marking controls on the map. This proved to be our biggest mistake of the weekend. Whilst the red worked reasonably well for the control points the blue used to indicate which ones were active appeared as just a faint smudge. It wasn’t until we had paddled half way up Wandella Inlet to control that we realised it was inactive; a 45 minute diversion. This cost us a 40-point control in Billyo Cove. We tossed up whether to go for Billyo Cove anyway but took a conservative approach and headed back towards the campsite, picking up two more controls on the way. This was a good decision in the end because penalties for arriving late were brutal.

The 15 km slog to the campsite at Wattledale Inlet was into an increasingly strong nor-westerly wind. In my flabby, couch-potato, state the final 5 1/2 km up Providence Arm, after almost 8 hours of continuous paddling, proved excruciating. We arrived with 13 minutes to spare and managed to carry the loaded kayaks up the hill and through the finish gates before collapsing in a heap on the ground. There was a certain satisfaction in kicking back with a cold beer and watching the final contestants struggling into the campsite on the last of their energy reserves in an attempt to beat the time penalties.

Huw and his team didn’t let us off that lightly though. He arranged a backward/forward race where contestants had to paddle backwards 500 metres across the inlet and then race forwards back to the campsite. I couldn’t be enticed, even with the lure of excellent prizes; however, Trevor, Dave Winkworth and David Whyte upheld the honour of the Club. Anyone who doubts Dave Winkworth’s consummate ability with a paddle needed only to have watched him almost catch the eventual Polaris winners, who had a 2 minute head start in a Mirage double, in his Nadgee. The guy is awesome, although he assures me that there is no truth in the rumour that Nadgees go faster backwards than forwards. The Nadgee crew then dazzled the crowd with an exhibition of rolling in the 14-degree water.

Rob and Ian turned up just before dark and Saturday night provided an entertaining mix of sea kayakers, orienteering enthusiasts and locals all attempting to outdo each other with wild and fanciful stories. The funniest one I heard came from the locals and centred on the annual Adaminaby duck race, where the local police close the highway while townsfolk race rubber ducks down a creek from one end of Adaminaby to the other. I’ve got to see that for myself.

Overnight the nor-westerly wind strength increased to a point where Providence Arm was a sea of whitecaps on Sunday morning. Club members were raring to go in these lively wind-waves but many others were not comfortable with the conditions. At the 07:45 am briefing Huw chose to continue the event but limit it to the protected western section of the lake; however, with forecast increasing winds, and after discussions with the SES and Waterways safety crews it was decided to cancel the final day’s competition with the previous day’s results determining the overall winner. We still managed a decent paddle back to the Rainbow caravan park at Old Adaminaby in a 20 knot tailwind; pity I didn’t have a sail.

Organisers put on a great lunch for the contestants and support crews, which was followed by prize giving. Overall winners were Gillean Hilton and Rob Russell in the double Mirage with an awesome 360 points. The NSW Sea Kayak Club gave a credible performance with Sundra and Steven taking out third in the single men’s division, and Trevor and I winning the single veterans. As Trevor pointed out this was the first time he’d won anything for being old. Great prizes were on offer, including an $1,800.00 Perception kayak and a 5 day family ski holiday at Selwyn Snowfields, which were spot prizes. A trout was auctioned off with the winner also receiving free air tickets on Horizon Airlines.

The inaugural Paddle Polaris Kayak Challenge was an outstanding event. The professionalism and experience Huw Kingston and his team carried over from their mountain-bike series was obvious. Rules were strictly adhered to and the safety of competitors was paramount. The navigating component provided an extra dimension for competitors who may be jaded by events that rely on outright speed. There were plenty of fast paddlers speeding off in the wrong direction over the weekend. The overnight camp also allowed competitors to socialise in a relaxed atmosphere. For those of you considering attending next year’s event I thoroughly recommend it and for those not considering it I can only say that you will miss one of the most enjoyable kayaking events of the year. Next year will be at a different venue, which will be published a couple of weeks before the event, so do yourself a favour and make sure you’re there.

Fluoro Paddle Blades [52]

How to Stand Out in The Crowd

With Julian Smith

How to stand out in the crowd. Be safe, be seen they say. With correct preparation your paddle can be located on a satellite photo — handy after your entire paddling lifestyle has been splattered along a wide stretch of surf beach after a mistimed encounter with the forces of nature.

Follow these steps to create a paddle that is highly visible and safe:

Step 1 – With scotch abrasive pad or fine wet and dry paper rub back your blades over the area to be painted — this keys the paint to the surface.

Step 2 – Mask up areas not to be painted. This may include paddle brand or name. Trim masking tape with blade.

Step 3 – Paint surface with 2 coats of bright white primer or white acrylic paint. This is important as it highlights fluoro paint if your paddle blades are plastic. You will need a primer suitable for plastic surface such as a two part urethane primer (read warning before using).

Step 4 – When cured a light sanding back is required.

Step 5 – Apply a couple (at least) of coats of your preferred fluoro colour or maybe a couple of different colours on each end.

Step 6 – Now is the time to remove masking from brand or name you want revealed.

Step 7 – Apply 2 or 3 coats of clear acrylic or urethane epoxy (see warnings). Do not rub back as fluoro is delicate but will absorb the clear.

Step 8 – Allow time for curing before using.

Best results are by spraying either by pressure can or spray gun, however you could use a small foam roller. Fluoro paint is available from auto paint supplies in pink, orange, green and yellow. One-and-a-bit small aerosol cans are required per paddle.

Notes: Fluoro paint cannot be made with UV inhibitors so has a relatively short life and paint may need to be reapplied after some time. Keeping the paddle out of the sun when not in use also helps.

Recent tests of fluoro paint on emergency vehicles proved costly and unsuccessful due to fading in a short period of time.

Coffee Cruisers [52]

Coffee Cruisers do Murramarang

By Trevor Gardner

There seems to be a pervading undercurrent in the NSWSKC that serious Bruiser paddling, a concept borne on the South Coast, is the only valid form of kayak expedition. Suffering seems to be part of the pleasure. I was aware that Vince had just completed a solo crossing of Bass Straight and that the Survivor Protein Challenge was underway on the far south coast. Andrew McCauley had also completed a western route Bass Straight crossing, solo.

However, in the end, our trip from Ulladulla to Batemans Bay would prove to be equally, if not more demanding. Suffering a chemical dependence and paddling away from one’s support infrastructure can be very frightening. Vince only had 6 metre seas and 40 knot winds with which to contend, a situation we would gladly have swapped into to prevent falling blood levels of that precious chemical.

The 60-odd kilometre section of coast from Ulladulla to Batemans Bay has a lot to offer the sea kayaker. Not the least of which is the Murramarang National Park. Importantly though, there are opportunities to land and seek out good coffee. This should never be underestimated in planning a coastal sojourn.

As is often the case, our trip was borne out of an open email tossed onto the chatline weeks before with Rohan looking for takers for a Jervis Bay to Batemans paddle. In the end four of us started from Ulladulla on a windy and grey Saturday morning: Mark Flat-White Berry, Huw Polaris Kingston, Rohan Fresh-Fruit Last and Trevor Espresso Gardner. I initially had reservations about Rohan. However, in the end it became clear that having one person on the trip without drug dependence was an asset.

The drive down from Wollongong was made bearable by good coffee and blueberry muffins from the cake shop in Berry. Driving through teaming showers on the way to Ulladulla the concept of paddling anywhere did not look that inviting. Arriving at Ulladulla harbour Mark and I found Rohan and Huw. Weather and packing considerations were put by the wayside as we headed into town to seek out a passable café. I immediately had confidence in Huw, deftly dismissing the first two cafés we came across, settling on a third. The tone of the trip was set.

We eased into a flat white, studied the maps and watched the showers come and go. Nothing was said at the time but I think Mark was thinking the same the as I, “What’s with this Rohan bloke, can he be trusted, he’s not ordered coffee.” A man without chemical dependence has always bothered me.

Concerns aside we packed up the boats and headed out of Ulladulla. The swell and seas were running at 2–3 m with a 15/20 knot S/SE wind. The going was slow but this was a coffee cruise not a bruise and we weren’t concerned. Blood caffeine levels were high and there was little chance of coming down in the next few hours. The ocean fauna boxes were ticked for bluebottle and hammerhead. Mark caught a slimy mackerel. Not inspiring stuff.

Lake Tabourie made for an easy beach landing and entrance to the river. Coffee cruisers appreciate the benefits afforded by a picnic table and one was soon located. After lunch the exit from Lake Tabourie heading south across the bar and through the surf was slightly more exciting than the arrival. A combination of flooding tide, swell, sea and rebound from Crampton Island generated an impressive and disproportionately wild ride for the cruisers who showed that they could handle the rough stuff just like the big boys. Hairy chested paddling is a means to an end for the coffee cruisers, not an end in itself. Cruisers are an understated bunch.

After a gruelling 4.5 hour, 21 km day we found a little beach tucked into the northern corner of Nuggan Point. An elevated flat rock platform made a perfect dining area. I poured the gin and tonic while Huw fired up the MSR. Before long the aroma of fresh coffee pervaded the camp site. Life was good. Still concerned that Rohan had not partaken of any stimulants I was about to confront him when he produced a bladder of red wine. I appreciate a man that does not mix his drugs. Rohan had clearly been saving himself for this moment. Youth and enthusiasm had got him through the day without chemical support but now he produced the goods. All concerns faded away into an alcohol induced blur.

An overnight rain shower was guaranteed by Huw not putting the fly on his tent. God works like that. Even a deity has to have a giggle. We were greeted by a beautiful morning but there were some evil looking cells out to sea. The espresso machine was fired up. Life was good. The sea state had settled a little overnight but was otherwise similar to Saturday. Bawley Point was only a cruisey 20 minute paddle around the corner. A pleasant little warm up paddle and appetite stimulant. There was a plate of bacon and eggs with my name on it waiting in Bawley Point.

I negotiated the usual shore dump, jumped out, dragged the boat up the beach and went to help the others as they landed. After interrogating a local we grabbed our empty water bags and headed for town. A kilometre or so later we hadn’t found water but the café came into view. The initial elated expectation began to wane. CLOSED. ‘Reluctant entrepreneur’ is how the local on the beach had described the café owner. [Remark by the NSWSKC Editor, May 2005: Many NSWSKC members have been recently enjoying the great meals and coffee provided by the Bawley Point Cafe. The service is excellent and opening hours very accommodative.] With 90 minutes until opening the situation started to look desperate. Huw was starting to come down after having had only one coffee before we left. I was in big trouble. Believing that a good brew was only a 20 minute paddle away I had declined the offer of the morning constitutional. A coffee cruiser’s worst nightmare.

We pushed on with a sense of urgency. A bruiser would probably make a big deal of the conditions between Brush Island and Bawley Point. Waves coming from two directions, serious rebound, confused and demanding. To a cruiser with chemical dependence on the way to a fix this was just an inconvenience.

At Kioloa Mark looked nearly death white. I thought I was bad. The consequences of chemical dependence now took on a real world meaning. With his brain not functioning properly Mark had left his wallet on the table outside the coffee shop in Bawley Point. He had just transferred his life savings into the account and the plastic fantastic lay on the table. No amount of coffee would fix this one.

We walked into Kioloa central with a new urgency. Not a happening place. While Mark called the café in Bawley, Huw and I sorted out a couple of bacon and egg burgers, milkshakes and coffee. Not espresso but caffeine nevertheless. With our brains back up to speed we realised that Rohan had remained behind at the beach to eat his fruit and mung beans. Something still not quite right there.

All was in order as we pushed off the beach in Kioloa. The Murramarang coastline to Depot Beach starts to get interesting. We passed Merry Beach, Pretty Beach and Pebbly Beach before sliding up on Depot. The natives were friendly and seemed poor. They did not have much clothing on. Life was good. None of the natives asked us back to their huts and the official camping spot was up the hill. Coffee cruisers do not walk to camp sites. We paddled a few hundred metres around the corner to an interesting little cove, Tranquillity Bay. With an understated flair only a coffee cruiser can exhibit we landed on a steep and narrow beach missing the rocks by inches. No doubt a bruiser would have taken the opportunity to trash a kayak and impress his friends.

A perfectly flat, raised platform greeted us. The local marsupials had mown the grass to a perfect length. The view was magnificent. I poured the gin while Huw fired up the espresso maker. Before long the aroma of fresh coffee pervaded the camp site. Life was good.

Coffee cruisers are comfortable with their manhood and don’t feel the need to remain hairy and unwashed. Rohan and Mark wandered into Depot central, all 56 rate paying dwellings according to Domain that Saturday, and made use of the caravan park facilities. Two bob in the slot gets you a hot shower.

Huw ran into a well known Canberra political press identity on our little beach. “You know you shouldn’t camp there,” the big man said. “You know you shouldn’t have your dog on the National Park beach,” volleyed Huw. “I won’t tell if you don’t,” the big man came back. A politically correct resolution.

Day three and paradise on earth had arrived. Windless, warm with slight sea and clear sky. Not to make the same mistake again I partook of a Kingston espresso even though it was only five kilometres to Durras. Near perfect paddling with that oily smooth water. Life was good. We passed some humans in a tinnie trying to catch fish and confirmed that coffee could be found in South Durras. The fauna box was ticked for penguin.

There were few natives to greet us. The ones we saw seemed more affluent as they had clothes on. We found ourselves in Murramarang Resort. Using raw survival instinct we found the poolside café and became involved with a steaming mug of God’s finest. Again, Rohan cut up bits of apple. Very odd. Total disdain for neuro-pharmacologic ritual.

The ten kilometres or so to the entrance of Batemans Bay was superb. We were able to get personal with the crinkly edges and bommies. After a bit of lunch at North Head Beach we worked the gauntlets around the inner crinkly edge of Batemans Bay. There was enough swell to make it interesting and Mark passed on the opportunity to total his kayak on an oyster covered boulder, probably with significant personal injury. The unspoken coffee cruiser code forbids such gaudy displays. Kayak destroying antics appear to be some sort of rite-of-passage for the less emotionally secure bruisers. Mark climbed back into his kayak and nothing more was said.

We hit the famous Batemans Bay sand bar in mid flood and it was going off. Despite loaded kayaks the lads turned it on for the local natives aligning the shore. After several long rides and an inadvertent roll each we headed to shore. Huw’s wife Wendy was there to greet us and make easy the car shuffle. As the lads headed off a Mr Whippy van arrived. All that was left for me to do was drink my milkshake and sit in the sun. Life is good.

We paddled about 65 km in about 12 hours over three days and would not have changed a thing. Coffee Cruisers: understated overachievers

King Island And Beyond [52]

Andrew McAuley Paddles Western Bass Strait Solo

By Andrew McAuley

It was around 5 am on January 16 this year, in the pre-dawn light three of us were struggling down to the beach in Stanley, Tasmania, with my loaded kayak.

I remember easing into the cockpit and Paul shaking my hand in the darkness to wish me a good trip. Seemed as though he wasn’t sure he’d ever see me again!

Laurie was a little more circumspect. “Don’t do anything f**ken stupid out there mate!” was his best advice before giving me a good shove through the low surf. This was heady, emotional stuff!!

The three of us had just finished an awesome trip paddling down the west and south coasts of Tasmania over the past couple of weeks, sharing a strong bond of friendship as we travelled this majestic coastline and occasionally had some close calls in wild conditions.

After we finished the west coast trip I had to make a quick decision about whether to continue with my plans to cross to King Island and beyond. This had always been the intention however Laurie had been planning to join me as well. Family commitments meant he had to cancel these plans at short notice. This left me facing the long crossings of western Bass Strait alone, something I found rather daunting to contemplate. My wife Vicki was at home pregnant with our first child and I had a lift back home with the guys right there that I was about to refuse! There were plenty of other reasons to go home and forget about the trip. The weather might not come right, I could get stuck in Tassie with a kayak and no way home, I could get a repetitive strain injury and have to pull out halfway, etc, etc, etc. However, if I didn’t give it a go I felt sure I would regret it later. After all, I was in Tassie, with my kayak and a lift to wherever I wanted, and with a good level of fitness after the last two weeks or so of paddling. I decided I would have a crack at it if the weather patterns looked right. And as it happened, they did.

Paddling north from Stanley, and then north-west as I rounded North Head, conditions were calm with very little wind. After paddling the wild west coast, the northern side of Tassie seemed relatively benign. However, as I neared Hope Channel things started to liven up. A south-easterly wind had kicked up, with the strong tides in the area creating a lot of water movement all around me. I had caught the last of the flood tide to help carry me north and I knocked over the 50 km in good time without pushing too hard.

On the last big trip up Cape York and across Torres Strait, Ben Eastwood and I had mounted sails on our boats to take advantage of the strong trade winds. We knocked over big miles day after day with the sails and had great fun surfing downwind in following seas. I did wonder, though, about the reliance on sailing and whether one’s fitness for paddling suffered as a result. For this trip to Tassie I decided to leave the sail at home and travel by paddle alone. I was a little concerned about the risk of tendon or wrist injury on the long crossings of this western route across Bass Strait, which could effectively cripple me a long way from home. I therefore tried to treat my body well and not push too hard to avoid this happening.

On landing at Three Hummock Island I was feeling fit and strong and ready to push on to King Island the next day if the weather was right. This next crossing was 80 km and there were strong tides to contend with, so getting the right conditions was important. I viewed this crossing as the crux of the trip because of the tide, wind and exposure of the area, even though the last crossing from King Island to the mainland is longer at around 100 km. For me, it was an important milestone to get to King Island and once there I felt I could wait as long as I had to for the right weather for the last crossing.

The tides were right for a dawn start the next morning if the weather was playing the game. The forecast was for north-easterly winds turning northerly during the day at 20 knots. After some deliberation I decided not to go, as I was concerned about having to battle 20 knot northerly winds at the end of a long day — there is not a whole lot of land to the leeward, south of King Island! The decision was difficult as the forecast was ‘borderline’ — my course was WNW and NE winds would have been ‘just’ OK, though I was really looking for south-east or easterlies. As it turned out the wind blew easterly at 20-25 knots all day and I could have gone. I quickly learnt that the accuracy of forecasts in this area cannot be relied upon! However, after a change due the next day the winds were forecast to go ‘light and variable’, so it looked like there was another weather window coming up.

I wandered up the South Hummock to pass the time. Albatross Island and Dangerous Bank were clearly visible but King Island was nowhere to be seen. I also paddled across to Hunter Island to check out Shepherds Bay and the surrounding area. Rob Alliston and his wife, the Island’s only residents, were away in Hobart but had a friend looking after the place for a while, and we shared a few welcome cuppas. The march flies here were diabolical, however march fly cricket helped pass some time. They went into the attack first, and scored well. After a few hat-tricks I saw a huge cloud of them on a black shirt drying on my boat. With a stealthy approach I managed to score 23 with one slap of the hand! Twenty-three!! It must be some kind of record.

The forecast held and on January 19 I left for the long crossing to Grassy on King Island. I left a little later than I would have liked as the tides were getting later each day, and with them, the optimum time to get around Cape Keraudren and away from the Hunter group. As expected, off Cape Keraudren there was a big tide race and a large swell rolling in from the SW. You really felt like you were amongst it out here! I plugged away into the maelstrom and gradually drew closer to Albatross Island as the wind lifted to about 15 knots from the SW. I couldn’t resist the chance to land here even though it was south of my course and I had to fight the tide, which was streaming to the north, and the SW headwind. It turned out to be a real battle and I almost chucked it in due to the strength of the tide. I took a photo from about 4 km away thinking that would be as close as I would get, thought about it for a second and then put my head down with new resolve and got stuck into it, finally landing at about midday. It’s a very remote place and quite hard to get to, so I was happy to be there and would have liked more time to look around. However, I had a long way to go so after hauling my boat up on the rocks I sorted out a few things and left again within about 15 minutes of landing. As I plugged on, Albatross receded in the distance behind me and Black Pyramid became visible to the south. I quite like having land in sight, even if you can’t actually land on it! This became a reference point for my progress until finally King Island became visible from about 40 km out. I became aware of a strong tidal effect as I got closer to the Island, and unfortunately it was conspiring to carry me south of the Island. I decided to hold my bearing for a while and see if the tide would turn and take me back north, however it became clear this wasn’t going to happen in a hurry so I adjusted my bearing to compensate for the drift.

Just on dark I cruised into Grassy Harbour, feeling surprisingly good after a 12.5 hour day in the boat. There was a small crowd in the sailing club shed sharing a few bottles of wine and a yarn. I asked one of them where the nearest phone was and within about a minute I had a glass of red in one hand, a plate of steak and salad in front of me and a place to stay the night! King Island hospitality was fantastic. They were fascinated to learn where I’d come from and offered some advice about the local coastline.

January 20 saw strong NW winds, a precursor to the next change so I gave the kayak a well-deserved rest and had a bit of a look around town, stocking up a few supplies at the shop. The next day’s forecast was for westerly winds to 30 knots tending SW during the day. I knocked up about 30 km before calling it quits in the strong beam-on westerlies. North of Naracoopa there were very few decent places to camp and the wind was blowing sand everywhere, so I was keen to get off the beach for the night if I could. Sea Elephant Lagoon looked OK on the map and fortunately when I got there I found a nice spot, so I bunked down there for a pleasant night.

January 22 — the wind was SW at 15-20 knots so I plugged away to the north, planning to land at Disappointment Bay at the northern tip of the island, my last stop before the big crossing to Victoria. Well, I can see why it’s called Disappointment Bay!! Some poor old mariner probably thought, as I did, that this bay would be sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly swell because it faces north. Wrong!! The swells in western Bass Strait are so powerful that they wrap around Cape Wickham and roll in with a great deal of force, breaking heavily across the bay. I saw this and retreated like a scared rabbit, back around to the more sheltered Rocky Point. However this was an exposed, windy spot with poor camping on the beach right under a mutton bird rookery. They are noisy critters at night and I was keen for a good night’s rest before the big day tomorrow so I looked around for alternatives. After walking the length of Disappointment Bay I worked out that I could land at the far western side where the surf was smaller, though there was some risk of boat damage as there are a lot of partly submerged rocks up this end, especially at low tide. I decided it was worth the risk for a good night’s sleep and landed up there OK with care.

Unfortunately I needed to see these rocks for the breakout through surf the next day so I delayed my departure until about 5:45 am. I got out with no problem and headed northwards, using my compass light until it became light enough to see the compass dial properly. Off Navarina Reef there was a tidal movement to the east with eddies and rips but this didn’t concern me greatly as I figured I’d be out of it soon. The wind really was light and variable this time, in line with the forecast. For most of the day there was no land visible. King Island receded behind me and the paddling was pretty monotonous. Albatross, short-tailed shearwaters and crested terns provided some entertainment but there wasn’t much else to look at out there. Heavy smoke from bushfires on the mainland created a very thick haze as I drew closer to Victoria and conspired to make the Otway Ranges completely invisible until I was about 30 km out. A couple of bulk carriers passed by in front of me but aside from that it was just a matter of putting my head down and getting it done. I stopped briefly every hour for food, and sometimes even more briefly on the half hour when I felt the energy dwindling. I cranked up the GPS only every two hours as I wanted to see real progress when I did it! Also any time spent not paddling was not getting me any closer so I wanted to keep as much time with hands on the paddle as possible.

As I drew closer to the coast I noticed the bearing to the nearest town (Marengo) kept changing. It became obvious that I was in a current taking me south-west around Cape Otway. Whether it was a tidal current or a seasonal ocean current I’m not sure, but the last thing I wanted at the end of a long day was to have to fight this thing. I gave it heaps for an hour and monitored my progress with the GPS. A miserable 4 km!! This was about half the distance I had expected. I decided to make a beeline for the coast to get out of this current and then land at the first opportunity. From a distance the coast south of Marengo looked OK. I later found that this was the area near Shelley Beach. As I drew closer, just on dark, I could see heavy dumpers breaking onto a rocky shore. I didn’t want to risk the boat on a landing like this so I decided to continue and look for something better. It was about 9 pm and I knew Vicki would be worried about me and was waiting for a phone call. I had made the mistake of promising to call as soon as I landed, without allowing for contingencies like this. So, I called her up from the water on the mobile and told her I was safe and sound on a beach brewing up a hot meal!! Well, at least one of us would sleep well that night!

I plugged on into the darkness looking for a place to land. This part of the coast looked hostile. Through the pitch black night there appeared to be a sheltered cove at Marengo with a built up area right on the coast — not good for a decent night’s sleep. There were reefs around and I nearly got cleaned up by a rogue wave. I decided to follow the coast around to my original planned destination, Apollo Bay, where I knew the landing was good. I arrived at about 10:30 pm after around 16.5 hours in the boat. I was weary but didn’t feel the need to kiss the ground or anything dramatic like that. What I really needed was some hot food and sleep!!

Getting home was the next challenge but things quickly fell into place. I found my way to Melbourne and the next day I was on my way north with Ian Dunn of the Victorian Sea Kayak Club with the boat strapped to the roof feeling very satisfied with an awesome month of paddling.

Thanks to Ian Dunn, Stuart Trueman, Paul Loker and Laurie Geoghegan for assisting with the logistics and/or planning of this crossing.

Trip Statistics
Destination Distance
Stanley to Three Hummock Island 50km
Rest – Bad weather  
Rest – Bad weather  
Three Hummock Island to Albatross Island to Grassy Harbour (King Island) 80km
Rest – Bad weather  
Grassy Harbour to Sea Elephant Lagoon 30km
Sea Elephant Lagoon to Disappointment Bay 30km
Disappointment Bay to Apollo Bay 100km*
Total 290km

*Includes a detour via Shelley beach/Marengo. The GPS measured the most direct route to Apollo bay at 97km