Whitsunday Wanderings [56]

By David Whyte

Out of the corner of our eyes Matt and I caught the quick flash of something large and silver chopping the water about 100 metres in front. We looked and each other then Matt was off; I still had to get my lure out while Matt was heading straight for the source. It wasn’t long before we heard a shout from Matt as he starts to reel in what was a sizeable fish – an 8kg Blue Fin Tuna. He had hooked it through the eye, which although lessons the fighting, did nothing for the amount of blood coming out. The rest of us quickly caught up and we hauled the Tuna onto his spray skirt. With all the blood in the water we nervously looked around while we decided what to do with the fish. Matt took his skirt off and we were going to shove it in the cockpit tail first, but one look at where a rather large mouth was facing made a nervous Matt change his mind; “I’ve got Kerrie to think of,” He said. We managed to get a fish bag out then manhandled the monster into it, tied it to the boat and headed straight for shore where we cleaned it and nervously washed up in very shallow water. That night the six of us struggled to get through the Tuna; but what a lovely meal it was. It took some effort for Mark and me to cut the steaks with a blunt hack saw blade and a knife. Trevor had claimed he had amputee saw in his comprehensive medical kit but wouldn’t let us use it on the Tuna.

This was not the first time Matt’s fishing skill had come to fruition. Since we left Mackay, nearly 2 weeks previously, he had provided a couple of memorable feasts of Coral Trout and lobsters. But he needed to, to make up for an earlier mistake.

Twelve of us departed the cooler southern climates for this trip, though there was only one night when all 12 of us managed to camp together. We had, during the journey, split into various groups with more group spread than a flare exercise. Most off us left from Mackay except Trevor and Sally who joined us at Hamilton Island half way through.

To start from Mackay some of us flew up while the rest drove up with a kayak Trailer behind Mark’s brand new Nissan X Trail. Matt and Mark drove the X Trail, Norm and Mike drove up in Mikes Car and the Culhanes and I flew. Mike and Norm picked me up on Saturday afternoon at the Airport and Matt and Mark arrived later that night. Sunday was to be a car shuffle and organisation day but two days of solid driving left Matt and Mark itching to get onto the water. So a sudden change in plans saw them leave at lunch time from Shade beach for the 30km Crossing to Keswick with Norm and the Culhanes doing the car shuffle to Shute Harbour on Monday morning when the Culhanes flew in. They were then going to catch the water taxi Monday afternoon and Mike and myself were going to paddle out early Monday morning. We watched Matt and Mark leave and went to pack up the XTrail and Mike said, “Who’s got the keys?”

Now Mike always had the reputation as a bit of clever bum so we didn’t immediately take any notice.

“No I’m serious.”

“Yeh right Mike.”

“No I haven’t got the keys.”

“Well neither have I.”

We quickly rushed down to the beach but by that time they were nearly a kilometre away. I unpacked my kayak and thought about trying to catch them but common sense prevailed. I am not a fast paddler and even with an unladen boat it would’ve taken some time to reach them. Plus it meant setting off with no gear at all paddling as fast as I could into unknown waters; not a good idea. Mike then came up with the brilliant idea of using the VHF to contact the local coast guard. After much tooing and froing he eventually got the local Coast guard to ask the local ferry operator to intercept them on his way to Brampton Island – we think. As we didn’t know if this was going to be successful we had to do something with Mark’s car. We had been standing around in the blistering sun all day, with our Canberra winter suntans, getting burnt and wanted to leave; but we didn’t want to leave the car unlocked (need the keys to lock these fancy new cars) at the beach over night. Norm cleverly spotted a tow truck operator across the road and we went and spoke to him. This was an interesting conversation.

“You want me to tow the car to a caravan park?”

“Yes please.”

“Do you own the car?”

“No.”

“Do you have the keys?”

“No.”

“Where is the owner?”

“On the water somewhere.”

“When is he coming back?”

“We don’t know.”

“So he wants you to tow his car away?”

“He doesn’t know we’re doing it.”

“Right!”

Eventually we convinced him of our story and got the car back to the caravan park. The operator dropped the car literally an inch in front of Andrew Eddie’s car. Which was left there from his trip that had departed a few weeks earlier. Though I don’t think Andrew knows this, until now. In the meantime the 50 ft ferry pulled up alongside Matt.

“Have you got some car keys?”

Matt said no. It then pulled up alongside Mark with the tourists lined up along the rail taking photos. The skipper came out again and shouts, “have you got the keys,” then left leaving Mark a bit bamboozled until Matt paddles over.

“Err, I think we have a problem.”

Matt had the keys in the pocket of his packed shorts! Mark did well to stay calm as they were forced to turn back after 8 kms. But they weren’t happy paddlers.

Now Mark didn’t know we had his car towed back to the caravan park as we didn’t know he was coming back. So he phones us up when he eventually got back to Shade Beach just on dusk.

“Where’s the car?”

“We left it at the beach, sorry we couldn’t lock it.”

“It’s not here!” Then silence.

Funny though, Mark didn’t appear to see the humour in this little joke. So the four of us left on Monday morning, as originally planned.

The paddle out to Keswick was a long one and we all felt absolutely knackered when we got there. Although it was only 30k offshore it was 5 hours of solid paddling; the wind and tide combined to make us paddle about 40 degrees off the rhumb line. The others arrived later that night on the dive boat. Next time we are doing the first leg by boat.

Mild SE winds give us a ride down through the channel between Keswick and St Bees on the following day and an easy paddle over to Cottermouth Island where we spent two days. This was a beautiful little island with some superb snorkelling right off shore. A small sandy spit led down to a picturesque lagoon and, as is my normal habit on these trips, I wandered off to take some photos. I was studying the unusual rock formations left by the ebbing tide; beautiful tiny indentations about a foot in diameter, like small moon craters, pocketed the now exposed sea bed; so symmetrical that they appeared to be made on purpose. In amongst these I noticed what looked like a turtle shell. Closer inspection revealed it still had a live turtle inside but the young turtle had misjudged the ebbing tide and was left stranded in the hot sun with the likely hood of being well and truly baked by the time the tide came back. With his flippers flapping my wrist like a naughty boy, I carried him to the deeper water. Now I know a lot will say this is just a natural event, which it is, but when you consider how many turtles are wiped out by plastic bags I felt I was just evening it up a bit. I was later chastised for not bringing him back for turtle soup and Matt looked at me and said, “Dave did you know turtles have rather nasty spur behind their front flippers?”

Evening saw the sand flies come out, and, as on most islands, you need some covering and insect repellent.

As luck would have it the rest day saw a great SE blow straight towards our next destination. But when it was time for us to leave on the following day it had swung around to the North giving us a moderate headwind for the long hop to Goldsmith Island. As a result some decided to head over to Brampton Island, catch the ferry back to Mackay and then drive up to the Whitsundays. The next few days were to be a series of long island hops and Robyn was still getting over the flu and Norm was feeling his age. We left at the crack of dawn on the forth day into the headwind for Goldsmith Island. Mike was starting to come down with a cold as well, so along the way he veered off to Brampton to join the others. Matt, Mark and myself pushed on to Goldsmith where we arrived, made some soup, slept, made dinner slept then left for Shaw. From what I saw I think it was a nice spot.

Unfortunately for Mike there was only room for 3 on the ferry so he opted to paddle from Brampton back to Mackay though he had a good tail wind. We got an SMS from him later saying he was doing 21 Kph under sail. We sent one back “Yes Mike, but it’s the wrong way.”

The paddle to Shaw was much more pleasant with a short stop on Thomas for a swim. The serenity of Shaw Island took our breath away. We paddled into a small protected cove of magnificent clear water that shimmered a turquoise blue in the afternoon light We pulled our kayaks up onto the milky white beach donned our snorkelling gear and headed back out into the clear water. It wasn’t long before Matt’s fishing skill brought in two large lobsters. Lobster Mornay took the place of freeze dried that night and the 3 of us struggled to get through them. There was a small stream leading down into the beach and although we were well into the dry season we managed to find a fresh water pool, big enough for a dip, a small walk up though a shady gully. In the evening a horde of blue butterflies danced amongst the trees like leaves across the lawn in an autumn breeze.

It was a relatively easy hop to Hamilton Island the next day where we were hit with a burst of civilisation. It seemed like a metropolis, with tourists, side walk cafés and people whizzing around in golf buggies like there was no tomorrow. But we did manage to stock up on our supplies. We caught up with Trevor and Sally under the shade of a palm tree busy putting together a folding double. It took six of us to man handle the boat down to the water where we left the hustle and bustle of the Marina to paddle to a small island only an hour away. We set up camp into time to watch another tropical sunset take away the heat of the day. The first campsite we came to on Henning didn’t look too inviting with the original cast from Deliverance sitting in chairs watching us land. When one of them attempted to stand it was obvious they had been drinking for some time but it was difficult to understand what he was saying through his missing teeth.

The next day we headed out to one of the eastern Islands to find a picturesque campsite among the Casuarina pines. Within easy swimming distance was some of the best snorkelling we had come across. Brilliant coloured fish dashed in and out of the equally brilliant coral, and all of this in only a few metres of water. Unfortunately for me my underwater camera must have leaked slightly and died.

We were thinking of joining the 3 million other people and paddling over the Whitehaven Beach but the wind was unfavourable so we headed for Border island instead for some more snorkelling and a bit of lunch before heading for some creature comforts at Hook Island back packers resort. Though I use the term Resort rather loosely when referring to this joint but for us it was great; it served meals, beer and had hot showers, even if you did share them with quite a few geckos. And by a strange coincidence the barman was Doug Fraser’s brother. Doug was well known in the club before disappearing into the wilds of Canada. Later that Day Mike left the others and came over to the dark side. That evening we sat in the open air bar sipping a cool beer watching the tide rush through the small gap between Hook and Whitsunday Islands. Huge flocks of flying foxes could be seen heading off on their nightly sojourn, silhouetted against the pink and purple of the evening light.

From Hook backpackers we headed up to Gstring Bay, where along the way Matt caught the Tuna. We paddled into the well protected Bay with a few yachts anchored in what must have epitomised the whitsundays: a sheltered bay with tall hills leading down to a beautiful anchorage. A young couple in a double kayak were enjoying the serenity of it all, until we turned up. And I am not sure if it was Trevor running around in the G string, Mike howling at the moon or our general behaviour but I did noticed that the young couple were on the water and gone before sunup the next day. Already, under Trevor’s steady influence, the group had deteriorated into a raucous mob. Again there was great snorkelling here right off shore with some deep drops within 50 metres. Most of us were carrying short wetsuits and although it was the tropics they did make it much more pleasant for prolonged snorkelling. A weight belt would be really nice.

The next day we meandered up the coast to the Top end of Hook Island where we caught up with Robyn, Michael and Norm lazing under some Pandanus palms with another group of paddlers. From there we headed over to Hayman Island to collect some water before camping on the NE corner of Hook. Now I must mention that kayakers are not really welcome on Hayman unless you upgrade you boat by a few million dollars. Filling up with water on the jetty saw a very officious looking women, pretending to be a naval officer, come down and tell us, quite clearly, that it might be better if we got our water somewhere else. I wasn’t sure wether to salute her and call her Mam or just laugh. Fortunately we had our water by then so we left with Mark offering her some words of advice about their hospitality- best we don’t go there again.

From Hook we paddled across the Straits in mill pond conditions to land at the Camping ground on the bottom end of North Molle Island. Robyn, Michael and Norm arrived a little later and for the first time the whole group camped together. After setting up tents and having a swim some of us packed our best clobber into the kayaks for a commando raid on Daydream Island. We were a bit weary when we landed after our Hayman Island experience but then one of the staff came and spoke to us and made us most welcome; pointing out where the shops and café were. So we pigged out on milkshakes and cappuccinos then loaded up the kayaks with bottles of wine and headed back to the campsite.

The last day saw us drift into Shute Harbour for unpacking the kayaks, loading the cars and the long drive back. The Driving was pretty easy as we went out west and Trevor and I managed to go from Rockhampton to Stanwell Tops in one day.

This was a great trip and as a sea kayaking destination the Whitsundays must be one of the best in Australia. Although conditions were pretty mild for most of our trip it can pick up quite nasty with a short steep waves. I would possibly rate this as a grade 4 trip, but the slide night at Trevor’s place later, now that was definitely grade 5.

I would like to thank Salty Dog Sea Kayaking Company at Airlie Beach for looking after our cars for us, saving us a fair bit of money. If you don’t want to drive then hiring your kayak from Salty Dog may be a much better option. For more details check out his web site at www.saltydog.com.au.

The Group spread

Much was talked about the group spread we had on our trip and to make it easy to understand I will explain it with simple scientific terms. The total group for going to the Whitsundays, which we shall call group A comprised of:

  • Trevor Gardner
  • David Whyte
  • Mark Pearson
  • Matt Turner
  • Sally Head
  • Michael Culhane
  • Robyn Culhane
  • Mike Snoad
  • Norm Sanders

At various stages during the trip the other groups were

  • B – Mike, David, Mark Matt, Norm, Michael and Robyn
  • C – Mike, David, Mark and Matt
  • D – Norm, Michael and Robyn
  • E – David Mark and Matt
  • F – Mark and Matt
  • G – Mike and David
  • H – Trevor and Sally
  • I – Mike alone
  • J – David, Mark, Matt, Trevor and Sally
  • K – David, Mark Matt, Trevor, Sally and Mike
  • L – Norm, Mike, Michael and Robyn

So heres how it went

First off Group A split into B and H where H were going to join at Hamilton a week into the trip. Group B set off for Mackay where they were to become group C and D with C paddling out to Keswick and D catching the Ferry. But part of C become restless and wanted to go a day early therefore splitting into Groups F and G with G going on Monday – the planned day. Leaving Group D to do a lot of the car shuffling. But group F left in such a hurry they took the car keys and had to come back forming group C again and left on Monday as planned with the ferry group D coming out to join that evening forming group B. On Tuesday Group B left for Cottermouth for a few days but on the day of Departure group spread came in again and split into Group C and D with C going to Goldsmith and D to Brampton and Ferry back to Mackay. When Group C set off one member was not feeling well and left forming groups I and E. Group I joined D and become L until the ferry departure when they split and become Groups I and D again with I paddling to Mackay and D catching the ferry. Group E set off to meet group H at Hamilton and nearly split again but were pushed on by Matt’s word of encouragement “We have to meet Trevor” so they stayed together to meet Group H at Hamilton and formed Group J.

Meanwhile groups I and D met up at Mackay and formed back into Group L and drove up to Shute Harbour to paddle out to the Whitsundays from There. But they didn’t stay together too long when Group I thought group J maybe having more fun and left and came over to J to form the new group K. Eventually Group K and D meet for a short period on the top of Hook Island before departing company. And at long last on the final night in the Whitsundays all groups came together to camp for the first time to form the full Group A.

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Round The Corner [56]

A Sea Kayak Trip from Devonport to Hobart via the West Coast of Tasmania.

By Stuart Trueman

A new ferry service started up January 2004, which runs from Sydney to Devonport. This makes things much easier for NSW Sea Kayakers to paddle Tasmania. Just get your kayak down to the ferry, have a few drinks as you watch Sydney disappear, dinner then perhaps a movie. After a good nights sleep you enjoy breakfast as you pass between Deal and Flinders Islands, around lunchtime you are in Devonport. What a great way to start your kayaking holiday.

The staff were very helpful, but gave a few sceptical glances when they found out my plans, and opened a side gate allowing me to put the kayak in the water 50 metres from the ferry. I was off, less then two hours from the ferry landing.

I had 2 weeks of food and everything else needed for the 4 weeks until my return ferry. I was not too bothered about paddling the north coast as there are no currents, no swell, plenty of safe landings. There was a low passing over the state and the east coast was copping a beating with gale force winds, heavy rains and storms. This meant I got some nice Easterly winds giving me a shove, it also meant that things were a bit wet and stormy. I left Rocky Cape and headed for Stanley to make some last minute phone calls before heading down the west coast where there are not many opportunities for checking in. The weather forecast was for 5-10 knot north easterlies. It had been raining on and off all night and there was still a shower or two early morning but nothing to worry about. I set off and had the wind behind me and dark threatening clouds on all sides. Getting wet is not something a kayaker should worry about, wind is the enemy. I was not worried as I saw a dark bank of cloud creep up behind me half an hour after starting paddling. The winds picked up and up and up, as did the seas. This kept up for seven hours. Then it rained; you could not imagine being able to force any more water out of the sky than was being dropped that morning. Although the intense beating of the rain being driven against me at over 30knots was loud enough to drown out the thunder and seas of 2-3 metres had built up it’s a strangely calming experience on the ocean when its raining hard, it seems to ‘flatten’ the seas. After a few hours of this I didn’t fancy landing at Stanley as the wind driven waves were heading directly for the town. Knowing that if I could not find a safe landing I could not paddle back into the wind to escape and would be committed to making do with the best I could find. So I decided to paddle round the headland called the ‘Nut’ and get to the beaches on the ‘lee’ of the weather. My impressions of that paddle are of a steel grey sea under a grey sky blended together with grey rain. Visibility was down to 20 metres at one point as I forced my way passed reefs and a small island. I passed the island recognising the close call, when I saw a group of seals asleep in the water on the ‘lee’ side. Its then that you realise its not really the environment for man!

I found a landing and after recovering walked into Stanley to make a phone call. I saw a police rescue launch returning. It’s a terrible feeling to think that someone may have seen me and called them out on my behalf. This dialogue and others are worded to make them seem dramatic and interesting reading but I never thought at any time during the trip that I was not able to deal with the conditions. Small consolation to the police that had to head off into that storm.

That was day three, I was not even on the West Coast yet!

The West Coast has a fearsome reputation as a rough unforgiving ocean with limited shelter. Weather is quick to change and can be incredibly violent building huge seas and making the coastline a very dangerous place for a kayaker seeking a spot to land. A South West swell is generated from the wild Southern Ocean and is constantly about 2 metres no matter what the local weather is doing. It is also a beautifully rugged area, truly a wilderness with large areas having no access other than boat or walking tracks. This is the challenge, the rewards and why I choose to paddle this area.

I had never seen the West Coast before and was apprehensive about ‘going round the corner’ and rounding the north west tip of Tasmania, Cape Grim. The name does nothing to ease the tension. It is to do with not being able to see what’s coming. It was a calm day and I had nothing to worry about apart from the currents as the north coast tussles with the west coast over the two-hour difference in tides. As you can’t see the coast until you round the cape you don’t get the ‘feel’

On these trips it’s important for me to always be in sight of the ocean to camp on beaches, walk up hills to view the ocean and always be ‘in touch’. If I lose that constant familiarisation with what’s going on its harder to get that feeling of being in ‘touch’. Sounds a bit hippie. If you turn up at the launch after leaving your warm bed at home wind the car window down and its blowing 20 knots, swell is 3 metres and a sea of 1 metre is running over the top with white caps every where, you’d be inclined to wind the window back up piss off and top up the caffeine level. However, if you have spent the last few days paddling through the same stuff and you’ve been camping in the rain for three days. On top of which you’ve not had a shower for 10 days, the insects have left their mark and the stench of the dead whale you’ve had to camp next to is overpowering you have no problem paddling. Its less of a jump from one environment to the next, and you are in ‘touch’. As soon as I had rounded Cape Grim and could see the West Coast I felt a great sense of relief. I had planned this for months and I could now see what I was up for and so start to build a feeling for the coast. The sense of mystery was removed as I got familiar with the area I was passing through.

There is no doubt that reports like this one will build a picture in the mind and everybody’s picture will be different. But until you are actually there you really don’t know; that’s part of the excitement and challenge.

The weather was as good as it gets for the area for the duration of my trip. I had perhaps five days where the weather made things hard. The forecasts were good, they gave an excellent picture of what was happening overall. A couple of times a local storm would take things to another level but these only lasted a couple of hours. I met another kayaker near Hobart who was waiting for the weather to improve before paddling Strahan to Cockle Creek with three others. He commented that I had done well as he’d been watching the weather, and noticed it had been blowing strongly against me. I didn’t bother arguing but it comes back to that ‘feeling’ and the fact that I was in touch with the situation. The forecasts would be for S-SW 15-20 Knots and 2-3 metre SW Swell but when you wake up and its calm you can get a paddle in before things get too bad. If I waited until the forecast was for winds less than 20 knots I’d still be there.

From Cape Grim to Strahan the coast is dotted with fishermen’s huts which often had a water tank attached. These huts are for the most part not used, at weekends I’d perhaps find someone. There are a network of trails used by 4*4 cars and quad motorbikes up and down the coast. It’s still a quiet place and I went days without talking to anybody.

I got to the campground at Hells Gates 15km from Strahan and thumbed a lift into town with some of the local youth. They were in good spirits and dropped me 3km out of town before the main road. I found out later that they rarely got further than this to avoid the local constabulary who would no doubt wonder how they got into such a good mood. I spent the afternoon eating and drinking, laundry and restocking my food supplies from the local supermarket. On my trip back from Strahan to the campground later that day I noticed the car I got a lift in with, smashed up in the ditch.

Fishing is very popular at Port Macquarie where Strahan sits and is almost as popular as tourist cruises. But neither go ‘Round the Corner’ and head south. From Strahan to Cockle Creek there are no huts, no roads just a small air strip at Bathurst Harbour. Time after time I’d land at picture perfect beaches, coves, gulches, bays or harbours that were as they had been for all time. I could never have got to these without a sea kayak, what a way to travel! It is without doubt a beautiful area and worthy of more time and a comprehensive look around. The problem is that when the weather is good I was compelled to travel due to supplies and time restrictions, then when the weather is bad you can’t go anywhere. I was relieved to get to Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour. Apart from the magnificent scenery the fact that I didn’t have to worry about the state of the ocean as its completely sheltered was a huge weight off my mind for a few days. This is an area in itself that warrants a good look around, plenty of paddling & walking to be done.

That nagging in the back of my head kept up and after a couple of days paddling into Bathurst Harbour I was on my way ‘Round the Corner’ again this time the SW Cape. Again the weather was perfect with little or no wind and a 1-metre swell.

On my way along the south coast the forecast was for a 5-metre swell to build during the day. This would make most landings in the area very dangerous, I had no local knowledge and decided to have a short paddle to what looked like the last safe landing before an exposed coast. Its hard to watch the wind die down, the white caps disappear and not paddle on. On the coast of NSW it is very rare that the wind and sea are not immediately connected. I watched an island that was being hit with the swell and noted the height and frequency of the largest swells, then went about exploring, setting up camp, getting water etc. In the calm of the evening after the wind had died down the one-foot surf I had landed in that morning was now 4 foot and my island was constantly awash.

South Cape Rivulet is the last stop before going ’round the corner’ to Cockle Creek, which gives shelter from the seas and marks the beginning of road access and the last leg to Hobart. I went round the South East Cape and 35 knots hit me head on, making the last few hours to South Cape Rivulet a real struggle. Again there was no warning signs or suggestion from the forecast, just local weather for this area. The progress was painful, as soon as I stopped paddling I was blown backwards. I plodded on, head down, it had died down to 20-25 knots as I reached the beach. The swell created dumping surf. I saw a group on the beach, which put the pressure on for a good landing. I got closer to the surf then the group cleared off, that was strange as most like to see a bit of carnage. As I landed, feeling more then a bit tired a couple of kayakers walked over. The Tasmanian Sea Kayak Club had landed just before me, after seeing I was solo decided anybody paddling the area solo would not need a hand landing so went back to setting up camp! It was great to spend the evening talking to like minded individuals after 3 weeks of minimal conversation. The contrast in our approach to kayaking was obvious as I looked at Tasmanian kayaks. Tasmanians favour sails and some have provision for masts fore & aft. They also carry two sets of sails, large sails for light winds and smaller sails for strong winds. One of them had broken off their rudder in the surf, as they set about repairs they displayed a very comprehensive repair kit able to fix up sails, masts, rudders, cables, paddles and kayaks. My rudder less, skeg less and sail less kayak looked bare with just spare paddles on deck.

I reflected on a wonderful trip as I cleaned out the maggots living in the stern hatch and tipped out the rat I had unknowingly trapped in the day hatch, spending the night eating my food and the rucksack. I had paddled every day apart from one in the twenty days it had taken me so far. I plodded on to Kettering where a skipper I had met in Bathurst Harbour put me up while I arranged to get up to Devonport.

The West Coast of Tassie is at the mercy of a huge body of water who in turn has its mood driven by the weather from the Antarctic. There can be one high tide a day or high tide can last for days. Weather changes very fast and the sea state will alter at the same speed. You can be paddling against a calm 2-metre SW swell, then a 15-20 knot westerly will create waves of 1 metre which run over the top of the swell. The westerly and SW swell combine to push you towards the reefs of the coast, which build up the 2-metre swell to 5 metres. Navigation is hard from a kayak, in an unfamiliar area you get a quick look from the top of the swell but islands, headlands, and inlets all blend into one. There are no roads, buildings or farmland to help you make a decision. To get it wrong would mean having to deal with landing on rocks, paddling over reefs, surf landings on rock laced beaches where you could get trapped for days. You have to stay closer to shore than you’d like, to work things out, but not too close. Did that swell break ahead of me? Hard to tell amongst the white caps as I sink into a trough of the swell. A dark cloud builds from the south, just enough time to pull my hood up before its 35 knots and pissing down, Swell has now built up to 4 metres without any help from the reefs. Oh shit! That swell did break before, it layed dormant for 10 minutes, now 2 kayak lengths before me I’m looking down at the kelp covered rocks opening up sucking me in. While all this is happening, in the reduced visibility of the rain, you are looking for an opening amongst the rocks for the only ‘safe’ landing for 20km north or south.

I’ll bet the picture built in your mind is not pretty! Make sure you are comfortable with this image before heading down the west coast of Tasmania.

Club Tips… [56]

By Larry Gray

Too little is said about the advantages of the low action paddle style. A low paddling style allows high-speed access to an enormous range of support, rudder, conversion and many bracing strokes necessary for ease of control. It has a quick effect on both high and low braces. While the higher racing style of paddling is a quicker way of getting about in flat to moderate conditions, it offers far less maneuverability and has no advantage in strong wind. Thus the paddler has far less control in more turbulent conditions. Because one end of the paddle blade is high in the air and catching wind and the other is vertically in the water offering little support, the racing style is far less effective for rudderless or serious off-shore kayaking. The ocean is fluid and ever changing; you need to be too. With the low hand’s style, the blade is less vertical in the water and closer to the action. Horses for courses, they say. Well show jumping is different to cross-country. Mountain biking different to road racing techniques. The same goes for sea kayaking when compared with slalom or flat-water racing.

Here are a few useful techniques.

Conversion strokes.

A conversion stroke is one that changes from one function into another with simple movement. A slight twist of the wrist will convert a forward stroke into a support at any point while the blade passes through the water. The top hand drops only slightly lower than your nose through out the journey of the stroke. The paddle rotation speed is hardly affected; the support stroke itself is not visible, as it maybe only slight and performed completely under water.

Another conversion stroke that’s simple to practice is the flat paddle support. At the end of a stroke, the paddle surfaces behind the paddler with the back of the blade gliding on the surface to one side. The range of support can vary anywhere within 45 degrees from the kayak tail depending on the support needed. Top hand grips firm, lower hand grip is relaxed. The paddler is only slightly leaning on the blade depending on how sensitive one is to the conditions. The paddle shaft lies flat on the cockpit adding support and a reference point, while a stable forward glide is maintained. There are just as many conversion techniques as there are rolling ways, too numerous to detail in one article.

Shortening The Paddle.

When paddling on the beam of a very strong wind or gale, try shortening the blade to the wind. Even one hand length to the blade will take the sting out of the wind gusts and give the paddler more power to deal with surprises that can catch a paddler off guard. Remember to lean hard into the wind Shortening the paddle to control a sea kayak in the surf is very important in fast powerful dumpers. It means the paddler has a stronger command to restrict excessive arm & shoulder movement.

Extended Paddle Techniques

The clear advantage of the extended paddle is creating a leverage advantage for maneuverability. The paddle can reach further to ether the bow or stern to maximise the effect of a maneuver. The other great advantage is that the paddle takes much longer to sink under weight out wide, therefore a brace or roll has more time to be effective.

Blocking Strokes to Re-channel Energy ( Advanced Rudderless)

After some time in a paddler;s life, sea patterns become obvious. As a familiar swell chop whips up in a quarter aft sea condition, It has an effect on the kayak. First the tail will glide slightly then realign followed by the bow a second or so later. To convert that energy into forward motion, block the tail just before the swell makes contact at the rear, lean forward and see what happens!! Best applied in steep chop while moving fast. You may well ask why break my rhythm of paddling? To make it all worthwhile, the time most advantageous is when a chop or wave is possible to ride. As the tail is about to swing, The paddle is held stationary in a Three-Quarter-rudder support pulling against the gunwhale.(final stage of a J stroke). When it works it’s very rewarding and energy saving !!

The paddle should be seen as a variable tool. This is easily the most important lesson I’ve learned from the Greenlanders. Anything else is a limitation. The lower style of paddling is suited to a broad range of sea conditions. This is the style a serious sea kayaker must master and rely on. If a paddler thinks it is possible to simply adapt to a low hands technique only when necessary, this may not be the case. When conditions turn really nasty and a paddler is scared and tired he or she will revert to the most familiar style. If most of a paddlers practice is for maximising a forward stroke (racing) he or she may never get to experience the full benefits of the more important and broader open water paddling style.

Sow and Pigs [56]

Travails and Travels of Madeline

By Maddie Noonan

It was just a normal day of kayaking out from little Manly Beach. The wind in my hair, the waves splashing over me, sitting on the back hatch of dad’s kayak!

I had my flippers with me as usual and my wetsuit on.

Today’s trip was around Sydney harbour, just looking at things like lighthouses and it’s beaches. We stopped for my favourites, shells (which is another story), and met different people about, as you do.

We were making for the Opera House, to the little ‘Man of War’ beach but we didn’t have enough time, all because of one small stop on the way, the ‘Sow and Pigs!’

The ‘Sow and Pigs,’ is the lowest island, usually awash and over grown by seaweed and other types of scratchy, hard, sea things. At high tide the island is under water and at low tide the island appears again! You can’t miss it because it’s in the middle of the harbour entrance nearer to South Head. Never the less, a few ships have sailed up on it, you know, and disappeared under the waves. It’s a full stop sort of place when you don’t see it. Dad wasn’t game to paddle across it, with the surf and all. This was really the highlight of the adventure! First I put on my flippers and hopped off the kayak, next I was towed close enough to the island so dad wouldn’t get beached and then I swam in.

I managed to stand up for a few seconds and walk about, it’s quite difficult in flippers. Someone in the bible did this in bare feet on water and apparently calmed the waters too. I couldn’t repeat this act of course. My karma isn’t that sophisticated. When a huge wave swept me off my feet, I fell on my knees and it really hurt. At this point I realised I was no one special, I stood up with great difficulty in the crashing waves and called for dad. I was really scared by this point because I didn’t want to fall and hurt myself again. I was all over the place in the rough. As soon as the photo was taken, I swam off the island and crawled back onto the kayak. I felt better then.

When I was home in bed that night, I thought of what I had done and achieved today. Anyway, how many of your friends get to stand on the bottom of Sydney harbour! The Opera house can wait another day.

A Ramble From The Editor [56]

By Richard McNeall

Wow! There are perks to these committee jobs!

Got a message the other day from Bev Trevithick, who some of you might remember did a physiotherapy project on kayaking injuries. Well it turns out that she now had a fantastic stationary kayaking machine to advertise for sale with thousands of features for only $600, when the new price for such a machine is $8790,0976,6547.987. So now I am the proud owner of an on-land mega-machine as well as an on-sea mega-machine. It does have some issues though. It seems you actually have to use it to get the full beneficial effect !

I’m struggling now to think of another perk of the job, so I’ll rave on about mag stuff now, until I do think of one.

And the first thing is… Thanks to all you contributors. I did fear that our radical new CF (constant frequency) approach might lead to some thin editions, but here we are chock-a-block, and mega-readable ! Keep them coming !

As ever (and based on last issue’s survey) people want lots of:-

  • Info on places to paddle
  • Training tips
  • Gear reviews
  • Technical articles
  • Trip reports

Now I have some sad news for the colour-lobby (of which I am a member). I have heroically put the colour case to the committee, arguing the cause with all the skill of a parliamentarian, but to no avail. To be fair, colour does cost more than we all thought, and with the cost commitment of the CF strategy, we are going to stick with the colour cover format. Being liability-conscious, we are also keeping the excellent forms section.

And yes, I can now recall another perk of the editor’s job. – Stuffing nights! Pizza, wine, kayak talk and a little teamwork to get the mag stuffed and out. It is now statistically proven that inner-city stuffing gets triple the turnout of suburban stuffing (Thanks Dee for the venue). Maybe our South Coasters can up the ante here ! Give us a call if you can help, probably a Thursday night near the end of September.

Our next deadline is August 15.

Enjoy!

The Prom [56]

Wilson’s Promontory National Park Sea Kayak Trip

By Justine Tonner-Joyce

January 14th – 20th 2004, Port Welshpool to Tidal River, Mark and Justine Tonner-Joyce in Single Dagger Apostles

Wednesday Jan 14th: Drive Melbourne to Welshpool (3 hours 15 mins)

My experience with the ocean is limited to a few Tasmanian ferry trips, my husband’s sailing stories and a nine day sea kayak trip on the South Coast of New South Wales. That nine day trip last year gave me new confidence that I could cope with wind, waves, surf landings and almost cope with sharks. As well as confidence, I developed a love of bobbing around on the ocean. I had been looking forward to our Prom paddle for months but still found it hard to get certain fears from my mind.

After crawling up the Monash Freeway we stopped for fuel. “How far is it to Foster from here?” I asked the servo bloke. “Heard of it…bloody cold down there…Truckies call it Frost-er”.

Into South Gippsland a massive cloud bank became visible in the distance. That would be the Prom we guessed. We avoided the frost and checked in to Welshpool Motel for a last bit of ‘luxury’. But even the soft bed did not keep away the sharks and Bass Straight scaries.

Thursday Jan 15th: Paddle Port Welshpool Boat Ramp to Johnny Souey Cove (20km – 4 hours 15 mins)

Sea Kayaks are a bit like Dr. Who’s Tardis I reckon. Miraculously, the gear all fits in. A calm morning and an outgoing tide made the Corner Inlet crossing easy. Leaving at high tide meant we could cut across the shallows and make good time in the light westerly. We’d been warned about trying to paddling against the massive tide. Luckily that day high tide was not at 3am! The cloud cleared as we landed at Biddies Cove for a leg stretch after two hours of paddling. What a relief, we’re at the Prom.

Past Entrance Point we stayed close to the shore as we could see breaking waves out at Sand Island. The wind picked up slightly to a five knot south westerly we made our destination before midday.

Not sold on Johnny Souey Cove as a camp site, Mark suggested Rabbit Island. After a very easy landing I wandered around the south end of Johnny Souey, found the camp site overlooking the beach and we decided to settle in. The beach was alive with gulls eating fish, fish eating tiny hermit crabs, tiny hermit crabs eating March Fly larvae and March Flies eating us. And it was all to ourselves! One of the reasons Mark and I make a great match is our love of isolation. Solitude (together) revives us. More remoteness means more wildlife — most importantly more fish. It allows total focus on wilderness…and skinny dipping! Spending the afternoon reading cyclist Lance Armstrong’s inspirational book in the sun and watching Mark fly fish was blissful.

Friday Jan 16th: Paddle Johnny Souey Cove to Refuge Cove (21km – 4 hours)

We woke again to cloud, very light wind and set off at 7.30am. Passing Rabbit Island we spotted our destination, Horn Point, way off in the mist. Perhaps it was the ebb tide against us, perhaps my sore bum, or perhaps the building south westerly but Five Mile beach seemed to last forever. The Cathedral, the aquamarine water and the curious sea birds were great distractions. Although there was little swell, the cross head wind was now about 10 knots and increasing. We decided to not waste any time and bypassed Sealers Cove, my second favourite beach in the Park and headed for Horn Point.

It was only when we passed Horn Point into the protected waters that I really felt I’d returned to the Prom. Cormorants and seals dive in clear blue-green water. White sand meets lush slopes. The black cockatoos call plee-eerrk and slowly beat their wings. These three protected coves nestled together (Smith, Refuge and Larkin) are the reason I love this place. The ochre-faced boulders are never quite as beautiful in photos, but even so, I snapped away with my disposable camera. We landed at Refuge for a beach lunch, followed by a read, a swim and a fresh water rinse-off in the creek. More bliss.

Mark and I watched perplexed as a newly arrived group of six began tossing things from their motor boat into the Cove. What sort of person would litter in this pristine place? I was about to yell out when, through his binoculars, Mark noticed they were wiping tears from their eyes. Roses, they were throwing roses…in memorial. We laughed in relief that we’d stayed quiet and were then sobered by the reminder that the Prom can be deadly.

Selfishly I wanted the mourners to leave, along with the steady stream of hikers descending on the Cove. It’s understandable that Refuge Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the Prom but that didn’t stop me from wanting it all to ourselves. Solitude feels like escape, like we’ve come further than anyone is willing to go. It makes me feel ‘hard core’.

Although I love solitude I also enjoy swapping stories with hikers and rangers. A number of hikers were envious of our boats and questioned us about our journey. Many said they’d be scared to tackle the ocean but I reassured them fears can be overcome. One guy asked to hire my therma-seat for a fee. Others drooled over our wine, Port, fresh vegies and array of smoked meats and horses doovers. The ranger let us know about the empty boaters’ camp site at the north end of Refuge Cove so we were alone again. That night the storms began to build.

Saturday Jan 17th: Refuge Cove

Saturday was spent reading and eating in our sheltered spot. The wind howled in the tree canopy and it showered on and off. Having made the decision to wait a day we walked to Kersop Peak to view the conditions. Waiting was a good decision. It was difficult not to get blown off the lookout. Waterloo Bay to the south was white with chop. I felt proud looking north to our barely visible starting point, Port Welshpool.

Back at Refuge the ranger radioed Tidal River from his hut and got the forecast. Sunday; south westerlies easing, Monday; building north easterly. A lovely bloke, we chatted about the area and asked him about the south end. He gave me hope that we’d make it around. Mark was curious about this man’s life in a hut. “Not married, no kids” the ranger confided. “My partner’s over at Sealers Cove.” He must like solitude and wilderness even more than us!

Sunday Jan 18th: Paddle Refuge Bay to Little Waterloo Bay( 11km – 2 hours 20 minutes)

We woke to hard rain and then the sound of our 5am alarm. Gusts of wind swayed the tree canopy and soon we slipped back into sleep. It later cleared and we had breakfast and read on the beach until midday when Mark announced “Let’s make a run for it.” In hindsight we could have waited a few more hours. Our shortest paddle was to be my hardest ever.

We rounded Cape Wellington with no trouble and Mark warned it was about to get tough. Into 20 knot headwinds, the 4km from the cape to the beach was 100 minutes of pain. Lance Armstrong’s words rang in my head “Suffering is good for you”, “Pain is temporary but quitting stays with you forever”. I kept an eye across my right shoulder at the shore. I’ll give it 20 hard strokes and move to that red boulder. 30 more and I’ll be at that gully. Another 20 I’ll make North Waterloo. The beach is getting closer. But in between pushes and self affirmations I sobbed. My back and arms burned. Mark seemed to be cruising which made me feel even more pathetic and angry at the wind. But he urged me on and eventually I was on a small wave heading for the white sand of Little Waterloo Bay. Armstrong was right – the pain was gone. We smiled out at the transparent water.10 degrees warmer and we could have been in Far North Queensland. Black cockies glided over the treetops and I collapsed on the tarp.

That night we ate as if we were about to cross the Bass Straight tomorrow rather than just skirt it. Starting with semi-dried tomatoes and rice crackers we moved on to basil pesto spaghetti, vegies, smoked pork, and then plum pudding, custard washed down with half a bottle of Port. Planning a quick, early get-away we repacked our boats except for our tent, sleeping stuff and breaky. The Milky Way lit up the beach and I stared out at the calm water, hoping it would stay that way.

Ready as we’ll ever be for Bass Straight.

Monday Jan 19th: Paddle Little Waterloo Bay to Tidal River (Intended to camp at Oberon Bay) (27km – 5 hours)

A 4.45am start now sounds absurd but it’s amazing how easy it is to get going when you know you’ve got a big day ahead. Not only did we have a big day, we had a strong north east wind forecast looming. Before the first kookaburra laugh our adrenalin got us from our sleeping bags to breakfast to the beach in record time. We tip toed past sleeping hikers and stuffed in the last of our gear with the sun barely poking through. It was beautifully calm. Turning back to collect the last dry bag I felt a coolness on my face. A faint Westerly I noted with some anxiety and fresh memories of yesterday’s struggle.

We dragged the boats down to the water ready to launch by 6.30am. The half meter waves were big enough to allow a sense of satisfaction at getting through but too small to scare me. Mark helped me out. From behind the break I turned to see Mark in his boat still lodged on the sand. He seemed to be waiting for the tide to come in. Then I remembered — he hates getting his feet wet.

For years the lighthouse has been an enigma for me. Previous Prom walks had resulted in skipping the lighthouse route. Stories of wild seas and rugged cliffs had fuelled my anxiety about paddling there. But today I felt ready — a bit like Froddo approaching Mount Doom.

Eventually we were on our way south on the calm flat sea. Once past Waterloo Bay the lighthouse was back in view. Distant Rondondo Island, a massive granite pyramid, glowed in the sunrise. I strained my eyes to the water beyond the lighthouse spotting the odd whitecap. Mark said, as if to read my mind, “I suspect it’s going to get a little rough around the bottom”.

Lance Armstrong, Tour de France winner, talks about the wind in his book; sometimes it’s your greatest enemy and other times it’s like the hand of God at your back. That day God was on our side. “It must have been the day I prayed for you” my mum later shared. Our boats began to fly along as the northerly strengthened and the swell grew. We knew the forecast, but the force and speed of the change in conditions thrilled us. Ahead of schedule, we peered up at the lighthouse.

To my amazement we were not faced with raging seas crashing onto jagged cliffs. I felt surprisingly safe and calm. I’m sure the EPIRBs, mobile phone, VHF radio, PDFs, towing harness, compass, detailed maps and first aid kit helped me feel safe and calm. There was little chance of seeing another human beyond the lighthouse. The south west corner of the Prom is mostly inaccessible. Even so, on his particular summer day, with all our gear, I felt safe. I felt the solitude.

The timing was uncanny. Just as we turned our boats around the south east point the wind began to turn. By the time we were on our way to the southern point the wind once again became a hand at our backs. The easterly strengthen and the swell grew. I leant back and used the paddle to brace as the boat surged, and surged again with each wave from behind us. It was more thrill than fear that had my pulse racing. I surprised myself with my confidence. We can do this, I realised. At the same time Mark was far from relaxed. He feared for me. “I’m just not sure what this wind will build to” he reiterated. I tried to reassure him “If it makes any difference, I feel good. I know I’ve survived two meter swell and surf landings at Short Point (NSW) last year”. My confidence buoyed him but he explained that he would rather share his concerns and have me understand the risks. I didn’t want to think about risks. It was not the swell but the pain of a head wind that scared me and for now we were hooning.

Periodically little penguins popped up their heads making peep-peep sounds. They looked vulnerable yet at home in this wilderness. South Point was hard to discern as it blurred with Wattle Island. Once Mark was convinced about it’s location he suddenly relaxed. In between varied levels of anxiety we were both in awe of the view. Cliffs towered over us so that I had to crane my neck to see the top. The dry wind-swept islands were uninviting but added interest to the Bass Straight horizon. I tried to imagine the granite ‘bridge’ that once linked Tassie to the mainland pre-ice-age. Same rocks, I thought, just more water. A glimpse of prehistory captivated me.

Having passed between tree-less Wattle Island and the South Point we continued to skirt the cliffs to avoid the bigger swell. Three hours into our paddle we reached the spectacular South West Point. Mark compared the block-like rocks to a giant Leggo structure. Relieved at reaching the lee side we had a short snack stop. Mark steadied my boat as I relieved my bladder over the side and I was quietly proud of our on-water balancing act.

The wind continued to grow and began to turn more east-nor-east. We now had to contend with strong, boat-stopping gusts of up to 30 knots. Balls of wind rolled over the cliffs, hit the water and scattered in all directions. All the way up to Oberon Bay we paddled just a couple of boat lengths from the cliffs to stay out of the convergence zone (where the prevailing wind met the water; Mark explained).

At Oberon Point, 10.30am, we stopped to consider our overnight options. If we stuck with our plan of landing on Oberon Beach, a tough paddle into chop and head wind faced us. Plus, if the waves increased the next day we could have trouble getting through the surf and home for work commitments. We decided not to risk it and kept paddling on to Norman Bay.

We’ve made it this far, another hour with the wind on our side sounds doable.

Having seen few people all week and not a soul all day it was a shock to see the hordes at Norman Beach. We pulled over to a yacht, chatted to the crew to re-socialise ourselves and asked them to take a celebratory photo of us bobbing on the aqua water. Mark was in disbelief that he has lived in Victoria all his life and only now discovered this stunning place.

There was a sense of accomplishment about making it around the Prom but the aim was not simply to get around. The aim was to get away. We were happy to respect the conditions presented to us and chose from two different routes; either around the Prom or backtracking to our start point. Having paid for campsites for either route, we were well organised as usual. We were more than happy to make the most of a near-perfect opportunity, allowing us a safe passage to Tidal River.

Small clean ½ meter waves at Norman Beach meant an easy landing among kids on boogie boards. We dragged the boats over the sand bar and up the tannin stained Tidal River far enough to find a quiet spot to collapse. “look out dear,” a woman warned her boy as we passed “they’ve got their whole life in those boats.” It was the end of our journey and the end of our solitude. Flocks of kids waded in the river and played in the surf. Parents kicked the footy or sought shade under beach domes and rock ledges.

Superb catering meant, on the last day, we could still dine on ‘Gourmet Thins’ sun-dried tomatoes, French cheese and salami (and yes, they appeared to be salmonella-free). Mark sat reading on a rock while I could no longer keep my head up.

Once I’d recovered a little I decided to seek out a camp spot, which proved not as simple as the last few nights. Not even the crowded beach prepared me for venturing into the camp ground, which can only be described as feral. There was literally not a free square meter. “Tidal River Camping Ground is Booked out”. Entering the shop I think I came as close as I ever have to experiencing a panic attack. Thirteen types of cereal had never seemed more excessive and overwhelming to me than at that moment. Then the queue; why do they have to stand so close to me!? Oh, for the solitude of Refuge. Needless to say we did manage to adapt back into normal life and avoid social phobia.

That evening we plonked our tent in a not-so-official camp site. Well, we are mariners, you know.

From The President’s Deck [56]

By Ian Phillips

Well that was quick… I’m already at the end of my brief Caretaker Presidency. I certainly can’t say it’s been ground-breaking, revolutionary or even slightly monumental, but it has been quite a bit of fun keeping the seat warm these past few months, being called upon for all those exciting presidential things (you know the kind of stuff: opening malls, unveiling statues, shaking the hands of astronauts…) and generally trying to chat up girls as the Club’s big wig. The distinct lack of success has left me without a First Lady and so I must step aside for someone far more deserving.

The 2004 AGM is nearly upon us and I hope to see you all at Bundeena for our first AGM away from the rigours of Rock ‘n’ Roll. As you’re no doubt aware by now, the AGM has been separated from the Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend to allow for a more productive meeting, ease the burden of an AGM and Rock ‘n’ Roll symposium on the same weekend, allow sufficient time to properly discuss Club matters and to provide an additional forum for Club members to meet in a formal manner. I’m sure a more prescribed and structured AGM will suitably meet these needs for all members.

After such a short Club ‘year’ I’m very enthused to see most of the incumbent committee members standing again for their positions, and I can only thank Nick, Richard M, Peter and Richard B for the tremendous work done so far and for their dedication to the Club in offering to stand again. You’ll hear much more from me about these guys at the AGM!

Alas, Laurie is retiring from committee life this year but I’m sure you’ll all join me in thanking Laurie for his time and commitment to the Club over the past couple of years. Laurie has served the Club very well during this time, first as Secretary/Treasurer and more recently as Trips Convener. Despite all my jokes about our ‘Hairy Man from the South’ Laurie has provided some great opinion and invaluable input over the years, and he has more recently joined the ranks of Trainee Instructor. Laurie will be a force to be reckoned with once he’s let loose on the world. Thanks Laurie.

As mentioned in my opening paragraph (through my poorly constructed attempts at humour) I won’t be standing for the President’s job at the July AGM. Despite enjoying it more than I ever imagined I simply cannot find enough hours in the day to commit properly to the task as well as trying to coordinate the Training Group and the Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend and still get in some much-needed paddling for myself somewhere in between.

As I passionately blurted out to the Sea Skills Groupies in May, I’ve become extremely fond of this funny old Club of ours over the past few years, I’ve loved every minute of it and I hope to keep contributing to the Club wherever I can. I’m sure you’ve read between the lines and deduced that I’m standing again for Training Coordinator and Rock ‘n’ Roll Coordinator, and I look forward to either your support or healthy opposition at the upcoming AGM!

I started life on the committee as Editor when I had only been a member for about a year. I wasn’t known to anyone in the Club, I didn’t know anyone in the Club and I had certainly never attended a Club paddle… it all just sounded like a good idea at the time. I almost wasn’t elected because no-one knew who I was (not turning up at the applicable AGM probably didn’t help much either)!

Since then it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride. I’ve seen the Club develop into a true authority on sea kayaking and I’ve seen some of the greatest moments in Club history (and certainly some of the worst!). I’m proud to say that, over the past four-and-a-half years, I’ve been continually involved in developing the Club into what we have today. Of course the work still continues — it’s an ongoing evolution — and we hope it’s going in the right direction (but if it’s not, you certainly know what to do!).

As I said to ‘my’ Groupies (and they’re probably sick of hearing from me), I could easily sit here and say that I have never got anything out of the Club in return for my input — I’ve never received any Club training, I’ve still only ever been on a handful of official paddles and I’ve heard enough grumbles to turn me bitter for life — but that’s a million miles from the real story. Being part of the NSWSKC has turned out to be an awful lot of fun, I have met some of my best friends through the Club (although can you really class Birdsie as a friend?), I’ve introduced other close friends to the Club and I’ve got more out of this Club that I could have ever imagined ‘way back’ in 1999. The Club has certainly been a challenge at times but the good overwhelmingly shadows the bad. The Club and its people have helped me through some difficult times and I can easily say that most of my life now revolves around kayaking and the NSWSKC.

Nowadays I see dozens and dozens of people in the Club all the time — both on and off the water — and they’re all loving it and getting tonnes out of our Club. It feels really good to know you’ve been a part of that. Vive le NSWSKC… that’s all I can say.

Finally, before I fade off this page forever, Australian Canoeing recently recommended the NSWSKC for an Ausport Club Development Award for the work we have been doing through our NTP and the Training Group. As you can imagine we were mightily chuffed to receive this recommendation. Richard Birdsey worked hard on our submission during April and we kept our fingers crossed. Regrettably we did not make the finals but we are greatly humbled that AC took the time to consider our Club a suitable candidate, and on behalf of the Club I thank Ian Dewey and Jon Bisset for their support and Richard for his hard work on our submission.

And so it’s toodles from me. I hope to see you all at the AGM but failing that I’ll catch you on the water sometime! In the meantime always remember: kayaking is life… the rest is mere details. W