Coffee Cruisin’ up South West Arm [57]

By Dee Ratcliffe

31 August 2003
Bonnie Vale, Royal National Park
Trip Leader:
Trevor Gardner

Not knowing what the TLA NLT actually meant, getting it from a trip leader signing off his emails as Deer Hunter made an impression. All participants turned up at Bonnie Vale well before the NLT 0800, and were set up and ready to go 10 minutes before the designated start time of 8.30am.

Trevor gave us an excellent trip briefing, using weather forecasts, various weather maps, tide charts and his local experience and knowledge. He quickly put us at ease about concerns that today’s winds might turn into those of last Sunday (24 August 2003).

As we worked our way up Port Hacking towards South West Arm on an incoming tide Trevor, in his role as trip leader, kept us informed about the local flora and fauna. Of particular interest is the local Homo Sutherland Shireus — a species that transports itself short distances on flat water in large white boats, also termed Gin Palaces. These craft travel to a local mating spot. Trevor explained that this activity is usually associated with summer months, however to his surprise a number of the species braved the last day of Winter for some ritual mating.

A bushwalk to Winifred Falls was a highlight of this trip. The water flowing over the rocks and down the falls being so pure and pristine that (female) members of the paddling party braved the cool water to fetch liquid supplies at the request of our leader. Indeed, so fussy was he that, of all the males present, he alone took to the chilly rock pools in search of his water.

This paddle demonstrated how first aid should be administered on club trips. Once away from the water, and more than 2m above sea level, the trip leader rendered no assistance to a paddler (now bush walker) who got a splinter in his leg. Yet when another paddler got a splinter while only 1 metre from the water’s edge, a fully equipped medical kit appeared and tender caring attention was given to the splinter’s removal. Then again, perhaps it was because the lovely Lisa is his wife and Kevin is well, Kevin, that Trevor chooses his patients with great care.

Trevor showed what the term Coffee Cruiser truly means and set standards that the rest of us can only dream of….morning tea was held on a picturesque rock platform at the upper end of South West Arm, the kayaks having been lifted out of the water with the greatest of care. Trevor and his sous-barista Mark provided chairs and stools for the comfort of all. Our preferences were carefully noted and an amazing array of coffee machines were used to supply us with cups and mugs of glorious caffeine brewed from the pure waters gathered at the Falls.

Discussion on the return paddle centered around the need for constant boat maintenance and care. Many participants were shocked at the obvious lack of cleaning given by this boat’s owner.

The trip ended with some towing and rolling practise. Dee and Peter sadly stuffed their rolls (at some considerable expense to Peter) while Claudia had great success under Mark’s tuition.

Note: TLA NLT = Three Letter Acronym No Later Than

Another note: Mark Berry will be running a trip in this area, have a look at the calendar on the club’s website.

Skills ‘n Drills [57]

By David Winkworth

Let me start with this question: How Well Do You Know Your Kayak?

Gee, there could be some interesting answers to that question! However, I’m being serious on this occasion, so I’ll continue. Because we often spend a long time in our boats I think it’s important that we all know how our kayaks perform in as many different wind and wave combinations as possible. That knowledge can’t help but make us all better sea paddlers.

Wind is universally regarded as one of a sea kayaker’s enemies. Paul Caffyn once said “wind is the curse of the kayaking class” or something like that. Sure, it often is our enemy but we also use wind and the waves it creates to help us on our way. So, if wind is our enemy on the ocean, and also our friend, then shouldn’t we know just how it affects our kayaks?

Wind will affect all kayak designs differently. Some of the many factors affecting wind influence on sea kayaks and their paddlers are:

  • Length and beam of kayak
  • Hull profile and shape
  • Deck profile and shape
  • Load being carried
  • Fore and aft distribution of load
  • Fore and aft lean of paddler
  • Seated height of paddler
  • General size of paddler
  • Gear on aft and/or fore deck
  • Rudder parked on deck
  • Rudder in water
  • Skeg deployed or retracted

There is a simple way you can test some of these factors for yourself and the influence they may have on your kayak in beam winds. All you need is a compass, an expanse of water away from ocean swell (such as a coastal lake) and a very windy day.

Secure your compass to the foredeck where you can read it easily – a bushwalking compass will do if you don’t have a marine compass. Paddle out into the lake away from wind shadows such as trees or buildings. Turn your kayak beam on to the wind, lay your paddle along the deck and sit there very still. Note the compass reading after a minute or two. Now lean well forward in your cockpit as far as you can and check the compass reading again. It may take a few minutes for the kayak angle relative to the wind to change, so give it time. Now note the difference between the two readings. See, your weight distribution does change the angle! Try it leaning back too, and with your rudder or skeg up or down. Do a combination of all these. Fill a few water bottles and try it with these in your hatches. Compare your results with your friends. See if you can account for any differences – it’s a good exercise.

You can use this knowledge to help trim your boat for a day’s paddle. Above all, remember that some movement of your torso is a valuable tool in catching or dropping off waves and turning or tracking your kayak in wind.

You Know You’re a Sea Kayaker When:

…you sit around in the pub trying to check out calluses on other people’s thumbs…just to see if they’re as big as yours! (Thanks Margot. Hmmm…..anyone got any more?)

Care of Gear

I heard recently of a sea kayaking hire and guiding business where all the paddling gear – PFDs, spray skirts, cags etc is soaked in a water and Armor-All solution after each use. I’m told that it works well. Anyone ever done this?

I do know that hanging a salt water- soaked spray skirt out in the sun to dry is probably the worst thing you can do to it. The salt crystals that form in the fabric will eventually cut up the surface covering. It is nice on a trip to slip on a dry skirt the next day but the best care for the skirt is to rinse it, fold gently and store it wet up in your cockpit out of the sun.

The Surfboard Launch

Ever watched board riders launch out into the surf off the rocks or off the beach? They just put the board down, leap onto it in a prone position and they’re off. It’s a bit more difficult for a sea kayaker, who has a paddle, a cockpit and a sprayskirt to contend with but we can certainly learn from that launch style. The aim here is to lie flat on the kayak and paddle out with your hands to where an easy cockpit entry can be accomplished. Occasionally we all have to launch from rocky or muddy shores and if we have a strong current or wind to contend with as well, it can all get a bit messy. An option here is to use this surfboard launch. I’ve used this launch style in a surging flooded coastal creek and, by launching in a brief lull, I even got through a nasty shore dumping surf once without even getting wet!

You only need one small piece of equipment – a short length of shockcord and an olive to secure your paddle to the deck. Using this little cord will mean you can concentrate on hand paddling and your paddle will be there when you reach for it. It also means you can go walking around looking for a spot to launch from with your kayak on your shoulder and your other hand free for balance. Slide one paddle blade under the fore deckline, secure the shaft to your deckline near the cockpit with the shockcord and you’re ready to go.

You can either push your kayak out in the water, jump in, swim over to it, climb on the deck and hand-paddle to where you want to enter the cockpit OR float the kayak and lie on the deck as you push off and hand-paddle. The latter method is the one to use if the water is really cold or you’d like to stay dry.

Experimenting is the key to deciding what works for you. Like many sea kayaking skills, you do need to practise this to make it work. A few points:

The aim of this launch is to get you and your kayak to a place where you can most easily get into the cockpit. For example, if I was launching from a rocky oyster encrusted shoreline, I’d use this surfboard launch…..not much joy in a possible capsize in the shallows as you get into your boat and put your hands down onto the oysters!

As you launch out, keep your weight low – lie right down on the deck. I lie right over my cockpit opening with my chin over the coaming. It’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s not for very long. Try to keep your legs out of the water and you’ll be surprised how fast you can hand-paddle in this position. Paddle out to where you’re going to enter the cockpit and sit up on the deck behind your cockpit. If your kayak has a large cockpit opening, the next bit is easy – just slide forward and slip your bum into the seat followed by your legs. If your cockpit is too small to do this, you’re going to have that wonderful moment of instability to contend with as you bring up one leg and then the other! You could try using your paddle in an outrigger position to help stabilize the kayak but if you’re going to do it without paddle support speed is the essence! When you lift up your second leg do not stop! Slip straight into the cockpit – you may find that what you thought was going to be a capsize as you entered the cockpit, does not eventuate – the rapid lowering of your CG has saved you!

This last element of the Surfboard Launch is more easily done with a loaded kayak. If you’re tipping over a bit, put some gear in the boat and try it like that. Good luck!

You Know You’re a Sea Kayaker When:

… you go to the Sydney Motor Show where Playboy Playmates drape themselves over millions of dollars worth of sexy macho machines….and you came to look at roof racks!

Enjoy your paddling!

Skegs And Wing Paddles [57]

Little things that make a big difference

By Lawrence (Gages) Geoghegan


Let me introduce my idea for putting together this report. Almost two years ago, I had a skeg put in my Pittarak. It was such an improvement from having nothing at all for directional stability. And by that, I mean, the only input I had prior to the skeg for steering control was traditional leaning and edging.

Dave Winkworth was also working on an idea to put a skeg in his Nadgee. He installed it in the Pittarak for a test run to see if all the bits and pieces worked. To Dave’s credit, it worked well except for a few small things that he improved on before installing them in my new Nadgee.

The skeg is a small piece of equipment that I think has two advantages over rudders:

  • It is adjustable up and down unlike a rudder that is either down all the time (Mirage style) or up or down (like 99% of other rudders).
  • Unlike many of the rudder users, who just use the rudder as a means of steering, the skeg still encourages the traditional edging and leaning aspect of boat control. Let’s face it, a kayak is designed to have paddler input for boat control, rather than just relying on the rudder.

Personally I like having the option of being able to adjust the trim of the skeg to suit conditions. Having trialed the skeg for some time now, in moderate conditions, I have it approximately 1\3 down. In a howling (20+ knots) wind with a following or quartering wind and swell, I have it down another third. While the Nadgee does not need the skeg fully down, the Pittarak sometimes needed full skeg in similar conditions.

Diagram 1

You can see in the diagrams what a difference a skeg can make and the impact it has changing the central lateral resistance. For the not so technically inclined, like me, I would say that in following winds and sea the skeg helps slow down the overtaking movement of the stern over the bow. When you use a skeg, you can actually feel the back of your boat try to overtake the bow (yawing) and then feel the skeg bite in and stop that movement. Depending on the size of wind and or swell, you can adjust the depth of the skeg to suite the conditions, unlike a rudder that is up or down.

Diagram 2

A skeg is a simple device that can help a lot more than a rudder, that is if you still like to have the old edging and leaning movements as part of your skill repertoire. Really, it’s a bit of both worlds as far as directional stability is concerned. You have a fin that keeps you straight and it still leaves you with the process of edging and leaning to keep your boat under control. And most importantly, you don’t have to press left and right chasing your course line all the time with that Rudder!

The popular Pittarak with its skeg set up, which is becoming quite popular amongst Pittarak paddlers, is shown in the photograph with the skeg fully down and the skeg control box is in the inset.

The other two photographs are of the skeg setup in the Nadgee with the skeg about half to two thirds down along with the control box.

The two boats are similar but have completely different handling characteristics. They behave quite differently with no skeg or rudder and both handle well with the skeg down.

Wing (Propeller) Paddles

I did a trip with Andrew McAuley two years ago and have seen him in action many times since. He uses a wing or propeller paddle. I have watched him and others using wing paddles and the benefits of it have played on my mind. I wanted to give a paddle a go and was quite lucky to borrow one from Rob Mercer (Thanks Rob!). Since then I have picked it up and tried it, thrown it away saying, “definitely not for sea kayaking” and finally given it a fair dinkum go. It was not until I had paddled with it for some time that I became convinced of the advantages of using a wing paddle on the sea. I took the ‘wing’ on a 90km training paddle in preparation for my Bass Strait crossing and learnt the technique required to get the best out of it. Easier to use than a straight paddle and efficient through the water, it was to my liking and, from that moment, I was a convert. Now I won’t use a “straight” paddle, even if you pay me.

Now for a few guidelines on what makes a wing or propeller paddle different from a “straight” paddle.

Every one knows the physical difference between the wing and straight paddle but there are two different types of wing:

One type is parallel and more symmetrical. It is the “older” design or wing blade and lends it self more to sea kayaking as it can do sculling and sweep strokes. Although, it is a bit harder than with a “straight” paddle; but with practise it definitely is achievable. The ‘newer’ design is more teardrop shaped. This is the propeller and is much harder to scull or do sweep strokes with. It lends itself more to the racer and is great for forward propulsion.

I use a wing paddle. It is easier to use for most strokes and for surfing. But I must say, I have dedicated a fair bit of my paddling time in the last year to improving my forward paddling stroke and using this paddle correctly. I believe if you do not use the wing paddle correctly, you can do all sorts of damage to shoulders and other bits needed to paddle. Before you pick one up spend some time making sure that you have good forward paddling technique.

In the surf, the paddle can let you down as the cupped lines of the paddle do not lend themselves to stern or support strokes, but with practise and a little bit of “corrective technique”, this is not a problem. After a few months of getting used to my wing paddle, I now have no problem in the surf and don’t even notice the difference these days. One big advantage, other than forward paddling of the wing or propeller paddle is rolling. I have heard that they are harder to roll with than a straight paddle. I was surprised to find how much easier they were. I have never had the best left side roll but with the wing paddle it has helped me so much that I am up every time on my left side. How’s that, eh?

In summary, wing and propeller paddles are more efficient at holding water, which makes for faster paddling, easier rolling and encourages much better forward paddling technique, which is something we all try to achieve with our paddling, whether it be recreational or racing. There is a place in the sea kayaker’s arsenal for a wing or propeller paddle. So don’t be put off by the old school. Give it a go. You won’t be disappointed. BUT don’t just pick it up and use it when you are trying to go fast on flat water such as on the Wednesday night time trials, use it all the time and really get used to it!

See you on the water with your new wing or propeller paddle!

If Pain Persists, See Your Doctor … [57]

By Terence Uren

For most kayakers, the risk of shoulder injury through surf zone trauma or repetition strain is well known. Issue 53 of NSW Sea Kayaker, for instance, included two reports of shoulder dislocations to paddlers, whilst Issues 21, 27 and 44 covered rotator cuff injuries in some detail.

Through personal and painful experience, I have recently become aware of another form of shoulder injury to which some paddlers may be susceptible – adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder.

What is ‘frozen shoulder’?

Frozen shoulder is a condition that results in stiffness and loss of movement in the shoulder joint, due to a tightening and thickening of the capsule of ligaments that support the shoulder. The condition develops slowly and in three stages.

  • Stage 1 (the ‘freezing’ stage): Certain arm or shoulder movements cause pain and there is a progressive loss of flexibility in the shoulder joint.
  • Stage 2 (the ‘frozen’ stage): Pain begins to diminish and moving the arm is more comfortable but the range of movement is much more limited – up to 50% less than before the onset of the condition.
  • Stage 3 (the ‘thawing’ stage): The condition begins to resolve and most patients experience a gradual return of movement.

The overall duration of the condition is typically 9-18 months, although it can last as long as 3-4 years.

In my case, the first sign that something was wrong was disrupted sleep due to difficulty in finding a comfortable position in bed. Over the next couple of months, lifting my kayak onto my car at the end of a paddle became more awkward, my stern rudder stroke became weak and my upwind paddling speed fell off dramatically. I felt no discomfort whilst paddling but many off water activities began to cause pain. Simple daily tasks, such as opening a car door or taking off a shirt, became difficult.

What causes the condition?

The causes of adhesive capsulitis are unknown and it does not occur in any other joint of the body. Although a proportion of those with the condition report a shoulder or arm injury prior to its onset, in most cases there is no obvious trigger. My suggestion to those treating me that my trigger may have been poor paddling technique; a surf trashing; or overly vigorous dancing at a family wedding drew a ‘who knows’ shrug.

The condition mostly affects those over the age of 40, with women twice as likely as men to suffer the condition. Most commonly, only one shoulder at a time is affected and, more often than not, the condition starts on the non-dominant side of the body.

How the condition is treated

The first step for me was a series of X-rays and ultrasound scans to ensure that there was no underlying disorder such as a rotator cuff tear or degenerative arthritis.

With no underlying disorder detected, I have moved on to stretching and physical therapy. At present, my treatment regime consists of twice-daily ‘shoulder stability’ and ‘range of movement’ exercises and (painful) weekly manipulation by my physiotherapist. Anti-inflammatory medications have provided no relief.

For some, the pain associated with such therapy is too intense to make it a feasible option and total rest is recommended until pain disappears or alternatively, manipulation under anaesthesia. Under this process, the shoulder is forced through a range of motion to release scar tissue, which is then removed by arthroscopic surgery.

How will the condition resolve itself?

I am still in the ‘freezing’ stage and my prognosis is uncertain. Those treating me are unwilling to speculate on when I might be paddle-fit again. Their advice is that, with time and ongoing therapy, the condition will eventually resolve itself and that it will be unlikely to recur. Some residual symptoms may persist but these should not limit my ability to continue kayaking.

Can the condition be prevented?

It seems unlikely that the condition is preventable, although maintaining strong and flexible shoulders may help. If you suspect you may be contracting frozen shoulder, the best thing you can probably do is hope to minimise its impact by seeking early treatment. Contact your doctor if you experience shoulder pain that limits your range of movement for more than a short period of time.

Further information

From the Secretary/Treasurer [57]

By Nick Palmer

At our recent club AGM for 2004, a review of our current membership subscription fee regime was undertaken. I pointed out that the club’s financial position was not healthy and that we were potentially exposed to some financial risk.

In response to some vigorous discussion, two motions were moved that have significant impact upon our membership fees. The first motion proposed to increase single membership fees by $25 per person. A second motion then proposed to increase family memberships by $25 per person. Both of these motions were supported by those members in attendance and both motions were carried by a strong majority.

As a result, annual fees for a single member have increased from $75 to $100. In addition, annual fees for family members have increased from $110 to $160, (this figure assumes 1 primary and 1 secondary family member). These increases will take affect from September, 2004 onwards.

Those members in attendance at the AGM also expressed a desire to understand how membership fees are utilised by the club, so I have provided the following breakdown:

The two main costs incurred by the club are:

  • The club magazine – based on figures to date from 2004, the magazine costs around $7.50 per person, per edition to produce and distribute. With four editions per year, this equates to $30 per full-paying member annually
  • AC affiliation (including insurance premium) – Single members cost $39 per annum, while family members cost $46 for the primary member and $20 for any additional family members.

This leaves $6 from each single membership and $14 from each family membership (based on two persons per family membership), lying in the club coffers to pay for other miscellaneous expenses such as NTP registration, web hosting fees, administration etc.

Anyone with experience managing budgets or with other clubs will understand that this situation was not tenable and that some action had to be taken to correct it. I trust from the information provided here that you will recognise the need for the membership fee increases and continue to support your club.

It is important to note here that all committee members, trip leaders and instructors (past and present), work on a purely volunteer basis and receive no financial assistance or compensation from the club. Club members get the services of these people for free!

The exceptions are:

  • Accreditation costs for instructors, sea guides and sea skills etc. These costs are paid for by the club as the skills gained are immediately utilised within the club and increase our capacity to run training, trips and other events
  • The annual Rock ‘n’ Roll extravaganza, which is historically self-funded and incurs a separate registration fee
  • Additional (‘off-water’) training materials such as folders and manuals etc, which are paid for by members undertaking official club training.

I strongly believe that your current committee is passionate about the club and passionate about delivering high quality services and value to members. It is worth highlighting some of these once again and thanking those responsible:

  • Ian Phillips and the Training Group for our professional (and extremely popular) training program
  • Peter Kappelmann for his outstanding work on the club website
  • Richard McNeall for his commitment to delivering the highest quality magazine – (enjoy your new life as President)
  • Richard Birdsey for his ‘behind-the-scenes’ work
  • Laurie Geoghegan for his contribution and passion, both on and off the water
  • and Kevin Brennan for compiling an extremely comprehensive trips calendar for 2004/2005.

A final thank-you to the outgoing committee members and a warm welcome to the new!

See you on the water …… somewhere !

Nick Palmer

A Ramble From the Editor [57]

By Ian Coles

Well this is our first issue.

It has taken a lot of hours and my fitness level has taken a dive. I get up and go for a run or a paddle before breakfast. Instead for the past month I have been at the computer screen. It is a huge task to put together 100 or so pictures and to try and show off the contributors work at its best.

Thank my lucky stars that Elizabeth volunteered her expertise as copy editor. Words are not my cup of tea. I will manage the magazine and look after layout, print production and marketing, finding ways to reach a wider audience of readers and advertisers.

Elizabeth will use her considerable language skills as copy editor. In simple terms ET is Keeper of the Words. I am Keeper of Production and between us we will run a pretty tight outfit. So if your favourite picture gets a full page I did it. If your story sparkles with perfect prose ET did it.

If your story didn’t make it I am sorry. We have budget restrictions and some stories have been held over for the next issue. This issue has the new trip calender, the AGM minutes and some committee reports that pushed it over the edge.

Thank you all for your contributions, and please submit your stories early for the next issue.

I hope you enjoy this issue


From the President’s Deck [57]

By Richard McNeall

F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C ! ! !

It must be obvious to all that this is a time of renewal and tremendous energy in the NSWSKC and being President, I feel compelled to state the obvious, so here we go >>>

Let’s look at what we have we all achieved in the 9 months since the last Rock‘n’Roll:-

  • Completely re-vamped web site.
  • Our biggest and best-organised
  • training program ever with NTP
  • legitimacy.
  • Membership list smart and accurate.
  • Magazine chock-a-block and on-time.
  • A huge trips program running through to August 2005.
  • Something totally different organized for R’n’R 2005 with a “task force” of close to 20 volunteers to make it happen.
  • Etc etc

Please feel free to chastise me privately and/or publicly for my numerous omissions.

And this does not even take into account the achievements of individuals both on and off the water who do so much to raise the standing and energy of the Club. I was going to start a list here, beginning with Andrew McAuley and his historic direct crossing, but the ranking system would have been too controversial. (Actually, Andrew would only have made the top of the list if I’d ranked it on a first name alphabetic basis ! )

Congratulations everybody ! ! !

Interestingly, with at least half the Committee being replaced with first-timers in November 2003, and again in July 2004, we now only have 1 survivor from before Nov ‘03, and even he occupies a different spot. In fact, we have a really gutsy team here, with the dual advantages of a fresh approach and the ability to benefit from the foundation laid by those who built the club, and saw it through its various challenges. And our Training Group, Instructors, Trip Leaders, Mag Contributors, R’n’R Task Force, and everybody who paddles anywhere are the essence of this unique and quirky Club.

So what are we planning to do from here ? Here’s a hand-picked selection from the last committee minutes:-

  • Really drive and develop the trips program.
  • Expand our Training Program and look at how we can increase throughput without compromise.
  • Take a proactive approach to seeking advertising funding for the mag.
  • Use extra copies of the mag to promote the Club.
  • Establish a web content-management system.
  • Ensure prior notification of agenda for General Meetings.
  • Make this new R’n’R really happen.
  • Establish a second chat line stream allowing commercial content. (from AGM)
  • Improve our accounting process.
  • Develop budget projections and financial priorities.
  • Improve magazine print quality.
  • Facilitate communication in the club.
  • Expand opportunities for members to contribute.
  • Improve our approach to welcoming and “inducting” new members.
  • Implement opt-out contact list. (from AGM)
  • Inform members of membership fee increase to $100.00. (from AGM)
  • Implement other AGM commitments. (see minutes this issue)

Well that’s enough from me. I’m heading off to the snow now (with Beagle 3 on the racks of course). So let’s keep paddling, training, committeeing, leading trips, helping with R’n’R (contact Kevin Brennan or myself to help with Rock‘n’Roll), and contributing to the mag, and we’ll keep this amazing show on the road !

See you all on the water !

A Late Summer Meander through the Myall Lakes [57]

An adventure by some older blokes.

by the Water Rat


Well at last, after days of accumulating piles and piles of gear, sweating through stifling heat and humidity, we were on the move. The day was slightly overcast and a light southerly change was forecast. Meeting up with Noel and Jim at Raleigh would be the first test of organization. Already I had misplaced Noel’s mobile phone number. If 9am came and went without seeing them I would know I was in the wrong place.

I don’t know what possessed Noel to choose this weekend to start the adventure as the next day was Valentines Day. I had always had an image of Noel as a romantic/lady’s man.

Well they arrived on time and we were back on the highway by 9:20am. It was easy going. There was plenty of traffic and an hour and a half later we were stopped at Wilsons River for morning `smoko’. After that it was onwards to Bungwahl and Neranie. Arriving at Neranie at 2pm we were greeted with hot steamy weather and a 20 knot southerly. A civilized lunch was taken then the mammoth task of loading a car load of gear into a kayak was commenced. Thanks to a Bob Fellows contact, `Morrie’, we were able to leave the vehicles behind at his house just 500 metres from our launch site. Our gratitude was expressed in the form of a carton of Tooheys Draught.

The boats did float when they were eventually put in the water at 3:50pm. Waiting for this moment had been an anxious time for me, but the others were pretty blasé about the possibility that they might have negative buoyancy when fully laden.

Neranie is a nice sheltered bay with some intriguing timber work on the eastern point. A relic of a bygone industry I guess. Once clear of the Neranie Bay point it was a solid bash into short steep seas. Spray and solid water was coming over the bow and I was extremely grateful to my new `CHEEKI’ made spraydeck. It was close to 7km into the shelter of Kattaway Bay and all the way into a head sea. Any pause in paddling would lose us ground rapidly. So it was a matter of push on and push on.

Kattaway was to be the overnight camp site. There were two uninhabited house boats moored in the most sheltered corner. The fringes of the bay are very shallow but access to the banks is limited because of the profuse growth of reeds and rushes. As a consequence some time was spent scouting the shoreline for the best location. Jim seized upon a site which looked okay but upon closer inspection found it had a NO CAMPING appellation. The NPWS were concerned that a tree might fall on us. Noel found an even better sight and by the time Jim arrived on the scene there was no evidence of a NO CAMPING sign. He accused Noel of all manner of devious vandalizing behaviour without one shred of evidence. So we made camp for the night. Noel pitched his tent, I pitched mine. Jim however stopped short with just the mesh net inner part of his tent pitched. Oops!!! He had forgotten the waterproof fly. I felt his conviction to religion might have been sorely tested at this moment. He seriously considered praying; for NO RAIN, that is. His wishes were answered as it did not rain that night. There wasn’t even dew.

A whole new process of discovery is set in motion when a landfall is made. The site check out is easy. The other discovery is `WHERE DID I PACK THE TENT. WHERE DID I PACK …… etc. With 3 hatches it becomes confusing. The logical order would be to have complementary gear together. However fore and aft boat trim often dictates abandonment of this rule. My tent and tent gear are in the very stern while sleeping bag mattress and pillow are in the very bow. Water is in front of the first bulkhead and behind the third. Etc.

Then the solitary ritual of evening meal preparation commences. Each person sits quietly surrounded by gear and perched over a miniature stove. It is a solemn moment requiring careful decision making. The meal is followed by a glass of wine, radio weather check and polite conversation till dark or afterwards, before turning in.

The noises of isolation become apparent. Leaves falling sound like branches, birds and animals sound as if locked in mortal combat. Sleep comes slowly in these strange surroundings. It must be at least 15 years since I last did some bush camping. At 3:30am I am wide awake and spend 15 minutes sitting in the tent doorway watching the beautiful moonlit `lakescape’. All is well.

Saturday …Valentines Day

I am awake at 5:30am but I don’t think any cards will be delivered here. It is a beautiful morning. Things progress slowly, although Noel dropped his tent immediately and I took this as a cue for hasty action. While my muesli was set to soak in apple juice I dropped tent, packed sleeping gear and stowed same. That filled up the boat ends. The rest went in after breakfast. We were launched and on our way by 9:15am.

It didn’t take long to work out yesterday’s tiredness from the muscles. We cruised around Kattaway Head and examined Bibby Harbour with a light Nor’easterly coming over our right shoulder. A westerly course was set for the long haul to clear Long Point. The sun was shining. Once around the point it was due south to Blossoms Point and then Shelly Point. By now both Jim and Noel had their sails up and were enjoying a leisurely cruise. These inverted triangular rigs of one square metre are extremely forgiving and good on all points of off wind sailing. Their set up allows the hands to be free to paddle at the same time.

Beyond Shelly Point is Shelly Beach. This is a beautiful wind blown sandy stretch with numerous paperbark trees crowding the shoreline. It was time for `smoko’. There was one power boat moored nearby with the same idea. It was 2 elderly couples [50-60 or so] revisiting places camped years ago. After three separate inspections of the campsite and much shirking of the responsibility to make a decision, a decision evolved. We would camp there tonight. The tent pitching ritual followed and some gear unloaded. Lunch would be on Johnson Island, a tree covered rocky outcrop in the middle of Myall Lake. It was approx 4km from Shelly Beach but once the point was cleared we werehit with the full force of the Nor’easterly, now up round 20knots. Again the lake was a mess of short steep seas, but this time they were on the beam and make for very tricky and uncomfortable progress. In the lee of Johnson’s Island S/SW aspect is the semblance of a little rock festooned beach. It was the best we could find. Lunch was had [sandwiches of Vegemite and cheese for others, mine was Ryvitas, tomatoes and peanut butter, all washed down with a cup of tea].

After lunch we bashed upwind for about 2km to pass around Double Island and had a quartering sea to ride home. It wasn’t far enough and the seas were still on the beam. Jim and I made for Long Point before squaring off to run back down to Shelly Beach. Noel tried a shy reach but it was too uncomfortable, so climbed to windward as well. Once squared away they roared away under full sail. Closer to `home’ and closer to Blossom Point I put up the `RAM’ golf umbrella. It worked a treat and on the square run could hold the more sophisticated rigs. Beached at 4pm it was time for R&R [afternoon smoko, washing, drying, reading and diary writing].

There had not been much other activity on the lake. Apart from the 2 houseboats at Kattaway and the morning tea company, we saw two large cruisers moored near Blossom Point, and an `ordinary 16ft runabout 100mtres north [they were enjoying cocktails sitting in the water], and there was one Super sports cruiser moored just off the beach 100 metres south. The only sign of life other than this was the hourly 7ft tender journey to the shore based toilet.

The rest of the evening followed the usual format.

I had expected mosquitoes, sand flies and flies. None of these were a bother, but MARCH FLIES were a nuisance at most sites even though they rarely bit.


It was overcast at 5:30am. The morning routine went to plan. Once launched a course was set for Tinkerabit. This had been a popular camp site, but now it is dominated by NPWS signs saying `AREA CLOSED’. We didn’t want to stop there anyway. The run was lumpy with the left over slop from yesterday’s Nor’easter. Rounding Tinkerabit Point we entered the Narrows. The breeze was freshening from the north and the sails went up. The course was due south for about 2km before making due west for another km to Violet Hill camp site. Smoko-time – the camp was occupied by water-skiers. It had road access. They were friendly enough and respectful too! By coincidence one of the ski boat drivers was a neighbour of Paul Hewitson [designer and manufacture of the Mirage sea kayak. Aka. God]. He was impressed by our `little adventure’.

Taking the starboard route past Goat and Sheep Islands, we commenced the 4km cruise across Boolambayte Lake. Even though it was Sunday, other boating activity was negligible. Boolambayte is a long North-South aligned lake, but the northern corner is very shallow and the exit point into more narrows is on the western shore, heading west and then swinging south. Once there was a south component in our heading, the `sailors’ [Jim and Noel] were at it again. They enjoyed the peace and tranquility of an armchair ride while I paddled. Past Korsman’s Landing the waterway opened out into Two Mile Bay. This is a beautiful easterly sweep of shallow sandy shore, the skiers love it, but today they hadn’t loved it to death. There were just a few boats buzzing around. It is such a nice shoreline that the NPWS have seen fit to adorn it with NO CAMPING signs, although they have designated 3 camp sights. We choose one, Freshwater, for lunch. The resident goanna was waiting to greet us ashore. He was on the scavenge, but more curious than `pushy’ aggressive.

After morning tea it was just a short paddle [or sail] to Leggs Camp [which the NPWS insist on calling Boombah Point]. It is the narrow entry point into the Broadwater [which is now called Boombah Broadwater]. The waterway narrows to just 30 metres at the point and is spanned by a vehicular ferry. This is run by the NPWS and costs $4 for each vehicle, trailer, or motor bike crossing. The road on the eastern shore is sealed and heads to Tea Gardens. The only other way to reach the `camp’ is over rough unsealed roads from Buladelah. While I replenished my water supplies Noel and Jim enjoyed OAK malted milks.

Into the Broadwater the eastern shore route was followed, all the time looking for a suitable camp site. After about 20 minutes paddling through black swan infested waters [well a flock of 30-60 or so], the Northern Broadwater picnic area was reached. Noel found this a God send and made a dash for the Eco-Loo. It appeared that the richness of Oak milk was too much for his system. Expressing `deep heart felt sympathy’, Jim and I paddled on regardless, taking our time across the shallows and studying the shoreline. It was a sunny afternoon with just a gentle Nor’easter [in the lee of the shore]. By 4:15pm we had arrived at `The Wells’ campsite. Noel had made up the lost ground by taking a broader course with stronger wind and sail/paddled to this point. Another goanna greeting, this site had road access and already had two other tents set up. They were there for the sail boarding.

The usual camp routines followed.


The overnight stay was not without its drama. At some stage it started to rain. I could hear and see the drops on my tent. Hastily space was made for an expected visit from Jim. He arrived `poste haste’ as the drops had past straight through his mesh cover and got him in the face. Silly ol’ bugger will remember his tent fly next time! The rain only lasted a few minutes. The remainder of the night was uneventful. I have since wondered whether or not the drops might have been some practical joke somehow played by Noel.

Apart from a bit of damp gear, damp from dew more than rain, the morning routine went as normal. Just before departure, the sailboarders offered to replenish our water supplies if we needed any. They were moving on this day.

The water was “all the way from the Shire!” Knowing only one Shire well, I enquired “the Sutherland Shire?”-Yeah! Having lived in the Shire for 18 years and having started my paddling life with the Lilli Pilli Kayak Club, a few more enquires were in order. One bloke was from Lilli Pilli. I asked did he know of the Chinese family who once owned the `corner’ store on Pt Hacking Road. “Yes they still do”. The Goon Pans have three sons, all good paddlers. The older son, David was an extremely capable shipwright.

The second bloke was from Grays Point. Swallow Rock is the home waters of the LPKC and his wife paddles a TK1 with the LPKC. He knew David and had used his services. It is a small world.

So much for gossip, the course was set for Mungo Brush by Dees Corner. Cruising around the shores of Dees Corner we were entertained by the soaring ability of two giant sea eagles. Mungo Brush is the big deal on the lake. It is an enormous camping area and being closest to Tea Gardens it is the most popular. There were half a dozen vehicular campers around, relaxing in the shade or sun as took their fancy. We, on the other hand, trudged the 300 metres across the road and sand dunes to check out the coastline. There was a firm southerly breeze building. Back at lakeside smoko was enjoyed on the grassy shores. The more permanent campers [some stay 2-4 weeks] thought it more appropriate to commence `happy hour’. That seemed to be the purpose of their existence.

From Mungo the course was west across the Broadwater. For a while we were in the lee of the southern shore, but by the time we reached Sandy Point and the leads down to Tamboy, the southerly was starting to make its presence felt on the port beam. Past Sandy Point and the full force was felt. Noel sail/paddled a lower course towards the Rocky Point lead marker. Jim and I paddled a higher course trying to quarter the short steep sloppy swells for a more comfortable `ride’. By now the sun had well and truly gone and there was a type of misty rain coming on the gusts. It was so overcast, and the misty rain so dense that the sunglasses had to be dispensed with. This was necessary to be able to pick out landmarks and channel markers. Noel handled the sail crossing well and by the time Jim and I squared away to paddle down the shoreline to Rocky Point, Noel had arrived. Even from here the Myall River is not distinguishable so we had to rely on the channel markers to get us there. We were looking for the `Rivermouth’ campsite. It should have been on the shore to starboard, but nothing appeared. About half a kilometre up stream, and around a 90 degree bend we discovered the site. It was sheltered, grassed and just right. Yes, there was a goanna to meet us. That was it for the day. The next camp sites took us back over some old ground. Lunch and an afternoon of R&R went well. Jim produced his 3 litre shower pack and its use added a touch of civilization. One cruiser and 2 house boats were all the activity we witnessed. House boats poked out into the windswept Broadwater only to retreat to the quiet of the backwater.

The night was great, apart from a rain squall that sent Jim packing [literally.. he pulled his tent down and moved into more waterproof shelter]. There was even a modest campfire to encourage some yarn spinning and world problem solving.

Tuesday [I think…]

If yesterday had been a short haul, Tuesday made up for it.

Morning went to routine. We were on the water by 8:30am. The organization was improving. Yesterday’s Sou’easterly had died by the time our bows were poked into the Broadwater. The black swans were cruising the shallow westerly shoreline [our course]. There were so many that you counted them in ten’s rather than singularly. Each time a group was approached there would be a mad flurry of wings and feet as they stretched their necks and ran across the water attempting to become airborne. Some had great difficulty so I guess they were still members of the `flying school’. The sun was out once again. Jim and Noel sail/paddled on a wispy westerly land breeze while I paddled to Leggs Camp.

It was 10am, too early for `smoko’ but not for an ice cream.

No sooner were we beyond the ferry at Leggs Camp than Noel was hailed from the eastern shore. It turned out to be `Alister’, a bloke he had never met. But a NSW Sea Kayaking bloke he had communicated with by e-mail. He was delivering Mirages to the Resort. Onwards we paddled into Two Mile Lake. Unlike Sunday there was not another boat in sight. Now it was time for smoko on a nice grassy clearing with a sandy beachfront.

On the journey north other potential camp sites were checked out. Mackaways got a very good nod of acceptance, but Sunnyside, on the other hand was not much good. Although it was boat based camping, it would be almost impossible to safely bring a boat in. There was no beach and the water was littered with great logs and sawn timber just below the surface. It was obviously an industry site prior to the NPWS and the extensive wharf system had been destroyed but not removed. Further on, the mouth of Boolambayte Creek was discovered. It is just where Noel said it was a couple of days earlier when we were southward bound. A most unlikely spot at the end of a point. It was a delight to see some kingfishers sunning and bathing in a sheltered corner of the creek mouth. Although narrow, the creek is very deep at the mouth, but has a Waterways, NO NAVIGATION sign due to salvinia weed infestation. Along Boolambayte Lake, we left Sheep and Goat Islands on the port hand this time and made for Johnson’s Beach. The last stretch of this leg became choppy as the Nor’easter was beginning to strengthen and we were out of the lee of the islands. But the beach provided a nice sandy beach and a sheltered haven for lunch.

The NO CAMPING signs were once again prominent. They are fearful a tree might fall over.

From here there were only two options: Violet Hill or back into the Myall to Shelly Beach. Shelly Beach was decided upon and as expected it became a hard slog to windward into a freshening [20kt] nor’easter and rising seas. Several times we `wore’ a wave in the chest and strong spray in the face. Steady persistence rather than bruising macho paddling got us to the camp site by 3:30pm, an ideal time to make camp and enjoy some R&R. About 33km had been put behind us. With more nor’easters predicted for tomorrow, it would be an early start to beat the hard slog.


A nice bright morning, and by 7am there was a hint of a Sou’westerly breeze. This could be good news. A routine departure was made and 8:40am saw us on the lake. The southerly was freshening, so once again Noel and Jim hoisted sail. By the time we reached Long Point there was a firm to strong breeze and the lake was starting to really chop up. From Long Point to Neranie was a clear run of 9km on a NE bearing straight down the middle of the lake. Under these more favourable running conditions Neranie was reached after just under 2 hours on the water. I found the running conditions trickier than the wind in my face because you always need to be on guard for the rogue wave lifting the stern creating a broaching opportunity.

The obligatory smoko was had before the craft are unpacked and the vehicles retrieved. With all gear stowed in the car it was still a wonder how it all fitted in the kayak. There was still time left to drive into Seal Rocks [very nice- my first visit], and then travel via Smiths Lake to Forster where we enjoyed a fast food lunch.

All that remained was to cruise the highway home.

Thanks to my fellow paddlers, Noel and Jim, for their company on a very enjoyable adventure.

Katherine Gorge [57]

By Claudia Schremmer

We were touring the Northern Territory, finally being able to tick the word “seen” beside many of the Australian icons like Uluru, Kings Canyon etc. We had enjoyed a mild autumn in the Red Centre with bushwalks during the day, campfires at night and dingoes all around us and were on our way north towards Darwin. After having spent a couple of weeks in the Centre’s semi-desert, it was a relief to arrive in the wetter region of Katherine. We knew that many club members were about to have a fantastic week-end on the waters of the NSW coast – and we just couldn’t resist a leisurely Saturday paddle for ourselves.

Every now and then, estuarine crocodiles wander into Katherine River in search for unoccupied territory. Since tourism is an important market in NT, the rivers are patrolled and estuarine crocodiles are removed from the area. The canoe hire business of Katherine Gorge is just next to a croc trap… We hired our double canoe for a whole day, queuing at registration to finally receive our PFDs, paddles, and a drum for the gear. Now, the word kayak does not quite reflect the kind of boat we got: plastic, yellow, 45kg, with the bottom reinforced to drag the boat across rocks. The paddles were yellow plastic with aluminium shafts and weighed about 8 times as much as our go-fast wing paddles at home. Yet, we had the best time on the water.

Katherine Gorge is subdivided into 13 sections or gorges separated by rapids. For a full day in a canoe, the recommendation is to paddle up to the end of the third gorge. Any desire to paddle into the fourth gorge is suppressed by a long portage of 45 minutes across unworked rocks between Gorges 3 and 4.

Was there any difference between the “leisure tourists” who only paddle once a year on holidays and us, who virtually live in our kayaks? Yes, we did paddle in sync, and we did dip our paddles in the water vertically, and did use our bigger torso muscles for propulsion. Yet, we have to admit, not much faster than anybody else! With the equipment we got, it was impossible to speed. It was all about the enjoyment of the surroundings.

Enjoyment we had. It was a hot day but the water temperature was just about perfect. When we approached the first rapids, we hopped out of the boat and tried to drag it upstream. A rather unsuccessful attempt and we ended up carrying the yellow butter box on dry land. At the far end of the third gorge, we were by ourselves, everyone else had already returned. Sitting in the boiling sun on the rock’s edge after a dip in fresh water and having lunch is the essence of paradise.

What was that? That big brownish dish in the water, did you see that? Three long-necked turtles turned up to watch us have lunch and patiently wait for a bite. They escorted us back to where there was a cave in the sheer cliffs. We paddled through parts of the gorges called “Hanging Gardens” and “Butterfly Valley”. With our canoe made to survive any bad treatment, we paddled down the rapids, hitting only two rocks, and finally acknowledging their thick plastic walls.

At the next set of rapids, we proved that we were real kayakers. Another couple had capsized in the last set of rapids. The girl was washed downstream, finding shelter on a rock, where she was so confused that she didn’t know what to do and didn’t move at all. In the meantime, the guy had tried to free their boat from the rock it was washed up on. The cockpit was facing upstream, constantly being refilled with water, pressing the boat onto the rock with such force that it wouldn’t move. When we arrived, he was exhausted and desperate. It was not an easy task to swim over to help, and when Peter was only 2m away, he was washed away by the current. Luckily, he managed to not hit a rock during his involuntary journey downstream. I managed to get over to the guy, and eventually we levered the canoe over one the side of the rock, freed it, swam it to the bank and emptied it.

We made it back just in time to return the boats and retrieve our cash deposit. We had done 13km in 7.5 hours. The sun was setting in a pink sky reflected on the water. The turtles would have said good night by now, enjoying the night and awaiting another beautiful hot day.

The 2003 Hawkesbury Canoe Classic and 2003 Paddle Polaris [57]

Report from the Could’ve Been Champion Trevor Gardner

Organised paddling events are not really my cup of tea. The pleasure in chasing numbers up and down some stagnant Sydney water way has always eluded me. I was enlightened, I was a sea kayaker. Not only a sea kayaker but a Coffee Cruiser. And not the wannabe, later-day, born again name-sake coffee cruiser. But a founding member of an elite pod of south coast paddlers that mix hard core open water sea kayaking with pursuit of the perfect flat white.

Well that’s the advertised mantra anyway. As it turns out, there are a couple enclosed water, organised paddling events that have quite a bit to offer sea kayakers. In fact, I use participation and successful completion of the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic and Paddle Polaris as minimum prerequisite for any consideration of anointment into the hallowed Coffee Cruiser pod.

How do these flat water, organised and partially regulated events offer the sea kayaker any challenge? Not surprisingly, the only people that write off the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic (HCC) as a worthwhile challenge are those that have never participated. Many, if not most, of the south coast Gortex-sock-crotch-expanding bruisers have never undertaken a HCC. Why is this? Is it the fact that 111 km, paddled continuously, overnight, in the name of a worthwhile charity, is just not tough enough?

The Bruisers would have you believe that the HCC is beneath them. Reality is that they are not up to the task. Bruisers wax lyrical about crossing Bass Straight as some pinnacle. Bass Straight is only tough if you wait for the weather to be crap and then deliberately set out, just like Vince did. Or you cross in one go, paddling day and night, like Andrew McAuley. Multi-day, island hopping, fine weather crossings during daylight hours after a good nights sleep is the sort of thing that the average Grade 2 Club paddler would scoff at.

This is why the elite Coffee Cruiser pod remains just that: elite. Very few toughened souls have completed both the HCC and the Polaris Paddle. I am one of those chosen few. However, in testament to the toughness of these events, in 2003 even I succumbed to a DNF, did-not-finish, in both events. Shock horror. Hard to believe I know.

Coming off a shoulder injury in mid 2003 I had lost some overall fitness but had not migrated back to couch potato standard completely. By November I seemed to be paddling OK again. Persisting shoulder pain always disappeared once the endorphins kicked in and I didn’t seem too worse for wear. I even felt slightly superior amongst some of the 26 NSWSKC members that had entered the HCC. Being my fourth year I felt I had most of the answers. I had a game plan, one stop only at Wisemans Ferry at 65 km, then push home to the finish. Simple, elegant.

Initially paddling with Phil, Graham and Mark, I had to burn them and push out by myself after an hour or two. I then stopped on the water every two hours for a formal meal and snacked in between. Drinking and eating your way through the HCC is the answer. You can’t paddle for 11 to 15 hours without a constant supply of food and drink. Once you are behind it’s nearly impossible to make it up again.

I had a good rhythm and muscle memory for cadence and speed but my fitness did not correlate with this. Paddling by yourself can be good and bad. With no-one to pace me I pushed on hard. As I passed Dargle Ski Gardens at 41 km I started to get goal suck even though it was 24 km to Wisemans Ferry. Once at Wisemans all the hard work is done. Downhill to the finish. It seemed to take longer than I remembered to reach Wisemans Ferry. I picked up a double kayak at one point and used them for pacing. This prevented me from drinking and eating but I wasn’t worried because Wisemans and a rest was not far away.

Arriving at Wisemans Ferry in 7hr25m Lisa and Jude advised me that I was only ten minutes behind Stuart Trueman. Ten minutes behind the unfeasible legend! Averaging over 8 km/hr. Rather than being concerned by this I was quite pleased. I had felt as if I was running a little close to being lactic over the last 30 minutes or so but had still pushed it home to Wisemans. Once I arrived I lay down for a rest.

I was still lying there when Phil, Mark and Graham arrived. I had not been able to take any food or fluid at all. I had no appetite and no thirst, was not nauseus or vomiting but was unable to drink or eat. My guts were totally shut down. The lads had a good laugh at my expense and I recall being unceremoniously kicked a couple of times. Didn’t have any pain and didn’t even feel that bad. I just couldn’t eat or drink. It was to be another five hours before I could start to drink again.

I was at the finish to see the three lads arrive in 13hr30m. They looked pretty ordinary but they were paddling to the finish, I had been driven. Andrew McAuley had finished in 10hr33m and Stuart Trueman in 11hr21m in a Nadgee. Most of the NSWSKC members finished in around 12hr30min to 14hr. Peter Osman finished in 18hr54min in a Klepper folding kayak!! Peter’s effort is probably the most impressive of all. Being fit and fast and minimising time on water is all very good. Perseverance and pain for 19 hours is another thing all together. For me a DNF was a DNF. I needed to redeem myself.

On to the December 2003 Paddle Polaris at beautiful Tuross Lakes on the south coast. Stomping ground of the Old Sea Dog himself, Norm Sanders. This was the second Paddle Polaris, following the successful inaugural event on Lake Eucumbene in 2002. The Polaris Mountain Bike Challenge and Polaris Urban bike challenge have been running for years and attract hundreds of serious competitors. These are both sort of rogaining on bikes type events. The Paddle Polaris is pretty much rogaining on water but with all the features suited to sea kayakers.

Mark Berry and I had won our class in 2002 (NSW Seakayaker Issue 52). Finally we had found some benefit from getting older. Having the event at Tuross Lakes meant that there would be some surf options available. Breaking out across the famous Tuross Bar and surf landings. All good stuff for hard core sea kayakers. Many of the Paddle Polaris teams looked as if body surfing would intimidate them so we figured we had the edge before we even started.

The concept of the Paddle Polaris is that over two days you can plan your own route and paddle / row around a large estuary or lake aiming to reach as many checkpoints as possible. Checkpoints have variable values. There is a seven hour window on the first day and six hour on the second. You have to be totally self sufficient with respect to food, water and camping equipment. Everyone camps at a designated spot overnight. You are not given the map reference for the camping area until on the water on the first day.

Although primarily a paddling event, many of the checkpoints are on land. Some are a short distance on flat ground, others at the tops of mountain peaks. There are always many more checkpoints than the two member team can complete and so each team must plan a route that suits them. Avoiding the surf without penalty is possible but looks a little lame to my way of thinking. There are long paddles to high yield checkpoints and lots of close low yield checkpoints. The trick is navigating about the water body for seven hours, ending up at the camping area right on time and hitting as many checkpoints as possible. Penalties for being late at the end of the day are savage.

The beauty of the Paddle Polaris is that everyone is in with a very good chance. The Polaris is run at a new location every year so prior knowledge does not come into the equation. Plus you get to explore a new waterway every year. An average Grade 2 paddler with self rescue skills and good tactics can easily beat the super fit paddling athletes with a poor game plan. A rogaining world champion was in one of the teams in the 2003 Paddle Polaris. They accumulated the most points on the first day, only to lose the lot after arriving late at the campsite. They also ran more than they paddled, an option that was possible at Tuross but not at Lake Eucumbene.

After the Le Mans start Mark and I paddled the short distance to receive the take-out card. The night before we had plotted all the potential checkpoints onto the topographic map. The points that are active and their value are different on each day. The trick is that you cannot plan your attack until on the water with the daily take-out card.

We decided on a plan that involved a big initial push out through the surf and down the coast, landing at a small beach. This put us in the general area of several high yield checkpoints. This was not the conservative approach but would have us back into the lake system by lunch with lots of points. All we had to do then was head for the camping area and pick off the checkpoints along the way.

All went well. After landing on the beach through pretty challenging surf we hoofed it up the nearby hill. On the way back down we decided to bush bash down a spur to a lake from where we could follow the shore to a high yield checkpoint. From there it was wading / walking through a swamp to another beach. Another checkpoint and then a casual 15 minute jog back to the kayaks.

The surf exit was a little more exciting than I like but we were both on our way back up the coast. The hard work was down, we had truck loads of points and plenty of time. All we had to do was negotiate the bar and then paddle a short distance to the café at the boatshed. Over a flat white we would plan the second half of the day. Surfing across the bar was routine. I spend many weekends surfing on the bar at Bundeena for fun and the two metre surf at Tuross was like another day at the office. Like Fishkiller says, there are ten good reasons why landing across the surf is easier than breaking out.

I was holding a high brace while riding a biggish wave in sideways after broaching. I overcooked it and flopped over into the white water. I let everything settle down and started to set up to roll. The next wave hit the front of the kayak while I was upside down and swung the nose around. The result was that my right arm was pulled up and outside of the “box” and my right shoulder was dislocated. I was upside down, in the surf with a dislocated shoulder.

I had not wet exited in anger for over two years. I tried to roll up anyway with the expected result. A special kind of pain confirmed that the shoulder was unserviceable. I popped the skirt with my left hand and then hung onto the paddle. Now follows an interesting lesson. I am one of the safety nazis that believes that you have to have your safety gear on your person, not on your boat. Others argue you never leave your boat. I was out of my boat and there was no other way around that. I also subscribe to the paddle leash.

By hanging onto the paddle I was able to stay with the kayak. The leash put me at safe distance and as each waves hit the boat I was pulled along. I foolishly tried to put my shoulder back by hanging onto the cockpit and allowing a wave to hit the boat and pull on my shoulder. That sort of pain was a bit special and I only tried it once.

I was still hundreds of metres from shore and deciding on the best management plan. I would ditch the kayak if I had to because I had all the safety gear I needed on my PFD. My preference was to stay with the boat and paddle and hope we got washed in and not out. Initially I was heading down the beach. My only interest in a rapid recovery was that it gets far more difficult to reduce the shoulder once the spasm really sets in.

Mark had realised that I was in the water and he was working his way in my direction. In these situations you have to presume you are on your own. I did not expect Mark to hang about in the surf but it was good see him approaching. He was about to give me an earful for being out of my kayak when he saw the look on my face. That white, strained, wide eyed look.

The details elude me but we made to shore without losing any gear. I got Mark to pull the shoulder back in and he towed me back across the lake entrance to the caravan park. For a short time we considered the concept of towing me all the way to the campsite. We had enough points as it turned out such that we would only have been fourth last for the day.

The camping area was on a dairy property up the river from Tuross Lake. Half the fun is hanging out with all the competitors at the end of the day. The Paddle Polaris is an event not miss. Well run, stacks of prizes, interesting paddling and a chance to use the range of skills that sea kayakers take for granted. The event director, Huw Kingston, even succumbed to constant badgering about the current lack of certificates and presented me with the, “The Inaugural Trevor Gardner Certificate Appreciation Award”, incorporating “Coffee Cruiser of the Year”. I was totally humbled and this award now takes pride of place on the family wall of fame. I suspect you will find it easier to win the Paddle Polaris by paddling than to meet the criteria for my namesake Award.

South coast hard men Dave Winkworth and Laurie Geoghegan won the Veterans singles class and came 8th overall. Again I had a DNF but this time took Mark with me. He was very gracious about it all. I think he figured I had not deliberately dislocated my shoulder so he went easy on me.

2003 was not my year. Two DNFs, lots of lessons learnt and a good dose of humble pie. A could’ve been champion. I did make Coffee Cruiser of the Year, a title providing not insignificant consolation. I highly recommend both the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic ( and the Paddle Polaris ( to all NSWSKC members. They are the two must do’s on my calendar every year.