Flotsam [59]

Where Fiction is Stranger Than Truth

This edition of Flotsam acknowledges the contributions, ideas, and idle gossip of nameless members

Not Roadworthy, Not Seaworthy

A Serious Flotsam Editorial

In late December a trailer-born and, therefore, upside down sea kayak was crippled even before it hit the water on the road to Wilson’s Promontory.

The problem? The rudder came adrift. This simple event caused mass panic and even suggestions that the paddler pull out of the trip until it was fixed.

Over the last decade Flotsam has lost count of the number of ‘rudder problem’ stories within the Club – rudders jamming so they can’t be deployed, cables stretching so the rudder turns only one direction, cables snapping so rudder gets stuck in angled position, pedals breaking, rudders damaged in surf, cables damaging fingers during surf incidents, sharp rudder bits injuring innocent bystanders in surf landings, rudders damaged on the car … all in all a litany of disaster that surely deserves more scrutiny?

But it’s a sad fact that here in Australia and overseas sea kayak manufacturers continue, almost exclusively, to make boats that are compromised without the aid of a vulnerable piece of fibreglass or metal on the rear end. Flotsam is not sure if this is lazy design, in that a rudder can ‘hide’ a woeful hull shape, or perhaps a manufacturing choice given that a rudder assembly adds extras to the cost of a kayak. Whatever the case, it clearly represents an unnecessary area of weakness for a properly designed sea kayak.

And of course, this situation is not just the fault of the manufacturers. With human nature being what it is, rudders, pedals, cables and ‘complexity’ appeals to and even reassures today’s ‘fast food’ consumer as they put their money down. But purchasing a sea kayak with rudder can be equated to buying a car with auto transmission, with the consequence in both cases that ‘manual’ skills are never properly developed. Let’s not forget that our ancient and skilled forebears in the frozen waters of the Arctic knew nothing of rudders.

To Flotsam’s knowledge, there is only one brave Australian manufacturer that refuses to add rudders and skegs to its small range of lively and invigorating sea kayaks, and this company has, sadly, done it tough in recent years. But perhaps there are better times ahead as signs emerge that the average Aussie paddler slowly, ever so slowly, realises that when on the water, there’s more to life than an automatic Holden ….

Explorer Shares Surge

Shares in the hard pressed Inuit Explorer Corporation (IEC)* have surged on the news that Club member John Jakimyszyn had become the first paddler to take the radical leap from his market leading sea kayak to the quirky and individual Explorer. IEC stocks had fallen sharply following well publicised quality problems in 2003, but these have now appeared to have been put to right at the factory.

Mr Jakimyszyn told Flotsam … “Well, basically, I knew I had to do something. I had noticed I kept falling asleep in my kayak, unless I was trying a turn, in which case I would quickly become exhausted … so thought I’d try something a bit radical. And paddling an Explorer, well it is different and very satisfying and has the hardest chines on the market! And no rudder, no skeg, no cheating .. how good is that!!!”

Meanwhile John has promised a full review of the Explorer in the next edition.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

You cant be very good if you paddle one of those
observation by 4 year old Aysha Geoghegan to Dee Ratcliffe as she tended to Harry Havu’s kayak at a recent club event in Bateman’s Bay.

Swap wanted

I would like to swap my sea kayak, in top condition (and $1000) for an Inuit Explorer (any condition) and some lessons on how to paddle a rudderless sea kayak. Please contact Harry Havu 0469 696969

Flotsam Product News

Veteran paddler, kayak designer and inventor Mike Snoad has come up with yet another technological breakthrough to further extend his kayaking career. The 82 year old Nelligen resident has recently been troubled by the common heart condition poorythmia, but the tough old codger has decided that even this won’t stop him getting on the water and paddling big days.

Snoad told Flotsam “When its playing up, my ticker’s all over the place .. one minute its hammering along at 200, the next it’s stopped beating at all! Obviously this is a bit concerting, especially when I’m 20 kms from the nearest landing spot! So I thought, bugger this, and have rigged a small defibrillation device, which I call the Zapper, that attaches to my heart rate monitor chest band. The device is powered by my GPS and when needed can deliver just enough voltage to reset everything and get the thing pumping normally again.”

Flotsam asked if the senior paddler intends to resume his full expeditionary career with the aid of his new equipment. “No worries!” said a confident Snoad “The beauty of the Zapper is that anyone can operate it .. so even in a scenario where, say the pod is packing up camp, but my ticker has stopped and I’m lying helpless in my tent, someone just needs to flick the switch, stand clear, and I’ll be on the water in minutes!”

Although Mr Snoad has not yet thought through the commercial application of his invention, given the rapidly ageing profile of the NSWSKC, ailing club veterans, Norm Sanders (92), Peter Osman (74) and Dirk Stuber (62) have expressed interest in the product. Snoad added, “Yep, they’ve all rung me to get a price, and the bastards all want a 10% pensioner discount!!”

Rare Condition Strikes Paddlers

The Christmas to New Year paddle around Wilson’s Promontory was a historic club first for the NSWSKC with a female majority in the five person pod. But although socially the trip was a great success, Flotsam has learnt that this groundbreaking gender mix had unintended consequences that seriously threatened the success of the mission.

Although the first few days passed fairly uneventfully, unknown to the two males, the menstrual cycles of their female companions had well and truly synchronised. This is a fairly common phenomenon when females of similar age spend time together, and the three women had spent hours together pre trip doing fitness training. But nothing could prepare the men for their coming ordeal as their basic but vulnerable male physiology slowly succumbed to the pervasive and complex hormonal brew that was all around them.

And so it was that early on Day 6, during a tough slog to Tin Mine Cove, both men experienced excruciating pain and distress at the rapid onset of the phenomenon of a ‘phantom period’. This condition, scientifically known as Male Empathic Period Syndrome (MEPS), is a distant and rare cousin of the better known ‘male phantom pregnancy’. According to the latest research, MEPS can only occur when men live for a period of time among domineering and sexually aggressive ‘alpha’ females, and only then when the men have ‘sensitive/caring’ personality types. Unfortunately for our two victims, that was exactly the scenario at Wilson’s Prom on 31st December 2004.

On their return to Sydney, Flotsam spoke to the two men, the nurturing Harry Havu and the truly understanding Paul Loker. “My goodness”, said Havu. “It was quite rough that day, and then it came on .. suddenly I felt so bloated and was doubled up with the pain – I could hardly lift the paddle! And the cramps .. they were running right across my lower abdomen. But worst of all, I just felt so lumpy and unattractive. I just wanted to capsize to end it all …!”

Loker told Flotsam, “Well I probably wasn’t as badly affected as Harry, but I suddenly had no energy, very tender breasts, a thumping headache, and felt very emotional .. for example, when some salt water splashed on my sun glasses I had this amazing urge to burst into tears! Anyhow we were in trouble … it’s lucky the girls were there to help out and calm us down, otherwise we would have totally lost it out there … it was damn scary!”

A reflective Havu added, “If I thought my body was going to react like that again, I’d have second thoughts about paddling and cohabiting with so many women on future trips. But the experience has certainly increased my respect for the ladies … how they put up with it each month beats me! I tell you Mr Flotsam, I’d rather punch 50 kms into a headwind than go through that again!”

A sombre Loker added “Yes, I reckon at the very least we need separate male and female camping areas to reduce the risk of us blokes getting MEPS on longer trips .. the Club Executive needs to come up with a policy on this as a matter of urgency!”

Flotsam attempted to talk to the tough and heroic trio of female paddlers, but all requests were politely but firmly declined on the grounds that they were “ladies” and “didn’t wish to talk about that sort of thing.”

The Flotsam Celebrity Interview

In the latest interview in this series, record-breaking sea adventurer, Andrew McAuley took time out from his media commitments for a thorough grilling by Flotsam

Flotsam – “Mr McAuley, thank you very much for coming in ..”

McAuley – “It’s a pleasure .. and please call me Andrew”.

Flotsam – “Sure .. well, obviously we want to talk about your latest epic .. Cape York to Gove non stop.”

McAuley – “Yes, more than 400kms, a big crossing ..”

Flotsam – “Just for the record, how long did it take?”

McAuley – “Six days ..”

Flotsam – “That’s a long time in a sea kayak ..”

McAuley – “Yes, it certainly felt like it ..”

Flotsam – “Now Andrew, you have of course returned to civilisation to great acclaim, but the trip obviously took it’s toll ..”

McAuley – “It was tough..”

Flotsam – “and the media have been fascinated … for instance, Channel Nine showed several graphic photos of your sore ridden body ..”

McAuley – “Well, they probably overdid that aspect a bit ..”

Flotsam – “Indeed Andrew. Although those photos obviously rated well for Nine, do you think they were a good thing for sea kayaking?”

McAuley – “Sorry I don’t know what do you mean? ….”

Flotsam – “Well, they showed a condition that looked like a sickening medieval pox, or even a nasty form of leprosy .. Is that the sort of image we want to project out there?”

McAuley – “But that was relevant – part of the challenge was to overcome the discomfort and pain ..”

Flotsam – “True, but on a similar vein, the bodily functions issue also got a good run, didn’t it ..?”

McAuley – “Yes, I must admit I was surprised by the level of interest in that ..”

Flotsam – “So you don’t think you provoked that interest ..?”

McAuley – “I’m sorry?”

Flotsam – “Well, a large part of your media roadshow seems to be devoted to showing images of your toileting achievements during the trip ..”

McAuley – “I guess I’m just trying to give people an idea of the difficulties, the ergonomics, the …”

Flotsam – “But the photo shown on Channel 7’s Today Tonight of that .. how can I put this .. motion, in the container – wasn’t that just a bit too much detail for a public that was very probably eating dinner..?”

McAuley – “Look, there were limited photo opportunities out there, I felt it needed to be recorded, OK ..”

Flotsam – “True, but Andrew, that photo does conjure up images … when this is over aren’t you worried that you will not be remembered as an extraordinary kayaker, but just some eccentric sicko squatting over a potty in the middle of the ocean?”

McAuley – “Not at all .. that’s ..that’s totally unfair!”

Flotsam – “Is it? Your critics are saying that when people think of sea kayaking, they won’t now think of the adventure, the skill, the daring. No .. Thanks to Andrew McAuley, the man in the street will only picture a container of poo!”

McAuley – “But ..”

Flotsam – “Is that the sort of PR we sea kayakers want? Will that help us grow the sport .. attract sponsors? Do you accept any responsibility at all for this?”

McAuley – “No I don’t! I fail to see any connection. Now please, can we move on …”

Flotsam – “But don’t you think that all this bizarre publicity might have consequences, albeit unintended, for other sea kayakers ..?”

McAuley – “No, why should it?”

Flotsam – “Well, apparently kayakers from all over the country are reporting that the public are giving them a wide birth at launch sites and even in camping areas …”

McAuley – “But …”

Flotsam – “In other words, treating them like lepers who have not been toilet trained .. that can hardly be a coincidence surely?”

McAuley – “This is ridiculous! Now look …!”

Flotsam – “and club members are telling Flotsam that even close friends refuse to shake hands since the revelation on Channel 10 that you didn’t even use toilet paper ..!”

McAuley – “Right, that’s it! This interview is over ..!”

Flotsam – “But Mr McAuley .. there’s so much more to talk about .. your suppurating pustules, marine haemorrhoids, salty groin syndrome .. Mr McAuley …!”

Note: This interview is entirely fictitious and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

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