Pollyanna Wilde in the Whitsundays [64]

By Gillian Wilde

Faced with the inexorably positive attitudes of my fellow travellers, I find myself being forced to revisit a recent 12 day sea kayaking trip through the extended chain of islands off the Queensland coast known as the Whitsundays. Forced to revisit it and see it all through a Pollyanna prism and now it is past, to recollect it with a tenderness to equal that of my bottom during the actual trip. And I have discovered that nothing is better for one’s self esteem than survival. Indeed many sea kayaking trips are deemed a grand success on the fact alone that no-one died. It is known as the bottom rung of limbo-dancing optimism.

To be fair it is not difficult to force a positive dimension onto the first day as we were bathed in the glow of the dawning sun as it emerged from behind the contours of Keswick Island and brought with it a glorious day on a glassy sea. We had set off from Bucasia, which despite its name is a delightful spot, at around 4.30am. We had been most originally awakened some time before that by a large and lusty band of whistling ducks, paddling energetically on the thin roof of our cabin in their efforts to be the first to see the sun rise and warm their big pink webbed feet. We were also encouraged to rise early before the tide went out and exposed acres of sand bank and mud flat that we would then be forced to trundle over, staggering under sea kayaks weighed down with the vast coffers of supplies necessary for twelve days’ island hopping. As 90 per cent of the islands have not been endowed with fresh water, our loads included 50kg of fresh water

As we wended our way, somewhat precariously considering the weight of the boat, out into the darkness, the Cyclume tube attached to Dee’s mast waved gently at us like a star in the East, and full of hope, we were on our way. Day one was exceptionally successful, especially for Pete who could have drowned if his malfunctioning skeg had let in more water than it did. We reached a tropical beach lined with waving casuarinas and alive with butterflies and found ourselves almost in paradise. All it needed was a Bounty bar.

To be honest it is more difficult to pollyanna-ise day two as it was hard to stand upright on the shore in the wind and consequently somewhat difficult to comprehend the group decision to embark into two-metre-plus waves flogging themselves round the point. But as the front member of the Mirage double kayak team I had little choice. Philosophically it is like being the rear end of a pantomime pony although I probably end up somewhat wetter, and I do have the dubious advantage of being able to see where I am going, although there were moments when I would have preferred not.

A major positive outcome of day two was the fact we survived the crossing from Keswick to Cockermouth despite being partially submerged and completely waterlogged all the way. We also managed to zigzag our way over each and every wave and trough, and so hopefully may turn out to be champions in terms of distance covered. As well, we managed to avoid a collision with a yacht under gib sail which changed course after it was awakened by Mike’s shouted greetings. Cockermouth beach was hiding round a number of small islets and welcomed us with turtles and calm, a great end to the day.

On day three, psychologically I found it helped enormously to believe we were heading for Island A (the nearest one) when, in fact, we were going to that F Island 32km away. We also had a strong dose of good cheer with the launch of our kite, and we ploughed merrily through the waves for at least three minutes of bliss unblemished by any sort of paddling exertion. It lasted until Rose capsized and we ground to a halt from which our kite never completely recovered. (It is good to be able to record it did fly again happily on a later beach so it suffered no lasting damage to its kitey ego.) We made it to Thomas Island and more doses of good cheer were shared celebrating Lippy’s birthday on Naked Lady Beach with his new Penthouse friend, the amusement aroused by the sexual postures of party hooters, Dee’s delicious food and much mirth and laughter. A thoroughly worthwhile conclusion to that day.

Basking in its seven metres of stream-lined glory, the name of the Mirage double kayak gives a clue to its essential enigma – it carries two paddlers and yet only has room for one set of luggage. Marriages have foundered on less. Remember too the 50kg of fresh water deemed necessary to keep us alive if not clean. And in a further irony, toiletries were an early sacrifice, which is why I ended up with Rastafarian dreadlocks hanging like salted bacon rashers around my face and building up a layer of greasepaint that even the world famous exfoliating qualities of the silica at Whitehaven Beach were unable to remove. Fortunately there was room for the gin and tonic.

Almost falling into the category of mirages were the pretty fluttering sails of our fellow paddlers dancing on far horizons as we slogged manfully (back end) and ponily (front) minus our colourful kite, at the rear. People dropped by and we occasionally enjoyed the company of Dee, or Margot paddling with great integrity also minus a sail. We were generally escorted by the valiant and invincible Vince who deemed it his (much appreciated) responsibility to cheer us on.

Overcoming an almost overwhelming allergy to salt water and sand which developed during the trip, we discovered beaches consisting totally of coral fragments that crunched in a friendly fashion as we staggered up great cyclonic spoil heaps clutching our kayaks as though they were our dearest possessions.

Life perked up enormously underwater and armed with anything to keep us warm we entered the world of old man turtle and liked what we saw (apart from the sight of Pete, who despite enjoying himself enormously, looked like a cross between Don Quixote and the personification of cold). Lippy and Margot took to the water like dolphins, John was unable to catch any crays and for a short time I joined a submarine squad of squid who disguised themselves as Spanish flamenco dancers until their cover was blown. Afterwards, we lolled on the beach like basking walruses in the small quota of Queensland sun that we were permitted and life was indeed good.

So overall what were the positive seams that threaded their watery way through our trip? Rose said her toenails grew faster on the sea. But more than anything, the place: the emerald islands rising like Japanese woodcuts mislaid in Oz; rain falling like jewels on the surface of the black sea; Pentecost’s prow heaving skywards; joyfully racing Raggamuffin, complete with its complement of yellow-coated and miserably wet pepper pots, up Solway Passage; bouncing around the Pinnacles on N.E. Hook; the turtles peering slowly out of the waves and blessing our passing. Secondly, the group, each one – Dee, Pete, Vincible, my lovely John, Margot and Lippy, the moonstruck Mike and Rose – all eager in their own way to suck every iota of marrow out of life’s fish bones (metaphorically speaking, we caught none). Yes, the group that hooed and hurrahed hilariously as we heaved the boats up and down the beaches and found so much to laugh about and be content with. It almost persuaded me that I had, after all, enjoyed the trip, even if I had ended up with someone else’s biceps.

View From The Other Side [64]

Random ripples on dipping the toe in the pool of paddling philosophy

By Trevor Costa

Ask any beach goer, they will tell you there is a line in the surf that a swimmer should not stray beyond. Stand on any beach and look out at the waves, you will see this line where the light becomes dark blue. This marks the other side, the dark depths where fish shimmer and sway to forces not friendly to humans.

The poet Hart Crane wrote of the dangers that await the careless beach goer, beyond a certain line in the surf, beyond which all is lost, “there is a line. You must not cross nor ever trust beyond it…The bottom of the sea is cruel.”

Ask any sea kayaker, they will tell you that they cross this line all the time. But press the point, push beyond the bravado and some may admit that it still doesn’t feel right out there, beyond the surf. Some may say it’s like being on the other side of a mirror. Where the backs of glassy waves race away, to small figures on the beach, looking back out at you.

But still there is comfort on the other side in this weird alternate world. Sitting in your little boat that same line looks different, you can still see it, but now it’s where the dark becomes light blue. And instead of marking the dark depths it promises warm shallows and soft white sand.

Ask any fish, if they could talk, or perhaps a whale. Would they say that they stare at that line and shiver in fear of what lies on the other side? That this is the line that they should not stray beyond, unless all is lost, then to thrust themselves across to the other side? Is there a whale poet who writes, “there is a line. You must not cross nor ever trust beyond it…The sand of the beach is cruel”?

Note to self: If I happen to look back and see myself on the beach, I must remember to wave.

Trans-Tasman Trip Preparations [64]

NSW Sea Kayak Club members, James Castrission and Justin Jones are planning to kayak from Australia to New Zealand later this year. Sue Webber asked James for the latest news on their trip.

How are your plans going?

Plans are kicking along nicely. As with any large expedition, there have been countless ups and downs. So long as we keep Auckland on the horizon we’ll get there! We reached the critical turning point with funding toward the end of July which has ensured that the expedition is definitely on for the coming summer. We now have a great team of sponsors on board including Australian Geographic, Resi Mortgage Corporation, Suunto, Icebreaker, Kokotat, FGI and Pittarak.

Have you got all the sponsorship you wanted?

We are a little over half way with the sponsorship. Gear sponsors have been fantastic, however, sourcing the funding for this Trans Tasman kayak is proving considerably more difficult. Since returning from Bass Strait in April, we have committed full time to this project. Resi Mortgage Corporation and Australian Geographic have been fantastic in providing a significant chunk of the funding to construct the kayak. We have numerous tiers for sponsorship and would appreciate some fellow sea kayakers digging deep and give us a helping hand! Please shoot us an email: info@crossingtheditch.com.au and we can get a sponsorship proposal to you immediately.

Do you have the kayak and equipment sorted out?

The kayak is currently being constructed. We are in the process of sourcing all the equipment that we have identified as necessary for this expedition.

What are you taking?

We will take everything that is needed to be completely self sufficient for over 60 days.

Some of the equipment will include:

  • Water desalinators
  • Satellite phone
  • Tracking Beacons
  • 406MHz GPS EPIRBs
  • GPS
  • Safety raft
  • Survival suits
  • Radar Transponder
  • VHF Radio
  • Sleeping gear
  • 200kg food
  • 250-300litres water
  • Solar panels
  • Batteries
  • Bilge systems
  • Max Power Methanol fuel cell
  • Music player (kept waterproof by H2O Audio casings)

How will you set the kayak up?

Imagine a traditional double kayak, we’ve added 3m to its stern, behind the rear paddler, where we have a pod-like cabin that is 95cm high (interior) and 1 metre wide at its widest beam. Looking forward from the cockpits we have another storage area that has been made significantly larger than your normal forward compartment. This section is approximately an additional 300mm deeper than a traditional kayak.

How will you carry the necessary food and water?

We will be taking food for 60 days based on a high caloric intake of approx 6000 calories / per day. This diet will consist of dehydrated meals, power bars, muesli, scroggin etc. We will be taking flameless heating rations so as to avoid the added excitement of having to deal with a flame on board a small vessel. It is important to be able to heat meals to provide warmth and boost morale.

The boat will have between 250-350L of water along the hull. This is one of the factors assisting in the crafts self self-righting ability. We will have two water desalination units on board to facilitate a budgeted 5L water per person per day.

Do you have a leaving date set?

9 December from the Australian National Maritime Museum, Cockle Bay, Sydney. Hope to see you down there!

How much will when you leave depend on the weather?

The timing of the expedition will be facilitated by Roger Badham, one of Australia’s foremost ocean weather forecasters. Ideally, we’d like westerly assistance to get us of off the East Australian continental shelf before we get hit by heavy weather.

What sort of weather conditions would be best for the crossing?

Nice and flat like it is down a river!

How are you preparing physically for the trip? Have you been sleeping in the kayak?

The kayak began construction at the start of August and is scheduled to be completed mid-October. Sea trials and testing will then begin. Getting out on the water kayaking is the number one way to train. In addition to that we have been doing extensive cross training. This involves anything from targeted gym sessions, rock climbing, running, tramping, cycling etc. For any paddler who is serious about improving their training – the Suunto T6 is a great tool. With its GPS POD you can analyse speeds, distances, heart rates, training zones and EPOC. In addition, an eye can be kept on the weather when offshore with its barometer.

What have you leant from other people’s attempts at this crossing?

Preparation is the key. No stone can be left unturned in addressing the issues that will be faced out there. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. We have spent numerous hours studying large kayaking expeditions and small vessel passages. Inspiration has been sought from the likes of Peter Bray’s 2001 Atlantic Crossing, Ed Gilllet’s Pacific trip and Andrew McCaluey’s Bass Strait direct and his Gulf crossing. For those paddlers who enjoy a good read you can’t go past Hannes Lindemann’s “Alone at Sea”. What an epic tale back in the 1950’s.

What do you think will be the most difficult aspect of the journey?

Being holed up in the cabin during heavy weather. It will feel like being trapped like the Beaconsfield miners, but being thrown around as if we were in a washing machine.

What are you most looking forward to?

Getting out on the water and doing some paddling… a lot of paddling.

How long have you been members of NSWSKC?

One and a half years.

Has being a club member assisted you in any way?

Not yet. Come on guys, jump on board and help us out! Please shoot us an email at: info@crossingtheditch.com.au or give James a call on 0402 904 334.

For more information, please check out www.crossingtheditch.com.au.

NSWSKC Training [64]

By David Hipsley

Big thanks to Harry for his time and effort, on and off the water, restructuring and organising this year’s Sea Skills Training.

With so many people joining the club, enrolling to upgrade their skills by spending a day or weekend with instructors, and networking with peers to develop those new skills the demand for training over the last few years has been fantastic.

We hope those who take on this training have in their sights the goal to go for the “Sea Skills qualification”. For those who have been successful, congratulations. If you are still thinking about it “go for it” as it opens up so many options for you. These include:

  • Access to a wider range of club paddles and activities
  • A greater enjoyment knowing you have a few more skills
  • The opportunity to keep improving and refining those skills
  • Increased networking with kayaking friends
  • An enhanced ability to promote the club and what it has to offer the sea kayaking community

For those enrolled in club training over the next few months it would be great to hear stories about your training and, in particular, to receive any photos you may have from these sessions. Please email photographs to: training2006[at]nswseakayaker.asn.au

President’s Report [64]

By Elizabeth Thomson

Dear All,

Well, thanks for the vote of confidence at the AGM. Here I am, back as President for another year with a Committee of some oldies and some newbies. Staying on are Mike Steinfeld as Secretary/Treasurer, Peter Kappelmann as Internet Coordinator, Sue Webber as Editor and Stepan Meyn, this time as the Trips Coordinator. And the new Committee members are David Hipsley as Training Coordinator, Adrian Clayton as Vice President and Rob Richmond as RnR Coordinator. I am looking forward to working with the Committee over the next year and will endeavour to continue to lead the Club in an open, transparent manner, with a view to responding to members’ needs and requests.

There isn’t really that much to report apart from the discussions and resolutions of the AGM, which are printed in this issue. So, rather, I’ll take this opportunity to indicate what my intentions are for this year.

Firstly, the Committee will continue to liase with NSW Canoeing in relation to the AC Review and report back to members as events unfold.

Secondly, we will organise the RnR for the last weekend in March, 2007 at Bateman’s Bay, as well as begin the preparations for our second Water Aid Race in August 2007. And as opportunities arise, we will plan other Club events, such as a possible Antarctica talk later this year.

Another initiative that I would like to continue with is further developing the contact with other kayak clubs in Australia. We will be formally inviting members from other clubs to our RnR. Further, one idea on the drawing board is a combined club get together some time next year with the Victorians somewhere south, close to the Victorian border. We are also looking at having something on the far north coast as well. With so many of our members making the pilgrimage to Queensland every year, it seems sensible to build closer ties with our Queensland comrades.

And finally, the Committee will continue to offer a wide range of Club trips and training, and produce a magazine full of Club culture.

See you on the water.


Lizzie to Brissie [64]

Mixed fortunes along the coast

By Adrian Clayton

Lizzie to Brissie — rolls off the tongue quite nicely. Doing the distance in a kayak requires a bit more effort. This trip provided a mixture of triumph (of humble proportions) and tragedy. After completing a coastal expedition from Sydney to Forster (just under 300km) mid 2004, I began thinking about doing the leg from Forster to Brisbane, at 680km, more than double the distance.

The 2004 trip was mostly completed solo. With that experience behind me and the greater distance of the intended trip, I reckoned it would be preferable to have a paddling partner. I floated the idea with a few of my kayaking companions with the result that Bruce Baldwin, a highly skilled whitewater kayaker living close by in Krambach, put his hand up to join me.

I’d not done a lot of paddling with Bruce so before finally committing to each other to do the trip we did a few sessions on the ocean together including an overnighter out of Port Stephens to Broughton Island and back. Bruce’s whitewater skills easily transferred to sea kayaking and given the seamanship he’d gained from his time in the merchant navy I was confident that he would be an excellent companion for the trip.

With Bruce came the great benefit of the involvement of his wife Maggie who agreed to provide land support for much of our journey. For the first and last weeks Maggie (accompanied by Mini, the ever-faithful family spaniel) drove the Baldwin VW campervan from campsite to campsite and was also there with a hot drink and a feed for most of the interim shore breaks we made along the way. This meant that for much of the trip we had the benefit of kayaks that were lightly laden.

Nearly twelve months to the day after completing the Sydney to Forster trip, we put-in at Elizabeth Beach in ideal conditions which we enjoyed for the first four days. Light winds, mostly assisting, a gentle swell and, at times, glassy seas made for a very comfortable ride. During this period our beach landings and breakouts were made without difficulty. We were able to paddle close to the headlands and these provided some of the most memorable moments of the whole trip. I thought my home territory, with iconic paddling destinations such as Myall Lakes, Seal Rocks and Broughton Island could never be beaten. Boy, was I wrong. Diamond Head was a real gem with the coastline between Port Macquarie and South West Rocks (taking in the quaintly-named Delicate Nobby) even better. The stretch from Hungry Head, Point Korogoro and Hat Head, with its little back bays, secluded beaches and some brilliant rock features was the absolute stand out.

Conditions on the sixth day, when we started from South West Rocks, became more testing but created little cause for concern. Urunga was the day’s objective. When we reached Nambucca Heads for a lunch break Bruce decided to hitch a ride with Maggie. Conditions had progressively deteriorated as the day unfolded but were still well within my capabilities. I donned a cag for the first time in the trip and set off for Urunga on my own. Within an hour I was off the low headland of Valla Beach and was noticing lots of bombora activity extending a fair way out from the point. I picked my way gingerly through and thought I’d cleared the area when a wave rose sharply alongside breaking on me with sufficient force to send me careering towards a rocky shore at a rapid rate. With head well and truly immersed I hung on for what seemed an eternity until the wave released me less than 50 metres from the rocks. I turned the boat around as quickly as I could and, rather shaken, headed out to sea pronto. The rest of the leg was littered with bombies and I made sure that I kept a respectable distance from them.

After a rest day in Urunga, Maggie left us to go south to attend the wedding anniversary of some old friends, arranging to meet up with us about five days later in Evans Head. With fully-laden kayaks and in more challenging conditions, Bruce and I continued our journey. The swell had increased sufficiently enough for us to regularly lose sight of each other in the troughs – even though Bruce was carrying a jib-style sail (and now getting great assistance from it) with a fixed mast nearly two metres high.

Mooney Beach, not far north of Coffs Harbour was our first campsite sans Maggie. A nice private camping area fronts the beach and a little creek adjacent saves a 200-metre portage at high tide (which we had to wait for on arrival but caught the next morning on our way out). Getting in to the beach through the surf had the adrenalin well and truly pumping and my timing wasn’t good enough to avoid getting a very wet and bumpy ride. Bruce’s entry was more sedate. The surf increased overnight and I ended up having a swim at my first tilt at breaking out. Again, Bruce handled the challenge with greater aplomb leaving me rather miffed given that I regarded myself as the more experienced sea kayaker.

The next few days had us paddling in mostly favourable conditions. We made overnight stopovers at Horeshoe Bay (the prettiest campsite for the whole trip), Sandon River and Iluka.

Evans Head was the planned stopover after Iluka and the place we were to meet up with Maggie again. It was this day that I’d introduced Bruce to the virtue of including ginger in his early morning cuppa. Unfortunately, his digestive system didn’t agree with my views about ginger and shortly after we were back on the ocean he was feeling off colour. The forecast for the day was for a 15 to 20 knot nor’easter to kick in at some stage in the afternoon. I’d previously told Bruce that we were in for a pretty easy day – we only had to do 28km. Around about the 15km stage I realised that this calculation had been made from the wrong reference and that Evans Head was still 30km away. At this point we had the options of calling a halt to our paddling for the day to take advantage of a NPWS campsite close by or to continue. There was no wind and Bruce was feeling a bit better and was keen to re-acquaint himself with the benefits of Maggie’s presence, so we decided to continue to Evans Head making reasonable distance over the next couple of hours. It was mid-afternoon when the headwind arrived and started to hinder our progress, increasing to the point that we were making insufficient headway to get in to Evans Head before dark. Rather than continue slugging through unknown waters in fading light we decided to land on an exposed beach and make overnight camp approximately 7km from our intended destination. We beached with no problems but immediately confronted signage that stated we were in a prohibited area – Target Beach, site of an RAAF practice bombing range (clearly marked on our map!). We weren’t overly concerned by our predicament as we considered the prospect of any bombing practice during our stay unlikely. Surely most of the airforce was deployed in other parts of the world. It was shortly after lights out that the planes came in – three of them. All we could hope for was that they didn’t drop short. We had no intention of letting them know of our presence for fear of copping a hefty fine or worse. For half an hour we watched the glow from their “bombs” hitting the ground some kilometres away before they left the scene to allow us a peaceful night’s sleep.

After Evans Head we had nightly stopovers at Byron Bay and Cabarita Beach, just south of the NSW/Queensland border. Breaking out from Byron Bay (Tallows Beach, on the southern side of Cape Byron) was relatively easy even though the surf was messy. We joined the queue of local board riders using the rip inside the Cape to find safe passage. The Cabarita Beach break-out was more difficult due to a southerly change coming through overnight which caused the surf to increase appreciably. Putting-in at a section of the beach that the local lifesavers suggested would be best, I was fortunate enough with my timing to get through the rough stuff and over the last wave barely seconds before it broke. The hull of my boat took a real pounding as it thudded down on the backside of the wave. The wind was blowing steadily from the south at more than 20 knots with gusts considerably stronger. Safely beyond the surf zone, I paddled around in a holding pattern for some time waiting for Bruce to join me. Eventually, I got the message from Maggie over the two-way radio that we each were carrying that Bruce couldn’t get through the surf and that he would meet me off the next headland (Cudgen) which offered the prospect of a more sheltered put-in.

Together again, and with the wind behind us, we paddled at a fair clip in to Coolangatta for a lunch break before continuing on to Currumbin for our first night’s sleep in Queensland.

Late morning on our second day north of the border, we entered the protected waters of the Broadwater through the Gold Coast Seaway and immediately encountered serious numbers of motorised pleasure-seeking craft such as jet skis, commercial jet boats, gin palaces, and so on. What a great contrast from the environment we had been enjoying over the previous fortnight. Maggie met us for a lunchbreak on the shores of Labrador. Bruce had some business matters he had to deal with so we parted temporarily. Bruce and Maggie (and Mini) headed off in the Kombi while I continued in my kayak. We planned to meet up in a couple of days time on the shores of the Brisbane bayside suburb of Wynnum so as to complete the leg down the Brisbane River together to the final pull-out under the Story Bridge.

As I progressed northwards the boat traffic eased considerably. I picked my way along the western shoreline of South Stradbroke Island trying to spot the little wallabies that abound on the island.

It was late in the afternoon when I entered Tipplers Passage, looking for a “bush” campsite, that I saw a couple of “bullet” speedboats travelling extremely fast and seemingly racing each other. My attention was on the second boat following approximately 300 metres behind the first when I heard this loud, dull thump. Turning around I was amazed to see an enormous amount of debris flying through the air. The first boat had apparently flipped and broken up throwing its three occupants into the water. I paddled over to the scene and got there to see that two of the occupants (both men, conscious despite apparent head wounds) of the stricken speedboat had been pulled out of the water and were sitting in the back of the second boat. Another man was still in the water, holding on to the transom of the second boat, groaning and obviously in great pain. As he was hauled out of the water and into a small runabout the horrific extent of his injury – a completely severed leg – became apparent. After some frantic phone calls and rendering of first aid, the runabout and the second speedboat headed off to find some desperately needed medical assistance. I was to learn the next day that the driver of the shattered boat was in a critical condition and that his mate with the severed leg (a father of eight) had died overnight.

The accident had cast a pall over the whole trip. Even so, I reflected on the irony of it: the expectation being that the real dangers to life would be encountered on the open seas rather than in the comparative calm of the protected waters around South Stradbroke Island.

After a couple of nights camping on the islands of Morton Bay (South Stradbroke and Peel) I rejoined Bruce and we did the final leg of the trip together down the Brisbane River arriving at our ultimate destination, the Story Bridge, 19 days after departing from Elizabeth Beach.

From a paddling perspective, this trip provided some great experiences. The mix of conditions meant testing a broad range of skills. Surf breakouts and landings, both involving rolling, were the biggest challenge (the Adrian:Bruce swim record was 3:1). We were very fortunate to be able to enjoy the best (in picturesque terms) of the coastline in the calmest of conditions. Marine life encounters were numerous. We had quite a few whale sightings, some as close as 100 metres. Exuberant dolphins put on some impressive aerobatics for us at Old Bar and Ballina and turtle-watching opportunities abounded in Morton Bay. Flocks of gannets frequently checked us out and also put on some dramatic diving displays.

A couple of miscalculations, both in judgement and navigation, reminded us how easily things could go awry. In logistical terms, the trip was mostly a cruise. While Maggie was supporting us she and Bruce were able to sleep in the Kombi while I either pitched a tent or dossed down in a surf club bunk (the hospitality of the SLS clubs at Crowdy Bay, Bonnie Hills, South West Rocks, Evans Head, Cabarita and Currumbin was greatly appreciated). When Maggie was elsewhere we managed to find comfortable campsites involving minimum portage – two nights beach camping and two nights in camping grounds.

I like to have as much going in my favour when I undertake a paddle that challenges my comfort zone and plan accordingly. I timed this trip because I anticipated calmer conditions and any wind encountered mostly to be assisting. Also, resources and information (both greatly appreciated) provided by members of the sea kayaking community helped us safely reach our objective. Paul Loker, Stuart Trueman, Claudia Schremmer, Kevin Brennan, Chris Denis and Andrew McPhail (all NSWSK Club members) helped us in numerous ways. Simon Bleachmore and Bob Lillington of Yamba Sea Kayak provided us with some valuable local knowledge of the region between Coffs and the Queensland border.

Apart from her support with catering and transport, Maggie was able to make some other valuable contributions. She sourced the latest weather forecasts and kept the local volunteer coast guard/coastal patrol services aware of our progress. On some of the trickier beach landings she was there to point us to the calmest approaches.

And what of Bruce? He turned out to be a great paddling companion. So good in fact that I’d choose to paddle across Bass Strait with him (but I don’t know how we’d manage without Maggie and Mini).

Flotsam [64]

Due to a number of defamation proceedings culminating in temporary injunctions taken out in the High Court of Australia, several Flotsam articles were unable to be published in Issue 63. However, with the content cleared by the highest court in the land, Flotsam is now proud to print these articles, uncensored, for the information of members and guests.

From Issue 63 — Flotsam Personality of the Year

The much acclaimed title of FPOTY for 2005 has been awarded to the increasingly famous Laurie Geoghegan. Laurie’s rise to prominence in the sea kayaking world has been remarkable — many members would be astounded to learn that just eight years ago Laurie was just another hippie with a Pittarak living in the Daintree rainforest!

But, despite a stiff challenge from the publicity hungry Harry Havu, in the eyes of the FPOTY Judging Panel the south coast adventurer was a clear winner with a 75 per cent publicity rate in the four Flotsam editions of 2005.

Issue 60 saw Laurie demonstrating his awesome “beard roll” to hundreds of fascinated club member at Port Stephens. In the September issue he was the mastermind behind the Rymell Expedition “merchandising scandal” and in December he was “Captain Chaos”, spruiking a new and radical free-thinking philosophy for sea kayaking.

Laurie told Flotsam, “mate, what a buzz…I knew I’d had a good year in the news but this has confirmed it I guess… this is just the lift I needed before Antarctica .”

Laurie wins a 10 litre flagon of Stones Ginger Wine and a weekend hire of a Pittarak. Well done Laurie!

From Issue 63 — Story surfaces after long silence

In what appears to have been an incident somehow suppressed from media attention, Flotsam has learned that a Port Stephens Rock’n’Roll day trip led by Club Training Officer Havu and John “Gauntlet Baron” Tottenhofer almost led to tragedy! According to witnesses, several inexperienced paddlers were left unsupervised on open water as Havu and Tottenhofer “went berserk” in a Grade 5 gauntlet near the Yacabar headland.

Sitting stationary for some time in the rough conditions, several novice paddlers became ill watching the two leaders frolic in the monster surges and several capsized … and this was when Tottenhofer’s partner Jeda Lemmon became the hero. Jake Alderman, one of the rescued paddlers, told Flotsam, “mate, it was rough out there, and we were all nearly spewing watching those two nutters in the rocks, then I keeled over and was in real trouble. Hate to think of what could have happened if Ms Lemmon hadn’t been near… she was awesome, telling me what to do… and so strong!”

Flotsam tracked down Ms Lemmon to talk about the incident, but she would not be drawn on the circumstances that led to the capsizes, only saying that, “I guess boys will be boys… I’m just glad I was there to help.”

With the story in the public domain, Mr Havu contacted our office to firmly reject any shortcomings in his leadership style, telling Flotsam, “Yes, John and I were leading that paddle, and yes we followed all the protocols in terms of group management, but when we entered that gauntlet we were on our official lunch break and the group knew that ..!”

A senior club insider informed Flotsam that an official reprimand for the Training Officer was unlikely given his solid reputation, especially with the ladies.

From Issue 63 — Paddler yields to the pleasures

Celibacy is a state of being that is surprisingly common among sea kayakers. Some would say this is not surprising given the reputation of many paddlers for poor personal hygiene and bad breath, not to mention endemic salty groin syndrome.

But there are a few in the club neither afflicted by halitosis or marine infections who have chosen celibacy almost as a belief system. They are attractive human beings who have made the decision to focus all their mental and physical resources on perfecting aquatic skills, knowledge and awareness.

Such a man is Mike “Muscles” Snoad, whose celibate status has allowed him to achieve much in the past decade, not only completing two solo crossings of Bass Strait, but designing several expedition kayaks and other sea kayaking equipment. Most remarkably, Mike achieved all this despite being regularly pursued by a number of predatory women, their competitive instincts aroused by his purity, and all keen to bed a real “trophy” sea kayaker.

But then came the shocking and sad news that Mr Snoad, like so many men before him, had succumbed to the temptations of the “siren song”. It was not clear when this happened, but friends started to notice a slight physical decline in mid December, with Snoad’s trademark strong training paddle sprint-finish fizzling out long before the line. It was only in the days leading up to Christmas that the truth came out. Tragically, it seemed that the veteran kayaker had not only allowed his vow of abstinence to be broken, but was seemingly being induced into making up for lost time.

Slumping over a large laté at the Nelligen Cafe, a visibly drained Snoad told Flotsam, “Mate, I’m half the man I was … I’m trying to train for another solo epic and the Antarctic mission, but have been lucky to be able to clock up 25kms a day now what with all the new physical demands”.

Snoad continued, “this is like the cruelest Bi-athlon anyone could think of … I get off the water and there’s hardly a break and I’m into the land leg. Then I get up in the morning and its on again before my dawn training paddle… my batteries just aren’t getting enough time to recharge!”

But help may be at hand with news of a natural remedy to help Mike adjust to a life of action on and off the water. Well known paddler and infamous “lady guddler” Andrew Watkinson told Flotsam, “a daily teaspoon of Horny Goatweed powder’s the go, it certainly got me through a difficult transition time after a quiet spell I had back in June 1985!”

Flotsam attempted to talk to Club President Elizabeth Thomson on possible club assistance for sea kayakers struggling with the physical adjustment to a post celibate lifestyle, only to be told our President was “making her own adjustments” in Victoria.

2006 AGM Diary

(Due to staff shortages, the only Flotsam reporter available to report on this pivotal event has at times been criticised for his cynical, sexist and uninformed attitude to the club. Flotsam apologises in advance for some of the views expressed in this year’s AGM diary)

4.14pm Turned up late but don’t think I’ve missed much. President Thomson is certainly looking very confident up there, full of energy and bounce… is she getting lucky?

4.20pm The results of some analysis of club membership profile are being read out. Apparently 90% of the clubs are boring men aged 40-55 who paddle Mirages. I knew that.

4.45 pm Things are looking up, the Pres looks like she’s going to give someone a life Membership. This is a rare event! She’s reading out a long list of achievements. Lots of bureaucratic work, affiliation with AC, the insurance cover issue, training provider accreditation .. wow, this person has had a really huge influence on our beloved Department, errr Club….

4.46 pm Good Lord, its Rob Mercer and Sharon Betteridge! Loud applause and well deserved too. Is Rob a public servant?

4.53 pm Shocking. Nearly choked on my beer! Some bloke from the NSW Canoeing Association is up there saying that Australian Canoeing isn’t dead after all… it just owes a lot of money. Worse, AC has now realised it was wrong in the past to direct all its resources to five elite sprint kayakers on steroids, and now wants to woo the other three thousand amateurs. Which means they might suddenly be interested in sea kayakers and want to organise events for the club! What a horrible, horrible thought … !

5.10 pm John Wilde and Rob Mercer are up now talking about AC Safety and Education committee strategies and award schemes and stuff. God, they can talk these two …

5.32 pm This would have to be the single most tedious session ever endured by an AGM audience! Mercy!

5.43 pm Some members are becoming so desperate that they are holding their breath until they become unconscious! They are then carried up to the public bar to be revived. What willpower! All heroes in my view .. at least their ordeal is over.

5.46 pm Amazing! John and Rob have finished and are sitting down, but the survivors are on their feet and hugging each other. Emotional scenes indeed!

5.50 pm We’re now voting in the new Committee. Shocking news. Harry Havu has stood down as Training Officer. And he’s blaming Flotsam! But what a good looking man. Trainee women all around me are sobbing uncontrollably… he will be missed.

5.52 pm I’ve just noticed that there are quite a few non members at the meeting who are eagerly taking part in the voting. Right beside me is that tight-arse ex president Dirk Stuber with his hand up yet again! I guess he’s here trying to score one of those life memberships.

5.56 pm Some new faces are getting jobs on the Committee. Poor buggers. I don’t know any of them but I’m sure they all paddle Mirages.

5.57 pm the bloke behind me has confirmed they do all paddle Mirages.

5.58 pm Wait a minute… that bloody legal eagle Michael Steinfeld has just been promoted from Assistant Flotsam Censor to Chief Flotsam Censor! This diary will never be published now surely…

6.03 pm Ahhh this is better! The Kanu magazine is, at last, generating some debate. Seems that although the magazine is a bit ho hum, the curvaceous wench on the front cover is being given the thumbs up by male members and they want more! Oops, Morals Campaigner Jan Wrighteous is on her feet and is not happy at all … oh very clever! .. Jan’s cleverly killed the debate by demanding a bikini clad Stephan Meyn on the cover of the next issue of our Mag!

6.10 pm its OVER! The President has said we can all have our lives back. But this was a dull event indeed. Little spirited debate. No differing views. Going to need more than “time and a half” to get me back again in 2007….

Nadgee Corporation Restructures

The sea kayaking stock market surged last month on the news that NadgeeCorp is to split into separate Research & Development and Production arms.

Flotsam caught up with NadgeeCorp CEO Dave Winkworth as he boarded his newest Lear jet at Merimbula airport. Winkworth, the self styled “Richard Branson of Australian sea kayaking”, told Flotsam “the Board sees this as an evolutionary step forward for the company, leveraging our reputation in the innovation and design space, freeing up resources for new product development, and broadening our market share going forward …”

Future Nadgee production will be taken over by prominent Nadgee owner Laurence Geoghegan, whose knowledge of kayak construction is not known, although he is apparently very good at cheese.

Orders for the Nadgee have recovered strongly after a sales slump associated with a Deep Vein Thrombosis scare in 2004, when Mr Geoghegan tragically lost a leg crossing Bass Strait. Geoghegan told Flotsam “Obviously it’ll be a priority to redesign cockpit ergonomics… even my wooden leg aches with the current seating position!”

However, despite the massive responsibility of reducing the current seven year waiting list, the free thinking Geoghegan is likely to apply changes to standard production techniques. Geoghegan continued “given the toxic nature of all Nadgees, I’m going to apply a greener and very much alternative philosophy to both the materials and construction process. “

The first composite mud brick/hemp fibre/eucalyptus resin Nadgee is expected to roll off the production line in March 2007.

Flotsam accused of ‘Hack attack’

The Flotsam Internet Hacking Section has been heavily implicated in a hi-tech attack on the “nsw_sea_kayakers” Yahoo group, the unofficial club chatline. The attack involved unauthorised modification to chatline founder Trevor Gardner’s welcoming remarks to make him sound, according to a close friend, “like a right knob end”.

The attack has caused furore in chatline circles, with literally hundreds of emails protesting at the slur being sent to NSWSKC Internet Coordinator Peter Kappelmann, who told Flotsam, “and a few were not even from Mr Gardner!”

Although the motive behind the attack is not clear, the very talented Gardner has alienated many in the club by not only being articulate, rich and good looking, but also for leading the infamous but doomed “coup d’etat” at the 2005 AGM.

Having just returned from his latest military adventure in Timor, a furious Gardner contacted Flotsam to say, “Was it you, you bastards! .. if it was I’ll be calling in the F16’s .. you’ll be TOAST!!”

Calming down, Gardner continued, “but do you know what really hurts … its that those remarks were up there for four weeks, viewed by hundreds, and nobody gave it a second thought .. everyone just assumed they were my words … my words!!”

As is long standing policy, Flotsam can neither confirm nor deny any involvement in the unauthorised modification.

Critics savage ‘elite scheme’

In breaking news Flotsam has become aware of a new arrangement with the Victorian Sea Kayak Club engineered by innovative President Elizabeth Thomson. Using her Executive power under Section 54 a (IV) of the Club constitution, President Thomson has finalised an “accommodation sharing” scheme with her Victorian counterpart Peter Treby on August 4th.

Under the scheme, Ms Thomson when in Melbourne will stay at the VSKC offices in the exclusive Kew area, with access to a VSKC car and driver, while Mr Treby will room in the guest apartments at NSWSKC House at Double Bay.

Critics of the arrangement claim that the Committee was not consulted, some going so far as to accuse Ms Thomson of becoming too fond of the benefits of high office and losing touch with the club rank and file.

Flotsam caught up with the President as she had enjoyed a Bio-Hydratant© moisture treatment, total body defoliating scrub and cleansing enzyme facial peel at the ritzy Oxford Club. Granting a five minute audience, Ms Thomson told Flotsam “this scheme will be of immense benefit to both clubs as we learn more about each other’s organisation and activities”. However, when asked if there were any plans to extend the scheme to ordinary members, Ms Thomson curtly replied “don’t be silly .. now run along I’m late for my Jojoba Oil massage ..”.