A Sea Kayaking Whitsunday Island Holiday [66]

September 2006

By Noel Rodda

Being a sea kayaker, a trip to the magic Whitsunday Islands has been on my agenda for a long time and when Mitch phoned to say there was a window of opportunity on the horizon I got in early and phoned the group leader, Bradley, in Queensland. It turned out that the group were all members of the Sandgate Canoe Club and, after a yarn to be certain that I had all the necessary gear and was competent as a sea kayaker, “Yep, we’d be pleased to have you along, just post me up $52 for the fortnight’s camping in the National Parks and Bob’s your uncle.”

Around 7.30am we were down at the Shute Harbour ramp unloading kayaks and what appeared to be a semi-trailer load of kayakers and gear of all shapes, sizes and colours scattered about like an influx of refugees. The wind was howling and gusting to 35 knots, and the forecast was sounding pretty much in tune with our somber mood. Gusts to 40 knots teased a disturbed sea of 2.8 metres. Our original plan for a comfortable paddle across to Henning Island (around 18km), camp overnight, then on to Whitehaven Beach camp soon fell into the reject basket.

“Plan B” was activated. After consultation with the skipper of the barge “Scamper”, we loaded everything aboard for a ferry across to Dugong Beach camp in Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island. $70 per person included the kayaks and gear securely tied in place on padded racks.

With the tide starting to ebb and the wind romping through from the south-west the trip across the Passage should have been relatively sedate but, let me tell you, the ride was pretty damn rugged! The ramp went down onto the beach and we made short work of unloading. With the barge making its way out from behind Cid Island, we had Dugong camp to ourselves.

Everyone scanned for the ideal camp site, marking our preference by placing gear on the chosen spot. We weren’t the only ones doing the scanning though. Two huge iridescent black Torresian Crows were quietly surveying from their perches and then gliding on drooped wings to any unattended food packs. Spearing with a heavy plunging bill they twisted into the packs to steal the contents. When discovered, they would hesitate for a micro-second, grasping at a prize before a languid flight into a nearby tree, then sounding off with a nasal, “arrk-arrk-arrk-arrrrgk”. I’m pretty sure that translated into something like, “ha, ha ,ha, haaar, suckers!” Several resident goannas also made their presence felt by stealthily smelling out food packs, grasping with intimidating claws and attacking the food cover with aggressive tearing twitches of powerful jaws and teeth. We quickly learned to secure our food and scraps.

Dugong Beach proved to be an excellent choice of campsite for the next few days as the weather system lingered on with the odd rain squall and continued wind.

Tuesday and Wednesday came and went with an occasional rain squall riding on the darkness of the nights, hassling the trees to groan and screech in their resistance. Bradley, Rhys, Fay, Mitch and myself, being the intrepid souls we were, decided that we should “mount the mountain”, well at least scramble up the 1396 metre Whitsunday Peak.

Southwards gave a clear view to Hamilton Island with its resort, so inappropriate for such a pristine area. Directly below to the west was Sawmill Beach, where myriads of yachts looked like a team of white plastic ducks in a bathtub, hemmed in by Cid Island and the whitecaps intruding from the Whitsunday Passage.

On the descent, through the bush and over boulders, Fay slipped on a mossy rock. In the process of saving herself from a serious fall, she severely sprained her left wrist. Painfully, she made it back to camp where Phillip, ever attendant, taped the wrist. However by Thursday breakfast, the tissue had ballooned, sadly putting the kybosh on any further paddling for her on this trip.

At 6.00am, out of a snug sleeping bag, toiletries and breakfast seemed an unconscious forgotten happening. The clouds were really low, almost like a dense fog enclosing us and all the camp in its mysterious mist. The rain drifted around and splashed on us softly, becoming more intense, but giving us time to take shelter on top of the covered tables. The metal roofs drowned out conversation as they were bombarded by the onslaught of the tropical deluge.

After an hour or so the clouds lifted, helped along by the southerly breeze that scuttled down through the trees and boulders of the hillside like an invisible hand. With the rain clearing and with a lowering tide, a group of oyster gourmets paddled across Dugong Inlet via Lady Island, to a magnificent crop of huge oysters. In the meantime I trolled through the inlet and hooked a beautiful queen fish. I had my hands full, so Ken paddled over and did the killing and gutting.

We were up and packing by 5.30am the next day. A welcome break in the wind and heaving seas had us planning an 8.00am start on the water.

I was ready by 7.30am but what with ginning time (an archaic word for begin which we tended to over use), paddles didn’t start slapping water till around 9.00am.

A tow was set for one of the double kayaks with injured Fay in the rear. Brad in the front. Mitch volunteered to do the tow. Being an ex-army man one would have imagined that he’d had enough of volunteering! The tow was good up to a point, then, as we came out of the wind shadow of Whitsunday Island, Brad called that he would set up the sail. So tow unleashed and sail pulling, the overloaded double surged ahead at 7km/h plus (GPS reading). In singles with sails up, sizzling down 1.5 metre waves, leaning forward, using paddles for extra speed, some of us registered 16.6 km/h. Exhilarating! On this northerly crossing from Cid Harbour, we were bearing up into the southern tip of Macona Inlet to Curlew Beach Camp. The waters in the Passage were still pretty lumpy but we certainly made short work of the 12km run with the sou-wester lashing at our sterns.

We had perhaps 2km to go to our destination at Curlew to paddle, when, looking back, I could see that four of the group were making slowly toward a small beach to the west of Turtle Head. They waved us on, so we beached at Curlew floating centimetres over rocks at mid-tide. What happened? With just a short distance to paddle, Geoff and Leannes’ grossly overloaded double started wallowing. The cockpits and rear compartment of the kayak steadily filled with sea water that was trickling in from the leaking rear hatch and an ill-fitting spray skirt. Overloaded and with the extra weight of water, the stern up to the rear cockpit was actually beneath the surface. Wallowing, and with no steerage, they made it not to the beach but to the metre-high rocks around from Turtle Head. With the assistance of Ken, Steve, Ian and Carl steadying the double and holding it away from the rocks, they managed to offload, a little at a time, and secure gear onto the rocks, then bail out most of the water. They were then able to paddle through the short chop around the headland to Curlew, where we were waiting.

A gear retrieval party set off, climbing over the rocky outcrop but found they couldn’t get through owing to the steep boulder-strewn terrain. Several kayaks were dispatched for the successful gear retrieval.

Certainly the kayak was dangerously overloaded with gear. Geoff even had a bag of gear stuffed into his cockpit, which would have made it almost impossible for him to wet exit, should the need have arisen. Along with some items of food that were reduced to a soggy mess, Geoff’s mobile phone was drowned. While all this was taking place, another misfortune was unfolding. A rusted section of rudder cable broke in the other double. Fay was unable to do much except try to steer with the paddle tucked under her immobilized arm, levering with her good hand. The alternative was to drift in circles. By the time they came in most of the rocks were showing, drying in the sun and wind.

The wind had picked up again and was wailing like an Irish banshee spirit so we were happy to have made an early landfall. The campsites were pretty good with three table seats and an open pit toilet, around which we erected an awning for minimum privacy.

Sunday dawned and I was up and breakfasting by 6.00am. With a more subdued wind and abated sea Mitch and I decided on a paddle around Turtle Head and into Nari Inlet. Most of the crew opted for a paddle in the opposite direction to Hook Island Resort to replenish supplies of water, food and, of course, grog. Phillip and Fay were happy to potter around camp. Mitch and I paddled into a mean short chop with the breeze picking up encouraging small whitecaps in the passage. However, once we swooped around into Nari Inlet it was sails up to take advantage of a brisk southerly on our sterns all the way to the top end.

This is a beautiful inlet of around five kilometres intruding into the southern section of Hook Island. Quite a few craft had taken anchorage in here and we endured some cheeky comments on our fine sailing. Mind you, it was a bit of a slog when we reversed our course for the home camp run.

The Whitsunday Passage was somewhat rougher and the chop steeper by then and this proved interesting as the southerly was on our beam, with the occasional boomer attempting to unseat us. That little trip was about 13km.

The other group came in a short time later, around lunch time. They were happy enough with their outing as they enjoyed cappuccinos in the comfort of the Resort lounge. The price of a roll of toilet paper, for the unprepared, was $4 per roll. Use that as a benchmark for other items.

The weather forecast for Monday indicated 30 knot winds with gusts to 40 knots, so we didn’t budge this day. However the oyster gatherers, Ken and Mitch, paddled up into Macona Inlet at low tide and gorged on what they reckoned were just the best and biggest, mouth-dribbling oysters ever.

Tuesday, reveille at 5.00am, and we were up checking the weather. It was still a little off-putting out in the passage but the forecast was for moderate seas and 15 knot winds from the south-west, veering south-east. Meeting again at 7.00am we discerned that the white horses were being tamed and the wind was losing its stamina. Packed and moving on the water by 8.30am with a slack tide, our destination was Maureen’s Cove in Butterfly Bay at the far northern end of Hook Island. Phil and Fay opted to remain at Curlew for the next few days, hoping that the rest would be beneficial to Fay’s wrist sprain. We arranged to pick them up later in the week by paddling around from Hook Island Resort.

We paddled comfortably on a slight chop, avoiding the overfall turbulence around Turtle Head Rock, past Ravens Cove and Nari Inlet. Most of our ten kayaks were able to hoist sail and the ride was a real blast, hooking along on a 10 knot breeze.

At one stage, using my oversized sail, I was ripping along, bow almost completely buried at around 15km/h. The speed felt incredible and there was just no time to think. The skeg was down and rudder was down, “Scary!” Scary because I had no time or wasn’t game to change a thing. I was concerned that I would nose-bury and perhaps pitch-pole. There were several yells of, “yahoo, yippee, go oo Noel!” as the Nadgee surged past our small Armada. Finally I was able to veer off the wind and douse the sail, take some deep breaths and get the nervous smile off my face.

We eased into the sheltered beach of Stonehaven for smoko-break. As we eased out of the shelter of Stonehaven we felt a wind shift. Murphy’s Law kicked in again. The wind actually shifted from the sou-wester to a mean nor-wester, right on our nose. We were about to find out what hard work into heaving seas, with rising tide and blasting head winds, was all about. Following the high, barren, rocky coast line on the north-west side of Hook, and just to the north of Stanley Point, Hayman Island was clearly visible each time we topped the swells.

About 500m from Alcyonaria Point, we were all doing it really tough. Bradley, paddling a stitch and glue single with rather high windage and gear bags lashed on deck, was pushed relentlessly broadside to within the clutches of the uncharitable and high rocky shore. Reacting very quickly to the dangerous situation, he rocketed vertically out of the kayak and landed on the seaward side of the cockpit into the rebounding water. The scene was reminiscent of a fighter pilot ejecting from his damaged plane in the course of an aerial dog fight battle. (Brad is an airline pilot after all!) Swimming to the bow he was able to maneouver out about 20m into deeper water. He scrambled back into the cockpit, only to be bucketed out over the other side by a wave. He got the kayak upright, managed to scoop out some water and once again swim the kayak back out of the grasp of the rocks. Well, talk about a cool dude. I eased over to him and he asked, “Are you doing anything Noel, reckon you could take this towline?” I did and started hauling back into the northerly but found I couldn’t handle the tow in these conditions. I let go of the rope as Mike and Ian took over, rafting up and helping Brad to get back in, pump out and get his spray-skirt on. At this stage we lost two hand pumps and Bradley’s hat. Turning my kayak back into the nor-wester took all my strength. The wind-driven spume hammering off the two metre waves was blinding, and paddling out of a trough meant closing my eyes and digging in deep and strong.

Finally all the paddlers were safely around Alcyonaria Point and the wind was then on our port beam. The kayak spread by now was pretty distant. Although we could still see each other I think it was virtually every person for themselves. Steve paddled up to the point and turned back with the news that it was pretty calm once we turned the corner. With Butterfly Bay on our right it was still a tiring paddle into Maureen’s Cove camp which didn’t seem to get closer in a hurry. We were against a current that swirled out of the Bay as the tide came in. The beach here is all broken coral and quite steep. It was a good campsite though, with shade, tables and importantly a pit toilet. We were all feeling pretty pooped and jaded, and in need of some nourishment. We had paddled 19.6km, experiencing pretty adverse conditions.

On Wednesday everyone was happy to have a slack day. The water and air was still, and how most people think of the Whitsunday Islands when they see all those perfect photographs.

During the afternoon most of us snorkeled over some terrific coral reefs. Huge fish abounded, unafraid and sporting the most amazing colours. Smaller ones darted in and out among the vast array of varied coral. I didn’t stay in too long as the water was surprisingly cold and I didn’t have a spring suit.

Thursday and another 5.00am reveille woke us. We were on the water, paddling away at 7.05am. This early start was to take advantage of the favourable tide and to miss at least some of the wind. Destination was Hook Island Resort, giving us a 17km plus exhilarating paddle around the top of Pinnacle Point, (where the advice is “if there are whitecaps, don’t do it!”), then down the eastern side of Hook. It took around three hours to grind onto the sand of the Resort. Once again, some of us were feeling a bit pooped, especially after battling the heavy swell and turbulence of Pinnacle Point. GPS reading around the point indicated 10 km/h even through the swirling currents.

There were really good campsites at the Resort and Brad negotiated a deal for us, down to $17.50/day from $25. I had to have an ice cold beer, even at $6 for a stubbie.

After lunch Brad and Rhys paddled down and around to Curlew Beach camp and brought Phil and Fay back to the Resort. Although the trip was only around 8km there and back, the boys were a bit stuffed. It had been a long day for them, and all that gear took some packing!

Saturday, and the rain had found where we were camped last night. This resulted in a damp pack this morning, wet tents, yuck! Anyway we were all on time, on the water at 8.00am to start the paddle to Cockatoo Beach camp on the southern tip of North Molle Island. Fay made arrangements for the barge “Scampa”, to pick her up along with her kayak and all their extra gear and meet us at Cockatoo camp.

For once the conditions were quite reasonable crossing the Whitsunday Passage and the weather was sunny. It was a fairly relaxed paddle and sail, with the 16 or so km taking close on three hours to hit our last camp site at 11.00am. Phil and Fay decided to return to Shute Harbour on the barge, as Fay’s wrist was pretty bad by this time.

Cockatoo Beach camp, at the southern end of North Molle, gave us views of Mid Molle and South Molle Islands, with Daydream Island between us and the mainland. There were many good camping sites here, along with two toilets and unbelievably, rolls of toilet paper! Fresh water was available from a tank, replenished from the metal roof of the shelter and table.

Sunday and there seemed to be a lot of ginning time this morning. Half of us spent around an hour just waiting about. I think that we were all a little sad that this was our last day. Cockatoo Beach to Shute Harbour was about 5km of leisurely paddling, and we were able to pull into a nice little beach adjacent to a park with tables, fresh water and access for our vehicles. This was very convenient, and by lunch time we were back at the caravan park.

During the evening we all got together for a debriefing and farewell meal at the Tavern. Next morning Mitch and I were on the track. Toowoomba loomed up 13 hours and 40 minutes later and next afternoon I was back in Coffs Harbour.

The group was terrific and my appreciation goes unreservedly to, Mike and Linda, Phil and Fay, Carl and Rhys. Ian, Ken, Steve, Geoff, Leanne and Mitch. A special thanks to Bradley for sharing his holiday and organising ability with us.

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Welcome to New Members [66]

By Adrian Clayton

A belated welcome to the Club to: Ross Boardman (nice to have you back, Ross), Leona Dawson, Owen Kimberley, Malcolm Barnes, Hamish Roberstson, Howard Gilmore, Craig Wilson, Omar Guerra, Rhonda Hannay, Glenn Erskine, Robert Corlet, Jo Campbell, Owen and Ronald Simpson, Scott and Louise Penrose, Kate Leaper, Jean Douglass, Peter Berbee, John Angles, Duncan and Lisa Stodart, Tony Hystek, Glen Hartley, Steve Russell, Bruce Paulsen, Brad and Samantha McPherson, Robert and Anne Cumming, Ian Vaile and Cathy Miller, Pail White, Simon and Silvana Nott, Roy Himes, John Friedman, David and Cheryl Assuage-Baldwin, Jacqui Stone, Bruce and Kate Keane.

Most of you will have received “Welcome Packs” which contain, amongst other items, the Club paddling log book — a document designed to help you track your sea kayaking activities and skill development. If you haven’t received your “Welcome Pack” please let us know (vp2006@nswseakayaker.asn.au) and we’ll get one to you.

It’s been great to see many of you joining in on Club trips.

More than a Night for Newbies

More than forty people attended this function, held at Blue Earth, Drummoyne, late in November last year. The break-up of attendees was approx fifty/fifty Club members/Newbies and prospective members. The format of the night was informal and the atmosphere relaxed. It was night where H.G. Nelson might have said “that too much talk about sea kayaking wasn’t anywhere near enough”. There were lots of kayaks to look at and a number of participants took up Blue Earth’s generous discount offer for the night to purchase kit and apparel. Feedback from the night has been positive all around — enough to encourage the Committee to plan similar evenings during the course of this year (please let us have your suggestions for a suitable venue).

Thanks to Dee Ratcliffe (catering), Mike Eggleton (computer and data projector), Roger and Julie of Blue Earth for their support (we hope you’ll have us back), new member Tony Hystek (for projection screen) and all those (including Peter Kappelmann, John Piotrowski, Henry van der Kolk, Paul Loker, Rob Hollow, David Hipsley, Stephan Meyn, et al) who provided photos for “My Favourite Trip” slideshow.

President’s Report [66]

By Elizabeth Thomson

The issue of the magazine pays tribute to Andrew McAuley. The tributes paint a picture of a man who loved to test himself and do great things, but who also was just someone like us who loved to go paddling and be out there on the water.

His memorial service was a fitting farewell to him. Standing in the shadow of Macquarie Lighthouse on South Head in Sydney wind swept and wet, we said goodbye. With the wind gusting, reminding us of what Andrew went through, we stood and listened to eulogies and also from Andrew himself. We were privileged to hear one of his last recordings which gave us a sense of his experience and helped us understand and celebrate why he was out there.

We then walked to the cliff face and threw wreaths and orange bottle brush stems over the cliff for Andrew. But the wind refused to bow to our wishes and launched our flowers skywards and back at us. For me, it was Andrew saying, “No tears folks, just celebrate and live life to the fullest”.

During the service, I was asked to read out a number of messages from the kayaking community. I have included my message from our club and the one from Paul Caffyn below:

“Andrew McAuley was a member of the NSW Sea Kayak Club. Over the years, he has shared with us his trips and achievements through conversations, presentations, trip reports, photography and film. We all know him and mourn him. He has inspired many of us to rise to challenges we would otherwise avoid. He has been a beacon of human kind’s possibility and potential. His legacy is a life lived showing us we, too, are capable of great things. We thank you, Andrew.

“Vicki, on behalf of the members, I extend to you our deepest sympathy and sorrow as we share with you the loss of a husband, a father and a very great man.”

Elizabeth Thomson

“All men dream, but not equally.

“Andrew was a dreamer of the day; his planned trans-Tasman solo paddle, an audacious solo attempt at the windswept swells of the southern Tasman. I admired Andrew for spending two days paddling back to Tasmania after he decided it was too cold at night during his first attempt. He didn’t call in a rescue, but slogged back to Tasmania. That takes guts.

“In 1989, after my co-paddler dropped his bundle eight miles off the coast of Tasmania, I stewed over whether to continue solo across the Tasman. But I decided it was too much for me.

“From his experience gained during crossings of Bass Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria, Andrew developed new and innovative systems for the Tasman crossing. These systems worked well to within a day’s paddle of Fiordland. He was so close to achieving his dream.

“On behalf of the Kiwi Association of Sea Kayakers, I would like to express our sympathy to Vicki, his family and fiend of Andres. Andrew’s audacious day dream will be missed.

Paul Caffyn

The other significant news to report is that we held the Special General Meeting on February 25 to vote on the motion to disaffiliate from NSW Canoeing Inc. The discussion covered all aspects of the relationship with NSWCI and the pros and cons of remaining a member of the State Association. After questions and heartfelt discussion, the vote was taken. The membership has voted, by a narrow margin of 29 to 28, to disaffiliate as of March 1, 2007.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to provide submissions for the review process including NSWCI and AC, who attended the meeting and who sent through proxies.

I also want to signal that this decision is not final in the sense that, as a club, we can’t revisit it down the line. In the same way that the club has reviewed our affiliation in the past, we will continue to review our disaffiliation.

The disaffiliation process will now get underway. A consequence of the vote means there will be a General Meeting at RnR to decide on a new membership fee and how to use the savings which will result from buying insurance directly from an insurance company.

And finally, Rock n Roll is almost here. It will be an exciting time with Justine Curgenven as our special speaker, launching her latest DVD which features segments of the John Rymill paddle. The program also includes a camp cooking competition, a rolling competition, lots of trips, a fund raising RnR dance and lots more. If you haven’t already registered, then get cracking. Registration forms are on the web.

See you all there.

ET

P.S. Hey, Pearson, I intend to win the cook-off with my favourite banana bread dampa.

The Mallacoota Meet [66]

By Elizabeth Thompson

I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what they’d be like. A Victorian sea kayaker …. Mmm. Would they be like me? Not knowing, I wanted to get there early to set up camp and feel more secure. Knowing I’d sussed out the campsite made me feel ready to meet these strangers from across the border. The meeting place was Mallacoota, on the Victorian side …

When we got there, to my relief, we were the first. And not long after we checked in, more New South Welshmen arrived. Yes! More of us — John and Stephan. While pitching our tents, some of the others arrived. John and Anne, Neil and Raia, Terry, Bill …gee, there were a lot of them. But later more of us — Mike and Ken, then Margot and Lippy. Yes! There were nine of us but eventually, 11 of them. Here we were, outnumbered on their territory, dependant on their local knowledge. Would they behave like us? Would we find common ground?

Well, I was going to find out soon enough, at dinner at the local RSL. Goodness, now that was familiar. Maybe the Victorians know how we like to congregate at a local watering hole and settle down with a drink and a kayak story or two. And it wasn’t long before was the central topic of conversation were the respective Tasman crossings.

Kayak story telling — another familiar kayaking behaviour. Here we were loudly debating the merits of their trips, speculating about the boats, their planning, their gear etc etc. The night flew by leaving us, late in the night, discovering that we all wanted to do the same — paddle the next morning …to Gabo or bust.

It was shaping up to be a good weekend. The others were seemingly quite like us. Maybe I was going to feel OK. Maybe these were a bunch of people that I’d like to get to know!

Saturday heralded in inclement weather. No Gabo, no bust. Instead only some of us ventured out of Mallacoota Inlet for a couple of hours punching south to blast back north. The rest of us went looking for Cape Horn — it was closer than I’d expected — one of the Victorians’ favourite rolling locations. We had a scenic day exploring the Inlet, locating the Horn, having lunch and watching the Victorians participate in their peculiar communal rolling ritual. I began to marvel at our common obsession: kayaking.

Saturday night was the highlight. A BBQ hosted by Peter Provis and his mother-of-a-BBQ in an historic fisherman’s shed on the headland. We listened to opposition to the local development plans for Bastion Point and then settled down to red meat, red wine and lots of carry on! Can’t remember much after that, apart from recalling that Annie was in good form.

Sunday rolled around as did some groggy paddlers, wondering what to do with the day …take it easy and nurse the hang over, or go for an adrenaline pumping morning’s surf? And so, ten dare devils (four of us) exited the channel to play in the surf. Paddlers were surfing down the waves, hearts were pumping. From a distance I could see Tina punching the air with her paddle. Woohoo. Some landed for a rest, others got bolder and bolder and one of them crashed out with a broken footplate. It was like a surfing vid. A great show.

After that, Sunday arvo was time spent chatting and marvelling at Ken’s bog roll. Ask him to show you next time you see him. You know, those Victorians are great people. We all got on, coz, we’re all the same, really. So I’m glad we came, we met and we communed. In fact, the best thing is that we have all decided that we are doing it again. This time on our side of the border at Boydtown in December 2007 — the Boydtown Bash. Put it in your diaries.

The who’s who of Mallacoota

  • Annie Woollard
  • Bill Zombor
  • Dave Winkworth
  • Elizabeth Thomson
  • Geoff Brewster
  • Greg Murray
  • John Lipscombe
  • John Poitrowski
  • John Wollard
  • Ken Motley
  • Margot Todhunter
  • Mike Snoad
  • Neil Brenton
  • Nick Martinovich
  • Peter Provis
  • Peter Treby
  • Raia Wall
  • Stephan Meyn
  • Terry Barry
  • Tina Rowley

Hook’s Nemesis [66]

By Peter Osman

It had been a full-on training night. The subject was navigation and as the evening wore on the talk turned to unorthodox techniques and compasses. Joe came up with a neat trick where you would place a stick in the ground and some time before noon mark the tip of its shadow in the dust. Then stretch a string between the base of the stick and the mark, draw a semicircle and wait for the shadows tip to creep round and hit the semicircle again. Bisect the angle and you have a north-south line! Takes a while though, so after a fair bit of discussion we came up with a variation of the fairly well-known watch trick. You know the one? You place the watch on the ground, support a stick vertically on the centre of the dial and rotate the watch until the stick’s shadow covers the number 6. The time midway between 12 and the hour hand points to north. Of course to be accurate your watch should be set to standard time for the longitude and what exercised us was whether to read the time from an almanac or measure and calculate.

Joe pipes up saying “Yes, this will work BUT!!! If you have the foresight to be carrying an almanac, then why the hell aren’t you carrying a compass?” A good question deserving a straightforward answer; it reminded me of a conversation years ago in Skuffles where we used to meet of a Thursday night after an evening paddle.

Skuffles is a Sydney waterfront bar frequented by sailors, kayakers and other disreputable folk. Sometimes travellers would join us and enliven the evening with stories of exotic and foreign lands. One windy winter’s night about two years ago I was at Skuffles looking at the lights on the harbour and drowning my lonesome regrets with a glass or two of warm beer when a tall lean and grizzled fellow sat himself next to me. He turned out to be an ex-kayaker and, furthermore, had paddled a Pittarak. So he was clearly was a man of discernment and culture despite his shaggy grey hair and unshaved, unkempt appearance; a man of ripe vocabulary and even riper vaguely sulfurous smell; with the additional oddity that he would not take his gloves off. We got to talking about close calls in our boats and I found from my limited stock a story or two. Told him about a boat that was swamped near to sinking midway between Bucasia and Scawfell while island hopping in Queensland. He scratched his nose and muttered into his beard. Then there was kayaking between Erith and Deal islands in a blanket of fog, where missing landfall meant being swept by the fierce currents of Murray passage into the turbulent, trackless wastes of Bass Strait. He stifled a yawn, looked up quizzically and struck up with his own story.

“Mate,” he said “you think that’s a close call, let me tell you about the most ill considered decision I’ve ever made — gave up the sea because of it. It was on Hook Island in the Whitsundays where I was camping for no better reason than it bore my name.” (Jim Hook was how he introduced himself showing me some sort of naval commission, something to do with a Letter of Marque, which I have to say was the most dog eared and yellowed certificate I’ve ever seen).

“Anyway, mate” he continued, “twas evening and the Pittarak was drifting down Nara inlet while I studied sea eagles perched on the hoop pine and wondered what kind of giant wombat could make the mud slides that occurred every so often between the mangroves. Curlews were calling and, from time to time, an animal barked, a peaceful spot and very isolated. Then I hear this faint click behind me. Nothing happens for a while and then there it goes again — click click, quite regular now and a bit louder. And of a sudden there’s a swirl of water and what I thought was a log starts swimming gracefully around the boat, clicking all the time. It’s a saltwater croc mate. But its OK looks fairly docile, quite un-aggressive in fact. And there’s my first mistake!

“Years ago a professor told me that even the politest of sharks or saltwater crocs circling your boat is no more innocent than a young lad curiously doing the rounds of a Christmas buffet, just waiting to devour the pudding. Like a flippant fool I ignored the advice and continued to study the swimming log.

“It circled me twice and just as I was beginning to feel an affection for the critter, me being lonely an all, up it leaps and barges full tilt into the boat. Mate I was shocked, Prof’ Thomson was right after all. I’m back paddling me fastest and this horrible beast is smiling its toothy grin waiting for the next rush which comes too quickly. Its cavernous jaws are agape and I’m peering in despair at hell waiting at the end of a crimson, slavering, tooth lined throat opening before me.

“Mind racing…time to fire a flare into its gaping maw? — NO the blamed flares are in the back of my PFD. But there’s bungee stretched across the deck and I whip my feet up to hold the elastic cord off the boat, pull the centre of the cord back and there it is! A catapult ready for action but nothing nearby for a missile, except either a small hand-compass or an almanac that I always carry under the bungee. Figured the compass was the go as there was a spare fixed to the deck. So set this expensive missile in the cord, let go and THWACK it fires and hits that ole croc squarely in the epiglottis.

“The jaws clamp shut and down its head crashes straight onto the deck compass. It crosses its eyes, retches, sets its jaws to the sky retches again and coughing violently shoots out a silvery looking object into the blue yonder. Then shaking pieces of compass housing from its blood stained throat, it gives a despondent look at the lost meal and quickly, quietly, slips away.

“Silence… then a whistling; think for a moment it’s a cannon ball but look up and there’s that silver instrument heading straight at me. One hand grasps the paddle and braces like fury the other stretches across, leans and HOWZAT caught it — years playing cricket for England finally pay off.

“Turns out the critter had once swallowed and now thrown up, a Lange & Sohne marine chronometer! And just as well because I’d lost both my compasses and the almanac had slid off the deck into the briny so the devil’s own luck gives me a clock to measure the time of sunrise, sunset, locate true north and find my way home.

“But still on a dark winter’s night while considering those murky waters, an icy chill creeps down my spine at the thought that I will no longer hear a warning “tic toc tic” while the croc creeps up behind me.”

The old guy winks, picks up my beer in his claw, drains it with a gulp and is gone.

With apologies to: JM Barrie, Professor Thomson and the NSWSKC for detaining you so long! :~)

Expedition to Greenland [66]

By Jean-Luc Grossmann

Greenland is a land full of contrasts: from harsh landscapes of ice and rock, to lush green valleys and hills; from cold, dark winters, to the endless summer days of the midnight sun. Animal life is rich, varied and spectacular, with musk oxen, reindeer, polar bears, arctic hares, eagles, seals, and giant whales. This is the place to see ice stretching endlessly into the distance, or carved into the most fantastic shapes in an incredible range of colours. This is the setting for a two month long, fully self-contained sea kayaking expedition.

During summer of 2005 Swiss/French paddlers, Jean-Luc and Sylvain Grossmann undertook a month-long sea kayaking expedition north of the Nuussuaq Peninsula off the West Coast of Greenland. The brothers paddled 320km through frigid waters. The distance and weather were demanding, but the sea of ice was the real challenge of their expedition. The two brothers fell in love with the rough nature and the unspoiled coast of the world’s largest island.

In June and July 2007 two paddlers are joining Jean-Luc and Sylvain Grossmann for a two month sea kayaking expedition starting from the village of Uummannaq. The four paddlers will head north to Upernavik exploring a region of pure, untouched nature and very little civilisation. To reach the sea north of the big Svartenhuk peninsula they will enter the long Uvkusigssat Fjord East of the peninsula and pass a 30km land stretch by pulling the kayaks. The paddle distance will be more than 500 km which is expected to be completed in approximately 45 days. The team will explore both by foot and kayak the J.P. Kochs Land named in the memory of the Danish captain and ice researcher Johann Peter Koch who crossed Greenland with Alfred Wegener from East to West in 1912-1913.

“The goal of this expedition is simply to discover this amazing part of the world and to report about it, to enjoy the nature and the contact with local people and to share our experiences with others when we return. To experience Greenland is like a trip into life, a trip into yourself.”

“In our opinion a sense of adventure is one of the most important aspects of the human character.”

The team is first of all a group of friends and outdoor enthusiasts.

Jean-Luc Grossmann confesses that the spirit of adventure is strong within his soul. Jean-Luc is born in Paris and has lived for the past 20 years in Switzerland where he works as a professional photographer. The passion of people and outdoor photography, the thirst of discovery and adventure has taken him on several journeys all over the world. His favourite destinations are Greenland, the Outer-Hebrides, Madagascar, Cabo Verde, Australia and Namibia.

Sylvain Grossmann has an incredible enthusiasm for exploration to off-the-beaten-path locations that have unique natural beauty. Sylvain is an experienced sea kayaker and shared several other expeditions and adventures with Jean-Luc. He claims to say that a kayak is the most versatile watercraft in the world and is the best way to discover remote areas. His favourite destinations are Greenland, Scotland, Vietnam, Australia and China.

Rafic Mecattaf was born in Lebanon but grew up in Zurich. It was in his new homeland of Switzerland that he discovered his passion for the mountains. Rafic is not only an experienced mountaineer who has climbed numerous summits in the Alps but also a fervid traveller of remote destinations. He likes to discover foreign cultures around the globe and feels just as home in the desert as on the pack ice. His various trips have led him to countries as diverse as India, Finland and the Ukraine and of course many times to the Middle East where he likes to trace his roots.

Thomas Truninger has been an avid outdoorsman and globetrotter for the last 10 years. After having worked as a divemaster in the Caribbean, he discovered the beauty of the rough elements of the sea while working on the Galapagos Islands. Here he gathered experience guiding people through an ocean of sharks and wild waters. Thomas is also an active mountaineer, having climbed many mountains in the Andes, Alps, Himalayas and the Karakorum Range. He says that being out in Mother Nature gives him the ultimate feeling of being alive. His favourite destinations are Madagascar, Galapagos Archipelago, Northern Pakistan, India, Cabo Verde and Finnish Lapland

The 5 things we won’t leave home without:

  1. A good mosquito repellent! Greenland is paradise on earth but mosquitos can be hell!
  2. Two solar panels to charge all our electronic devices like cameras, GPS, VHF, walkie-talkies, satellite phone. Greenland is in the summer the perfect place for this, 24 hours daylight. You go asleep and the next morning everything is charged up!
  3. Walkie-talkies to communicate together on the water if we split or on land when exploring or also very useful when organising food, material before the start.
  4. A pair of binoculars for checking the coast for a suitable place to camp, watching the whales and the calving iceblocks of the glaciers.
  5. Good thermos bottles to have hot drinks during the day.

What you really don’t need on a trip like this are bathing shorts. You drop in the water approximately once a week in the 4°C freezing sea water to wash when the weather is good and then rinse in fresh water streams (1-2°C) brrrrr, and this naturally all naked!

The expedition in numbers:

  • When: June and July 2007
  • Total distance: min. 500 km
  • distance on water: min. 470 km
  • distance on land (pulling the kayaks): 30 km
  • days on water : around 35 days
  • days on land : around 10 days (mostly exploring the region of the J.P. Koch Land. See also website and map)
  • See: www.photopulse.ch/greenland2007
  • Main sponsors: Prijon, Exped, Artistic Sportswear and greenland.com

Paddling in Greece and Turkey [66]

By Terence Uren

The Eastern Mediterranean is the sort of place you’d expect to be teeming with sea kayakers given its favourable climate, stunning coastlines and numerous island hopping opportunities. It’s not, though, and in many of the area’s towns the closest thing you’ll find to a sea kayak is a dusty sit-on-top buried out the back under a pile of broken sun lounges. With a bit of planning you can do better than this, as some friends and I discovered on a short trip to Greece and Turkey in September 2006. We spent a week paddling around the Greek island of Antiparos and a week following Turkey’s southern coastline eastwards from Kas to Andriake.

Antiparos

Antiparos is a small island in the Central Cyclades, reached from Athens in a couple of hours by fast ferry and caique via the island of Paros. Compared with other islands in the Cyclades, Antiparos is relatively undeveloped — it’s a bit like the rest of Greece was twenty years ago! The island has a harsh beauty, its dry, barren hills sprinkled with the whitewashed cubiform houses that are typical of the region. We based ourselves in the village of Agios Georgios on the sparsely-populated south west corner of the island, renting a couple of studio apartments and hiring kayaks from the “House of Sea Kayaking”.

The kayaks were Prijons (Capri, SeaYak, Calabria, TownYak and Kodiak), all in good condition but some more suited to flat water touring than sea kayaking. They were all fitted with thigh braces but were without rudders, which some in our group found challenging on windy days.

There are around twenty five beaches on Antiparos and we set about visiting as many of these as we could. Over the course of our week we completed five single-day paddles along the island’s northern, eastern and southern coastlines. We didn’t make it to the more remote and exposed west coast where landing opportunities are limited and often need to be made through moderate surf choked with up to half a metre of seaweed. We also paddled to the nearby islands of Kimitri, Despotiko, Strongylonissi, Oros, Diplo and Kavouras. An exclusion zone around an international kite surfing event stopped us from visiting the islands of Tourna, Glaropoda, Tigana and Pandros and strong winds thwarted our plans to paddle to the island of Kaki Skala.

The winds blew consistently from the north for the week we were there, generally picking up to around 15-20 knots by the middle of the day. We stayed off the water on two days when the forecast was for wind around 30 knots, spending these days car touring on the neighbouring island of Paros.

The Greek custom of late nights and late breakfasts made early morning launches impractical. We worked around this by taking a break in the middle of the day when the wind was strongest, having no difficulty filling in a couple of hours with swimming, snorkelling, long taverna lunches or simply sleeping under a tree. We then finished our paddles late in the afternoon when the winds had eased.

All in all, it was a highly enjoyable, relaxing week with some fine paddling and good company.

The paddling season on Antiparos runs from early May to early October, with the busy months of July and August best avoided. House of Seakayaking’s licences limit its operations to within five nautical miles of land, which would restrict paddlers to the areas in which we paddled and the neighbouring larger islands of Naxos and Paros. For more information on House of Seakayaking, visit www.seakayak-greece.com

Kas to Andriake

At the end of our week on Antiparos, we travelled by ferry via Kalymnos and Rodos to the Turkish town of Fethiye and then by bus to Kas. The area we had chosen to explore was the relatively undeveloped stretch of coastline between Kas and Andriake, an easy five-day paddle. We had considered renting kayaks but in the end opted for a private charter, with “Ekomarin Sea Kayaking Centre” providing kayaks, guide and a support boat. The decision to opt for a private charter was made largely because of our wish to have someone with us with knowledge of the cultural richness of the area through which we’d be paddling. Our group’s minimal Turkish language skills and ignorance of the position of the sensitive Greece-Turkey border were other factors that influenced our decision. The support boat was a bit of a luxury but it made morning packing less of a chore and gave us a chance to get out of our kayaks when we needed a leg stretch along the mostly non-landable coastline.

Our kayaks were Prijons (Expedition, Calabria, SeaYak) and Rainbow Lasers, the latter (an Italian-made kayak) being perfect for the smaller paddlers in our group. All the kayaks were fitted with rudders but only the Rainbow Lasers were fitted with thigh braces. The Rainbow Lasers were newish but the Prijons, although adequate for the trip, were older and well worn.

The weather during our paddle was fine but hot and humid. The wind blew at our backs for the whole trip, with light conditions for the first few days, increasing over the remainder of the paddle to reach around 20 knots on our final day.

The landscape we passed through was dramatic. Much of it was steeply sloping limestone hills with the coastline at water level etched by the sea into unfriendly razor-sharp plates. Where it was possible to land, there were opportunities to explore on foot the substantial remains of Lycian necropolises dating from around 500BC. The towns associated with these necropolises were flooded long ago, victims of earthquakes and rising sea levels — our exploration of these was by kayak and with snorkel and mask.

Along the way, we camped variously at the back of a small beach owned by a friend of the guide, in the middle of an olive grove crowded with goats and on the terraces of an abandoned and partly demolished villa. Our last night was spent in Simena, a small village that can only be reached on foot or by water. Snuggled into the hillside below an Ottoman fortress, it must be one of world’s most beautiful places. We finished paddling at the coastal town of Andriake (port to the ancient Roman city of Myra), after which we took a couple of days to unwind in Kas before moving on. As with Greece, our time in Turkey was well-spent and has left only the fondest of memories.

The paddling season in Kas runs from mid-March to mid-November. The peak season is July-August and is best avoided. During this period, the weather is at its hottest and most humid and the local operators are mostly occupied running day trips for tourists. For those who prefer to paddle independently, kayak rentals are available. Except by prior arrangement, Ekomarin’s kayaks can only be paddled in Turkish territorial waters. For more information visit: www.dragoman-turkey.com

Health and Safety

If you are planning on paddling in this part of the world, do consult your doctor before you go. We were surprised to discover that our childhood immunisations were unlikely to offer adequate protection against polio, whooping cough or diphtheria, all of which are endemic in parts of Turkey.

The typical Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil. If you are not used to such a diet, it’s likely that you will suffer from diarrhoea on a trip to this part of the world — probably on the day of your longest stretch of non-landable coast!

For a number of years, Kurdish separatists have carried out attacks in various parts of Turkey. The most recent of these attacks were in August 2006 when a number of tourists were killed or injured in bomb blasts in Marmaris and Antalya, towns not far from the area in which we paddled. Seek advice on the current situation before you head off.

Other paddling opportunities in Greece and Turkey

We were impressed with the friendliness, helpfulness and professionalism of both the operators we used on our trip — Vassilis Germanopoulos (House of Seakayaking) and Gökhan Türe (Ekomarin Sea Kayaking Centre) — and have no hesitation in recommending them to other paddlers. We are aware of other operators based in the Eastern Mediterranean, who may be worth considering if you are interested in paddling in this area.

An Australian paddler, Rod Feldtmann, runs Sea Kayak Milos in the Western Cyclades. Some of our group had rented kayaks from Rod on a previous visit to Greece. They enjoyed their time on Milos and speak highly of Rod. Rod no longer offers kayak rentals but he does run guided trips around Milos as well as more challenging island hopping trips from Milos to Santorini, from Kos to Rodos and between Rodos and Southern Turkey. More information can be found at: www.seakayakgreece.com

In planning for our Greek trip, we made contact with a Crete-based operator called Nature Maniacs that offers guided tours of up to ten days. Our decision to paddle around Antiparos was not based on any perceived inadequacies in the service offered by Nature Maniacs and anyone interested in paddling around Crete might find it worth following up with this operator. More information can be found at: www.seakayakcrete.com

Ecomarin Sea Kayaking Centre runs longer trips in other parts of Turkey, including a ten day paddle along the Black Sea coast from the Bulgarian border to the northern end of the Bosphorus Strait and a ten day island hopping circuit in the Sea of Marmara, starting and finishing at Banderma. Although not part of its regular program, this operator can also offer a twenty five day mother-ship supported trip between Athens and Bodrum and trips around the Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Peninsula. For more information, go to: www.dragoman-turkey.com

On a previous trip to Turkey, two of our group enjoyed a guided paddle with Alternatif Outdoor in the area around Köycegiz Lake and Göcek Bay, near Marmaris, mostly in relatively sheltered waters that are well suited to less experienced paddlers. This operator also offers kayak rentals. More information can be found at: www.alternatifraft.com

Southern Sea Ventures offers a number of paddling trips in the Göcek area, some of which can be combined with trekking and/or yacht cruising. If you prefer the convenience and security of working through an Australian-based operator, these trips might be for you. More information can be found at: www.southernseaventures.com