It’s a Long Way to the Top [67]

Travelling North — the 2004 A.R.S.E. tour from Cooktown to TI

By Sharon Betteridge

With thanks to my paddling buddies (in no particular order): Rob Mercer, Andrew Eddy, Peter Groenewoud, Richard Birdsey, and Vince Browning, without whom this trip wouldn’t have been the same.

First Day Jitters

“He pushed his mind through and pulled his body after…” I could hear Richard and Rob’s voices as I dozed off to sleep. Richard was reading aloud from a thick paperback. Rob interjected every now and then but I was too weary to listen properly let alone perform the mental gymnastics that would have been required to enter their conversation. I was deeply exhausted by the heat, the long day’s paddle and the anxiety of setting out on such a long trip in such a remote area. But my subconscious picked up this phrase and little did I know then how it would keep replaying over in my head on days when I felt too tired, or the conditions got too tough or the distance seemed too long. It was to become my mantra. Tonight however I rolled over and was soon in a deep sleep — dreaming of the long journey ahead.

Keeping Australia On the Left

Looking at the map it seemed straightforward enough: paddle more or less east out of the Endeavour River, turn left and keep heading north until you run out of coast. But we knew that there would be times when due to distance or haze or rain we wouldn’t see land. As well as the four big bays (Princess Charlotte, Lloyd, Newcastle, and Shelbourne Bays) that we would need to cross, island hopping, finding suitable campsites, returning to the mainland, and navigating through reefs and shoals would necessitate the use of accurate navigation tools and methods. So it came as no surprise that for several months before the trip our living room floor became a sea of charts that reached from the entrance to our living room through the kitchen to the back door and that we spent many evenings marking out bearings, distances and approximate travel times. We added notes from previous expeditionary logs, tide charts and topographic maps, discussed plans and, finally, set an itinerary.

Our Island Homes

Our first crossing was to the Turtle Group of islands. It was dead calm as we launched from Cape Flattery. “The only wind we are getting is the one we are creating by paddling into the still air,” declared Vince authoritively after a short while and I, for one, had to agree with him. It was hot. The water was clear and shallow, colourful fish darted under our kayaks. Rounding the tall dark brown buttresses of the Cape a long sweep of dazzling pure white sand abutting a tall green mountain range came into view. The beach seemed to go on endlessly but we finally reached Point Lookout and like Captain Cook, over two centuries previously on a similarly clear day and at the same time of year, we too could “look out” to the reef and islands and understand why Cook had named this headland so. From here the Endeavour’s route would take them out through a gap in the reef to the safety of deeper water. However, with our crafts’ shallow draughts we had little concern about either running aground or forging ahead into the afternoon sea breeze that had sprung up. So, after crossing the shipping channel we took a more northerly course through the maze of reefs and islands. At first a barge crossed our path and then as the seabed shallowed and its make up altered from sand, to sea grass, to reef, we were accompanied first by dolphins, then dugongs and finally turtles — the namesake of the group of islands where we were to spend our first night offshore.


“I guess it’s going to be grade 10 campsites all the way,” said Rob early on in our trip planning “on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the best” he added. And so we all pictured beaches backed by arid scrubland providing limited shelter from the sun’s intensity and buffeted by the prevailing southeasterly winds. But, sheltered behind rocky headlands in a grove of trees or on beaches facing north, nothing could have been further from the truth. Such was the beauty of the area that on most days we would launch early, paddle until mid afternoon and enjoy the remaining hours of daylight on land.

On Coquet Island we camped on a concrete slab under the navigation light tower on the northwest spit — the only clear, flat spot on the island. A steep climb up the rusting tower provided CDMA phone reception. We caught up on news from home. Richard read, Vince baked a damper, Andrew desalinated some water, I wrote in my log, and Rob and Peter cast their fishing lines. “It’s like primitive life” Vince observed, “Everyone has something to do.”

At Wilkie Island we found a cool lunch spot where we listened to the beautiful birdsong being played out in the neighbouring mangroves. Rob interviewed us and even now when I listen to the tape played back the birdsong is paramount and, so strong is the association, I can replay all the feelings, smells and coolness of that afternoon nestled in the damp sand and sheltered by overhanging branches.

At Cape Sidmouth we saw evidence of a trail of destruction brought by a not-so-recent cyclone as it crossed the coast: a path cleared of trees, littered with debris and an almost intact timber dinghy left high and dry. Behind the campsite was a grove of stunted paper barks. I hauled myself up a small quartzite over-hang to a flat area where ochre-coloured termite mounds stood two metres tall. I sat and watched. Their hues at first intensified and then fade through to pale lemon as the angle of the setting sun’s rays became more oblique.

The giant rounded pink granite domes of Cape Direction provided a sheltered lee shore to pitch our tents. An afternoon of scrambling over grassy tussocks dotted with rounded rocks to a high vantage point afforded 270-degree views to the north and south providing us with a glimpse of the remoteness of the Cape. A lone aluminium dinghy motored past after a day’s fishing, its occupants acknowledged us and we waved in reply. These were the first people we had seen since Cooktown.

The Ones That Didn’t Get Away

“The sea in this country is much more liberal of food to the inhabitants than the land; and though fish is not quite so plenty here as they are generally in higher latitudes, yet we seldom hauled the seine without taking from fifty to two hundred weight” (Captain Cook in “Captain Cook in Australia” “The journals of Captain James Cook edited by A.W. Reed.) And so it was that on most afternoons, using spinning reels and lures, Rob and Peter hauled in a more modest feed of fish from these pristine waters: Queen fish, Trevally, Mangrove Jack, Mackerel, Barramundi, Golden Trevally … and on one afternoon delighted us all with an entrée of the largest, sweetest oysters we had ever tasted. Whether sautéed with garlic and ginger or eaten sashimi style with soy sauce and wasabi these marine delights augmented our humble fare of pasta, rice, grains and dried vegetables.

We are sailing, we are sailing, across the water, across the sea

It was an overcast blustery day. With sail up I was skidding along daydreaming when I heard Vince taunting Rob with “bet I can get the fastest top speed”. We became like a group of school kids arguing over who could go faster. The ride was certainly exhilarating as we pushed our limits. On landing we checked our GPS’s to find all our individual top speeds were over 20km/h but Vince and Rob proudly took out the line honours each clocking a touch under 30.

Making Tracks

Paul Caffyn was right when he said Cape Melville reminded him of Old Nick’s marble winnings. Millions of rounded granite boulders piled high form the entirety of the headland and even more rounded granite boulders, heaped up, confronted us as we rounded the Cape. It looked like a recreation of a 1960’s sci-fi movie and I half expected to see a rocket landing and some form of alien life come out to meet it. Later on the beach Richard pointed out some tracks: four distinct claws astride a long meandering depression. This is certainly no alien and I am glad we are camped further along the beach and well above the high tide mark. We carefully placed the kayaks around our campsite and set our tents up nestled within their midst.

It was late when we arrived on Stainer Island. The day that had started early and windless had, after five hours of relentless paddling, seen us lunching under a navigation marker on Wharton Reef. At this rate, I figured it would take us until ten o’clock at night to reach the mound of sand two metres high and roughly the size of a football field that the charts mark as Stainer Island. I wondered whether our navigation would be accurate enough in the dark not to miss it altogether. However on launching after lunch a strong wind sprung up, our speed increased, our estimated landing time became earlier and we all noticeably relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the day’s paddle.

We pulled our boats up under the lone she oak tree. I went for a walk. I couldn’t see land, let alone our starting point in the Stanley Owen Group. Half way round my circumnavigation I stumbled across some fresh tracks: two sets of flipper marks in the sand. I looked above the tide line and notice a mound of sand. On closer inspection I could piece together the story: a female turtle had hauled her heavily laden frame up the beach, laid her eggs, and then covered them before returning to the sea. I stood silent for several minutes in awe hoping we just might be lucky enough to witness the fledgling turtles journey down the beach to the sea.

Barrow Point looked like a real croc venue with mangroves flanking a small muddy bay. With evening approaching and a quickly falling tide we decided to land while we still had some water under our hulls. We set up camp quickly. Later we ate our fill of oysters, and consumed a huge dinner of fresh Barramundi in ginger accompanied by coconut and lemon grass rice, washed down with a slurp of “Chateaux Le Box” that Vince had procured from some yachties. We shuffled off to bed thinking little of the cloven hoof marks and deep holes we had dodged when setting up our tents and were soon lulled to sleep by the wind rustling the trees overhead and the lapping of water across the mud flats. A few hours into our slumber I was abruptly awoken. I heard some yelling followed by a deep thud and then a squeal. Had a week in the wilderness turned our co-paddlers feral? I urged Rob to find out what is going on. It turned out that we were camping over a dining area for a family of wild pigs and Vince and Richard were chasing them away hurling both abuse and logs at the intruders. Fortunately for us Vince has a good aim and we didn’t hear from the pig family again that night.

And Then There Were Four …

Like Captain Bligh we stop at Restoration Island to rest and recuperate.

Although communication and transport links have improved, I suspect that that the landscape here has changed little since Bligh’s time. From seaward a tall wooded mountain range flanks the coast and a remnant rises abruptly from the sea creating Restoration Island. On its northern shore thousands upon thousands of years of wave action have created a sandy spit. Here tufts of coarse grass and numerous palm trees hang on tenaciously. The resident caretaker, Dave, was jumping about waving and yelling that we are late. Using two-way radio a local pilot has been giving Dave regular updates on our whereabouts and by his reckoning we are overdue. I think he had forgotten our mode of transport is non-motorised. After showering we were given a guided tour of the island. There were water tanks, an old slab floor partly eroded by the sea, a vegetable garden, a shed, a satellite dish, a wind generator, a fibreglass two room cabin, his “home” and an outdoor guest bedroom with “en-suite”. Dave is an avid collector and as well as displays of small trinkets and shells, larger flotsam can be seen in the beams and wall panelling of the buildings or stacked up ready for his next project. Rob and I snared the en-suite accommodation and the others pitched their tents under the stars.

We are two-thirds of the way through our trip and are on schedule. We fish, cook, eat, help Dave with the chores. Richard is called home urgently. It is fortunate there is an airport nearby and Dave motors him to town in his dinghy. From there Richard organises a lift to the airport and his kayak waits for the barge to ship it to Cairns.

Vince has itchy feet and fears losing momentum. He decides to continue ahead of us. From our original group of six we are now four — Rob, Peter, Andrew and myself. We stay another night.

Watering Holes

The rounded granite rocks of Cape Melville proved to be suitable shelter from the scorching midday sun. We drank from a fresh water spring beneath a boulder marked H2O in large lettering and filled our water bags. As it was only a short paddle from both Bathurst Bay and the water tanks on Flinders Island our need for water wasn’t desperate but at any opportunity we restocked our supplies.

Round the corner at Bathurst Bay, if you are energetic, you can walk along the four-wheel drive track to a water hole. As well as being good for drinking it is reported to be a safe spot to take a dip. However, I wasn’t going to test that theory.

Ussher Point provided another opportunity to fill up. From seaward it looked like a desert oasis complete with swaying palms and green grass. Rivulets of water flowed down the sand resembling a delta, only in miniature. I suspect this fresh water flows from some underground spring welling up through a softer spot in the rock.

There were few places we camp in close proximity to four-wheel drive tracks. As well as Bathurst Bay, Captain Billy Landing offered such a place to scavenge for water. On arrival we befriended a four-wheel drive family. Here Rob’s smooth talking enabled us to procure ten litres of water, a few yarns and some apples — the first fresh fruit we’d had for weeks.

Crocodile Rock

“Watch out for those short-legged swamp doggies … my neighbour’s prize bull got taken by one just last week.” Cautionary tales like this from the locals just whetted Vince’s appetite for some excitement. For the rest of us it just made us more cautious. But with Peter, it just made him jumpy. When Rob decided to manoeuvre carefully onto the beach at Captain Billy Landing, Peter thought he heard Rob say, “Be careful of the crocs” and he took some convincing that it was a rocky not a “croccy” landing. Meanwhile Vince was filming his own exciting documentary on nearby Hannibal Island. After his successful target practice on Barrow Point with the resident pigs he decided that throwing a log at the resident croc would ensure an afternoon of excitement. This incited the croc into action, leaping into the air, attacking the log and turning it into sawdust. All this was captured on video. As it was getting dark Vince realised he had no choice but to share the only bit of flat land on the island with the toothy critter.

Who Said We’d Never Make It

“Maps, especially simple ones, can offer very hospitable and kindly portraits of a place. Maps of the Torres Strait cannot depict the powerful currents rushing between the islands, the strong wind, the numerous reefs … ” (Paul Theroux, “The Happy Isles of Oceania.”)

After crossing the shallow shoals of Newcastle Bay we landed through low surf at the beach adjoining Fly Point. Two landcruisers pulled up. Their occupants poured out and offered us sandwiches, sweets and coffee. I gladly accepted their hospitality and was more than happy to chat with them while Rob, Andrew and Peter made a hasty climb up the trail to the top of the headland. From there they could see Albany passage. The chart indicated it flows at seven or more knots so we wanted the current, tide and wind all to line up. I secretly hoped it wouldn’t and we would have to wait for the morning’s tide. This would give us a chance to camp at Summerset Bay and explore the old homestead and surrounding grounds. They returned triumphant. While the channel looked like a seething mass of whitecaps and tumultuous water at the time — when the tide turns we would be able to scoot through at well over15km/h. After some very tricky maths to work out the tides Andrew was exuberant in announcing that at 14.16 the tide will turn. So at 2.10pm I waved goodbye to our new-found friends. As we launched they drove to the top of the headland to video our progress. Albany Passage became a bit of a blur. I didn’t even get to see Summerset Bay.

My disappointment however soon turned to elation. I saw the unmistakable boils and whirlpools where the east flowing Arafura Sea and the north flowing Coral Sea collide. The sign read: “You are standing at the northernmost tip of the Australian continent.” Emotions overwhelmed me. It’s a heady mix of excitement, relief, and pride. I drink it all in as I am pushed and pulled by both my mind and the currents.

Later when we pulled into the caravan park at Seisia the management and occupants were waiting our arrival. It turned out they have all been treated to a viewing of the video footage and want to know more about our trip. We spent the night entertaining them with our tales, calling home to family and friends, and toasting the end of another successful “A.R.S.E.” trip.

Training Report [67]

By David Hipsley

Congratulation to Henry Van der Kolk, Elizabeth Thomson, Greg Murray and David Hipsley on gaining their Flatwater Instructor’s qualification. On behalf of the group we would like to thank Mike Eggleton and NSW Canoeing for their efforts and inspiration during this time. We hope many of our new members gained from this experience and are now enjoying time on the water. Thanks also to Stuart Trueman and Australian Canoeing for carrying out the assessments.

The following people have all gained their Sea Skills qualification: William Thompson, Rowan Sinden, Paul Schramm, Bruce McNaughton, Paul Mower, Mark Anderson, Mark Clarkson.

A sea leader’s course was held during the weekend 5-6 May at Bundeena and run by Harry Havu, Rob Mercer and Andrew Eddy. The course was attended by Robert Hollows, Mark Alchin, Joanne Alchin, Greg Murray, Mark Schroeder, Matt Bezzina, Owen Kimberley and Terence Uren. We hope they are all inspired to qualify in the next few months, so they can help out with the heavy demand for trips.

If you have any training suggestions please let me know so I can pass them on to the training team.

Cruising the South Coast [67]

By Ken Motley

After a late start we were finally on our way, pushing out through Bateman’s Bay into a slight SE head wind. My kayak felt like a completely different boat with 10 days’ worth of supplies on board. I had only got the Point 65N XP a month before so hadn’t had an opportunity to try it out fully laden.

It was mid-January and our plan was to kayak down the NSW South coast to Mallacoota, with a possible further push onto Cape Conran if conditions allowed. My companions, Mike Snoad and John Wild, had already paddled down from Jervis Bay the previous week and so were pretty well run in by the time I joined them. I was meeting up with them after a chance phone call with Mike only the previous week. Luckily the planets lined up for me in terms of getting organised and here I was. Beside five days of extra sea paddling fitness, John and Mike also had a sail each, which I didn’t have.

Also joining us for the first couple of days was Sydney to Hobart paddler Simeon Michaels. He was using his trip to raise awareness to the planned pulp mill in the Tamar Valley in Tasmania. He certainly seemed to be getting a lot of publicity as we were repeatedly asked by people we meet along the way if we were Simeon.

This was to be my longest sea kayaking trip to date so I was really looking forward to spending some time on the sea and honing a few skills. While not being a native of the coast region I have always enjoyed the coastal scenery and I liked the idea of a bit of adventure. Prior to taking up sea kayaking I had played around in whitewater boats for some time, which I have found to be a great training ground for general paddling skills. However, the ocean is a completely different zone and I have much to learn about being out there in a sea kayak. My initial foray into sea kayaking involved sea skills training, a week long trip down the Murray River and few club paddles. I hadn’t paddled any of this coast line before, so the whole trip was new to me. Mike and John had both paddled much of this coast before but never as a complete trip.

On the first day we had lunch near Burrewarra Point and then we pushed on for Bingie Bingie point for the night. Just before stopping for the day we passed through the gauntlets at Mullimburra Point. The gauntlets are wide enough to easily fit a kayak through although I was very cautious not to land on a rock and open up my kayak on the first day.

Day 2

Waking up to a smoky red sun we sat down for breakfast and listened to the weather forecast on Mike’s short-wave radio. The forecast of four days of NE winds would not help to improve the nearby bushfire situation but it was great news for us.

We were on the water by 8am, keen to take advantage of the weather forecast. After a quick morning tea stop at Potato Point we made a direct line for Montague Island. By this time the wind was starting top pick up, providing ideal conditions for the 20km crossing. The seals failed to put on a showing for us at Montague so after a bite to eat and rest we pushed onto the camp site at Mystery Bay. Mike and John flew across this stretch with their sails up, doing the 10km trip in well under an hour. Mike reported seeing his GPS speed get up around 20km/h when on a good wave.

I was probably ten minutes slower than the other guys on these types of sections. However, I was happy for them to head off in front of me at their own pace rather than pushing me harder than I was comfortable with. The group spread wasn’t proving to be a problem as we always had an agreed meeting point and I could always see their brightly coloured sails making their whereabouts obvious. Besides, if I wasn’t slowing them up a bit they wouldn’t have had time to see the scenery. The idea of sailing sounds great so long as it doesn’t compromise the strength of your boat. However, if my kayaking companions were not sailors I probably wouldn’t feel compelled get a sail.

Having a rudder on my kayak helped me keep up with the sailors on the down wind runs. I was tempted to leave the rudder at home, but was glad I took it. When empty, the boat is easy to control down wind with the aid of the skeg alone. However, when fully laden I found using rudder a more efficient and easier way of catching following wave. The skeg worked well up to about 30 degrees either side of directly down wind. Inside that arc and the rudder was best allowing me to more opportunities for forward paddling strokes and to catch waves.

Day 3

A smoky red sunrise greeted us again in the morning. The bushfires must have been causing damage somewhere given the amount of smoke. Mike’s short-wave radio gave good news again with another four day forecast of NE winds that would easily get us to Gabo Island. Not knowing where we would quite get to that night we filled out water bottles before setting off.

After pulling in behind Camel Rock for morning tea we made our way in through small surf. On the way out I happened to time my run out with a large wave that seemed to rear up out of nowhere. With little place to go I laid on the power and managed to get to it just as it broke, sending me almost vertical in the air. Luckily I had enough forward momentum to come down on the hull rather than being flipped backwards.

The choppy seas made finding a suitable lunch landing spot around Murrah Head difficult, so after dosing up on a muesli bar to see us through for another hour or so we pushed onto Hidden Valley/Bunga Head for a late lunch.

After lunch we pushed on down the coast past Mimosa Rocks and Baronda Head, and into Nelson Lagoon to a great camping spot. The wind was blowing 25kt by this stage so it was good timing to finish the day. Be warned future travellers that the sand flies at Nelson Lagoon are savage. They savaged me after I went for quick swim and before quickly changing into long pants.

Over dinner Mike tried to kill us with an overdose of wasabi paste on sashimi style salmon that John had caught near the end of the day on his Mac’s straw lure. The wind was well and truly rattling the surrounding trees as we went to bed that night. We could have made more progress that day, but at a distance of 45km it was a comfortable effort.

Day 4

We rose early with plans of a 55km run down to Mowarry Point. The wind had died off over night and the day turned out to be the least windy of our trip. However, with a slight tail wind and flat sea conditions we made good time, stopping behind Bournda Island before having lunch at the small beachside take away cafe near Merimbula wharf. Loading up on a hamburger, coffee and muffin I felt quite rejuvenated. Storm clouds built up as we pushed down the coast, making the views back into Twofold Bay quite spectacular.

We arrived at the camp spot at Mowarry Point at 5pm, soon to be joined by Dee Ratcliff and Harry Havu who had hiked in from their car on their road trip back from Tassie. This was a great camp spot and as we lay back swapping sea kayaking stories with our new guests while several local seals entertained us by playing it up in the dumpy surf.

Day 5

A foggy overcast morning helped to create the feeling that we were finally heading into wilderness country. Waving goodbye to Harry and Dee we rounded Mowarry Point and headed between the rocky island and headland. The image of John and Mike paddling through the narrow rebounding sea set amongst the morning mist was a great sight. If only I had a camera to catch those moments.

Bittangabee Bay provided a nice sheltered rest on our way down the coast. John said he had never seen this bay “close out” before, making it a safe landing spot to file away in the future.

We were greeted by a pod of sleeping seals as we rounded Green Cape. The misty overcast weather meant we could hardly see Merrica River at first. However, knowing its general direction we headed across Disaster Bay. Merrica River and lunch came as a welcome relief as the small choppy swell across Disaster Bay seemed to rock my boat in an uncomfortable and tiring position.

After breaking out through the dumpy surf at Merrica River time seemed to evaporate as we cruised down the Nadgee coast. We were in no rush with a slight tail wind pushing us along the cliff line. This section of coast is certainly exposed with few sheltered landing spots, and I can appreciate how difficult it could be in bad weather. However, in good weather it makes for superb paddling and in no time we seemed to be at Nadgee River and setting up camp.

Day 6

Mike’s radio was still predicting NE winds, making me wonder if it was set on a pre-recorded message. This was to be our shortest day, with an 18km run around to Gabo Island. A 20-25kn NE wind made short work of it, with the entire run around to the Gabo wharf taking a bit over two hours.

We were treated to some great hospitality at Gabo by the lighthouse keeper Peter Provis that included a trip up the light house and accommodation in the lighthouse keeper’s house. We also caught up with around Australia kayaker Sandy Roberts here.

Day 7

The weather forecasts were predicting a further two days of NE winds before a possible change. So after a bit of discussion it was decided that we would have a go at Cape Conran despite our late start for the day.

I was really enjoying the trip so far and the section of coast south of Mallacoota was completely foreign to me so I was looking forward to the trip being extended by a few days.

Landing at Shipwreck Creek for lunch I got tossed sideways in a dumpy little surf and dropped onto the beach. I hoped the cracking noise as the side of kayak hit the sand wasn’t the sound of splintering fibreglass. However, after hopping out of my kayak I could see that my rear bulkhead had come away from the hull slightly. The hull wasn’t affected, but it meant that water could easily leak from the cockpit into the day hatch and I now had a small repair job to do when I got back home.

Rounding Sand Patch Point we started to head west into the afternoon setting sun. The seal colony at the Skerries off Wingan Inlet was a real highlight of the trip. There must have been hundreds of seal on the rocks off shore, and who knows how many resident white pointers.

By the time we got into Petrel Point we were looking forward to calling it a day. The sun was low on the horizon and shining directly in our faces and it had been good day clocking up 55km. We landed at about 7:30pm and made camp on the western side of Petrel Point.

Day 8

The weather forecast on Mike’s radio told us we had better get on with it if we were going to get to Cape Conran before the weather front arrived. So we hastily packed up camp and headed out onto a calm sea.

Just as we approached Point Hicks we were hit by strong SW winds that made the final paddle into the sheltered waters of the headland a real struggle. We were not sure if this was the change coming through early or a passing squall. We still had a good 50km to get to Cape Conran and with the possibility of further head winds during the days we decided to end the trip early at nearby Thurra River. In any case we had to hitch back to Mallacoota to get our cars, so it didn’t really matter where we finished.

So our trip had finished. I was still enjoying the trip and felt I could easily keep going, which was probably a good time to finish. It was great to get out on the ocean for an extend period of time and was just what I needed. I was really happy with the way my new boat handled and I think it will fit my requirements well.

The opportunity for a novice like me to spend a week on the ocean with Mike and John was fantastic. Besides being good company they provided a good balance between sharing useful tips and not being overbearing with instructions. Listening to their stories of past kayak trips has opened up my eyes to the big wide world of sea kayaking and all its possibilities.

The Right Stuff [67]

Club Sea Leader Training

By Harry Havu and Mark Alchin

The calm and warm waters of Pt Hacking sparkled on the first Saturday in May. That is when a group of our people gathered at our traditional stomping grounds for some special stuff. Bonnie Vale and the Bundeena RSL continue to provide a great base to gather for sharing our knowledge and paddling experience. And so it was on that weekend: eleven club members spent two days together to share their hard learned lessons in paddling.

Eight paddlers had signed up to train toward becoming Club trip leaders. This weekend was a big step on that journey for many. But, as varied as the paddling backgrounds were, the common theme to all was the obvious intent to learn as much as possible — and this is always great news for those doing the instructing. So, apart from the weather being ‘too good’, everything was set for a great weekend. The two days were spent in the RSL meeting room talking through theory and on the water trying out skills. Complicated rescues, safety, planning and group management were main fare on the menu which also covered potentially more soporific topics such as leadership, law, risk management etc, just to name a few. However, when you put all that in the context of our chosen sport, it all becomes very interesting indeed.

A wide variety of emergency and rescue scenarios were experienced by Sea Leader candidates including, sea sick and disorientated paddlers, heart attack victims, dislocated shoulders, “All In” rescues, panicked paddlers and general group management. I’m told, Rob Mercer was nominated for an Academy Award for his part in “The Panicked Paddler.” Fortunately no one drowned more than once.

Special thanks to Rob Mercer, Sharon Betteridge, Andrew Eddy and our newest Sea Instructor Harry Havu who qualified on the weekend.

Rock’n’Roll 2007 [67]

By Rob Richmond

Friday 23 March was a delightful warm day as kayakers from around NSW, Vic and QLD rolled into Batemans Bay to enjoy our big annual get together. About 130 people booked in to enjoy the weekend. The venue was perfect for such an event, lots of camp space, great units etc and everybody in close proximity.

Our theme for the weekend “getting paddlers together” was working well particularly around the Impex Kayaks tent, its amazing how free beer attracts a crowd.

While some were seeing stars late at night some of us took advantage of the perfect clear night and the astronomy lesson given by Rob Hollow, thoroughly recommend this next year.

Our sponsors

We had to find a major sponsor with little notice and Paul Hewitson from Mirage very generously donated a Mirage 530 for our raffle. Thanks Paul from all members of the club. The raffle raised over $3000 that will be given to Vicki McAuley.

Other generous sponsors for the weekend were Blue Earth, Impex Kayaks, GPSOZ, Hybrid Sails, Sydney Harbour Kayaks and Gudu Kayaks. Your support is greatly appreciated and I recommend members support these businesses.


All was going well on Saturday but the weather was forecast Southerly winds at over 30 knots. Just as well we booked a huge marquee and we had some excellent day presentations, and weren’t they good. Our superstar Justine Curgenven gave us a great insight and knowledge as to how she makes those entertaining movies from her boat. She also did a session on the gear she takes on her trips.

Dave Winkworth gave some very practical tips on boat repairs, maybe Dave might do this again next year and I recommend all attend.

Our Polish friend Andre Janecki gave a fascinating talk breaking down a kayak and discussing the design, he showed us his new range of sails.

Bernie from GPSOZ showed us the range of GPS on the market, discussed the features and allowed us to play with them. They travelled down from Sydney just to give this talk, a big effort and a great talk.


Wow what a girl. Her presentation on Saturday night was superb entertainment. She is an inspiring young lady and we are so glad she took time out of her busy international schedule to visit us. Only problem is how do we put that standard of presentation on next year! We had more at the dinner than paid so we ask that next year please book in to be fair to others.

Trip Leaders

A big thank you to all the trip leaders, instructors etc who give so much of their time up all year to keep this great club going. The weekend was one of participation from all and that’s what clubs like ours are about. At a weekend like this you strengthen friendships, make new friends, find new paddling buddies and it was a very enjoyable experience

Andrew McAuley

It was very sad Andrew was not at this weekend, very very sad. As a result of the Mirage raffle and your generous donations of deposit money Vicki McCauley will receive $6000 from money raised at this weekend, well done.

Next Year

Its on again same venue ( 5 — 7 April 2008. Looking forward to receiving your feedback regarding speakers we might be able to get and what you want on the weekend. Sorry blokes requests for pole dancers will be ignored, although there is discussion of a kayak fashion parade, I wonder how many will be game? The cooking competition was a big flop this year so how about you come up with some ideas and send them to Rob Richmond

We look forward to another great Rock’n’Roll in April 2008, see you all there!

President’s Report [67]

By Elizabeth Thomson

First of all, Rock’n’Roll was a huge success. We had around 130 registrations at Batemans Bay, enjoying the new facilities of the Batemans Bay Beach Resort and exploring the waters of the bay and the Clyde River. We also listened to fantastic talks by our guest speakers, including our special guest, Justine Curgenven from the UK.

As you know we raffled off a Mirage 530 with the proceeds to go to Vicki McAuley. In all, the raffle raised $3000 and the donated registration deposits raised a further $2000. This is an extraordinary effort. Thank you to everyone.

And thank you to the Rock’n’Roll coordinator, Rob Richmond, Stephan Meyn, the team of volunteers and of course, the trip leaders for such a great event.

Our internet co-ordinator, Peter Kappelmann, is always interested in photos for the website’s Picture of the Month section. So don’t be shy, send him a photo and a caption, and it might get published on our web frontpage.

More Than a Night for Newbies Mark II on June 21, 2007. We’ve had an influx of new members since our last “Newbies” night late last year and the time is right to welcome them in to the Club. Please come along to Blue Earth, 48a Formosa Street, Drummoyne, on Thursday evening from 7.00pm to enjoy an informal evening of mixing with members old and new to talk about all things kayaking. More on our club website.

Have you renewed your membership? As all memberships expired on 1 March 2007, if you have not renewed this year, please complete the application form on the website or in the magazine and pay the membership fee: Single membership fee is $100, family membership $160 and instructors, assessor et cetera pay $45.

Bruce McNaughton has kindly offered again to conduct a First Aid course for interested club members. If you want to attend, please contact him on

The date for the AGM is scheduled for 18 August. Usually we hold our meeting in July, but due to work commitments and overseas trips of Committee members, we need to move it forward. Stay tuned for further details.

Hawkesbury Classic 27 October 2007. This is a must do race for all kayakers, 111km from Windsor to Brooklyn to test your physical and mental stamina. The race is run overnight and it is a great personal achievement when you finish. All money raised goes to the Arrow Foundation for medical research and keeping the bone marrow register. You can treat the race seriously or just go in it for the fun. It would be good if we can get a good contingent of paddlers from our club. More later on organizing a preliminary trip, race strategy, food to take etc.

Donation Towards the Paul Caffyn Commemoration. The Committee has donated $500 towards the Paul Caffyn Commemoration, being organized by the Victorian Sea Kayak Club to be held later in 2007. A plaque commemorating the first sea kayak circumnavigation of mainland Australia 25 years ago will be unveiled.


How far to Pittwater? [67]

By Andrew Kirk

Lucky bastards, I thought.

There couldn’t have been better conditions for a late evening sail. Gentle nor’ wester, smooth seas and the setting autumn sun gave the lighthouse a gentle pinkish glow.

A nice boat, too — looked about a 35-footer. A bit close-in ‘though; he’d have to tack out to sea again soon. But he didn’t tack. He eased sails and broad-reached directly towards me. It was a pretty sight.

I’d launched my kayak from the boat ramp on the northern side of Norah Head and was fooling about on some small waves breaking over a nearby bombie. I decided to paddle out to meet him and warn him to stand off a bit.

“G’day. Be a bit careful, mate. Nasty reefs in close here.”

“OK. Thanks. How far to Pittwater?”

That puzzled me. When I’d spotted him rounding the head he’d been beating up the coast. So he was actually sailing away from Pittwater. Maybe he’d suddenly decided to head for the closest overnight mooring?

I know the Central Coast pretty well but didn’t have a ready answer to his question. I could have made a quick guess of the distance but felt a bit uncomfortable. With only an hour or so of light left, was he depending on my accuracy?

Just then, he had to harden-up and tack out to clear the reef, so I had some time to think as I paddled after him. But he yelled back to me, “Where is this?”

Perhaps he’d just made this landfall from way out? Maybe even from New Zealand? Odd, though; you’d reckon a seagoing yacht would have a GPS. In any case, the two men on board were obviously strangers who needed help.

“That’s Norah Head lighthouse.” And then I asked, trying to understand why he was apparently sailing in the wrong direction, “Where did you come from?”


He was middle-aged, portly and ruddy faced; sounded English. Didn’t look like a yachtie. Nor did his mate — a scrawny bloke lounging against the mast with a grin on his face and a can of VB in his hand. Now downwind of them both, I could smell the beer. London my arse.

“I reckon Pittwater is about 40 kilometres away.” Just to be extra helpful, I pointed, “That way. To the South.”

“Shit, we must have passed it on the way up. How will we be able to find it?”

A good question, since they had maybe four or five hours of sailing in the dark ahead of them. I made my reply as simple as possible. “Go back out to the lighthouse. Turn right, the way you came, and then sail to the furthest point you can spot from there. When you round it, you will see Barrenjoey.”

“What’s that?”

“Haven’t you got a chart?”

“No. This boat didn’t come with any, but I brought along this Sydney street directory.”

Better be lucky bastards, I thought.

Circumnavigating Macquarie Harbour [67]

By Trevor Costa

The Paddlers:

  • Trevor and Helen Costa
  • John and Raylee Harvey
  • Keith Aubrey
  • Dick Johnston

The Sea Kayaks:

  • 2 Mirage 530s (Kevlar)
  • 2 Current Design Storms (plastic)
  • 1 Bear Mountain Design, Endeavour (wood)
  • 1 Advanced Kayak, Islander Tour (wood)

In February 2007 a group of six Canberra paddlers headed for Strahan, South West Tasmania, with the intention of paddling Macquarie Harbour. The plan was to launch from Strahan and paddle the harbour in an anti-clockwise direction, with a side visit to the Gordon River, making the most of seasonal conditions.

Like many places in Tasmania, but perhaps even more so, Macquarie Harbour combines great natural beauty with a history that is colourful and tangible, with many relics surviving and accessible to the more persistent visitor. In researching the trip we couldn’t help but feel a connection to those in the past who had also relied on small vessels to journey through these waters. Perhaps they too had taken into account many of the factors that our group was considering, such as the likely conditions we would meet, achievable distances and best places to camp.

The European history in this part of the world is intrinsically linked to the finding, harvesting and utilisation of Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii). The yellow wood from the Huon Pine was, and still is, highly prized as ship building timber. It is easy to work and its oily nature (it has oil instead of sap) repels wood borers. The stands of Huon pines found along the Gordon River were harvested by the penal settlement on Sarah Island which was established in 1822. The convicts from the settlement were forced to row up river in appalling conditions and toil in the forests to bring the timber out. The conditions the convicts endured were portrayed in the film “For the Term of His Natural Life” which was based roughly on the book of the same name by Marcus Clarke. The valuable Huon was also the reason why in the 1900s the piners and rivermen braved the isolation and conditions with such tenacity to continue the harvest.

My wife Helen and I had paddled the Gordon River in 2003. This trip had coincided with the 20th anniversary of the success of the “No Dams” campaign which stopped the construction of the Lower Gordon below Franklin Dam. Even this snippet of the region’s history was linked to the forests, as the dam would have drowned the cool temperate rainforest where trees such as the Huon Pine grow.

Day 1

Lesson from the Day: Caged fish swim deep on warm days.

The early morning light revealed the group gathered at West Strahan Beach with boat loading well underway. Once on the water we were pushed along by a gentle NW wind that soon had sails hoisted. Helen and I had the Norm Sanders type sprit sails, while the others sported V-shaped sails and I made a mental note to see how the two styles compared over the trip.

We made Yellow Bluff in great time and the much anticipated crossing of Kelly Channel to the western side of the harbour. We aimed for Elizabeth Island, ferry gliding across the current that flowed towards the harbour’s entrance and the sometimes aptly named Hells Gate. The lighthouse at the entrance was clearly visible as we made Elizabeth Island. It’s not far from here that the last boat to be built on Sarah Island, the brig Frederick, was hijacked by convicts and sailed to Chile. This meant freedom for some, but further betrayal and incarceration for others. Not a convict in sight on this fine day. The conditions were superb and the crossing went off without a hitch.

By midday we had reached our intended overnight destination of Betsy Bay, so we eagerly pushed on while the conditions were with us. We landed for lunch at Liberty Point across from the fish farms and a couple of boats came over to check us out. The fish farm guys explained they didn’t have much to do as the warm weather was forcing the caged fish deep. After a quick chat they sped off in their V8 workhorses leaving some great waves to surf in their wake.

Onwards to Double Cove for afternoon tea with the NW winds rising. Club members John Lipscombe and Margot Toddhunter, who had done this paddle recently, told us about Double Cove and a great camping spot in the Blue Gum forest. It certainly was a great spot with a white pebbly beach and a welcomed swim in the golden waters, but we couldn’t find any good camping spots. Later, after taking a float plane flight over our paddle route, we saw that we had only gone into one of the two coves; the campsite must have been in the other cove round the corner. This is why it is called “Double” Cove.

We pushed on towards Steadman’s Beach as the wind and waves picked up for some nice sailing. Down wind each type of sail seemed to push the boats along at a steady rate but perhaps the V-shaped sails seemed slightly faster. The campsite we found near Steadman’s Beach was picture perfect: white sandy beach, emerald forest and freshwater creek right beside. We all hit the tents early after such a great effort on the first day. We were now within easy striking distance of Sarah Island and only a few more clicks to Birch’s Inlet.

Keith had brought along a marine radio and the weather forecast for the next day wasn’t sounding too good with increasing north westerlies.

Day 2

Lesson from the Day: Kayakers can attain a sense of belonging by hanging out in tourist traps.

The wind built all night and Day 2 saw us pushing off in the early morning into strong NW winds and white caps as far as the eye could see. The ride to Sarah Island certainly wasn’t a fair weather paddler’s delight but sure was a blast. The wind and waves were slightly abeam and after the fiftieth white cap tried to climb on board I wondered how the mariners of yesteryear would have handled these conditions in their open boats. On landing on Sarah Island, an experienced member of the group stated that these conditions “were probably as bad as you would take on voluntarily”. At least we had the luxury of considering whether to venture out in these conditions or not; in the old days such options may not have existed.

One of the big ferries from Strahan docked and we soon found ourselves amongst a seething throng of fellow tourists. In our paddling gear I felt sure we would stand out like ducks in a chook pen. But apart from a few fleeting sideways glances, no one seemed to be that curious about our audacious fluoro attire as we mingled amongst the melee to hear the guide who was giving the rundown of the Island’s colourful history. We had found “our tribe”. Our seamless assimilation may be understandable given the colourful clobber of the average tourist in Tasmania.

The penal settlement on Sarah Island was established in 1822 for repeat offenders and soon earned a reputation as a place of extreme cruelty, a virtual living hell. However by the time of its closure in 1833 a thriving ship building industry had been established and conditions had much improved. A total of 96 ships and boats were built here. The remains of the shipyard can still be seen. The last ship to be built, the 121 ton brig the Frederick mentioned earlier, has a story of intrigue and daring connected to it that would put any Hollywood movie to shame. If you are in Strahan I can recommend taking in the play, “The Ship that Never Was” about the hijacking of the Frederick. It is Tasmania’s longest-running play, performed daily and is great fun and a rollicking tale to boot.

As we were about to launch, another group of sea kayakers landed. They seemed very relieved to have reached their destination where they intended to catch the next ferry back to Strahan. We had watched them from the island for some time, making hard work of it coming out of Birch’s Inlet against the conditions. We got some good advice on how to find Mousley’s Hut on Birch’s Inlet and the conditions we could expect up the Gordon River. They had also intended, like us, to make the Franklin River but their attempt was stopped by the first big rapid on the Gordon, aptly known as The Big Eddy. I was disappointed to hear their story, as when Helen and I had paddled the Gordon River in 2003 we had also tried to make the Franklin to be stopped by rapids. I hoped that by the time we were scheduled to make the latest attempt in a couple of days, the river’s flow would have decreased enough to allow safe passage up the rapids.

The conditions were directly behind us as we left Sarah Island and we made good progress towards Birch’s Inlet. Even so, no one had the nerve to keep the sail up for long until we had rounded Rum Point. Out of the wide expanse of the main harbour the chop was diminished and the waves were smoother and well defined, but still powerful as they were fuelled by the entire fetch of the harbour; great fun to surf under sail. We had some trouble spotting Mousley’s Hut amongst the trees but thanks to the information given by the kayakers earlier, we were soon settling into one of the most comfortable wilderness huts I have ever stayed in. The West Coast Wilderness and Recreation Association and Tas Parks and Wildlife have done a great job in building and maintaining Mousley’s Hut. It’s a must stop over if ever down that way.

Day 3

Lesson from the Day: Never piss off a possum.

Day 3 saw us exploring Birch’s Inlet in what was supposed to be a day for a relaxing paddle, but of course turned out to be one of the biggest paddle days of the trip. It started well with some great paddling among the morning mist as we travelled down the east side of the inlet which marked the boundary of the Gordon/Franklin Wild Rivers World Heritage Area. We headed for a hut we knew existed up one of the two small rivers (the Sorrel and Birch’s Rivers) that flowed into the top end of the inlet. This hut is used by researchers of the rare Orange Bellied Parrot. As we explored the tributaries, we meandered through the narrow passages formed by close vegetation, the country changed from forest to heath land. After paddling the Sorrell as far as we could navigate with no hut in sight, we proceeded back to the inlet and up the Birch’s River. We eventually found the landing for the hut but discovered that the hut itself lay another 250m from the river bank. We decided to head back to camp without visiting, as time was getting away on us. On the way we briefly stopped for a breather and checked out another hut in the Conservation Area on the western shore, left over from the mining days. We returned to Mousley’s Hut plum tuckered.

We managed to get enough sleep despite a late night raid on the hut by ninja possums whose siege strategies included launching from a tree onto the side of the hut and scraping their claws on the corrugated iron walls all the way to the ground. We later learned that the possums had been provoked somewhat, as Helen, on the way to the loo in the middle of the night, inadvertently slammed the head of one of the furry marsupials in the door as it tried to muscle its way into the hut. She managed to extract the determined critter and get the door shut behind her. The possum then proceeded to run in decreasing circles around her feet as she made the dash to and from the outside loo. She made it back into the hut OK with a hefty slam of the door, despite another attempt at illegal entry. We can only imagine the mayhem if the possum had succeeded in its mission to make its way inside. Helen later received the Medal of Honour for bravery in the face of a determined and dazed marsupial.

Day 4

Lesson from the Day: If you get epoxy on your hands don’t wipe them on the nearest tuft of grass, as in Tassie this tuft may actually be comprised of razor sharp cut grass. Oh, and remember to pack plenty of Elastoplast.

Early morning found piles of possum poo discreetly deposited on the hand rails of the walkway leading from the hut (devious critters) and us packing to leave the harbour to head up river to Eagle Creek Camp on the Gordon. We had morning tea at the mouth of the river taking in the incredible vista across the waters to the mountains. Heading up river proved hard work at first as there was a strong current to contend with, courtesy of an overnight release of water from the Gordon Dam. Still we made reasonable progress slip streaming each other paddling in Indian file. We watched the tourist ferries grumble by while having lunch at the Boom Camp (also known as Pine Landing) where a fishermen’s hut is located. The Boom Camp is another historical spot associated with the pining history. It’s here that the logs were gathered and combined to form rafts, to be towed up the harbour to Strahan.

Heritage Landing was just around the corner and while the others explored the interpretation boardwalk in the cool temperate rainforest, I tried my luck with my fishing lure, trolling out the back of the kayak for any hungry resident trout. I lost the lure in five minutes on a snag and as I pushed the hatch cover back on my day hatch in a minor tantrum, I noticed movement of the hatch rim inwards. Not a good thing, but further investigation would have to wait until that night’s camp.

Once all were back on the water I was surprised to see a platypus swimming casually alongside, close enough to see him wink before he disappeared under the dark waters. We made Eagle Creek Camp in good time, with me, the ever experienced river guide, nearly shooting straight past it. The Tas Parks and Wildlife had changed the camp site from the eastern side of the creek to the western side, which made for a much dryer camp than Helen and I recalled from our last visit. While the others sat relaxing preparing tea, I set about repairing my day hatch. It wasn’t hard to remove the hatch rim as it looked like I had used the wrong proportions of epoxy mix when I originally installed it, so it never quite set properly. An embarrassing and potentially serious mistake if the failure had occurred in rough water. I had brought along a repair kit for the trip, including epoxy glue, which had the hatch repaired in no time (right proportions of epoxy mix this time) and I felt this redeemed my original day hatch construction blunder somewhat. But for the last word on this saga see the Lesson from the day.

Day 5

Lesson from the Day: Never resent the presence of big red cray boats until you know who is on board.

As we launched from Eagle Creek camp to head up river, we watched as a large red cray boat rounded the bend and dropped anchor. We took in the great scenery of Limekiln Reach and visited Lake Fidler on our way to Snag Point for a bite to eat. As we left Snag Point the same cray boat pulled up mid river and again noisily dropped anchor. This boat seemed to be following us. Combined with the regular float plane flights buzzing overhead on their way to Sir John’s Falls, we started to resent these intrusions to our supposed wilderness experience. This contrasted to when Helen and I visited in 2003 when we didn’t see or hear another soul for a week. The group paddled past Marble Cliffs, which was alive with the buzz of bees, and rounded Butler Island.

It wasn’t long before the jetty at Warner’s Landing could be seen on the left and the little beach opposite that marked Gordon Camp and Gould’s Landing. We landed on the beach and made our way to the hut above. The hut proved to be a little worse for wear since our last visit in 2003 but at least the toilet was functional this time. Right on cue the big red cray boat appeared again and anchored across at Warner’s Landing. A quick walk to check out Sir John’s Falls cleared some of the paddling cobwebs. We met the next float plane as it moored alongside the jetty below the falls, chatting to the pilot and making a pact we would catch the plane and fly over the paddle route once we returned to Strahan.

While preparing dinner on the beach we had a visit from one of the crew of the cray boat that had shadowed us all day. He explained that the skipper of the boat was Garry Kerr who had co-authored a book on the Huon Pine and the stories and history behind its harvesting. Garry was taking some friends up the river, stopping off to explore the significant historical sites along the way. On learning this we mentioned that on our way back down river we were keen to locate the old lime kilns along Limekiln Reach. They are often referred to in information on the Gordon River but their exact location isn’t.

Garry soon came across in a runabout to give us some rough directions on how to locate the kilns. He was a quietly spoken bloke and modest to boot. On talking further about the history of the region, we learnt of his involvement in the TV documentary called “The Oldest Tasmanians” (which a few in our party had seen) about the piners on the Gordon River. He was full of knowledge and we lapped it all up with relish. He proved to be not only modest and knowledgeable but very generous, offering us a couple of copies of his book and two crayfish (lobsters) from the freezer. This was a fantastic act of generosity.

Day 6

Lesson from the Day: Similar to Day 5 but substitute large red cray boat for campsite inhabitants.

We woke to the amplified sounds of the runabouts from Garry’s boat, as they made their way up the narrow cliff lined section of the river. Like us, Garry’s party was hoping to make the Franklin. It wasn’t long before we were following in their wake taking in the vegetation that adorned the rock faces and the waterfalls trickling among them. The river was about a meter lower than when Helen and I were here in 2003 and I was anxious to see how this would impact on the rapids further up. It was hard paddling against the flow and with some group spread we rounded a bend to find Keith and Dick pulled up on the river bank below the first rapid, the Big Eddy. From the state of the rapid and a quick reconnoitre of the river bank, it was soon obvious that this would be as far as we would get and that we wouldn’t be able to reach the Franklin. I don’t think the runabouts would have had any problem getting up this rough water and we were envious of the thought they were probably already enjoying the lower reaches of the Franklin. The old piners would have rowed up this rapid or pulled their manoeuvrable punts up by rope with no problem, but for us, the risk of capsize in our long kayaks was too high.

On our last visit Helen and I were able to get up the Big Eddy only to be stopped by the next rapid at Franklin Rock. So we weren’t that concerned the second time round, having dealt somewhat with the disappointment before, but for some others in the group it was a hard pill to swallow. We turned around for a quick ride with the flow back down river to the Gordon Camp, loaded the boats and headed for Eagle Creek Camp once more.

We made Snag Point in good time and took in the sunshine and majestic surroundings while tucking into a lobster lunch in honour of Keith’s birthday. Once along Limekiln Reach and thanks to Garry’s directions, we soon located the track that lead to the two lime kilns in the forest. The kilns were impressive in their size and there was still some limestone piled along side ready for firing. The kilns supplied the lime for the mortar to build the settlement on Sarah Island and to improve the soil for farming. A small party of convicts worked the kilns under the supervision of armed guards. The guards lived in a hut on the opposite side of the river and would row across each day with provisions. At one stage the convicts overpowered the guards and took off up river in the boat, but I could find no further reference to their eventual fate. Today it’s hard to imagine how people could have worked and lived in such an environment.

We landed at Eagle Creek Camp to find it already occupied by two kayakers. Jeff Jennings and his partner Lin had caught the ferry up from Strahan and were making their way to Gordon Camp. Despite our group gate crashing their camping solitude, we had a great night swapping stories and talking kayaks and paddling. Jeff’s impressive Rockpool sea kayak that he had shipped over from Wales was the centre of attention and discussion. It turns out Jeff was one of the photographers for Justine Curgenven’s all female circumnavigation of Tasmania by sea kayak that was included in the DVD This Is The Sea 3.

Day 7

Lesson from the Day: Black Tiger Snakes swimming in dark water are very hard to see from water level.

Day 7 saw us leaving the Gordon River and back out into Macquarie Harbour. We were heading for Kelly’s Basin and the old mining town of East Pillinger. East Pillinger was established in the late 1800s and served as a thriving centre for the ore mining industry. The town slowly declined and Strahan eventually took over as the main centre for industry on the harbour with the last permanent resident of East Pillinger leaving in 1943. There are a few interesting relics and ruins still to be found amongst the now re-grown forest.

The weathered pylons of the old jetty marked the spot where the township once stood and we arrived tired and cold after some tricky paddling and sailing, milking the most from the abeam wind and waves. It’s here I think the sprit type sails may have some advantage over the V-shaped sails as you may be able to get a more efficient trim when conditions are from abeam. The hard paddling may have influenced the somewhat erratic decision-making that followed. We landed at East Pillinger on a small rocky beach, but failed to notice the access track that we later realised lay only a couple of metres inland from our landing spot. After some fruitless bush bashing along the shoreline trying to find the access track, we decided to take to the water once more and have a look at West Pillinger for a likely camp site. We crossed the basin against a strong wind to find a maintenance crew working on the hut. So camping was not an option there. While we chatted to the maintenance workers who were on the jetty, one nonchalantly pointed to a large Tiger snake that was busy trying to climb on board Dick’s boat. Dick did a hasty back paddle and the snake took to the jetty instead, which made the workers gathered there slightly more animated.

We crossed the basin once again to East Pillinger and this time landed at a jetty where a large luxury motor cruiser was moored. Those that weren’t able to find room to tie up at the jetty landed amongst the thick shoreline vegetation and rocks which sparked much grumbling and groaning as we struggled with the heavy boats. When the possibility of encountering Tiger snakes amongst the vegetation was raised, it was remarked that in the current climate if one was seen it was more likely to be bitten by one of the group than the other way round.

We all climbed the jetty to find the access track to the camp ground, and further along we found the crew of the motor cruiser (complete in white navy style uniforms) busy pulling down a marquee. They informed us that if we had been a half hour earlier we could have dined on the catered leftovers from a tourist group. More grumbles followed. The boat skipper informed us that a southerly front was forecast for the next day and things could get rough on the harbour. He said we should aim to get past Sophia Point if possible before conditions deteriorated too much, as the long fetch of the harbour generated sizable waves around the area. He wasn’t sure how we would go rounding the point “in those things”, nodding towards the kayaks.

We sussed out camping spots further up the track and stumbled onto the tourist group sipping champers amongst the trees. Not sure who got the bigger surprise as we hastily exchanged pleasantries and moved on. The only real camping option was to pitch the tents on the wooden platform that formed the base for the tourist marquee. We waved goodbye to the motor cruiser and its passengers and, as the sun set, we did the rounds of the remaining ruins of the town. On getting back to camp it started to rain and we soon had a marquee of our own, a little less elegant but nonetheless effective, hoisted above the picnic table. John had lugged the blue plastic tarp on his back deck the whole trip and was glad to finally put it to its anticipated use. We cooked tea with storm jackets shielding us from the cool wind and rain drumming on the tarp. It was strangely comforting to be in true Tassie weather at long last.

Day 8

Lesson from the Day: .Same as Day 7 but substitute Black Tiger Snakes for dark rocks.

With the words of the Skipper from the motor cruiser still fresh in our minds it was an early launch for Day 8. The rain had stopped but the wind was driving down the basin directly against us and it took some time to clear the point and get into the harbour proper where the strong SE winds were already at work stirring things up. This meant mostly following conditions, but Helen was having trouble with a kayak that insisted on poking its stern high in the air and yawing badly on the bigger waves. The way the boat was handling I suspected that there were problems with the weight distribution of her gear.

After a choppy crossing of Farm Cove we pulled into Gould Point navigating our way (some better than others) to the beach through the submerged rocks, with Sarah Island visible in the distance. We needed to establish how we were all travelling as this was a point of no return. If we decided to catch the ferry back to Strahan we would have to strike out now for Sarah Island to make the rendezvous. Any further and the conditions would make for a hard slog back to the Island, while ahead lay around 40km of harbour. Helen redistributed her water storage arrangements in an attempt to improve her boat’s trim and it was agreed we would paddle for another five minutes to suss out the conditions before making the final decision. The conditions around the point were much improved along with the behaviour of Helen’s boat and all thoughts of a Sarah Island rendezvous were quickly forgotten. What followed was a great morning’s paddle with variable conditions and fantastic scenery offering a truly classic Tassie backdrop of towering cloud-topped mountains.

It was not all smooth sailing. Keith ran hard aground on a rock seemingly in the middle of the harbour but not far from Philip’s Island. He was glad once more for leaving the fibreglass kayak at home and bringing the “plastic fantastic” along. But before the surprise of his predicament had fully worn off, a wave lifted him free once more. Not to be out done, on trying to land for lunch, Raylee came to grief on a rock and capsized. The rest of the group were some distance from her and there were some anxious moments as we watched her come up for air at least three times while trying to free a stubborn spray skirt. She wasn’t able to roll as it was too shallow but was able to push off the rocks to grab breaths of air and eventually free the spray skirt. Later Raylee reckoned the incident must have looked worse than it was, but she was cold, wet and a little shaken when we landed. The Kevlar hull of her boat also sported a sizable battle scar.

After lunch we made good time to Sophia Point. John spotted a penguin as he came round the point and we landed at the apex on a sheltered and very nice half-moon-shaped beach that would have made a great camp site. We had already covered around 28km and the conditions weren’t as bad as we had feared. We gathered on the point and watched with interest the course of a tourist ferry as it gave the mouth of the King River a wide berth and headed for Strahan. We had around 15km to go and the decision was made that instead of camping another night we would continue on while the conditions held.

What followed was an exhilarating ride under sail back to Strahan. This final leg was all noise, spray and movement as we blasted along with the following wind and waves. A fitting finale to what had been eight days and around 250km of great paddling and great company.

In Conclusion

The overall lesson learnt from the eight days was that Macquarie Harbour is a fantastic and iconic paddling destination, full of history and beauty and a must do for all sea kayakers.

As to sail types and performance, I sometimes felt the V-shaped sails had the advantage over the sprit sails on the downwind runs as they are configured in line with the boat’s hull and may maximise least resistance in this aspect. They are also easy to install without any need for deck reinforcement or lots of fittings. However they cannot be raised and furled like the sprit sails for ease of access to forward hatches, once raised they stay set. Also the sprit sail appeared more versatile being responsive to sudden changes in wind direction and gusts as they can spin on the mast to adjust to such forces. A criticism I have heard of the sprit sail is that they can often be caught by side swells and result in a possible capsize but the sails Helen and I have fitted are well clear of the deck and it would have to be a sizable side swell to catch them. It may be we just haven’t sailed in big enough swells to rightly test the theory but I’m not sure I want to.

In undertaking an extended paddle with others I have found group dynamics to be the biggest factor in dictating an enjoyable time or a disaster. The inevitable challenges faced on any extended trip can all be met if the group dynamics are good. Helen and I knew that our four paddling companions had previously paddled together extensively and that we would be the ones who would need to find our place in the group. Fortunately, from packing the boats on launch day to our return, the roles in the group came naturally: there was the experienced camping guru; the weather forecaster; the on-water decision maker; the morale maintainer and paddling coach and so on. All these roles were necessary to make the trip a success and were taken on without hesitation and fulfilled beautifully with acceptance by all. It was a great group to paddle with and made for a fantastic adventure. However I’m still trying to figure what my role in the group was, apart from the eager student of daily lessons to be learnt.


  • Sarah Island the Penal Settlement at Macquarie Harbour 1831, The People Ships & Shipwrights, A guided Tour, New Edition, 2002. The Round Earth Company, Strahan, Tasmania.
  • Parks and Places, East Pillinger historic township, Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania.
  • The Huon Pine Story, A History of Harvest and Use of a Unique Timber, 2nd Edition 2004, Garry Kerr & Harry McDermott, Mainsail Books.
  • Macquarie Harbour Research, Volume 1 1984, Ian Brand.
  • For the Term of His Natural Life, Marcus Clarke, Originally published: Australian ed. London: R. Bentley and Son; Melbourne: G. Robertson & Co., 1888.

Further Reading:

  • Canoe Touring in Australia, Seven of the Country’s Best River Journeys 1993, Leigh Hemmings, Simon & Schuster, Australia
  • The Travails of Jimmy Porter, A Memoir, 2003, James Porter, The Round Earth Company, Strahan Tasmania. (The memoirs of the convict James Porter who was instrumental in the seizure of the Brig Frederick and the sailing of her to Chile).
  • Gould’s Book of Fish, A Novel in Twelve Fish, 2004, Richard Flanagan, Picador Pan Macmillan Australia. (A fictitious account of the experiences of William Buelow Gould who was in reality a convict artist who painted images of Sarah Island and its surrounding marine life).

Paddling with Heroes [67]

By Mark Pearson

It was September 2005. I guess I had been in a sort of responsibility retirement. I hadn’t led a trip for three years. I hadn’t written a trip report for almost two years. One reason may have been the disappointment at the reaction to my “Survivor” trip report, where I thought our great feat of surviving almost two days on a harvest of fish and abalone had not been truly recognised by the club elite. Did I have it in me to combine the two?

I decided on a Nadgee trip, my 12th to this Mecca of NSW sea kayaking. I hadn’t been down that way for 18 months, and not for a long time in late winter.

So I put out a general invitation to those I knew. Within weeks I had attracted a superb selection of kayakers. Big names such as Havu, Loker and Tottenhofer signed up early for the trip, and there was even the chance of a rare appearance by Guy Reeve, who was keen to test out his manhood on the only true wilderness coast in NSW.

But then amazing news. The John Rymill Memorial paddlers, Messrs McAuley, Truman and Geoghegan, asked if they could come along as they needed to meet to discuss their January 2006 expedition. This request made me instantly nervous; here was I, an unqualified and rusty Trip Leader at best, about to lead an elite trio of future Antarctic explorers, legends even before their great adventure.


The plan was simple: the not quite so famous Harry Havu and I would drive down to Greenglades beach to our departure point, commando camp and be ready for a simple get away in the morning. The rest: the Rymell guys, Paul Loker and some new guy called Richard Styles, would have a restful night at Mr Geoghegan’s country manor. I had declined this option, in the knowledge that the kind host, although wonderfully hospitable, would take it as an insult if you do not help him consume at least a full flagon of Stones Green ginger wine. I knew I had to be at my very best for this trip.

We arrived at about 9.30pm. It was peaceful with no sound but crickets and gentle surf. We set up our tents, had a cup of tea, then I retired to my tent to commence a pre-trip risk assessment. By 10pm the highest risk I had identified was that I would make a fool of myself at some stage in the next three days.

Saturday am — departure

Guy arrived at 8.30am bang on schedule after heroically leaving Canberra at 5am. We waited for some time for the others, finally losing patience and setting off at 9.40am without them. Conditions were brilliant, a light northerly. It was good to be alive, cruising down that wilderness coast. We landed at Little River beach, with this steep little beach offering its usual nasty shore dump even on a good day. After I scuttled out of my Explorer I looked to my left to observe Guy, who seemingly had fallen awkwardly in the shore dump, and was now in a bizarre tussle with his Nadgee, which didn’t seem to want to go ashore. In the surging water Guy seemed to slowly gain the upper hand but then the Nadgee took his legs from under him and pinned its helpless owner into the soft sand. Seeing that the Nadgee was winning this battle of wills I ran over to help. Although unable to speak, Guy was patting the sand with his only free hand, the classic World Wrestling Federation sign of submission. I dragged the Nadgee off him. Mercifully he was uninjured.

We spent a short time looking around this pristine lagoon before pushing off the beach without further incident for the last four kilometres to Nadgee River.

Saturday pm — arrival

We landed at Nadgee River in moderate surf. But it was a different looking place — for the first time I could remember the inlet was closed to the sea by a sand bar. The long dry had at last told in this part of the world.

Despite the loss of the bulk of my expedition, I was justifiably proud of having guided Harry and Guy to Nadgee River with only the one minor incident. But things quickly went wrong. Harry stubbed his toe on a rock carrying the kayak up to the site. I took this accident personally, knowing that if only I had done a proper risk assessment before commencing the carry from the beach this wouldn’t have happened. The toe was bad, with the nail hanging off and blood and soft tissue oozing everywhere. In fact neither Guy nor I could stand the sight of it so we told Harry to go away and bandage it up.

Then, just as I was starting to forget about them, the rest of the group arrived. We greeted Mr Truman and Paul Loker, only to be told there had been an incident on the water. Mr Geoghegan had been “spidered” — luckily a rare event but every sea kayaker’s worse nightmare. Feeling a tickling sensation on his left leg, he had pulled his skirt and reached down to scratch it only to be bitten on the left hand by a large arachnid which, for some unknown reason, had taken up residence in the musty cockpit of a Nadgee. Although the spider met a watery fate, Mr Geoghegan’s hand was already swelling as he came ashore.

I then met Richard “Angophora” Styles for the first time. Richard had a pretty boy face, sculpted body, highly educated manner and a truly impressive “codpiece” spray skirt. But despite all this, his friendly demeanour and obvious popularity with the others, I somehow took an instant dislike to him. And it wasn’t long before my judgement was confirmed when, although Richard was a GP, he point blank refused to look at Harry’s toe or Laurie’s hand on the grounds he didn’t “bulk bill”, especially in the wilderness.

With everybody settled in, I surveyed the fully-populated site with dismay. Nadgee river is a tight little camp and with nine tents side by side it looked like sea kayaking’s version of the Gaza Strip but even dirtier and more run down. Tents were so tight that the corner of Guy’s actually overlapped the corner of mine. I realised that Guy and I could play footsie during the night and I really didn’t know Guy that well.

Worse, I thought about the likely disturbance level from tent zips. Two zips layers on each tent, eight guys getting in and out only once during the night that was a minimum 32 annoying zip movements! Not too mention any number of less savoury air movements following the traditional sea kayakers heavyweight dinner. A light sleeper’s nightmare beckoned.

I thought about my options. I knew I already had made a bit of a reputation for keeping away from the group and paddling “alone” out on the water. Years before I had realised that it wasn’t for me to be paddling along for hours beside a cashed up Sydney Mirage paddler while he bangs on about how safe he feels now with his new solar powered Shark repellent device on board, or how his new $400 “Camel” backpack hydration system works so well, while there’s me sucking on some old Gatorade bottle.

So, not surprisingly, I’ll work quite hard to get some space and some natural silence when on the ocean. I thought about applying this ethos to the camping environment. I had already established a sort of precedent for this in 2004, moving my tent 150 metres along the beach at Gloucester Island in the Whitsundays to escape generator noise and, yes, it had been worth it.

Searching for wood earlier I had noticed an area high above the site, a quiet glade where one could only hear gentle insect noises and the muffled sound of the surf below the nearby cliffs. I knew I would be happy there. The decision was made.

It was a bit of a climb but I gathered up my tent and gear and made the effort. Of course, the others grumbled in an Aussie sort of way about me showing a lack of mateship. But they were placated when I calmly explained that as Trip Leader I needed time out to contemplate tomorrow’s Float Plan.

Friday night

We assembled for dinner. I looked around the camp we were nine men with no women around to interrupt the wonderfully natural phenomenon of male interaction. I observed the magical ebb and flow of the camp conversation, the subject matter spinning in ever widening circles but always returning to a general reassuring topic. And that topic is nearly always gear.

We moved from reminiscing on Army/Navy days, tales of drunken debauchery, John Howard’s statesmanlike politics, rights of manhood in different cultures, the most effective moisturisers, Mr Geoghegan’s female cheese inspector (a buxom lady who always attracted a largely male audience as she emerged from the freezer) then almost seamlessly, we were back to talking about the pros and cons of shellite versus gas camp stoves. It was marvellous stuff.

But in all this, despite the fact seven of the nine in the group actually lived with womenfolk (how insidious has this practice become?) not once during the evening was there a mention of their various relationships. I thought about this. Perhaps this was what men needed, random unstructured discussion of a range of issues and knowledge sharing, but safe in the knowledge there was no need to go into the diabolical complexity of their own domestic arrangements. These guys needed a rest from all that. It was right.

Saturday am

The sound of the surf had increased overnight and indeed the beach was a heaving, surging mess. It looked like messing with our planned day trip to Cape Howe and possibly Gabo Island. Mr Truman studied the scene for a while before declaring confidently “we should get off OK”. Even though I worshipped the taciturn Mr Truman’s every gruff utterance, I was not so sure.

One by one the gallant group tried to blast out through about seven lines of surf. Some made it to the fifth break, but all failed. Richard blew his roll and washed ashore some minutes later wet but still annoyingly well groomed.

Harry nearly made it but then he became unstuck and came out a long way out. His Mirage arrived back at the shore line long before he did, its disgusting rudder flapping around in the wash like a living thing. It was then I panicked, screaming out “Rudder pin, rudder pin!!” I had suddenly realised the inverted Mirage could lose its pin any second, and with that the rudder could be lost forever leaving poor Harry out here in the wilderness with 580cms of uncooperative fibreglass! I grabbed the boat only then to realise the wily Finn had cleverly secured his pin with a strip of Velcro over the top.

With the last sodden sea paddler washed ashore, I contemplated jumping into my boat and having a go. I knew that in the Inuit Explorer I had the one kayak in the group that was nimble and athletic enough to get over and through these waves. But the thought of getting out there beyond the break line just to prove I could, well perhaps it was not appropriate behaviour for a trip leader.

Saturday pm

I noticed over dinner that Mr McAuley’s head lamp projected an eerie red light, not the bright white beam we all had. When questioned, Mr McAuley politely explained that the red light was adequate for camp use, with the added benefit that it didn’t destroy his night vision.

I thought about this. Surely this one comment emphasised the more advanced level of thinking that has been attained by a select few within our club. Even the Rymill trio’s beanies were cleverly designed, with an acrylic under layer to stop itching, and a woollen upper section for heat retention.

I realised that night that these guys were pushing the boundaries of design and functionality all the time. Attention to detail was in their DNA. There was truly a massive gap between the elite and the ordinary in the NSWSKC. The John Rymell trio were the crème de la crème, crack sea paddlers. SAS commando’s to my humble Army Reservist.

And just to confirm these thoughts I then had a personal disaster that summed up my own expeditionary limitations. After chopping my onion and garlic and carefully adding cooking oil I was alarmed to find the oil was behaving in a very non-oil-like way, in that it was frothing and foaming and smelling funny. With dismay I realised the “oil” was dishwashing liquid. Luckily I had brought a spare onion and garlic and one of the Rymill professionals took pity and gave me some oil. My one consoling thought was that at least my red face wasn’t affecting Mr McAuley’s night vision.

… to be continued

Flotsam [67]

By Mark Pearson

This edition of Flotsam would like to acknowledge the contribution of Dave Whyte, Margot Todhunter and Dee Ratcliffe

Flotsam Editorial — A Tribute to the Heroes of Bundeena

With uncanny parallels to the heroic action of the 300 Spartans, the valour of the 28 loyalists and their narrow defeat by massed rebel forces at the Battle of Bundeena marks a turning point in our long history.

Led by charismatic warrior David Hipsley, this small band of heroes gave their all to keep alive the alliance with Australian Canoeing. History will record the complacent and arrogant approach of the rebel hordes, who turned up at Bundeena field expecting their foes to flee, only to find themselves against a determined, well organised and resolute opponent.

Although defeat for the loyalists on that fateful day was inevitable, the war itself may not be lost. Chaos is now likely to reign. A new Dark Age of unregulated adventure and enjoyment threatens to descend along vast stretches of the New South Wales coast. The sea peoples may yet pine for what they lost.

But having fought so bravely to keep alight the hallowed beacon of regulation, control and high tariffs, the 28 heroes of Bundeena will live on in legend. The memory of their epic deeds will be kept alive by seafaring generations to come.

2007 Rock’n’Roll Review

Flotsam reporters at the Club’s marquee event observed hopeful signs that club is emerging from “a long period of slumber”, noting a welcome return to the chaotic events and questionable behaviour of the past.

Cold Front Chaos

In what has been described as “potentially the worst on-water disaster since the events of November 2000” a simple grade 2 paddle descended into chaos on the return from Surf Beach after departing Batehaven in heatwave conditions.

Trip Leader Paul Loker told Flotsam “I had told my group to don the Zigloo© neck coolers as I was worried about heatstroke out there, then on the way back the southerly hit and we were soon in a really bad situation. Most in the group were unable to take their hands off their paddles due to the rough conditions, and the wet Zigloos© got very cold and also tightened around the arteries in the neck region … so within minutes my paddlers were turning blue with cold and partial asphyxiation.”

Assistant Trip Leader Laurie Geoghegan added “Mate, it was terrible out there, once that cold blood reached their brains it was hard to keep them out of trouble. They were like zombies, they wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t follow directions at all. I tried to keep them focussed on getting back to the venue but it was like herding cats…”

Geoghegan, who also wore a Zigloo© but was relatively unaffected thanks to the insulating properties of his facial/neck hair, added, “that was scary having to look after so many club members who just weren’t there mentally. They honestly just couldn’t think for themselves… I haven’t been in a situation like that since the AGM in 2001!”

The brain function impairment was particularly noticeable as several paddlers landed on Casey’s Beach thinking they were back at Batehaven. Here locals reported “a mixed group of paddlers” wandered onto the road in a confused state chanting “a cappuccino and an apple turnover please”, apparently looking in vain for the warmth and sanctuary of the Batehaven Bakery.

Although all paddlers eventually made it back safely, Club Safety Officer Mark Sundin told Flotsam “The brain cooling effect of this product is obviously disturbing with such a sudden change of weather, and I will be publishing a detailed procedure for Trip Leaders to follow on this matter”.

Flotsam caught up with Elizabeth Thomson as she sipped on 1979 Grange Shiraz in the Presidential marquee. Displaying a new brand of relaxed leadership following the disaffiliation from AC, Ms Thomson told Flotsam, “OK so a few nancy paddlers got cold and had some problems … I reckon it’ll do ‘em good!”

Kayaker defies physics!

A test of the latest generation of mini surf kayaks at Surf Beach ended in high drama when senior club paddler Laurie Geoghegan “totally wrote off” a $2000 test boat after a “massive uncontrolled front endo”. Geoghegan, although not hurt in the incident, was trapped in the crushed kayak for over an hour until local road rescue authorities arrived to free him using the Jaws of Life.

The manufacturer’s sales representatives of the surf boats, still polite despite the obvious financial distress, told Flotsam “It was truly a high energy incident… Mr Geoghegan showed no fear, no judgement, no skill, in fact no anything when he took on that wave…”

The sales representative continued “but we’ve obviously got some work to do. We thought the boat was tough enough. Our construction engineers obviously understand that energy = mass x velocity squared, but they obviously didn’t reckon on the energy and mass of a very big and square sea kayaker..!”

Kayaker to “learn to swim”

Following a “disturbing” surfing incident on the Batemans Bay bar, erratic sea paddler Greg Murray has been ordered to undertake an eight week swimming course before he can again participate in Grade 3 Club paddles.

The incident, in which Mr Murray wet exited and then quickly lost his grip on his boat, became serious when wind and current swept the kayak away. Luckily a nearby paddler was able to capture the runaway boat and right the situation.

Club Training Officer David Hipsley told Flotsam “Its for Greg’s own good… he has to learn that if he is going to let go of his kayak like that his swimming must improve … “

Mr Murray, who has consistently claimed that his kayak was “slippery” with his partner’s hand cream, and that swimming with a paddle in one hand was “difficult”, is thought to be considering appealing the decision.

Celebrity shocks membership

Justine Curvengen’s entertaining presentation on her kayaking exploits led to a stunned silence and then uproar after she spoke of a solo experience in Iceland. The world-renowned sea paddler told a packed audience that after landing on a remote beach after a particularly frightening experience on the water, she had succumbed to the urge and “did the biggest poo I’ve ever done”. Although this comment brought out the biggest laugh of the evening, Flotsam has learned that many males within the club were privately shocked at the confronting realisation that female paddlers actually did that sort of thing.

NSWSKC Adult Education Officer Rob Mercer admitted to Flotsam “Although we have all but completed the course curriculum for our male members on the reproductive differences between men and women, I’m afraid we haven’t yet covered this, err, rather taboo issue as yet.”

Club morals campaigner Margot Todhunter was outraged, telling Flotsam “We lady paddlers have for years hidden this aspect of our lives, and for Ms Curgenven’s to just reveal it so brutally in front of so many men… well I don’t think we need bloody foreigners coming over here saying these sort of things!”

Wet man causes furore

In what is now thought to be premeditated behaviour, Flotsam has learned that “a tall and well built” male sea kayaker was observed visiting several ladies in their cabins while their partners were out conducting training and leading trips in the Saturday afternoon rain. In all cases the individual (who unfortunately cannot be named) gained access to the ladies hospitality by claiming he was “looking for Arunas Pilka”, telling a complex tale of how his friend had his car keys and that he could not get to his dry clothes. After lulling each lady into a relaxed state with what have been described as “very smooth patter”, he would then sensually discard more clothing items claiming he was “damp”.

Trip Leader Harry Havu fumed to Flotsam “I returned to my cabin looking forward to a welcoming hug from Dee only to find this man semi-naked in my master bedroom… it was a disgrace.” Havu continued “As everyone knows, my Dee is highly sexed and should not be faced with such temptations! The club must do more to shield our ladies from this sort of thing when we men are doing our duty running club activities!”

John Lipscombe was another paddler who returned to find the unwanted visitor in his expensive accommodation…”Mate, I got back to find him asleep on my bed and my Margot all giggly and, err, morally relaxed after he plied her with several beers… I wouldn’t mind so much but it was my beer!!”

A diplomatic furore erupted when the lone male entered the crowded and rowdy Victorian cabin and apparently made “overtures” to Annie Woollard, partner of senior VSKC club paddler John Woollard. Mr Woollard was furious, telling Flotsam “We knew your club was keen on establishing closer relations with us Victorian paddlers, but this is taking it too far..!”

However, the canny Dirk Stuber was one male member not upset by the wet paddler, telling Flotsam “There is nothing new about this… this character has been pursuing other men’s women for years. That’s why I kept my Vicki attached to a tow rope all weekend… on and off the water!”

Flotsam Guru

Got an awkward problem related to sea kayaking? The Flotsam Guru has the answers.

Dear Flotsam Guru

I am a light sleeper, particularly when camping on club trips. My problem is that on every trip I’ve been on, there is always one individual in the group who wakes up really early (that is, in the dark before dawn) and moves back and forth around the campsite. I never get back to sleep after this and am tired all day and its affecting my paddling. What can I do? Please help!

Mark Berry

Guru — yes Mark, unfortunately you, as with many others, have been the victim of the Dawn Creeper, a type that is surprisingly numerous within the camping fraternity of the NSWSKC.

Studies have shown that the classic personality profile of the Dawn Creeper is a man aged between 50 and 65, often self employed or semi-professional, occasionally bearded, but always with flamboyant nose and ear hair. He invariably has lots of gear to organise, much of it electronic, due to his meticulous and serious approach towards sea kayaking.

Consequently the Creeper is burdened by worry. He has a permanent mild anxiety state that affects his sleep, causing him to suffer disturbing dreams associated with gear failure or salt water intrusion into his dry bags. These disturbed sleep patterns can also see him classified during periods of deep sleep as another common NSWSKC camping type, the much feared Snorer and Groaner!

Unfortunately, such is his focus on routine and preparation for the paddling day ahead, the Creeper is totally oblivious of the rest requirements of his companions. He has no understanding of the basic human need to get quality sleep in the important 5am to 6.30 am time window.

In a typical camp, an hour before dawn the Creeper will announce his wakefulness to the world with an extensive and staccato tent zipper “symphony” as he exits and enters his tent several times in rapid succession.

The Creeper will then don his footwear of choice… cheap thongs. These diabolical sandals allows him to noisily “flip flop” forwards and backwards along a “thong trail” that links his tent to the communal eating area. No one knows why, but a Creeper’s thong trail never follows a straight line, but invariably snakes around the camp passing at some stage within 30cm of most of his companions’ tents. Few are spared the hideous torment of the flip flop.

Having at last settled down behind his thunderous “Mini Cyclone” gas stove, the Creeper will commence preparation of his breakfast. He will have a vast array of pots and pans, invariably including advanced coffee-making apparatus. This equipment allows the Creeper to effortlessly generate a cacophony of clinks, clanks and steam whistles as he works his way through a complex routine to heat up various fluids.

Some minutes later, the Creeper’s bleary and understandably crotchety companions will at last be flushed out of their cosy sleeping bags by the noise. Typically, they will stagger to the communal eating area only to be amazed that such a din is required to produce a bowl of bland porridge and a tiny shot of black coffee!

So how do you defend yourself against the predations of the Dawn Creeper?

There is no easy answer. Solid ear plugs can be effective but have drawbacks. Not only have these devices been implicated as a possible cause of tinnitus, they also rob the wearer of the precious sound of the surf throughout the night. Adding a ground up sleeping pill to a Creeper’s evening noodles has also been considered but rejected as an idea due to possible adverse effects on his paddling the next morning.

Camping exclusively with female paddlers has also been suggested, as no member of the fair sex yet been attracted to Dawn Creeperism. This policy may become more achievable as women increase in numbers in camping trips. However, as has been documented, camping with women has its own risks for males due to the possibility of acquiring MEPS (see Flotsam, Issue 59).

But the one club member who has really got his act together on this issue is Mark Pearson. After being severely traumatised in tight knit camp spots in the late 90’s to such an extent he nearly sold his sea kayak, Mark’s philosophy is now simple… treat all male sea paddlers over the age of thirty as potential Snorers, Groaners or Creepers.

So even at the end of a long day on the water, Mr Pearson will make the effort to camp a minimum of 40m from his companions or, if the camp site is too cramped to allow this, on the next beach. He has reported quality sleep outcomes for his trouble and is now enjoying his sea kayaking again.

Magazine content causes outrage

Another furore has broken out over content within Issue 66 of the club magazine. The row centres on the “Lifting Your Kayak” article which included a series of photographs of President Thomson demonstrating a technique for putting a kayak on a car that is particularly useful for people with no friends and/or muscles. Avid magazine reader Leonie Loker told Flotsam “The text was fine, but what was with the colour? All those shots of a purple kayak going on a purple car with that green background made me feel quite ill by the time I’d finished the article!”

Likely Presidential challenger Trevor Gardner was also outraged, telling Flotsam “Here we have ten, yes ten, repetitious photos of the President, her kayak and a car in full colour, yet there were several obviously scenic photos in the mag in plain black and white! It is quite obvious to me that the President has raided the Club’s Future Fund to pay for a colour article that is simply blatant political advertising!!”

Gardner continued “Let me pledge that in my first term as President, I hereby promise to only appear in small black and white photos and then only when absolutely necessary.”

Flotsam Editor Mark Pearson was moved to also make a rare public statement, telling Flotsam “in Flotsam’s long history never once has it been given the honour of including a colour photo .. not even that classic shot of Harry Havu on that rock in 2003!

Flotsam spoke to magazine editor Sue Webber about whether she had been pressured to colourise the President’s article, but Ms Webber refused to discuss the issue, adding “but slag me off in your crappy column and Flotsam will be in Chinese sunshine…”

Ms Webber remains the finest Editor in the 17 year history of the NSWSKC Magazine.