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.

Camping

“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.

Presentations

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.

Justine

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 (www.beachresort.com.au) 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 rnr2007@nswseakayaker.asn.au

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. Internet2006@nswseakayaker.asn.au

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 blm56@bigpond.com

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.

ET

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?”

“London.”

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.