Training Coordinator’s Report [69]

By Adrian Clayton

By the time you read this report we will have posted our training program for the remainder of the Club year on the Calender. We have set ourselves many objectives, all determined by what we see as being the needs of the Club and its members. The training program covers a broad scope – from teaching basic skills to those novices through to developing and accrediting highly skilled Sea Instructors.

Already we have begun a three-day basic skills session in Sydney with 15 members attending (and already giving us some very positive feedback). A similar session is scheduled for early December in Lake Macquarie (with indications of good numbers attending) and a weekend session is planned for Jervis Bay early in February 2008. Thanks to our Flatwater Instructors Liz Thomson, David Hipsley, Henry van der Kolk and Mike Eggleton for putting on these sessions.

A pool rolling session was conducted at the Enmore pool early in October. Ten aspiring rollers attended with tuition being provided by Sea Instructors Harry Havu, Keith Oakford and Mark Sundin (thanks guys). No one rolled on the night but one participant, Alan Thurman, pulled off his first (and second) roll in ‘real’ conditions soon after. Another pool rolling session in Sydney is scheduled for late November with others out of Sydney planned for early next year (check the calendar).

Late in October two Club members, Daniel Hilly and Katrina Keane, were successful in obtaining their Sea Skills accreditation when assessed in Botany Bay by Sea Instructor Stuart Trueman. Congratulations Daniel and Katrina (and thanks Stuart).

An important event is scheduled for mid November and that is the Instructor ‘Development’ Day. Apart from finalising the training program for the year, the Club’s instructors are meeting to swap training tips and to ensure that the Club is delivering a consistent standard of tuition (in cliché terms ‘we are all singing from the same song sheet’).

Please remember that all of our instructors give freely of their own time. It is greatly appreciated if they can get feedback on the quality of the instruction and training they are providing to members. Please don’t be shy if you have some constructive criticism to make (although getting positive comments is much nicer). Also, it would be great if you could let me know if you have any suggestions on where our training program can be improved.

Another thing we ask those being given tuition, please don’t assume that being shown a skill and performing it under the watchful eye of your instructor makes you competent. Practice, practice and more practice is the key to developing your skills (and confidence). Life member Dave Winkworth puts it this way ‘There’s no better way to improve your skills and confidence than spending time in your boat’.

Finally, the Club needs to graduate more Sea Leaders and Sea Instructors as soon as we can (without detracting from the standard) and would like any aspiring members to put their hands up. If you would like to know what the path is towards achieving these qualifications please speak to one of our instructors or drop me an email at: training2007-8@nswseakayaker.asn.au.

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Survivor Weekend [69]

By Matt Bezzina

Participants: Stuart Trueman (Leader), Paul Loker (2 IC), Mark Schroeder, Mark Anderson, Roger Boardman, David Page, Terry Walsh, Stephan Meyn, Matt Bezzina.

‘A weekend of tests to challenge individuals’ was how Stuart Trueman described and conducted this year’s Survivor Weekend.

Saturday morning saw us unloading boats and gear early as our brief included the line: ‘At 0859 you will be standing by your kayaks, cars locked, keys packed with nothing to do before getting on the water. Those running the weekend are not expecting to have to motivate participants.’

Not surprisingly everyone was ready early. We were soon heading out of Shoal Bay towards Cabbage Tree Island. On arrival we zigzagged over to Boondelbah Island and from there turned towards our day’s destination, Broughton Island. Stuart quizzed the group as to our ETA and as it was about 12km the estimates ranged from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours. The conservatives got it because half way there Stuart had us tie bungee cords around the hulls of the boats to simulate a heavier load. This, on top of the sea water ballast we were carrying, really did make a difference. It wasn’t long before a couple of litres of sea water were poured into everyone’s front hatch as a test to make sure that everything was properly waterproofed.

Once we arrived at the island we all went through the obligatory Cons Cleft — and all got through without incident. It was the breakers over the reef across from Esmeralda Cove which gave one member a swim. Following this we had to

demonstrate our off-side roll which resulted in a couple more swimmers. As we approached the beach around the other side we were ordered to bail out and swim the boats into the beach. This resulted in mass swimmers! On landing we were given ten minutes to be changed into dry clothes and have a hot cup of tea in hand. After a written test we were free to find somewhere to set up our tents — easier said then done seeing we were on a beach that gets submerged at high tide and the top of the banks were infested with prickly pear.

On Sunday we were to be ready to go by 6am! This had us up in the dark packing away tents and trying to fuel up on breakfast. Stuart and Paul paddled around from their civilized camp spot on the other side and came up to the weary-eyed group. As he looked out at the dead calm and peaceful lee side of the island towards Myall Beach Stuart said ‘look at those huge dumpers — there’s no way we can launch from here. We’ll have to do a portage over the island’. And that was our morning, lugging all our gear and seven boats up the rough track over the top of the island and down to Esmeralda Cove on the other side where Stuart and Paul sat having breakfast and coffee. Once over there we made a call to the coast guard via the radio on the island and then headed off. The swell was up a bit from the previous day and Cons Cleft was looking quite hilly.

Mark Schroeder was first through with me following. A year ago when I first went through it was a scary experience as I copped a big wave while in there and got smashed into the side. I managed to stay upright but my boat took a bit of a beating and lost a lot of gel coat. This time it was probably just as rough but a year’s worth of experience made all the difference and I took time to look around and take in a bit of this spectacular feature. I came out and turned quickly to get a few photos of the others as they came out — all grinning from ear to ear.

As Terry Walsh came through so did a big wave. It reared up behind him and knocked him over. As I was thinking how best to conduct a rescue, as I’m sure were Paul and Stuart who were holding position inside the cleft waiting for the wave to pass, Terry rolled up beautifully and powered past — the happiest face imaginable!

After that we did a navigation exercise before landing just next to Dark Point on Myall Beach where we had lunch. After a surf launch we headed back. Once out past the breakers progress was good, a slight head wind but way short of the predicted 20 knots, a bit of rain and a nice swell. We were cruising along nicely when Stuarts dreaded whistle blew. We gathered round as he suggested we follow him in to the surf. Mark Schroeder, myself and Mark Anderson blindly followed. As he approached the surf zone Stuart did a roll which I think he does as some kind of preparation for battle.

The swell suddenly got much steeper and as Stuart and Mark Schroeder turned to seaward to avoid a big wave Mark Anderson and I found ourselves side on to a big breaker. At this point I decided to roll under it so as to avoid being pummelled into the beach but, as I leaned hard into it, I found myself in a perfect broach position, the lean became an edge into a high brace and I enjoyed the best broach ride I’ve ever had, all the way to the beach where I landed quite nicely. Mark didn’t have quite as nice a landing and ended up being pounded, eventually landing about thirty metres down the beach from where I was. We both turned our boats around and stood there on the beach staring at the quite solid surf in front of us. The feeling of jubilation I had from making it in unscathed was quickly replaced by feelings of anxiety as I wondered how the hell we were going to get back out!

Mark and I met for a discussion but there wasn’t much to say. We were in the best spot with a light rip going out in front of us but still there were breaking waves right across and they didn’t seem to be getting any smaller.

I went back to my boat and sensed a lull. I quickly got in and knuckled into the surf. As soon as I was afloat I paddled like hell — through the first small breaker and then through the next more sizable wall of white water. I saw a clear run and paddled with all I had. I thought I’d made it and tried to catch my breath as another wave appeared before me — a bloody big one. I paddled with all I was worth and just managed to get my blade over the crest to make it over. Next thing I experienced the biggest free fall I’d ever had as I dropped over the back of a now crashing wave, the laden boat adding to the impact. I paddled over to the group who were waiting patiently out the back. Mark hadn’t been so lucky on that last wave and had been collected and washed back to shore. As the group had now been waiting for some time Paul Loker went in to give Mark a hand. He was in and out in no time and made my whole experience a little anti-climatic!

A short time later Roger Boardman had his boat lifted out of the water by something big enough to lift his boat out of the water. He had teeth marks on his now bent metal rudder and Paul noted a large swirl. I had seen a shark the day before but it was too far away to make a positive identification. That sighting helped with motivation during the swim landing and after Roger’s experience no more rolling was done — except by Mark Anderson who’s obviously not afraid of sharks.

That was to be our last adrenalin dose for the weekend as we paddled back to Shoal Bay. Not so for Stuart who snuck between a rock and a lot of whitewater. On rounding North Head we were greeted by some dolphins.

This was a trip with a difference and one of the best things I’ve done with the NSWSKC club. I think the objectives of the weekend were well and truly met — that is to test yourself (and your buddies) in an expedition environment. It was a good bunch of blokes who worked well together and made it a truly enjoyable weekend despite (or because of) the Trueman-induced hardships.

If you’re thinking of doing a serious trip I would recommend you take this challenge on with anyone your planning to go away with — as someone once said you can learn more about a man by paddling with him for an hour then you can from a year of conversation.

From the President’s Deck [69]

By Michael Steinfeld

A Sunday tale of kayaks, crazy coincidences and clubs

I was cycling down my street on the way to the Newtown festival, when two brand new sea kayaks, strung up in a garage, caught my eye. I shouted to the owner, ‘Nice kayaks you’ve got in there!’

She replied, ‘We just bought these a couple of weeks ago. We thought we could paddle safely but we tipped near Wedding Cake Island, Coogee. Luckily we were rescued by the lifesavers. It was on their first day of the season.’

‘Dangerous stuff!’ I commented.

‘Now we are about to get some lessons. We didn’t appreciate how risky kayaking could be,’ she said.

After introducing myself as the president of this august Club, I spritely pedalled off.

Twenty minutes into my trip, I noticed that the bungee cord, which was holding my pack, containing my wallet and phone, had broken. My pack had disappeared. I pedalled home at break neck speed, scouring the street without success. My son received a call at home. Our new kayaking neighbour, who was cycling herself, found my pack in the middle of the road some two km from home. She recognised the pack from the morning meeting. I was lucky and I was thankful that our interest in kayaking had caused my good fortune.

At the Newtown fair, Hugh MacKay, social commentator, told us that humans like to be part of a herd and clubs like ours, allow people to come together and ‘graze’ (over kayaking). I thought that the best parts of being in the club are the friendships that I have formed and the social interactions between members while paddling on trips, mixed in with the challenge and excitement of kayaking in the open sea.

So that was my Sunday tale.

This edition of the magazine has a centrefold with a map of Sydney Harbour and tips for safe paddling. You have to thank Paul Loker, Rob Mercer and the committee headed by Lee for bringing this to fruition. At least now when you are caught napping in a shipping lane, you have been warned.

Trying to make the Club ‘go green’ is a worthy goal even though kayaking must be one of the most environmentally friendly recreational sports.

After a consultation with the Club’s green social commentator, Professor Guinevere Anne Lachlan, her ten imperatives for reducing our carbon footprint are:

  1. If you have a great big automobile then don’t use it unless you are sharing it with at least two others and all their gear. This is particularly true on long mileage holiday trips. Of course any true kayaker would disdain the use of a car and just paddle there.
  2. Eat well! Fresh, seasonal, local food and a healthy diet are likely to enhance your beauty, health, wealth and place you on the fast track to carbon neutrality. It could also save a remarkable amount of CO2-e.
  3. Take great care of your paddling clothes and equipment. The manufacture of clothing produces a surprising amount of greenhouse gas. Quality, durability and long life are important attributes for any kayaker and even more so for their clothes!
  4. Buy beautiful, costly and intricately carved wooden kayaks. By spending the wealth you have acquired through healthy eating on human services rather than material goods you reduce the greenhouse gas associated with their manufacture.
  5. Massages and personal training are other options for all that wealth! Or you could pay someone to write you a poem, or paint a perfect picture of a breaking wave. That sort of thing.
  6. Recycle or compost garbage. If recycling bins aren’t available at the site, take the garbage home. Think of it this way; after a month’s paddling three-week-old garlic and onion peelings, stuffed into an old tin can, will help to cover up the smell of your wetsuit.
  7. It’s a good idea not to break your boat — making it may typically have produced 1.5 tonnes of CO2-e.
  8. Rescue services use heaps of greenhouse gas
  9. Hospitals are also a source of greenhouse gas and best avoided — Take care out there.
  10. Lastly a spare plastic bag is handy to collect noxious bits of rubbish in the water in the middle of nowhere and could turn out to be an essential tool for impressing the local constabulary in the event of an unforeseen and accidental misdemeanour.

Thanks Anne for those tips. Going Green is a topic, which will be, explored in future articles.

Rock and Roll ‘08 is nearly upon us. There are lots of events planned, including last year’s successful kayak surfing, so fill in the entry form early and save.

By the time you read this, the summer holidays will be almost upon us. This is a good time to practise rolling and surfing and remember to wear your helmet.

Just a reminder, our Club’s training sessions and trips rely on the voluntary time and effort provided by the trainers, guides and leaders. If you believe that you can assist the effort contact Adrian, our training officer. The club does not guarantee training. It is a social not a service club, so if you want to fast track training, the Club can point you in the right direction.

Finally, I would also like to introduce a segment into the magazine called the President’s Kayaking Tips.

Being no expert and with no other entries for this issue I present my own tip which is:

‘If you need to change out of wet swimming togs and you are without a towel, try putting on your spray skirt, and hey presto you are saved from embarrassment.’

Your tip must be better than that:

Another tip I remember is: When heading to the shore in a dumpy surf, untie your paddle leash so that you can quickly exit the boat, throw the paddle on the beach and concentrate on getting the kayak to shore without getting tangled in the leash.

Until the next time…
Michael Steinfeld

No Rules Down Here [69]

By Laurie Geoghegan

“I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.” These were the words I was yelling, convincing myself to stay alive in a 60-70 knot katabatic wind that attacked us on our first day’s paddle along the Antarctic Peninsula in early 2006.

Three days earlier, myself, together with Stuart Trueman and Andrew Mcauley were attempting to paddle unsupported along the entire length of the Antarctic Peninsula. We were attempting to honour an early Australian Antarctic explorer John Rymill, an explorer credited with charting the Peninsula between 1934 and 1937.

We had just been dropped off at our start point at the old British base of Hope Bay at the very northern tip of the Peninsula and had packed our kayaks ready to start our trip. However, we spent the next few days frustrated from bad weather and unable to paddle. Finally, after three days of strong winds we awoke on 9 February 2006 to calm seas and fair winds and off we paddled to what would be an eventful first day but also a gruelling 30-day paddle along one of the harshest coastlines in the world.

Day one

We left Hope Bay and paddled off south around the corner, excited about finally starting. Five km into the first day, we had our first of many close calls. We were straight lining from headland to headland due to the load of the kayaks (weighing in at approximately 200kgs each without paddlers), we were one third of the way across a big bay that was surrounded by high ice cliffs when we first noticed a light head wind. Slowly at first the wind strengthened and then it increased within half an hour to a full gale force wind of at least 70 knots. A good size sea was hitting us, dangerously blowing Andrew’s and my kayaks uncontrollably beam on to the wind. This left us fighting individually for our lives as we had become separated in these winds, independently deciding to turn and run back to Hope Bay. Stuart who was in the only skeg-operated kayak — a Nadgee Expedition — simply put his skeg down and surfed back to safety behind the last headland, but strangely it was Andrew and I in ruddered boats who had the handling problems.

I was fighting for my life screaming, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die”, fighting off large chunks of icebergs that were being tossed around on the three metre seas that the winds had unleashed. I began to cramp from the cold and the exertion of having to high brace into the beam on waves in the energy-zapping cold water. I was beginning to struggle in the elements. Finally after a lengthy battle, I made enough ground to be in the lee of the ice cliffs offering protection from the winds. As I paddled on wondering what had become of my mates, I rounded a small headland to see Stuart Trueman in his Nadgee Expedition excitedly waving his hands, glad to see some one else alive. We rafted for a few minutes but quickly decided that if we were to survive we had to keep paddling to keep warm. After a few hours we crossed Hope Bay safely making it back to the Argentine Base quickly deciding we would give Andrew 30 minutes before notifying the authorities of his no-show. Just as we notified the authorities we spied Andrew coming around the corner heading back to where we were – thankfully.

After fighting the last of the winds across Hope Bay we were reunited as a team again and from what we caught on film we were pumped with adrenalin from the experience – all this on the first day of our expedition!

In hindsight this was a blessing as we learnt that Antarctica was the master and we were at his peril. We quickly had learned that there are NO RULES in Antarctica, something we would see many more times over in the coming weeks

Understandably we took the rest of the day off and the next to recuperate and get our heads together after coming so close to tragedy the day before.

Days two to eight

From the experience of the first day, we all had the jitters badly and it was with trepidation that we again headed off into the unknown, but this time we saw no Katabatic winds letting let us relax and finally start enjoying the spectacular scenery as we paddled past 30 metre ice cliffs that were collapsing (calving) into the ocean before our eyes. We showed respect by keeping a fair distance from these big chunks of ice.

We spent the next week or so slowly jumping from camp to camp in between gales. This was made more frustrating as I had taken an unknown kayak on the expedition, finding out the hard way that it didn’t handle well in headwinds and was slowing down considerably; extra punishment that I just didn’t need at this early stage of the expedition.

Our first camp was on a small rock outcrop that held us down for two days. We landed on the rock at high tide and found out that the tide receded so far out that the next morning, although fair conditions for paddling, the drop-off from the rock needed an abseil down the side. This also had to be done with an 18-foot 200kg plus sea kayak. We took the soft option and waited and waited and waited for the tide to rise. The wait was for nearly 24 hours before it came in again, allowing us to quickly slide off our rock and resume our paddle

We were quickly getting into good team work in an orderly fashion for the communal duties of cooking and so on. As everywhere in the world, the washing up was the worst job, although in the Antarctic this was complicated by our hands freezing in the water to scrub the pots, resulting in having to hold our hands under our armpits for the next five minutes to get feeling back in the hands. Our fingers remained numb for quite some time on our arrival back home.

This initial first third of the trip was always going to be the hardest as it had more exposed coast line and bigger crossings with one bay being a seven hour crossing and being notorious for Katabatic winds. After our first day’s paddle fresh in our minds we tentatively started the crossing, quickly finding ourselves engulfed in a mist that had visibility down to about 10 meters. We had to navigate by compass for the rest of the crossing. Try staring at your compass for hours and hours – it is bloody boring so we quickly got into a 20 minute routine of playing follow the leader, jokingly soaking up the hours until we again had land in sight. We finally rounded Cape Rockmoral finding ourselves stuck in a giant field of brash and pancake ice that looked impenetrable. For the next three hours, we struggled slowly, weaving and bashing our way through the ice trying to find a way through, finally breaking into a clear path that allowed us clear passage round the Cape line. Rounding the majestic Cape was inspiring as we now were heading into a more protected part of the trip with the possibility of human contact from the scientific bases stationed in the area — something we were looking forward to.

Days nine to nineteen

Leaving what we thought was the more dangerous part of the trip behind, we were all smiles as we were now entering a more sheltered area of the peninsula that would allow greater daily mileage as well as the chance for some R&R along the way – or so we thought!

We had just enjoyed a rare sunny day that had allowed us to paddle alongside Minke whales as they glided along beautifully-shaped bergs with crystal-clear water. The water was so clear that it allowed us to watch these gentle giants swimming along while we paddled with them in their own surroundings. We left the whales and chanced upon a rookery of penguins that allowed us uninterrupted views of them swimming up to us under the water, quickly darting left and right.

We only had a short paddle to our next destination at Spring Pt and we arrived that early afternoon to a sheltered bay that had an endlessly calving glacier thundering away at one end and an old disused Chilean Army hut on the west side hut that hadn’t seen any people in it for quite awhile. What a joy not to have to pitch a tent that night!

After an enjoyable sunset that lasted for hours in clear skies, we tramped off to our hut for the night, only to awaken in the morning to a bay totally covered in brash ice, in our immediate vicinity! Just three km away was clear ocean, so it was a great day for paddling and this had Andrew frustrated as he wasn’t one to sit still for too long. So we pushed off and attempted to paddle through the thick ice only to find that after only less than 50 metres offshore we were stuck hard in the ice. As the ice slowed us down considerably we were unable to turn our kayaks and this was frustrating Stu as he only had a skeg in his kayak. Even though Andrew and I were not much better off in our ruddered boats, we could slowly turn and I mean slowly! We spent the next two hours stuck in this thick soupy ice mix that slowed us to a crawl and had us fighting to turn our boats. Finally Andrew and I managed to turn our boats to point to shore and as we pulled ourselves through we bumped our bow onto Stu’s stern and shoved his boat the right way so he could also make it safely to shore.

After another half hour we finally reached our little cove that only had room for one kayak at a time so we slowly emptied each kayak then dragged each boat up a steep bit of ice cliff only to find we had made only 100 metres distance for about four hours work!

While climbing our kayaks out, I slipped and managed to chip a bone in my elbow that became swollen and would see me miss three days of the trip although I didn’t know this at the time. We were quite frustrated with the day and decided to pack it in and walk the 300 metres back to the hut for another night. We awoke the next morning to again find ourselves iced in, deciding to carry all of our gear around the next small headland, trying to get closer to clear seas. To achieve this we had to carry our gear first up a 500m steep rocky hill, then along a jagged ice cliff, then down a crampon-assisted climb down onto large bouldering moraines. Finally, we climbed along to a sheltered cove that gave us a fair chance out of there. Eventually after eight hours of humping, climbing and pulling we were carrying the last of the gear down into the cove when an unexpected off shore breeze quickly pushed all of the pack ice in our little bay out to sea in about 20 minutes, to say we were frustrated was an understatement!

We spent the next five days plugging our way down the coast exploring uncharted bays and camping in some pretty wild places. On a small uncharted island after a long day in the boats, we found ourselves on the only bit of flat rock that allowed us any chance of a landing. We could only sleep outside as there wasn’t room for tents. We spent the next eight hours watching the tide creep up onto our little bit of rock, going to sleep finally about two am having seen the last of the flood tide.

At this stage our kayaks had been taking a battering with Andrew’s Mirage and my Sea quest sustaining damage that had required a few repairs along the way, however Stuarts Kevlar Nadgee Expedition had held up well. It’s amazing the little damage they all sustained from the hard rock landings and the constant battering into icebergs we gave them. Stuart had the best idea, running a strip of Kevlar along the keel line of his boat as a wear strip resulting in hardly any damage to his keel at all

Days twenty to thirty three

After arriving at the Ukrainian scientific base, Vernadsky, we finally caught up with our yacht that was planning to pick us up soon. Luckily they were there as my elbow was quite swollen, desperately needing rest, and requiring no other choice but to sit out a few days paddling, hoping we could meet up maybe in a few days. It was devastating to admit defeat to something that had taken three years of planning and cost thousands of dollars to get there and I was quite depressed by being beaten by something I had no control over, despondently watching the fellas paddle off the next day.

At least I had the chance to have a famous round (or ten) of home-made vodka with the scientists at the base. Resting the next few days, my elbow quickly mended and I was biting at the bit to again catch up and paddle with my mates. That same day I rejoined the fellas, we were again hammered by strong winds but this time the winds were coming from three directions having been forced up and over gullies and valleys to hit us at about fifty knots. This time we weren’t pushed out to sea like our first day. We tried to paddle into this wind but soon gave up when we could see ourselves being blown backwards. We ended up paddling back to a sheltered spot enjoying the moment by filming ourselves in a small cave having a laugh at what we had just attempted. Later that night we were to see the winds change direction by 180 degrees and increase in speed to the point that one of the tents was ripped and torn leaving Andrew and I to sleep with our backs to the poles trying to hold the last of the tent together.

We were now very close to the Gullet, the main crux of the whole trip; an area of the coast known for ice to pack even in summer, not allowing access to any vessel. We had knowledge of a Chilean Navy ice breaker that had attempted to push through but had failed so we were sure our little fibreglass and Kevlar boats didn’t stand a chance.

We only had another two days of paddling left, having been forced to abandon our trip on the Kidd Islands. After paddling south one final time to ensure we paddled over that imaginary line called the Antarctic Circle, sadly our trip was over. We had paddled over 850 km over a total of 33 days, camping out on the Antarctic coastline — a once in a life time adventure.

Andrew McAuley

It’s now four months since Andrew was tragically lost at sea, possibly on the last night of his major expedition paddling a sea kayak from Tasmania Australia to Milford Sound in New Zealand. This was always an ambitious project but if anyone had a chance of pulling it off I was confident he was the man for the job. I’m sure whatever happened it was a major accident that just couldn’t possibly be avoided. Coincidently the day Andrew went missing was exactly a year to the day when we had our very close experience on our first days paddle in Antarctica…spooky.

I had the pleasure of paddling with Andrew many times over the years, around the wild west coast of Tasmania where we found ourselves in 50 knots plus of wind and seven metre swell, paddling to an outlying coastal island 20 km off the coast, and many numerous weekly trips, but most importantly we held an annual trip with a bunch of mates the first week in October where paddling become second to the socialising side of kayaking.

Andrew was an extreme sea kayaker who pushed boundaries in all of his pursuits but his first priority was to look at the safety aspects of his challenges; if these met his high standard he then would move onto the next stage of his meticulous planning. He had boundless energy, a trait that constantly amazed and annoyed me, especially long into a trip when feeling tired and sore this leaping bean pole would jokingly urge me on to the next headland.

He was always so far in front that you had no choice but to push on cursing his name on every stroke, but amazed when after a physically-draining 50 km paddle he would jump up grab his camera heading off on a three hour mountain climb to get the best position for a good sunset photo. If he was sharing a tent he would not only pitch your tent, but brew a hot drink ready when you arrived.

Andrew was one of the best sea kayakers I know and a good mate and he will be sorely missed by all.

Hawkesbury Classic Results [69]

This year’s Hawkesbury Canoe Classic was run over the night of the 27 and 28 October. The Classic is an annual canoe and kayak race starting at Windsor and finishing 111km down river at Brooklyn. Over two million dollars has been raised by the event for The Arrow Foundation.

There was a small showing of NSWSKC members among the approximately 500 starters.

  • Cathy Miller & Ian Vale (Mirage Double) — 11:38 (Handicap Time 11:46)
  • Roger Boardman & Robert (Mirage Double) — 11:52
  • Mark Anderson (Mirage 580) — 12:07 (Handicap Time 11:48)
  • Matt Bezzina (Mirage 530) — 12:22
  • Murray Town (Mirage 580) — 13:42
  • Lee Killingworth (Tasman 19) — 13:45
  • Katrina Keane (Mirage 580) — 14:11 (Handicap Time 12:04)
  • Andrew Kucype — 14:40
  • Terry Renford (Mirage 580) — 15:54 (Handicap Time 15:00)
  • David Fisher (Mirage 580) — 17:16

Island Hopping Greek-style [69]

By Adrian Clayton

Inspired by the words of Kazantzakis, the music of Theodorakis and the spirit of Zorba, I set off last September for the eastern Aegean and the islands of the Dodacanese group for an 8-day commercial sea kayak trip.

I had booked the trip with Crossing Latitudes who promoted it on their website as being “for folks with previous paddling experience who’d like to further improve their paddling skills and maybe challenge themselves among rock gardens and in surf”.

Taking the trip was a party of 6: Lena Conlon, co-owner of Crossing Latitudes; Rotem Ron, our guide and a BCU 5-star instructor (and the first person to circumnavigate Iceland solo in a kayak!) and 4 customers including myself. I had been given the impression when booking that our guide would be the legendary Hadas Feldman — something I dined out on with my kayaking mates in the weeks leading up to my departure for the island of Kos (which is only a stone’s throw from the western shoreline of Turkey). This wasn’t to be but my initial disappointment that Hadas wasn’t guiding us didn’t last long as Rotem proved to be a more than adequate substitute.

My expectation that I could be one of the weaker members of the group was quickly dashed. The meet-and-greet session on the first day at our hotel in Kos revealed that my fellow paddlers were far less experienced than me. The big challenge facing Lena and Rotem would be to satisfy the kayaking objectives of each of the punters — something I think they were able to do reasonably well.

Our boats were Nigel Dennis Kayaks — all fibreglass and showing signs of being well used. They are owned by an Israeli company, Terra Santa Expeditions, (Rotem’s employer) and are permanently stored in Kos. Our pod was made up of 4 singles and a double — from memory most with skegs and all without rudders. Everybody had a stint in the double during the trip, however, I was mostly in an Explorer HV — a nicely behaved boat, comfortable and fast enough. We each carried our own clothes and other personal items plus some of the communal cargo such as food, utensils, water, etc. Our accommodation was generally in guest houses and small holiday units. Meals were all supplied as part of the tour package with breakfasts and lunches mostly self-catered and evening meals taken in local tavernas. We all ate well.

We set out on our adventure proper on Day 2, catching an inter-island ferry out of Kos and heading north to the island of Leros passing Pserimos and Kalymnos (famous for the exploits of its sponge divers) enroute. On Leros (heavily bombed by the RAF during WW2) we based ourselves in the pretty seaside village of Pandeli. Here we stayed for 3 days, one more day than intended due to very strong winds. We did a little bit of paddling each day and included some sessions developing basic skills. The rest of the time we relaxed, visited the nearby townships and climbed a hill behind Pandeli on which a formidable fortress built in the middle ages (and once occupied by the Knights of St John) still stood in excellent condition. Departing Pandeli on Day 5, we headed towards the southern end of Leros to another seaside village, Xirokambos, for an overnight stay before paddling further south, across a channel and down the western side of Kalymnos, staying overnight on nearby car-less Telendos. Day 7 had us arriving in the busy port of Pothea, the main town of Kalymnos. On the final day Rotem and I paddled back to Kos, a distance of approximately 33km, while the rest of the group took the ferry, arriving not long after us.

Although from different parts of the world, the group members got on extremely well (the mix of nationalities was 3 Americans, and one each Swede, Israeli and Australian). Apart from Lena and Rotem, we were all either retired or getting close to it. Lean and fit, a little irascible at times, Earl, a 77-year-old New Yorker, was the senior member and an inspiration as he tried valiantly to crack an Eskimo roll for the first time.

Although the trip didn’t provide the challenge I’d hoped for (maybe a 150kms paddled over the 8 days, no surf encounters and only the gentlest of rock gardens), the paddling was leisurely and very pleasant. The spectacular blue, so hard to describe, and clarity of the Aegean was amazing. Paddling very close alongside the rugged, steep cliffs of Kalymnos with the sea gently lapping against them was special. The abundance of islands in close proximity all with craggy coastlines and barren hills rising high behind always made for a dramatic vista. And occasionally we would round a point to find the perfect beach — sometimes sandy, sometimes cobblestoned — for a picnic lunch. The villages dotted along our route with clusters of squat whitewashed buildings (including some old windmills converted into dwellings) added to the visual attraction.

However, the cultural experience was the highlight for me and travelling by kayak was a great way to absorb it. The islands are saturated with so much history — a sort of history we don’t experience here — with well-preserved relics, some dating back before Christ was born, abounding. Away from the tourist haven of Kos, the people on the islands were always friendly and pleasant. Their lives seemingly simpler, more carefree and less cluttered than the lives of their city brethren (and ours, too). Images of a more leisurely life are easy to recall: a calamari fisherman at waters edge sorting his catch while his grandson plays happily with a toy tractor nearby; menfolk sitting at streetside tables drinking coffee and earnestly discussing politics (our visit to Pandeli coincided with the Greek national elections) playing cards or checkers; two elderly women taking in their regular early evening dip in the Aegean, chatting and laughing together. I have lots more to remind me of a very appealing lifestyle.

The group experienced some great hospitality as we journeyed along. Most memorable was when our hostess at the Villa Maria in Xirokambos enhanced our breakfast with delectable green figs and grapes freshly picked from her nearby garden of which she was justly proud. And more about food: our journey was not a great gastronomic experience but we did eat tomatoes that tasted the way tomatoes should, not like the cardboard variety served up in our supermarkets. Greek salads were standard fare for dinner — always served with a generous slab of local fetta (the taste of which we don’t seem to be able to capture in Oz). And I grew particularly fond of the local Mythos beer only opting for ouzo on the last night.

An interesting aspect was the location of some of the chapels we paddled past. Isolated and built in what seemed to be the most inaccessible parts, sometimes precariously propped on the side of a steep slope, they would have proved a real test of faith to those who chose to worship in them.

Also of interest was the number of Greeks we met who had once lived in Australia. My landlady at the Yiorgos Hotel in Kos had run a convenience store during the 1970s in Mosman at the same time that I was living there. George, our host at On the Rocks restaurant in Telendos had typical Greek looks but an accent that was undeniably Australian which he’d gained from his many years living in Sydney’s Paddington. And the restaurateur in Pothia who proudly recounted his career as a dogman on numerous Sydney building projects including the Sydney Opera House (producing photos as proof). There were others and although all had fond recollections of their time in Australia the lure of their island had been too strong for them to resist.

This Crossing Latitudes trip would be well within the capabilities of a NSWSKC Grade 2 paddler. Particularly so given the duty of care exercised by the operator. For more details visit www.crossinglatitudes.com.

For something more challenging in the same region visit the Terra Santa Kayak Expedition site at http://www.seakayak.co.il