NSW Sea Kayak Club – A Reminder About Rips [74]

By Michael Steinfeld

In February a number of members paddled from Yarra Bay to Boat Harbour as part of a practice day for potential Sea Leaders. The wind was slight but the sea was sloppy with a two metre swell. Rebound caused a washing machine effect around the headlands and reef near Boat Harbour.

After landing at Boat Harbour we continued on to Bate Bay where we had to negotiate the reefs about half a kilometre out to sea to get to the beach. We donned our helmets and made it to the beach safely whereupon we commenced kayak surfing. I saw a large wave set coming and paddled backwards to avoid it. However, the wave crashed on the kayak — I was pummelled and came out of my boat. While swimming towards the beach I knew I was being pulled out to sea by a rip. My kayak landed safely on the beach.

This is the second time I have been caught in a rip. On the previous occasion at Seal Rocks, I swam against it and made it to the beach exhausted. Why I write this article is that I forgot how to get out of a rip and I was deluded into believing that as the shoreline appeared very close I could simply swim my way out of it towards the beach.

Kayakers are more likely to be exposed to rips because we often have to surf well away from other beachgoers or at unsupervised beaches and the likelihood of a capsize in the surf zone is high. If your rolling skills are not 100 per cent, you will wet exit.

A rip is a channel of water moving back out to sea from the beach. The waves take the water to the beach; the rip pools that water and takes it back out. The channel of the rip is deeper than the surrounding water. Usually the water in the rip moves so fast that you have little hope of swimming against it. The more you do the more exhausted you get. Panic can set in and you can easily drown.

You can identify the rip if you stand on a high vantage point overlooking the beach. Usually a rip exists between the areas of white water. The water will appear calmer as waves don’t break in deeper water, different in colour as it is deeper or you can see sand and debris floating out to sea.

Rips are stronger at low tide and in large swells — the more water going to the beach, the more water going out. Rips are likely to occur near jetties and piers or near headlands and rocks. In periods of large swells and wind, rips are said to ‘behave badly’ and the beach is not the place where kayaks should attempt to land.

After I struggled in the water, another kayaker swam out to assist. As you would expect, he was caught in the same predicament. I knew that with PFDs, we had plenty of staying power floating on the water. A swimmer who had been watching from the beach came into the water to assist. He held out his arm and I tried to grab it. He later mentioned that when the wave came, my PFD made me float away from him in the strong rip. Our guide, realizing that two of us were in the water too long, paddled to us. He was dealing with a rescue in the surf zone, which was very difficult. I grabbed his back toggle and I was taken closer to the shore before it came out of my hand. Another paddler from our group swam to us. He instructed me to lie on my back and was able to grab my PFD and pull me sideways out of the rip. My rescuer, who was also caught in the rip, followed behind.

You need to know what to do when caught in a rip and secondly, how to rescue somebody caught in a rip. I came across these main points when I researched the internet.

  • Stay calm, tread water and allow the rip current to carry you out. Then wait for help or swim around the rip current and back to shore.
  • Alternatively start to swim parallel to the shore or towards areas of white water or white breaking waves. Rips aren’t exactly narrow, but they are concentrated in one place.
  • Sometimes the rip is diagonal to shore; if you are not making progress swim in the other direction.
  • If someone is caught in a rip and you are in your kayak, you should only effect the rescue if you are confident of your paddling skills with that type of rescue. If you are likely to capsize in the process there is no point to the exercise and it means double trouble.
  • Throwing a towrope to the swimmer may not help as the hook may injure and the rope may become dangerous. Alternatively, you could shout directions to stay calm and guide them sideways. Better still, you could also tell the paddler to go with the rip flow until the rip stops and then assist the paddler to swim to the beach to collect their kayak.
  • If you are on the beach, it is best not to wade into the water unless you are a very confident swimmer and understand the nature of the specific rip and how to get out of danger. Otherwise, like my rescuer, there are two in trouble.

So next time you are on the beach, do yourself a favour and identify the rips. By the way, the rip can become your friend if you use it to kayak out to sea past the breakers but again it is a two-edged sword as if you fall out you will find yourself in the rip.

One of the best sites for more information is Science of the Surf (SOS), http://www.scienceofthesurf.com.

Thanks to Rob Mercer for his suggestions.

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NSW Sea Kayak Club – From the President’s Deck [74]

By Michael Steinfeld

We spent our summer holidays sampling the delights of Tasmania. They are a lucky lot down there. Not only do they have great food but as a paddler you can get away to very remote and beautiful locations.

The Tasman peninsula from Fortesque Bay to Port Arthur is a must-do paddle and on the west coast, kayaking the Pieman River to the coast was a real treat.

We met up with a number of local paddlers who were not short on suggested paddles. You have to be prepared for the stronger wind patterns and try as you might, it is difficult to get used to immersion in the cold water.

While we were away we heard the sad news of the death of Kevin Brennan, Sea Guide and dedicated club member who had been an organiser of two Rock’n’Rolls and had also served as Trips Coordinator. To Sue and their boys, our hearts go out to you.

The month of February has brought with it the Australian tragedy of bushfires and floods. Your committee agreed to donate the sum of $500 to the Australian Red Cross.

On the local scene, some club members welcomed Freya Hoffmeister from Germany who is attempting to match Paul Caffyn’s feat of circumnavigating Australia. Her arrival in Sydney coincided with an east coast low pressure system whipping up seas and winds. But this did not hold her back and we wish her well in her epic quest.

The training the club provides is the backbone of the club. This year we hope to graduate a number of Sea Leaders before Rock’n’Roll and Adrian Clayton has become a Sea Instructor. Congratulations to all.

I hope to meet you at the Rock’n’Roll and trust that you will give thanks to all the Instructors, Leaders and Committee who voluntarily give their time to the benefit of you, the club members. Enjoy the activities!

Until next time…

Michael Steinfeld

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour [74]

By Philip Woodhouse

If it had not been for the NSWSKC Rock’n’Roll last year, I would never have known that Port Davey in south west Tasmania ever existed. I had heard of Melaleuca and the South Coast Track from friends who had walked it but as far as I was concerned since I was no longer being paid to carry my house on my back, they could have the experience all to themselves. Stephan Meyn’s presentation at the Rock’n’Roll about his trip to Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey with Roaring 40°S Wilderness Tours certainly ignited my curiosity about the area. Moreover, the fact that with the tour, you fly in then kayak seemed to me the only way to visit this World Heritage wilderness area. However, I need to get there.

Green F32 was the Rock’n’Roll raffle ticket which saw Greg Murray and I being treated to a most excellent and pleasurable kayaking trip one could ever imagine. The prize was a three day trip for two with Roaring 40°S Wilderness Tours and on Stephan’s advice we extended the trip to a seven day tour.

From the time I telephoned the folk at Roaring 40°S to being dropped off back at the hotel in Hobart I was impressed by their helpfulness, organization and operation. You are sent an information sheet and a gear list, which as it turns out, is all that you need. One chap on our tour is travelling the world and just decided to go on the seven day tour and was totally kitted out with quality camping equipment provided by Roaring 40°S. Of note was an observation and comment by one of the guides that he found the best footwear for the area was Crocs™. These shoes were versatile enough for him to both paddle in and walk around in, thereby reducing the need for several sets of footwear. Importantly he found that with his feet being constantly wet, sandal straps and grit cut and grazed his feet and the injuries were slow to heal. Another consideration was that the small pebbles encountered on some of the beaches in the harbour could easily be extracted.

The only change to the clothing list I would make would be to replace the two cotton T-shirts with two polyester ones.

On the first day of the tour we were picked up from our hotel in Hobart and driven to Cambridge airstrip where under the careful observation of the two guides, Nathan and Dan, eight of us packed our personal gear into 70 litre duffle bags ready to be loaded into the Cessna 206 and Norman Islander aircraft operated by Par Avion. On a warm clear day we took off and while climbing to 4500 feet flew over Hobart and headed for the airstrip at Melaleuca.

The sights of SW Tassie from the air were brilliant — we saw all of the major features bushwalkers talk about. As we flew past Federation Peak (1225 m) I looked out the starboard window onto the peak and thought, ‘Flying, the only way to bushwalk’.

As we approached our destination a cold front was bringing drizzle and grey cloud from the south west towards the airstrip but we still had magnificent views of the area we were about to explore over the next seven days and even out to the Maatsuyker group of islands.

On the ground, the drizzle had arrived so we packed the Paddling Perfection Sea Bear II kayaks and quickly got onto the water and headed for the standing camp at Forest Lagoon. What we were to encounter here was ‘unbelievable’!

The standing camp is seasonally set up and pulled down by the Roaring 40°S crew but the facilities were brilliant — so much so, if you have a partner who is not into kayaking and camping and you would like to expose them to this magnificent location, take them on the three day Bathurst Harbour tour.

The sleeping accommodation has comfortable camp stretchers and the tents have screen doors and large windows that enable you to view the surrounding flora and lagoon.

If it is raining you can sit there in comfort and listen to the sounds of tranquillity. After recovering from the shock of the sleeping accommodation we were treated to entrees of sushi in the dining area while the guides prepared and served our dinner of fresh salmon and warm salad followed by a luscious dessert.

Day two greeted us with a grey sky but you could clearly see the vista that surrounds and envelops the observer. Departing Forest Lagoon, we made way up the brackish tan-coloured waters of Bathurst Narrows under the sentinel, Mt Rugby, with its bush gullies, button grass ridges and rocky outcrops. Passing Joan Point and the dingy that has been provided for bushwalkers travelling the Port Davey Track to cross Farrell Point, we paddled to Balmoral Beach and landed on the white pebbles that glistened like sparkling wine bubbles in the sunlight.

Departing the beach we made our way through Bathurst Channel into Force 3–4 winds before turning into Bramble Cove and our next campsite.

After setting up camp and then being served a delightful lunch we explored the cove which had been the site of a whaling station in the 19th century. Nathan and Dan guided us around, pointing out the areas of historical significance and telling us about the area’s history.

After entrees and dinner we watched the sun set behind the Breaksea Islands that protect Bathurst Channel from the swells rolling up from Antarctica into Port Davey. A few weeks before, local fishermen in Port Davey ran for cover when 8 to 12 metre swells rolled on in.

Day three greeted us with Force 1–2 conditions and a 0.5–1 metre swell; that is to say amazingly perfect for the location. The pod of five kayaks made its way to the Breaksea Islands where we ‘shot the gauntlet’ and headed NW across Port Davey to Whalers Point. Virgin-looking (slightly bushy and untouched) flora rimmed the shoreline like a laurel wreath before the button grass-covered hills rose behind like the head of a bald man.

Crossing Bond Bay we encountered Force 5 headwinds that ceased when we arrived at Curtis Point where we stopped for a break — typical. Pushing on, we landed at Settlement Point at the head of the Davey River and set up camp for two days.

To replenish our fresh water we paddled up Blackwater Creek until we got to a waterfall that separated the saline from fresh. The day was 30°C outside, and 38°C inside my tent, so when we exited the kayaks we first had to get over the shock of the cold water before we swam over to the waterfall which we climbed and then sat around in the freshwater ponds. Settlement Point had been the site of a 19th century ship building community that harvested Huon Pine for their operations and export.

Living in this isolated part of the world with its contrary weather and unforgiving seas was certainly challenging in the age when ships were wood and men were steel. One story was of a gunfight between two communities at the time — the loggers upstream and those at Settlement Point — which took place because provisions were scarce and people had resorted to survival mode.

On day four we paddled up the Davey River trying to find any signs of Huon Pine regrowth, of which there was little. The banks of the river were lined with multiple varieties of flora and the waters were populated with Black Swans, ducks and sea eagles. Entering Davey Gorge we continued up to the second set of rapids. Here we played around in the Sea Bears as though they were white water boats.

Back down the gorge, we had lunch on a sandbar surrounded by variegated vegetation and fresh water that rippled over dark tannin-coloured pools. When no one spoke the sounds of nature transported your soul through the lush vegetation and across the babbling waters.

Back at Settlement Point the guides once again provided us with abundant tasty meals made from fresh rations and to cap the day off we all sat on the beach eating dolmades, drinking red wine and watching the clouds float on by.

Day five was an early start since the forecast, which was only available by satellite phone, was for Force 6 conditions increasing to Force 8 in the evening. It is here where the knowledge and experience of the guides was put on display as they were well aware of the vagrancies of forecasts in such a location. The operators of Roaring 40°S, Kim Brodlieb and Ian Balmer, have chosen their guides well — for example Nathan Wedding, who also runs sea kayaking trips in Norway and is starting in 2009 to run trips in Vietnam and in 2010 in Croatia and Turkey.

On this trip, Nathan was mentoring Dan so between them they formulated a sound plan to get us back to Bramble Cove before the weather isolated us at Settlement Point. Heading up to Curtis Point, Dan made the decision for us to cross Payne Bay and head for Berry Head. Here the coastline consisted of small cliffs dotted with sea caves. We sheltered behind Mavourneen Rocks and stretched our legs before paddling to Kathleen Island then past Boil Rock and into North Passage between Mt Milner and the Breaksea Islands.

In Bramble Cove we explored the rocky coastline and even paddled into a sea cave that was incredibly deep to the point whereby I could not see Greg’s headlamp or kayak ahead of me as he and Helen kayaked deeper into the cave and around the corner. After setting up camp at Bramble Cove we went down to the beach and watched the wind rip up the waters of Bathurst Channel and then some went on a walk up Mt Milner.

By evening the rain had set in and the guides cooked our gourmet meals — garnished with individually plucked parsley — under the tarp and even in the rain while the rest of us sat under the shelter, eating snacks and drinking red wine. In fact, Pam accidentally brought along a bottle of 2002 Moondah Brook Shiraz which she graciously portioned out to those who brought along chateau cask. During this time of delightful indulgence, Greg’s tent flooded and wet his bedding — unfortunately much to everyone’s amusement.

The day six forecast was for NW swinging to SW Force 8 conditions. Fortunately for us the force 5–6 wind was on our backs as we paddled and surfed along Bathurst Channel. At Balmoral Beach a squall came through and pelted us with hail before passing and leaving us to bask in warm sunlight before the next squall pelted us again with hail. Passing through Bathurst Narrows we just sat in our kayaks and let the breeze propel us along into Bathurst Harbour and then after a short punch into the wind we landed back at the standing camp at Forest Lagoon.

On the morning of the final day, I lay in my bed looking out of the window across Forest Lagoon towards Mt Rugby thinking how nice it would be to live in such an area. After breakfast we took a short paddle across Forest Lagoon to Claytons Corner where we landed and ascended Mt Beattie to take in the panoramic views. From this vantage point we could see across Bathurst Harbour to the Ray Range and Spiro Range in the east. To the north was the Rugby Range and to the north east the Western Arthur Range. The view to the west showed us where we had been kayaking over the last five days — along Bathurst Channel to Port Davey. To the south through the Melaleuca Valley lay the Maatsuyker Island group.

On return to camp we loaded the kayaks and headed the five or so kilometres up the Melaleuca Inlet to the airstrip. After repacking our duffle bags we loaded the aircraft and headed east back to Hobart. After taking off, Bathurst Harbour lay below, quiet and inviting. As we flew along, the landscape with its ranges, valleys and rivers unfolded beneath us with no signs of roads or dwellings. After landing back in Hobart the guides drove us back to our hotel where after a shower and change we went to the pub and reminisced about the past seven days and planned our future return.

I would like to thank the operators of Roaring 40°S Wilderness Tours, Kim Brodlieb and Ian Balmer, who through their generosity supported the NSWSKC 2008 Rock’n’Roll as platinum sponsors. I would also like to thank Nathan and Dan who for the seven days demonstrated what it means to be a sea kayak guide as they served, crewed and led the tour. For sea kayakers, get some friends together and go on a seven day tour. If you are a not into tramping around the bush and camping or have a partner or friend who is not so inclined, go on a three day tour as the experience is brilliant.

Remember: ‘Don’t count the cost, live your life’.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Friday on My Mind [74]

By Julie Gibson

Julie shares her experience of the new weekly Friday club trip led by Owen Kimberley

Little Manly must be one of the most luxurious places for starting off for a paddle in Sydney harbour, or anywhere for that matter. On weekdays or early on weekend days there’s parking right next to the grass next to the beach. There’s a hose and lush grass for washing off afterwards, and there’s a shower.

Launching from the beach is mostly easy — sometimes a few wind-waves challenge.

There is a wide range of choices about where to go, depending on the weather. We don’t go outside the heads, which for Grade 2 me is fine; there are plenty of harbour places to discover.

So far we’ve paddled across the heads against a southerly to Camp Cove and caught a few swells on the way back past Quarantine Head. We’ve crossed over to Middle Head — taking in a bit of wave catching there — then back to Reef Beach for some rolling practice.

Today our destination was Clifton Gardens, admiring the old gun emplacements in the rocks and stopping for some great coffee at the Bacino Bar.

Gradually we’ll extend our range. The next plan is for Nielsen Park (I hear the coffee’s good there too), and Bradleys Head.

It was amazing today — one of those days when the water is sparkling and turquoise to blue, depending on the depth. The wind was gentle. Owen saw a flying fish as we went across the heads.

There were all sorts of boats out — freighters, ferries, racing yachts, tinnies. I was glad of Owen’s knowledge of boats and how to navigate among them.

The leadership aspect is why I love going out in this way — I’m a relative beginner and still finding my way. I do lots of paddles alone where I can’t stretch myself because I stay well within my skill level for reasons of safety.

These club trips take me further and I’m getting better every time, along with having a great day.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – A Fishy Tale [74]

By John Wilde

It was a yelp I remember well. Not exactly a scream, more of a sort of question, a ‘What the h*** do I do next?’.

I had heard it many times before, such as once near Deal Island in the middle of Bass Strait, when we encountered a major tidal stream and associated turbulence off one of the headlands and another occasion landing in surf on an Easter trip on the south coast, when a bigger than usual set picked her up and started to propel her towards the beach like a rocket.

That yelp will be familiar to many people in the club, as it came from our illustrious past president, Elizabeth Thompson, commonly known as ET, sea kayaker extraordinaire.

On this occasion we were in the passage between Bowen Island and the mainland, in Jervis Bay, and a few minutes earlier we had launched at Murrays Beach for a leisurely paddle around the said island and beyond.

As a light north-westerly was blowing I recommended ET put up her sail which she had only used a couple of times before and which she was still quite cautious of. Then she asked about the fishing line I had made up for her the previous evening, a handline with a ‘Maccers straw’ on a nylon leader, with sash cord main line, designed to pull in fighting fish like Australian salmon and tailor and be used as a troll line. ‘Of course put it out,’ I said, thinking it would be a little while till any action happened. So just as we headed through the narrow, shallow gap between Bowen Island and the point, where the sea always tends to stand up, making it a notoriously rough section, she had her first hit.

I could see a large salmon leaping in the air directly behind ET’s boat and I could hear the yelp. Unfortunately I could not do anything about it, as I suddenly found myself in exactly the same predicament, my line leaping and pulling, the boat suddenly quite unstable under the triple influences of a sail, rough water and a large sea creature fighting like mad to avoid capture.

Behind us Mike Snoad and Rose were also coming through the gap, neither encumbered by sail or fish, so all I could do was call back for assistance, while I handled my own problem. Soon I had a large salmon on my deck, but ET had lost hers. She even seemed happy about this. I mean, what was she doing? But she did seem quite relieved!

Around the corner things quietened down a lot, just a slight chop, sails were lowered and fishing lines re-employed. Almost immediately Mike had a hit and pulled in another nice fish. Then ET had a strike, lost it, but quickly hooked one more and proudly pulled the gleaming, flashing silver torpedo onto the deck.

Soon Rose also had a fish and as we worked the point our tally increased till we knew we had enough protein to feed the starving hordes back at ET’s beachside cottage for the party that night.

For ET and Rose, this was their first successful fishing experience and they were delighted with themselves. This really was a great introduction to the sport for them — constant action, lots of exciting moments in a now calm environment and a non-stop supply of fish. For Mike and I the tally continues to grow and this is an ideal way to enhance the excitement and food supplies on many a long trip.

PS: Please note that in NSW you need a fishing licence, that bag limits apply and that some areas are zoned no fishing or belong to marine parks, so do some homework before you go out to try this.