From the President’s Deck [77/78]

by Michael Steinfeld

Having had a sneak preview of this double issue, Jacqui Stone, the editor and all the contributors have to be congratulated for producing a collector’s edition of the magazine. Stories including my trip to the Haida Gwaii National Park in north west Canada and John Wilde’s trip up north with Fishkiller will whet your appetite for adventure. Safety issues in kayaking are highlighted in the report from Ken Day, our vice president, detailing my faux pas whilst paddling from Broughton Island on a club trip and in Shaan Gresser’s gripping tale of her experience of a dislocated shoulder. And there is a whole lot more fine reading.

On the issue of safety, my incident on Broughton Island has raised a number of issues regarding club policy. Should paddlers on club trips enter rock gardens and gauntlets? Should helmets be carried on all club trips out to sea and put on when surfing and paddling in rock gardens and gauntlets? Where should tow ropes be stowed? On the deck? These policy matters are being reviewed by the club. So watch this space.

We are a 300-plus strong sea kayak club with Australia’s leading instructors, assessors and trip leaders, but with that comes an obligation to lead the sea paddling community and self-regulate. One way of keeping ahead of the game has been to ensure that all injuries and rescues requiring outside assistance on club trips are investigated to determine how we can improve our systems and educate the membership. After all, we all learn from each other’s mistakes. The days of yesteryear when you can head out to sea PFD or no PFD are truly gone. We must lead otherwise it will be done for us with unintended consequences. Remember that even paddling on your own brings with it a responsibility to the club, as any major injury is likely to force change on all of us.

Sea kayaking in NSW is not regulated except for the wearing of PFDs when paddling more that 400 metres from land and carrying a white light at night. However you cannot assume that this will always be the case.

As a result of the recent accident off Wollongong, when two sailors drowned as they were not wearing PFDs, NSW Maritime is now proposing regulations, which extend to kayakers, that a PFD must be worn when paddling on the sea or 100 metres from shore in sheltered waters. Our club couldn’t object to this as a PFD is worn from paddling day one. But 100 metres on flat water? If you paddle on say Tallowa Dam on a hot day, as one member emailed, why do you need your PFD if you are a competent paddler.

A couple of years ago, in South Australia, kayakers died crossing to Kangaroo Island. They should not have been attempting the crossing in the first place, as reports noted they were very inexperienced and they were completely unprepared and ill-equipped. The reaction by the authorities was to demand that paddling two nautical miles offshore requires a permit. This blanket approach is heavy handed and counterproductive. If you are unprepared for the conditions at sea what difference would 2nm make?

New Zealand authorities legislated in response to the death of kayakers when struck by motor boats at sunset. Kayakers must be more visible by dressing up their kayak and wearing bright clothing and lights, but what about boat owners? How many times have members of the club been “threatened” by a power boat? Would dressing up the kayak, e.g. putting up a big flag, make any difference? Maybe… maybe not.

On a different note, Freya Hoffmeister’s circumnavigation of Australia is a great achievement. She had a steely determination, a focus that was so intense that the seas just parted and the sharks and crocodiles became subdued in her presence. Many of us will miss Freya’s daily blog and remain in awe at her accomplishment, talent and determination to race around Australia.

Lastly, it is time to renew your membership and book your place for the Rock’n’Roll at Batemans Bay from 19 to 22 March 2010. Just follow the link on our web page. We have great guest speakers in Beau Miles and Ginni Callahan. There will be trips, instruction and lots of fraternization.

So until next time…

Michael Steinfeld

The Lifuka Archipelago, Tonga [77/78]

by Terence Uren

The 171 islands of the Kingdom of Tonga lie between Fiji and the International Date Line, spread across some 700,000 square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean. Within the kingdom, there are four main island groups: Tongatapu (which includes the capital Nuku’alofa); Ha’apai; Vava’u; and the Niuas. Within the Ha’apai group, the Lifuka Archipelago is a string of low-lying sand cays along the group’s eastern barrier reef, stretching approximately 45 kilometres from north to south.

We were at the northern end of the island of Foa, looking across the channel to the island of Nukunamo and chatting about our 10 day paddle through the Lifuka Archipelago that was to begin later that morning. We were speculating about what might happen to the current in the channel at turn of tide when, without warning, a two metre wave swept through the channel leaving the fringing reef behind it sucked dry.

The Tongans with us were at a loss to explain what had happened and it took a while for sombre news of a major earthquake in Western Samoa to filter through. What we had just witnessed was the first of a series of tsunamis that were to roll through over the next few hours. A tsunami alert had been activated and all schools and businesses closed until further notice.

What this meant for our paddle was unclear but any thoughts of disrupted plans were far from our minds as we dealt with anxieties about our personal safety and digested the first reports of chaos, destruction and loss of life that were coming in from the Niuas and Samoa.

As it turned out, we were extremely fortunate. The first and largest of the tsunamis hit Ha’apai dead on low tide and its fringing reef absorbed most of the impact. There was some minor local flooding and the causeway linking Foa and the island of Lifuka was briefly closed. All we lost was a bit of time and, later that morning, we were able to travel to our Lifukan launch spot in the town of Pangai. Our kayaks, which had been shipped down from Vava’u, had not been damaged and were ready for loading. This task drew an interested audience, its numbers swollen by children freed from school by the tsunami alert.

Everyone kept one eye on the ocean, which continued to surge and suck dramatically for a further two hours. When this movement appeared to have ceased, we decided to head off, although we figured it would be safer to paddle straight out to sea, rather than along the western shoreline of Lifuka as planned. Our first stop was the western end of the island of Uoleva. Like most of the archipelago’s islands, it was everything you expect of a tropical paradise: white sand beaches backed by coconut palms and surrounded by rich offshore reefs.

The weather the next morning was perfect. The prevailing trade winds were whipping up a fair surf on the outer reef to the east of Uoleva but paddling conditions on the leeward side of the island were ideal. Our plan was to head across to the uninhabited island of Luangahu, and use this as a base camp for two nights while we explored nearby atolls. There were, however, reports from local fishermen that it was infested with breeding sea snakes. They had counted 40 around their landing site on their last visit, not aggressive but very curious. By the time we’d completed the 10 km crossing, we’d talked ourselves out of camping on Luangahu and, after a brief leg stretch, we paddled on, heading for the village of Felemea on the island of Uiha. We picked up water from the village’s tanks (proudly labelled ‘Donated by AUSAid’), camped nearby and, the next day, paddled further south to a set of isolated islets known collectively as Uanukuhahaki.

The ideal conditions and our decision not to camp on Luangahu meant that we were now well ahead of our paddle plan. Not a problem — Uanukuhahaki is such a beautiful place so it was easy to stay on for a few extra days. There was plenty to do. Its four islets were each worthy of close examination on foot and in kayak; we needed a couple of hours each day to catch enough fish to feed ourselves; when we ran out of lures we had the hours needed to make our own; and the snorkelling was first rate — until we came across a school of 20 sharks off one of the islets. There was even time for the sculptor in our group to work on a ‘found materials’ installation. Our only problem was not quite enough water for a longer than planned camp but we were able to stretch our supplies by cooking in a mix of salt and fresh water and by drinking freshly harvested coconut juice.

Eventually, the water ran out. We packed up, returned to Felemea’s tanks, refilled our containers and kept paddling northwards to Uoleva. We found an even prettier campsite than the one we’d used on our outward journey and stayed here for another three days, with more moseying about in unladen boats, fishing, snorkelling, swimming and sculpting.

Once again, the emptying of our water containers was the signal to move on. By this time, however, we’d also run out of food and we had no option but to head back to Pangai. We landed by the town wharf to news of an earthquake in Vanuatu and a tsunami alert for the Ha’apai group. The monthly supply ship which had been due to unload later that day had heeded the alert and turned out to sea. There were to be no treats for us that night but it didn’t matter: the experience of paddling in the archipelago was more than ample reward for us all.

Trip Planning

Getting to the Lifuka Archipelago is relatively straightforward. Pacific Blue has twice weekly flights between Sydney and Nuku’alofa and Chathams Pacific runs flights between Nuku’alofa and Ha’apai on most days of the week.

Ha’apai is a designated conservation area. Permits are needed to paddle in the Lifuka Archipelago and it is illegal to camp in the area unless accompanied by licensed Tongan guides. Our guides were from the Vava’u based Friendly Islands Kayak Company. The company also provided our kayaks — ageing but well maintained Necky Arluks, Necky Tofinos and Southern Auroras.

Food provisioning for a trip such as this is problematic. The local lifestyle is based on subsistence farming and there is little surplus produce available for sale in local markets. Imported food is expensive, limited in availability and supplies are unreliable. Fish are plentiful but fishing in the waters adjacent to inhabited areas is restricted to locals. Fishing on Sundays is illegal.

There is no permanent water on any of the islands we visited and all that we used on the trip came from village rainwater tanks. The villagers were generous but their generosity should not be taken for granted. Donations of cash and materials to village schools are always welcomed.

The service provided by Friendly Islands Kayak Company was exceptional. Our trip was a private charter but the company also runs 5- and 7-day guided trips in the Vava’u group that would be worth considering for anyone interested in paddling in Tonga but unable to put a group together. A good description of paddling around Vava’u can be found in Paul Theroux’s The Happy Isles of Oceania.

Safety Review: Incident at Cons Cleft, Broughton Island [77/78]

by Ken Day

Following is an edited version of the review which was conducted by Ken Day, Vice President. Report Date: 10 November 2009

Date of incident

11 October 2009


There were five participants: David Fisher (Trip Leader), Paul Loker, Bruce McNaughton, John Piotrowski, Michael Steinfeld


An overnight club trip to Broughton Island. On the return leg, Michael entered Cons Cleft alone, capsized, suffered a scalp wound and was successfully rescued using the combined skills of all the other participants. Michael didn’t require immediate external medical support but on return to Sydney he received three stitches to his scalp.

Cons Cleft is more commonly known as Conspicuous Cleft and is a feature of Looking Glass Island which is within 100 metres of Broughton Island. The parts of Looking Glass Island that are closest to Broughton Island are surrounded by rocky beaches and gauntlets. This area would not be accessed by motor boats and with big seas running can be quite treacherous. The cleft itself is about 3-6 m wide and 75 m long.


This report has been compiled from the NSW Sea Kayak Club Incident Report Form submitted by the Trip Leader and individual feedback from trip participants.

The incident

The group left Broughton Island after an informal and relaxed briefing. David, the trip leader, and Paul left the beach with the intention of checking the cleft to see if it was safe to paddle through. Bruce and John believed that this was the plan.

As the group approached the cleft Michael was out in front of the group and continued to paddle into the cleft whilst the others assembled near the entrance. With the sea conditions and waves washing a couple of metres up the wall of the cleft, David and Paul decided they would go through the cleft. Bruce and John decided to go around the island. David and Paul waited for a large set to pass before entering the cleft.

Michael decided to enter the cleft as it had appeared calm for the minute or so before he entered.

Michael had made it about two-thirds of the way through when a large wave picked up his kayak and carried it towards the southern wall of the gauntlet. It tipped the kayak on its side close to the wall and Michael fell in. Michael didn’t think about rolling because it happened on his wrong rolling side and he knew he had to get out fast to avoid falling into the shallow water beyond the wave.

Michael’s difficulty started when he was sucked backed in the same direction as he had entered the cleft. He thought he would just be pulled out by the waves. He grabbed his kayak thinking that he did not want to let go because it would give support while waiting to be rescued.

Michael tried to get his kayak towards the entrance but with each wave he had problems controlling the kayak. He now wonders whether he should have let go of the kayak and swum out. Michael remembers a large wave coming and lifting him up onto the side of the rocks and banging his head. Michael was aware that he could get knocked out.

David and Paul entered the cleft to find Michael in the water holding his kayak, bleeding from the back of his head. They agreed that David should move further out of the cleft as there was no room for three kayaks in the narrow turbulent area. Paul attempted to drag Michael and his kayak out of the wave area with him holding onto Paul’s rear toggle. There was too much drag with Michael’s inverted kayak having the sail and paddle bag hanging free, so Paul suggested Michael let go of his kayak.

After being tossed around repeatedly Paul also capsized. As he wasn’t sure of Michael’s condition he decided to wet exit. Paul thought that if needed he could be of more assistance to Michael in the water. They then swam partly out of the cleft supported by Paul’s kayak.

At this time David turned around to see both Michael and Paul in the water. David gave his towline to Paul who connected it to his kayak. David then started to tow Paul’s kayak, Paul and Michael out of the cleft. David asked John to help by connecting his towline to David’s boat to assist with the tow. John’s towline was in his day hatch and it took too long to get it out so David proceeded with the rescue without the additional towline.

Once Michael was out, David told John and Bruce to take him to the nearest beach. The tow was about 600 metres to a rocky beach.

Both David and Paul paddled back around the island to retrieve Michael’s kayak which had floated near the mouth of the cleft. David and Paul recovered one half of Michael’s spare paddle and towed Michael’s kayak to the rocky beach.

Michael’s injury was assessed as not requiring external medical support. First aid was applied and after suitable recovery time the group restarted the return journey. Michael was able to paddle unassisted to the landing point. There was little damage to the kayaks.


The weather was fine with slight winds. The sea state consisted of 2-2.5 metre swells from the SSE/SE. There were large and long period swells in the week prior to the trip. There were large infrequent wave sets paddling to Broughton Island.


All trip participants’ kayaks were fitted to the club’s Grade 3 standards. Michael had a VHF radio; the other participants had mobile phones.

Michael was in the water for about 45 minutes from capsize to landing on the beach and was dressed for immersion. That is, he wore long 2-3 mm neoprene long pants, an insulated top with a singlet wetsuit top which helped protect him from hypothermia.

Review of Incident


Some participants had their tow ropes in their day hatches. This resulted in increased time to conduct the rescue.

Michael’s sail wasn’t secured properly and became loose (still connected to the kayak), which increased the difficulty in carrying out the rescue. Michael’s spare paddle also came free from the boat and only one half was eventually recovered.


In the pre-trip briefing there was some discussion about entering the cleft; it was decided that the decision to enter the cleft would be made once the group was more familiar with the local current conditions. On the way to Broughton Island, it was decided not to enter the cleft due to the wave height. Prior to departing on Sunday there was some discussion about the return trip plan. This included some discussion about Cons Cleft although nothing specific was discussed in terms of the decision to enter.


On approach to the cleft, four of the group stopped to observe the conditions whilst Michael paddled ahead of the group and entered the cleft. David did not signal Michael to enter or not enter.

The remainder of the group agreed to split up with David and Paul entering the cleft and John and Bruce deciding to paddle around the island.

Considering the situation once Michael was found, it appears the group communicated well. Getting Bruce and John to get Michael to shore was probably the best choice due to Bruce’s first aid experience and David and Paul’s paddling skills.

There was only one VHF radio among the group, carried by Michael. The area of the trip is covered by Volunteer Coastal Patrol; the signal is weak at water level towards the island. There is a marine VHF base station on Broughton Island that could have been used to call for assistance if required. David distributed laminated maps to all participants which had emergency contacts printed on it. There is limited mobile phone coverage available on Broughton Island.

Injury to people should always take priority over recovering equipment. Whilst this decision may result in lost or broken equipment it must be the highest priority.

The decision to enter

Michael decided to enter the cleft as he had been through it before a number of times when there was little swell. He did not discuss his decision to enter with anyone. Michael entered the cleft at the wrong time without a proper consideration of oncoming large sets which were a feature of the weekend.

Trip participants must understand that the Trip Leader is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the trip. This is important where a participant may have better skills and would attempt something that the leader would not attempt (either as an individual or as a Sea Leader). It is also important that participants make their decisions based on the direction of the Trip Leader, the skills of the group and lastly on the skills of an individual in a group.

On approach to the cleft it should have been apparent to the group that they were about to change the level of risk associated with the paddle and conducted a rapid risk assessment. This should have consisted of watching the conditions in order to decide whether or not to proceed. Once the decision to proceed was made, a risk review and mitigation plan should have been conducted. This would have included:

  • group order to enter the cleft;
  • plans if something goes wrong;
  • requirement to wear helmets;
  • plan for the largest wave that may come through;
  • review of chain of command; &
  • check of equipment.

Inside the cleft

Michael may have avoided injury if he had left his kayak and swum out of the cleft. In the open ocean or any significant distance from shore (more than about 50 metres) kayakers should stay with their kayak. The kayak provides additional buoyancy and is easier to find by search and rescue organisations. Michael also could have been jammed between his kayak and the wall by a wave, which could have resulted in serious injury.

Michael did not use his whistle to attract attention. Had he done so it may have reduced the time to start his rescue therefore avoiding his injury. No helmet was worn by any participant.

The rescue

Rescuing someone almost always put the rescuers at risk. Before entering a rock garden or gauntlet or undertaking something that increases the risk of damage to a kayak or personal injury, a paddler should discuss rescue options with other paddlers. They should assume that no one in the group will be able to rescue them. They may find themselves having to swim out of a gauntlet, leaving their boat behind.

Bruce and John applied first aid to Michael. Once treated and the kayak recovered Michael announced he was ready to recommence the return journey. It was agreed to allow more time before starting the return trip. This allowed more time for Michael to settle down mentally and physically, allowed time for other symptoms such as concussion to appear. It also gave all participants the time to discuss what had happened, question what they did and talk about things they may have done differently with more time.


The incident occurred because Michael was too hasty to enter the cleft without consideration of the risks relative to his abilities and equipment. David, as Trip Leader, could have provided a more detailed briefing before leaving Esmeralda Cove to ensure that it was clear that the group would stop before the cleft and the Sea Leader would decide whether to enter the cleft.

Michael was lucky that his injury wasn’t life-threatening and grateful that other participants in the group put themselves and their equipment at risk to rescue him.

The sequence of the recue was appropriate, with reasonable tasks being allocated to the appropriately skilled participants.


  • Whilst members should be encouraged to improve their skills, any activity such as paddling in rock gardens and gauntlets which require special skills and a higher level of risk should only be done with the trip leader’s consent and knowledge. The trip leader will be unlikely to consent unless he/she is confident that they have the ability and resources at hand should a rescue be needed.
  • Large infrequent swell sets must be factored into risk planning. Among other things, Michael should have waited and observed the swell before tackling the gauntlet.
  • Additional emphasis should be placed on the importance of being able to rescue someone quickly and deploy tow lines during training and club trips. In practice most people who require rescue do so in difficult conditions when accessing a day hatch adds risk to both the rescuer and rescuee.
  • Additional emphasis should be placed on securing equipment on kayaks to avoid the post-rescue activity of collecting gear.
  • If there is limited safety or communications equipment in a group, each member of the group should know who has it and have at least some idea of how to use it.
  • Trip Leaders are reminded to conduct full trip briefings no matter who is on the trip and to obtain agreement that participants won’t go off into increased risk areas (or anywhere) without full group discussion, planning, etc.
  • No changes are required to NSWSKC policies and procedures.
  • An excerpt of this incident review should be published in the magazine so that all members can benefit from the lessons learnt from this event.

Hawkesbury Canoe Classic 2009 [77/78]

by several participants

Intro by Raewyn Duffy

The Hawkesbury Canoe Classic (111 km from Windsor to Mooney Mooney) is the city to surf for Sydney kayaking and many club members have taken part over the last 33 years. Each year about 600 participants compete in so many classes of boats and ages that the race is more about your own goals than competing against others.

It raises funds for the Arrow Foundation, provides a challenge, and for anyone who has taken part there are lasting memories of the fantastic organisation, jokes and camaraderie of participants, volunteers and crews.

The first wave starts at 4 pm on Saturday and the last boats come in about lunchtime on Sunday. Paddling through the night provides that extra element of adventure.

Seventeen club members competed and everyone finished — a fantastic achievement. At least six other club members crewed. Definitely a night to remember and in Rob’s words ‘every kayaker should do it at least once’.

Here are the participants’ reports.

Sarah Williams

Ladies open Long Rec 2, Mirage 730. 12 hr 28 min, 43rd on handicap

It seemed like such a good idea over that glass of wine. We bought a second hand Mirage 730, got excellent advice from Rob Mercer… started training… and…Justine got pregnant! Ah! Rozetta stepped up and we were back in business.

What a buzz at the start! Great fun chatting to the boats around us and people on the bank. We were ahead of schedule at Sackville and headed to Wisemans as the sun set. We picked up a few people’s wake on the way to Wisemans which helped as we got more tired. Distraction was good — Abba and the Black Eyed Peas were on our soundtrack!

We were still ahead at Wisemans, so I took extra time as my stomach wasn’t in good shape. Final advice for each of us from our wise land crew went like this:

To me: ‘Take it easy for a bit, just get your body back into it.’

To Rozetta: ‘Don’t kill Sarah!’

The last section was hard. It was surreal paddling in the dark — now and again we saw the glowsticks of other boats in the inky blackness — otherwise there was nothing. The GPS gave up so we relied on Rozetta’s great navigation skills and the channel markers. We stopped for food at about 3.30 am and we heard callouts from a passing boat… it was colleagues of mine! What a coincidence and a great lift!

We finished slightly over our target time, completely exhausted, but so pleased. What a fantastic event!. And thanks to our spectacular landcrew.

Gina Shannon

Brooklyn or Bust1, Epic 18. 13 hr 20 min, First Time

That was one long, dark, painful, AWESOME night. I have blisters the size of small planets on most of my fingers, and a great respect for Dee, who was obviously still able to raise her arms above her head at the finish…there was no way I could have managed it. Actually I think I was kind of delirious when I got out — thanks to Andrew Eddy for keeping me upright!

But Rae was right about one thing — the reward of having finished far outweighs the pain (or at least it will in a day or two). I wouldn’t have had the will to keep going without the insanely committed support of friends and land crew. Running into fellow NSWSKC members on the river was a real buzz, and everyone had words of encouragement to share.

Yesterday, had you asked, I would have sworn that was my first and last Classic. Now, I’m not so sure. With a little more training up front, and better nutrition on the night (more gel shots, less muesli bars, better hydration system) and most of all — a real idea of what I’m up against, who knows?

What a fantastic experience!

Ian Vaile

Long Rec1 40+, Mirage 580. 12 hr 8 min, 6th time, 66th on handicap

This one was number six for me and with the combination of bad tides and no moon it was definitely a tough one. I dips me lid to the Brooklyn or Bust paddlers who had an extra hour of flood tide and heat to contend with at the start — well done! Congratulations too to our dedicated land crews, who make it all happen for us and who don’t have as much… fun.

Some reflections… this was the first time I had done it alone; it’s a different race in a single. It was quite eventful; I fished a paddler out of the water at about 7 pm, with a bit of help from a couple of others; I had intemperate words with a paddler who had a bright white light fixed to his bow, blinding everyone in front of him; I thought I would be cogitating and internally talking all the way but was struck by just how little I actually thought about once I was in the groove (no surprise to my beloved Cathy, I’m sure); I managed to prune a bit of a dead tree using my forehead by unwittingly cutting too close to the invisible right bank somewhere after checkpoint M, immediately followed by an arresting encounter with a big oystery rock that stuck out at right angles into the stream (I moved a bit back to the left after that!) and was entranced again by the phosphorescence — it’s like paddling through green liquid fire, an unexpected repeated morale booster in the depths of the night.

This time around I used a lot of those gels — I reserved a caffeinated one for 2 am, that was definitely another log on the fire. I had the iPod plugged in from Wisemans. I didn’t realise quite how much teenage-girl pop my daughter had put on it so there were some unexpected tracks, but it was also a great lift.

I remembered how disheartening the last five kilometres or so are, especially when the end heaves into view and then recedes furiously for an eternity… I made the last 10 kilometres powered by snakes — won’t mind if I don’t taste one again for a year.

I feel privileged and proud to be part of this club, and was really struck by how good all the club members I saw looked when they finished — not just handsome and comely in a raffish way (goes without saying) but in physically good shape, not shattered, hypothermic, or hypoglycemic, getting out of the boats with a smile and a joke. Dee’s picture captures that. I think it says a lot for the culture of the club that people paced themselves so well and took care of their water, food and warmth so successfully. ʊ

Matt Bezzina

Brooklyn or Bust, Mirage 530. 12 hr 53 min, 3rd time

When I ruined my Hawkesbury Classic 2007 T-shirt I knew I’d have to do the damn thing again.

This time it took me 31 minutes longer than last time but as I did it straight through without landing, didn’t take any drugs and finished in good shape I was satisfied nonetheless. Unfortunately I don’t like the design of the 2009 HCC T-shirt so I’ll have to do the bloody thing again next year.

Peter Osman

Brooklyn or Bust, Mirage 580. 14 hr 55 min, 5th time

My paddle was relatively relaxed although I did get a boost for a few minutes when Rae and Kate let me wash ride behind them and I tried desperately to keep up.

From 3-4 am was weird. There were no other paddlers ahead of me and it was very very dark. I got lost for about 10 minutes, then saw a green light flashing away in the distance. All the flashing lights: headlights, navigation lights etc played tricks with my never brilliant eyes and I started seeing optical illusions. These included aʧreat many bridges looking like aqueducts, the occasional street sign appearing and vanishing on the water and at one stage a whole field of wild waving grass on the water. Fortunately it was only my eyes and not my head so I had enough sense not to go for a walk on the grass! Unfortunately none of these optical illusions included mermaids — ah well, can’t have everything!

Well done everyone — what a night!

Anne Moore & Simon McGuire

Brooklyn or Bust 2, Mirage 730. 13 hr 6 min, First Time (Anne)

At the time of writing Simon was undertaking a paddle from Byron Bay to Newcastle, a distance of over 600 km. Simon completed half the Classic last year and teamed up in a double with Anne this year. This is Anne’s view of their Classic.

This was my first attempt and I thought this could be the toughest adventure I’d ever attempted. My husband Owen has crook shoulders so I had to find a partner for the Queen Mary (Mirage 730). Luckily I met cool dude Simon.

Unfortunately Simon moved from Lake Macquarie to Harrington so we didn’t get many opportunities to practise together. I found myself doing the familiarization paddles or setting off around Lake Macquarie by myself. Our one practice together in the Myall Classic saw us battling winds gusting up to 40 knots and big wind waves. Many boats capsized and the event was shortened to 36 km (from the scheduled 47 km). Nevertheless, it was a good practice paddle.

As the big day approached I started getting doubts — had I done enough long paddles? Arriving at Windsor I got excited and drawn into the activities of the day rather than trying to get some sleep.

The first 30 kilometres to Sackville, still being daylight, had a very social atmosphere. We chatted to all the paddlers as we passed them going down river, in relatively high spirits. I wondered if some paddlers would make it to the finish.

The lights of Wisemans Ferry were a welcoming sight but it seemed to take ages to reach. We were greeted by our cheery land crew with a warm pasta dish and hot coffee. I had difficulties walking so thought by the end of the paddle I might not be able to walk at all. This was further motivation for later not stopping at the low tide pit stop between Wisemans and Spencer, even though it looked most welcoming with a big roaring fire.

After our only pit stop at Wisemans, we pushed on at a steady pace, in the pitch dark and into the flood tide during the early morning hours, with no moon and few paddlers to follow or to talk to. This was probably the toughest part of the journey.

After paddling through Milsons Passage at approximately 5.20 am and seeing the lit-up Hawkesbury Bridge we decided we had to finish by 6.00 am. Believe it or not we still had some fuel left in the tank and sprinted, reaching the finish still in the dark at 5.36 am. A big thanks go to our land crew of Owen and Graeme who assisted us, whips and all.

Good preparation is the key. I had one blister on my foot from not testing out my footwear on a long paddle, otherwise I pulled up well at the finish and recovered in a good shape, with no need for a massage the next day.

My trick to get Simon over the finish line this year was to tell him some little untruths about the distance left to paddle to a checkpoint; that is we only had 10 km to go when really it was 15.

Simon is talking about attempting the paddle in a single kayak next year so I’ll probably be looking for a new partner to accompanying me in the Queen Mary — or will I go solo?

David Fisher

Brooklyn or Bust, Mirage 580. 13 hr 3 min, 5th Classic, Personal best by 2 hr 21 min

This was my first year going hardcore. It was also the first year that I felt I had done enough paddling and my forward stroke progressed enough that I could even attempt going hardcore.

Matt taunted me into not getting out and, aside from five minutes at Wisemans, that is what happened.

I had a dark hour in which my arms wouldn’t work. I couldn’t really tell how long it lasted. I was just trying to shake it away. I loaded up on Bounty bars, gels, a banana that I had forgotten about and a bread roll (that combo sounds great doesn’t it!) and some time later, presto my body was shaking with sugar and ready to roll. I just had to keep the gels up for the next 3 hours….and I powered to the finish at 5:03 am in the dark.

Mark Gillett & Andrew Charlton

Long Rec 50+, Mirage 580. 11 hr 46 min, 3rd Classic, 54th on handicap resp. Long Rec 40+, Mirage 580. 11 hr 46 min, 5th Classic, 70th on handicap

Reflections on the journey down the Big H in Ocky Arrow…

Windsor: This was my third Classic in a row, but first in a single 580. Gee it hurts more, that extra hour without my Tail End Charlie (i.e. TEC = Andrew Charlton) in the rear power engine room of the 730. The first leg was hot-fast with a few duelling paddles, first the other 580s under Windsor Bridge, then those dream boats, the pushy 730s. Tagged on to a few conga lines for first 16 kilometres just behind TEC’s 580, then dropped off and struggled with the heat and wind. Lost my cream Legionnaire hat which I removed to cool down. If anyone found one please give me a call, it may have changed colour and maybe even glows in the dark by now.

Sackville: What a buzz is that night landing, manoeuvring and the river traffic virtually in the dark. I was boiling on arrival, too fast too early, almost pulled out, amazing what two Panadols, a sweet rub from my roadie (Anne my wife), a few encouraging words and stretching the legs for five minutes will do. We paddled non-stop to Wisemans Ferry last year but I recommend the Sackville quick pit stop to everyone.

Leaving The Sax beach, a double Vulcan was arriving but capsized 15 m from the shore and just beside The Ocky Arrow. I’m not sure if I contributed — hope not — Roadie reckoned I did. Tagged on to TEC — renamed Out Front Charlie (OFC) — who had waited a few minutes for me at The Sax, fresh as a daisy. I reckon he had a nap while waiting.

About halfway to Wisemans Ferry in pitch blackness an outrigger passes us and within a minute a great bang, swearing and two red lights slowly raised 2 m above the middle of the river, then a splash and numerous bodies were in the water. I stopped and turned on my torch to discover the outrigger had hit a thumping big unlit green buoy and capsized about 15 m in front of Ocky Arrow. I helped find the paddles, they righted and all was well. The stars and moon were brilliant and the temperature and wind dropped — ideal if not for the pain all over and the 730s gliding by effortlessly.

Wisemans Ferry: Wow, is that a great sight, but how long does it take to paddle to those tiny lights off in the blackness? It felt like a real fairyland, only the traffic was like Sydney Airport on a long weekend. Quick stop, rub, forced feed while standing and changing clothes and off in 15 minutes.

Met up with Gina numerous times on this leg; how good did you do for a first timer especially in this last leg. The water was bitter sweet, magic lit up with the phosphorescence but that tide — ouch! No capsizes sighted in this leg. With 6 km to go, OFC asked if I wanted a coffee. Out came the thermos and after a cuppa we ended up sprinting the last 5 km at 9.5 km/hr. Who said caffeine is not a stimulus?!

Brooklyn: Tide with you, no wind, no heat and the finish in sight, caffeine up. And that announcer, how good was he?! It was eerie just before and after OFC and I dead-heated at 5.13 am. Every second finisher was a NSWSKCer. Ohhh what a night!

Rohan Marshall

Long Rec, Mirage 580. 11 hr 55 min, First Time, 73rd on handicap

One day late 2008 I met two NSW Sea Kayak Club members at Palm Beach whilst taking a breather from falling off my surf ski. The husband and wife team had paddled their Mirages over from Ettalong. After talking to them for a while I paddled home and put my surf ski up for sale.

Soon, as the owner of a 580 I could paddle wherever I wanted without falling in. Great! I decided I needed a goal — something to force me to get on the water. The Hawkesbury Classic was the natural choice.

At first it seemed ridiculous to even think of doing that paddle but as time went on it became set in my mind. I did the first familiarisation paddle to Spencer and back and went OK. I also found out about Lyle Mead. He offers a coaching service and is an accomplished paddler. I figured some guidance would help if I was seriously going to attempt this paddle. So about three months before the race I started training according to Lyle’s program.

Although the longest paddle I did was the (cut short) Myall Classic, I felt confident about my fitness. My major concern was my seat. I had tried a few different options — all homemade foam seats to replace the standard 580 seat. Unfortunately the Myall River paddle revealed just how painful paddling can be in the wrong seat. So with a few weeks to go I made mark II, with a lot of help from others and Google.

Race day — fully loaded with carbs — such a lot of effort to eat ONE donut guilt free! Well rested and tapered thanks to the training schedule, we arrived at Windsor with enough Endura for four people. Down to the start, homemade hydration tube holder fitted, in I hop for a quick warm-up paddle.

The moment arrives and I am off, paddling like mad trying to stick somewhere near the front. I settle in behind a conga line of kayaks and watch the manoeuvring. Gradually we drift apart and I enjoy, finally, a little personal space. After two hours I feel quite bad pain in my right shoulder and my right lower back. After pushing hard every time a faster double passes, trying to grab a free ride, I realise it’s time to go easy or I’ll be lucky to make it to Sackville. I pause to take the first dose of Voltaren. Over the next 12 hours I end up taking 10 and I’m sure they didn’t work — the mental comfort is something though.

The sun starts to set and the river is glorious. This is why I wanted to do this paddle — such a wonderful sport, surrounded by great people who share the same emotions. Then, from the left bank… ‘Homos, you’re all homos,’ comes the cry from a water ski campsite. I just laugh, keep paddling.

Sackville comes and goes and then we are into serious night time. After more bends than I thought, finally the lights of Wisemans come into view. I hit the shore after six hours paddling, happy with my time, thanks to the tides, and start looking for my crew. After 15 minutes of searching I start to realise I am wasting time and running out of ideas when suddenly I bump into my surprised wife, closely followed by our friend and second land crew, both of whom seem a little caught out. I later found out they were having a rest in the car as they didn’t expect me — good lesson for next year.

Thirty-five minutes later I am pushing off into the darkness with dry clothes and full hydration packs. My good luck with the ferries ends and I have to wait at both. Then we are away. I follow the trail of fading Cyalumes and every now and then push on my GPS to see where the hell I am meant to be going. This bit was hard — dark, in pain, tired and a long way to go. On and on, then a nice surprise — low tide pit stop. I’ve taken in too much Endura and my body has given up processing it. A quick coffee by the fire and back in for the final stretch.

My goal was under 12 hours but by now I am totally complacent about it. I just want to finish. My back pain is excruciating and I SWEAR I will never do this again.

Paddle on and on — have a nice chat with a fellow NSW Sea Kayak club member — David I think. Talking to him is great — distracts my mind from the pain and the need to keep pushing to reach my goal. Finally the tide turns and a look at the GPS says 4:58 am finish. Right, paddle on and I might just make it.

Watching the minutes tick by, I slide across the line four minutes under 12 hours. I am pulled from the boat and stand up. Not jubilant or overawed, just really worn out and in pain. I hobble back to the car and take a l-o-n-g time to get changed. More pills, lie down in the car seat, pain still pumping. Never, never again.

Home. Hugs with family. Fight (yep — legal fight with my Dad) for more pain killers. GIVE ME SOME MORE. Bed. Sleep. Wake up…

Pain is gone. Feel pretty good. How was my time ? Could go faster next year…wouldn’t mind…wonder how much a faster kayak costs.

Now, a few weeks later, the memories of the pain have all but gone. It was a great night, A great atmosphere and wonderful people. A magical experience and certainly a great way to spend one of my nights on this planet. (That was one thought I actually did have on the night.)

Next year, they are saying full moon, better tides, maybe get a faster boat, train more, paddle faster, more donuts…

Hard to say no.

Simon Padmore

Med Rec1, Tracer. 12 hr 56 min, First Time, 105th on handicap

During the lead-up to the race it was great to meet, paddle with and exchange ideas on the great race with people from the club. I was especially motivated by the people who had done it several times before and seemed totally at ease with the prospect of spending 14+ hours to complete the race. On race day I was stoked to be part of the NSWSKC team that met on the grass for the photo.

I mistakenly believed the night would be chilly (from past experience) and the brilliant day and hot winds would trick everyone into hypothermia. So I wore my warmest thermal pants and long sleeve thermal under my heavy long sleeve cag! As the race progressed I was literally on fire and while I was still in the leading group from my start I decided not to remove any gear to cool down lest I drop from the pack.

Red-hot, blue-hot, white-hot, I started to feel blissfully euphoric which fell away to a searing/blinding headache and vomiting then out of control dry retching — great!

I’d been dropped from my group and was having a pretty horrid time.

I pushed on and passed Richard Barnes’ wiggly tail. Richard, who was paddling a short white water kayak, told us all at the Hawkesbury race sea kayak dinner that finishing was ‘just a state of mind’.

I had trained hard and one member of my support crew had travelled from Tassie to see me finish. This was a turning point for me and seeing someone so happy to be out there made solid my determination to cross the finish line.

At Wisemans I could tell by my land crews’ faces that all was not well. It took me 50 minutes to change out of my sweaty spew-covered gear and into dry stuff. My chilly night had still not descended. I was only able to stomach a small cup of coffee and couldn’t even face a whole Tim Tam as a burning throat from throwing up prevented me from wanting to eat.

I set off again and soon after passed Richard’s waggly tail for the second time. Although hazards were some-times marked I still managed to crash into a few trees fallen into the river as well as running aground twice and scraping the bottom of my boat. I witnessed other boats struggling with obstacles, including a double kayak that T-boned a moored motor yacht at full speed — ouch!

I had sense enough to stay hydrated, forcing myself to keep taking sips of water despite the fact that it seemed to bounce straight back up. I only ate one of my expensive supercharged energy gels/bars the whole race. Determination to beat the sun saw me cross the finish line at about 5.40, just under 13 hours after I started the race.

During training I had been seeing a physio due to a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder. He has since ordered a new BMW for himself and no doubt when he hears I have broken my lower right leg and dislocated my ankle at the surf club last weekend will probably order one for his wife as well!

Andrew Kucyper

Brooklyn or Bust, Mirage 580. 16 hr 55 min, 3rd Classic

This year I decided to do everything possible to have great enjoyment and spiritual uplift while paddling.

I also decided to change my diet. Namely, instead of relying on liquid food only (Endura-Optimizer and Gatorade) I decided to experiment with Kelloggs Sustain cereals and ordinary (full cream) milk.

My land crew had a gas stove and at the pit stops (firstly at Windsor, before the start and later at Sackville and Wisemans) prepared for me a big bowl of cereal with hot milk. My total food intake, during the event, was two litres of milk with 700 g cereal at the pit stops and Gatorade during travel. Downstream of Spencer I also had a few rice bars.

As I was there for enjoyment only, I spent two hours at each of the pit stops.

I think that my goal was reached as I was not struggling at the last 10 km, and was not humiliated there by other boats passing me (as it happened during previous years). I enjoyed paddling under very bright starlight, with no wind, no fog and just-right air temperature.

Dee Ratcliffe

Ladies Med Rec 40+, Mirage 530. 13 hr 53 min, First Time, 41st on Handicap

Only twice for brief moments did I hit that ‘gee, this is good paddling and I am in the zone’ feeling. Most of the time it was just hard. But all the hours spent training paid off and my arms and body kept on paddling.

I never realised how many Mirage 730s exist! They seemed to overtake me all night long. For some mad reason at 4.15 am, I decided I wanted to finish by 6.15, so I paddled even harder! At least that shook me out of the sleep zone I was in at the time.ʠAmazing what little things kept me going — reaching a checkpoint and awarding myself with a brief stop to check the map and maybe eat some gel goo. The gels were fantastic, as I didn’t want to use time peeling bananas or reaching for food. My apologies to Rob for almost sending him into the river for a swim…oops!

My thoughts during so much of Saturday night were that anyone who did this more than once was crazy, stark-raving mad!ʠBut by the next afternoon I was contemplating what I will be doing next time…argh!!! The Hawkesbury addiction has struck!

Kate Nicholls (4th Classic) & Raewyn Duffy (2nd)

Womens Long Rec2 40+, Mirage 730. 11 hr 41 min, 17th on handicap

Kate: This was a tough, dark night and seemed longer and more challenging than last year. It’s the second Classic we have done together. Our training schedule was going well until I was whisked off overseas by my handsome new boyfriend. I was away during much of that very important training period — the six weeks prior to the event. Prior to leaving I assured Rae that I’d do some cross training whilst away. But the reality was that I didn’t do anything but eat, drink and have fun.

All in all our preparation was somewhat compromised so we were very pleased to achieve our goal — to beat last year’s time of 11 hr 50 min and therefore break the record for our age group.

Rae: We started at 4:15 pm and set off strongly, passing boats from the 4 pm start before the first checkpoint. While it’s light there’s a party atmosphere on the water, lots of chatting and things to see. Last year we paddled for a while with Frank and did so again this year (his 21st Classic); he was aiming to beat last year’s time (and did) with the trusted method of buying a faster boat.

Later two schoolboys joined us; they were in high spirits, singing along to their boom box. The music went off and we were surprised and delighted when they sang ‘Toreador’ from ‘Carmen’.

After dark it settled into a long, long night. It was much harder than last year and for most of the night I just wanted it to be over. This would be my last Hawkesbury Classic!

I thought about Gina in her single (so much tougher than a double). I’d told her the Classic was fun and encouraged her to do it. Would she ever talk to me again? We stopped for half an hour at Wisemans then headed out against the tide, determined to finish.

It’s interesting how the body just keeps paddling even when the mind seems to have deserted the process. It felt like that when our friends Greg and Craig caught up to us. They’d had enough and the company boosted morale for all of us. We benefited from their GPS with the course plotted while they enjoyed the music we had playing. We paddled side by side for nearly two hours, chatting and trying to distract ourselves, hugging the shore to avoid the worst of the tide. This was a great strategy until we ran into a tree, Kate lost her hat and I nearly fell out of the boat. By Spencer we were alone again but the end was near and the record still possible.

Reaching Brooklyn is an amazing feeling, a mixture of euphoria and relief. Our wonderful crew Neil and Dean were there to greet us. They’d had a long night but while we staggered to the physio tent they cheerfully cleaned up the boat and gear.

The Hawkesbury does strange things to the mind; within 24 hours we were considering next year’s event and Neil was so inspired that he’s started training too — an enormous step for an aqua-phobic who’s never been in a kayak.

Rob Richmond

Long Rec 50+, Mirage 580. 12 hr 27 min, 3rd Classic, 64th on handicap

It was a tough night. I think the tides had a bit to do with that and certainly much tougher than last year. Everyone who kayaks should do at least one Hawkesbury.

I am planning the training regime now for next year’s race — let’s see if we can entice more members of the NSWSKC to experience the elation after so much pain.

Next year I am sticking to my normal diet. I felt sick eating all those carbs. It took 20 km before I could breath properly, I was so carbed up. I powered between 20 and 60 km, then was sick again — thank goodness for the stop at Wisemans.

Anyway a great night, let’s all do it again next year. You will, won’t you?

Kayaking in the Gwaii Hanaas, Canada [77/78]

by Audrey McDonald & Michael Steinfeld

Taking kayaks through Gwaii Hanaas was a special journey for Mike and for me. This National Park is located on the southern section of the Queen Charlotte archipelago 150 km west of the northern coastline of British Columbia, Canada, on the 52nd parallel. Its history, geography and isolation make it a great paddling destination, that’³ if the weather behaves. On our trip in July 2009 the weather did just that. We had a wonderful time paddling independently for eight days.

The Park is jointly managed with the Haida people so that the Haida culture can continue to develop and so that the unique plants, animals and historical sites which are scattered through the islands are managed. The Haida were a very strong rich nation for over 8000 years because of the abundant food sources, moderate climate and their cultural practices which included trading as far south as Mexico in large canoes. They were almost wiped out when the Europeans passed on smallpox in the mid 1700s. After that time, remaining Haida moved to two main areas in the north of the islands in order to survive.

We brought nautical maps, a VHF radio and food with us and arranged for kayak hire and drop-off/pick-up by Moresby Explorers, a kayak outfitter at Sandspit. We decided to upgrade our paddling clothing so we had layers for warmth and protection from wind and rain in case we ended up capsized in the 10 degree summer water. In Vancouver we shopped at Mountain Equipment Coop, a large outdoor retailer in Canada. We flew direct from Vancouver to Sandspit on Moresby Island.

On day one, we arrived at Rose Harbour in the far south after a three hour high-speed trip in a Zodiac and were dropped at Raspberry Cove in brilliant sunshine. We thought we had an enormous amount of gear but it all fitted easily in to the two Chinook Seaward singles. We could have brought more! We were supplied with something not used by kayakers in Oz Рbear spray. The black bears are the biggest in the world.

The maritime charts note that there is a large tidal effect of 5 knots in Houston Stewart Channel. We were hesitant to set off across the channel to Rose Harbour before slack tide but it was no problem. We paddled to the west and as soon as we turned south in the channel the fog came in. We could see not too far in the distance. It was a 10.7 km paddle to the Gordon Islands. This little collection of islands has a beautiful lagoon in the middle which gave us access to a small pebbled beach for camping. Time to eat and rest. You need to secure your food, cooking utensils, garbage and any other fragrant-smelling containers from bears. We practised hauling up all our food over a branch using ropes in a tree 20 metres downwind of our tent. This was our nightly entertainment.

The next day in the fog, using GPS and maps to locate the island, we paddled to SGang Gwaay, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site abandoned by the Haida after the outbreak of smallpox. The ancient poles remain today and from Haida Watchman who look after the island, we learnt about how the Haida lived off the riches of the sea and traded as far south as Mexico using their large canoes carved from one large cedar tree, as well as some of their customs.

The islands comprise temperate rainforest of tall trees, thick mats of moss on ground, an intensity of low conifer growth vying for light in amazing bonsai shapes.

We continued on to the exposed west coast. On a bad weather day swells of over four metres are common. The continental shelf on the west coast extends a kilometre or so out then it plunges 300 metres, providing marine life with rich sources of food.

With a favourable forecast, wind and tide, we paddled to Flamingo Cove, a distance of about 20 kilo-metres, passing large windswept trees of red cedar and spruce, bald eagles and sea birds, the high mountains mostly obscured by mist.

We camped for two nights. The weather was beautiful and paddling was easy. Gradually, the mist cleared to reveal the mountains of the archipelago.

On our return from the West Coast back to Rose Harbour we came across two humpback whales feeding on herring in the clear green waters. Attached to rocks were the large starfish coloured orange and purple and shell animals. Bull kelp surrounds the coast but its density has decreased due to the proliferation of sea urchins. The sea otter which had kept the urchins at bay was hunted to extinction by the European fur trade.

From Rose Harbour we paddled up the east coast to Benjamin Point. We had been warned that with a large current, winds and a reef, the point must be negotiated at slack tide. We were again lucky and had no difficulty. That day we paddled about 38 kilometres.

We camped on the log-filled beach supervised by a bald eagle and her chick. We securely tied our food to a tree as we were told that there was a visiting black bear. On the next day we paddled through seal colonies on the outlying rocks and on to Burnaby Narrows, where at low tide you see many invertebrates, sea grasses and starfish.

We continued on to Wanderer Island 45 kilometres away and camped. For breakfast we were treated to a whale performance then paddled onto Mutchinson Island another 35 kilometres away. The second last day we spent idling on Hotspring Island where we sweated in pools of 38 degrees. The air temperature must have been about 10¡.

On our last day we radioed our position to Moresby Explorers and were collected and transported back to Sandspit. We paddled about 170 kilometres in the eight days and we felt privileged to be in such a beautiful area with such good weather and cooperating tides and winds.

If you are planning a trip to North America a diversion to the Queen Charlotte Islands is well worth it and not that expensive. Moresby Explorers, our kayak outfitters, provide kayaks and transport and keep a watching brief on trip. Their cost is about $A1,700 for two (July 2009).

The national parks pass was about $400 for two and the flight from Vancouver to Sandspit was about $550 for two one-way (July 2009). You can always join an organised tour.

To complete the journey we continued by ferry from the islands to Prince Rupert on the mainland, then a further 15 hour ferry ride between the British Columbia islands known as inside passage to Vancouver Island. With clear weather we saw dolphins, breeching whales, salmon runs, but no bears.

It was a trip of a lifetime.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Friday (Practice) on My Mind [77/78]

by Julie Gibson

Lately the Friday OANDORA paddles (led by Owen and/or Adrian on the club calendar) have become a time to hone skills and pick up some new ones.

Owen and Adrian make sure that we take advantage of any situation that comes up to test our skills with the objective of achieving better boat control and improved confidence. They also encourage us to extend our comfort zone and, as a result, we usually spend some time during a session wholly or partially immersed.

Up to now I have just avoided doing the things I’m not all that good at. Now with this new approach, everyone is patient, encouraging me on, while I struggle to improve my abilities.

Every potential course through the rocks is played with, not just the ones for the experts — I do the ones that I can achieve, too. We’ve paddled in swell — I’ve now been out to North Head and across to Watsons Bay from Little Manly a few times, gaining confidence from the sea kayaking skills I’m developing.

The philosophy is that even small skills need practice. Like opening my own day hatch to store my glasses while on the water, or stowing a tow line so that it will properly deploy when next used.

Today, Anne was getting ready for her Sea Skills assessment so the whole paddle was used for practice — a nice stiff southerly made it more challenging.

We covered manoeuvring , special purpose paddle strokes, turning 360 degrees by alternating forward and reverse sweeps (counting strokes to see if we were stronger on one side than the other) and then we made the comparison between turning in windy and calm conditions.

Adrian demonstrated the three degrees of edging and its role in achieving better boat control. I practised up to two degrees. Anne worked on her Eskimo roll while Adrian photographed her with his SLR camera which he is developing as a diagnostic tool.

On the way back to Clontarf we had the opportunity to practise catching the swell with wind behind us. This should prove useful when next we use Freshwater Beach to do some surf practice.

Making a Salt Water Distiller for Remote Area Sea Kayakers [77/78]

by David Winkworth

Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was in my head. It was 8 August 2008. My companion Ron and I were on the remote north western coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, midway through our paddle from Karumba to Darwin. We had just completed a rough crossing from Gooninnah Island to the mainland at Point Arrowsmith — a paddle of only 10 kilometres but one that took us two and a half hours!

Sitting on the beach in the shade of mangroves we realized we were in deep trouble! We’d taken on our last load of water at Groote Eylandt several days ago which was to take us to Nhulunbuy, but bad weather and severed thumb tendons — an injury I sustained while rockhopping — had seriously slowed our progress. It was very likely we were going to run out of fresh water.

My map indicated a building about 40 km inland. There was no indication of water tanks or occupancy there, so it was a risky trek and one I declined to tackle. Our other option was to dig for water and that’s what we did.

In a dry creek bed, we used a tent peg to dig holes about a metre deep. Four hours later we carefully scooped brackish seepage from the bottom of the holes. The taste was awful but it may have saved our lives.

Later in the trip, my plan to paddle to the northern tip of the Wessels Islands was aborted because of strong winds and daily water requirements. I sat on a beach on Marchinbar Island, surveying the waters of the Arafura Sea… all that water and none that I could drink.

On my return home I listed fresh water security as a priority project before my next expedition. The answer would be: carrying more water in the kayak, my reverse osmosis pump, or a saltwater distiller… but which one?

Fresh water is heavy stuff — I routinely carry up to 40 litres in my Nadgee for remote area paddling. This 40 kg load is in addition to perhaps four weeks food, gear and of course me! It makes for a heavy boat. I always carry some extra water as a safety margin but it would be nice to leave that ‘safety margin’ water behind and make it up another way only if needed. I ruled out carrying any more water.

Reverse osmosis watermakers are heavy too. I have one. With all its tubes and bits it weighs around five kilograms. It’s about the size of a large grease gun and it works — when pumped — by forcing saltwater through very fine membranes at a very high pressure. The makers claim it can produce five litres of fresh water per hour but my experience is well less than that. It’s hard work, some concentration is required, and if the pumping stops, it stops producing. But the biggest drawback for me is that the watermaker has to be used where the water is… which means sitting at the water’s edge in the tropical sun or stationary out in my kayak with the crocs. I ruled out the desalinator. (Incidentally Andrew McAuley used a desalinator on his Tasman crossing when his water supplies ran out. He had no other option of course but it can’t have been easy pumping water for hours on cold windy seas.)

This left the saltwater distiller — my D-SAL project.

When you Google ‘saltwater still’ there are many hits on the principles of distillation but nothing on small portable practical examples. This was going to be a ‘from scratch’ project.

My plan was to boil seawater in a lightweight sealed container, collect all the steam and hopefully condense it to fresh water. I figured I’d be able to do this in the shade of coastal trees, tending the fire and replacing the cooling water occasionally. It just might work.

My design points for the D-SAL were these: it had to be light, simple, robust and fit in the kayak through a 20 cm round hatch. It also had to produce a practical amount of fresh water. No sense boiling saltwater all day for one litre of fresh water.

For the Mark 1 D-SAL I used a 1.5 litre aluminium Sigg bottle — the largest size available. This tall and narrow bottle had a plastic screw lid which I replaced with an O ring sealed aluminium one to which was welded a 700 mm length of aluminium tube.

To the aluminium tube outlet I attached four metres of 10 mm ID ‘food grade’ plastic tubing which was coiled in a collapsible 10 litre water container (Sea to Summit ‘Kitchen Sink’.) This would hold the cooling water. The coiled plastic tubing connected to a condensate catch bottle. Another ‘kitchen sink’ was used to fetch more cooling water. So far it was ticking all the design point boxes. Testing was next.

I filled the Sigg bottle with a litre of salt water and lit a small fire under it. The bottle was in danger of tipping over, even with the water ballast in it so a stake in the ground near the fire and a cord tie to the plastic tubing steadied the whole affair. Boiling commenced quickly and steam moved along the tube and out at the catch bottle. However the temperature of the steam exiting the catch bottle told me that the plastic tubing in the water bath was not a satisfactory conductor of heat out of the system.

Worse was to come. The boiling activity in the Sigg bottle became so vigorous due to the tall shape of the bottle (low surface area to volume ratio) that some of the salt water was carried up into the aluminium tubing where steam pressure forced it over the top… and then to the catch bottle. The condensate was contaminated. Bugger!

The two problems with the Mark 1 D-SAL were: wrong shape boiling vessel and poor thermal conductivity of the plastic tubing. The consequence of those problems was that I would be drinking salty water… and not much of it!

I hoped the Mark 2 D-SAL would address these problems.

I believed the condensate recovery percentage and rate of recovery to be a function of the thermal conductivity of the condenser tubing and the boiler surface area respectively. I began the search for a wider boiler. After skulking around home with a tape measure in hand, I nicked an 18 cm aluminium saucepan from the kitchen. It was now destined for better things than boiling cabbage! My local engineer welded the lid on and also added two large diameter threaded hole bosses to the lid. One hole was for the tube cap from the Mark 1 version and the other was a filler hole with cap for replenishing the salt water without removing the unit from the fire.

The condenser tube now became a l.6 m length of coiled 10 mm copper pipe with short lengths of plastic tube connecting each end to the boiler tube and the catch bottle. The copper was a little heavier than I wanted but the total weight of the Mark 2 was a respectable 850 grams.

In set-up the wider saucepan was very stable and no stake was required. Half full in the saucepan was 1.5 litres of seawater. On the fire and steam began to flow very soon. But then something different to the Mark 1 unit’s performance happened: the steam was fully condensed in the copper tube and pure water was flowing full in the tube to the catch tank — a 100% recovery rate! The boil-dry time for the 1.5 litres was about 50 minutes. The D-SAL thus has the potential to deliver 12+ litres of fresh water a day.

The taste test showed very very slight contamination of the condensate but the water was in no way unpalatable or objectionable. I think that if super-pure water is needed, the condensate could be run through the system a second time. In future testing I may try an expansion chamber on the aluminium tube or a baffle at the base of the tube. I’ll also test the salinity with a hydrometer.

Future testing may include larger diameter tubing but as the tubing diameter increases, the ratio of circumference (tubing wall) to cross sectional area (steam) changes so I think I may already be using the optimal size tubing. I will test thin wall copper and aluminium tubing for the condenser which will reduce the weight of the unit to under 700 g, significantly less than a litre of water. The thermal conductivity of copper is much greater than aluminium so the weight saving may be balanced by reduced efficiency — has to be tried though!

Using this D-SAL unit I believe a remote area paddler could partly or fully replenish fresh water supplies on a daily basis. Seawater and firewood are all that is required, and I’ve only camped on a few sand cays where both of these ingredients weren’t available. If I could leave 30 or so kilograms of water behind, I could replace it with at least another 30 days worth of dried food! This for example, would make a crossing of the Great Australian Bight feasible without any re-supply whatsoever — no more reliance on water and food drops.

If there is a downside to this distiller, it is that the operator has to keep the condensing water fairly cool, necessitating regular trips to the ocean… well… in between cups of tea that is! There is also the chore of keeping a small fire burning under the pot.

So, there you have it so far. It’s not perfect, more refinement is required and it may only have appeal for a few paddlers, but it does open up possibilities for lengthy island stays in the tropics and elsewhere.

I’d be pleased to hear of any suggestions you may have to improve the operation of the D-SAL.

To Reduce or Not To Reduce? [77/78]

by Shaan Gresser

‘Here it comes, prepare to brace, starting to lean… the wave starts to break… crash! Arrhh! What went wrong? Why am I upside down in the surf? Try to roll up — but my left arm doesn’t want to reach for the paddle. Time to wet exit — ouch, with one arm. It’s shallow, only up to my waist. Ouch, my shoulder. Umm, something’s not quite right.’

I’ll never forget that feeling when I stood up after surfacing from under my kayak. Gravity instantly took hold and yanked at my left arm and shoulder. I instinctively grabbed hold with my right arm to support it. And then it happened — the pain — no not the physical, but the emotional. Somehow I knew that this was going to impact my life in a big way. I felt instant grief, knowing I had more than likely dislocated my shoulder. I was also nervous for my follow paddlers and the impact that it was about to have on their day because we were on a remote beach. Not to mention that I was in the middle of my Seas Skills assessment, and it was the start of summer. Hmm, what have I done!

From my experience following the accident, a few key themes became apparent to me: the shared fear other kayakers have of this common accident; the lack of and varied knowledge about the subject and finally, and perhaps the most controversial, is the issue ‘to reduce or not to reduce’ the shoulder when it happens. By this, I mean whether to attempt to put the shoulder back into place as soon as possible or wait until the person is in professional medical care.

Hopefully by sharing my story and what I have learnt from the experience it will help alleviate some of the fear (not all — a little fear is a good thing!) by arming you with some useful knowledge. I also hope it may help the unfortunate few who may one day find themselves in a similar situation. My story is also a typical example of what can happen, how easily it can happen and some of the decisions you might face on the day.

These issues are so important that a face-to-face workshop is really the best way to explore them further and in a detail that will be useful. I have arranged a workshop with experts in the field to discuss many of the issues raised in this article. See the section at the end of this article for further details.

The accident

On 7 December 2008 I nervously paddled off from Bonnie Vale (Bundeena) with my fellow Sea Skills aspirants Cathy Miller, Paul Layton and Alan Thurman with Sea Instructor and Assessor Stuart Trueman. Little did I know that what I should have been most anxious about that day was making the return paddle.

We headed south along the Royal National Park coastline to Marley Beach, approximately 10 km. Along the way Stuart had us demonstrate various skills such as rolling, various paddling strokes and self-rescue. We chose to land at Marley Beach and all landed without incident. As we took a little break, Stuart briefed us for the surf zone assessment task which involved us paddling in and out of the surf zone in pairs, demonstrating techniques to safely control the kayak — skills such as bracing, stern rudder and rolling.

Cathy and Alan were first up. They both made the job look pretty easy and it wasn’t too long before they were back on the beach looking somewhat relieved. On the back of earlier training that I had been doing in the surf, I headed out feeling pretty good about the exercise.

Upside down and in my kayak is basically where I ended up next. To my frustration, it is difficult for me to explain how it actually happened, because I’m not entirely sure myself! More than likely there were several variables involved, but one thing was certain — the shoulder was exposed and enough force was applied to pull the arm from the shoulder joint anteriorly. I know what you’re thinking, and you should be: keep those elbows in! This is wise advice and something to always remember and practise (i.e. limiting shoulder exposure by keeping the arms tucked in close to the body).

In addition to prior practice and training I had attended two surf-training sessions in the previous week, focusing on good bracing technique and the associated dangers… and yes, it still happened. Darwin’s natural selection you may say!

The issue of what may make some of us more prone to this type of injury is important. However, an injury is usually the collusion of several variables — a combination of the paddler’s physical susceptibility, experience and the external factors on the day.

In my case, it wasn’t even large or powerful surf — in fact the surf that day was relatively small with an average wave period. However I did do something I would not normally do that probably contributed to the accident.

I had already demonstrated several low and high braces as we made our way in and out of the surf zone. I remember thinking I should demonstrate at least one more high brace and I actually paddled into the breaking zone of the surf and waited for the next set. This meant that when the wave broke I was stationary. The consequence of doing this is twofold. Generally speaking, by moving with the wave you take on less of the energy and therefore impact of the wave at the point when it breaks. (Tip: Don’t hang around in the crunch zone!) Basically, by moving with the wave, you take on its energy more gradually, allowing yourself time to respond with effective strokes. In my case, being stationary may have encouraged me to reach out further, over-compensating for the breaking wave. I don’t remember doing this but it is likely.

The other variable, which probably contributed most, is the depth of the water. I was not aware of how shallow the water was until after I capsized. It is likely that the blade of my paddle connected with the bottom as I leaned and braced into the wave. The problem of doing something like this means that you create a dangerous lever, transferring all the pressure going onto your kayak from the breaking wave and onto your shoulder, possibly levering it out of place.

Surprisingly, in the actual moment I don’t remember feeling any strain or pain on my shoulder. After I made my way onto the beach clutching my arm and crying out ‘oh no’ several times, it became clear to everyone that something was wrong. Paul apprehensively stuck his hand under my cag to check my shoulder. He flatly announced it was definitely dislocated. Sigh. Even though I knew deep down, I was still holding onto the hope it had only been strained.

Interestingly, it was only after Paul’s announcement that I really began to feel the pain! I instantly felt light-headed and asked to sit down. I was helped up over the sand dune out of the wind. In the hour or so that followed, Stuart, Paul, Cathy and Alan leapt into rescue mode and expertly organised my evacuation and care. It seemed that everyone just fell into a natural roll on the day and it worked.

As there was no mobile reception on the beach, Paul ran up the nearby Marley headland to the north and managed to get a call out. As the strength of the reception wasn’t great, it took a couple of attempts to get the details through. The only details received from the first call were about a sea kayaker being injured off of Royal National Park. This triggered a helicopter to be deployed as they assumed that I was still in the water. Also dispatched was an ambulance, which travelled along a fire trail above the headland.

Of course I was oblivious to the action going on around me. By now, the pain had really started to set in. Initially we thought I might have to walk to a road to get out. However, just sitting down took all my effort, with all my energy focused on not passing out. In terms of first aid, all that could really be done was trying to support my arm in a position that was most comfortable and trying to keep warm. There was never any discussion of reducing the shoulder.

About the dislocation itself

Dislocations hurt. When the humerus is pulled out of the socket, cartilage, muscle, and other tissues are stretched and torn. I have read since my accident that ‘The patient will experience significant pain and will often resist the smallest movement of any part of the arm’. Significant pain indeed! As time passes it gets worse because when the joint is dislocated, the muscles surrounding it are stretched and go into spasm. These muscles spasms cause a lot of pain and in my case I found it difficult to even sit upright because my neck and shoulder muscles had contracted so much.

What is a dislocated shoulder?

The shoulder joint is made of three bones that come together at one place. The arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle) all meet up at the top of the shoulder.

A shoulder dislocation occurs when there is an injury to the joint between the humerus and scapula. The joint between the humerus and scapula, also called the glenohumeral joint, is a ball-and-socket joint — the ball is on the top of the humerus, and this fits into a socket of the shoulder blade called the glenoid. This joint is incredible because it allows us to move our shoulder though an amazing arc of motion — no joint in the body allows more motion than the glenohumeral joint. Unfortunately, by allowing this wide range of motion, the shoulder is not as stable as other joints. Because of this, shoulder dislocations are not uncommon injuries.

How does a shoulder dislocation happen?

A shoulder dislocation generally occurs after an injury such as a fall or a sports-related injury, such as the force of the water in an overextended paddle brace. About 95% of the time when the shoulder dislocates, the top of the humerus is sitting in front of the shoulder blade — an anterior dislocation. In less than 5% of cases, the top of the humerus is behind the shoulder blade — a posterior dislocation. Posterior dislocations are apparently seen after injuries such as electrocution or after a seizure.

Recognising a dislocated shoulder

Paul confirmed my dislocated shoulder by feeling the deformity which was hidden under my cag. A lot of the time, you will observe the casualty trying to relieve the pain by supporting the weight of the injured arm with the other hand. As the majority of shoulders are dislocated anteriorly, the shoulder will appear ‘squared off’ since the humeral head has been moved out of its normal place in the glenoid cavity or socket. Often, it may be seen or felt as a bulge in front of the shoulder joint.

What should you do?!

Many would advise you to care for yourself or the casualty as best you can until professional help is available. This might include stabilising the affected arm with a sling. In many cases, and in my case, the casualty will find the most comfortable position possible for them.

Rarely however, will you have heard the advice to attempt to reduce the shoulder yourself. Most first aid practitioners would advise that you do not attempt to reduce a dislocated shoulder. However, as I discovered after my accident from talking to specialists in the field, there are many good reasons why you may want to consider having the knowledge and reducing a shoulder yourself. There is much interest and opposition to this notion and so it deserves some exploration.

To reduce or not to reduce: the pros and cons

If you are close to medical attention you may not consider this option at all. Not because the procedure for reducing a shoulder is necessarily dangerous, but it can be stressful — for everyone involved — and if you don’t feel comfortable doing it or having someone else attempt it then that is enough.

However it is important to understand the consequences of reducing and not reducing the shoulder as soon as possible after dislocation. The strong opposition in the first aid community about attempting to reduce the shoulder is due to the possibility of further injury. There is concern that vascular or neurological damage may occur when the shoulder is reduced or not reduced correctly. There are circumstances where this risk is increased and reducing the shoulder could be an issue — even in professional care. These circumstances generally involve the situation where the shoulder has dislocated due to an impact — falling on the ground, car accident or something running into you. In these types of situations because there has been an impact involved there is the risk of fracture or multiple fractures.

For the sea kayaker however, the situation can be different. In the majority of cases, the dislocations that occur during sea kayaking and white water kayaking involve the force of the water only — operating on the paddle and the kayak and then onto your shoulder. This means that there is much reduced risk of fractures and therefore complications.

The actual known risks and injuries as a result of reducing the shoulder where complications are absent are very scarce. The only study looking at this issue reported that injury to the axillary artery following anterior shoulder dislocation was a very rare occurrence. In fact, in circumstances where fractures have occurred, the two common fractures, if present, do not hinder the relocation of the shoulder. They are the Hill-Sachs deformity, a compression fracture of the humeral head and a Bankart lesion, a chip fracture of the glenoid fossa (Wedro, 2009).

What is perhaps more important however, is the damage that may occur as a result of the actual dislocation, and furthermore, the damage that will continue to occur the longer it remains dislocated. In some situations it may become critical that the shoulder is reduced as soon as possible. For example, because the movement is so extreme, nerves, blood vessels, muscles, tendons and ligaments are all stretched. Because of this there is going to be a degree of trauma that may affect the blood and nerve supply to the arm and hand. You might check this by asking if the arm/hand is numb or tingling. Looking for colour or lack of it can indicate a cut of oxygen supply. Under these circumstances and if far from help you may want to consider reducing immediately to prevent long-term damage. In this situation, the damage that occurs as a result of dislocation and in particular the long-term damage from a sustained dislocation, is often far greater than the damage that may occur when it is reduced. The longer the shoulder remains dislocated, the greater the chance that there can be serious problems in the long-term. This is the fundamental reason why reducing the shoulder immediately should be considered. This point is strongly supported in the medical industry where I have had discussions with surgeons and specialists in the field (personal communications with Prof. George Murrell and Dr Michael Lee).

There are other important reasons why it is worth having the knowledge and considering reducing a dislocated shoulder immediately. As sea kayakers, we often find ourselves in remote or semi-remote locations. Picture this: you are in the middle of your 10-day kayak adventure. Someone in your party has dislocated their shoulder on the way into a beach landing — not uncommon. You are far from medical support and there are no roads. You are unsure of how long it maybe before help arrives. As time progresses their condition becomes weaker due to the trauma and stress of the dislocation. At this point you realise that not only are you managing the dislocation, you now have to manage the secondary issues. Dislocations are traumatic injuries and as such often have a large impact on the overall wellbeing of the casualty.

Reducing the shoulder immediately will also give you a better chance to transport the casualty by kayak if need be. Once reduced the shoulder would be weakened but would give the ability to safely and with far less pain, tow a kayaker if necessary. And finally, if you are alone, you will be in a far better position to cope with and effect your rescue if you are able to reduce your own shoulder.

These scenarios highlight the bigger issue and why it is valuable to have the option to decide what to do right from the start.

Shoulder reduction

So how do you go about reducing a dislocated shoulder? First and foremost; as described earlier, the muscles will go into spasm soon after the dislocation. This means that if you are going to attempt to reduced it in situ it has to be done immediately following the injury. Even Hippocrates over 2000 years ago wrote that the shoulder dislocation should be reduced immediately or as soon as possible. Essentially the muscles around the shoulder have to be relaxed to allow the humeral head to slide back in. This is why medical practitioners use some form of muscle relaxant and painkiller before the shoulder is reduced back in the hospital. In my case it was morphine, and plenty of it! As time goes by the chances of easy reduction will diminish.

Basically there are numerous methods of reduction for an anterior shoulder dislocation. The key to the most successful and useful techniques is that they are simple and most importantly do not require force. After having a chat with a few people about my shoulder not only did it became obvious just how little we know about this issue but generally people assumed that there is much difficulty and force involved in reducing the shoulder. Indeed there are traditional techniques that use force. For example you may be thinking of an image of someone holding their foot on the casualty as they pull their arm — this was actually the method recommended by Hippocrates (traction-countertraction technique). These traditional reduction methods can involve strong force with potential injury. You won’t see this happening much nowadays as there are other options. In fact, my own shoulder was reduced without anyone touching it. I had the assistance of plenty of morphine and good instruction from the hospital staff and I was stunned just how easily it popped back in!

Possibly the largest issue to be faced when considering a shoulder reduction is the stress of it all. The casualty will probably be feeling quite distressed — perhaps an understatement! The hardest part may well be getting the person or yourself to relax as much as it will be possible.

There is no one particular technique that appears to stand out above others. There is much published material from different practitioners outlining why they prefer a certain technique. They also overlap quite a bit and thus can be modified to suit the situation. For example, a few can be modified for self-reduction. The most successful methods tend to follow the natural movement of the arm, as ultimately the shoulder will ‘want’ to pop back in if applied earlier enough.

Reduction examples

NB: In the interest of minimising the chance of confusion or misinterpretation, this article should not be considered as a guide for the various descriptions for the different reduction techniques.

I want to give a few examples of the type of manoeuvres that are possible with the primary aim of emphasising their benign nature.

One example is called the Milch technique. The injured person sits, stands, or lies flat on their back. They then slowly reach, using the hand of their dislocated shoulder, behind their head and try to touch the opposite shoulder. Somewhere on the very slow, steady reaching, the shoulder will align itself and pop back into place. This action has been described as a pitcher’s ‘wind up’ before a pitch using the affected side. Taking their time the casualty slowly reaches upward and backwards as if they were going to pitch a baseball. If the ‘wind up is slow enough, with plenty of rest if needed, the shoulder will pop back into place. This manoeuvre can be done solo or with assistance. It is said that if you are assisting, cup the victim’s elbow, giving it support and guiding their arm through the manoeuvre. Your other hand can be placed on their shoulder to apply support to the joint as it goes through the motion. Those who describe this technique emphasise the lack of force involved.

Another technique is the external rotation method. This method begins by stabilising the elbow against the torso with one hand. With the elbow flexed at 90°, the forearm is gradually allowed to move laterally (away from the body?) to the extent that muscle relaxation allows. Force is never used. The shoulder will likely reduce before the forearm reaches out to the side. With a slight modification, this technique can also be attempted solo. Beginning with elbows at their sides, sitting or lying down, the casualty raises both hands toward their head and slowly attempts to place both hands behind their head. The unaffected arm can be used to assist the affected arm. If the hands-behind-head position can be achieved, the shoulder will likely reduce. This is very similar to the Milch technique and again is simple, quick, easy to remember and involves no force. Experts emphasise that the key to any of the techniques is the timing — they will only work in the period immediately following the dislocation or at a later time with the assistance of a muscle relaxant such as morphine.

And my shoulder? After the morphine had fully taken effect, I was sat on the edge of a bed and asked to lean over and allow my arms to dangle towards the floor whilst I was supported from behind. In the process, my shoulder slipped straight back in. No one was touching or pulling either arm or shoulder. A similar result may be gained by going on all fours and allowing the affected arm to dangle as described above.

Prevention and susceptibility

The topic of prevention and susceptibility could involve a whole article in itself. Prevention includes topics such as safe paddling techniques and awareness as taught by club instructors, practice, personal fitness and risk management. Susceptibility includes areas such as physical susceptibility to shoulder dislocation including shoulder mobility. No detail is provided regarding these related topics as they can hopefully be explored in a future workshop.


To successfully explore all of these issues and get the best out of this article, a workshop lead by trained professionals has been arranged. They will guide us through the techniques mentioned in this article and answer specific queries or concerns. In addition, the questions of prevention and susceptibility will be explored with hopefully the opportunity to have your own shoulder mobility assessed. The date of this workshop will be announced in a forthcoming club e-newsletter.


I remember the overwhelming sense of relief when I heard the faint sound of the helicopter coming over the headland. Although it was barely over an hour, it had felt an eternity as the pain just seemed to increase with every minute. I was in the emergency ward in St George Hospital within minutes of taking off. I remember the fleeting glances below of the coastline we had paddled that morning — difficult to enjoy the view given the overwhelming pain at the time!

Almost 12 months on and after doctor’s appointments, scans, physio and active release therapy I can say that I’m about as good as new. I do regular strengthening and stretching exercises to maintain the physical integrity of both shoulders.

Four months after the accident I successfully re-attempted the Sea Skills qualification — this time enjoying the paddle back with no helicopter assistance!


Wedro. B.C (2009) Dislocated Shoulder.


NOTE: I want to emphasise that in no way by writing this article am I questioning the actions of those involved on the day. Even in the circumstance that the knowledge of shoulder reduction was held by anyone involved, it may well have been that the decision on the day was not to do anything different. In my case I had no complications and was in the hospital relatively quickly given the location and circumstance.


I’d like to give special thanks to my very dear kayaking companions for looking after me on the day and managing to organise my rescue as quickly as they did; Stuart Trueman and Paul Layton, Cathy Miller and Alan Thurman. All I might add successfully passed their Sea Skills assessment on the day!

I’d also like to give special thanks to John Piotrowski who after receiving a concerned phone call from Stuart, leapt out from his swimming pool and travelled to my bedside at St George Hospital, only to spend hours waiting for the morphine to wear off before he could drive me home!

I received much support and well-wishes from many club members — something that has made me acutely aware of the real value and strength of the club; many thanks to all of you and I hope there has been something valuable for you here.

This article has received the editing magic of Cathy Miller and her valuable comments have improved this article immensely.

Also huge thanks to Jacqui Stone, NSW Sea Kayaker editor, for her patience as this article has developed over the last few months.

And finally, a special thanks to Dr Michael Lee (School of Medical Sciences, University of NSW) and Professor George Murrell (Director of Orthopaedic Surgery at St George Hospital) for their valuable advice and comments with regard to the technical aspects of this article. Dr Lee has also been successfully treating me since February 2009. Both Dr Lee and Prof. Murrell have agreed to give their time and expertise by attending the workshop and I thank them both in advance.

Beginner’s Guide to Kayak Camping [77/78]

by Julie Gibson

My first-time camping experiences in my own kayak were on club trips last June at Marramarra on the Hawkesbury with Henry Van der Kolk and then a week later at Myall Lakes with Adrian Clayton.

I agonized over what I needed. Between Dee Ratcliffe’s article in Issue 60 (2005) of the club magazine and Henry’s assistance I got my stuff together. Rain was expected on both weekends and even frost was a possibility at Marramarra. Henry reminded me that the important thing was to stay warm and dry and that it was just one night after all.

Dee’s article has heaps of great advice which I used, like:

Carry bags: for moving gear between kayak and campsite — use those striped laundry bags available from $2 shops. Consider weight — it may be easier to carry two medium sized bags rather than one large bag. Add shoulder straps to the bag — carrying it backpack style could be easier. Pack the bags into hatches last.

Plan packing order, consider what will be needed first, group items logically (one bag for things needed inside the tent — sleeping bag, sheet, pillow, toiletries, torch). With the front hatch it may be necessary to push in a half-filled bag, complete the packing and then seal it up’.

But I was lacking in some of the basics that Dee took for granted — like a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. I didn’t know how far I could go with the equipment I had. Henry helped me with applying some common sense. Then during both trips I kept my eyes open to see what others were doing.

Here’s a summary of my observations (helped out by an email survey kindly filled in by some of the other jolly campers).


All sorts of tents were used; anything that worked to keep the weather out and could fit into the hatch was fine. I had to choose between a Hennesy Hammock and an old three-person cheapie. I chose the old cheapie — my mattress was not going to give me enough insulation in the Hennesy and I also liked the idea of lots of dry space in the rain.

Sleeping mattress

Most people used Thermarest style mattresses, some indulging in two, some having fairydown versions. Some people have three-quarter size mattresses from backpacking but plan on getting full size ones for kayaking. One uses a lilo.


Not a trivial question for someone accustomed to the comforts of home. Spare clothing was a popular choice, specifically polarfleece seemed to be good, stuffed into something — a jumper, a dry bag. A few special purpose camping pillows were used including an inflatable headrest as used in air travel. The lilo has a pillow attached.

Sleeping bag

My bag was not warm enough, I was cold even with all my thermals on so I was curious about how far to go in upgrading to cater for winter trips. Most people surveyed used four season -5¡ rated bags; those with three season bags wore thermals and added a wool blanket when necessary. Down filling was generally mentioned.

Camp stool

I’m older now so I can now see the importance of taking along a seat instead of sitting on the ground or hoping for a rock or a log, but I was unprepared for the strength of opinions about the number of legs a stool should have. Everyone who came on the Marramarra trip had four-legged seating, but on the Myall trip they were all three-legged. Was there some sort of screening process? Some comments:

“Four legs are for people without balance.” — Bruce

“Three-legged; almost useless, but they do assist with balance training. (NB: I am looking out for a good quality, compact four-legged camp chair that will fit into the rear cockpit of the Mirage.)” — Owen

“That’s the next thing to get!!” — Paul, the youngest on the Myall trip.

“Four-legged with a back rest (chair).” — Ted

“Four of course.” — Karen


Henry advised me: “… you should bring more than one (set of) thermals and multiple socks. I find Crocs with socks fine for cold weather and I don’t intend to sit in the rain. Remember heat loss is via feet, head and hands. You will need to be able to cover up”.

I bought a long rain jacket before the first trip and was very glad of it; others generally had Goretex jackets. Many people had waterproof overpants which could be worn directly over thermals. Cags were the preferred paddling gear in the rain.

“Goretex Paclite hooded jackets. Can’t really see the purpose in cags, considering the versatility, quality, compactness and ease of putting on and removing these jackets.” — Owen & Anne

“Paddle jacket, but also a Goretex heavy jacket, as it has a very good hood on it.” — Paul


I observed that Crocs were pretty popular but mainly people used footwear that they felt comfortable in for the conditions.

“Dunlop volleys — very average in the wet.” — Karen

“Timberland soft leather lace-ups with rubber soles.” — Adrian

“Old boots that can sink in mud etc.” — Sue


Both trip leaders packed around 12 litres for the two-day trip. Others went as low as four litres. Containers started with MSR dromedary bags and other bladders at the high end, through to sport drink bottles, wine casks and old drink bottles.

It’s important to consider weight distribution when packing the water so it needs to be placed as close as possible to the cockpit.

Dee’s article says: ‘Use whatever containers fit best in your kayak. Sometimes I use plastic 1 litre milk bottles, standing in the cockpit past my footrest (can be a hazard if the kayak is upside down and taking on water). Platypus-type containers are good, make shade-cloth covers to protect them from tears and punctures. MSR 4 l, 6 l and 10 l water bladders are durable. Allow a minimum of 3.5 l per day.’

“I started with approximately 12 litres of water for the two days. Ten litres in a MSR dromedary (stowed in front hatch and up against forward bulkhead), two litres in a camelback (behind seat) plus 500 ml in an on-deck Decor sport drink bottle. I used approx. eight litres for drink, cooking and washing up and the balance to rinse the boat at the end of the trip.” — Adrian

“2 x 2 litre bladders in kayak (both) behind the seat and 2 x 3 litre bottles in front of Lynne’s foot pedals.” — Bruce & Lynne

“Water in bottles & sipper + 2 l wine cask + 3 l plastic bottle.” — Kathie

Food and drinks

For just a weekend we didn’t need to be as careful as Dee’s longer trip so we had some special treats and plenty of wine. Everyone looked after themselves with the bonus of some extras for sharing. These were good additions while we were sitting around the fire idly discussing life, the universe and shewees (see image next page).

Prepackaged curries were popular, as were noodles and instant mashed potato.

“Sausages. We brought our own wood to make sure that we could have a fire. Thanks Ted and Henry.” — Julie

“Beef stew and vegetables and Surprise Dessert.” — Bruce

“Commercially prepared Madras curry & lentils.” — Kathie

“An Indian packet meal heated upʩn the sachet in boiling water for a couple of minutes with pre-cooked rice heated up in foil on the fire.ʠWould do two minute rice next time.” — Sue

“Dinner was half a packet of instant mashed potato with stirred in rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes and peas plus a small tin of sweet corn kernels and all flavoured with a couple of pinches of chili flakes.ʔhis was preceded by community campfire nibbles which included a beetroot dip, black olives, chili crisps, sun-dried tomatoes, etc and followed by Sue’s pudding and chocolate all washed down with a cup of tea.” — Adrian

“We had Sun Rice microwave “Red Thai Curry” with additional Smart Rice microwave “Brown Rice”. The sachets were simply placed unopened into the billy and boiled for a couple of minutes; quick, easy and delicious. This was washed down with a nice Cab-Merlot.” — Owen & Anne

“Being that I’m used to carrying it on my back — instant mashed potato, pasta and freeze-dried vegies, followed by chocolate.” — Paul

“Pasta or rice, vegies or packet mashed potatoes. For long trips we might use a dehydrator.” — Stephen

“Noodles, onions and bacon, all mixed up.” — Ted

“Chilli con carneʡnd red wine.” — Karen

Hot drinks became very significant for me on the first trip where I lacked a stove and skimped on my usual coffee and tea drinking, resulting in a splitting caffeine withdrawal headache on day two. I was only rescued by our mighty trip leader Henry who had come prepared with emergency coffee fresh-brewed with his incredibly cute little machine that put it out directly into his cup.

Most people came prepared with a stove and whatever drinks they prefer, mainly tea and instant soups, but also coffee or chocolate. Adrian used a Jetboil; others a variety of stoves, mainly gas.

“Coffee and milk in tubes and peppermint tea on a gas burner.” — Bruce & Lynne

“Teabags and instant coffee with small packets (200 ml) of longlife milk. (The small straw hole seals perfectly with a bit of duct tape.) Boiled water on gas stove in small camping teapot or billy. (NB: In future we’ll take our small one litre stainless steel thermos and fill it at breakfast time to lessen the time/hassle at break time, for our coffee.)” — Owen & Anne

“I’m not into tea or coffee, so it’s just water for me.” — Paul

Kitchen equipment

Adrian trumped everyone on this with his specially made kitchen:

“Kitchen equipment is contained in a compartmentalised hold-all which is made of durable cloth with velcro closures. It contains: “kitchen sink”, tea towel, detergent, collapsible colander, dinner plate, plastic cutting board, toaster, tin opener, small kitchen knife (sheathed), knife, fork and spoon. My preferred stove is an MSR Whisperlite but it was not required on this trip.” — Adrian

I had bought a gas stove after my caffeine deprival on the first trip but was still managing with odd bits I had borrowed from the kitchen. I was keen to learn what to look for and I’m including this bit of social research for your contemplation of the different personalities and priorities of the individuals concerned.

“MSR stainless steel cookset and a couple of cheapie pots with an outdoor kitchen pack and plastic cups, bowls etc.” — Bruce & Lynne

“Trangia stove + pots, plastic plate, bowl, mug, wine glass, cutlery, wooden spoon, chopping board, tea towel, scourer, chux, soap.” — Kathie

“Disorganised. Am going to make one of Adrian’s kitchens.” — Sue

“MSR “Windpro” remote canister gas stove, stainless steel five piece mess/cook kit, 2.5 litre billycan, small lightweight 2 cup teapot, solid plastic mugs, cutlery.” — Anne & Owen

“One billy, two frypans which double as plates. Knife/fork/spoon and peeler. Pot handle for lifting hot billy. Scouring pad (no soap products unless I have bio-degradable). Sugar and salt.” — Paul

“Trangia cookware either metho fuel or gas cartridge plus a collapsible 10 litre kitchen sink (Sea to Summit) plus a small cloth bag to hold cooking/eatingʠutensils, small containers of oil/washing up liquid, small cutting board, pan scrubber and chux superwipes used as a tea towel.” — Stephen

“Stainless steel plate, small lidded saucepan, dished plate, mug, small teflon frypan.” — Ted

“MSR stove, billy, bowl, cup (insulated in winter), knife and spoon.” — Karen

Best bits of the weekends

“Being on the water, and as it turned out, with a great bunch of fellow paddlers.” — Bruce

“Seeing the Myall Lakes at its best in beautiful conditions (sunset and sunrise).” — Lynne

“Being on the water. sitting around the campfire, that feeling that the world could be a million miles away, the beautiful night sky.” — Sue

“Sue’s sticky date pudding with sauce and cream.” — Adrian

“The final stretch to the finish when I borrowed Terry’s GP! No seriously, it was the company of what started as a group of strangers (to us) who quickly became good friends as the paddle continued. We also enjoyed Adrian’s local knowledge and of course the black swans.” — Owen

“Coming back from going up the creek on Saturday afternoon. The water was glassy, very peaceful, and sky was adding nice colour…. magic!!!” — Paul

“Good company.” — Karen

“Making and breaking camp in fine weather (the rest of the weekend was pretty wet).” — Ted

What we learnt

I wasn’t the only one making new discoveries about things.

“Terry’s suggestion of the hot water in an empty plastic milk bottle as a solution for cold feet in the sleeping bag.” — Adrian

“That you have to start with a small fire and then you get a big fire (lots of little twigs).” — Lynne

“That swans take a while to get up and fly.” — Sue

“I will take my Greenland paddle next time (for flat water paddling) as my worn out shoulders were fairly sore by Sunday’s completion.” — Owen

“A good plastic yak would be the go for this type of trip as the damage to worry ratio would be reduced.” — Anne

“I learnt about skegs. Very useful bit of steering equipment for the boat I had.” — Paul

Bar-stool Paddling [77/78]

by John Wilde

And I thought that paddling with a full-time ‘Flotsam’ reporter was going to be hard! On the two-day drive up to northern Queensland I kept myself to myself. After all, you tend to keep quiet when you are going to spend the next three weeks with a guy whose nickname is ‘Killer’.

Even his text messages were sad. There was the one to Mike Snoad, who I had been relying on as a sane paddling partner for the trip, but who had to drop out, struck down in his prime by a hernia, diagnosed as being brought on by an over-enthusiastic female admirer. ‘And I hope she rips your stitches out with her teeth,’ were Killer’s words of sympathy.

On stopping at the dreaded transport cafe on the second morning, Killer found a soulmate. A casual conversation with a grease-stained truckie, ‘Where you from, mate?’, was interrupted by the truckie’s mobile playing the music from the ‘squeal like a pig, boys bonding’ scene from the canoeing movie Deliverance. Killer was entranced by his new mate. I knew my days were numbered.

Finally Yeppoon, no road rage, no violent attacks with a fishing knife. Perhaps ‘Killer’ was not up to his reputation. But then, suddenly, in the midst of suburbia, on our quiet Queensland campsite, surrounded only by three bar-stools, a cane table and our television, Killer showed his true nature. The call of the wild called and he raced off down the beach to ‘commando camp’, with only the sound of surf in his ears and an unsuspecting early morning beach jogger to molest, as the dawn crept over a peaceful Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately I was absent the following day, as I had been dobbed in to do the car shuttle to Sarina, but as the police were not waiting on my return I took this as a good sign, and having no further excuses there, I was committed. Two solid weeks of tropical mayhem with a guy called ‘Killer’.

But my trials were by no means over. I had been chosen as the test pilot by famed kayaking guru, Laurie Greygun. The ‘Barnadg’ is a boat indeed. To quote the guru himself, ‘I have long felt that sea kayak designs have been stagnating. Every other designer seems to be worried about boat handling in rough conditions, easy rolling characteristics, rubbish like that. The “Barnadg” is designed for comfort, those idyllic, flat-calm moments when you really feel at one with the sea.’

So I was paddling the prototype and I knew that if I stuffed it up the ‘Flotsam’ reporter would not hesitate to ridicule me in that delightful fashion all readers of the column would instantly recognise. I’d never be able to look my sea kayaking mates in the eye again, never mind the hoots of derision that would accompany my feeble excuses. No, the kayak would have to be a success.

The Barnadg is certainly a revelation. Take its revolving (patent pending) leather padded bar-stool seating arrangement. You can look behind you at the flick of a foot, or even make those tricky reverse moves out of sea caves, when you realise you are about to be engulfed by the set you had not seen. Then it is worth its weight in gold. The added seat height is also of great benefit, as you can look down on all your mates with the disdain they deserve because they have not yet converted to the Barnadg…

There are still one or two teething problems however. The lightweight cane table on the front deck for drinks and snacks needs to be fitted with cup holders, as the glasses tend to slide around a bit in surf. Likewise the stereo system needs upgrading, as the speakers make a loud buzzing noise in big breaking swells.

The deluxe model also includes a bar fridge and a hot tub — ideal at the end of those long, cold paddling days. Unfortunately the television had to be removed for health and safety reasons, but newer models may include a DVD screen. Mr Greygun reckons they will sell like hot cakes once paddlers get used to the idea.

So there we were on day one, a light southerly on the beach at Yeppoon, me a little nervous and Killer foaming at the mouth in anticipation of fresh victims in secluded, idyllic tropical surroundings. The 20 kilometres to our first campsite at Corio Bay passed quietly, with the boats heavily laden for a two week trip. The Barnadg in particular seemed a little slow, though I had been warned that this might occur, given the small additions for comfort. At an unladen weight of 450 kg it had taken most of the morning to get it down to the water, but that is something you soon get used to and Mr Greygun assures me that he should be able to get a carbon fibre version down to 350 kg.

Meanwhile Killer was also struggling with his boat. He had managed to jam an errant banana into the inlet of his foot pump (this is not a word of a lie), rendering it useless. When I suggested that there were worse places to get a banana stuck — after all there are not many holes inside the cockpit of a sea kayak to choose from — he took this as a callous comment and went off in a huff, mashed banana dripping from his shorts.

Off Corio Bay, things suddenly picked up. A strong current of water ripping out from the bay against a 15 knot southerly wind and a two metre-plus swell suddenly had some big, nasty, dumping waves even a kilometre from the entrance. Slightly ahead, and with the Barnadg battened down for action, I observed several of these waves break just in front of me and considered the implications of a swim in this roaring, outgoing tidal race with the wind and surf whipping up the waves. I had just turned around to communicate this with Killer, when I observed him plunging forward on a big breaker, then being spun like a matchstick, 180 degrees to face back out to sea. In a heavily laden boat this was some feat and certainly not intended. Strangely he did not stop paddling, or turn his boat again, but continued paddling hard, back into the open sea. Several kilometres later, when I finally caught up with him again — Corio a speck on the horizon — we decided a more sheltered option would be the go.

On finally landing in small surf at a long, wide beach, Killer was set on going for a swim in the local lagoon. This was until we found the sign warning about crocodiles. A crestfallen Killer realised that there was something bigger and more vicious than himself in the near vicinity.

That night the versatility of the ‘bar-stool’ seating arrangement again showed its worth. With the quick flip of a couple of cam straps, the stool is easily released from the kayak so that you can enjoy those pre-dinner drinks around the campfire from a good height advantage and in great comfort whilst watching Killer grovelling about in the sand in his sad little camp chair.

Then there was the evening, sitting at ease on the bar-stool, Killer perched on a rather uncomfy looking rock, glasses of wine in our hands, on an idyllic beach right next to the water, watching the sun dip over the horizon, blood red rays spreading over the languid ocean, when a whale and her calf began the most wonderful display of synchronised swimming and breaching, just off shore. Killer was in his boat like a shot in hot pursuit.

When he finally emerged from the darkness several hours later, I immediately noted with relief that he was not towing a monstrous carcass behind him. Apparently in the rush to get in his boat he had forgotten to take his harpoon and all he had was some ‘lousy bits of video’ as evidence.

I could go on, but Killer has insisted that he write the trip report as the official ‘Flotsam’ reporter. No doubt he will embellish it with all sorts of half-truths and additions in true ‘Flotsam’ style. I wonder if it will sound like the same trip? Anyway, apart from the sandflies, mosquitoes, spiders, snakes, unexploded ordnance, stonefish, stingers, crocodiles, sharks — I could go on, but! You know sunny Queensland, beautiful one day, deadly the next…

Until next time, good paddling.


PS: During the trip Killer explained carefully that a true ‘Flotsam’ reporter should always embellish the truth to create a story. As you can see, I’m working on this.

PPS: Killer is in fact a very pleasant and entertaining paddling partner.

PPPS: The bar-stool not only made all of the 300 kilometre trip, it now resides in pride of place in my pottery shed.

PPPPS: Two days after the trip my beloved Nadgee went missing from its temporary home in Sydney (fortunately minus the bar-stool). Just as I was thinking that it might be gone forever, it was returned safely to me. Special thanks to Rob Mercer for his assistance with the recovery.