From the president’s spraydeck: It’s here, Rock ‘n’ Roll 2011! [82]

by GEORGE JESSUP

This annual event is a highlight for me and this year promises to be as good as ever. It was at a Rock ‘n’ Roll a few years ago that I had my first taste of skills such as forward stroke, rescue, bracing and rolling. I even won my current kayak in a raffle at my first Rock ‘n’ Roll! Of course I needed lots of follow-up training but it was a starting point for me and I suspect many others.

We have a very strong line-up of speakers and as usual we have many individuals contributing by taking trips and training sessions and volunteering in other ways.  We have very supportive sponsors whose participation not only allows us to have such an interesting line-up but also to still have a modest cost for participants. I’m particularly pleased we have been able to persuade Stuart Trueman to take a break from paddling (and media interviews!!) and come back as a guest speaker.

I have just returned from another important club event, a weekend training course organised by John Piotrowski for instructors and leaders. A group of twenty-four of us had morning presentations from Ginni Callahan and Axel Schoevers followed by on water implementation of what we learnt. There was considerable emphasis on how to break down skills into simple components and developing a  “toolkit” to train others.

Another eye opening component was how to manage groups on the water. This is quite a challenge, with leaders having to adapt to a wide range of continually changing circumstances. The discussions were particularly enjoyable to me, hearing very experienced instructors and leaders discussing in great detail the best approach to group management and rescues. There were, of course, some areas where ideas differed and exceptions raised but the discussion was always constructive and useful. The end result for me was a better understanding of the issues.

This training weekend is one of many “behind the scenes” activities that contribute to the enjoyable experience of sea kayaking by club members. Sea kayaking is an adventure sport which rewards participants increasingly as their skills improve. Our instructors and leaders spend many hours developing knowledge and skills in training members and in running trips safely. Members who undergo training in the future will benefit from the work of the instructors and leaders on these weekends. There is now a challenge in making sure all members benefit from this work, particularly those who already have Sea Skills certification.

See you on the water

George “Raffle Ticket” Jessup

“Why my poo came back” …and other stories from the coastline [82]

By WILLIAM SMYTH

Bundeena nestles quietly on the southern fringes of Sydney.  Only a stone’s throw from the largest airport in the country, and remarkably unspoilt by a century of nearby, large-scale industry (including sand-mining on a massive scale), it hugs the tip of one of the world’s oldest national parks.

Coffee shops and supermarkets echo to the sound of barefooted-and-bronzed holidaymakers as they fill campsites and splash loudly in the surprisingly clear waters. Beach bums and bushwalkers cross paths in the street, as roof-racked vehicles sherpa kayaks and dinghies towards the closest possible launch spot.

To the north homes cram the hillsides, spilling towards Sydney in a rush of ill-considered planning and unfortunate architecture. Ear-splitting jet-skis fracture the calm of summer days and become the soundtrack to ocean and sand and sun.

Turn south however and the entire picture changes drastically. A stretch of stunning, unspoilt coastline runs in a kaleidoscope of colour and shape towards the south coast. Pristine waters trace an arc of blues and greens below starkly-hewn sandstone cliffs, softened only by the tumbling bush as it fights its way to the water’s edge.

The Royal National Park is surely one of the world’s most spectacular “almost urban” wilderness areas and is a year-round favourite for bush and ocean lovers of all persuasions.

It seemed a most fitting place to attend a talk by Stuart Trueman, whose “Australia by Kayak” trip was detailed in the NSW Sea Kayaker Issue 80, and that is exactly what happened on a perfect summers evening just before Christmas.

Approximately halfway through his 16,000km adventure, Stuart arrived at the Bundeena RSL barefoot and bearded, and wearing the relaxed air of a man who has just spent several months sitting down in some of Australia’s most spectacular coastal waters.

Strong headwinds had made his last few days tough going – as he was to later explain – and Stuart seemed happy to be on dry land and was probably looking forward to the opportunity to tame his beard and urinate into something other than a plastic bottle.

A room full of kayakers had arrived, armed and ready with questions only kayakers could ask, and as the blue-skies day drew to a close we sat expectant in front of a projector and waited for Stuart to entertain. And he didn’t disappoint.

A slide show and talk kicked off the evening and Stuart explained at length his journey so far, including a number of scary moments and one or two potentially disastrous situations that had to be overcome.

Broome was chosen as the starting point because, hoping to cover at least 1000km a month, it would allow Stuart to encounter the best possible weather conditions (or perhaps avoid the worst!) all the way round, and should allow him to make the most of prevailing winds and currents where he could.

Unfortunately this long-term consideration of weather patterns required a trade-off. The wind, storm and current conditions are at their most forgiving on the southern coast in the winter months, but the downside is the freezing water temperature.

When you add the risk of hypothermia to the reality of 6-8 hours a day on the water, it is a potentially hazardous situation to be in. Throw in two major cliff crossings, which will demand 30 hours non-stop paddling each time and you are in serious “Don’t mess this up…” territory.

We learned how Stuart overcame the hypothermic conditions, as well as how he keeps motivated when things get tough. We discovered why the West Australian police told him he needed to carry an anchor or he would not be able to continue, and we also found out how it is possible for a poo to pay you a return visit.

We were given Stuart’s top tips for “avoiding dying of heatstroke at the start of a trip”, as well as the  most frequently asked questions he has to deal with as he meets people on the way. We came to understand how aggressive sharks can create a lightshow, and were told whether you should be wary of being hit in the face by a fish.

And because the evening ended with a very open and honest Q and A session, and some great questions from the crowd, we learnt so much more as well. Does it help to be a bit dumb for a trip like this? How much of a problem is sleep-deprivation on the cliff-runs?  Does the unruly beard mean he gets confused with Neptune the trident-wielding sea god? (If that last question wasn’t asked, it should have been).

The answers to all of these questions, and more, are going to be provided in person when Stuart delivers the “Director’s cut” of his talk, complete with bonus footage and deleted scenes, at this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll in Batemans Bay. Given that he will have covered another couple of thousand kilometres by the time he arrives it should make for a great evening. If you get along for the weekend you can ask him anything you like and maybe buy him a beer.

NSW Sea Kayak Club did a fantastic job of organising this event and a number of businesses and individuals had provided goods and services to be auctioned on the night, the proceeds of which went towards the Australia by Kayak trip. People were incredibly generous and the auction was a great success.

Out of Eden [82]

By IAN VAILE

Sunday morning, Gabo Island, before dawn. The forecast was 30 knot SW winds and thunderstorms for the leg to Mallacoota. But it was the Monday forecast that got us up before the sun:

Winds: south to southwesterly 25 to 35 knots, becoming southwesterly 30 to 45 knots around dawn then increasing up to 50 knots east of Mallacoota for a period Monday afternoon. Seas: Up to 7 metres decreasing to 5 metres later in the evening. Swell: southwesterly 1 to 2 metres.

The day before we’d landed in bright sunshine for a stroll to the lighthouse: twenty minutes later we were slanted into a sleeting hailstorm with a black and green boiling sky, ripping lightning and a fierce wind lashing our bare legs. The lighthouse keeper let us camp on the island because we couldn’t safely depart in this gale. He didn’t invite us in to his house, he was a busy man, but he was kind enough to unlock the paint store by the dock so we could play with the rats. We were grateful.

Five days earlier the four of us had packed our boats on the beach of Boydtown under grey skies and in intermittent rain: Richard “Sea Eagle” Anderson, David “Mistress” Page, Claudia “Pink Lady” Schremmer and myself, “Blue Note”. Watched only by disinterested gulls, we set off.

By the time we hit the mussel-grounds of the woodchip-mill jetty we were in perfect conditions, smooth seas under a placid grey sky with very little wind or swell.  We settled into a paddling rhythm. As we rounded Boyd’s Tower on its bright red headland, and the satanic gantries of the chip mill passed from sight, we left behind the mundane world. In light winds Mistress Sea Shepherd’s Jolly Roger flag flapped indifferently from his stern. We asked him to put it back on his boat where it belonged.

We planned a five day trip with a day spare: Boydtown to Mowarry (13km); Mowarry to  Merrica River via Bittangabee (33km); Merrica to Nadgee River (18km); Nadgee to Tullaberga island (26km) then a meander into Mallacoota (7km).

With the good conditions and a song in our hearts we covered the leg to Mowarry in a couple of hours. We pulled ashore at the beach for lunch and decided immediately to push on to Bittangabee. With long hours of December daylight and benign seas we dawdled down the coast, scooting into rock gardens and inlets. The folded rocks and caves are spectacular, with rich red beds of rock and jagged dark teeth reaching out into the sea. When we eventually pulled into Bittangabee  the sun was still high so we explored the creek, Sea Eagle spooking sea eagles from the overhanging trees.

Mistress logged into Eden rescue, as we did every morning and night. We all carried VHF sets. Pink Lady had a freshly minted radio operator’s ticket and she used it enthusiastically.

We camped, interrupted only by a strolling pair of Swiss walkers who made the mistake of straying too close to Pink Lady. They departed bearing a bewildered expression and a bag of our rubbish.

A stiffening breeze from the north-east encouraged us to raise the sails next morning. We gazed in awe on the acreage of sailcloth Mistress was deploying: St Elmo’s fire played about the top of his mast as his mighty sail blotted out the sun for hundreds of metres.

On we sped to the Green Cape lighthouse, where a lone seal frolicked with our boats for a few minutes. From Green Cape straight across Disaster Bay to Merrica river is 10km, while following the shore adds another five onto that.  The wind was now gusting towards 15-20 knots and we decided to snug in behind the headland and then strike across the bay directly downwind.

This turned out to be a good idea: the southern side of Green Cape has endless fascinating pockets and coves, and protected from the NE winds so we could nudge in to rock gardens and gauntlets. Pink Lady made a fine intentional seal landing with her bow on an exposed rock. Her second (backwards) landing on the same rock was neither intentional nor elegant, she left a chunk of her boat’s nose on the rock to mark her passage.  Mistress also had a similar adventure and I’m sure Pink Lady felt better for the company.

Turning our noses to Merrica, we hoisted the sails and set out across the bay while the wind started to throw whitecaps.  I’m a kayaker, not a sailor. Under this unnatural mode of propulsion the eight kilometre crossing was exhilarating but a little tense, as my laden boat alternately buried its nose and then tried to broach. Edging awkwardly, I watched my companions cheerfully scoot back and forth across the wind as they drank cups of tea, played Sudoku  and ate cucumber sandwiches from their cockpits.

I may have been ungainly and only intermittently in control but I did make landfall first, battling through the mighty 10cm waves to the beach and into the river.  We camped at a charming spot protected by tea-trees and set up a little Soweto of tarps and ropes.  There was still plenty of daylight so while Mistress annoyed the flathead in the creek the rest of us headed upriver to explore. Past cliffs swarming with native bees and festooned with orchids we came to a block-up and hauled the boats up onto the rocks, the happy grinding of gelcoat on granite bringing back fond memories of whitewater days.

A little upstream we came on an amazing pool, a hundred metres across, too deep to plumb and a rich tea colour.  Pink Lady, Sea Eagle and I lolled in the fresh water, a relief after the salt, until we heard rumblings in the distance.  Either Mistress had met his match or there was thunder on the way.

A drenching storm rolled through on dusk, temporarily driving away the mosquitoes, but our contraption of tarps proved equal to the job, steering the collected water to where it could cause the most embarrassment.  As the glittering blue Steripens came out, I thought I had seen the apex of technology on the trip. How wrong I was.

With strong SW winds forecast the next day we decided on a lay day.  I now found I had seriously underestimated the technological prowess embodied in the trip, as the solar chargers, voltmeters, rectifiers and Wheatstone Bridges  came out and a parade of different devices were plugged in. I also discovered that Sea Eagle and Mistress had effectively been carrying  blocks of lead: they both produced lead cell batteries that dwarfed my puny pump battery, and led Pink lady to muse wistfully and at length about the stability benefits of carrying a housebrick in one’s hand for rolling.

Under my unerring and confident navigation we set out to walk to the ranger hut, a gentle 4km stroll away. An hour later, as we struggled up a sheer rock face in thickets of thorny scrub, I had to admit to maybe just a little bit of erring, but a mere half-hour later we came to the wide road which led directly to the deserted ranger station. We took the road all the way back, and next time we’ll remember the track starts near the other campsite.

That afternoon Mistress provoked gasps of admiration as from his boat he conjured a commercial fibreglass repair kit still in its original cardboard box, complete with rollers, resin and matting.  Despite our best advice and our combined years of experience in fibreglassing, Pink Lady managed to make a successful repair to her boat’s rock-bitten nose.

The following day we set out for the southern haul down to Nadgee River. A brisk NE tailwind filled our sails and we stood a little way off the coast to take advantage of the consistent wind.  Off Jane Spiers beach we were joined by a pod of dolphins and for twenty minutes they escorted us south, leaping and playing, rushing in near and then further away from the kayakers. As ever, it was fascinating to watch the powerful muscular animals, so wilful and at ease in their environment. The dolphins were also interesting.

And then we were at Nadgee.  We landed through moderate surf into the river. The campsite here was not as comfortable as Merrica but nevertheless accommodated all of us easily and well above the tide. We had some time to spare so we navigated the Nadgee as it meandered inland. No sign of the rock walls and large trees here: we were in channels in a floodplain, with high grass and scrub, and occasional stands of spindly melaleucas.

After scraping and forcing our boats through a series of fallen trees we came to a wooded tangle which rose several feet from the water: defeated, we manoeuvred our boats around in the narrow channel and headed back.  On the way we gathered water dripping from soaks in the overhanging mud banks.  Steripens got a workout that night.

Out from Nadgee in rain again in the morning, but once more calm seas. We headed south to Cape Howe, with not even enough wind to stir Mistress’ Jolly Roger.  Eventually through the drizzle the sands of the cape hove into view, revealing a small fleet of abalone boats scattered offshore.

Gabo Island light appeared far in the distance as we rounded the cape. Once more the wind gods smiled, and a steady NE wind saw us directly across to Gabo.  To circumnavigate the island we headed for the southern tip. A few fur seals and birds greeted us as we slipped between Gabo and an offshore islet to the south – and then we were suddenly treated to dozens of seals in the water, with groups of twenty or thirty swirling and scooting out past us. It was an astonishing sight, and fragrant as well. We hung around a while and then made for the jetty at the north end of the island.  Mistress had been in touch with Mallacoota rescue and they’d told the lighthouse keeper we were coming.

In bright sunshine we set out for the lighthouse, pausing only to admire the titanic thunderstorm rolling in quickly from the southwest. Very quickly.  As mentioned, the keeper gave us permission to camp and opened the paint store back at the jetty.

After the deluge Pink Lady, Mistress and I set off to go for a walk around the bay leaving Sea Eagle comfortably lolling at the camp. When we returned he was very pleased with himself, and with little prompting told us he’d been busy. He found a post-hole shovel and had dug four beautifully-formed perfectly round holes, spaced a metre or so apart, behind the shelter of a bush, so that in the morning we would have the best a bush toilet could offer.  Naturally we scoffed at his industry but I know secretly we were all looking forward to using them. They worked a treat.

That night we sat and watched hundreds of penguins come ashore and waddle straight past us into the tussocks, under the threatening gaze of a pair of patrolling sea eagles.

The dire forecast for Monday meant we wanted to get out early Sunday, so we rose before dawn, booted the penguins from our tents and made the crossing to Mallacoota, 12km distant, with (astonishingly) yet another nor’easter to blow us on. The bar was wide open, so we paddled serenely through at 8.30. Mistress showed us the way to the ramp, where a couple of the locals from the volunteer rescue service were waiting.  Mistress had also lined up the lift back to Eden, driven by Larry Gray’s brother, of all people.

We’d been blessed by the weather gods the whole trip, with calm seas, brisk but not overpowering nor’easters, and some beautiful overcast paddling days.  We arrived sleek, well fed, and pleased with ourselves:  a great trip in great company.

A training weekend at Patonga [82]

By BILL HICK

Introduction

Whilst I have been a member of the NSWSKC for about a year, I still have no formal training or grading. It seemed like every club training date that came up I had another commitment that prevented me from attending. My lack of grading was really brought home to me at the 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll at Batemans Bay where I was basically restricted to the river (although I did get out to a couple of beaches for a short while on the Saturday).

As a bit of personal history, I have a reasonable amount of experience paddling and racing flat-water kayaks (K1s and TK1s), as well as surf, spec and ocean skis. Sea kayaking though is new to me and I have only had my Mirage 580 for a year (I haven’t been into open water yet).

Anyway, I finally got a date that was suitable. I applied immediately and became one of the lucky participants involved in the Patonga training weekend at the end of November 2010.

Experience

Because of my flat-water experience, I was a little concerned that I might not really fit in with the rest of the novice participants. This concern was very quickly proven to be unfounded as most of the participants were in the same boat as me (pun intended) and were there to not only gain some sort of grading, but also to learn new techniques or to brush up on old ones. In fact, I think there were probably only one or two novices amongst the eight of us. And whilst I certainly had some skills already, I was definitely deficient in many others.

At least one participant was already proficient at rolling and Gary had two Bass Strait crossings under his belt, the second of which he did solo. Very impressive!

The trainers

The course was being run by Henry, ably assisted on the first day by Dave and Stephan, with additional help from Ted. Unfortunately Dave and Ted couldn’t make it on the Sunday, but their help on the Saturday was certainly appreciated – especially Ted’s patience with me as I tried to get my draw strokes correct.

The participants

I am pretty hopeless with names, but thanks to Henry I have a list to help me out. There were two girls: Lorraine and Lindy and six blokes: Adam, Shawn, Gary, Bernard, John (with the Santa Claus beard) and myself. We were a pretty keen lot and thanks to our trainers, we very quickly relaxed and were quick to work together as well as sharing a few laughs – often at our own expense.

I’m guessing here, but I’d say that Gary and myself were probably the most experienced, but that counted for very little as over the two days we both had unplanned swims, much to the enjoyment of everyone else. I think that my repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to keep the 580 in a straight line in the small surf break may have also provided a bit of entertainment.

The training

As someone who had only ever paddled kayaks with rudders, I was hoping to pick up some new skills. This proved to be the case as Ted tried his hardest to get me to do draw strokes without falling out of my boat – with mixed results. For some of the training we had to team up with another paddler. Lorraine and I worked well together and had a bit of fun at the same time. On Sunday the day started with a seven kilometre paddle, followed by some time spent in tiny waves in the entrance to the local creek. Weather aspects were discussed over lunch, followed by towing practice and then revision of the two day’s activities. Unfortunately, I had to get away a bit early, but the others stayed, and with Henry and Stephan watching on, they practiced the various skills that they had learned.

Wrap-up

Not long before I attended the course, an acquaintance told me that some experienced paddlers either don’t join the club, or leave the club because they don’t want to have to do a training course as they believe that they already have all the skills necessary. To those people I would say, put aside your perceptions of the club training and get yourself along to a skills training weekend. No matter how skilled you might think you are, you are bound to learn something new and you will also make new friends.

From my perspective it was a great weekend. I clocked up 500km in the two days travelling backwards and forwards from home, but it was worth every minute. I learnt new skills and refined some that I already had (even though I didn’t actually know that I had them). I made new friends and I had an enjoyable weekend – you can’t ask for much more than that.

Finally, thanks to my fellow participants for your friendship, and a special thanks to Henry, Dave, Stephan and Ted for your time and patience – it was greatly appreciated by all.

Now I can’t wait for 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll at Batemans Bay to come around.

Paddling to Rock ‘n’ Roll 2010 [82]

By CATHY MILLER

With Rock ‘n’ Roll coming up in March at Batemans Bay, you may be tempted to paddle there. After all, it’s on the waterfront! That’s what we figured in 2010. And it offers a unique opportunity to do a one-way trip with a horde of kayakers descending on Batemans Bay for Rock ‘n’ Roll who can either pick up a car you leave on the way, or take you home.

This trip is book-ended with the spectacular cliffs of Beecroft Peninsula at the start, and the beautiful Murramarang National Park at the other end. Throw in beautiful weather, fantastic company, copious amounts of alcohol, excessively good food and we had an absolute corker of a trip.

Our group was Guy (Gourmand) Reeve, Rae (our Ray of sunshine) Duffy, James (Cheesecake) Johnson, Paul (Roller) Tobin and myself (yippee!).

We briefly contemplated paddling all the way there from Sydney, but as some of us had commitments on the prior weekend we decided we needed to start further south. We chose Currarong as our starting point, which gave us the option of starting from Honeymoon Bay in Jervis Bay if the weather didn’t permit paddling around the Beecroft Peninsula cliffs. In fact, we fluked the best weather window in ages, and set off on the afternoon of Sunday 14th March from Currarong in 5-10kn NE winds with 1.5-2m sea swell. This was probably our ‘lumpiest’ day on the water due to the swell, but we still managed to get into quite a few of the sea-caves around Crocodile Head. As soon as we rounded Point Perpendicular it was more protected and we had beautiful clear waters as we headed to Boat Harbour.

We had done a car shuffle leaving two cars at Batemans Bay and I left my car at Currarong.  The trip was planned around arriving at Batemans Bay for Rock ‘n’ Roll registration on Friday 19th March. We had assumed we’d get weathered in at some point, so we had allowed a generous five and a half days to do this 150km trip. Amazingly this mild weather pattern continued for the rest of the week, so we continued to enjoy a relaxed pace, with some late (read ‘slack’) starts and early camps.

The next day took us around Bowen Island and past a massive seal colony near Cape St George. Boy, could you smell that!  Hundreds of curious seals plopped into the water to join us with varying degrees of grace. Some slid, some plopped, some wiggled their way tentatively down the rocks, some just plummeted. Paul Tobin, who is as comfortable under his boat as in it, rolled under to watch them and took some amazing underwater video of the seals. We had a late lunch and snorkelled at Kittys Beach, which is an easy sheltered landing spot. James and Paul put up their sails after with 5-10kn NE straight behind us. This was our longest paddle at close to 40kms to our campsite at Monument Beach, where we landed with a small surf break. Rae struggled through an illness that nearly sent her home, but with typical guts and determination she toughed it out and recovered in the next few days.

Day 3 saw us heading out from Monument Beach to Lake Termeil through an easy surf breakout. We paddled 36km this day, with sunny conditions and a light 5-10 knot NE wind and swell less than 0.5m. We didn’t really have an excuse for such a slack start except that we’d settled in to enjoying ourselves too much.  We stopped for more food and water at Ulladulla which has a safe harbour. After a quick count of the remaining supplies, there was a quick run to the liquor store just in case there was any danger at all that we’d run out of booze (we didn’t). We paddled on to Lake Termeil for a late camp. It was a beautiful campsite, once we’d marched our kayaks to the wrong spot to begin with!  Up until now I’d regularly fallen off my 3-legged camp stool each night, usually with a glass of red wine in my hand (as James said, “regular as clock-work Cathy’s fallen off her stool again”). I was determined to improve my form this evening, and instead stepped right into the ‘camp kitchen sink’ with a loud ‘Plop’.

And speaking of food – on this trip, we took carbo-loading to a new dizzy level. This must be the only sea kayak trip where the calorie intake far outweighed any calories we burned up, given how slowly we meandered down the coast with a light tail-wind all the way. I’m not just talking gourmet curries and yummy pastas, I’m talking desserts such as trifle, cheesecake (both whipped up by James), dehydrated strawberries and blueberries soaked in rum, chocolate cake, hot cross buns – the list goes on. As we lolled on our camp stools at night under the stars, we seriously discussed the need for Sea Skills to be upgraded to include a Grade 3 food component. And if so, how this would be assessed? Would the Assessors also need to upgrade their qualifications? And was there a career path in this perhaps? What about a TV show, ‘Master Camp Chef’? Could we all get paid to do what we obviously did best, paddle occasionally and eat a lot? Would anyone like another glass of wine?

Day 4 saw us heading from Lake Termeil with a small surf entry into 5-10 knot NE winds again, with swell no more than 1m. Talk about spoiled!  We lunched at Stokes Island and had a snorkel, before an early camp at 3pm. We were now in the beautiful Murramarang National Park. This really was the life – fishing, snorkelling, drying gear, swimming and in the morning, a yoga session led by Guy that had us all rolling in the sand then needing a swim. Ahh, tough indeed.

On Day 5 we paddled a whole 18km with, you guessed it, 10-15kn NE winds, SE swell 1m and 0.5m seas. Too good. We circumnavigated Grasshopper Island to pad out the distance, and lunched and snorkelled at North Durras beach. After lunch we made a raft of our five kayaks while James and Paul at each end put up their sails. In 10 knot winds we were hardly flying, so Paul got out his massive camp tarpaulin and we rigged that up as well. Just as well there was no land or other boats in sight, we couldn’t see a thing through the tarp.  After a circumnavigation of Wasp Island we had a small surf landing at 4pm at another beautiful campsite with more swimming, snorkelling, fishing and eating, dolphins even.

On Friday we were within easy striking range of Batemans Bay, but none of us were in the mood to finish up. We lunched at North Head then paddled around the Tollgate Islands, where we explored rock gardens and got blasted by two blow-holes. After some rolling at Snapper Island, we pulled in to Batemans Bay where we found our waiting cars and a whole mob of kayakers keen to ply us with beers and pizza. Thanks to Ian who picked up my car that evening on the way down from Sydney with Kaye Swanson, despite him being left behind and staying at home to look after the family.  After the trip Paul Tobin made a fantastic video which he’s posted on YouTube called ‘Sea Kayaking Jervis Bay to Batemans Bay’

So what can we conclude from our trip? When Matt Bezzina reflected on his trip across Bass Strait he commented that next time he would put more time into preparing the food. It sounds like they had some pretty ordinary meals over 21 days. Look at our trip from this perspective and is there a danger that a slack-arsed, food-laden trip with great campsites and near perfect weather could create fair-weather paddlers out of us? In Mattie’s words, will it “make us soft?”  Only time will tell – but we certainly aren’t complaining.

Shearwater Pleasure: Broughton Island [82]

By MEGAN PRYKE

With a ratio of three sea leaders to two sea skills kayakers what could go wrong?  All sea leaders were experienced Broughton Island veterans, being Dave, on his seventh visit, Matt and Claudia.  It was all new for President George and I.

The forecast was pretty good for a Port Stephens launch.  Abating southerly winds on the first day, then nor’easters on the second, and most importantly, the last day.  Perhaps the only concern to be raised was whether the club president, in a bid to earn the extra stripes for the honourable title of “Commodore”, would dare enter into Broughton Island’s sea kayakers Hall of Fame, the famous Cons Cleft.

The shoulder strap haul of our vessels went without issue, until the last kayak.  Dave had officially called off a tentatively proposed second night gourmet feast, but now we wondered what Dave had snuck into his Mirage.  Only a small murmur of complaint was made as we extruded one foot out of quagmire while the other sunk deeper.  We dreamt of potential frozen Magnum ice creams.

The sea reflected a steely grey sky.  It was not the cheeriest of trips out on the ocean.  Claudia suffered the most.  Dave stoically supported the Pink Lady as Claudia disposed of her breakfast.  It was good experience for me to know anyone can suffer sea sickness, even if rarely.

Lively seas rebounded close to Broughton Island, leftovers of previous strong southerly winds.  I had envisaged Esmeralda Cove as a still water haven, but it was not without hazard.  An active bombora occasionally reared up.  Close to what looked like a safe, sandy beach a nasty rock stood.  Tall enough to do more than tickle gel coat and just submerged when we arrived.  Guided by the veterans we landed safely.  Three out of five queasy paddlers had the vote and we were land lubbers for the rest of the day.

Sea gull squawks lessened as night fell, replaced by shearwaters.  The track to the loo and the Optus mobile phone reception zone was now an obstacle course, littered with young shearwaters outside their burrows.  Illogically they attempted to escape our footfalls by scampering along the track.  Dimly lit by starlight, flying adult shearwaters gracefully circled.  Their eerie cries informed us that this was their place.

Broughton Island is a special place, home to nesting shearwaters in the warmer months, and the most northern extent of little penguins who enjoy this predator-free island.  We shared sightings of seagulls, shearwaters, turtles, oyster catchers, hooded terns, dolphins, an osprey and for a myopic moment George swears he saw an emperor penguin!

Also visiting Broughton Island were the Broughton Island hut-dwellers and boating people.  One guy found it hard to comprehend that we had paddled from Port Stephens, asking Dave of the whereabouts of our mother ship then later asking me separately to confirm how we arrived.

A couple of National Parks employees had motored over to the island.  We chatted about the reduction in prickly pear, the risk of rodent invasion and the pros and cons of a potential future permit system for camping on the island.

On sunny day two, we circumnavigated both Little Broughton and the bigger island. In the company of most, a gauntlet is a long glove.  Sea kayakers who are accustomed to the language of the ocean, to the hiss, splatter, rush, splash, boom, swoosh, swish, whack sounds made as swell meets rock, the term gauntlet is used to describe rocky inlets that present a challenge.  As surely as the sea breathes, gauntlets beckon.  Progress around the island involved pausing to observe gauntlet behaviour, listening to its language and occasionally poking our bows and sterns in and out if we had deciphered its mood.

Although there were plenty of young mutton birds, Dave opted to eat the mammal species, cooking up roast lamb on day two.  Alas no ice cream to share, but poppers which started out frozen to preserve Dave’s meat.  Amazingly Dave baked fresh bread.  Claudia cooked fresh popcorn and created yummy apple slinkies with a high tech, twisty gadget.  Matt, reminiscing survival trips with Stuart Trueman, located and ate bush tucker:  Vitamin C from edible pigface fruit.  Having not caught a fish he found protein from a tender shearwater…err.. well, actually, he sensibly brought all nutritional needs in his kayak.

We were thankful for shade provided by Dave’s super fly sheet.  It had little pockets to neatly store guy rope!  Wow, what great design variations have been made to regular rectangular sheets with rivet holes.

As for Cons Cleft, only Matt paddled through on the bouncy day two.  With lower swell conditions on the last day we all paddled through the cleft.  Alas, George missed out on a Commodore nomination by staying away from rocky crags and remaining upright.

A NE wind assisted the paddle back and those with sails, being everyone but me, had a bit of extra assistance.  Nonetheless, I had a great trip back pushed along by wind waves.  Some of the benefit of sails was shared when the group formed a sailing raft and we discovered the turning power of synchronised kayak edging.  Without the fetch of a nice following sea once in Port Stephens I allowed those with sails to tow me part way, a nice way to even out the effort and to provide towing training.

Great company, weather, destination and tail winds and following seas, we had all the right ingredients for a great sea kayak trip.  Thanks to Dave!  I look forward to returning as a BI veteran.

Why would you go to Port Welshpool? [82]

By KAREN DARBY

Travelling with kayaks to Melbourne for Christmas, Tony and I decided to detour and do an overnight paddle at Wilsons Prom. The weather forecast looked promising without the strong winds that had persisted for our trip down the NSW coast.

The first stop was Sale and the lady at the information office had never heard of anyone wanting to visit Port Welshpool. She clearly felt we were insane, could offer no information about Port Welshpool and attempted to suggest other more attractive destinations. Despite this we continued on to Port Welshpool.

The weather hadn’t been great all day and the wind got stronger the closer we got to Port Welshpool. As we arrived in town we started to think that maybe the lady in Sale had a point. A tiny town, no one around and the whole place blasted by the wind. We decided to get a cabin at the caravan park as we weren’t certain our tent or us were up to the weather conditions. The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in the cabin as the wind buckled in the walls. Later we struggled down to the beach to admire the size of the wind waves.

Tony reminisced about childhood summer holidays in Gippsland where the family could spend a week at a time stuck together in their rental accommodation waiting for the weather to improve. As the tide went out and the extensive sand flats emerged the town looked even more attractive.

We got the afternoon forecast and found that the forecast for two days time had worsened and would be similar to the weather we were currently experiencing. There was no way we wanted to paddle Corner Inlet in the conditions forecast so our paddle became a day trip.

Incredibly the next morning there was no wind and the sun was shining.  Port Welshpool looked like an attractive town! We had the boats on the beach at 6am to catch the end of the run-out tide. Tony had communicated with Matt Bezzina about Port Welshpool and Matt warned us to work with the tides and to follow the channel markers as the tide ran out.

Paddling out I chose to ignore the channel markers as I decided it would make the trip a lot longer. Unfortunately Matt knew what he was talking about and I found myself in a large expanse of shallow water with that water rapidly heading out to sea. A fun time was had as I searched for a way back to navigable water.

Once back closer to the channel we had a speedy trip with the tide over towards the Prom. We noticed various large ships moored in the area we would paddle through. Tony had his shiny new VHF radio and got to listen to lots of cryptic communications.

“Far Supplier: leaving Singapore mooring, going to Barrys Beach”.

Of course we didn’t have a decent chart. It might have been useful. We quickly started to work out what they meant. In this case the rather large ship near us was suddenly moving across our path back into Corner Inlet.

Tony also got listen to some fishing types who appeared to think the channel 16 was their private conversation line. Apparently the fishing wasn’t that good but they had had a good time the previous night.

We dodged around the shipping and made it over to the Prom. The most scenic part is down the southern end but it was still a lovely paddle along the northern section. There was no one else around and we had an excellent paddle down the coast. Visited beautiful beaches, played in tiny waves, explored around the rocks and watched the wildlife. All too soon we had to turn around as we needed to return before the tide started to run out.

The wind had picked up a bit on the return trip but was nothing compared to the previous day.  More dodging of shipping, a pause to watch a seal using a channel marker as a scratching post and we were nearly back.

While fooling around in the shallows and chasing sting rays we noticed that the tide was running out. Our calculations appeared to be wrong and we picked the pace up to get back to the beach before the current got any stronger.

As we packed up our gear we watched some tourists drive into town, down the main street and back. They got out of the car briefly before accepting that for anyone other than fishermen or maybe kayakers Port Welshpool probably isn’t that interesting.

Would I go there again? Yes I would, but I would want more time. With three or four days we could have paddled to the southern end, spent a day down there exploring while the wind picked up and headed back when things calmed down. However with Christmas looming we couldn’t afford to wait out bad weather on the Prom and had to make the boring but sensible decision.

Is it worth driving all that way from Sydney past all the amazing places down the NSW south coast to a location with rather changeable weather? Possibly not but it was a really beautiful place to paddle.

BTW if you still want to go to Port Welshpool I would recommend the Long Jetty caravan park, friendly people who helped us get the weather forecast, provided a safe place to leave the car while paddling and, best of all, a hot shower for after the paddle.