By ROB MACQUEEN
After the third, or was it the fourth ‘baptism’, I was becoming a bit despondent about the whole ‘new kayak’ thing. My old kayak, affectionately named the QE II for its stability, was sitting atop the car back in Watsons Bay. I was not all that happy about dangling my body from a piece of plastic in the middle of Sydney Heads, despite a plethora of bods to assist my recovery as to date I have not learnt to roll. While dangling there for what seemed like an eternity, but in actual fact was not that long (heck, I was getting quite proficient after three to four baptisms), I remembered how several weeks before we had been in the same location mindful of the P&O cruise ship making its way to Sydney.
A reasonably large swell coupled with a following sea, a westerly and plenty of rebound had all conspired to make this day a real baptism of fire for the new Aquanaut. The group had the combined skills of Sharon Betteridge and partner Rob Mercer, plus nine other kayakers and so we weren’t rank novices at all. After dunking number five a tow was enacted, and not a ‘simulated’ tow either. Sharon and Rob’s conduct was exemplary: a V-tow was in place, paddlers were given clear instructions and so it was that we headed in the direction of Quarantine Beach with paddlers alternating as tower and observer.
Having been one of the towers in a V-tow recently at Rock ‘n’ Roll I am aware of the pitfalls that quickly surface. Therefore it came as no surprise that, with the exception of Sharon and Rob, not everyone was clued up on what to do, nor did everyone have clear and unimpeded access to their kit. The lessons learnt were invaluable and cannot be reproduced in other that reallife situations.
However, the biggest lesson learnt for me came some time later, and after a few coffees and some food in the safety and warmth of my living room.
‘Why on Saturday mornings does Sharon always make us wait at Sow and Pigs for the ferries to pass before we cross to Obelisk Beach? They are miles away and we can cross the shipping channel in no time at all, come on Sharon, let’s get a move on!’
The reason became patently obvious: if we had to effect an assisted rescue, with or without a V-tow, within a shipping lane on Sydney Harbour under similar circumstances, my worst fears may have been realised and the day may have ended a little differently for us and the Ferry Master.
So, when a trip leader gives an instruction that we may not agree with at the time or fail to see the reason, remember to be patient, and remember that they have been in more situations than they would be keen to repeat, and therefore act accordingly so as to prevent them reoccurring with a Coffee Club or any other group.
And my day? Coming home from Quarantine across the Heads resulted in one ‘baptism’, but even the swell, chop, rebound and outgoing tide at South Reef failed to dislodge me. On reflection it was a fabulous day and I could not have asked for better leaders and their assistance, or a better bunch of Coffee Club members.