Paddling along a basalt coastline: Shellharbour to Gerroa

By MEGAN PRYKE

A week before this day trip the arrows of the Seabreeze weather website indicate strong southerly winds. As the week progresses the arrows turn anticlockwise, changing colour and decreasing in height. The final forecast is moderate to fresh northerly winds, thus our paddling direction is to be north to south.

Our meeting place is Shellharbour at the wee hour of 6.00a.m. Keith discusses car shuffle mathematics; the variables being the number of kayaks, cars, kayak-carrying capacity, people-carrying capacity, equitable driving obligations and kayak caretakers. My mind drifts. I scan for an open coffee shop. Alas, none. I have failed to absorb Keith’s result other than my own part which is to leave my car at Gerroa. The car shuffle completes and we launch by 7.40a.m.

Our paddling route meanders in and out of a jagged shoreline. Between Stack Island and the main shore the sea is choppy, due to shallow water and rebound. Keith sends out Tony as a probe and offers to paddle around the island if anyone is uncomfortable with the chop. We all decide to follow Tony and get wet from sea spray.

We arrive one hour ahead of schedule at Kiama. I down an early lunch to compliment the shockingly early breakfast. Thankfully there are open coffee shops nearby. We leave Kiama by noon.

The Kiama blow-hole looks more like a cave than a hole from the ocean side. Tony and Keith are the only ones drawn closer to the dark side.

The area is very picturesque and diverse with the rounded masses of Mount Saddleback, the sandstone plateaus of Knights Hill and the Southern Highlands, rolling pasture land, hexagonal basalt columns of Bombo quarry, and the blue-green ocean swells white-capping as they lap the shore.

The swell rebounds and intensifies with the strengthening afternoon wind, white caps are more frequent. I feel pretty comfortable in the clapotis just north of Gerroa. I am a grade 2 sea kayaker who cannot roll. I experiment with a few low braces, they seem a bit pointless when I can move with the waves. Subconsciously I note a steep wave on my left and decide it was not brace worthy. I dunk the right blade in for the next stroke. Suddenly white water washes over my bow and I am looking up through the sea’s aqua lens. Upside down I feel the drop as the wave passes by. I wet exit.

Fellow paddler Rob arrives to assist me. I know from intentional wet exit practice that people with prior shoulder injuries may prefer not to empty a kayak, so when Rob flips my kayak up without draining any water I don’t grumble. The foot pump is slow, the forward group are getting further away, frustrated I decide to set-off. The extra water in my cockpit proves more unstable than I anticipate, it sloshes about as my kayak rises and falls with the swell. I capsize again.

This time, after I wet exit, I pull along my upturned kayak to reach the bow, push the bow upwards and flip my kayak as most of the cockpit water drains away. I get back in cowboy-style, my kayak is much steadier than before. Keith paddles close by and compliments me on my self-rescue and suggests I paddle straight out to sea rather than aiming directly for the rest of the group. I appreciate the few minutes of not having to deal with waves and wind on the beam as I regain my nerves and balance confidence. We reach the rest of the group waiting behind the protection of a peninsula. Soon after we face our last obstacle, small surf at Gerroa. Heading in one by one our 35 kilometre trip is completed successfully.

It was a great trip, thanks to all and especially Keith Oakford.

Postscript: This trip occurred a couple of years ago. I have since achieved sea skills and learnt to roll on both sides pretty reliably. At the time of this trip, my roll was bad, however I was giving it a go and in the process of many failed rolling attempts I had a lot of cowboy-style self-rescue practice.

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Trips, training and getting your gradings

By DAVID FISHER

The recent club-wide survey fed back that members wanted more training and more trips with more of these offerings outside of Sydney. Of course, when the club offers professional quality training and trips for free, there will never be enough to satisfy demand.

The club committee and I are aiming to achieve more trips, training and enough of it located in places other than Sydney through more people leading and instructing. In addition, if the club has more guides and leaders, the pool of talent for future instructor development in years to come is also increased.

The club has an array of trips and training talent.

The club is training up most of the Sea Leaders to AC Sea Guide standard and, to back fill the void, training a group of Grade 3s to AC Sea Leader standard. The club’s formal structured training sessions for each level were completed across the last few months, facilitated by Rob Mercer.

The informal, more personal development continues and the assessments at each award level have started. The aim is to complete all assessments by Rock and Roll 2012.

This is not to forget that other members have pursued their own training and assessments outside the club.

The places on the guide training course simply came out of the existing sea leader pool. The places on the sea leader training were selected by those that wanted to attend (a lot of people) with places allotted to those that had the set pre-requisites and could actually attend the set weekend.

Some effort went into ensuring that people from north and south of Sydney attended the sea leader training so as to develop club talent out of Sydney. A weekend was the chosen format so that non-Sydneysiders could attend.
More training

Training is conducted by the instructor team, both flat and sea. It is more difficult to grow the club at the elite level but not impossible. The club recognises it needs to foster the elite level development by holding regular instructor weekends.

The club’s volunteer instructors decide how much, how, when and where they want to contribute. This approach allows each instructor to tailor their contribution to suit themselves.

It has been suggested that paying the instructors would motivate them to put on more training. Perhaps this is true but my thought is that, while ever there are options to take paid training from instructors who make a living out of the industry, the club should focus on free training.

Getting assessed

Getting to Grade 1 is rudimentary. An ungraded paddler can take their log book to any club leader, guide or instructor and perform the two skills, a wet exit and a 50m swim, and achieve grade 1 in around five minutes. Do it before you start, at a break or at the end of your paddle.

Getting to grade 2 requires a demonstration of a reasonably long list of skills. Some people join the club with some of these skills. For most, attending the basic skills training achieves it. An alternative is knowing that many of the skills are taught over successive weeks by instructors on the regular paddles on Tuesday evenings, Friday or Saturday mornings. If you don’t already have your full grade 2 signed off in your log book, my suggestion is to take your log book on all club trips and get it signed off. You can even suggest to your instructor that they run a session on say assisted rescues to give you practice and get you signed off.

Rescue is just a push of a button away… or is it?

By GUY REEVE

This is the first of a series of articles addressing aspects of sea kayak safety. Rather than imitate some of the excellent safety articles which have appeared previously in the club magazine (see box below) and in other kayaking publications, I thought telling anecdotal stories would provide both some light entertainment, as well as highlight lessons I have learned and help readers profit from others’ experiences without suffering the consequences.

I used to find the sight of a rescue helicopters quite exciting, but now they just make me nervous.

The familiar red and yellow Westpac Rescue chopper carved a tight orbit overhead, pounding my eardrums with the noise of its rotors. It was flying so low I thought I could smell the avgas in the downdraft and almost see the whites of the winchman’s eyes as he crouched in the doorway, looking sternly down at us.

With the crewman’s piercing stare and the throb of the rotors, an ominously familiar feeling of dread welled up in the pit of my stomach.

The last time I had seen this very same aircraft above me, I had, unknowingly, just paddled past two of my fellow paddlers who were literally smashed up on the rocks at the base of sheer cliffs near Eagle Rock in Royal National Park – and they had no Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). That was eighteen months ago and a mere ten kilometres to the south of where I was now.

How were they rescued without a PLB, in a place where there was no mobile coverage and where VHF radio was useless (high cliffs and no other vessels in range)? That’s another story for the next issue…

But right now the rescue chopper was obviously taking a close interest in our group of kayakers practicing deep water rescues as part of the club’s recent Sea Leader training course. A number of the group were out of their boats, so in spite of the benign conditions, we might have looked a little bit like we needed a rescue.

We did not of course, but I was concerned by the fact that, about an hour previously, my PLB had begun to emit the odd, intermittent, single beep.

After a few of these strange beeps (which were not like the sound the PLB makes when using the self-test function), I tried the self-test again. The beacon did not respond at all. It seemed to be totally lifeless. It did occur to me that the PLB might just possibly have been transmitting, but since it was apparently dead, had not been activated, the antenna was not deployed and the strobe not flashing, this seemed unlikely.

Not that long after hearing the beeps, I had also seen the Westpac rescue chopper flying around, but because it didn’t home in on us directly, I reinforced my conclusion that the PLB was not transmitting. If it was, the aircraft would have picked up and homed in on the local 121.5 MHz homing signal which the PLB also emits as well as the 406 MHz signal with GPS information.

I mentioned all this to Rob, who was instructing and who agreed that he didn’t think the beacon was transmitting. Nevertheless, just in case, we both switched our radios to Channel 16 to pick up any potential search and rescue traffic.

With the crewman still staring down at us, I waved my radio at the chopper circling overhead, in case they might call on Channel 16, but instead the aircraft did one more orbit and flew off.

A few minutes later I did get a call on Channel 16, but it turned out to be Sharon Betteridge. Sharon had been leading a trip at Bonnie Vale, a couple of kilometres from where we were now. “Guy? The Rescue Coordination Centre just phoned to say that your beacon is transmitting!”

However, the beacon still appeared to be dead. I called the helicopter on Channel 16 and advised them that I had just been made aware that my beacon had been activated, but we were not in need of a rescue, as the beacon appeared to have malfunctioned. The chopper acknowledged and went home for tea.

I found out later from a friend on duty at the time in AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) that they had dispatched the rescue helicopter and water police to look for me in spite of the fact that they didn’t have any position information from the PLB. RCC had figured out the general location from my contacts registered on the AMSA 406 MHz Beacon database, and by checking the club website to make contact with committee members who might know exactly where the Sea Leader training was taking place.

In later conversations with RCC in Canberra, it turned out that the beacon had in fact transmitted on 406 MHz for about one minute. This was just enough time for the beacon signal to be registered in the RCC, but not enough time for the satellite to get a GPS fix. And because it had only been active for a short while, the beacon did not transmit a homing signal on 121.5 MHz, which is why the helicopter flew around looking for us rather than homing in on the beacon signal. In spite of the short transmission, RCC were still obliged to initiate a response.

The cause of this faulty transmission was, according to the manufacturer GME, self-activation due to water ingress into the PLB.

The beacon was only two years old, in excellent condition, and I had used the self-test function satisfactorily only a couple of weeks previously. Nevertheless, as others have experienced with GME MT410/MT410G beacons, water ingress led to failure of the beacon, or in this case, self-activation.

There have been other reported instances of GME PLBs failing. Stuart Trueman had two fail on his trip around Australia, and ‘Gnarlydog’ has also reported this issue on his blog.

I questioned this with GME, who said that the beacon is rated as waterproof. However, the GME product manager for the MT410/MT410G also told me that rubber seals do tend to perish over time and water ingress can occur, particularly where a beacon is subjected to heating and cooling. When exposed to heat, air inside the unit expands, but then if it is suddenly cooled (for example, being left in the hot sun at lunchtime, followed by being doused by a cool wave on launching) the air inside the unit quickly contracts, forming a partial vacuum and sucking moisture in.

GME’s website says the MT410G has a “sealed waterproof design” and specifies that waterproof means “submersion to 1 metre – exceeds IP67 standard”. A cynic might observe that they have been careful not to claim that the MT410/MT410G is waterproof.

I haven’t shelled out $70 for the Australian Standard 4280.2 which sets out the environmental and durability standards for PLBs (EPIRBs are subject to Australia/New Zealand Standard 4280.1) but I understand that PLBs have to transmit for 24 hours and need to be waterproof to IP7 standard. EPIRBs meanwhile have to transmit for 48 hours, and be completely waterproof for use in water (probably IP8 standard).

According to Wikipedia, IP7 means the unit has passed a waterproof test which involves being immersed to 1 metre for 30 minutes. GME told me that out of the “tens of thousands” of units which they have manufactured, they have had “very few” which fail. The product manager would not say exactly how many. Every GME beacon is also subject to waterproof testing before it leaves the factory.

The GME product manager also told me that their PLBs are manufactured with a sachet of silica gel inside the unit to absorb any moisture that does make its way in. The implication is that GME expects some degree of moisture ingress, albeit a small amount.

So is the IP7 standard sufficient for kayaking purposes? It’s worth noting that neither the A/NZ Standard nor PLB manufacturers appear to have considered the specific requirements for and potential use by sea kayakers: it may be a trivial point, but while PLB product brochures show plenty of images of sailors, skiers, walkers and aviators, none of them contain images of kayakers.

The relevant authorities expect most vessels to carry an EPIRB if more than 2nm offshore. NSW Maritime regulations are clear on the fact that carriage of a PLB does not satisfy the requirement to carry an EPIRB (i.e. if you are more than 2nm offshore) although they do state in the ‘Modified Requirements’ section of the Boating Handbook that “Canoes/kayaks are exempt from carrying safety equipment on all waters, but hand-held marine radio or mobile phone in waterproof pouch strongly recommended.”

Commonsense dictates that if kayakers are going to paddle into an environment where we cannot guarantee self-rescue or cannot contact an external agency by radio or phone, a PLB should be carried, particularly as EPIRBs are too bulky for carriage on the person.

Regardless of the detailed design limitations, most of us see the word ‘waterproof’ on the box of a PLB and consider that is probably sufficient for our purposes. Anyway we don’t have much choice as PLBs are not yet manufactured to higher standards.

Practical experience also suggests that current waterproofing standards for PLBs may be adequate to some degree. My previous 121.5 MHz beacon had survived OK for five years under the same conditions, living in its neoprene pouch in the front pocket of my PFD, and being subjected to any amount of rolling and a good number of big wave hits and hefty trashings both in the ocean and on white water rivers.

However, in spite of the fact that my old beacon seemed to cope with the rigours of day to day kayaking, it’s worth noting that the dynamic pressure generated by a big wave hit could, even though the PLB is in a pouch inside a PFD pocket, potentially be substantially greater than the IP7 standard.

However, mine and others’ recent experience of beacon failures suggests that IP7 may not in fact be sufficient for sea kayakers’ purposes. It is not hard to conclude that in an emergency the IP7 standard might be inadequate, and your PLB might stop transmitting.

Should PLBs be totally waterproof as the A/NZ Standard specifies for EPIRBs? It is reasonable to suggest that they should, because if immersion during an emergency exceeds the current standard they may not be able transmit for the required 24 hours.

However, the fact is that PLBs currently only have to comply with the existing A/NZ standard.
So we as sea kayakers need to be aware that the current A/NZ standard for PLBs may not necessarily be sufficient for our purposes, as well as think about lobbying for changes to that standard.

More to the point, when considering PLB reliability, it has to be borne in mind that, like any piece of electronic equipment, if it is exposed to conditions which exceed the A/NZ standard or manufacturer’s stated level of waterproofing, a PLB can potentially fail. According to AMSA, beacon malfunction is a growing issue, with around 200,000 PLBs now registered in Australia.

With that number of PLBs in circulation, it is inevitable that a small percentage of these, regardless of brand, will probably malfunction in some way. It is perhaps unrealistic to expect any piece of electronic equipment to survive in a saltwater environment over the long term without additional protection.

This issue may not be peculiar to the GME MT410/MT410G. It may just be that it is because they may be among the most popular model of PLB with sea kayakers and have been subject to more demanding environments. I would be interested to hear of any issues with GME or other brands of PLB of which club members may be aware.

Nevertheless, until the A/NZ standards are changed to require a higher level of waterproofing for PLBs, for all practical purposes a PLB seems to be the only realistic option for a sea kayaker to carry as an emergency beacon on their person. So, bearing the limitations of the current standard for PLBs in mind, paddlers should:

  • be aware of the specified design standards of your PLB – and particularly try and avoid excessive heating and rapid cooling of the unit: e.g. don’t leave it in full sun during a lunch stop;
  • check your PLB for any potentially visible damage to the casing and test it regularly (within the battery life limits indicated in the manual);
  • consider further waterproofing measures (e.g. tape the seams, put silicon in screw recesses and/or keep your PLB inside a waterproof pouch for added protection, but remember it must be easily accessible in an emergency and it should remain tethered to you); and
  • if you do have the misfortune to hear your unit beeping, know how to deactivate the unit (read the manual), and advise the Rescue Coordination Centre on 1800 641 792.

Just as important as caring for your PLB is ensuring that you carry it on every trip. In the next article, I’ll describe that day when carrying a PLB would have been really, really useful for a couple of paddlers…
Box 1: Useful NSW Sea Kayaker safety and lessons-learned articles:
Just How Much Safety Equipment Is Really Appropriate To Carry? [Wayne Langmaid, 2000, Issue 41]
‘Trip Leaders’ Responsibility’ [Ross Winter, 1998, Issue 35]
‘Safety Review: Incident at Cons Cleft, Broughton Island’ [2010, Issue 77/78]
‘X Bass Strait S’Easy as AB…D’ [Andrew Watkinson’, 2003, Issue 52]

1http://www.maritime.nsw. gov.au/sbh/safety_equipment/safety_equipment.html

Old Sea Dog Paddles Again! The Na Pali Coast of Kaua’i

By NORM SANDERS

Everybody said that the North Shore of Kaua’i was the most magnificent part of the Hawaiian Islands. It features rugged, volcanic mountains with waterfalls plunging to the sea and long, white, sand beaches, the most extensive in the islands. And, the North Shore is relatively free of tourists who tend to flock to the glitz of Poipu on the South Side. All this tropical munificence has been the backdrop for a number of films including Tropic Thunder, South Pacific, Blue Hawaii, Jurassic Park, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is also the home of Puff the Magic Dragon, who lived by the sea at a place called Honah Lee.

Sue and I flew into Lihue, on the east coast, picked up our rental Focus and headed for Hanalei, 50km away. The one lane bridge over the Hanalei River filters out the big tour buses and is the gateway to the laidback town. Fields of taro extend to the base of steep mountains with waterfalls begging to be photographed.

There is plenty of accommodation in Hanalei, but we had booked a place on the Wainiha River to the west and near the end of the road at Ke’e Beach. Beyond Ke’e the Na Pali coast extends roadless and spectacular for 26km.

Early on our stay I gravitated to Kayak Kaua’i, a rental outfit on the Hanalei River with seemingly endless stacks of yellow sit-on-tops. For $28/day, I rented one of the craft and soon had very sunburned legs. I had never had much experience with SOTs and started on a very steep learning curve. Since you sit ON the thing, there is no real connection with the boat and leaning is useless. I didn’t see a real sea kayak anywhere on Kaua’i except for a forlorn pile of much-patched fibreglass ex-rentals out the back.

To compensate for the SOTs, I found that ALL the paddles were high quality with NO OFFSET! I used a carbon fibre Aquabound, which was a fine paddle indeed. I had made my old three-piece fibreglass paddle into a luggage-sized four-piece and hauled it all the way from Oz because of my previous experience with rental paddles, but I needn’t have bothered.

I paddled down the river to Hanalei Bay most days to surf, snorkel, and get ready for the Na Pali Coast paddle, “The Everest of Sea Kayaking” according to the brochure. It might be Everest in winter, with BIG waves, but in June it was more like Mt. Kosciusko. Anyway, I paid my $US205.44 (including landing fees, but excluding tax) and fronted up at 6.00am in a drizzle to drive to Haena Beach. EVERYTHING was furnished. Dry bags, PFDs, paddles, and lunch, carried by the guide. A trailer behind the bus hauled our kayaks, Ocean Kayak Cabo’s.

We drove along the coast past Pierce Brosnan’s house to Haena and got unloaded. This was done mostly by our guide, Doug Kilpatrick, and his offsider. The brochure guaranteed one guide per six paying paddlers so he was it for us. Our official party consisted of a Russian couple, the male member of which couldn’t speak English and smoked a lot, one other guy and me. It was obvious that Karl and I would be paddling together.

This turned out to be a very good thing, as Karl was a tri-athlete who had climbed mountains in Alaska and South America and had also been a kayaking and rafting guide.

Doug gave us an extensive briefing, translated into Russian by the svelte female half of the duo, the Ice Maiden. Boris seemed a bit hungover and didn’t grasp the picture too well. Not the ideal member of a team challenging the Everest of Sea Kayaking. I was even uneasier about the other boat on our expedition, soon to be paddled by a California couple who were 25 metres down the beach nattering to themselves. I pointed out to Doug that they were missing the briefing. He explained that they were just tagging along, having rented their kayak separately. The guy, Jim, had done the trip previously, but his partner Olina had only ever paddled once before, on a river. Being full of residual angst over duty of care and all that, I was uneasy about the situation for Doug’s sake.

We got shoved off the steep beach into a small shore dump and were on our way about 7.30am. We were scolded at first for not having our rudder down, but that subsided when Karl exhibited his nifty bow rudder stroke. The drizzle stopped and we paddled past the stunning spires of Makana, the Bali Hai of the movie South Pacific. A couple of kilometres of easy paddling in the light following wind and we were off Ke’e beach. This is the best snorkelling spot in the islands. I hung out with the turtles there on most afternoons. Ke’e was the last chance for any seasick paddlers to quit the trip.

Karl (mostly) and I had hit our straps and had the Cabo going well. (Or as well as you can go in a wide, draggy SOT). Doug, in his Scupper Pro, flagged us down to wait for the others. This was a new experience for me, as I am usually one of the “others”. The Californians soon came alongside and Olina flashed her great smile. Unfortunately, the Russians had capsized and took a while to arrive. The Ice Maiden looked suitably stylish in her bikini, but Boris was even unhappier than before, although it’s hard to tell with Russians.

The Russians were made of stern stuff and didn’t want to quit. I asked Doug if he had a tow rope. “Nope,” he said. “They just have to keep going.” He did say that in case of dire emergency, we could flag down one of the tourist boats, black monsters powered by outrageously big outboards. At 40 knots, they obliterated anything in their path, including sea turtles, which they referred to as “Speed bumps.”

So, we entered the wonderland of the Na Pali coast. It is truly a strange and beautiful world of sculptured volcanic rocks, waterfalls and huge sea caves. We paddled past a giant arch on a white sand beach, which was the backdrop for a King Kong movie in 1976. We drifted in dark caves where the water was an unbelievable blue from the outside light. Every point we rounded revealed some new delight. It was sunny where we were, but there were clouds inland, and the occasional rainbow appeared. It was like being on a giant movie set made up of all the Pacific Island clichés, but it was REAL.

At one stage, we paddled past a beach which was overhung by a large, wide cave. A bunch of kayaks were pulled up on the shore and tents bloomed under the ledge. I wished I were in one of them. This is not a coastline to do in a day. It is also possible to hike in on the Kalalau trail, a very tough slog that follows the route of the old Hawaiians who once lived in these isolated valleys. We saw one party cautiously inching along, high up on a cliff face.

The Kalalau trail ends in the verdant valley of the same name. In times past it was the home of many Hawaiians. In later years it became a hippy settlement. Now only a few ferals live there, dodging the law and growing pakalolo.

We stopped for lunch at Milioli. The beach is steep with a nasty surge even in the summer. Doug broke out the lunches he had been carrying: roast beef sandwiches, potato chips, chilled soft drinks and a big, delicious cookie.

While downing potato chips, I asked Doug how many times he had done this trip. He thought for a moment and then admitted to “about four hundred”. He was trim, fit and obviously loved his job. It was certainly an improvement on his previous occupation as a bike courier in Seattle.

After a leisurely lunch and a wander around looking at the old Hawaiian heiau (shrine) Boris put out his cigarette and we got back on the water. The paddle from here on was a bit of an anticlimax. The cliffs were less spectacular and I was suffering sensory overload anyway.

With Polihale beach in sight, Karl and I gave it a burst and flew up onto the sand, knocking aside the poor driver who was trying to help us. I wasn’t tired at all after the 26km, which may have been due more to having a triathlete in the front seat than my fitness.

The driver and Doug loaded up the boats, Boris lit up, the Ice Maiden almost smiled and we had a shower and more cold drinks. We knew we were back in civilization when we passed the domes of the Pacific Missile Range at Barking Sands. An hour later, we were back in Hanalei, after circumnavigating the entire island.

This was the first time in my life I have ever been on a commercial kayak trip. I have to admit that it was kind of nice. Was it worth the money? Absolutely! Just avoiding that horrendous car shuffle alone was good value, and the lunch was great.

The Everest of Sea Kayaking? The second best adventure in the country? Well, the paddle certainly didn’t create much adrenalin, but the SCENERY! Until now, the most spectacular coastline I had paddled was the Daintree or perhaps Alaska’s Prince William Sound. But Na Pali beats them all!

Magnetic Compasses Demystified

By RUSS SWINNERTON

Remember at school, we learnt that the earth had a magnetic field, which we visualised as lines of magnetic force running from a magnetic south pole to a magnetic north pole? And we learnt that a compass was basically a magnet on a pivot that aligned with those lines of magnetic force, to point to magnetic north.

Simple enough so far. But when we finally try to use this compass thing as a navigational instrument, we find that a little more work is required. Because the magnetic north pole is in a different place to the true north pole, and because the earth’s magnetic field varies from place to place, magnetic north is not the same as true north.

The difference between true north and magnetic north in any particular place is called VARIATION, and is expressed in degrees and minutes east or west of true north.

(On topographic maps, you might also see this described as magnetic DECLINATION – but declination has a different meaning at sea, associated with astronomical navigation).

Variation varies from place to place, and changes with time. Your nautical chart will tell you the variation for the area covered by the chart, and the rate it’s changing.

There’s another source of difference between the compass reading and true north called DEVIATION. This is the term for the deflection of the compass needle caused by the ship’s magnetic field, and has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the mariner!

Fibreglass or plastic kayaks are usually free from deviation – unless you put something ferrous (or electronic) in the forward hatch. Passing your dry bags full of stainless steel cooking pots or ghetto-blasters past the compass before stowing them will show you if they’re magnetic or not. If they are, better stow them aft. And don’t forget the effect of knives, phones, VHF radios etc stowed in your PFD if you’re using a hand-bearing compass.

The usual order of applying these errors is:

Compass reading – Deviation error – Magnetic reading – Variation error – True reading.

That’s C D M V T – easily remembered by the mnemonic CAN DEAD MEN VOTE TWICE. (And there are some naughty mnemonics I can provide in a plain brown-paper envelope…)

We kayakers don’t need to worry much about deviation, so we just deal with the CVT part of the equation. To convert a compass or magnetic bearing to a true bearing, you take the compass bearing and add east variation, or subtract west variation.

To go the other way, to convert a true course or heading to a magnetic heading, we subtract east and add west.

The easiest way to remember which way to apply the reading is to remember one of these four examples, and you can then figure out which way to apply it: Compass to True, Add East – easy to remember with the simple mnemonic CADET:
C V T
Compass ADd East True

When going the other way, from True to Compass, we subtract east. Trust me, the more you try it, the easier it gets.

(CADET always works in NSW, where variation is east everywhere. You will meet the other case, of west variation, if you paddle further afield. But you needn’t bother remembering CSUWT – apart from it not being a word, it’s easier to remember to apply the opposite sign – minus, instead of plus, when it’s west, rather than east.)

Let’s see that in practice: if we observe a magnetic bearing of 078M, with the variation at 12 degrees East — Compass to True, add East – this gives us a true bearing of 090T.

(We always give courses and bearings in three-digit form on a 360 degree circle – so the cardinal point east becomes 090, not 90).

And with the variation 12 degrees East, what magnetic course would we set to steer True North?

True to Compass, subtract East – the magnetic heading to steer is 348T.

Here are some examples to try [answers below]

  1. You measure your course to steer as 135T. The variation is 7W. What should be your magnetic heading?
  2. You observe the bearing of a lighthouse to be 262M. Variation is 11E. What is the true bearing to plot on your chart?
  3. On your chart, you measure a transit between two points of land as 320T. Variation is 12E. What magnetic heading would this be, if you lined up your kayak on the transit to check your compass?
  4. You’re steering 180M, and right ahead you see a large radio tower. Variation is 9W. What is its true bearing?

Caveat Emptor (which is Latin for ‘be careful when buying steering compasses on ebay’)

Steering compasses for kayaks coast a packet. Yet on ebay, you can see them on sale for a fraction of what it costs you to buy one from your local chandler. Be careful, unless the compass is balanced for your planned latitude, it may not work.

Lines of magnetic force don’t necessarily run horizontally. They rise or fall at an angle called ‘dip’, and like magnetic variation, dip also varies from place to place. In the southern hemisphere, the lines tend to rise upwards; in the northern, they tend downwards. Steering compasses usually have a card with a magnet attached, balanced on a pivot. The card needs to be balanced to counter the tendency of the magnet to tilt up or down to align with the dip of the lines of magnetic force.

For convenience, the compass makers divide the earth into several zones of similar dip (seven, for the Ritchie Kayaker compass). You can usually navigate through the zones adjacent to your own before the tilt of the card becomes a problem. NSW is in Zone 6, and Zones 5, 6 and 7 cover the east coast from Torres Strait to deep in the Southern Ocean.

So those ebay compasses from US suppliers are usually balanced for the US (Zone 1), with downward dip. Bring the compass into the southern hemisphere to our NSW latitude (Zone 6), and the counterweight adds to the effect of dip, instead of balancing it: their cards can tilt enough to make them inaccurate.

Answers to Sea Kayak Navigation questions:

  1. 142M
  2. 273T
  3. 308M
  4. 171T

An Adventure: Mackay to the Whitsundays

By KATHIE WEBB

In August 2011 I was one of a group of ten kayakers who paddled from Mackay to the Whitsundays. It was a fantastic experience and we were lucky to have mostly warm, sunny weather allowing us to swim while it was still winter at home. The scenery was amazing. Frequently we saw whales breaching, loggerhead turtles swimming by and almost every day finished with a magnificent sunset. We also encountered strong wind and big seas.

Our group consisted of John Slattery (trip leader), his brother David, plus Alan, Terry, and Bruce (from Wollongong), Rob (from Ulladulla), Dennis (Byron Bay), Ted and Anna (from Christchurch NZ) and myself. Five of us had paddled in the Whitsundays in July 2006 and due to the strong southerly winds said that next time we’d be heading north most of the time. This trip started from Bucasia Beach, Mackay, each of us with food for eleven days and 20 litres of water, aiming to paddle via Brampton and Lindeman Islands north to the Whitsundays and finishing at Shute Harbour. We took eight plastic boats with sails – two 7.5m Komodos (doubles) five 5.1m Salamanders and my 4.3m Gecko – all made by John and David at Australis.

Day 1: We thought our first day would be the biggest challenge of the trip as Brampton Island is 27km offshore. However, with an incoming morning tide and the assistance of SE wind the trip across was easier than expected. Seeing flying fish and whales on the way made for an exciting start. We landed on Brampton after four and a half hours on the water but after a short break moved on hoping to find a more protected campsite. It wasn’t the smartest decision as our energy levels had dropped. After another 6km mostly against the tide, and a total of 6 hours of paddling, we landed on Carlisle Island (just behind Brampton). We were pleased to be there but we’d had too much time in the boats. Neils Beach made up for our efforts with a weather shed, toilet and water tank. We set up tents and relaxed looking out over the water to a fabulous afternoon sun.

Day 4: We headed off from Goldsmith Island for Thomas Island. It was only 18.7km to our next campsite but it was a challenging paddle. We hit a maximum speed of 14.2km/hr in big seas, with sails up the whole time. The heavily-loaded boats saved us being tossed wildly by the seas, but several of us had a few scares swerving side-on to waves. As we approached Silversmith Island, John and Dennis in one of the doubles dropped further and further behind. Their spraydecks without shoulder straps (John had cut them off for comfort) let in water when waves broke over their shoulders and they had to take shelter behind a rocky outcrop to pump out. They’d been sitting waist deep in water in their cockpits.

Day 6: We headed off from Thomas with early morning wind around 10-15 knots and sloppy seas. It was only 17km from Thomas to Shaw and we did it in 3 hours. We’d decided to stay only one night on Shaw but by the afternoon 25-30 SW winds had come up and we had to sit it out for a second day. We weren’t able to contact anyone on our marine radio so Dave checked the weather online and the BOM forecast indicated the wind to drop to 15 knots within the next two days.

Day 8: We headed off intending to reach Boat Port on Lindeman. The wind had been strong all night and we weren’t confident that we’d be able to leave Shaw. With daylight we checked the conditions and even though there were strong SW winds blowing, we were heading NE with the wind and a run-out tide. We had no trouble getting to Lindeman and when we reached the NE tip we rafted-up for a meeting. The wind was getting much stronger and we could see whitecaps everywhere with dark clouds looming. We’d only done 7.5km and it was only just after 9.00am, hard to stop this early, but we did.

Day 9: We headed off from Little Lindeman on a 9.4km open water crossing to Hamilton Island. The conditions didn’t look great, but nothing worse than what we’d been paddling in. Within about 3km of leaving Little Lindeman the wind increased considerably and the seas with it. We all had sails up and were moving at a fast pace. There wasn’t much paddling, mostly bracing as strong SW winds drove us forward. We were trying to head NW and in between the sets we had to scoot across to the west in the valleys to compensate for the wind that was driving us NE. Later, we learned that the wind in that area was blowing 25-36 knots and gusting to even more. My GPS said my maximum speed coming across was 16.9km/hour. It was a time to be humble and grateful that no one had tipped over.

The conditions that day were awful and pushed the skills and awareness of each member of the group to new levels. We had to keep going when the wind got stronger as we couldn’t turn around. The realisation that rescues were near impossible heightened the sense of self-preservation. However, all of the boats performed beautifully and revealed their reliability in these seriously challenging conditions. The Komodo, Salamander and Gecko are all designed with multi-chined hulls giving them excellent primary and secondary stability. In strong wind, you can lay your boat over on its edge and know you are not going to tip. The raked nose is designed to cut through waves. I’d taken my Gecko in preference to my Nelo mainly because I did not want to have to worry about trying to protect the epoxy hull. As it turns out, I made the best choice for seaworthiness. I was much safer in the Gecko as I could handle it more easily in strong wind combined with big seas.

After rounding Hamilton Island we found strong current, rain and wind in the passage between Henning and Whitsunday Island. It was great fun chasing runners after the challenge of the open water crossing. We were all enjoying ourselves when conditions changed again. We got more wind and more white water as wind and tide collided when we tried to round the headland on the westerly tip of Whitsunday Island. We were heading for Joe’s Beach, a campsite in a channel opposite Cid Island. We’d camped there on the previous trip and were expecting the channel to be protected. But the more we tried to round the headland, the more dangerous the water became. The wind was howling and the waves running around the headland were steep, and fast. It was extremely difficult to head to the right as the wind kept driving us to the left and the waves were like tunnels. In the end we gave up.

We landed on the western end of Cid Island. The tide was half out and the beach was a mess of rocks and oysters, not good even for plastic boats. Within fifteen minutes the wind dropped just enough for us to go back out and paddle to the protection of Joe’s Beach. It had been an exhausting morning and, though we’d only covered 25.5km, each of us felt totally worn out. The conditions worsened over the rest of the day and when we phoned for a weather report we found that the forecast for the following day was 25-30 knot SW winds. To head toward South Molle or Shute Harbour the following morning would mean paddling into the wind and against the tide and three of our boats had damaged sails. We decided to end the trip and called for the barge to pick us up the next day.

Many people think of the Whitsundays as an idyllic place to kayak with sundrenched, white, sandy beaches and beautiful, flat, blue water. And yes, there are days like that, but the Whitsundays can also have days that are quite treacherous for paddlers. We had a satellite phone for emergencies but we did not need to use it. Four of our group wore bright orange paddling hats. There were times when the orange hat was all that could be seen.

Reflecting on this trip, it was a brilliant adventure and I feel very lucky to have been part of it. The average age in our group was 61 so it is no surprise that each of us felt a huge sense of achievement. We had a great group of people who supported each other well. I loved the isolation and freedom of the southern islands. It is a fabulous feeling to set up your tent on the edge of a beautiful beach on an uninhabited island with the knowledge that you had paddled yourself and your gear there.

Roundup of the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic 2011

By IAN VAILE

The Hawkesbury Classic. It’s the kind of race that once you do it you’ll either never go near it again or you’re hooked for life. This year was marked by two things: no moon and seriously challenging tides, with two slow incoming tides bracketing an outgoing.

Fourteen NSWSKC paddlers fronted Windsor Bridge. Everyone finished, with some remarkable results. Derek won his class (the hotly contested Open LREC) and four other paddlers clocked a second in their classes.

Arranged by time, here’s how we fared:

Class – Time – Handicap

Derek Chart – Open LREC – 11:31:50 – 11:49:49
Geeb Smith – Open LREC – 11:50:14 – 12:08:42
Rae Duffy & Cathy Miller – Ladies 50+LREC2 – 12:05:05 – 10:04:43
Adrian Goodwin & Clare McArthur – Brooklyn or Bust – (B or B) – 12:33:34 – N/A
Ian Vaile – 50+LREC – 12:55:40 – 12:27:45
David Fisher – B or B – 12:56:25 – N/A
John Duffy – B or B – 12:56:28 – N/A
Campbell Tiley – 50+LREC – 13:01:22 – 12:33:14
Mark Schroeder* – 50+LREC – 13:22:00 – 12:52:35
Andrew Kucyper – B or B – 16:46:12 – N/A
Tim Ring – 50+LREC – 16:48:08 – 16:11:50
Roger White – B or B – 18:29:43 – N/A

Every paddler has a story, but none so heartbreaking as Mark Schroeder’s tale of infidelity and heartbreak:

Dear X,

Yes, yes, I have been unfaithful to you. My first time was with a little black Flash, and then I did it again with a double surf-ski, a threesome no less! I was younger, what can I say.

But you, your comfortably wide bottom has carried me far and wide, across the oceans, and that’s why I felt I owed you a debt of gratitude and why I spurned other younger, racier models this time. I was true to you, even though Rae shamelessly offered me a ride in her Flash.

So why did you treat me that way? Could you really have been carrying a grudge all this time?

I know it wasn’t your fault I missed my start by 15 minutes, I just had a brain fade, leaving me the only single to depart amongst a flock of doubles… not something I even realised until I looked around me on the start line. Shocked and slightly horrified I decided I’d find a double to wash-ride until I caught up with my class and then settle into a do-able pace. All very well until the hooter sounded, when I discovered the flaw in my plan; fresh doubles go quite a bit faster than singles. A couple were way too slow, most were way too fast but I hooked onto one, still going faster than I wanted, but hey it was a ride and it was only for maybe 20km I guessed before I might catch up with my Long Rec tribe to work with them for the rest of the race.

All good until you, my dear X, decided to bite me and drop your rudder. That’s right, popped clean off the boat at around 5km in! You picked a fine time to screw me. Suddenly the awful thought of 105km of empty river ahead of me filled my head. Struggling to the shore, replacing the rudder and rushing back out towards the disappearing doubles fleet, I determined to re-catch them no matter what.  Problem is this took an all-out 5km sprint at my absolute max… sustained only by the thought, as I ground down the metres, that once I get there I’ll recover a little on the wash.

And then just as I regained contact, you dropped the rudder again. Did I really deserve that? I only gave that Point 65 XP18 a quick sideways glance, I only slid into the Taran very briefly. You broke my heart there and then, under 15km into the race, I was destroyed, the mental game over, and my speed plummeted. In training 30km had become easy, but now, for the first time in three Hawkesburys, I pulled into Sackville sickly and ready to abandon – that’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?

Well, I didn’t. I plugged on to spite you, even enjoying some 25km following Wisemans, marvelling at the phosphorescence, watching the cool fog roll up the jagged tops as dawn broke, wincing in pain as my remaining morale ebbed away with my time ambitions… paddling on… and on… and on.

And so my Raider X, having done 11:05 my first year, 10:22 my second, this year you took 13:22 out of my life… that’s definitely way too much time to spend together. I lasted the distance but next year you’re dropped. And now it’s over between us, I have a confession I should share with you:

It’s not you, it’s me!

(*Mark’s time above is adjusted at his request!)

Andrew Kucyper has a more uplifting tale:

Inspired by Cathy Miller’s description of the rescues carried out by her team in the 2010 event, I hoped that this time I will rescue somebody who capsized. For such purpose I carried out a tow rope attached to my kayak. I had two occasions for this, firstly about 25km from the start, when I spotted an overturned ocean ski and rushed up to help. But help was not needed. For the second time, somewhere close to Dargle, I think that it was a K4, difficult to see it in the darkness. However, before I reached them another kayaker, in a Mirage, started towing the kayak to shore with the crew hanging on to their boat.

Up until Wisemans (from Sackville) I suffered strong and unusual waves of stomach cramps. However, at Wisemans, after a full cup of pumpkin soup from the LCRKC group, just before re-entering the kayak, I threw up everything from my guts. Suddenly I became a new man, able to paddle to the low tide pit stop while enjoying the night scenery, without any of the previous suffering. It was really very enjoyable!
In my fifth Classic I decided to stop at the low tide pit stop for the first time. What a great experience it was! What dedicated and useful task the crew there was fulfilling!

For the first time in many years I was able to pass other boats without being overtaken by a single boat (post-Wisemans).

Derek Chart was determined, and it paid off by winning his class. His paddling comrade Geeb Smith hit the ramp at Mooney in 11:50, coming second. Derek’s tale:

This year was my fourth year participating in the Classic and I was determined to make it my best yet. I went into the race with a mindset to make 11 hours which would have escalated my personal best time by about 30 minutes each year since I started. With two third placings in the past, I wanted a blue ribbon this time. Once the gun went, I let the leaders power off and set myself up for a steady but fast pace and by about 3 hours into the race I had caught up to them.

Stopping at Wisemans… always a Godsend… massage, food, water… back on the river in 10 minutes. Rounding the bend from Spencer, it was eerie with all the fog and no idea where I was going, thank you GPS. Brought it home in a new PB, so pleased – so bloody sore! Thanks heaps to my paddling buddy, Geeb Smith, who pushed me so hard in 2010 and was part of my motivation this year… a very deserving second in our class.

Huge thank you to the road crew this year. Despite text messages from friends suggesting that the Classic was just a supporting paddle to the Road Crews ‘pub crawl’, they did an outstanding job with supplies and encouragement, and the most important cold esky at the finish. The Road Crew also arranged an interview with ABC Radio Central Coast to chat about the race, loads of fun!

Cathy Miller and Rae Duffy brought their Mirage 730 home in 12:05, which on handicap placed them 13th overall, the best placing in the club. Cathy takes up the story:

Before the race I set my goal, which was pretty simple really: get Rae to the end, which meant I got there too. If one of us arrived without the other, we’d be in trouble seeing as we were in a Mirage 730.  And my other goal was to smile at the ground crew at the end because that would mean we were still in good shape. We knew in advance we’d get three tides – slow, fast, then incredibly slow, so we hoped for 12 hours but thought it was probably a ‘stretch target’.

At the start, Rae and I sprinted to catch up with a Super Sonic double, which paid off as we rode on their wash in the ‘sweet spot’. We managed to hang with them for about 8km then they left us. My race plan is always to stop during the race and look after my needs. The whole racing mentality where they just go like a bat out of hell is just not for me.

When the second boat in our class passed us meaning we would come in third, I was relieved when Rae said, “It’s hours to go, just let them go”. From then on, we just ran our own race and we rewarded ourselves with a small break at each checkpoint.  This meant we made it to the end in good form and it was such a joy to finish in 12:05 at 4.15am, right on our target. Rae is a great paddling partner; tenacious, positive and determined, gently reminding me where to steer when I had one of my many ‘vague’ moments and patiently putting up with her less organised partner.

Rae was picked up by her daughter at 5am, on a plane at 11am to fly to the Gold Coast for a two week sea kayak trip in Moreton Bay.  This meant she had to get back into a sea kayak at 5pm that evening after minimal sleep to start the trip, a gutsy effort indeed considering I know how sore her bum was.

The other club double was paddled by Adrian Goodwin and Clare Macarthur, coming in at 12:33. Adrian writes:

This was the second time down the river for Clare and me.  We had last done it in 2008 in a time of 12:25 and our aim was to do a little better than that. Once again, we weren’t interested in being competitive because our barge-like Horizon double would be one of the slowest boats in the LREC2 class. But that said, we were interested in doing our best given the boat and the flat blades we normally use with it.  That rationale saw us launch at 4.30pm in the Brooklyn or Bust category for doubles.  We finished with an elapsed time 12:33, slower than last time, but we were delighted with our effort! By my reckoning, allowing for tides, we would have paddled the 2008 out-in-out course in about 11 hours.  That’s why my tired face is smiling!

Was it about improving on a time?  Not really.  It’s more about the satisfaction of preparing for and completing a challenge which until quite recently seemed absurd.  When we first started paddling in 2008 with the Sunday Paddlers group, we’d need an afternoon siesta to recover from the 15-20km morning paddle.  How was it possible to even hold a paddle for 12+ hours let alone propel oneself 111km with it?  That’s part of the amazing personal transformation that big challenges like the HCC allow.  Also the bonds of friendship that develop whilst sharing the challenge in a double.  Each training run Clare and I did was a little adventure and we enjoyed every one of our fifteen Saturday and Sunday jaunts.  And in the race itself… the satisfying feeling of rhythm, the power of unison, the phases of easy and hard, the fun and the frustration, phosphorescence pluming off the bow and paddles, the fogbound entrance to Milsons Passage (thank God for the GPS), and then finally the Passage, the bridge and the warm welcome.  We’d made it!  Buggered but satisfied.

John Duffy, Dave Fisher and I all clocked in within a minute of each other. John writes:

Many years ago, when I was in my first HCC and struggling towards the finish line beyond 16 hours, I thought doing nine more to get to ten would be a worthy goal to work towards.  Like milestone birthdays, I didn’t expect the tenth one would come round so soon.

I had been solidly preparing through regular weekly time trials down Sydney’s Lane Cove River and rounded out by longer weekend paddles.  Preparations were interrupted with the death of my wife’s dad. That sort of thing certainly puts the Classic into perspective.  It meant a USA trip for Bob’s funeral before the event, and I dedicated the race to him.  But the theft of my trusty Mirage 530 four weeks out from the event really threw a spanner in the works.  I’d paddled thousands of kilometres in that boat and I was confounded by who would do such a thing.  I was overwhelmed with offers of replacement kayaks from far and wide and settled on an identical 530 from a good friend.

A few years ago I erected a dodgy contraption on the deck of the kayak to house a couple of speakers.  I found listening to music out loud achieved two goals: the music keeps my mind off the discomfort, and I can still carry on an uninterrupted conversation with other paddlers.  The banter between paddlers is what makes the HCC so special.  The music certainly helped me this year, although I am not sure it helped everyone else.

I hooked up with two friends at Sackville in Mirage 580s and we eventually cruised into Wisemans in very good shape.  Minutes after Wisemans, I almost came to grief when I hit a houseboat mooring side on and came very close to tipping out.  We kept along at a cracking pace, three abreast, stopping after every checkpoint for 15-30 seconds for quick stretches.  Sometime later the trio picked up a kayaker promoting and offering No Doze.  I recall his name was Dave Fisher, president of NSWSKC.  And then there were four of us.

While in sight of the finish I could sense the PB slipping away and, surprising myself, dropped my bundle.  But knowing I left absolutely nothing in the tank, and having kept up with faster boats for the last 75km, I wasn’t a bit disappointed.  The company I was with for much of the race was fantastic.  The HCC was and always is a pleasure to be part of.  I’ll be back

Dave’s night was driven by his desire for a PB, always a tough ask with the contrary tides. But he managed it:

I can honestly say I was knackered at the end and, it sounds funny, but it wasn’t that way last time.  After Wisemans, it was down to guessing how long the ebbing tide would last us, what impact the changing tide might have and keeping the effort and pace going to give it a red hot chance of beating a 5.00am finish. Even in Milsons Passage, the last few kilometres, it was clear it was going to be touch and go whether I’d beat a 5.00am finish. So I dug deep for the best sprint finish I could muster.  I was dousing my head, neck and back in water to try to cool down despite it still being pre-dawn.

This year was another personal best time by the slender margin of 8 minutes and I’m super pleased with it, especially considering the tides were more adverse than in 2009.   This was the sixth time I entered.  My time was certainly helped by teaming up with fellow Mirage 580 paddlers John Duffy, Andrew Benoit, and Chris Thompson at Wisemans Ferry.

Except for 1992, each race has been in my Mirage 580.  This year was the first for a while with a straight shaft paddle.  My wrists didn’t suffer the same creaking that they did in that first effort in 2006.

Thanks to my hard working landcrew, Lynda and to the support of the John, Andrew and Chris.

Roger White delivered an epic race this year, paddling well into the morning:

I look at the race times and I wonder how people can get their various bits of plastic down 100km of river in such a short time?  One of them (Ian) didn’t even use a proper paddle.

Obviously Rae must have forgotten to point out some important feature on the forward stroke, I hope she can remember what it is and correct it for me before the next one.

An amazing event. The paddlers and their huge range of craft, some didn’t even look sea worthy.  Some with disco music to help them downstream. One looked like it had an esky on the back.  I met up with fantastic people, fifteen year old school girls just enjoying the effort and the scenery as they paddled their double.  Or the guys in some kind of open canoe who couldn’t stop for coffee at the low tide pit stop because they were on target with their times to win. They were the only ones in their class.  I needed the coffee earlier, as I got the nods and fell to one side, lucky my blade was flat at that moment and I managed to save a capsize. And how did the two stand-up paddlers do it?  They still beat me.

Which brings me to the most important result: out of 97 starters for Brooklyn or Bust, I came in at 77!  God bless Alastair Morris for being in the race and coming 78th.  The rest didn’t finish.

What more can I say.  It’s a night I will treasure.

And this year I decided to go the Greenland stick. My eighth Classic and my plan was simple: just don’t get out of the boat. My wonderful crew waded out through the mud at Wisemans to bring me hot chocolate, and then away again. The phosphorescence was beautiful, with sudden green lightning strikes at my bow as I spooked big fish. I still managed to hit a tree (again) cutting too close to the bank (again) but the rest of the night was delightful. Clocked in at second in my class so it appears the stick isn’t as much of a handicap as I had expected. Next time though I’ll remember to inflate my cushion!

A very strong showing by the club again this year, I’d lay money on every one of the paddlers being back in 2012. OK, maybe Mark will be in another boat.