Rock ‘n’ Roll 2012 – Guests


Paul began canoeing at the age of 9 on the Brisbane River, but only took up serious sea kayaking in 1977. In the following thirty years he has notched up over 40,000 miles in his single Greenland-style kayaks.

Paul’s first sea kayak expedition was around Fiordland with co-paddler Max Reynolds. From Jacksons Bay, Paul carried on solo to complete the first kayak circumnavigation of the South Island. This trip was the subject of Paul’s first book Obscured by Waves. In 1979 Paul kayaked 1,700 miles around the North Island, another first, and completed the trip with a Cook Strait crossing. This trip was the subject of a second book Cresting the Restless Waves.
In August 1979, Paul teamed up with Max Reynolds again to cross Foveaux Strait and completed the first kayak circumnavigation of Stewart Island. Dark Side of the Wave completed Paul’s trilogy of his kayak travels around New Zealand.

In 1980 Paul teamed up with an English paddler, Nigel Dennis, to complete the first kayak circumnavigation of Great Britain. This 2,200 mile trip took 85 days.

In December 1981, Paul set out from Queenscliff near Melbourne and spent the next 360 days achieving the first kayak circumnavigation of Australia. This 9,420 mile paddle is acknowledged as one of the most remarkable journeys ever undertaken by kayak. Paul had to contend with a tropical cyclone which nearly swept him off a small offshore islet in the Coral Sea, raging surf, tiger sharks which frequently bumped into the kayak in the Gulf of Carpentaria, crocodiles, sea snakes and three sections of sheer limestone cliffs. To overcome the three 100 plus mile long sections of cliffs, Paul used Nodoz tablets to stay awake and Lomotil to keep his bowels dormant during these overnight paddles. The longest stint, along the awesome Zuytdorp Cliffs in Western Australia, took 34 hours of continuous paddling. After 10 years of trying to interest a publisher in a book about the Australian trip, in April 1994 Paul finally self-published his story as The Dreamtime Voyage.

In 1985 Paul completed the first kayak circumnavigation of the four main islands of Japan, 4,021 miles in 112 day.

With co-paddlers, in 1987 and 1989, Paul twice attempted to kayak across the Tasman Sea from Tasmania to New Zealand but was thwarted on both occasions by the Tasmanian authorities and bad weather.

In August 1991, Paul paddled into Inuvik, in the North-West Territories of Canada, to complete the first solo kayak trip along the entire coastline of Alaska. Commencing from Prince Rupert in British Columbia, this 4,700 mile trip took three northern summers to complete. Highlights of this trip were: a herd of walrus swimming around the kayak, a large brown bear ripping open Paul’s tent while he was asleep, being charged by a bull musk ox, and meeting the Eskimo villagers who are the descendents of the Inuit people who originally evolved skin kayaks in Arctic waters.

In September 1997 Paul, and Wellington paddler Conrad Edwards, completed a 550 miles circumnavigation of New Caledonia.
1998: 690 mile trip along south-west coast of Greenland, from Kangerslussuaq to Narsarsuaq; with Conrad Edwards.

1999: 700 mile paddle along the west coast of Greenland from Kangamiut to Upernarvik; with Conrad Edwards.

2001 – 2002: 610 mile trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to and around the island of Phuket, in Thailand; with Conrad Edwards.

2007: kayaking the Angmagssalik region of East Greenland, from Isortoq to Lake Fiord; with Conrad Edwards; 429 miles

2008: 691 mile paddle from Isortoq down the SE coast of Grønland, to Prins Christian Sund, then westwards to Narsaq; with Conrad Edwards. Probably the first westerners in single kayaks to achieve this trip.

Not only active on the sea, in 1991 Paul was a co-founder and the first president of KASK, Kiwi Association of Sea Kayakers (NZ) Inc. He was president until 1998, thence Publications and Safety Officer. Since 1991, he has been the editor of The Sea Canoeist Newsletter, a bimonthly journal for New Zealand and overseas paddlers. Since early 2004 he has been compiling a sea kayak incident database; incidents involving fatalities, injuries or rescue by outside agencies.

Paul’s kayak Isadora, used for the New Zealand circumnavigation, is on permanent display at the Auckland National Maritime Museum, while Lalaguli (the round Aussie kayak) is on permanent display at the Queenscliff Maritime Museum in Victoria.


Stuart’s life pre-kayaking involved climbing, backpacking around the world and generally avoiding the traditional responsibilities of modern life.

Inspired by a story of crossing Bass Strait in a kayak, and to save his knees which were buggered after climbing and mountaineering for twenty years, he started kayaking in 1997.

He made plans for a Bass Strait crossing which included paddling from Sydney to Queensland as a warm up before committing to heading across eastern Bass Strait.

After that he managed to paddle from Sydney to Melbourne and along the western coast of Tasmania.

He was then part of a three man team, with Andrew McAuley and Laurence Geoghegan, who paddled the length of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Stuart explored other routes to and from Tasmania, with a western Bass Strait crossing followed by a direct line crossing of 230km from Wilsons Prom in Victoria to Stanley in Tasmania.

Then in April 2010 Stuart commenced his epic circumnavigation of Australia by kayak.


For this expedition paddler from Western Australia, sea kayaking is all about living with intention, embracing challenge, following her dreams and making time in life to connect with nature and wild places.

She says, “Nature puts on the show – you just need to paddle your kayak to the front row. If you’re out there enough and in the right places, you will get spy hopped by a whale, you will lose count of the turtles you see, and you might be surprised by a sunbaking sea snake, a snoozing penguin or a sea lion demanding your catch. Be inspired, conquer your fears and get out there in a sea kayak – and don’t think I haven’t noticed the lack of women out there on the water. If I can do it, you can do it too.”
Sandy Robson just wants to be a sea kayaker. In 1999, she was working as an outdoor education teacher when she purchased her first sea kayak. She joined the WA Sea Kayak Club, started doing regular expeditions and ended up planning to paddle around Australia.

In 2007, Sandy launched Sandy’s Long Australian Paddle (SLAP). She set out to paddle as far around the Australian coastline as she could in one year. After a heart-racing encounter with a territorial crocodile and about 6,000kms of the coast behind her, Sandy returned to Perth with some new kayaking plans.
In 2008, Sandy started work as a sea kayak tour guide and instructor, swapping the classroom for an office on the beautiful Ningaloo Reef where turtle, reef shark and stingray sightings are a regular occurrence and days off can be spent paddling after humpback whales in the Exmouth Gulf. There was also time to think about her next challenge.

Someone told Sandy about Oskar Speck. In the 1930s Oskar paddled all the way from Germany to Australia by kayak. Sandy is retracing this route with a series of expeditions that she thinks will span five years. 2011 saw her launch in Germany on the mighty Danube, tackle the unknown territory and white water of the Vardar in Macedonia and Greece, cross the Aegean Sea from Greece to Turkey and complete her Stage 1 goal of reaching Cyprus.

What’s next you may ask? Well apparently Sandy is not afraid of pirates, but she is afraid of not having enough sponsorship. Sandy has returned to Australia to raise funds to execute Stage 2. In 2012, the mission is 7,000kms from Turkey to India.

Go to for further details.

Upside Down on the River Nile


As Guy wrote in his article about kayaking in Nepal in last June’s edition, you just need a taste for adventure, cold beer, warm water and a reasonably solid roll to consider a big whitewater kayaking experience.

The abduction of tourists by Somali pirates put an end to our planned visit to Lamu Island off Kenya in November last year but East Africa has lots to offer those with a taste for adventure.

Uganda has great cold beer, my favourite being Nile Special, which is also the name of the last rapid I kayaked down in the wonderful warm waters of the River Nile last November.

What an experience!

I did learn to roll those funny whitewater kayaks, trying not to spend too much time on set-up, not to move hand position and reaching out further, but I certainly did not have a bombproof roll. However, I did have a guide close enough to be there for the occasional bow rescue and also for an assisted rescue after a swim.

Guy also mentions in his article that “cutting in and out of the eddies” is a key survival skill – it is one that I didn’t always master and that felt counter-intuitive to me. You have to lean downstream as you enter the fast flowing water whereas I wanted to brace into it. Exiting the fast stream was also challenging. On one occasion where failure to get out of the fast water would have resulted in going down a waterfall, I hopped into the support raft!

The reason for being in Uganda was to holiday with Bob while he was working there. We had lived there for a few months back in 2008 and decided to revisit Jinja, the source of the Nile, for a taste of whitewater kayaking. Jinja is a well known whitewater rafting destination with some of the biggest rapids in the world. Backpackers are picked up for a day’s adventure from Kampala, the capital, and overland expeditions include a stop there. There are also opportunities for travelers to go on low-key cultural tours in local villages.

We kayaked on three days, staying at the same place each night, with excursions upstream and downstream for a few hours practice on days 1 and 2, in preparation for the big day 3.

Our base was the gorgeous Nile Porch overlooking the Bujagali Falls. There is a range of accommodation where you can meet and listen to the adventures of travellers from around the world. When we were there, a group of crazy young boys were celebrating their return from a kayaking expedition on the Congo.
A dam opened just after we left but the view with wonderful sunsets would still be spectacular and the kayaking is still available downstream. There is also the Hairy Lemon hostel downstream where keen whitewater kayakers gather from around the world.

Kayak the Nile was the company that organised everything: pick up from Kampala, booking accommodation, our Ugandan and overseas instructors and the connection with the rafting company. Andy from the UK instructed us for the first two days. Ugandan kayaker Geoffrey, who had been to Sydney in the Olympics freestyle team, accompanied Bob on a tandem kayak on day 3 and another Ugandan, David, was assigned to look after me. Our group on day 3 also included a rafting group and another tandem kayaker.

Not that I have anything to compare it with, but the rapids on day 3 were huge, with lots of water but also with reasonably flat sections where capsized rafters (and kayakers) could be picked up if required before the next set of rapids.

There were long stretches where you could relax, carried along by the current (keeping a watch out for the boils and whirlpools), enjoying the birds and monitor lizards, or hop into the support raft to eat freshly cut pineapple and chat to other travelers.

There is an amazing sense of inevitability as you approach a rapid. You can hear the roar, a foaming edge appears, the speed quickens, your heart pounds and there is no turning back!

We went through lots of rapids with wonderful names like Retrospect, Vengeance and Overtime. I walked around the Itanda Falls and the Bad Place. I kayaked two rapids, then cruised along in the support raft for two to rest up (and nurse my pulled hamstring) in preparation for the last big one.

The finale was the Nile Special, apparently internationally renowned for its standing wave. I didn’t have the skills to stop to play; my goal was just to get through it. There is definitely a very fine line between thrill and terror but the adrenaline kicked in and I somehow stayed upright. I then made the mistake of relaxing and of course capsized as I strayed across the eddy line into calmer waters. My roll didn’t work, David was too far to do a bow rescue so after a while waiting upside down I wet exited into the warm waters of the Nile. No drama as there was plenty of time to be picked up before the trip finished. I was happy.

Whitewater kayaking is great to try if you happen to be near the great whitewater rivers of the world. For me living in Sydney, ocean kayaking would still be my choice, we have such easy access to so many beautiful places. I wouldn’t choose to journey up to Penrith or to rivers in Australia with rocks and trees and the hassle of car shuffles. While rapids are exhilarating, so too can be the sea off Sydney Heads on a Tuesday evening or scary Garie Beach during sea skills assessment.

A few days later we flew to Juba in South Sudan, where we again saw the Nile as it travels downstream on its long journey to Egypt. Ending on the beginning theme of beer, we met a manager at the local brewery, Louis, and his family in Juba. Louis is a keen sea kayaker and was part of the first team to successfully paddle the entire length of the world’s longest lake, Lake Tanganyika ( He has a long term dream of kayaking all the rift valley lakes of East Africa. Lake Turkana will be the most challenging because it is still full of hippos and crocodiles. Louis had closely followed Stuart’s journey around Australia – it is a small world.

Safe Kayaking and Personal Watercraft


A recent meeting at Bundeena was called to discuss water safety issues at Bonnie Vale, Port Hacking where there is concern about craft and, in particular, PWC (Personal Watercraft, often referred to as Jet Skis). The concerns relate to PWC speeding and turning dangerously close to swimmers and other craft. The meeting was attended by representatives from Roads and Maritime Services, National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW Fisheries and NSW Police. It was clear that there is a problem, and not only in this location, with groups of PWC riders not obeying maritime regulations.

What rules are in place to ensure safety on the water?

1. Distance Off Rules – When a vessel is being driven at a speed of 10 knots or more or towing a person they must keep the vessel and person being towed a minimum distance of:
30 metres from other powered craft, moored vessel, land and structures (i.e. bridges, jetties, moorings) or if that is not possible, a safe distance.
60 metres from persons (swimmers) or non-powered craft (i.e. kayaks, yachts) that are underway or if that is not possible, a safe distance.

2. A safe distance between a vessel and a person or thing (including another vessel) is a distance that will ensure that the vessel will not cause danger or injury to the person or thing.

3. PWC are further restricted in the Sydney Basin (but not the coastline) from and including Port Hacking to Broken Bay, the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Georges River where they must be 200 metres from the shoreline before driving in an irregular manner. Irregular driving includes tight turns, weaving, circles or surfing and jumping over swells or wash. In all other NSW waterways PWC are restricted from riding in an irregular manner within 200 metres of the shoreline where there is one or more dwellings visible from the water.

4. Riding a PWC after sunset and before sunrise is prohibited in NSW and PWC are excluded from operating on Sydney Harbour, including the waters of all tidal bays, rivers and their tributaries (includes Parramatta River, Middle Harbour and the Lane Cove River).

What can we do if we encounter other craft operating in a dangerous manner?

From the meeting it is clear that the authorities need to be informed. If possible, get the registration number of the vessel (which is located on both sides at the front of PWC), the location of the incident, the date and time. Take a photo if you feel safe doing so. Reports, even anonymous, are useful. These authorities are under-resourced and need to deploy resources where the need is greatest. However even after the fact, and without clear identification, a report is still useful.

To make a report phone:
Roads and Maritime Services Info Line 13 12 56 (8.00am – 5.00pm 7 days per week)

Alternative contact numbers:
For all life threatening emergencies: 000

NSW Water Police – Operation Neptune 24 hour service: 1800 658 784

Further details are available from the website of NSW Maritime.

Two of Tassie’s paddling delights: Macquarie Harbour in the west and Maria Island in the east


No time to sit around with good weather forecast! Mike and I arrived in Strahan at noon on December 25 and packed up the kayaks as quickly as we could. We left the car on the grass strip adjacent to the nearby police station and launched from a small beach to the west of the Strahan ferry. Our plan was to paddle anti-clockwise around Macquarie Harbour to explore the shores and then make our way up the Franklin River. We had enough food and fuel for about seven days. Mike had planned the trip with reference to Trevor Costa’s invaluable articles previously published in the magazine. (June 2007)

We headed off at 1pm and crossed Macquarie Harbour directly south. It seemed a slow paddle of 11km into a south-west wind to get to the opposite shore. We were aware of a number of camping sites along the beaches on the south side of the harbour but we decided that if we pushed on to Mousley Camp we could spend a number of days camping in one spot, always a pleasure for us.

After paddling and sailing for about six hours we passed Sarah Island and then headed into the bay just near the entrance to Birchs Inlet. The sun had set and light was fading. We had a good idea of where the hut was but we used the GPS to get the exact location for landing [S42 26.298 E145 26.821].

The site was gorgeous, with two little beaches and creek access for small boat landing. The water was warm enough to swim in! The area around the cabin under the trees reminded me (Audrey) so much of camping in my early days in Ontario, Canada where the ground is covered in pine and cedar needles of the mature forests. So clean. The rustic cabin is maintained by the West Coast Wilderness Association and is well set up for relaxing there or for getting good shelter from rain and wind. There is a wood burning heater, with a supply of wood, and a pit toilet. It looks like a great emergency hangout. Diary entries showed it had not been used for about a month. There was a lovely Christmas card for visitors from the voluntary caretakers.

The next day we paddled 8km up Birchs Inlet to the mouth of the Sorrell River. Further upstream we discovered a boat landing and wooden walkway. This led to a conservation hut which is used by volunteers undertaking the conservation research project on the orange-bellied parrot. You probably could stay there for shelter from bad weather. There is a boardwalk out on the heathlands with a viewing booth. From what we read, the OBPs can sometimes be seen in mature to older button grass ecosystems. There were no recent sightings of the birds listed in the hut diary. It was amazing to see an extensive heathland area in this south-western Tasmanian heritage area. Perhaps a little taste of the variety of landscapes you would see if you walked the south west. In fact, there were at least two trails marked on the map which went from this hut out to the coast although it didn’t look like they joined up to the South Coast Track.

As we returned to our camp we were able to sail at times; but hadn’t we sailed up parts of Birchs Inlet in the morning? Tassie winds and kayaking!

The following day, Mike paddled to Sarah Island to re-visit the ruins of the convict prison. Lucky for kayakers, you can try to time your visit to avoid the tourist ferries.

The next morning we set off towards the Gordon River with prevailing south-west winds. There were surfing opportunities up to the entrance of the Gordon River so we took advantage of them. The river is wide at this point and it is only when you get past the ferry dock at Heritage Landing, about 11km, that you really feel you have started to arrive in the tranquillity of the wilderness. Eagle Creek campground is another absolutely beautiful spot [S42 26.554 E145 40.423]. Again, we had three nights of camping by ourselves, and superb weather. The last camper wrote in the diary a month before. In the next three days we saw a sailboat and a fishing boat go past, but no one stopped.

We wanted to explore the land as well as the waterways, so the following day we tried to follow a track that was marked on our map, along the creek, then up over a ridge and down to the Franklin River. It was slow walking as lots of trees and branches were down and it was not easy to see the track or the red tape which did appear in places if you looked hard enough. We got to a steep section and climbed for half an hour, but ended up very confused as blue and yellow markers joined the red. We took turns trying to find a better path. When I came across something like red-brown quicksand oozing from the ground on this hillside, I thought it was time to turn around. It was still slow getting back to camp. If we had a topographical map, a compass and the GPS, and took our tent and supplies for a few days, I think we might have made it. So it looked like paddling to the Franklin might be the next day’s event.

The paddle up the Gordon River to the Franklin was the real highlight of the trip for Mike. We didn’t start off too early, about 10 am. The mountains were dense and lush. There was little wind and it was sunny. We paddled past the site where the hydroelectric company had their base for building the dam and just past that, where sea planes land for other types of people experiencing that wilderness. After that the banks changed a little, there was a section of cliffs on one side and an island. The junction of the Franklin appeared. Within a few hundred metres, the Franklin narrowed, rocks were exposed everywhere and a big log was perched three metres above us on a little rock island. We soon met our first rapid. The river level was low and we had fibreglass kayaks so we did not want to risk damage. We decided to go no further and head back to Eagle Creek.

We had dinner at the abandoned works site, accompanied by two black snakes. There are six snakes living here, so the diary says. For me (Audrey) the highlight of the day was the paddle back to Eagle Creek at dusk with the trees and mountains forming mirror images. Some of the bushes on the bank were in full flower. There was a certain fifteen minute time when the reflections almost had a light of their own. I paddled by the edge looking only at the reflection and it was as if I was looking at a coral reef bursting up from below. We got back to camp at 10pm, on dark and in the silence. I never expected to find absolute silence in the south west of Tasmania, absolutely no wind, no noise of water moving, absolutely no insects. Bliss. I felt so privileged to paddle and experience this part of the south-west wilderness and I thank all those who stopped the Franklin Dam from being built.

We had beautiful clear days and total isolation except for the sea plane and ferry, the sailboat and the fishing boat. We took the easy way out and put our kayaks on the ferry at Heritage Landing and travelled back to Strahan for $50 each.

On to a sea adventure on Maria Island

We headed to Rheban, and parked by the beach to paddle about 9km to Encampment Cove on Maria Island. Paddling south-east into a 15 knot north-east wind took about three hours. There was no swell but there were wind waves. Encampment Cove has a variety of sites, so you can be alone if you want to, or be near other hikers and people arriving by boat. There are tour operators who use this national park for their camping trips. The next day a gale was blowing, so we walked the length of the island to Darlington, saw the fossil cliffs and returned. A walker told us you could see the mainland from the top of Mount Maria, but would get 360 degree views from the top of Bishop and Clerk Mountain in the north.

The next day we carried our kayaks across the 400m sand spit and circumnavigated the southern part of the island. The scenery was stunning and there was a gauntlet or two that we played in with helmets on. In the afternoon the south-westerly wind picked up to 25 knots which made paddling into the wind a little slow but gave us a great ride back to camp with a following sea. We were on our last stretch back with waves following us. A pod of five dolphins played under and between our boats for about fifteen minutes, so beautiful! Sailing proved too much for Mike’s sail as it tore. Audrey’s sail was also her undoing as she capsized and required Mike’s rescue skills. Back to camp, warm clothes and a hot drink.

We finished off this part of the trip with an easy paddle back to the mainland on still water. Great paddling weather except for one day. We were lucky.

Iron Bottom Sound in a Canvas-Bottomed Kayak


Well, not really canvas, the kayak’s skin is hypalon, the rubberised material they make inflatable boats out of. But I did paddle in Iron Bottom Sound in the Solomon Islands, scene of some intense naval battles in WWII, and final resting place of the cruiser HMAS Canberra.

I had a long weekend in the capital Honiara last September, and was disappointed to find there were no kayak hire places around town. So, planning a couple of weeks’ holiday in December with a friend who’s posted there, I decided to B.Y.O.

Folbot in the US promised to build me a Cooper in time for my trip and, a couple of weeks after ordering, I picked up my new boat at the UPS warehouse at Mascot. Folders can be expensive, but Folbot works hard to keep costs down. Purchase price was US$1895 plus shipping and import charges. I needed a folding paddle too, so decided on a three-piece carbon fibre Greenland paddle, tough enough to travel inside the Cooper’s backpack and survive the experience.

I ordered the boat with the optional ‘Expedition’ package: this gave me a spray deck, rudder, extra padding on the keel longeron, and a comprehensive repair kit. The only things I needed to do were to run some perimeter deck-lines and improve the seat; the standard item is made from case-hardened steel, reverse-contoured to maximise pressure points. Kidding, but I needed an inflatable cushion for trips over an hour.

And I had to fix the rudder pedals. The rudder itself is one of those flip-up designs much envied by Mirage owners (as if…), but works well enough. The Folbot design lets you convert the static foot-braces into sliding pedals when you fit a rudder. But the big cockpit is hard to lock in to, and the absence of foot-braces becomes a big deal if you want to do anything requiring foot pressure. So I swapped the standard foot-braces for a pair with toe-pedals which would still fold flat to fit into the bag.

The Cooper weighs less than 18kg, but in its backpack with some extra padding, a groundsheet for clean assembly, repair kit, sea-sock, spray deck, paddle, PFD, bilge pump and paddle float, it became a hefty 29kg. The airline’s checked baggage allowance (flying Pacific Blue from Brisbane to Honiara) is 23kg. So to minimise excess baggage charges, everything else gets scrunched up in the carry-on bag, just look nonchalant as it is tossed up into the overhead lockers. What’s kayaking for if not developing upper body strength for such an occasion?

With that load on the back, it’s possible to totter around for several metres before falling over, so I used baggage trolleys whenever possible. And all the backpack straps unclip for air travel, so they don’t get torn off on the carousels. At least the backpack is voluminous enough to get all the gear inside, using spare clothes and bubble-wrap for padding.

And I guess I lucked out on this trip, because on each of my four flights the boat arrived in perfect condition among the first half-dozen bags off, and the airlines didn’t levy any excess baggage charges, although a second bag full of camping gear might have strained their goodwill.
So how did it go on the water? Beautifully. At just over five metres in length, with a 60cm beam, the Cooper has good carrying capacity and excellent stability. Speed suffers a little from the aspect ratio and the flexible hull, but measured by GPS I could cruise at over three knots and go slightly aerobic at over four, all with the skinny Greenland stick. Tracking was good, with very little weather-cocking – water pressure squeezes the hull in around the keel and two lower longerons, giving three full-length skegs – and the rudder worked well for trim in a crosswind. And I loved that Greenland paddle, seems the Splinter Group has a point! (Although I’ve since bought a four-piece European-style paddle that will also fit in the backpack. I’ll make that the spare).

My friend in Honiara lives beside the water in the Heritage Park Hotel, which has a little strip of coral beach out front for putting in. The hypalon skin dealt pretty well with the rocks and coral lumps, gaining just a few superficial scratches and a bit of wear on the bow from resting the boat on its nose while I climbed the fence. But assembling it in the tropical heat did become a bit of a trial. In the end, my friend took pity on me, and let me keep the kayak assembled in her lounge room. The only drawback was that her apartment is on the third floor. But carrying it upstairs was still easier than pulling the thing to bits every time it got wet.

Needing to be a good houseguest (and having promised not to be the subject of a SAR alert), I didn’t try any long offshore passages, just spent up to three hours a day paddling Iron Bottom Sound east and west of Honiara. Sea water temperature was 30 degrees, the water was crystal clear, and there were plenty of coral gardens and fish to enjoy as I glided along.

Guadalcanal is a tall volcanic-origin island, with intense green vegetation. Very easy on the eye, if a little short of pull-out places. Most of the beautiful beaches west of town are privately owned, and you’re expected to pay ‘kastom money’ – usually between 25-35 Solomon Islands dollars (around AUD3.50-5.00) to use them.

Weather in December was pretty good too. Around half the paddling days featured 15kt east to southeast trade winds, which were a bit of a slog into wind, but great fun downhill. It was the early part of the cyclone season, which normally means you can have light winds, or very strong ones! But most of the days were comfortable paddling: about a third of the time I had light and variable winds and blue skies, with thunderstorms in the afternoons.

Locals in their wooden canoes and banana boats took plenty of interest in the folder’s progress. I felt quite a novelty: was I the first folder-paddler since Paul Theroux was here doing his research for The Happy Isles of Oceania? If only I could write as well as he does.

During the visit, we did a weekend away to Nugu, a tiny rustic resort on Buena Vista Island in the Florida group. It’s a superb location, a 75-minute boat ride from Honiara, with plenty of surrounding islands within easy paddling distance, several of them uninhabited. Our hosts at Nugu reckoned they could map out several days paddling for us, and clear our trips with the nearby communities. Sadly we left the boat at home on this trip because two people into one kayak won’t go.
The resort itself was small and very basic, but idyllic. It was fully catered, with superb local meals (lots of fish, chicken, rice and sweet potato) taken at an open-air dining area right on the water’s edge. It had three palm-leaf huts, each able to sleep three (four, if two are consenting adults in the double bed), with two more huts under construction. Do folding kayaks look good enough to eat? The huts had verandas, spacious enough to store the boat to keep it out of reach of crabs and rodents that might fancy a taste.

The resort was cheap: SID$390 (AUD52) per person a night for all meals and accommodation (cheaper if sharing huts), and SID$450 (AUD60) each for the two-way boat trip. The very reasonable accommodation costs balance the $1000-or-so economy air fare from Sydney, making it an affordable kayaking holiday. Certainly when compared to the five-star experience at Uepi Resort in Marovo lagoon, another sea kayaking option in the Solomons.

The Uepi resort does have sea kayaks for hire, saving the cost of buying your folder. But as we all know, you can’t have too many kayaks! And I’m already starting to think about where to go for my next trip.

The Sacred Ratio


Well everyone’s sacred ratio is different but my sacred ratio for kayaking is:

paddling time (bum in kayak seat actually paddling/sailing/surfing/rolling)
all the other logistical stuff to get you there.

I estimate my paddling/logistics ratio is currently a (perhaps optimistic) 2:1.

What’s yours?

I’m not putting a stopwatch with a time and motion study on everything I do which is related to kayaking, but the more efficiently I do the logistics, the more time I have to paddle… or other fun stuff like watching my kid’s soccer games.

The logistical stuff is huge and all encompassing.

It includes checking and packing all the gear, checking and loading the boat, consulting weather and possibly maps (GPS), liaising with paddling partners, driving to paddling destination (avoiding peak hour), unloading boat, dressing in paddling gear, boat adjustments (hatches, rigging etc), packing stuff like food, water, electronica (don’t forget the spare batteries) into the boat or PFD, carrying it all to the water, skirt and paddle leash on… paddling time… ahhhh (how sweet it is)… and do it all in reverse at the end of the paddle… do we need a debrief?… don’t forget the freshwater rinse and hanging up gear, storing the kayak… and the muesli bar wrappers in the day hatch.

Should the logistical stuff include researching, discussing, trying out, deciding on techniques… and also, for paddling gear and boats, purchasing (and possibly re-selling further down the track)? Should it include outfitting, repairing and maintaining gear and boats? Or is this fun? Would you be doing it, if you had no intention to paddle? I haven’t met a non-paddler obsessed by kayaks/paddling gear/gadgets yet, but I’m sure they are out there in the wild somewhere.

We can address the paddling time part of the sacred ratio easily – go on more frequent, longer paddles, paddle around that one more headland, catch that one more wave, do an extra circuit.

How can we reduce the logistics part of the sacred ratio?

We all sub-consciously become more efficient in the logistics; it may be hard to remember yourself as a beginning paddler, but try surreptitiously observing how long it takes a newbie to get his/her kayak on water with bum in seat.

If we consciously think about each little step and how we could delete or modify it to save time, even a few seconds, this, multiplied by the number of future paddles, can accumulate to a considerable time saving.

Here are some of the logistical steps I have changed over the years in no particular order. I’m not saying this will be right for you, but perhaps it will stimulate a small time saving of your own.

Get in the habit of paddling at least once a week: the logistical steps become automatic, gear doesn’t quietly rot in storage, you are less likely to be caught out with the wrong gear with the change in seasons, and no instances of “now where did I put that paddle?”

Have all your kayak gear in one place: I hang up all my wet paddling gear (including booties hanging in cable tie loops) in the one and same place, and pack the dry gear into the one and same box. Paddling gear should only be used for paddling, a paddling friend once turned up with his wife’s (too small) booties.
Storing the kayak: I used to hang up my kayak on pulleys, it was an engineering wonder of the world, but also very time consuming. Now my kayak rests on old cushions on its gunwale, it’s plastic (the gunwale and also the rest of the kayak). My hatch covers and paddle all lie on top of the kayak and my sail hangs nearby so I don’t forget them.

Transporting the kayak: in the past I used a trailer but ‘lost’ too much time hitching and unhitching the trailer. Now I use roof racks with kayak cradles and ‘just the right length’ webbing straps staying on top of the old Corolla (with or without kayak). There is a ‘hit’ from UV degradation but it saves a lot of time. I wash down the car, straps and cradles when I’m washing down my boat and rinsing the gear.

Combining trips: my son is very understanding when I drive him to soccer with my kayak on top of the car, saying I may be a little late for his pick up after the game… how many kid’s soccer games must a kayaking parent endure?

Now – I might just squeeze in another quick paddle!

Enculturation – Introducing My Wife to the World of Kayaking


Enculturation is the process by which a person learns the requirements of the culture by which he or she is surrounded, and acquires values and behaviours that are appropriate or necessary in that culture.

I have adapted this concept here since, for many, sea kayaking is the subculture to which they belong. Paddling influences the lifestyle, values, and beliefs of an adherent. I wanted to introduce my wife, Stephanie, into the culture of Sea Kayaking but had to learn some skills myself to navigate these unchartered waters.

The challenge has always been to include Steph in my passions, after all, our first date was paddling a Canadian canoe down the moving waters of the Barrington River in the middle of winter. She has paddled rivers, completed multi-day walks and even canyoned with me. Her predominant approach has always been tentative prior to events, sometimes fearful during them and always jubilant on completion of our little journeys. It has helped us share something in common. In terms of sea kayaking, her upbringing was one that showed extreme caution and trepidation to the open blue waters of this world. She definitely does not contain the “adventure gene” many paddlers possess.

Nevertheless I purchased a double sea kayak a number of years ago and we paddled mainly enclosed waterways including the local Shoalhaven River, Danjera Dam and the headwaters of Tallowa Dam. Some of these events were overnighters as well. The enculturation process was coming along smoothly. One day when the conditions were right I managed to persuade her to come along for a paddle in Jervis Bay. The experience had her initially very apprehensive. Swell and chop made her feel uneasy, very uneasy. Regardless, I paddled along. I even convinced her to do a self-rescue exercise with me at the day’s end. What a ball (for me anyway)!

The next challenge was to take her out into more open waters. Summercloud Bay was the choice of venue. We paddled toward St Georges Head. The sight of a breaking reef, Black Rock, had her virtually hyperventilating. We stopped at a beach closer to the headland and things were not good. She was petrified of going back. Conditions to me were ideal but to her way of thinking she was doomed to some indescribable horror and was basically freaked out. Navigating these marital waters was beyond me. I was out of my depth. Steph refused to eat lunch and quietly struggled to settle herself down. We did paddle back. Her end of trip jubilance was a little subdued this time.

No paddles occurred over the next number of months until a paddling friend purchased a double. This was the tipping factor that was needed. Steph got on well with my friend’s wife and things got moving again. We successfully completed a Myall Lakes camping trip, with some rougher conditions, and managed to paddle in Jervis Bay in some wilder moments as well. She purchased some of the paraphernalia of our culture including paddling top, pants and gloves. I think she was getting hooked.

The fruits of perseverance for us both have been the two most recent experiences. Late last spring we paddled out from Currarong to see if we could spot some whales. This we managed to do with a mother and calf swimming up to and around us for a good twenty minutes. At one stage the calf rolled over beside our boat splashing and touching our craft. Steph handled this very special moment well despite some concerns and plenty of adrenaline. The second experience was paddling Doubtful Sound in New Zealand over the Christmas break. Despite the annoying sand flies she lapped up the three days exploring this amazing place. She managed some challenging conditions but loved every minute and I was with her in this experience.

Yes, I would call this process one of enculturation and hope I have side-stepped the dark side of indoctrination. It has deepened our relationship and required me to adapt my way of doing things on the water to a more patient but certainly more rewarding manner. There is talk, mainly stemming from me, about paddling Far North Queensland these winter holidays. The challenge not to push too hard will always remain. In the end if things seem too daunting I am given the royal wave to go off without her. Family membership in the NSWSKC looks likely in 2012. Good luck to all you who wish to attempt to cajole their partners into this sport and way of life.