Bass Strait – Getting ready to go

I’m part of a four person team aiming to paddle the traditional eastern Bass Strait route leaving 9 Jan. All going well, I’ll be able to post updates en route from my mobile.

You have to love WordPress

I just found a cool plugin, called Sitemap Generator for WordPress by Dagon Design and added it to my site. I found trying to navigate to some pages difficult using smartphones as the flash menus don’t seem to click easily on smartphones like they do on a PC. Hopefully this plugin helps. It was a 5 minute job to load, configure. This WordPress community makes life so easy for web amateurs.

Terrigal to The Entrance and back

The gang at Terrigal, the start

14 Aug 2011: My Sunday paddle was exploring the coastling from Terrigal to The Entrance. Around 32km return. I landed at Bateau Bay, around the corner at Blue Lagoon where is the caravan park for potential future trips, and finally at The Entrance, at the bar on the ebbing tide. After a couple of spills in the surf at The Entrance, we returned to couple of kilometres to Toowoon Bay with a calm water landing for lunch. Unfortunately the cafe at the surf club was in the process of shutting so there was nothing hot available. The caffeine addicts had an enforced detox and my usual sugar hit of hot chocolate also went begging.

Rainbow on the way back

Trip buddies were Rae and Neil, Mark and Jo and Tony M.

On the return, some dark foreboding clouds were gathering. The forecast had predicted chance of thunderstorm from mid-morning to evening so my senses were alert, especially seeing that last weekend we had to get off the water to avoid being out there in the middle of a lightning storm. It was humorous that as we drew nearer to confront the storm, I was chatting to Rae about possible exit points and then we saw three Oyster Catchers flying in the opposite direction away from the impending storm. We looked at each other and wondered whether the birds knew the smarter option.

Sea Skill Revision weekend

Matt B and I ran a Sea Skills revision weekend at Bonnie Vale for 9 aspiring Sea Skills paddlers in our club which was fun for all of us.  We endured thunder, lightning and heavy rain, sun and plenty of water.   Check out the full story here.

Sea Guide training weekend

On the weekend (24-26 June), six of us attended the NSWSKC’s AC Sea Guide training weekend held at Currarong, Jervis Bay, NSW.  Facilitated by Rob Mercer, we were instructed in all manner of things that AC Sea Guides are meant to be. 

Operating at the AC Sea Leader level, I have the luxury of my trip companions being vetted to a very reasonable standard, that of Sea Skills.  My trip companions own their own kayaks and gear, have a solid capabilities to execute a large variety of kayaking strokes, can roll in surf and have generally done a number of sea trips and often even expeditions. 

If I become an AC Sea Guide however, I will be allowed to take anyone.  The most dramatic of which is that I can run paid commercial trips for novices.   Gina S explained to us in her evening presentation that the only vetting for paid commercial clients is that they have paid.  In all other respects, Gina explained that the clients may well be challenged in areas like fitness, coordination, understanding English and even totally misunderstanding what sea kayaking meant when they signed up for it in their holiday brochure. 

I must assume nothing about my paddling companions.  Or do so at my peril (and theirs!)

As a Sea Guide taking novices in my paddles, Rob explained that our own abilities need to be that much higher.  A great for instance is that novices might need demonstrations of paddling strokes.  My instructional ability, even at a basic level, didn’t form a part of the AC Sea Leader qualification but it does for AC Sea Guide.

On water, Rob set us tough challenges set to test our communication and instructional skills and examine our own capabilities to rise to the higher standard of the Guide.  Some of these challenges were set in and around rocky structures and it seemed to be almost like a scene from Larry Gray’s Skinning Chickens as we bumped and whacked into rocks and removed layers of gelcoat.

It is now down to each of us to reflect on the gravity of being an AC Sea Guide and, if we so choose to continue with it, practice and get ready for an assessment weekend in September.

You can now subscribe to my blog

My blog has made a technical advance.  You can now subscribe to my blog to receive update alerts via email or any of the major news readers.  Simply click on the  “Subscribe to my feed” button on the right hand side, click on the method you’d like to receive the feed by or click to receive via email and follow the form prompt.

Greenland rolling

Last week was a busy one for my skills development.  I don’t have a greenland kayak or a stick paddle or a norsaq.  But I’m still keen. 

A group of eight of us took over a section of Willoughby pool and practised in the heated and clean water.  Thanks to all who loaned me their equipment.  I’m impressed with the Tahe Marine Greenland T kayak, mainly because I can hand roll it more often than not.  I’ve had no success with my hand rolling in other sea kayaks as yet, only the low volume polo kayaks and the Tahe Marine Greenland T.  It is the times that I botch the hand roll that are great ‘learning opportunities’ for me.  What am I doing wrong?  Where does my technique need improving?  It is these questions that have me coming back for more.

And I don’t buy the story that you only need one good roll and that is good enough.  I need rolling skills, I need to know my legs, my body, my arms, my kayak and paddle and how they interact with each other.  I believe that through continued training and greenland rolling development that my one good roll will develop into one darn good roll and I will probably have a few ok alternative rolls to accompany it.  I do not consider myself at all sporting in the traditional fit, co-ordinated and natural way.  So I need practise over long periods of time to compensate but I’m a believer that this practise and absorbing the tuition that others are prepared to give me will yield results.  Eventually.  And besides – rolling is fun.

Thanks for the invite and I hope to roll with the Splinter Group again.

Attemping white water kayaking

After my ww trip back in March on the Murrumbidgee, I decided I’d get a ww kayak that I could use mainly for surfing and also for the occasional ww trip as and when they came up for me.  With my new kayak, a Dagger Axiom 9.0 , I decided to take a lesson at Penrith White Water Centre to improve my marginal ww skills.  My first lesson was a 2 hour lesson with Adrian C in May.  We both thoroughly enjoyed the challenge with numerous rides down the last rapid and progressing to putting in a few times with about 1/3 of the ww course remaining and riding the rapids.  We took on board the tuition from our instructor and grew in confidence.  I went away from that session knackered but keen to progress.  I think that ww kayaking isn’t a competitive interest to my sea kayaking but complementary.  It is teaching me balance in more aggressively moving water and also rolling under pressure.  These are handy skills for the surf zone and in or near gauntlets or simply in rough capotis.  And the physical exercise can’t hurt either.

I headed out to Penrith again last week for a second private lesson.  I was by myself this time, no one to watch and learn from other than my instructor.  My instructor was a pushy SOB who said I could practise rolling in my own time but I was his for an hour.  He basically said I was ready and wanted to take up on the entire course.  Well I was nervous but a sucker to try anyway so I nervously let him drag me up the escalator.  During the time of the lesson, we did all of the usual stuff the more accomplished paddlers take for granted – riding rapids left and right, in and out of eddies.  All of this was exciting to me as I still consider myself very much a novice ww paddler.  The more accomplished probably think all of this is so easy.  Even so, I came away with a grin from ear to ear.   As I progressed during the lesson, I remember commenting to my instructor that the river seemed to be slowing down a bit.  As I grew in confidence, I was finding I could react quicker, put myself in the positions that my instructor advised me to and dare I say it, even plan ahead.  So instead of simply trying to stay upright as I fall down the course, I was becoming more able to slide in and out of the eddies and control my path and descent… at least a bit of the time.  More training to go.

La Perouse to Watsons Bay

GPS Track

On the Queens Birthday long weekend Monday 13 June, a group of five paddlers did the trip from La Perouse to Watsons Bay, some 27 km. There was Shaan, Raewyn, Cathy and Ian and myself.

The interesting thing about this trip were the solid southerly conditions. This of course was the attraction. We aimed to ride these southerly conditions northwards to sydney Harbour and created a one way trip to maximise the impact.

It is times like these to calibrate my knowledge of the sea state and winds by comparing my impression of the conditions against the BOM observations.

MHL - Wave Height

According to the BOM Weather observations for Little Bay, the winds were mostly in the high teens, early 20s gusting up to 29 kts. Seas were as forecast: 2-3m. Swell was around 2m.

We had a slog out of Botany Bay until we rounded the corner and then the riding began in ernest. We slid, surfed, broached, swamped, rose, dipped, twisted and turned for 20 odd klm up the coast.

For a long time, I was thoroughly enjoying the conditions and making the most of the surfing opportunities.  As time progressed though, my energy levels depleted (I was bonking on energy gels)  and towards the end, I have to say, it was tough going to muscle the hard acceleration needed to latch onto the waves.

MHL - Wave Period

Someone apparently telephone the Westpac helicopter to say five kayakers were in trouble. We had an interesting conversation with the Police Vessel once we reached inside Sydney Harbour.

Police: Are we in some kind of distress?
Us: Nope.
Police: Oh, someone rang and said you were.
Us: Wasn’t us.  We didn’t see any other group of five out there.  Hmmmm.

Who knows what that was about or why people ring the police. It was probably a concerned member of public. We were well prepared though. We all knew each other well, knew our skills and aside from our skills and judgement and good boats at Grade 3 standards, amongst us we had two vhfs, two plbs, numerous mobile telephones and flares, etc so we could have done a pretty darn good job of attracting attention and raising the alarm had we needed to.

Tried my hand at whitewater kayaking

I took up an opportunity to paddle a section of the Murrumbidgee River from Kambah Pool to Cotter, just out of Canberra yesterday. It was a great day out and I had many thrilling rides in the rapids with my fair share of crunching and spectacular spills.  There is plenty for me to learn in this kayaking discipline. My detailed report is under 2011 trips – Whitewater at Cotter.