Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Ultra Marathon Season - Tips & Gear

We're three weeks away from the Myall Classic, the first of the really long ultra distance marathon races that populate spring in & around Sydney.
Following on from that are a couple of regional river races, and then the iconic Hawkesbury Classic, the event that has become the Melbourne Cup of long distance races, especially after last year's phenomenal rejuvenation of the race celebrating 40 years.
They're races we tend to be involved in as both sponsors & supporters & also as competitors, and here are a few of our tips & tricks for getting through them in good style.

1. Form.
Long races are all about form & fuel. If the former is lacking you'll sacrifice speed to a lack of efficiency at best, and hurt yourself with a strain injury at worst. Getting your ducks in one line, wrists, elbows & shoulders in sync, is time much better spent than thumping down the river for endless hours in the mistaken belief that your paddling fitness will get you home. If in doubt book in a coaching session. It's never too late, and long-distance racing is 60% technique, 30% fitness & 90% masochistic delight! 

2. Fuel.
Once you exceed a certain threshold, holding your heart rate up for an extended period, your digestive system all but shuts down. Even for the mild octane levels you reach in a long distance paddling race, your evolutionary motherboard thinks you're running away from a Sabre Toothed Tiger after about four hours of stress. I get around this by concocting a gross mix of energy goo and water, mixed together in a small hydration bladder, with the valve permanently within hands-free sucking range. Every hour, on the hour, I have a mighty slurp, get my energy burst for the coming hour, and wash it down with a diluted electrolyte drink on another tube within slurp range on my left. The pure energy in the goo goes straight through your stomach wall & provides the fuel that science tells me food just can't. I budget about three litres of electrolyte for 50km, so one bladder for the Myall, two for the Hawkesbury, and 12 goos squeezed into the sickly mix bladder for the hourly slurp. I often finish feeling hungry, but not lacking the energy that a genuine deficiency would bring with it. If you haven't used a fuel system like this before, you need to test it out thoroughly before letting it loose in a race, or risk a very messy discovery session. Even swapping goo flavours can bring you undone, so tread lightly. Note, proper food is also very good for your morale, even if it's not particularly beneficial to performance, so don't think you have to follow our miserly performance-at-all-costs regimen. Bananas are excellent for their potassium & magnesium content, which can ward off cramp.

3. Training.
My own training for these races begins about mid July, where I'll do a couple of 20km paddles each week on the flattest water I can find, in the craft in which I'll be racing (for the past couple of years the excellent Sladecraft SLR). I'm not necessarily trying to go fast on these training gallops, just ticking at about 10kmh & trying to spend as much time as I can in the boat, getting weary, uncomfortable, and training up the muscle memory you need to paddle non stop for somewhere between 5-12 hours.
I use my ocean paddling for the fast twitch stuff, short sharp downwinders on waves where you have to accelerate ninety times in an hour of bursts & little mini rests. The long marathon races aren't really about being able to accelerate, but it is handy to have a burst & recovery in you, if the opportunity to hook onto a faster wash presents itself.
In the weeks leading up to the Myall & Hawkesbury I try to extend that training distance to 30km, again just to make sure I remember how taxing those hours can be be, all the while balancing such long & demanding paddles off against the recovery time you need to get over them. 
I personally believe that if you can sit in your boat comfortably & paddle hard for five hours, you'll have a good Hawkesbury, because in that particular race, the pain & suffering hits a peak as you close in on Wiseman's Ferry (about 60km), and doesn't generally worsen for the 40km after that to get home. It's why the 47km Myall Classic is such a good shakedown race if you're going to do the Hawkesbury, a fantastic opportunity to take your body somewhere that your mind hasn't been before.

Friends & club mates do much bigger distances than me, and those heavier schedules do seem to get them home a little faster, but I have never been too enthused about the grind of long flat water training paddles & prefer to keep it shorter & sharper.
I think the aim of your training should be to get you to a level of preparation where you can spring out of your kayak at the finish, all smiles, punch out a couple of push ups and then stare proudly at your awesome time. Wander around the Hawkesbury finish line at 3am and that's pretty much all you'll see! Seriously, it's great when you've trained well enough to perform in good style.

4. Gear.
Without going near the topics of which boat & which paddle, here are a few tips gear that have got us home many times over the years.

  • Gurney Goo - not for eating, but rubbing! The single most important piece of gear you can have in your ultra distance armoury. Rub it on your hands & other body parts up to 24 hours before to prevent blisters and chafing, and even rub it onto a hot spot during the event to ease the burn. The ingredients are locked away in Steve Gurney's safe, but whatever is in the stuff, it works!
  • Layers - a tight fitting, ultra light weight, merino t-shirt as a base, chafe free, warm-when-wet, and then layer from there. In the 'lightning-storm Classic' a few years ago, it's all I wore for the entire 100km as it was like paddling along the Mekong in summer for most of the night. Otherwise it's the starting point for me, with a base layer like a Vaikobi V-Cold Base top or Enth Degree Bombora over that. If it's a wet night or the wind comes up, I always carry an NRS lightweight Endurance paddling jacket as a safeguard against wind chill, but have only used it once in the last 6 years, as I tend to overheat pretty quickly. Remember however that most people who withdraw from the Hawkesbury do so as a result of getting cold, so it's a good idea to actually go out on a night training paddle and make sure you have a layering system to nullify it should the same thing happen on race night. One thing to avoid is a standard summer rashie. They have an evaporative cooling effect and can chill you down very fast once the sun sets.
  • Have a beanie handy, it can be the single, simple addition to your race quiver that stops the cold getting at you without having to stop & add another layer.
  • Gloves if you're a glove wearer, and have trained with them. If not, the hand taping that goes on in the physio tents looks very impressive, but unless it's following a taping pattern you've been following in your training, I personally can't see the point. I don't use gloves, instead relying on training hours & Gurney Goo to keep me blister free, but that hasn't always worked!
5. Race Strategy
It's understandable, especially if it's your first go at a long race, to just 'aim to finish', and nothing more ambitious. A problem with that plan is that it can peel back the discipline that you need to keep your mind pushing through the hard hour or two that you will always have in races of this distance. Without the discipline to push through - 'it's fine I'll ease up after all I'm just hoping to finish' - your realistic 13 or 14 hour time can end up taking 17 hours. Believe me I'm speaking from experience, a 17 hour hour Hawkesbury is about ten times harder than a 10 hour Hawkesbury! If you are managing 8kmh in your training, you're heading for a Hawkesbury time in the 12 hour range, as long as you keep your stops to a minimum, and keep your nose to the wheel. It's not necessarily a 'fun' night out, but its a wonderful glow of achievement when you get it done, because while it's a tough challenge, it's also very doable for an average Jo. 

Clock your training speeds, aim for a time & give it everything. I guarantee you'll enjoy the experience if you're pushing yourself with the added focus of a time to beat, and if there's one thing I've learnt from multiple long distance races it's that you can go surprisingly hard, for surprisingly longer than you think you can.

If you can get onto a wash & hold yourself there without blowing a gasket, do it. Some grumpy old buggers might splash you or curl their lips, but unless you're banging into them, that's more about them than you. Sometimes you only realise what a lift you're getting on a wash when you drop off, and the speedo plummets, but the effort remains. It's not cheating, it reduces your effort and gives you a bit of a breather, and if you're going OK yourself, you can bet there will be someone on your wash, so it all evens itself out on the night. If you get the chance in training, practice on a friends wash, it is a bit of an art form.
As to the tides, I have grand plans each year of pushing hard when the tide is going my way, because you can go quite fast at full ebb and that time is hard to make up elsewhere. 
If you can manage it, by which I mean if you can see what's in front of you, head for the river's edge when it's flooding, and stay in the middle when it's not, even if that means not cutting the corners. The flow in the middle is pretty fierce when it's honking. We aim to go 9kmh into the tide, and 11kmh with it, but its not unusual to hit 13kmh+ in ebb and a miserable 7.5kmh in full flood. Twice I've railroaded fellow competitors into pulling weed off my rudder because I was going ridiculously slow, and twice there was no weed!
Navigation in the latter sections of the river, in the dark, can be a challenge too, so a map course on a GPS screen that is set to glow every kilometre or so is a very good idea. If you get it right, the Hawkesbury can be as short at 98.8km, but I've been disoriented several times over the last 30km & done as much as 101km. And I've done it eight times, so you'd think I'd know where I'm going!
Finish 2016, two minutes later I was doing my push ups.
If you're not up to speed to enter the Myall on September 16, but this has piqued your interest then you're still well inside a window to get into training for the Hawkesbury. They're big, big races, between 300 & 500 paddlers in each, the atmosphere is always terrific and the challenge is a very real, but very achievable one.

Despite the sickly goo, the numb bum, the blisters, the cold, the disorienting blackness of a moonless night on a wide old river, and the occasional welcome hallucinations, it's worth having a crack! 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

EK Coaching & Demo Day - Gold Coast September 9

We're a little overdue judging by the multiple requests from north of the border, but finally we have a weekend free to head north with our new kayak, the Audax, as well as a few recent additions to our boat stable that haven't been seen outside NSW. 
If you're in South East Queensland, we'll be on the water at Tallebudgera Creek from 9am to 4pm, with boats to paddle, coaching sessions or ad-hoc advice on anything from your stroke to your roll to your boat set up.
In the early evening we'll host a relaxed chat back at our HQ in the adjacent Tallebudgera Holiday park, where we'll tell the story of the Audax from concept to production, and provide an esky full of cold refreshments, and maybe a pizza or two.
We haven't been north for a few years, and we're looking forward to catching up with our mates in the Sunshine State. Hope to see you there. 
More details on our Facebook page HERE.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Audax Speed test

Yesterday we put the Audax to the test over the same 10km course on which we've tested every single one of the 70 or more boats we have imported over the years, to ascertain accurately the terminal hull speed of the boat. 

We choose this course on Botany Bay as it's as flat a stretch of tide-neutral water we can find, with only about 800m of assistance & resistance at each end, and 10km is too far pushing hard to get any weird high results. We've heard people tell us that boat X can go 12kmh, but we've never ever seen a sea kayak do those speeds over still water for more than a few hundred metres, so prefer our own tried & trusted method of measurement.

Whilst it wasn't dead flat, with a beam wind gusting to about 12kn, it was protected enough to give us a good gauge on just how fast the Audax is in comparison to other boats in the genre.

The recorded trace is below, with an average speed over the 10km of just on 10.2kmh. That makes it the fastest sea kayak we've ever recorded over the course, with the exception of the 6m long, 44cm wide Valley Rapier, as radical a design as you're ever likely to see.

The numbers are higher than we thought we'd see, considering the huge stability of the craft, the reassuring beam of 53cm and the rocker we designed in to maximise handing and manoeuvrability in the big stuff. We put it down to the entirely organic shape of the hull, with no hard surfaces, only the suggestion of a V, and also the ergonomics of a close, clean strike zone allowing plenty of power transfer at the catch.

It means the Audax has a broader reach than we had originally considered. With that sort of hull speed it's realistically a sub-eleven hour Hawkesbury boat, and a fitness kayak for paddlers looking at entry level ski performance and stability, with the huge benefit of being a well credentialed touring sea kayak.

Why is this speed measurement important? Considering that nobody other than a racer would be pushing the limits of a hull in the context of sea kayaking, under the the ethos that it's about the journey & speed isn't really that big a deal. Why bother to actually measure potential speed? The answer is simple, a boat with a high terminal hull speed will generally have more glide than a boat with a lower limit; glide being defined as the length of time between strokes before the kayak starts to decelerate. In the context of sea paddling, this means less effort to maintain a cruising speed, even if it's only 6-7kmh, and a less taxing experience on the ocean. 

One of the most common comments we hear when paddlers first try a fast touring boat is that they feel light on the water in comparison to a traditionally shaped kayak. That's not down to actual weight, it's the earlier planing effect that these modern hulls tend to generate. Power translates to lift much earlier, the hull gets up & on top of the surface more effectively, and feels lighter to move along.

Fast touring boats are not a massive revolution, but they have steadily turned distances that have previously been considered fairly epic undertakings of 10 hours or more, into a 6-7 hour steady cruise, whilst also being exceptional in any hint of a following sea.

The Audax continues to win friends, with orders rolling in & the boats already delivered providing an enhanced paddling experience for their new owners. Contact us to arrange a test paddle.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Introducing the Expedition Kayaks Audax.

After two years of prototyping, testing, more prototyping, more testing, and then finally the nuts & bolts of getting the mould made to the high standard we expect, we are proud & excited to announce the launch of our own locally manufactured sea kayak, the Audax.
Inspired by the Striped Marlin whose Latin name is Kajikia Audax, Audax is a Latin word usually used to denote bold, daring or adventurous. We wanted to produce a kayak that reflected this spirit of adventure in wide range of coastal and open water environments.

Our aim was to start with stability, the absolute most important aspect of any craft in which you may one day have to sort out a very serious problem on a heaving sea by yourself, we then expanded our design brief to incorporate the elements that we hoped would bring a smile to the dial of our customers. Namely the overarching requirement to get ground, to be an efficient and fast hull which has the capacity to turn that 50km crossing from a ten hour epic, into a six hour hoot. And of course the capacity to manoeuvre, not simply for the pure safety margin that a boat with good close-quartering manners provides, but also for the joy of the craft of kayaking. 

The Audax is a long waterline, open water kayak built to join the growing ranks of plumb bow fast tourers that have proven so successful and popular in Australian conditions.For decades now the local market for sea kayaks has coexisted with the ocean racing ski market and so the arrival of leaders in this niche such as the Rockpool Taran and Pace Tour appeared to many of us as an obvious progression for kayak design. These shapes probably appeared less radical to Aussie kayakers accustomed to sharing the coastline with surfskis.

Our aim with this kayak was not to replace other plumb bow designs in our range, but instead to add another kayak that would appeal to those who are looking for an efficient modern touring boat with enhanced stability and maneuverability. The fact that the kayak is built in Australia will no doubt also appeal to many as it offers support to local small businesses and also provides new levels of flexibility for customisation.

The final hull shape was the result of repeated prototype testing across a range of conditions and paddlers, over a period spanning just over two years. We aimed for an efficient hull that was easy to drive at cruising speeds but still accelerated well to catch runners, but we also wanted the boat to turn well at all quarters to the wind and above all to have predictable stability in conditions both rough & smooth.

The best of the plumb bow kayak designs have proven themselves to be highly capable and sea worthy craft for everything from easy cruising to long distance expeditions so we felt no hesitation in using this shape for the Audax. We added a little rake at the bow to make the boat easier to slide off the beach when launching and maintained the upswept sheer line synonymous with our favourite classic kayaks.

From an ergonomic point of the view, the deck is quite steeply angled forward of the cockpit to allow an upright stroke. The cockpit is wide between the thigh braces so most paddlers can paddle “knees up” or “knees under” as required and the deck is high enough to allow for a comfortable bend at the knee in either position.

Audax kayaks use our “Bigfoot” footplate system, an adjustable composite seat and foam back-band. Other seat options include the Winkworth foam seat or the famous Gurney Gears Bumfortable (to order).

We have enjoyed the challenge of bringing this project to fruition after a couple of years of development and are delighted with the Audax’s performance and build quality. We hope you enjoy paddling it as much as we do. 

The Audax is available in three layups, which you can se in detail on the Audax page of our website (www.expeditionkayaks.com).

Length 5.6 Metres Max Beam 53cm 

Stern (includes day hatch compartment) 149.07 litres. - Bow 100.13 litres - Cockpit 154.13 litres Total 403.5 litres. 

Standard features:
1 Kajaksport large Oval hatch
1 Kajaksport 10” Round hatch
1 KajakSport 8” Round

Decklines - 6mm retro reflective black with gold and silver fleck.
Shockcords – 5mm.
Towpoint – Wichart cast stainless.
Deck tensioners – Alloy Buckles.

Rudder: Smarttrack transom mount.
Footplate: EK “BigFoot”.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Rock & Roll 2017

Each year in March the NSW Sea Kayak Club convenes at a spot along the coast to mark their one big event of the year, the Rock & Roll weekend.
Spot the beer & pizza. No chance...
As a sponsor of the event since 2007 when we began to be, it's a rare chance for us to get along to a weekend where near enough to 150 dead-set sea kayakers are in attendance, with the overriding goal of going for a paddle on the ocean. We enjoy the opportunity to put something back into the community of which we have been a part for so many years.
The welcome to RnR speech
This year the weather gods smiled, slotting Rock & Roll in between an East Coast Low that closed out most of the NSW coast in thew week prior, and monsoonal rain event that subsequently soaked it silly. We had some big residual groundswell on the Saturday & a building sea breeze both days, but the protected launch spot at Batehaven meant that the getting out bit was mostly achieved without incident.
Setting out for the distant Tollgate Islands.
Friday night kicks off with the Beer & Pizza Party, our major contribution to the weekend, and partygoers trucked their way through an astonishing number of pizzas in an even more astonishingly short time. I think everyone must starve themselves on the way to the bay, in anticipation of the frenzy....
It was a morning to keep well clear of the Bombies.
My Saturday trip was pencilled in as a trip out to the spectacular Tollgate Islands & back, but my group got out there so fast we decided to head over to the diminutive outcrop further south known as Black Rock as well. The big swells kept us well clear of the close-quartering mischief we have enjoyed at previous Rock & Rolls, but provided their own dramatic backdrop as we rolled over some very impressive walls of water. 
Peter powering past the Tollgates
It was also incredibly sharky, as many as five toothy friends spotted weaving in & out of our pod over the course of the morning. I spotted a big Mako, as well as a small Hammerhead & (we reckon) his Mum, curious majestic animals cruising by for a look at our strange craft. I love seeing sharks out on the open water, it tells me all is well with the ocean. 
Stephen in the trough.
We were lucky to have Ken Bellette along with us, a surf lifesaving legend in the area who is getting back into sea kayaking, and he navigated some judicious lines around lurking bomboras as well as being a general tour guide to the features & history of this beautiful waterway. 
Smooth lumps almost obscuring the Tollgate Islands.
On the Saturday arvo I took the double ski down to the beach & pulled a few unsuspecting RnR'ers off the beach for a go in the little sea that had developed next to Snapper Island. For entertainment, it was 10/10, especially my favourite paddler of all time, who I think was actually trying to jump out of the ski on one big run we cracked!
Tom up on top of some foamy swell
Rob ran his brilliant rescue challenge in the arvo, with a big cast of participants, and as always it was really well received. The winners were spotted improvising a hand-paddle home to take the yellow jersey!
Jenny Walker - last year she was the one being inspired, this year she was doing all of the inspiring herself.
On Saturday night we were treated to a talk from Sandy Robson, doing her best to fit a five year Germany to Australia sojourn into an hour long presentation. Raffles run & a buffet banquet put away, there were some very weary bones dragging themselves off to their tents for the night.
19km Big Swell Tour of the Bateman's Islands.
Again with Ken giving us the local weather and local knowledge, we decided all would be right to run a downwind paddle from South Durras to Bateman's Bay. 
South Durras briefing
Launching from the protected boat ramp at Durras we paddled out past the break & swung south, for an hour of the cleanest, steepest little runners you'd ever hope to paddle. 

Audax smokin'....
The one & only David Slattery in his beautiful timber boat.
Ronaldo looking relaxed.
Kenny looking very Clint.
The group paddled with tremendous cohesion, the fast guys blasting through & waiting, the slower paddlers using the seas for a cruisy ride  back to Bateman's, always within shouting distance over the entire 16km journey.
Rob & Mark taking in the pearls of wisdom from local legend Ken Bellette.
Safely back on the beach after a rollicking run down the coast.
On Sunday arvo Rob ran his paddle workshop, which curiously seems to always finish with about twice the number of participants start. In the evening the famous Pogies are contested, the short film festival for sea kayakers with more than it's fair share of controversy & high drama over the years. This year the quality of entries were just brilliant, like watching the Discovery Channel (!), but I think everyone agreed that Mark, Roddy & Davlin's Bass Strait video was a worthy winner (the link to the video is HERE).
Rob's paddle workshop.
Rob, Sharon & I came into this year's Rock & Roll with an extra incentive, and no small amount of trepidation, as it was our first chance for mass engagement for our new boat design, the Audax. Whilst we're very confident we've come up with a design that has wide appeal as well as high performance, nevertheless over the weekend we listened intently to the 40+ paddlers who gave our demo boats a thorough workout, mostly in pretty lively conditions.
Rob cruising south in the Audax Elite
The feedback was very reassuring, the speed and acceleration was evident & I guess people figure is a given, but the rave reviews were for the stability and the manoeuvrability. I have noticed people looking at fast plumb bow boats since they became popular with some suspicion, prejudging them to be too unstable, 'something that looks that fast must be hard to paddle', and there have been events we've been to over the years where they've barely even been tried. The Audax seems to have generated a lot of interest however, and paddlers were queueing up for a go, and almost universally coming back to us with a cheerful tale affirming how easy the boat is to paddle. 
Sunday night dinner put on by the Triathlete Cabin (pic by Ken Collins).
The Rock & Roll weekend was organised by Simon Swift, ably supported by his man on the ground at Bateman's, Neil Gow, along with Selim, Phil & a bunch of others silently making the cogs turn. They did a hell of a job, numbers were up, the organisation was seamless, and you almost got tired of seeing people throwing their heads back & having a laugh, sharing their combined passion for this wonderful sport of ours. 

We extend a hearty thanks to these guys, as well as to our club mates who stopped by to say G'day & swap a yarn or two. If you haven't managed to get along to a Rock & Roll weekend, and you're a sea kayaker anywhere, let alone in our coastal waters, you don't know what you're missing.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Review - Long Span Y-Racks

A local manufacturer has come up with a very clever and well designed car topping rack system which we have been busy using & road testing for the past 6 months.

The Long Span Y-Rack system is designed to lengthen the span of your tie-points, thus reducing the torque on rack mounted cradles that are very close together. Car manufacturers seem if anything to be narrowing the distance between roof rack mounting positions, which can be a problem for paddlers transporting boats up to 7m long on highways & in high winds. The Long Span Y Racks offer 2.1m of spread from cradle to cradle.

Spread is one of the most important factors in securely transporting your kayak on roof racks. The wider you can get your boat supports, the less likely it will be influenced by side winds & destabilisation.

I've travelled more than 4000km with my set, the lightweight version, carrying light ocean skis, big doubles and heavy sea kayaks, everywhere from the from the inland sand tracks of Fraser Island to the 110kmh highways between Sydney & Melbourne. I was a little worried after bouncing around Fraser Island with a 14kg, 6.1m long Think Evo on the roof that I may have damaged the ski, but the soft padded nylon footing protected the hull from the negligence of my off-road driving!

These long-span Y racks convert even the shortest hatchback rack span to a width more typical on a big SUV, via a brilliant design which is light, secure & simple to fit. The 'Y' cradles are paddled with a  smooth nylon so you boat will slide, the fixture plates have a thin rubber coating to prevent the bars sliding, and you can clip the Y fitting out when you're not carrying your kayak. 

There is also now a stiffer, slightly heavier bar which you would choose if you had to offset the longitudinal bars on a hatchback, or if you have a very long double to transport.

Considering the cost of a standard set of basic cradles has climbed to around $230, these also represent great value at just $320 for the full set up.

You can order this great locally designed & manufactured product though our online store via this LINK.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Daring Adventure, in an Afternoon...

'Because life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all'.

Inspiring words from a great friend, but not meant to be a call for an epic Shackleton-esque adventure, just a reminder about having an adventurous attitude.

Living in Sydney we can be swept away by the traffic congestion, over stimulation of constant crowds in one of the world's busiest cities, but adventure is right there on the fringes, especially for us paddlers, where the sea interacts with the coast.

On Tuesday I made it along to the annual Tuesday night Xmas paddle, usually a short paddle followed by a long celebratory picnic. This year the crew that assembled at Vaucluse Bay was strong & keen, and the sea breeze was building from the Nor East, so Rob decided were heading out past North Head to give ourselves a long & fast run home to our picnic venue on Ronaldo Island.

We ground our way past the nude dudes on Lady Jane Beach to South Head where Kenny nearly had his afternoon curtailed in spectacular fashion. As we traversed to North Head the winds picked up, accelerating over the cliffs and slowing us down appreciably. 

Regrouping in the shadow of the buttress the guys then plotted a line into the wind as far north as Bluefish Point.
These guys are well organised and capable, arranging a staggered start for the long downwind section so as to have everyone paddling within eyeshot despite the wild water making it hard too stick too close. The paddle back was fast, bouncy, fast, bouncy & fast. Yee haaa....

Detouring across the harbour to another little beach full of perplexed nude dudes, we then climbed the cliffs to say G'day to our mate Chris, at a secret spot that is close to his and his family's heart.

With an imposing pair of thunderstorms converging from north and south we paddled hard across the harbour to Ronaldo Cove, where we set up a modest picnic ground & sat down to enjoy a lot of cheese, some prawns and a couple of cold libations. I'm glad I quite like cheese.

On the way across the 'Voyager of the Sea' steamed past, juxtaposing the nine of us having a wonderful adventure on the sea, with the 9000 (or is 90,000) on board the Voyager about to head out for another kind of adventure on the sea...! Oh man if only they knew....

As the sun set the city lights sparked up, the Xmas party boats started their scenic loops of the harbour and we soaked it all up from our humble vantage.

To top off an afternoon of howling winds, steep breaking seas which sent us rollicking along at tremendous speed, a thunderstorm light show out to sea which went for hours, an eerie calm descending in time for us to have clear skies for our picnic, we then paddled in the dark back to Vaucluse Bay with a bioluminescent light show in the water that lit up each paddle stroke like a sparkler. 

All up 20km of as varied a set of water, wave, wind & atmospheric conditions as you could hope to encounter in a month, let alone a couple of hours within a 15 square kilometre patch of the earth.

What a great finish to a brilliant year of paddling, thanks to Nick, Kenny, Andrew, Tim, Davlin, Kevin & Rob for letting me tag along.
Merry Xmas...!