Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sydney Downwind, with free bluebottles….

Yesterday's forecast was once again for a big sea breeze, building to 30 knots & bringing steep 3m seas, so Rob diverted his Tuesday crew from their normal jaunt to a 30km car-shuffle downwind paddle from the harbour to Botany Bay.
It was a stinker of a day, 43 degrees in the inner west of Sydney when I jumped in my car to head off, and the stiff northerly breeze did little to cool the air. 
Even though the winds didn't come up as strong expected, and in fact barely breached 20 knots through the duration of the trip, the group of nine paddlers still got some nice little following rides all the way down the eastern seaboard of the city, on our well travelled route to La Perouse.
My fun was interrupted by several Bluebottle stings. In the nastiest incident, the little bugger wrapped around my paddle & flicked up onto my neck & face, mid-ride. I'm allergic to these devilish jelly fish so when I couldn't release the tentacles with my paddle or hands, I rolled to try to float the bluey's air bubble away, thrashed around upside down to try to get everything off, rolled up to find they'd moved perfectly across the exposed skin on my neck, rolled again without dislodging them, then dropped in one last time to see if they'd float off. In the end, stinging like buggery & not shifting the bastard of a thing, I jumped into the cool sea to get everything cleaned up in the water. To say I was p*ssed off would have been kind…. Rob put me in my place a few minutes later, 'ahh, Mark, why didn't you just ask someone to help….?' 
Matty Bezzina helped me sort myself out, & I carried on down the coast in my own little dark mood for about 10 minutes, before I came to my senses & realised that a perfect downwind run doesn't happen every day, & I should just get on with it & stop being such a big sook!
The group sped along the cliff lines to finish at La Perouse in the dark, after a testing paddle in very hot conditions, that was still an almighty amount of fun. It was interesting to see how knackered everyone was at the end. It wasn't an overly long paddle, just under 30km with all the forces of nature lined right up our collective hooters, but almost to a person we were all relieved to finally make it into Frenchman's Bay. I don't think any of us arrived with any water left, and the aerobic workout of the first 3-4km where we all excitedly took off on the fantastic following seas, definitely took it's toll later in the paddle.
A short video of the day's action & images are below.
Bluebottles are also known as the Portuguese Man'o'War, and have a particularly persistent stinger, which keeps on injecting toxin until you remove the long tentacles from your skin. As a young bloke I remember the beach inspectors pouring vinegar on the stings, which at the time was the de-riguer treatment, but nowadays it's only hot water that really is considered to give any relief. My hot shower last night was very welcoming, so I second that finding! When I woke up this morning I looked like I'd gone a few rounds with Joe Frazier……
Around Sydney they predominate in summer when there is any east in the wind, & are to be avoided at all costs. I can't see any redeemable quality that these little creeps could possibly add to the ecosystem, except for creating misery among all who come into contact with them. Someone out there please tell me there is a jolly little fish who lives off them, cutting a swathe through their ranks every time they come across a school?

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