Monday, 23 July 2012

Blowin' in the Wind

We had planned a relaxed afternoon in the winter sunshine down at Yarra Bay, tucked into a protected corner of Sydney's Botany Bay, where we were hoping to have a casual session of ad hoc instructing, and also providing the opportunity for people to try out some of our boats.
A strong wind warning forecast turned it into something entirely different but at least it gave a few paddlers the chance to find out what our boats really can do!
Bill had driven down from the mountains so it only seemed fair to give him a crack in the Nordkapp LV despite some pretty hefty winds & chop blowing into the bay. Without much paddling experience under his belt, he saddled up & paddled with me across the conditions, a nasty little rapid fire, meter high chop with a solid 20+ knots pushing abeam. 
For a boat some consider demanding, Bill was riding the mess like a pro, until the instructor alongside pushed him a bridge too far on an edge & he took an unplanned swim. With the break wall of the port extension a couple of hundred metres away downwind and, well, breaking hard against the wall, I thought it prudent to hook up a contact tow while we worked out a way to get Bill's paddle back.
Bill cutting across the wind
Bill did a great job holding the bow of his flooded Nordkapp hard against by bow while I paddled the two boats together the twenty or so metres to fetch his wayward paddle. With the cockpit completely flooded - I'd deliberately left the deck off during the tow - Bill then resumed paddling away from the break wall to give us some seaway to do a proper empty & get back underway. 
I figured a flooded cockpit is always going to be more stable than a half-flooded cockpit, and so it proved as again Bill showed some natural paddling grace to run a few hundred metres out into the bay. I got him to capsize again once satisfied that we had space & time to do an empty & rescue, emptied his boat using the excellent capsize empty technique & had him back in, deck sealed & off again in about a minute.
Bill then got a crash course in running a short, steep following sea & ran the 1500metres or so back to the beach with great aplomb. He swapped into the Etain 17'5 and immediately recognised the more predictable stability that this boat offers, but in the final wash-up preferred the elegance & responsiveness of the Nordkapp LV. He certainly wasn't left wondering about the rough water capabilities of the design!
Rob had been out in the morning with Gary Forrest & Matt Bezzina & a club group in some lively conditions off Malabar.
Megan running into the conditions (note how far Rob is above Megan in taking the pic!)
Gary Forrest
Gary going down, Roger going up.

After the ocean paddle in the morning, Rob came down to the bay & took Caoimhin out for a crack in the chop as well, giving him a pointed lesson in running a following sea, something the wind-fired sea state was tailor made to provide.
Stephan accepted my challenge to come out in the Taran and proceeded to leave smoke on the water. A bit wary at first in conditions that couldn't be described as easy, he got the hang of the planing hull & was soon cracking long rides down sea. I was trying to foot it with him in the Etain 17'5 but was no chance.

He came back all smiles, described it as FUN, in big letters.
Once the boats were packed we headed across to the Coast Golf Club for the NSWSKC AGM, which was blissfully brief, to the point, & offered more time for catching up with old mates than debating the hard issues of sea kayaking. Rob & I then presented a slide show of our North Reef Expedition, now a mournful memory of almost exactly a year's passing, and then Stephan presented a great pictorial of his 3 week trip in the wilds of Canada.
It's pleasing to see the renewed emphasis on social events in the sea kayak club, their meetings & weekends are great fun.


  1. Hey Mark,
    Interesting story of your rescue. Why didn't you just pump out the boat if it was flooded?

  2. G'day JK,
    A couple of reasons.
    First, I only had a hand pump on me, and we had maybe 2 minutes until we would have been dangerously close to the breakwall, which wasn't a safe enough time period for me.
    Secondly, with the diminishing seaway foremost in my mind, I figured it was better to get Bill back into the boat flooded & therefore quite stable, & get him to paddle himself clear of the potential hazard. Even when we'd gotten well clear, I still didn't want to waste time with the hand pump when a boat empty is so fast reliable, even in the sh*tty water we were paddling.
    Rob has made me aware of the dangers of a diminishing seaway over the years. A few times I've seen him steer a group clear of a cliff to leeward that I've been hanging out to get in close to & play around. The truth is, if something goes wrong & you're in that tight, everything has to go perfect in the rescue or you'll have an impact zone to contend with as well.
    Always learning!

  3. Hi, this is Bill, as in the novice paddler rescued by Mark last Saturday. I just want to acknowledge Mark's professionalism. Mark's calm command of the situation gave me confidence and surprisingly I remained relatively calm through the whole adventure. I could see Mark weighing up our options and all I had to do was follow his clear instructions. It was valuable experience and made me realise a few things; 1) being able to Greenland roll would be useful! 2) learning correct rescue procedures would be essential before heading out in the ocean, 3) while I love the lively feel of the Nordkapp LV I have a lot to learn about paddling and steering this beauty.

    So... Mark a BIG THANK YOU for rescuing me! It was a novel way to sell a kayak, but I think it worked!


  4. Good on you Bill, despite the tumble you proved you're a calm head in a crisis. It's always good to find out the worst thing that can happen early on eh? You realize pretty quick that the worst thing ain't that big a deal. As for the sales tactic, I was considering letting you drift towards the wall until you agreed to buy the boat, but my good half got the better of me.


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