Wednesday 13 November 2013

All @ Sea II - The Real Deal!

My favourite paddling weekend last year was the inaugural All @ Sea Weekend with the Sutherland Shire Canoe Club, essentially a sea-familiarisation weekend at Bundeena where we tried to help the club members with sea aspirations, to get out safely with their mates & experience the big, wide ocean.
It was a hoot, with laughs all weekend as we took most members from their first wet exit on the shore at Bonnie Vale to deep water rescues off Jibbon Head, over two committing days on the water.
This year, organiser Bob Turner had a more challenging goal and booked the camp ground at Currarong, and we basically aimed to take up where we left off and head straight out into the demanding waters of the Beecroft Peninsula.

Twenty paddlers hit the beach on the Saturday morning for what turned out to be the only calm-ish weather of the entire weekend, and in two groups we headed east.
A rolling Nor Easterly swell was being lifted by the complex undersea topography of the area & making a series of bomboras occasionally go off, but otherwise the windless skies just made everyone feel rather small. As an intro to what the sea can look like when it's being lifted by a swell with some length to it, the intimidation factor was almost as elevated as the waves hitting the bombies.

Back safely inside Currarong Creek we then spent the arvo getting wet, practising rescues, edging, turning, with a few even having a crack at rolling. It was great fun, with an infectiously enthusiastic bunch of mates with a tremendous group attitude to having a go & egging each other on.
The feature of Saturday night's entertainment was a series of ten minute presentations by members on subjects as diverse as a paddling/road trip to Queensland, some ridiculous NZ whitewater action (which explains much of Steve Dawson's behaviour), and the iconic Murray Marathon. A few bottles of red washed down a superb seafood spread put on by Zac's, the omnipotent Currarong eatery, and merriment ensued well into the early hours, as a big southerly weather system wrought winds & driving rain outside. As you can see from the pic below, it was cold enough for the hard men of the club to reach for their blankies...

Unsurprisingly given the drastic turn in the weather overnight, there were fewer paddlers up for the Sunday trip, which we decided would be a tight coastal hug in the lee of the land, out to the headland where the southerly winds would rapidly make things more interesting. We beachcombed all the way along the picturesque coast to Little Beecroft Head, at which point the sea took over as our instructor. The group paddled into some steep & bouncy seas for a few minutes, getting a taste of just how mighty it can be 'outside', before we ducked back into Abraham's Bosom to regroup. It was challenging, once again very intimidating, but everyone relished the exposure.
Sunday Action.
I particularly enjoy the atmosphere around the Sutherland Club, they all know each other well enough to laugh along together in the wet & dry moments that are inevitable on a weekend like this where so many boundaries are being pushed. The Saturday night was a screamer, in my opinion the sort of gathering that makes shared paddling experience such a joy.
Well done to all of the wide eyed folks who got out among the rolling apartment blocks off Beecroft, and thanks to Bob Turner for putting it all together. 

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