Friday, August 12, 2011

Burning calories

The tone of my last post may have led my readers to expect less of a hiatus between posts. A few things have kept me away from my boat. The most interesting was a trip to Malaysia - a wonderful place. I must admit that my primary reason for travelling there was the food - and I was not disappointed - but I loved the atmosphere, people and diversity. Undoubtedly food was my primary pleasure in Malaysia. Which leads me back to paddling. On my return, apart from my continuing enthusiasm for paddling the briny, I felt I needed to burn some calories. So I joined the West Coasters for the usual Sunday paddle from Torquay with Tina, John, Russell, Roger D, Dave and Tony.

After some dire predictions early in the week, the weather turned out perfectly. We found ourselves in the centre of a low pressure system, meaning very little wind. There was not too much swell - but some larger sets amongst them.

It was a nice opportunity to drop my grip from the paddle and get some photos of the cliffs we paddle along near Torquay.  Including a view of some enviably situated dwellings.

The surfing spots we passed on our way to Red Rock seemed a little quiet.
But there was enough swell to get the reefs working.

The weather gave me an opportunity to get a little closer to shore.

Yet by the time we had to land, it seemed (at least to me) that were some sizeable sets coming through. The beach at Red Rock appeared a little steeper than normal, and it was a little hard to judge the waves because they formed so close to the beach. But I let one wave pass under me close to shore and paddled in hard a little behind it, all working to plan.

Launching after lunch, things did not go so smoothly. I launched next to Tina and tried to get off the sand at the same time. Unfortunately, I was a little slow and watched a steep one form in front of me as I paddled hard to get over it. I was a little slow, and the wave was just beginning to break over me as I crested it. It knocked a bit out of me and my brace, and then my roll, failed. I had a short swim back to shore. After a little more floundering on shore, I made it out.

On the way back, Roger, a little further ahead and closer to shore, got picked off.

On the return through Point Danger, I hesitated whilst looking behind at one wave and then failed to brace. All part of the learning process. And hopefully the swimming resulted in a few more calories burned...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Paddling in winter

Acting on my resolve to paddle throughout the colder months, on Sunday I went for my first ocean paddle of the winter. I joined Tina, John, Dave, Roger and Greg for a West Coast trip.

John, Dave and Greg heading to sea

The forecast was for inshore winds in the region of 17 knots dropping later in the day to below 10 knots.
Choppy wind waves off Ocean Grove

We launched on the Barwon River and headed for Point Lonsdale.

There was around a metre swell running, with the gusty wind creating a little chop over the top and providing a bit of a tail wind on the way there.

Wind over waves

By the time we got within sight of Point Lonsdale, the wind had dropped off

Point Lonsdale is just inside Port Phillip Heads. The Heads of course is a notoriously dangerous stretch of water for boats, but there is a gap in the reef off Point Lonsdale which permits a relatively smooth entrance in all but the biggest seas. On this occasion, the passage was fairly smooth, but with some gratifying turbulence and white water on the seaward side.
A smooth passage through the Heads

Tina appeared to choose a less smooth path through the Heads

Our lunch spot on rocks near the pier was nicer for the absence of people.

Landing for lunch - Point Neapean in the background

On the way back I dropped behind to venture a little closer to shore, allowing Tina and Dave to take the lead and enjoy the illusion of superior fitness.
Dave behaving very sensibly in a boat borrowed from Tina

I had a characteristic moment of un-coordination while playing in a small break at the mouth of the river on the way back and found myself upside down on an embarrassingly small wave. I didn’t think of much at the time but the need to roll up, and I managed it. But afterwards I reflected on just how little difference there is between a capsize in the warm waters of summer, and the frigid waters of winter. With all my practise falling in, there was no more than the usual sense of disappointment at having failed to brace effectively, then the concentration on trying to roll up again, with no mental energy to consider the rude shock of the cold water.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Glassy seas

It was a pleasure to resume Sunday paddling in Torquay this weekend.

The weather was perfect, with winds under 10 knots.

We launched at Fisho's a little earlier than usual.
Launching at Fisherman's Beach
On the way, John found some waves to surf at the reef break at Point Danger. I stayed out, but took some photos. Unfortunately, the flat light and distance caused the camera to struggle, as can be seen from this photo. This might have been the 'decisive moment' that photographers talk about, but marred by lack of focus. Even in this fuzzy form, it gives a sense of the dynamics and scale of the wave.
Take off - but sadly out of focus

And I got these photos as well. I am not sure that they are all from the same run, but they could be.

John makes it look easy.

There were many surfers out enjoying the clean swells, including at Bells Beach.

Heading back from Point Addis
We landed at Point Addis for an early lunch.

On past trips, we have always headed past Point Addis to Red Rock - which would have been more exposed this day.

On the trip back, we went inside Jarosite reef. It was exciting to watch the waves pick up, then expend themselves on the reef before passing calmly in the deep water under the boat.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

VSKC Skills Day 15 May

Having neglected paddling for more than two months, I finally got back on the water on the 15th. West coasters Tony, Tina and John were running a skills session for VSKC. The weather obliged with winds under 10 knots, and there was a good turn out for the session.

Launching at Fisherman's beach, we headed around to the front beach to practise strokes.
Launching from Fisho's

In small groups we ran through sweep strokes. A small swell made for realistic conditions for this practice.

Sweep as!

I learned a neat new technique for sweeping into wind, involving a partial sweep while leaning forward or backward to change the boat's pivot point.

After some sweep strokes, beginners were given some bracing practice in the gentle waves of Fisho's beach.

After lunch, we surfed some small waves on the front beach.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Through the Heads

On another beautiful autumn day I joined John, Tina, Tony and Roger for a short paddle on the West Coast from Barwon Heads to Point Lonsdale and return.

We launched on the Eastern side of the Barwon River. Like much of the water around Melbourne recently, the Barwon was pouring unattractive brown water into the ocean.

The less than sparkling waters being poured out from the Barwon River
We had a moderate cross wind on the way to Point Lonsdale. At the Heads, we snuck through between a barely covered rock platform and a reef break. It was surprisingly flat.

We landed just short of the pier at Point Lonsdale. Roger and Tina practised an amphibious landing technique, somehow getting onto the back deck while afloat and pulling their legs out of the rather small Nadgee cockpit before paddling in with their legs out. Not trusting my ability to replicate this without capsizing, I practised an ordinary landing.

We ate an unhurried lunch next to the pier.

On the way back out of the Heads, the water was even flatter than on the way in.

Returning to Barwon Heads I thought I should venture a little closer to the surf zone. Initially I kept well out of the impact zone, enjoying the opportunity to bounce around and catch a little swell. Closer to Barwon Heads I made a proper effort to surf a wave. After a short run I exited early, but gracefully, I thought. I was then side on in the impact zone for the next wave. I braced into it and surfed in sideways, somewhat close to an unsuspecting family bathing inshore, but without injury to them. As the wave petered out, I fell over but managed a roll back up.

We landed at Barwon Heads and had a cup of tea at John and Tina's house.

Another pleasant West Coast paddle.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A trip to the Northern Prom

On the weekend of 26-27 February, I joined five other VSKCers for a trip to the Northern end of Wilsons Prom. The weather forecast was superb – no wind on the Saturday, increasing a little on the Sunday.
Shark sighted at Port Welshpool

As we launched from Port Welshpool on Saturday morning, the inlet was millpond calm.

Millpond conditions
The tide had started flowing out around an hour earlier and we enjoyed a very smooth, accelerated ride out of the inlet. GPS readings showed we averaged around 9 km per hour for the first couple of hours.
Doing 9 kmh

On the open ocean there was almost no swell.
Open ocean?

Bill emerges from the Whale Rock
Heading to Lighthouse Point

We stopped for lunch at Three Mile Beach.
Shark sighted at Three Mile Beach

From Three Mile we headed directly to Rabbit Island. This island is around 3 kms from the Promontory.
Rabbit Island

The circumnavigation of Rabbit Island was the undoubted highlight of the weekend. Paddling anti-clockwise we passed from the sandy beach of the Western shore of Rabbit Island to the rocky cliffs of Southern, Eastern and Northern shores of the Island.
All hands on cameras
Big cliff

Amongst the cliffs were some interesting caves.
Cave Man

Hamish heading towards the crack
And into the crack, in reverse

Interesting birdlife.
Cape Barren Geese domestic dispute
Shag on a rock

From Rabbit Island we headed back to the Prom and the diminutive Rabbit Rocks and to our campsite at Five Mile Beach.
Between a rock and a hard place
Landing at Five Mile

The campsite, which requires permits and is limited to 12 campers, was set amongst the trees. As we landed at low tide, there was a long carry to get our gear and boats to the campsite.
Some years ago I was moved to take up sea kayaking on a bushwalk around the Southern circuit of the Prom. It was a hot, uncomfortable walking trip. The sea was dead calm and I thought of how much easier it would be to be paddling instead of walking. I had been attracted to the idea of paddling for some time. On that walk Callum told me that it was possible to store a slab of beer in a sea kayak. I resolved to buy a boat.  Now, here I was paddling the Prom, drinking vino from Coonawarra and congratulating myself on my choice.
Refreshment stop

The next morning we were spared the long carry of the previous afternoon. The high tide brought enough water up the creek to allow a comfortable launch from the creek.
Creek boating

We headed back up the Prom, stopping for a brief look at Johnny Souey Cove, a campsite favoured by paddlers for its more sheltered shoreline, but presently closed to campers due to the discovery of extensive middens after the recent bushfire.
Johnny Souey Cove

The wind picked up a little on the trip North. I broke out my homemade sail for a little assistance.
We are sailing

We paddled into Corner Inlet while the tide was still flowing out and had an early lunch at Biddy’s Cove. Small crabs crawled all over the sand exposed by the low tide.
Soft shell crabs

The tide was not due to turn until 2.30, so rather than wait we headed back to Welshpool on the last of the ebb tide. Once we got to the point of turning East there was a reasonable Westerly blowing and those of us who had sails were able to hoist them for an effortless ride back to the cars.
Tacking the briny

A great weekend. Thanks to Raia for organising and leading the trip.