Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sea Skills. Port Stephens

As last week progressed and the forecasts for strong offshore winds became more strident it also became obvious to all concerned that Broughton Island was not going to be a suitable destination for Sea Skills Assessments.
Karen Dallas from the Skee Kayak Centre had been tracking forecast trends and liasing with the Port Stephens VMR to produce a viable floatplan that kept us near shore and with accessible bail out points if the winds strengthened ahead of the forecast.

After logging on with the Coastal Patrol, Karen went through the safety briefing and finished with a reminder about surf signals and ettiquette.
I first met Karen and her Coffs Harbour sea kayak group a couple of years ago and was immediately impressed with their positive attitude to surf, which is just as well, because up around "Coffs" you run out of options if you don't develop the skills to handle beach landings.

Above: Shane and Mick demonstrate good form catching small waves. This session lasted about an hour during which time the whole crew put on a good display while we worked towards the bigger end of the beach. There was a number of rolls but no swimmers. Well done guys!

Regular practice even in small surf really sharpens up bracing and edge control and it was refreshing to see a group with none of the "surf phobia" I often see with Sydney paddlers. Those quiet North Coast beaches seem to provide a great training ground and with Karen as a leader and mentor these kayakers are learning fast.
We reluctantly left the surf looking for new assessment challenges. Here Terry leads the way as we follow the Tomaree headland out of the breeze.

(above) We decide to try out a few rescues out of the wind. Then we added a little more exposure and a sense of urgency courtesy of an "unexpected" capsize close to the rocks.(below)
Deck carries, swimmer rescues and all sorts of variations were demonstrated in all sorts of conditions throughtout the weekend.

(below) A series of huge sea caves provided some shelter and a chance to practice turning and manouvering in a dramatic setting.

Below: The sea skilled team - Terry, Karen (Sea Leader), Peter, Shane and Mick.

Special thanks to Karen for excellent organisational skills on and off the water. You can see her below taking a rare break to explore a short cut while I keep an eye on things. Even Leaders need a break sometimes!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

NSWSKC at the Royal National Park.

The lure of a paddle along the cliffs to Little Marley was only part of the reason we assembled at Bonnie Vale last Sunday.
For Adrian it was a chance to practice his instructing skills and pick up a few tricks of the trade.
For some of the group it was a last minute practice before upcoming sea skills assessments.
For Cathy, a first paddle on the sea.
And for everyone a chance to apply their skills to the open waters of the "Royal Coast".

We kicked off the day with a paddling workshop. Sharon showed us how to do it and Adrian added a detailed commentary before we headed off ,eager to put theory into practice.
We offered corrections on posture, hand position and general fwd technique before leaving the shelter of Port Hacking.
Once we turned the corner at Jibbon Point it became abvious that everyone would get to test the efficiency of their stroke punching into the steady 8-12knot headwind.
I also realised some towing practice would be necessary if we were to get to Little Marley for lunch.

Above you can see the adventurous Cathie on her first paddle on the sea. She chose a good day with just enough wave action to "keep it real"

We land at 1.00pm due to the headwinds and a leisurely start. An easy landing and smiles all round with the promise of lunch in the sun.

(above) After lunch, Adrian and Sharon paddling past the disinctive peaked dune that rises out of the Lagoon behind Big Marley.

On the way home Jan decided the rebound off the cliffs would provide a great opportunity for her to try a re-enter and roll. ( I may have given a little bit of encouragement)
Ian is holding station nearby just in case she needs help.

Success! Jan rolls and Ian rafts up while she attaches the spray deck and has a break.

With the sun about to dissappear behind the cliffs we decide everyone is wet enough and tired enough to head back to the calmer, busier waters of the bay.
Thanks to all who paddled for working as a team to make this a safe and friendly day and to Sharon and Adrian for Sharing their skills and knowledge.