Sunday, July 31, 2011

North Reef Atoll

We arrive at North Reef with the last colours of dusk, the surf sounding ever more alarming as it works against the fringing reef. With a heavy break to starboard we probe the lee hoping dearly for a gap before we reach the waves that are wrapping around from the other side and obscuring our horizon to seaward. I take a mental snapshot of Chris just outside the impact zone slipping off a large hollow wave that is about to wash through sharp tendrils of coral.

Smiles all round as a clear lead opens up, there is the occasional convergence of waves reunited after travelling the island perimeter from opposite directions but they have spent most of their energy in the process and collide without force. Our boats grind up onto the beach under the darkest of starlit skies.

North Reef ; the namesake of our mini expedition and a convenient turning point for the return to the mainland, is not even an island. Some historical photos show the light house completely surrounded by water with no land around it, others show terra firma but no vegetation and yet others show a very different landfall to the tiny vegetated haven I walk around at first light with camera in hand, trying hard to capture the essence of this wild and beautiful place.

On the south east shoreline, just above the high water mark I find a rusted cable and stout anchor post; evidence of a system of huge guy lines that helped steady the light tower during heavy weather when it sat totally exposed on the coral crest and I wonder how the men who worked on this lighthouse without families and friends felt about North Reef?

The historical record contains the sepia image of a weather beaten lighthouse keeper alongside the following inscription neatly carved in a plate of whalebone:

"North Reef Atoll

No beer Atoll

No Women Atoll

Nothing Atoll."

Was this all they felt for their place of voluntary exile? Or was their lonleliness tempered by moments of awe and feelings of inner quiet like those I enjoy on my morning exploration?

North Reef is nothing without the movement of the waves, the waves are its creator and its reason for being, the lighthouse an enduring signpost on the frontier between deep ocean and the vibrant life cycle of the inner reef.

For me "nothing atoll" is a place of energy and abundance, but then again, its easy for me to savour this idea as I pack my boat seeking another landfall before the next ebbing tide.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Confessions of a Bad Blogger

Reading through many other blogs I am fascinated by the level of self cosciousness and introspection required. It seems like the great skill in writing a blog is in writing a lot about very little and frankly when I sit down at the end of another day of rich and diverse paddling experiences I am overwhelmed; I simply dont know where to start and yet I feel that same urge that all bloggers possess - that desire to share something about myself with an often unknown audience.

Today was a wonderful day to be on the ocean, the sky was heavy with serious clouds and the swell had some real weight behind it, the ancient sandstone cliffs of Sydney framed the seascape and concealed the city from veiw creating an illusion of remoteness to add extra drama to the heaving sea. I have no images except those in my minds eye, the camera stayed in my pocket as an open water novice deserved my constant attention.

The last month has seen me often sit down to write a blog about the many and varied places have paddled and the people with whom I have shared the delights of kayaking on the sea, and yet the words never seem to do justice to what really happens.

There was a wonderfull long weekend on the North Coast running Kayak surfing workshops with fellow instructor Karen Dallas and the simple pleasure of watching the smile on paddlers faces when they found themselves carving and sliding on the perfect little waves of Arrawarra Headland.

The deep heavy troughs off Sydney heads with Matt, Shaan and Ian very focused, and cheers all round when Ian rolled saving a tricky rescue in conditions that Matt (a known rough water enthusiast) later rated among the biggest he had ever paddled.

Surfing sow and pigs reef in the middle of Sydney Harbour and watching a refracted swell steepen and obscure a passing manly ferry and the south head lighthouse before engulfing me in a wall of whitewater.

The personal challenge of Greenland rolling at the pool with "the splinter group" - improving my dexterity by solving three dimensional puzzles upside down, underwater and on one breath.

Idyllic calms off Little Beecroft with a group of NSWSKCs best leaders as we push home into the sunset after an afternoon of rescues in rock gardens and wave washed ravines.

Serious training for the North Reef Expedition and the comraderie of planning and preparation.

The many hours of coaching groups and individuals in waves and calms, surf and rocks, sharing the many facets of sea kayaking and respect for the sea.

Maybe one day I will spend less time on the water and more time in front of the computer perfecting my blogs, arranging images and writing in depth technical analysis but then again.........