Saturday, 25 January 2014

Pimp Naughty and sailing it

In my last post I introduced Naughty, an Ocean Rider kayak that Barnabas lent me. As I am going to paddle it for 2 weeks doing many km each day I wanted to customise it so I could 'wear' the kayak and feel comfortable in it.
The first things I did were easy minor cosmetics, like tethering hatch covers and adding handles. Then I added some protection to the battery in the day hatch. Unfortunately the battery is not inside a box but just exposed inside the dry day hatch. In case of flooding the battery will fry but if just dump gets inside the compartment, the contacts will hopefully survive now.
The kayak has a rudder and I always said that when I get a ruddered kayak I would install a tiller similar to what the K1 use to control the rudder. With a lot of help from Roger, an expert carpenter and handy man, we.... ahem, mostly he, installed the new system.

Roger doing final adjustment
The system presented
The hard part of the installation
New rudder control ready
Then we went for the weekend trial where the rudder system worked wonderfully. I could steer the boat and still apply my full pressure on the fixed footrest. Also during the weekend I found out that everyone else was going to carry a sail on the trip south of Tasmania. Barnabas' other boats have sails installed but not Naughty. With help from Matt... ahem, again mostly his handy work we installed all the fittings for the sail.
Matt doing the reinforcement
Making sure the fibber inside is well placed.
I had never sailed a single kayak before, just had a brief experience in a double once. The forecast for Saturday was strong wind warnings and swell of 3meters, both from the South. Matt made sure the sail was ready for the event and we organised cars at each end of the almost 35 km of coast we wanted to paddle/sail. We met with Wade and the three of us launched into the wind. I carried my GPS but had forgotten to replace the batteries so it didn't record anything and I can't say how fast we went with the sails up, but it was faster than just paddling and some of the waves were easier to ride with the extra push from the sail. For me it was not a relaxed paddle while the sail was up. The first time the boom (the horizontal tube on the sail) swapped from left to right because the wind was coming more from the left, the event got me by surprise and I almost went over. Similarly, when I was on the face of a big swell I was not sure what the kayak would do and had to paddle a bit more defensively than what I did later when I had to put the sail down. Definitively the kayak moves differently with the sail up and I have to get used to its new behaviour before I can relax and really enjoy the ride.
Sailing was good while it lasted
This is all the video I got from the paddle:

When we had covered about 10 km and my sail decided to swap again sides it went down. The clip that was holding it from that side had become loose and there was nothing holding the sail up. We rafted to see if there was something to do and decided to keep going to a protected beach to try to fix it. We kept riding the waves but without the aid from the sail. That was more of what I was used to and I really enjoyed the 3 or 4 meter waves when they rolled and became white water blown by the wind or being shot down these big faces to bury the bow in the trough in front.
By the end of the previous weekend long paddle I had felt my forearm a bit strange. On Monday my forearm was sore and I could not hold anything heavy with the right arm. I applied ice and by Wednesday I didn't have any discomfort. However, soon after I had to lower the sail my forearm started to feel funny again. With the big trip only 2 weeks away I didn't want to risk pushing the arm further. The pit stop to fix the sail become my exit for the day while Wade and Matt had a ball completing the route we had planned. I went on slower, without the 'hurry' to catch the waves and nurturing my arm. In front of me I saw a big brown 'thing' . Usually these brown 'things' are just drift wood and leaves but this time I discovered it was a turtle. Quickly got my camera out and shot a photo but in the hurry and excitement I didn't turn it on. When I realised and corrected the error the turtle had realised it was being watch and promptly dived. I just got this photo of it about to head for the deepness.
The quick shot before the turtle went down
That night with Barnabas help we fixed the sail and now instead of D shackles it uses small carabiners. We also replaced some bungees and lowered the electric pump that was a bit too high and left too much water inside the kayak. The only things left now are the camera mount and get my arm good, then we are ready for the long trip.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A long paddle in preparation for a longer one

There is this trip we are going in a few weeks. It is along the "most dangerous coast of Tasmania" according to some. The idea is to paddle long days... long days for me as I usually just go for a max of 20km of playful paddle and call it a day.

Anyway, as a preparation for the real trip and to get to know the others in the team better we did this weekend trip of almost 40km each day with the kayaks loaded as if we were going for the 2 weeks of the real trip. So I packed cloth for very cold nights although here it was reaching above 30 degrees. I packed food for 12 days, the winter sleeping bag and tent and all the other stuff you would take for an almost 2 weeks long unsupported paddle in a remote area and went away for a just 2 days.

We met Saturday morning at Currarong and my first panic attack started when I spread all the gear on the floor beside the kayak. I was almost shaking, with cold skin under the scorching sun while wondering how all ‘that’ would fit in. I was not taking my Aquanout that certainly would not have fitted all needed. Instead I borrowed a kayak from Barnabas’ fleet, an Ocean Rider named Naughty, don’t ask me why. He has lent me the kayak for the Tassie trip. Thank you Barnabas, some people think you are crazy in lending me a kayak but I will prove them wrong when I bring it back... does it need to be in 1 piece? Back at Currarong, I took a few deep breaths and after swearing for half an hour all the gear had been “swallowed” by the wide Naughty. It was easier than I suspected and Stuart has promised me that the panic attacks will become less severe as the trip progress.

The plan was to paddle around 40km but we shortened the route to avoid getting to the more populated area of Sussex. On the map it would be a bit over 30km but we explored so many inlets and caves that the GPS showed 39km paddled at the end of the day 1 and 38 for day 2.

The weekend before I had paddled 32km in my Aquanaut and by the end of it I was very tired. During that paddle, around the 25km mark, I landed on a beach because I needed to stretch my back. So I lied down on a rock and without realising I slept for 15 minutes. With that memory fresh I was a bit worried about paddling 40km but I am happy to report that I survived it pretty well on Saturday, except for my bottom. It was not the same on Sunday when Matt and I raced 3 times for a few km each time. The first 2 were on following seas and the last one was to the finish line on virtually flat water. I must disclose that he was paddling his Tiderace Pace 17 that is supposed to be one of the fastest sea kayaks around and I was riding Naughty. I will not disclose who won as to not embarrass him :-). However my hat is off to Stuart that in one of the following seas runs smoked us both by several boat lengths paddling his 15 years old Nadgee. I felt all that racing by the end of the day and on Monday I was a collection of sore muscles.
At this point I was with no sore muscles yet.

Matt and Adrian paddling along the coast

Matt going hard

Adrian is not left behind, tiny in front of him you can see Stuart

Stuart close to the movement

Stuarts head just under the wave
Stuart, Adrian and Fer going out from an inlet

Fer and Stuart rounding a corner
The coast we paddled is one of the nicest coasts I know, not that I know that many. It is along a navy firing range, not active when we were there, and a national park. There are not many places to land along the way and you are always between the ocean on one side and cliffs climbing around 100 meters on the other, except a stretch of 4 km of open crossing where we had our ‘races’. The ocean carved amazing features in the cliff face including caves and many rocky features. All the time I was tempted to take closer looks but I resisted to put the lent kayak on too much of a risk. However we did some investigative paddling and we went through a couple of tunnels carved inside the rock.
Exiting one of the many inlets
Start in the cave and Fer keeps an eye, or am I just waiting my turn?
Stuart, a happy chap
Matt in exploring mode
Adrian stirring his neck to see the top of the cliffs

Fer under some 'rain' from the top of the cliff

Playing in the inlets a big wave came, the adrenaline was pumping

Adrian and Stuart go to a kayakers' 'temple'

Inside the 'temple' Adrian is 'iluminated' by his god
Michael about to land on our idyllic campsite.

Along the way we visited 2 seal colonies and saw plenty of aquatic birds including eagles. On Saturday we were 'attacked' by a bunch of flying fish jumping off the water and above our heads in high. At one point I was paddling and one of the flying fish jumped in front of my kayak. I looked again and there was a shape under the place where the fish jumped from. As I approached I could see clearly the shape of a hammerhead shark. When I was almost on top of it I reacted and screamed "SHARK". It seems the sound of my call travelled under water because the shark started to swim very quickly and all the others could see was the fast disappearing fin. I was not quick enough to take the camera at that point but I did use it when later we saw a group of seals sleeping.
I was explained they sleep in group and with the fin in the air when the colony space on land is insuficient.
Almost on our return point a fisherman was trying to get his prey of the day without falling to the sea. I was waiting to see if he got tired and let got of the Marlin to take it to my dinner plate. In the end I had to conform with a fish burger in Currarong's burger shop.
The fish is dead but the fight goes on.
The weather was also amazing with warm temperatures both days, seas up to 2 meters and wind peaking on the low 20knots. We went south on Saturday and north on Sunday and the wind that blew south the first day turned 180 degrees to help us again on Sunday. What else can you ask of a weekend paddling?

Some photos were taken by Matt and others by me.