Monday, 24 March 2014

Fishing in the blue cave

I lead this trip the last day of RnR. I was leading Selim and Vincent. We went into many crevasses, over some rocks and some caves... One of the caves was reckoning moment for Selim.
We got to the 'blue cave' and there was a big group out of the entrance. Only their guides were entering the cave, I am not sure why. I asked my 2 guys to wait well out of the rocky coast while I went in to check how 'easy' or not was inside. When I came out Vincent decided to pass this one and Selim went in with one of the guides from the other group. When the other guide came out, Selim was still inside. I positioned myself close to the entrance to try to record him coming out and to monitor his state when a bigger set rolled in.
I screamed 'Wave' and then I just saw the wave smashing the entrance to the cave. When I finally could spy over the white water and spray, I could only see a boat... but no paddler on or around it. I put my camera away in my pocket without turning it off and went in to fish Selim. It was all saved for posterity. The Nikon in my pocket saved the audio while the gopro on the back of the kayak saved the image of what was Selim grand moment. Enjoy it, or suffer it :-)
My wife thinks I exaggerated a bit with the music. What do you think?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Tollgates Islands and Rock and Roll

There is these beautiful islands. You are not supposed to land there. There is no fishermen hut or any sign of human contamination. They are close to shore, less than 5 km, and very exposed to the swell. There are plenty of rock formations around and inside the islands that make the place a treasure for paddlers and paradise for those like me that like to play among rocks.

Wade about to run dry.
Last October I went there with Matt. We had envisioned to do a week long paddle on the area. However when the date arrived he was busy with work and me in bad terms with my boss so the week long was reduced to 4 days... But what 4 days!!!  
Lots of fun around.
We were invited to stay with Neil 'honey' at his home in Long Beach. He is a nice guy but 'honey' is not from that. He has some bee hives and produces yummy honey, if you are in the area make sure you get some :-)  
Mr Honey in his boat
Anyway, we slept at his place and went paddling the 4 days around the area. A good deal of that time around and inside the Tollgate Islands. We also managed to do some downwind paddle and one of the days there was a club paddle to the Tollgates which we also joined. The last night we declined the luxury accommodations offered by Neil we decided to camp in the national park, we are hard men of the wild after all :-) or that is what our wives think. We should have stayed with Neil because between both of us we came back with 5 ticks stuck inside our bodies.
Paddling inside the islands

And around the islands

Sometimes I run aground.
In the club paddle a guy came and almost drawn while practicing roll, right Joel?
Some of the locals came to check the visitors
We had lots of fun. We were recording all our movements in video while pocking into and sometimes against some of the rocks, I compiled it and didn't publish it until a week ago. I saved for the RnR film festival which was to be held in that same area.
I am happy to report I won the film competition although I think Marks film about his passion for budgie smugglers should have taken 1st place. He came 2nd though. Thanks Matt for being the cameraman for the video and lending me some of the photos above.

The Rock and Roll weekend, or RnR, is the premier event for sea kayaking in New South Wales. Paddling, honing skills, socialising, presentations and lots of fun. During RnR there were plenty of kayaks going to the Tollgate islands. Some like Josh posted his videos. After watching some of them I think I won not due to my editing skills but because of the islands. It is a magical place.

This year I volunteered as training coordinator for the club. Because of that during the RnR I was a bit busier than other years when off the water coordinating on water training. That made the weekend go away too quickly :-). I am also trying to become a sea kayak instructor so I helped running a couple of instruction sessions during the weekend.
One was helping Nick with a session called 'pushing it in the surf'. We had to drive a bit of distance to find some surf. However, despite calm forecast, we managed to have a good session in 'smallish' waves. The smaller size of the waves allowed the participant to focus more on the technique rather than the anxiety that is normal when you are about to be run by a wave. However the smaller size didn't give the participants the opportunity to overcome that anxiety that inhibits you sometimes when confronted with bigger surf. No matter how small the surf was, we all enjoyed the 'play' time and there were plenty of rolls, even a few swims. It is not that easy to stay upright when trying to surf backwards.
The next day I run a training session helped by Eddie. We focused on advanced rescues. It was lots of fun as we simulated situations for rescues close and sometimes among rocks. In one of those I was being rescued and it was going too smoothly. I decided to add some spice so I started screaming like I was being eaten by a shark. The guys were not sure what to do. I kept screaming until I told them my shoulder hurt. They eventually put me back in my boat. Later, during the debrief, someone said he was very anxious on that particular rescue due to my screaming and not being completely sure if it was for real or not.
The last day I run a trip to the islands. I stipulated you could only come with me if you were ready to scratch your boat. Only 2 participants came but that was good. We could become very intimate with the island and not many scratches were found on the plastic hulls.

Selim testing how hard the rocks can be
Vincent is decapitated by the water hole
Video of that day is being cooked. I hope I can maintain the standard of the previous one :-). Below is sequence of stills from the recorded clips of the day.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

SW Tassie Epilogue and video

I didn't mean it but it was perceived darker than I intended and worst than I felt it. I am talking about my recount of my adventure on the South west of Tasmania.
After I wrote the blog many people told me how dark it seemed and how bad was my experience. I reread the text a few times and I still don't find it so bad. However communications is as much about the received message as the sent one. It was a hard trip and after many hours of paddling my feeling was more of relief of having finished for the day than of fulfilment for having completed the leg. However it was a rewarding experience and I am richer for it. I will try to lift a bit that obscure aura from my previous writing.

The area we went to is beautiful, Matt said many times he felt paddling inside a picture and it really was like that. Amazing coastline, many albatross flying by, islands and beaches that looked like nobody before you had ever stepped on.

Were we the first on this beach? Photo Adrian C
Rocks big as islands and flying fauna everywhere. Photo Adrian C
Almost every day I saw features that I felt to stop and play around. With Wade we dreamt of coming back on a mother ship. We would seal launch from it and go playing with the countless rocks, some big as islands. Paddling empty kayaks we could surf the surges around them. When we felt satisfied or the weather turned bad we would go back to the big ship and sail to harbour... That is what you think with so many hours of catch after exit after catch of the blade into the water.
We fulfilled some of those dreams. Wade came back on a sail ship. I went through some of those cracks and features.

There is light at the end and I don't think it is a train
We visited a seal colony and one jealous mother decided to visit me.
The wild life acting wild
Then there was the camping life. Talking about nothing or sometimes in silence. Sharing the camaraderie of like minded persons immersed in an activity we all enjoy.
We, almost all, laughed at the race someone in the group did as soon as he landed. Every time he would try to sprint the last few meters and get to dry land first. Unpack a couple of dry bags from the boat and claim the best spot to pitch his tent.
At cooking time we all had to stop talking when one of us was using his very antisocial cooking stove. It was like having a jet warming the engines in the campsite. We all, him included, laughed  when we had to halt our conversation every time he warmed some water.
Almost everyone had a nice compact chair to sit on. Stuart didn't have a chair but he had a piece of mattress. I was the only one with nothing at all to land my butts on. So whenever someone stood up I rushed to rest in his chair. All laughed at me hoping from spot to spot trying to rest my back.

It was a good trip, not the kind of trip I enjoy the most but something I am glad I did. In 2011 I spend a week of unsupported paddling and camping in the Keppel Islands. When I came back I told my wife I would not do something like that again. Almost 3 years later I put my name for this 'expedition'. When I came back I told my wife I will not do something like that again... Maybe in 3 years, who knows?

Enjoy the short video from images of the trip: