Which kayak trips do you remember most? The very rare days when there’s no wind and low swell, absolutely! Or are they the trips where the conditions challenge and extend you beyond your comfort zone? These are the days when your toolbox is fully open and you frantically try to remember all you’ve been taught. Sure we remember all our trips but to arrive back exhausted and smiling is very gratifying! You’ve climbed another hurdle and have more confidence in what you are able to do after one of those days. Harry’s “Trip with Scenarios” was one of those trips.
Dark skies and thunder greeted us on our arrival at Wattamolla Beach on Sunday 21 February 2016.
The forecast for Sunday was cloudy with winds 10 to 15 knots, first swell south easterly 1.5m and second swell easterly 1m. The growling overhead and dark skies caused the team some concern.
Harry was our captain, Caoimhin was his right-hand man, Nick, Ken, Marty, Mark, Roy and I completed the group.
After we carried the kayaks to the beach Harry briefed us on what his plan was and if we had any concerns for the day. Nick mentioned the thunder which was persisting. Everyone was watching the dark sky, following the storm’s progress. It had dissipated by the time we were ready to launch.
With a pounding heart I launched into the little surf and paddled around the clapotis caused by the reefs.
Once we were clear of the headlands we paddled south into a 10 knot wind. Harry nominated a leader and overseer for each of the two teams. We were given various scenarios.
Roy capsized and I had to rescue him.
Next Harry wanted me to capsize and push my boat away.
Initially Roy got to me too quickly so Harry asked me to paddle away again while he physically held Roy back. We had a run away kayak and a swimmer.
Nick had to coordinate the rescue. He asked me to straddle his boat’s bow while he paddled to Roy who was chasing my kayak.
I enjoy new skills and the opportunity to be taught by experienced leaders.
We climbed the approaching 2 m swell as we paddled further south.
After a break, on shore at Wattamolla, Harry gave us two options. The first was 8kms south in lumpy seas or 4kms north in the same conditions. We chose the latter and launched into the surf and through the backwash.
With the wind and a following sea we flew to Little Marley for lunch.
After lunch the sea was getting increasingly lumpy and the trip back into a headwind was challenging. Caoimhin sidled up to me and told me “you’re feeling sea sick”. Nick instructed Roy to tow. I was “overcome by an intense bout of sea sickness” and capsized. Roy continued to “tow, tow my boat lumpily down the sea”. He heard “you’ve got no passenger mate”. Nick rescued me after Roy returned my kayak. Roy said he felt a bit of a funny jerk and thought it was nothing and merrily paddled on.
Harry’s group, Mark, Marty & Ken did a similar exercise. Marty was towing Ken who was “sea sick”. Woops, Ken’s sickness got too much and he capsized! Oh no while Ken was in the water Marty capsized. That was the scenario for Mark to get the two kayakers safely into their boats and on their way. What do you think would be the best way to execute the rescue of two swimmers?
Harry had another surprise! I was released from the torment. Each kayaker had to paddle backwards using sweep strokes on one side only. The aim was to navigate around Harry and myself, drifting targets. It was done both clockwise and anti-clockwise in rough conditions.
Harry’s comments and chuckles about what the group were doing were funny. Everyone was cheating. After discussing the exercise with Roy he realised he left his skeg down. That’s why he was getting nowhere fast.
Lastly we had to get back under a threatening sky. Heads down and paddles churning we punched into the wind and swell.
The wind spun my kayak off course and I was endlessly having to turn back into the wind. Instinctively I gripped my thigh braces. That caused my quads to ache, my back to tense and I tired trying to hold on. When I relaxed my paddling went smoother.
About 1km from Wattamolla I was tiring. It was better to ask for help rather than struggle on. Part way through the tow Roy’s rope unclipped and I was on my own again. We were nearly into the sheltered bay beyond the cliffs. Before we landed I flipped a nasty, stinging blue bottle onto my neck.
The trip gave both Roy and me much more confidence in our abilities paddling in rough conditions. I mastered new skills and feel a great sense of accomplishment after an eventful trip.
Thanks to Harry and Caoimhin for an extremely well planned trip, Thanks also to Nick for paddling alongside me giving me encouragement. Always a big thanks to Roy for directing and watching out for me. I’m looking forward to another adventure.
Click here to link to the video on Dropbox, then download a high resolution copy:
If you are interested in rescues and would like to see the third rescue at normal speed , here is the link to download the high resolution video: