Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Watsons Bay to Bondi Beach Return

BOM forecast Southerly 20-30 KNOTS 2.5 to 3 Metre Swells. The Observations at Little Bay put the wind speed between 19 & 29 KNOTS so the forecast was spot on. Barnabas called me the night before to see if I was up for a paddle. "Of course I was". The problem was I had only ever paddled with Barnabas on the kayak clubs Tuesday night paddle and as that trip is so well managed I wasn't really sure if Barnabas was experienced enough to handle what I knew would be pretty wild conditions.

But with a beard like his I should have had no doubt that Barnabas would take the heaving seas in his stride - which he did! I was able to let rip with the sail as Barnabas seemed even more in control once he had his sail up and we both ripped up the coast at record speed. The pool of kayakers who enjoy a rough sea out and back sailing trip is getting a bit small so i'm glad I can now add Barnabas to the list of those that do!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Last week I took some stills for the NSWSKC training video. We had three of our instructors demonstrate how to get in and out of the surf with the action being photographed on shore by me and filmed by Mel Macpherson from the back of a jet ski. I enjoyed the opportunity to get some shots of the experts at work and can't wait to see Mel's footage. Unfortunatley the biggest wave of the day was had by Stuart before anyone was ready to shoot it!

Stuart Trueman

Owen Kimberley

Steve Bell - low brace on back of paddle

Mel filming Steve

Stuart showing off his finger puppet 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Cave

The coast south of Swansea is very different from around Sydney. There are quite a few inlets and a couple of magnificent caves. On this relatively calm day we decided to land in them.

Two Humpbacks & their calf ambled along with us. We ended up paddling ahead of them they were going so slow.

Dave & Campbell in a slot


Dave making a splash

Dave times it well


Why you should stay on the SEA SIDE of your boat if you stuff your roll and have to wet extit. Go to vimeo for a bigger version.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lost at Sea

Forecast was 25-35 Knots SW (Observations put the wind more at WSW 15 to 22 Knots, apart from North Head which was much stronger). The water temperature was around 17 degrees. This is my version of events and is the write up I submitted to The NSWSKC Magazine in the hope others can learn from our experience.

It is important to note that the forecast was so far outside club trip guidelines that any comparison or parallel to a club trip must be dismissed outright. This trip was in an entirely different category and in no way represents the activities of the NSWSKC as it had absolutely nothing in common with a club trip. We just happen to be club members but that's the only connection.

Mark, Andrew, Matt
We left Clontarf with the intention of using the strong Sou Westerly to paddle and sail to Pittwater, an open sea trip of about 40 km's. Still in the harbour I put up my sail and something failed so we pulled into Cobblers Beach where I used a spare hose clamp to affect a repair. As soon as we rounded North Head I was off, the wind being accelerated around the headland was very strong. A few minutes later I heard a whistle. Marks mast had bent badly. We rafted up and Andrew and I tried to bend it back into shape – it wasn’t going to happen and we discussed going into Shelly Beach for repairs. Mark decided against it and so we agreed to zig zag around him and wait for him periodically as we continued on towards our goal.

It was an excellent day for sailing. We were making good progress and really speeding along. The westerly gusts often had us out wide and after a run eastward I would battle across the wind westward and towards Marks line. We were always within site of one another and I commented to Andrew that we were probably each other’s biggest hazard out there as I often had to put in some big stern rudders to avoid colliding with him as I screamed down a wave behind him. I resolved to keep a bit more distance and give myself a clearer run.

At around 1330, the wind picked up, gusting from the west. I found myself having some exhilarating rides. I was really coming to terms with the boat now and this was the time to push it, to see how much I could control it, under sail in strong conditions. I was totally engaged, and although I knew I needed to head in soon I found it hard to resist staying with the waves and heading further out – I figured slogging back across later would be worth it for a bit more excitement, and after all, Mark had no sail so it would be fair on him too. I had a period of serious sailing, with the bow pearling and water spraying off the bow - I had my camera video rolling and have some spectacular clips. Racing yachts healing hard and flying towards me made for a formidable sight and I suspect fragmented our group even more as we each chose our own course clear of the oncoming behemoths. I headed out even further. Eventually I began heading west, expecting Mark to be over there and Andrew to be somewhere between us both or maybe even further in. I couldn’t see either of them. I put in and paddled across the wind, the sail losing much of its effect. I searched for Andrew behind me as with his sail and speed it was he who was the wild card. I knew Mark, the machine, would be to my left slugging away in a relatively straight line. Andrew could be anywhere, but as always, he should pop up soon. I paddled on anxious to regroup. I eventually spotted Mark, further ahead than where I had expected him to be and paddled hard to try and catch up. As he was still well west of my position, and with the wind coming from the WSW my sail didn’t give me as much help as I would have liked and I dug deep to try and intercept him, increasingly worried now that Andrew was not with him. I got to within a hundred metres or so and blew my whistle and yelled but on this rough and windy day Mark didn’t hear or see me and paddled on. I got my marine radio and called “Baidarka” which is Andrew’s call sign and after no response I tried calling Mark but he too had not turned on his VHF.

I laboured a 180 degree turn, took off my sun glasses and scanned the sea – the dread rose inside me as I came to the realisation that what I had been suspecting for the last five minutes or so was now a distinct reality – Andrew was lost, and it had been a long time since I’d last seen him. I made a frenzied attempt to paddle into the wind.

At 1413, I radioed Marine Rescue. In strong terms I relayed the situation and made it clear that there was a missing kayaker, probably in the water and that a call should be put out immediately to all boats in the area, especially those yachts that had recently passed us in a race. This call was made on CH 16 as much to go out to local traffic as to go to Marine Rescue. I paddled hard into the wind, making little progress and seeing nothing in my field of view. A call came through to me from the rescue vessel and I explained that as they head south from Barrenjoey Head they should come across two kayakers, if there is only one, as I suspected, the missing person is confirmed. They called me back soon afterwards and indicated that there was only one kayaker. I was now very worried, knowing that Andrew was indeed lost and probably in a perilous situation. Another call came through to me from Marine Rescue Vessel Cottage Point indicating that “a kayaker had been taken on board a yacht”. I was mightily relieved. They asked for my position and as I turned north I could see them stopped, probably next to Mark. My mobile rang, I dug it out of the day hatch and it was Rob Mercer, confirming that Andrew had been rescued by a yacht. Apparently Andrew had called Rob using one of the crew’s phones. With sail up I sped toward the rescue vessel and they confirmed that a kayaker had been picked up. They offered mark and I a tow but we politely refused. We saw a large shark off Barrenjoey but oddly enough we didn’t take much notice. The two of us then paddled back to our finish point within Pittwater. I logged Mark and me off with Marine Rescue Sydney at 1634.

As Rob had told me that Andrew called him I assumed Andrew had his phone (and boat) with him. We were shocked later when I again spoke to Rob, and learned that Andrew’s boat had been abandoned at sea.

Lessons learned (My perspective)

These are peer group paddles conducted completely informally and run in conditions exceeding what is generally accepted as safe conditions for sea kayaking. I have always seen these as being completely different from club paddles – I don’t anymore and will use what I have learned within the club for all my paddles, club or private. We have managed incidents on exactly the same route in even rougher conditions before and may have gotten a bit complacent. Andrew is a competent paddler and is generally looked upon as the one who is looking out for the group rather than the one to be watched – It is a mistake to think anyone is beyond needing help.

We carry a full suite of safety equipment. On this occasion we all had VHF radios, mobile phones, flares and PLB’s. We need to have a procedure put in place so that the minute anyone is out of sight VHF’s are turned on. This simple act could have alerted us to Andrew’s position, possibly with the help of a flare, and we could have dealt with the situation ourselves.
Sails can make boats move very fast in strong winds. Sails are supercharging the risks. Where normally group spread happens gradually and even predictably, sailing in strong following conditions can have kayaks move hundreds of metres apart in minutes. When one does capsize with a sail, self rescues are made much more complex. We will need to practice our self rescue procedures in the rough stuff, with the sails.

Andrew had his helmet cam going throughout his capsize and rescue. It is sobering viewing, watching a man struggle into hypothermia as he gallantly tries and fails over and over to re-enter his kayak. If it wasn’t for the yacht Andrew could have died. I am going to now adopt a strict 5 minute rule for all these situations:
1. Immediately on losing sight of a colleague out comes the VHF radio
2. If I can’t find my colleagues within 5 minutes I’ll call for help
3. If its me in the water, I’ll attempt to renter for 5 minutes or three times before I activate the VHF and call assistance from my fellow kayakers. Only once my position is relayed, possibly by flare, will I continue to attempt a self rescue
4. If the VHF fails, I’d use the mobile, if that failed I’d use a flare and finally the PLB followed by more flares
5. I’d only continue attempting self rescue once contact with colleagues, rescue agencies or other vessels were notified of my position or all efforts to contact them had been exhausted.
After watching Andrew’s struggle through his helmet cam, it becomes clear that the chances of successful self rescue will be diminished as time goes by. Its better to get the communications done early because as Andrews situation demonstrates, you might simply not have the presence of mind to even use your equipment if you struggle in the water for too long. If this sounds like overkill, you should see Andrews forty minute video!

PS Offshore winds continued for the next couple of weeks so the prospect of Andrews kayak washing ashore (at least in Australia) has become less likley.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Paying the price for a bad brace

Payng the price for a terrible high brace. Watching this its obvious that the blade should have been dug in much lower. The look away from the wave was to get a breath for what I knew would be a trashing!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Ultimate Sea Kayak Trip

Stuart Trueman has today kayaked into Broome, completing his circumnavigation of Australia. It is an absolutley amazing feat. Congratulations Stuart!

Here are a couple of media interviews by ABC and Channel 7

Stuart Trueman has circumnavigated Australia in his sea kayak

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kayaker takes out stand up paddleboard

Enjoying good conditions on the bar
until a collision with a Stand Up Paddle Board
Kayak 1, SUP 0 (nobody hurt)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

St George Head Circumnavigation

Seven of us enjoyed a great paddle out through Jervis Bay around St George Head finishing with an up current slug up Sussex Inlet and accross St George Basin to Erowal Bay.

St George Head Circumnavigation from Matt Bezzina on Vimeo.

Ian Vaile got some pics and video as well.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Recent Pics

  Claudia takes her new Nadgee Bombora on its maiden voyage
 Cathy & Ian with their sticks
 Sea guide training with Rob
 keeping the training real - in this slot we paired up, both paddlers capsize and wet exit, rescuer re enters and rolls using half a spare paddle, throws a tow line to the other paddler and tows him and his boat over a couple of rocks and out of the slot.

 The NSWSKC Rock'n'Roll Weekend

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In the rough - Clontarf to Pittwater in a Howling Southerly

Mark Schroeder, Andrew Eddy, Ian Vaile and me decided we would test ourselves in big seas.

Forecast winds were 20-30 Knots Southerly with 2-3 metre seas and a 2-3 metre Southerly swell.

That forecast defintiely got my attention but it wasn't until we rounded South Head after starting at Clontarf that the conditions really hit us.

Observations obtained later put winds at 30+ knots gusting to 45 and wave heights during the time we were out peaked at a whopping 7.2 metres! It looks like the wave rider buoy got knocked out itself around midnight.

I told myself more than once during the day to stop looking behind as it was simply scary to see such big swells baring down on us, especially since the tops were sometimes breaking away.

We tried to sail but three out of the four sails got damaged. Ian's mast step snapped away from the tiller extension arm. Mark's has a plastic ring which connects the stays and it got stretched and slipped down and my mast bent like a banana. At least mine still worked though and had me not too far behind Andrew Eddy who is a very experienced sailor and has a demonstrably bomb proof set up.

Due to Marks broken rudder cable (broke where some webbing was riveted to the peddle)and Ians damaged mast we pulled into Collaroy where it was decided that only Andrew and I would continue around into Pittwater as planned.

We all decided there is no place for rivets on sea kayaks.

On route, we paddled past a massive old seal just wallowing in the rough as if he was sleeping on a water bed! Unfortuntley I simply couldn't get my hands off the paddle for a shot.

Andrew and I made it back to our car after 43km which took us 5 hours on the water, partly due to rescues, repairs and detours.

Shaan Gresser and Paul Layton set off from Shelly a couple of hours before us and dealt with a number of capsizes before hitting Palm Beach in 4 hours.

Here are a few scenes from what was probably the roughest sustained paddle I've done to date.

In The Rough from Matt Bezzina on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Night

Here are a few scenes from a typical paddle from a couple of weeks back in fairly bouncy North Easterly conditions. Unfortunatley I didn't get any footage of the biggest shark I've ever seen near North Head.

Tuesday Night Paddle from Matt Bezzina on Vimeo.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beecroft Peninsular - Circumnavigation

Mark & Andrew

Bill - had a "BIG" day!

Rob - rounding Pt Perpendicular
Blusterly conditions made for an exciting day. Big long period swells and ENE winds meant we needed to stay well off shore to allow for a margin of error should any incident result in us being blown up against the cliffs - not a good place to be on this day.

We stopped at Boat Harbour for lunch before giving a couple of members an out at Honeymoon Bay. Four of us continued up a rapidly emptying Currambene Creek which was teeming with fish, rays and sea slugs. A small shark and juvenille sea turtle were spotted. After the portage we were fully engaged in an adrenalin pumping surf launch. We all got out unscathed and finished off the circumnavigation with perfect weather and a dolphin escort back to our starting point.

Blusterly Conditions off Beecroft Peninsular from Matt Bezzina on Vimeo.

Team: Mark, Bill, George, Rob, Matt & Andrew.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

West Coast of Tassie

Keith Oakford, Harry Havu, Guy Reeve and John Wilde have completed a trip from Devonport to Cockle Creek which takes in approximatley half of Tasmania - the wild half that is.

Keith describes the trip:

Well Harry and I are back at work, Guys is looking for a new job and John, well the bugger is off to India in the next few weeks so we won't mention him. (At least this time he is taking his wife)
The Trip was everything we had imagined and then some, the coast along from Devonport to Woolnorth (NW Cape) is a mix of beaches and low hills with green trees and shrubs, The headland called the Nut was spectacular as the top was covered in a low cloud, giving it an eerie look, Robins Island and Mosquito inlet would have to have been the highlight. Turning the corner and heading down the west coast mother nature let us know who was the boss and showed us what we could expect, about 15km out of Marrawah we were hit by a STH Westerly change that brought winds to 25knts gusting to 30knts and bloody heavy rain, we must have looked like bloody idiots to those on the beach when we eventually landed.
The west Coast of Tasmania is something to be seen, the coast is consistently changing from low sandy beaches to low rocky foreshores to high sand hills and even higher granite cliffs, some covered with the hardest salt bush in the world, in the back ground you have various ranges and mountains that range from a deep green or blue in colour and are consistently covered with a moving low cloud, it is always raining somewhere, the beauty of this was that the sun would break through every now and then and give us a fantastic range of colours and shades that highlighted the surrounding landscape. Of note was the lack of bird life the further south we travelled, guess even the Sea Gulls, Shearwaters and Albatross have more sense than us.
It was tough but enjoyable paddling most days with various strength headwinds, some rather large swells and seas and rain squalls, one day in particular we paddled for 8 and a half hours with no land in site due to a heavy sea fog that greeted us after a 4am start, good management and navigation saw us paddle out of the fog with the entrance to Macquarie Harbour right where it was supposed to be, I must say that we all let out a sigh of relief, although none would admit it while we were there. The size and power of the swells along this coast are something you have to experience to understand, you have this ground swell with wave periods of 15 to 20 seconds moving mountains of green, blue or grey towards the shore, there are rocky shelfs (bommies) scattered everywhere that force the larger ones to break, this forced all of us too, at some times mutter a few expletives, turn our kayaks and paddle like there was no tomorrow. Oh and don't forget the 2 to 4 meters of seas and the consistent rebound that on top of the swell that at times raised our heart rates.
The camp sites we found were varied from sandy beaches to moss covered river banks to bunkering down under the trees at Port Davy, it was in Spain Bay (Port Davy) that we saw wind gusts picking up sheets of water off the surface of the Bay and hurling it meters into the air, each site allowed us to experience another part of this coast, we walked the beaches and surrounding hills, we swam in the creeks and rivers, we drank the water from the creeks and rivers,(you do get to like the taste of Tanning water) we saw some of the wild life that dares to make it home in this bountiful but inhospitable palace and we did our best to leave only foot prints. The South Coast saw even higher granite cliffs from the water to the sky; each bay we paddled past was surrounded by high peaks covered in low cloud with deep rich green valley's running down to the ocean, water falls were numerous and provided us with the chance to get some clear sweet water.
We didn't quite make Hobart the weather and time conspired against us, Cockle Creek was always an option and given the nature of the West and South Coast of Tassie we were blessed to make it there as we did, still it does allow for another trip?????????????
To the Buff boys
A trip like this takes some planning and this one went off as planned, we had some gear failures (all of which were managed with spares etc), we had wind and rain, we were cold and wet, we saw some amazing places and sites, all our landings except Rocky Boat Harbour were as planned, everyone was consistently on the lookout for each other, the day to day decisions were made with a minimum of fuss and were centred around the group dynamics and not on individual wants. Thanks for being there and being you.
To the People we met along the way and to those that supported us with the logistics (Christian, John and Sarah + Family, Brett and Chris, + Family, Keith and Lisa + Family, Richard, Ian, Mick, Brian, Gas, Nigel, Laurie and
A big thank you for being part of our trip, your friendship and support helped make the trip what it was. If you are ever in Sydney please do not hesitate to call or drop me an e-mail, there will always be a warm bed a clean shower and plenty of food and drink on tap. We are planning to put some of the better photos together and to write up a full trip report for our Clubs magazine, as promised we will be in touch and get you all copies.
To my long suffering wife
I thank you most of all, your support and belief in me allowed me to do these still things, one day I will find a way to pay you back at least in some small way.

Congratulations on another notable kayaking achievment. Its the prospect of trips like this that keep all the regular paddling real for the rest of us.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shaan Crosses Bass Strait Solo

Shaan Gresser has completed a Solo crossing of Bass Strait. Although a great feat in itself theres a lot more to it than just the crossing. Bass Strait doesn't give itself up easily to a kayaker and Shaan's crossing was no exception. 19 days it took her and this I believe was her second attempt this year after being thwarted by weather earlier. Shaan also came back from a kayaking related shoulder dislocation last year. With guts and tenacity like Shaan's it was only a matter of time before she bagged the Bass and became the first girl to do so solo.

Congratulations Shaan - Your an inspiration!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Urban Epic III

There were Six of us up for the latest Urban Epic Club trip. We again had a grey day only this time with the added bonus of strong Southerlies and a livley sea. Both me and Garry were in unfamiliar boats and as both of us have come from the rock steady reliability of Mirages we found staying on course a bit of a handfull (and upright in some instances - Garry got to do a couple of rolls in anger). George's shark sighting and resultant yells helped I'm sure. I'm hoping that improved skill and getting used to our boats will overcome these issues for us. While some skeg paddlers seem to accept that zigzagging is part and parcel of paddling downwind I find this frustrating. Going in a straight line and catching waves at sea is now my prime focus. The Stern rudder helps maintain course for sure but I don't like this stroke as it has a breaking effect (when compared to forward paddling) which can result in missed rides (tragic). I accept that its essential for surfing breakers on a bar or beach or when sailing (15 KT +). I will now focus on more aggressive edging to maintain direction without compromising the all important forward stroke. Next test this arvo in Easterlies which will produce rebound waves off the cliffs. I've installed an inflatable beanbag type seat which will raise my seating position and might help with edging.


Thanks to Andrew E, Andrew C, George, Neil and Garry for making it such a fun day! Photos by Garry Thompson.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hybrid 550 Update

Starting to really enjoy the new boat. Whilst positioned in a break zone at South Head ready to get a picture of Andre a steep breaker appeared. I was way impressed at how little effort was required to turn bow on and accelerate. The H550 rose over the crest to fall off the back of the wave very nicley indeed.

These pics are from Andre's camera as my new Panasonic drowned after only 3 uses. Very disapointed in that camera - I should have gone with my gut and stuck with the indestructable PENTAX.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Intro Paddle

Selim Tezcan posted a video of a recent club paddle

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hybrid 550 Update

I bought the Hybrid 550 as I see it as a serious expedition boat that can carry a big load but at the same time can be used for everyday paddling. Its manouverable, nimble and easy to do 360 degree on the spot turns. It edges well and rolls nicely.

I have only paddled it three times and am still getting used to it but on Tuesday in a 15 knot NE wind it went well between Watsons Bay and Frenchmans Bay. It seems to get onto waves easily and the rudder, whilst nothing like a Mirage rudder, is effective if its "turned on" at precisly the right time. It doesn't work if you simply push the pedals, it has to be engaged with the sea and the body in unison. I wouldn't bother using the rudder at all in flat water.

The Hybrid 550 is fast but stable. It's exceptionally well behaved in rough water and the big edge creates an effective platform on which to turn quickly, important when in rock gardens or when you find you need to face off fast to an oncoming wave. I found this out today when Rob Mercer, Tsunami Ranger Jim Kakuk and I spent some time bouncing around The Gap near South Head.

The fittings are all solid and well thought out. I especially like the front day hatch and feel the centre located "second" day hatch behind the seat would be less prone to flooding than the offset hatch. The toggles are neat and comfortable to hold. I don't think they would be effective tow points as a lot of tow ropes use large karabiners which would slip over them. I suppose you could always just use a deck line or tie a loop under the "golf ball" on which to clip on to.

The seat is hand carved and is really comfortable (Andre tells me it takes him 3 hours to fit one seat!). Whilst a lot lighter than my old boat I did find it harder to shoulder carry but if you hold it from the day hatch and cockpit its easy to do the old clean & jerk lift to shoulder height and then place onto the car (even if your short).

I get the feeling the boat might actually be better suited to a bigger person as its light on the water with only me in it. Today I tried it with a few dry bags full of sand and it sat much better (I'm 64 kg). This is good as its the expeditions that I most look forward to doing with this boat so the improvement in handling with extra weight would be an advantage.

the round hatches are actually larger than oval hatches