Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Thursday, 15 January 2009
I had the great pleasure of spending an evening with Freya Hoffmeister, the famed lady in black, who is about to attempt to emulate Paul Caffyn & circumnavigate Australia. This Sunday, all going well, she will depart Queenscliff in Victoria & paddle anti-clockwise 20000+km around the continent. Most Europeans have a vague notion about the size of our wide brown land, but Freya is under no illusions about the scale of her odyssey. Breaking her trip into sections, you can just barely get an idea of what she will face. Starting with a 2500km stretch from Victoria up through the East Coast surf zone where just about every single day you will have a very serious surf landing & exit with a fully loaded boat. Factor in the afternoon Nor'easterlies that predominate through the 2 months of her journey north, & her goal of 60km + per day, & she will have very early starts & a very solid pace to beat the demoralising headwinds. Then the 'pleasure' of the protected reef zone, with the onset of the trade winds, 25-30 knot daily winds which produce technical, almost surfing following paddling conditions. Then the vast loneliness of the top end, with the crocs, huge tidal zones, heat & humidity, & the lack of regular re-stock. Consider that this stretches right across the top of the continent, eventually giving way to the rugged WA coast, with it's unbroken cliffs stretching as far as 130km at a time. Clear that & you hit probably the biggest surf zone in the country, down through Margaret River & Esperance, where 16 second wave periods create miles of unlandable surf, then turn the corner to the Great Australian Bight for the 'run home'. Don't be surprised if this lady has a go at a 'complete' circumnavigation if she makes it as far as western Victoria. I'll leave it to the Einstein’s to work out what that might entail....
So, from being a bit skeptical about this attempt, I now think she has as good a chance as anyone I have come across to pull it off. Her apprenticeship looping the South Island of NZ was a microcosm of the sorts of paddling she can expect in Australian waters. If experience, drive, determination & out & out focus (hate that word…) count for anything, I reckon she will give this thing a bloody good shake. Keep an eye on her journey through her blog.
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Here's a short clip of the morning's paddle - another beautiful day in Sydney.
Friday, 9 January 2009
Thursday, 8 January 2009
We have just two of these boats left, after the first 2 went within a week of them landing, so be quick if you want to organise a test paddle.
(all photo's Rob Mercer & Sharon Betteridge).
Rob & I were were both in our Aquanauts, which are complete bliss on this sort of half surfing, borderline technical paddling trip. We made pretty good time - South Head to Cape Banks in a little less than 2 hours, and both soaked up the opportunity to go out on the open sea & enjoy the brilliant conditions.
A thousand thank you's to Sharon for driving us to Watto's Bay & then picking up Rob at the end of the paddle so I didn't have to drive him home....
Monday, 5 January 2009
Rob was happy to join in my lunacy, so we arranged to meet down at Vaucluse Bay & paddle across to South Head just before the race start. We weaved our way through the fleet until we reached Camp Cove, where a Waterways guy motored over to check our credentials.
The gun went off & the Maxi's started to charge, and the spectator fleet fairly raced out to the heads alongside the yachts. It was like a 16 lane freeway of churning whitewater with Sydney's flotilla of Gin Palaces tearing along at breakneck speed - think the running of the bulls on water.
Wakes rolling through the heads
The risks the motorboat skippers were willing to take with their own safety & ours on the shallow reef at South Head was something to behold – we very quickly had 40ft cruisers tearing past within a boat length of our spot on the 3m deep reef to get a gap on the rest of the spectator fleet.
Boat shoes, striped shirts, big boats, no brains
Obviously they’re wealthy enough to own one of these beasts, so they’re also wealthy enough to pay for the repairs. If we had stayed where I had wanted to go – note my preference, not Mr Mercer’s – we would have most likely found ourselves in game of dodgem with 10,000 charging half-pissed skippers in boat shoes & striped shirts.
The water surface went from a small chop being spun up by a 10 knot Nor' Easter, to an awesome frothing whitewater which presented us with some great technical paddling. This of course was the real reason I went out there......
The Gin Palace charge
Within about 10 minutes the combined boat wakes were pushing metre+ waves out of the harbour, so to our delight we caught a few waves out of Sydney Harbour, which was a first. Anyway, we caught wave after wave from the South head reef all the way around to the Gap & had a ball.
We followed it up with a six pack on the sand at Watson’s Bay & paddled back to our cars.