Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Missing a meeting

Last Sunday we attempted a rendezvous off Sydney in moderately stiff weather. Two paddlers, Andrew Eddy and Mark Schroeder, set out from la Perouse to paddle for an hour into the 20-25kt SSE  then turn north to have a long sail run up the coast to South head.

The rest of us –Cathy Miller, Rob Mercer, Matt Bezzina, Dave Fisher, James Johnson and I – set out a little later from Watson’s bay to head south until we hooked up with the sailors. Then up sails and head back. Rob was in the Taran, an odd-looking craft but more than equal to the conditions. In Rob’s hands, of course, anything would be.As we intended to sail back I took the Mirage, leaving the Greenland sleeping.

It was pretty bouncy headed out. 2m sea and 20-25 knots meant for pleasantly big seas. Some people aren’t big fans of heading into the wind but there are times when it’s delightful. I love the sensation of climbing the big, windswept swells, punching over the tops and seeing the next rolling hill of water  approaching. It evokes the sensation of skiing through undulating country.

Matt and Cathy in the hills

We headed south, pulling a k or so away from the cliffs to avoid the rebound, and plunged on into the oncoming waves. While it was brisk there were no overfalls and the wavetops stayed attached to their waves, so it was exhilarating without being exhausting.

Off North Bondi we waited , looking south, but saw no-one. Stalled for a while but eventually decided to turn north and raise the sails. Rob’s Taran didn’t have a sail but that didn’t stop him getting into the heads first. I’m not the most confident sailor, but on this run managed to relax a bit into the trip this time and ease off on the right low brace. Glad of the Mirage surf rudder, we were heading a bit across the wind so it was good to be able to maintain a course without a lot of stern rudder. Also glad I had refurbished the factory sail rig after busting the sail foot three weeks ago.

Matt and Rob - in the very pretty but weird Taran. 

 James demonstrating the hatmaker's art. James, Matt, Rob and  Dave . 

Cathy considers Bondi.

Scooted round the heads, and into calmer waters. Cathy later said she’d encountered a large shark, coming head on and as close as her paddle, during the sailing run and had made very sure to stay upright.

About half an hour after we landed Andrew and Mark lobbed in. Mark said that the first km  into the wind  out of Botany bay had been the steepest seas he’d ever encountered. Given that the two biggest seas I’ve ever paddled into have been with Mark ( out of Port Stephens in a strong easterly against tide, and three weeks ago off North head in a 30 knot southerly with 3m seas on 3m swell) , I was impressed. Andrew was unflappable and nonchalant as ever.  

Monday, 11 April 2011

Stuck on a Stick

Greenland paddle Number Five  is turning out to be the most frustrating paddle to make so far.

I enjoy the Greenland sticks enormously, and find them versatile and fun, and have really gotten a kick out of carving them. This latest one is proving to be a tricky proposition though.

Number One  was carved from cedar as a test, using the plans from Chuck Holst at It became my favourite, but I used teak oil as a finish and so the loom always became worn and furred with use. This one unfortunately cracked during a roll and so I can't trust it completely any more. There was a faint , almost imperceptible crack on one side of the point where the loom met the blade, but that was enough.

Number Two  was from an expensive piece of western red cedar.   Lovely colour, also finished in teak oil, beautifully buoyant and I think I carved the shape the better than Number One but I found the wood too soft: took injury to easily and eventually also cracked during a not very aggressive brace while paddling home from work. Disappointing, but I had the carving time down to about six hours from plank to finished blade.
Number Three is a storm paddle, with a two-fist-width loom. It isn't actually very much smaller than Number One. Teak oil finish again.

Number Four  was for my beloved Cathy. Shorter, with a much thinner blade width to suit her hand, this was the first stick I finished with epoxy. After two coats and sanding down the finish is lovely: the matt surface shows the grain and it's hard as glass.

Number Five  : I decided to make this longer and wider. The loom was the same length but blades extended and a wider paddle at the end. It was a problem child in the carving, when the jigsaw blade snapped in use and plunged a series of holes into the wood. Then came the epoxy: I tried to do two very thin coats but the second coat took over ten days to harden and I've been sanding this damn stick every few days trying to get it smooth. 

On numbers One, Four and Five I used white polyester flowcoat covered in epoxy to coat the blade tips, a homage to the bone tips of the original. 

Next time around I'll be much more careful with the epoxy. It's not as  straightforward to work as the polyseter resins I'm used to, but it has a fine satin sheen  when it works. Which is about half the time, for me.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Day trip to the Kayak Attractor Device

Yesterday  Dee organised a trip out to the Sydney Fish Attractor Device (FAD) off Manly with the option of heading out to the Sydney Waverider buoy. The FAD is 7.5km off Bluefish Point on North Head, and the Waverider about 4 km further east.

Ten of us assembled at Watson’s Bay at 7.30am. Beautiful weather for an offshore trip: 10-15knot NW, moving around to NE, negligible sea