Paddling Middle Harbour in Winter
OK first lesson in Blogging learnt – Keep the posts regular !!
I know it’s been nearly 3 weeks since my last weekly update – and it’s been an interesting time for self-reflection…. I had been so spoilt by some interesting & fun paddles with Sean and Team Fat Paddler that when we got back to regular paddling – I suddenly felt barren for good writing material…..
Looking back 3 weeks ago – it was a poor effort in the training stakes. I think the paddling & camping adventure of the previous weekend combined with the early winter chill & bad weather took the mongrel out of me. The determination that’s been driving me since Easter wasn’t enough to get me in the water that week. I did try on Wednesday – and set off that morning with all good intentions – but the icy wind on the Parramatta River prevented me from doing more than 30 minutes of what can only be described as a ‘tragic effort’ and I drove home feeling quite dejected.
I stayed home until Sunday – when The Fat Paddler put the call out on Facebook for a Sunday morning session. The instructions were to meet at Sydney Harbor Kayaks (The Spit Bridge)@ 7.15am and to bring wetsuits, helmets and “prepare for anything !!”. Well that was an apt comment considering that when I looked out-side at 6am on Sunday morning – let’s just say it was howling with wind and rain.
I threw my gear in the car and took off down to the Spit.
There were four of us – Sean, Grumm, Gray and myself.
We opted not to go out to Grotto Point as one of us had a “tippy” boat and since the wind speed was quite high – there really was no point. We took off under the Bridge and head up Middle Harbour. I have done this a few times in a boat but never on a Kayak and the scenery up this stretch is very beautiful. In that open stretch opposite Sangrado Park, you actually feel a little exposed and a good distance from shore. We had a strong wind to our back and enjoyed a steady pace up the strait – chatting with each other and enjoying the early morning fresh air. We slowed at the curve past Sugarloaf Bay and Sean was scouting for the Coffee boat. I was skeptical at first, but sure enough – it took us about 10 minutes to find him and we proceeded to join up with this floating bronze beacon in the early morning drizzle, and order coffees.
I still find it the most interesting place to sip a freshly brewed cappuccino – sitting comfortable in your yak, bobbing in the water. Hard to beat !!
There was a lovely little sheltered beach dead ahead so we strapped the coffees to our deck ropes and made for the sand. What a beautiful little gem of a beach. There was a mountainous bush setting behind us which was expelling the overnight rain – and we were treated to a magnificent waterfall that was clearly visible from the top of the trees right the way down to where it snaked out and spilled into the salt water not 10 feet away.
As the rain continued to fall – we discussed our kayaks and offered each other the opportunity to test out the different boats. I have only ever paddled my Tsunami. It has a large cockpit and extra edges on the hull for added stability. The trade-off for stability is of course speed. I have been considering buying a fiberglass yak to do the Hawkesbury Classic in and so this was a perfect opportunity to see how different boats handled. I jumped straight into Grumm’s fiberglass yak and took off for a spin. The biggest challenge for me was squeezing into the cock-pit. This was an incredibly tight fit.
I was warned that this boat was far more tippy than mine – and it was !! but it would seem that 2 years of on/off again paddling has ingrained some sense of balance in me and I really enjoyed my spin in that boat. What was immediately obvious was how easy it was to edge that boat into a turn. It appeared incredibly more sensitive to my hip movements and I was gliding through the water with complete control and confidence. For a moment there – I might have been tempted to buy myself a fiberglass yak – but over the last couple of weeks I have decided to remain faithful to my Tsunami 165 and conquer the Hawkesbury Classic in my tried and proven beloved.
….and Eily won’t let me spend any more money on kayaking *grin*….
So with freshly brewed caffeine coursing through our veins we took off at a brisk pace to the Roseville Bridge. A lovely brisk paddle that brought us to the infamous “Roseville Bridge Waterfall” !! There is a gap in the Bridge that allows the water to run off into the river below during heavy rains – less the Bridge flood and cause traffic chaos. I didn’t realize it at the time but Sean mentioned that the picture of him paddling through the water falling here – was the same picture on the cover of his soon to be released book.
By the way – this is the Book and an appropriate place to give it a plug. Its due out on the 1st August and if you click the book it will take you to where you can pre-order a copy if interested.
Sean is your charismatic Aussie bloke who has 3 loves: his Family, his Rugby and his Paddling !!
I have read enough of his work on his Blog over the last 12 months to know this book will be entertaining, inspirational and probably strike a chord with most readers.
I always thought that picture was him paddling in heavy rain – but it actually him paddling through this waterfall after a heavy rain.
Anyway – we had a few goes emulating our fearless leader’s famous pose (and apparently me doing all the posing) – and then head back to our launching spot to change and indulge in my second favourite pastime – eating a freshly cooked egg & bacon roll with BBQ sauce !! The paddle back was ferocious. There was a strong southerly blowing straight down the guts of middle harbor and we were paddling directly into it. When you get past Sugarloaf Bay, you feel quite exposed and it’s a good distance to any shore. The wind was throwing waves up over our bow and I was glad to have the spray skirt on. I had Grumm on my right and he and I were paddling hard in the wind – alternating with cursing and laughing at our predicament. The thought of that egg and bacon roll hung like a ‘carrot on a stick’ in front of my mind’s eye and before you could say “pass the BBQ sauce” – we had turned under the bridge and were heading for the beach.
Sean wrote a great post on his blog about this friendship and shared experiences on the water here.
The following 2 weeks since then it dawned on me that my paddling adventures began with a quest to compete in the Hawkesbury Classic – and if I want a respectable result in that quest then I have to remember to put in the hard yards and burn-up the kilometers. Yes I can have fun as well – but regardless of the weather and the availability of any paddling buddies – I have to regularly find a way to get out and simply churn the water & paddle.
In my next Blog update, I’ll share with you some decent ‘distance’ paddles I put in, a beautiful paddle of discovery in a gorgeous Australian bush setting down the Sutherland Shire, and my first authentic late night paddle which followed pretty much the same route I just described here…