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The Rockpool Taran

Rockpool Taran

In May I bought a Ferrari Red and white Rockpool Taran. I test paddled it twice as you may have read. No problems. The boat is challenging and requires a much higher level of skill and fitness to master. However, neither of these requirements are standing by me at the moment. I am actually afraid of the Taran. It is certainly a beautiful boat but since owning one, I’ve been terrified by its level of difficulty. The other weekend I paddled in the Assateague all day without anything more than a numb foot. The next day I took the Taran out and was exhausted after 2km in flat water. This boat needs you to use core muscles you probably don’t have and a paddling posture only Olympic paddlers possess. It has no initial stability so you have to put complete trust in the Taran to not drop you in the drink because it has great secondary stability. You lose a lot of energy just coming to terms with the twitchiness of the boat but after a while, when you are knackered, you just let go of the panic and the boat starts to respond. By then, though, I am totally spent and just want to go home.

Since taking the Taran home, I have had little time to paddle and my paddle fitness is minimal. After bragging that I will humiliate the ski paddlers in the Klan, my short and unseen forays onto the water are now the source of jokes and innuendo among my Klan family and they have taken to calling my boat “Nessie”. Naturally, they will pay for their insolence but not for a little while yet. I will master this damn boat. When I was sulking about this situation someone said “what do you expect? You have just bought Casey Stoner’s Moto GP bike and you’re expecting to ride it like him”. True. One small step at a time. This boat flies when you hit your stride and by mid-summer I will be in control of this wild stallion. (another Ferrari motif). A narrower arse would be good.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in About Kayaks

 

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Lessons From Rock n Roll 2012

Last post was just the synopsis of events at Rock n Roll. The important part for me is what I gleaned from it. Each year shows up shortcomings or highlights areas of improvement. Here’s some:

Camping

Always an area where things go wrong despite my efforts to make it perfect. Last year I left towels and toothpaste and lamented the lack of refrigeration. This year I remembered the toothpaste, the towels and had refrigeration sorted with my new Evakool 55l Fridge and solar panels to charge the 100Ah battery. I had eggs, milk, bacon, beer, wine and cool Tim Tams. Awesome. That crazy Turk, Selim, either forgot all his stuff or packed it and couldn’t find it so naturally he gravitated to my hacienda for luxury dining.

The Taj Mahal now with solar power

Cooking became an issue with Selim moving in. The Trangia is a wonderful piece of kit that has served me well and always will but if I’m going to have tenants then a better kitchen is to be acquired. Not sure which way to go, here. I could get a Coleman cooker and new folding table or a Drifta car kitchen. Hmm, what to do.

Drifta 300

Mold has become a problem. I discovered that the Taj had some mold inside and some corrosion on the skeleton knuckles which made it hard to collapse the tent when packing up so maintenance will have to be done. I should also get a tarp so I can set up a covered awning over the front of the tent. Watch out next year.

Paddling

Rockpool Taran

Several people remarked at my loss of weight and increased fitness. There were comments on my speed in the Assateague using my GP. Marvelous what divorce can do for a man. I have a lot more work to do on this but I really need to hone my sea skills. They’re not bad but not elite and I like elite. The Assateague has become increasingly uncomfortable to sit in and really needs a refit. That will happen but I have taken a real shine to the Rockpool Taran and after my excursion with Chris Walker and Chris James have decided to buy one and soon. Once this is set up I can concentrate on fitness and speed and am entertaining an entry in the Hawkesbury Classic! So when people ask if I’ve done the Hawkesbury, instead of saying ” nah, I’m too much of a girly fat boy with no ticker and numb legs” I will say “why, of course, shit it in”. Basically, I need lots more time on the water with skilled paddlers like the core klanners. Less coffee cruises and more bump and mess. A new boat won’t fix this just focus and application. I’m still getting a new boat, though. And a kayak trolley. Definitely a kayak trolley and soon.

The Car

Car choice is important for a kayaker. You have to carry so much crap that the right car makes life so much easier and the wrong car is a hindrance. The Subaru Outback is mostly excellent. It carries my gear if packed right and good off-road capability without being a truck. It is also comfortable and reliable. Problem is that it is a bit gutless and a bit small. Packing it is a bit like playing Tetris. What I’m thinking of is a Toyota Landcruiser Troopie or Land Rove Defender. That way I will have full 4WD capability, tons of space, dual battery and charger setup. I can also fit two boats on the roof where the Subie can only take one. A big turbo diesel will be handy and if I eventually go to a camper trailer then these trucks can haul it.

Some of these goals will be ready by Rock n Roll 2013. The Troopie might take a bit longer but I’ve come a long way since my first Rock n Roll when I slummed it in a Blackwolf Tanami with a cold sleeping bag, an old quilt and the Trangia on the ground.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Kayaking Life

 

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Rock n Roll 2012

Well, it’s over for another year. I look forward to it all year and now it’s back to the grind. Here’s a brief overview:

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Jervis Bay and Currarong

This year RnR was held at Currarong Beach Caravan Park. Currarong is a pretty sandy beach just to the north of Beecroft Peninsular which is the northern door post of Jervis Bay and includes the massive cliff of Point Perpendicular. You’ll see why it has that name, soon. Event organizer was the very capable Campbell Tiley, a Hunter Klanner, a capable Grade 3 paddler, and an all round decent bloke. This year Campbell packed a whole lot of non-paddling activity into the four days which meant there was always something going on in the big marquee or nearby.

Unlike Batemans Bay or Umina, Currarong doesn’t have ready access to the water. It’s a bit of a portage to the beach or creek and this means the normal rounds of boat testing and impromptu instruction didn’t happen. Still, the caravan park was accommodating and pleasant with some spectacular coast and terrific ocean paddling. Beecroft Peninsular is a popular kayaking destination that can vary from a pleasant coastal cruise to a life shortening death-trip. Fortunately, we were treated to nice weather and friendly winds.

I arrived on Friday after driving through Kangaroo Valley where I found the World’s Best Pie. Seriously, it is the world’s best pie. On arrival I quickly set up camp and then mingled with the other club members and fellow Hunter klanners. Beer and Pizza courtesy of Expedition Kayaks is now a tradition. Forty pizzas and I think some of the boxes were consumed in a feeding frenzy that lasted only a few minutes. That night more beer, wine and guitar playing at Bruce & Lynne McNaughton’s caravan.

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Expedition Kayaks and Trade area

Special guests for the event were the impressive. The mighty Paul Caffyn whose awesomeness requires no explanation, Stu Trueman who approximates that awesomeness and Sandy Robson who having survived a crocodile attack on her kayak and is now retracing the journey of Oscar Speck is compiling her own scorecard of awe. Everywhere you look there are paddlers of suitable praiseworthiness. The lovely Shaan Gressar, the first woman to paddle solo across Bass Strait was amongst it as was the steadfast Chris James, everyone’s mentor Rob Mercer and badman Mark Sundin. Combine these standouts with the normal cadre of club stalwarts and you have a gathering of the finest paddlers in Australia.

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Trueman and Caffyn. Two of the greatest paddlers.

One of those stalwarts, Paul Loker, led my Saturday trip for a coastal run along the sheer cliffs of Beecroft Peninsular. We ran south down to Gum Getters Inlet, stopping to investigate the nooks and caves along the way. In on of these caves I screwed up a gauntlet exit and speared my Assateague at speed into the cave wall sending blue gel-coat into the air. More embarrassing than dangerous it left my boat with a bloody nose and ribbing from Sundin who mysteriously appeared right at that time despite not being on my trip. After a brief stop at Gum Getters Inlet we turned back home into the 1m swell. My trusty Elver Greenland paddle kept my pace up and I reached home tired and pleased to have been up lose and a little too personal with those amazing cliffs. At night talks from Caffyn and co. The official club dinner and mingling with beer and wine before well earned sleep.

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Cliffs at Beecroft Peninsular. The cave where I smashed the bow.

On Sunday I went with a bunch of others on a drive to Honeymoon Bay for a trip to Point Perpendicular. It’s a good drive through a military live munitions zone and a portage to the water but Honeymoon Bay is one of those postcard perfect little bays with a neat sandy beach and crystal clear water. We set out toward Point Perp but on rounding the first point found the swell too large for the beginners in our group so they turned around and went back. Well, I came to see the massive cliff at Point Perpendicular so I continued on alone into the swell. I quickly discovered this was a mistake. At 3m, it was not difficult to negotiate since there was was no wind to complicate the water but as I progressed out further, the swell stood up more vertically until it started to break over me. This didn’t bother me either but the breaking of my seat did as my right leg lost good contact with the boat and made control almost impossible. Turning was now tricky as I couldn’t edge. Fetch was only about 5m so there was risk of swamping the boat between swell crests. I took a wide gradual turning circle but with the swell at my back now the situation was worse. Surfing would have been brilliant but the short fetch kept my bow ploughing into wave in front forcing a broach so I had to lay back on the deck to slow up. I finally rode back into Jervis Bay and hastily made my way back to Honeymoon Bay and then back to Currarong for a barbecue.

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Toward Point Perpendicular. It's pretty perpendicular!

Late Sunday afternoon Chris James and his good mate Chris Walker took me out into Currarong bay to test the Rockpool Taran. Perfect conditions we shared only with two enormous pelicans. It was flat and calm with a slight swell. We went out a few kilometers then turned to power back into shore with the following swell. Short and sharp training sprint. The idea was for the two of them to introduce me to the Taran but it was the advice I received from this pair on the beach that was one of the highlights of the trip. These are men for whom I have enormous respect and it pays to heed their advice. I have been on the verge of buying a ski but the two made sense. Chris Walker, a ski paddler these days, told me to be either a ski paddler or a kayaker and not to put a foot in either camp and mastering neither. The skills from ski paddling don’t always translate to the kayak and at any rate the Taran is just as fast as a ski. My friends in the klan may see it differently but for me this advice made my choice clear. I will buy the Taran and make it go fast.

Apart from some socializing this effectively ended Rock n Roll for my. I packed up on Monday and went home stopping for another two of the world’s best pies.

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World's Best Pie

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in About Kayaks

 

Trials and Tribulations

It’s been a while since I posted. Not happy about it but there’s not much I felt like writing about. A lot has gone on that’s not kayak specific and far too little that is kayak specific. In my draft box in WordPress there’s a bunch of half written posts. One is even about Klanocopia 2011 which was a big success but I was too flat to even upload photos. Once I’ve got this catharsis out of the way I’ll post about my new acquisitions and maybe some events. Rock n Roll 2012 is coming up but this happy event is now a problem.

You see, just recently my wife decided she’d had enough after 30 years. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming but when it came it was pretty horrible. It’s pretty cordial but we’re not even friends any more. I don’t want to know what she’s doing and it appears she couldn’t care less about what I’m doing. Hardly surprising. It’s been like this for years. I now live across the road with my Dad. This is handy as we share duties with the kids and we are close. They are still depressed about all this but the proximity makes the transition easier on them. My problem is not with all this, it’s with my Dad. He is slowing dying from Pulmonary Fibrosis, a condition where the inside of the lungs scars up until you can’t breath. Apart from his lungs, he’s in good shape. Theoretically. Without oxygen he has become frail and gradually failing in all areas. He needs constant attention for the most basic things. I have to work full-time in the Solar industry and I rely on others to drop in to check him out so I worry about him all day. I can’t plan anything or go anywhere. Even paddling for a day requires planning and worry so I just don’t bother. Rock n Roll is the biggest event of the year for me and now it is the biggest headache. My wife insists I go as she will look after Dad for a few days. I appreciate this but the worry of it is debilitating. If I don’t go I will seethe with resentment and if I do I’ll worry and not fully involve myself.

Pretty depressing tale of woe for a kayak blog, isn’t it. However, I was born with a strong gift for optimism so after a few weeks of self-pity, I have focused on doing the things I can do. With the prospect of dating looming, I have committed myself to rebuilding my dilapidated 49 year old frame. I was once an athlete, a serious one too, and I have found that I am responding to the old regimen again. My weight is falling away and muscle is hardening up. I am walking and now even running a little. Physically, I am feeling pretty sharp and enjoying turning things around. I am entering two events next year, the Warrior Dash and Tough Blokes Challenge, which I have set as goal posts. After this anything is possible. Paddling is what I really want to do and I aim to fix this hiatus soon and get out on the sea. The klan has a bunch of new members and I have left the running of it to randomness. Fortunately, the klan is self-sustaining but without direct leadership it is not moving ahead in terms of enlarging the klan culture, training, event planning and just awesomeness. One step at a time, though. My morale has taken a hit over the last months but I am an expert in self rallying and I can feel the next phase of my life will be difficult but progressive. Languishing in an unhappy marriage has made me soft, weak and malady ridden and I hated that. Now, I am motivated, leaner, healthier and a real catch for any nice female adventurers. Just joking, although having a wife that hated outdoor activity like kayaking and trekking has been a real boat-anchor and any future partner would more than likely be involved in that life-style. The klan has great examples of paddling partners I really envy, like Owen and Anne, Graeme and Leonie, Bruce and Lynne and I think sharing this life with your partner would be fantastic but I’m not ready for this just yet. My friend Greg wants me to slow down, take a breath and enjoy being single for a while. My paddling buddy Dobbo advises me to buy everything I want while I can and I’m already a step ahead of his advice. He also advises something else which is both disturbing and exciting at the same time and I won’t repeat that here.

You just never know what the tide brings. It’s a bit like seal-landing a kayak. One minute you are going along just fine and next you are sitting perched on a gnarly rock with your ass only millimetres from peril. Just when you think your number’s up, you are lifted up and sent on your way. A few scars in the gel-coat but if you’re sturdy enough to endure them your life is all the more interesting for the experience.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Kayaking Life

 

Storm at Redhead Beach

I took this a few months ago and finally got around to doing some post-processing. Some other guy was on the beach at the same time and took pretty much the same photos. He entered them in a photo comp on Prime TV and won. I’ve got lightning in mine therefore it is better. It’s the second time this has happened to me. Taken on an Olympus E-30 with 14-54mm Pro zoom. I love this camera.

Storm at Redhead Beach NSW

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2011 in About Kayaks

 

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Klanocopia 2011

Klanocopia 2011

See how organized we are this year.

The annual event of the Hunter Klan Klan, Klanocopia, has concluded for 2011. By any measure it was a great success. Now, I am happy to take credit for a good many things but this time around, I had nothing to do with the planning or success of this year’s show. While it is true that I am the founder of the klan, this no longer has any bragging rights because the klan is now self-sustaining and requires very little input from me other than the administration of the klan website and some helpful suggestions as to the direction we should take.

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Chinese, cheap and good.

Made in China. You know what images this conjours up. Just like Made in Korea in the ’80’s and Made in Japan in the ’60’s. I get this all the time in the Solar industry; “I don’t want Chinese made panels” they say as if they have a clue. Well let’s take a look at Chinese made gear. First, Apple computers, iPads, iPhones and iPods are made in China. So are Toshiba. Canon, Nikon and Olympus cameras are made in China and so are their lenses. Olympus Zuiko lenses are regarded as some of the best you can get. My early film Olympus SLRs and Zuikos were made in Japan but the digital gear is Chinese and guess what? They are better. The lenses are shorter, lighter, faster, sharper. In the Solar industry, of the top 10 highest rated panels in the world, eight are from China. Our company uses JA Solar monocrystalline panels and they are about the best you can get. Suntech might argue the point but they are Chinese as well.

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Posted by on August 29, 2011 in Paddle Gear