Saturday, September 21, 2013

Walks Around Cairns

The whole purpose of us hanging out in Cairns prior to our upcoming sea kayak trip to Lizard Island was to practice kayak sailing so that we would not be a liability to the rest of the group on the Lizard Island trip.  Ironically, over the week we have been around Cairns, there has been virtually no wind. 

Our first day, we had reasonable conditions to start.  The day after, however, there was not enough wind to justify the long and tedious bus ride to retrieve the car on a one way trip so we paddled to Double Island from Palm Cove and, oh, so slowly, sailed back to Palm Cove.  The third day, we did not even think it was worth the drive to the beach.  

Instead of sitting about waiting for non-existent wind, I did a couple of local Cairns walks.  

The first was a couple of circuit hikes around Mount Whitfield Conservation Park near downtown Cairns.  I left early one morning and hiked the red arrow circuit (imaginative name that) to the blue arrow circuit (another creative moniker) out to Mount Lumley.  The red arrow circuit seems to be the local training route, although I'm not sure why people don't go on to complete the blue arrow circuit as, at the top of the red arrow loop the elevation is just 150 metres (ASL) whereas on Mount Lumley, at the end of the blue arrow route, the elevation is 300 metres.  Anyway, I thought I would have the trail to myself once I passed the red arrow circuit and I did.

The second was a hike from Crystal Cascades, a series of falls on Freshwater Creek, up to Lake Morris, Cairns water supply dam.  This was another nice hike up a steep trail to an old road that leads to a nice viewpoint with interpretive signage.  Once you arrive, there is free tea and coffee at the kiosk - which has a lovely view over the lake - courtesy of Cairns Council.  After walking back down we had a wonderful swim in one of the swimming holes along Freshwater Creek.  

Lake Morris

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kayak Sailing

It's just four days until we leave for Cooktown, the jumping off point for our sea kayak trip to Lizard Island. Everyone in the group has a kayak sail, except for us, which will leave us far behind the rest of the group if the winds are favourable. Thanks again to the incredible resourcefulness and helpfulness of Tim and the rest of the group, we will have borrowed sails for the trip.

Accordingly, it seemed like a good idea to get out and learn at least the rudiments of kayak sailing. The only thing thwarting us is the unusually calm winds which are rarely reaching 15 knots these days. But, 10 knots is better than nothing, although 5 knots barely fills the sail.

Yesterday, we launched the boats at Palm Cove (one of Cairn's northern beaches) and paddled and sailed south to Holloways Beach, a distance of about 14 km. Unfortunately, we didn't note the time we put in or pulled out as it would be interesting to know how fast we traveled.

Initially, we had a fairly reasonable wind, maybe 12 knots gusting 15, and after having to throw in a quick brace when I first put the sail up, I felt like we were whipping along at a good speed, just leaning over on the paddle. But, gradually, the wind decreased and we paddled more and leaned out on the paddle less.

I learnt a few things. One, you should lean over into the wind as you deploy the sail. Otherwise, you get a sharp yank and the boat threatens to capsize downwind. Two, if you cant the sail to catch a wind coming somewhat across your beam, you may have to lean over even further to keep the boat upright. After a while, especially if you are paddling not just leaning on a low brace, you can end up with quite a crick in your back. Three, the amount you need to lean depends on wind strength. Four, paddling is much easier with a sail assist.

The only problem with our day yesterday was that the bus journey back to retrieve the car took longer than the paddling and, while I suffered great degrees of boredom waiting for first one bus, then another, Doug was worse off stuck at Holloways Beach where he was continually harassed by a half-dozen drunks in varying degrees of non-sobriety. 

Slowing down as the wind died

Paddling On A Compass Bearing

From the National Park campsite at Yanks Jetty on Orpheus Island to Taylors Beach on the mainland is a straight line distance of about 15 km. As is usual on the north Queensland coast, the flood tide runs south. Frustratingly, our nautical chart gives no indication of current strength. On the day we paddled back to the mainland from Orpheus Island, we left at our usual early hour of 7.20 am when the ebb tide had another hour or two to run and the winds were all but calm. We should have been roughly near slack tide, and the what current there was should have been running north.

Morning fog and cloud lay along the mainland and that, combined with the low non-descript nature of the landscape on the mainland meant that when we started paddling, and for the first couple of hours, we had no landmarks to aim for. Accordingly, we set off on a compass bearing. I took a bearing off the map aiming slightly south of the buoy that marks the channel into Taylors Beach and came up with a bearing of 282 degrees. I aimed slightly off (to the south) so that when we reached the mainland we would know whether to paddle to the north or south. Using the GPS in our mapping package on our mobile telephone to take a bearing right off the buoy we came up with a bearing of 288 degrees.

We started out paddling at 7.20 am and decided we would check our location with the GPS after one hour. I mounted my compass on my deck and did my best to keep us on course. When the hour was up, Orpheus Island looked along way behind us, but the GPS indicated we were only about 4 km off the coastline as our course had sagged to the south. We took a new bearing (roughly 293 degrees) and set off again, this time deciding to stop after half an hour to check our position.

In half an hour, we had progressed another 2 or 3 km from the shore, but, had sagged yet further south. Another bearing, another course adjustment, and off we went again. We repeated this procedure at half hourly intervals and found our bearing, by the time we could see the red buoy marking the channel at Taylors Beach had changed a whopping 35 degrees from 288 degrees to 323 degrees.

Paddling on a compass bearing, like navigating a glacier in a white-out by compass is a somewhat disorientating procedure. You are never exactly sure where you are, and relying on an instrument to travel is always somewhat daunting. Without a GPS to check our position we would have drifted very far off course and would have faced a long and tiring (as the north wind came up) paddle up to Taylors Beach.

In the end, that straight line crossing of 15 km took us about 3.5 hours. That's just over 4 km an hour, which seems a little slow given such calm weather. But, I'm sure we didn't travel a straight line, more a big looping curve, so we likely paddled more like 17 km.

There is a way to calculate a vector angle that takes into account currents and paddling speed so that travel on a bearing is more accurate. However, you have to know current speed and your own paddling speed. Neither of which I was sure of in this instance. It would be interesting to paddle the route under the same conditions using a vector corrected bearing to see if it proved more accurate than our ad-hoc correct on the go option.

Another day of learning in the kayaks.

Some where out there is the mainland

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Endless Sea: The Palm Islands by Sea Kayak

Behind us, Orpheus Island had receded into the far distance, ahead, I could see nothing but ocean and a thick fog bank rolling north to south along what surely must be the mainland. My compass was laid on my deck as I paddled steadily forward, adjusting course constantly to try to stay on a bearing that would land us at Taylors Beach. Four days before, we had paddled in calm conditions northeast from Taylors Beach to the north end of Pelorus Island, a 20 km journey that had taken four hours. Sixteen kilometres away, Pelorus Island had looked distant, but, at least we had a landmark to aim for. 

Day 1: Taylors Beach to Pelorus Island

At Taylors Beach, extensive sand flats had been exposed by the low tide and the air smelled of decay. We unloaded our boats and gear onto the sand beside the boat ramp and swiftly packed everything away. I inadvertently packed far too much heavy gear into the front of my kayak with the consequence that my bow sank into the water causing me to plough a slow and tedious passage all the way to Pelorus Island. Had the wind or ocean not been dead calm, I would have repacked, as I would have if I had realized how slow the kayak would be with such a poor trim.

In the far distance, we could just make out the north end of Orpheus Island and we aimed for a spot just north that would land us around the middle of the west side of Pelorus Island. Following a boatie, we weaved our way through the channels in the sand flats off Taylors Beach and, after about 3 km emerged at the open ocean. Very soon after this we began to paddle through what we would later discover was an algal bloom. This thick brown sludge lay across the entire 16 km crossing, so thick in places, that we could scoop it up in our hands. The only sea life we saw on the trip over was four or five small sharks cruising along the surface, but they all took fright as we paddled past.

After a long and somewhat boring paddle, we finally paddled past Iris Point on Orpheus Island and approached an attractive deep water beach on the south end of Pelorus Island only to be greeted by three or four large signs announcing that this area is a private lease and landing is prohibiting. Despite these warning signs, Doug got out to stretch his legs, but I continued north looking for the Council camping area. Not far north, I pulled in at a rocky bay hoping this was not the camping area, while Doug continued further north and disappeared from my view. Finding no camping locations where I was, I continued on to a pretty, if rocky beach, with big open trees shading the beach. Doug was already on shore scouting the area.

Unfortunately, the water was brown with algae which coated my legs like mud as I climbed out of the kayak. We found a nice campsite under some trees with bright red leaves and unloaded the boats to have lunch. At the northern end of the beach, a ramshackle make-shift camp had been abandoned. There were at least 12 or 15 small tents, many ripped and with poles sticking through the fabric roofs, as well as two large covered areas strewn with filthy pots and stoves. I wandered along the beach and scrambled up onto some large granite boulders at the north end of the beach following goat tracks and looked out towards Hinchinbrook Island.

There may have been some good snorkelling off this beach but we could not see into the water to tell. Our usual daily swims were somewhat interrupted as it was difficult to find any clean water to swim in. Despite this, we had a pleasant camp with the usual sunset glowing over the ocean.

Hinchinbrook Island From Pelorus Island

Day 2, Pelorus Island to Yanks Jetty, Orpheus Island

The northeasterly wind died with sunset and the wind was calm the next morning. We paddled north around the east side of Pelorus Island where the water was much clearer, but there did not seem to be much off-shore fringing reef. After crossing from Pelorus to Orpheus we stopped on a rocky little beach just south of Iris Point. The algae was beginning to disperse and paddling south along the coastline to Pioneer Bay we drifted over rich coral gardens.

In Pioneer Bay, a couple of yachts and a power boat were moored. Pioneer Bay is quite deep and dries at tides of under 1.0 metres, but we were able to paddle all the way into the small sandy beach and National Park campsite. A yachtie told us about a trail that led up to the top of the island passing an old shepherds cottage so we meandered up this. The old shepherds cottage has some stone walls still standing. Up on top of the island we had a wonderful view west to the mainland, north to Pelorus and south down the remainder of the Palm Islands. These islands are rocky, brown and dry with very few beaches or landing spots for kayakers.

Back at the campsite we had lunch before continuing on. This would be a nice camp, but the algae had blown into the bay and was thick as mud on the water so we decided to carry on to Yanks Jetty in the hopes of finding clearer water. We paddled past James Cook University research station in the other (south) arm of Pioneer Bay but skipped across the entrance to Hazard Bay where the resort is located to the far south point, and, slightly around the corner to Yanks Jetty.

There is a lovely camp area here with picnic tables, a gas barbeque and two burners and an outhouse, although with the full contingent of 30 people (allowable number to camp here) it would be very crowded. As it was, we had it to ourselves. The water off the beach while not as clear or clean as we are used to, was better for swimming. Before unpacking, Doug wanted to try a fully loaded eskimo roll which he pulled off first go reporting that it was easier when the boat was full than when empty! The afternoon wind shifted to the north and unfortunately blew in another thick blanket of algae.

When darkness fell, the usual “night shift” of Australian bird and wild-life emerged to start foraging. At Yanks Jetty campsite, this included a cute little brown northern bandicoot. This little furred marsupial, about the size of a small cat, has some attenuated kangaroo like features – small front legs and larger back legs – a long nose, and stubby rat like tail. He snuffled around camp the two nights we were there, and, would undoubtedly cause trouble were campers to leave food or garbage out. 

Bandicoot Snuffing Around Camp

Day 3, Curacoa and Fantome Islands

After waffling about moving camp, we decided to stay at Yanks Jetty and go out for a day paddle. We idled south over coral gardens watching fish swimming about, passed Harrier Point and paddled east to the northern tip of Fantome Island which is a big peninsula. There is a good landing point and possible camp location on the very northern tip of Fantome Island on the south side which is accessible at any tide as deep water comes in to the broken coral beach. We got out and wandered around finding many goats, and a couple of wooden platforms – perhaps an aboriginal camp?

Paddling around to the north side, we had just enough water to get the kayaks into a lagoon behind a broken coral retaining wall. The water was crimson with algae and smelly. This is the site of the old leprosarium from the fairly black days of the Palm Islands when lepers were housed here and “troublesome” indigenous people were shipped over to the islands. The area lies in ruins now, but the foundations of buildings can still be seen among the grass and a plaque offers tribute to the nursing sisters and inmates of the island. Feral goats were roaming about the ruins.

From Fantome Island we crossed Curacoa Channel to the northwest end of Curacoa Channel where there is a big broken coral beach. We went snorkelling over gardens of soft and hard corals but the visibility was impaired by the algal bloom. After lunch on the beach, we crossed back to Fantome Island and pulled in at a small beach on the east side about one third of the way south down the island. A drainage, dry at this time, runs out to the sea, while mangroves behind the beach indicate the area floods at high tide.

We paddled slowly back north up Fantome Island fighting a headwind and a current and with the aid of the incoming tide crossed over to the south end of Orpheus Island. There is another National Park campsite on a nice and long (for the Palm Islands) sandy beach, but a shallow rocky reef lies off-shore and the campsite would only be easily accessible at tides of 1.5 metres or more. We walked down the beach to the end, and, finally, got back in our boats for the final one hour paddle back to Yanks Jetty.

Doug Leaving Curacoa Island For Fantome Island

Day 4, Adrift

Calm winds were forecast for the morning, while the next day had winds to 15 knots forecast, so we decided to paddle back when conditions were easy. There was nothing visible on the mainland, in fact, I could not see the mainland, so we took a bearing from the map, and I mounted the compass on my spray deck and we began the long paddle back by compass.

An hour into the journey, Orpheus Island had faded dimly behind us, and we stopped to check our position with the GPS in our mapping program. We were somewhat discouraged to find we had paddled only 4 of the 14 km straight line distance to Taylors Beach, and, had sagged far to the south. The current does flood south here but we had been paddling while the tide was still falling so were surprised by our position. We got another bearing from our mapping package and readjusted our course. Thereafter, we checked our position each half hour and found that we were continuing to sag south at a greater rate than we thought, although the tide was now rising. Our bearings shifted gradually from 288 degrees to 323 degrees!

After about 2.5 hours paddle, I could dimly make out some buildings at the Lucinda sugar jetty, and, half an hour later, I could even see the shoreline. This whole stretch of coastline is made up of low-lying land and mangrove forests so we had to use a bearing for almost the entire crossing. Finally, however, we could pick out the channel buoys marking the approach to Taylors Beach.

We got out to stretch our legs and have a swim and a snack on the big sandbar in front of Taylors Beach. The final 3 to 4 km paddle back upstream to Taylors Beach involved weaving around in great circles to finally reach the boat ramp via a narrow, shallow channel of water. The stench at Taylors Beach from the decaying algal bloom was almost nauseating.

Sea kayaking is a bit like mountaineering. No sooner is one trip completed than another is being planned. While we were out on the Palm Islands it occurred to us that the best trip to do would be to paddle to Lucinda from Townsville via the small clusters of islands between Magnetic Island and Great Palm Island. This journey would take you from Toolakea on the mainland to Rattlesnake Island, north to Archeron Island and then Havannah Island and finally into the main cluster of the Palm Islands at Brisk Island. Easy island hopping would then lead to Orpheus and Pelorus Islands and the long crossing back to the mainland at Lucinda.

Somewhere The Mainland Lies

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gillies Lookout Via Robsons Track

We were having a pleasant, if rainy, stay at Goldsborough Valley Campground in Wooroonooran National Park, accessed off the Gillies Highway south of Cairns. This campground is one of only two on our entire 4.5 month journey where we have been the only campers (and over a weekend!), and we enjoyed the luxury of absolute quiet and no smoky campfires. We had a nice large grassy, if wet, site right by the Mulgrave River with a wonderful deep, clear swimming hole steps from our caravan door.

The resident Ranger (completely bushed as far as I can tell), would come by each day with ever more dire predictions of rains, rising river levels, floods, and territorial, mating crocodiles coming early to heat because of the unseasonal rains. I alternated between thinking he actually believed the future was fraught with danger and suspecting he just enjoyed winding up the naive Canadians.

Late Saturday morning, the weather actually cleared a little and the rain stopped so we drove back out to the Gillies Highway and up past Little Mulgrave towards Yurrabunga and the start of Robsons Track to Gillies Lookout. This is about 16.5 km from the junction of the Gillies and Bruce Highways and is marked by a larger than normal pull-out on the north side of the Gillies Highway and a small monument marking the trailhead and describing the history of the trail.

I'm not sure what the elevation gain on the trail is, but it isn't that much, maybe a couple of hundred metres. The trail is relatively steep and quite eroded at first as it winds up between large granite boulders splitting here and there but always rejoining further up. After about half an hour, the angle eases back and the trail continues winding up a dry spur ridge with views of the Bellenden Ker Range and the Goldsborough Valley opening up. Two thirds of the way up, the trail drops steeply down a small ravine to cross a creek and climbs just as steeply out the other side, then, wanders gradually uphill through open forest and grassland to join an old forestry road up near the ridge top. At this junction, you turn left and within five minutes come out at Gillies Lookout and the hang-gliders launch site.

There is a great view of the Goldsborough Valley with the Mulgrave River a silvery line running through. The heads of Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker were in the clouds and showers were washing over the pyramidal Walshs Pyramid. More importantly, we couldn't help but notice that the far Goldsborough Valley where the Mulgrave River arises and the campground is, were perennially in the cloud as continuous showers (rain) passed over.

We arrived back at the Gillies Highway as a family were pulling out and the woman asked us if we had enjoyed our hike and “gone all the way.” When we replied to both in the affirmative she heartily congratulated us on our stamina, but, I had to bite back the caustic comment “that it's not that far” which, might have been churlish, but was certainly truthful. 

Doug Overlooking The Goldsborough Valley

Travel Breaks And Waiting Out The Rain

After our seven day sea kayak trip from Flying Fish Point to Cairns, Doug and I were feeling a little road weary. This travel fatigue seems to come upon us every two months or so when we feel the need to stop moving for a few days and just chill out. We don't just sit – I am incapable of sitting - but we do seem to need a break from endlessly moving from one place to another, as well as planning and executing our trips and activities.

Our last travel break was at Lake Nuga Nuga, which was ideal for chilling for a few days as it was really scenic, relatively deserted, and had kayaking and walking right from our campsite. We took our latest travel break up on the Atherton Tablelands at Kauri Creek Campground on Lake Tinaroo in Danbulla Forest. This was a pretty nice spot for an extended stay although it was busier than Lake Nuga Nuga, suffered from the infernal and eternal smoky campfires that Australian's just can't seem to live without, and was not as remote or beautiful as Lake Nuga Nuga. But, there were two good walking trails accessible right from the campground, as well as many other walks nearby, and we could put our kayaks into the lake and go for a paddle at any time, or practise eskimo rolling.

After a few days, I began to feel rested and ready to move. Down on the coast, the usual southeast trades were blowing at 20 to 30 knots so sea kayaking was not a good option. Instead, we poked about on the Atherton Tablelands doing some hikes (Mounts Emerald and Baldy, Torpedo Bay) as well as visiting some of the scenic highlights of the area (the Cathedral Fig Tree – aptly named, Mobo Creek Crater, Lake Euramoo, Gillies Lookout in pouring rain and thick fog).

With winds forecast to diminish after the weekend, we left Lake Tinaroo on Thursday and made our way via Torpedo Bay hike (I liked it so much when I did it by myself that I did it again the next day with Doug), Peterson Creek walk (where we saw three platypus) and Lake Barrine (a very wet one hour kayak circumnavigation in teeming rain) to Goldsborough Valley campground in Wooroonooran National Park.

Unfortunately, along with the southeast trades, the rain has arrived. This is pretty typical (as we are starting to learn) as the southeast flow picks up moisture from the ocean and deposits it on the coastal areas in the form of rain. The rain started on Tuesday, and, as I write this, it is Friday night and raining steadily, as it has done off and on every day between.

I managed to get out for a four hour walk today during a break in the rain along the Goldfield trail towards Babinda. It was even warm enough for me to feel quite sweaty when I returned so I had a swim in the lovely clear cool waters of the Mulgrave River before the rain began again. It seems that waiting out the weather is just as tedious in Australia as it is in Canada. 

 Camp By Lake Tinaroo

If Only I Could, Surely I Would

If only I could, surely I would...

Eskimo roll reliably. According to John Lull (author of “Sea Kayaking Safety and Rescue”) learning to eskimo roll requires “commitment, concentration and relaxation.” Off and on, more on than off lately, I've been working on getting a reliable eskimo roll and I would say that, in addition to commitment, concentration and relaxation, a high tolerance for frustration is required.

I think I have now spent almost as much time hanging upside down in my kayak as I have spent right side up (O.K., maybe a little less), a commensurate amount of time teetering on the brink between right side up and upside down (usually ending upside down), and, a fair bit of time swimming a boat full of water to shore and emptying it out; and still a reliable roll eludes me.

It's not that many days ago that I had my “best day ever” when I hit four rolls out of five in the morning and again in the afternoon, and thought – well hoped more than thought - that I might have turned some proverbial corner where my rolls would suddenly become more reliable. But, two days later, feeling nervous that I couldn't repeat such a high point, I doomed myself to at least an equal number of failures as successes.

Sometimes, very little seems to separate the successes from the failures – a head that rises a bit too soon, a sweep a little foreshortened, just a minor tweak of the procedure and the entire enterprise fails. And then, there are those moments when it all comes together and seemingly without effort, the kayak is right side up, sometimes righted with such vigour that you almost capsize over the other side.

Unlike climbing or skiing where you can cheat a little bit (come on, we've all pulled on a draw occasionally, or side-slipped unglamorously down a steep slope) you really can't fake an eskimo roll – either you are up or you're not. There's no middle ground. 

Paddling In To Land Through Light Surf


Off and on, when conditions permit (which is probably a bit of a cop-out), I have been trying to get a reliable eskimo roll down in my sea kayak. At this point, I am very quasi-reliable, getting about one out of every five under ideal conditions of warm, calm water in an empty boat and wearing a face mask (prevents the inevitable water up the nose). I often wonder if, even were I more reliable, would I be able to roll a loaded boat. I don't know, and, until I get rolling an unloaded boat solid, I am not taking a chance to find out.

I've never actually unintentionally capsized in my kayak (or I hadn't until recently). On long trips with a loaded boat where there is just Doug and I, caution dictates some prudence when paddling on the open ocean. We can be a long way from shore, and a long way from rescue, so pushing our paddling to the limit where a capsize becomes a real possibility seems foolhardy.

Ironically, I had my first unintentional capsize just the day after we were talking about such events with our new friends from Cairns. Out of the four of us, including our two new friends who are very experienced kayakers, only one (MF) had unintentionally capsized and that was a minor incident coming into a breaking bar with one of their children in the front of their double kayak.

The day after, five of us paddled from Yorkeys Knob on the north side of Cairns up to Ellis Beach via Double and Haycock Islands. From Yorkeys Knob, it is about 9 km north and around the east side of Haycock Island to a very small landing site sheltered between two small rock reefs on the western side of Haycock Island. The wind was gradually increasing until it was blowing a fairly typical 17 to 18 knots gusting up to 22 knots. Accordingly, there was the usual short, steep wind chop blowing with some reasonably well developed waves.

We landed at Haycock Island and had a short leg stretch, and then, one by one, launched out of the little cove back into the now reasonably well developed seas. I was last to launch and was waiting in the little harbour with my spray deck on and all ready to paddle out into the exposed water as soon as Doug paddled out of the little harbour we had landed in.

My attention was not well focused on the sea state around me as I was more concerned with not getting close to Doug as I had almost collided my kayak with his as we rounded Haycock Island when he unpredictably stopped in front of me and began back-paddling. I, expecting him to continue forward, was still forward paddling, and surfing down a wave which brought our boats dangerously close together. Consequently, instead of watching the waves which were sneaking around the reef of the little harbour, I was actually watching Doug who was fiddling with his spray deck. I was also feeling quite comfortable in my kayak, as despite the somewhat pushy conditions, I had not had any trouble with boat management on the 9 kilometre paddle to Haycock Island.

In any case, as I was sitting there in a daze (also watching a nearby turtle) a large wave snuck around our little sheltering reef and I was too slow to get my boat pointed bow into it and failed to lean far enough when it broke right on my kayak, and, within a second, I was upside down. For a moment, I did actually consider trying to roll (and should have as nothing would have been lost), but, I thought my chances of success were fairly marginal, and a wet exit and re-entry would be quicker.

By the time I was out of my boat and had it right side over, Smittie (one of the other paddlers) was beside me rafted up to my kayak. I slipped my paddle into position as an outrigger and, as quick as I was out of the boat, I was back in. However, we were still in a wave zone and I flipped almost immediately. This time, I got back in, just as quick, and got out of the wave zone. Doug came over, we rafted up and I began the most difficult task of bailing out the boat. We have hand-operated pumps that work reasonably well, but as the water level in the boat drops, getting the last 5 to 8 cm that is floating in the cockpit out gets difficult and I ended up reverting to a sponge.

With most of the water out of my boat, I reattached my spraydeck to the cockpit and resumed paddling. Trying to bail out with my cockpit on, although recommended in all the kayak books was impossible with my hand pump. My boat still felt pretty sloppy as there was still a reasonable amount of water slopping about in the cockpit and I paddled cautiously until I was well in the lee of Double Island where I sponged out the last of the water. Luckily, neither my hat, nor my prescription sunglasses were lost in the incident.

Although I felt quite silly for capsizing my kayak in what was actually very easy conditions, I found the whole incident provided a good practice rescue in very safe conditions. I was only 5 or 10 metres off the beach in the little harbour and could have easily swum back in, plus, I was in a reasonable sized party of experienced and well equipped kayakers so the entire event was very safe.

As usual, I learnt a few things. One is, of course, to stay focused even when you are feeling relaxed and confident. The wave that capsized me was one of those sneaker waves that is a bit larger and more powerful than other waves. Secondly, even though I may never be able to eskimo roll a loaded boat, being able to roll an empty boat would have saved some time and been much quicker in this scenario taking less than a minute. Thirdly, pumping out a full cockpit takes some time and, it might be worthwhile either attempting to empty the cockpit by using a T-rescue or pumping the cockpit out before reentering. If more waves had been breaking I would not have been able to pump out with my spraydeck off as I did, and pumping out with my sprayskirt on was just not workable with my set-up. Finally, I am going to make sure everything in my cockpit is tied on in the event of a capsize. I have my hydration bladder behind my boat seat when I am paddling and I am lucky it did not fall out and sink.

And, now, it's back to trying to get a solid eskimo roll.