Anzac Day. A day to remember.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping …
Having paddled with a number of veterans and those currently serving in recent years, I  have a great respect for the sacrifices that have been made in the past.
However, as this next piece shows, it was not always a day that I remembered.

“I know that voice”
It was 4 am on a Sunday morning and I could hardly hear the alarm for the beating of the rain on our little cottages’ roof. The wind howled through the trees outside as I clobbered the alarm and fell back into a half sleep.

The last couple of weeks had been poor weather with weak cold fronts constantly passing through South Australia bringing drizzly cool days, and today was no exception with showers expected for most of the day.

I realised that Gavin and Michael would be here soon and contemplated just a few more minutes in bed. I thought they know that I am always late, but then Gavin is always early so I slowly dragged myself from the warm bed.

The mountain of gear stacked neatly in the hallway needed only the last minute additions of fully charged camera batteries and such like, which I dutifully attended to, crossing off each item off my list. All ready to go, just as I heard Gavin’s car pull up out the front. Gavin bowled in, looking just like someone who is always awake before five, which of course he is, followed by Michael who hasn’t seen this time of darkness since our last trip.

The gear was loaded and I found that Michael has claimed the backseat for the trip and I had the duty of riding in the front with Gavin, ensuring that he was awake during the drive. How anyone can stay awake listening to ABC Radio at that time of the morning is beyond me, but duty called.

Sombre music, then marching bands: hell what was this stuff he was listening to? We passed along the foggy highway out of Adelaide to the tunes of the 127 th District marching band or some such mob, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to take eight hours of this.

Passing through Tailem Bend I realised what was happening. It was Anzac Day.

There was a group of 200 or so people gathered at the park, with many spilling onto the roadway, forcing us to crawl past. I remembered back to my only time of being at an Anzac Day dawn service, when I must have been about 10 years old. I vividly remember the service being held in a local park in Parkside where I grew up, but can’t remember who I went with, or what happened afterwards. Just the short service and the music.

Sunday morning on ABC radio is Macca in the morning. I listened to the introductions and then vagued out while staring at the unchanging landscape of the mallee country. Macca had people ringing in to recount their views and memories of Anzac day.

As I rolled along in the front seat, listening to Michael’s snoring in the back I heard a woman’s voice saying that she had just come from a dawn service held with her husband and only one other person. It was a Tasmanian accent, quite distinctive but pleasant to listen to. Sounded in her late 40s or thereabouts, well spoken and confident. I didn’t hear where she was from, assumed Tasmania, but she was talking about their dawn service held on the top of a hill at the site where four RAAF flyers had died in a crash near the end of the war. They had been on a training run or similar and had engine problems resulting in the crash. The bodies had been buried elsewhere but there was still the scattered remains of plane where a small memorial was erected. She spoke of the isolated area that they from, describing the wallabies on the hill and sea views from her kitchen window. Sounded like a great place to me…

Then off we headed. Victoria to Tasmania by sea kayak.

Gavin, Michael and I stood at the base of the cliff, on the tiny windswept beach, looking up at the zig zag track that leads to the lighthouse keeper’s cottage. We had had a long hard day, crossing from Hogan Island to Deal Island, with lightning greeting us just before our dawn departure. The wind was OK before dawn but talking by phone to the duty forecaster in Tasmania I knew that we had only a few hours to get off the island or be there for some time.

The winds had risen later in the morning as we sailed and paddled our way to Deal Island in the Kent Group. Rising wind and rising seas had made for a rough ride, with worse on the way. We paddled strongly knowing that the sanctuary was only a couple of hours away, however the front grew closer with steadily increasing force. Rising seas and wind from the rear quarter made for interesting times. We eventually made shelter in the lee of Erith Island with a 40kn headwind screaming towards us as the main front hit.
The paddle along the Murray Passage was demanding with the wind coming head on between the Islands, as Michael powered past us determined to land first. Maybe he was just glad to be near a safe haven after having suffered two capsizes whilst sailing that morning, or maybe the lure of a cup of tea and Mars bars had scrambled his brain. He is a legend in the world of chocolate bars, carrying large packets of Mars Bars and the like when we go paddling. Still, you can’t complain when he insists on sharing them out after paddling, but I still think that anyone who calls them carrots is still a little unusual.

We set off fully equipped for the climb up the Deal Island path with extra supplies of Mars Bars and Snickers stuffed in our pockets. Half way up the path we paused briefly to admire the view and call in to our families. The surprise of the caretaker was evident when we strolled up to the cottage, certainly not expecting paddlers in this weather, but as always we were invited in for tea and scones.

It was unsafe to proceed to the campsite and hut on Erith Island so we were able to bed down in the spare cottage on Deal. We had the opportunity of a hot shower and a real bed and that was not to be knocked back. A quick shower and change of clothes and up to the caretaker’s for high tea.

We entered the cosy warm cottage and met our hosts Dallas and Shirley. They are caretakers on the island for three months at a time, with this being their second time here.

Bloody hell, I know that voice!, the soft but distinct  accent coming from the kitchen sounded familiar, but I didn’t recognise the face. Shirley plied us with scones with jam and cream and tea, while I thought about where I knew her from.

When talking to Dallas about the awful weather heading our way it came to me. Have you been on the radio lately? “Yes, twice on the ABC talking about Deal Island”. Did you have an Anzac dawn service here? “Yes just three of us, up near where the plane crash site”. It was her, the voice on the radio that cold rainy Anzac morning. Strange things seem to happen when you go paddling.

We were marooned on Deal Island for eight days waiting for the weather to moderate. The winds stayed at around 60 kn for most of that time with huge seas battering the island group. We did wallaby musters, helped other blow-ins and had many other adventures in those eight days and many more on that 19 day crossing of Bass Strait.

Deal Island looking towards Erith and Dover Islands

Deal Island looking towards Erith and Dover Islands

Now every Anzac Day not only do I remember those who fought in our wars but I think of that lonely crash site on that lonely little island.
Ian Pope

Kayak Sail for Passat G3 Seaward kayak

I’ve been mucking about sea kayak sails for many years and had a variety of shapes and types fitted on lots of my kayaks, starting in the early 1980’s. I’ve been using the common fold down mast on my single kayaks with a 1sq metre sail for many years and thought this was the simplest model.

With the arrival of our Passat G3 double from Seaward Kayaks, Robyn and I have had to rethink the sailing idea. We looked at a couple of normal style mast fittings, but decided that we needed a” through the deck” mast socket. I wanted it to be able to paddle effectively whilst the sail was up so I decided on a central sail mount, between the 2 paddlers, and close to the front paddler, meaning that I couldn’t actually reach the mount to insert the mast.

I enlisted the help of Mal B, our Mr Gadget on this one. His design was  a stainless steel tube with exterior flange, matching underdeck reinforcing plate with a bracing bracket to the bulkhead. It incorporated a “lead in” section in the tube so that the mast could be inserted at an angle, and then pushed upright by the rear paddler. Luckily Mal had a few ideas and some expert engineering skills to install it and make it work. After buying some tube and plate it was off to the workshop to cut and weld it together. The fairlead cleat for the boom rope is not attached by bolts through the deck as is common practice, but threaded onto a spectre cord that is attached to the deckline mounts meaning fewer holes drilled in the kayak.

Then the problem of deck storage. Because the sail mast was not attached to the foredeck as in my previous fit-out with single kayaks, I had to get a more streamlined full length bag made for the furled sail and store it on the deck.

As my sewing skills are well known to be zero, I contacted an old friend who makes kayak sails as well as doing windsurfer sail modifications and repairs.

Di knocked up a perfect storage bag suitable for storage on the deck. Di had previously built lots of sails for me and all are still in excellent condition, so if you’re in Adelaide, or infact anywhere in Australia, and  need a sail repair or bag made give Di a call on (08) 82965464 or her mobile 0404040593.
I’m sure she will be able to help you out.

I took a couple of photos and filmed a little of the Passat under sail during our recent trip along the coast of Yorke Peninsula. Hope it gives you an idea of the mounting system and sailing fun.

This is only a basic overview of the system so if you want more information please contact me. The next project is to design a sail fitout for my Nimbus Njak kayak, that doesn’t involve extra holes drilled in the kayak and can be easily fitted as one unit. I’ll get onto that one when I get back from our next holiday.

Happy paddling
Ian and Robyn

PS. There is a review of the Passat G3 double sea kayak here

Mal Blewett joins the Bass Strait club

Mal landed today at Little Musselroe Bay Tasmania after crossing Bass Strait in a single Nimbus Telkwa kayak and he did it solo. He had fun with the changing weather, fought with pesky animals (rattus rattus – aka black rat ) trying to steal his food, got dumped in large seas smashing his compass and damaging the kayak, saw lots of aquatic and bird life and camped at places few people will ever visit. All that in just 13 days.
Congratulations from everyone at Paddling South.

It took 13 days to paddle there, but longer to get back. Mal cant get back on the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry until early April.

His report on landing today.
 Hi All, well that’s it; the big crossing is done. Arrived on Tasmania’s shore today around 4.30pm(EST), to be greeted by my wife Annie, Mal Hamilton & his daughter Donna. The crossing of Banks Strait from Rebecca Cove on Clarke Island to Little Mussleroe Bay on Tassie, went well with the strong currents and 4mtr swell muddled in with a 2mtr constant wind wave and 20knots of wind, just to keep me on my toes. My little make shift compass spent most of the day pointing in the wrong direction as it has done since having my good Silva compass smashed at the beginning of the expedition. I shall be writing a very stern letter of complaint to Garmin since my good GPS the Garmin 78sc decided to die completely as I was about a mile out to sea on the start of the long ocean crossings many days ago. No compass and a stuffed GPS makes for a lot of guess work. I did carry my spare Garmin 78s which constantly shuts down. Oh what fun!!! Many thanks to all that have given me help and assistance along the way. I will create a list and add it to this web posting when I get settled back to civilization. Today Bass Strait tomorrow the world!!!!

Ashore on Tasmania