Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Gardening Rocks: Square Head

Lately Doug and I have been doing a little easy "rock gardening;" a genre of sea kayaking that has nothing to do with dirt and plants, and everything to do with playing in surges and swells among rock features. Rock gardening is a lot like whitewater kayaking except you are in a big, stable, high volume and hard to maneuver boat instead of in a responsive low volume play boat. The other difference is that when you are rock gardening, the whitewater comes and goes and timing becomes much more crucial. 

John Lull, (this book is currently my bed-time read) one of the redoubtable Tsunami Rangers, says that paddling in rock gardens requires "precise boat control, surfing skill, and a reliable Eskimo roll." I'd like to say "check, check, and check," the reality is more like "not so much", "OK in surf under one metre", and, "I'm working on it." 

Wednesday was just another perfect sea kayak day on the south coast of NSW with light winds and a one metre easterly swell forecast. So, after reading all about bow draws, stern draws and side-slipping I settled on Square Head, between Long and Cullendulla Beaches in Batemans Bay as a good location to practice some rock gardening. 

I launched at the picnic area off Wharf Road just west of Pinnacle Point which was a bit of a mistake as the beach is very flat and the tide goes out a long way. The drag (not carry as I was by myself) was not bad at mid-tide, but as the tide dropped it got longer and longer. Dragging the kayak back was actually more strenuous than lifting it onto the roof-racks by myself. 

There are some easy rock gardens and gutters at Pinnacle Point and I spent a good bit of time poking in and around all the rocks and backing into the gutters. A shorter kayak and a shorter paddle would make this a lot easier. I also wanted to try paddling some pour overs, but, try as I might I just could not seem to get the timing right and I would inevitably end up high-centred on a rock teetering from side to side waiting for the next surge to release me. 

Out at Square Head there was more swell and I took more time to wait and watch the surge and swell. I didn't do any pour-overs but I did manage to cruise through the passage that I got high-centred on last time by waiting for the right moment to weave around the rocks. I only got that rapid heart beat once when I fell into a hole by a rock when a larger wave than usual sucked out, but, a quick brace kept me upright. 

Of course, a short paddle day means that you must practice some Eskimo rolls so on the way back I detoured into Cullendulla Beach. If you are going to do some rolling, this is a pretty perfect spot as the water is warm, clear and bailing out to the beach is easy. Since I have been working on yanking up hard on my water knee, I have been rolling more reliably and I managed to do another 5 or 6 rolls today. The trouble is, I have failed so many times that I have a terrific amount of mental baggage bumping around in my brain every time I try. I had to bail out once when I got the paddle all tangled up and I sure am looking forward to getting a shorter paddle. 

A very light - 2 knot - wind had come up which meant that paddling back to Surfside Beach the kayak was weather-cocking constantly. This is an extremely tedious function of Prijon Marlin kayaks, they weather cock in the slightest whisper of wind. Usually, I just pull the rudder down but today I had vowed to use only corrective strokes to turn the boat so I got lots of practice doing bow draws all the way back to the beach. 

 Just another perfect paddling day

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