Thursday, 31 January 2013

Perfect Planning ...

Yesterday our wonderful Prime Minister made the following statement when announcing that the next Federal election will be held on September 14:

“Announcing the election date now enables individuals and businesses, investors and consumers, to plan their year” 

Being a well organised person, and wanting to show my appreciation for this gesture by our Prime Minister, I immediately went into my future calender of events and promptly rearranged my planned events around my life around the upcoming election.  Here it is:

But let's just zoom into the important bit ...  the lead up to the election:

Perfect planning ...

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The worst day of their lives (Part II)

So after all that effort and angst this morning to get down to the cliffs and collect some oysters to have with dinner and the final product looked superb ...

Unfortunately, it didn't do so well on the taste test ...

Children can be harsh critics.  We did all enjoy the spaghetti bolognaise that was to follow.

The Shuttlebike ...

What's a rambler to do when he starts running out of trails on land?

This problem has been bothering me for a while now as I find it harder and harder to think of new places to go and explore by bike in Tasmania.

Then a friend of mine suggested I sent me this link ..., and the rest, predictably, was inevitable and Bruny Island was the perfect place to give things a try ...

It does take a doctorate to figure out how to put it all together
Kim had plenty of time to have a snooze and work on her tan.
Inflation of pontoons is achieve by a pedal pump which is quite clever.
(but very hard and takes two people)

30 minutes (OK, an hour) later and we have the finished product ...
Question is ... do I trust it?
Me with my confident face on.
No turning back now ... speaking of which ... how do you turn?

Child's play ...

Slightly out of skew ...

Notice flip up propeller attached to front wheel
You just turn the same way you would when riding a bike.  Clever.
If you want to see how it is really done, then feel free to check out the expert in action ...

With a bit of imagination, there's always new trails to ride, though I think it will be a while before I do the first circumnavigation of Tasmania on this baby ...

The worst day of her life ...

I was a little way ahead of them when I heard Zara burst out into a huge sobbing fit, declaring that she couldn't possibly go on and that this was absolutely, positively, the worst day of her life ... ever.

... and look, in her defense, at that point in time she was barely visible above the thick bracken as she tried gamely to push her very heavy bike up a fairly steep bush track ...

and you also have to factor in that this was her first ever 'off road' ride in her life ...

... and that on the way down she had had a fairly nasty crash straight into a log and had done quite a bit of  damage to her foot ... which didn't stop us putting her to work searching for oysters ...

Which we then put in her backpack before making her climb back up some rather steep tracks ....

All of which (as I consider it) may just mean that this really was the worst day of her life ... ever!

Problem was that it was still only the first morning of our three days on Bruny Island, and this wasn't a good start.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Lessons Learned ...

I've been involved in a committee that is reviewing the Tasmanian Sea Canoe Club's safety procedures for the last year or so, and as such have spent a lot of time thinking about risk, personal and group responsibility, and basically all facets of risk and safety management.

... and I have to admit that through the whole process I've been an advocate of encouraging freedom of adventure and the embracing of personal responsibility for our own actions (within a supportive club environment) over a procedures based tome of club safety guidelines.

It was with this background that I was paddling out around Crayfish point on the clubs Wednesday night paddle, when I touched my left rudder pedal to adjust for a wave that I was moving through, something I would already have done hundreds of time on that trip without even thinking about it,  and suddenly I felt the whole pedal disappear from under my left foot.

Hmmm, I was pretty sure that wasn't supposed to happen.

I tried to find out what had happened by 'feel'.  Had the foot pad just slipped off?  maybe it had come loose and jumped down the rail where I couldn't reach it with my foot?  I just didn't know, all I knew was I had lost control of my rudder.

What I did know was that the loss in boat control was immediate and to be honest rather startling.  With a side on slop hitting me, I found myself having to sweep stroke continuously on the right to get around the headland so I could land on a small beach I knew was on the other side and see what was happening.

It wasn't the foot pad and it wasn't the rail ... my rudder cable had just straight out snapped.

Double Hmmm.
I looked out to the rest of the group paddling off into the distance largely unaware of what had happened to me and I quickly decided that my best option was to turn back home and let them figure out what had happened.  I knew it would be a slow trip home and figured they'd catch me on the way back.

I wasn't overly worried about this as at least one person in that group had seen me paddle into the beach and so I knew the group would figure out that I had turned around for a reason (if they noticed), and then as I set off back to where we launched, I came across two other Wednesday night paddlers so I was able to let them know I'd snapped a rudder cable, was OK, but heading back early.

I was comfortable with that.

I was not however comfortable with what was happening with my boat.  It was - at most - a half metre sea hitting me, admittedly almost directly side on, but still it should have been nothing to worry about.  Except I had virtually no control over my forward direction having to paddle all the way back with my left hand right on the paddle shaft and virtually sweep stroking the whole time out to the right ... and this was just to go in a straight line.

Was I worried?  not in the slightest.

Was I having fun?  not in the slightest.

This was a slog and there was nothing fun about it, but it summarises to me the importance of self-responsibility.  I wasn't worried because despite my boat handling like a crazed whale seeking to beach itself on the shore, I had practiced paddling without a rudder many times, I knew I had the skills to handle this situation even if it got worse: I knew I had a good strong sweep stroke, I knew how to adjust my forward paddling stroke and boat position to optimise my effort and whilst it might not be fun, I knew I'd get back. I also knew that I had lots of pull out options along the way.

If this had happened in two weeks time on my planned trip around Rocky Cape - well yes that would have been a much more tricky situation, but even typing this I think I'd still have coped.

As it turned out, as I came around Long Point I saw Steph there packing up his outrigger after a training paddle (we'd met out on the water so I'd hoped he would be there and was looking out for him), so I finally let my boat have it's nose, headed into the beach and hitched a lift with him back to my car to save myself a 20-30 minute slog back across the water.

Adventure over.

But what were the lessons learned?

Was it dangerous (reckless? negligent?) that despite being on a Wednesday night paddle - I was basically on my own?  I don't personally think so.  I knew the rules for Wednesday night paddles, I knew all but one paddler who was out there that night, and they knew me.  I knew at least three people o the water knew of my situation, and despite not communicating with the main group directly I felt confident that they would find out what had happened to me.  I will mention that I did have a storm whistle with me and could have blown it and got their attention if I felt I had needed it - which I hadn't when the situation had first gone south, and even whilst on the beach - but I'd felt confident that I'd handle the situation and had made the choice to go into that beach alone and go back alone.

The only thing that nags at me is that maybe I should have made more effort to let them know explicitly what had happened to me. I'm not sure.

Was I negligent with my equipment?  maybe, and I'll take responsibility for that.  But the cable had frayed right at the end of the housing and so I may not have even noticed it if I had checked, and even if I had a spare cable with me on that trip, I still would have made the choice to paddle home without fixing it.

So I put it down to one of those extraordinary things that do happen and I'm happy that the situation did just happen and that I dealt with it when I did.

I didn't need a procedures manual to tell me what to do, but I'm curious to know what others think - especially if they were on the trip ...

What would of (should of) I done differently?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Huon River - Tahune to Southwood

2013 hasn't really started the way I would have liked.

In between bushfires, a crazy time at work, Kim's first half marathon and buying a new car ... well not much else has happened.  I've barely got outdoors at all this year, and that's just not right.

This was remedied today as I finally chalked up my first micro-adventure for the year ... a pack-rafting / mountain biking trip down the Huon River from the Tahune Airwalk.

Now believe it or not (I say this because Kim couldn't believe it), despite growing up in the Huon Valley I'd never actually been down this section of river.  The upside of this was that when Kim got talked out of our original idea of liloing down a section of the Franklin River by her "everything's going to go wrong, you'll drown and I'm sure it's illegal anyway" work colleagues ...

Ah memories from my 2004 Trip down the Franklin  River
... where I at least survived.
... well at least we had something else we could do instead.

As per tradition with our southern adventures, we started the day with a truly horrible breakfast at Banjo's Huonville where we (again) agreed that we would never go there again (if only there was an early morning alternative) before driving on to our exit point near the Southwood Mill site to stash our bikes and cycling gear for the return trip back to the airwalk.

Then we carried on to the Tahune Airwalk Carpark in the car and made ready for our little sojourn down the river ...

Kim waiting for me below Tahune Bridge ...
(forgot the camera and had to go back to get it).
... no going back now
Now the genius behind this trip will be understood by anyone who has competed in the now defunct Tahune Mountain Bike Marathon (or at least the 50km version) and who has since gone back and tried to ride the course only to find that most of the off road sections on the way down to the Southwood site are now a mudslop not worth riding vis a vis this picture ...

Exhibit A: Unridable mudslop.
With my new water based route, we'd get the joy of floating down the river to Southwood missing all this mud, plus we'd still get to tackle the more enjoyable section of track that runs back up into the Weld and around to the airwalk on the way back.  Brilliant (even if I do say so myself).

So we got to the first 'rapid' (noting that according to the guide notes this section of river is only Grade 1/2 so we weren't expecting anything to worry about) and there is a left channel and a right channel to choose from.  I of course decide to go down the right channel and only notice just before I get onto the horizon of the rapid that the right channel runs straight into a sharp turn ending at a rock sieve and have to rapidly back paddle (something not easy to do in a packraft against the current) to then go down the left channel. At this point I do confess to thinking "God, I'm glad we didn't go down the Franklin"

Here's my one piece of advice advice for this river section - at low levels (like we were doing) pretty much always choose the river left channel (when we went down the BOM River Level for Tahune Bridge - available at their website - was 0.5 metres.)

However, after that one little scare every other rapid was an absolute doddle ... one of the easiest rivers I've ever been down, and also very beautiful all the way down to the Weld River Junction (approx 7 or 8 km down from Tahune Bridge).  For the record this is only Kim's second time on the water, and I am a white water novice who is scared of rapids ... and we cruised it.

About 4kms below the bridge we pulled off the river onto a little rock island which had a nice little rapid next to it and tried out the lilos which we'd brought with us ...

Kim inflating her lilo.  I've got more hot air
so mine is already inflated.
I did take some video footage of our lilo adventure, but I'll spare you the pain ... let's just say we both agreed that it was probably a good thing that we didn't do the Franklin on those lilos ... there wasn't a heck of a lot of directional control ... and to be honest, although the concept is cool, the reality was that it wasn't as much fun as the packrafts, but still it was nice to get in the water on such a hot day.

Below the Weld River junction, there was very little in the way of rapids, or waterflow, so it was a bit of a slog to get down the last four or five kilometres to the Southwood Bridge (my packrafts top speed is about 4km/hr) and we relished every rapid we could find to speed us along a bit ...

Well unless we were not paying attention and managed to bog ourselves on the only rock in the entire river ...

Kim ... high and dry on a submerged rock ...
but  in her defense look how hard it would have been to miss it (not).
It was nice to finally have the Southwood bridge come into view.  Though not so nice to have spectators watching us as we floundered to shore and then tried to hide all of our kayaking gear with them still watching us ...  I guess sometimes you just have to trust people.

After that it was an 18km ride back to the start, with the first 7kms being along a wonderful, fast section of track running alongside the river (but with little views) before emerging back out onto the gravel road to complete the loop back to the airwalk.   For the first time in my life this track was mainly dry ... but only mainly.  We came across a guy on a motorbike who had flooded his engine by charging into a puddle which turned out to be a lot deeper than he anticipated ... we walked around that one.

After a bit of a climb up Fletchers Road, the final few kilometres along South Weld Road are particularly nice due to the now almost non-existent traffic and the roads slow return to a leafy lane ... well, if you see the snakes in time.

And that was our day.  It was nice to get out and spend a day in the sunshine, exploring and re-exploring trails.  I felt a lot of stress leave me as we went along ... at least until I got back into my new car and had to do battle with the stupid ipod integration feature again -Aagghhhhh!!!!

Now that the ball is rolling, the obvious question is ... what shall I do next?

You can see the route here