Up the Creek with Half a Paddle

Tuesday, 11 November 2008 01:34 | Written by  Steve Price
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[Editor: Steve Price from Hobart, Tasmania contributed this salutory tale of a less than pleasant experience.  I know of at least three paddles that have broken in the last couple of weeks - are you prepared for this?]

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Fun Paddle 

My wife was heading off to get the groceries so I decided to throw the trusty Millennium on the roof and hitch a lift in to town with her and paddle home. The paddle basically takes you from Hobart down the Derwent River into Ralph’s Bay through the Lauderdale Canal and up the beach to our house. All up it’s about 20km and can be an awesome paddle in the right conditions. The forecast was supposed to be for WNW winds at around 30km/h, this is normally pretty spot on so I was feeling geed up for a fun paddle. The Derwent River is an extremely popular water way, it’s quite exposed and is known for being rough. On a weekend it’s normally packed with yachts and runabouts but due to the conditions and the unseasonable 11 degrees it was pretty well deserted.

Adrenaline Flowing

When Jo dropped me off the wind on the river was blowing hard southerly, but knowing the area and the way the wind funnels around Mount Wellington I was confident that the direction would change as I went further down. Because of the conditions Jo wasn’t really keen about me heading out, she had a bad feeling about it but I assured her I’d be fine and I’d be home in an hour an a half. I was paddling solo today and on Jo’s insistence I took the precaution of wearing a leash and pfd just in case. I stuck close to the western shore in the shelter of the cliffs that run along the side of the river but once I reached Taroona I changed my course to go across the river paddling at 45 degrees to the wind and swell. As I ventured further out the true strength of the wind became apparent. It was much stronger than I had originally thought with the gusts actually lifting the white caps off the water. The ski would rise over the top of a wave and the wind would grab the bow and throw it downwind. The adrenaline was flowing and I was getting pretty excited at the prospect of catching some awesome runs once I turned with the wind.

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Strange Sound

My speed at this point was hovering around 12km/h even though I didn’t feel like I was getting a lot of power down. Out in the middle the wind started to swing and was coming more from the west, but I still couldn’t run with it as I had to head for the entrance to Ralph’s Bay which was further down river. Eventually I was far enough south to turn towards the bay and started to link up some runs. The swell had built considerably with the Garmin showing 20km/h on a couple of occasions. I was really starting to enjoy myself and couldn’t help but think that Jo’s worry was misplaced. As I passed the point at the entrance to the bay my paddle made a strange sound. I stopped paddling and inspected the connector thinking that it must have worked loose, but it was tight and I couldn’t see anything wrong. I dug in hard for another wave and the paddle snapped in half “##%^*”. This caused me to lose balance and end up in the drink.

Leash 

The leash had me safely anchored to the ski so I put both pieces of the paddle into one hand, grabbed the ski and tried to figure out what to do. I was about 9km from home, but only a couple of kilometres from land. The only problem was that with the direction of the wind and the size of the waves two kilometres might as well have been twenty. After trying to stuff one of the halves of the paddle down the back of my pfd for ten minutes I finally succeeded and remounted the ski. I then tried to paddle canoe style with the other half. I would get both feet in and flail around a bit until I could get accustomed to my new stroke, then I would make a bit of ground only to be swamped by a wave and end up back in the water. I tried to catch some waves but on the odd occasion that I did I would end up careering down the face madly trying to stay in control only to wallow once the speed had washed off, get swamped and fall off again.

Mostly though I couldn’t go fast enough which added to the instability and meant that I was getting tossed around all over the place. Constantly having to remount was wearing me out, it was a battle to just keep it in a straight line due to the fact that I was always paddling on one side. On one of my many dunkings the half of the paddle that I had stuffed down my pfd came out and disappeared but by this stage I was too tired to care and didn’t even bother looking for it. I was starting to shiver uncontrollably and was beginning to doubt whether I could make it in before I was exhausted.

Well over my projected ETA 

I didn’t need to look at the Garmin to know I was well over my projected ETA, I knew Jo would be getting worried so I pushed on and tried to ignore the cold and keep the ski moving in the right direction. As I was getting closer to shore I could see Jo and my son Angus with the binoculars looking for me. 10 minutes later I was on the beach struggling to get the ski on the car. Later in the evening whilst enjoying a medicinal scotch I had a look at the Garmin. I must have bumped it getting back on at some stage as it had stopped at the 12km mark, but it did show that with half a paddle I could average about 6km/h. A look at the weather observations revealed gusts of 80km/h so I was probably pretty lucky that it was blowing towards home and not out to sea. Now I’m in the market for a new paddle as well as a new ski.

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Latest Weather Observations for Hobart

Issued at 4:45 pm EDT Saturday 8 November 2008

About weather observations | Map of Hobart area stations | Latest observations for Hobart area                                 

Station Details

ID: 094029

Name: HOBART (ELLERSLIE ROAD)

Lat: -42.89

Lon: 147.33

Height: 50.5 m

Data from the previous 72 hours. | See also: Recent months at Hobart

Date/Time
EDT

Temp
°C

App
Temp
°C

Dew
Point
°C

Rel
Hum
%

Delta
T
°C

Wind

Press
hPa

Rain since
9 am
mm

Dir

Speed
km/h

Gust
km/h

Speed
knots

Gust
knots

08/04:30pm

17.3

10.8

2.9

38

6.7

W

26

65

14

35

993.7

0.4

08/04:24pm

17.3

10.4

2.8

38

6.7

WNW

28

65

15

35

993.6

0.4

08/04:11pm

16.3

9.4

2.3

39

6.3

S

28

46

15

25

992.7

0.4

08/04:00pm

16.3

10.8

4.0

44

5.7

WSW

22

37

12

20

992.8

0.4

08/03:30pm

16.7

13.1

5.1

46

5.5

WSW

13

35

7

19

992.0

0.4

08/03:00pm

16.6

10.4

4.5

44

5.8

W

26

44

14

24

991.6

0.4

08/02:45pm

16.8

13.8

4.2

43

5.9

SSW

9

15

5

8

991.2

0.4

08/02:30pm

17.1

7.5

3.5

40

6.3

WSW

43

76

23

41

990.4

0.4

08/02:00pm

17.5

7.8

4.1

41

6.3

WSW

44

78

24

42

988.9

0.4

08/01:47pm

17.3

6.5

4.1

41

6.2

SW

50

78

27

42

988.6

0.2

08/01:36pm

17.4

7.9

4.0

41

6.3

W

43

80

23

43

988.2

0.2

08/01:29pm

17.6

7.7

4.6

42

6.2

WSW

46

61

25

33

988.2

0.2

08/01:00pm

17.9

9.7

5.0

42

6.2

W

37

65

20

35

987.5

0.2

08/12:40pm

17.2

7.3

6.7

50

5.2

W

48

70

26

38

987.1

0.2

08/12:26pm

15.9

12.9

10.6

71

2.8

W

17

24

9

13

987.2

0.2

08/12:00pm

17.8

10.1

6.9

49

5.5

NW

37

52

20

28

986.0

0.0

08/11:44am

15.8

8.3

8.0

60

3.9

NW

37

56

20

30

985.5

0.0

08/11:30am

16.0

9.7

7.5

57

4.2

NW

30

46

16

25

985.6

0.0

08/11:08am

15.8

9.8

6.9

55

4.4

NNW

28

54

15

29

985.1

0.0


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