Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mountain Paddler: Just add water

Ollie's new boat. Just kidding!
For the past month or so this land-lubbing bike lover has broadened adventure horizons to include a range of aquatic pursuits. Living in a beautiful harbour city like Sydney I felt I was missing out on the marine adventures on offer, so taking possession of a water craft became a priority. On the celebrated event of my birthday, the opportunity presented itself to acquire such a craft, and utilising a series of international transactions and liberal use of diplomatic bags, I got the Bank’s Washington DC based aviation specialist to bring me the collapsible craft from Walmart.
Packed up and ready to transport
A marvel of inflatable engineering, the Sevylor Quikpak K5 is a collapsible vessel which folds into its own pack, making it ideal for foot or bike based transportation.  Our current residence bears a strong spatial resemblance to a shoebox, with insufficient room to swing even a kitten, so occupied space is always a concern. Fortunately the kayak manages to squeeze beneath our cream Ikea couch, thus appeasing Heidi’s valid concerns of vanishing living space. At only $240US from the consumer’s paradise of Wal-Mart, the value was exceptional, and given the low price the sophistication of the design complete with included pump and foldable paddle blew me out of the water (so to speak).
Inflation underway
So once or twice a week I saddle up and head down to the water, a short walk down some serious flights of stairs to Sirius Cove. Unclipping and rearranging the pack, which converts into a padded seat, I proceeded to inflate the ‘yak which is a short five minute exercise with the uber volume hand pump (I’m convinced it could seat a fat bike tire with no worries!)

Down the stairs...
And onto the water at Sirius Cove
Sliding into the water and the real adventure begins. I usually follow the bush clad coast in and out of coves, where one is treated to a hitherto unexplored world. Crystal blue water reveals fish and seething kelp, with warped perspective leading to the odd rocky collision which inflatable hull shrugs off with ease. Kayaking has also allowed me to embrace my inner ornithologist, with the silent approach allowing me to observe day to day aviation activities from an intriguing distance.
Paddling POV
While the Quikpak with its uber-wide hull won’t win any kayak sprints, it will potter through significant swells with relative ease, with stability that will allay any fears of an impromptu dip. Besides territorial seagulls looking to dispatch their guano payload, an ever present hazard which lends an element of excitement to explorations are the switftly moving ferries that dart about the harbour. My knowledge of maritime law is limited and I don’t fancy testing give-way rules, so I’m happy to pause or divert course to avoid the turbulent water and ‘yak crushing heft of these craft.
A ferry lurking behind the zoo wharf
Keeping my distance as it dashes to the city
The freedom afforded by the kayak is exhilarating, with a choice in route only limited by ones imagination, allowing me to slide past whatever piques my interest.  Last Sunday Sydneysiders were out on the harbour in force, with a mixture of families fishing to rowdy party boats moored in the cove. It felt great to out in the sunshine amongst the water based revelers.

Sydney harbour panorama
Safe to say I’m pretty stoked with the adventure opportunities afforded by this new addition to the fleet. With time I’m hoping to develop seafaring skills to attempt longer journeys such as the famed home to city aquatic commute. I'll be wary of the limitations of this glorified pool toy and plan to only venture out when  winds rate low on the Beaufort scale, with my Spot tracker as an emergency back-up.  With a relaxed pace and soothing bob far removed from my usual hasty biking journey’s the aquatic treats of Sydney’s harbour are now within paddling reach.

Waves aren't conducive to well composed shots