Tag Archives: water sports

Clean Up Australia Day 2015

Last Sunday, we joined hundreds and thousands of Australians donning yellow rubber gloves and grabbing a rubbish bag for  Clean up Australia Day, where the community comes together to remove mountains of rubbish and trash from our sparkling  waterways and gloriously golden, sandy beaches.

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Ian Kiernan AO

Ian Kiernan AO

Clean up Australia Day , Clean up Australia whose mission is “To inspire and work with communities to clean up and fix up our Earth”, is the brain child of Ian Kiernan AO. In 1986/87 Keirnan represented Australia in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race and during this event he was disgusted by the huge amount of trash he observed floating around in the world’s oceans.  In particular, having waited years to see the Sargasso Sea’s legendary long golden seaweed, Kiernan’s excited anticipation turned to anger and disappointment when he found them polluted and tangled with rubbish.

“Just before it was dark, as they passed a great island of Sargasso weed that heaved and swung in the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket, his small line was taken by a dolphin. He saw it first when it jumped in the air, true gold in the last of the sun and bending and flapping wildly in the air.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

You see, the Sargasso Sea is the huge, slowly rotating eye of the North Atlantic Gyre, where the currents not only attract the beautiful golden seaweed but also the world’s trash. While not as big as the Pacific Trash Vortex, it’s still not pretty and yet another reminder of humanity’s brutal impact on our beautiful, precious and increasingly precarious planet.

You can read about blogger Sebastian Smith’s trip to the Sargasso Sea here and appreciate it’s beauty: http://blogs.afp.com/correspondent/?post/Swimming-in-the-abyss-of-the-Sargasso-Sea

Fired up on his return to Sydney, Kiernan took action and launched a clean up of Sydney Harbour. Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day in 1989 received an enormous public response with more than 40,000 Sydney siders joining in to help. Rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts were removed by the tonne. Success fueled success and the following year, Clean Up Australia Day was born.

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

Scouts heading out to Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

Scouts heading out to Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

I actually met Ian Kiernan back in my past life working in environmental marketing  and Ian Kiernan presented the awards at a function I’d organised. I was in my 20s at the time and had to ring him on his mobile to confirm and I was shaking in my boots. Imagine ringing up the man Australians fondly call “Mr Yucky Poo”. He was lovely but I was more than just a little nervous!!

Fast-forwarding to 2015, I was thankful we were doing Clean Up Australia Day with the kids’ scout group.

You see, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t know where to start cleaning up.

Our house would be a great place to start. We could sure use an army of volunteers to clean up our backyard. Then, we could move onto our attic, where a more diverse array of stuff than the Pacific  Junk Vortex, lies in storage.  Every now and then we look up and say a few prayers hoping all that stuff doesn’t feel overpowered by gravity and comes crashing down through the ceiling, yearning to get back down to Earth.

These  troubles are beating me on the home front. So, when it comes to cleaning up the entire country, it’s pretty intimidating. Overwhelming even and just the sort of thing that will get me catastrophising in all sorts of ways which aren’t pretty.

Miss Cleaning Up Australia

Miss Cleaning Up Australia

After all, Australia isn’t exactly a tiny little speck in the ocean. Oh no! It has an area of about 7.692 million square kilometres and the Australian mainland has a total coastline length of 35,876 km (22,292 mi) with an additional 23,859 km (14,825 mi) of island coastlines.

That’s a hell of a lot of cleaning up!!

“How do you eat an elephant?

One mouthful at a time.”

Also, left to my own devices, I could also be tempted to head down to our national capital, Canberra, to clean Australia of some of its politicians and even more so, the media which is probably generating most of the rubbish spewing from these quarters. I’ve been particularly unimpressed this week that there has been further debate about the national leadership while two Australians in compassionate circumstances, are about to be executed in Indonesia. I would hope that this isn’t the only pressing matter our government should be dealing with right now either. Meanwhile, they should all be sent back to primary school where they could learn how to get along. (Perhaps, I should introduce them all to the Golden Rule?!!)

Quite frankly, I’ve had enough of the rubbish our politicians are spewing out at the moment. Our NSW Premier is in the throws of selling off the State. I’m surprised that he hasn’t sold off  his own suit. Indeed, I suspect all of our public toilets are about to be privatised and we’ll all be left busting in the lurch…not just Little Johnny!

Thank goodness there’s an election coming up. Ciao bella! We’ll give them all the flush.

By the way, my apologies to the majority of politicians who make a tireless contribution to our community and aren’t trying to bring about leadership spills!

Our Scout Group at Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

Our Scout Group at Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

So without any detours via Canberra or NSW Parliament House, I was on location with the scouts signing people up and handing out gloves and bags to cubs, scouts and families and our token community volunteer. The scouts have an inflatable rescue boat which we used to ferry the volunteers to Pelican and Riley Islands in Woy Woy to clean up. As my broken foot is still tender, I was on deck chair duties while Geoff helped set up the Gazebo and BBQ and started cooking the snags. He did a very good job too. Australian sausages are usually incinerated charcoal but these were cooked to perfection.

Geoff on BBQ duties cooking up a snagalicious lunch.

Geoff on BBQ duties cooking up a snagalicious lunch.

While the sausage sandwiches might have filled them up, the scouts were attracted to my homemade choc-chip cookies like flies to a BBQ. I’ve since decided to throw out my copy of How to Win friends & Influence People and just hand out cookies instead. Who knows, I might even make it in politics?!! Indeed, could the humble cookie lead me on a path towards world domination. Who knows but I’d certainly get the scouts’ vote. Shame they’re all under 18 and can’t vote.

Mister zooming off to Pelican Island

Mister zooming off to Pelican Island

I don’t know what sort of junk you expect to find doing such a clean up. However, I would not have expected the kids to find hundreds of golf balls so far away from any golf course. It’s looking like there’s some sort of clandestine golf tournament being held somewhere along the waterfront at night. Given the number of golf balls found, this thing must be drawing quite a crowd. However, I can’t held wondering how the poor unsuspecting fish feel when a flying golf ball suddenly belts them on the head. They’d have trouble swimming in a straight line after that!

The scouts also found some Coke cans dating back to the 1980s. That’s well before any of those kids were even thought about let alone born. I was their age back then so it really does go to show how long this rubbish hangs around polluting our natural environment. Yet another reminder of the negative impact humans are having on our precious environment.

However, these Coke cans could be recycled.

Apparently, 80% of the rubbish salvaged from Clean Up Australia Day is recyclable, so all this junk could and should have been recycled instead of chucking it into our waterways. However, now that it’s been salvaged,  it also means, I would presume, that all this rubbish is now off to the recycling centre. Good stuff!!

Meanwhile back at Pelican Island, our scout group sure knows how to carpe diem seize the day. The kids were out in the kayaks, playing beach volleyball and yes, scoffing all those choc chip cookies. The sun was intense and in between swims, there was the challenge of trying to catch little peoples on the run and apply sunscreen over wet skin dripping with seawater. Oh yes…and trying to keep hats on heads. One of these days, the freckles will cease to be a case of join the dots if we’re not vigilant.

Now that the sun has set on Clean Up Australia Day as good as it was for our scout group to get out there and do their bit, my inspiration goes back to Ian Kiernan. He was one person facing a huge job of trying to get the rubbish out of our oceans and the first steps of this incredible visionary have been replicated right around Australia for the last 25 years showing just what is possible when humanity comes together for good. Who would have thought you’d be able to motivate the masses to get out there and fish foul rubbish, syringes, broken glass, stinky cigarette butts out of the water without being paid a fortune? It’s quite incredible!!

Before I head off, thought I’d share Greg Bray’s thoughts that every day needs to be Clean Up Australia Day: https://gregbraywriter.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/everyday-is-clean-up-australia-day/

Now that I’ve seen that we can change the world, I wonder what it’s going to take to clean up our backyard.

Hmm, perhaps I need to offer hose Scouts some more choc chip cookies!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kayaking Through the Clouds

Almost heaven…nowhere near West Virginia!

I ,just had to share this amazing photo of me kayaking through the clouds at Pittwater. It is so relaxing just drifting along…quite literally floating. Quite literally, I felt like I was paddling through one of Magritte’s cloud paintings…pure magic.

xx Rowena

PS See I can write a post with less than 1000 words but it doesn’t happen often!

Mutiny on the Kayak

There is something so gloriously serene about kayaking across a beautiful diamond carpet of almost still water on a glorious, Spring morning. You’re almost inhaling all those positive ions and good vibes and feeling absolutely on top of the world. It’s just you and the sea and you’re floating along so effortlessly, almost levitating on a magnificent sea of calm absorbing all that superlative beauty.

However…

Add two reluctant kids to the mix, not unsurprisingly, the experience can quickly turn on its head. Instead of everybody moving in sync, we ended up with Mutiny on the Yellow kayak…especially when two dogs decide to do a bit of kayak bombing!

Here's Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Here’s Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Welcome to my nightmare. Trying to set off on a simple kayaking expedition with my kids in Careel Bay, just off Palm Beach in Sydney. To put you in the picture, this is right near where they film the Australian drama series Home & Away except we’re on the Pittwater side which is just perfect for all sorts of water sports (other than surfing, of course).

I don’t know what it is with my kids. Why they don’t jump at the chance to get out there onto the water and carpe diem seize the day? Why do they prefer virtual living to the real thing? By virtual living, I’m of course, referring to playing x-box and Minecraft and all those electronic gadgets too much. At least, I’m blaming the gadgets.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go to the beach. Get into the sand. Go outside. The only time we ever stayed inside was when it was pelting down with rain and my parents practically had to bolt down the doors to keep us in. There was also the odd bout of sunburn which put us out of action as well. Instead of the parents hassling the kids to get out, it was the other way round. “Come on, Mum! Dad!” I remember a particular beach holiday when my Dad locked himself up with a very, very large doorstop of a novel called Shogun and that was the end of him for the holiday although he might have taken us fishing. We were trying to drag Dad out into the water. It certainly wasn’t the other way round.

Times have changed. Now, it’s me the parent doing the dragging or should I say still doing the dragging. Doesn’t anybody else want to get out there? My husband certainly does. He might not be the original Solo Man but he has kayaked down the Tasmanian rapids which Grant Kenny traversed in the commercial. My husband had a real thirst for adrenalin and loved pushing himself hard before he was consumed by the rat race.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Although my kids are in the sea scouts and seem to be happy enough out on the water there, for some reason our daughter is often terrified of going kayaking with me and today is no exception. She brought up almost each and every fear known to man and although there was a bit of wind out there she wasn’t going to drown in knee-deep tidal water especially when she was wearing a life-jacket. She wasn’t going to get killed by stingrays either, which seem to scare her more than sharks but then again there is what happened to Steve Irwin. That certainly added stingrays to the Deadly 60. Last but certainly not least on her list despite their size, was the vast army of soldier crabs which were hiding in their crab holes underwater. They were all about to come out to get her. With all these worries being brought up while she begged me to turn back, it was like she had swallowed the DSM manual. You know the great book the psychological professionals use to classify and define all your weird and wonderful idiosyncrasies. She was absolutely gripped with fear and all teary but her wretched mother kept going because if you keep avoiding fear, you never develop the neuropathways to overcome it.

I know I’m hardly Robinson Crusoe with my lifelong phobia of false teeth and the incredible fear of dogs which I had growing up but other people’s unrealistic fears always look much more surmountable than your own.

Anyway, as you can appreciate, Miss really, really didn’t want to go kayaking.

While Miss and I were in the yellow double kayak, Mister was on his own in the single kayak. These kayaks had been left behind by the previous owners. They’re certainly not the latest and greatest craft and do have a certain bathtub look about them but we love them and they have taken us on some fabulous adventures. We’ve explored the mangroves. We’ve also paddled back and forth across the bay trying to catch glimpses of the great giant flathead and the amazing flying mullet. Of course, their mythical proportions rival the likes of Nessy[1] but you know how kids can turn hyperbole into fact. Mister’s been out there very determined with his net but the giants of the deep have eluded him and retained their precious secrets. I have also been on a number of very serene solo expeditions and it’s so relaxing just to float on the water and drift. Simply drift.

So Miss and I are paddling along. There’s a strong headwind and so we’re not moving very quickly and I’m talking her through her fears and encouraging her when I notice Lady, one of our dogs, has just launched off the boat ramp and is paddling out to join us. We’ve only had Lady two weeks and we’re still getting to know her. She’s two years old and she comes from a farm and is quite a bundle of surprises. Yesterday, she leaped up off the beach and successfully landed on top of a 3 metre high retaining wall. She really does make anything look possible and is quite a gutsy, spirited dog.

While you could wonder about the logistics of having a dog in a kayak, I thought Lady would be okay. I haven’t weighed her but she’d probably weigh something like 10-20 kilos. I certainly have no trouble lifting her up. Consequently, when she decided to “kayak bomb” us, I didn’t really hesitate to pick her up and help her into the kayak. Geoff and I have been sailing on the little Laser with Bilbo onboard before so I though Lady would be fine and she was. She sat on the front of the kayak in front of me as I awkwardly paddled around her.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie...the calm before the splash.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie…the calm before the splash.

Meanwhile, when Bilbo saw Lady kayaking with us, he somehow overcame his huge fear of even getting his paws wet and launched himself into the water. I saw him wading out with all his fur billowing out. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him swim before except for the time he fell in the swimming pool chasing his tennis ball. Even for a Border Collie, Bilbo is a big dog and dry he weighs around 40 kilos so with his very thick woolly coat soaking up all that sea water, he was getting very heavy indeed. Well, he ended up on the single kayak with Mister who also weighs around 40 kilos. Mister is quite good on the kayak but not unsurprisingly Bilbo managed to capsize them and dog and boy were in the water. Bilbo managed to scratch Mister on the way out and apparently also tried to grab hold of him. It was only shallow water where at least we could all stand up so there was no risk of anyone drowning but there was certainly plenty of pandemonium.

I decided that this was also a good time to get Lady back on terra firma. The novelty of trying to paddle around the dog was wearing off, especially given my daughter’s catalogue of fears and I didn’t even want to consider how she’d react if Lady capsized our kayak. Needless to say, Geoff put the dogs back behind the fence before he headed out for a paddle.

As much as I enjoy a relaxing, solo paddle soaking up all that serenity, there was definitely a certain “je ne sais quoi” with this mad scramble of kids, paws, paddles and of course avoiding the huge ginormous Giant Stingray which is out there somewhere lurking in the very shallow depths.

It’s crazy experiences like these that become the great family legends. I can already hear everyone gathered around the family table laughing about the time Bilbo jumped in the kayak with Mister and they capsized and everyone roars laughing.

So much for peace and tranquility but as Helen Keller said: “Life is either a daring adventure or it’s nothing.”

I’d love to hear of any of your family adventures, especially family holiday antics!

Xx Rowena

PS Kids still aren’t seeing the funny side of things yet. Miss just told me: How would you like it if you capsized and the dog scratched you with its claws? Mister was also fairly gloomy about the experience as well. It seems there is a fine line between humour and trauma that we still need to work on. After all, your disasters always make the best stories.

[1] The Loch Ness Monster.