I'm not fooling myself - there's a whole lot of things that could go wrong on my upcoming kayak fishing expedition (from Yeppoon to Townsville). This is a subject I've been dwelling on for longer than I've been planning this trip and have taken a lot of precautions in an effort to promote relatively smooth sailing. But lets face it... 1000+km is a long way to be kayaking solo, especially with an open deck platform adorned with knives, gaff hooks, hooks and sometimes teeth and spikes. By virtue of being fishermen we tend to put ourselves in harms way more so than most kayakers - the bigger and nastier the fish, the hairier it gets. But really... thats the least of my problems!
I am extremely fortunate to have a one-man support crew in Shep, who will be ghosting my progress along the coast. If things go to plan we'll get opportunities to catch up at several waypoints along the way - Stanage, Cape Hillsborough, Bowen and greeting me at the end at Townsville. He will be carrying a small collection of spare parts as well as backup food and water and this is going to be a big help. While I was prepared to do this trip without support, it's going to be a godsend to have it. But thats probably not going to help much if something goes seriously wrong at sea, so I'm going to have to be diligent in a variety of ways. Not just during the trip, but also prior to. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance (always remember those '7 P's') and quite a bit of planning and preparation is going into this.
Perhaps the most likely issue to effect the trip, whether it be a show-stopping issue or a small road bump, is equipment failure. And I'm carrying a lot of equipment on this expedition and the last thing I want is for any of to fail. While perhaps not the most likely to fail in any way, it is most likely that the most potentially dangerous outcome would be some form of equipment failure or breakage on the Adventure Island (AI) boat. Of all the likely problems that could cause a safety and trip-ending issue, it is this. That may very well come down to bad weather, bad timing and bad luck. That said, I'm a big believer in making ones own luck and I've taken numerous steps to prevent any kind of equipment failure that could pose a problem. The first step in this process is inspection - of everything that is used to propel and pilot and the AI, from paddle, miragedrive, rudder and lines, sail and last but most definitely not least, the hull. The past weekend has been devoted to going through all of that.
I started with the hull, first by cleaning, rinsing and then drying it thoroughly, all the while inspecting every little part of it. I unscrewed almost every appendage that was screwed into the hull (particularly anything not very recently installed), inspected the hardware and rescrewed with a healthy coating of marine-grade silicone. I then sanded back the base surface of the hull and pontoons, removing all of the scratches and daggy bits created from a years and a half worth of heavy usage, returning it back to it's former smooth-surfaced glory. I stopped short of using a buffer to give it that better-than-new sheen, figuring I'd save that for after returning from the trip. While this process took a couple of hours it was time well spent and somewhat confidence inspiring, having inspected every part of the boat that sits beneath the waterline.
While I was busy with the sander, I also tweaked the rudder blade somewhat, shaving a cm off it's length and about 2mm from it's width, forming a smoother radius on it's leading edge and flattening out the foil marginally towards the trailing edge. While the new dynamic rudder is probably required for high-seas sailing in the TI, it's beefier than it needs to be on the AI for a trip like this, and this was my opportunity to address it.
After sanding the hull and foil down (finishing with 400 grit) I then applied a liberal amount of UV protectant all over the hull - top and bottom. After letting it seep in for 30 minutes I then rubbed it in hard with a cotton rag. The aim was to ensure every part of the boat that would be exposed to some 3 weeks of (hopefully) constant sunny days would stand up to it relatively well.
Hatch seal gaskets were removed, cleaned and then wiped down with McNetts Silicone spray, as were the hatch rim liners. This returns good-as-new functionality and although I don't expect that to last throughout the trip, it gets me off to a good start. Rear rudder lines were drenched in the stuff to ensure smooth operation, but not before I caked up the rudder line entry points with a water-shedding-shaped seal out of marine grade silicone. This makes for much smaller (yet equally operational) rudder inlet holes, and thus less bilge at the end of a big day.
Turning my attention towards my miragedrive I then dismantled it into all of it's individual bits, cleaned them all thoroughly and then lubricated them individually. Lanox for chains, cables and drums, with Lanotec grease in the drive shaft and drum shaft, as well as the inside the sprockets and drums. The drive shaft was showing a fair amount of wear (possibly due to my using Lanotec grease for servicing, as it can serve as a cutting agent), but after several thousand kms of use it will still working just fine. I replaced it anyway. I'd replaced the drum shafts about 6 months earlier and they were holding up as good as new, so after a quick clean up and then re-greasing, I then put then miragedrive back together... better than new!
There is also the matter of the 4 inch tear in put in my sail (courtesy of a Williamson Gyro jig) that I'd field repaired several weeks ago with a seam-sealing compound. Inspecting that was encouraging - it had withstood several hours of hard use in the field without showing any signs of wear. Despite this, I'll be patching it with sail repair tape just to be sure.
It goes without saying that I'll be carrying spares. Most of these will be with Shep, but some I'll be carrying on the yak - specifically, spare 1/4" nuts, a spare grub screw, a spare idler cable, spare chain, spare sprocket and mast, about 10 metres of dyneema cord, and spare screws and nylock nuts for various common points on the hull. I'll also be carrying a small amount of silicone, epoxy, and several types of patches. Thanks to Hobie for helping out with a few other major spare parts, just in case. This includes a spare sail mast, aka, and rudder assembly.
I'm packing a pretty admirable arsenal of electronic equipment for various means, from audio recording, videography and photography to navigation, depth reading, communication, weather reports and live posting (via mobile phone and tablet). Almost anything on the list could fail at a moments notice for any given reason, though most of the equipment I'm packing is well and truly field-proven and I've taken precautions to make sure one failure doesn't bring me unstuck. I'm confident that everything I'm taking with me it going to work, and work well. If I was Lt Hicks from Aliens, here's how I'd describe the situation:
I'm ready, man... check it out! I am the ultimate kayak fishing bad-ass! State of the bad-ass yak fishing art! You're a fish? You do not want to mess with me! Hey, don't worry... me and my squad of ultimate kayak fishing bad-ass kit will protect me! Check it out... We got 3 independently targeting GoPro 2 Hero 2 cams, all mounted to the deck in optimal shooting positions... WHAP! Fry half a city with these puppies, and 2 GoPro cams for underwater footage! We got tactical Sony CX350 and TX5 handycams, Lowrance Out&Back GPS, Elite 5 Sounder/Chartplotter, KHR-80 radio, Samsung Galaxy SII mobile phone, HD Touchpad and and Epak 1watt solar panel as well as a 10 watt solar panel for base charges. We got sonic, electronic ball breakers! We got nukes, we got knives, we got sharp sticks!!!
The 10 watt panel will be used mainly for charging the sounder battery and I'll only be doing this whenever I catch up with Shep along the way. Ergo, I won't be carrying this panel - Shep will (in the comfort of his 4WD). The EPak panel will be used to recharge the GoPro and TX5 cams along the way. I'll be aiming to recharge my phone and touchpad whenever I catch up with Shep. I've got SD cards to cover each camera as well as a few spares and I'll be making an effort to dump the files from each card onto backup drives whenever I meetup with Shep, to make room for more footage.
So although it would otherwise be easy to run out of battery power for the above mentioned devices, between the 2 solar panels and scheduled rendezvous with Shep, that issue should be covered, as to should data storage. Shep will have a notebook on hand that we can use to transfer files from SD cards to back up drives, clearing them for more footage. I'll have a spare battery to accompany my radio, though it will be my mobile phone I rely on for communication mostly. Primarily that means communication with Shep (but also updates to the web), particularly as I approach a meeting waypoint. If one fails for whatever reason (we'll both be using Telstra) hopefully the radio can suffice at closer ranges.
I won't be switching on the Elite 5 sounder too often (usually only when I want a sense of depth or structure) but I will be using the Out&Back GPS often. Many thanks to Hobie Australia who have helped out by lending me a Navionics Gold card to stick in this puppy, which is going to help my navigation a great deal. I am still in the process of pre-stored waypoints in each device, but am of course backing this up with some maps and my trusty Pioneer compass. Many of my electronics are powered by regular batteries (AA and AAA), in which case I'm using Energizer lithium batteries, to reduce weight and increase battery lifetime.
The 3 kayak mounted cams have been done so with Railblaza mounts all the way. 2 600 booms (one for rear mount, the other for aka mount) and a 150 boom for a forward deck mount position. The Railblaza mounts are more secure and versatile than anything else I have tried and I expect they'll perform flawlessly for this expedition. I've also integrated a sideport mount in the rear storage well, coupled with a Railblaze rod holder (mk2), which I can see myself putting to use for rod storage (when dragging yak around) and net and gaff storage when fishing. I'll probably also put it to use for it's intended use as a rod holder from time too time, mainly while drifting with rods hanging off the port side. I was able to fit the side port so it doesn't interfere with the Bullhorn rod holder in front of it, the Hobie rod extenders at the back of it, nor the gear bags that will sit in the rear storage well throughout the trip. I don't expect to encounter any problems with the Railblaza mounts.
I'll be carrying 26lts of water initially, 18 of which stored in drom bags, this stash mostly used for cooking, washing and backup drinking. Otherwise I'll have at least 8 litres drinking water stored, 2 of which will be in my Klean Kanteen bottles and 6 more tucked inside the hull inside 4 x 1.5 lt plastic bottles.
Although I plan to use fish to supplement most evening meals, I won't be relying on fish. I'm carrying pre-packed dehydrated meals as a backup supply, though I'll be aiming to eat fish most nights if I can. The pre-packed Backcountry meals are very well packed in durable airtight packets and are lightweight, compact, nutritious and rather edible. I'll also have a few homemade dehydrated meals packed away as well, including a couple of ultra-high carb spaghetti Bolognese dishes.
Each day will start with a cup of Earl Grey tea, a bowl of Sultana bran (in soy milk) and snacks and lunch will be an on-board affair consisting of dried fruits, nuts, muesli bars, beef jerky and crackers. Somewhere along the way I'll find time to pop a few multivitamin tablets as well.
When it comes time to back all that out I'll be using Delsy toilet paper, which is both fully biodegradable and ultra-thin, meaning a single roll goes a whole lot further :-)
It should go without saying that I have a pretty diverse 1st aid/safety kit, which is packed with everything from insect repellents to needle and thread. Included are tools for repairs, flares and other emergency items. I'm expecting to have to access this often (I can already feel the insect bites with pre-emptive itching)... but hopefully not too often. My PFD vest is also adorned with a bunch of safety items, from emergency lighting to PLB.