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The end of the Sellotape

One Monday evening in August I am driving home in the dark. Porirua inlet glistens clear and black, so I detour to the boatshed. I cannot resist taking the K1 out for a spin. My training K1 is an old boat, of ugly, raw yellow-brown kevlar. Itís sealed in places with waterproof Sellotape from when I dropped it portaging the Roto race some years ago. Ugly or not, weíve had some great trips in the last few years; dodging rocks, riding washes, chasing dolphins, surfing home. Glorious balmy evenings, howling cold southerlies, warm gray northerlies, and winter nights as calm as ice, like this one. Titahi Bay has it all, unfortunately.

K1s are the most unseaworthy boat in production, so they make great training kayaks. Low decked, knife-bowed, large cockpit Jaguars like the Sellotape boat are the tippiest of the tippy. For short inlet and fair-weather coastal trips I prefer them to a sea kayak: they keep your technique scrupulously honest. I struggle to balance the K1 after five weeks in a Nordkapp, but between the wobbles and support strokes have another wonderful paddle.

Back home I contract a gruesome cold, a souvenir of my dear nephew Benj the germ bagís weekend visit (not, Iím sure, of winter night paddling). That has me out of commission for a few days, so itís Saturday before I return to the shed. On the jetty I find my paddle, and kick myself for absent mindedly leaving it out there: it could easily have blown away. I stow it back in the shed, noticing with horror the empty K1 rack.

No boat visible, but itís high tide. I return at low tide to scour under the boatsheds, and around the inletís margin. Nothing. My boatshed neighbours noticed it on the jetty a few days ago, but werenít worried: he knows what heís doing, they wrongly thought. It wasnít there yesterday. The following day I report its loss to a disinterested policeman.

That afternoon Brent of Mainly Tramping fame phones. Heís paddling around the inlet that morning and notices something brown in the water on the Police College side. Not entirely unusual, but Brent investigates anyway. My boat is on his lawn for collection. Seems OK, but stern damaged. Spray deck gone. I thank Brent and my luck, and pick her up the following evening.

The boat is damaged more than somewhat. Not only is the stern open, but the coaming is broken off, and a rudder cable has torn itself out along the gunwale. Both hull and deck are horrendously scraped, as if by some persistent clawed beast. The boat must have been bounced by the southerlies against the rocks and sheds for a day or three before going floatabout.

Life without a training K1 is of course unbearable, so I phone around. Nothing going in Wellington, but Mike Hayes in Auckland tracks down another Jaguar in Hamilton. A kind Palmerston North lagoon paddler collects it, and I pick it up from there. Brown kevlar and black carbon, albeit with splashes of red gelcoat. Light, fast and raw, and with some tape over old fitting holes it floats. A fitting successor to the Sellotape boat. I expect same great trips together.

That week, following years of deliberation, I upgrade my stereo system with a quality tuner. I am particularly keen to pick up Pirate FM, a Wellington station whose fine repertoire doesnít quite reach the Titahi Bay coast. I have a man wander around the roof with an oscilloscope, and soon have a hideous aerial, beautiful reception, and another large bill. Three days later Pirate FM goes off the air. August is an expensive month.

Conrad Edwards, September 1998

Page last modified on June 18, 2006, at 08:02 PM