Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Jet Ski Drivers - according to Davo

Last month I spent some time at Woodgate – a small fishing and holiday village just south of Bundaberg. My family and I spend a lot of time associated with activities on, or around, the water – both the sea and the rivers that are in that area. Because a lot of our activities involves kayaking, paddling surfskis, stand up boarding, snorkeling and swimming (just to name a few activities) along with fishing – both in the ocean and in the rivers then we often come into contact (not literally) with boat drivers, people who are waterskiing, other kayakers etc and all these people can impact on our enjoyment. We are very conscious of the responsibility of our activities whenever we are in, or on, the water and we spend a lot of time making sure our activities do not negatively impact on other people e.g. we do not snorkel near people who are fishing, we do not take our kayaks into the waterways where people are waterskiing, when using our motorboat we make sure we slow down when we are passing another boat or anyone who may be using the same waterway as we are etc. Also because we partake of many different activities on the water – we are very aware of what is necessary by other boats to allow everyone to use the waterways safely and with maximum enjoyment. 
It is a pity that many other people do not think the same way. 
One of my pet “hates” is drivers of jet skis who either leave their brains at home when they take the jet ski for an “outing” or the people who license the jet ski owner are very “slack”. 
Now I am very much aware that not all jet ski owners are irresponsible and I apologize to these people from the start and I the following article is not aimed at them but is aimed at the people who have “no idea” of what impact their driving their jet skis near swimmers, paddlers or sailing boats or they just do not care.  
So I was standing on my SUP board (Stand Up Paddling board) just after a jet ski has tried to wash me off by passing with 3 meters of me whilst they were  dragging a person on a wake board when I thought – “I wonder how difficult it is to get a license to drive one of those”. And so I thought I would write a blog about a fantasy visit to the authorities to get a license. I will emphasize – I have NOT actually gone for a license and there is every chance I will never go for a license but this is how I think the conversation would go if I did apply.  
The rest of the blog is written as if I was listening to the examiner and what he would say  

“Good morning Mr. Challen – I believe you are here for your Jet Ski license. I would like you to fill out this application and we will take it from there”. 
I fill out the form and give it back to him. 
“It looks like we have a problem right from the start Mr. Challen – you have spelt your first name “David” properly and in the question “Write down all the numbers between 1 and 10” you have answered the question properly and there are no smudge marks where  you have had to change a number. I should have mentioned at the beginning that we have a 2 tier licensing system – if you had not been able to spell your name or if you had struggled with the number question then we would have given you a license straight away because you demonstrated a natural tendency to drive a jet ski. But we will now need to go to the 2nd system and I wish you well”. 
“Have you read the jet ski instruction manual and the owner and driver manual that is available on our website and available at all good “Hells Angels Headquarters”?” 
I confirmed I had studied the books and was ready for the tests. 
“Again Mr. Challen – it is not looking good for you. The appropriate answer would have been one of the following  – “What books”, “My dog ate them”, “It did not have any pictures so I could not read it” or answers to that effect” 
Here is the test and again I wish you all the best” 
I then go and fill out the tests and represent the form back to the examiner within a short period 
“Are  you sure you want to drive a jet ski Mr. Challen – most good drivers either scribble “Who cares” across the sheet or come back questioning which end of the pen are they to write withUsually it takes a good 3  to 4 hours for most future jet ski drivers to finish the first question – “What is your name?” on the top of the sheet. But let me check the answers you have given and we can take it from there” 
“Oh dear, Mr. Challen – on the question “What is the speed limit for Jet Skis in a waterway?” The right answer is “Depends on how fast my jet ski is” not that sooky answer you have given talking about built up areas, mangroves, other people and other boats etc.” 
“You seem to struggle with some of the other questions Mr. Challen. The answers to the questions “What is the common name for swimmers?” is “Speedbumps”, “What is common name for people in canoes?” is “Targets” and “What is the common name for people on stand up boards?” is “Future speedbumps””. 
“Here is another one you have wrong Mr. Challen. “How far should a driver of a jet ski travel down the river?” – the right answer is “It is time to turn around when no one can see me”. 
In the question “If you come around a corner of a river and find 2 boats stationary – one boat on the left is 5 meters from the shore and fishing towards the shore and one boat is anchored in the middle of the river and people are reading books – which side of the river do you travel on and what speed should you be doing?” – the correct answer is “Between the boat on the left and the shore, keeping as close to the boat as possible and travelling as fast as possible”. We would have given extra merit marks if you had mentioned “Yelling and screaming as you go past” and especially if you had used the word “Donut” in the answer”. 
“The right answer to the question “How close can you safely travel when passing someone on a non powered craft?” is “If I cannot see the white of their eyes then I am too far away””. 
“On the question “Once you have launched your jet ski at the ramp – what distance away from the ramp is seen as a safe distance before you “set up camp”?” The correct answer is “Right at the ramp – that way I can leave my car on the ramp, open up the doors and have the stereo playing at full bore and my friends can stand on top of the roof of the car and watch me whilst giving loud whoops and screaming”. 
“Oh dear oh dear oh dear. I do not think that owning and driving a Jet Ski is really the right thing for you to do Mr. Challen. I see on the question “You are bringing your Jet Ski into the riverbank and there are lots of people swimming around your landing area – what actions should you take and what is the driving method you should adopt?”  that you struggled with the correct answer. This is a common occurrence Mr. Challen and it is important that you get this right. There are a number of answers you could have given that are correct but the answer you have given about slowing down and taking aversion action and maybe walking the Jet Ski into the bank is not one of the correct answers. You could have written the following “I would accelerate whilst using one of the following driving methods – The No Hands Method, The One Hand on the Steering Handle Whilst Waving with the Other Hand Method, The Handstand Method, The Sitting Backwards Method, The Eyes Closed Method or even the Blindfold Method” would have been correct and shown that you really understand the expected actions of a responsible Jet Ski driver” 
Mr. Challen I could go on and on with these answers but, in reality, I do not think you are suited for a license to drive a jet ski and I feel that allowing you to drive a jet ski would only cause all jet ski owners to get a bad name. I think you should either give up the idea completely or spend more time around Jet Ski drivers and watch and study the way they act and maybe you might get some idea of what we are looking for in a Jet Ski driver. Good day Mr. Challen”.  

Again I apologize to all responsible Jet Ski owners and drivers. I understand that owning a Jet Ski could be fun and if the craft is used responsibly then there would be a “ton of fun”.  
But as a person who wants to use the water to swim in, to paddle in and to sail in – I also know that irresponsible Jet Ski drivers are dangerous and can spoil a “good day out”. 
I also know that there are many boat drivers who are just as dangerous and just as irresponsible and many of the above comments could be applied to them. 
I certainly think there should be blog written about boat owners who cannot reverse their trailers down ramps, who do not prepare their boats for launch BEFORE they reverse down the ramp, who park their trailers and their cars in ridiculous places because they “just want to get out boating” as fast as possible, who do not understand that the propeller that drives the boat along is very dangerous to swimmers and other people who are in the water. 

On the other hand I think I could also write a blog on people who think swimming near a ramp is OK. People who think that all other people and crafts should get out of their road, who feel that the ramp is a good place to walk down and stand there looking down the river whilst someone is trying to reverse their boat or trailer down the ramp, who feel fishing off the ramp or near the ramp is OK and all boat owners should “bugger off”. 
There is fault, on lots of levels, with people who go on holidays and basically “leave their brains at home” but maybe one day everyone will consider their impact on other people and we can all live in harmony and enjoy ourselves without causing problems for other people. 
In the mean time – I need to go and study Jet Ski ownership just in case I get hit on my head with a hammer and end up wanting to own a jet ski. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The true meaning of Christmas according to Davo

When I was very young I lived a lot of my time in a parallel world I call my “Fantasy World”. I believed in Santa Claus, fairies, gnomes, dragons, that men could fly, that good would always beat evil, superheroes were real and that I would rule the world. It was a world where unicorns were real, knights saved damsels in distress, Jason of the Argonauts existed, Biggles fought the Red Baron, the Lone Ranger and Tonto were alive and well and lived inside my brain and Superman saved the world on a daily basis.
Most children I have known are born to believe in this fantasy world – the characters change but the reality of the imagination does not. It is only over time does the child leave this fantasy world behind and enter the “Real Logical World” and some never enter the fantasy world again.

But to me the world of fantasy was real and no more so than at Christmas time. I lived my young life (in the 1950’s) in Mount Isa and all my relatives lived in Western Australia so Christmas revolved around my immediate family of mother, father and two brothers.
My father had spent 6 years fighting in the 2nd world war (3 ½ of them as a prisoner of war in Germany) and only after returning to Australia did he get married, have a family, got a job and decided to do University at night. We did not have a lot of money, so at Christmas time we would go into the bush and find a Eucalypt sapling and cut it down, take it home, put it into a bucket of dirt, put coloured paper around the bucket and place pine cones (sprayed with white paint) around the bottom and put it in the corner of the lounge room. Then we would put decorations over the tree and hang paper chains around the room. (When I was around 5 years of age my father and mother bought some lights that we could put into the tree so that it lit up at night.)
I thought the tree was magnificent and would stare at it for hours and let my imagination run wild – I could see reindeer in the snow, I could hear the tinkle of bells as the sledge was pulled by horses, I could hear the laughter of many families that lived in northern countries where snow fell and where families skated on ice.
We would place the Christmas gifts under the tree a few days before Christmas and woe behold anyone who damaged or touched those presents – they were there to be viewed and wondered at, but “do not touch”. I would sit for hours at night (we had no TV) and I would stare at those presents with my name on them and I would imagine the most wonderful thoughts about what lay inside.
On Christmas night, my mum would hang the special Stocking from the foot of my bed and she would tell me the most wonderful stories about Christmas’s past and about Santa. I would try to stay awake at night to hear Santa coming but every time I would fall asleep and there, in the morning, was my stocking full of special gifts that Santa had bought me.
Then it was time to sit around the Christmas tree as my father (sitting in his favourite chair) would read out the card on each present and hand it to the appropriate family member. The house would be full of laughter and joy as we opened our gifts and interacted with each other.

It was a wonderful world my fantasy world - but, like all good things it came to an end as I grew up. When I was around 8 years of age I was told by my friend that Santa was not real and that it really was my parents who were filling up the stocking. I was not devastated nor was I emotionally traumatized – it was a natural progression from going from the fantasy world into the real world.
As the years have rolled on I left my fantasy world behind (with the occasional visit late at night when all around me were asleep) and I become more and more involved with the logical world. I was given some grave news about my own health in the 1980’s and suddenly there was no fantasy world. For over 8 years I lived with an uncertain future and all my time and effort went into living in the real world. I eventually won my battle but by then the fantasy world was far away and long forgotten.

Then, in 1994, my wife and I were blessed with a son and again my fantasy world returned. I would sit up at night holding my son and watching movies such as “Hook”. As my son grew older I introduced my son to my fantasy world – we would fight the pirates together, we would slay dragons with a single blow, we would fly spacecrafts to the distant galaxies and we would laugh and laugh at Dr Seuss.
Again the magic of Christmas returned and again Santa became real and Christmas developed real meaning – it was a time of being together as a family, a time to be thankful with what we had, it was time to reconnect with extended family and friends, it was a time when we could put our troubles behind us for awhile and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
This time I could marvel at the imagination of my son as he watched the Christmas tree, as he gazed into the night sky on Christmas Eve and as he struggled to stay awake so that he could see Santa Claus. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
But again the fantasy was taken away – one day my son came home and informed us that Santa was not real and from that moment on my fantasy world dimmed and the real world again took its place.
My son has grown up now and left home and is living in Brisbane.
My fantasy world does not come visiting very often and my time is spent in the real world of business and veterinary work.
I still love Christmas and over the last few weeks I have discussed Christmas with many clients and the majority of the clients were not “fussed” with Christmas and felt “it is becoming too commercialized”. In fact a lot of them had not put up any decorations at home and were planning quiet Christmas day at home and had no plans for visiting relatives or friends.
It was with these thoughts that I headed off to Brisbane on Christmas day – I left early in the morning as my son was working that day and I wanted to see him before he went to work. After driving for 5 hours I finally arrived at his unit only to find him gone. I rang him on his mobile – he had decided to leave early because he was not sure of the traffic and had forgotten that I was coming.
In fact he had even forgotten it was Christmas and as I ended the phone call I realised that he had not even wished me “Merry Christmas”. My son has Aspergers (watch Sheldon in the “Big Bang Theory”) and the real logical world lives and breathes in my son – he had just forgotten it was Christmas.

Later that day I attended a family Christmas “get together” where my father, my brothers, their wives, their sons and daughters and their sons and daughters come together and share gifts. I was sitting in a chair, thinking about my son and hoping all was OK in his world, when a young great nephew (I think that is right – the son of a nephew of mine) came up and showed my “what Santa had bought”. As I listened to him, I looked into his eyes and my fantasy world was revisited– as he told me the story about Santa and the gifts Santa had bought I could see Santa in his sleigh flying across the pupils of his eyes and the memories of a childhood past came calling again.
My mother died a few years ago but my father is still alive and going well (he is 95 years of age) and every year he sits in a comfortable chair and one of the older children bring the presents to him and he reads out the label and then the gift is given to the appropriate person.
I am a perimeter type person – I sit in the background and I watch and listen rather than participate in the program. As I watched, my mind entered the fantasy world and suddenly the artificial Christmas tree with all its magnificent decorations and the people in the room disappeared and in its place was a Eucalypt sapling and there under the tree was a blond haired boy sitting at his Dad’s feet waiting for his name to be called out. And then in that moment I could feel my mother’s hand in mine and I could hear her words “Continue to believe”.
The true meaning of Christmas started to live inside me again and in that moment my concerns myself and for my son vanished – the fact that he did not remember that his dad was coming to see him or that it was Christmas was not relevant in his world - he was happy and healthy, he was proud that he had a job and he wanted to be responsible to his employer and not be late and that was the most important relevance to him.

For those people who feel there is no meaning in Christmas – let me remind you that Christmas is about family, about friends, about giving and forgiving, and being thankful for what we have and more than everything Christmas is about letting your imagination go wild and entering that fantasy world you left as a child. You do not need to spend a lot of money, you do not need give big presents, you do not need to eat yourself into oblivion – you just need to revisit your childhood and let your emotions rule your head for a short time. If nothing else – be thankful for what you have rather than what you do not have. Remember the people who are no longer with us and be thankful that we had the opportunity to know them.

Merry Christmas (belated) to all and have a wonderful 2016

Monday, 30 November 2015

The December Blog 2015

Before I start on “my journey through life” I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and I hope that 2016 grants all your wishes. I want to thank everyone who has visited my business over the last 12 months and I look forward to seeing you in 2016.

These blogs are based on areas of my life – both as a person and as a veterinarian. I have started explaining the journey that led from me joining an outrigger canoe club to where I was involved with the world’s 3rd longest outrigger canoe race this year (our canoe got a 3rd in the Open section).
But this month I would like to comment on a “walk” I had with my wife (Rhonda) up a mountain called Wild Horse Mountain (this mountain can be seen on the left side of the road as you drive the Brisbane – south of Nambour) in November this year.

It all started whilst driving to Brisbane on family errands when the conversation got around to how fit Rhonda was especially compared to myself. Now I know that these comments were aimed to hurt me psychologically because anyone who has seen me in the last 12 months knows what peak fitness I keep myself in. 
It is only in the last 2 months I had visited our family doctor who, in 2014,had compared my body and fitness to a whale (he actually recommended that I should not swim where there were Japanese and a harpoon gun) and this year congratulated me on my achievements and said that if I was only 8 foot 7 inches tall then I would be in my ideal weight range.
So here we were driving down the Pacific Highway heading to Brisbane when on our left side was a notice telling us of the lookout on top of Lone Horse Mountain. We had plenty of time and I had been listening for the last 2 hours on how she was getting “old” (it is necessary to let you all know that I am 8 years older than Rhonda so every time she complains about her age she does not get a very sympathetic ear). At the same time she was commenting on how fit she was and “what a slug” I was becoming.
“Why don’t we go walk up the mountain?” I said as passed the sign. I had seen this lookout many times from the road and thought I would like to go up there one day – I knew that you cannot drive up there and I thought it is about time someone taught this woman a lesion.
My intention was to “flog” her up the mountain and when she collapsed in an exhausted heap half way up the mountain then I would save the day and help her the rest of the way and when at the top I would remind her that age does not play a role and even though I am 8 years older I am still in peak form and she should be proud to have me as her partner.
“OK” she said “But no taking off and leaving me behind – I may need your arm to help me get to the top”.
 “No problems” I replied whilst thinking – little does she realize how fit I really was under this facade of “flab”.  Why it was only the other day I finished a training session at the local gym and the trainer did not have to use the oxygen mask and it only took me 10 minutes before I could stand up – yes I am a man of steel and would charge up this mountain leaving a gasping wife in my wake.
So we parked at the bottom of the hill and headed on up 
Now this path up the mountain is divided into basically 5 sections with a blind corner at each section so that you cannot see the next section until you turn the corner. The path is approximately 1 kilometre in length and the person who made the path was a sadist (and a fit one at that).
We started up the first section – approx. 20 degree incline. At first Rhonda and I chatted pleasantly but by the end of the first section Rhonda was still talking but I was starting to breathe a lot faster and only answering her in grunts and monosyllable statements. I secretly knew that she must be hurting inside and I was holding myself in reserve for the final push ahead. 
Then we came to the first corner.
The incline increased by around 10 degrees. By now Rhonda was exclaiming on the beautiful view and I was having a panoramic view of my shoe laces. Up we go – I am struggling but I know, deep inside, Rhonda must be hurting a lot even though she is putting on a brave face and trying to pretend that she is under no stress and doing the climb easily. 
Then we came to the next corner.
It seems to me that now the incline is more like 60 degrees. By this time I am bent parallel to the ground and the arms are pumping hard. Up ahead I can hear Rhonda talking about the view and taking photos as she walks. At one time she suggests that she should take a photo of me but after I pass an opinion on what the camera is going to look like when they eventually find it at the bottom of the mountain so she decides it might be best to just stick to photographing the scenery. By now my lungs are busting, the heart is pumping and the sweat is pouring off my forehead but I am still next to my wife.
Then we came to the next corner.
I am sure the incline increased to 75 degrees. My eyes cannot see because the sweat is pouring down my forehead and into my eyes. My lungs are busting, I am sure I am dealing with altitude sickness and my brain has basically ceased to function. My tongue has swollen to 3 times its size and I am sure that my head is so close to my shoes that I could lick the dirt off the toe area. I am weaving from side to side of the track and my knuckles are dragging on the ground. A little old grey haired man passes me pushing his “walker” and then kindly offers to let me use the “walker”. A family pass me (heading up the mountain) – I look up to see in their midst a grandmother on crutches with a broken leg still talking to the rest of the family about the scenery and what she is having for lunch when they get back to the bottom of the hill. My wife had disappeared – “ha ha I have outdone her” I thought to myself. Only to hear her calling my name form the top of the path at the next corner.
“Come on David – you will love the view from here and the next section is only a short one”.
Then we came to the last corner!
I am sure Sir Edmond Hillary used this last section to train on before he climbed Everest. I will swear that last section was a shear 90 degree straight up. By this time I am down to my knees and pulling myself along with my nails. I looked around for a climbing rope only to see a 2 year old child passing me whilst holding the hand of her great great grandmother who was walking with a white cane while holding onto her Seeing Eye dog who struggled up the path because of the cast on its broken back leg.
Meanwhile my wife is calmly talking to a group of tourists about 200 meters ahead and pointing out areas of interest and assisting them taking photos.
I eventually did make it to the top and Rhonda tells me the views were fantastic but everywhere I looked I could only see a red haze. Rhonda had got tired of waiting for me and she was concerned that the noise from my gasping was starting to upset some of the babies that were in the strollers that the parents were pushing up.
I would like to thank the group of Japanese tourists who assisted in giving me CPR and I would like to thank the ambulance workers who braved the heights of the mountain to assist me back to the car (they must have been telling jokes amongst themselves all the time because they kept sniggering and laughing all the way down the mountain).
I would also like to thank the Lions club of the area for donating the oxygen therapy equipment the ambulance workers used to ease my breathing as well as the local Heart Foundation for the use of their defibrillator that was used to “stabilize the beating drum inside my chest”.

I am now in intense training for the next assault on the mountain and I have told Rhonda that by the end of 2016 I will be beating her to the top.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

November 2015 - Part 2

A few months ago (on my last Davo's Corner in the monthly newsletter) I wrote about joining an elite team of paddlers and heading to Cairns for an ultra marathon race using 6 man Outrigger canoes that race in "Open water".
This is my story of the lead up to and the actual event (and I may add some of the after-story).
This will take a few blogs (or longer if I get side tracked along the way and discuss other aspects of my life)

It all started a few years ago - I was in my normal peak physical fitness (along with good looks and radiant personality), for example I was able to jump puddles in a single bound, I could lift heavy weights with ease (it was not uncommon to see me lift two bottles of beer – whilst they were full – above my head), my muscles were bulging with energy (in fact my  chest muscles had expanded to extend to my waist) and I was able to “run like the wind” (my wife did point out at the time that the only wind I could outrun was the hot air coming from my mouth – but she has always been a cynical person who has envied my fitness).

Over the last 15 years of intense training I had tried different sports - dry land synchronized swimming, backward mountain bike riding on flat ground, competitive belly flopping off the side of  a pool, upside down buck jumping on rocking horses and (my favourite) - 3 legged racing with only one person.

There was no doubt (in my mind) that I was an elite athlete and I was disappointed (and surprised) when Olympic selectors did not recognize “Greatness” even when I was willing to send YouTube's and Facebook photos of myself in training (in fact I was threatened with court action if I ever sent them another photo of myself in purple "Speedos" before a Dry Land synchronized Swimming training session I held at the local park).

So I had decided to look at other sports and felt that sitting in a canoe (I already had the big bottom, so I would not need any form of padding on my seat) and paddling was the sport for me.
So I joined the local Outriggers Club (at the mouth of the Burnett River) and started on a journey that would see me off Cairns in mountainous waves racing towards Port Douglas with 5 other fit and insane men (who seemed to enjoy the pain and the suffering that is part of ultra marathon racing).

But I get ahead of myself.
I joined the club and immediately I was recognized for future greatness by the rest of the paddlers (they obviously recognized that by having me in their boat was a huge disadvantage to other crews and that the other boats would not be able to keep up - so as a group they all voted that it would be best not to be in any boat or at least not in their boat). It was often stated at training, that they would prefer me to go on a single man canoe and preferably in the opposite direction then they were going.
If I went in a 6 person canoe the other paddlers would be concerned of the tremendous advantage they had and were often heard to yell "I want to paddle in another canoe" or at one time 5 of the crew I was with suddenly got emergency calls and had to go home before we could start.
It was not long before I became a "valued" member of the club and earned a nickname - "Ballast". (We all know that earning a nickname means that you are respected and well liked in any sporting club.)

So after 3 days of intense training I was ready "to take on the world" and I was surprised when I heard that it normally takes people up to 2 years of intense training to get ready for racing. It was fortunate that I have that natural ability to "lift" and become tuned for the high level of sport.

I was lucky that there was a race event that the club wanted to compete in and they were missing one crew member - so in I grabbed the opportunity and entered my first race. It was only sprint racing - over 2Kl. "It will be over before you know it" the captain of the team told me.
What they did not tell me is that a top canoe will travel around 12Kl/hr and that means that the race would take around 10 – 15 minutes. I am not sure what went wrong in our race but I swear our race took 2 hours (the rest of the crew disagree but I am sure it took that long).
I turned up on the day “ready for action” - I was wearing my yellow lyrca shirt and pants (in case we flipped and the rescue boat would be able to see me), I had on my green "legionnaires cap" and my pink gloves. I had drunk 6 liters of water to stop dehydrating and I had eaten 8 protein bars and 5 bananas (for potassium). In my research I had found the biggest reasons why people "hit the wall" is because of lack of energy or from dehydration.
I know that I "sloshed” as I went from the beach to the boat and I know I sounded like a waterbed as I climbed over the edge of the canoe and got into my seat but I was not going to let my crew down.
I was wearing my heart monitor to make sure I did not enter into the anaerobic zone "too early" and I knew my maximum heart rate was 180 per minute. As we paddled out to the starting line I noticed my heart rate was now at 280 beats per minute - "the energy and protein bars are working well" I thought.

In OC6 racing the starter uses different coloured flags and the captain of the boat calls these out "We have an orange, now it’s yellow, green is up" etc. This means that the canoe and its crew must get ready to edge up to the starting line, stop on the line and then start when the green flag is dropped. But I was not aware of this at the time so when the captain said "We have an orange" - I replied that I only had one banana but I did have 2 protein bars and I was more than willing to share.

The green flag fell and we were off! The other boats surged ahead as the members of each crew paddled in unison and drove their canoe forward. When I say “the other boats” what I really meant was that ours seemed to have something holding us back – maybe the captain had thrown out a sea anchor or something. We more or less “staggered” over the starting line and seemed to decelerate from there.
The crew were yelling at me “to slow down and stop thrashing” – I was a virtual whirlwind of action. My paddle was going in and out of the water at a great rate – I was throwing water all over the people behind me and filling up the canoe with sea water at a rapid rate. So I grabbed the bailing bucket and started throwing water out of the boat but in my haste I was now drowning the crew in front of me – at least now everyone was in no danger of overheating from the sun.
The crew member in front of me grabbed the bailing bucket and started to lower the water level in the boat whilst the other members started to paddle. By now the other boats were at least 200 meters ahead of us but all was not lost – we had a plan. If we all paddled to out maximum and stayed in unison then our superior fitness should give us a good chance to at least not be last.
So we settled in – stroking around 75 strokes per minute and looking good.
We seemed to have paddled for a long distance when the cramps started to occur in my body (the crew stated later that we had only gone 100 meters but I find that hard to believe).
The first cramp hit me in the right leg causing my leg to bend. Then within a minute or so the left side of the abdomen started to cramp causing me to start to bend to the left at the waist. Then the right arm started to cramp in the biceps. By now I was a cripple – contractions hitting me from every side and not able to move my arms or my legs properly causing my paddling technique to become nonexistent (surprising it was reported later that it was about this time our boat started to go faster and catch the other boats in the race).

Then the pain started in the chest!
There is talk that there was squealing sounds “like a girl” coming from the canoe as I clutched my chest and dropped my paddle over the side of the boat. There is malicious talk that I went “white as a ghost” and started sobbing but I find that hard to believe. (I am used to pain – it was only the other day that I stubbed my toe on a toadstool and did not make a sound).
Obviously the crew was concerned and amidst cries of sympathy such as “Bloody hell!” and “Bugger” we headed back to the beach.
After extensive tests and emergency treatment I survived (obviously I would not be writing this article) – there was some talk about “Gas associated with the overabundance of fluids and fruit fermenting in the stomach” but no one was completely sure of the cause of the pain. All we know is when I finally loosened my lyrca pants and removed my shirt, I burped (and passed wind from other areas) and the blood returned to my face and the pain seemed to go.
I would like to thank the ambulance workers, the air sea rescue, the volunteers on the shore who carried me to the hospital tent, my crew members for being so understanding and my wife (for not putting photos and messages on Facebook).

Next month I will continue the saga that lead to me paddling in a canoe around 8 Kl out to sea off Cairns in high seas and strong winds and heading towards Port Douglas (I was not scared – I just acted that way to make the rest of the crew feel brave). 

Dr David