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calendar   Thursday - July 08, 2010

True Spirit

True grit and bloody stubbornness pays off with some help from Mother Nature



Lake Eyre Yacht Club Hosts First Regatta In 20 Years

Unusual Rainfall Puts Actual Water In The Lake

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The blue sky of infinite horizon

The white salt of the dry shore

The black ooze to trap the unwary

The red of the sunsets, the sand dunes and the supersaturated salt water

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Headquarters, Lake Eyre Yacht Club. Spare boards, nails and shingles always welcome



Scores of sailors from across the country have made the long journey into the Outback to take part in the event in the middle of the Simpson Desert.

A monsoon in Queensland in February, during which six inches of rain fell in one day, with some towns recording their average annual rainfall in just 24 hours, has sent flows of water rushing into a series of inland lakes and rivers in remote South Australia.

The influx of water has been so large and sustained that, for the first time in more than 20 years, some of the desert lakes are now deep enough to sail on.

More than 200 sailors from around the country have converged on Lake Killamperpunna, 520 miles north of Adelaide, with catamarans, trimarans, speedboats and even water skis.

Normally a parched dust bowl, the lake has not been sailed on since 1989 but thanks to the rains, which have transformed the desert into lush wetlands teeming with plants and bird life, the water is up to 9ft deep in places and perfect for sailing.

Bob Backway, commodore of the Lake Eyre Sailing Club, said conditions were “beautiful” for the three-day regatta. The LESC was formed in 2000 but has never had enough water to host a regatta – until now.

“To think that just a month-and-a-half ago this area was just bone dry,” he said.

“[Now] you’re sailing on this beautiful lake that looks like it’s been there forever but hasn’t had water this depth in it for 20 years, it’s just ... out of this world.”

Mr Backway said yacht owners had travelled from across Australia to take advantage of the rare opportunity for “desert boating”.



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Typical sailing conditions for the past 2 decades



In keeping with the Club’s fun approach to yachting in the outback events will be laid back - no strict racing rules. Participants may even choose to design their own events - the emphasis is on enjoying the rare privilege of sailing in the desert.

A bush camping area on the edge of the Lake Killamperpunna will be supplied with firewood for use in approved fireplaces, and there will be Cooper Creek water for washing.

It won’t be good for keel boats however - they’ll be off-the-beach sized yachts with appropriate safety gear as required by SA Marine Authority, or trailer sailors. While it’s possible for a two-wheel-drive vehicle to make the journey, most participants are expected to take 4WD’s.

Participants will have to camp, and even caravans have to be handled with care to make the journey. Drinking water will also have to be carried, as they are not recommending drinking the Cooper Creek water.



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Current sailing conditions on the lake



Shallow draft boats are an absolute must; the depth of the lake is measured in millimeters. Strong backs and waterproof boots are required as well: this lake is subject to the unusual phenomena of wind tides, which can range up to 600mm or more. But since the lake is so shallow, and the land around it is so flat - insanely flat, “undulating” less than 5m per 75km - that 600mm of tide means that the lake can move 1 to 3 kilometers overnight. And that’s a long long push for your little boat across the salt crusted black ooze and mud.

Lake Eyre [nicknamed “the plug hole of Australia"], Australia’s largest salt lake and the world’s 13th largest lake, is located in Northern South Australia. It’s drainage basin, of 1,140,000 square kilometers, covers 15% of the continent extending into the south-east of the Northern Territory and south west and central Queensland.

Lake Eyre North is 144km long North-South and 77km wide. The lowest point, in Lake Eyre North, is 15.2 metres below sea level and its deepest flood (20th century) was in 1974 at 5.7 meters. Lake Eyre South is 64km long East-West and 24km wide and has a maximum depth of 3.7 meters. The two Lakes are joined by the 15km long Goyder Channel through which water has flowed in either direction in recent history. Both lakes have a combined area of 9 690 square kilometers.

Adventurers interested in sailing the blood red lake for several days should bring camping equipment, food, several hundred liters of drinking water and a small pull-behind dingy to carry it. Camping can be done at almost any point around the lake, and it is suggested you bring your own porta-potty as well. The Lake Eyre Yacht Club web page has lots of tips and suggestions, along with information about several of the rather bothersome medical conditions that can result from exposure to, and immersion in, water of such high salinity. Little things like Onion Toe and Sea Ulcers. But the highly saline water seems to cure plantar warts, so it’s not all downside.

And if you stick around long enough, you can attend the Cudimurka Outback Ball, a galah candlelit bi-annual affair held this year in at the old Ghan station there. Thousands attend to dance and drink the night away. That’s assuming that the Kudimudra, the local version of the Chupacabra, doesn’t get you first. Be warned.


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“The Lake protects itself from overuse by killing the careless”

Gotta love the Aussies. Tougher than nails and having a grand time doing the improbable.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/08/2010 at 01:38 PM   
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