Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Sea, Sun, Sand - life's a beach

This time of year it can be difficult to get tide, time and weather all on your side - so two out of three was not bad with bright sunshine all day on Saturday. The tide was missing, and we seemed to walk nearly as far as we paddled, but a good first trip for Dave

who took to the somewhat unusual combination of a Europa kayak (think outdoor centres in the last century) with a clip-on skeg, and an Anglesey Stick.

Heading out along Llanddwyn - note the stabilisers/sponsons on my boat ....

we were joined by an extra paddler ......... neat launch.

Now, why is it that when a group of kayakers land on a beach (this is Pilot's Cove), one of them always lands away from everyone else?

Hard to believe that it is the 12th of December - picnic on the beach with fried sausages on the 'ghastly' plate, and lashings of tea, before paddling round the island to the usual surf landing.

Quick portage over the isthmus and here we are ready for the home leg.

Monday, 7 December 2009

A trip to Menai Bridge (Porthaethwy) to visit Emma instead of Nelson

The forecast was not great (SW4/5 with gusts to 35 knots), but cabin fever had been growing for some time ..........

Saturday's tide was always going to be big - 3 days after the full moon + a low pressure system + several days of wind from the SW so every chance of reaching Church Island in Menai Bridge if we timed it right.

Anyway, left The Mermaid (Foel) at about 10.15 - weather a bit gloomy, and a quartering sea which made for some interesting paddling.

Rich had opted for a paddle in the stealth boat

which is rather low on volume for him, and this combined with a partly open rear hatch, found him paddling with the back deck under water by the first stop. Still, it was time for a cup of tea anyway.

Better conditions as we neared Plas Newydd

(and yes, I am facing the wrong way in a shameless display of the Anglesey Stick website address)

Wind was gusting hard as we passed Nelson, and went under the Britannia Bridge - couple of groups from Plas Menai (power boat) enjoying their lunch, and we were beside the Church Island causeway in no time.

It is not very often that this is a convenient get out, but it was a high tide

Emma managed the trip from her back door to meet us (about 50 metres) and stand in the rain for a while, and admire the rainbows

There was still plenty of water, but we were a bit late leaving in terms of the strength of the tidal flow which made for somewhat challenging conditions near the bridge - Rich demonstrated how to break in and out of various whirlpools - or at least that is his story.

Through the bridge the water was doing a passable imitation of Penhryn Mawr, so we slogged over to the mainland shore to hide from the worst of the wind.

Fairly straightforward to Port Dinorwic (Y Felinheli), and a break for tea and a pasty just East of the Plas Menai slip, then kept to the Caernarfon shore until we could spot a reasonable line back to Foel. Conditions had deteriorated a bit with driving rain and spray and a darkening sky, and Rich found the left side of his face had gone numb, so glad enough to reach the beach.

About 23k paddled.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Caernarfon bar the weather

Just been for a walk along Newborough beach (Traeth Niwbwrch). Lots of ravens (50+) enjoying the updraft as the wind hits the edge of the dunes. At least the sea was rough enough to explain why I have not been in a kayak for a while.

Conditions have not been kind to the outer starboard bar buoy (C1), which has a temporary new home on the beach.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Commando Kayaking part two - getting to the pudding beach

The basic idea is simple enough - go kayaking without using a motor vehicle, and you will no doubt have been enthralled by my previous post

Today is all about the practicalities of towing your kayak with a bicycle. The obvious approach was to look on the web (JFGI) for a possible method (you don't always want to reinvent the wheel), and see what could be created from scrap lying around .

Google had plenty of hits, and most solutions looked something like this:

picture courtesy of Tony's Trailers in BC, Canada

Two things come to mind when you look at the picture - do you need a bar running down the length of the kayak? and maybe the hitch is too high on the bike for stability/flexibility? - think motorbike and sidecar.

I already had a trolley with road wheels that could be fixed fairly securely to the kayak with standard tape 'roofrack' straps - surely all I needed was something simple at one end of the kayak to connect it to the bike?

A piece of plywood, a couple of brackets, and a bungee - simple but effective.

The tow is surprisingly positive, and the bungee allows enough movement for cornering though you have to remember how long the bike/kayak combination is, and not cut corners.

Other road users seem to keep well clear (occasional applause), and as far as I can find out, there is no restriction on bicycles towing trailers.

Does anyone think the bracket would be a viable commercial product?
Would you buy one?
Likely price range?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Making the double

By popular demand, some info and picks about making the double kayak.
anglesey stick double

I started by ordering plans for the Chesapeake Double, but was advised that it was really a lake tourer for 'Fat Americans' - stereotype or tautology depending on your point of view, and that I should consider the Sport Tandem instead.
Unfortunately, the plans revealed that this was too long to fit in the workshop, and so with some trepidation, I decided to have a go at adapting a design in 'The New Kayak Shop' by Chris Kulczycki. Essentially it is a cut and shut design, stretching a Chesapeake by adding about 18 inches of length to the mid-section, while (hopefully) retaining the proven lines. This left some anxiety about exactly where to place the cockpits, and how to arrange the deck line such that the forward paddler was not 'swamped' - hence the 'step'.

Construction pictures:

Hull and bulkheads

Adding end-pours and buoyancy

Cedar strip layout

Nearly complete

Testing the fit

Saturday, 24 October 2009


Took the Canadians - people not boats - for a trip down the Straits in calm and very warm conditions. Tony who is an experienced seakayaker from Salt Spring Island (near Vancouver Island, BC) used an Anglesey Stick for the first time and was an instant convert. 

Susan and Tony were both good a finding fossils wherever we stopped, and were impressed by the 'history' emailing this comment once they were back home:

We really enjoyed the paddling trip, we were out of shape, but paddling alongside such history and pageantry is so beyond our scope here that I think of it constantly.  Here there is  NO history, there it is ALL history. Loved it.

Shots from the trip to visit Nelson (about 20k paddle, but riding the tide, so equivalent to about a 12k trip).

Cath under trees

Plas Newydd

Nelsons Column

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Low key paddling

Tim only had a couple of hours to spare, but the weather on Saturday was warm with light winds, so we had to get on the water. A trip round Llanddwyn beckoned. Rich and I paddled the double (still in sea trials really), and Tim his Capella on the way out, with Rich and Tim in the double on the way back. Why am I boring you with this detail? - speed versus effort. Without us really noticing until we talked about it later, the doubles pair were gentle cruising most of the time while whoever was in the single was paddling hard to keep up.

Vile Plate
Sausages served on 'the plate' and very strong tea courtesy of Tim's trangia, and too many tea-bags. The very observant will notice that the picture is actually from another trip - nobody managed a camera........
Lots of wildlife to look at, particularly seals, though we gave them a wide berth as it is the season for their own wide births.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The stealth boat

I have been cheering up the 'teach yourself boat-building boat' which looked rather sorry for itself in comparison to the double.
The boat is built from plans for the Chesapeake 16 LT (Light Tourer) from Fyne Boat Kits, very cheap ply, and various scraps of wood that were laying around.
After the first round of construction it looked like this.Rough Blue Boat
Once Catherine paddled it on a reasonable trip (20k), it deserved a make-over, and now looks a little better, if somewhat fishy. Note the sophisticated deck hatch made from a BDH bottle embedded in foam, improved cockpit rim, footrests, etc.
stealth boat
stealth boat
stealth boat
stealth boat

The question now is - what to build next?
and who for?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Anglesey Stick Boat

One of the minor problems of making Anglesey Sticks has been what to do with all the offcuts of Red Cedar. The answer came in the form of a double seakayak with strip cedar decking.

I will post some pics about its construction, and maybe some arty farty shots of the woodwork on the Anglesey Stick site under features.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Novice paddler

I am not always that keen to go paddling with a complete beginner - my days as an outdoor pursuits instructor are long gone, but as I have been nagging Tim to get his daughter out paddling, I could hardly refuse. In the event, it was a very pleasant trip along the Menai Strait. Elin used a shortish Anglesey Stick to paddle a 'WildOne' from Wild Things. If you don't know the boat, it is about as close as you can get to a general purpose kayak, but still on the large size for a 9 year old.
Very interesting to watch someone with no paddling experience take so quickly to propelling a plastic kayak so efficiently with a piece of wood - basically, she just got on with it, managing about 4k with a little help from the tide.

Elin using an Anglesey Stick

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Boat Maintenance

The skeg wire on the red Capella was well and truly bent, and the one on Tim's had not been well for sometime.

Found an article on Repairing a Skeg by Mick Buckley that was very helpful, and included a supplier for the replacement wire. Mostly followed Mick's article, but found that cheap bolt cutters worked fine for cutting the new wire to length.

Next job is replacing the deck elastics which have become tired and emotional.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A lazy week

Just put some of the Cornwall trip info on SeaKayaker - a few nice pictures, and a bit of text from me about the trips.

One of the trips raised an issue that seems to recur in sea kayaking - how to judge the seriousness of the outing. We were planning a trip from the Camel estuary (near Rock) round Pentire Head, through the Mouls channel to Smugglers' Cove. Looking at South West Sea Kayaking byMark Rainsley, we can see the Camel estuary bit as 'Grade A', and the rest as 'Grade B'. Despite good weather and neap tides, it felt like a 'Grade C' trip - why?

Most of the trip is exposed to the Atlantic swell. This can make the lumpy bit of Pentire head and The Rumps, lumpier still, but more importantly it severely limits the escape routes - particularly the leeward safety net that would otherwise be provided by Polzeath. I suppose if conditions had deteriorated, we would have headed for Port Quin - safe enough, but a painful carry at low tide.

As it was, the weather remained favourable, and it was a very good trip.

I think I have my next 'commando kayaking' trip worked out - though not quite sure how the trolley will handle the sand dunes..........

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Commando Kayaking

I rather like Dubside's attitude to kayaking, and in particular one of his 'rules' for commando kayaking:
"2. Kayaking effected so as to render the automobile superfluous."

It does go against the grain a bit to have to use your car to get out paddling. Not so bad when there are a few of you, but when you are by yourself..........

So, this Sunday, with a great weather forecast and only myself to paddle with, I decided to cycle to the Mermaid (Foel, Anglesey), towing my kayak, paddle down the Menai strait as far as Nelson, and then return with the tide. About 10k of cycling and 20k of paddling. The hardest bit by far being the mainly uphill return journey from Foel to home. Strange how it always seems to be uphill on the way back from the sea.

Towing the kayak (Rainbow, Laser) was suprisingly straightforward. I had looked at a few ideas on the web, and come up with a very simple design for a bracket (piece of plywood) at rear axle level on the bike, connected to the kayak via a couple of bungies.

Of course it would have been a good idea to oil the kayak trolley wheels, and even better if the trolley had proper bearings, but it was a warm summers day and I was not in any hurry. Also the friction did provide some extra control on downhill sections.

My main tip, if you are thinking of trying something similar, would be to keep as much weight (kayaking kit, food, water, etc) as possible directly over the trolley while towing, rather than packed in the way you might for a trip.

Monday, 29 June 2009


Great visit to Cornwall (based at Gentle Jane in the Camel estuary). 5 trips in 8 days including one of just 4k to the pub for lunch, and 22k out round Pentire head to smugglers' cove.

Conditions good apart from one day, but pretty lumpy around Pentire head and through the Mouls channel. Sea sickness struck one of our group so Rich and I both got some towing practice - much easier than expected with a skinny paddle - but I am beginning to realise that the supposed limitations of Greenland style paddles are mostly in the minds of people that don't use them.

Another example would be launching in surf - now that I have seen four paddlers do this without any problems, I am not sure what the concern is.