Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Newborough snow park

Sometimes the elements are really more suited to something other than kayaking. With local temperatures below minus 10, the snow has stayed in good condition, so what do you do?

Get a lift in Rich's landrover to the top of the forest track

Take some enthusiastic people, and ski to the sea

It was uphill on the way back of course (have you noticed that it nearly always is uphill on the way back from the sea?)

But the entrance to the beach was worth a couple more goes (even for those with replacement knees and hip)

Now, I suppose it is back to the workshop as I have a stick and a wobbler to make.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ice to be beside the seaside

You may have noticed that it is decidedly chilly out at the moment - not really sea kayaking weather - so we (usual suspects, plus Rod from Sea Kayak Milos) left a snow strewn Newborough beach yesterday for a short bimble up the coast, hiding to some extent from the North Easterly wind. The air temperature was just above freezing and with some sun, almost the same as paddling in Greece - actually it was pretty cold, and got colder still as we headed over to Pen-y-Parc.

Where some of the sand was frozen, and there were plenty of icicles on the cliff.

Quick bite to eat and some tea - too cold to hang around for long, so back across the mouth of the Malltraeth estuary where the wind had got up a bit and was attacking the extremities somewhat - still the view of the mountains  was pretty inspiring

and we were soon back at Newborough. About 13k paddled.

The cold had a pretty detrimental effect on picture quality except for this next one (taken by accident) - kind of arty don't you think?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Under the weather

Good short paddle, rock-hopping around Llanddwyn in some autumn sunshine - and home by 11am.

TV forecast was for SW 3 or 4 and the inshore waters forecast looked like this:

    Northwest backing south or southwest 3 or 4, occasionally 5, increasing 7 to severe gale 9 later.
Sea State
    Moderate, becoming rough later.
    Fair, then rain, squally showers later.
    Good, becoming moderate or poor later.

Not very encouraging, particularly at this time of year, but maybe you have to look a little closer at the weather pattern sometimes - here are some pictures from the trip:

Ok, it was a little rougher on the Northern side of the island (great visibility - you could see spray from the waves hitting Rhoscolyn Beacon), with more swell, but still fairly calm really.

Here are two synoptic charts - what we were experiencing:

and the start of what was coming:

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Whither shall we wander?

I have been working on some trip planning software for kayaking off the coast of Anglesey. You know the problem - you can get out for a few hours tomorrow, or sometime over the weekend, but where to go given the tide times and likely weather?

The program instructions are simple enough:

Enter the time for 'High Water Dover' for the relevant day (Click [Easy Tide] to use the Admiralty Tidal prediction service) - remember to add daylight saving if appropriate.
  • Enter wind strength and direction. Click [Met Office] for an explanation of the Beaufort wind scale, and on the same page a link to the Inshore Waters forecast
  • Enter Start and Stop times (HH:MM) for your paddling 'window' - the program defaults to Dawn to Dusk
  • Choose the type of trip - Linear (one way) or Return, and a maximum trip length
  • Click [Matching Trips]
and it produces a screen like this

With basic details about trip timings, possible hazards, facilities, etc

The program can also display a graphical representation of tidal flow around the island

If you would be interested in a copy of the program, just email me kayak@adit.co.uk and I will send you a link to the download.

Although the program seems to work well, it is at beta test stage, and may contain errors of fact as well as logic, and has only a limited number of routes.

All feedback welcome.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Drowning in Ignorance

I am fully in favour of lone paddling, and like to paddle by myself sometimes. At other times, it is relatively easy to become sufficiently separate from fellow paddlers either by design or accident to be effectively paddling alone.

In these circumstances, we probably owe a responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones (and sometimes our fellow paddlers) to be able to recover from a capsize. Of course you may be someone who is so expert at re-entry and roll that you can easily enter your cockpit and attach your spraydeck underwater, and roll up, but ....

can you do it in the sort of conditions that would cause you to capsize, and if you did not get all the water out of your boat before you rolled up, how likely are you to capsize again?

A friend who has a very reliable roll, and has practised re-entry and roll extensively, capsized in the sea early this year and found the shock of the cold water sufficient to ensure that his brain could only tell him one thing - 'get out of the kayak'. Luckily, he was not paddling alone.

Probably, the only real alternative is assistance from a paddle float (if you can do a ladder rescue reliably in rough conditions, I take my hat off to you), but we all know the problems - slow to deploy (especially if you have to inflate the float) - does not offer much support if you just stuff the paddle under the deck elastics - uses the one piece of equipment that you would like to have to hand once you are back in the cockpit - still the spraydeck and pumping to do, don't forget.

My personal solution:

Modified old paddle and foam paddle float 'parked' ready for action

Just about allows access to rear hatch (note control line leading forward)

Simple technology - just bits of rope - but a strong and flexible joint

The float deployed.

Standard re-entry via rear deck - feet on the float - roll over as you slide into the cockpit. Pump out, spraydeck on, release the line, and get paddling (the float just settles back beside the hull for now)

Known disadvantages:

Only deploys on one side of the kayak
Some limitation on what else can be carried on the rear deck
Has to be fitted to the kayak - even if only in a low tech way
Small amount of extra windage

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Tired? not these boys

Horrible weather, but nice people last Friday at the Indefatigable. Conditions not too encouraging in terms of trying out a completely different sort of paddle, but there were a few brave souls:

note the ubiquitous John Willacy representing Rockpool

Catherine had organised Anglesey Stick polo shirts

which were a good combination with shorts - more or less what everyone else was wearing, as you can see from the first picture.

In the relative warm and dry, sharing an equipment store with Surflines there were lots of volunteers for the wobblers.

One or two tried more than just sitting on the thing, but little did they know what standard would be set the next day in Dolgellau

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Isthmus be Llanddwyn

First a picture from last week (Malltraeth at half tide)

Slightly better conditions this Sunday at Newborough

and enough tide to cross the neck of the island?

Well, just enough with a little help from the knuckles.

As is often the case with a Northerly wind, more swell than is at first apparent, with the double well out of the water as it took a wave on the Malltraeth side of the 'gap'. Then round the island to picnic back on the South side.

Only one seal for company, and no dolphins.

Caught a perfect wave to surf back onto the beach

Just the carrying left to do.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Wet behind the ears

Emma was super keen to give her visitors a taste of sea kayaking, so attempting to ignore the wind (SW4/5/6) and wet (face stinging), we paddled a small part of the Malltraeth estuary on Saturday.

Even in poor conditions, this venue is normally safe for beginners (provided you keep away from Lumley Bank), and at half tide the sandbanks give some respite from the full force of the wind.

Kimberley was doing well in the front of the double with Rich as the power unit, and Stuart was soon making progress once we had cured the wobbles.

Cue visit from William Wales's Big Yellow Taxi - guess they wanted to see who was daft enough to be paddling in the prevailing weather ....

Meanwhile the Wobblers are multiplying.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Wobbler at Plas Y Brenin

Well, time to announce the Anglesey Wobbler as a product.

A Kayak/Greenland balance stool that helps improve core muscle strength and of course balance - seriously good fun.

Full details at The Anglesey Wobbler

Rich managed to get a few people using a wobbler at the North Wales Outdoor Partnership do at Plas Y Brenin.

This is us having a great time at the event.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Whether Window

The forecast was SE4/5 becoming SE5-7 which was not all that encouraging. Tim phoned mid morning to see if I was still intending to paddle as it was truly horrible up at his place. Suggested we took a look late afternoon, and went for a walk if discretion seemed the better part.

Launching from Foel, it was only blowing 3/4 on the nose as we set off for the Caernarfon shore, and without much fetch the waves were small enough, so it was a quick blast across to some quiet water - being enjoyed by this fellow.

Easy paddling down (Northeast) to the Plas Menai slip.

Tea and pasties, then over to the Anglesey shore via some rather more testing water, and a near perfect surf on a glassy standing wave - just like in kayaking videos - well alright, about a quarter the size.

Then eddy hopping back to Foel with the wind increasing all the time. Waves on the beam beginning to threaten (big slaps on the boat, and a wet port hand oxter), but the greatest risk was the wind snatching at your paddle - unless you were using a stick, of course.

Big gust of wind pushed us onto the beach, and signalled the start of much worse conditions for anyone staying on the water.

About 8k paddled.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Not such a swell time

The thing about paddling on the sea is - it is never quite what you were expecting. The plan (yes we still have them) was to paddle Cemlyn to Holyhead, taking advantage of the calm conditions, but we had heard that there was a kayaker missing after the bad weather on Sunday.

Phoned the coastguard to offer our services, expecting to be told that the last thing they needed was some bungling amateurs, but they were very grateful, so Rich and I set off part way down the Malltraeth estuary intending to go up the coast as far as Rhosneigr.

Conditions were calm, warm and sunny, but we knew there was still some swell out there somewhere, as you could see the white flashes on 'Lumley Bank' (see far left of picture)

and spray leaping over the end of Llanddwyn.

Despite the potential seriousness of the task, the paddling was idyllic apart from the strain on your neck of looking back into all the small bays and inlets that you pass.

The swell was beginning to make its presence known as we rounded the headland and headed for Pen Y Parc, and added piquancy to our beach landing in front of the inshore lifeboat (on its way South).

Fortified by pasties and tea we launched into the now dumping surf - slightly early (after a big set) in my case ..... must have looked exciting from the beach, but I only got wet.

Quick blast across to Llanddwyn (still enough swell to hide other vessels - that is why you can't see any)

then round the corner to the peace and quiet of Pilot's cove....

and time to phone for a pick up from Traeth Niwbwrch. About 15k paddled, but no sign of Elizabeth Ashbee or her kayak.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Not so dire straits

Catherine has been wanting to paddle the bit of the Menai Strait from Beaumaris to Menai Bridge for a long time - so, as she was about to go into YG for total knee replacement, we thought Sunday was the ideal opportunity.

Weather was pretty dull at first, but began to brighten as we passed Bangor Pier.

and was very warm and sunny by the time we got to Porth Daniel.

Butties and tea (I know, this is a regular theme), and then a relaxed paddle through the swellies (it is all in the timing) and up the strait to Moel Y Don.

Couple of interesting moments with various powered craft who did not seem to have much of a grasp of the IRPCS (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea).

About 12k paddled.

Later, time to sit round the recycled hot water cylinder.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Rich pickings

Only Rich was available for a paddle last Saturday, and he opted for Trearddur Bay to Rhoscolyn - a pleasant evening bimble down the coast with following wind and mostly favourable tide (even though its general trend was in the opposite direction, on flood).

Surprisingly lumpy in some spots (hence no photos en route), but fun nonetheless - though we chickened out of some of the rock hopping (no helmets being our excuse).

Fine and calm at Rhoscolyn: