Thursday, 17 November 2011

A quiet paddle

Just finished the last of the paddle orders from the Storm Gathering, which was a pretty good event from our point of view.

Bespoke paddle

A particular bonus was some video recording and editing done by Matt Giblin of Kayak Essentials and Bubble Films
with Rich demonstrating some moves on a wobbler.

All this meant that I could actually get out on the water, with a very sunny day on the Menai Strait - so long since I had been out that 20k felt like a substantial trip.

Extreme conditions at the bridge

Lots of Curlews

followed the next day by a quick paddle in a Tahe Marine Greenlander

Interesting boat to paddle, very responsive to edging, and the handling characteristics change dramatically with the skeg position. Seat was less supportive than I am used to (stomach muscles will ache), and Estonians must have very small feet.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Couth Kuthe

We have probably all met charmless ego-centric sponsored paddlers, and of course we all know that Americans are stereotypically brash, over-confident and frequently, over here. It was very pleasant therefore to meet Paul Kuthe who despite being a sponsored paddler, and 'over here' for the Storm Gathering, is clearly a fine ambassador for the sport, both in manner, and sheer paddling ability. While he was here, Paul spent a couple of days filming with Justine Curgenven, so look out for him in 'This is the Sea 5'

It has been a busy week, starting with the Storm Gathering where we shared a small retail space with Pete Baars and sales team, and ending with the Swellies Extreme races.

The green at Menai Bridge - note the big tide

Most people relaxed before the start of the race

But not John Willacy

Only one Greenland paddler - Mark Tozer

Justine Curgenven on a late run

Followed by Paul Kuthe

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Fickle Finger of Fame

I have always been interested in the way that certain events or particular people become famous. It is all the more interesting when it appears that something rather more significant has happened elsewhere or concerns another individual.

At the beginning of the month a new record was set for crossing the channel by 'canoe' (Surf Ski Kayaks / V12) with paddler Paul Wycherley accompanied* by a support boat. The crossing made the national news. At about the same time, a new record was set for crossing the Irish sea, as John Willacy with no support boat paddled a Rockpool Taran from Holyhead to Howth in just over 11 hours. Nothing in the national news.

Looking somewhat further back, much was made of the achievements of Helen Skelton on the Amazon - lots of national news coverage, and talk of breaking world records. Without wanting to knock Helen's efforts in any way, I could not help but compare them to those of Freya Hoffmeister - maybe Australia is just much smaller than I thought.

I am rather too old to expect the world to be fair, or news reporting to be unbiased, but .........

*I am not commenting here on whether or not the support boat assisted the passage in any way.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Just a clearing up shower

The Storm Gathering is nearly upon us, and the weather has generally been
living up to the billing - currently hailing here. We have a collection of sticks - some demonstrators, some shiny new ones - and a couple of balance stools (wobblers), pins (Norsaqs), etc., ready for the weekend, so feel free to ask if you want to borrow something.

This month's Ocean Paddler has an 'Expedition Top Tips' section with plenty of good advice and some humour, not least from Marcus Demuth (and no, I don't use a deck bag). I particularly like a comment from Mark Rainsley "It's not an 'expedition' unless everyone is hungry, miserable and issuing recriminations as to whose bright idea this was ..." as it fits our own family saying "It's not a proper outing unless you come back tired, wet, cold and hungry".

Cold, wet, tired and hungry
Mind you, in our family all rain is traditionally 'just a clearing up shower'

Thursday, 13 October 2011

False Alarm With Good Intent

I am working on an article for the SeaKayakWales website that takes a close look at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency annual report on Canoe and Kayak Incidents

The report raises a number of issues, and the article will look closely at what seakayakers can learn from the incidents, but today, I am going to raise just one point - the level of false alarms with good intent:

MCA 2010 Canoe and Kayak Incident Annual Report

It would be possible to attribute many of the incidents to informant ignorance:

"Report of kayaker struggling to make way. Team attended and confirmed object was actually a buoy"

or a misunderstanding of what seakayaks can be used for:

"Call received reporting that 2 kayakers were seen heading towards The Skerries island. The informant was concerned as this is a dangerous stretch of fast flowing tidal race"

but the shear number or reports makes it worth examining our own responsibilities.

In the past, I have been fairly reluctant to inform the coastguard about any intended trip - it all feels a bit 'big brother' - we might easily change our venue or destination before or during the trip - what is the point when we are only going out to do some rescue practice - and we have to remember to let them know when we are off the water, but have a look at the following:

"Call from a member of the public with concern for a group of 5 kayakers off Rhoscolyn, 2 of which appeared to be being towed. Rhoscolyn CRT was tasked to investigate. Once the kayak party had come ashore it was confirmed that all persons were safe and were conducting a rescue drill"

"Report received that 2 people with a canoe appeared stranded on Perch Rock in the Menai strait. The current in this area is very fast flowing. Bangor CRT was tasked to investigate. It transpired that the couple were experienced and competent and were happy riding the tidal race, but had not informed the Coastguard of their intentions"

"Following a 999 call from a person, Tenby Inshore Lifeboat and Tenby Coastguards were tasked to search for 2 kayakers thought to be in difficulties off Pendine Beach. The Kayakers were both instructors from the nearby Pendine School Camp and were not in any difficulty"

"999 Call received from pier master reporting a kayak party of 5 persons were in difficulties in the Menai Strait due to adverse weather conditions. 1 of the party had capsized and was being towed ashore. Bangor CRT was tasked to investigate. The party were located and confirmed that they were advanced paddlers and were comfortable in the weather conditions, but had neglected to inform the Coastguard of their intentions"

I am pretty amazed that the pier master did not know better, but that only emphasizes the point.

While we should not need to let the coastguard know what we are doing, it seems that the only practical way of reducing the level of false alarms, is to do so, and where possible provide a means of contact such as VHF or mobile phone.

But, do you know how?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Indy Sunshine

Visited the Indefatigable for the now traditional trade day during their symposium.

Anglesey Stick stuff on the balcony
Lots of interest in wobblers on the balcony, and sticks on the water

Interesting juxtaposition of ancient and modern
technology - an Anglesey Stick and a Rockpool Taran

and it was really quite busy for a while

Paddlers using Anglesey Sticks on the Menai Strait
rounded off by a visit from 22 squadron

22 Squadron - C Flight provide their version of catabatic wind
all in all, a pleasant low-key event. Many thanks to all at the Indefatigable

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Straight to the point

I have been making a couple of harpoons for the Storm Gathering - they are a bit rough and ready, and only traditional in the sense of being made (largely) from driftwood.

Harpoons with Norsaqs
Real harpoons with metal tips, thrown by an expert would of course be capable of killing large sea mammals (Pete Baars?) whereas these are only likely to maim, and will probably only ever be used in anger against a floating hula hoop.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Not the fruit and veg man - a guest blog entry by Rich

Simon and I are about to undertake the new BCU UKCC 4* Sea Kayak Leader Award (yes, I’m aware of the ridiculous length of the title, but this isn’t Twitter), and therefore needed some trip planning practice. Someone suggested a trip from Caernarfon to Trefor, so following a detailed consultation with the charts and the tidal atlas, decided that Tuesday morning was the perfect time to do it. With a weather and wind forecast that changed by the hour and an early start to drop a vehicle off in Trefor, it all looked like the trip would be shelved but for a last minute decision to just do it.

Coed Helen

We got on the water by Coed Helen at 09.30(note to self: a great access and egress point with toilets etc.) to get to Abermenai Point for slack water at 10.40. The first bit of the trip was good fun, especially at one point on nearing Fort Belan noticing that we’d been stationary (despite our best efforts) for a good 5 minutes. One should never underestimate Spring tides in the Strait.
Approaching Fort Belan and Abermenai Point

However, once round the corner, with a quick stop by Simon to adjust his backrest, we were making good progress with the tide increasing in speed in our favour along the coast.
Simon adjusting the backrest in his Nigel Dennis Kayaks Romany

The cannons at Fort Belan

A lot of clapotic wave action due to South Sands sand-bank and the steep shingle beach added to the excitement. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and a very fast cup of tea (courtesy of Simon’s fancy new stove) at Dinas Dinlle. The landing on a dumping shingle beach added extra excitement, but the beach did provide us with a nicely-built bench to sit on.
Anglesey Stick on Dinas Dinlle beach - Simon packing away his JetBoil

From here on the weather improved steadily with Holyhead Mountain coming into view behind us, basking in sunlight (unlike us) and with the wind going round from the North-West (beam-on) to North-East (stern). The following wind and increasing tide, as well as the refreshments increased our pace and soon we were steaming along, taking in the dramatic views of Bwlch Mawr (509m), Gyrn Goch (492m) and Gyrn Ddu as well as Yr Eifl (564m), the latter of which providing us with a perfect directional beacon to our ultimate destination.
The mountains of the Lleyn Peninsula

Soon we were rounding the corner past the fish farm of Pontllyfni,
Fish Farm and Pontllyfni on the left, Clynnog Fawr on the right

past the 7th century church of St Beuno in Clynnog Fawr (an important stopping place for Pilgrims on their way to Bardsey in medieval times) before the pier and harbour wall of Trefor provided us with a glimpse of our finish, approximately 4km away.
Trefor coming into view nicely, with the pier and harbour visible

A final slog to the finish was again rewarded by a very fast cup of tea before the boats and kit were bundled into the car to set off back to Caernarfon to pick Simon’s car up. Nearly 21km of paddling in just over 4 hours on the water.

Trefor harbour with Yr Eifl in the background