Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Anglesey Friends from Opposing Ends

The Welsh name for Puffin Island is 'Ynys Seiriol' and refers to St Seiriol who established a monastery at the nearby headland at Penmon during the 6th Century. There are many stories about Seiriol walking to meet his good friend St Gybi who lived at Caergybi / Holyhead. The two friends often used to meet in the middle of Anglesey.

Seiriol would walk west in the morning, and then would return home walking East in the afternoon. With the sun on his back for most of his travels, his face would rarely catch the sun and he became known as the pale or white saint.

St Gybi walked east in the mornings and west in the afternoons and always had the sun on his face. St Gybi became known as the tanned or tawny saint.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Club Scene

Manchester Canoe Club is the nearest canoe club to where I live. It is primarily a river based club with great premises set beside the river Goyt near Marple.

More recently, interest in sea kayaking in has been building up nicely over the last couple of years. We have had a few meets on Anglesey with white water paddlers renting kayaks from Summit to Sea. A handful of members now have their own sea kayaks and are rapidly gaining experience.

A couple of weeks ago we met at the Anglesey Outdoors Centre for a packed weekend of activity. We met at the Paddlers Return Bar on the Friday evening and made plans for the next day. The weather forecast was very light winds and almost no swell.

Photo: Andy Sloan
On Saturday morning those of us who needed to collect kayaks from Summit to Sea did so. We then headed to Porth Dafarch to embark upon a trip around South Stack and into Gogarth Bay. We reached Parliament House Cave in time for lunch. Unfortunately, there was a dead seal stinking the place out so appetites were not great. We soon got back onto the water and followed the early ebb stream back to Penrhyn Mawr and Porth Dafarch.

Photo: Andy Hamilton
To keep things busy and informative we booked a visit to Holyhead Coastguard. We were shown around the operations room and their latest equipment and software for coordinating search and rescue operations.

Photo: Ann Crook
Within an hour of saying 'thanks and goodbye' to the Coastguards, we we preparing for a short night paddle. We split into two separate groups and paddled about a couple of kilometres but it was enough to see the bioluminescence sparkling in the pitch black waters.

After such a busy Saturday, we spent Sunday rockhopping along the mild west coast of Anglesey between Sandy Beach and Church Bay.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

West Wales Sea Kayak Meet

Its a long old haul from Manchester to Pembrokeshire and all the more difficult through the Friday night rush. Upon arrival at the Glendower pub in Goodwick, the road miles were quickly forgotten. I had arrived at the West Wales Sea Kayak Meet.

The event is hosted by local sea kayak guide Mike Mayberry of Mayberry Kayaking and based at the Phoenix Centre. We started each morning with a powerful cooked breakfast at the nearby Beaches Diner before organising a variety of day trips around the local Coastline.

On the Saturday I paddled with a small group to explore some offshore rocky islets that lie amongst the strong tidal streams of West Wales. The Bishops, Clerks and Bitches sounds more like a variation on a vicar's and tart's party!

Having Launched from Whitesands Bay, we began the ferry glide out to North Bishop. This proved to be more straightforward than we expected. However, we encountered more challenging waters at we passed Carreg Rhosson (The Clerks) en route to the rugged west shores of Ramsey Island.

The south end of Ramsey gave us some challenging flows to fight in Midland Gap but we were soon on our way round to 'The Bitches' and the challenging tidal rapids of Ramsey Sound.

After we had our dose of adrenalin we drifted back to Whitesands Bay to fininsh in warm golden afternoon sunshine. Later on, back at the centre the was fun round the barbecue and up in the bar where Wales beat England at Rugger! I have poor memories of the evening having been rendered speechless by Mr Browns high octane home brew.

Needless to say, I chose a more sedate paddling venue for Sunday Morning. The waters Dinas Head would be well sheltered and the rocky coastline would provide just the right dose of soothing entertainment.

The caves, gullies and sea creatures were perfect. We set off from Cwm yr Eglwys, weaved our way around to Pwllgwaelod and ate cake in the sunshine.

Many Thanks to Mike Mayberry for organising the event. I hope there will be another one soon... 

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Greenland 2015 - Johan Petersen Fjord

In Early July the sea ice off the East Greenland coast had failed to clear as it would normally during early summer. This meant that there would be no boats running from Kulusuk to take us to the Sea Kayak Expedition base at Tasiilaq. We took the unusual step of making this journey by Helicopter.

The 10 minute ride was spectacular. We flew close to a couple of places that we had camped during past trips before crossing Kong Oscar Havn and landing at Tasiilaq. The weather was gloomy and cold (2-4 Celsius) but there was plenty of excitement in town for the evenings football match.

Over the next few days, we made our way through densely packed ice-laden waters and headed around to the north side of Angmagssalik Island. This involves paddling the length of a 20 mile long channel called Ikasagtivaq. It is bound on each side by spectacular snow capped peaks and is a major highway for local hunters. Danish ex-pats refer to is as the E45 after the biggest motorway in Denmark.

We visited the settlement at Tiniteqilaq before entering Sermilik Fjord and its roving collection of ice bergs. The highlight of the trip was reaching the depths of Johann Petersen Fjord. In Previous years it had been clogged with huge ice bergs but this time it was surprisingly clear.

The back of the fjord is a frozen amphitheatre on a grand scale. Steep rock walls and ice-falls stretch skywards from the sea. Beyond lies the timeless expanse of the Greenland ice-cap. This place is an other-worldly experience where sometimes the loudest sound is of silence.

Many thanks to Martin Rickard of Sea Kayak Adventures for another wonderful adventure, and to  P&H Custom Sea Kayaks, Mitchell Blades, Clif Bar UK and Peak UK for their continued support.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Off to the races

Over the last three weekends I have been off to the races! The first was to tried and tested Conwy Ascent Race. This wonderful event has been hosted by Dyfryn Conwy Paddlers for many years and is always well-attended.

The Le Mans style start makes this event a real favourite for me. Tripping, stumbling and splashing your way into a 15km race usually results in a bit of chaos and entertainment. All good fun! The race ends at Dolgarrog in a civilised manner with endless cups of tea and giant sandwiches.

The bird life on the Farne Islands is amazing this time of year but the annual Midsummer pilgrimage to Northumberland just wouldn't be complete without the Coquet Island Race! The Coquet Canoe Club were proudly showing off their new facility on The Braid at Amble. Its always great to meet up with my northern friends and have beers in the lovely pubs in Beadnell.

Finally, I took part in the Hilbre Island Race for the first time. This event is hosted by Liverpool Canoe Club at the Dee Sailing Club. As we glanced across the Dee Estuary before the start, Wales disappeared in a monstrous rainstorm. On this occasion, it seemed to be more a storm endurance test than a race. Highly enjoyable! The sun even came out to dry the bedraggled paddlers and organisers.

Cackle TV - Kayaking the Aleutians

It isn't often that I sit and watch TV and I certainly wouldn't normally bother to write about the experience. However, on this occasion it seems right to mention the latest offering from Justine Curgenven's Cackle TV.

I have watched plenty of Justine's previous films. They always tell great stories and there is rarely a dull moment. Kayaking the Aleutians is no exception. The expedition was an audacious challenge especially considering Sara Outen's limited sea kayaking experience.

This film tells the story of two amazing women on a paddling adventure to make your eyes water. Exposure, exhaustion, exhilaration and nudity!

One morning, Sarah bears all to go for a wash in a stream. The first inkling that she got that there was something fishy going on, was when a grizzly turned up looking for lunch! In the meantime, in true journalistic style, Justine reached for her movie camera. It turned out that Sarah had gone skinny dipping in a salmon river. 

It takes skill and dedication to keep filming on expeditions when exhausted, or in scary situations. The depth of the story is greatly enriched when Justine and Sarah take time to meet people along the way in  the isolated Aleutian communities. The get welcomed ashore with traditional music and dance and afterwards get to sample some wholesome Aleutian food.

Kayaking the Aleutians is available to buy from the Cackle TV website. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Padlefestivalen - Sea Kayak Festival in Norway

Missing my connection in Oslo was hardly the best way to begin my introduction to Norway. However, Scandinavian Airlines were very helpful and got me on my way to windswept rainy Bergen. I was met at the airport by Ronny Riise from God-Tur kayak store who together with Ashley Williams organises Padlefestivalen.

The weather on the island of Langøy was much better than in Bergen so it made a great end to Thursday to paddle around the neighbouring island of Algrøyna. This island and its associated reefs and skerries would be the central location for the activities for the coming days. The evening talk was about paddling in southern Greenland given by Camilla Ianke from Northern Exposure.

On Friday Morning I teamed up with local kayak guide Anja Rydning to run a workshop in something called 'Brottpadling'. I was relieved to discover that this was nothing to do with paddling kayaks made from bread. During the session I found that 'Brottpadling' is a mixture of rockhopping and surfing over shallow reefs and through rock gardens. The area to the north west of Algrøyna is perfect for this. 

Photo: Camilla Ianke
In the evening more people turned up for the weekend sessions as I prepared for deliver my talk on paddling amongst the ice and mountains of East Greenland.

On Saturday I was let loose with a group of strong paddlers who had signed up for a session entitled 'Open Ocean'. We headed out of the sheltered areas and worked our way as far north as we could without falling off the map. After a short snack break we then headed south along the outside of the reefs and skerries. 

The swell exploded powerfully on any of the rocky islets. We were planning to end the day by visiting the beautiful island of Løno. However,  during our lunch break the wind and sea state increased. This made it easy to decide to leave our final destination and head back to Langøy. This meant paddling round the south west tip of Algrøyna where the seas were getting rather exciting. 

Almost as soon as we arrived back the evening entertainment began with the 'Head 2 Head Challenge' which is a light-hearted kayak competition with different categories for SUP boards, sit on kayaks and sea kayaks. All rather pleasantly silly with rules that seem to change as frequently as the wind. This was followed by Barbecue, presentations, prize giving and drinking late into the night.

Getting motivated on Sunday was a little difficult at first but the weather was great and I was assigned to do 'Brottpaddling' again. We had excellent conditions with regular swell and a group that was game for almost anything. It was just such a shame when it was all over. I stayed on at Langøy with the organisers to help with the clean up. Most of the participants were heading home which made it an evening full of goodbyes. 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Ronny and Ashley for inviting me to their wonderful Padlefestivalen, Jan Kåre for putting me up on his lovely fishing boat and to Anja for showing me around the islands and educating me in the world of 'Brottpaddling'. I made so many other new friends during the festival and I'm sure I'll meet up with many of them again soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Anglesey Sea Symposium 2015

In many respects this is the event of the sea kayaking year. Hosted by Sea Kayaking UK and Celtic Paddles, over a hundred paddlers from all over Europe congregated at the Anglesey Outdoors Centre to participate in guided trips, training sessions and workshops. Its also a great chance to catch up with old friends from near and far.

This year the weather was colder and wetter that any previous Anglesey Sea Symposium but that did little to dampen our spirits. It gave plenty of opportunities to practice rescues in rough conditions in a controlled environment.

On one of the less windy days Mark Tozer and I took 2 new designs from P&H Custom Sea Kayaks out for a spin. This included trying out the Code Zero sail.

After evening lectures were over, symposium night life was entertaining as ever with live music from local band 'The Coffin Dodgers'. They seemed oblivious to the gun fight that had been facilitated by an outlaw who smuggled water pistols into the event.

The following week was filled with BCU courses and workshops and guided trips for those taking a more leisurely approach to symposium life. At the end of each day replenishment would be found at the 'Paddlers Return' bar. For those who had passed assessments, congratulatory drinks could be bought. For those less successful, sorrows could be drowned.