Friday, August 29, 2008

Isle of Man August 2008

For the summer holidays Kirstine and I chose to go to the Isle of Man. The first part of the holiday would be spent attending the 6th annual sea kayaking symposium run by my good friend Keirron Tastagh and his staff at Adventurous Experiences. The uniquely informal nature of this event is largely due to the way in which the whole family pitches in and everyone is made to feel really welcome. Well over 100 paddlers attended with around half of these having traveled from far flung corners of the UK, Europe and beyond. The kayaking activities included beginners, intermediate and advanced sessions whilst other activities included rock climbing coasteering and gorge walking.
For those who were camping for the duration of the symposium, additional entertainment was laid on each morning and evening by Ballabrooie flock of Chickens.
On the first day I joined Peter Jones for the day whilst he ran the first part of a 4 star training course. On the second day I got into full swing with some guidebook research and photography. Whist exploring a quiet bay on the western shores called Fleshwick Bay I happened upon Paul Wood, a lone kayaker on a mission.

Paul Wood

Paul is from West Cumbria and had paddled across from St Bees to the Isle of Man 2 days earlier. Having already paddled 20 miles or so that day he decided that was enough. Given the dismal forecast I offered Paul a lift to the symposium base for some company, a shower and some shelter from the impending storm.

The Manx Monsoon

The Rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,
The rain on the Isle of Man falls anywhere it can!

The weekend weather turned utterly foul and the Ballabrooie chickens ran for cover. Paddling was mostly confined to sheltered locations but the rains brought good fortune for those indulging in gorge walking in the nearby Glen Maye.

The swollen river provided excellent sport for those jumping down waterfalls as well as casual onlookers. The great rains were followed by gale force winds which went largely unnoticed during the excellent evening slide show and symposium ceilidh held in the local village hall. On Sunday once the storm had passed I took Paul Wood back to Fleshwick Bay from where he would paddle on to Scotland via the Point of Ayr.

Following the weekend's hefty schedule the week after took on a slower pace with Keirron heading off to Finland to help with Jukka Linnonma' s first symposium . Plans for various trips began to take shape including circumnavigations.

Gordin Warner lives on Vancouver Island and followed Keirron's and Jeff Norville's amazing circumnavigation in aid of breast cancer research with with great interest. Inspired by their trip, Gordin decided to reciprocate by paddling solo round the Isle of Man in aid of the Canadian Cancer Society. I volunteered to Give Gordin a lift to Ballaugh Shore near Jurby Head on the West coast for what was to be the start of a strenuous and taxing adventure.

An Overnight Trip

Finally the weather settled down a little so Kirstine and I joined forces with Duncan for a 2 day kayaking trip combined with an overnight camp. We set off around lunchtime from Port e Vullen on the East coast and headed south past Maughold Head. Dhoon Bay made for an especially pretty place to stop for a while, with a waterfall and trees lining the steep glen giving an atmospheric feel of isolation.

We paddled on across the bays at Laxey and Douglas until finally arriving at Port Soderick to camp for the night. The next day we met a weary Gordin Warner just as we were leaving the bay. Gordin has been paddling since daybreak and was in need of a rest so he joined us on our short hop to finish the day in Douglas. The waters between Little Ness and Douglas Head were quite testing as the tide turned against an opposing southerly wind. Once in the smooth waters by Douglas harbour I took out my trusty camera for a quick snapshot when like a bar of soap it slipped from my hand. I briefly caught it between my fingertips and the foredeck but with a sickening splash it quickly sank into the depths taking with it the photographs from last 3 days. The depths of the despair and frustration spurned by this moment will be with me for some time.

Following some hearty replenishment at 'The Caff' Duncan and Kirstine got on the bus to Ramsey to get the car while I stayed in Douglas to help Gordin to negotiate a bed for the night. We found assistance at the welcome centre located within the ferry terminal. Once in through the door of the welcome centre, Gordin quietly admitted to me of having a strong sense of no longer being upwind of himself. He politely remained at an inoffensive distance from the receptionist and once budget accommodation was duly secured we returned to the boats for a toast to the day's triumphs and tribulations.

Gordin's Final Day

Chickens woke me early the next day so I drove the short distance to Douglas to help Gordin to the waters edge with his heavily loaded kayak. This would be a test of his resolve with a distance of nearly 30 nautical miles to complete the circumnavigation. Gordin would have to reach Maughold Head by 12.30pm and with curiosity getting the better of us Kirstine and I drove out there only to be told by some onlookers that we had missed him by over half an hour. This was great news because this meant that Gordin had a real chance of completing his mission. We drove on to meet up again at Point of Ayr and Blue Point where we gave Gordin some much needed sustenance for his last 10km.

Finally at around 7pm Gordin arrived at the Ballaugh Shore exhausted but justifiably pleased, and almost certainly relieved that it was all over.

North Barrule

It was time for a change from all of the water based activities so Kirstine and I aimed high for a view from the second tallest Manx peak. North Barrule stands at 565 metres and forms the northeastern extremity of a ridge that runs between Snaefell and Ramsey Bay. We Parked the Car in a small village called Corrany and walked North along the road to start our steep ascent of the craggy eastern slopes towards the summit of North Barrule.

Our quick ascent soon rewarded us with terrific views over the Isle of Man and across the sea to Cumbria, Scotland, Northern Ireland and even Anglesey. Over the following 3-4 hours we continued along the ridge to the summit of Clagh Ouyr before heading west along a lower ridge and footpath that led us to a fine pub at Glen Mona.

Time to Say Hello - Goodbye

As our Manx adventure was drawing to a close the gloomy weather began to make a return and we were glad to spend our final evening indoors in the company of Keirron's parents, Nadene and Jimmy. The time was spent indulging in cheese, wine and chocolate and spinning all sorts of yarns until the need for sleep defeated us. The following morning dawned late and heavy, but eager to help out We offered to collect Keirron from the airport following his return from Finland. This done there was barely time for us to say hello over a cup of tea before it was time for Kirstine and I to say goodbye to Keirron, Nadene and Jimmy, the rest of the nice folk at Ballabrooie(including Belle the collie dog) , and of course the chickens.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Between the Cheeks

Robin Hood's Bay is lies between Whitby and Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast. The Village is a tightly woven mesh of terracotta roofed houses and narrow streets lining a steep gorge that runs down to the sea. Away from the humdrum is one of the most beloved youth hostels in the UK. Boggle Hole is yet another steep narrow gorge but the only buildings here belong to the youth hostel that bears the same name. The northern extremity of Robin Hoods Bay is marked by 'North Cheek'. The southern extremity is marked by 'South Cheek'. Boggle Hole is mid-way between the two (don't bother with answers on a postcard).

Ian and I paddled from the 'hole' and out past the seal infested South Cheek and continued south on our 10km trip towards Scarborough. The cliffs beneath Ravenscar are far more spectacular than I had anticipated. They rise to more than 160 metres and are well vegetated with trees, bracken and heather. Names like 'Beast Cliff' and 'Rodger Trod' added to the anticipation of the journey as force 5 winds whistled over the cliffs round our ears and out to sea. As we made our way past the sheltered bays at Hayburn and Cloughton Wykes there was no sign of civilization nor any clue as to the culture shock awaiting us upon our arrival at Scarborough. Upon arrival we did as Romans and engaged in the seaside promenade culture. One cup of tea and a whippy 99 ice cream laid the foundations for fuelling the return journey through the wilderness to Robin Hoods Bay. Although the wind funnelled strongly from the valley dealing us a proctalgic slog into the bay, it was not enough to prevent us from landing perfectly between 'the cheeks' safely back at Boggle hole.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Crossing Morecambe Bay #2 (heading South)

Following the success of the journey north, our return to The Fylde Coast from Piel Island was to be a little more of a challenge. Our target this time was to be Fleetwood. Strong coffee and tea were consumed to boost our resolve. The prospect at carrying our boats to the low water was almost enough to keep us in bed! But by 9-00am were were paddling out of the Piel Channel against the incoming tide and out into Morecambe Bay.

By the time were making our way out past the outer channel marks at South East Walney we were struggling to make any headway at all and the gloomy skies did little to lift our spirits.

As we turned to make for Fleetwood we aimed our bows due south using Blackpool Tower as a visual reference and all seemed well for a while. After about an hour it was becoming clear that it was going to take much more time and effort to reach Fleetwood than we anticipated, despite the shorter distance.

We were being swept east faster than we had thought likely. The westerly breeze wasn't helping matters and conditions in some of the overfalls were both challenging and exhilarating (sorry no photos). We were unintentionally approaching the hungry jaws of the Lune Estuary when we found renewed resolve during a mars bar break, just as the tide began to loosen its grip on us.

After over four and a half hours on the waters of Morecambe Bay Peter and I arrived exhausted but relieved on Fleetwood Beach. Although some small children helped us to carry our boats ashore we still didn't have the strength for a pint at the conveniently situated 'Wyre Lounge Bar'.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Crossing Morecambe Bay #1 (heading North)

With the aim of reching Piel Island near Barrow in Furness, Peter and I set off from Rossall near Cleveleys on the north Fylde Coast this Morning. The crossing involves making a 20 km ferryglide accross the powerful flood tides of Morecambe Bay.

The water was choppy right from the start and even leaving the beach presented its difficulties.Conditions remained choppy for most of the crossing and we encountered some more challenging overfalls before we had reached the half way point. The second half of the crossing was in some ways easier but with a littltiedness setting in I was finding it difficult to maintain a good pace and my cockpit plenty of water.Eventually after 3 hours and 25 minutes Peter and I arrived on the eastern shore of Piel Island and I discovered why my boat had been so sluggish. I had not fully sealed the rear hatch cover and most of my posessions were floating around gently in plenty of Irish Sea water!