Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summer Sea Races

These events at Ravenglass, Coquet Island, Conwy and Hilbre Island are becoming a well-established series of sea kayak races in England and Wales during the early part of the summer.

It all kicks off with the Ravenglass Seaquest which is run by Copeland Canoe Club. This event was inspired by the original Seaquest which is usually held in September on the Wyre Estuary at Fleetwood. It's an orienteering challenge on the tidal waters of the estuaries of the Irt, Mite and Esk. The start and finish is on the beach in Ravenglass where all three estuaries meet. Competitors need to visit as many controls as possible within a 3 hour time limit. It's an event for everyone with everything from racing K1 and performance sea kayaks to sit-on-tops and Canadian canoes.

The following weekend I met some members of Manchester Canoe Club for a weekend in Northumberland. On the Saturday we capitalised on the favourable weather and explored the Farne Islands. On the Sunday we headed south to Amble and the Coquet Island Race. The course begins in the estuary of the river Coquet. Paddlers then race out through Amble harbour, round Coquet Island then back into the estuary to finish at the Coquet Canoe Club Shorebase. The winds were really light but it was so misty that the island could not be seen from the harbour entrance. The race went ahead anyway without too many navigational difficulties, although one of the surf-ski racers finished unexpectedly late because he paddled round the island twice!

There was a gentle following wind for the Conwy Ascent race which was perfect for fast times. The main excitement was from racing past the booming cannons being fired from the pirate festival on Conwy Quay. It turns out that the winning K2 team broke a long-established course record.

Photo: Kathy Morton
Liverpool Canoe Club have been running a race in their local waters for the last 10 years. Its a challenging course on shallow choppy waters loaded with awkward currents. For the most part, competitors have to paddle against the tide. Its a great event with competitiveness taking second place to light hearted Scouse banter.

Photo: Kathy Morton
I always enjoy these races and in spite of the fact that I know I'll never win, I always look forward to the next one!



Monday, July 04, 2016

That's why Jim's gone to Iceland!

Reykjavik is the gateway to the frozen shores on my trips to East Greenland and I have spent many happy days wandering around the beautiful city. On each of my visits I become more and more curious about the paddling this intriguing country has to offer.

I was invited by Magnus Sigurjonsson to help him out with some guided sea kayaking trips offered by Arctic Adventures.

The first trip was started in the sleepy fishing town called Stikkisholmur. Our team was a group of American school children. Most of them had not paddled before and some had never been camping. We paddled to a remote island, and made camp whilst Magnus' partner, Ellen cooked a huge pot tasty stew with beef and pasta. Later, I sat on a north-facing cliff to watch the sun go down. It such a long time that I went to bed before sunset.

After our overnighter, we said goodbye to our American friends and the brief spell of good weather. Heavy rain and strong winds tugged at the trailer as we made our way back to Reykjavik. We didn't see the sun for another three days...

In the meantime, we took a group of tourists on a short paddle in a sheltered Fjord called Hvalfjordur. This is a deep fjord gouged out by glaciers during the las ice-age. Tabletop mountains rise from the sea to over 1000 metres. The misty, drizzle weather gave this place a haunted and mysterious feel.


The next day the weather showed signs of improving so we made the most of the day off by doing some tourism of our own. We did what is known as 'The Golden Circle. Spreading tectonic plates at
├×ingvellir, spectacular eruptions of boiling water at Geysir and the thundering waterfalls at Gullfoss kept us entertained all day. We finished off with a visit to the deep, flooded volcanic crater at Keri├░.

On my final day Magnus, Ellen and me visited the place where the local paddling club have their base. Kayakklubburinn is on an isthmus beach just to the north of Reykjavik. We paddled from there around the nearby island of Vi├░ey. The bird life and scenery was amazing with Eider, redshank, oystercatchers and terns.

It was a fantastic week full of adventures. Many thanks to Magnus and Ellen for their lovely company, delicious food and for making me so welcome in their homes. I'll definitely be back very soon.