Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pagaia Sea Kayak Symposium

The Pagaia club is a sea kayaking club based in Costa Brava. Every two years it hosts the biggest sea kayaking symposium in Europe with around 250 paddlers attending the week-long event.

Last January I was invited to coach at the symposium  and the first thing I was asked to do was to make a short video to help promote the event.

The flight into Barcelona was spectacular. The weather was clear and there were spectacular views over the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees. Next was a two hour drive along the coast to Llança where the symposium is based.

The first three days of the event are spent doing workshops in specific skills like rolling, forward paddling and boat handling. I teamed up with my friend Rick to coach rock-hopping and incident management.

After the first day a banquet was held for all 250 participants. The seafood paella was made and served up by volunteers from the Pagaia Club. The evening was rounded of with a warm rum drink, which is traditional among fishermen and sailors from this region.

The rest of the week was spent helping out with guided trips of the region. This is an opportunity to put the skills learned during the weekend workshops into practice. We even started some of our trips in Port Lligat which is famously overlooked by the house of Salvador Dali.

For the most part we were very lucky with the weather and sea conditions. There was only one day with any significant swell. On that day many paddlers felt 'tested' in the two-metre swell with awkward choppy clapotis.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Pagaia Club de Caiac Cap de Creus for inviting me, and for making me feel so welcome. I hope to be back in two years time.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Blowing the Cobwebs Away

The team of Manchester Canoe Club sea kayak leaders has been on Anglesey riding winter waves, practicing rescues and brushing up on navigation.

The choppy waters of Trearddur Bay looked challenging. The force 5 wind was onshore giving us the required safety net. If anything went badly wrong, we would just be washed ashore. There are numerous coves for shelter as well as treacherous jagged reefs that must be avoided at all costs! We started by working our way gradually to the eastern edge of the bay. This brought us to Raven’s point where the swell was reaching close to 3 metres. With some of these waves beginning to break we didn’t stay for long.

After lunch we indulged in some incident management in amongst the reefs. The increasing wind made rigging towlines difficult, but the experience will be worthwhile in the long run. The same goes for the various deep-water rescues and rolling puzzles we set about.

After tea and cakes at the Anglesey OutdoorCentre we set off for The Menai Straits. The shelter of the northern section was perfect for an introduction to night navigation. Each leader took it in turn to manage the group and navigate by compass bearing, timing and map reading. The exercise went well and we were back at the centre in time for food and beer in The Paddlers Return Bar.

The objective on Sunday was to reach ‘The Skerries’ which is a group of small rocky islands off the north west point of Anglesey. There are strong tidal streams here and timing is crucial. On this occasion, it meant getting out of bed at 6.30am! There was barely enough time to have a brew and a biscuit before driving to Cemlyn Bay and getting on the water soon after 8am. A chilly breeze, swirling mists and howling grey seals greeted our arrival. The Skerries fog horn sounded as we finished our breakfast. As the fog closed in, we found our navigation skills all in order for the return journey.

We look forward to the program of trips and events in the Manchester Canoe Club sea kayaking calendar for the coming year. Come and join us.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Festive Paddling

The festive paddling season started off with the Liverpool Canoe Club tradition of an early trip at Llandudno followed by a Christmas meal. The winter sun stays low in the sky which makes for a spectacular ceiling with thin layers of cloud.

It was great to finish early in the afternoon while there was still a little warmth form the sun. After we had got changed it was time to head over to the Grand Hotel for drinks and a 3 course Christmas meal.

Manchester Canoe Club hold a Boxing Day race and tour on the River Goyt. We assembled at Brabyns Park where we launched upstream of the 2 weirs. There were a couple of comical swims before the group made the rest of the 3 kilometre, grade 2 descent to the club site at Dale Road. Once back at the clubhouse we fortified ourselves with a festive buffet of pork pies, assorted sandwiches and mince pies.

Later that day I made a quick dash over to Anglesey for a few days of sea kayaking. I was joined by Andrew and we quickly planned a few days of paddling to make the most of the limited winter daylight hours. The stretch between Porth Dafarch and Rhoscolyn provided us with lively seas whilst our day on the north coast was much more serene.

On the third day we launched at Porth Eilian to explore Point Lynas and the East cost. Andrew was feeling adventurous and decided to try some maritime cave scrambling at Freshwater Bay.

Finally, on the way back to Manchester we paid a visit to the Great Orme at Llandudno. This time it was much more quiet the my previous visit with Liverpool Canoe Club 2 weeks earlier. Many thanks to Andrew for his company. It has been a wonderful festive season and now i'm looking forward to the lengthening days of Spring!