Sunday, 22 June 2014

Kayak Ways - This is the Roll

Me on a course? And a rolling course at that.  Anyone that paddles with me regularly will know that at the mention of a bit of rolling practice at the end of the trip that I will be the first one out of the water.  I can roll, I have a very strong roll, and I am fairly confident that if I did need to perform a roll in anger I would come up.  That is however the problem....
I am not 100% confident I will actually come up if the time came, especially in the conditions that are likely to tip me over such as a big tide race.  Therefore I am not completely relaxed when paddling in rough condition and have a slight fear of having a wobble and taking a dunking.

So when Neil and Kevin mentioned that Cheri and Turner of Kayak Ways were down in Pembrokeshire for the weekend I booked on a course straight away.  If you have any interest in the traditions of Greenland  kayaking you will probably be aware of Cheri and Turner and probably own their rolling DVD 'This is the Roll'... 
So me and Kevin met up in Pembrokeshire on the Saturday, both booked in on the course on the Sunday.  We based ourselves on a camp site in Parrog Newport, which was a short carry down to the waters edge.

We dragged the boats down on to Newport sands and bumbled along the coast a short distance to Cwm-yr-Eglwys.  The small sheltered bay offered the perfect opportunity to practice some rolls before tomorrows training.  I for one needed the practice, apart for the odd roll in the surf I hadn't purposely rolled since I last visited the pool, and that was sometime between 2-3 years ago!
 I was without a camera this weekend, my trusty waterproof one had finally packed in, but I did have my SLR for some land based shots.  So I have to thank Kevin for most of the pictures you see here.  Anyway back to the rolling...I came up, no trouble what so ever, and the first time with a Greenland paddle too.
We both practised for a bit before retiring to the beach for a bit of lunch.  Back on the water the wind and water conditions seemed to have picked up a little, so we made our way back to Newport Sands where we enjoyed a play in the surf and a relaxing short paddle up the estuary with a few rolls to finish.
Well you can't come a away for the weekend without visiting a few of the local watering holes.  
Me and turner running through some rolling techniques.
The meeting place for Sundays course was in the small bay of Pwllgwaelod.  We met with Cheri, Turner and the rest of the attendees including Neil where we did some land based exercises before entering the water.  Greenland rolling is a bit of an art, almost like a marital arts of kayaking.  It's not about using brute strength to force yourself back into the upright position.  It's about letting the kayak, paddle and your bodies own buoyancy do most of the work for you.  Get all three in the right position and the kayak will right itself with very little effort.  
 Me doing attempting a back deck roll.
Apart from rolling a few of us were interested in learning the correct techniques of the use of the Greenland paddle including forward and turning strokes.  One thing I have definitely benefited from is the canted forward style paddling.
By the end of the day I had gained a roll on all four corners of my kayak (front and back, left and right , something I have never managed to do before was a roll on my 'off' side), a few turning and forward strokes and also picked up a few paddle making tips, which I have since put to use and re-shaped all of my paddles.  I have also come away with a thirst for everything Greenland style including this sexy gear from Reed modelled bellow (more to come on the gear on a later post).
Since the course I have continued to practice my rolling and paddling techniques and now I am the last to leave the water after a days paddling.  My confidence has improved ten fold knowing that if I do go over, I will most definitely come up again.  One things for sure, I am enjoying myself and it has put the fun back in to kayaking.
A huge thank you to Cheri and Turner for providing the course and I hope you will come back to join us again in Pembrokeshire.  I highly recommend if you get the chance to book yourself on a course you do it.  More information can be found on their web site here....http://www.kayakways.net/    

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Crossing the Channel

More settled weather so I team up with Elan and Jules for a crossing of the Bristol Channel.  I believe this trip came about because I wanted to explore the far side of the channel a little more than just shoot over and back.  There was no in depth navigational planning involved, quite simply the plan was to paddle directly across with the ebbing tide and see where we end up.  We were departing from Sully so the likely hood was we would end up somewhere between Minehead and Porlock.
I was very hot, probably the first time in the year none of use have worn some sort of cag.
 Image by Jules, me and Elan just leaving Barry in the backdrop.

As you can see I'm still using the Greenland paddles, getting very attached to them by now.
As with other open crossings we've done as a rule we stop briefly every hour to replenish energy reserves and in Elans case plaster on the sun cream.  You can see we are slowly moving down the channel, in the backdrop now Porthkerry and Rhoose.
Mid channel we spot a buoy I haven't seen before, with the tide flow it's not worth trying to paddle closer but I manage this fully zoomed in shot.  It's a safe water marker, set in deep safe water.  They would be used by ships travelling up and down the channel as a way point for safe water.
Within three hours we have hit the coast on the far side.  We can see the bay of Minehead to our left and a steep green cliffs up ahead coming to a point on our right.  Beyond that is Porlock Bay.
We land very briefly for a pee stop and then continue on west with the ebb hugging the steep cliffs and playing in the shallow surf that sweeps in on our starboard beam.
A coast guard lookout, built in 1900, marks Hurlstone Point.  Here the long sandy beach seems like the ideal place to take our lunch break.  
The coastline here is staggeringly beautiful, I need to come back an explore in much more detail.
Left to Right, Tahe Marine Reval, P&H Cetus and the Valley Etain.
We enjoy the beach to ourselves, which seems cut off from any means of public access, except maybe at low water.  Jules notices a line traversing down the steep scree slope and goes to investigate.  You can just make him out at the bottom centre of this shot.
Don't ask, I don't know.
From our lunch stop we round Hurlstone Point and venture out slightly into Porlock Bay.  The steep pebble bay is about two nautical miles wide and about half a mile deep.  We are keen to continue exploring the far side but by the time we cross the bay it would be time to return so we opt to make our return across the channel.  
Again we simply aim our bow perpendicular to the Welsh shore line and make final adjustments as we near the coast.  My phone died about three miles out from the finish so in all the total mileage was about 42-43 miles.  Another great day on the water and another crossing of the channel in the bag.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Tuesday Night Meet

Tavi has managed to organise regular Tuesday night paddles during the summer, usually on the Gower coastline but tonight's paddle was organised on my local stretch Llantwit Major.  Apologies I can't remember the other two members of the group, we only met once and writing this six months later.  
It was a relatively short trip in the last hours of light with a big swell and a brisk on shore wind.  We launched through some breakers and made our way toward St Donnats and pushed on out around Nash Point.  Being the only local paddler I knew we weren't going to get very far, especially in these conditions.  We pushed on for the shipping buoy that marks the edge of the sand bar but it was a loosing battle.  We eventually turned on our tails and retraced our steps back to Llantwit and retired for the night.  Nice to get out on the water and meet new people and not to far for me to travel.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Water Under The Bridge

A good forecast ahead, a trip to Grass Holm maybe?...no the tides don't work.  Bristol Channel crossing maybe? Elans in, how about a one way trip down the channel, not done that in a while.  A plan is quickly put together the night before and we meet up early at Cardiff Barrage, our finishing point.
The starting point is a good half hour or so journey by car along the coast.  Black Rock, where the original 18th century ferry crossing was situated.  To the south the 2nd Severn crossing now stands rising out of the muddy waters.  
 Just offshore is Charston Rock lighthouse, which marks a safe passage down a narrow channel known as the shoots.
The shoots are also marked by four beacons known as upper and lower shoots beacons.  The red beacon pictured above is known as 'Lad Bench'.  
We pass under the colossal man made structure that is the second Severn bridge.  No toll charges down here.  

Leaving the bridge behind the tide takes us speedily down on to Deny Island. 

From here on out the rest of the trip is much like an open crossing, a bit uneventful and a bit of a slog.  There are no landings due to the vast expanses of mud, something we are reminded about as our hulls scrape the bottom as we approach Cardiff Barrage.  It's a muddy scramble up the steps along side the barrage to the top where we wash off our muddy shoes in the fresh water on the far side.  Then it's time to go back to the start to pick up the other car.  

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Some Me Time

This trip was a while back so I'll try to remember what I can, so here goes...

End of May, a busy time of year in the garden, my business.  Everyone wants me at once, the phone doesn't stop ringing, endless unopened emails in my inbox, I've had enough.  Time for some 'me' time to recharge the batteries.  So decide to escape the rat run, turn off the work phone and get away from it all out on Flat Holm.
Sometimes it's just nice to get out on your own and sometimes it's nice to have some unexpected company.  Someone else had the same idea, and this is becoming a bit of a habit.
Hywel was unloading his kayak at the Captains Wife heading out for the same destination.  The conditions were perfect for a relaxing paddle out to the island.  We round the island and land briefly under the farm house on the south beach.  In the sun we bathe in the tranquillity of the island gazing over the mainland just a short distance away.  It's the perfect was to escape from it all and unwind.
We can't stay for long though, the tide is turning and it's time to return and re-join the madness.  We pass the Wolves buoy and negotiate a large container ship making it's way down the channel.
Of all the times I've crossed this shipping lane this is probably one of the closest passes I've made.  
Hywel offers to buy me a pint in the Captain Wife on our return, which reminds me I should return the offer on the next trip.  Back in work in the morning but feeling much more refreshed, just what the doctor ordered.