Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Blackpool Illuminations - 8th October 2016

Seeing the Blackpool Illuminations from the sea is a great excuse for a night paddle with the added bonus that it is very difficult to get lost.

Six of us launched from the slip at the south end of the breakwater with about an hour of daylight remaining. Dramatic dark clouds loomed menacingly over the land, but luckily there was no rain and the clouds dissipated as we began to lose the light.





To use up a bit of time we headed out to one of the navigation buoys that was about a kilometre off the beach, This gave us a wide sweeping view of the Blackpool pleasure beach, the piers, the Tower and then in the distance the hills of the Lake District.



As darkness closed in we headed towards Central Pier and were pleased when they turned on the lights on the Tower. We carried on northwards for a couple of kilometres, then we landed on the beach for a quick snack and comfort break. Landing was mildly entertaining because we couldn't see the sandbanks and we ran out of water a couple of times getting in and out of the beach.





We made our way back south again enjoying the light show on the tower and the bright lights from the illuminations. The trolley buses that go up and down the promenade were made up with lights to make them look like trains and large ships and this was particularly effective from our viewing position.





By time we got back to the slip, the tide had gone out quite a way, so we had a long carry back to the road. The excellent evening was rounded off with some fine fish and chips at the Squires Gate chippy.

Kingsbridge Estuary - 25th September 2016

The kayaking gods were not on my side... we had planned a trip to circumnavigate Mull, but the weather was looking awful, so we decided to head south instead and go to Devon. Then on the first evening after we arrived, I did something painful to my back that severely curtailed my activities.

We stayed in Devon for a few days, but I only managed one trip in the Kingsbridge Estuary.


We launched from the lovely sandy Mill Bay beach on the east side of the estuary, opposite Salcombe town. We crossed the estuary and watched the ferry exchange groups of passengers with the sea tractor on South Sands beach.


We were curious as to the conditions on the open sea, so we headed towards the mouth of the estuary to have a look. The wind was blowing strongly from the west, and as we rounded Sharp Tor and into Stairhole Bay, we were met by heavy downblasts as the wind came over the cliffs. The tide was also trying to take us out to sea, so discretion was the better part of valour and we made a hasty retreat for the sanctuary of the estuary.




We passed the infamous Bar that guards the entrance to the natural harbour and resisted the temptation to surf the waves that were being kicked up.

We had a pleasant paddle alongside the Salcombe waterfront and into the multitude of moored boats that cover this end of the estuary.






Once clear of the moorings, the estuary widens out to give a broad vista of the rolling Devon countryside. We carried on towards Kingsbridge and hauled the boats out on a small slipway at the end of the tidal navigation.



We enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine, then retraced our steps back to Mill Bay.

18km paddled.


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Lismore and Mull from Ganavan Sands - 28th August 2016

It was the day after the Oban Sea Kayak Race, and a number of us arranged to meet up for a paddle to shake out some tired muscles.

Looking out on our route from Ganavan sands
The day dawned sunny and still, and we set off in mirror-like conditions heading for the lighthouse on the southern tip of Lismore.

The route out to the lighthouse and back is the course of a race that is held on the last weekend of May each year. I haven't managed to make it to this race, but I hope to one year.

The wonderful conditions made it a very relaxing paddle with views down towards Jura to the south and a mountain panorama around us from the island of Mull through to the highest mountains in Scotland further up Loch Linnhe.

The mountains of Mull


The lighthouse on Eilean Musdile on the southern end of Lismore
We had lunch by the lighthouse, then set off to make the short hop over to Mull. This entailed us crossing the busy ferry route of the Sound of Mull and we had to dodge the odd CalMac ferry going to/from Mull and Barra.





We didn't have time for a stop on Mull, so I just touched the rocks to complete the crossing, and then we turned around to head back via Lismore and reversed the crossing back to Ganavan. A bit of a breeze had developed and the crossing was a bit more lively with some chop and small swell on our starboard beam. It would have been nice if the swell was from more behind us, but you can't have everything!

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull


A great paddle, and I was glad I stayed to make use of the good conditions rather than heading straight back home from the race.

About 24km paddled.

Oban Sea Kayak Race - 27th August 2016

Oban harbour
The English August bank holiday weekend saw me heading north to compete in the Oban Sea Kayak Race. I did this race the first two times it was run (2010, 2011) and I have always enjoyed it.

The course circumnavigates the island of Kerrera in a clockwise direction. The initial stretch is south down the Sound of Kerrera and then the course has its most exposed section as it rounds the southern end of the island. It then makes its way up the west side of the island en route back to Oban harbour.

The weather this year was overcast but with no wind, in contrast to most years when there is normally wind from the south west making the bottom part of the course quite challenging (or fun depending on ability).

The keenest paddlers are now competing in surf skis, and out of a field of 47, 16 skis were competing, with 8 "performance" sea kayaks (Epic 18/Taran etc) and the rest were touring kayaks. I was paddling my Epic 18x, which has a similar hull to the more stable skis. Numbers in the race were a bot down this year which is a shame.

The start - photo credit Gilbert Speirs
The race was won by Mark Ressel who had come up from Devon in a time of 1:36:16, way ahead of the rest of the field. Mark is an ex UK ski and K1 champion, so it was not a surprising result. My own time was a more modest 2:06:15, but I did squeeze into the prize giving as 3rd old git in a racing kayak. I've not been training so much this year, so I found the last third of the race hard work.

It was great to see a lot of friends again and to meet some new ones. The event has a good social side, and a number of us paddled together the following day.

Post race social - photo credit Roswitha Wagenknecht
Thanks to Gus and the team for organising the event.



Friday, 19 August 2016

The Stacks from Porth Dafarch - 15th August 2016

After the Skerries paddle with Alan we said goodbye and then started to think about where to spend the night. I had brought bivvy gear and was contemplating a wild camp, but it was getting into the evening now and being a bit tired I couldn't face the hassle of re-launching, so I chickened out at camped at Anglesey Outdoor.

Bivvy gear
Holyhead Mountain sunset
The following day dawned bright with light winds. Neap tides gave a lot of options, but I decided to go for the classic trip of visiting North and South Stack from Porth Dafarch.

I was parked up fairly early, and the beach only had a few people milling around and a small fishing boat getting ready to launch. With the warm sunshine I paddled in a rash vest and no cag, so nice to avoid the "boil in the bag" drysuit.


The trip was pretty much a repeat of the journey I had made a few weeks earlier and again I enjoyed exploring all the channels and caves of this wonderful stretch of coast. It's hard to tire of this spectacular area, and this must be my favourite part of Anglesey.

 On the return leg near South Stack I saw a dolphin/porpoise fin break the surface a few times, but wasn't quick enough on the camera to catch it.

Arch near Penrhyn Mawr
South Stack come into view shortly after Penrhyn Mawr
Approaching South Stack

Climbers on Gogarth

North Stack flowing, but in friendly mood

Lunch stop in Abraham's Bosom

When I returned to Porth Dafarch it was very crowded, with many small boats in the area. I carried my boat up to the car and then enjoyed a very welcome ice cream in the afternoon sunshine.

19km round trip.