Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Macclesfield Canal - 21st December 2014

Approx. 5 miles, clubhouse to Kerridge boatworks, then to Adlington Marina and finally back to clubhouse. Last paddle of 2014?....

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Macclesfield Canal - 14th December 2014

Final round of the club Hare and Hounds handicap race. 4 miles, completed in 42:02, nearly 4 minutes off my season PB, but at least my elbow wasn't complaining too much and I wasn't last this time!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Macclesfield Canal - 7th December 2014

50 minute training paddle. Just missed the hail storm!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Macclesfield Canal - 30th November 2014

Group training paddle on the canal, clubhouse to just beyond Higher Poynton Marina. 10 miles paddled, 1 hour 50 minutes. Feeling rather tired!... bit unfit.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Llandudno and the Great Orme - 16th November 2014

2nd day of the NWSK End of Season meet. Keen to get another paddle in, the Orme was an obvious choice being on the route home from North Wales.

Llandudno East Beach
We left the hostel in sunshine and had a quick rendezvous at the A5/A55 services to finalise the meeting point. We were worried about a car rally that was finishing in Llandudno, but when we turned up the "paddling pool" launch spot on the East Llandudno beach, there was plenty of parking.

Llandudno promenade

By the time we launched the skies had clouded over and a slight breeze chilled the air. We made our way along the beach and were watched by the crowds as we paddled under the pier.

Although the guillemots and razorbills that make this paddle special in the early summer had long gone, there was still plenty of bird life around with many Cormorants belly-flopping into the water when we approached.

We passed another group going in the other direction, and they told us of playful seals under the lighthouse, and it was not long before we picked up company.

We were rock-hopping and investigating the small caves as we made our way around under the spectacular cliffs.

Rocky landing for lunch
Lunch was taken on a rocky "beach" and we retraced our route back around the headland with an increasing wind reminding us that winter is not far away.

13km paddled.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Aberdaron to Porth Oer - 15th November 2014

First day of the NWSK "End of Season" meet staying at the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel.

Llyn Cwellyn
Saturday dawned sunny and bright, and although quite a drive from the hostel, Kate had suggested going round the end of the Lleyn Peninsular through the Bardsey Sound.

Eight of us set off in the small surf from Aberdaron Beach and made our way towards Pen-y-Cil in increasingly bouncy conditions.

Aberdaron Beach
We passed between the small island of Carreg Ddu and the mainland - now with the waves coming from behind. We could now pass closer to the shore and dared to go through the odd small gap between rocks and the cliffs.

Bardsey Sound
Once round Braich-y-Pwll the chop had gone, and with a cleaner swell we could relax more and enjoy our surroundings.

Approaching Braich-y-Pwll
With landing spots few and far between, we took lunch at Porthorion, just short of our final destination at Porth Oer.

Jim and Chris enjoying lunch
The final stretch of rock hopping was made even more exciting when the odd freak wave came through, and we thought we might have to do a surf landing at Porth Oer, However due to the angle of the beach the waves were not bending round enough to cause any problems.

12km paddled.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Macclesfield Canal - 9th November 2014

Macclesfield Canoe Club monthly Hare and Hounds handicap race. 4 miles, time 42:17... came in last!... over 4 minutes down on my best time this year, but still taking it a bit easy because of the elbow.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Macclesfield Canal - 12th October 2014

4 miles at touring pace to test my "tennis elbow" out... still sore but don't think I'm aggravating it by paddling. Physio said if pain is measured on a scale of 1 to 10, and you are only getting to about 3 when paddling, then carry on... otherwise if I lay off completely the muscles will lose condition and I'll injure myself when I paddle again if I'm not very careful.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Cemaes Bay, Skerries, Church Bay - 21st September 2014

Another good forecast meant I was meeting up with Macclesfield Canoe Club paddlers at the A5/A55 services again to plan a day paddle on Anglesey.

Alan had suggested we go round Carmel Head, and with the tide ebbing most of the day, the obvious route was Cemaes Bay to Church Bay.

I picked up Liam (who was going for his first proper sea paddle) and with a captive audience bored him en route with tales of adventure on Anglesey and other distant locations. I mentioned that Alan had suggested Carmel Head, but raised the possibility that the Skerries - a small island a few kilometres offshore with a nice lighthouse - might be a possibility. With the required tidal planning this would be quite a commitment for Liam's first sea paddle, so I wasn't sure if Alan would fancy it. However, when we turned up at the services it didn't take long for a rather excited Alan to enquire whether I thought the Skerries were on...

The tides around Carmel Head can get up to around 6 knots in springs, but today they maxed out at just over 3 knots. Since we would be approaching the Skerries at the maximum flow of the ebb, it would necessitate us paddling in a NW direction and then letting the flow carry us west. The resultant vector should then see us safely on the Skerries.

Alan getting ready for the off
We sorted the shuttle out, dropping a car at Church Bay and were soon on the water leaving Cemaes Bay in bright sunshine and very little wind. We made steady progress on the planned track, sticking to our NW heading. My GPS was reading land speeds of over 13 kph, although we were paddling at a fairly leisurely pace. We passed well to the N of the marker buoys that start at Harry Furlough's Rocks, and the Skerries were starting to appear on a bearing just to the S of due W.

With the main flow going SW through the strait between Carmel Head and the Skerries, I wanted to get to the NE of the Skerries and then paddle straight towards them with the flow. As it turned out, we were a bit too cautious and ended up a bit far N, and we were in danger of being swept past them to the N. Some corrective action was required and some fast paddling was in order to get us back on track and we hit the N of the island in some bumpy fast moving water before making our way into the lagoon.

In the lagoon on the Skerries

A few large seals greeted us and we landed to explore the island and to have lunch. A couple of other groups of paddlers turned up, Mary in one, Bill and Royanne in the other, so it ended up quite a social gathering.
Liam enjoying the view
As we ate lunch we could look across the strait back to Anglesey and could see the small tide races that were all around the Skerries. We planned to use the remaining part of the ebb to ferry glide back across to Carmel Head and make our way down to Church Bay exploring as we go.

View back over our route to the Skerries

We launched with an hour and a half of the ebb remaining, and by this time the races around the Skerries were dying down, so we didn't have much problem paddling around the top of the island and setting off at an angle to cross back to the "mainland". Whenever I've crossed this section of water I've always seen at least one dolphin, and today was no exception. When I saw the distinctive fin I was slightly ahead of Alan and Liam so I wasn't sure if they had seen it, but I need not have worried because they were getting their own display from a couple of dolphins nearer them.

We reached the mainland and made our way down to Church Bay rock hopping as we went. By the time we reached our landing point Liam seemed pretty tired, not surprising really since he is used to drifting down rivers, but what an amazing day for his first real day out on the sea. About 21km paddled.

GPS track of our route - maybe nearly half a km too far north!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Macclesfield Canal - 14th September 2014

Club Hare and Hounds race, 4 miles, came in 7th in a time of 41:58. Didn't push it as my elbow is still sore, so only really paddling for the "attendance" points. Might be time for the physio.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Cable Bay to Rhoscolyn Beacon - 7th September 2014

My elbow is still a bit sore, but I couldn't resist a good forecast and the offer of a trip to Anglesey. So I picked up Roger and Mark, and we set off to meet the other Macc paddlers at the services on the A5/A55 junction to work out where we were going to go.

I seem to have a reputation for not liking shuttles (they are such as waste of time aren't they?...), so Alan suggested launching at Cable Bay with a there and back trip to Rhoscolyn. Although the tide was ebbing all the time it doesn't have much flow in the Rhosneigr bay, and actually eddies to give us some assistance with the outward leg.

Ready for the off at Cable Bay
Only just made it through...
Bright sunshine and a northerly breeze accompanied us all day as we explored the skerries en route to Silver Bay for lunch. With the distant hills of Snowdonia on the horizon it reminded of some of the views I had seen in Vesteralen.

Lunch stop in Silver Bay
After lunch, we rock-hopped our way to Rhoscolyn and on to the islands referred to as Rhoscolyn Beacon (because the outer island has an old beacon tower on it). We weaved in and out of the islands in the company of a number of seals and other kayakers.


Rhoscolyn Beacon
The direct route back across the bay gave a wonderful backdrop of Snowdonia providing suitable transit points to keep us on track.

Just under 20km paddled. My elbow was sore at times, but the paddle didn't seem to make it any worse and feels fine now as I write this later in the evening....

Macclesfield Canal - 31st August 2014

One hour paddle on the canal, mainly to see how my elbow is behaving. Still hurts quite a it, so didn't push it. :(

Monday, 18 August 2014

Portland Harbour and the Fleet - 18th August 2014

Launched from Sandsfoot beach and paddled over towards Ferry Bridge and into the Fleet. The strong NW wind slowed me down somewhat, and I decided to have a look at the fishermen's huts on the Chesil side. I've seen these huts many times from the water, or from the coast path on the mainland, but never up close. They vary from ramshackle to plush...

Looking up the Fleet towards the bridging camp
Huts on Chesil

I got back in my boat and headed back towards Portland Harbour, this time with the wind and small waves on my back making progress easy. I turned right and headed over towards the Olympic centre and came across a kitesurfer in a spot of bother - his kite strings had broken, and so had his safety leash to his board. He was trying to swim back to the beach, but was making no real progress, so I towed him over to the breakwater by the Olympic centre. No sign of his board though... must have ended up over in the old naval base somewhere - hope he gets it back! After dropping him off I crossed the harbour into the wind and waves to return to Sandsfoot. On the water for about 90 minutes.

Portland Harbour - 17th August 2014

Half hour session with the boys in Portland harbour, short paddle around and I tried a few rolls. Right hand roll fine (see video), left hand roll needs some work! - all photo/video acknowledgements to Nancy.

Taking a breather
The boys and Roxy

Macclesfield Canal - 14th August 2014

The August round of the club Hare and Hounds - and I came in third again!... that's 6 third places in a row now. Managed another PB though, so my time is down to 38:10, which will not help the handicap at all!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Macclesfield Canal - 10th August 2014

Hour long session on the canal paddling the Tor, 8.6km paddled, average speed 9.2kph. Had to wait about 15-20 minutes in the boathouse waiting for a heavy storm to pass over... if I had set off 5 minutes earlier I would have been drenched!

Macclesfield Canal - 4th August 2014

Steady 8.6km in just over an hour leading a couple of Macclesfield club paddlers on the monday night session, then a more lively extra 3km with Graham.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Trentham Hasler Race - 3rd August 2014

A sunny, but slightly windy day made the Trentham marathon meeting a very pleasant day out. I entered the Div 7 race over 4 miles (although in theory I'm in Div 9). After a bit of a slow start managed to get into second place and on the last turn opened up a small gap to avoid the need for a sprint finish. Over a minute behind the winner though (I finished in 39:31, winner's time was 38:10), he was promoted to Div 6, I was promoted to Div 7 justifying the decision to put me in that division on the day, missing out on promotion to Div 6 by 21 seconds.

My trusty steed

Andrew Millest takes a wide turn
John Kavanagh gets an inside line
Trentham Lake

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Arctic Sea Kayak Race (ASKR) - 20th to 26th July 2014 - Skipnes and the Half Marathon

[ASKR blog post 3 of 3]

Anticipating swarms of midges and mosquitoes, we had tentatively booked into the fishermen's bunkhouses rather than camp again. The old fishermen's accommodation was rustic and full of charm and provided the luxury of showers and clean bed linen. As it happened, flies weren't a problem, and it was lovely to be able to relax sitting outside on the boardwalks suspended over the harbour that connected the buildings together.
Our bunkhouse
Fishernen's bunkhouse dorm
Not long after, both the short and then the long rambles joined up with us and the previously quiet village was now a vibrant community of paddlers. A couple of Norwegian kayak shops had set their stalls up on the boardwalk and with the bar and cafe the hubbub continued late into the night (again!).
By now it was Thursday, and a lot of paddlers took the opportunity to explore the wonderful island of Tindsoya – either on foot or by kayak. Interconnected by mown paths, the houses and buildings were interesting to explore. Anywhere without cars always has a relaxed atmosphere and life has a different pace. We paddled down to the “waffle shop” in the fishing buildings of Tinden and explored the rock pools and surrounding area. My eyes wondered up and down the steep ridges and faces of Tindsinden the hill that lies behind the fishing huts, trying to work out the line to take for an ascent. With no obvious line it looked a serious undertaking, and combined with the fact that the cloud was occasionally engulfing the summit, I decided to leave it for another day.
Approaching Tinden
Tinden shop proprietor

While we were out, other activities were being held back in Skipnes harbour. A 200m sprint competition was well supported, a ramp was set up to enable the more adventurous to seal launch off of the pier and a qualified coach was running technical clinics.
In the afternoon I set about trying to borrow a more competitive boat for the race the following day. Our rental boats were plastic touring kayaks, while suitable for the “rambles” they would not be very quick for the race. One of the ASKR “crew” very kindly lent me a Norwegian kayak called a “Mentor” – a fast, long, touring boat with a rudder, so I was much happier as the discussion in the evening changed from the usual light hearted conversation to something that had a bit of an edge to it as tactics were explored and opposition assessed.

Card antics in the bar!
The “half marathon” race was only entered by the more competitive paddlers – anyone else could paddle the race route setting off an hour earlier as a “ramble” and this was done by the majority of paddlers. The morning of the race was greeted by a thick sea mist. Although it had started to clear to just patches by time the ramble was due to set off, it was decided that the original race route on the “outside” of the islands would not be safe and an “inside” route was used that weaved its way around a number of the islands around Tindsoya.
Awaiting the start for the "ramblers"
My own race was going surprisingly well and I was enjoying the speed and downwind responsiveness of the “Mentor”. At a turn around the bottom of an island about a third into the race, I was well positioned about 50 metres behind the two leaders. The race then turned into an upwind leg and the strength of the lead pair started to tell and I was not able to make up any ground on them. Then disaster struck. Not long after the turn I felt the rudder peddle on my left foot go limp and I lost control of the rudder. The rudder control string had broken, and I had no choice but to raise the rudder and paddle the kayak rudderless. Like most kayaks, the “Mentor” was trimmed to weathercock (turn into the wind) and I used a lot of energy trying to keep it on track. I managed to hold on to third place until the last couple of kilometres when I was overtaken by a couple of boats. Luckily the last leg was into the wind and I could mainly concentrate on just forward paddling and managed to keep within range of the now fourth placed boat and on the final few hundred metres to the finish managed to outsprint him to regain one position. A bit frustrating as I'm sure I would have kept third place if the rudder had not broken.
Our last evening in Vesteralen started with a lovely meal of baked fish pie called “Fish Symphony” - four different fish in a sauce. Prize giving and the usual formalities passed and the room was taken over by a one man band singing a fun mixture of English/American songs interspersed with popular Norwegian numbers. Chatting and dancing into the early hours capped off a wonderful week of paddling and socialising.
Saturday morning consisted of packing up and long goodbyes (my facebook friends list has risen significantly) before we paddled our boats back to the "mainland" at Krakberget. Having blagged yet another lift – this time all the way back to Tromso, we were set up to get back to Tromso at a reasonable hour. A meal and another stay in the Tromso apartment was followed by an early morning taxi ride to the airport and an uneventful return home by lunchtime. 
En route back to Tromso
Rudolf pizza available in Tromso airport
The ASKR would not be everyone’s cup of tea. Paddling and camping in large groups distracts from the wilderness experience, but this is more than compensated by the opportunity to socialise with the very friendly Norwegians paddlers to get insight into their lifestyles and the local history and culture. I can't thank enough the people that helped us out with arranging the trip, providing accommodation and for the friendly taxi services!