Monday, 29 June 2015

Farne Islands - 27th June 2015

My back has been playing up again, so it was touch and go as to whether I'd make the weekend trip to Northumberland, but I decided to go.

Perhaps it is being a bit boring, but I've done the same thing a number of times on this trip - paddle the Farnes on the Saturday, then race around Coquet Island on the Sunday. Perhaps next time I should sample some of the other delights of the Northumberland coast.

Waiting to launch
After a bit of a faff about who was actually paddling in our group, we set off from Bamburgh sands near Harkess Rocks in warm sunshine and headed towards the small rocky island of Megstone. The main attraction of paddling the Farnes this time of year is the abundant birdlife and the Megstone was covered in both birds and their rather smelly by-product. We decided not to navigate the small channel that splits the rock into two in order to minimise disturbance to the nesting birds.

Jim by the Megstone
Clouds were coming and going and their was a light, but warm, breeze from off the land to our W. Our next cluster of islands were Brownsman and Staple Island. On reaching them we found ourselves floating through flotillas of Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots, with many other birds flying in all directions.

Puffins galore

We carried on working our way towards the outer islands of the chain. There wasn't really much swell and we hugged the rocks looking for the odd challenging gap to paddle through. Off the end of North Wamses, Jim and I made our way over to paddle through some small waves that we had seen breaking on the end of the island. Jim paddled just in front of me and just as we entered the break zone a large wave reared up from nowhere - Jim had time to get over it and out to safer deep water, but it broke on me sending me backwards onto the rocks. I was bracing and trying to pull myself off the wave, fearing the heart wrenching sound of my boat being smashed onto the jagged rocks. Luckily I managed to stay afloat, but it still took me a couple more attempts to get through the next waves to get out off the break zone.

Needless to say my paddling companions made no effort to get themselves into a position to rescue me if needed and left me to my own devices. Once I caught back up with them they seemed very amused by the incident. I'll not make such a misjudgement in a hurry again.....

After that excitement we made our way over to the Longstone Island and its seal colony. We ate lunch sheltering from the breeze behind the Longstone Lighthouse.

Longstone Lighthouse
A quick circumnavigation of the Longstone, and we set off on our return trip that took us round the S end of the reefs and islands. We passed through the impressive pinnacles on the S end of Staple Island. Nesting birds occupied all possible perches, and a few seemingly impossible ones. The pinnacles look as though they are white-washed with droppings and the stench is pretty powerful.

The Staple Island pinnacles

Our final stop was the bird sanctuary on the Inner Farne. This popular attraction gives the unique opportunity to walk on a boardwalk through hundreds of nesting birds. You are first "greeted" by Arctic Turns aggressively protecting their nests (some of which are even on the boardwalk). They click their warning before pecking you on the head to send you on your way. Further round you come across Puffin burrows and watch the incoming parents, mouths full of sandeels, run the gauntlet of the scavenging gulls. Then at the end of the path there is a lookout over the nesting gulls and auks perched on the small cliffsides.

Arctic Turn chick
Turn and chick
Puffin burrows
After getting our fill of ornithology we made the final crossing back to Bamburgh and a surf landing on the beach.

Bamburgh Castle
About 20km paddled.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Conwy Ascent - 20th June 2015

Annual race up the river Conwy (with the incoming tide), followed by a more leisurely tour back again. Finished second sea kayak, although there isn't much difference between some of the racing K1s and the more sporty sea kayaks, so it's a bit of an arbitrary classification. Conditions were a lot more benign than last year, and the tour back was in pleasant sun shine.

At the finish
Rounded off the excellent day with a fish and chips supper in Conwy!

Fish and Chips supper!

Brereton Lake - 18th June 2015

Another greenland rolling session. Managed a number of successful rolls on my left hand side, but all requiring a forward sweep to finish. Main problem seems to be not being able to bring my body and head out of the water last with no discernible hip flick. No success with reverse sweep/pry. I think I overdid all the rolling and have strained my back!... perhaps I'm getting too old for this.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Macclesfield Canal - 14th June 2015

Back on the canal for a bit of race training (I've got two races coming up in the next two weekends). Paddled from the MADCC boathouse to Higher Poynton Marina and back again. Not exactly been training much this year due to niggling injuries, so understandably a bit slow.

Brereton Lake - 11th June 2015

Another greenland rolling session at Brereton. Still can't do much more than a basic right handed roll, left side roll very poor, looking like I've got no hip flick and no drive with my left leg. Need to go back to basics and develop some better body action. Not sure if my back likes being contorted too much though...

Bull Bay to Dulas Bay round trip - 7th June 2015

It was nice to have a decent weather forecast for a change as we headed for Anglesey.

With high tide early afternoon, a "there-and-back" trip was possible to avoid the inconvenience (and waste of time) of a car shuttle.

Bull Bay
Ready for launch
We set off from Bull Bay just after 11am and made our way E on the flood and the first point of interest, the small island of East Mouse. The flow around the island created an eddy on the E side that we could rest in, with the main flow causing some boils and small waves. After a strenuous circumnavigation we re-entered the flow and continued on our way towards Point Lynas.

Leaving East Mouse with Point Lynas in the distance
Point Lynas juts out into the E flowing flood, and creates a tide race that kicks up some waves and confused water. We picked our own routes through the race and then turned SE towards Dulas Bay. We now had the flow against us in the form of the large eddy created by the Point, and progress was slow, only compensation was the occasional surf on the swell that seemed to be going in our direction.

A Turnstone feeding on the shore
Roger Barker
Alan Armstrong
With stomachs rumbling, we started to consider where to take lunch, and we opted for a small shell covered beach near the N end of Dulas Bay. It was pleasant sitting in the warm sunshine waiting for the tide to turn to facilitate our return trip.

Idyllic lunch spot
We headed out to Ynys Dulas to see what wildlife we could find, and we were greeted by loads of gulls who were nesting on the small rocky island. Once round to the E side, the resident seal population swam amongst us.

Ynys Dulas
A snoozing seal!
Playing in the rocky shore of Ynys Dulas
The ebb was now building as we headed back to Point Lynas, and when we arrived a decent wave train gave us some entertainment. After a couple of surf runs, we explored the small caves in the W side of the Point and then made our way back rock hopping along the coast to East Mouse and then a final sprint across the bay back to the small village of Bull Bay.

Caves on Point Lynas
About 23km paddled. Paddling with Alan Tonge/Alan Armstrong/Roger Barker from Macclesfield Canoe Club.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Brereton Lake - 4th June 2015

Another rolling session, but this time I was more prepared - I had an airbag to try some of the greenland floating exercises, a nose clip, plus my gopro mounted on the front deck.

I did countless right handed standard rolls, plus a few storm rolls. I tried a "pry" but failed, and any rolls I tried with the paddle starting on the back deck failed.... I think mainly because my forward finishing position is not very good (head comes out too early).

The airbag I was using made the floating exercises easy to do. The main purpose is to get the shoulders lying flat on the water, then sliding the torso up on to the back deck to practice the finish portion of a back deck roll.

Left handed rolling pretty poor - looking at the video I'm not sweeping the paddle wide enough and then the finish is lacking hip flick or drive with the lower leg.

Final left hand roll of the evening failed, and then I couldn't come up on a right hand roll because the boat wasn't fully capsized. So I did a wet exit and then did a re-entry and roll.

So a mixed session, need to work on all the rolls and try and figure out how to do the pry/reverse sweep roll. Must also force myself to keep practising on the left!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Teesside Whitewater Centre - 31st May 2015

A change of scenery - I enjoyed the chance to paddle the artificial white water course at the River Tees Barrage with the Macclesfield and District Canoe Club. A 300m course runs in a loop with many drops and wave features to practice my rather rusty white water skills. I'd not paddled and played in such conditions for nearly 30 years!

Punching through the bottom stopper
The water level is maintained by four large Archimedes' screws that pump water back to the top. Alongside the screws is the ultimate luxury - a conveyor belt that takes paddlers back up to the start! This makes it possible to have continuous runs of the course without leaving your boat.

Approaching the conveyor belt, with the Archimedes' screws to the left
riding the conveyor belt
Playing in one of the waves
I can still breakout!
Dropping into an eddy alongside a "hole"
playing in a small stopper
I surfed and played in a number of the features, perhaps slightly gingerly. In the past (in the 80s!) I have played in such conditions and rolled regularly, but my confidence in my white water roll is not as solid as it used to be. Hopefully the Greenland rolling I am doing at Brereton Lake will re-tune my rolling so I'll be more confident next time.

Thanks to Alan Tonge for the photos.