Archive for May 2009
Just returned from a wonderful week in the Isles of Scilly; my fourth visit, and it won’t be my last. I enjoyed revisiting old favourite spots, and discovering quite a few new ones. This trip was particularly enjoyable as we were joined by plenty of good friends who were ‘Scilly virgins’ and it was great to see them falling in love with the place as well.
I will post up photos and reports in the days to come, but there’s a taster below and also here.
Looking for info on the South West Sea Kayak Meet? I’m working on it right now, keep checking by in the next few days …
Just a quick update … the event is certainly going ahead and I have now heard from a very healthy number of paddlers who will be joining us for the weekend. There is still space for more, please let me know by email if you are joining us, as outlined here. I’ll be replying in person to all who have already contacted me.
For reasons far too boring to explain*, I’ve just survived a stint at work which involved 18 hour days and minimal sleep for six successive nights, plus I’m very shortly going to depart for a week of paddling in the fabulous Isles of Scilly. If you don’t mind, I’ll post up a much clearer outline of the plans for the weekend once I return.
However, a bit of name-dropping first … I mean that in a very tongue in cheek sense! The folk who are kindly helping out on the water and in the evening talks have been invited simply because they are entertaining and friendly folk, not because they have famously paddled around Antarctica non-stop whilst living on seaweed porridge (or whatever). Hopefully there won’t be a beard in sight …
Jim Krawiecki has graciously agreed to give us a talk on Saturday night. Jim is well known as an all-round nice guy and is the author of Welsh Sea Kayaking. He is currently working on a guidebook to sea kayaking in the north of England. What will he talk about? Presumably something grim and northern…?
My good friend Chris ‘Knees’ Wheeler is a well known expedition white water kayaker who has paddled pretty much everywhere. He also dabbles in the sea, along with his partner Julia and they will be telling us a little about their sea paddling trips to exotic places like Vietnam, Oman, Dalmatia …
More speakers and coaches to be announced when I have more time, but that’s a taster to be going with.
*Back-to-back Overseas trip and then Ofsted, teachers will understand.
We returned to the mainland on Sunday evening having paddled relatively few miles, we’d kept on stopping to say hello to the puffins!
On Monday morning, deteriorating weather and work commitments had driven away most of the folk pictured above, just leaving Chris Wheeler, Heather and I. We were keen to visit Skokholm Island; via a combination of wishful interpretation of the weather forecasts, and some rather dubious tidal calculations, we decided to make a dash around the island before the worst weather closed in.
We battled into the W/SW wind through Jack Sound (with only the wheeling and diving gannets for company) and down to the island – incidentally, calling the CG to outline your trip plans whilst in the middle of a tide race isn’t the best plan. Arriving at the striking red rock shores of Skokholm, we said “hello” to the seals and had a quick hop ashore to pee, before heading off along the south coast – we were in a hurry as our ‘window’ was closing fast. We slogged into head wind and building swell beneath amazing sandstone cliffs, before reaching the lighthouse…
…where things were rather manic indeed. Contrary to our half-baked calculations the night before, the tide hadn’t yet turned in our favour. Instead, we were faced with the choice of turning back the way we came, or of surfing the wrong way (i.e. against the flow) up a huge breaking tide race around the headland. In text, this probably sounds a lot more enticing than it actually looked from the bottom of the cliffs, exposed in the middle of howling wind and cold drizzle. We were three very experienced white water paddlers however, and we were individually happy with what we saw. We stuck our necks out.
As we surfed our way out far enough into the race to avoid the ‘boomers’, I kept losing sight of Heather for long seconds, but every time she reappeared, she was in control and happy; last month’s Californian whitewater paid off! The possibility of being surfed into and dashed to pieces on the rocks was fairly real, but we all made it to the north side of the island intact and exhilarated, but also cold, wet and ready for a cup of tea. All that remained was a very rapid surf back to the mainland, often totally losing sight of Wales behind the swell. Exciting stuff, not that excitement is necessarily a good thing on a sea kayaking trip … generally, we prefer to restrict excitement to our river paddling.
Anyway, a memorable end to a fantastic Bank Holiday weekend. That should keep me happy until the Isles of Scilly in a few weeks …
Not all puffins are cute. This one was genuinely terrifying.
There’s always one …
Elegug Stacks, south Pembrokeshire. Home to many, many, many guillemots.
This lassie is a Grey Seal. She lives in Newquay harbour, Cornwall. Her Latin name means, ‘hooked-nosed sea pig’.
A resident of Skomer Island Marine Nature Reserve, Pembrokeshire.
Planning, research and photography for the book continues … more information to follow, watch this space!
Puffin day! Sunday saw us paddling across the tide races of Jack Sound to visit Skomer Island. Skomer is home to phenomenal birdlife; 128 000 pairs of Manx Shearwaters, 20 000 pairs of guillemots, 10 000 pairs of razorbills, and 6000 pairs of puffins. All of these birds were out and about, filling the skies. But it was of course the puffins that entranced us …
The puffin is a bird that effectively refutes Darwin. It lives in a hole in the ground, is a totally impractical shape and it can’t fly very well; takeoff and flight is a triumph of frantic optimism over aerodynamics and to land, it simply stops flapping and falls out of the sky. What’s not to love?
We escaped across the Severn Bridge into Wales on the Friday night, keen to make the best of a good forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend. As it happened, the weather wasn’t what we were hoping for (often too much wind) but we still enjoyed a wonderful weekend in Pembrokeshire, our favourite part of Wales.
On Saturday morning, we’d hoped to paddle along the 50 metre limestone cliffs of the Castlemartin Army Ranges. However, a peek off the cliffs revealed that a sizeable ocean swell was humping into the cliffs … scary! Heather and I have paddled this coast before, and we had hoped to be able to explore the huge caverns and stacks along this coast on this visit; not very practical whilst dodging big waves! Instead, four of us enjoyed a relatively sheltered paddle around nearby Stackpole Head. There was still some swell, and as it collided with Pembrokeshire’s ancient sandstone and limestone, it made a satisfying *whump* noise …
Just returned from a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend, over the border in south Pembrokeshire. More photos and a full report to follow soon …