The above photo was taken yesterday by my friend Barbara, and shows me off the headland of Portland Bill, trying to figure out how to use a map. Those of you following closely will know that I’m not supposed to be in Dorset this week; I’m supposed to be attempting to visit the reefs at the very bottom of Britain, in the Channel Islands. What went wrong? Well, it’s simple – Condor Ferries refused to carry my kayak, and that was that. B&st$rds. Oh well, I guess that the islands aren’t going anywhere soon. I will be back.
It is actually a blessing in disguise; it’s enabled/ forced me to sit down and put a good few focused hours into editing the second version of South West Sea Kayaking; the structure/ format of the book will be exactly the same, but there will likely be many hundreds of alterations, updates and corrections. I’ve also been looking through photos for the new book, including some great ones sent to me by others. At present time, I’m literally cross-eyed from staring at a pdf document for 14+ hours straight, several times over. I’m nowhere near being finished, either. The good news is that I quite enjoy this sort of thing. Going over and reviewing my work from 3-4 years ago is actually quite engaging; I guess there’s something not quite right about me…
It’s not all work, however! I’ve managed to get out on the water at Portland Bill yesterday, and there might also have been a quick trip down to paddle white water rivers on Dartmoor last Saturday…
PS Don’t forget the SWSK Facebook group… www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=139419152740954
Apologies for the underexposed image…but when I took this picture at around 7 am this morning, I was less preoccupied with photographic perfection, and rather more preoccupied with the tide race I was in, a rather cold NE wind, an encroaching container ship and the fact that I was just setting out on a 21 mile open crossing to Swanage. I’d paddled to the Isle of Wight from Christchurch yesterday, and enjoyed a slightly cheeky camp in the middle of one of their Solent forts near Yarmouth. This morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 5.30 am and after experiencing Solent Coastguard’s depressingly usual incomprehension about kayaks (“You don’t have a support vessel?”) on the VHF, I pointed in the direction of the Isle of Purbeck and got on with it. I’ve done this crossing a few times before, but this time I had to work to earn it; a quartering wind and swell meant that it wasn’t always a bimbly cruise. However I reached Swanage safely after four hours, and having met Mrs R for late breakfast, went back to bed for a while…
The reason for shoving myself out into some serious conditions was that I’m hopefully (weather allowing) going to try some island/ reef hopping in Brittany and the Channel Islands next week. The October weather and massive tides in the area make me treat the whole thing as a fairly Big Deal; hence I’ve had my worn boat fixed up, spent ££££ on nice new paddles, replaced my corroding old flares, etc. etc. This weekend was a ‘dry run’ to check that all the new gear is good to go, and that I can still paddle in a straight line.
Nothing can go wrong.
My latest task is to work on the forthcoming reprint of ‘South West Sea Kayaking‘.
So…I am inviting suggestions please on where you feel the book is…
…out of date
…also, suggestions on typos etc would be welcome
Please either email your comments to email@example.com or post them on UKRGB -
I am already aware of various errors (e.g. the tides are unfortunately back to front in the east Exmoor section, the fern leaf map symbol isn’t explained in the key…) but for every one I’ve noticed, there’ll be many more I’ve missed or which people have been too polite to point out to me.
Also…photos. We may include some new images, so if you have any great shots of the South West coast and culture which might usefully update/ replace/ supplement the current ones, I’d be very interested in seeing and considering them – email them to me.
What’s in it for you? Well, mainly the unpaid satisfaction of pointing out where I got it wrong first time around. However, I may well pass a copy or three of the new book onto anyone making a really significant contribution, as with last time around.
Cheers and waiting for your input,
The photo above shows the shattered remains of a stone pier at Kimmeridge Bay, last Sunday. We were there to surf, but 35 knot winds made it a rather gruelling experience.
The editor of Canoe Kayak UK magazine, Jason Smith, has written an article about last month’s South West Sea Kayaking Meet; this will be on the shelves tomorrow in November’s issue. I haven’t seen the article, but he certainly enjoyed the weekend, judging by his website report.
The Facebook page for South West Sea Kayaking has taken off well; plenty of paddlers are using it for news and photos about the SW coast. Please consider joining if you haven’t already done so.
In a couple of weeks, I’m hoping to head back across the English Channel to the Channel Islands, where I enjoyed a great trip last May. Having paddled around Britain’s most northerly outcrop (Shetland’s Out Stack, photo below) this summer, I’ve now become unhealthily obsessed with visiting Britain’s most southerly point. This is a remote reef called Les Minquiers, c800 miles south of Out Stack and much nearer to Brittany than England. The odds of finding the right weather in late October for the series of open crossings involved are not good, but I’ll hopefully be able to at least give it a try.
The two paddlers obscured by waves in the photo above are both on the crew of the local lifeboat. They joined a group of us yesterday for a lively and lumpy paddle along the cliffs and tide races from Kimmeridge to Swanage. Apart from an unscheduled swim in the surf on Kimmeridge reefs just after launching (naming no names!), it was an enjoyable but uneventful paddle. Near the end of the trip however, we encountered a pair of climbers at the base of the cliffs but just above the waves, shouting for help. Although there were other climbers around, they were out of line of sight; we don’t know how long they’d been stuck there.
I called the Coastguard on VHF to tell them. They replied (as usual), “Routine traffic go to Channel XXX…”. I replied, “Portland, this is Kayak Cetus. NOT routine traffic…” and explained the situation. Portland Coastguard then summoned their Swanage shore team to effect a rescue. At their request, some of our group stood offshore to mark the spot for 45 minutes, not much fun in rough clapotis. Although Swanage Lifeboat were not called out, the Coastguard shore team were apparently bemused to find some of the lifeboat crew (whom they knew) already on site.
More photos of yesterday’s paddle here.
The incident gave a sense of deja vu. Some weeks ago, Heather and I were paddling at the far end of Britain among the Out Skerries, a remote and exposed group of isles outlying from the Shetland Islands. Heather spotted a red distress flare being fired above the cliffs about a mile away (which I completely failed to notice). She called Shetland Coastguard and had the same conversation (“No, NOT routine traffic…”). I paddled quickly to the scene, to find that a fishing boat had fired the flare; their engines had failed and they were drifting onto rocks. Thankfully a small fishing dinghy had also arrived and begun to tow them to safety…I’m not sure what I might have been able to achieve with my kayaking towline! We later learned from the Coastguard that Heather’s call was the only notification they received of the flare. This was surprising, as clearly many other folk had seen the flare…
So all, always carry a VHF and be prepared to use it, even if you think it’s unlikely to be needed to summon help for yourself.