Mainly kayaking photographs taken on the Isle of Man and beyond.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

River Run!


Today was a good day. It was one of those days that you remember for years to come, and for the right reasons. The Scouts invited Manx Paddle Sports (of which I am now a proud honorary member) on their annual New Year River Neb run. I am no river paddler. The last time I paddled down the Neb it was raging. I resembled a stick tossed into the current and completely at the mercy of the flow. I even managed to get myself trapped under water beneath a tree trunk. It was only because of some primitive survival response that I managed to heave myself to the surface against the flow. Not this time however. The Neb was sedate, having been starved of the torrential rain required to awaken it. Instead this was a watery traffic jam, with three foot drops over weirs providing the adrenaline as I stared vertically downwards towards the exposed rocks awaiting me. It was great fun however and I met some fantastic people. I didn't realise until now that there are some extremely talented young paddlers on the Isle of Man. Many thanks to Steve Watt and others for organising this event.
In the afternoon Jess, Ian and myself returned to the security of our familiar sea kayaks for a blast to Glen Maye from Peel. Give me a tidal race and a force 8 any day, but rivers are scary!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Paddle Buddy






This morning was the first outing for the newly formed Paddle Buddy. Through this club, Isle of Man based paddlers can meet up and arrange kayak trips together. Ian, Sarah, Jess and myself blasted out of Port Erin on a blustery day. There was a brisk force 6 blowing fueling rough conditions outside the bay. In between battling the wind and surfing back to shore, we used the shelter of the harbour for roles, self rescues and sculling practice ahead of Sarah and Jess's 2 star assessment this afternoon! Apparently now paddlers who wish to progress through the star awards are no longer able to jump straight in at 3 star! Judging by this morning's performance they should pass easily.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

www.KAYAK.im


Kayakblog has been quiet recently. I've been busy producing the new www.KAYAK.im . This process is pretty well complete. The web site has had a complete face lift. In addition there is some new content with 6 new pages. In particular the new site now incorporates Manx Paddle Sports who have moved over to www.KAYAK.im . There is also the new Paddle Buddy page. This allows paddlers on or visiting the Isle of Man to find kayaking buddies. This system is still under test by a handful of us, hence the delay in launching the new site until Saturday 22nd December 2007. There will also be new content added over the next few weeks after the launch with new paddles described, and some new galleries. Unfortunately this will mean that the site will be down for some time on Saturday. I hope the new web site will be uploaded and ready by Sunday 23rd December.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Peel to Glen Maye




You know, apart from the daily technical battle I enjoy fighting with software, broadband links and servers, the other great advantage you get from running a website is meeting people through it. That's how I encountered Jessica. We set off from Peel to Glen Maye this afternoon on a chilly but largely flat sea. After 45 minutes we reached Glen Maye, about half the time I would normally expect. We then decided to test our sculling skills and later roles, reentry and roles and towing. All went without a hitch. It's rare to meet someone who has clearly reached 4 star level after paddling for 4 months only. Still if your maiden trip involves a circumnavigation of the Isle of Man then I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It must also reflect the excellent coaching she has received from Adventurous Experiences and I know that she is hoping to take her 3 star assessment with them soon. I have no doubt that she will fly through this.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Rockpools

Once again atrocious weather continues here on the Isle of Man. Ian and I took advantage of a lull in the weather to take a quick blast out of Peel. By a lull in the weather I mean we only had force 6 winds to deal with in contrast to the gale 8's that have been blowing here for days now. This was a Rockpool fest with 50% of the Manx Rockpool fleet on display. I have the Alaw Bach as opposed to Ian who has the Alaw. Bach in Welsh means small (Alaw means song). Rockpool started with the Alaw which has a cavernous cockpit. Smaller paddlers found with the Alaw that their knees were upright, as opposed to the more familiar splayed position. Hence Rockpool modified the Alaw making the cockpit lower and the Alaw Bach was formed. The two boats are identical in every other way.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Kayak Marathon.


Desperate for a paddle I took the Rockpool out of the garage and exposed it to the force 8 to 9 winds we have currently blowing here in the Isle of Man. From Port Erin, around to Port St. Mary, then Laxey, Ramsey and back to Peel we went. Unfortunately this 5o mile paddling trip took place with the Rockpool on top of my car rather than in the sea, as I searched for a paddling opportunity. It really was horrific out there. Steam was rising from the top of the sizable waves; Nigel Dennis says that this means it is at least force 8!
All was not quite lost however. At Port Cornaa I decided to go for it. Launching in the river I paddled into the sea through the narrow passage between the shingle beach and the rock face. Where the river meets the sea there were some interesting wave formations allowing briefly a bit of surfing. Soon the tide dropped and the wind seemed determined to blow me off to the UK and so it was time to come back in. I've never paddled at Port Cornaa before but it seems like a good little spot especially when there's a force 9 westerly hitting the Island.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Stuck for a Paddle Partner?

Paddling has been a bit of a problem recently. What with work and other commitments it's not been possible to go. Things are different this week and whatever the weather I'll be out there. Quite a few people have contacted me about paddling. A few Blogs ago I muted the idea of a "find a paddling partner page" on the new website. There has been quite a bit of interest in this. What I plan to do is to create a forum through www.KAYAK.im through which members can contact other members in order to arrange paddles. If you want to join the forum then please click on contact and email me with your details ready for the launch in a few weeks time.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Rules?

Ever tried to construct a website? There are two ways broadly to do this. Firstly you can use a template e.g. MySpace, and within constraints you can drag and drop text and pictures to where you want them. You have little control over the style of the page however. Alternatively you could start with a completely blank page as I do and use code and design software, Creative Suite 3 in my case, and let yourself and your imagination go wild. It’s that simple, except that it isn’t. Once you’ve mastered the software and learned code, no mean achievement in itself, you can create a beautiful web page on your screen. Things start to go wrong however, when you upload it to the web and it doesn’t look quite the same as before on you computer. It gets worse. You then look at it on someone else’s computer and depending on which browser, screen resolution and text size setting they are using, your once beautiful and complicated web design looks more like something the cat might have produced whilst walking across your keyboard!
Basically there are rules. They’re not written down but they exist. They help explain why the best web pages are simple, why text fonts are often on the small side and why there is a lot of “white space” on many modern websites.
I think I’ve hit upon a design for the new website that I’m happy with. But with the above in mind expect simplicity where there is currently clutter. Expect white where there is black, but expect rotating Flash slide shows where there are currently stills.
It was good to hear from Joe Leech yesterday. Jo left to study in Bangor North Wales, a few months ago and is having a great time. He seems to have migrated from sea paddling to Grade 5 river running and has some content for the new website. I look forward to paddling with him and Butler again in the near future. Judging by past experiences this paddle should be right at the extreme end of “extreme”.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

www.KAYAK.im


Being on call for anaesthetics for 4 out of the next 5 days means paddling this weekend is out. It also means that work on the new website is in; at least so long as not too many people require surgery this weekend. Testing over, the new CSS, XHTML website (I only mention this because my current site is so primitive) is currently under construction with the homepage flash movie created this evening. The format will change too. I hope the site will continue to reflect kayaking here in the Isle of Man. Indeed there will be some new pages included which will incorporate Manx Paddle Sports (photograph above) into Kayak.im. Their current website will continue, but urgent news, future meets and membership details will feature on www.KAYAK.im .
In addition however, the new site will focus on my own kayaking experiences and there will be a non kayaking section. Colour coding will enable paddling purists to avoid these pages if they can't bear to stray from kayaking web content. Estimated time to completion - about 1 month.

Monday, 19 November 2007

The "ideal" kayak?



Above Picture Courtesy of Derrick Moyoleth, www.kayakquixotica.com

As an anaesthetist I have often speculated about what properties the ideal anaesthetic drug would posses. It would be quick to act, wear off quickly with no hangover effects, stable in terms of blood pressure, breathing etc. etc.. It was nice recently however, whilst talking with Mike Web, owner of Rockpool Kayaks, to talk about the "ideal" kayak.
This should be lightweight but strong. It should have excellent storage capacity for expeditions, with a hull designed for handling rough seas. The seat should grip the paddler so that you don't slide around in the swell. There should be a skeg just in case I should ever decide that I needed one after all. The ideal kayak should be easy to transport, preferably coming apart if required. Finally it should be beautiful to look at. I don't think that this kayak exists quite yet, but it soon will. Rockpool are going to build a carbon version of there 3 piece Alaw Bach for me. It will have the seat from their racing kayak which grips the paddler as you get in. Obviously it will come apart into three pieces as in the photograph above. You can have a skeg in a 3 piece, the slider resides in the rear segment behind the paddler. It'll be black, reducing the amount of gelcoate required to cover the black carbon underneath. Of course, being a Rockpool there will be plenty of glitter.
It won't be ready until the new year. It's the first all carbon Alaw Bach Rockpool have built and a prototype needs to be constructed first. Soon you will be able to follow construction progress on the main web site at www.KaYAK.im .

Friday, 16 November 2007

Contemplation!

This morning I went paddling a little way down the coast from Peel towards Kirk Michael. The sea was calm, and there was a force 4 wind blowing in from the southwest. The paddle was unremarkable, and so why am I mentioning it? Well unlike during my last paddle during which I battled against force 7 winds, this morning I had plenty of time for contemplation. In fact the subject I have been contemplating has been troubling me for several weeks now. This morning I decided to break my silence, so here goes.
A month ago a letter was sent to me as webmaster of www.KAYAK.im by the owner of Adventurous Experiences, the Peel based kayaking company. He was effectively trying to prevent me from publishing any photographs on this site obtained during my frequent paddles with his "Adventure Club", or during coaching sessions I gave whilst working for his company! He believes that this content and my comments, particularly in my blog, may have harmed his business and offended his clients. There is no evidence that this site has caused any offence; the blog is archived in it's entirety and you can judge for yourself. However, this will explain why the site has been static for a while.
I have been planning a new website for some time and indeed, there are some test pages up and running on the web. However, could www.KAYAK.im continue to reflect kayaking on the Isle of Man without this material being made available? Should I change the nature of the site and make it just a personal website reflecting my hobbies and interests? No one person has a monopoly on kayaking on this Island. The number of visits, hits and machine logons to the site is well up again this month compared to the last, and I would assume therefor that there is a demand for a Manx based kayaking website. With this in mind I am reluctant to change the nature of www.KAYAK.im .

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Leaning on the wind!




The weather today on the Isle of Man is much the same as yesterday, with force 6 northwesterly winds, gusting to force 7 . I couldn't wait any longer - I really wanted to paddle. I chose to paddle from Port St Mary to Gansey , a trip which I describe in the guide section of my website as safe for coached beginners and for skills sessions. This was not the case today. Much of the time was spent either leaning on or battling with the force 7 gusts. At one point my kayak resembled a speed boat as the wind to the rear and the tide on the bow meant that the Rockpool raced through the water. A bow wave built but the standing waves were low in height and so the bow failed to bury; one of my least favourite things too happen.
When the sea is like this the surface becomes a map. You can see the wind as the circles of ripples race around. I picked my way between these and set the bow up into the wind before turning. Steering can be nearly impossible in this weather and you don't want the wind to hit the bow from the side. It's worth remembering that if you do get caught out and need to turn your boat back into the wind it can be easier to spin the kayak the long way round, bringing the stern to wind first.
Later on I was taught another salutary lesson. I always practice rolling on every trip. I can roll on either side. In winds like this it can be impossible sometimes to roll up on the downwind side. If you can roll as easily on the left or the right side, rolling on the upwind side is effortless. Today I had to rely on this for the second time in recent months, resetting my hands and paddle underwater, and letting the wind bring me back upright.

Friday, 9 November 2007

It's Hell out there!



The top two photographs are of Fenella Beach, Isle of Man about 2 hours ago. The lower most photograph is of Christina on Long Beach, Vancouver Island, Canada.
Rather optimistically I went down to Peel for a precursory look prior to some rough water paddling. It's been blowing force 6 to 7 here for several days now, and this short trip was in hope rather than in expectation as it's hell out there. I'll try again tomorrow. The wind is straight in to shore and with a receding tide the water is literally boiling! This is difficult to capture with a small compact camera but there really are no formed surf waves to climb on the back of. It's often like this here. The Isle of Man is surrounded by large landmasses containing four countries. To the west is Ireland, to the south is Wales, to the East and North is England with Scotland further to the north. Contrast this with the uninterrupted path enjoyed by those massive Pacific surf waves pounding the West Vancouver Island coast. Perhaps I've got post holiday blues but I wish I was there now.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

The Calf.





Back from Vancouver it was time for a paddle in the cold gray waters of the Isle of Man. From Port Erin to the South Harbour of the Calf of Man was surprisingly choppy; even more so on the way back. Whilst in Canada I purchased a reinforced neoprene Snapdragon spray deck. I've had a great deal of trouble with previous decks I've used. They're either difficult to apply (aquatherm or nylon decks), or last about three trips before they split, as with previous neoprene decks I've used. This one applies really easily, doesn't leak when I roll and seems tough.
I've never really walked around the Calf of Man before. I tramped from the South Harbour to the lighthouses, which are there in abundance. There are even helpful road signs. People go there to get away from it all! I met at least three people on this short trek - seemed quite busy to me. During the paddle back I bumped into Ian who was paddling a Rockpool Alaw. There now seems to be at least three of us Rockpool paddlers on the Isle of Man!
http://www.kayak.im/ will change in the next few months. I'm creating a new site with CSS, spry, XHTML, Flash movies etc. In other words it should be much more professional looking than the current site. The content will also change; more about that nearer the time.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Shades of Vancouver.





The first time we were in Vancouver it poured with rain. This time we had glorious sunshine. What a difference a blue sky can make, and not just to photographs. The crowds were out in force and Vancouver displayed the vibrancy and sophistication that I thought must be there hidden behind the rain clouds. The highlights included the Old Quarter towards Gas Town and of course, Stanley Park.
I am now back home on the Isle of Man. My kayaking habits are about to change. I have given up my membership of the Adventure Club. This marks the end of an era for me as I have been a member now for several years. In future I intend to concentrate on rough water paddling, surfing and tidal races.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Salt Spring Island!!!!











Salt Spring Island is the largest of an archipelago between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland. The island appears wealthy as evidenced by the substantial villas along the coast and the overflowing marinas. But interspersed between the affluence is a large community of artists, and a fare scattering of dread lock capped hippies.
Geographically, it has low hills, a meandering tree lined coastline and very small shingle beaches. Perhaps it was the gray sky, or the flat calm water, but we weren't moved to paddle here, although there are plenty offering kayaking services. We found our Salt Spring in a “Local Pub” with a Diane Krall look and sound alike, and filled with locals in fancy dress.
It has been said of Salt Spring Island that it “alters your mind. Outsiders arrive intending to stay a short while and simply forget to leave”. We didn't forget to leave and in fact our departure was the highlight. We opted out of a long 5 hour ferry and bus trip back to Vancouver and chose the spectacular 25 minute seaplane flight.
I liked Salt Spring and the people we met. I liked the fact that there is no public transport and hitchhiking is the norm. Anything goes in Salt Spring Island and you feel that all are welcome, however long you stay.





Friday, 26 October 2007

Tofino, BC, Canada - kayakers' paradise.










Tofino is great. It has the perfect calm water paddles through the sheltered Clayoquot Sound. Twisting between the multitude of islands with just some current to contend with, if you time the tides right it's an effortless round trip. Alternatively head left and out to sea. The prevailing westerly winds and Pacific surf and swell build, as fewer islands protect the paddler the further west you go. Eventually, you lie exposed to everything the Pacific has to through at you, and that's allot. Add to this a maze of teeth like rocks extending far further out than you'd expect and this is full on rough sea kayaking. If you've got the gear you can make the choice. Add to this some superb surf beaches and Tofino really has everything.


But there's more. I snapped the above wildlife photos yesterday in one day ( sea lions, gray whale, bald eagle ). The scenery is stunning - the top most photograph above was taken two days ago through a pub window whilst drinking a pint of Guinness. Surely one of the best views from a pub in the world.

Finally, the people are incredibly polite, helpful and friendly. I nearly got run over two nights ago by a fella driving one of those enormous 4 x4 cars they have over here. He of course apologised and drove off. 15 minutes later he drove back and apologised again. If I have to be run over then I hope it happens during a future visit to Tofino - I'll certainly be back.





Thursday, 25 October 2007

Kayak Coaches and Guides.





Here on Vancouver Island there really are two types of sea kayaking. Firstly a calm sedate paddle through stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. Secondly, an adrenaline packed fight for survival through stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. Certainly today those were the choices. Of course it depends on where you go. Trouble is, trying to persuade someone to to take you on the latter trip is impossible. Nor will they rent you the gear - I asked! This is for sound reasons, not least of which is that they want their gear back again and and really don't want you ( or more likely your relatives ) to litigate against them if you perish. There would be no point - they are commercial operations and need to turn a profit. They don't know me from the next hapless tourist who turns up and fancies a paddle.
So what's the point of these comments? Well, I just think that we should stop and appreciate what we have in the British Isles in terms of coaches. Their skills and decision making abilities are second to non in my experience. I've accompanied a UK coach into a raging Penrhyn Mawr tidal race on a number of occasions. On the Isle of Man we have Keirron Tastagh who will first make a sensible decision based on the conditions and the skill of the paddler. Ultimately he will take kayakers on that action packed paddle a few of us crave.


Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Kayaking in Tofino.





























We arrived in Tofino yesterday after a tortuous and at times treacherous drive through mountains, lakes, forrest and over steep gradients. If possible the rain was even heavier and more persistent than previously. Tofino didn't live up to our expectations initially. We were wrong however. The fog and rain lifted today to reveal the previously cloaked forrested steep mountains and the archipelago of islands occupying the Clayoquot Sound.
We arranged kayaking and our guide, Martin, took Christina and myself on a stunning paddle through narrow gaps between the multitude of small islands. We landed and took a trek on a raised path through 1000 year old cedar forrest. The Bald Eagles and their nest were the highlights. This was a leisurely paddle, on a hot sunny day in the most stunning scenery imaginable. Even the 5 knot tides through the shallow gaps between islands seemed relaxed and sedate. This was an ideal paddle after the really quite horrendous weather we have experienced up until now. The forecast is excellent for the next few days.