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

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.

Sunday, 21 October 2007


With a hire car acquired Christina and I motored northwest from Vitoria to Port Renfrew. We now entered the Canada we had both hoped and expected for. The undulating coast, carpeted in dense temperate rain forrest, interupted occasionally by quaint log cabins and large timber houses, was complemented by the high mountains visible towards Port Angeles and Seatle in the distance acreoss the San Juan de Fuca Straits. Closer to the coast the heart warming glimpse of perfectly formed surf waves caught my eye. At Jordan River we stopped to marvel at the skills of the local surfers. Unfortunately this beach was owned by the board surfers and no kayakers were to be seen; quite a spectacle never the less.

Beyond Port Renfrew is Botanical Beach where the waves were colossal. I've not witnessed surf like this before! There was no wind and the sea was calm. As at Jordan River we were lulled into thinking that it was over. The tide or breeze must have changed and the surf was gone. All of a sudden a set of massive breakers would appear preceded by the sucking dry of the beach as the sea recedes. Beach which previously had appeared safe would suddenly be engulfed by white water. The air is filled with ozone spray and the sea roares. No wonder there are "Tsunami" warning signs all along this coast!

We returned to Victoria for the night and are now in Nanaimo. We are poised for the next 5 days as we enter the wild and remote north and west of the island where I hope to kayak.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Vancouver to Victoria.

Christina and I travelled from Vancouver to Victoria on Vancouver Island today. It took a combination of taxis, ferries, and bizarrely a bus for which we bought tickets on the ferry, whilst the bus itself was also on the ferry?
Victoria is the capital of Vancouver Island. It contrasts markedly with Vancouver City. It has a low rise mixture of modern and Victorian architecture which creates a compelling combination in it's stunning harbour setting. Add to this a vibrancy we missed in Vancouver, plus the first Canadian sunshine we have seen and the scene is set for the beginning of the Island part of our trip. All this however, was spoiled by the news of the recent deaths of a number of local kayakers in a tragic sea kayaking accident. There is confusion about the circumstances, but the combination of severe weather with 7 ft waves seem to be the over riding factors in this tragedy. Sea kayaking is clearly an important sport on this island. Although much larger than the Isle of Man I really cannot begin to imagine the effect such a loss of local paddlers must be having on the community here.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Christina and I arrived in Vancouver, Canada 24 hours ago after a journey from the Isle of Man which took the best part of a day. We've not been here long and so it's too early to judge Vancouver. Also the weather so far has been horrendous with constant rain. However, Vancouver reminds me of many of the cities I've previously visited in Australasia. It lies in a stunning setting, nestled between high mountains and surrounds a large natural harbour. It clearly has undergone a massive amount of recent development with ultra modern office blocks, marinas and extremely expensive flats dominating the central harbour area. We've yet to find a soul to this city. This doesn't mean that there isn't one and it could just be a reflection of the brief time we've spent here so far. Of course we have discovered Vancouver's gem - the stunning Stanley Park.
We're off to Victoria on Vancouver Island tomorrow but we will return here later.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Sunday Paddle?

Photo by Janet Taylor.
Less than 24 hours after saying that I wouldn't talk about work in this blog here goes. I work in the local hospital as a Consultant Anaesthetist. It's Sunday morning and I've been on call since 9 am Friday. I finish at 5 pm Monday! However, before you get too alarmed, apart from my routine duties on Friday and Monday I only need to respond to emergency calls from the hospital. So far I've not been called. Resident in the hospital is a Staff Grade Anaesthetist. They can do most things on their own. This means that if I do get called in it's because things have become really bad. Either there's a very serious case, or it's just very busy. The Staff Grades will have undergone 7 changes of shift by the time I finish! However, potentially, and it has happened, I could have to work solidly for 3 to 4 days with little or no sleep. Not this weekend however; it's been so quiet I keep checking that my phone line is still working.
So what's the point of telling this to a bunch of kayakers. Well none really - it's just another poor excuse for why there's no kayaking news in the blog again.

That'll teach me ............ I've just been called!!!!!!

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Above: Lauren.(photo:Andy Wheeler)
There is another kayaking blog available apart from this one! Well, in reality there are loads of them. However my first statement is not far from the truth as his is by far the best. It's much more angry, slightly more opinionated, very thoughtful and certainly longer than my own blog. Perhaps that's why he pushes 2000 readers a day? I've added a link to it. One thing his blog has taught me is that kayaking blogs should not always be about kayaking. That would suggest that kayakers do nothing else. There may be a few people like that, but I think most of us have other facets to our lives. Indeed some of us even have proper jobs although I wont be writing about that.

The point of these comments is to warn the slightly fewer than 2000 readers a day I get that they may well encounter posts here only loosely linked to kayaking on occasion. If this should occur don't worry, I'll lessen the pain with some kayaking pictures from my archive.

Friday, 12 October 2007


Well, due to work and other commitments, I’ve not been able to kayak this week. So instead here’s some housekeeping that needs to be done.

I am increasingly receiving emails through with questions regarding kayaking on the Isle of Man. Many of these questions are from visitors or beginners wishing to try out the sport for the first time. I am often asked to recommend a commercial kayaking company. Some readers will know that I have coached for a Peel based company on the Island. However, in the interests of remaining impartial and maintaining the complete independence of, I am not able to advise any potential paddlers on which commercial kayaking company to use. I can point out which ones are available however. There are some links from my website to local companies, although these do not include a link to the company for which I have worked, as the owner prefers not to link between our web sites. If I am able to provide impartial advice on any other subject related to kayaking on the Isle of Man, I am more than pleased to do so.
I have also been asked why is the difficult to find on some search engines? Well, different search engines use different algorithms to rank listed web sites. Google has over 75% of the search engine market. They overwhelmingly rank a site according to the number and quality of external links feeding to a particular web site. Google call this a “word of mouth” recommendation and feel that it more than anything else indicates the relative importance of one website over another. The more links from high quality web sites that you have, the higher up the Google listings the site will be. Relevant word content is very much second to external links with Google. This means that a site which may hardly mention for example “kayaking” and the “Isle of Man”, but which has masses of external high quality links could be ranked above one which has 20 pages solely devoted to this subject. Search engine ranking is a highly competitive area particularly if, unlike myself, your living depends on your website ranking. Consequently it can be difficult to persuade others with well established web sites to link to your site. This could easily help one site to displace another from that all important top Google slot. Despite this traffic on was up by 50% last month compared to the month before. Clearly, it can be found but maybe with a little difficulty. I would like to thank all those who have visited, and a special thanks to those who keep returning. I would also like to thank those who have supported by linking to it, and finally to thank those who have contributed to it’s content.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Indian Summer 2.

The unexpectedly warm and sunny weather continued as the group met at Port Erin for a paddle to the Calf. There was an exceptional turnout today with 16 sea kayaks lined up and ready to go.

Briefly, Port Erin Bay was chaotic with seemingly kayakers everywhere! Already overheating in our dry suites, rolls and other wet trickery spontaneously erupted as we all struggled to stay cool.

On reaching the Calf Sound further wet work continued. Although I have no problems completing a simple re-entry and roll, I have previously struggled to re-entry and roll and include replacing my spray deck whilst inverted underwater!!! The Coach says it's about mind over matter and telling yourself that you're not really about to pass out with hypoxia. In reality the key to this is to use a preformed neoprene spray deck as opposed to the floppy aquatherm ones the rest of us have been using. Unfortunately I can't re-entry and roll and replace my spray deck underwater whilst taking a photograph and so you'll have to take my word for it.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Indian Summer.

A few weeks ago we were told that Summer was over. Sure enough "lead" sky became the norm until today. On a glorious sunny but crisp morning Christina and I set off for a walk around Sulby Reservoir .......

..... and past an uninhabited house that we like.

Tomorrow we have the afternoon intermediate paddle out of Port Erin. However, later on there is an intra-mediate paddle for the first time. This concept has crossed over from the UK. Intra-mediates, so I'm told, are somewhere between beginners and intermediates. But I'm not sure what an intermediate is? I think I've been one for a long time. On the other hand I could be an advanced paddler, but then there are people more advanced than me. Perhaps I'm an inta-advanced paddler? As so often with this blog it's all questions and no answers!

Friday, 5 October 2007

Turning Points!

I have discussed night navigation trips in this blog before. I struggle with it mainly because my vision really suffers at night. This statement of the obvious is not quite what it seems as I have poor vision anyway. Consequently trying to read a map or the numbers on a compass, even with the use of a torch is challenging for me.Navigation is all about gaining enough information from your environment to plot position and course. At night such information can be scarce. Never the less bearings, way points and transit lines can usually guide you to you desired destination. There may be times when the number of visible landmarks is low and uncertainty about where you are and what direction to take can creep in. At other times suddenly an obvious landmark or definite transit will line up, and you know your exact location and what direction to take. I reached the latter point last night - I knew exactly where I was and where to go regarding a particular issue. Cryptic so far to some I'm sure!

This site is done just for fun. We do it because we like to and that's the only reason. It's not a job, it's not a business, it's not even an obligation. It's more like a hobby -- a hobby that hopefully will provide some content that you'll find entertaining and informative.The concept for this site was developed in mid 2004 after recognizing that no websites existed specifically listing paddling locations in British Columbia. A website such as this could be a good resource to those looking for new places to paddle -- there was definitely a niche that needed to be filled.There are a number of guide books for local paddling destinations and as useful as they are, there is something missing in practically every one of the them -- they don't offer many photos. This website is not intended to replace guide books or their importance, but perhaps instead, as a complement to them. Always exploring and looking for new paddling locations, we realized that we've taken thousands of photos on numerous paddling trips -- this website would be a perfect way to show other paddlers some of the great destinations. Thus began countless hours of reviewing photos and roughing out a plan for what this website would contain.And so continues the adventure...
The above site is written and constructed by 6 paddlers in the Vancouver area. I think that their site represents an ideal model for a non commercial kayaking website. I haven't asked them, but I doubt very much that they encountered hostility directed towards their efforts.

Below, Peel Inner Harbour at dusk ......