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

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Isle of Man Circumnavigation.

I received an email from Gordin Warner this morning. He is finally on his way to the UK, followed by the Isle of Man, arriving here on the 16th of August ready for his circumnavigation in aid of a cure for cancer. He has already raised over $5,000 for this cause and you can donate here.
I wonder what he will make of the Isle of Man? How will he contrast it to Vancouver Island where he lives? Having spent well over a month in B.C. myself I feel that these two Islands are very different. I really love both the Isle of Man and Vancouver Island, but in very different ways.Vancouver Island is 286 miles long, 50 miles wide and has a population of over 700,000. The Isle of Man is just over 30 miles long, 13 miles wide and has a population of approximately 80,000. The following is my impression of Vancouver Island.
Draw a line from just south of Port Renfrew to just south of Port Hardy. The line will be almost vertical but not quite. To the right of the line are the main population centres, industry and large conurbations. Some of these locations are stunning, and incorporate the Sunshine Coast and Gulf Islands. But they are organised and shaped. The tourists have taken over and there are vast Malls, billboards and wide streets. To the left of the line is the rugged, mountainous, sparsely populated, and densely forested Pacific Coastline. Many native people live here on the numerous reserves and large areas have changed little over the years. Transport and communications are not easy out here , logging roads and zero mobile coverage being the norm. But make the effort and the most stunning untouched locations can be reached and you can experience a peace and solitude that is hard to find in 2008. There is a sense of past and history. It is possible to appreciate a little of the isolation the early settlers must have experienced as there are areas here where communications and access to medical and other services are not present. You really are on your own. This may cause discomfort to many, but it is a feeling that is difficult to achieve in the British Isles. This is what I found very special about this amazing place.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Broken!

We've been back from Vancouver Island for a week. This kayaking bonanza took a great deal of planning and effort to organise, and a lot of physical and mental energy to execute. It had been part of our lives for many months and now it's over. It's been quite difficult to settle back into the mundane routine of home and work. This has been especially so as this week has presented me with one or two difficulties.
Firstly I discovered that my three piece kayak had been damaged during it's journey back from Vancouver, and one third of it has been returned to Rockpool for repairs. I then lost my Palm computer containing much important data and I discovered later that the hospital laundry had washed it for me, (my fault, I left it in my theatre blues). It is now very clean but completely dead. Continuing the "washing" theme, I accidentally dropped my Pentax SLR digital camera into a tub of water whilst washing my kayaking gear. This camera is not water proof and now it too is dead! My new car arrived, I traded in my old one which then immediately broke down - I think the garage think I pushed it into the dealership prior to collecting my new car. My new car arrived from the factory minus it's pre-ordered roof rack and put an end to several planned paddles. On returning to work I found the Anaesthetic Department was also broken, once again at war with itself over private work! (luckily I don't do private work any more). Finally, I did manage to paddle on Sunday with Ian who very kindly gave me and my kayak a lift to Fenella Beach. During the paddle to Glen Maye and back we sadly came across a dead porpoise floating on the surface. Hopefully next week will be a little better?

Monday, 21 July 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Intercontinental Kayak 2.

4 weeks ago I took a 3 piece Rockpool Alaw Bach and kayaking gear from the Isle of Man to Vancouver Island, Canada! The Rockpool has just returned home after its epic 10,000 mile journey - so how did this go?
We were booked to fly from the Isle of Man to Manchester airport with FlyBE in order to pick up our connection to Vancouver. FlyBE would not even discuss carrying the kayak on board their plane. At a loss for a while I eventually discovered FCX on the Isle of Man. They were brilliant and took the utmost care with my boat. They delivered it bang on time to Terminal 2 at Manchester to meet us for our connecting flight. Total cost for carrying it to and from the Island - £100.
Having picked up the 3 pieces we presented them to Zoom, the low cost Canadian airline. We knew beforehand that they would take kayaks at a cost of £60 each way. We did not have to pre-book and there were no size or weight limits specified in their information pack. Nervously I explained that the bubble wrapped 3 piece sea kayak, which assembled measured over 17 feet, and with my kayaking gear stuffed inside weighed 35 kg, was a single kayak and not 3 kayaks. They clearly had not been confronted by such a colossus before. Like FCX they were also brilliant, and without question checked in my boat and posted it off down the priority/fragile ramp. They charged me £60!
The kayak arrived in a special area of Vancouver Airport completely in tact. It spent the next three weeks being transported around Vancouver Island in the back of a Ford Explorer where it fitted perfectly disassembled, with the rear car seats down. It spent many nights in our hotel rooms and was used on average every other day for about 3 hours in many different stunning locations.
On our return from Vancouver Zoom were equally obliging, charging me $100 for the transfer. FCX were also equally efficient collecting the boat from Terminal 2 Manchester and delivering it to the Island the following day and with the utmost care. Unfortunately the same care that Vancouver Airport showed my fragile kayak was not extended to the boat by Manchester Airport. I do not know if it is usual for them to place fragile priority packages on the standard suite case conveyor belt but that is what they did. My girlfriends suite case was badly ripped on arrival at Manchester and unfortunately I have discovered significant but repairable damage to the cockpit gel coat. It looks like this section has been dropped heavily on its side.
So is it worth it? Well total transfer costs were about £220. It costs about £25 to hire a kayak on Vancouver Island for the day. I used my kayak for 8 trips which would have cost £200. Clearly on top of carriage I had packaging (£60), the kayak ( £2400) and now damage repairs/insurance to pay for. On a purely financial basis it is not worth it. But the privilege of paddling such a great kayak in fantastic locations made it worthwhile it to me and yes, I would do it all again!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Ronning's Garden.

Imagine driving 50 km along rugged logging roads through dense forest to the remote logging inlet of Holberg and then on another 20 km on the worst, most pot holed road encountered so far, all to reach the very well named Cape Scott Provincial Park. Not far from your destination, and praying the 4 by 4 holds together, desperate to avoid punctures by the razor sharp stones, you see a sign for "Ronnings Garden"!
Bernt Ronning was a Danish settler who established his remote homestead in 1910. Most of his countrymen abandoned their Cape Scott settlement when the promised access road was not completed. The reclusive Ronning stayed on earning a meager living as a trapper, fisherman and camp cook. He sent for cuttings and seeds by mail from all around the world, cleared 5 acres of rain forest and planted the unexpected and lovely garden we found today. The garden fell into disrepair when Ronning died in 1963, but has largely been revived by Ron and Julia Moe who own it today. The garden is best known for its male and female monkey puzzle trees found at the entrance to the garden. They are some of the largest and oldest in B.C. and are one of the few pairs in North America that produce viable seeds.
..... oh and there's been kayaking too .....

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Tahsis.

Tahsis really is at the end of the road. And it's no ordinary road. A spectacular drive through to Gold River takes you half way, the rest is along a gravel logging road with steep gradients and no crash barriers. This isn't the usual tourist trail. To make this sort of effort there has to be something worth while at the other end. Few do and we felt conspicuous as we arrived in this tiny hamlet at the end of a long west coast Fjord on Vancouver Island. Tahsis exists because of logging. But there's very little logging on this Island these days and both sorting and saw mills have closed, leaving huge scars on this otherwise beautiful little bay. Really all that's left is a bit of sport fishing as even the commercial trawlers have gone! You get the feeling that this is a dying place, and that people are selling up and leaving. That's certainly the impression I got from speaking to one local in the Beach Cafe.
I may be giving a bleak impression of Tahsis but I don't mean to. This place is wonderful and if you want to sample real Canada, with real Canadians then make that effort and drive the logging road. The drive is worth while in itself and if you crave peace and tranquility, breath taking beauty and genuinely the most friendly people that I've come across in a long time then go to Tahsis. Oh and the kayaking is good too. I took my sea kayak up a river and practiced a bit of slalom! The log sorting depot pictured above is at Gold River.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Quadra Island, B.C.!

We've been on Quadra Island, B.C., Canada for the last three days. It's part of the Discovery Islands group and lies off the east coast of Vancouver Island. It's different here to the west coast, surf orientated, Long Beach Peninsula where we spent the past 10 days. Both are wilderness but you get the feeling that nature is in charge at Tofino and the Clayoquote Sound. Here, at least to some extent, she shares control with people. There is a wilderness here but it's not the primitive, untamed rain forest of the Pacific coast! Instead it's low lying, rocky beached, conifer forested archipelago of islands off the east coast of Vancouver Island. Even the weather seems more gentle as most of the rain has been rung out of the clouds by the high intervening mountains of Vancouver Island before it reaches Quadra.
So this is an area of exquisite, tranquil natural beauty with an abundance of wildlife and some beautiful scenic gentle paddles? Well yes it is but there's a dark side to this place for the unwary kayaker. Some of the fastest tidal races in the northern hemisphere are to be found around the Discovery Islands surging up to 13 knots. They've been known to pull over and submerge local tugs and commercial fishing boats and are not recommended for anyone other than the most expert sea kayaker with local knowledge. Not being either, and lacking time, I could not indulge in such tidal race pleasures. I did however sample some of these currents for myself as I ventured out alone into Discovery Passage. This is like a series of conveyor belts and there's usually one going your way, as the main current spawns eddys and counter eddys. Sooner or later though you run out of options and you only have your own strength and endurance to get you through. This happened to me, I only just made it and I've never had to paddle so hard in my life!

Friday, 4 July 2008

kayaking Isle of Man - Tofino!

It's nearly time to leave Tofino and head north to the wilder half of Vancouver Island. We've spent 10 days here and of course it's our second visit to Tofino. This must mean that we like it and we do. Tofino is great. It enables any of us to reach out and taste that little bit of wilderness and yet remain in touch with our Western luxuries. Within a few minutes you can paddle through the Clayoquote Sound into silence, a silence disturbed only by the plop of a leaping fish, the cry of a bald eagle or the grunt of a black bear. And yet you can still be home in time for an a la carte meal with the best wines in your 5 star lodge hotel. Then there's the raw power and ferocity of the Pacific Ocean to the west. You can paddle straight out through the painful and smothering dumping waves into the vast ocean, only interrupted by rocks and lighthouse clad islands. But always keep an eye over your shoulder here as the open Pacific can quickly catch out the unwary. Even this can be eased into by paddling from Tofino in the shadow of the larger off shore islands such as Vargas and Wickininish!
Tofino is easy instant access wilderness with the discomfort removed. It can be as safe as you want it to be with easy novice trips and a host of professional guides at hand. Everyone is laid back, friendly and accommodating as has been our hotel, the Long Beach Lodge, who said nothing about me keeping an often wet sea kayak in my room for the last 10 days. They have been excellent and we thoroughly recommend them.
We're off to Campbell River next.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Grice Bay to Tofino.

Clayoquot Sound is a vast area of land and sea comprising 8% of Vancouver Island. Measuring 350,000 hectares in total, just the land mass is 1,000 square miles of mainly rare rain forest. There are 5 communities in Clayoquot Sound: the town of Tofino and 4 First Nations reserves inhabited by Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations tribes. The total population of these 5 communities is about 3,000 (in 2005).
Anyway I fancied a paddle and the "Sound" seemed to fit the bill and so I set off from Grice Bay down to Tofino. The distance is about 6 nautical Miles as the Bald Eagle flies, and armed with a map, compass and no less than two GPS devices I began to paddle. Clayoquot Sound is vast, the hundreds of small and large forest carpeted islands offer little in the way of visual way points - it can be easy to become lost. I didn't lose my way, but what I did do was get the tide wrong and I ended up paddling against it the whole way. This didn't matter in the wide stretches, but at the narrows I had to eddy hop to make progress. The highlight was a little tidal race I found between two small islands. Because it arose due to flow and not wind it was smooth, glassy and perfect. I buried the bow of my Rockpool as I surfed the front wave. It was only there for 5 minutes, but it was 5 minutes of tidal race perfection!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - "Wildlife"?

......... just a few examples of "wildlife" I've snapped over the last two days around Tofino, Vancouver Island .....