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

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Solo Paddle.

This Kayakblog entry is by Steve Watt of Manx Paddle Sports.

First there was a solo paddler coming to grief off Douglas Head, then John had a swim off Bradda Head, then someone ended up in the water off Kirk Michael and today I had a very near miss going around the Calf on my own. If we must paddle alone it is important to learn from everyone else's mistakes. So here goes.
I set off from the ladder by the cafe at noon and headed across the Sound to make a clockwise circuit of the Calf. Three degrees Celsius, a fresh easterly wind, visibility of about four miles and white horses down the left side of the Calf, but I'd said on facebook I was going to race around the Calf and male ego is a terrible thing ! The sea got progressively rougher with strong reflections off the cliffs and it was survival paddling all the way to the Drinking Dragon. Several times I had waves breaking right over the kayak and I had to make far too many high recovery strokes. I was tense, paddling like a novice and extremely worried about everything. I was wearing tights, sweatshirt and light spray-top, didn't have a paddle leash and my flares were in the boat. My new paddle float was in the garage with my towline and pump. I was soon extremely gripped and way out of my comfort zone expecting a swim at any moment and worrying that I would lose the boat in the chaotic sea. There was no turning back as I was on the spring tide, definitely on a one way trip. I managed to surf through the Dragon's gap which is surprisingly narrow at high water into the calm water beyond where I was sick! Got away with it then, but only just. I blasted around the rest of the Calf, just made it round the top of Kitterland against the increasing flow and made it back to the ladder in 54 minutes 40 seconds, a new p.b.But no, I'm not that happy about it, just really concerned that things could have turned out very differently. Next time, if there is a next time in winter I will try to do all of the following. Dress properly for a swim, attach myself to the kayak with a towline, use a paddle leash even though I had a spare, take a pump, have flares in my buoyancy aid and give Julie a precise plan to follow in case I wasn't back after 90 minutes.Have fun in all aspects of your paddling but remember that if you go alone there is a far greater risk and you need to have prepared yourself thoroughly.
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