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

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Kayaking Isle of Man - Letting off Steam!

I'm wondering, as I sit here listening to Jeff Buckley, "why do we blog?" There seems to be an explosion in the numbers doing it. I wonder if other people write posts and never publish them? Or do they publish, regret and delete them as I did yesterday? Perhaps blogging is not just about sharing information as we may assume, if we don't think too hard about it. Maybe it serves some bigger purpose. Certainly yesterday's now deleted blog entry got a few things off my chest and in itself served a purpose. Of course, there are inherent dangers in letting things spill out onto the vast world wide web. These dangers are well known to one of the surgeons I work with on the Isle of Man, and yet this has not discouraged him. You can find his new blog here and his main website here.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Credit Crunch Part 2!

We haven't given up on our Norway trip. We have options. One possibility would be to post the kayak to Tromso in Northern Norway and pick it up there in a hire car, having flown in. The Rockpool 3 piece kayak with equipment (paddles, dry suite etc.) weighs about 45 kg in it's custom made, foam lined PVC bag. The bag measures 185 cm by 60 cm by 70 cm. Things have changed a little when it comes to pricing the transport of such a package. It's dimensions are fed into a formula of which Einstein would have been justifiably proud. An equivalent weight is generated! That means a weight is calculated based on what something that big could weigh, rather than what it actually does weigh! In my case I think they used gold bullion, or the yet to be discovered dark matter as their control substance. The equivalent weight came out as 194 Kg rather than the actual weight of 45 Kg! Not surprisingly the resulting cost of transporting the kayak, predominantly by road, to Northern Norway is a bit steep. I won't go into details but my girlfriend and I could have a couple of weeks in Tenerife for this amount alone. Still, I don't smoke, drink much or gamble and if I cut back to 2 meals a day I could probably afford it. I haven't ruled it out but there may also be another option ......

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Credit Crunch Part 1!

On Saturday Jess, Ian and myself headed down to the Sound from Port St. Mary. It was cold, rough and gnarly. A break at the Calf Sound Cafe left plenty of time for contemplation. There's been allot to think about recently, including the planning of our kayaking trip to Northern Norway this Summer.
You see the World has changed since I took possession of my 3 piece Rockpool Alaw Bach in May 2008. Back then the global economy was still buoyant and there were plenty of airlines ferociously competing for your custom. Taking my Rockpool to Vancouver Island at £60 each way was easy to arrange. I had no reason to believe that such a trip would soon become nearly impossible. We flew to Vancouver with Zoom Airways who have subsequently gone bust!
The airlines still want your custom. Trouble is there are now fewer of them. Added to that there are fewer fare paying passengers due to the global recession. Not surprisingly the airlines have responded by cutting routes. Related to that, very few are now willing to take a kayak on board as "sports equipment". Scandinavian Airways have recently changed their policy. They will carry a rigid plastic whitewater kayak but not a fibre glass monster like mine, however many pieces it splits up into. British Airways seem to no longer take kayaks at all, unless you book it on as "cargoe". Air Canada and many other airlines have followed suite. To confound the situation, for the first time in 150 years, there are no direct ferries between the UK and Norway! Hard to believe these are neighbouring countries. The only ferry from the UK to a Scandinavian Country is from Harwich to Denmark! It would take at least 4 to 5 days to drive up to Tromso from there.
Still, don't think we've given up because we haven't .........
(ALL photos by Ian Smith)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Surfing Port Erin.

Surfing Port Erin, Isle of Man, Sunday 18th January 2009.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Rockpool.

Check out the new Rockpool Kayaks web site. Continuing the same style, logos and colouring the new crisp modern look feels great. In particular there are now additional sections describing Rockpool's new race kayaks, and the "Isel" which is the new, shorter rough water sea kayak recently developed by Rockpool.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Olympus 1030 SW.

I hadn't paddled for two weeks due to work commitments and I was determined to go despite the force 10 gales predicted to hit the Isle of Man. On Saturday I had a narrow window where I had a mere force 6 westerly to contend with. Gansey was flat when I went through but there were a few small, but well formed surf waves at Port Erin. Paddling out of the bay alone I was exposed to the full force of the gale with some nasty breaking waves and a wind which felt more than a 6. I headed back into the bay and for the surf zone. One wave I caught propelled me in at speed then broke swinging the stern around violently. A forceful high brace kept me upright but the froth ripped my hat from my head. I did catch a glimpse of it later but hats do not seem to be very buoyant and it disappeared into the depths before I could grab it. I hope it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Further disaster struck as I've managed to "drown" another camera; the fourth in a year. My Olympus 1030 SW has shorted out after 2 months! I have a history of waterproof camera destruction but I have to say they usually last a bit longer than this. I did role a couple of times but it was supposed to be waterproof down to 10 metres and shockproof!

Kayaking Isle of Man - Snaefell.

Snaefell is the highest mountain on the Isle of Man at 2036 feet. From it's summit on a clear day it is possible to see Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland. Despite this you can drive up most of the way to the summit, or take the Manx Electric Railway to the very top. Now, it would seem, there is a third mode of transport with which to make your descent. Thanks to Steve for spotting this clip on YouTube.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Kayaking Isle of Man - Pensions!

There seems to be allot of conflict and disagreement around at the moment. Disagreements can seem very simple the less you think about them. But take time to examine both sides of the argument and usually you will find that there is no clear cut right answer. On Tuesday the Isle of Man Government began to examine proposals to seriously reduce the pension rights of health workers (nurses, doctors, physiotherapists etc.) If I don't take too long to think about this then it's easy to adopt the stance taken by many of my colleagues that this is an outrage. Certainly I have paid into my pension for 20 years expecting one thing, but I may well receive a much reduced pension entitlement on retiring if these proposals are adopted. There is no doubt that this amounts to "misselling a pension" and I would be right to be angry about it. But if I take a minute to look at the other side of the argument then things become less clear. With the current global financial situation, and increasing life expectancy, can the Isle of Man Government afford to pay me my current pension entitlement? And if they do will others in the private sector have to pay more in tax whilst their own pensions remain meager in comparison? Now things seem less clear.
As with all decisions around health care, there is one hard and fast rule which if applied will lead you to the right answer. Put the patient first and ensure that patient well being is preserved. Many of my health care colleagues will leave the Island and take their pensions to the UK, thus preserving their value, if the Manx Government pushes ahead and cuts our pension entitlement. I have not decided whether to do this yet or not, but it is certainly one way of preserving my pension as it is. Well, not to worry, doctors and nurses can be replaced? Well, I don't think that they can. Who would apply for a job and devalue their pensions. I don't think we will be able to recruit anyone in these circumstances. We will become very short staffed and dependent on temporary, expensive locum staff. Under these circumstances, whereby the quality and availability of health services deteriorated, I would have to leave my job at the Nobles Hospital, thus exacerbating the situation. I think others would also leave as staff and patient morale fell. The Manx patient would undoubtedly suffer!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Kayaking Isle of Man - Thanks.

It's Monday morning and there's allot to be grateful for. My three day stint "on call" is over during which I once again became an expert with the Sky+ box. 9 movies later only a trip to the gym kept my body, mind and possibly soul healthy! The huge ash tree which overshadows my house remained upright, despite the Winter gales. A new kayaking and fishing tackle shop has opened nearly opposite to my house. Bazaarly, I live 2 miles from the sea and in open countryside! Never the less it's only 9:30 and this looks like being a good Monday.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Kayaking Isle of Man - Content.

There's a force 9 gale blowing here on the Isle of Man. The winds are moving at 75 to 88 km/h, there are high waves (6-7 m) with dense foam, wave crests have started to roll over and there is considerable spray! It would be fare to say that these are difficult conditions for kayaking. Still, paddling is the last thing on my mind as I enter my third consecutive day "on call" as a Consultant Anaesthetist. The good thing about the poor weather is that it's usually quiet at work when the weather is this bad. Instead of contemplating how I could possibly go kayaking in a force 9, I'm thinking will I get called into the hospital at any second to sort out an emergency patient? I'm also looking forward to the next week or so at work. I think to say that these coming days and weeks could change mine and my colleagues work lives is no exaggeration. Our pensions may be devalued, job plans reviewed and with other important "work structure" meetings scheduled, our professional roles are likely to change beyond recognition. Potentially, these changes over the next few weeks will be too much for some and there could be resignations!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Why?!

I regularly consider terminating this blog? Certainly Isle of Man Kayakblog has caused me a great many headaches and life would be so much more simple without it. The current reasons for continuing with the Blog as part of are overwhelmingly technical. The Blog is incorporated into’s homepage. This serves to keep the homepage rich and fresh with new photographs and text appearing every few days. In addition, the Blog, and especially the archive, help to keep the main web site optimised so that search engines like Google can find it more easily (I won’t go into the technical details of how that works here). And so a blog, as opposed to simply renewing photographs and text directly on the homepage, is necessary. is held on a server based near Castletown on the Isle of Man. I pay about £70 per year for 25 mega bytes of server space. The Blog on the other hand, with it’s huge but important archive, runs into many hundreds of mega bytes and is hosted for me free of charge by Google’s servers in America or somewhere. Either way if I had to pay for all those mega bytes to be hosted on my own server the costs of having the site would rise by many hundreds of pounds per year! I am very grateful to Google for providing this service, but it did mean that I had to find a way of marrying together two pages, held on different servers, into the combined home page you see today. This is done by loading the main page held here on the Isle of Man, and then loading the Blog from within an iframe. This would normally be very simple to do, but, due to the "transparent" nature of my main web site template design it did throw up a few technical difficulties.
The templates incorporate full PNG transparency which allows the background image to be seen through the transparent text boxes. By simply changing the background image I can completely change the look, colour and feel of the whole web site. This in itself led to problems as PNG transparency is not supported by earlier versions of Internet Explorer (IE) which are still widely used e.g. by the Isle of Man Government. To rectify this a JavaScript program runs in the background to convert the images to GIF format which IE 5.5 and 6 can read. However, this program will not make the Blog appear transparent. To do this I had to rewrite some of the code in the Google template. Unfortunately, this fix would only work in modern browsers such as FireFox and Chrome. In Internet Explorer the background will not default to transparent but to white instead, giving different visitors a completely different web experience depending on which browser they are using. This explains why, unlike all other pages on, the home page does not achieve full transparency. Instead a compromise Blog background colour was used which blends seamlessly with the graduated colour on every tailored web page background, at least giving the impression of some continuity between the two pages.
Unfortunately, technical difficulties are not only headaches I have experienced due to this Isle of Man Kayakblog. Many have been due to it's content and I will discuss this in my next Blog posting.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - 53 minutes and 20 seconds part 2.

I wasn't planning to post another blog entry so soon but it would seem a few facts need to be cleared up. Yesterday, Ian and myself posted a time we clocked up for circumnavigating the Calf of Man by kayak of 53 minutes and 20 seconds. Earlier last week Steve Watt of Manx Paddle Sports, posted his new personal best time of 54 minutes and 40 seconds. It would seem that we started our paddles from a slightly different point to Steve . Steve says "The start, as pointed out to me many years ago, is with your stern in line with the ladder/concrete steps in the small launching bay east of the cafe. (no need to have a timer on the shore) the finish is when your bow crosses the same line. I have timed myself 5 times from this point." Ian and I started and finished at the small race below the Cafe, where a line drawn from the white cross below the car park to the "pepper pot" intersects this narrow channel! I think it would be fare to say that Steve feels very strongly that this may have made all the difference and that our times are not comparable.
(lower two photos by Ian Smith)

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - 53 minutes 20 seconds.

A few days ago Steve Watt set a new personal best time of 54 minutes and 40 seconds for circumnavigating the Calf of Man by kayak. He encountered difficult conditions and the trip sounded like an epic. On Saturday Ian and myself decided that we would try to beat Steve’s record. We had SW force 2 to 3 winds and a moderate tide. We put virtually no planning into the trip other than deciding to paddle clockwise around the Island, a decision we had made at the very last minute. The best we could do was 53 minutes and 20 seconds! We were both surprised by how slow we were and had expected to knock at least 10 minutes off Steve’s time. Indeed, with better planning, timing the tides more effectively, and ensuring a following wind down one side of the Calf whilst enjoying shelter from the wind on the other then a much better time should be possible. With this in mind Ian and I will be back but at present the time to beat is 53 minutes and 20 seconds if any one fancies a go?
(top 2 photos by Ian Smith)