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

Monday, 23 March 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Learning to paddle again!

I took my new Mega Jester Trident out today in an attempt to familiarise myself with the new surf boat. After nearly 4 years in sea kayaks, I needed gentle conditions to get the hang of it, and to adjust the foot pads etc. But as I arrived in Port Erin the promenade flag poles were buckling in the force 6 to 7 winds! Simply removing the boat from the roof rack and carrying the ultra light carbon Mega to the sea proved difficult enough. And so it was a harsh christening for me and the new boat!
My first impressions were of how vulnerable I felt in this tiny, feather lite kayak. At the same time the infusion moulded carbon/kevlar structure felt rigid and strong, despite the pounding it received. The low profile means that you are mostly in the water rather than on it, until surfing of course. The lack of buoyancy bulk heads offering storage for safety gear such as flares and VHF means you have fewer options, especially when alone as I was. Emptying the boat, even on the beach, is not straight forward as there is no plugged drainage port. Self rescue might be a problem. However, rolling the Mega wasn't!
The waves weren't massive but the wind was menacing. This thoroughbred boat is so sensitive, twitchy and sharp that I constantly had to brace and paddle to stay upright. Its nothing like a sea kayak, and beach surfing is nothing like tidal race paddling. But after 30 minutes I got the hang of it. Being able to spin in a second to catch that perfect wave was a revelation. Once I abandoned the stern rudder and adopted a front "D" stance with my paddle, just flicking left and right as necessary, I got some amazing runs. However, I was surprised at how easily the bow buried itself on steep waves and I had to lean quite far back to maintain momentum.
I've still allot to learn about the boat and beach surfing. I also need to get a spray deck that fits, and doesn't leak and implode. But I think I've made a sound investment enabling me to paddle in virtually any weather conditions now.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Langness.

After a circumnavigation of the Calf on Friday, Jess, Ian and myself paddled at Langness, Isle of Man on Saturday.. This was a departure from our usual tidal race obsession, but paddling the flat water in sunny, Spring conditions made a fairly welcome change. Besides, our paddle wasn't completely innocent. We were there to map out some new tidal races which we hope to exploit. I guess we figured that if we could find them at neap tide, they should be impressive at springs. Langness looks promising for future tidal race action and will provide us with an alternative to our usual play spot down at the Calf Sound.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Kayaking Isle of Man - Mega!

My new Mega Jester Trident surf kayak arrived today. With it's vacuum infusion carbon/Kevlar construction it's as light and rigid as possible. I've not had a chance to use it yet but just staring at it will do for now.
Whilst on the subject of carbon/Kevlar kayaks I was in touch with Mike Webb of Rockpool Kayaks yesterday. He's currently building the first ever carbon/Kevlar Alaw Bach. The exciting prospect of top spec carbon boats from Rockpool has made me think about trading in one of my two Alaw Bachs for a top spec Isel. The Isel is a shortened version of the Alaw Bach originally designed for the smaller paddler, but in fact Mike has inadvertently produced a fantastic, tight fitting, responsive tidal race boat. I'm fond of tidal races and will be discussing the specs of the new boat with Mike after the Paddlefest in Nottingham ( 28 / 29 th March 2009 ).

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Kayaking Isle of Man - Facebook!

I beat my recent record this morning. I reactivated my Facebook account for 8 minutes before deactivating it again. I guess I'm motivated by herd instinct; everyone is on Facebook and so I should be. Trouble is when I do reactivate it I rapidly become tired and irritated by the whole process. Firstly I have to make sure I am happy with my profile. Facebook chose a photo of me and even cropped it to highlight my face! I didn't like the picture it chose and so I had to find one I did favour and upload it. The few friends I have on facebook then unfold their lives to me - some even tell me what they are eating. I now feel pressurised to do the same but how far should I take this? Just exactly how much detail of my life is required and is anyone really interested? What if I wash my face - do you want to know? I worry someone will "write on my wall" and I may not read it in good time. This could cause them great offence and so again I feel pressurised to be logged on. Perhaps I should install Facebook onto my cell phone and that way the torment could last 24/7! But most of all, I fear someone will throw pooh at me! Yep, I've deactivated my account again.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - More Tidal Race Action.

There should be a grading system for tidal races. If there was then yesterday's would have ranked pretty high! When there's allot of "white" with breakers and "streaking" of most of the waves, it is big. And so it was with a bit of caution that Jess and I entered the Sound yesterday.
An exhausting couple of hours of exhilaration followed. Near the end I got wiped out by an enormous breaker which hit me side on. I've never been inside a working washing machine but I should imagine what followed would not be dissimilar. I spun for what seemed like 20 or 30 seconds. Everything was white and I had no idea where the surface was. Eventually the rotation stopped but still all I could see were masses of white bubbles. I guessed where the surface might be and pushed my paddle as far upwards as I could reach. Hauling down I flicked my hips and miraculously righted myself only to be hit by another huge breaker. This time my brace worked and I paddled on. I think that the lower most photograph is me shortly after I emerged, judging by the wetness of my hair.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Update.

I've not paddled since the above photos were shot 2 weekends ago. With two weeks of leave ahead of me I intend to make the most of any paddling opportunities which may arise. In fact Jess and I are off to the Sound tomorrow. The tidal race should be pretty massive!. I'm also hoping that my new Mega Surf Kayak will arrive soon, but so far no response from Mega to my email - the new boat should have been here by now! I may have to revert to the telephone!
I've been surprised by the response to the medical post I put up on last week. It proved very popular. In fact, perhaps I should abandon writing about kayaking and just concentrate on medicine? Either way, I've been asked by quite a few readers why it can no longer be accessed. The answer is it can but it's not easy. To rectify this I'm going to archive them here. There will be a new medical post each week but only on KAYAK. Once the blog entry is replaced it will be archived on the "Welsh Faller" site.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Lose yourself..

I guess people paddle for all sorts of reasons. Fortunately it's possible to kayak in many different ways. From a sedate flat water paddle on a lake to a grade 5 river run, there really is something for everyone. My preference is the latter, however, we're not blessed with our rivers on the Isle of Man and so I substitute a tidal race for a creek. Tidal race paddling is superb exercise. A couple of hours in a 5 knot current seems equivalent to any of my gym sessions. Of course it's great fun and represents a chance to demonstrate the skills you have acquired over the years. But most of all, as you can see from the photographs above, it's possible to really "lose yourself". Whilst the rest of your life might be degrading into a chaotic mess, non of this matters whilst you are in that race. The effects can last several days beyond the experience. It's better than a dose of prozac. You have to take that everyday! There'll be a new more serious "medical" post on KAYAK later in the week.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - 2 Blogs.

The pictures above were taken last weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday were fantastic paddles on big seas. Saturday was all about wind driven swell, and Sunday was about tidal race flow. I've got so many photos from that weekend which will come in handy over the next few months. Many thanks to Jess who snapped some amazing pictures, only some of which I have so far posted.
A few posts ago I mentioned that I had created a second "mirror" blog of Isle of Man Kayakblog. I did this for purely technical reasons. However, I've now realised that this has solved another problem for me. For some time now I've wanted to post some "medical" blog entries. However, I did not feel that the majority of kayakers would be interested. I really did not want them to end up on, to where this blog is streamed. The two blog approach has solved this. The entries which appear on Kayakblog and those that are fed to will usually be identical. Occasionally however, non kayaking medical posts may appear on KAYAK but not in the main blog, as will posts predominantly aimed at a Manx readers.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Brutal

On Sunday Ian, Jess and myself hit the tidal races down at the Calf Sound, Isle of Man. Strong tides and opposing winds made it brutal! Shaky at first it took me about 20 minutes to gain my paddling composure and exploit the surfing potential at hand.
I shouldn't have relaxed as the brutality continued. Lining myself up for another surf run in the most gnarly "hole" in the race there was a loud bang followed by a sickening thud half way up my chest. I fell sideways both winded and disorientated. Half out of my kayak and with the deck popped, I lay across the water, still in the race, motionless. I was disabled for a few seconds but it felt like minutes. There was no prospect of rolling as I was out. Of course I'd been hit by another kayak from behind and was only really saved by my buoyancy aid. Clearly these serve as "flak jackets" as well as helping you to float.
I got myself together and re-entered the kayak and rolled back up, but not before a few more seconds of hapless flailing about whilst swimming in the race.The shock and force of the impact seemed to throw me and my composure was gone. Once upright I paddled to the eddy and surveyed my boat for damage. There was very little and it amounted to a gouge and a few scratches. I think my chest took most of the impact! Of course if you are ever in this situation and are hurtling along at speed towards a kayaker who can't see you, please role. Mind you, I'm not innocent myself as a few years ago I did the same thing to Butler at Fenella Beach.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Kayaking Isle of Man - The Perfect Race.

Big tides and an opposing wind produced the perfect tidal race on Sunday. Many thanks to Jess for snapping these photographs with my Pentax Optio W60 which is damaged but still working! More photos to follow over the next few days.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Caution.

On Saturday Jess and I paddled to South Harbour, Calf of Man. Our timing for the Sound races was wrong as we were about 30 minutes from the ebb. All that awaited us were huge wind generated rollers with very little flow. Surfing them was possible but not easy.
We headed off around the Calf but on the SW coast gnarly, huge waves generated by the force 6 winds confronted us. A few were breakers and I think we both felt tested on occasion. Round the back of the Calf these would have driven us onto the cliffs. Especially difficult would have been the funnel through which we would have been propelled as we approached the Stack race. Once round the back of the Calf you are committed and there are no landing areas.
At South Harbour we landed and walked the short distance to the cliffs overlooking Chicken Rock and surveyed the next section of our paddle. We thought we could make it but one capsize, or if the wind strengthened as predicted and this paddle could seem reckless. Jess and I back tracked to the Sound and practiced our roles in the now flowing small race. Today we will time it better as tidal race perfection awaits Jess, Ian and myself with strong tides and an opposing wind.