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

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Isle of Man Kayakblog - Hamn i Senja.

It was pretty good to get the well travelled 3 piece Rockpool Alaw Bach in the water again. It's been a while, as I was trying to preserve it for this trip to northern Norway. It nearly all went very wrong as Norwegian customs toyed with the idea of charging me £680 pounds to allow the boat into the country. They relented, but the delays meant that we thought we'd missed out on collecting the kayak before we left Tromso. With just 10 minutes to spare before we boarded a ferry to the Island of Senja, the hotel in Tromso rang to alert us to the kayak's arrival. We didn't mind the 3 hour back track, and simply caught a later ferry. 10 minutes later and the kayak would have been effectively out of reach as we continued our journey down the "Whale Route".
It was in Hamn that I took to the water. This small harbour on the west coast of the Island of Senja is the gateway to an archipelago of over 100 smaller islands. The photos above do not do justice to the setting and in the warm summer sunshine the archipelago seemed more reminiscent of the Caribbean than this special place above the Arctic Circle. Clearly others felt so as a steady trickle of paddlers launched into the turquoise water from Hamn. They take paddling pretty seriously up here and there is a Midnight Sun Paddling Festival on Senja from the 2nd to the 5th of July if you are in the area.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Trolls.

They say that Senja rivals Lofoten. I had heard of the Lofoten Islands but not of Senja before I first travelled to Northern Norway. They, who ever they are, are right. The geography is similar with soaring, shear cliffs rising hundreds of feet vertically from the dark, icy sea. But Senja is also different to Lofoten. If it were possible it is more remote with very little compromise to tourism and hardly any accomodation. Lofoten on the other hand benefits from the hundreds fishermans huts long since vacated by trawlermen, but instead utilized by viitors from across the globe. This makes the Island of Senja feel more forbidding and more on the edge.
Having said all that the accomodation we found in Hamn is first class. A few miles down the road would be Senja's attempt at a theme park. The Troll Park contains officially the Worlds largest Troll, plus his wife for good measure. You can check it out for yourself in the Guiness Book of Records. Oh, and despite what I said in yesterday's post, Joanna Lumley is in fact incarcerated here in the senjatrollet as shown in the picture below.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Kayaking Isle of Man - Polar Museum.

One of the very best attractions in Tromso is the Polar Museum. It contains all manner of polar historical information, obviously from a Norwegian point of view. There are accounts and historical artifacts from seal hunters in the Arctic, Arctic aviation and of course much coverage of Roald Amundsen's historic victory to be the first to trek to the South Pole, thus beating Captain Scott. Fridtjof Nansen also has a whole room to himself with accounts of his heroic attempt to be the first to the North Pole by allowing his ice bound ship to drift from east to west across the frozen northern icefields. He ultimatly left his ship the "Fram", and pulled a sledge on skies which also contained a kayak towards the pole. On the 8th August 1895 conditions became so bad that the kayaks were launched but he had to abandon his attempts to reach the pole and instead headed south. Nansen was ultimatly rescued and the polar museum contains a replica of his kayak as shown above. It is amazing to see how similar to modern kayaks it really is, with only the materials of construction differing, and of course there are no bulk heads.
One of the reasons we decided to explore Northern Norway was the BBC TV program featuring Joanna Lumley's search for the Northern Lights. She was ultimatly successful in her quest not far from Tromso. As you can see from the photograph below, she never left Norway and remains preserved in the Polar Museum for all time!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Tromso

As I get older I seem to be becoming more polar than tropical, at least in my temperature preferences. Tromso in Northern Norway certainly fits the bill. One of the largest cities above the Arctic Circle, it lies just 600 miles from the North Pole. The seasons here seem to be in a time warp as weather and vegetation have assumed the Spring like characteristics present on the Isle of Man several months ago. Tulips and fresh buds are profound, and when the sun disappears behind an occasional cloud, there is a distinct but welcome chill.
And that brings me to the sun. Yesterday they celebrated Summer solstice with much merryment and festival. It is strange as we awaken through the night, that it is never dark. Snapping photographs around the city I've noticed that the sun hardly changes its position, whatever the time of the day. Perhaps it is this dedication to all things solar that enables Tromso to "rock", a kind of Liverpool transported to a Vancouveresque setting.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Hostage.

The thing about holidays is that the more elaborate they are, the more worry is involved. I also think it is inevitable there will be crises! We've already had our first and we haven't even set off yet! However, my kayak has and in fact it left the Isle of Man 5 days ago.
The 3 piece Rockpool Alaw Bach is currently in Oslo, Norway. It shouldn't be though! The boat should be about 1000 miles north, above the Arctic Circle, in Tromso. Yesterday, Norwegian customs decided that in order to allow the kayak to progress any further, I would have to pay £680! You can imagine the flurry of emails which resulted from the various carriers involved. It has to be said that one carrier in the UK (not TNT) completely washed their hands of the problem, and this combined with poor customer service, means I won't be using them again. In the end I made a phone call through to TNT Norway, and discovered that customs had relented and released my kayak. I'm hoping we will get it in Tromso on Tuesday, only a few days late. I'm also hoping it remains intact. By the end of this year not only will the boat have explored Northern Norway, but it has trips to Orkney and the Outer Hebrides to survive.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Crash.

I've seen the fallout from 2 accidents in the past 24 hours. The first was the mangled remains of a riderless motorcycle beneath a big 4 x 4 car. In this case reverse was selected a bit too vigorously, felling the parked bike. The second involved another parked car, the driver of which meant to select reverse, but instead selected drive. The car demolished a 1 foot thick stone wall behind which he had parked!
They say accidents come in threes! Well I hope not. I've just "posted" my 3 piece Rockpool Alaw Bach from the Isle of Man all the way to Tromso in northern Norway. We hope to meet up with the kayak in about 7 days all being well. I'm hoping it doesn't sustain the catastrophic damage it suffered during it's return trip from Vancouver Island last year. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Too much race.

Jess and I headed for the Sound again today. It was huge with massive breaking rollers rampaging in from the west, propelled forward by the force 5 winds. We timed it perfectly to hit the race at full flood, and it was. Concerned by what I saw I beached my boat and climbed the rocks to survey the race. For the first time I can remember we thought better of it. It's difficult to capture in the photos above but every wave was breaking and dumping. There really was nothing to surf. We could only hope to survive not play, and even that was in doubt. If a rescue had been necessary it would have been risky for both parties as 17 foot kayaks would be tossed around by the enormous 20 foot waves. Normally this race has a beginning and an end but not today as we watched it disappear off to Ireland. We decided to disappear off to Port Erin for ice cream.
The top most photo is of the Manx equivalent of an Inter City 125 as I was held up on my journey to our paddling venue.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Full On!

We headed off in the general direction of the Sound. There were no thoughts of surfing the race as we didn't have spring tides. But we stumbled upon a tidal race at full speed and in all its glory. We still have much to learn about what makes a race work. Sometimes we venture down to the Sound, with 5 metre plus tides predicted and we are often disappointed. Today's 4.6 metre tide was souped up by residual swell from yesterdays storms, plus a healthy dose of wind against tide.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Chasing the waves.

Chicken Rock is a scary place. At the same time I love it out there. Our usual play spots lay dormant and so Jess and I paddled on to the Chicken Rock Lighthouse. Looking at the photos above you can see why this place is so dangerous to the unwary. In the first picture Jess and I paddle through the blue, flat, sun drenched sea off the Calf of Man, on an idyllic Summers day. As we always do, a couple of practice roles are required. In the time it takes for me to submerge and re-emerge from the sea, a respectable tidal race appears. If you look carefully in the second photograph you can just about see the upper part of Jess on the horizon, which helps to put the wave size into perspective. But this was no friendly playful race. I chased promising surf spots from point to point. As soon as I cornered some nice looking surf waves they would vanish, only to reappear 50 or 100 metres away. If I did manage to chase them down, once aligned they would change direction, and break over me from the side forcing a hard fought high brace. We gave up and battled the ferocious currents and further races to reach the calm, peaceful tranquility of the Sound, which is our usual tidal race surf spot!