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

Monday, 26 October 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - 7!

We had force 8 gales here on the Isle of Man this weekend. On Sunday Ian and myself headed for Port Erin to make the most of the strong Westerly winds. It was one of those days when, in a sea kayak at least, you must keep the bow of the boat straight into the wind. Any small deviation to one side or the other would result in the weather, rather than us, determining our course. Because of this we tended to stick to the bay. Paddling up towards Fleshwick or down to the Sound could have resulted in us being blown onto the base of the steep cliffs. But this way the worst that could happen is that we would be forced back onto the Beach.
We encountered some of the biggest waves I've ever paddled in once out of the Bay, especially those thrown up by the underwater reef on the left side of the entrance. I wished I could have got some better photos, but out there it was impossible to take your hands of the paddle for long enough to use a camera.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - 24 hours.

What a difference 24 hours can make. The photo above is of a flat calm, windless blue desert with Jess just visible in the distance. It was a desert as Ian, Jess and myself failed to catch a single fish over several hours on Saturday.

But 24 hours later the deep blue was replaced by the battleship grey of a typical gusty Autumn Irish Sea day. Force 5 SW winds across spring tides at the Sound produced challenging conditions. Ian was forced to role a record breaking 11 times! I rolled once and Jess remained unscathed. All 3 of us were in Rockpool boats. Jess normally paddles a different model of boat but for various reasons, she borrowed my Rockpool Alaw Bach putting me in my 3 piece Alaw Bach. I think it would be fair to say that in her usual boat she sometimes struggles to catch the waves in the race but in the Rockpool she was transformed. I don't think this is all that surprising as the Alaw and Alaw Bach were designed and built by Rockpool for Rough water conditions, but even I was amazed by just how much difference a change of boat seemed to make.
The middle 4 photos were taken by Jessica Egelnick as most of my own attempts failed to turn out on this day.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Kayak Fishing.

There's no doubt that for me sea kayaking is about rough water, fast moving tides and strong winds. This is what we experienced as we headed out from Niarbyl on the west side of the Isle of Man on Sunday. As force 5 to 6 north westerly winds battered the Niarbyl rock formations, we headed directly outwards on course for Ireland. This must have looked a bit odd, and perhaps even reckless, to those on the shore near the Niarbyl Cafe. We just wanted the waves on the nose so that we would have an exhilarating surf back to shore.
The trouble for us is that on occasion, even on the Isle of Man, we get flat calm days. We've probably cancelled more trips because it was too calm rather than too stormy! Monday was one such day but we now have a solution. Ian and Jess have been kayak fishing for a while using crabbing hand lines with feathers and a weight attached. I wasn't persuaded but Ian bought a line for me and so in the still calm weather Monday bought, we headed out for Chicken Rock Lighthouse. We were quickly rewarded by the sighting of a pod of dolphins in one of the almost permanent tidal flows which sweep around the rock. It didn't take long for us to begin hauling out pollock from the same spot. I am now a convert to the sport of kayak fishing, and I need never dread again those flat calm days.
(Top photo by Ian Smith)

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Iceland Panoramas.

We spent last week in Iceland. It's a new country both politically and geologically. Iceland only became independent from Denmark in the 1940's, and the island is studded with volcanoes, many of which are still busy spewing out new bits of Iceland. All this volcanic activity is reflected in the landscape. Steam rises from the ground, there are craters and numerous obviously volcanic peaks. Vast lava flows scar the countryside, interrupted by tall lava spouts, and much of the island resembles the surface of the moon. But other areas of the island are much older, with tall peaks and fjords reminiscent of Norway. The original Icelandic settlers from about 1000 years ago originated in Norway, and a version of ancient Norse is still spoken.
Iceland is quirky and Reykjavik's trendy bars, pubs, restaurants and shops rival those of much larger capitals. The people are stylish and Icelandic design and architecture is on display everywhere. Over half of the county's 300.000 population live in the capital, Reykjavik. This, along with the variable geography, extraordinarily extreme weather and vast open roads gives the impression of a much larger country. Much of Iceland is empty. To be honest much of Iceland is uninhabitable and 15% of it is under permanent ice cap. The vast central areas are virtually unreachable, and it is illegal to drive in much of the central desert without a special off road driving license.
I enjoyed Iceland and I would go again. One week is not long enough to fully appreciate all that it has to offer. And yet, as my Nordic safari continues, for me there was possibly a bit too much "newness" going on compared to some of the other Scandinavian countries I have visited. With their recent economic boom, which has now collapsed, many of the buildings are very recent indeed. Much of Reykjavik is new and, along with many towns and villages in Iceland , it has a prefabricated feel to it. It is very clean, neat and modern, but fails to capitalize on natural building materials such as stone and wood. Corrugated iron and concrete prevail, admittedly to a high standard. Despite this I thoroughly recommend Iceland as a holiday destination.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - 250!

I paddled alone today. My usual partners made excuses like "I have to go to work" and "my car is broken - again". I planned to circumnavigate the Calf of Man but when I reached the Sound I was pleasantly surprised to find some fine surfing waves. There wasn't much flow in the race but there were some high energy, long wavelength rollers piling in from the west with a following wind. These hit the small amount of flow from the race head on and reared up to become tall, breaking surf waves. These were like the waves you get on a good surf beach, with the tidal race flow acting like the shallows of a beach pushing the wave energy upwards. They were great for surfing, effortless, and with no beach to spoil the effect. The above pictures don't really do it justice.
Of course we live in days of extreme political correctness and health and safety awareness. Soon it will be compulsory to wear a high visibility jacket the whole time, even around the house. Stairs will soon be banned and everyone, even children, will have to be police checked! So this blog posting comes with a disclaimer: never go into a tidal race alone! In fact never go in a tidal race at all - they are dangerous!
This is the 250th blog posting!