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

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Fort William.

I've been working up in Fort William, Scotland, for a couple of weeks. In fact I've been working a lot, but I have found time on a couple of occasions to paddle. The first trip was in the sea loch at Fort William as shown in the top photograph with Ben Nevis in the background. The second paddle was on a fresh water lake extending into the mountains, perpendicular to the Great Glen.
Paddling a sea kayak in fresh water is a new experience for me. I felt a little bit like Ray Mears setting off in a canoe in some remote part of the Canadian wilderness. Certainly as I paddled deeper into the mountains and the rough tracks disappeared, I did appreciate that the only way to reach this spot was by foot or by kayak. The water was flat and uninteresting, but the solitude and silence compensated for the calm conditions and I soon began to appreciate that I was the only person for miles around.
I liked the isolation. I liked the fact that I would emerge for once not salty, and that as I paddled my gear was washing itself after Monday's salt water trip. I didn't like rolling in the peat stained water which, as I stared upwards to place my paddle for the role upright, was like gazing out of a freezing cold cup of tea! I didn't like the shock I felt as two loud explosions emanated from a fish farm as I paddled to close. These were presumably bird scarers but they nearly tested the integrity of my dry suite in reverse. I guess I'm not completely sold on paddling on lakes, but I'll give it another go on Monday. Meanwhile, if I can find a few waves and a bit of tide I may change my plans.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Lost.

Last Sunday Jess, Ian and myself took part in one of those paddles we will always remember. We circumnavigated the Calf of Man from Port Erin, as we have done on many previous occasions. As we rounded the Stack to the southerly side of the Calf we were hit by a SW force 5 wind directly opposing the tide. The gnarly conditions resulting are shown in the photos above. What isn't shown above is the final tidal race at the "drinking dragon" through which we had to paddle to complete the circumnavigation. Ian went first and only just made it through against the fast flow. Having watched Ian, Jess and I thought better of it and opted to paddle through the slightly slower flowing but massive tidal race along side the smaller race. We estimated the wave size to be 30 to 40 foot, the flow was against us and we had to surf our way through. Very quickly we were engulfed by two extra large waves and once I'd gathered myself and spun around, there was no longer any sign of Jess. In fact she had surfed the first wave, and was capsized by the second, but managed to role back up. I circled around in the race looking for her but as we occupied separate valleys between the mountainous surf, I just couldn't find her. We both thought the other was lost for a short while, until on the peak of another monster, I just caught sight of her and I continued on through the race. Whilst all this drama was taking place Ian thought we were both "playing" the surf and re-entered the race so as to not miss out on the fun!