Paddles with an Anas acuta...... unashamedly biased toward the sea kayak of that name (actually the voyages of two boats, one 'traffic over gold', one 'quill')

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Paddling around Hayling Island May 31st

Sunday 31st May the club met for a paddle from Langstone Bridge. Some of us continued to circumnavigate Hayling Island in hot sunshine, the greenland paddle encourages a lazy action which nevertheless covers the miles at a good speed.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Salcombe Weekend

This weekend the Club meet was at Salcombe, near perfect weather with a calm sea and just enough swell to make rock hopping fun. We were a large group as this lunchtime scene shows. Over the 3 days we took our time, covering the coast from Brixham to Bigbury, investigating every rock and cove.

A cloudless sky on Saturday and Sunday, here I am amongst the rocks.

A grey start on Monday turning to bright sunshine. My wife is paddling ahead of me. What boat does she paddle?

It has an upturned tail.

It has to be another Anas acuta, what else?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Stercorarius skua

Out on Rubha Coigeach this bird was one of a pair starting to defend a nesting area, but it let me come within a metre to take this photograph. The great skua is one of my favourite birds, along with the pintail duck of course.

So understated, rather tubby looking, but letting you walk up to them is based on confidence rather than laziness. They know that they can out-fly any bird in the sky and beat off any ground based predator. Back in the 1970s I hitchhiked on fishing boats and ended up on Foula. Once there, it proved hard to get off, and the best place for my tent was amongst a colony of these birds. They attack unmercilessly if defending eggs and chicks, coming in low and sweeping up into your face, raking their clawed feet across your scalp. However, after a couple of days, they accorded me my own territory around the tent, so I was free to watch them.

Harrassing a bird like a gannet to get them to release their catch, they fly so fast and turn so tightly, the larger bird has no where to go. If that doesn't work, I have seen them grab the tail or wing of the bird in mid-air sending both into a death-tumble to the ground. Once the gannet drops the fish, the skua breaks away and swoops to catch it in mid air whilst the other bird is still struggling to regain control before hitting the ground or sea.

Cailleach (Dalek?) Head

Approaching Cailleach Head, just above these rocks and above HW, a large dry and comfortable cave has been kitted out with wooden herring boxes, these were abundant until the mid 1970s and I guess some gangrel lived there for a time 40 years ago.

The Head itself, with the Tardis awaiting the next coming of the daleks. Click to zoom in and you will see what I mean.

Round the Head, the wind was whipping across from the east.

Squally weather

Not what I wanted, a F6 squall approaching from starboard,

giving a choppy sea with plenty of white horses.

Stattic point

Stattic point with wind funnelling down Little Loch Broom.

Landing for breakfast.

Red sandstone pebbles and a narrow beach out of the swell

Gruinard Bay

It was a 2.5 nm crossing to the tip of Gruinard Island, now safe, even delightful, to land on, after being decontaminated in 1990. A sea eagle soared close overhead being mobbed by hooded crows. Top tip, buy a boat with a shapely bow, you will be seeing a lot of it.

My final landing was in the small cove just north of Gruinard Bay.

Zoom in and you will see both boat and tent, Gruinard Island in the background.

Gruinard Bay next door is, as ever, the best beach in Britain.

Still in tandem

Having thought of our honeymoon, here we are, still clipped in together.

Landfall at Mellon Udrigle

It was so calm that I could brew up on the beach.

A honeymoon couple took a picture of me in glorious spring sunshine, 17 hours that day. Thoughts of our own honeymoon, 30 years ago, camped high on Snowdon in the snow in late November....

Despite hesitating to recommend any paddling gear because it is so much down to individual preference, the Liquid Blue trousers with latex sock feet, made in Britain with British fabric really do the business for me.

Greenstone Point

Greenstone Point was calm except for the swell,

but I was pleased to be passing it and only a few miles to go to a beach after a long stretch of coast with no possible landing places in the swell. Mellon Charles to Mellon Udrigle is about 8 nm of rocky coast and Slaggan Bay and Leac Mhor were closed out. It was Spring tides and peak flow with me, about 1kt, so easy paddling.

Ocean swell

The sea was calm except for a lazy swell,

however, it was sufficiently active for me not to try the arch.

Elsewhere the foam was building into rafts and lines.

Brief encounter

Zoom in on the image and, despite the limitations of my snapshot Pentax Optio W10, you will see a fin cutting through the water. A Risso's dolphin broke its rapid progression down the coast well offshore by suddenly shooting towards me, fin and back out of the water. Submerging just when collision looked inevitable, it came up on the other side, circled me at speed for a minute, then resumed its course. An animal living life in the fast lane.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Campsite on the Isle of Ewe

My campsite near the north end of the island

had a fine vista of the Torridon hills from just offshore

hard frost for mid May

but good neighbours, the grey-lag mother goose was initially suspicious but soon settled down and had the ducklings out on the water 24 hours later.

Ground nesting herons on the other hand made noisy neighbours but I was up soon after dawn at 0500 for the shipping forecast anyway.

Solo Paddling in Scotland

Just back from a spot of solo paddling along the coast. This is the entrance of Loch Ewe last week. Despite having done plenty of solitary mountaineering, even in Winter, I started my trip with some trepidation. Was lone kayaking for me? The swell looks larger, the waves steeper and the rocky shore less inviting for a forced landing when you are on your own. Is a 101% record for self rescue in practice sessions valid for real life? It took a couple of days for me to relax into the trip.

More posts to follow.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Anas acuta in its native habitat?

Modelled on a Greenland boat, the Anas acuta appears perfectly at home in the ice.
The finely up-turned bow rises onto the ice and slowly opens up a lead under its own weight

Allowing exploration of this largely frozen lake in Norway.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Not just sea kayaking

Just to prove that I have other interests, here I have swapped the yellow boat for a yellow bike. Cycling up Snowdon last December. The railway is an easy gradient but soft ballast in places slows you up.The alternative involves a certain amount of walking.
You can see that my bike is the same great colour as the Anas acuta.
We reached the top in about 2 hours.
And were down again in 20 minutes following the Snowdon Ranger path. Where the track zigzags just above the snow line it is very steep and rocky, but we were all in one piece and only two pinch flats between us.

Portsmouth Canoe Club 30th Anniversary

Last weekend the Portsmouth and District Canoe Club celebrated 30 years of paddling with a trip over to the Isle of Wight, on the way over we had to wait for a ferry near the Horse Elbow buoy.The bivouac was on the HW mark near Culver Cliff, stretching a tarp between the boats when it came on to rain in the night. However, we woke to a cloudless sky. A gentle surf was breaking on the ledges giving a tropical feel, further enhanced by several herons out on the ledges, for all the world like tropical reef herons.
On the return we rested in the lee of No Man's Land Fort for a while as a force 4 headwind had sprung up.
Then paddled on across the channel 'between the forts' landing at Eastney to meet some other club members who had been on a day paddle in the Solent. A barbecue on the beach rounded off the trip nicely.

Night paddling

Now that Summer is here, the fun of Winter nights is becoming a distant memory. Here is the Anas with my Wife's Skim and a friend's Cetus, come together for a January night on the tidal Hamble with pack-ice an unexpected hazard.

Shapely even on land

Upside down, helping anchor the tent in a force 6-7, the Anas shows the slim curves that give it that perfect blend of quick turning, stability and speed.

The Anas in expedition mode

All the kit for 3 weeks wild camping and 10 days food somehow fit inside. The 'traffic over gold' colour is also perfect for a low tide landing in the kelp. Circumnavigating Skye in April sunshine.

On the Solent again

When waiting for the others or just enjoying the water, my favourite distraction is paddle balancing. It is surprisingly easy to balance a greenland paddle on your head, but winds above force 3 often create a tricky helicopter effect.