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, 30 October 2011


Friday we launched from Sandsend just NW of Whitby, plenty of parking and an easy launch at LW. Two days before the waves had been crashing up over the car park and part of the sea defenses had fallen in. Even today, returning at HW was not so easy, this corner of the bay concentrates the swell.

Along to Whitby, the harbour has a complex entrance of an outer funnel outside of the older breakwaters. There is a gap between these on the East side (see just above Liz's bow) , but on the West the gap has a sill with a bridge over it, swell can escape, but not the kayaker. At LW there was little movement, but the pilot says that; 'tidal flow is insignificant within the bay, but 3-4kt may flow across the harbour entrance'.

Sunnyyyy! and a chance to explore blogger etiquette now that we recognise each other from the web.

In the entrance to Robin Hood's Bay a strange sea beast was respiring energetically sending up clouds of spray.

A gap in the swell and the beast reveals itself to be the boiler and engine of a wreck.

Landfall in Robin Hood's Bay, this would not be an easy landing at HW even in the light swell we have today.

On the way back, Liz paddles inshore to look at something.

The swell rises up; hiding; boat, body, head, finally even the hat, and I hear the wave breaking.... Tow rope ready? Yes it is, and I prepare to paddle hard to the rescue.

Still afloat..... the swell had only caught her stern then playfully let her go.

This really is a fine coast.

Back at Whitby,

we enter the port, suddenly so busy after the empty sea, even a rescue helicopter circling overhead.

Now to plan our exit. It is quite busy with shipping in and out and the threatened 3kts across the harbour entrance is, improbably, a reality. Improbable since it should be almost slack water according to the tidal atlas and running East to West if anything, not West to East, there must be an eddy in the bay. This makes a race sweeping around the west breakwater and streaming out through the gap in the east side and cutting diagonally across between the piers in a violent eddy. The moment, in front of hundreds of onlookers, to get the break-in just right. An exit option in the west like in the east would be useful, but the sill is sucking dry in the swell, so a spirited attack on the current at the west entrance is needed. Once out of the tide, a gentle paddle back to Sandsend. Not such an easy landing and an ice cream van strategically parked across the top of the steps didn't allow space to manoeuvre our 5.20m around. Oh well, it was the end of a near perfect day out.

A few days based in Saltburn

Wednesday morning was bright and sunny at Saltburn. However, the swell was on the large side, and, despite having our helmets in the car, we decided against tackling it. Magic seaweed had it at 9' and Windguru 8'.

We drove along to Skinningrove, thinking there might be a deep channel out through the waves, but it was closed out with 3m waves dumping a long way out.

From 200m up on the cliffs between Skinningrove and Boulby, the scale of the swell is obvious, with sets breaking over 1/2 nm out to sea. We met the Rainsleys later in the week, at sea, under Whitby light house; they had also decided against launching on this section of coast on 'Big Wednesday'.

Thursday was overcast and threatening, but launching at Runswick Bay posed no problems.

The swell was down to 4', but even so we had to stay well offshore to avoid the well spaced larger breaking sets. The cliffs are 100-200m high. The pilot predicts weak tidal flows along this coast, but at one stage when we should have had maybe 0.5kt with us, it was like paddling through treacle even with the F3 tailwind. We shot back against the wind. Complicated eddies along the coast.

We heard a rumble, and a then crash, as a substantial cliff fall left a cloud of dust blowing along the beach. There were a few fossil hunters on the beaches after yesterday's swell, so we paddled in a close as we dared, hoping not to see a casualty. No-one seemed to be around, so it had not been set off by an incautious geological hammer.

Staithes is a picture post card village, despite the Boulby potash mine behind it. Surf was breaking over the reefs on either side, but a narrow deep water channel leads straight into the harbour.

Monday, 24 October 2011

A rare sight: pintail ducks on the river

Stormy at the weekend, so we launched from this weir, a stones throw from my parents' home.

Autumn colours, laughing as I let my stern be carried backwards out over the weir. Why do I have to flirt with the possibility of an embarrassing exit from the photo?
Then up river into the tide, 'current' as I believe it is called in freshwater.
The viaduct is the normal Summer limit of navigation, and even then a bump and a scrabble up over a couple of gravel runs. Now with more water and boats that can make way uptide much faster than our playboats, we could master the rapids, even if it was mm by mm at times, and paddle beyond the Ormsides.

Here making use of the side channel believed to have been cut by the Romans as they improved the navigation as far as their fort at Verteris (now Brough).

Dark was falling as we slid home downtide and downwind, practising breaking in and breaking out.

Was that dark head swimming across the river an otter?

Postscript: Friday 17th February 2012 we watched 2 otters, female plus 3/4 grown cub, making their way in and out of the water for 2 miles along the banks here as dusk was falling. A magical stalking session.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

First Time on the Water

Remember that pep talk prior to sitting in a kayak for the first time? The 'Dancer' was the perfect boat and the sunshine last Friday ideal for a first trip on the water with some friends from Germany.

The Continental Ferry Port was busy and we had to wait for an inbound banana boat...

so big compared to us, gliding in with 2 tugs. We kept well clear, fearing some turbulence from the propellers, but at minimum revolutions, it barely disturbed the water.

Then on around Whale Island, passing HMS Bristol, shepherded by the Anas acuta,

and heading off across Portsmouth Harbour.

A lovely day on the water as we made our way to Portchester Castle for ice cream,

then back again to Tipner, still smiling after 5nm.

Portsmouth may not be bucolic, but it is a fine spot for a first paddle; come to that, any paddle.