Saturday, 24 May 2008

Stackpole Sea Kayak Festival

Not a sign you normally associate with the countryside

After making the long trek up to North Wales for the symposium it was nice to be able to meet up with some like minded paddler types a bit closer to home. Stackpole SeaKayak festival is held, well, at Stackpole.
This stretch of coast has been on my want to do list for a while now. Visions of caves, stacks and arches have been floating around in my head from numerous descriptions of what this coastline has to offer. Unfortunately for now they will have to remain in my head as the last spate of excellent paddling weather came to an end just as this gathering was gathering. This 3 day paddle fest began with the forecast of 5-6 occasionally 7, and ended up at gale force 9. Some higher force was determined to stop us paddling. The level 5 coaches had other plans and made a fantastic effort to achieve paddling opportunities for a mixed bag of paddlers (ranging from absolute beginners to seakayaking to experienced paddlers) on every day. Well done to them.

At our first days put-in we were greeted with the above. Jim's wind gauge showed a steady 25 knots at the above outlook, so with a group decision made, we headed off to a lee shore.
It set the tone really for the following days. Never mind, we were able to use various parts of the coast line to duck and dive the wind direction of the days, but this did mean we missed out on the paddling gems in this locality. They will be there for another day.

West Angle Bay provided us with a nice sheltered spot to get out on the water and move out into progressively rougher water around Thorn Island, at the eastern edge of the Milford Estuary. An ideal spot to practice ferry glides and to hone some rock hopping paddle skills.

Although the wind picked up for the Sunday we paddled from Lydstep Haven to Stackpole Quay, the sea state had dropped a little and we managed to get a small taster of what this beautiful coastline has to offer. This provided us with, I think the term used was,
a challenging paddle.

The final day of rain and a forecast gale 9, I decided to sit the day out in the sauna while Taliesin did a rolling session with Mark Tozer in the pool. Very civilised.

Others bravely dared to go and have more excitement.

Driving home was exciting enough for me, with bits of tree strewn across the roads, gusts of wind taking the car in directions I wasn't intending it to go. Roping the front of the kayak to the car solved the problem of the kayak bending in the wind and ensured a safe journey home!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Toys 4 boys

I've never been able to sit on a waveski without falling off. Just haven't got the balance.
I was very impressed with Tal's efforts tonight at surfing, considering this was the first time he'd ridden one.

Harry shows us how it's done

Another end to a day

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


This weekend we are due to go to this years Stackpole Sea Kayaking Festival. Thought it might be a good idea for Tal to tryout a seakayak to see how he got on. The last time he tried one was getting on to a year and a half ago. He's grown a bit since then, but even so it must be quite daunting to get into a 17 foot boat when you are his size.

I thought he got on rather well with it, but he decided on taking his small boat instead.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Adrian's Quest

Adrian leaves Reynard's Cave

A little 8km paddle after work to blow out the cobwebs. From St Donat's we headed East, dropping into Reynard's Cave at Tresilian, on past the spit at Llantwit Major and to the caves at Stout Point before returning.

Manoeuvres at Stout Point, before heading home

Adrian took his new plastic Valley Quest out for the first time, while I played around with the feather on the new blades. Previously I've been using 60 degrees, but as the Werners can be adjusted easily I did a little experimenting and ended up preferring 15 degrees. Is that an odd angle? How this will be affected by a nice headwind I am yet to find out.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Doing it on Porpoise

Towards the steelworks at Port Talbot

Meeting at Aberavon club house we paddle out towards the steel works, across the harbour entrance with the industrial back drop at Port Talbot.

Quite nice if you like heavy industry, cranes and the like.

I was surprised when a pod of harbour porpoises came to investigate us.

Porpoise ahoy!

Small video clip of the porpoises

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

I've got fibre

That's not the kind with roughage.

I owe the misfortune of trying out other peoples carbon fibre blades for the considerable lightening of my paddle and my wallet.

I ended up not sure if it was going to be Shuna or Corryvrecken.
The Shuna wasn't giving me enough resistance, I felt it wasn't grabbing enough water for my liking, wasn't stalling in the water. Might have been poor technique, I don't know.

I went for the Corryvrecken. If I've made the wrong choice, it will show soon enough.

Chris and I went for a spin along the coast around Nash buoy and back to Southerndown.

It felt a bit wierd. No strong opinions yet on the blades, many variables have changed for me to get used to. The weight, blade shape, cranks are set up in a different way. Got to give them a chance to make an impression.

Initial feedback is the difference was like starting to walking with an empty rucksack. I can get used to that!

Monday, 12 May 2008

After a hot day in the office

With some very nice weather being had, I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend the evening than down on the beach, messing about on the water. The logistics were a bit of a nightmare with the four little ones, but with them all wetsuited up and a friend to keep a keen eye on 3 of them, Tal and I went for a little paddle along the coast with Chris.

Tal takes a rest

The father son pose

When we get back, the fun and games start with various piggy back rides on the boat.
Shame Chris ran out of light, there were some cracking moments.

Llew hitches a ride

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Going after buoys

This is Jim's navigation trip. Putting into practice what he did on the navigation training at Anglesey last week.
Armed with his newly exchanged Expedition HV (he swapped is LV over to the HV as he's been eating too many doughnuts) a compass and his bearings (lost his marbles years ago he says), we head out to various fixed objects in the channel.
Leaving Ogmore beach we ferry glide over to Tusker Rock, where Jim takes a moment to refresh himself.

Jim makes a brief stop on Tusker Rock

Neal off Tusker Rock

Tusker Bell (the red thing - not the guy in the boat!)

We head to our first buoy - the Tusker Bell Buoy, which is just a short distance away. Then out on a long leg to the Scar Weather East Cardinal Buoy. Just a blip on the horizon. But we get there. Well done Jim. A short hop to the Hugo buoy and some playing on a little bit of surf on the sand bank.

Scar Weather East Cardinal

This is Hugo, Jim and Neal are surfing the sand bank in the background

Fairy West Cardinal

Then another long leg to the distant Fairy Buoy, before ferry gliding back to Ogmore.

Well navigated Jim, his tidal stream allowances were spot on. Impressive.

It was such a nice evening I didn't fancy stopping, so decided to continue on to Southerndown. Met up with Chris there. He had just bought a Dagger Outlaw for playing in the surf. (Not tonight though, as it was flat as a pancake).

Chris in his new boat

Just a tad over 28km

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Breaking In - Breaking Out- What?

Eddie, are you kidding?
I've seen you on my TV
Eddie, are you kidding? - Just Another Band From L.A.
Are you ready for a rough ride?

I like rough water (yes I thought I liked rough water), North Wales, Anglesey, has to be the classic races of the Stacks and Penrhyn Mawr.
Seen it on those TITS DVD's on the TV (hard core, kayaking porn as they are shockingly referred to).

Got to give it a shot.

Thought I'd better be enlightened on just what an eddy is, how to see one, and what to do in them. So first day of the symposium I signed up to be enlightened by Fiona as to just what was an eddy. We ventured out to play just west of Cemlyn.

Put into practice the breaking-in, breaking-out and ferry glides as well as throwing in a bit of rock hopping.

OK, done that.

Day 2: lets sign up for the overfalls and tide races then.
From Soldiers Point we dropped around through the fog to North Stack tide race and nipped through into a holding eddy.
Nice, calm, eddy. Nice eddy!
Here I sat and watched the tide race, and watched some more.
It was exactly how I felt just before jumping off the wing of an aeroplane, parachuting for the first time, I watched waiting for that moment of commitment when there is no going back. Then something in my head said go.
Off I went, I broke in and the ferry glide was fast and I moved across the conveyor belt. This was fine. Really? Yes.
OK that's enough for the minute. Lets get back to the eddy.
If my arse was puckering I don't know, as I was trying to remember to breath as I paddled like some mad thing going nowhere caught in the eddy line. All of Fiona's teachings fell into place and I broke out (I didn't know eddy lines could be a few feet wide).
I have to admit that I enjoyed that feeling of being off my comfort zone.
Big surf doesn't intimidate me at the break, but this was different somehow, smaller waves but an unknown quantity at this point. It was the uncertainty that was un-nerving. I wanted to do it again. And I did. A few more times, after each adrenalin rush had subsided. The biggest rush had to be when I was out in the race just as the wash from the Seacat came through.

Jim - wondering if or when to jump into the race at North Stack

This was the time and place to try this out, if it went tits up then there were great people about to catch you. As Jim found out.

Good on Jim for taking a swim, at least he was pushing his envelope

Hywel enjoying the moment

Finishing at North Stack we paddle west around for our lunch stop at Parliament Cave.

Lunch stop at Parliament Cave

After which we moved on to South Stack (which wasn't running - was there a small sense of relief or disapointment - I don't know), then through Penrhyn Mawr to finish at Porth Dafarach. Here we were greeted with a nice swell and some fun surfing took place before landing.

After a nice day paddle, what better way to finish the day than song and beer. So we did.

Day 3 we did the same trip again, this time fog was very thick to start and we only played at South Stack for about 5 minutes each, but there were lots of us.

The sun finally came out and we got to see the scenery we missed the previous day.

South Stack Lighthouse shrouded in mist

Returning to Porth Dafarch