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!

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