Sunday, 23 October 2011

More Storms and Assessed in Anglsey

With a day of playing and enjoyment under my belt followed by an evening of frivolity partaking in a mixture of the hilarious and sometimes down right embarrassing acts of the "Around the Stacks" quiz night, I devote the remaining two days to the sobering task I've set myself at the end of the week which is to be assessed for the BCU four star leadership award. This was to be the culmination to my thoughts started back in the spring of 2009. So to bolster confidence I begin by partaking in a leadership session headed up by Nick Cunliffe.  In strong southerly force 6 winds, but to look at the photos you wouldn't believe it, our small group take it in turns to lead the others as a group along the coast to various destinations. This tested our group management skills around headlands, rock gardens and landings.

consensus of opinion of ones current location is . . .

There was little bit of a swell running that made our rock hopping session quite fun, culminating in me getting the Cappella entirely airborne, and at one point taking a rocky swim. Shame there were no pics as I understand it was quite entertaining.

The evening shenanigans was started off by a very frank presentation delivered by Jeff Allen, "In to the Wind", where he recounted his and Harry Whelan's recent record breaking achievement of the circumnavigation of Ireland in 25 days. If you get the chance to hear Jeff give this talk, take it, as it is a very open and honest account of their experience. It has an underlying message of how not to undertake a paddling expedition, where uncompromising goal setting can undermine sound judgement and decision making.

The last day of the gathering I went to a rolling clinic run by the betrothed partnership of Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer to resurrect my drysuit bloated roll.

Watching Helen perform her rolls you feel the need to be whisked off to some far eastern country, shave off all your hair, begin to chant daily, only to return when you can transcend yourself into some zen like state of being. I really, really want one of her ultra cool stealth invisible paddles.

Returning to my tent I got into the lotus position to wait out the next two days, mentally preparing myself for the forthcoming four star assessment. Anyone might think I was apprehensive.

After 2 days R&R I joined Francesco (Sicily), Mikael (Sweden) and Beat (Switzerland), to form an international group of kayakers ready for assessment. 
By then the wind had subsided to just about force 5 and the sea state had calmed right down, this gave our days assessor, Axel Schoevers, a bit of a task to find us some challenging conditions in which to test our self rescue, towing, navigation and paddling skills. But he did.

The second day's weather had built up to provide excellent conditions for today's assessment which would consist of: leadership; group management; rescue skills; navigation and paddle skills, assessed by Kate Dufus. Kate had just completed an attempt at the current circumnavigation of Anglesey the previous day.
What if Mikael were to capsize (deliberately) right now, what would I do?
Kate kept us all on our toes during our turns of "leading", throwing in various incidents. It was actually very good fun. I think everyone managed to relax and actually enjoy the experience.

Sunshine even

Which way?

Beat enjoying a swell time

Kate incident planning or planning an incident?

Beat unflinchingly enjoys a bit of clapotis

Kate having a blast!
We all return to dry land to be debriefed individually by both Axel and Kate. After being given pointers for continued improvement we were all to be awarded with our stars. Happy bunnies all around, and a very satisfying conclusion to a few great days paddling "up north".

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Storm Gathering 2011

It's was three years ago that I last ventured up to Anglsey. The island is situated at the north westerly tip of Wales and has some exceptional tide races to lure paddlers to play. It was stormy then, and it promised to be stormy again for the 2011 Storm Gathering. With the weather blowing a good southerly F6-7 there was to be no playing out on the races, and with pretty much everywhere having rough water and high winds I decided that a spot of surfing would be just the ticket to get me into the groove.

Rhosneigr for a spot of surfing
Surfing the plastic Cappella was fun - but turning around in all that wind was a bit of an effort. I took the opportunity to try out a P&H Delphin, it was a surf specification version. Shorter than the Cappella and with an excellent fitting seat and a lot of rocker it was just the job. Turning in the wind was so so easy, and surfing it was the most fun I've had in a long boat. I loved it so much I didn't want to give it up for the rest of the session. (Sorry Kate).

Surfing the Delphin in a bit of wind!
Oh dear, think I want one
I think the cheesy smile says it all
Surf pics thanks to Kate Dufus

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Duh! . . . might be useful

Thought I'd pass this on as it might be of use - I know it's obvious - but it was so obvious I overlooked it.

Did a little rolling and self rescue practice last night - after a few dunkings I thought it prudent to let the coast guard know what we were up to in case someone phoned in thinking we needed some assistance.
"You are very muffled and broken up" 
was the gist of the their return call, together with a misinterpretation of my call sign.
"Try turning into the wind sir" - 
 what wind. I couldn't figure out what the problem was.

Then it dawned on me. I don't carry my VHF in a pouch, it's "waterproof`" :), and of course during the immersions the speaker/mike grill gets flooded and doesn't necessarily drain quickly - there is a function on the radio to blast out the water by emitting a tone for a few seconds - remembering the key combination I used this and hey presto transmissions were restored strong and clear.

It made me think how important this might be to remember If I needed to make that call in dire need after being dunked or still being in the water.

How something quite simple hindered communication.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Morning Glory

Thurlestone Sands has a very memorable feature - however I remembered the feature and forgot the name, so when I came to plan this trip I'd forgotten that I'd paddled part of this trip before with Richard back in 2009 as part of the SWSKM. (Note to self to get that written up!).

Thurlestone Sands with the tide out
Thurlestone Sands with the tide in.
This time we were going to make it an overnighter. Having traveled down to Exeter to visit the South West Canoe Show - it made good sense to get a nice paddle in - particularly as the weather was quite exceptional. I think it ended up being the hottest ever October on record.

By the time we would arrive from Exeter we wouldn't have much time to paddle on the water before wanting to set up camp and chill out. Luckily there is a nice little quiet sandy bay about an hours paddle to the west of Thurlestone at Soar Mill Cove.

We launch from the sandy beach and head west.

Rounding Bolt Tail we get the full on low sun bringing out the fantastic warm colours in Paul's kayak :)


It's not long before we arrive at the evenings diggs.

Looking down on Soar Mill Cove
Chris enjoys the last of the days sun
We set up camp and cook our grub, washed down with a bottle of beer or three, watching the sun going down.


View from my tent early in the morning - you can just make out a white dot on the horizon -
it's my old friend the Eddystone Lighthouse
Doesn't look like it but the tent is perched close to a fair sized vertical drop!

A quick breakfast and we are packing our gear for an early morning start.


It's not long before we are on the water and heading east to catch the first rays of morning sunshine.




Rounding Bolt Head we enter the mouth of the estuary that leads past Salcombe and up towards our destination at Kingsbidge. It's only going to be a 2 hr paddle, but get the timing wrong and miss the tide, you will be having a long wait on mud banks waiting to refloat!

Early morning sunshine catching the headland near Sharp Tor, Starehole Bay





We arrive at the top of the tide to land on the public slipway in Kingsbridge.


Conveniently located at the other end is a very reasonable cafe where we managed to have a big boys second breakfast.

Waiting for our big boys breakfast :)
Not a very arduous trip, but one that hit the spot precisely.