Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My first solo paddle!

Hooray!  I just did my first solo trip!  Not that I went very far at all and it nearly didn’t happen…

I have never been solo paddling before, in the main because I live on my own and find it blooming difficult to do anything with my boat without assistance.  Today, I was determined.   I got into the drysuit and I contorted myself to pull the zip.  Then I employed the bathroom door handle.  Knackered, but in!

Then I tried to put the boat on the car.  Out comes some old carpet and I slide her up the back windscreen up to the rack.  Tough but manageable.  Only my garage was built for hobbits and the end of the boat is now stuck under the garage door.  So I pushed it clear.  Now the boat is too far forward on the rack.  ‘Ah ha’ thought I, ‘I’ll just drive forward a bit’.  Put car into gear, begin to move and……… Two thousand pounds of sea kayak flies off the roof and onto the drive.  Much swearing but increased determination.  Out the car.  Boat up bonnet and front windscreen (this is much easier it transpires).  Still too far forward (you can see where this is going).  Back into car, attempt to pull forward a little, whoosh….. sea kayak heads down bonnet again.  MORE SWEARING!  This time, I move it out of the way and try to drive up the drive a little.  The car doesn’t seem to be moving very much.  Get out.  Boat back on.  More or less in the right place now so garage door is shut and straps fastened.  Get in car.  Put car in gear.  Car does not move.  Change gear.  Car still does not move.  Get out of car.  There is a lot of smoke coming from the wheels….. Take mats out of car, place under wheels, get in car, put car into gear, car still does not move.  Engine having a hissy fit.  Car cannot get up icy drive! Thwarted before I even began!IMGP0479 Unhappy Northern Kayaker with Jimmy the Micra stuck in drive! Thank you to the coal bunker for taking the photo!

So now I have the gear in the car, the boat on the roof and me in a drysuit but I can’t go anywhere!  I was not a happy bunny.

So I relayed my distress to a paddling pal who was working today and he offered to come and push!  So we scrapped and hacked at the now rather thick ice covering the drive and gave it another go.  Wheels spinning, engine roaring, car not moving…..  So I was given a lesson in gently raising my clutch and very, very slowly the car inched his way up the hill.  That was the first hurdle complete.

I made my way to Scapa, familiar territory and an onshore wind.  Now I have to get the boat to the water.  Out comes the carpet and the boat is gently slid onto the bonnet and off the car.  Then the bit I hate, carrying the blooming thing.  It’s heavy and awkward!  And I’m not that weak!  But I got to the water’s edge.  Then I realised something was missing and had to go home for my BA.  Finally by 1.30pm I was on the water, only an hour and a half late!IMGP0482 Boat at Scapa

By this point, of course, the wind had increased a little, F4 gusting F5 on the top of the Harbours’ building, but it was onshore and there were loads of get outs.  We don’t really get swell in the Flow but we do get short sharp wind chop and this was beginning to build as I headed away from the shelter of the pier.IMGP0487 Broody Orkney skies over the Flow

Over the first wave and the grin began to appear – this is what it’s all about!

Although I was on my own today, I had a new paddling friend with me.  Harry the Helmsman who turned up in the post a few weeks ago.  He can never replace Oscar but at least he’s dressed for the part!


Harry at the helm. 

I set off towards Hemp Stack, into the wind but knowing I’d have an easy ride home.  The skies were brooding and beautiful and the water interesting.IMGP0490 Heading towards Hemp Stack

The wind increased as Hemp Stack finally came into view but I was determined to get there.  Finally, I was level with it and turned to land on the handy pebble beach at its base.IMGP0503

Harry poses at Hemp StackIMGP0499

The Flow from Hemp Stack

After a few minutes rest, I decided to head back.  Much consideration was given to the launch technique, but finally I got away OK.  (The first attempt wasn’t a success!).  Now I was in a following sea with the wind behind me.IMGP0510 Wideford Hill from Scapa Bay

I had loads of fun trying to surf the waves but they were a bit confused so it was hard to get a good one.  I did manage one brilliant ride though and that had me heading out to the deeper water for some more!  The best waves were just before the pier so I had a play there before cutting back behind it and into shelter.  IMGP0513 Back at Scapa

So now I had to get the boat out of the water and on to the car.  Out comes the carpet, boat is manhandled carried to car, carpet placed on bonnet, boat slid onto roof……  Back at the ranch, carpet comes out, boat slid off, manhandled to garage (I am never driving down the drive again!), garage door shut.  Boat done!  But I’m still in that yellow sack.  String tied to door handle (Living room this time), toggle hooked through string, after a bit of a fight, zip loosens and Northern Kayaker is free!  Thank goodness for that!

So that is the rather cumbersome tale of my very short first solo voyage.  The kayaking was the easy part, I’m far more impressed that I got my drysuit on and off and the boat to the water and home again all on my own!

View Untitled in a larger map

291209Not very far at all- my GPS track of the trip


  1. Well done - that is determination!

  2. Well done!
    It looks complicated and chalenching as well. A time of competence.

  3. Well the biggest thanks has to go to Peter for helping me get out the drive. I'd have gone no where otherwise!

  4. You should have asked Jonny, he wis oot and aboot!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Putting on a drysuit solo, that's impressive! Don't you need to be able to dislocate your shoulders at will to do it?

  6. Almost, but my yoga classes seemed to help!

  7. Hello NK - My friend invested in the Malone Autoloader Kayak Carrier. I think Brookbank stock it. Anyway, it allows the solo paddler to get the kayak up on to the j-bars using a boarding ramp. Although that sounds like it wasn't your biggest obstacle! Well done on getting out on your own. That is a goal of mine that I haven't quite reached over the hols (I need the encouragement of others to get me out in the cold weather). Very inspiring!

  8. You should go! I enjoyed being on my own and going at my own pace, thinking my own thoughts. I think I need to obtain 'A Husband' who can do the manual lifting!

  9. Husband or slave? (or is that the same thing?) Glad you got back out on the water (you didn't mention you went paddling whole you were at your parents tho). The photos you took with the new camera look great but I guess the subject matter helps. I hope Harry dries out ok but I don't think he can replace oscar...


  10. Husband not slave!!! The new(ish) camera is a bit annoying as I can't seem to get it to work properly and it always gets a foggy lens. Harry is dry and is now back in his clothes guarding the top of the telly.

  11. I am a kayakist from Optimist Kayak Club in Israel. Was happy to find your Blog, and love to read your posts. Our sea conditions are so diffrent then yours, so it is very interesting for me to follow you from time to time.
    Have a happy new year, good paddelings and good health.

  12. Hello Avital!

    I have just visited your club website - Israel seems very different from here but it's great to think so many people from all over the world share our hobby.

    Happy New Year to you too!