Thursday, 30 December 2010

I want to go somewhere interesting!

Clearly I am not the best paddler ever, but sometimes I want to do more than a flat water trip.  As good as being out on the water is, fast, flat water paddling is….well….. boring.  I would much rather get out and explore my ‘adventure zone’ as Gordon Brown put it.  I don’t do this enough.  Next year, I intend to get in some pant wetting experiences and extend my comfort zone that little bit further.  I want to take on tide races, rockhop in big swell and generally challenge myself.  I don’t necessarily want to paddle very far, I just want to do something interesting!

Today I may not have left my comfort zone, but at least our paddle fell into the ‘interesting’ category.  We knew there was a bit of easterly swell on so we headed to the east side of the island because I wanted to play!  I love that bit of coast and had some rockhopping in mind.        

When we arrived at Sandside, all looked calm but as we headed out of the bay, there was a definite swell on.  We kept quite wide to avoid the breaking waves.  I wanted to go through but thought I better not do this on my own.  Heading up the coast, there was a significant swell off the cliffs but we hung a left and headed for the Gloup.  For some reason, even with a fair swell, it is still usually possible to get into the Gloup.  There was a fair bit of lift once we were inside but this was no problem.  Coming out again, the sea felt really flat!

IMGP0257 Riding the swell into the Gloup

Next up was a rocky outcrop near the Brough of Deerness.  There are 3 ways round – near the cliff, through the middle or round the outside.  We opted for the inner passage which, with a bit of timing was manageable and fun.  On to Mull Head.  We rounded the corner into what wind there was and headed to a geo for lunch.  I went in the special entrance passage but couldn’t get all the way though because the tide was too low.      

IMGP0261 Lunchtime

After lunch the wind seemed to have picked up a little and it seemed choppier towards the head.  However, once we rounded the corner again, the swell seemed to have died down a bit which meant we could get closer to the rocks and cliffs.

First we went through the middle passage at the Brough of Deerness.  We watched for a while then made a break for it when the waves subsided.  My eyes started scanning for the next rock!  My instinct is always to head for the soup but I am mindful of being wiped out and having to be rescued.  I have to behave myself!

 IMGP0266 Hmm, it was more impressive in real life!

Back at the point, the waves were still breaking on the shelving rocks but we dodged our way though and avoided a thumping.  I then spied a gap between breaking wave and rock and headed round the point.  To finish off, I headed down a gap in the rocks towards the bay.

IMGP0262Check out my new Nookie drysuit says Nick!

I know the conditions weren’t massive, but they were big enough to offer some challenges and to get oneself thinking about timing and sensible paddling lines.  I like taking risks but don’t want to cause an incident by doing so.  Today I felt happy to have the Hairyaker and Blowfield safety boats on hand!  I felt more than happy that they could have sorted me out if rescue was required.  Above all, I really enjoyed myself and I haven’t said that about paddling for a long time.  The only thing missing was Mackayak.  :-(

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Still Quite Bracing

Today we had a break in the weather, light winds and sunshine.  I had had a little bit too much to drink at the Sailing Club dinner last night so I wasn’t up for anything too adventurous this morning! 

We decided to paddle from Holm to Scapa.  We have paddled there lots of times before but it was nice to get out and enjoy being outdoors.  Having been away over Christmas, this was a chance to catch up with Mackayak.  I think my mouth did more work than my paddle!

The best part of the route is between Deepdale and Hemp Stack and my favourite place has a waterfall flowing into it.

IMGP0253 River paddling

The coastline along here is interesting but the formation of the rocks and perhaps the environment of the Flow mean that very few caves exist.  I thought of the use of dynamite to rectify this situation….. 

As we continued north, the wind dropped even further and the sun shone low in the sky.  The light picked out the landscape around the Flow and we could see the Royal Oak Buoy off the shore.  833 people were killed on board the ship when it was sunk by a German torpedo in 1939.  Looking at a map of the Flow, the Royal Oak doesn’t seem far from shore, looking out from the coast, the buoy seems very far away.  Imagine trying to swim all that way to safety.  There’s more about the Royal Oak and her sinking here.

IMGP0249Malcolm heads for Scapa.  The Royal Oak marker buoy is just above his bow on the surface of the water.

When we arrived at Hemp Stack, the tide was obviously fairly high and I could see water between the land and the stack – this had to be explored as it is an uncommon experience.  Unfortunately, there was not that much water and I had to shunt my way through!  Mackayak followed behind, passing through with far more grace than I could muster!

IMGP0255  Hemp Stack     

Back at Scapa, Mackayak helped me practice some Greenland skills.  I wanted to try the static brace and have a go at the butterfly roll. The water felt really cold, although I think it’s meant to be about 7 degrees at the moment.  For some reason, I could only stand a couple of dunkings before I had to get out.  How I wished for warm Mediterranean waters!

Static Flop

Another attempt

It was good to be practicing outside, but practicing skills in layers of clothes in cold water is very different from being in the nice warm pool!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Magic Canoe

I arrived home from the mainland this afternoon and found a canoe in the garage!  How did it get there?  It must be magic!  I wonder if I can wish it from the garage to the water and back again?

IMGP0243 Magic Canoe!

I shall now be opening a competition to name the canoe…. suggestions please!

I got lots of nice things for Christmas but by far the best was some vintage Playmobil.  It’s a different set from the one listed on but must date to around the same time.  I wonder why he has a funny paddle though?

IMGP0225 Greenland Paddler

When I was small, I loved Playmobil and had a great big box of the stuff.  I found the box (now not containing Playmobil) and who should I find pictured on the sticker on the side….IMGP0238

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Presents

Last night was the last KKC pool session before Christmas.  We headed out through the snow towards the warm pool.  I had a special request to bring along one of my craft.

 IMGP0160 Deflated canoe

Before we went into the pool, Mackayak presented me with a lovely Christmas present of ‘Duck Hands’ – perfect I feel for those obsessed with handrolling!

IMGP0167  Duck hands!

IMGP0169 Put to the test 

PC210031 (Medium) Even more deflated after an hour and a half in the pool.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Never travel with Northern Kayaker!

After my adventures getting home from Inverness a few weeks ago, last week I headed down to London for the biennial NSGG Recent Work in Archaeological Geophysics meeting.  I presented a poster about the Ring of Brodgar and got to catch up with folk.  Archaeological geophysics is a small world so there were lots of people there who I had studied and/or worked with or indeed studied and/or worked for.  There were some great talks and papers and it was great to see the two guys I did my masters with – just like old times!

We set off from Heathrow on Thursday afternoon and were due home in the evening…..  We made it as far as Edinburgh Airport.  The current bad weather in Britain came straight in from the Arctic and hit the Northern Isles first.  Everything at Kirkwall was delayed and then, inevitably, our flight was cancelled.  This was beginning to sound familiar…..

Once again, Mr Flybe accommodated us (in the Borg Cube) and we were to return to the airport in the morning.

IMGP0093 Borg Cube (Dakota Edinburgh)

We went to the airport in the morning and waited.  Kirkwall airport was open and we were hopeful.  Our plane was in Kirkwall so we had to wait for it to come down before we could go home.  We waited.  The weather closed in in Kirkwall……  About midday, once again our flight was cancelled.  Chaos ensued.  After a little bit of negotiation, we returned to the Borg Cube.IMGP0100  Inside the Borg Cube

It was early afternoon so in the daylight I could see where we were – South Queensferry on the southern bank of the Forth by the bridges.  After lunch, I took a walk down to the town. IMGP0079 The Forth Road Bridge and Forth Bridge.

The Forth Bridge opened in 1890, with the Forth Road Bridge opening in 1964.

IMGP0098 A We-no-naa canoe?  Sorry Mackayak, it wouldn’t fit in my case! 

After another night in the Borg Cube, it was time for Plan B.  The boat from Aberdeen.  Off we set the next morning by taxi to Dalmeny train station,  where we caught a train to Inverkeithing and another to Dundee.  All was fine until just outside Aberdeen where the train developed a ‘technical fault’ (the brakes froze).  About 3 hours later, we arrived in a bitter Aberdeen and took a taxi to the ferry (it would have been quicker to walk!).

IMGP0109 Train (I love trains but we have none on Orkney!)

After the 7 hour boat journey, we arrived in Kirkwall.  I spent most of the journey curled up and trying to avoid developing sea sickness….  The boat was due to arrive at 11pm but we were told it was running a little late.  We all waited patiently to disembark but were told that there was a little trouble docking due to swell….  For a few horrible minutes, we thought we were all going to Shetland!  Eventually, the boat managed to tie up but the passenger gangway could not be connected.  We had to wait for the cars to come off before MV Hrossey spilled foot passengers from its gut.

hrossey                                                               Disembarking from the Hrossey (Peter Fay)

Finally, I arrived home, 43 and half hours late!

There was only one problem…. my car was still at the airport.  As soon as I walked into the airport, all the planes were cancelled!

IMGP0133  Shovelling

   IMGP0148  Oh dear. Airport closes again.

The moral of this story:  Never travel on a plane with NK!

Next journey: Orkney to Inverness by ferry and car.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Winter Water

Today we got out in our boats for a nice wee paddle at the barriers.  The Churchill Barriers were built during the war by Italian prisoners of war and block four entrances to Scapa Flow.  The weather was very calm, although what wind there was was a cold northerly.  We launched from the west side of Barrier One and headed down to Barrier Three.
Mackayak and I pootled along at the back at our own speed while the others went on ahead.  I gossiped with my friend Nick and also discussed forward paddling with him.  We reached the north west of Glimps Holm where there were a few rocks to play amongst.
IMGP0070Glimps Holm
As the others passed round the headland, I got in position to take a few snaps.
IMGP0073Malc and Mackayak
 IMGP0071 Johnny
IMGP0072 Jackie and Nick
We reached the third barrier where we portaged across the barrier and the road and reconvened on the nice sandy beach on the other side.  After a spot of lunch, we headed back towards the first barrier, passing by the block ship with mast intact at Barrier Two.  Rounding Lamb Holm the bite to the wind was noticeable but we tucked ourselves in under the First Barrier and made our way back to the cars. It wasn't a long paddle but was just right for Peter and his recovering clavicle on a winter's afternoon- daylight is short at the moment!
In the evening, we were back in the pool for the last session with our beginners. We recapped sculling draw and forward paddling before introducing stern rudder and low brace. Everyone did really well. To finish off, we had a game of polo, there were a few capsizes but everyone had fun. A nice end to a fun block.
Oh... and it's not easy to type a blog with a cat sitting on your hands!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Kayak Addiction

I think I have a problem.  Yesterday I left a works’ Xmas dinner and leaving do to go and play canoe polo.  I did finish my dinner first though!

The Orkney A Team have their second round of Division 1 matches this weekend and a few of the team made it along for one final practice.  We are also trying to put together the Orkney B Team so it was good for us to practice before Xmas is upon us.

I arrived and was told that because I now could handroll, it was fine to push me in.  I protested that I couldn’t hand roll at all, but apparently I had been seen!  That’ll teach me to post videos on my blog…..

We had a fun practice tonight.  We practiced some skills and then played a game.  I got rather passionate and swore at Peter but only because I thought it was a red ball and he was cheekily trying to steal it for the whites.  Sorry Peter!IMGP0042 Warming upIMGP0043  Captain Hairyaker is proud of his fibreglass repairsIMGP0053  NK has the ballIMGP0056 Reds v. Whites

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

More winter and more handrolling

Yesterday morning brought another deluge of snow, just when we thought the first lot was going to melt.  Schools were shut, buses cancelled and roads treacherous.  However it was rather beautiful out in my street.

IMGP0017 Laverock Road in the snow

Because most of Orkney had ground to a halt due to the weather, there wasn't much going on when we arrived at work so we decided to make a welcoming snowman for any subsequent visitors.

IMGP0027 The snowman and his snow makers

After spending far too long in the office in the evening, preparing a poster for the NSGG Conference in London next week, it was time for the KKC pool session. 

It was interesting to watch different coaching techniques, some coaches are confident, others quiet and unassuming.  Some have been doing this for donkeys years.  Observing others made me think about what happens once you have your coaching award.  Getting the award in the first place is hard enough but it seems that once you have the 'ticket' it's really important to maintain a paddling CPD to ensure that you continue to develop as both a paddler and a coach, even if you never do another formal coaching or paddling award.  As we found when we travelled to Inverness a few weeks ago, a little bit of outside input makes loads of difference to your own approach.

I put lots of effort into thinking about and planning my Sunday night OSKA sessions, thinking carefully how things are done and how best to pass that information on.  I probably look a bit hesitant coaching with my notes, but by using them, I know I don't miss anything out.  By the time it comes to the Tuesday night KKC session, I am determined to take time working on my own skills.  This week, I roped Christina in to look again at handrolling.  I was in an easier boat, but I think there is a bit of an improvement.  Christina decided to 'pimp my kayak'.  See if you can spot it in the video!

I also had a go at the butterfly roll, unfortunately, although YouTube illustrates nicely the start and finish positions, I'm not very sure what happens under the water!  Mackayak's assistance is required!

It was still cold outside at the end of the session - Christina was very impressed with Adam's barefoot bravery!

IMGP0040 Brrrrr.....

Sunday, 5 December 2010

One Hundred (Unsuccessful) Handrolls

Today Mackayak booked the pool for a sea boat session.  Before we could get in the warm water, there was a small ice issue to deal with.  I didn’t fancy sitting on that in my pool clothes!


For some reason I decided that I was going to spend my time in the pool trying to hand roll my Avocet.  I must have tried at least 50 times, each of them unsuccessful.  That’s about 28p per attempt.  I tried to use video analysis on myself but didn’t really get the camera in a good place.  It would be good to have some in water coaches or helpers next time.

Everyone seems to have gone a bit hand roll mad round here.  I think it’s partly because we need to use handrolls in polo but also it presents a new skill and new challenge to master.  The others master much quicker than me and sometimes I wonder if there is any point continuing.  I’m definitely a theorist and although I have taken in and understood what I am supposed to do, I seem to find it very hard to translate that into body actions.  More than once recently I have considered giving up and going back to knitting.

Mackayak, as ever, was demonstrating to us how things can be done with grace and not force.  I will have to get her to teach me the butterfly roll soon, maybe in the pool after Xmas when we are participants and not coaches.  She does a lovely static brace in her boat and I was trying to claim this was because she has an Isel with chines as opposed to my Avocet with a round hull but then I found this video of a lovely static brace in an Avocet LV.  Another skill to master then…..  

Later on in the day we were coaching the new paddlers in the pool again.  Tonight we recapped sweep strokes and talked about moving sideways and backwards.  As ever there are lots of different things to think about when doing each stroke.


In the deep end, lots of different rolls and handrolls were being tried.  The sight of Hairyaker paddling a polo boat with a Greenland paddle illustrates just how many aspects of kayaking there are.  Even more to master!


Now, where did I put all my knitting needles?  Anyone want to buy a boat?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

A winter’s blast

This afternoon a few of us had a short paddle in Scapa Bay.  One of our party is recovering from a broken collarbone and four ribs so we just wanted to do something gentle.  I haven’t broken anything but am so out of condition, a short paddle sounded just right to me.

IMGP0438Peter and Johnny set out

The weather in the morning had been sunny and very calm.  Although winds were forecast, they had no materialised.  We set forth at about 1pm, in calm, if a little grey, conditions, with the rain stopping almost immediately.

IMGP0440Hemp Stack 

We decided to head as far as Hemp Stack where we played around taking pictures and video of forward and reverse sweeps to use on the website.

IMGP0442 The cameraman

Emerging from behind the shelter of the rocks we found ourselves with an irritating northerly headwind to contend with.  This increased in ferocity as we headed home.  By the time we landed it was a F5 gusting F7.  It had been F3 at most when we left.


Wind after the calm

Although the strong winds were expected, it was an interesting reminder of how quickly conditions can change and how important it is to check the forecast!  By the time we landed it was both windy and very wet so I ran away to the warmth of the fire ASAP. 

Good to get out and blow off some cobwebs and excellent to see Peter back on the water. 

More Polo

Tonight was another round of polo training.  The Div 1 team, the Orkney Orcas have their second round of matches in a couple of weeks and the B team, (who are not called the Orkney Voles, Peter!) play our first matches in January.

IMGP0435’A’ team captain Hairyaker in a newly repaired polo boat

There were only 8 of us at training tonight but we still made good use of the time, finishing up with an enjoyable game. 

I’m not very good at polo but really enjoy playing and am looking forward to the league matches in January.  I have offered to take on B team organisation – this of course is a rouse to pick myself!!!

IMGP0436Polo can be dangerous – look what happened to Torquil’s paddle!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

More handrolling

Tonight was another KKC pool session.  Due to the cold weather, snow on the ground and school closures, we had fewer participants than usual.  This meant more time in a boat.

I started trying to practice handrolling at the side of the pool but after doing a few, seemed to loose the knack.  I got (more) annoyed and gave up.

Having done a little bit of coaching with various people, I had another go in the boat, this time attending ‘Malcolm’s school of handrolling’.  Another student had already successfully passed out this evening so it’s clearly the place to go!

Later Malcolm suggested I watch this video.  If only I was an activist and not a theorist……

(No) Planes, trains and automobiles

Having been down to Inverness for our L2 Development day and our canoe coaching sessions, we had to try and get home to Orkney.  With Justin’s help, we got away from Muirtown in good time and got to the airport to return the hire car without a hitch.

Having been delayed by two and a half hours on the journey south, we were suspicious of claims that the plane was running to schedule.  We checked on the internet and found that it hadn’t left Sumburgh in Shetland, never mind leaving Kirkwall or arriving at Inverness.IMGP0395Snowy runway

On Sundays we coach the beginners in the pool but the delay on the plane meant that we couldn’t make it.  Emergency phone calls were made and the other Orkney L2 trainees were enlisted to deliver our session, having been instructed where to find the lesson plan saved on my computer!

More time passed and after about an hour and a half, we were unsurprisingly told that the plane had been cancelled.  We were all booked onto the next available flight which was 9.55am on Monday, then Flybe put us in a taxi and sent us to Nairn to the Newton Hotel, across the road from where we had been staying with Steve and Mags!IMGP0397Newton Hotel, Nairn

The morning did not start well with 4 of the passengers being taken to the airport in a taxi at the appointed 8.15 while the others were left for over 45 minutes.  Several calls were made to Flybe and eventually taxis came for the rest of us.  IMGP0398

Mackayak looks bored part one – no taxi

Upon arrival at the airport, we were checked in but told there was a delay to our flight.  We, of course, looked on the internet and found that it hadn’t left Shetland….

I’m sure the Flybe staff were doing their best but there was a complete lack of information all morning.  Everything in the airport was cancelled because the airport had run out of de-icer so we were very sceptical that we would fly at all.

After a while, we decided Plan B was required so we started getting information on buses, trains and ferries.IMGP0399Mackayak tries to get information from the information desk

Just before 12 we were told that the next announcement would be at 1 but we knew that since the train left at 13.59 and we had to get tickets etc that really we couldn’t wait around that long.  We asked the Flybe people if they would pay for our train and ferry but they said no because our flight had not been cancelled (even though we were cancelled on Sunday).  Instead we asked for a refund (which as yet I haven’t seen) and set forth to Inverness.

Our initial plan was to take the bus to Scrabster but we had a feeling the railway line was more likely to be open than the road so we opted for the train.IMGP0424Means of escape!IMGP0402Well it rhymes with plane…   IMGP0405Mackayak looks bored part two – awaiting four hour train journeyIMGP0408Inverness Airport ran out of de-icer.  This man was keeping Scotrail moving with only a brush and a can of Car Plan de-icer!        IMGP0416The line to Thurso

Scotrail should be commended for running their train in difficult conditions with only a half hour delay.  The guard on the service was also extremely helpful and contacted Northlink Ferries to tell them he had a train load of ferry passengers and could they hold the boat if necessary….   

When we finally made it to Thurso, there was no sign of our taxi, but we found one going the right way and got to Scrabster in good time for the boat.  Phew!  Once on the boat, it was time for a well deserved drink.          IMGP0430Mackayak stops looking miserable!  You can count on Northlink!!! 

After a pleasant crossing we finally made it to Orkney where a taxi awaited to take us home to Kirkwall (after I’d retrieved my car from the airport of course…)IMGP0432 Hamnavoe in Stromness