Monday, 20 February 2012

The idiotic adventuring geek

Many people think that professional archaeologists just dig holes for a living, well, I don’t.  By training I am an archaeological geophysicist which means I use lots of machines that go beep and lots of computer programs to make pretty pictures.  When working on ‘proper’ archaeology, I spend my time using CAD, GIS, databases and all sorts of other bits of software, usually also to make pretty pictures (like these images of a topo survey).  This means over the years, I have become just a tiny bit of a computer geek….

Kayakers doing 4* are supposed to have logbooks.  I had lost mine (written in blue black Quink no less) so I asked the friend with gills for a copy of his template in Word.  He happened to mention that he had always thought it would be good as a database……    A database did indeed sound like a mighty fine idea and my little geek tendencies started to fire up and I set to work.  I am now on Version 3.0, having added pages and put the images in as linked files to reduce the DB file size.  At the moment however, I am stuck at how to write the location of the image browsed to to one of the columns of a table.  If anyone out there is a whizz with VB, please let me know.

So essentially, after a discussion with the tall one, deciding at about 8.30am that the weather was far too crap for paddling, I spent all of my Saturday in my PJs, drinking a LOT of tea and making tweaks to the database.  Rock and roll.  Oh and the cat helped himself to the meat meant for my sandwiches (greedy little……..).

logpic   Logbook Version 3.1

On Sunday, the weather seemed a bit better, in that although there was snow on the ground, it wasn’t actually blowing a complete hoolie, so another paddle was planned.  Originally I had wanted to go out and lead a group in 4* conditions but by Sunday there weren’t any.  I gave up on the idea of leading and just went for a paddle.

For a few weeks I have been planning to paddle to Hoy this Friday to go to a talk and film screening with climber Dave MacLeod.  He recently free climbed St John’s Head in Hoy via the Longhope route and made a film about it.

Anyway, no one seems particularly keen to come with me, so I thought it would make a nice twilight solo trip.  Initially I was going to leave from Stromness, but even I am not stupid enough to cross an 8kn tiderace, on my own, in the dark, at springs, so  instead I am going to leave from Houton and cross the Flow to Moaness.  Because I am going to go on my own, I needed to find a way to deal with my boat on my own….  On Sunday, while waiting for the tall one and the surfer, I thought I’d try to get the boats off the van in preparation for their arrival just to see if I could.  It turns out I can.  And it turns out the way not to do this is to take the back end off first.  Phyllis DID NOT like this method……

IMGP0068  “My ear hurts” said Phyllis Van

Having got ourselves organised, we set off from Dingieshowe on a pretty flat sea, although there was a bit more swell about than it initially seemed.  We made our way down the coast exploring along the way, trying to remember where the infamous Y-Cave actually was.  Eventually I found it and found that the entrance to the leg of the Y offered an opportunity to play on the swell.

IMGP0074  Inside the Y-cave

We carried, mostly in sunshine but with the odd snow shower too.


After a spot of luncheon and tea, we carried on towards Roseness, realising that we were actually short of time to make our destination in South Ronaldsay at 1pm.  At Roseness I spotted a gap.  It was a bit of a gnarly gap but I reckoned it was passable with care on a smaller set when it filled.  Well, I got half way through when the water left.  My boat dropped into a hole where the water had been but now wasn’t (which was actually quite fun).  The surge came in from the left and I braced and stayed up (still fun) but then, another wave took me out (not fun).  Tried to roll but couldn’t, tried to roll again but realised there was a cliff in the way (really not fun).  Hmmmmm  I thought.  I wasn’t entirely sure where the handle to my spraydeck was, especially with very cold hands but I found it and exited the boat forthwith.  I popped up and found I was under a rock ledge in a sort of mini cave.  Hmm I thought, this could get sticky.  The tall one shouted at me to ‘get out of there’.  I assure you I had every intention to do so, at that moment, however, another wave came in and pushed me backwards.  Because I was under the rock ledge I couldn’t rise up with the swell and was under water for a couple of seconds.  That was pretty scary.  The tall one continued to shout instruction to swim out to him and abandon kit.  However, because I was trying to swim against the surge, no matter what I did, I seemed to get pushed backwards.  He said ‘leave the boat and swim’.  I assure you I had and I was!  Eventually, I managed to get myself to the side of the gap where there was a rock.  I clung on and made away along to a point I could climb out.  So at least I was OK.

The tall one then jumped out of his boat and swam to rock I was on.  The words “GORDON BROWN DVD, VOLUME 2!” were shouted like a war cry…. He then got himself into the gap and swam out with my boat on a towline.  With it now in calm waters, I was instructed to swim to it to be x rescued by the surfer.  I didn’t really want to get back in the water but I did as I was told and was safely reunited with my craft.

IMGP0099 Shalder gets an empty

My paddle was at this point still in the gap getting a good pounding.  I love that paddle, but I love my friends more, so I could have lived without it.  However, as the tall one is very kind, he decided he would retrieve that too.  Unfortunately, he timed this with a bigger set and like me, struggled to swim against the surge.  Via the rock clambering method, he made is way out again and was soon back in his boat.  The surfer had also been watching Gordon Brown Volume 2 and was very good at instructing us to heel hook and roll!

IMGP0103 My loveliest, lovely, lovely friend who rescued my lovely paddle which I dearly love.  Thank you!!

So, what did we learn from that experience?  My main thought is that we could have improvised a throwline of some sort so that no one but me had to be in the gap.  I suppose I could have attached my towline to the boat, the tall one could have got an end of his to me and I could have been towed out with both of them remaining in safe water or on a rock.  We could have left behind the boat and we could certainly have left behind the paddle.  We probably all should have had towlines (we had 2 between 3) and we certainly should all have had radios. And perhaps I shouldn’t piss about quite the way I do….. Maybe.

IMGP0107 Rolling

After all that excitement, we decided to return to Dingiehowe rather than continue to South Ronaldsay.  I was paddling along and seemed to be struggling to keep up.  At Dingieshowe we had a little bit of wet practice, with the non drysuited surfer doing some rolls and me doing the usual routine of roll, re-enter and self-rescue.  My roll was OK, my re-enter took a few goes and I did my self-rescue OK.  Then it started to snow, so we decided to go home.

IMGP0108 The snow falls on Dingieshowe

After a quick bite to eat, it was time for climbing.  I felt like I had improved a little, perhaps because I had had a good work out in the sea earlier!

IMGP0111 Good turn out at the wall

Later, it was time for a sea boat pool session.  I wanted to practice what I always practice but this time took in my tow line to practice doing self-rescues while wearing it.  I made a startling discovery….  Rolling without towline easy peasy, rolling with towline not so easy at all.  I don’t do a layback roll but the position of the towline must hamper me in some way.  A few experiments suggested towline to the front for normal circumstances and pushed round the back for self rescue.  I thought also about a deck-mounted system but the adventures of earlier had definitely shown the benefits of the paddler having it attached to them.

IMGP0116 Mackayak does her thang in the Black Beast

I managed to do everything I wanted in the pool but did not have the success rate of previous weeks.  I finished up being unable to self-rescue at all and I wonder if something was catching and stopping me getting on the back deck.  Perhaps I was just utterly and totally knackered.  I (and the boat) certainly looked it by the end of the day!

IMGP0119Still single?  I wonder why?!!! 

photoOh s***


  1. Awesome post! Man quite the spill! I've been there myself not too long ago, albeit quite alone! I haven't wrote anything about it cause...well...I'm still picking out things that went wrong even prior to my launch! Glad everyone is ok! It's all fun once you get back home anyway!

    Great idea for the log book!

    And gel coat is meant to be chipped cracked and broken! my point 65 was darn near see through and still seaworthy!

  2. The gel coat may be chipped, but underneith there is a split through the fibreglass where the skeg box has detached from the main hull...... It's like a valve that lets water in but not out so my hatch fills up but doesn't drain so the boat ends up being really heavy to carry!

  3. haha awesome stuff Mary. Glad to see a kayak beat to means she's being loved!!

    You shoula fixed it up in your flat! It's all super easy stuff! Nice to be able to make these repairs a few days out; no better place to practice than at home!! ( I was scared to bit's the first time attempting a repair!!)