Sunday, 17 June 2012

Pimp my van

This weekend Mackayak and I were booked to go to Sanday to do a weekend of kayak coaching with pool sessions and outdoor sessions from Friday night onwards.  The famous Orcadian weather gods, however, had other ideas and, with a lovely F5 forcast, we decided to pull the plug on the event on Thursday.

Part of me was very relieved as I am very tired at the moment, there have been too many adventures in too short a time, although it was a shame that we had to disappoint people.  A weekend at home, however, did mean that I had plenty of time to sort things out for me (for a change).

At the top of the list was Phyllis Paddlewagon.  She needed a good tidy up and also some thoughts on how she could be improved.  The bucket BBQ also needed some adaptations to ensure quality sausages on future expeditions.

My beautiful fairy lights had, for sometime, been attached to the wall of the van using some parcel tape I found in a drawer one day.  This needed upgraded to at least gaffer tape.  I decided attaching them to the roof would also be a vast improvement.  Upon poking around in a heap next to the fire place, I also found some cardboard stars Mackayak had given me for passing my 4*.  Phyllis needed stars.  Lights in, my thoughts turned again to leisure batteries and after consultation with one who knows about these things (including the electronic transfer of wiring diagrams and discussions of smart charge relays), a kit was ordered off tinterweb.  Next I rummaged under the seat and found a set of seat covers.  They had only been there since last October.  I put them on!!

IMGP1447 Seat covers

After a little bit of tidying, I unearthed all manner of things in my hallway, including a set of solar powered fairy lights.  Frankly, they had Phyllis’ name on.  A whole load more gaffer tape ensued.  I stepped out of the van to admire my handywork and nearly fell over laughing.  ‘Tart’s boudoir on wheels’ sprang to mind.

IMGP1449  I may have overdone this! 

A few other ideas formed in my mind, but as no shop that sells any of the DIY items I need, is open beyond 12pm on a Saturday in Orkney, they will have to wait for another weekend.

In the meantime I thought ‘Stealth Camping’ and using some off cuts from my bedroom curtains and some sticky backed velcro I ‘acquired’ from Hairyaker, I set to work.  My sewing machine wasn’t happy trying to get through 4 layers of material and the cursing was heard far and wide.  After an hour or two, the job was done and I hung my curtain and tested my solar powered lights (they only come on at dusk or if you cover the photovoltaic cell with a bin bag!).

IMGP1457 Cosy van!

I discovered, at dusk, that the fairy lights had flash setting, it had to tried.  I almost cried with laughter at the effect and immediately had to visit eBay to order some additional items to complete the look!

IMGP1455 Phyllis Paddlewagon von Discobus evolves

Next weekend, I might actually make some more practical adaptations, like building a shelf or two!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Auto Boof

By the power of facebook, this year I got back in touch with someone I knew at school, who is now a mad keen river boater.  After much discussion of the merits of Lance Mitchell’s paddles and Lomo drysuits, it was decided that a school reunion on a river was in order and a date was agreed for running the Tummel.

Having driven for hours to get to the take out, Phyllis was parked up and after a few beers over a warm campfire, it was time for some well earned kip.  This however, was shattered when at 7am the world and his wife appeared and constructed some kind of rafting cash cow village in the middle of the field and right next to Phyllis.  I was not impressed.  I moved Phyllis.

After some bacon and a lot of general fafferage (from me), it was time for the river.  I was a peedie bit nervous cos I don’t do rivers and can’t paddle in a straight line.  The first section was very scrapey but the decent rapids were OK and the guys were brilliant at talking me through the lines before I ran them.  I managed shark’s tooth OK but screwed up the slot and had to roll.  Zig and zag was also OK, using the patented ‘jam in a hard right bow rudder’ manoeuvre, rather than the eddy, ferryglide route.  Last up was the Linn of Tummel and I was pleased to get down that OK, if with a bit of unintentional farting about in the eddy in the middle! 

IMGP1391 Northern Kayaker on the Linn of Tummel

After the river, it was time for a spot of relaxing with a few beers and a BBQ.  It was a bit rainy so we managed to construct a shelter from a huge tarp and lots of throwlines.

IMGP1404 Under the roof

IMGP1407 Making popcorn on the fire

IMGP1409 Relaxing with a drink or 25

Sunday morning was not a pleasant experience, but after some profane chivying from John, we were in our kit and ready to paddle.  I was not in the zone!

We decided we’d miss out the scrapey section and go for the good bits, starting with The Slot.  It was awful, my line was fine for the start and then I managed to mess up the last bit and capsize.  The paddle was ripped out of my right hand and by the time I sorted it out, I knew it was in the wrong place to roll.  I bailed.  I wasn’t pleased.

IMGP1427 Couping

IMGP1428 Swimming.  Grrrrr.;

After my swim, I was persuaded to have another go but it was equally unsuccessful.  Fortunately, after my second coup, I managed to roll so I cheered up a bit.  I still wasn’t pleased though!

IMGP1429 John shows me how it should be done, with a smile and everything!

IMGP1431Couped again 


Feeling like a ****.  The body language says it all!

IMGP1435 John at Zig and Zag

After that cock up, the others asked if I wanted to continue, I wasn’t happy but I got out to inspect Zig and Zag and spent a good few minutes psyching myself up and using a spot of visualisation to rehearse the moves. With my head in the right place, things were much better and I negotiated the rapid without couping.  I was dead chuffed!

IMGP1437 Coming down the first drop (Zig?!)

IMGP1438 I almost look like I know what I am doing!

I was totally up for the Linn after getting my head right and running the rest of the section OK.  There were a load of guys from Monklands Canoe Club there so I was a bit shy about running it in front of them.  John went down while we watched his line then watched the other Monklands guys run it too.  I must have looked nervous, they were trying to look after me and tell me what to do!

IMGP1441 John lands his massive auto boof off the Rooster Tail

I messed up my line into the first drop but recovered and hit the Rooster’s Tail right where I wanted.  I was totally wired when I landed it, so much so that one of the Monkland’s guys asked if I had hypothermia!  My friend caught it all on video, I don’t think he fancied my chances on the first drop!

After doing the Linn, we paddled down the loch to the take out and our campsite and had a well earned brew. 

A fine end to a fantastic weekend…. now I just need to get myself my own river boat…..

Monday, 4 June 2012

Wet bottoms and timetrials

The weather gods of Orkney have not really been smiling on us lately.  For months we have had cold northerlies and miserable weather.  This means not much climbing and when it is on, I seem never to be here.  This week however, I was in Orkney and the sun was shining…..

Linda and I toddled off to Roseness to meet the rest of the climbing club at the Cornquoy carpark and walked over to the crag.

IMGP1153 Lighthouse spotting

I started the day with a little light observation before climbing up after Chris and Ian.  It was an easy route until the top few metres were the rock was much smoother.  Chris told me to ‘trust my feet’ and I made it safely to the top. 

IMGP1154 It’s a race!

Having climbed that route, we moved to the left onto something a bit harder.  This had a chimney and an overhang and everything!  Ian led, I watched.

IMGP1171Ian leads 

Apparently it was my turn next, to climb and collect the gear in as I went up.  I wasn’t fussed about getting nuts and cams out, I was fussed about the actual climbing.  I’m not very good at that!  Anyway, I set forth and was really chuffed to make it to the top, although I did forget about one of the nuts.

IMGP1172Ho Ian! Got a crane? 

We tried a few more routes before it was decided to go and investigate a route Don, Linda and Keith were doing round the corner.  This required a short traverse over the sea. Well, I had to bridge between the crack and the ledge but I chickened out and went back and then found myself arse first in the sea.  Loud expletives were uttered.  I wasn’t fussed about being wet but I did get my chalk soggy and my trousers and shoes were soaked!  After a bit of grumping, I dried off a bit and belayed for Colin as he tried Don’s new VS route. I followed….

Soggy trouser climbing (photo: Don Husband)

After a well deserved bite to eat, it was decided to call it a day there.  The wind was cold and my trousers were very wet!  We’d had a fun few hours and I achieved more than I expected. On the way home,  I climbed up the lighthouse.

IMGP1183 Lighthouse view across Scapa Flow

Of course, I will be missing the next two climbing sessions, I have some kayaking to be doing!

After a day standing in a field, I was itching for a little bit of boating this evening.  I decided it was time for another timetrial this time from Scapa to Holm due to the wind direction.  My housemate has gone to Croatia so boat wrangling is a challenge, however, the lovely, lovely Mackayak agreed to be boat taxi and co boat wrangler.  Thank you!

IMGP1235 Ready for the off at Scapa pier

There was a bit of wind blowing as I set off and a fair amount of wind chop in the flow.  This was fine but it made getting into a rhythm really difficult as sometimes there was no water there when the blade went in!  The beamish wind and slightly differently angled chop also made for a lot of corrective strokes when all I wanted to do was go in a straight line!  Where the chop got bigger, the boat wanted to surf down the waves, I wanted to go across them at 30 degrees.  It was quite annoying!  My boat loves to play in that sort of water, but I didn’t want to play today!

I paddled into Holm Village and saw Mackayak there waiting for me on the shore.  I landed and pressed the stop button on my watch.  1 hour, 22 minutes and 50 seconds.  I was disappointed with this as it was only very slightly faster than my previous time and was wind assisted.  Timetrialing in water that isn’t flat seems to be a little bit more tricky!

IMGP1236 Boat taxi for Northern Kayaker!