Archive for September, 2010


Friday afternoon: The Etive then the Etive

After the ace run on the Pattack we rushed back to Fort William for some food and then called Andy and Stu to see where they were. They were stuck in traffic on the M6 (of course, no surprise there) and so Chris and I got on the Etive. I spotted Ted P. putting on at the same time; this year I met Ted at Hurley,   Thames Valley, then on the Fium Orbo in Corsica then in Campertongo in Italy and now Scotland? I guess great minds think alike!


Photo: Chris is on Triple.

Here is Chris enjoying not getting a spanking on letterbox. I’ve seen many a paddler come a cropper here at slightly higher levels.


Photo: Chris on letterbox.

After the money drop (right angle falls) we decided to carry on down to the bridge. This was the first time I’d gone this far as I usually get out at the big one. It was very scrapey but worth it for the last drop for sure.


Photo: At right angle falls.

I got out of my boat and a very kind and generous lady from Glasgow Uni called Jen offered me a lift up to the get in. As we were riding up, I got news that Andy and Stu were at the put in and the 4 of us got on for lap two…whoo hoo. Bill who also came up with the boys took piccies of us lot on the river


Photo by Bill: Andy on the last drop


Photo by Bill: Me on the last drop. Boof-o-matic!

After we got off the river, the light faded fast and it was onwards and upwards to our accommodation in a comfortable lodge overlooking the Loch  in Onich (between Fort Bill and Glen Coe).


Day 2 morning; the Pattack

We were having a think about what to paddle on friday morning, when it occurred to me that the Pattack had a short shuttle. It was one of the most fun, remote feel rivers i’d run on my trip to Scotland last October. A quick phone call to the estate manager and we were told there was water; she was a go-er!


Photo: The get in for the Pattack

The falls were too low to run and the river was a lot lower than the last time we ran it (when it was in spate). But the remote feel coupled with the high concentration of herons that we saw on the run was well worth the drive from Fort Bill.


Photo: Chris dropping in on a nice boof spot


Photo: The remote feel; just about to go over the last drop of the run.

We finished the run and Chris sprinted to get the car- good man- and I hiked the boats up to the car park. The run took less than 30 minutes, but was worth every minute.


Living the Dream for 4 days- Day 1; the Kent

Andy H. and Stu contacted me a few weeks back saying that they had booked some accommodation in Fort William/ Glen Coe area for Wet West Paddle Fest. I initially thought I would not be able to make it but I had to zip up to Brum area on Thursday and thought as I was 1/3 of the way to Scotland, I may as well finish the trip. Andy had two spare rooms, so I asked Chris P. if he’d like to come too; the trip was a go-er.


Photo: The gorge on the final 1 km of the Kent

After a few posts on UKRGB for advice on (1) lakes area rivers (2) in  close proximity to the motorway,  (3) with a walkable shuttle,  we decided to stop off and run the Kent. The Kent River- located 10 minutes off the M6- has 5 interesting drops on the lower 0.5 km and we blasted down in less than 5 minutes. The last drop,force falls, at least at the flow we ran it at, was very straightforward.


Photo: Chris on a lowish force falls on the Kent

I wanted to run the river again, but Chris, the voice of reason, suggested we push on to Fort Bill in time for closing at the local pub. Ingenious. We made it to Fort Bill by 10:30 pm and the guys at the hostel after hearing of our 6 am start gave us a few tinnies of Cider. As we drank it, we discussed the following days river options and reveled in the fact that we were sat at the base of Ben Nevis, about to dip our paddles in Scottish waters once again. Lush.


Photo: 11:00 pm- me enjoying a pear cider  at the bunk house after a 6 am start


Playboating Progression Sessions for UHCC

Over the summer months Chris and I have been running playboating progression sessions on the weir at Woodmill for the Upper Hamble Canoe Club. Mostly, we concentrated on getting people confident on getting on the wave on the weir but we also ran a few sessions on how to lean clean and double pump. We then put the two moves together to teach the cartwheel. 




Photo:Chris demonstrating the double pump

The biggest part of coaching playboating, I think, is to impart leading all moves with the head and using torso rotation as much as possible. To help with this, I used a bank based technique that I picked up from Lowri Davies at Flowfree, which proved very successful.


Photo by Chris: Bank based learning for cartwheels

After some coaching the guys really improved their technique.


Photo: Check out Ian’s torso rotation. Lowri’s technique really works


Photo: The wind up helps to get the end down.


Photo: Chris got his front end down too.

Even though I have no UK qualifications in coaching and am therefore not at all qualified to do it, I heart coaching this stuff. 


Round the Island Seakayaking Trip

A few years ago I was one of those whitewater  kayakers crowing “Seakayaking? Why on earth would I want to do that when there are so many creeks to paddle and rivers  to play on and waves to surf ?” But ever since I sat in a Valley Aquanaught Club and I paddled with a Werner Shuna, I totally reversed my narrow minded view. Shuna paddles are the most comfortable I’ve ever used. In fact, its almost worth seakayaking just for the pleasure of using those paddles. Although I never went on a single seakayaking trip I set myself a good goal. And mid August saw me fulfill a 2 year ambition to paddle around the Isle of Wight- and it would be my second seakayaking trip. The “Island” as its known to the Southcoast locals is an out-cropping just a few miles off shore of the mainland. Shaped a bit like a diamond, its coastline is about 65 miles and its waters are rich withrecreational, commercial and shipping vessels. Coupled with strong tides, large eddies and tidal races, circumnavigating the Island is no mean feat.

IMGP0062Photo:  Seakayaking on the south coast.

Planning began back in July when Maria, who is currently doing her 5 *T Sea asked me if I’d like to join her and a very experienced UHCC seakayaking group on a trip around the island. Although a relative  novice sea kayaker, but having done all the basic training on the Hamble estuary (paddle strokes, rescue techniques etc) I jumped at the chance to realise one of my conquests and tick it off the list.

A training trip from Kimmeridge Bay to Swanage was organised, taking in a tidal race on the way. I took to seakayaking like a duck to water; stamina built up from creeking and playboating and skills from surf kayaking surely helped. The only issue for me was that I didn’t like the skeg and didn’t really know when to use it. After incessantly asking my fellow paddlers ” are you using your skeg right now?”, I figured it out after about 15 miles. The training trip successfully under my belt, I was (self and peer) assessed in terms of my ability to handle the craft and stamina. I was a go-er…woohoo. So my second ever seakayaking trip would be around the Isle of wight. Thank goodness I would be going with 4* and 5*T seakayakers.


Photo by Chris: On the training trip

Maria and Nigel planned the round the island weekend according to good  tide times. Now we would have to wait until the day to see if the swell and weather could collaborate with our plans. 15th August arrived and we had a forecast for little swell and no wind; in other words, perfect for our first round the Island attempt.

IMGP0021Photo: Base camp on Hirst Spit


Photo: At the needles


Photo: Pit stop at the needles.

The night before departure day we set up camp on HirstSpit and packed the boats ready for a 6 am start to coincide with the tides. We set off from Hirst Spit headed for the needles on the west point of the island. The needles are a pretty amazing sight. Spiky white rocks protrude upwards from the sea and produce some interesting coastal vistas; it is quite a surreal and emotive place. After a brief stop, it was straight to the southern point of the island, St Catherine’s. We were due at 1 mile southof St Catherine’s at 12:00 midday, to be on target with the tides, but with the aid of a tail wind and a little swell we made it to St Cats by 11:00 am, an hour ahead of schedule. Although it was good to be ahead of schedule it meant we didn’t catch the full tidal race at St Cats, but we still got some bumpy fun. We pulled in for lunch close to Ventnor on the way to east point of the Island at about 13:00. We must have been far off shore because it took nearly 45 minutes to reach the beach. After replenishing many used up calories, we headed east and to the next headland.

IMGP0054Photo: Tidal push at St Cats

This headland was to prove the a bit of a slog. The tide was turning just as we got to Whitecliff Bay and I remember being a little scared for the first time on the trip. We seemed to be paddling for some time but moving only a few feet per minute.  Steve and Nigel suggested pulling right into shore to get around into the bay, which was very effective. As we turned the corner, the Lifeboat and Coastguard Rescue helicopter were retrieving a casualty and we were reminded of the tempestuous nature of the sea. Just a few miles to go and civilisation again.


Photo: On the beach at Whitecliff; helicopper patroling

The Isle of Wight had a dichotomous nature in terms of scenery. The west and south side of the island was quite sparsely populated and had a true wilderness feeling, whereas the east and north side of the island was bustling with holiday makers enjoying the beaches and small seaside towns. As we headed around our final headland before pulling in Bembridge, the many hours away from poeple and buildings led to quite the culture shock when suddenly enveloped in so much eye candy.

IMGP0076Photo: The calmness of the north side

We set up camp in Bembridge, ate a giant meal and sunk a few bevvies to re-hydrate. After a great nights sleep, we headed up to the campsite restuarant for full english breakfast fuel for the second day of paddling. The tides were good to go at 11 am and we launched, basking in warm sunlight.


Photo: Elaine in amongst some pretty boats

Paddling was easy going and we reached Seaside in good time. However it was from here on in that we began our day-long dance with the ferries and hovercraft that go between the Island the mainland. The first dance was like a tango; quick and fast and firey to avoid the hovercraft. The next dance was more like improvisation; slow, quick, random, scary. I’ve paddled  several class 5 rivers, surfed 16 foot face waves, hucked 30 ft off a waterfall. But nothing I’ve paddled before could prepare me for what I felt as I was positioned between two ferries (one entering and one leaving port) in a narrow channel. Nigel had to shout at me to tell me what to do. When we exited the ferry channel the sense of relief was amazing to me. Just at that moment the Red Arrows display team flew past. It was as if they were saying “Congrats Kate, you survived”.


Photo: Pulling into Cowes

We stopped for a brief bite to eat on the water. As we neared Cowes, the water became a bit choppy and provided 1 hour of lumpy fun. We landed on the beach at Cowes for yet more calorific intake (including a yummy ice-cream). We launched for the last part of our journey; the north west section. The tide between Cowes and Hirst is strong- about 4 knots. We whizzed down the straight toward Hirst spit, culminateing in navigation of  the  Hirst tidal race. We were fighting the tide and Nigel directed us out to sea, away from the castle. In fact, we caught a conveyor belt current back the point we’d left 18 hours earlier. Tired, excited, relieved and surfing our euphoric, adrenalin high we posed for one last team photo before packing up and heading off for dinner at a local pub to celebrate.


Photo: On the home straight- pulling into Hirst


Photo: Our team!

Thanks to all the team (Dan, Elaine, Maria, Nigel, Steve) for looking after me. Next time, I’d love to do it in less than 24 hours…or less; bring it on!


Summer Fun on the Mellte

After a few days of rain in south Wales Chris C. and I decided to get out on the Afon Mellte. We were wondering if we’d meet anyone to do the shuttle with at the top. When we got there there were some guys kitting up. As one of them turned to face me, it was Marcus, who I paddled with on the Egua in Italy. The paddling world is so small. We ran shuttle and put on together just below the big ‘un.

IMGP0133photo: Marcus on the Mellte

We paddled on down and lots of the smaller drops. But we missed out the 25 footer. Im sure at the levels we paddled at “it goes” but we all walked it..I’d prefer it with a bit more water. However, there were lots of gorge walkers jumping off it. Next time…i swear i said that last time too.

IMGP0160Photo: Tony on the lead in to that drop that hurts your back unless you boof

IMGP0152Photo: Marcus paddling on the boof onto rock drop.

The Mellte is classic welsh pool drop at this level. Clearly defined rapids and slow moving pools.There wasn’t quite enough water to make this a classic level, but it was super-fun summer levels. I really want to catch it a higher level and run some of the larger drops and see how busy it can get down in there. Trees are ever present on the Mellte and its good to be wary of them as they do sneek up on you.IMGP0170Photo: Chris on the shallow wier

IMGP0175Photo: Marcus on the looping pool drop. It kinda looked playable at this level.

Great time with friends, new and old :-) And in the summer too!


Dorset Multi-Activity Weekend

Back in July a group of us went to Dorset for the weekend for a bunch of climbing to be followed up with my very first sea kayaking trip. We climbed all day at Dancing Ledge and camped close to corfe castle. We were blessed with great weather and good routes to chose from. The rock face was decidedly quiet and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.


Photo: Ferry to Dorset


Photo: Chris leading a 6a



Photo: Dave on a route called ”John Cravens Willy Warmer”

We met up with the rest of our group at the beach to cool off after a hard day on the rock and totally deserved the icecreams we got as our reward. And then it was straight into the topoduo for more fun with a capital F.


Photo: Chris and Jen enjoying some duo time.

 The following day, Chris and I joined Maria, Nigel, Dan, Elaine and Don for a paddle from Kimmeridge Bay to Swanage, taking in some of the lovely jurasic coast on the way. So beautiful.


Photo by Chris: The get in at Kimmeridge Bay


Photo by Chris: Paddling the South Coast of England; does it get any better?

There was a bit of a swell running and some wind chop which made things a little exciting on the way. We had fantastic weather until we reached Swanage when the wind picked up to nearly force 6. A fantastic day on the water!


Photo by Chris: Me loving the sea kayak


My First Kayaking Article

I find writing my blog a relaxing way to record my paddling exploits and fingers crossed my readers appreciate my ramblings too- or at least like looking at the pictures if the words a wee bit tedious ;-) . I had such an awesome time in Corsica that I couldn’t help but write up an article about it, to share some of  its charms with more paddlers.  My blog posts formed much of the material and luckily, Ceufad thought it worthy of a few pages of their quarterly magazine- thanks Canoe Wales!


Photo: June Edition of Ceufad 2010; Cover Photo is Andy Holt on the Travo.

The folks at Ceufad did a fantastic job of editing and getting the article into shape.


Photo: Corsica article in the magazine.