Everybody starts somewhere

I recently had the privilege  of attending two evening starter sea-kayaking sessions on Killington Lake on 4th and 11th of May.

I had only been in a sea-kayak once before, and I had a sense of trepidation as I made my way from work in heavy rain to attend the first session. As I joined the rest of the group, it appeared I was not alone in feeling nervous. Mike and Mac did their best to set us at ease, giving us some general information before getting us kitted up and out on the water.

The rain eased, and we began to receive instruction on the basics of sea-kayaking. Before long we were all moving well on the water, and the nerves began to settle. In addition to focusing on the practical and technical aspects, Mike and Mac successfully shared their passion for sea-kayaking and let us know the pathways available to us if we wished to develop in the future.

As the evening progressed, the weather continued to improve. We saw some wildlife including large numbers of nesting cormorants on a nearby island. Our technique and confidence increased at a rate I had not expected for the first session. By the end of the evening the wind had completely dropped, there was a coating of snow on the Howgills, and we had also been treated to a double rainbow. A satisfied group of participants went their separate ways, looking forward to the next session.

So far so good

The following week we met again. This time there were enough people for two groups. I was with the same group who had attended the previous week and we started where we left off, practicing what we had learned. It was surprising how much we had remembered and progressed after only one session. I clearly hadn’t remembered everything, as I inadvertently demonstrated how to capsize to the group. I was well supported to get back in the kayak that had thrown me, and continued for the rest of the session. Once again the weather smiled on us and we were treated to a calm, sunny evening on the lake. We were fortunate to have good views of both Canadian and Greylag geese and goslings. After working us through the different techniques of paddling, Mike got us all to slow down and savour being out on the water in glorious conditions, taking in the sights, sounds and wildlife. We had spent a good while out  on the water this evening. Mike also told us about other events open to us over the summer and beyond for anyone who wishes to follow up these taster sessions.

Looking good, feeling good

Two sessions in and I’m hooked and have joined a club. I’m already booked on another session and I plan to attend more over the rest of the year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mike and Mac for these wonderful starter sessions. They were really well tailored to the needs of the participants, helping us to gradually build confidence and setting the tone about the aim to develop new sea-kayakers from beginner level.

Neil Gillson

Windy-mere; Rescues and capsizes

“Rescues and capsizes are usually required when conditions are not ideal”, said Andy in his preamble, and as the forecast wasn’t brilliant the conditions looked promising for some realistic practice.

The biblical rain which fell on the Windermere Marathon runners had stopped and by the time we assembled at Fell Foot the sun was shining – Andy looked positively disappointed!

Onto the water and thinking about the effects of drift, what drifts fastest, people, paddles or boats?, OK so what to hold onto first if you can’t hold onto everything!

Speed upwind, speed downwind, how much effort just to hold position if the wind kicks up – a bit of blindfold paddling, “cling” to the buoy when the big boat passes. OK now throw your paddle away, yeah go on throw it away. – now reach for your splits, can you even touch them, point well made!

Towing practice next, and the need to get on the right side of a short tow if you want to have control of both boats. So much learned that we need a snack. The short break gave a great opportunity for folks to compare boat set up, gear, clothing choices, and emergency stuff.

As planned, over lunch the wind started to kick up so it was back onto, and into, the water. Everyone got the chance to work on their own agendas, rolling, rescues, self rescues whatever was needed.

Heading back down to Fell Foot against a stiffening southerly breeze we a passed a family happily zooming downwind in inflatable kayaks. Hopefully a cautionary word from Rob prevented a real rescue being needed.

A fabulous few hours, with so much learned – A big thanks to AndyM from Anette, RobH, DuncanG, RobG, and Eric

Ribble dribble

Well it wasn’t quite a dribble fortunately, but we wouldn’t have wanted it any lower. Settle had hit national news due to biblical rain earlier in the week, and the rest of the north had suffered multiple bouts of very heavy downpours. But by the time Saturday arrived only the usual suspects were up – plus the Ribble – on it’s last legs!

Avoiding the submerged boulders
Chris Dale submerging his skinny stern

And what a great trip. Cheerful, warm (ish), and without event. Just the 4 of us – starting to enjoy the fruits of Boris’s relaxation of rules.

Nothing much to report really, but we did all remark the Ribble is rather under-rated, and unfairly less travelled by the LCC. A clear case of discrimination. Rivers have rights.

Entering Queens Rock Rapid
Entering the crux rapid

So get off your butts. Travel east.

I wasn’t expecting that!
Ian – Finding his way!

Pete Riley (And Ian Mc, Mark Mc and Chris D)

Footnote: In at 0.4, out at 0.39. [Have done it 0.39 / 0.38]. The Ribble tends to hold it’s water for slightly longer than some of the Dales rivers. When the rain stops it doesn’t empty quite as drastically as some of it’s counterparts.

Bute circumnavigation – 12th to 15th May

“Hands up who fancies a trip to Bute” says MikeH, and soon the 6 places were filled by eager circumnavigators.

MikeP takes up the story of day 1

Day 1 – Across to the Isle

Mike H had said to arrive 12:30 for a 2pm start. I knew I would need longer so arrived 11:30am. I was still last on the water, as we set off at 13:48, 12 minutes early.

Portencross car park provided a perfect spot for pre launch faffing.

It was a lovely afternoon, with no wind, calm sea and sunshine, as we paddled from Portencross to Little Cumbrae island then across to Garroch Head at the south end of Bute. A ship was spotted steaming out to sea. Could we outpace it? Some of the group thought we could, but as the 13,000 tonne chemical tanker Cumbrian Fisher approached, we chose a wiser course of action and steered around its stern. Nobody waved, nobody spotted on the bridge. Had anyone even seen us?

So far so good
“Should I go or should I stay…..de, de, de, de, de, de, da.”

We camped at Stravanan Bay, on flat grass with old tractor tracks, but had to lift the sea kayaks over many small rocks, with at least 3 to a boat. It was an idyllic setting, looking over Goat Fell with its sharp ridge and other Arran mountains in the warm evening sunshine, no wind, no flies. Is this really Scotland?

Evening prayers – Stravanan Bay
Day 1

Day 2 – Stravanen, North to the composting toilet!

Tom takes up the story.

The day started overcast , grey and windy. We breakfasted and then team carried the boats over the rocks to leave our campsite at Stravanan at about 9.30. No lovely views of the Isle of Arran ridge this morning. Quick progress was made up to Ardscalpsie Point and a decision made to round Inchmarnock Isle. The wind now assisted us across and we noted the campsite on the South East end. We now went North up the west coast and had elevenses at the North West corner where there was much activity from Greylag Geese. Lots of Eider duck as well.

After our break we then rounded the top of the island and headed due East , directly into the wind and waves. Once across we turned North, The excursion meant we missed St Ninian’s Bay which is worth a visit if you are passing. The Siren song of the cafe at Ettrick was avoided and all mariners survived to eat lunch at Kildavannan Point. Halfway through the food but a good way to go yet. Lakeland Canoe Club now became Lakeland Comedy Club as Mike’s string of punning humour continued—don’t give up the day job !

Ettrick Bay marks the end of the boundary between Highland and Lowland Scotland. We now headed North West and the Isle became more mountainous and Highland like in character. As we approached the West Kyle of Bute there was some minor tide against us but we continued up to the ironically named (after 7 hours of paddling) Buttock Point, rounded it and headed towards our campsite for the night. Places for six tents were found at the Argyle Kayak Trail “facility” and we utilised the shelter for cooking. Luxury of luxuries, a magnificent composting thunder box, with outstanding views, if one left the door open. A loo with a view ! Our second midge free night followed but our slumbers were disturbed by a quartet of noisy Eider duck who outdid most cockerels with their amorous cooing from 5.30 in the morning. Another very enjoyable day.

View towards Loch Riddon
The composting toilet was worth the short walk!

Day 3 – South as far as you can go

After the Eider alarm clock things were on the move early (nothing to do with the composting facilities). Just around the corner was the Rubha a Bohdaich ferry with a handily placed rubbish bin. It was here that one of our number magnanimously taking everyone’s rubbish ashore became our only liquid casualty of the trip.

With a stiffer breeze today we headed over to the mainland side of the East Kyle to find some shelter as we plodded through wind and tide, but progress was good and despite Eric’s map reading being as good as Mike’s jokes we made Ardmaliesh Point cow field for a coffee stop. Past the Boatyard and all of a sudden we were blessed with flat calm as we crossed Kames and Rothesay Bays, avoiding the ferry. The manicured grass at Ascog was a perfect lunch spot although talk of a future camp site might be optimistic.

Lunch on the lawn
Geology !

South past Mount Stuart, “the big hoose” but why would you hide the sea view behind trees. Julian and Mike gave an impromptu geology lesson at Kerrylamont Bay before the final push down to Glencallum Bay, Camp 3.

Eeeeh ye can see our ‘ouse from ‘ere
Day 3

Day 4 – Headed Haim

Ian’s tale

With a worsening forecast it was an early rise for the last leg back to Portencross, gear packing and “Tick” collecting in Mike P’s case,

Ian M went to his boat only to notice a few feet away a clutch of eggs had been laid symmetrically in a stony nest (if you could call it that) these had been laid before we had stirred from our slumbers.

Mother bird was not about but noted shortly after venturing back when the boats and had been moved lower down the beach, the busy parent it seems was a Ringed Plover a smallish bird and when looking at the size of the eggs did beg the comment Ouch!

Fresh breakfast eggs anyone? – sorry!

So all packed up, loaded the boats and moving out into the force 3 easterly only to hear Mike P exclaim that he thought he’d misplaced his glasses, Mike what are those on your nose? Panic over

Setting off towards Little Cumbrae Island steadily against the wind on the Port Bow to raft up in the lee of the old Lighthouse on the western side to have a look and decided which way around the island before crossing to Portencross the north route was the decision taken amongst the various seabirds with oyster catchers making a racket as we had obviously passed too close to nesting sites for comfort.

Once at a suitable point we ventured out across the shipping lane only to have to alter course to let a destroyer pass (We were more but he was Bigger!, he wins). so that was three we had seen along with other shipping in the days earlier.

Little Cumbrae Castle
C’mon if yer think yer ‘ard enough!

So with the wind coming on our port bow at force 3 it required a bit of effort for this last leg to Portencross castle and to the cars and the inevitable packing of cars, a spot of lunch and debrief and that concluded an excellent trip put together by Captain Mike H.

Portencross Harbour.
Day 4

The last word goes to MikeP

The sea is for sea-kayakers, but shipping lanes are for ships.

Rusland Pool

Tuesday 27th April

The springtide Brought Mike H, Brain, Sten and John S to Canal foot Ulverston.

I must remember the incoming tide HW passes her at HW -2.5 hours ish.

Heading out into the Bay, we soon encountered the incoming flood and played behind gravel bank before a long ferry glide to Chapel Island where 150 or so Eider pairs mewed.

Then can past Canal foot though the viaduct, then head East as that’s where the channel always has been. But not today of course, the main flow headed directly up the estuary NE. Soon the channels linked and inland we were swept past Grenodd, eventually turning at the bifurcated flow. North from the Leven UP Rusland Pool. The gentle flow took us along, the river narrowed and narrowed and narrowed.

As the flow subsided the lure of a bite and brew won through, so egress up such muddy banks.

As the food reduced, the flow increased again, so inland some more, another two km in fact, until the deep silty flow gave way to clear shallow gravel near Rusland Hall bridge . It seems we had gone downstream but raised in altitude.

A quick 3 point turn, the flow sloshed us along a now 10m wide channel that had been 2m on the way up.

The bifurcation was now a confluence, where the ongoing flow sped us along. The direct route back from Greenodd just avoid shallow sand banks. The gps track tells us why the arms felt strained. 37km, 5.2 hr paddling time. max speed 17km/h, average speed 7km/h

Mike H

Arnside, two bore-ing?

Wednesday 28th and Thursday 29th April

4 sea kayakers and 2 river kayakers met at Arnside promenade on a cold and blustery morning hoping to be entertained by the Arnside Borewave. A NE wind blowing up to 20mph sped us out into the bay, the channel was always deep enough to paddle and so we made good time, getting well out and therefore had time for a short break and a stretch of the legs.

The wave was spotted in the channel quite some time before it reached us, also an advanced wave was approaching across the sand. The main wave picked us up and had enough height to surf us along. The channel being wide allowed enough room for everyone to enjoy their own space to surf…..well usually, those sea kayaks can get greedy at times! The wave built in height and speed after a few hundred meters, becoming really entertaining, which maintained until the gently curving bend channeled us towards New Barns Bay, the change of direction calmed things down a bit. But we still surfed up to New Barns, the deeper water then destroyed the wave and created mainly standing waves.

Back in Arnside and big smiles all round, the borewave really delivered, giving us a 25 minute surf…..amazing. Rob and Mark continued up the estuary, almost reaching Levens Hall.
Mike, Sten, Ray and myself were happy to call it a day. There was always tomorrow and indeed there was as Sten and I plus others went out on Thursday too.

Chris Dale