Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Digital Distraction

At last I have the DVD! So I am finishing the year with a dry version of the way we began. It works well in combination with the book and could provide a good way of evaluating video by comparing footage of your own skills with Gordon's demonstrations. Gordon's skill at conveying in words what he is doing without over complicating is great. Just the right blend of audio/visual information for each skill and the angle that everything is filmed at clarifies each point. Sometimes its hard to see the finer points of a demonstration on the water, from the water, especially when thinking about things like how best to blend strokes when rockhopping. This is a bit like being bank based but getting out of the marina. The other plus point about having all this on a DVD is that you don't need to think about your own boat positioning vis-a-vis other boats/rocks, as you try to watch, and there is no wind and wave noise cutting out every fifth word.
This is my first coaching video, I have a few 'inspirational' DVDs and occasionally look at demos of how to do things on the internet, but I think I will use this DVD to touch base and keep foundations sharp in a systematic way, and, by the time I do get back in a boat it may well be a useful place to start. It would be easy to set it up in the car and having a quick refresher just before getting in the boat if using it as an aid to coaching.
Thanks Gordon and Simon. Looking forward to the follow up already.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Kit audit

Not much else I can do at the moment.
Even this was pretty hard to achieve and I needed a lot of help just gathering everything up.
Amongst other things, I really would like to have a simple rip stop storm cag for rescuees. If anyone knows where I could source such an item I'd appreciate it if you could let me know.


A Lancashire lass took me for an airing on Wednesday and we got stuck on the wrong side of the second barrier on the way home. We sat in the car for a couple of hours watching the sea until the police deemed it safe enough for folk to cross. This situation might have previously caused frustration, but since it is as close to a dramatic sea as I'm going to get for a while, I enjoyed it.

The combination of tide and wind was throwing lumps over the wave wall. It was interesting to sit and watch from the south side where you can see the waves roll in. As time went by I began to predict which ones would make the most impact. I got quite good at it over the two hour period.

I was reminded of the beginning of the year, Gordon's training just east of here, and attempting to understand chaotic seas. I am still waiting for the DVD and wonder if it is lost in the postal chaos.

For folk who don't know Orkney it might be difficult to interpret the scale of the waves in the picture above. Each of the blocks is 10 tonnes.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Hej! Hilleberg!

Managed to get outside today for the first time in 4 weeks. Made it to the shed where the new 2 person tent is pitched. So luxurious compared to the mountain marathon tent I squeezed into this year. The porch for unloading into is massive and makes the idea of waiting for weather windows much more agreeable.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Lost but not forgotten

Some of the more sentimental of you out there have been reminded of our paddling brethren in this blog, and have requested a special tribute to paddling partners.

The more whimsical of us attach bits and pieces to our boats.

Some paddlers of a whimsical nature find that if they can't photograph themselves in a place which has been reached by paddlepower, they need the evidence of having been there by photographing a companion. Rarely do these 'attachments' have the personality or downright bravery to stick with it in all weathers and through 'scenarios'.
Oscar did.
So in his honour here is a retrospective of some of his favourite places.

September Syllabus

As the nights begin to draw, in a quick dash out after work becomes more and more unfeasible. With coaching on our minds and an a growing sense of urgency about what we should be doing, I had to choose carefully what to spend time on. So, for the last month or so before the break there was a mixture of open boat practice at Walliwall, coaching my family, and working through 'scenarios'.

One particularly productive evening was spent practising what we should be doing. Four of us at Scapa spent an couple of hours continuously feeling sea sick, collapsing unconscious, dislocating shoulders, holing our boats (under the cockpit of course) and needing a repair, and practising different kinds of tows; supported tows and push tows. We were convincing!

The Foundation safety test approached and we became less like open boat averse sea kayakers and more like paddlers practiced in the skill of righting a capsized canoe, a feat which at one time appeared to involve more muscle than I could muster, but which in the event we accomplished without a fuss but with acrobatic flair.

Cooperation and communication, the key to crewing an open boat successfully, takes a bit of practice when you are used to paddling your own canoe.

And that brings me up to my present predicament, firmly bank based, leg still elevated,
for the time being... but I am planning...

Paddle Orkney '09

This was our first foray into the world of organising paddling events.

Fantastic food provided by Nancy, indoor/outdoor camping at the Riding Centre (with Orkney ice cream included) and a little bit of help and encouragement from our Shetland friends, all served to enhance the experience.

Nige Robinson and Donald Thompson delivered coached sessions and slide shows, and helped review planned trips in the light of the weather conditions. Despite deteriorating weather everyone enjoyed an interesting trip or two.

Have a look at this video filmed by one of the Northern Irish contingent.

Sidekick, Shetlander and Mastermind.

Been there, done that, designed the t-shirt....

...and the mug.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Uyeasound Saga

In August we set off for Unst to join our Shetland friends on their annual paddlefest for a couple of days, based in Uyea at the Gardiesfauld Hostel. After a comfortable journey north overnight we stocked up on provisions in Lerwick. As we drove north kayaks on cars became more and more common on the roads, until the final ferry queue consisted almost entirely of paddlers and cars stuffed with gear and paddle kit.

After setting up tents we went for a leisurely paddle around Uyeasound and the uninhabited island of Uyea. We undertook the customary sheep rescue, a common occurrence in the Northern Isles.

The following day I went with a group from Northwick to Balta Sound via Balta Isle.

The beach at Northwick.
There was a spectacular coastline and lots of rocky outcrops to dodge and choose routes between. Occasionally a rocky face seemed to materialise.

We stopped on a bouldery beach which turned out to be a Viking soapstone quarry, complete with real live Viking.

Into the eye sockets of a drowned troll...

We crossed to the island of Balta and stopped on its beautiful beach amid the remnants of theherring stations. The crumbling piers gave a clue to the scale of activity and boats that used to frequent the now idyllic island.

This little blue boat felt quite at home.

Looking down on the beach and north, back at where we had come from.

The back of Balta looks interesting.
I'll need to come back and do that another year.
Every birthday celebration should include a cowboy,
somewhere to shelter,
and facilities.

Each night we were treated to a fantastic spread of food in the community hall. We enjoyed slide shows and the Regatta dance on the Saturday night.
I look forward to many happy returns.

Living in the North Isles ourselves we understand the importance of using time in ferry queues usefully and the importance of keeping oneself amused.
In Shetland the means to do this is provided in the form of boat shaped musical instruments.

View Shetland paddles in a larger map

West Side Story.

In Orkney there is sometimes the chance to paddle part or all of 'the best paddle ever', along the west coast between Skaill and Stromness. This summer the weather held day after day. I was unable to paddle the whole route but managed to catch up with friends along the way by trolleying my boat down to a geo.

Yesnaby is a popular area to walk and admire the impressive cliffs, stacks and 'castles' and glimpse caves, seals and sea birds. From the water the view is even more magnificent.

As we approached we could see a fixed rope, perhaps for climbers to reach the foot of the stack which stands on a tripod of rock.

The scale of the coastal features on the west side is awesome.

Too soon, I had to return to dry land. On the way back to the car we spotted the other feature which folk come here to look for, but this one is tiny. This primula Scotica is framed by a ten year old hand.

Paddling partners

Sometimes there is not enough appreciation shown to paddling partners. Someone who is like minded, has similar goals but understands where the edge of your comfort zone is, encourages, makes clear when you are being ridiculously risk averse, who confirms your judgement when you are being risk averse, checks tidal calculations, is generally ready to leap in a boat if the wind is F4 -6 SSW, and is tolerant of gel coat anxiety.

If you have the good fortune to find yourself paddling alongside such a person you'll know what I mean.
Don't lose them!

New rocks on an old route.

It is odd how often paddled routes can seem so unfamilar in the fog. You can be fooled into thinking you know what is coming next and then all of a sudden the mist clears momentarily to reveal....

...that you were mistaken.

As we made our way up from St Mary's back to Scapa we occasionally glimpsed the sun.

This was the inaugural trip of the new member of our Rockpool family, the Menai 18, at the end of June.
I very quickly realised that there was no point in trying to catch up. It is too fast; so here is a rare momentary pause, set up for the camera.

The owner of the brand new boat appears pleased.
I think he already planning a trip to ...Skye?

Friday, 2 October 2009

Sunny South Ron

South Ronaldsay was my favourite place in early summer and the trip from Windwick to the 4th barrier was the highlight.

There were big caves....
...interesting tunnels....

...where we skillfully deployed rudder and draw strokes....

...without a single scratch to the full glitter finish.

We did surprise a seal who looked up after the first boat passed through and consequently got a bump on the head from the second.

Lunch at Kirk Bay.

We passed the wreck of the Irene and dodged through the remnants of her boilers.

Gave those boat hulls a thoroughly good thrashing in the name of rockhopping.

We practised rescues at Grimness, where it wasn't grim at all.

Now this place is nicknamed 'Niceness'.