Thursday, 25 February 2010

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Solo skill practice

In an effort to avoid aggrivating an old neck injury I didn't go on the group trip today and instead found some flat water to practice skills. 
With the 4* syllabus is on my mind, it seems like a long time since I thought only about skills in a sea boat.

The fulmars appear to be all paired up and settled into their chosen places.

On my way over to the waterfall I practised turning mostly, trying to 'blend' strokes together - ha!
I recalled a day last summer with Nige in the same location 'getting the hang' as it were, of an effective hanging draw. It was a perfect day to read how effective the draw was on the water's surface. I thought carefully about initiation strokes and edging and cross bow rudder.

Einar and Erlend wait for business.


Friday, 19 February 2010

Steaming sea boats

Frosty boats wait to get into the warm pool.

Tonight was a chance to get sea boats in the pool.
Time to practise skills the sea is just too cold and unforgiving to allow you to develop.

NK makes a getaway.

I hadn't rolled a sea boat for a while snce being Reunited actually, and there is always that moment of doubt...
I managed but felt it was uncomfortable.
I'm convinced I used to roll so much more effortlessly.
I got some feedback and, as suspected, everything is happening too late.
Need to start the whole motion sooner.
Its a fine line between deconstructing and building on what you have got.

NK's boat searches for the route to the open sea....

Sculling was back to normal - slow to no movement at all. Must be the smaller pool boats that make me scull faster. I practised a lot of support stroles and sculling on the off side in an attempt to reinforce the off side roll, but this will be an ongoing project...

Steaming boats in the -4C air.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Coaching juniors in the pool

This week was the first of a few junior sessions I have planned and will be coaching.
We have a great outdoor education department here so most of the children have already been in a boat once or twice both outdoors and at the pool.
In some ways this makes life easier for me, but in others more challenging.
I need to keep these folk active and entertained!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Fame at last!

Buzz's handler got this pic of our Gairsay trip the other day published on Scottish TV weather show.

Just looked at this again - still looks surreal.
Can it really be Orkney?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

New beginnings

Tonight at the pool we started a new session for beginners. It was so much fun to coach the first session with four new folk. After all the safety and capsize drill, a lot of what we focussed on was feel for how to move the boat about and how to move yourself around the boat to develop awareness of balance. Of course that meant another coach and I had to demonstrate first!

 We should do loads more of this sort of thing on a regular basis, it was great fun.
I hope by the end of the session the participants had enjoyed it as much as I did and went away with a sense of achievement.
They did great!

Sunday at Scapa

This morning, in a session to continue the introduction of some of our beginner group to the sea, some of our more experienced paddlers and coaches met up to paddle alongside them. Most folk had been on the water a few times, but for those who hadn't it was a significant moment.

There was 10 to 15 knots of wind coming from the south straight into the bay but behind the pier it was sheltered and flat. Ideal conditions to venture out for a feel and then return to the pier side.

One group chose to cross the bay and while the others began the process of translating and transferring all the skills practised in the pool in short boats to the sea boats.

Not so easy in an unfamiliar big boat with a different paddle and all your new gear on - plus the water moves and the wind blows you around.

Well done!
The first of many happy paddling experiences.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Seals on Sweyn's Holm

Today was a brilliant day in all senses.
I was indulged by two friends and went with them to Gairsay and around Sweyn's Holm. Ancient seat of the 'ultimate Viking', Sweyn Asliefson.

setting off

The good weather had brought out the creel boats and the wildlife. It was busy out there!
waiting to cross

As we rounded the weat shore of Gairsay we were rewarded with beautiful views of Rousay
Eynhallow sat on the horizon, shimmering like Heather blether, home of fin folk and mermaids.

Eynhallow sitting between the Mainland and Rousay

photo - Johnny
Although the coasline itself was not spectacular, the scenery around us was.
There was lots of opportunity to just admire the views and see familiar places from a different perspective.
photo - Johnny
The water was still and clear and quiet.

The water was so clear we could see sea urchins crowding on the rocks below...

...and check creels from the surface.
Rousay raised a cloud.
I spent a lot of time just looking at the scenery.
Rounding the corner into the channel between Gairsay and Sewyn's Holm we had some close encounters with few curious inhabitants, but soon realised we had arrived in the land of the Selkies.

I attempted to record the sound here by taking video footage but was unsuccessful.
The loud and distinctive calls carried clearly in the still air.

Before long we were travelling with an escort of selkies.
Some of the larger males were huge.
A few swam under the kayaks, too fast for a digital camera to capture.

After a break we completed the journey, around the Hen of Gairsay and into the sun, back across the swirling and boiling tide to Rendall.
NK's account here.
Circumnavigation of Gairsay - 12.6km.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


I have been reflecting on a blog post I read recently which struck a few chords.

Being in the education business myself I was reminded how much I enjoyed teaching and learning myself from both perspectives. When I first took up sea kayaking I returned to the classroom as a teacher with a healthy awareness of how it felt to be a learner, to be asked to do something new and difficult, perhaps even to be a bit fearful of what was being asked of you. I understood the importance of trust and success.

So a few years down the line and I am still learning new things and relearning old stuff. The range of things to learn is challenging in itself, from navigation and tidal planning, VHF procedures, sea survival skills, boat repair and outfitting, rescue techniques to leading and communicating effectively in a group a sea. But I still enjoy working on paddling skills the most and this is the bit that needs great skill to coach well.

sculling up

So respect to those folk who have helped my skill development and coached me along the way either because it is what they do or becuase they are just good at it and they were there. The newest thing on my ‘to learn’ list is how to coach well! To those folk who may experience me trying to explain skills to them over the next while, thank you for your patience, and when your skills surpass mine don’t forget to look back and throw me a few tips when you see my boat submerged in surf, stuck on a rock or upside down in the pool. I’m still learning.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Occasionally a sunny Sunday afternoon is enjoyed shoreside.

Cake-eating dog waits patiently as her ball-throwing companion looks out to sea.

Where I live

We are very lucky here to have liquid seas to paddle in winter, and access nearby for short winter days. From time to time we get bored of putting in at the same places.

Kirkwall Bay looking west
View Kirkwall in a larger map
Scapa Bay looking west

Scapa being the most frequent.