Thursday, 30 December 2010

Exciting new arrival!

What could it be?
 Today I my Joe O' Greenland paddle arrived from Mike at Poole Bay Canoes!
After a great deal of measuring and checking with both Mike and Joe who have shown much patience with all my queries I ended up with a non-shouldered 205.
I could have waited until Spring to get a 210 - BUT  I COULDN'T WAIT!!!
A bit nervous that it would be too short - all the other dimensions turned out just right as far as I can tell.
With my shoulders square my fingers curl over the top but I can comfortably extend my reach by another hands length at least, so I'd say its probably on the short side of a range which would suit my height.

first stick strokes
I have read Qajaq USA pages foresically and peered at you tube videos, so it was with some trepidation I set off to try out my own stick. Of course I wanted to go straight to the canted stroke and fairly quickly got the hang of it on one side (my right handed side) while on the other the blade consistently entered the water with a stubborn 'plop!'. I slowed down, I focussed, I paddled on one side only, I looked for the tell tale vortex of water leaving the blade and tried to make it point to the bow...'plop! plop! plop!'

No flutter but persistent plopping..
I thought about cadence and tried a faster pace of paddling - the plop disappeared. I couldn't keep it up! It was a good work out, like crunching elbow to opposite knee, but I had no idea if the rest of my body was working correctly - all the usual flags and markers meant nothing. Clearly this is going to take a while...
If only I had a mentor who could tell me what to work on!

static brace worked nicely
Sculling for support was different and I will practice that in the pool soon.
In the meantime it seems amazing that I have a Joe O' Blenis paddle of my very own!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The well-paddled path

The snow has melted and the temperature is now about 6 degrees C, about the same as the sea. A lull in the weather (now returned to normal - wet and windy) meant we could get out to exercise the paddle muscles on a familiar route.

Sunset? - it must be lunch time!
Along the way we had plenty of time to think about deveopments for Paddle Orkney '11 (involving TV personalities and playmobil) schemes for buying the boat of our dreams (involving secret bank accounts and time-share garages) as well as ways of making the route from St Mary's to Scapa more interesting (any suggestions other than those involving dynamite, on a postcard please!)

Is this the same geology as Newfoundland?
Along the way there were a few waterfalls created by the snow melt which have to be appreciated close up.

We reached Scapa as the light dimmed and the sunset proper was occurring.

Time for a bit of wet practice!
We headed towards the sandy beach but the water remained murky with run off from the snow and significantly colder than further out in the bay.
NK was determined to practice the static brace and the butterfly roll and that is what she did, finishing with a nice butterfly to store away in the muscle memory and practice through visualisation in the warm.

NK - before immersion.

NK - after immersion.
I think it is too cold to learn anything new but it is possible to have a good think and sort out a few annoying anomalies.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Dog walker and kayak doctor

Labrador in natural habitat = happy dog.
A Boxing Day walk at Hobbister proved to be an intrepid adventure in the snow.
Being a town dweller meant I didn't have a full appreciation of the extent of the snow and ice in the country, but I could tell by the tracks and  lack of human footprints, that we were the first to make the journey along the coastal path since the last snow.

It seems we are not the only creatures who prefer to use the path.

 The dog raised a few grouse and seemed to be in her element.

Wintry Waulkmill Bay.
 Later it was time to attend to the patient. So it was into the shed and onto the trestles. Drip set up and attached with the appropriate fluid (thank you Jackie) before the bleeding and transfusion took place. After a successful, if stressful, operation we are ready once again for whatever the weather throws at us.
Though I rarely use the skeg, when I need it I really need it, and that is more often in the winter.

The kayak surgery.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas mitts at the pool

Everyone knows you are allowed to open 1 Christmas present early! and that is just what we did.
Our new Reed paddle mitts are put through rigourous testing in pool boats.

Getting the second mitt on takesa minute or two....
I was really happy with the mitts. They are far superior to finger paddles I have used - they stay on better and are equally effective palm up or palm down. You can pick up a paddle and paddle away or grip a paddle easily for butterfly roll and I'm pretty sure they will be very warm.
I tried a few static braces and did some hand sculling with the mitts in the pool boats and was happy with how secure that felt - looking forward to trying them out in the sea boat.
Next goal is to try a few palm down front finish hand rolls.
NK - on the way down...

NK - on the way back up!
Somewhat deflated  we struggle on - SCA take pity!
The juniors enjoyed NK's inflatable canoe, but all the excitement and the drastic changes in temperatures did it no good at all.
Another chapter in trying to access the single blade discipline in our sea kayaking dominated lives ends in tears (and literal tears).
Good job she now has her very own open boat!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cold turkey

garden in the snow
Excessive snowfall for Orkney means the sea boat session in the pool I had planned for tonight is cancelled.
I was really looking forward to it and had hoped to get a bit of video self check and feedback from Hairyaker on all the things which are prone to gradually slip away over the winter. Now I'm thinking that a tuilik is slightly less expensive than building my own heated pool in the garden, so its creeping up my wish list.
The cockpit on my boat is one of the longest I've seen so it would have to be specially made to fit I suppose.
If anyone out there has experience of getting a tuilik to fit a Euro boat perhaps you could offer some advice?

One thing we did manage to do this weekend was to have the OSKA Christmas 'do'.

Paddlers and partners got together for a bit of Christmas cheer.

Hopefully we'll be out there paddling again soon.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas break

Last weekend we had our last coaching session in the pool this year, with a look back at what we had already done and a couple of new skills - the stern rudder and the low brace support stroke.
Finishing off with an energetic game of canoe polo, it was obvious how much confidence everyone had gained over the weeks. 

Peter gets stuck in.

NK shows them how it is done.
 Everyone has achieved a lot in a short time thanks to the effort they put into the sessions. We look forward to seeing them again in open boats and long pointy boats on the sea in the New Year.
Perhaps even in a canoe polo team if NK gets her way!

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Rush Hour

The hour before launch. T minus 60 and counting....
No matter how well organised there is never enough time.

Today after a late decision to go paddle on the sea in my kayak(! novel idea - I like it!) I started gathering up a lot of bits and pieces, you know the usual - paddle, deck, BA etc, enough layers of clothes to stay warm under dry suit (6) and then hunted high and low up and downs stairs, getting very hot in the 6 layers, before finally surmising my car keys must be in the other car which had been driven away that morning, and the garage keys (my boat shed keys) with them.

Every time I think I will arrive at the launch site well organised, cool, calm and on time, nothing forgotten there is something mislaid or missing which slows me down and causes the hour to be a rush. This may sound as if all my gear is scattered around the place in an unorganised fashion, but I do believe, bearing the restrictions of family domesticity, I have things reasonably well dry bagged and ready to go.

The next problem was how to communicate to NK (her phone being broken), by now probably pacing back and forth in front of her boat shed, that I couldn't come along and help lift her boat. An intermediary was contacted! Uncle Johnny to the rescue! Then, reluctant to give up on the idea of a paddle entirely, I broke into my own boat shed (shockingly easy actually - though I have remedied that since) and extracted my boat.

Finally I set off with NK with both boats on her car, a situation which nearly demands that we get on a ferry and make some kind of expedition... but...we resisted, and arrived at the launch site in good time.

T minus zero.
The trip was from Barrier 1 to Barrier 3 portage across to Weddell Sound, around Lambs Holm ( the site of the Italian Chapel) and back to Barrier 1.

The portage.

Shrek meets his match at the lunch site.

We had a break at the beach at Weddell Sound. These beaches on the east side of the barriers seem in places to be accumulating sand at ever increasing rates, smothering blockships at Barrier 4..
Passing the mast of the block ship at Barrier no.2.
Theses are popular diving sites and NK herself has braved the depths to investigate the wrecks we usually paddle above and around and sometimes through.
NK paddles close to the 10 tonne blocks.
The barriers were covered with 66,000 locally-cast concrete blocks.  Ten-tonne blocks were arranged on the sides in a random pattern to act as wave-breaks. Much of the labour was provided by over 1300 Italian prisoners of war. There is still a link today between Orkney and Moena, the home town of the principal artist involved in the creation of the Italian Chapel.

We arrived back just as light was beginning to fail at half past three.

Nice to be back on the sea, in a kayak.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Catching up...

After missing last week's session because of the extreme weather affecting our travel plans home from Inverness, we resumed our coached sessions at the pool. I worked with a couple of folk who had missed last week too, while NK worked with the guys on a recap, building in lots of reciprocal and self check activities, making sure to be clear about markers.. oh my!

concentration counts...
 We worked on turning with sweeps, going sideways and reversing and stopping. I notice that folk who swim with efficient technique and have a good feel for the water seem to pick up the basics well and understand when it feels right. The catch, pull and exit phase are all familiar ideas.

NK - 'So what makes these boats all different?'
 We had a few different boats in the water, some felt comfortable to one paddler and like a bathtub to another paddler.

Reverse paddling down the lanes.
 The lanes can be used as a  challenge and a measure of success in control and direction.

Coach demonstrates in a polo boat.
Meanwhile up in the deep end Hairyaker demonstrated different types of roll to a small group of paddlers who are all keen polo players. Next match next weekend - lets hope for good travelling weather.

Nick's roll - nice!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Back to the bat

NK delicately removes the icy seat cover with her hardy Werner blades.
 A welcome return to the pool and an hour's session of full on rolling and bracing. With the limitation on time, the pressure to achieve one's goals is tangible - even if it is only to re-visit and consolidate and be able to finish with the confirmation that what was achieved last summer is still in place.

decisions,  decisions...
 Butterfly and static braces were still OK and the bat roll was in place. I managed only a couple of norsaq rolls. Good job I still have the evidence I can do it - need to study the videos again.
A nice shallow sandy beach to start on too, with warmish water would be nice..

NK takes a break after a period of blocked practice.
 Because we are all trying to make the best of the opportunity of being in the pool the reciprocal feedback is limited too - it would be good to just have a coach on hand to video us and observe.
Perhaps something for next time.
Ansgar coaches hand rolls in a sea boat.

Sea boats returned outdoors steam in the freezing air.

The boats visit St Magnus Cathedral.
After the session a coffee and a few ideas for trips for next year, boat wish lists and ideas for Paddle Orkney '11 were discussed. 
I like the 'most original roll' competition idea - inspired by Gnarlydog and friends!