Porth Trecastell to Mermaid Inn

Porth Trecastell (Cable Bay) is a well known inlet on the West coast of Anglesey with a free car park and easy access to the water.  It is popular with kayakers, surfers and walkers and is a nice safe beach for families.

This paddle took 5 of us from Cable Bay (called as such because it was where telegraph cables came ashore) around Abermenai Point and into the Menai Strait, finishing at the non closed Mermaid Inn.  On the way we stopped off at Llanddwyn Island for lunch and paddled a short way up the river past Caernarfon Castle. Total distance was around 14 nautical miles.  We started on the ebb tide, arranging to pass Abermenai as the flood began so as to get some assistance into the Strait.  A

The map shows the trace from the Delorme Inreach with dots every 10 minutes. The car shuttle is also included!

0 Track of Cable Bay to Mermaid Inn 6 March 2016

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A foggy paddle through Liverpool

The sea kayak is an excellent way of escaping from the modern world, it can take you to deserted beaches and along rugged coastlines.  Today however, we paddled through the heart of Liverpool, steeped in maritime history and with a busy network of docks.

Alan, Neil, Neil, John and I set off from Crosby beach and paddled along the line of Antony Gormley’s statues, “Another Place”, towards Liverpool on the fast flooding tide.  In fact, we didn’t need to carry the boats right to the water’s edge, we simply sat in the boats and the water came to us.

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After launching we spent a while paddling around the statues and wondered just how much damage the cast iron figures would do in you landed on their heads when they were covered with water.

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The life-size statues are covered with barnacles.

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The flooding tide carried us along and soon we were in the city passing the Liver Building.  Although there were very few boat movements because of the fog the VHF was frequently active with traffic control and Mersey VTS were pretty insistent that we regularly report our position.

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After a short lunch taken at the top of the only flight of steps we could find on the wall, we returned on the now ebbing tide.

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The fog got no better.

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Soon we were passing Gladstone Docks where a large ship was preparing to leave.

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We paddled on towards Crosby.

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The tide was further in at Crosby when we landed – reducing the walk!

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All in all and excellent day’s paddling in a very different environment.  Maybe next time we will do it in conditions of good visibility!

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Track from the Delorme Inreach.  Dots are at 10 minute intervals.

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Unexpected Shoulder Injury

Kayaking and shoulders – everyone seems to have a tale. This summer I have been plagued with a very painful right shoulder. Although hard paddling and lots of rolling did aggravate it; it didn’t seem to make it much worse. The pain came when my arm was in front of me and it was very hard to localise the source. Sometimes it was in my shoulder blade, sometimes between the shoulder and elbow, but always there was a very tender spot on my AC joint at the very top of the shoulder. A quick look at the anatomy of a shoulder shows that it is ridiculously complicated and less of a ball and socket and more of a ball on a saucer stabilised by masses of ligaments and muscles.
As I paddle frequently I was pretty sure that it was something to do with technique and I began to study my paddle technique very closely.
The first thing I noticed was that was over extending my top hand and leaving the blade in a little too long. This lifted water at the exit. I did more of this in rough conditions – lifting even more water. It seemed obvious that I had over exerted the lifting muscles and this was consistent with the feeling, it hurt to lift my arm in front of me. Also, good technique means strong rotation and I found that I was putting in lots of power with my shoulder very relaxed – possibly adding strain? It actually felt better when I tensed the muscles.
As the summer progressed it got worse. Rest was advised. I stopped paddling for a month. Then pain got even worse! I went on a business trip and it got a little better. I started using the paddle machine in the morning, just for five minutes or so. The pain almost went. However, once back at work it returned. I rested – it got worse again.
Finally, after losing an entire season’s paddling the reason started to emerge. It was the mouse on my desk and repetitive strain injury. When I rested from paddling I actually used the mouse more, scouring Youtube for paddling technique videos.
I bought a trackball, used it in my left hand; I got a better chair and was very critical of my seating position and arm rests. One week later the pain had almost gone. Being a scientist I tested my hypothesis by using the mouse for a day. Wow – the pain returned with vengeance.
Light paddling and light weights is starting to bring some condition back to my shoulder but it will take time to get all the power back. I still find it hard to believe that a 30g mouse (and the weight of an arm) was sufficient to make me think I may have to consider giving up the sport. My trackball stays.

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Sunny in Seattle

I’m lucky to have a job where I get to travel so when I found myself in Seattle on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in September, I just had to get a few hours on the water.  I will admit that I would have preferred to be kayaking in Puget Sound with orcas, but a circuit of Lake Union was still a splendid way to get out of the office.

The guys at Northwest Outdoor Centre set me up with excellent equipment, a composite Necky Chatham 17 and a virtually new Werner paddle that may even convince me to leave the wing behind sometimes.

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I know this blog is paddling and sailing, but I also visited the Chihuly Glass gallery later in the week and just had to include a few pictures from there too.  By the way, that is a full size boat of maybe 20 feet long!

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Paddling Around Ramsey Island and the Bitches

Ramsey island, off St David’s head Pembrokeshire, is an iconic sea kayaking location.  Not only is this island an amazing nature reserve, but the deep waters of Ramsey Sound contain a submerged rock promontory, The Bitches, responsible for very large standing waves under tidal flow.  This was to be the first paddle for the complete group of six of us during our week in Pembrokeshire.

Inreach satellite track of the trip

Inreach satellite track of the trip

Starting at 11:00 (local times)  from Whitesands beach on 14th July 2015 we headed across the sound towards the northern end of the island in moderate, wind driven, rain.  Once in the open water we were carried quickly by the south flowing stream (which starts 3 hours after HW at Milford Haven – 05:42)  and which would continue until 14:45, forming a tidal gate at the southern end of the island.

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As soon as we arrived at Ramsey Island, Alan (soon to be renamed The Troglodyte) disappeared into the nearest cave  – at least we got out of the rain.

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Out of the cave, the wet weather continued as we passed the Northern tip of the Island with a lively tidal flow in places.

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We had briefly thought of landing for lunch (which is not really permitted) however the most suitable places were either in full view of the birders, or were already occupied.

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Instead, we snacked on the water as we approached the southern end of the island, just after 14:00, and waited for the south running tidal stream to subside, predicted to be around 14:30.   There was still a strong flow in the narrow gap between the rocky islets that make up this end of Ramsey as we passed through at 14:25  – it probably never actually gets slack in this area.   It have been worth a photo; but the usual rule applies that in the most interesting water one needs both hands on the paddle (and I was not going to risk scratching my new Cetus).

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Turning north in the sheltered waters, the Bitches came into view and we paddled over them at 14:50, when the northerly flow was minimal.

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We then paddled a few times through the cave and the Bitches before stopping off at the harbour (where we are allowed to land) for a late lunch.

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After lunch, the flood tide had begun to make the water a bit more lively and we played for a while in the increasing and every variable flow.  By this time the wind had increased to what felt like around F4  against the tide providing very interesting conditions where the wind blew us up into the flow.

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At 15:40, only one hour after the northerly flow began and with the rough water building rapidly, we made a very odd ferry glide across the sound and then plugged away hard into the wind on the eastern shore to finally return to a light surf landing at 16:30.

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It had been an interesting day’s paddle with  tidal flows, caves and rather damp weather, however, despite the notoriety of the Bitches (we left well before it really built up), it was the wind on the return leg that provided the biggest challenge.

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Windy Day From Bull Bay to Porth Eilian

With a spring tide and a strong southerly wind forecast (gusting force 6) Alan, Mike, Jo and I decided to paddle along the northern shore of Anglesey hoping that if we kept in close it would not be too exposed.  Leaving Bull Bay we headed towards Point Lynas on the flood aiming to reach Porth Eilian for lunch and then return on the ebbing tide in the afternoon.

Leaving Bull Bay

Leaving Bull Bay

The wind flattened the sea

The wind flattened the sea

Keeping in close

Keeping in close

It seems that caves cannot be resisted

It seems that caves cannot be resisted

Jo paddling towards Point Lynas

Jo paddling past the headland and on towards Point Lynas

In a few places there was some small swell

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Despite the wind there were some very sheltered patches

Heading back

Heading back past Llam Carw the wind increased

Paddling into Amlwch Harbour

Paddling into Amlwch Harbour

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Turning into Bull Bay past East Mouse the wind hit us – still very flat sea though

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Long hard paddle with the wind on the nose

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And then into the lee of the land and clam once again!

Alan sneaking between the rocks

Alan sneaking between the rocks

Finally back to Bull Bay after a few rolls

Finally back to Bull Bay after a few rolls

The route, dots are at 10 minute intervals

The route, dots are at 10 minute intervals

Although only a short trip, it was great to get out paddling, made more interesting with the strong winds.

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Conwy Ascent 2015

The Conwy Ascent is a popular 15km canoe race in North Wales, taking place annually on the flooding tide in mid-June.  The tidal stream in the narrow entrance to the estuary can run at 6 knots, so there is generally good tidal assistance throughout the race.  The river enters the sea from main-land Wales just beyond the eastern end of the Menai Strait. As well as the race, the course can also be paddled as a tour and, owing to a damaged shoulder and a general feeling of unfitness, I decided to do this after being persuaded to take part by Charlie and Jake, both lifetime marathon paddlers, older and fitter than me!  With rumours of large standing waves, boat wash and wind over tide, it was not a difficult task to decide to leave the k1 at home and take a sea kayak  – so the Cetus came out (well there were no rock gardens so I wouldn’t be adding scratches). At the start we met an Alan and Chris from Macclesfield who were also doing the tour and John, Adrian and Rebecca, as well a large contingent from Trentham canoe club who were all racing

Looking back at the start

Looking back at the start

Charlie and Jake advised that we should  leave towards the end of the start window, as they were typically as fast as the mid-range racers.  So at about 12:30 we set off on the rapidly flooding tide. Both Charlie and Jake were paddling home built boats, Charlie’s finished like a piece of furniture and Jake’s a skin on frame kayak that drew lots of admiring glances.

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Jake

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Charlie

It was not long before we met and overtook other paddlers (this was not a race you understand but I got the feeling that Charlie and Jake didn’t really take the term “tour” to heart).

We started meeting earlier starters

We started meeting earlier starters

There were two SUPS in the race and although SUP is now widespread, I never quite get used to seeing people standing on water.

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Stand up paddler (SUP)

Pretty soon we were at the finish and, as we had beaten the high tide by a long way, we had the task of climbing up the gooey and slippery banks with a very deeply shelving river edge.  It was more like a cheap a Saturday evening game show than a boat race!

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The deceptive river bank at the finish

While waiting for just a little more water to fill the river we were able to witness the arrival of the first racers – with a very close k2 finish – exciting stuff.

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The fastest K2s had a sprint finish

Chris and Alan getting out (without a swim)

Chris and Alan getting out (without a swim)

Jake and Charlie eating lunch while my coffee brews

Jake and Charlie eating lunch while my coffee brews

Looking back along teh finishers

Looking back along the lunching finishers

Once it was clear that the tide had turned and the ebb flow began with a reasonable speed, we launched and set off back to the estuary.  This was not part of the organised event but saves a car shuttle and with the weather improving, it was a great way to finish the afternoon.

Heading back

Heading back

Chris and Alan on teh return leg

Chris and Alan on the return leg

Passing Conwy Castle the wind picked up a bit of water, the only slightly rough part of the day.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

And finally, back past the moored boats and onto the slipway. 14 All in all, I am very pleased that Charlie and Jake talked me into taking part, it was a great experience and I can see why people come back year after year.  I think next time I will do it as  a race. It will be interesting to find out how our tour times compared with those of the racers as we put in a fair amount of effort (but then again,  I have never been for a “gentle” paddle with Jake and Charlie).

Every finisher got a welsh slate coaster

Every finisher got a Welsh slate coaster

Update:  the results showed that Charlie and Jake did it in 1 hour 16 minutes and I finished in 1 hour 17 minute  (taking photo of them crossing the line).  This would have put us quite high up the racers, next time we race!

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