Some thoughts on forward paddling

As sea kayakers forward paddling is the most important stroke that we have in our repertoire but possibly the one that we practice the least, once we reach a certain skill level.  Something that we rarely think about is cadence, the rate at which we perform the stroke.
This weekend I have spent a very enjoyable two days with members of Portsmouth Canoe Club, paddling in Swanage Bay.  We conducted a number of 5 minute time trials recording the number of strokes performed on the right hand side of the kayak, there were 16 of us in the group and over half of the paddlers were within 10 strokes of each other.
This is an exercise, which I have conducted in many areas of the world with a large number of paddlers of all abilities, for nealy 30 years, and from the results I would suggest that an appropriate paddling rate is between 135 and 145 right hand paddle strokes every five minutes.  This would appear to be suitable for paddlers of all sizes and abilities, all paddle lengths and types and weather and sea conditions.  There is no scientific evidence for this number but it seems to work.  For most paddlers it results in an appropriate forward paddling speed.
Try it when you are out on the water and see what figures you come up with, as an exercise it also helps to pass the time whilst on open crossings.Remember that if you have an effective forward paddling rate of 145 right hand strokes every 5 minutes this translates into 10,440 strokes on a six hour day trip, whereas if you have a rate of 180 strokes in the same six hour period you will end up doing 12,960 strokes.  Over 2,500 more strokes, which on a two week trip translates to an extra 35,000 strokes hence the need to develop an efficient technique.
These are my thoughts and observations but comments would be welcome. There are plenty of other ideas regarding forward paddling plus a variety of other strokes available in my e-book The A – Z of Sea Kayaking, which is available from Amazon.

Forward Paddling
John Crosby leaving Polyageos for Folegandros. A crossing of nearly 12 nautical miles in the . An effecient forward paddling stroke is essential when paddling in waters like these day after day.
Forward Paddling
Pete Hargreaves en route to Sark with a reasonable westerly swell. Sark is just visible in the top left. A fluent forward paddling style is required on such crossings.

The last Invasion of the British Isles?

As regular readers will know my favourite sea kayaking trip is to the Ecrehous, a delightful reef to the north east of Jersey. Last weekend we were fortunate enough to visit the islands on the large spring tide and had access to one of the huts for the evening. Reading through an old visitors book there was a recording of the events which unfolded during what is possibly the “last invasion of the British Isles”.
In 1993 a group of French fishermen landed on the reef and pulled down the Union Flag, which flies when people are in residence on the reef. It flies over the southern end of La Marmotiere.
Information was received that in 1994 a large “invasion” was planned but this time the Jersey police were ready to protect the sovereignty of the reef. The events of the day are recorded in the visitors book by the Police officers who were on the reef.
The log records the following activity during the day:
9th July 1994

Pc 188 (………. ……….)
Psgt 161 (……. …………)
Police HQ, 24, States of Jersey Police Officers and St Martins Honorary Police landed at 06.00 in response to threat from French fishermen of a mass planned demonstration by extension of Jersey territorial waters. 09.30 hrs first boat with demonstrators arrived. 10.30 hrs 6 large fishing boats arrived with 100 demonstrators including 12 right wing activists. 11.30 mass with French Priest held on the stone beach, demonstration urged to take action to lay claim to Les Ecrehous. 13.00 fight between two fishermen at the official flag pole was dealt with by Police. Reinforcements – further 12 officers shipped in. A very welcome sight – a calming influence to see the Duchess and two rigid raiders. All demonstrators left on good terms with the community and Police Scene Commander Supt Jones ordered stand down at 19.00. Two officers left on the island overnight.

The Priest and some of the crowds on the shingle bank. (Apologies I have been unable to discover the photographer)
The Ecrehous as they should be seen, peaceful with clear waters and interesting tidal flows.

It is easy to see why some French would want to take over the sovereignty of the Ecrehous but the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Jersey on the 17th November 1953. It would be interesting to find out if there has been a more recent “invasion” of the British Isles.