French Sea Kayak Symposium

The French Sea Kayak Symposium is being held, in April 2018, on the north Brittany coast. close to Paimpol and Ile de Brehat, which is a superb kayaking area.  It follows the format, which many Symposium’s use, 3 days of workshops and an extended paddling programme for a further 4 days.
There are a number of experienced coaches from 6 European countries, who will be helping to deliver the sessions.  If you have only attended Symposiums in the UK, many may be unfamiliar names, but all are experienced and passionate about various aspects of sea kayaking.
Why not consider the French Sea Kayak Symposium in your paddling plans for 2018, you are guaranteed a friendly Breton welcome and some of the finest sea kayaking available anywhere.  There is further information on the kayaking opportunities around Ile de Brehat here.

There are a number of options available, which are inclusive of camping:
• Pack 1 – Symposium and paddling week: 250 €
• Pack 2 – Symposium: 130 €
• Pack 3 – Paddling Week: 120 €
• Pack 4 – Symposium + EPP Level 3: 330 €

EPP is the Euro Paddle Pass Level 3 ( which is equivalent to the British Canoeing 3 Star Award).

Bookings for the Symposium can be made here.

Symposium
The lighthouse is on the northern tip of Ile de Brehat. Anybody visiting this area should aim to circumnavigate the island.
French Symposium
Another classic French lighthouse. La Croix is to the south west of Ile de Brehat.
French Symposium
On the western side of Ile de Brehat is a restored tidal mill, which it is possible to paddle up to, towards high water.
French Symposium
To the south of Paimpol is L’Ost Pic.

Sea Kayaking Memories

Whilst looking through thousands of slides last week, as I was trying to sort out a talk for a 60th birthday celebration, I came across a number of slides which brought back some great sea kayaking memories of  the last 30 plus years.
Also makes me think about how sea kayaking images have been lost as we have all made the switch to digital.  In an earlier post I looked at a few photographs of sea kayaking in the early days of the Jersey Canoe Club.

Sea kayaking memories
Holyhead Harbour at dawn towards the end of August 1980. We are leaving for Ireland. All was going well until 2 kayaks the same colour as ours were washed ashore under South Stack, resulting in a search being launched. We were located by a helicopter, followed quickly by a lifeboat. It took the edge of our trip so we returned to Holyhead.
Sea kayaking memories
Crossing to Bardsey in July 1981. The hatches on my new Nordkapp were held in place by string. My kayak was one of the first to be fitted with the new hatches, unfortunately the compound was unstable resulting in the rims collapsing inwards. Valley were great and replaced the hatches without question.
sea kayaking memories
A welcome beer in Carteret, France. There were significant restrictions placed on kayakers who wished to paddle to France but in April 1984 we were given permission to cross from Jersey to France, by the French authorities, and here we are celebrating our passage to our nearest neighbour.
Sea kayking memories
Surfing at St Ouen’s in 1985. KW7’s were the craft of the day. I was given my first KW7 for Christmas in 1969. Still a great general purpose kayak.
Sea kayaking memories
Pete on a rocky beach in northern Norway, in August 1986. We only had 2 days in 4 weeks when we were unable to paddle because of the weather. We were heading towards Nordkapp.
Sea kayaking memories
Beachy Head Lighthouse in 1986. Probably the most dramatic headland on the south coast. We were called over by a fisherman who gave us a lobster for free.
Sea kayaking memories
Cap Frehel is one of the largest headlands in northern Brittany. We paddled the length of the north Brittany coast back to St Malo, over 5 days, before jumping on the ferry back to Jersey.
Sea kayaking memories
Its not everywhere that Osprey’s nest on navigation marks. Penobscot Bay, Maine 1995.
Sea kayaking memories
An arch on Gola, off the north west coast of Ireland in 1996. Exploring the uninhabited islands was a great way to spend a couple of weeks.

Cote de Granit Rose

This post was one of the first that I wrote when setting up the original blog in 2010.  At that time we were managing to go sea kayaking in Brittany on a regular basis. In fact most months during the year we would travel to northern France and generally go paddling.  In recent years our kayaking interests have been in different geographical areas,  2108 sees a welcome return to this area though with a Sea Kayak Symposium being held near Paimpol in April next year.  As soon as booking details are known I will post them here.

This section of the Brittany coast has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in France, if not in northern Europe. It is well known from the tourist brochures and guide books and each year attracts significant numbers of visiting yachtsmen.
My favourite departure point is from Coz Pors at Tregastel, the paddling in either direction is memorable but last Saturday we decided to head east towards Ile Tome, an island of approximately 35 hectares whose spine runs north south. Situated off Perros Guirec, it has been uninhabited since the Second World War and the last few years have seen an active programme aimed to rid the island of rats to allow sea birds to breed, and so far it appears to have been successful.

Granit Rose
One of the distinctive features of this stretch of coastline are some spectacular coastal residences.
Granit Rose
First of all though it was important to pay a visit to the small harbour at Ploumanach, it is reckoned by many to be the finest anchorage on the north coast of Brittany. As the tide was high we were able to paddle over the sill, which keeps the water in at low tide, and approach the tidal mills, a feature of this area.
Granit Rose
Another feature of this area are lighthouses, of which a number were visible during the course of the paddle. One of my favourites is the Phare de Men Ruz, just to the east of Ploumanach. For those who are really interested in lighthouses it is possible to buy a re-usable shopping bag from Geant supermarkets complete with a photograph of the distinctive light.
Granit Rose
There are some significant tidal streams in the area and access to Ile Tome was only possible by ferry gliding across the ebbing tide. The waves were not too big and some strategically placed navigation marks allowed us to use transits to maintain our course. We wanted a lunch stop not to be swept west along the coast away from our intended destination.
Granit Rose
Lunch spot on the east coast of Ile Tome.
Granit Rose
Offshore Sept Iles were clearly visible but they were not for us today, our interest lay back along the coast at Tregastel in the shape of an ice cold beer.

Your 5 Best Paddles

One thing which we often talk about when out sea kayaking is what are the 5 best paddles that you have ever done.  I think that every time I consider, which are my favourites I come up with slightly different ones although there are often a couple of the old favourites.
So when you are having lunch on a rock somewhere, sitting around the camp fire on a remote island or just having a pint in your favourite pub why not give it some thought and see what you come up with.  What’s great about this is that there are no rules, apart from the fact that the paddles have to be on the tidal waters and ideally suitable as a day trip.
Here are my favourite 5 for today:

Best Paddle
Selecting a paddle from my local waters is always difficult but the Ecrehous always have to be in there. I first paddled out there in August 1974 and have been going back ever since. The landscape is always changing as the height of the tide varies. A warm summers day is a favourite but its also memorable being out there in the middle of the winter when you have the reef to yourself.
Best Paddles
A late evening paddle down to the Statue of Liberty, returning to Manhattan as darkness sets in is superb. To see the city skyline at night from the water is one of the worlds greatest views. That said paddling through many of the worlds cities is a memorable experience.
Best paddles
If there is one destination that all sea kayakers should aspire to visit it is Greenland. The combination of mountainous scenery, ice bergs and wildlife combine to create somewhere really special. On this day in northern Disko Bay all three came together in superb weather.
Best paddles
This small island is Er Lannic in Morbihan, southern Brittany. Where else is it possible to paddle in tidal streams which reach nearly 10 knots whilst less than a hundred metres away it is possible to explore semi submerged stone circles, several thousand years old? This is the perfect destination for the kayaking historian.
Best paddles
The west coast of Scotland is justifiably popular with sea kayakers and the paddle at from Elgol into the heart of the Cuillin Mountains has to be one of the finest one day paddles that there is. This was a beautiful day a few years ago. The best option is if it is possible to combine it with a trip around the neighbouring island of Soay. On this particular day it felt more like being on the Mediterranean than off the west coast of Scotland.

So that’s my five for today but I think that I have already got it wrong.  What about Polyaegos and Milos, Sark, Ile de Brehat or even the south west corner of Jersey.  This can lead to endless hours of discussion amongst sea kayakers about “what are your 5 best paddles”?

Palo’s Wedding

Palo’s Wedding is a classic film by Knud Rasmussen, who was born in Iulissat, on the west coast of Greenland, on 7th June 1879, the son of a Danish missionary.  He was the first European to dog sledge the whole length of the North West Passage, one of the numerous expeditions that he undertook between 1902 and 1933.  A number of geographical features are named after him, including the Knud Rasmussen Glacier in the far north west of Greenland and the Knud Rasmussen Range of mountains on the west coast of Greenland.
In addition he was honoured by the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Danish Geographical Society and the American Geographical Society as a consequence of his explorations in the Arctic.
Whilst making the film Rasmussen developed food poisoning, supposedly from eating kiviaq, which developed into pneumonia and he sadly died on the 21st December 1933 at the age of 54.
There are some short sections of the film available online but if possible it is well worth obtaining a full copy of the DVD.  Palo’s Wedding makes for an interesting winters evening viewing for a kayak club.

Palo's Wedding
Two memorials to Knud Rasmussen. The o abovene in front of his place of birth and the one below looking north over the ice filled Disko Bay.

Palo's Wedding

Palo's Wedding
The house in Ilulissat where Knud Rasmussen was born in 1879. His father was a Danish missionary living in the town.
Palo's Wedding
An umiak in front of the museum.
Palo's Wedding
Kamp Absalonsen, he was the vice-president of Qaannat Kattuffiat and chief Greenland kayaking competition judge, sitting in the earth house at the museum at Ilulissat. His love for all things Greenlandic is inspirational.
Palo's Wedding
The DVD “Palo’s Wedding” is a fitting memorial to one of the finest Arctic explorer’s of all time.
Of the Inuit he said:
“Their culture is a witness in itself to the strength and endurance and wild beauty of human life.”

Some more nostalgia

In 1975 Colin Mortlock led a six man expedition along the arctic coast of Norway, covering over 500 miles from Bodo to Nortdkapp and slightly beyond.  Many people see this as the first modern style sea kayaking expedition, with similarities to the mountaineering developments which were taking place in the Himalaya’s.  There were significant developments in terms of equipment, not least the Nordkapp sea kayak designed by Frank Goodman but I also believe that the Wild Water 5 pocket buoyancy aid which was standard equipment for sea kayakers for years had its origin in this expedition.  It was seen as such a ground breaking trip that it was serialized in the Sunday Telegraph magazine.
I was fortunate that 11 years later in 1986 I was able to follow part of their route, from Tromso as far as Honnigsvag, a small town just past Nordkapp.  In contrast to the unsettled weather experienced by Colin Mortlock and his fellow paddlers, we were really fortunate.  For 26 days out of 28 we had light winds, higher than average temperatures and long hours of sunshine.  Evenings were frequently spent sitting around in t-shirts although we were quite a way north of the Arctic Circle.
As we passed under the cliffs of Nordkapp (307 metres or 1,007 feet) in flat calm conditions it was hard not to think of the sailors who had traveled these waters as part of the Arctic Convoys which were heading too and from the northern ports in the former Soviet Union during the Second World War.This was a memorable trip with other members of the Jersey Canoe Club, we were fortunate with the weather, which we took full advantage of.
Next summer we are returning to northern Norway to paddle in the Lofotens, a stunning sea kayaking destination, which I have only ever seen before from an aircraft whilst heading further north.  It promises to be a good summer.

Nordkapp
Crossing to the Lyngen Peninsula, the tip of which is at 70 degrees north. This was a spectacular area and we were blessed with superb weather. One morning it was so hot we went swimming.
Nordkapp
The island of Fugloy towards midnight. I always said that one day I would return to paddle to this spectacular island. 26 years on it is an ambition which is still waiting to be achieved.
Nordkapp
Paddling into Lyngen Fjord.  At the time this was probably the most spectacular are I had ever been kayaking.
Nordkapp
Most of the time we were blessed with settled warm weather. In 4 weeks we only lost two days paddling to poor weather, and they were consecutive days, when we were close to Oksfjord.
Nordkapp
We woke one morning to particularly settled weather and seized our opportunity to paddle around the most northerly point of Europe. Nicky and myself approaching Nordkapp, in our Nordkapps.

Gozo’s South Coast

I have paddled along Gozo’s south coast numerous times over the last five years but the beginning of November was the first time that I had the opportunity to walk along a significant portion of the cliffs and it is interesting to compare the experiences.
We took the bus to the harbour at Mġarr with the intention of walking to Xlendi.  We had a number of guide books , which all recommended a slightly different route. Route finding turned out to be easier than anticipated as it was largely a matter of flowing the red dots and occasional arrows.
The scenery was superb, as we expected, with great views across to Comino and Malta.  In one place we were able to look north across the Island and in the distance could see the coast of Sicily.  I think that this is my 9th visit to Gozo but today was the first time that I had seen their Italian neighbour, to the north.  As walked towards the west the small island of Filfla came into view away to the south.  We also had clear views of the section of the north west coast of Malta we had paddled last week.
What did shock us though, was the sheer scale of the hunting which was being practiced in the area.  As we walked along we realised that most of the background bird noise was coming from caged birds, which we were being used to attract wild birds so they could be shot.  Goldfinches, Greenfinch, Linnets, Chaffinches and a number of other species were caged in their hundreds.
We didn’t want to get too close, or attract attention, as there were quite a few men sitting in the small hunting hides, complete with rifles.  Along one section of the coast there were numerous nets, which were clearly used for hunting as well.  I think that for most people the scale and impact of the hunting would have a serious impact on their enjoyment of the day.
Kayaking along this section of coast you have no idea what is going on above but walking does allow access to some of the more interesting historical features.  The walk from the harbour to Xlendi was nearly 9 miles and took significantly longer to walk than it does to paddle.
For navigation we used the ViewRanger App, which is amazingly accurate and well worth getting if you have an appropriate phone.

Gozo South Coast
To the west of the harbour is the small bay of Ix-Xatt I-Ahmar. On the westren side of the bay there is superb diving with a deliberately sunk ferry boat. Above is Fort Chambray
Gozo South Coast
Paddling into Ix-Xatt I-Ahmar on a warm calm day. Time for a swim.  Fort Chambray is clearly visible above.
Gozo South Coast
A beautifully sheltered bay. It was used by Turkish raiders to load captured Gozitans onto their galleys. Today it is a much more peaceful location and is where the film “By the Sea” starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt was shot.
Gozo South Coast
We had a brief stop here on our paddle around Gozo at the beginning of November this year.
Gozo South Coast
Walking along the spectacular south coast cliffs. The views are truly spectacular but the number of hunters operating in the area did give some cause for concern.
Gozo South Coast
This is a serious section of coast with nowhere to land until you arrive at Xlendi. As regards the body you are likely to end up with a stiff neck from continually looking upwards to take in the scale of the physical landscape.
Gozo South Coast
Looking into the sheltered bay at Xlendi and the end of our walk and time for a relaxing pint. Behind the village is the abandoned flour mill which was excavated into the hillside during the Cold War, so that flour could be produced if there was a nuclear conflict.
Gozo South Coast
Paddling back into the bay of Xlendi after a delightful paddle round to the west coast of Gozo.

 

How far can you see?

How far can you see whilst sitting in your kayak?  Knowing how far away you can see an object whilst paddling is a useful technique and a valuable aid to navigation.  As a simple rule the higher up you are the further you can see.  Standing on top of the Empire State Building, with good visibility it is amazing how far away the horizon is.  Also the taller the object you are looking at the further away that it can be seen.
As paddlers it is not that easy to raise our eye level, our eyes are generally just less than 1 metre above sea level.  At times in rough weather or when there is a swell running it is possible to take advantage of the extra elevation that results from being on top of the swell to increase how far we can actually see.    Due to the movement up and down of the kayak, on the water, the distance off an object which is obtained should be seen as an approximation.
Clearly a further problem is caused by the rise and fall of the tide, which may well be significant in certain areas.  For example on a chart a lighthouse’s charted height is given above MHWS.  In certain areas of the world with a large tidal range the height above water of the light may vary by more than 10 metres, considerably affecting the distance away that the light may be seen from.  If you want to be really accurate it is necessary to add the estimated height that the tide is below MHWS to the height of the land or the light before referring to the table.
An example of the effect of this from a trip to the Ecrehous, on a large spring tide, is as follows:
Maitre Ile at the Ecrehous has a height of 8 metres at MHWS, which in Jersey is 11.1 metres, but the tide on Saturday was 11.8 metres, it was bigger than a mean spring.  This meant that at high water the maximum height of Maitre Ile was not 8 metres but 7.3 metres.
When the eye of the observer is 1 metre above water level an object 8 metres high is visible from 7.8 nm away but when the height of the object drops to 7 metres  it is not visible until you are within 7.4 nm.  When we left La Rocque, Maitre Ile was 8.3 nm away.  This meant that even in excellent visibility we would have not been able to see our destination when we left.
On a spring tide when the water level may drop by as much as 11 metres the highest point on Maitre Ile is now 19 metres above the water level.  This means that the island is now visible from 10.9 miles away for a paddler whose eye is 1 metre above the water.
The lesson is that objects will be visible from much further away when you approach them at low water, particularly in an area with a large tidal range, such as the Channel Islands.

Visibility
Approaching Maitre Ile, early on a Saturday morning. We had been paddling for some time before our destination came into view. The following table gives an approximate relationship between the distance from which an object is visible and its height above sea level. It is assumed that the height of the paddlers eyes above water is 1 metre.

The table below shows the distance at which, an item becomes visible depending upon its height above water.  This is based upon the observers eye being 1 metre above the level of the water.

Clearly there are number of variables which impact upon the accuracy of the above table such as sea state, the exact height of the paddlers eye above sea level and the height of the tide but it is a useful tool in helping the sea paddler to locate their position.  For example 12 nautical miles to the south of my nearest beach is the superb reef of the Minquiers.  The tallest rock on the northern edge is only 3 metres high, which according to the table means that they only become visible when they are 5.5 nautical miles away.  Therefore there is no point in even starting to look for the reef until you have paddled for over 6 nautical miles or have been underway for over an hour and a half.
Using this technique as a way of assisting navigation is particularly satisfying but it is a method which is gradually slipping into obscurity.  Today the vast majority of us simply turn to the switch on the GPS to receive far more accurate information about our position than we could ever obtain by using the above method.  That said there is a degree of satisfaction from being able to navigate using the more traditional methods and you never know if the batteries are going to run out!

Visibility
The photo is of La Conchiere Beacon. At MHWS it is 2 metres high and so is visible from 4.9 nautical miles away from an observer whose eye is 1 metre above sea level. Clearly an object this narrow would be more difficult to sea that something more substantial, such as a reef but of similar height.

Triagoz

The Cote de Granit Rose is that stretch of the Brittany coastline, which is much loved by visiting British yachtsmen, and land based tourists.  Although the inhabitants have French passports they are regard themselves first and foremost as Bretons.  The coastline is deeply indented as a number of ria’s penetrate the countryside of Cote D’Armor and these inlets provide shelter during the periods of unsettled weather which can sweep across the region.  Along the coast a number of small bays and harbours are virtually enclosed by the large granite monoliths, which are widely spread providing a unique and dramatic seascape.  Against this background there is some superb sea kayaking.
It was an early April morning that we met at Ile Grande, the early season meant that car parking was not a problem.  Our destination for the day was the Triagoz lighthouse, about six miles to the northwest.  The tides in this area can run with a speed that can catch people unawares and to approach Triagoz meant crossing the tidal streams so we had chosen a neap tide to minimisz the effect of the flow.
As we paddled out from Ile Grande, along one of the many channels, which run in between the surrounding reefs it, became apparent that there was a swell approaching from the west.  As the swell began to feel the shallower water they steepened rapidly before crashing forwards in a surge wall of white, the unleashing of such power emphasized the need to steer clear of the reefs.
Triagoz lighthouse was built in 1864 and its light, 30 metres above the sea, is visible from 14 miles away.  On this day the early season mist, which hung over the water meant that the light wasn’t visible from 5 miles away and so, we headed out on a compass bearing towards an unseen destination.  After about 1.5 miles the Bar-ar-Gall west cardinal mark slipped by to our left and we entered deeper water.  The mean depth changing from under 20 metres to over 60 metres with a result that the swell settled into a more regular rhythm.  This was a swell, which had travelled from the open ocean, and there was a feeling of real power as we rose and sank a couple of metres at a time.
Eventually the lighthouse started to emerge from the haze and its face glowed gold reflecting the local rock from which it had been constructed.  The defensive ring of reefs was fringed white as the Atlantic swell was halted in its progress east.  We had hoped to land and to briefly explore the area surrounding the light, no more internal visits though, this light became automatic in 1984.  Unfortunately the ever-present swell prevented this happening.  We could have landed but this was not an emergency or a sea kayaking assessment, no need to risk the kayaks so we remained in deep water, savouring the atmosphere and taking photographs before turning east towards a known landing spot.
Les Sept Iles were six miles to the east but we had some tidal assistance for this section of the journey.  Barely visible in the distance we were being drawn towards them both by the tide and by reputation.  Located 3 miles north of the Breton coast they are a superb paddling destination in their own right.  Numerous vedettes travel backwards and forwards between the islands and the mainland but it is only possible to land on one of the islands, Ile aux Moines, the others are all part of the nature reserve.
The bird life in the area is truly spectacular.  On Ile Rouzic there are thousands of pairs of gannets, the most southerly colony on the eastern side of the Atlantic.  For the majority of the boat travelling tourists though the most exciting observation would be of a Puffin, which breed here in small numbers.  I would doubt if hardly any would become excited at the passage of a Manx Shearwater, which also breed in the area.  As we approached the archipelago a few of these birds passed close by and to me they embodied all that is interesting in a bird.  Complete mastery of their environment with a freedom of spirit to roam widely across the ocean.  As they glided past on stiffened wings there was the occasional tilting of the head as if in disbelief as to the type of craft they could see on the water.  The most common bird was the gannet, numerous individuals flying past on their regular commute from Ile Rouzic to the more distant fishing grounds.  Their numbers increasing dramatically during the last few hundred of metres, even if it was thick fog it would have been apparent that we were about to make a landfall.
As we approached the reef it appeared as if there was a line of mist across the rocks at the western end of the reef.  It quickly became apparent that this fog was in fact spray being unleashed from the exploding swells.  Clearly as we bore down on the islands it was going to be necessary to exercise a degree of caution to ensure that we weren’t swept into a maelstrom of exploding waves.  Le Cerf was the first landfall that we made, more of a large rock than a small island, we skirted north avoiding a number of dramatic reef breaks until we entered the calmer waters inside the reef.  We knew that there was a seal colony and were not disappointed when a number of inquisitive individuals swam out to accompany us on our exploration of the reef.
We landed on the northern side of Ile aux Moines for lunch, basking in the early April sun and savouring some of the delights of the Breton cuisine with a number of local paddlers.  Clearly a huge amount of military building had been undertaken in the past but for me the most dramatic man made feature was the lighthouse.  Its construction was started in 1854 and its powerful light is a key feature when approaching this coast.
We circumnavigated the two largest islands, Ile aux Moines and Ile Bono, encountering a number of the nesting birds, which have made these islands such an important ornithological site.  Time was pressing though and it was time to cross the channel towards the mainland.  On spring tides the streams run through the channel at speeds of up to 4 knots and with an adverse wind a significant sea can be generated.  Fortune smiled on us that afternoon and the ferry glide towards the perched granite boulders of the shoreline was carried out in flat calm seas.  We skirted the outside of Ploumanac’h, possibly the most picturesque harbour on the north coast of Brittany, and passed close to Tregastel, so popular with tourists during the summer months.
We threaded our way through the reefs back to Ile Grande, from where we had departed six hours and 20 nautical miles earlier.  Some of the French paddlers concluded their day with a number of celebratory rolls but I was more interested in remaining dry.  As we changed in the car park the full implications of the day’s paddle began to sink in.  We had visited two of the major lighthouses of northern Brittany and seen a diverse range of wildlife in a dramatic natural environment.

Triagoz
Rafted up close to Triagoz during one of the few lulls in the swell. We couldn’t wait here for too long.
Triagoz
Approaching Sept Iles. We had been in the kayaks for nearly 4 hours at this point with just a few minutes break close to Triagoz.
Triagoz
Looking back through the reefs, close to Tregastel, a real jewel, on the Breton coast.
Triagoz
It wouldn’t have been to healthy to have been caught inside the break, at times.
Triagoz
Heading along the channel back into Ile Grande, the following sea was certainly helping our progress.

Urban kayaking

I always think that there is something special about urban kayaking and over the years I have been fortunate to dip my paddles in the waters of some of the worlds great cities.My first was probably Venice in 1972 when I paddled an early version of a Gaybo sea kayak. I have been struggling to remember the model but it’s name escapes me. In those days kayaks in the waters of Venice were an infrequent sight, so I generated a fair bit of interest.
Since then I have enjoyed the urban landscapes of cities such London, Paris, New York, Valletta and Seattle to name a few. Along the way I have paddled through towns and cities which may not necessarily have the same worldwide appeal but have their own unique charm.  This includes such fascinating destinations as Leicester, Wolverhampton, Milton Keynes, to name just three.  What is great about paddling through towns such as these you gain a totally different perspective of the urban environment.
This week we were fortunate to be able to paddle around the historic Dutch city of Utrecht.  In terms of population it is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands so there was no doubt that we would be experiencing urban kayaking!  There was plenty to see including football stadiums, prisons, old fortifications and possibly the most interesting from a sea kayakers point of view part of the University.
Christophorus Henricus Diedericus Buys Ballot attended Utrecht University before going on to become a Professor in Mathematics and Physics.  He is best known though for his achievements in meteorology, with Buys Ballots Law named after him.  It states that if a person in the northern hemisphere stands with their back to the wind the low pressure is to their left and high pressure to the right.  Pretty much essential knowledge for anybody who wants to work as a sea kayak leader or guide.

Urban kayaking
The trailer was loaded up and we ready for the relatively short drive to Utrecht. The facilities of the Canoe Club in Amersfoort and really excellent
Urban kayaking
On the outskirts of Utrecht this car park had been equipped with a floating pontoon as the designated launch spot for canoes and kayaks.
Urban kayaking
Utrecht’s football team are in the first division of Dutch football but as we paddled past on a Wednesday silence reigned. This was one of the first indications that we were entering the built up area.
Urban kayaking
One of the great things about paddling on canals is the different perspective you get of urban features, for example, the prison on the outskirts of Utrecht.
Urban kayaking
The Oudegracht is a curved canal which is unique as it has effectively a two level street along the canal. Many of the basements have been converted into restaurants and bars. we pulled in here for lunch, something that would probably be far more difficult in the summer months when the tables spill onto the water front.
Urban kayaking
The network of canals means that certain things which we take for granted can be undertaken on the water. This is collecting the rubbish.
Urban kayaking
It is not just the rubbish which is collected. This barge is delivering the beer!
Urban kayaking
Paddling past part of the old University. It was amazing to think that Buys Ballot used to work in this area, thinking about wind and pressure.

Who says that Urban Kayaking has to be boring?  There is a whole world out there waiting to be discovered and perfect when the wind is too strong to be on the open sea.