Some more old kayaking pictures

Here is another selection of old pictures, illustrating some of the places that we have been paddling over the years.  It feels like it is time to pay a visit to some of these places again, its been nearly 40 years since I paddled some of these trips.

Old pictures
This is paddling around the Great Orme in North Wales in November 1979. We couldn’t afford specialist sea kayaks so used general purpose kayaks with home made skegs that we used to slip over the stern, when we weren’t paddling the same kayaks on white water.
Eastbourne kayaking
I started work as a teacher in September 1980 and before my first salary check arrived I had ordered my first Nordkapp HM. I collected it from Nottingham at October half term and this is kayak being launched for the first time off the beach in Eastbourne.
Bardsey
The first summer holidays of teaching so it was time to go paddling. This is approaching Bardsey, in perfect conditions. The string across the hatch cover was there for a very special reason. My Nordkapp was one of the first to be built with the new hatch covers but the mixture proved to be unstable and the rims started to collapse. After this trip it was back to Nottingham for new hatches to be fitted by Valley before we headed off for a 4 week kayaking trip in Denmark.
Menai Straits
A rather blurred picture from the Menai Straits in October 1986. I was on my Level 5 Coach assessment at Plas Y Brenin. We camped at the south west entrance to the Straits and I still remember the look of horror on the face of the group when the shipping forecast for the Irish Sea was SW Force 12.
Porth Daffarch
Paddling out of Porth Daffarch at the 1993 Angelsey Symposium. The paddlers are Andy Stamp and Graham Wardle.
Rathlin Island
The bay at the western end of Rathlin Island, of Northern Ireland It was a Coach Assessment in 1996. We were looking forward to a night of traditional Irish music in the bar, but it turned out to be a karaoke evening with Japanese divers, rather disappointing.
Arduaine Children
The Scottish Sea Kayak Symposiums used to be great family affairs. The five children on the right are my two girls, Howard Jeffs two daughters and Gordon Brown’s oldest daughter. As you can see we used appropriately sized kit!
Cricceth Castle
The BCU Sea Touring Committee used to run Symposiums every autumn. Initially at Calshot and later on in North Wales. This is some paddlers from the 1998 event off Cricceth Castle.

Svalbard

We have just a lovely couple of days, (not weather wise) in Brecon at the 60th birthday party of somebody I paddled with in Svalbard, way back in 1983.  We spent two months kayaking the west coast of Spitsbergen, a more detailed account of which is available here.
As far as we are aware we were possibly the first sea kayaking expedition that used dry suits whilst on the water.  It really was a time of discovery, the rumour was that you would be inverted and drown if you had to capsize your kayak whilst wearing a dry suit.  There is a brief description of our experiments and how fortunate I was to survive!
Dave has reached to grand old age of 60 and so on Saturday, Phil, Pete, Dave and myself were together for possibly the first time in 30 years.  The last time we could remember all being together was at Dave’s wedding in 1988.
Spending two months together kayaking in the Arctic can pose significant challenges to relationships but 35 years on ours seem to have survived and although we don’t see each other that often, it is amazing how comfortable we are in each others company.  The shared experiences of 35 years ago continue to bind us together into a tight knit group.
If you are planning a kayaking trip this summer try to reflect on what impact the journey will have on your relationships and hopefully in 35 years time you will still experience the same empathy between the members of the group.  The success of sea kayaking trips can be measured in so many more ways than nautical miles paddled.

Svalbard
Our first paddle turned into an 18 nautical mile crossing of Isfjorden, made slightly more challenging by the ice in front of the kayaks
Svalbard
Heading south after rounding the north westerly point of Svalbard.
Svalbard
In weather which was warmer but damper than we experienced in Spitsbergen we walked around the Brecon countryside following lunch

On a slightly different note one thing I have discovered this week, due to the amount of time I have spent inside, is Paddling Adventures Radio.  They have over 100 podcasts, which are perfect listening when you are in the bath.  Sean Rowley and Derek Sprecht are the two hosts, who talk about a range of paddling related activities and all in very relaxed style.  It is recommended listening.  The podcasts could be perfect for when you are in the gym.  Give it a listening and sea what you think.

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.

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”?

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.

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.

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.

Hans Lindemann – Atlantic Crossing

Whilst searching through my kayaking literature I came across my copy of “Life” magazine, which was published on 22nd July 1957.  It recounts the story of Hans Lindemann, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean, from east to west, in a kayak in 1956.  I  had managed to find a copy a few years ago through the wonders of eBay.  A seller in Miami just happened to be selling something which I had been trying to find for years.
Hans Lindemann left Las Palmas in the Canary Islands on the 20th October 1956, in his folding kayak, Tangaroa, eventually making landfall 72 days later on St Martin, in the Caribbean.
During the crossing there were numerous incidents, a chance meeting with a cargo ship half way across the Atlantic, capsizing and clinging to the upturned hull throughout the night, another capsize in daylight, hitting a shark with his paddle etc all while his body was fueled with tins of condensed milk and beer.

Lindemann
The front cover of Life Magazine, from July 1957.

It really is one of the most significant sea kayaking trips of all time, if you haven’t managed to find a copy of Life Magazine then search out a copy of “Alone at Sea” which describes the crossing in far more detail.  At the end of the book though I was left wondering “why on earth would you do it?”

Engelandvaarders Museum

I had heard about Engelandvaarders, a number of years ago.  Mainly men but some women who escaped from the German occupied Netherlands to Britain.  Many took the dangerous overland routes but a smaller number risked their lives crossing the North Sea in a variety of small craft.  Earlier this year I heard that an Engelandvaarders Museum had been opened in 2015, so whilst on a visit to my daughter in Amsterdam it was planned that we should go to Noordwijk, to visit the museum.
The section that most interested me, the most, was the story of those men who attempted to paddle across the North Sea in canoes. As far as is known 38 men attempted the journey to the English coast in folding canoes (kayaks).  Unfortunately only 8 people made it to the English coast, and of these only 3 survived the Second World War.
The stories of some of the escapees are remarkable, Rudi van Daalen Wetters and Jaap vanHamel, were at sea for 5 days and nights before they were picked up by an Australian ship.  When rescued they were unable to stand.  On the 20th June 1941, Robbie Cohen and Koen de Longh left the beach in Katwijk and 50 hours later landed on the beach in England.  Both amazing feats of survival.  Sadly many of the others were not successful.
In 2011 Dutch marines Chiel van Bakel and Ben Stoel and English paddlers Alec Greenwell, Ed Cooper, Harry Franks and Olly Hicks recreated the crossing completed by the brothers, Han and Willem Peteri on the 19th September 1941, although I would assume that their navigation equipment was slightly more sophisticated than a school atlas and a watch.  The Peteri brothers took two days to cross from Katwijk to Sizewell in Suffolk.
As paddlers we are possibly in a reasonable position to understand the fears and concerns of those young men as they slipped quietly away from the Dutch coast, under the cover of darkness. Their future far from certain but prepared to chance their lives on the hostile waters of the North Sea, rather than remain in their occupied homeland.
If you are in the area then I would recommend a visit to this small but fascinating museum.

Engelandvaarders
The entrance to the museum, an old German bunker just behind the beach in Noordwijk.
Engelandvaarders
Inside the bunker a couple of the walls have been converted into a screen.
Engelandsvaarder
There are a number of highly informative display boards telling the stories of many of the people who attempted to escape by canoe.
Engelandvaarders
The photographs of the individuals concerned are a poignant reminder of those dark days in Europe. Brothers Han and Wim Peteri landed in Sizewell, Suffolk, after two days navigating with a school atlas and a watch.
Engelandvaarders
One of the canoes which was used by some Engelandvaarders who escaped to England.
Engelandvaarders
In this frail craft, such as this one, people headed out to sea without many of the things which we take for granted, such as a weather forecast!

Dry suits

Whilst looking through some of my old slides I came across this one, which represents an interesting time in the evolution of modern kayak equipment, in particular dry suits.

It was taken in November 1982 on the beach at Greve de Lecq in Jersey.  It was an unusually cold day, note the snow on the front of the kayak.  I am the one in the paddling equipment, if you weren’t sure.
Wind surfing was becoming popular and a number of the participants were wearing this new clothing, a dry suit, prior to this evolution the dry suits were very basic items of equipment.  We were fortunate enough to be lent a dry suit to try out.
One of the main concerns, which was doing the round of the paddling community was that in the event of a capsize, if the dry suit hadn’t been vented properly it was likely that the feet would fill with air and the kayaker would be suspended upside down.  My role, no pun intended, in this exercise was to paddle offshore, do a couple of rolls before capsizing and hopefully swimming ashore with my head above water.
As I am writing this 35 years later it is clear that being suspended upside down with your feet full of air was an urban myth.  So based on this rather unscientific experiment we ordered 6 dry suits and 7 months later flew out to Spitsbergen for a 2 month trip.  As far as I am aware we were one of the first sea kayaking trips to use the modern dry suit, an item of equipment, which today is virtually essential for any self respecting sea kayaker.

Dry suits
Typical kayaking conditions in NW Spitsbergen, just short of 80 degrees N.
Dry suit
If you are contemplating sea conditions like these a dry suit is pretty essential.
Dry suit
The sea is frozen just in front of the paddlers, wearing dry suits in conditions like this made life on the expedition bearable. It was a complete revelation to us nearly 35 years ago.