Maine Island Trail

I first visited Maine in the summer of 1994, on a canoeing trip to the West Branch of the Penobscot.  Our girls were 5 and 7, so it seemed to be a great way to get in some multi-day paddling trips.  I did manage to get a day in sea kayaking and recognized the possibilities of paddling in the area.  Over the years I heard about the Maine Island Trail but it wasn’t until 2016 that the opportunity arose to paddle a section of the Trail.
The support provided by the Maine Island Trail Association, is crucial to making the most out of your journey along the coast of Maine.  We rented sea kayaks from Portland Paddle, who were really friendly and helpful.
With the position of Portland on the Maine coast, we planned to head north east towards Penobscot Bay, before returning back to Portland, hopefully by a slightly different route.  We did delay our departure for a day because of the intensity of the thunderstorms, which were forecast.  A delay which proved to be a sensible decision from both a meteorological perspective as well as allowing us time to visit LL Bean, in Freeport.  Always a treat.
Leaving Portland we headed east through the islands, which shelter the waters of Casco Bay, having lunch on a delightful beach at the southern tip of Jewell Island before heading north to a lovely campsite on Bangs. To make the most of your journey and to support continued access to the Maine coast it is important to join the Maine Island Trail Association.
The Maine Island Trail extends for 375 miles from the border with New Hampshire all the way to Canada and the Association maintains over 200 sites, which are available for day use or camping.  Membership of the MITA provides you with an annual printed guide to the trail as well as an App, which some people find more useful.  It is an essential $45 if you are going to be kayaking in the area.
Bangs was just an ideal place to spend our first night, not too far to paddle but far enough to produce a feeling of isolation.  We were clearly on our way!  For us one of the strange things was watching the sunset over the mainland US, living on the west coast of Jersey our sunsets are always over the sea.
We woke early the next morning to the sound of the local fishing boats heading out, I am surprised that engine silencers haven’t reached the United States.  There was no need for an alarm clock, whilst we were away!  We had left by 07.40, passing just to the north of Eagle Island State Park, which was the summer home of Arctic explorer Robert Peary, on another visit I am sure we will stop to visit the museum.
Ball Head and Small Point seemed to have the potential to have challenging conditions but we paddled around in flat calm water before stopping for lunch.  Ahead we knew that there was a potential hazard in the form of the entrance to the Kennebec River, and we weren’t disappointed.  There was a significant tide race down the sides of the islands but coming from Jersey we are used to moving water and managed to comfortably hold our ferry glide just upstream of the waves before reaching the sheltered waters on the eastern side of the river mouth.
We were aiming for the Sagadahoc Bay Campground but we knew that the tide was dropping rapidly and eventually we grounded about 0.5 miles short of our target.  Abandoning the the kayaks we carried the tents and clothing up to the campground whilst waiting for the moon to perform her magic.
As the tide started to return I floated the kayaks up the channels, unfortunately as the sea started to flow in the the rain the started to fall and the insects started to bite.  I have to admit it was a pretty miserable couple of hours moving the kayaks up the bay and once I reached the shore it was a matter of retreating to the tent and not re-appearing to the following morning.
An interesting 19 nautical miles covered with a slight sting in the tail at the end of the day, but the forecast was for the rain to clear overnight so we went to sleep with a degree of optimism.

Maine Island Trail
Beach at the southern end of Jewell, where we stopped for lunch on day one.
Maine Island Trail
First nights campsite. Bangs Island
Maine Island Trail
Sunset over the land. An unusual perspective for somebody who lives on the west coast of Jersey
Maine Island Trail
Just passing to the north of Eagle Island State Park. Robert Peary’s summer residence.
Maine Island Trail
Typical scenery along the coast of Maine.
Maine Island Trail
Sagadahoc Bay, the sea has disappeared, leaving the kayaks high and dry.

Buoyancy Aids (PFD’s) & Life Jackets

One of the pleasures of my week is listening to Paddling Adventures Radio, a podcast from Canada.  Essentially Sean Rowley and Derek Specht chat about a range of topics related to all aspects of paddle sport.  This evenings opening article on people wearing buoyancy aids (PFD’s) got me thinking.
My first buoyancy aid, which I had for Christmas at the end of the 1960’s, was filled with kapok, a vegetable material, which was used in life saving devices in the Second World War.  I feel certain that it must have been one of the last buoyancy aids to contain kapok.  Towards the end of the 1970’s, most paddlers in the UK were wearing life jackets, which met the specifications of BS 3595.  They were designed to support an unconscious person in the water, if the inherent solid buoyancy had been topped up with air.
The only disadvantage, being that they were cumbersome and seriously uncomfortable.  As a consequence many paddlers used to carry them under the rear deck elastics as opposed to wearing them on the person.  As shown by the photograph of Nicky taken off the Ecrehous, in the summer of 1979.  How that contrasts with the photograph taken last summer, off the west coast of Greenland, where everybody is properly equipped.
I can’t remember the last time I paddled to the Ecrehous, with my buoyancy aid under the deck elastics.  It must be at least 20 years ago.  Putting on a buoyancy aid is now an automatic reaction.  The last time I remember consciously not putting on my PFD was on a seriously hot, flat calm day in Baja, when I judged that I was more at risk from heat exhaustion than from an unexpected capsize.
There is no doubt that equipment has improved dramatically over the last 50 years that I have been kayaking and the current buoyancy aids are far more comfortable to wear than their predecessors.  So the best advice is to wear it.
Another point to consider is the explosion in paddle sports in recent years, it is rare to be alone on the water nowadays.  Mid week in January, on a rainy windy day doesn’t guarantee isolation in 2018.
Regularly whilst out paddling we come across paddlers, particularly on sit on tops, and it is amazing how many of those paddlers aren’t wearing buoyancy aids.  What is particularly scary is when you see 3 people, normally 2 adults and a child on a double sit on top, and none of them wearing buoyancy aids.
There are 2 potential responses, paddle over and have a friendly word, I have done this a few times as people on SOT’s have been approaching tide races, but my advice has always been ignored.  The other response is to hope that by wearing the appropriate equipment you will be a positive role model and raise people’s awareness of the need to wear buoyancy aids.

Nordkapp
Nicky off the Ecrehous, in the summer of 1979. A classic image of the time, a beautiful orange Nordkapp HM and the BS 3595 Life Jacket tucked under the rear deck elastics.
Buoyancy aids
The group from the Jersey Canoe Club in Greenland last summer. All wearing their buoyancy aids, even though the conditions were pretty benign, apart from the water temperature.

The Art of Kayaking

The Art of Kayaking

I first met Nigel in 1979 at the 3rd National Sea Canoeing Symposium in Sheffield, when he spoke about his trip to Newfoundland.  Following on from this when I needed an assessor to assist with an Advanced Sea Assessment (5 Star) I asked him to come to Jersey early in 1981 and this was the first time that we paddled on the water.
It was clear right from the start that Nigel’s skill level was way ahead of most coaches who were active at the time.  I remember seeing him reverse loop a sea kayak, in a narrow gully, rotate 180 degrees and surf in the opposite direction, there was absolutely no margin for error.
Later that year Nigel went on his solo paddle in the Hudson Strait, which was significantly more challenging than anticipated.  Nigel has remained active, over the years, as a coach, designer, author and explorer and this book is a result of his undeniable passion for all things paddling.
“The Art of Kayaking” is divided into sections covering equipment, flat water skills, dry skills (navigation, weather etc), applying skills (moving into more challenging conditions) and a short section on breaking down skills.
All the chapters are supported by a large number of colour photographs, illustrating the key points.  Some of the photographs are clearly quite old, whereas others have probably been taken for the book and have been annotated clearly to emphasize the salient points.  The photographs clearly reflect Nigel’s considerable experience as a kayaker.  My only slight gripe, about the book, is that it doesn’t always say where the photographs were taken.  Its the geographer coming out in me, I like to know where places are.
This book will appeal to kayakers of all abilities, those starting out on the journey as a sea paddler will be able to dip into the book frequently as they gain experience and extend their horizons.  Coaches will also appreciate the clarity of some of the explanations and diagrams, enhancing the quality and variety of their coaching.
There are quite a number of sea kayaking manuals available and it is always difficult to decide which ones to buy.  Some are specialized, whereas others such as this one are more comprehensive and offer something to paddlers of all abilities.
If you are in the market for a sea kayaking manual or just want to add to your kayaking book collection then “The Art of Kayaking” is one book to seriously consider.

Nigel Foster
Nigel at the Port Townsend Symposium in 1995. Performing at skills session, to a crowd of approximately 100 people.

Scottish Symposium

Well the Scottish Symposium has been and gone, all that remains is the extended paddling programme.  Two things set this event from the others, firstly it is the last one in its present format and secondly the unbelievable weather.
I travelled north in the expectation that I would be delivering a range of talks, including such diverse topics as Expedition Planning, Baja and Thirds, Twelfths and 50/90’s.  As it turned out the weather was superb and in reality who would want to sit in a classroom listening to somebody ramble on about sea kayaking when they could be out on the water experiencing, first hand the impact of a Scottish heat wave.
Nearly 200 people attended the final Scottish Symposium, in its current form.  The programme was the usual diverse mix of workshops, talks and paddles, delivered by some of Britain’s most experienced coaches.  Fortunately common sense broke out among the participants and pretty much everybody went on the water with virtually every classroom session cancelled.
The key note lecture on Saturday evening, delivered by Gordon Brown and was very much in the form of a tribute to our friend Duncan Winning, who sadly passed away earlier this year.  He was one of the most influential sea kayakers of the 20th Century as well being a vital cog in the machinery of the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.  His presence at the event was sorely missed.
As the Symposium drew to a close, after a weekend of perfect weather and the extended paddling programme started you couldn’t help but think that Duncan would have been with pleased with the way the weekend had evolved.

Scottish Symposium
Nicky outside the Gaelic College, wearing her Moderate Becoming Good Later T shirt. Our nephew was starting his journey around the Shipping Forecast areas that day.
Scottish Symposium
A really unusual picture. Nicky and Gordon tucking into ice creams at Armadale. Almost unheard of at any of the previous symposiums.
Scottish Symposium
A group on a day trip around the Point of Sleat heading south in front of the College. Just a stunning backdrop.
Scottish Symposium
A busy Greenland Rolling session at Armadale. With the weather rolling was a pretty popular option.

Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium

Over 6 weeks has passed since my incident in Gozo, which resulted in a ruptured achilles, I still have my leg in plaster and at times feel frustrated by my inability to get out on the water.
This weekend I had arranged an Advanced Sea Kayak Leader training course with paddlers visiting the Island from both the UK and France to take part.  I was really looking forward to working with Olly Sanders, but it was not to be last weekend.  I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange for Calum McKerral to fly down from Scotland and cover me at the last minute.
I was able to spend some of the evening preparing for the Scottish Se Kayak Symposium, which starts this Friday evening on the Isle of Skye.  Having attended them all since 1995 it is an event, which holds great memories for me.  Some fantastic paddles, inspirational talks and great social evenings over the last 20 plus years.
As this is due to be the last one it was an event I was particularly looking forward to attending and to do some more paddling in Scottish waters.  In fact the plan was to remain in Scotland for a further week and to paddle around the Small Isles, with some of the other members of the Jersey Canoe Club.
With my leg still in plaster flying isn’t an option so Nicky and myself leave this evening on the ferry, to start the long journey north, taking slightly longer than normal as we are stopping off in Bristol to see Joan Baez in concert, on her farewell tour.
Instead of being out on the water this weekend with the Advanced Sea Kayak Leader Training, it has largely been spent inside the house preparing my talks for next weekend.  I might not be able to paddle but at least I will be able to contribute to the lecture programme.
So it has been time spent re-acquainting myself with PowerPoint and searching through external hard drives for that one photo, which I feel might make all the difference but in reality won’t have an impact at all.
So talks on Expedition Planning, the weather, tidal planning, 12ths,3rds and 50/90, Baja and sea kayaking in the Mediterranean have gradually taken shape.  Although there is still plenty of work to do before I am satisfied with the finished product.
Fingers crossed that I don’t have to deliver all of the talks.  If there is good weather on Skye next weekend people attending the Symposium should be out on the water, experiencing all that the island has to offer.  Far more enjoyable than hearing me ramble on about Proxigean Tides or the Coriolis Force, with the occasional pretty picture of kayaking thrown in for good measure.  That said if the wind blows, the rain falls and people feel the need to shelter from the worst of the Scottish weather I will be ready to go.
Whatever happens next I know that next weekend on Skye there is going to be a great sea kayaking event with plenty of paddlers having a great time.  I hope to see some of you there.

Symposium
Taken in the 1990’s these are just a selection of the kayaks lined up on the beach on Cumbrae.
Symposium
A helicopter demonstration in 2005. It was great fun being blown around by the down draught from the rotor blades.
Symposium
The extended programme in the week after the Symposium has always been enjoyable and at times experienced some great weather. Looking towards the Cuillins, on a day trip from Elgol. Always a favourite.
Symposium
Another day trip from Elgol, when the weather wasn’t so kind. Howard Jeffs on Soay, close to the basking shark factory.

Magazines Part 2

The ongoing inability to go going sea kayaking is allowing more time to peruse my canoe and kayaking magazines.  They are literally taking over the whole floor of a room in the house.  I think that over the years I have managed to collect a few, what I consider gems, although probably many would disagree.
So here is the latest selection.

Magazines
Ocean Paddler, which is still going strong. Issue No.1 appeared in May 2007 at the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.

This was a great and welcome addition to the sea kayaking scene in the UK.  The first edition contained articles on incident management by Jeff Allen, photography by Douglas Wilcox, Tasmania by Justine Curgenven and Expedition Planning by me ( I had actually forgotten about that until I opened the magazine).  Over the years it has contained a huge range of excellent articles and should be considered essential reading by anybody interested in sea kayaking.  It is published 6 times a year and subscriptions are available.

Magazines
A report of the Symposium held in December 1979.

This report on the Third National Sea Kayaking Symposium is looking a bit battered because the family rabbits attacked it a few years ago.  The rabbits had to go after that, they had crossed a line when they attacked my kayaking literature!
Held just outside Sheffield in December 1979, it was one of my first excursions into mainstream sea kayaking.  Organised by John Ramwell, who ran the Advanced Sea Kayak Club for many years, it had some great speakers.  Nigel Foster spoke about his circumnavigation of Newfoundland with Tim Franklin, Derek Hutchinson spoke about expeditions and the Aleutians.  Plus lots of other inspirational stuff.  It would almost be true to say that attendance at this event and seeing what people were achieving, kick started my desire to get away on sea kayaking expeditions.

Magazines
Another first edition. Canoeist evolved from White Water Magazine and was a valuable source of info in the 1980’s and 90’s.

Stuart Fisher launched Canoeist in January 1983, a change from White Water Magazine, which had been printed for years.  In the first issue Paul Caffyn was half way around Australia and 30 companies who wanted to exhibit at the International Canoe Exhibition at Crystal Palace couldn’t get space as it was sold out!  Major articles included how to complete fibre glass repairs, a review of the Mirage kayak, which paddlers of a certain age will remember with affection and guides to the Basingstoke and the Coruh River in Turkey.  In later editions there were plenty of sea kayaking articles.

Magazines
First published in 1960, this is a 1978 issue.

Canoeing was well known as the magazine in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s which had pictures of scantily clad females on the front cover.  Mainly taken, I think, in the Ardeche, this cover is kayaks in the Ardeche.  There was a mention of 1977 British Sea Kayak Expedition to Spitsbergen.  Sam Cook who was on that trip is coming to Jersey in August this year to talk at our Nordkapp meet, so why not join us.  Other articles included canoeing in North America and a photo guide to the Struer Kayak factory in Denmark

Magazines
The magazine of the British Canoe Union from the 1950’s. It evolved into Canoe Focus.

A classic front cover photograph, from the Outer Hebrides.  Nigel Matthews and Frank Goodman, who paddled around Cape Horn in 1977 are in the picture.  Obviously Frank is well known through Valley Sea Kayaks.  Chris Hare took the photograph, was a very influential figure in sea kayaking in the 1960’s and 70’s, including being involved in the production of magazines.  The kayaks look like Anas Acuta’s, notice the lack of hatches and the paddles look like Mark Gee’s paddles.  A non stop circumnavigation of Anglesey is one of the main articles.

Magazines
A French magazine, which always seemed to be well produced, with high quality photographs.

Summer 2011 and the French paddling press was already pushing SUP.  This magazine contains some articles with stunning photographs of paddling in France plus a circumnavigation of Islay, in Scotland.  It helps if you can read a bit of French but if not you can’t failed to be impressed by the quality of the images.

Sea Kayaking Books

One of the things I have at the moment is time (ruptured achilles) so I am able to consider complete a few projects.  Something that I have been thinking about  is sea kayaking books.  Mainly, which ones have been influential over the years both in terms of coaching and the general evolution of the sport.

A substantial body of paddling literature has evolved over the last 170 years, with a wide range of books covering broad spectrum of topics. The last 40 years has seen a proliferation of sea kayaking books, offering both advice on skills and coaching, plus those describing journeys, many of which, provide inspiration.  I think that the selection of books below are all worth seeking out, giving an insight into how our sport has developed over the years.
Some of the key writers in the U.K. included Alan Byde and Derek Hutchinson. I remember seeing “Living Canoeing” by Alan Byde for the first time.  Published in 1969 there is the classic photograph of Mike Ramsay vertical at Hambledon Weir, I sat there staring at it as a 13 year old wondering how on earth the paddler got into that position. This is a book which provided inspiration to a generation of paddlers, both sea kayakers and white water paddlers.

Sea kayaking books

For me the next big development was the publication of Derek Hutchinson’s book “Sea Canoeing”. I had seen it advertised in Canoeing in Britain, the BCU magazine of the time and couldn’t wait for mine to arrive in the post. There was no way that the local bookshops were going to stock such a specialist title in 1976.  My copy was signed some years later by Derek and I feel fortunate that I got to know him.  For me one of the most significant aspects of the book were the photographs, they showed just where it was possible to take sea kayaks and they encouraged us to start to explore further afield.

Sea Canoeing

“The Book of Canoeing” by Alex Ellis, first published in 1935 has 7 pages devoted to sea kayaking.  He states:

“Paddle technique could be described in detail, but it is doubtful if a theoretical description would be of any great value.  It has to be acquired gradually by actual practice.”

Although this is 80 years old it remains very sensible advice. There are no real shortcuts to competence with a paddle and a kayak.  The author mentions two paddles, which he thinks are suitable for sea canoeing.
1.) Fort William to Largs
2.) South West Ireland
Paddles which 80 years on would still be seen as significant achievements.

Sea kayaking books

“Kayak to Cape Wrath” by J. Lewis Henderson.  I am not sure to the exact date of publication buy my copy has a dedication in the front, dated Christmas 1953.  A journey from Fort William to Cape Wrath along the west coast and then a crossing of northern Scotland, via a line of lochs, to finish on the east coast at Lairg.  A significant journey undertaken over several summers.  It is a journey, which, an self respecting sea kayaker would be pleased to complete today.  Joe Reid was clearly an accomplished paddler in several areas as he was in the K2 1000m event at the 1948 Olympics.

Sea kayaking books

“The Canoeing Manual” by Noel McNaught.  First published in 1956, includes a whole chapter on crossing the English Channel, something which some paddlers still aspire towards but is actually discouraged because of the shipping hazards.

Sea kayaking books

“Vikings, Scots and Scraelings” by Myrtle Simpson, published in 1977 was the first book I read about kayaking in Greenland and it fired my imagination, encouraging me to consider heading north in pursuit of sea kayaking heaven.

Sea kayaking books

“Paddling my Own Canoe” by Audrey Sutherland from 1978.  Her initial paddling was in a nine foot inflatable canoe but she started her explorations by swimming the coast of north east Molokai.  She went on to paddle in several areas of the world providing inspiration to, particularly, a more elderly generation of paddlers.

Sea kayaking books

“Scottish Sea Kayaking” by Doug Cooper and George Reid published in 2005. In many ways this was the first of a new generation of sea kayaking guides, in full colour and full of useful information about a whole range of topics. Pesda Press have gone on to publish a whole range of sea kayaking guides, covering most of the British Isles

Sea kayaking books

So that’s my personal selection of sea kayaking books, which are worth seeking out.  There is no doubt in my mind that if was to write this piece in a couple of weeks time some of the titles would have changed.

Lightning

As I sat on the beach this afternoon at St Brelade’s I watched the build up of cumulo-nimbus towards the French coast both to the south and the east. The concerns about the possibility of lightning were confirmed with the occasional rumbles of thunder.  A check on the phone on the live lightning website indicated that storms were nearby.
Lightning is a major hazard for all sea paddlers and at the first hint of a storm it is important to get off the water, if at all possible. Seek shelter in a building and if that is not possible seek an area of dry ground. Avoid high ground as lightning normally joins the cloud with the closest point of land, ie. the highest part. For the same reason avoid sitting directly underneath a tree. Don’t sit under boulders or in bunkers, these are particularly dangerous areas unless there is at least 5 metres of head room.  Several years ago a sea kayaker in Maine was killed whilst sheltering in a bunker during a lightening storm.
The fickle nature of lightning was frighteningly illustrated to me whilst paddling in the French Alps about 20 years ago. We were preparing to launch and without any warning of an impending storm, there was a huge flash and a strange tingling sensation running through our bodies. Looking up we could see that all the windsurfers on the lake had been blown off their boards. It was with horror that we look around and saw that the two people who had been standing closest to us had been struck by lightning, one had died immediately and the other person died later. We managed to shelter in a building for the remainder of the storm and gather our thoughts as to how close our escape had been.
So what are the key points that we need to be aware of?   Firstly check the weather forecast. If thunder is forecast keep close to land and look out for the build up of cumulo-nimbus.
 Be prepared to get off the water quickly and try to find a building in which to shelter.
 If you are on the water make sure that you are wearing your buoyancy aid, if you are struck by lightning and go unconscious there is no chance of being saved if you sink.
 If you are on land and there are no buildings try to get into an open space, crouch on the balls of your feet and cover your ears with your forearms by grasping your hands together behind your head.
With the development of Apps and smart phones its so much easier to monitor the position of any approaching storms.  Live Lightning is a great website for up to the minute information about the location of lightning strikes.  Whilst paddling in the United States we used the Storm App from Weather Underground, which proved to be great for keeping us up to date about approaching severe weather.  I also like looking at some aviation weather sites, so for example this afternoon as I saw the clouds building I looked at the Jersey Met Aviation pages, which showed that the largest clouds could reach up to 30,000 feet.  That is a pretty big cloud!
It is important to keep up to date with your First Aid practice. A lightning strike does not necessarily mean death, but be prepared to resuscitate quickly and effectively.  In addition when it appears that the storm has passed you are potentially still at risk so wait at least 30 minutes after lightning ceases before starting paddling again.
Knowledge and up to date weather information will help ensure your safety but remember to treat and potential storm with the utmost respect.

Lightning
A storm approaching the Canadian Gulf Islands. We were stuck in camp for most of the day.
Lightning
The safest position to adopt if you are caught out in the open with a storm raging.
Lightning
An early evening storm over Jersey.
Lightning
This beautiful afternoon on the Greek island of Atokos, an uninhabited island to the east of Ithaca, Greece. Little did we know that we were going to be exposed to a lightning storm of such terrifying proportions the following day we just paddled to the shelter of a flat for a couple of days respite.

Site Updates

Those of you who read my previous post will know that I damaged my Achilles heal, last week, whilst kayaking on Gozo.  So here are a few ideas about possible site updates.
The following few days was a time of new experiences for me. I had never been put in plaster before, I had never been put in one of those lorries where the cab extends vertically alongside and aircraft, so unscathed you can be wheel chaired onto the plane. I had never traveled through an airport on one of those beeping trucks and I have never had to undergo a course of daily injections last nearly six weeks.
Having arrived back in Jersey I have had time to reflect on the experiences of the last few days. Firstly the medical attention that I have received both in Gozo and Jersey has been excellent. On both islands I was seen promptly by medical staff, including orthopaedic consultants.
Secondly whilst traveling, everything was smooth and timely at Malta, Gatwick and Jersey Airports plus on the British Airways flights. Care and attention from staff in all locations was great and fully appreciated.
I have started to develop a greater understanding of the challenges facing people living with a physical disability. I had to wait in a toilet in Malta as it was too difficult to open the door whilst on crutches. Many thanks to the anonymous Good Samaritan who came to my assistance.
In terms of missed opportunities I am disappointed that I won’t be able attend the French Sea Kayak Symposium, which starts on the 21st April. In addition I won’t be able to assist at the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium, starting on the 25th May. Although it is far enough away that I will hopefully be able to travel to Scotland for the weekend and experience some of what is sure to be a superb event. I have been involved with the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium since the early 1990’s and it would be disappointing not to be able to attend the last one. Even if it is the role of honorary coffee drinker as opposed to active paddler.
In 1983, on my way to a sea kayaking trip in Svalbard, I flew over a spectacular archipelago, which I promised myself to visit one day. After 35 years of waiting this summer was the year I was going to finally get to paddle in the Lofoten’s. Sadly a destination that will have to wait for another year.
All disappointing but it is important to maintain some perspective, it is only an injury, I will get better and other opportunities will come my way.  So facing several months of inactivity it is an opportunity for some new challenges.
I will be able to make sure the Jersey Canoe Club mega SUP racing in conjunction with Absolute Adventures is organised and runs smoothly, although no active participation for me this year.
Later on in the year I will have time to complete my Greenland Paddle.  At the moment I can’t put any weight on my leg and I haven’t learnt “woodwork for sitting down” so that will have to wait until my leg strengthens as the summer progresses.  It should be complete for the autumn so that I can then work on my Greenland rolling.
One of the things that I have planned are a number of site updates, including completing a number of the Sea Kayaking Guides, which I have started including the one on Jersey.  So plenty to do but the main aim for the next few weeks is to keep my plaster dry!

Site updates
Mega SUP racing at St Brelade’s with the Jersey Canoe Club and Absolute Adventures.
Site updates
The view from the Gaelic College at the 2007 Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.
Site Updates
Paddling into towards Loch Coruisk on one of those perfect Scottish days.
Site Updates
One of the many French Lighthouses, which are close to the base of the French Sea Kayak Symposium.
Site Updates
An on going project, my evolving Greenland paddle.

Good and bad

Thursday was certainly a day of contrasts, both good and bad.  It all started so well, we were at Hondoq early, for our kayaking trip along the south coast of Gozo.  It was rather a grey morning but there was the promise of so much more.
As a small group the kayaks were quickly packed and we were heading east along the south coast towards the main harbour. The small cliffs, punctuated by a number of caves provided interest, whilst up above the clouds were moving away to the south east, to be replaced by warm sunshine.
It was the morning rush hour in the Gozo Channel, all 3 ferries were moving so we ensured that our crossing of the narrow harbour entrance coincided with a lull in the activity. To the west of the harbour the steep coast continued, rising up to Fort Chambray.  The Fort was built in the mid 18th Century, whilst during the Crimean War it was used as a hospital, which treated hundreds of injured British soldiers.
This wasn’t the only sign of military activity along the coast, we could clearly see the blue railings, which surrounded a Fougassee.  It was a weapon to protect the coast from landings, effectively a rudimentary form of mortar, excavated into the rock.  Effectively an upside down cone, which was filled with stones and gun powder.  When the powder was ignited it was supposed to throw the stones onto the enemy.  It all sounds rather haphazard and potentially not that effective.
We carried on to the cliffs at Ta Cenc, which are pretty spectacular and home to a number of breeding birds although we didn’t see too many on this particular.  All to soon it was time to retrace part of the journey, our stomachs were telling us that it was lunch time.
Lunch was at Mgarr Ix Xini, a delightful location but one which requires cars at times as the boat ramp is as slippy as any one I have ever experienced. After lunch, Michael, our enthusiastic guide from Gozo Adventures, offered to help some of the people in the group with their rolling. The enthusiasm of youth. I was more than happy to sit and enjoy some warm, early season sunshine.
In fact it was so warm I was tempted to have a swim, an activity which I don’t really see as that risky. The water was reasonably warm so Rachel and myself swam out to the steps, which have been so thoughtfully provided on the eastern side of the bay. We climbed onto the rocks, before deciding to jump back into water, swim back to the kayaks and start the journey back to Hondoq.
It is at this point, if I had the gift of time travel I would use it. My jump into the water, from just over 1 metre in height was accompanied by a rather large crack and as I surfaced I realised that I had a very floppy left foot. Now I am no doctor, but I can recognise the symptoms of a damaged achilles. I explained in a rather calm voice to Rachel, that I was in a bit of difficult situation and might at some point require some assistance.
I was able to swim, using arms only, back to Michael, our faithful rolling coach and explaining I didn’t want to cause a fuss but we had a rather tricky situation. There were a lot of people down the bay that day, the restaurant was busy, there were groups of French hikers etc. The last thing we needed was a spectacle and a lot of onlookers.
I continued swimming into shallow water and was able to sit on the age of the slip. At this point the shakes commenced, it might have been the result of the cold or some shock from the injury. Whatever the cause I received excellent support and care from Tracey, Rachel and Yvonne. Michael by this time was on the phone and calling the cavalry.
Cornil, the cavalry, from Gozo Adventures was on the slipway with a car within 20 minutes and I was on my way to Gozo Hospital, without anybody on the beach being aware that there had been a problem. On reflection it was a group of experienced paddlers, working together to resolve an incident, in an efficient and timely fashion. Exactly why we practice a range of scenarios on our training courses, it could be called incident management but in reality it is an appropriate and proportional response, to a situation, which ensures the comfort and safety of the casualty, whilst not forgetting the needs of the rest of the group.
The treatment I received at the Gozo Hospital was prompt, effective and delivered with such good humour. The staff seemed to have time to give the patients the care and attention they needed, without appearing rushed or stressed. I write this as British Airways flies me north from the Mediterranean sunshine, towards some inevitable further treatment but I feel pretty relieved. I was with a group of paddlers who tended to my immediate needs, I had access to prompt help from the company we were with and ended up in an efficient medical care system.  It was certainly a day of both good and bad.
So next time somebody proposes some training and looking at scenarios grasp the opportunity with both hands. Don’t assume that because there is somebody with greater experience in the group that you won’t have to become involved or even manage the situation. We are all potentially as vulnerable and just as likely to need care and support from our fellow paddlers.
Thanks, in no particular order to Michael, Tracey, Rachel, Yvonne, Geoff and Cornil. Hopefully we will be able to paddle together again before the summer is out.

Good and bad
Michael launching at Hondoq.
Good and bad
Almost everybody is afloat. Behind lies Comino, which is the destination for Friday’s paddle. Sadly I will be otherwise engaged.
Good and bad
One of the ferries, which the connection between Gozo and Malta.
Good and bad
Rachel passing under the steep slopes close to Fort Chambary
Good and bad
The Fougassee, taken whilst walking along this stretch of coast in November last year, but its location was clearly visible from the sea.
Just in front of the Mgarr ix Xini tower. Completed in 1661 it is one of the 4 surviving towers on Gozo.  One of the last photographs of me with two working legs for a few months>
Good and bad
Cliffs just to the west of Mgarr ix Xini are truly spectacular. This was about as far as we went before returning east for lunch and the somewhat inconvenient incident.
Good and Bad
I managed to swim towards Michael, who was conducting a rolling session. I received superb assistance from the other people in the group.

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