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.

Glovers Reef

The 35 mile journey out, from Dangriga to Glovers Reef, off the coast off Belize, was relatively quick but we didn’t see our destination until quite late. I suppose it is a geographical fact of life that coral reefs are not that tall.  We were on a three day trip with Island Expeditions.
There is something quite special about turquoise seas, coral reefs and a reasonably constant breeze. It would be easy to spout one superlative after another but in reality they wouldn’t do Glovers Reef justice. Suffice to say it is one of the most special places I have been.
This is not a place to come for high end sea kayaking, it is a place to relax and savour, whilst paddling a few hundred metres, I think we probably snorkelled further on our first day than we paddled. It was time to experience the wildlife and if time allows throw in a bit of gentle stand up paddle boarding.
This is “glamping” in the tropics. The tents come with double beds, 17.30 is happy hour and the food is memorable. It is glamping with activities.
The staff were knowledgeable and friendly, “B” one of our guides had 17 years of experience leading groups. It was noticeable that Roger, one of the other guides had a range of safety equipment on his PFD (buoyancy aid), this is in complete contrast to some places I have experienced in the past.
There was a range of single and double kayaks and it was possible to have feathered paddles if you wanted them. The buoyancy aids were Kokatak and the SUP paddles were from Werner. It was clear that the company wasn’t cutting financial corners by purchasing cheap kit.
You often hear the expression “Island Time” but on Glovers Reef there is no option. Island Time it is. Some great snorkelling although we did see the impact of man’s activity on the eco-system. Lion fish have clearly been released somewhere, and the animal population is exploding.
One thing we had the opportunity to do was to go kayak sailing, something I had never tried before. We were in pretty stable doubles, although there was still a capsize. I did regret not taking my GPS as it would have been pretty interesting to see what speeds we reached on the way in.
The final morning was an option of further kayaking and snorkelling, SUP or just some simple hammock surfing. Nicky and myself went out on the SUP’s heading down on the wind into the channel between the two islands. We did paddle over a small reef shark and although they are supposed to be perfectly harmless the sight of a shark under your board certainly focuses the mind.
All to soon it was time to head back and wait for the boat to come in which was taking most people back to the mainland but which was going to drop us off at Tobacco Caye and the start of our self guided paddle.
Glover’s Reef is a truly special place, it is somewhere to visit and relax, enjoy the easy kayaking and the other activities. It is not somewhere to go if you are seeking the full on sea kayaking experience.

Glovers Reef
The view from our tent!
Glovers Reef
Our tent
Glovers Reef
The grounds of the Island Expeditions base.
Glovers Reef
The local TV, just one channel
Glovers Reef
Most of the kayaks were doubles but there were a few singles for those who prefer to be on their own.
Glovers Reef
Heading back after our first session of snorkelling on one of the nearby Patch Reefs.
Glovers Reef
What a great introduction to the reef. Not the large Eagle Ray just ahead of the diver.
Glovers Reef
Sunrise on our first morning on the atoll.
Glovers Reef
Just on of several SUP sessions we did over the three days.
Glovers Reef
Sea kayaking sailing, I am in the front at the compete mercy of the wind and Nicky’s skills. It was fast run back to the beach.

 

Ecrehous sunshine

For the last few months we seem to have been subjected to one North Atlantic storm after another. The jet stream has been powering one low depression after another, creating unsettled weather. Days of being able to potter along the coast, exploring nooks and crannies have been few and far between. It is been a matter of trying to squeeze a few miles in, whilst trying to avoid the strongest winds, as they funnel around headlands.
On Monday of this week a slight glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon, light winds for Friday.  That slight glimmer eventually turned into a window of opportunity so this morning saw us loading the kayaks for a quick Ecrehous visit, in late winter sunshine from St Catherines.
With low water at around 13.30 the plan was to cross towards the end of the ebb, a quick break on the reef and complete the return crossing at the start of the flood. It was good plan and it almost worked. The 5.5 nautical miles on the way passed quickly and easily. We saw one fishing boat but apart from that we had the ocean to ourselves. There weren’t even that many birds to distract us, the only one of interest was a great crested grebe.
As the tide was sill running north there was some slight disturbance as we approached the Ecrehous but once the reef it was calm and sunny, the perfection combination for experiencing the channels and islets.  A quick lunch break and the inevitable photo opportunities and just over 30 minutes later saw us heading back to the kayaks for the return crossing to Jersey.
Unfortunately our paddling speed wasn’t quite what we anticipated and so we were more exposed to the influence of the tidal streams, than was ideal.  What would normally take about 1 hour 30 mins took an extra hour and in contrast to the 5.5 miles going out we covered 8.5 nautical miles on the way back.
It wasn’t a serious issue but clearly demonstrates the impact that tidal streams can have on sea kayakers.  In fact it was a bit of of blessing in disguise, as the extra miles that we covered meant that the Jersey Canoe Club went back to the top of British Canoeing’s Winter Challenge, although probably not for long!
Although slightly harder than anticipated it was well worth the extra effort for some Ecrehous sunshine.

Ecrehous
The Ecrehous are just visible but the position of the French coast is clearly identifiable with the line of cumulus clouds.
Ecrehous
Paddling into the reef. We were aiming to land just to the right of the small houses.  I was paddling the Jersey Canoe Club double with Claire.  Although she had visited the reef before this was the first time she had paddled there.
Ecrehous
The kayak on the beach in front of Marmotiere. We normally land on the French side but because this was just a quick visit we stayed on the Jersey side.
Ecrehous
Looking north west from close to the bench. I don’t know why but every time I visit the reef I take a picture from virtually the same location. It is a view I never get fed up with.
Ecrehous
Looking towards the French coast. It was clear that the tide had already turned and was running south. It was time to leave.
Ecrehous
The shingle bank is such a dynamic feature. It is always changing in size and steepness.

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.

Jersey Canoe Club

The Jersey Canoe Club was formed towards the end of 1974, when a group of us got together.  We had been paddling for a number of years, sometimes together and at other times in our small geographic groups.  Most of us were too young to drive to be able to meet up regularly!
On August Bank Holiday 1974 we arranged a trip to the Ecrehous, a stunning beautiful reef of rocks between Jersey and France, which 44 years on is still my favourite one day paddle.  For the first few years the Club was homeless, meeting at Highland’s College every Sunday morning before heading off to paddle a section of Jersey’s varied coastline.  Thursday evenings during the summer months was always from St Helier Harbour, meeting at the Old Lifeboat Slip before heading off around Elizabeth Castle or the Dog’s Nest.
In the early 1980’s we found our first premises, a building behind the La Folie Inn, which we shared with a couple of other watersports clubs.  It sounded a good idea but didn’t really work out, largely because no one Club seemed to have the overall responsibility for the building.  So after a few years it fell into disuse.
Over the next few years there were a number of possible projects, at one point we had architects plans drawn up for a specific Club house at a potential site close to the water in St Helier.  Unfortunately the Club was unable to negotiate a long enough lease on the land, so that project never moved forward.
In 1991 the Jersey Canoe Club was fortunate to be offered the original lifeboat station at St Catherine’s, an opportunity which was eagerly taken up. The building was, in many ways, in the perfect location. Sheltered from the prevailing winds and because of the slipway there is relatively easy access to the water at all stages of the tide.
In the last 27 years the Club house as been used in a number of different ways. The first Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium was based there in 1992 and then every 2 years up until 2010. During those 10 events many people who are internationally known in the kayaking world used the building. People such as Derek Hutchinson, Frank Goodman, Chris Hare, Scott Cunningham, John Heath, Gordon Brown, Howard Jeffs and Duncan Winning, to name just a few.
The building has also seen numerous training and coaching weekends right up to the highest level. In the early 1990’s I was able to run a modular Level 5 Coach course, over 5 weekends and coaches who came to assist in the course included Franco Ferrero ( a Jersey boy), Graham Wardle, Kevin Danforth, Dave Collins and Dennis Ball. In addition there were numerous other training courses at all levels. Plus every Christmas Day morning hardy members of the Club with family and friends meet for the swim at 11.00, followed by mince pies and mulled wine.
This year marks the 28th year that the Club will be holding its training sessions at St Catherine’s on a Tuesday night. During that time hundreds, possibly even several thousand people have been able to enjoy sea kayaking, using the Club House as a focus for the activities. To mark this continued use it was decided to refurbish the upstairs in the expectation of encouraging even greater use by the members of the Jersey Canoe Club.
It was decided to run the Sunday morning session from St Catherine’s, not an area of the Island that we use that frequently for Sunday morning paddles in the winter.  It is 2018, so we should have known that there was going to be a gale forecast, it might just be me but this winter seems incredibly windy.  With the forecast, St Catherine’s was actually quite a sensible choice.  In addition it would be a perfect opportunity to show the Club members the improvements upstairs.
The transformation of the Club House is a result of the hard work of Janet Taylor and her efforts were really appreciated by those people who turned up, either for the paddling or for the cake and coffee afterwards.
Today was a paddle of contrasts, at times sunny and flat calm whilst at other times we were battered by hail.  All this against the historical backdrop of Jersey’s east coast.  16 members braved the conditions and we all completed 7 miles towards the British Canoeing Winter Challenge.  At the present the Jersey Canoe Club lies in second place but we have struggled to get the miles in this year because it has been so consistently windy.

Jersey Canoe Club
The front of the Club house. I am always amused that even after 20+ years the States still paint “Keep Clear for Lifeboat” outside the door.
Jersey Canoe Club
The view from outside the Club house, illustrating how the breakwater can provide shelter from the winds.
Jersey Canoe Club
Taken in September 1992. The Jersey Canoe Club had an open day to coincide with British Canoe Union’s National Canoeing Day. I think that there were 110 paddlers in the raft.
Jersey Canoe Club
Taken at the First Jersey Sea Kayaking Symposium. The person in white is Dave Collins. He used to be Performance Director at U.K. Athletics and is currently Professor at University of Central Lancashire. We tried to attract a wide range of speakers to the Symposiums, not just sea kayak coaches. Kevin Danforth is standing in white.
Jersey Canoe Club
At the 1996 Symposium we held a slalom outside the Club house, in sea kayaks. This is Donald Thomson, a well known Scottish paddler.

A few pictures from this mornings paddle.

Jersey Canoe Club
Launching at St Catherine’s. The Jersey Canoe Club premises is the closest, obvious white building. Seconds later we were in the middle of quite an intense hail storm.
Archirondel Tower was built in 1792, to help protect the Island from the French. At the time it was on a small rocky islet offshore, which was joined to the shore when the southern arm, of the now abandoned St Catherine’s Breakwater, was constructed.
Jersey Canoe Club
Yet another squall threatens to engulf Pete as we paddled from Anne Port towards Gorey.
Jersey Canoe CLub
As the next squall approached from the west we sheltered behind these rocks. The east coast of Jersey should be visible but it disappeared in a cloud of hail.
Jersey Canoe Club
From whichever direction you look Mont Orgueil is a really spectacular castle. I think that the view from offshore is always the best.
Jersey Canoe Club
Head north Mont Orgueil as the next squall approaches from the north west.

Ecrehous Buildings

Sometimes when we are kayaking we focus on the big picture and miss out on some of the smaller and at times more interesting items.The Ecrehous, as many of you will be aware, is probably my favourite, all time sea kayaking day trip. Arriving at the reef, time is normally spent wandering around and admiring at the stunning seascapes whilst sitting on one of the finest benches in the world. On some recent visits I have spent time looking at smaller features including inscriptions on some of the Ecrehous buildings. What has been revealed is fascinating history of a unique environment.

Ecrehous buildings
An aerial view of the islet of Marmotiere. There are 20 huts plus a number of smaller out buildings squeezed onto this small rock. La Petite Brecque is the other small islet with a hut built on. The shingle bank (La Taille) has a superb standing wave for surfing at high water on springs.
Ecrehous building
Looking towards the Impot Hut, which is painted white. It was probably built in about 1880. The initials “TBP” on the nearest hut refer to Thomas Blampied who probably restored the hut in the 1880’s or 90’s. This is one of the earliest huts to be built on the reef.
Ecrehous building
I had missed these letters on many previous visits to the reef. The letters refer to Josue Blampied, who was the son of Thomas Blampied who built the hut.
Ecrehous building
It is clear when this hut was built, at the time it was the largest building on the Ecrehous. In between St Martin and Jersey it appears some letters have been scratched out. It should read “St Martin. R.R.L. Jersey” The letters stand for Reginald Raoul Lempriere, who built the hut.

Sometimes we are so concerned with the big picture that we miss the detail so next time that you are out kayaking adjust the scale of your view and you never know what will be revealed.

2017 – A final paddle

The final paddle of 2017, for the Jersey Canoe Club, was from Bouley Bay.  Once again the possible venues had been severely restricted due to the very unsettled weather.  As it happened our time on the water coincided with a slight reduction in the wind speed, but this was due to luck rather than judgement.
In contrast to most Club paddles we decided to paddle in the small kayaks, as opposed to the normal sea kayaks.  Heading west, initially, we reached the small Canoe Club cottage at Egypt and the headland at Belle Hougue.  As soon as we arrived at the headland we started to feel the impact of the rather large swell, which was arriving from the west.
Returning back to Bouley Bay, we made a slight detour to try and see the remains of the ship, Ribbledale, which was wrecked on the rocks, just after Christmas 1926.  Due to the swell it wasn’t possible to approach that close to the remains.
It was another grey day, the 12th in a row, if my memory serves me correctly.  Although it was a very entertaining final paddle for 2017 lets hope that 2018 brings an improvement in the weather.

Final paddle
Rachel paddling along the outside of Bouley Bay pier with Fort Leicester behind.  Fort Leicester is available for hire as a residential property from Jersey Heritage.
Close to Egypt. The small cottage, Wolf’s Lair, is just visible above. A popular venue for members of the Jersey Canoe Club.
Final paddle
There was some rather choppy water in close to the rocks near to Belle Hougue.
Final Paddle
Angus caught just inside the break. Timing was crucial when passing through some of the gaps.
Final Paddle
Dave surfing one of the waves as it wraps around Les Sambues rock. On other days a great tide race develops over this reef.
Final Paddle
Angus appearing to paddle uphill as the swell sucked back.
Final Paddle
Part of the remains of SS Ribbledale, a ship which was wrecked in the bay on the 27th December 1926. The spray shooting out of the top of the boiler was spectacular at times.

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.”

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.

 

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.