Posted by: rogerdane | 5 June 2011

BKC Knockinelder Sea Paddle – 03/06/11

“Knockinelder!  Where’s that?”

This would be a very understandable reaction to being told that it was the start point for another Belfast Kayak Club sea kayaking day trip.  I’d certainly never heard of Knockinelder before.  It turns out that Knockinelder is the name of a beach on the south-eastern corner of the Ards peninsular here in Northern Ireland.  Who knew?

Although I had heard about this proposed paddle beforehand I didn’t sign up until after the paddle with Tollymore on the Thursday evening.  Due to the slow-paced nature of our dander around Strangford (see earlier post) I was in better shape than I’d expected and so felt ready to do something a little more energetic a mere 12 hours later.

We met up at the Knockinelder beach car park and all got on to the water as fast as possible.  When I say ‘we’, I mean Alan Parkinson, Ernie Stewart, John Cunningham, Peter Bell and myself.

As you can see from the Runkeeper map (http://runkeeper.com/user/NIViking/activity/37983267) the run out to South Rock is a three-mile paddle rounding Kearney Point and then following a North Easterly track.  You can see the old lighthouse from all down the south-east side of the Ards peninsular and so it was fascinating to actually get close to it.  I’ve discovered that the Commissioner of Irish Lights website has an exhaustive run down on the history of all the lighthouses around this island and and not repeat it I’ll just point you in that direction where you can learn all there is to know (http://www.commissionersofirishlights.com/cil/publications/beam-magazines/volume-26/thomas-rogers-and-south-rock-lighthouse.aspx).  If I had read this piece before setting off then I might have had a better idea of what to expect.  Especially notable was the phrase ‘it remains the oldest waveswept rock lighthouse tower still standing’.  Waveswept is the key word here.  As we arrived at the lighthouse about six inches of the flat rock landing area was above water.  Fifteen minutes and one cup of coffee later it was a foot UNDER water!  Cue beating a hasty (but safe and controlled) retreat.

The next leg was a two-mile paddle almost due north to the beacon which marks North Rock.  The water was really smooth, the sun was brilliant and there was just enough breeze to keep us from frying.  I really spent this day trip trying to improve my forward paddling by turning my body into the stroke and using the core muscles and not just the arms.  With the weather and the peacefulness of the seas this became almost hypnotic and I loved the feeling of just propelling the boat through the water as efficiently as possible.  On reaching the beacon we found an enterprising seagull had taken up residence on the bowl type thingy on top, they do seem to get everywhere 🙂

Leg three was a two-mile stretch to the shore to find somewhere to have lunch, finally settling on a beach just south of a large caravan site.  Once again the Trangia came out and Alan cooked us some mean kippers.

In trying to document the ongoing trials and tribulations of tech use in sea kayaking you will notice that the Runkeeper track ends at this point.  In this case the culprit was the charge on my iPhone running out.  Now on this occasion I did start the trip with a full charge and so I can lay the blame purely on the phone.  Just over two hours with the app and GPS running seems to be its maximum which, honestly, is just a bit crap 😦

After lunch we made a slow dander back along the coast back to our starting point with the other guys indulging themselves with a bit of rockhopping.  I had a brief foray into this but every time I saw an underwater rock getting close all I could hear screaming through the back of my head was “MY GEL COAT, MY GEL COAT”!  Not for me I’m afraid until I get a plastic boat.  The trip back down the coast took another hour and so we ended up being on the water for about three and a half hours and covering just over ten miles. 

I have to say the company was excellent as ever and with the bonus of beautiful weather and conditions it’s been my favourite trip so far 🙂 

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