Posted by: rogerdane | 31 May 2011

BKC Copeland Island paddle – 17/05/11

Right then, so on the 17th May 2011 JC, myself and two other Belfast Kayak Club stalwarts assembled at Groomsport Harbour for a gentle paddle down the coast to Donaghadee and back.  Well that was the initial plan anyway.

As you can see from the pre-trip photos taken from the harbour wall the sea was millpond flat for the start and we got off without any hiccups.  The benign weather and smooth seas meant we made a good pace and around Orlock Point JC suggested rather than going to Donaghadee we head across to Copeland Island for lunch.  Everyone was in favour of this change and so we ‘hung a left’ and set out.  I have to admit that this change in plans delighted me as ever since moving to Groomsport I’ve been dying to get across to the island as I see it every day and it acts as a marine carrot to my sea kayaking aspirations.

The trip across was without incident and, having heard horror stories of the Copeland channel current, I wondered what all the fuss was about.  Later on I would find out (this is called foreshadowing ;-)).  As we rounded the point on Copeland we were joined on the water by a family of about six grey seals who had been sunning themselves on the rocks.  When you see these lovely creatures in the water it really does bring home to you how inadequate humans are in this environment even with our technology.  Anyway the seals decided to become our audience as we landed on a convenient beach and sat down for our lunch.  There was a landing quay at one end of the bay with a particularly unfriendly ‘don’t use this’ warning sign.  Being responsible kayakers we heeded this warning and pulled our boats up onto the sandy beach mere yards away.  The land below the high tide mark is considered crown property (http://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/shoreline_management_briefing_note.pdf) and exempt from laws of trespass which made the unfriendly sign seem all the more ludicrous.

We lunched in the pleasant sun but cut it short as the tide was turning and the wind beginning to pick up.  As we headed out around the point it was obvious that the conditions had worsened significantly.  Now I’m not going to claim that there was anything in these conditions that would trouble an experienced sea kayaker but the simple truth is I’m not experienced and the conditions troubled me.  The major issue was the inconsistency of the water.  We had the tide flowing in one direction, the wind bringing waves from another direction, refracted waves and swell from off the island and reflected waves from the coast.  No single element of this was difficult on its own but together they caused me what I would describe as an exciting time!  If you’re not familiar with the concepts then the following image might give you an idea.

As I’m here to tell the tale you can see that I made it but by the time we arrived back at Groomsport I don’t think I’ve ever been as physically exhausted.  The constant corrections and braces in order to stay upright were very tiring.  The good news though is that I did stay upright 🙂  I consider that this was quite an achievement and I’m really quite proud of myself.

Sadly I once again forgot to start my Runkeeper app and so the track that I’ve created via the website is approximate and not accurate but it gives a good impression of what we did (http://runkeeper.com/user/NIViking/activity/37560444).  The Aquanaut handled beautifully and although it is tippy, that is only to be expected in a sea kayak.  However, the seat was comfortable and after adjusting the footrests during the lunch break I felt much more secure in it during the paddle back which given the conditions was a very good thing.  Next time out I’m going to shorten the footrests by another notch and give that a try.

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Posted by: rogerdane | 31 May 2011

New kit testing – 29/04/11

As I had some time on this particular Friday and it was a nice day I decided to get out some of the new kit that I’ve acquired and give it a test run.

First up was the Trangia 27-6UL cookset (http://www.trangia.se/english/5614.27_series_ul.html).  It seems very simple to use and clean and produced some lovely sausages in a relatively short space of time.  The kettle boiled quite quickly as well.  I’d say that it produced a lovely cup of coffee but I would assume that boiled water tastes the same whatever cooker you use 😉  I was using it with the meths burner which produced a good heat.  It would be interesting to do a comparison with a gas burner as well but there isn’t one available for this model of stove.  If you would prefer to use gas then this is a consideration to take into account when buying.  My feeling is that when you get out on a long trip it’s more likely that you’ll be able to acquire meths (or a similar fuel) than a specific gas bottle but I have no empirical evidence to back that up.

Next up was the Hilleberg Akto tent (http://www.hilleberg.se/products/akto).  This is a super lightweight one man tent designed for backpacking but ideal for packing into a sea kayak due to its low weight (1.6 kg) and size. It’s an absolute doddle to put up with only one pole to assemble and then it just needs to be pegged out.  It is small inside.  There’s only just about enough room for my large 6’2″ frame but then the small size is the major point of this tent.  Having got it up I used it overnight and although the weather got a little blustery and rainy it wasn’t really tested to any serious degree.  I’m very happy with it though and look forward to giving it a serious test sometime this year.

The other photos are of my new sea kayak! 🙂  This is a carbon/kevlar composite Valley Aquanaut HV (http://www.valleyseakayaks.co.uk/content/boats/composite/aquanaut-hv).  As you can see it’s gorgeous!  I got it out on the water a couple of times the weekend before this kit test.  I stuck to the local bay and used Runkeeper to track my trips (http://runkeeper.com/user/NIViking/activity/32600146 & http://runkeeper.com/user/NIViking/activity/37557372).  As you can see I basically paddled around  a small bay as I was concerned about going any distance on my own.  It occurred to me afterwards that these trips didn’t give an accurate idea of the boat as sea kayaks aren’t really designed to go round in circles, being long and thin they’re meant to go long distances in straight lines.  Still, it was nice to get the boat out on the water and a more realistic test will have to follow.

  I’m still getting my head around some of the tech that I’m trying to use.  The second Runkeeper track ends in the sea again although this time it wasn’t due to a capsize but because my iPhone ran out of charge.  Note to self charge up the damn phone before setting off!

Oh well, onwards and upwards.  The next post will be for the first serious outing for the Aquanaut.

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Posted by: rogerdane | 31 May 2011

BKC Larne Lough paddle – 07/04/11

Ok, so last Thursday I finally managed to get on the water with four other guys from Belfast Kayak Club.

WooHoo! 😉

It was an absolutely beautiful morning and I met JC at the war memorial car park in Jordanstown.  Due to completely overestimating the quantity of traffic on the Bangor/Belfast road I managed to arrive 45 minutes early but this just meant I could take advantage of the conditions to try to take some arty photos of the shoreline at low tide.  I will save you the horror of these by not posting them 😉

A short car journey later and we arrived in Islandmagee where we launched from the sheltered slipway.  For this trip I was using completely borrowed kayak equipment courtesy of JC and the BKC.  I was also trying out a couple of gadgets that I’d picked up, specifically the iDry iPhone case (http://www.idryworld.com/) and the Canon Powershot D10 waterproof camera.

The iDry case claims to keep your phone dry while allowing you to use it on the move.  As I wanted to combine this with the Runkeeper iPhone app (http://runkeeper.com/home) to track our journey this would be a baptism of fire.

I now need to refer you back to my first post where I said I hadn’t paddled for 25-ish years.  After that length of time my muscle memory has developed Alzheimer’s and I have regressed to the most basic of novices.  Combine that with the notorious tippiness of sea kayaks and it’s hardly surprising that if you follow the Runkeeper map (http://runkeeper.com/user/NIViking/activity/30899208) you will see that the track ends on the opposite side of the lough from where we started after only 16 minutes.  This would be because that’s where I capsized, apparently the iPhone loses its GPS signal when submerged!  Subsequently I was more concerned with staying upright and the electronics testing got ignored.  Having said that, the iDry did keep the phone perfectly dry and I was able to use it so first impressions are good.

Anyway, after a smooth deep water rescue we turned south and headed up Larne Lough.  We stopped for lunch on the opposite shore to the Magheramourne quarry and then paddled back.  I managed to get some photos both on the water on the way out, at lunch and then going past the power station on the way home which I’ve added below.  The shots were taken with a Canon PowerShot D10 (http://www.canon.co.uk/For_Home/Product_Finder/Cameras/Digital_Camera/PowerShot/PowerShot_D10/).  This is a supposedly rugged, waterproof camera with a 12.1mp CCD.  It spent the trip clipped to the front deck of the boat in its neoprene case and performed very well.  The smearing in some of the shots was due to my not cleaning the lens and not any fault on the camera’s part.

So to sum up a good trip out with some good company on a beautiful day and the kit stood up well.  Now I just need my boat to turn up so that I can really get started.

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Posted by: rogerdane | 3 March 2011

A belated beginning.

Well, this is my first blog.

Considering that I’ve been messing about with this internet thing since the early 1990’s and that I worked in the I.T. industry for 17 years it’s about time! 😉

I do the whole Twitter and Facebook thing (for which there should be links around here somewhere but as I re-embark on a life on the ocean wave I figured it would be nice to have somewhere to record what I was doing.

In short, what I’m doing is getting myself back into kayaking.  Specifically sea kayak expeditioning.

I spent a couple of years in the mid-80’s happily white water kayaking in Germany and then never got the chance to carry on when I left.  I’ve always wanted to get back into it but there was always something (work, kids, family, lack of money caused by the previous three) that prevented it. 

So here I am in early 2011 having (by my count) my third mid-life crisis.  For the record my daughter Rebecca reckons it’s my fourth! 😉  This I’m doing it properly.  I have no job (made redundant), I have no fixed abode (living in a static holiday caravan) and I have no dependant children (at 20 & 25 they’d better not be dependant).  I think I have a girlfriend.  I certainly did but in the light of recent events the now famous Facebook phrase “it’s complicated” doesn’t really cover it.  We’ll see.

Using a portion of the money from my redundancy I have a load of kit on order and one of the purposes of this blog will be to give some real world impressions of the way this kit performs along with a record of what I do.  Until the orders start to arrive and I actually get onto the water I won’t be able to say much worth saying and so with a hearty “HURRY UP!” to Brookbank (http://www.brookbankcanoes.co.uk ) I’ll sign off.

R.

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