Sunday, December 03, 2006


A few of us were lucky enough to catch the middle Tavy at a perfect level on the 3rd December.

The last few times I’ve bothered to check this run out it has either turned out to be flooding through the trees or a bony ditch, but, when the levels are right, it is a great G3+ run

Sunday, October 29, 2006


There wasn't much interest in this trip - only 5 of us (Ros, Dave, Ant, Andy and myself). All the others missed a good day.

The levels were low - but the sun was out and it was warm. The first mile was a bump and scrape, but things livened up and we found plenty of entertainment and some nice waves to surf. - and we had the whole river to ourselves (no sign of any other paddlers)

Ant styles the ‘drop-slot’

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Stormbound Mariners - in July!!

The forecast was ‘iffy’ for this years ‘Dorset Coast Camp’ – but 5 of us needed the sea air. Paul, Richard, Elliott, Tim and I set off from Swanage in sunshine that Saturday. The intention was to paddle to Lulworth, stopping overnight somewhere on route, and using the morning tidal assistance. Despite an early rise, hiccups in navigation and the long shuttle that the plan involved meant that we were not on the water until 11:30.

We elected to paddle close in shore which gave us some shelter from a stiffening headwind and afforded us views of the cliffs and wildlife (including Puffins) but also meant that we spent the whole day paddling against wind and tide. We didn’t get to Kimmeridge until 16:30.

Divers at Kimmeridge informed us that the forecast had deteriorated, with the arrival of a F8 gale expected within the next 6 hours. We battled on against growing seas and wind, finally seeking shelter in the bay to the lee of Warbarrow Tout.

Sure enough, the gale hit us overnight – and rising from our wet pits early Sunday morning (woken by the crashing surf) the sea was none too friendly.

Sheltering from the rain and enjoying one of Richards brews we discussed options. It was still blowing F5/6, - we could hang around until the afternoon in the hope that conditions would improve sufficiently to allow our onward journey, or we could attempt an ‘evacuation’. We plumped for the latter and Richard and I set off for the 5 ½ mile walk to Lulworth to retrieve his vehicle. Leaving the others (still in their pits) to pack up.

All went well, and we even managed to persuade a range warden to open the gate at Tyneham to allow us to drive down to the boats.

Good fun

Saturday, June 17, 2006


3 Ringwood members (Tim, Ross & I) joined 7 from Southbourne CC (Chas, Richard, Graham D, Martin, Gareth, Luther and Mark) for a packed week in the Alps.

Travelling overnight we arrived in Briancon at around 1pm on the Saturday - and even managed a paddle that afternoon.
We paddled 7 days straight and took in some classic runs (Guil, Durance, Ubaye, Guisane, Clarree, Onde, Gyronde, and the Dora Riparia across the border in Italy) There were lots of minor epics, mishaps and problems to make the trip amusing but that is for others to recount. An excellent paddling week.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

“Gone with the Wind” Sea Kayaking Scotland

An Idea is hatched
I was seduced by photos and tales of sea kayaking amongst the Scottish Islands – sun-kissed white sand beaches, isolated idyllic camps, frolicking seals and otters. An ideal location for a first sea-kayak holiday. I voiced my intention at the annual RCC video night in January and a group of 10 was established within minutes. It seems I was amongst others that shared the ideal.

Plan A is achieved
Over the following months, poring over maps, charts and trip reports, I settled on the Knoydart / Moidart region. I even went so far as to plan the routes. A base camp at Back of Keppock (near Arisaig), a 3 day circle tour of the Sound of Arisaig / Moidart, a re-supply at base camp, and then a 3 day circle tour of the remote Knoydart area to the Sandaig Islands. All this planning was, of course, to prove a complete waste of time!

Plan A is thwarted
Despite having lived in Scotland (many years ago) I was convinced that the end of May should provide ideal sunny still sea kayaking conditions.

By the 14th May we had 14-day forecasts for the weather – but these were rubbish, they were suggesting inclement weather
18th May (10 days to go) “Have you seen the forecast Graham? It doesn’t look good
20th May (8 days to go) “Have you seen the forecast Graham? Should we change our plans?
21st May (7 Days to go) “Have you seen the forecast Graham? Perhaps we should go up later and all throw ‘sickeys’
24th May (4 days to go) “Have you seen the forecast Graham?” “I don’t believe it – we will go anyway
And we did – some, however, against their better judgement!

The Gathering
We had all found the campsite by Saturday evening – there was Dot and Mike, Dave and Annie, Georgia, Richard, Elliott, Ross and myself – with Frances, Hannah and Finny joining us for a non-paddling week. All agreed that the location was breathtaking. All agreed that the weather was c**p. We adjourned to a pub in Mallaig and talked alternatives over sea-weed beer and fish and chips.
“Force 4 or 5 Northerly, 6 later. Sea state moderate to rough, Heavy

And so began the pattern of the week. Each morning and evening we would huddle around the VHF (normally in the rain) and listen to the forecast. Then, maps would be brought out, sheltered waters sought and endless plans and alternatives hatched and discussed.

Crack of Noon was the norm

It was difficult to raise enthusiasm in the mornings – lying in the tent (after a sleepless night listening to Elliott and Ross’s snoring) listening to the rain and wind lashing the fly. The renowned RCC ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude !! vanished and ‘Crack of noon’ starts were quickly established as the norm.

Despite all that Neptune hurled at us we managed to paddle every day – and we were rewarded for our efforts with some truly beautiful locations and idyllic camps.

Sunday saw us retreat to the inland Loch Morar for a 16k paddle – finding some sheltered lagoon-like and midge infested bays for lunch before a battle with headwind on the return leg
Monday we ventured into Loch Nan Uamh, paddling amongst seals and finding a great island lunch-stop

Tuesday and Wednesday was the highlight. The winds had dropped and the sun was out. We managed to escape the base camp and make our first ‘journey’ from the head of Loch Ailort almost 40k back to Arisaig.

We camped overnight at one of those isolated pristine sandy bays that I had dreamt of. After a camp fire meal we sat on the beach and watched seals, otters and Red Throated divers put on a show for us. The return through the Skerries of Loch Non Ceall proved a beautiful paddle.

Thursday and the wind had again picked up and veered to the West. We found sheltered water and our final camp in Moidart before the long drive home on Friday.

We never reached Knoydart and the Sandaig Islands (that’s saved for another time) – but we had a good week and our battles against the elements were rewarded by glimpses of what sea kayaking in Scotland can be. I fully intend to make an annual pilgrimage to the Scottish Islands. But next time I won’t make any plans – just go with the wind, so to speak.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lundy - What could go wrong?

Bank Holiday weekend and I joined 10 others for a paddle to Lundy. A trip put together by Mark Rainsley (UKRiversguidebook). In Mark’s words the plan …

Friday night...we will journey to North Devon and camp …. presumably we'll arrive late and leave at the crack of dawn.

On Saturday morning, (29th April) if all looks good to go, we have to all be on the water and set off no later than 10 am. Lee Bay is a tiny launch point, so it'll take a while to get us all on the water (we'll have to carry each loaded boat across the road and launch them one at a time) actually, you need to be ready, packed and changed by 9.30 am. … There is good parking at Lee Bay.

The crossing...if it is good to go, I'll call the Coastguard and let them know what we're up to. If we launch and then decide that we don't like the conditions, we can still pull out and turn back in the first hour or so if need be. However, if the conditions are good, then the actual paddle should be no big deal...just a mellow four hours of slow plodding.
Landing on Lundy... …. If we are lucky, the island manager will send a Landrover to transport all our gear the 4-500 vertical feet up onto the top of the island. If we're not lucky, then we've got a grim slog up the road carrying all our gear…

The campsite is up on top of the island, as is the pub, shop, etc. In theory you can buy all the food and drink you need at these places. Sunday. The ideal scenario would see us doing a paddle around the island. Obviously, if it looks like the weather will turn bad on Monday, we'll have to come back on this day.

Monday...the crossing back will need to either be done late in the afternoon (arriving back at Lee Bay at nightfall), or before the crack of dawn. We'll see how it all goes depending on weather, inclination, etc.

Disclaimer...obviously we'll look at the weather and plan as best we can, but be aware that there is a small but notable probability that we'll end up stuck on the island due to the weather. In this instance, you have the option of either dumping your boat (back another weekend for it?) and taking the ferry back...expensive and entirely dependent on the captain's good grace...or of calling your work on Tuesday morning to explain why you are in the middle of the Bristol Channel. So...don't say I didn't warn you....

What can go wrong? Mark Rainsley

What did go wrong then?

1. Chas drove over to pick me up at 6:30 pm Friday evening, anxious to get away. But he had forgotten his paddles and had to return to Barton on Sea

2. On arrival at Lee Bay for the launch we discovered that the car park was closed. The consequent delay in departure would cost us a lot of energy later that day

3. Having enjoyed some interesting conditions through the races off Morte Point, followed by a relatively relaxed paddle ¾ of the way, the final hour of the 21 mile crossing turned to two as we lost all tide advantage and paddled into a freshening headwind. It took us close to 5 ½ hrs to make the crossing.

4. In various states of weariness we unloaded our kayaks on the beach. Chas had just enough energy to utter some well chosen expletives when he found his sleeping bag was afloat in his leaking rear hatch

5. The island Landrover was conspicuous by its absence and we spent the rest of the afternoon lugging kit up 182M to the camp ground at the top of the island.

6. Chas still had enough energy to issue even more expletives when he discovered his tent was busted.

7. Huddled around the VHF the following morning we listened to the forecast Force 5 or 6 winds due that afternoon or evening, with more lousy weather into the next day. It meant a return by Ferry on Sunday or Monday evening

8. I was with three others that, not relishing the prospect of getting home at 2am Tuesday morning, negotiated passage on a chartered ferry on Sunday, sacrificing a paddle around the island for a poorly considered work ethic!
What went right?
1. At least the conditions proved ‘good to go’ (if not come back) – it could easily have been otherwise

2. With the exception of the last couple of hours, the crossing was fun – both the races and the subsequent leisurely paddle assisted by the spring tide, with the sun up were great

3. The camping ground on Lundy is excellent – and only 50M from the Pub

4. The pub serves a good local brew ‘Lundy Experience’ and has an excellent menu

5. Lundy is a beautiful island – 3 1/2 miles long by 1/2mile wide and rising 400 foot out of the sea where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic. A rugged coastline, steep cliffs and windswept grassland, steeped in history. There’s a lot to see – everything from lighthouses and quarry buildings to the remains of a wrecked WW2 German bomber.

6. Most of the Island is a Site of Special Interest and the seas surrounding it are England's only statutory Marine Nature Reserve.There’s no shortage of wildlife – Soay Sheep, Seals, Peregrine, Gannets, Auks, Fulmars, Shearwaters etc.

7. The Island Manager and port crew were more than helpful – only too glad to assist us in arranging passage for kayaks and paddlers on the private charter ferry

8. Great company – it seems that whenever you throw a group of kayakers together for a weekend this is always the case.

9. I arrived home fresh, sun burnt and satisfied!
The ‘ayes’ have it then – a great trip. I can’t wait to return – hopefully at a weekend of settled weather when I can squeeze in all the three legs of the journey that were intended.

While it is not a trip to be taken lightly, if the conditions are ‘good to go’ – GO

Thanks to Mark R for conceiving, planning and leading the trip, Chas for the lifts and everyone else for the craic.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another Moor Season

The Autumn of 2005 proved one of the best seasons for ages. I was on Dartmoor almost every Sunday for 3 months – it was shocking to find that, at this time of year, I visit Dartmoor far more often than Fordingbridge or Ringwood and I dread to think what it has cost me in petrol.

But then, in January, it all dried up

A "serious drought" may strike the South East, Environment Minister Elliot Morley has warned. England and Wales have had the driest January since 1997, with many areas getting less than a third of their average rainfall.
The Met Office said England and Wales had 33.2mm of rain throughout last month, making it the sixth driest on record.
We managed a last low run on the Upper mid-January, joined by Georgia and Chris D And then the Moors became seriously dry – and I began planning the summers Sea Kayaking trips!

Indeed – I had the Sea Kayak out of moth balls and on the Dorset Coast early February when, ordinarily, the moors should be stonking